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Fantasy Basement: Week 16
The Fantasy Basement is a weekly piece that provides fantasy advice on lineup calls, sleepers, waiver-wire moves and rookie spotlights, along with the occasional ramble or four. Why “Fantasy Basement” you ask? There is a common misconception that sports writers dwell in their childhood cellars, that the institution promotes an arrested development. However, instead of railing against this claim, I am embracing this subterranean bourgeoisie. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy coming home to fresh-baked cookies and having their laundry done? But I digress…Enjoy.
QB: Andrew Luck, Colts
Luck’s not exactly riding a wave of momentum into this matchup, completing just 47.5 percent of his throws for 382 yards, three touchdowns and two turnovers in his last two outings. And while a date with the lowly Chiefs seems prosperous on paper, evidenced by the unit’s allowance of 25 aerial scores versus seven interceptions in 2012, in truth, the Kanas City secondary hasn’t been that bad, as a disastrous fall has skewed their seasonal defensive standing.
However, the quiet-but-undeniable building rapport between Luck and his receiving corps, as well as the emergence of a viable Indy rushing attack fronted by Vick Ballard, gives us conviction that the No. 1 overall pick is a practical play in Arrowhead Stadium. Throw in the added consequence of the contest, as a win secures the Colts a playoff berth, and Luck looks likely to shine this Sunday.
Other starts: Tony Romo, Matt Schaub
RB: Darren McFadden, Raiders
A lack of robust Run DMC outputs was a major element in the elimination of many a fantasy team this year. So it would stand to reason that his first major contribution in nearly two months (a 149-yard effort versus the Chiefs) would occur when his proprietors were absent from the playoffs. Only McFadden could post such a harvest and still annoy his owner base.
Luckily for McFadden managers who survived his M.I.A. campaign, the Raiders rusher has a chance to duplicate last week’s feats against a Panthers team that is surrendering nearly 118 yards on the ground and the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs this year. Reports out of Silver-and-Black camp mention no setbacks on McFadden’s enigmatic ankle, giving you the “Go” sign for starter implementation.
Other starts: DeAngelo Williams, Vick Ballard
WR: Anquan Boldin, Ravens
I know, not easy to place your championship fruition in the hands of “Average Joe” Flacco, and Boldin’s goose egg versus Denver last Sunday off six targets isn’t facilitating faith, either. Yet with Torrey Smith dealing with concussion ramifications, Boldin will be the primary bull’s-eye in Baltimore’s flight forays on a Giants secondary that is relinquishing nearly 270 receiving yards per game, fifth-highest amount in the NFL. Don’t let the Bronco shutout scare you away, as the 32-year-old hauled in three touchdowns in the previous two contests.
Other starts: T.Y. Hilton, Danny Amendola
TE: Greg Olsen, Panthers
In standard formats, Olsen has the fifth-most points amongst tight ends. Somehow this sentiment is not making its way to the rotisserie world, as 12 other players at his slot have higher ownership rates than the former Bear. To be fair, it wasn’t the most auspicious of starts for Olsen, averaging a middling 49.6 yards through the first seven games, making a lone trip to the Promised Land in that span. Since that juncture, Olsen has upped the ante, bumping that average to 57.1 yards in his last seven outings. More importantly, he’s become a frequent visitor in the end zone, with four excursions in the last two months.
The Oakland defense has been battered by tight ends all season, yielding the fourth-highest production to the position. As Carolina’s receiving crew has been uneven, consider Olsen a dangerous weapon this weekend.
Other starts: Heath Miller, Jermichael Finley
DEF: Indianapolis Colts
We’ve had our fun with Ryan Lindley and the Arizona offense the past few weeks, and rightfully so. Howbeit, we have been remiss in mentioning Kansas City in this same breath, as the Chiefs have empowered the opposition to bountiful days as well. Though the figures don’t totally support this claim, the Colts have improved on defense in the past month, making this matchup too enticing too pass up.
Other starts: Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots
QB: Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
Like stealing a lunch tray in college to snowboard toward the quad, starting Freeman versus exploitable defenses in Philadelphia and New Orleans seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, those cafeteria coaster cruises never go as smooth as envisioned, usually ending with bruised appendages and egos after crashing into cobblestone or a bike rack. (Aw, college. Stay there as long as you can, kids.) Although, if we are to be fair, Freeman didn’t just smash into a dorm abutment last week; he barely made it down the hill before tipping over, tumbling into a group of co-eds, colliding into a cornhole set and ripping his pants. And if that analogy didn’t make sense, obviously you didn’t have Freeman’s five turnovers in your starting lineup.
