Even if he plays, DeMarco Murray might not be your best fantasy option

 

The following are a few crucial fantasy injury updates:

With DeMarco Murray's availability currently up in the air, he may not be a recommended start for this week’s fantasy league playoffs. With Murray questionable and possibly a game-time-decision, owners should look toward solid alternatives in fellow Cowboys tailback Joseph Randle or Panthers back Jonathan Stewart.

Randle is more than just Murray's handcuff option, he is an immediate low-end RB1 as he has thrived in the Cowboys offense. Though it may be a small sample size, Randle is averaging 7.0 yards per carry on the season (34 carries for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns). Dallas faces a mediocre defense in the Colts, as Indianapolis ranks t-16th in allowing 110.4 rushing yards per contest.

Joseph Randle would receive the bulk of the carries in Murray's potential absence and could very well break 100 yards for the contest behind the dominant offensive line for the Cowboys.

If Randle is unavailable, Jonathan Stewart is another solid option at halfback. Stewart (who is not shy to the injury updates list) has been red-hot as of late with 42 carries for 228 yards (5.43 yards per carry) to go along with one rushing and one receiving touchdown.

In other NFL injury updates, fellow back DeAngelo Williams should be returning, but expect Stewart to retain the feature back role. He and the Panthers have a very favorable match up with the Browns. Cleveland ranks 31st in the league by allowing 137.6 rushing yards per game.

Stewart should be started regardless, but he is more than suitable as a DeMarco Murray replacement.

Aaron Rodgers had ZERO answers against the Bills defense

 

One week Peyton Manning blows it for you in the playoffs and now its Aaron Rodgers dropping the ball. What a terrible couple weeks it's been for these fantasy football so called “studs!” Hopefully you are still in contention for some NFL fantasy hardware even in spite of these quarterback woes.

Now lets take a look at what the damage really was for these two guys. During Week 14, Manning threw for a woeful 173 yards and two interceptions against a dominating Bills defense. That same vaunted Buffalo defense then held Aaron Rodgers to a minuscule 185 yards and two interceptions during Week 15. Those types of weeks are not what fantasy owners had in mind for their supreme quarterbacks during fantasy crunch time. One thing that both of those punishing weeks have in common is the opponent. The Buffalo defense has proven again and again that they are for real by stopping both of these Hall of fame caliber shot callers.

So the question is, if you own one of these two quarterbacks, can you give them another chance? The answer has to be yes. Chances are if you are still in the playoffs, its because of one of these guys not in spite of. In a week where your team absolutely needs to perform, you’ve got to roll with your big guns.

In NFL player news, Aaron Rodgers has had an MVP type season and should bounce back easily in week 16. The Green Bay Packers are facing the 2-12 Tampa Bay Bucs next week and Rodgers should again show fantasy owners why they drafted him on draft day. The Buccaneers defense has allowed the ninth-most passing yards per game this season and only four other teams have permitted more passing touchdowns. Start Rodgers with full confidence next week.

The matchup is not so sweet for Peyton Manning next week. They face a hot Bengals defense that shut out Johnny Manziel and the Browns last week. But let’s not get carried away and even put Manziel and Manning in the same sentence. Manning and the Broncos still have a first-round playoff bye to play for so look for Manning to be at his best this week. With the resurgence of the Bronco’s running game Peyton has not been putting up such gaudy fantasy numbers as he has earlier in the season but you have to trust Peyton this week unless you have another top 5 quarterback with a better matchup – sat Andrew Luck against Dallas.

The moral of the story is to start the players that have gotten you here thus far. Even though Rodgers and Manning have had a couple of skids late in the season, they are still fantasy football studs. These two guys are the best options at quarterback and are still “must-starts” in fantasy land.

 

Johnny Manziel: Overblown, Over-Hyped and downright awful

 

— Well, how was that for a Johnny Manziel (10-18 for 80 yards, 0 TD/2 INT) debut? Manziel was once at the top of the list of fantasy sleeper picks, but is now a total bust with the added bonus of having locker room and off-field issues at every turn.

I realize rookie QBs can flounder early. This wasn’t a floundering…it was one of the worst QB performances you will have ever witness. I would have expected this from Logan Thomas or Ryan Lindley, etc., if/when they were thrown ‘into the fire’ off the bench never having played with the 1st-team in the regular-season…but you would expect a little better from a 1st-round draft pick. This is the guy that many of the mainstream football analysts touted as their initial #1 QB and/or overall prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft. Manziel’s performance in this game was abysmal.

