It’s an age-old question: what came first the chicken or the egg? That timeless question got me thinking about how many fines are now coming down from Goodell’s fortress for anything and everything, and wondering if it’s just a reflection on the current exposition of media immediacy, be it Sportscenter, the internet, social media, or any other tool that gets us our football clips expediently.
I am still a young pup, but I’ve been playing fantasy sports for 9 years, and I remember my first season where not many people I knew had laptops and you’d watch your local team game (without NFL RedZone or the DirectTV package), and follow the bottom line for the other scores and hope it’s your guy, and maybe, just maybe, get a game break that shows a long TD catch by your WR3. You’d get up for a beer or a snack and hit up your 80-pound desktop and fire on the dial up to check you team. Of course, since I’m young I didn’t even know the perils of fantasy sports pre-internet with newspaper stat lines, trades over the phone, and the league manager actually having to do everything by hand and calculator. Lucky for us fantasy folks, the Internet has brought us all here.
But when I saw Stevie Johnson just plain actin’ a foo’, it got me thinking: In the 80s or 90s guys didn’t really do that as much I don’t think, did they? Of course there are exceptions, but then on top of his silly little Plax gun charade, he gets fined for that? If anyone should fine him it should be the Bills for costing them the game with his drops.
So back to the question, what came first, ridiculous fines for helmet-to-helmet hits (they’ve always been part of the game and you can’t stop every single one; concussions will happen too, look at Polamalu), stupid celebrations, and flicking off hecklers, or the fact that anyone can now see them by the click of a button and checking their Twitter? I’m pretty sure it’s the latter. So as social media and the speed of communications continues to exponentially compound, let’s hope our football doesn’t lose all of it’s character and morph into flag football like we saw LeBron running around doing, thinking he was all that. Next think you know, guys like Shawn Bradley will be our football stars camping out in the endzone, and players will be suspended for spiking the ball.
Looking at last week’s picks, it was probably my worst week, but at least I was right on both Panthers running backs having big games, Lance Moore had two TDs on Monday Night, and Antonio Brown is a stud and why he’s still not started blindly is beyond me (see below). Matt Leinart was on his way to having the 220-yard 2-TD game I predicted before breaking his collarbone in the first half, so that was at least kinda a wash. Although Julio Jones played, he didn’t get a single target, so I was way off on that one. And then for the guys I said would have slow games, all unfortunately did pretty well, with Bowe the only OK performer putting up 69 yards. Both A.J. Green (late in 4th quarter) and Willis McGahee (late in O.T.) had huge plays to put them barely in double-digits. Ugh. We’ll get em this week!
Here are some guys that I like that aren’t getting started enough and guys I think you should bench (along with their starting percentages in ESPN and Yahoo respectively):
Matt Moore (2.3%, 8%) In the past six weeks, Moore had score a TD in all but one game, and had 3 TDs in two of the last four. Of course he’s not going to start over the big name studs, but if you’ve lost your starter, say Vick, Cutler, or Schaub, Moore is the perfect band-aid to help vault you into the playoffs. Oakland’s pass defense has not been the same without Asomugha, and has given up 13 or more points to opposing QBs (in conservative ESPN-standard scoring) in all but one week this season. If you’ve got a big question mark at the top of your line-up, I think it’s Moore this week.
C.J. Spiller (15.4%, 29%) Spiller’s promotion to the top-billing RB (see what I did there) didn’t go exceedingly well, but it was a tough game for the Bills running game with the game plan shifting to pass-only. Even so, Spiller still got 22 touches (19 carries) versus the Jets, and while he didn’t produce much, I think it’s a precursor that he’ll get another solid workload against a less-stout run D in the Titans. Ryan Fitzpatrick also looked a lot better than he has lately, which I think will open up the defense and give Spiller an opportunity to really break out. He’s a little bit of a risk, but his upside is tremendous and if you’re unsure of a guy you’re starting and have Spiller sitting on your bench, I think he could be a gold mine.
Antonio Brown (15.8%, 54%) As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I know there are a lot of dead teams still out there, particularly in ESPN. But how is Brown still started in so few leagues!? He leads the Steelers in targets, yes that’s right, ahead of Mike Wallace in targets, and has done nothing but deliver the past five weeks. I think the Bengals D is going to play tough, especially against the run, and the Steelers offense will be looking to get some early offense after their poor showing last week against the Chiefs. Look for Brown to get work in early, during, and late in this game, and I expect a 100-yard game with a hopeful score.