If we can’t trust the Tampa Bay signal caller taking on feeble foes in the Eagles and Saints, hard to bestow our blessing versus a Rams fortress that ranks as a top-10 unit. Freeman only merits consideration in two-quarterback leagues.
Other sits: Andy Dalton, Eli Manning
RB: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
Tough to suggest the Law Firm warrants a spot on your bench, as the Bengals back has been one of the most dependable entities over the last five weeks, averaging almost 110 yards on the ground per contest during this stretch. Alas, these triumphs haven’t come counter to a challenging slate, with Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego, Dallas and Philadelphia littering the schedule. Facing a formidable opponent (Pittsburgh) for the first time in eons, don’t hold out hope for a sixth consecutive conquest.
Other sits: Beanie Wells, Michael Turner
WR: Danario Alexander, Chargers
BOOOO! BOOOOOOO!! BOOOOOOOOO!!! BOOOOOOOOOO!!!! BOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Every Danario Alexander Owner
(Did I write this same commentary earlier in the week in regards to the San Diego wideout? Darn tooting. Let’s just say I’m not over Alexander’s no-show on Sunday.)
Other sits: Vincent Jackson, Antonio Brown
TE: Martellus Bennett, Giants
Remember the stat regarding Olsen’s ownership rate? Bennett has practically the same occupancy figures despite a mediocre collection of 50 catches, 584 yards and five touchdowns. Worse, Bennett has failed to surpass 45 receiving yards in six of his last seven ballgames.
Baltimore’s defense is a depleted and destitute company at the moment, hypothetically giving Bennett a platform to right the ship. Still, call it a hunch, don’t think the Giants tight end will deliver.
Other sits: Vernon Davis, Scott Chandler
DEF: Seattle Seahawks
Only the Bears have scored more defensive points than the ‘Hawks, and Seattle’s secondary may be the best in the conference. However, not only will the team be without cornerback Brandon Browner, who is serving a four-game suspension, but there’s a chance their other starting corner, Richard Sherman, could be on a league-sanctioned sabbatical as well. Oh yeah, and the Niners just lit the New England scoreboard like the Fourth of July. Despite their dexterity the past two weeks, stay away from Seattle.
Other sits: Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets
The Sports Movie Head-Scratcher of the Week
There’s an inherent petition from most sports films that the patrons must suspend belief regarding some of the picture’s narrative. However, while a grain of salt is usually acquiesced from the audience, there remain storylines from these athletic classics that defy logic and reason that need to be examined with greater scrutiny. These preposterous plot points will be analyzed along with a questionable call from the previous week of football.
We could spend an entire football season dissecting the oddities and fabrications of Forrest Gump, but there’s one part that screams, “Shenanigans!” more than the rest. Why wasn’t Forrest, a supposed All-American at Alabama, drafted into the professional pigskin ranks? Keep in mind, this is back in the day when the NFL and AFL coexisted, and each draft had twenty rounds. Call me crazy, but feel like at least one team would have taken a flyer on Forrest. And don’t justify intelligence issues as the grounds for exclusion. One look at recent Wonderlic scores will poke a hole in that theory.
Speaking of head-scratchers, I know the Giants like to play the “No one believes in us!” card, but Tom Couglin’s group realizes they have to make it to January to make that mantra relevant, right? The shellacking at the hands of the Falcons last week marked the fourth loss in six games for New York, putting the G-Men on the outside looking in on the NFC playoff picture. Besides, if the Giants do reach the postseason, the majority of fans would believe in them. After all, they are the defending Super Bowl champs. Time to start acting like it.
Waiver Wire Watch: Jackie Battle, Chargers
Ryan Mathews completed another disappointing year with a collarbone injury, bequeathing the backfield touches to Battle. Concededly, there’s a chance that Ronnie Brown could return from a hamstring ailment, and fourth-stringer Curtis Brinkley did see an extended amount of time in Mathews’ absence last week, although that was due to his prowess in pass protection. Yet Battle was the runner mentioned by head coach Norv Turner as the candidate to receive most of the work in the final two weeks. This isn’t the first rodeo owners have had with Battle, as the Houston product did a forgettable job in trying to fill Jamal Charles’ shoes for Kansas City last fall. Moreover, the Jets have been one of the better teams against the run. Still, for owners needing a flex play or No. 3 RB, Battle is one of the few available entities (owned in 10.2 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues) that at least will garner enough carries to do some damage.
