Fantasy Recap – Pleasant Surprises, Biggest Busts

Zac Stacy led may fantasy squads to the promised land

Zac Stacy may lead fantasy owners to the promised land

Since the season has come to a close, we can look back at the many surprises that made up the 2013-14 football season. Due to injury and inconsistency, many players had a tough time putting up the numbers that they were expected to produce. Thankfully for fantasy owners, there were some diamonds in the rough that filled the void left by the unexpected letdowns. The following players shocked many fantasy owners with either their impressive or downright awful play, making for another interesting season.

1. Zac Stacy, STL:

The Rams running back situation in St. Louis was a mess from the beginning, but Zac Stacy stepped up and thrust himself into the starting role. Originally third on the depth chart behind a less than impressive Daryl Richardson, and the troubled Isaiah Pead, Stacy wound up proving himself to be a more than capable every down back.

Despite only playing in 14 games, the late fifth round draft pick was able to rack up 973 rushing yards and 8 total touchdowns (7 on the ground). With the Rams picking second in the upcoming draft, they could provide Stacy with a little more running room by snagging OT Jake Matthews from Texas A&M. Stacy’s fantasy stock is on the rise heading into next season.

2. Josh Gordon, CLE:

Josh Gordon was one of the few bright spots for the Cleveland Browns this season. Along with 9 touchdowns, Gordon led the league with 1,646 receiving yards. Due to a 2-game suspension to start off the year, Gordon was only able to play 14 games, but made the most of his time on the field.

The second year wideout had some remarkable stretches during the 2013 season, including a 4 game streak of 125 yards and a touchdown or more, including back to back 200 yard contests. Despite having to deal with 3 different quarterbacks, Gordon was able to satisfy his fantasy owners with constant production, but next year has the possibility of being one with even more success.

With the 4th overall pick in the draft, the Browns will most likely draft a quarterback in Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, Blake Bortles of the University of Central Florida or Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. Consistency at QB will allow Gordon to build rapport and give him the potential to beat his receiving totals of 2013.

3. C.J. Spiller, BUF:

Spiller had an unsuccessful 2013 campaign in comparison to his coming into the starting role in 2012. The 4th year running back saw a decrease in both rushing yards and touchdowns, but this isn’t necessarily a trend that will carry over into next season. Despite failing to break 1,000 yards, Spiller was able to get to an impressive average of 4.6 yards per carry. With fellow running back Fred Jackson being 32 years old, his role in the offense will most likely diminish which should allow Spiller to obtain a heftier workload.

At 26 years old, Spiller should be entering the prime of his career and should be expected to surpass 1,000 yards once again. The one concern that fantasy owners might have about C.J. Spiller is that he does not get the red zone carries, as they instead go to Fred Jackson, and it is yet to be seen if he can take over in that department.

4. Doug Martin, TB:

Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin was unable to stay on the field due to injury, not allowing him to build off of his powerhouse rookie season. Durability may be an issue for the young running back, but what is just as conceding is how poor his play was while he was still healthy. In 6 games, Martin was only able to muster up 456 yards and 1 touchdown, only breaking 100 yards once. He just did not look like the same player that rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns in his 2012 rookie season.

There is a lot of uncertainty following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in that they still have not made public who will be their starting quarterback for 2014, and the debacle with Doug Martin only makes their team situation that much more difficult. Expect Martin to come back strong for 2014 as Tampa Bay decided to shut him down for the season after he tore his labrum, allowing him more than enough time to get himself healthy. He should be taken as a strong RB2 with RB1 upside as the season progresses.

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Packers and 49ers Clash on the Frozen Tundra

This frigid matchup gives the edge to no one

This frigid matchup gives the edge to no one

With the Packers claiming the NFC North title last week in thrilling fashion, the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field will be hosting yet another bitterly cold January playoff game. In what will be a rematch of a thrilling Week 1 matchup, the Green Bay Packers will be taking on a red-hot San Francisco 49ers squad.

While the Packers are glad to have their MVP quarterback back in action, the 49ers are just as confident with Colin Kaepernick at the helm. Getting into a groove during the 49ers 6 game winning streak (10 TDs to 1 INT over last 6 games), the 49ers signal caller has been a nightmare for the Packers defense in recent matchups. In two career starts against the Packers, Kaepernick has accounted for 895 total yards and 7 touchdowns.

In the most recent game between these two NFC teams back in Week 1, the 49ers pulled out a thrilling 34-28 victory. In that game, Kaepernick threw for a career high 412 yards and connected with wide receiver, Anquan Boldin, 13 times for 208 yards.  The game was also the beginning of a disappointing season for a once dominant Green Bay Packers defense. The unit has struggled all season long and finished 25th in total defense.

