What we are talking about:
Good start this week?
Elite, but not this week
Dolph is right
Beyoncé is going to be your Super Bowl halftime entertainment this year. And we could really kick this off by bemoaning the fact that Van Halen, Foo Fighters, and Iron Maiden have once again been passed over for the gig, but it's cool.
It reminds me when my old barkeep Paulie predicted Beyonce was going to be one of the biggest stars of our generation. And this after her turn in "Austin Powers in Goldmember," back when she was a star and the hot girl from Destiny's Child (or the hottest one). We all liked her, but not everybody was onboard with that statement back in 2002.
But he likes to take pride in that prediction, and I get a similar feeling when I talk about A.J. Green. He was my No. 1 fantasy receiver heading into 2012, this when everybody was head-over-heels for Julio Jones (who I liked).
So I take in Green and I went back to check his numbers after six games compared to Calvin Johnson's first six games last year. Green has the edge in receptions (43 to 36) and yards (628 to 545), but trails in touchdowns (6 to 9). Still, Green is on pace for 16 TD receptions this year. He's the best fantasy receiver this year.
Let's get to the likes and dislikes.
Likes and dislikes are in bold, for those of you who don't want to take the 88 minutes required to read this column. (But it's the weekend: What better way to cruise through it than by checking out my thoughts on fantasy football, comic books, wrestling, TV and music?
A big hand to stats maven Bill "Sudsy" Sudell for dropping the knowledge.
And without further ado ...
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Hasselbeck are two great sleeper options this week, and they headline Rank's 11. The Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans don't play defense, so the matchups are great. Don't get crazy, though. Still play your stars.
Here are my top seven quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Robert Griffin III, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Red Dalton. If you have a big-name guy like Matt Ryan or Peyton Manning on the bench, this is the perfect week to play Fitzpatrick and Hasselbeck.
Aaron Rodgers, of course, has a tough matchup this week but he showed against the Houston Texans why he has to start each and every week. I get tweets about Rodgers and one of the matchup guys like Dalton, Hasselbeck or Fitzpatrick. But I would rather lose with Rodgers not doing great, instead of losing because I kept Rodgers on the bench and he went for five touchdowns against the St. Louis FC. Seriously, find somebody who benched Rodgers last week and ask them what's up.
ImageAm I the only one who thought this was Aaron Rodgers in this commercial with Alicia Keys? If I get a Citibank card I get to meet Alicia backstage? Because it would make sense to go into debt for that instead of all the tabs I ran up at Cassidy's in Newport Beach back in the day.
As our fantasy associate editor Marcas Grant pointed out, the dude is still pretty boring, but now he's just spending a lot more money. And his ex-girlfriend got one last dinner from him.
I continue to put a lot of faith in Andy Luck. He's attempted 40 passes in four of his five games this season. The Browns have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, and a league-high 15 touchdown passes. The rookie is going to be inconsistent, but Luck is worth starting this week. I'm even starting him over Newton in my league of record (Corona Football League with my lifelong fans from the 9-5-1).
I would still start Cam Newton in most leagues. The Cowboys have allowed the sixth-fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks this year, but what happened last time we played the matchups and sat Cutler against these guys?
Robert Griffin III is your fantasy MVP so far this season. He's doing it all. It's weird, the two brightest stars in football and baseball are rookies. Of course, I'm talking about Mike Trout, the guy who will be the most valuable player this year. Don't worry, Tigers fans. You still have your win over the Yankees to crow about. You don't need Miggy to win the MVP, too. Now you're just being greedy.
Is it weird nobody roots for Detroit? Has there been a bigger underdog city out there, what with how badly the American automotive industry was doing recently?
Chris Johnson had a nice little game against the Steelers last week. That was unexpected. Johnson has still averaged a dismal 3.3 yards per carry this season (40th in the NFL), but the matchup against the Bills is great. Remember when I was just talking about the Bills' lack of defense? They have allowed a league-high seven rushing touchdowns to running backs this year.
If Johnson continues to put up good games (he has another favorable matchup against the Colts next week), you might want to look for a deal. I'm not sure he's going to keep up the pace for the entire season. This is one of those "sell high" moments. Though, I'm not sure the notion of "sell high" even works nowadays given how savvy most fantasy owners are. Most are skeptical. But give it a shot.
Felix Jones is fantasy relevant again. Jones had a pretty nice game against the Ravens with a touchdown and 92 rushing yards last week and everybody raced to add him on the waiver wire. But let's pump the breaks a bit, this was his first touchdown in 16 games and 174 offensive touches. The thing he does have is the opportunity and a great matchup against the Panthers this week.