Someone needs to find that homeless man who told the Browns’ owner to “draft Manziel,” and fire him.

Manziel had two interceptions in this game. He should have had between four and six of them. His downfield throws that were actually completed were all blind throws that were mostly wounded ducks than actual NFL passes. This was an embarrassment to the NFL…’this’ being when Manziel’s payroll check clears the bank this week.

The Carolina-DST (Cleveland’s next opponent) is suddenly in-play for Week 16 title matches and is one of the better NFL fantasy sleepers for this week.

Will the Browns wait a year to admit their error, or will they draft another QB in 2015? Either way, the Browns are screwed unless they dig up the right veteran QB next year (and it’s not Hoyer). Josh Gordon (3 rec/ for 48 yards on 4 targets) and Jordan Cameron (1 rec. for 4 yards on 1 target) will be FF-disappointments for the foreseeable future as well.

This will not help the emerging Browns-DST either, because the turnovers, lack of field position, etc. is too tall a hill to climb.

This is a total unraveling for a franchise that three weeks ago was worrying about the playoffs. They now have to worry about their franchise getting flushed back to becoming a constant source of ridicule…again.

Our College Football Metrics.com studies saw the Manziel bust coming…with specifics on what he was doing on the field in college, and why it would be an issue in the pros.

Don’t lose track of Browns’ practice squad QB Connor Shaw…it might be all they have at a certain point. Likely, he’ll never get a fair shake despite being a similar, better QB than Manziel in the SEC in their final seasons. You can see his detailed scouting report on College Football Metrics.com as well.

Best Fantasy Football Keepers - 

 — Jeremy Hill (25 carries for 148 yards and 2 TDs, 1 rec. for 4 yards on 1 target) had a nice game here. We did not think Hill could carry an offense in the NFL…projecting that he would be more of a complimentary guy, which is an NFL trend these days. I’m not blown away by Hill, but I see he is better than we statistically scouted.

What I would like to celebrate on Hill: We did tell you, for a year plus, that Gio Bernard (15 carries for 79 yards, 3 rec. for 24 yards on 3 targets) was just an average/good NFL RB prospect…and by no means a high-end, main-carry guy in the NFL. His Fantasy-Dynasty stock is plummeting quickly.

 — IDP Craig Robertson (10 tackles, 1 PD, 1 INT) is white hot the past few weeks. He was one of our deep sleepers for Week 15, and he delivered again this week. In the last five games: 10.6 tackles, 0.4 PD, 0.2 INTs per game. He has double-digit tackle in four of those last five.

 

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics.com, and a football projections analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics.com. His group also provides player projections for Advanced Sports Logic’s football software “The Machine.” See “The Machine” here: The Machine via FFM

Romo looking for PAYBACK against the Eagles

 

Wow.

Week 14 was “The Red Wedding” episode of the 2014 fantasy football season as more star players bit the dust than any week this year.

If you own Peyton Manning and are still standing, then chances are your team had earned a bye last week.

If you made it through the carnage of last week with a Drew Brees, LeSean McCoy or Jimmy Graham - then a hearty congratulations is in order.

There is no rest for the weary as we plow forward into week 15 and the players that will lead your teams to victory.

Without further ado…

 

START

Tony Romo, DALLAS at Philadelphia: We will give Romo the benefit of the doubt that his miserable Thanksgiving performance against the Eagles was due to the short week and its effect on his back. With plenty of rest, Romo will take advantage of a defense that’s given up 26 touchdowns through the air while only picking off 10 passes. Look for Romo and the Cowboys offense to exact some revenge Sunday night.

Matthew Stafford, DETROIT vs. Minnesota: The Lions offense is beginning to fire on all cylinders and Stafford is averaging 350 yards passing in his last two games. He has also tossed five touchdowns without an interception in those games. Geno Smith just put up 254 yards and a score against the Vikings…Geno Smith. Get ready to see the Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson show all day long - a must fantasy football start.

Ben Roethlisberger, PITTSBURGH at Atlanta: Big Ben finally had a nice road game and it came versus a solid defense and a team that he had historically struggled against. He now gets to face a Falcons defense that has allowed 10 touchdowns in the last six games. Yes, we trust Roethlisberger to shine again away from home.

Matt Ryan, ATLANTA vs. Pittsburgh: Over his past three games, ‘Matty Ice’ has tossed eight touchdowns and only three interceptions. He’s also averaged 336 yards passing during that time. The Steelers have allowed at least two touchdowns to quarterbacks in seven straight games. This is going to be a big week for Ryan.

