FANTASY PLAYS: Crazy week a sign of more chaos to come
Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta (88) outruns Miami Dolphins free safetys Michael Thomas, left, and Bacarri Rambo for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Week 13 of the NFL regular season saw the slow destruction of logic and well-laid plans.
Some fantasy owners will squeeze into the playoffs praising the gamble they took on Malcolm Mitchell (eight catches for 82 yards). Others were knocked out in crushing defeat, forever cursing the goose egg put up by Marquess Wilson (no catches on one target after injuring his groin in the first quarter). A very unique group will be bounced with several Browns and Titans – on a rare Week 13 bye – forced to their benches.
Those teams moving on face more chaos in the next few weeks, as NFL teams out of playoff contention try out younger players, decline to push injured starters, and generally cut loose with game plans and make stars out of former practice squadders.
A LOOK WAY BACK
In Week 14 last year, Brock Osweiler threw for 308 yards, A.J. McCarron threw for 280 and two touchdowns, Brian Hartline had 107 receiving yards, Ted Ginn caught two touchdowns, and Isaiah Crowell had 145 rushing yards and two scores (he hadn't run for more than 75 yards all season). In short, weird things began happening as the season wound down, so fantasy players advancing to the wild card portion of their playoffs shouldn't be afraid to make some gut calls.
A LOOK BACK
Some of the late-season craziness began to blossom in Sunday's games. For instance, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had been on a terrible run of fantasy disappointment, having thrown for over 300 yards just once in the previous nine games and having multiple passing touchdowns just twice in the entire season. The Eagles – Dalton's Week 13 opponent – had given up the eighth-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks and 10th-fewest passing yards.
Naturally, Dalton went out and threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns. Fantasy players brave enough to start Brandon LaFell in their lineups were rewarded with five receptions on seven targets for 95 yards and a touchdown. And rookie Tyler Boyd – everyone's darling when A.J. Green went down – contributed four receptions for 66 yards.
The Bengals get the Browns in Week 14, and while logic screams, ''start all Bengals while they're hot (even possibly including Gio Bernard replacement Rex Burkhead, who caught four passes for 28 yards),'' expect the Browns to have game-planned all bye break for the Bengals in hopes of getting their first win.
TIGHT ENDS GO WILD ON SUNDAY
Dennis Pitta had two touchdowns. Ladarius Green had 110 yards and a touchdown on six receptions (coming off a 67-yard game in Week 12). Cameron Brate had 86 yards and a touchdown. Travis Kelce caught eight passes for 140 yards. Zach Ertz, Tyler EIfert, and Ryan Griffin all scored. Week 13 was one for the tight ends, and it wouldn't be out of the question to see repeat performances over the next few weeks.
Don't be surprised to see a decent amount of tight ends in fantasy flex spots in Week 14.
– Mike Gillislee may have unexpectedly knocked millions of teams out of the playoff hunt, scoring two touchdowns on eight carries after being inactive in Week 12. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo's starter, had 191 total yards on 24 touches.
– In a stark example of fantasy and real life football not being in perfect harmony, fantasy players had been enjoying the fruits of Colin Kaepernick's ground game, as he averaged 62 rushing yards per game over the last six weeks. In some formats, he was the second-highest scoring quarterback over the last four weeks. And he was facing what should have been an easy opponent in the Bears. But Kaepernick was replaced by Blaine Gabbert in the fourth quarter after completing just one pass for four yards.
– Two first-round fantasy picks have wreaked havoc on fantasy teams this season: Todd Gurley and Allen Robinson. They put the cherry on top of what likely became plenty of 4-9 or 5-8 teams with blah performances in Week 13: Gurley had 11 carries for 38 yards and two receptions for 9 yards, while Robinson had three catches on 10 targets for 31 yards.
– DeAndre Hopkins, who started the season on a similarly disappointing path as Gurley and Robinson, caught three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown in the snow against the Packers. It probably doesn't make up for his previous six weeks, however, in which he didn't score a touchdown and averaged 54 yards per game.
– A quick reminder: Tyrell Williams, playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder, caught two passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. He is superhuman.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com