However, Sunday’s weather will be a lot different than the teams’ Week 1 matchup in sunny San Francisco. With forecasts calling for negative temperatures all day long, this game could go down into the record books for the weather alone. Hard footballs and numb hands could limit both passing attacks so starting running backs Eddie Lacy and Frank Gore may become huge factors in this game.

Health has also been a factor for the Packers for much of the last two months as Randall Cobb joined Aaron Rodgers in returning from injury last week. Lining up alongside Jordy Nelson, Cobb should provide a boost to the passing game as the two receivers lit up the 49ers secondary in Week 1 (238 yards and 2 TDs). Fully healthy, the Packers are a lot more dangerous than their record may indicate.

With both offenses at full strength, this wild card game will come down to which team can make the big plays on offense and limit the big plays with their defense. While the Packers do have Aaron Rodgers back, a San Francisco defense which ranked 5th in total defense may be able to slow the quarterback down. Meanwhile, the 49ers offense is fueled by the dual threat ability of Colin Kaepernick, but can rely on an effective power running game as well. Getting hot at the right time, the 49ers look poised for a win at Lambeau on Sunday.

Game Prediction: 49ers win, 27-17

Rodgers’ Return Fuels Pack Past Bears

packers-bears-football

Rodgers’ last minute heroics propel Packers into the playoffs

With their MVP quarterback returning from a two month injury hiatus, the Packers playoff hopes came down to Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. Playing in a winner take all matchup for the NFC North title, Aaron Rodgers put the Pack into the postseason once again with a 48 yard touchdown strike to Randall Cobb in the game’s final minute, giving the Packers a 33-28 win.

Labeled as one of the premier matchups of the weekend, the game lived up to its billing as the two teams traded blows for much of the game. Rodgers looked rusty early as he was picked off on the Packers first two possessions, but the Packers took a 13-7 lead into half time thanks to one of the strangest plays of the year. Wide receiver, Jarrett Boykin, picked up an Aaron Rodgers fumble and walked into the end zone as Bears players stood and watched, thinking the play was whistled dead, allowing for the easy touchdown.

Trading touchdowns for most of the second half, the Bears looked primed for the win as Jay Cutler hooked up with Brandon Marshall to start the fourth quarter, giving the Bears a 28-20 lead. The Packers answered right back, though, as Eddie Lacy punched in an impressive touchdown run to cap a 6 play, 77 yard drive which cut the Bears lead down to one.

Down one, Rodgers showed why the Packers are once again Super Bowl contenders with him in the lineup. Facing fourth down on three separate occasions on the game-winning drive, Rodgers and the Packers found a way each time to save their season. None was more impressive than Rodgers’ 48 yard bomb to Randall Cobb on 4th and 8 which saw Rodgers elude pressure to hit the receiver in stride. Given less than a minute to stage a comeback, Jay Cutler and the Bears fell short as Sam Shields intercepted Cutler on the game’s final play.

With all their weapons finally back from injury, the Packers seem ready for yet another deep playoff run. Rodgers was a god-send for the receiving corps which saw a healthy Randall Cobb score 2 touchdowns and Jordy Nelson record 10 receptions for 161 yards. Eddie Lacy was also effective even on a bum ankle and will provide yet another dimension for a Packers offense which looks dangerous once again with Rodgers at the helm. Sunday was proof that as long as No. 12 is under center for the Packers, anything can happen.

Vikings Matt Asiata In Line to Start Again

Matt Asiata in line for a big game against the Lions

Matt Asiata in line for a big game against the Lions

Vikings running back Matt Asiata will be starting this Sunday at home against the Detroit Lions. With starter Adrian Peterson doubtful, and second string tailback Toby Gerhart ruled out with a hamstring injury, Asiata will receive the bulk of the carries.

In Asiata’s only other start in Week 15, he was able to do some serious damage. Though he was only able to manage 51 yards off of 30 carries, he picked up 3 touchdowns in the process. He got into the end zone multiple times due to Minnesota’s inability to maintain a solid passing offense, as they were forced to rely on the back in his first start of the season.

Expecting Asiata to reach that high touchdown total again is very foolish, and his match up will not allow him to pick up many yards on the ground either. Detroit is fourth in the league in allowing only 94.8 rushing yards per game and Matt Asiata will struggle to produce. The Lions are coming off a loss that is keeping them out of the playoffs, so expect them to come back with a vengeance and shut down the Minnesota Vikings.

Asiata should only be used as an RB2 if a fantasy manager is desperate for a fill in for Peterson and Gerhart, but other than that he should be avoided.

Shane Vereen Very Unlikely to Suit Up

Don't expect Vereen to see Vereen against the Bills

Don’t expect Vereen to see Vereen against the Bills

In typical Bill Belichick style, the New England Patriots listed 11 players as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills. Among those include running back Shane Vereen, who hurt his groin against the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday. He’s been listed as questionable and has been limited in practice.