Jones did leave last week's game with dehydration. Like Jones wasn't planning to play or something and he was sitting on the bench pounding Diet Pepsi. Or maybe he pulled the Max McGee the night before. But this is probably his best chance to prove he can be a big-time player, especially during his contract year.
I'm interested to see what Lance Dunbar is all about. In fact, here's a plausible scenario. Felix Jones gets hurt (though, that never happens); Dunbar comes into the game, rushes for 74 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. And then Dunbar becomes the hot name on the waiver wire, but wait ... all your friends notice that you already have Dunbar on your roster because you're a genius and picked him up last week because there was no reason for you to have two defenses and kickers!
ImageAnd you want to know the downside of having Dunbar on your roster this week? Nothing. I mean, don't drop Roddy White to add him or something loony like that. But if you have an extra defense, or somebody else taking up space on your roster, make a move. The worst thing that could happen? He doesn't play, you drop him from your team on Tuesday and move on. But you will look smart because a lot of people will be all, "I didn't even know who Lance Dunbar was." In fact, it's a savvy move for the females who read this column (though, I believe both are in the same league). It strikes fear into the men that you know way more about football than they do.
If you are starting Felix Jones and Vick Ballard in your fantasy backfield, I want to hear from you. Matchup-based backups. Should be pretty interesting this week. But for Ballard, the Browns have allowed at least 100 rushing yards in nine of their last 11 road games.
Or if you are going with Daryl Richardson. Actually, I like him in a pinch. Richardson had 76 rushing yards against a pretty good Dolphins' rush defense. His attempts have increased for three consecutive weeks and if you just watch the games, Richardson looks like the more effective running back. Coach Jeff Fisher has to see this, too. If you have a chance to add Richardson to your team, do it. And if you're in a pinch, don't be afraid to play him.
Thinking about it more, the love for Felix Jones this week reminds me of the pop Ryback is getting in the WWE right now. (And yes, if the little wrestling icon wasn't a giveaway, Rank is talking about wrestling again, run!) But it sure seems like Dolph Ziggler was speaking the truth about Ryback when he said he was a flash in the pan. He's certainly gotten over in a short time, but it would be too short-sided to give him the belt just yet. At least make him earn it.
ImageMy guess is Brock Lesnar costs Ryback the match, which sets up a perfect Wrestlemania showdown. Ryback gets a few more months of "feed me more" matches against the mid-card jobbers and curtain jerkers. CM Punk gets a win over the hottest star in the company before he eventually lays down to the Rock at the Royal Rumble. Cena gets his win back from The Rock at Wrestlemania. Punk gets it back from Cena at Summer Slam. All right, back to football.
Freddy Morris continues to be a nice play, even against the Giants. But still, I believe at some point I'm going to be proven right about Mike Shanahan. If for nothing else, so I can have my "This Week in Shanahanigans" segment back on "NFL Fantasy Live."
Trent Richardson is going to wear a flak jacket this week. I'm still starting him with confidence. Richardson has four rushing touchdowns in his last five games. The Browns don't run the ball a lot, but Richardson has been great when given the chance. The Browns have allowed the 12th-most points to fantasy running backs.
Some folks are down on Darren McFadden for whatever reason. He's healthy; he's starting to get going. Find out if the person in your league with McFadden feels the same way and strike a deal. McFadden has a nice schedule coming up. People are impatient, I guess.
ImageSPOILER Speaking of which, I really feared they were going to hotshot the reveal for "Homeland" and move too fast with the plotline, but I was impressed with the way they had it play out. Maybe it's just Claire Danes' portrayal. The scene where she was about to go out on the town (with the fake engagement ring, a nod of continuity to the first season) then finally decided to end it all then changed her mind to her ultimate redemption was one of the best I've seen in a while. But we should be wise to remember, it never works out so neatly for Carrie.
ImageSPOILER "Dexter" has been less annoying than I had expected, but they killed off Lewis way too quickly and without a real nice resolution. The only way this makes sense is if the Ukrainian mob ends up using his body to frame Dexter. That would make sense, but we haven't seen that kind of clever writing from "Dexter" in a while.
ImageKudos to Kurt Sutter. I fell for his gentle swerve on "Sons of Anarchy" this week. When Clay was aghast at the nomad's scratch from the home invasion, I did think, "Maybe Clay isn't involved." But I was duped. I was ready to pan the Jemma storyline, but Sutter has proven in the past he has a reason for everything even when it seems gratuitous like this week's death. He's earned that. But Katey Sagal is not winning the Emmy; Danes has it locked up.
