November 24, 2014

Fantasy Football: Week 14 Notes and Survivor Pool; Start ‘em and Sit ‘em

For some leagues, it’s playoff time. In others, you still have one more week to jockey for position or make one last gasp at a spot in the final dance. Either way, it’s time to focus.

Let’s take a look at who to start and sit this week. We’ll also see who to take in the Survivor Pool this week.  No significant changes to the choices with this final column, but one caveat more with Pittsburgh.

Remember, I usually like to use Rotoworld’s rankings as a quick guide and then see where I can take advantage of lower or higher rankings. Follow along, as I read aloud. If you have questions, just leave a comment or send me a note on Twitter.

Bye week: None

Quarterback      

Up: Russell Wilson is at home. He is 5-0 at home with 11 TDs and 0 INTs! He has thrown for 2 TDs or more in five straight games. He’s a start in most leagues this week.

Eli Manning has looked out of sorts for a big chunk of this season. He played solidly against Green Bay at home two weeks ago and then put together an average performance last week against a suspect Washington secondary. I’ll go out on a limb on Manning this week and push him into the QB1 ranks against the Saints.

Jake Locker faces a Colts defense this week that has given up 290 or more yards passing in four of the last five weeks.  I like Locker for 250 yards and two TDs in a game that could end up being a shootout.

Down: Matthew Stafford has a solid matchup against the Green Bay Packers. But, he also will likely deal with snow. And lots of it. Stafford and the whole Lions offense could struggle outside of the toasty confines of the dome against the Packers who seem to thrive in those conditions.

Ben Roethlisberger returns this week, but unless you are desperate (choosing between Big Ben, Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles for example), I’d let Ben play this one out to see how his injury holds up. The injury was quite rare and he has a propensity for returning a bit too early from dings. Let’s see how this one plays out.

Running back

Up: BenJarvus Green-Ellis is an RB1 for me this week. The Cowboys run defense has been steadily decling with the losses of Sean Lee, Jay Ratliff and now Josh Brent. Ellis isn’t fancy, but he runs hard and should be given a lof of opportunities on Sunday.

Joique Bell is said to get more carries for the Lions this week. I like the matchup and Bell has shown nice versatility for the Lions all year long. I could see him usurping Mikel LeShoure as the lead back for the remainder of the season should he have a break out performance.

Montell Owens gets the start in Jacksonville. No, he’s not Montell Williams or Montell Jordan, but this Montell has a shot to put up some numbers. The Jets run defense is relatively friendly to RBs. I like the former special teamer to be a solid flex play in most leagues.

Down: Bryce Brown has been otherworldly since replacing LeSean McCoy with some of that owing to the Eagles actually running a more balanced offense with Nick Foles at the helm. That said, the Eagles run into the Bucs run defense this week and I don’t see Brown any better than a low end RB2. He’s a rookie, he has a rookie QB leading the charge. I can see a dud from Brown this week.

Ray Rice is no better than an RB2 for me for two reasons. One – the Ravens offensive coordinator (Cam Cameron) doesn’t seem to understand how to utilize Rice to maximize the Ravens chances of winning. Two – the Redskins run defense is solid if unspectacular. Unless Rice is nursing an injury, his utilization has been odd and his production has suffered because of it.

DeMarco Murray could struggle against the Bengals. The Bengals aren’t great (they did give up 74 yards rushing to Marcel Reece!), but they aren’t the worst. Murray is still not fully healthy (and won’t be until next season). I see Murray as an RB2/Flex this week.

Wide Receiver

Up: Danario Alexander should be owned in all leagues and starting in all leagues. He’s a WR1 this week and remains one while healthy.

Chris Givens will likely be Sam Bradford’s main target this week. I know Danny Amendola will try to play, but I can see him as a decoy if he does play. Givens is a high end WR2 this week.

Kenny Britt talked about how his knees are feeling much better over the last couple of games. The Colts defense is quite friendly to WRs and I expect another TD for Britt along with at least 80 yards on five catches. Definite WR2 material this week.

Torrey Smith has been hit or miss this year. He hits this week against a Redskins defense without enough speed to keep Smith contained. He is a WR1 for me this week. Start him with confidence.

In deeper PPR leagues, I like Riley Cooper to pick up this week. The Bucs pass defense is suspect and as I noted above I think Bryce Brown struggles this week.

And from way downtown, Kevin Elliott is starting for the Jags opposite Justin Blackmon with Cecil Shorts out with a concussion. The Jags offense has been very good with Chad Henne at the helm. Could we see four catches and 60 yards out of Elliott? Sure and that’s valuable in deeper leagues.

Down:  Larry Fitzgerald. Woe is me for drafting Larry Fitzgerald. He faces the Seahawks with another QB under center. He can’t be trusted and I’d actually suggest releasing him (espeicall if you are in a keeper league and can’t keep him next year). There is just nothing in that offense to get excited about.

Julio Jones falls into the WR2/flex area for me this week as Carolina has been relatively successful against WR1s this year according to Football Outsiders. Jones had only 30 yards against the Panthers in their matchup earlier this season (Roddy White had 169 and 2 TDs).

Tight End

Up: If you are looking for a flyer at TE, check out Rob Housler from Arizona. The Seahawks have a fantastic pass defense, but they are merely average against TEs. The Cardinals will likely need to throw a bit and I can see their WRs being shut down. Beanie Wells is questionable and not very good when not questionable so I can see Housler getting some love from current QB John Skelton.

Down: Jermaine Gresham worries me this week. His matchup is good, but he did miss a practice this week and was downgraded on the injury report. It looks like he’ll suit up this and the reports are that he has no issues, but he’s probably not worth the risk in a critical week.

Oh, cut Jermichael Finley. Just another reminder.