 

SIT

Colin Kaepernick, SAN FRANCISCO at Seattle: If Kaepernick couldn’t produce against the Oakland Raiders on the road, there is no hope that he will do anything at Seattle. Whoever the new coach is in San Francisco next season, getting the kid back on track should be job one. Avoid at all costs this week.

Andy Dalton, CINCINNATI at Cleveland: Dalton continued his up and down play with two passing touchdowns last week. He put up over 300 yards passing along with a career long 20-yard touchdown run. This week he faces a much stiffer test in a Browns defense that just held Andrew Luck in check. It’s hard to shake that Week 10 performance in which Dalton completed 10-of-33 passes for 86 yards and three interceptions against Cleveland. Bench him.

Ryan Tannehill, MIAMI at New England: Tannehill stumbled badly last week in a favorable matchup at home. There is no way we are going to trust fantasy playoff success by counting on him at New England this week. In the last five games, the Patriots have held Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers to a combined total of seven touchdown passes. There are better options than Tannehill.

Joe Flacco, BALTIMORE vs. Jacksonville: Flacco has bolstered his last two performances by racking up a rushing touchdown in each of the games to accompany two touchdown passes. That is not something to be counted on to continue on a weekly basis. Flacco has topped two rushing touchdowns for a season only once (2012). The Jaguars defense has been stout of late against quarterbacks, holding them to merely three total touchdowns (one rushing) in the past three games.

Keep reading ASL for the most complete fantasy sit start info!

 

Expect a BIG BOUNCE BACK for Jordan Matthews against the Cowboys

 

Sit

QB Ryan Tannehill, MIA:

Coming off a less than impressive line in a loss to the Ravens, Tannehill is in for another tough one as the Dolphins head to New England for Week 16. Though the Patriots do not rank too highly in passing yards allowed per contest, they have done very well defensively at home. They held Matthew Stafford to 0 TDs and 1 interception in a blowout, and let up 2 TDs to the great Peyton Manning while forcing him to throw 2 interceptions as well. Tannehill and the Dolphins offense is nowhere near as impressive as that of Stafford's Lions and Manning's Broncos. Expect Ryan Tannehill to have great difficulty getting things going, and he is not a recommended start in 2 QB leagues.

RB Ryan Mathews, SD:

It comes as no surprise, but Ryan Mathews is once again battling injury. The injury-prone 27-year-old tailback from Fresno State has been dealing with injuries for the entirety of his 5 year career, missing 17 total games thus far. The status on his ankle injury is unknown at this point, but he is being considered 50-50 for San Diego's contest with the Broncos. Even if Mathews plays, he faces a Broncos defense that ranks second in allowing just 72.8 rushing yards per contest. Consider the brittle-boned Ryan Mathews nothing more than a weak RB3 play.

 

Start

WR Jordan Matthews, PHI:

Jordan Matthews will look to bounce back from a weak performance against Seattle, as he and the Eagles face a much weaker defense opponent in the Dallas Cowboys. The last time the two teams squared off in Dallas, Matthews went for a line of 4-51-1. The Cowboys pass defense ranks 25th as they surrender an average of 251.9 passing yards per game, and the big athletic rookie wideout is a tough guard to begin with. Look for Mark Sanchez to look toward the receiver he trusts most in Jordan Matthews, and expect him to go off in a very favorable match up as a high-end WR2 with major upside.

RB Jeremy Hill, CIN:

Jeremy Hill is facing a great matchup in his first game since taking control of the backfield, as the Bengals head to Cleveland for Sunday afternoon. The Browns rank 26th in allowing 129.5 rushing yards per game. Expect the rookie to have a field day against the Browns, with multiple opportunities to reach the end zone as he has also taken over as their goal line back. Last time the 2 teams met, Hill was able to rush for 4.6 yards per carry, and now as the single feature back, he should be able to do some serious damage. Hill can be used as a middle of the pack RB1 for Week 15 and should be a good fantasy football start option.

For the latest fantasy sit start advice, stay tuned to ASL!

Miami likely to miss the playoffs because they grounded their own running game

 

RB Fantasy Football News -

The Miami Dolphins have plenty of talent and are in the hunt for a Wild Card birth in the AFC. Their biggest issue is that they aren't using their most productive offensive player, running back Lamar Miller. Dolphins fans and fantasy owners can't understand why the Dolphins don't utilize their could-be top 5 fantasy RB more given the fact that he's averaging 4.8 Yards Per Carry and 6.5 Yards Per Reception.