It's the bye week and you're stuck without a receiver. It happens to the best of us. And to me. So if you want to take a shot on Josh Gordon, who has three touchdown receptions in the last two games, I certainly won't stop you. Besides, the Colts have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to receivers this year.
If you tweet me with a question about whether to start Percy Harvin or not, you run the risk of being blocked. Well, I don't block anybody, even the people who are excessively mean. But why am I getting questions about this? One guy gave me a list of five receivers which included Harvin, A.J. Green and three curtain-jerkers. Now, if I was sinister, I would have picked the three mid-card guys. But I'm a man of integrity, so I made the right picks. But this is becoming baffling.
Just to update you, Harvin had some late-week injury concerns. He still didn't miss the game, as he finished with 11 receptions for 133 yards. I don't like him, I love him.
Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are both in line for huge games. Both receivers rank in the top 20 this week in our NFL.com fantasy rankings. The Saints have allowed the third-most points to fantasy receivers this year. The Saints have also allowed 19 touchdown passes in their last 10 road games. Williams has really benefitted from Jackson's presence, and has at least 110 receiving yards in each of the past two games.
Kendall Wright is a nice sleeper option this week, and a member of Rank's 11. Kenny Britt also should be considered for the Titans, too. Really, you must love this Tennessee Titans vs. Buffalo Bills game.
Devery Henderson should be a dislike this week. He's had like one touchdown reception in his last 30-something road games. Actually, that's so lazy. It's one touchdown in his last 36 road games to be exact. You know what that means? He's due. Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham are battling injuries.
Mike Wallace is having a fantastic season because he's tied for the league lead in targets. The holdout certainly didn't hurt him.
The Packers have a tougher matchup against the St. Louis FC than most people believe. Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan are tremendous corners. The guy from the Packers I really like is Randall "Tex" Cobb. He could be the Packers' top receiver this week.
There is a lot of trepidation about playing Aaron Hernandez this week. He missed practice on Thursday, but don't read too much into that. He's just getting an extra day of rest. I really like the matchup for him this week. The Jets have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends this year. You'd be crazy not to play him.
ImageSpeaking of crazy, I don't like A.J. Lee's character and her overreaction at the word "crazy." At some point I expect A.J. to be sitting underneath a sign that says, "Don't say 'crazy' to this woman" which is exactly what Heath Slater will do, and then Sheamus will show up with that stupid grin on his face and squash the One Man Band in six seconds just because I can't have nice things.
ImageMy Curt Hennig All-Stars for Week 7: Tom Brady, Arian Foster, Trent Richardson, A.J. Green, Percy Harvin, Aaron Hernandez, Sebastian Janikowski, and the Chicago Bears. Make sure you sign up for the Perfect Challenge. You can win a millions of dollars, millions of dollars, millions of dollars.
This might come as a shock to you, so I understand if you want to sit down, but Eli Manning isn't a great start this week. What? That's right, not a great start. "But Rank, the Redskins have allowed the fourth-most points to fantasy quarterbacks this year, this is a great matchup." You aren't wrong. And good for you for keeping up with the trends. But if you want to take a look inside the numbers of this matchup, let's dig a little deeper.
In 15 career games against the Redskins, Eli has managed more than one touchdown pass only once. He has 12 career touchdowns against the Skins. Eli has thrown for more than 300 yards once in those 15 games. Eli has failed to throw a touchdown in three of his last four games against the Redskins. Including a huge fantasy playoff game in 2011. In that game, he threw three interceptions. It's a huge, huge risk to play him.
Let's also consider the Giants are coming off a huge win over the San Francisco 49ers on the West Coast. This is easily a trap game for the Giants. In fact, I picked the Redskins to win in the Pick 'Em Challenge.
And ease off, Giants fans. I'm not trying to insinuate Eli isn't elite. He's still a part of the Fantasy Illuminati. But this is a risky play this week. You've been warned. And if he kills it, you can come make fun of me.
Has New York ever had two more polar-opposite athletes than Eli Manning and Alex Rodriguez? Manning, for all of his detractors, has come through when it's counted the most. Rodriguez isn't even starting. And for the record, A-Rod's home run off Brian Feuntes in the 2009 American League Championship Series would have been a harmless F-9 in every other stadium in America.
ImageAlthough, I won't condemn Alex Rodriguez for passing a note to a bikini model during a game, which is not cool with Torrie Wilson still around. It's better than drinking beers, eating chicken wings and playing video games in the clubhouse while his team is getting escorted from the playoffs. But the world does seem like a better place today with the Yankees out of the playoffs.