Defense

Up: Depending on your format, I’d take a look at the Minnesota Vikings as a deeper league play. They face the Bears, not exactly a dynamic offense that gives up its share of sacks. I can see them sneaking into the bottom of the top 12 this week especially at home.

Down: I can’t trust the St. Louis Rams as a top 12 team this week on the road in Buffalo. Yes, the Bills are usually generous to other teams, but the Rams have not shown well (at least consistently) on the road this year. And weather could be a factor – a factor that favors the Bills.

Survivor

I had a poor week of recommendations last week and we saw a few more entrants crash out. However, we are still not yet down to the nitty gritty in the larger pools I’m in. It’s been an interesting season so far. We haven’t had a second “big loss” like we had with New England in week three. Is there a landmine this week? Let’s take a look.

I’ve also got a quick preview of Thursday game below.

Bye week: None

Survivor Pool – Week 14 selections

Here is what we have for a top 10 from Office Football Pool and Yahoo! as of early Sunday morning:

Office Football Pool

Yahoo! Survival Football

Team

Picks

Rank

Team

Percent

1

Seattle Seahawks

51.20%

1

Seattle Seahawks

54.04%

2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

13.40%

2

Indianapolis Colts

11.69%

3

San Francisco 49ers

12.80%

3

San Francisco 49ers

11.09%

4

Indianapolis Colts

6.20%

4

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

7.91%

5

Denver Broncos (W)

6.10%

5

Denver Broncos (W)

5.86%

6

Cleveland Browns

4.90%

6

Cleveland Browns

3.28%

7

Pittsburgh Steelers

3.10%

7

Atlanta Falcons

2.01%

8

Green Bay Packers

0.60%

8

Pittsburgh Steelers

1.29%

9

Atlanta Falcons

0.50%

9

Green Bay Packers

1.02%

10

New York Giants

0.30%

10

New York Jets

0.27%

The Seahawks are the clear option for many entrants. It looks like there could be a ton of value elsewhere in these waters. Where to go to stay afloat?

My early picks for this week are below (my final column will be up Sunday):

  1. Green Bay Packers – If you have the Packers left, what are you waiting for? Use them this week. I give them an 82% chance of winning this week against a Detroit team that will be starting Mike Thomas at WR.
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Bucs hold the value this week. They don’t have the best chance to win in my estimation, but they aren’t far off. They have a solid run defense and the Eagles can’t pass so they should be able to make the Eagles relatively one-dimensional. The Eagles look to be playing out the string after another crushing defeat – this at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. I give the Bucs a 76% chance of winning.
  3. Seattle Seahawks – If you just want to ‘survive and advance’ then the Seattle Seahawks are the play (unless you have the Packers which few do). The Seahawks are a team to be reckoned with at home. They should be able to hold the Cardinals off even with the return of John Skelton at QB for the Cardinals and the suspension of Brandon Browner. I might be tempted to use the Seahawks here as Browner will be out for four games and it looks like Richard Sherman (the other stud DB) may not play after this week. I give the Seahawks a 79% chance of winning.
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers – This assumes Ben Roethlisberger plays for the Steelers. With Big Ben in the lineup, the Steelers become a dynamic offense again. Mike Wallace will likely have value again. It looks like the Steelers have settled on Jonathan Dwyer as the lead RB. The only issue I can see is that Norv Turner-led teams rule December especially when it seems like they are out of it. Moreover, Turner and GM AJ Smith are said to be fired as soon as the season ends so it’s unclear what Chargers team might show up. I give the Steelers a 73% chance of winning.
  5. Denver Broncos – If this game were on Sunday, I’d move the Broncos up a bit. However, the short week gives me some pause. The Broncos should be able to run against the Raiders suspect defense. The Raiders won’t be able to throw against the Denver pass defense and Carson Palmer should be benched in all leagues. I give the Broncos a 72% chance of winning.
  6. San Francisco 49ers – We saw the dangers of trusting a rookie QB in Survivor. I expect a big bounce back game from the entire team and give the 49ers a 72% chance of winning.
  7. Indianapolis Colts – I think there will be some hangover from the Colts comeback win over the Lions last week. The Colts are growing as a team and Andrew Luck is a much better QB at home. The Titans do not have a lot to offer in the way of speed bumps for Luck. The Titans should be able to throw, but I see the Colts outscoring the Titans in a shootout. I give the Colts a 67% chance of winning.

Other teams I like early in the week: None

As for the avoid list, I would stay away from the Cleveland Browns at home against the Kansas City Chiefs.  The Browns are nearly a touchdown favorite against the Chiefs. The Browns shouldn’t be a touchdown favorite against anyone. I see this game as much closer to a pick ‘em than 6.5 points. The Chiefs had an emotional win last week, so they may be down a bit, but I wouldn’t want to take the Browns against them.

If you get bonus points for picking an underdog, I’d think about the New Orleans Saints against the Giants. The Giants aren’t a great team at home, the Saints aren’t a great team on the road. However, I can see the Saints throwing the ball around the park a bit on the Giants.

Just a reminder, if you ever wanted to see what Vegas thinks each team’s “chances of winning” are, use this handy little converter to transform money lines into win percentages. You can also create a spreadsheet if you’d like (or use this one – scroll to the bottom) to do it for fun at home. This percentage chance to win is another quick way to gauge win expectations for each team each week. You can get a variety of money lines here or here

Chris Garosi is a contributor for District Sports Page. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. He even won an XFL fantasy league. Really. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi.

About Chris Garosi

Chris Garosi is a Contributor to District Sports Page. Chris is a diehard Maryland Terrapins fan in all sports and a fan of things New England sports-related (except for football). Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. He also writes for The Fantasy Fix. You can follow Chris on Twitter at @chrisgarosi.

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