After already clinching a playoff berth in last week’s victory, this Week 17 game carries just as much weight. With a win, the Patriots will receive a first-round bye. Their best opportunity for that in the run game is in the sure hands of Shane Vereen, who has only played in 7 games this season.

Stevan Ridley had become a decent backup in Vereen’s absence. The Patriots still boast an 11-4 record as Ridley averaged 4.2 yards a carry and had 7 touchdowns. But even a Hall of Fame quarterback can’t control how frequently your running back fumbles, which Vereen did in 3 consecutive games.

Vereen is the steady hand. He has fumbled once in 3 seasons with the Patriots compared to Ridley’s 9 in the same amount of time. The old football adage, “turnovers lose games” could hold true if Vereen doesn’t play this Sunday. The Bills have a great opportunity to make their division rivals chances just a little bit tougher in the playoffs, don’t expect them to roll over so easily.

Week 17 Running Back Sit and Start Report

Donald Brown could have a banner day against the Jags defense

Donald Brown could have a banner day against the Jags defense

Although most fantasy leagues have come to a close, some of them ride the season out to its very end. With those leagues, owners should be mindful of who they plug in at the running back position for this week. The following players should either be started or avoided based on an in depth examination of their contest.

Start:

Donald Brown, IND:

Brown has overtaken Trent Richardson for the starting job and has produced convincingly enough to keep the position. Coming off a stellar 110 total yard and 2 total touchdown performance against Kansas City, he will look to continue his momentum against a vulnerable Jags run defense.

The Jaguars have shown little resistance to the run, allowing a horrific 135.2 rushing yards per game, ranking them 30th. Expect Donald Brown to rack up a ton of yards while carving this abysmal Jacksonville rush defense to shreds this Sunday, while possibly scoring a touchdown or two in the process.

Sit:

Frank Gore, SF:

The San Francisco back had another solid year and has already found success against Arizona earlier in the season, but don’t expect that success to continue. Gore rushed for more than 100 yards at home against the Cardinals in Week 6, but that still stands as the only game where Arizona has failed to limit an opponent’s leading rusher to below that total.

The Cards are hot, riding a 3 game winning streak and their defense is strong, especially their rush defense. Arizona allows an average of 84.5 rushing yards per contest, ranking them first in the league. Expect them to contain Frank Gore at home in Sunday’s game.

 

 

Week 16 Running Back Sit and Start Report

Ryan Mathews is a great play against a WORTHLESS Raiders defense

Ryan Mathews is a great play against a WORTHLESS Raiders defense

Week 16 is here, and with that comes fantasy football championships. All of your hard work and maybe some luck have brought you to this point and it all comes down to one more Sunday of football. If you still have some questions at the running back position, this will be your guide to bringing home the title.

Start:

Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers: After being the butt of fantasy football jokes for most of his career, Mathews has put together a solid 2013 season which has seen him catch fire in recent weeks. He has scored a combined 60 fantasy points in his last 4 weeks and is seeing a huge workload. Mathews has had 29 carries in each of his last two games which has resulted in two straight 100 yard rushing games. With a matchup against an Oakland Raiders defense which surrendered 5 TDs to Jamaal Charles last week, Mathews should be a great play this week.

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: On the start list for the second straight week, Murray has been ridiculously good in recent weeks. He gauged the Packers for 134 yards and a score last week and is now averaging 6.3 yards per carry since his return from injury in Week 9. This week the Cowboys take on the Washington Redskins who are horrendous against the run. With the Redskins surrendering the most rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs, it’s a good bet we’ll see Murray in the end zone sometime on Sunday.

Sit:

Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints: With a division title on the line in the Saints matchup against the Carolina Panthers this week, don’t expect much from the Saints primary back. Thomas has cooled off from his hot streak earlier in the season and is only averaging 4.4 fantasy points in his last three games. Travelling to Carolina, Thomas will not have any running room in what will be one of the best games of the week.

Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots: Overcoming his fumbling woes, Ridley has come back in the past two weeks to get back most of his carries. However, even with 8 carries in each of the last two weeks, Ridley has been non-productive, averaging only 35 yards per game. His hot stretch in November is long gone, and a matchup with a solid Baltimore Ravens defense doesn’t bode well for the back. Ridley is still unreliable at this point.

Darren McFadden Back at Raiders Practice

McFadden will the play the backup role behind Rashad Jennings

McFadden will the play the backup role behind Rashad Jennings

Darren McFadden is actually on track to play Week 16 against the Chargers on the road. This is a bit of a surprise after he was being considered for the season-ending IR, which could have effectively ended his career with the Raiders. Between his hamstring and his ankle injuries, McFadden only ran the ball 103 times for 365 yards in 8 games.

Since the fortunate emergence of running back Rashad Jennings, the Raiders don’t need to put all their eggs in the McFadden basket. If McFadden plays during Week 16, it will only be to back up Jennings.