In RB news, Miller is only averaging 12 carries per game and the only reasonable explanation can be that the coaching staff doesn't want to wear him out. However, if the Dolphins keep up their current playing style, Miami will miss the playoffs altogether and the entire team can take a nice long rest waiting for next year's season to begin. The Dolphins have not won back-to-back games since Week 9 and face a hungry Patriots squad on the road in freezing Foxborough where the high temperature won't be a lick over 40 degrees.

Miami will try to become the first team to beat the Patriots in New England all year. Miami is one of three teams to beat the Patriots this year, so they have the required pieces to win, but this Patriots team is a far different beast than the team they beat back in Week 1. 

The Dolphins have to pretty much win out and have some things go their way to even have a chance to squeak into the playoffs. The only way this will happen is if they feed Miller the rock and ride him until the wheels fall off. 

If Miami boosts Miller's touches to between 18-20 carries per game, they will increase their chances of winning games and give fantasy owners the boost they have been waiting for all season long. More volume would transform Miller from a high-end RB2 to a solid RB1 for the remainder of the year and beyond. But this can only happen If Miami comes to their senses and allows Miller to play a more significant role in the team's offense. 

Stay tuned to ASL RB fantasy news for the most up to date info!

Jimmy Graham fantasy owners have been lost in the fog of battle

 

TE Fantasy Football News -

Fantasy football TE owners hoping to ride Jimmy Graham and his injured shoulder into the playoffs and beyond have been left for dead in fantasy football leagues across the country.

Many people dropped a first round draft pick on the all-star tight end who has all but disappeared since Week 10 when he blew up the 49ers with 76 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

It’s been all down hill since then, as Graham has scored less than three fantasy points in 3 of his last 4 games. The New Orleans offense is usually on point this late in the season, but this year has been very different as Graham’s production has vanished.

This fantasy football stud has not been living up to his name and his skid couldn't have come at a worse time for fantasy owners. It seems unfathomable that the great Drew Brees would be struggling to get this freak of an athlete the ball during the game, but that’s exactly what’s happening.

A maddening Week 13 road matchup against the Steelers saw fantasy TE stud Graham register ZERO CATCHES ON ZERO TARGETS. As fantasy owners know all too well, Week 13 is usually the final week of the regular fantasy season that determines who makes the playoffs and who doesn't.

Week 14 turned out to be even worse for fantasy owners as they counted on Graham to break out of his slump. Instead, they watched him collapse at home against the Carolina Panthers where he converted 11 targets into 3 catches for a whopping 25 yards and no touchdowns. Some of those were bad throws, but what really hurt were the inexcusable DROPS.

Brees has been a shell of himself these few past games too and his performance directly correlates with Graham's success. Graham has been a bright spot at the tight end position for years now and despite this painful slump, that's not likely to change any time soon. Unless fantasy owners have another top 5 tight end riding the pine, Graham needs to be started yet again in all formats against the punchless Chicago Bears.

 

Trumaine Johnson is leading the Rams defense into the record books

 

Fantasy Waiver Wire Pickups - 

DB Trumaine Johnson, St. Louis

Trumaine Johnson missed the first eight weeks of the season with an injury, which has been a running theme for him during his first three NFL seasons—nicked up and missing games. However, his return to full-time action over the past few weeks has helped with a massive resurgence in the St. Louis Rams defense…one I would argue is now among the top-3 most talented in the NFL.

Johnson has some Richard Sherman like qualities as a CB…really he’s more of a Safety playing CB. He is 6’1”+, 205+, and hits ball carriers like a punishing Strong Safety. Because he is a little slower (4.5+) and not as agile, he often gives up a cushion in coverage to WRs…so he sees a lot of short passes caught in front of him, but then he closes like a linebacker and tries to blow-up the receiver-which is great for IDP/Fantasy purposes. He is a DB that sees a lot of action.

In the past three games, Johnson has averaged 6.7 tackles per game. Over his last four games, he has posted 1.7 PDs and 0.8 INTs per game. He has had an instant impact playing a lot of CB, but moves to a quasi-Safety or OLB from time-to-time. Facing ARI and NYG during the next two weeks, he should provide ample opportunity to push IDP numbers.

LB Craig Robertson, Cleveland

I was so focused on rookie Christian Kirksey when Karlos Dansby went down, that I didn’t catch 3rd year pro Craig Robertson making a move—he’s up to 10.8 tackles per game the last four weeks.

Robertson was an undrafted free agent out of North Texas in 2011, who has been productive for the Browns the last three seasons…but playing his best (FF-output) ball as of late. He is average athletically (4.75+), but a high effort guy…100+ tackles in each of his final two seasons in college. He led the Sun Belt conference in tackles in 2010 (133).