Mark Ingram (32.3%, 20%) Coming off his best game as a pro, I think Ingram delivers again this week against the Lions. A lot of work came in junk time versus the Giants on Monday Night, but even so, I see this game getting to junk time pretty quick as well. Don’t forget that moron Suh is serving his suspension, taking out arguably one of the best interior linemen in the NFL, which should open up a little extra room for the bruising runner up the middle. I could easily see another 80-yard game with a score in this one, and you could do a lot worse in your flex.
Deion Branch (26.5%, 50%) Maybe I’m prematurely in the holiday spirit (but then again so is every department store, and they start pumping Christmas themes in October), but I have memories of snow falling and Christmas-red Patriots jerseys in a blowout from two years ago where the snow was blowing harder than the Tennessee secondary. Now, I know Branch wasn’t on the Pats for that game and it’s not going to snow in Foxboro tomorrow, but against the just-as-bad Colts, I could easily see this game going the same way as that 59-0 debacle. You’re starting every Patriot you can, but I think a few teams are slow to warm up to Branch, who had a strong performance last week against the Eagles as well. I see another big game here for Branch.
Son of a Bench
Steven Jackson (75%, 73%) It’s always tough to bench your studs, especially if they’ve gotten you to where you are in your playoff run, but going against the best run D in the land and with so many injuries to the Rams offense, I think Jackson is a sit tomorrow against the 49ers. San Francisco is playing for a first-round bye, and they’re not going to overlook this divisional game, not by a long shot. Jackson is coming off two of his worst weeks of the year, and I think this could be another single-digit outing for him.
Phillip Rivers (68%, 72%) Even though Rivers has been an absolute turnover machine, he’s still been pumping out acceptable fantasy numbers. But I don’t think it keeps up this week. Rivers was pretty limited against the Broncos who are playing tough D right now, and with Jacksonville playing for new head coach and former defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, I think they play some tough defense against the struggling Bolts. Jacksonville already gives up the 6th least fantasy points to opposing QBs, and I suspect Rivers will have a tougher time moving the ball than many think. He’s a bench for me, and hey, I’d play Moore over him. Yea, I said it.
Anquan Boldin (64.1%, 73%) I’m really not this much of a Boldin hater, but he’s been on my bench list four times now. I’ve been wrong about picking bad games against my boy Joe Haden the past two times now (Brandon Lloyd in week 10 and A.J. Green last week), but I think Boldin is limited in this game. The Browns are a mess in pretty much every facet of the game except their secondary, and I think this game gets out of hand pretty quick with Ray Rice running the show. Boldin hasn’t had double-digit scoring in non-PPR since week 8, and I think it will continue again this week. I’d leave Boldin on my bench and play someone with more upside.
Andre Johnson (54.1%, 65%) If you’ve made it this far and you’re still in the running with AJ, more power to you. But even though your first round pick is back, I still think you gotta leave him on the bench until we see more from T.J. Yates. I’ve seen Yates play in person when he was at Chapel Hill, and I really wasn’t too impressed. He had Greg Little to throw to and I could be a decent QB throwing to him in the crappy ACC. I think Yates is going to have a tough game and Foster and Ben Tate get all the work on the ground. Even if the Texans get behind, I don’t think they’ll have Johnson out there on every snap as they’re still easing him back. AJ has to a bench again this week and will be from here on out until we see any consistency from Yates.
Roy Helu (43.4%, 37%) Now is PPR formats, it’s going to be pretty tough to bench Helu, but even so, this is the sort of week where if you start Helu thinking he’ll help carry you to the playoffs, we all the sudden see all the other Redskin backs get all the work. I can’t stand the way Shanahan is running this team, and every time a rusher comes off a big game, he suddenly doesn’t get the touches the next week. Just ask Ryan Torain. Even if Helu gets the majority of the touches, I think the Jets D comes alive and forces Rex Grossman to beat them. Unless you have really, really bad alternate options, there’s no way I could see starting Helu if you’re a contender.
If you have any last second decisions, shoot me some comments, or tweet me @jbgilpin. Good luck to everyone in week 12 and I hope as many of you make the playoffs as possible!