So who will invest in McFadden if the Raiders give up on him? Certainly a few teams need a steady running back, but McFadden is anything but that. In his 6 year career, he averages only 10.8 games played a season. With younger, faster and more durable running backs always at the NFL’s disposal, there might not be a team willing to take a chance on McFadden.

Unfortunately for the Oakland Raiders, the odds were never quite in their favor during the 2013 season. They’re stuck in the dominant AFC West with the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and the resurgent San Diego Chargers. There was never much stability in the quarterback position between Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin. And running back Darren McFadden lived up to his notorious injury-prone reputation.

The Raiders are in a massive drought. They haven’t made the playoffs in 10 seasons. Occasionally, we see a Raiders team that we think can do it. But they usually find a way to self-destruct before anything comes to fruition. This season showed some promise before it began and McFadden would be the one to lead them. In keeping with Raider tradition however, that hope was quickly derailed.

 

 

Jamaal Charles Turns Fantasy Football Playoffs Upside Down

Jamaal Charles either made your day or ruined your season

Jamaal Charles either made your day or ruined your fantasy season

In a game which saw the Kansas City Chiefs lock up a playoff berth by dismantling the Oakland Raiders by a score of 56-31, many fantasy owners locked up a spot in their own league championships due to an absolutely dominant performance by Chiefs running back, Jamaal Charles. Unstoppable in all facets of the game, Charles torched the Raiders defense for 5 total touchdowns, recording the third-highest fantasy total for a single game since 2000.

The Raiders just didn’t seem to have an answer for the Chiefs most dangerous offensive weapon, seemingly forgetting that Charles is just as dangerous when catching the ball as he is running it. While somewhat contained on the ground (20 yards and a touchdown), the Raiders had no answer for Charles in the passing game. Quarterback, Alex Smith, connected with Charles to the tune of 195 receiving yards and a ridiculous 4 touchdowns, including a 71 yard touchdown in the third quarter.

“I don’t know how anybody can be more valuable to a team and the success that we’ve had than he has,” Reid said about Charles after the game. Charles is putting together a season worthy of an MVP award, and fantasy owners couldn’t be happier. Held to single digits only twice this year, Charles is the seventh highest scoring player in fantasy football (Charles only trails QBs) and, arguably, this season’s fantasy MVP.

Fantasy owners are surely hoping to ride Charles to a fantasy title next week as Week 16 marks the final week of the fantasy season for most leagues. Taking on the Indianapolis Colts, it will be entertaining to see how Charles follows up his finest performance of the 2013 season thus far.

NFL Week 15 Running Back Sit and Start Report

The Packers will have no luck trying to slow DeMarco Murray

The Packers will have no luck trying to slow DeMarco Murray

With star running backs banged up such as Adrian Peterson and the second round of the fantasy playoffs here, running back decisions can help continue or end your season. If you’re still around, playing for that spot in your league’s finals, check out which backs will shine or fall flat this week.

Start:

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: DeMarco Murray has been very hot of late, performing as fantasy’s sixth best rusher over the last four weeks. In the Cowboys last 4 games, Murray has not had less than 12 fantasy points in a game and has scored 4 touchdowns. With a matchup this week against Green Bay’s 25th ranked rush defense, the hot streak should continue. Green Bay has been especially bad during the past month, allowing the second most fantasy points to opposing rushers over that span. Keep riding Murray this week.

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers: Although a little banged up from last week’s win over the Atlanta Falcons, Eddie Lacy once again finds himself with a great matchup. Expected to play, Lacy faces fantasy’s most generous run defense in the Dallas Cowboys. Lacy has scored in six of his last eight games, and the Cowboys have surrendered 17 total touchdowns to opposing running backs this season. Expect Lacy to continue his great rookie season against one of the league’s worst defenses.

Sit:

Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens: If you have managed to get this far with Rice on your squad, you probably have some good options at running back to play over one of fantasy’s biggest busts. Although Rice has been serviceable of late, this is the week to use those alternate options. This week, he faces one of the league’s best front sevens in the Detroit Lions. Except for last week’s bizarre blizzard game, the Lions have been absolutely dominant against the run. Before LeSean McCoy gauged them for two touchdowns last week, the Lions had not given up a touchdown in nine games. Rice is nowhere near the back that McCoy is and will not have much room to run on Monday night.

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans: Over the past three weeks, Johnson has seen his yardage totals and carries drop while fellow back, Shonn Greene, begins to cut into his workload, especially towards the goal line. Chris Johnson’s value now comes between the 20s, and with a matchup against the Cardinals fierce run defense looming, this does not look like the week to trust Johnson. The Cardinals are fantasy’s best run defense and have only surrendered more than 100 yards rushing on two occasions. Losing carries and getting vultured, Chris Johnson should remain on the bench this week.