Congrats! If you’re still reading fantasy content at this juncture, you have reached the playoffs. That, or you’re a really big fan of Joel Beall. Either way, props to you.
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Unfortunately, as you will read below, I’m a tad…um…distracted at the moment. Thus, instead of blowing your bagpipe with my usual intro, let’s get right into this weekend’s takeaways:
Ben Tate: aberration or asset?
Viable cases could be made for both. Tate entered Week 13 off a seven-carry, one-yard performance against the Jaguars. Tate’s besiegement of injuries to his ribs, ankle and toe, coupled with backup Dennis Johnson’s strong showing versus Jacksonville, did not paint a sunny forecast for the rest of the 2013 season. All which made Tate’s Sunday conquest (102 yards, three touchdowns) quite surprising.
Yet is it sustainable? New England’s rush defense has been anything but, allowing 138.2 rushing yards per contest (second-worst in the NFL), and a rib injury is not an ailment that is easily remedied. However, Tate dwarfed Johnson on attempts (22 to three), alleviating concerns on siphoning. Houston’s final month presents a fantasy-friendly slate, riddled with leaky defenses in the Jaguars, Colts, Broncos and Titans. Sunday’s outing wasn’t a total irregularity, as it was the third time in five weeks Tate surpassed the 80-yard barrier. Furthermore, though the Houston offense has been a train wreck, the front line remains a sound group.
Tate lacks the receiving prowess of Arian Foster, and the aforementioned injuries have taken their toll on his explosiveness. Nevertheless, the fourth-year back projects as a solid RB2 down the homestretch. Utilize him accordingly.
We tried to warn you about Andrew Luck…
…but, judging by the 50 percent of owners that started the Colts QB in FOXSports.com Fantasy Football leagues (along with a 95.7 percent ownership), in the words of Randy Marsh, “YOU DIDN’T LISTEN!”
Since losing Reggie Wayne, Luck ranks 18th among fantasy quarterbacks. In the past four weeks, the 2012 No. 1 overall pick has a meager three total touchdowns versus five interceptions and three fumbles (one lost). Much of this is a derivative of the receiving corps’ failure, most notably T.Y. Hilton’s inability to create separation as the de facto primary target, and the Colts’ backfield struggles haven’t helped, either. Alas, without contributions from these entities, Luck is unable to facilitate his own fantasy merit. Compounding these troubles is Indianapolis’ schedule, facing formidable defenses in Cincinnati, Houston and Kansas City in the next three weeks. Even in keeper leagues, Luck doesn’t warrant a roster spot.
What’s up with Jacksonville?
Three wins in the past four weeks? Break up the Jaguars! Granted, these victories have come against Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and Brandon Weeden, and the team still ranks last in the conference in points scored AND allowed, and these late-season Ws are pushing the Jags out of a top-three pick…but hey, like Mike Tomlin’s sideline antics prove, every little bit helps.
Maurice Jones-Drew has awoken from his first-half slumber, finding the end zone three times in November and racking up 161 yards the past two weeks, and Ace Sanders has filled Justin Blackmon’s void admirably (189 receiving yards in the last three games). Better yet, Gus Bradley seems like a competent manager, a sentiment that’s been missing in Jacksonville for years.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be congratulating professionals for doing their job, but as one who grew up in Cincinnati during the Bungals Era, can’t properly convey the despondence of watching a club that has thrown in the towel. For keeping things interesting, a tip of the cap to the Jags.
Jay Cutler is available in 61.2 percent of leagues
Undoubtedly this is a roll of the dice, given Cutler’s shaky display is his last appearance before an ankle aggravation took him down. On the positive side of the spectrum, Cutler sounds affirmative that he will start against Dallas’ league-worst defense on Monday, and has a platform to shine over the final three weeks with Philadelphia and Green Bay on his itinerary. Moreover, despite his commendable efforts in relief, coach Marc Trestman has stressed that Josh McCown will return to backup duty once Cutler is good to go. (Speaking of which, does McCown remind anyone else of a happy Ivan Drago? Just me? Ok then…)
Don’t misconstrue this endorsement as must-play status, considering the erratic weather that plagues the Windy City this time of season. Rather, make sure Cutler is on your roster, at least giving you a serviceable option in the fantasy playoffs.
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
After laying the smackdown on NFL picks this fall (First in clutch rankings! Fourth in overall standings!), I was dealt a hearty dose of “shut the hell up” in Week 13, owning an 8-7 straight-up record going into Monday night’s New Orleans-Seattle showdown. Sure, some of this stems from two teams laying an egg in overtime, San Diego forgetting that fumbles are a bad thing and the zebras royally screwing the pooch in the Washington-New York game, but for picking the Cardinals (Carson Palmer on the road?), the Browns (Weeden at home?) and the Jets (Geno Smith…ever?), I have no excuse.
This may seem trivial or irrelevant to you, and I wish it was. Regrettably, I’m told my rise in the predictions world has correlated to those in Vegas batting an eye in this direction, meaning more than a handful of degenerate gamblers might be using my suggestions in their picks. (Related note: has “degenerate” ever been used aside from the “degenerate gambler” designation?) If I’ve learned anything from terrible betting movies, and I haven’t, it’s that anytime wagering goes south, someone gets a Louisville Slugger to the kneecap. Or worse, someone they cherish is kidnapped. As I have no loved ones at my side, this means only one thing: these bastards will come after my Golden Tee. Go for my legs all you want, but I’ll be DAMNED if I let such a fate befall my adored video game.
In short: I might have stayed up all night guarding my man cave with a pitching wedge, and may have alerted my neighbors to be full-alert lockdown. If I’m silent on Twitter the next couple days, just know that something has gone down.
Joel Beall is a writer for FOXSports.com and WhatIfSports.com. He lives with a Golden Tee machine and a jump shot that’s currently broken. Reach Joel on Twitter @FOXSportsBeall