Email of the Week
This week’s winner comes from Thunder Martin (guessing that’s a birth name) who writes:
Start Stafford or Rivers? And goetta, chili and cheese as toppings? Gross man.
Suppose the latter needs some insight. In our Tuesday chat, a reader asked for my favorite pizza coatings, garnering the response of the aforementioned list. Aside from the hate mail from Cowboys fans in regards to sitting Tony Romo in Week 2 (a prophecy that turned out correct, I might add), this by far was the most highly-contested comment I made this season. I know pie toppings are a fickle matter in general, but the fervor over my pizza partialities is absurd. Thing is, I guarantee 99.8 percent of you have never tried that combination. Give it a whirl, baby birds, before casting condemnation.
Oh, and roll with Stafford. Falcons are good, but look for Detroit to be airing it out early and often.
Fantasy Flyer: Jeff Cumberland, Jets
Doubt we see Dustin Keller, one of the few decent pieces of the Jets offense, the final two weeks, with the tight end nursing an ankle sprain and Gang Green out of the playoff hunt. Enter Cumberland, who brought in four balls for 53 yards and a touchdown against the Titans. Greg McElroy is expected under center for New York, meaning a multitude of short outs and quick-hits when the Jets attack from the air. These flight patterns, along with the injury-filled ranks at wideout, should parallel to a solid day from the backup tight end. Speaking of the Jets…
The Real Debate
A quarterback controversy with the Jets? Crazy, right? The team’s decision to pull the much-maligned Mark Sanchez but not crown Tim Tebow as starter has signaled an end to both field generals’ tenures with the franchise. However, the discussion should not center on the Jets utilizing Tebow as a pawn for publicity or the unbelievable state of disarray in the New York organization; rather, the Real Debate should be this: if everyone in the NFL is down on Tebow’s stature as a signal caller, how does Kyle Orton still have a job? Though I’m not quite ready to concede that Young Jedi Tebow can’t cut it at this level, I understand the reservation concerning his role. But if that’s the circumstance, why is he viewed as lesser than Orton, who went 1-4 as Denver’s starter last year before Tebow took the reins and guided the team to seven wins in their next eight games, as well as an overtime playoff victory? Is it because Orton fits the mold of what a quarterback is supposed to look like? Because Orton is a good clubhouse guy that doesn’t attract unwarranted media attention? Is it his mountain-man neck beard? Something’s not adding up.
Rookie Review: Kirk Cousins, Redskins
Not bad for a backup, eh? Filling in for an injured Robert Griffin III, Cousins threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns in leading Washington over Cleveland and putting the Redskins atop the NFC East division. A fourth-round selection out of Michigan State, the team’s pick of Cousins was an act of eccentricity in some eyes, as Washington’s major investment in Griffin III (three first-round picks, along with a second-rounder) left the ‘Skins with precious picks available to fill multiple needs. However, the vulnerability of Griffin III makes Cousins a vital component to the squad’s success. Don’t be surprised, though, if a quarterback-desperate team makes a move to acquire Cousins to be its starter next season.
This Week in Kevin Walter
Been a rough month for K-Walt: eight catches, 64 yards and zero scores. That’s what we in the business call “not good.” Some have even argued he’s the worst complementary receiver in the league (which, of course, would still make him the No. 1 target on the Jets). I, however, stand that the Pride of Ypsilanti is merely lying low until playoff time to catch the opposition off guard, a la Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the ’07 Anaheim Ducks. Besides, in the year where #MACtion and #MACisBACK have become international trends, you really want to bet against a man hailing from Eastern Michigan?
Walter’s 2012 Stats: 37 receptions, 455 yards, two touchdowns
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: 13
Personal Foul on: Mark Sanchez, Jets
I always wondered what Jim Harbaugh’s Super Tecmo Bowl avatar would look like in real life. With 13 touchdowns versus 24 turnovers, I think we have our answer.
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Forget that he was struggling mightily with the snap exchange. Going into Foxborough in the middle of December and pulling out a W in only your fifth career start? That’s gettin’ it done, son.
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