I said to sit Alex Smith and Russell Wilson on Thursday night. How did that work out for me? No seriously, I'm asking because I turn this piece in on Thursday afternoon. But the way my colleagues were talking on "NFL Fantasy Live" on Thursday, I was afraid they were going to jinx this into being a high-scoring game.
Jay Cutler is an interesting play this week. If you look at the numbers, he's got a decent matchup against the Lions (the defense has given up 16 touchdown passes in its last six road games). And playing guys on Monday night is one of my favorite things to do. But if you look at Cutler's numbers against the Lions, Detroit has found a way to harness him. Cutler has just two touchdown passes in three games against the Lions.
Cutler has also put together back-to-back credible fantasy weeks. You want to know the last time he's had three consecutive great fantasy productive weeks? You have to go all the way back to early 2009 (Weeks 2-4). Let's just say we are due for a Cutler meltdown.
Plus, do you want to play a hunch on Cutler and have him deliver the bad game we thought he was going to have against the Cowboys? That would be awful.
Ben Roethlisberger is another troubling quarterback this week. The Steelers can't run the ball. All of the talk about being a running team went out the window once the offensive line (David DeCastro) was stung by injuries. So Roethlisberger is going to have to throw the ball a ton. The bad thing is, Roethlisberger has struggled in the past against the Bengals.
So which trend do you trust the most? Recent history against the Bengals suggests you sit Roethlisberger. But the Bengals have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Roethlisberger is a risky play to me. He's better than Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer, Josh Freeman and Cutler. But he's just outside QB1 status in 10-team formats.
Roethlisberger also left practice this week after getting his right ankle stepped on. It's probably nothing. But something to think about.
This is an unscientific data, but in leagues where you play the hot hand and the matchup and go with a guy like Alex Smith or Christian Ponder in your lineup, it only works six percent of the time. All right, a slight exaggeration. But playing the matchups isn't always the easiest thing to do. I like to do it when you have problems with injuries or bye weeks, but don't go nuts and do wild crazy plays. Unless you have a gut feeling. I would never tell you to go against your gut.
Christian Ponder has scored at least 16 points in four of his last five fantasy games. I don't like him this week against the Cardinals, who have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
Josh Freeman is a nice sleeper. The matchup is nice, as the New Orleans Saints have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to fantasy quarterbacks in 2012. Freeman does have six touchdowns and no interceptions in his last four games against the Saints.
I'd start Freeman over Joe Flacco this week. Flacco hasn't been good on the road, he's had a touchdown or less in seven of his last eight road games and he's had fewer than 235 passing yards in five consecutive road games. If Flacco is able to get over on the Texans, though, it would be time to move the caution tape from around Houston's defense.
Freeman's more of a guy to start if you have one of the bye-week guys like Matt Ryan or Peyton Manning. And really, have things changed at all in Denver? The defense bails out the offense, but Manning gets all of the headlines for his epic rally. Yet, if it wasn't for the defense taking that fumble back for a touchdown late in the third quarter, the comeback might not have happened.
Manning is getting way too much credit. This was a perfect Manning game. Once all of the pressure was off him, he could go into "all good" mode as a guy who racks up yards in garbage time. And really, all of those fantasy points would have been in garbage time had Dante Rosario turned the correct way on the deep ball the play before Rivers' big turnover. At that point, it's 31-7 Chargers and the game is finished.
BTW, where is the list of game-crippling interceptions thrown in the fourth quarter? Manning has to be up on that list, too. Just asking.
How many of Manning's comebacks came against the AFC South? Doesn't seem fair those should count. I tried to look up Alex Rodriguez's game-winning hits, since I figured they were similar, but every time I search for that, I get Raul Ibanez.
Fred Jackson has a great matchup this week. The Titans have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs. But Jackson has scored only one touchdown in his last eight games, and has failed to produce more than 85 yards in five consecutive games. I get it with the bye weeks.
Shonn Greene is coming off a nice game, but the Patriots have allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards and no touchdowns in three consecutive games. I expect the Patriots to take an early lead, and force the Jets to throw the ball a ton, which would take Greene out of the game.
ImageFor the record, Michael Cole, I know you are trying to pump up John Cena's appearance as the Jets' honorary captain on Sunday. But let's not call it the Jets' "big win" over the Colts. I'm a wrestling fan and I'm willing to suspend belief to enjoy the product, but you're really pushing it.
ImageMy only wish is Cole did a similar job in pushing some of the WWE developmental talent. He did more to get the Jets win over than he's even done for guys like Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre and some of the others.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis hasn't scored a touchdown in three consecutive games, and has scored fewer than eight points in four consecutive games. The Bengals have just three rushing touchdowns in their last 12 games against the Steelers. The Bengals are going to need to put the ball into the air in this game.