As long as Karlos Dansby is out, Robertson has a chance to post double-digit tackles and is one of the better fantasy pickups for the short term.

DB Bene Benwikere, Carolina

The Panthers dumped Antoine Cason, and installed rookie Bene Benwikere as their new starting CB last week. He answered the bell (FF-wise) with 8 tackles, 2 PDs, and a pick.

Benwikere was a CB/S hybrid for much of his college career, switching to CB later…and picking off 12 passes in his final two season of college play. In his senior season, he was 2nd in all the NCAAs with seven interceptions. He’s not a burner (4.6+) speed, but is agile with a great vertical (40.5”). He is solid…and the type of CB who will get picked on a lot the rest of the season…meaning nice opportunity for PDs and tackles.

Andre Williams rocked the Titans running for 131 yards and a score

 

Fantasy Waiver Wire Pickups - 

1. RB Andre Williams, NYG:

With starting tailback Rashad Jennings limited with an ankle injury from the previous week, Andre Williams turned in a very impressive performance. The rookie HB took 24 carries for 131 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and 1 touchdown on the ground. With Jennings' health still a lingering issue, and the Giants having no hope of making the playoffs, they may decide to look to Williams to finish out the season as their starter. However, the rookie's stellar performance should be taken with a grain of salt as it occurred when facing the league's worst rush defense (allowing 141.5 yards per contest). Expect Andre Williams to continue to receive a significant workload, and he is one of the best fantasy pickups around as an RB2.

2. RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR:

Jonathan Stewart had himself a spectacular game as the Panthers destroyed the Saints on the road. Stewart took advantage of the absence of DeAngelo Williams (sat out with a finger injury), taking 20 carries for 155 yards (7.8 yards per carry) and 1 touchdown. He made quick cuts, and was able to break away for a 69 yard touchdown, which is the longest of his 7 year career. Though this comes against the Saints' 29th ranked rush defense, which allows 133.5 rushing yards per game, Stewart has another easy opponent ahead of him in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Stewart could be added and started immediately at RB2 in fantasy formats across the board.

3. WR Charles Johnson, MIN:

Charles Johnson has definitely solidified himself as the starting X receiver, as he has proven to be much more effective than Cordarrelle Patterson. Johnson has been given a higher snap count as of late, and has secured 15 catches for 283 yards and 2 touchdowns in Minnesota's last 4 games. Johnson may put up inconsistent performances due to weak QB play, but he will continue to see a ton of action and build rapport with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Johnson is tough to sell as an immediate starter for next week, due to a tough match with the big bad Lions defense, but he is worth a look as a WR3 with major upside in keeper leagues.

4. RB Kerwynn Williams, ARI:

Williams has the chance to take over as the starting running back from here on out due to workhorse Andre Ellington's placing on I.R., on a Cardinals team destined to make the playoffs. Williams received his first NFL carry (second-year player) against the Chiefs a week ago, yet he wound up taking control of this "committee" approach as he turned 19 touches into 100 yards (5.3 yards per carry) on the ground. He wound up out-touching fellow HB Stepfan Taylor, as Taylor turned 6 carries into 19 rushing yards (3.2 yards per carry), adding 1 catch for 7 yards. Expect Williams to continue to be the lead back in Arizona, and he can be added as a high-end RB2 with a decently high ceiling with a workload around 15-20 carries per game.

Manning MASHED fantasy owners with 173 yards, no scores and two picks

 

QB Fantasy Football News -

Broncos QB and perennial stud fantasy QB Peyton Manning has a long U-G-L-Y history of choking in the playoffs. The Broncos might have won the game against the Bills today, but Manning shot down fantasy owners during Week 14 with his worst performance in nearly six years of professional football.

This was a game where Peyton looked a lot more like his little brother Eli.

He finished with a disastrous stat line completing 14 of 20 passes for a scant 173 yards, NO TOUCHDOWNS and two picks. In standard and PPR leagues, he finished with two lousy fantasy points and sent many fantasy owners crashing out of the playoffs.

Even for the fantasy owners who are able to squeak through to the next round, their confidence in Manning has been shaken. Everybody has a bad day, but this was the first game where Manning had failed to record a touchdown since 2010.

Manning’s amazing streak of 51 straight games with a touchdown fell three short of the mark set by Drew Brees between 2009-2012. But many fantasy owners who crashed out of the playoffs may be cursing Manning’s name until next year's fantasy draft.

Stay tuned to Fantasy Focus for the latest QB news and QB fantasy news.