Steven Jackson has no rushing touchdowns in his last nine games, and only one in his last 15 games. In fact, Sam Bradford has the only rushing touchdown for the St. Louis FC. Boys, you need to be better than that for your Los Angeles return. You know, if that were to happen.
People have asked me, Rank, who do you want to return to Los Angeles, the Rams or the Chargers? It's the Rams. Yes, the Chargers started in Los Angeles in 1960, but they are San Diego's team. The fans in San Diego have been apathetic during the entire Norv Turner era. But make no mistake, the San Diego market would be enthused for a great Chargers team. The fans were robbed in 2006 when Marlon McCree refused to just fall on the damn ground. Now it's been star-crossed ever since.
The Chargers could have possibly received backing for a new stadium, too. But the San Diego Padres ruined that by holding out for a ton of money for PetCo Park and then dismantling a pretty good team. I love Angel Stadium, but PetCo is my second-favorite park and the atmosphere outside the stadium is second-to-none.
Don't worry about starting La'Rod Stephens-Howling or William Powell this week against the tough Vikings' defense. Nothing is going to happen from the Cardinals' running game. I keep thinking the Birds should just throw the ball on every down. And then I remember their quarterback is going to be John Skelton. Patrick Peterson is the closest thing to a Bobby Boucher-like player, because their best chance at offense is him returning the ball on an interception or punt return.
BTW, was there any doubt Jay Feely was going to miss that gimmie at the end of the Bills game? The way he ran onto the field to encourage Peterson on the punt return was the kiss of death. I get it, dude, you just nailed a 60-yard field goal to tie the game. But chill the (expletive) out. You're still the kicker.
Steve Smith is a big-name guy who has seen his production go down. Smith has had no touchdowns in his last six home games. And remember, the Cowboys have allowed the fewest points to fantasy receivers this year. But we all were touting those stats when the Bears rolled in there on Monday night. So you are probably going to need to start Smith, but you don't have to like it. But if you have a lot of receiver depth and can afford to bench Smith, the numbers support that.
Jordy Nelson is another receiver who falls into the same category. The numbers say this could be a rough outing for Nelson. The St. Louis FC has allowed the second-fewest points to fantasy receivers this year. Nelson is much better at home, and not on the road. But you saw him go crazy against the Texans last week. So what do the numbers really mean? If you're thin at receiver, don't go crazy and start Greg Little over Nelson for the matchups. But if you have an embarrassment of riches at receiver, the numbers say this isn't going to be a big week for Nelson.
Somebody asked me if you should play Gordon ahead of Dre Johnson this week because of the matchup. And you can see why people are disappointed in Johnson because he has only two touchdowns in his last 11 games, and only one game over 100 receiving yards in the last 10 games. But man, I have to imagine a scenario where you're not playing him. I would start Johnson over Brandon Lloyd, Anquan Boldin and Brandon Gibson, for instance.
Hasselbeck is having trouble getting the ball to Nate Washington, who is the third-best receiver to play from the Titans. But Washington did have nine targets last week and the matchup is good. But you'd have to be desperate because of injuries and bye weeks to play him. (I'm playing him in my league of record vs. my lifelong friends from Corona, Calif. But I don't like it.)
If Washington does score this week, please don't send in a #thathelpsnoone because it will be helping me.
If you want to end your relationship with Jermichael Finley, please, don't let me stop you. Finley has five or fewer targets in the last five games, while also going without a touchdown. It's time to pull the plug.
ImageSpeaking of which, we'll miss you "Animal Practice." A show with a monkey as a doctor didn't make it? I'm shocked. We haven't had hearts this heavy about a show which featured a simian being canceled since "B.J. and the Bear" went off the air. Sad day, but one predicted by Dave Dameshek on "The McRanklin Group" this week.
Jimmy Graham is unlikely to play this week, just make sure you are checking your lineups. I accidentally dropped Kyle Rudolph this week because I figured I wasn't going to need a tight end again. I don't particularly care for Rudolph's matchup this week. I wouldn't start him over one of the top-name guys. He's an injury replacement only.
Should you pick up Tim Tebow this week? Rex Ryan has discussed the possibility of him playing running back. I believe he was serious. You can probably wait this one out.
For the record, you can submit your fantasy questions to NFL Fantasy Live, Michael Fabiano or me on Twitter. But realize, NFL Fantasy Live has 70,000 followers, and Fabiano has 60,000. Me? Just 13. See, the odds are better I will answer your question, so hit me up both via Twitter or via Facebook (oh wait, I told you to stop going to Facebook). Go instead to Google+. Also be sure to catch the latest "Dave Dameshek Football Program."