James Morris hails from Rio Rancho, NM and has been playing fantasy sports for just over 15 years. Not only does he write the Bengals fantasy section, but he also does the Miami Dolphins fantasy section. Crossing over, Morris writes the fantasy sections for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA. Just send him an email and he will reply back the same day with your answer. Or, find him on Twitter (Fantasyguy23) and get all your NFL news before it hits the national media.
The old adage of “on any given Sunday a team can win” is true, but there are things you have to look at such as injuries to a team, history of performance between teams, and overall defensive matchups that have to come into play when looking at who has to the better chance at fantasy success. Here are a few simple rules that I go by every time it is time to set my lineups:
1) Look at the injury reports. See who is hurt, and who will be playing in their place. If a player is active, don’t assume that he is good to go; active just means he is a minimum of 51 percent healthy instead of 49 percent healthy.
2) Look at the matchups and see what the other team has done so far this season. It didn’t matter much that the Bears defense entered Week 4 as the No. 2-ranked fantasy defense with 45.00 fantasy points (FP). When the Lions took the field and put 30 points and allowed just one turnover, 2.00 points was all the Bears could muster.
3) Don’t get cute! I use an exclamation point here to make sure you get the point. Don’t try and start Joe Flacco over Matthew Stafford because you see Bills and Bears. The Bears secondary is not only riddled with injuries already, but the Lions have multiple weapons to utilize whereas the Ravens have two, possibly three depending on how you look at it. You drafted Stafford over Flacco for a reason.
Philip Rivers – QB, Chargers: It’s not surprising to see Drew Brees in the No. 1 spot and Peyton Manning in the No. 2 spot for fantasy QBs this week. What you might not expect to see is Rivers in there at the No. 3 spot. But, he is thanks to the 401 yards passing, 3 TDs and one INT he put up in Week 4 against the Cowboys. Rivers has run hot and cold as proof by his yardage numbers through four weeks (195, 419, 184, 401). Fantasy owners should be aware and beware with Rivers, and consider him a QB2 at best.
Danny Woodhead – RB, Chargers: Let me start by saying that Woodhead is owned in 74.8 percent of NFL.com leagues, which is absolutely absurd considering his value is in PPR leagues as a low-end flex/RB4 at best. However, this week he was able to run for 32 yards while hauling in 5 passes for 52 yards and 2 TDs, numbers good enough for a No. 5 ranking (at RB) in standard scoring on NFL.com. I personally don’t own Woodhead in a single league because before this week he had scored 1.60, 6.40 and 6.60 FP on NFL.com in their standard scoring leagues, which ranked him 45th for RBs. If Woodhead doesn’t score, he isn’t worth playing, plain and simple.
Le’Veon Bell – RB, Steelers: Bell finally made his regular season debut for the Steelers, and he looks like he will be the runner that their offense needs to move the ball on the ground. Bell carried the ball 16 times for 57 yards and 2 TDs, and added 4 catches for 27 yards in the air on Sunday, but his team still lost because the Vikings have this guy named Adrian Peterson on their team and he is arguably the best player in the NFL. Bell should be owned in all formats and is an immediate start in either the RB2 or flex spot going forward.
Lamar Miller – RB, Dolphins: Miller finished Monday night ranked No. 14 for RBs in NFL.com standard scoring formats thanks to his 62 yards rushing and a touchdown against the Saints. Miller has finally taken over as the unquestionable starter at running back, and his fantasy owners will finally reap those rewards. If he can continue to improve and climb closer to the 100-yard mark each week, Miller might end up being a very good value pick in the middle rounds of the draft.
Greg Jennings – WR, Vikings: And it never fails. If I say to sit him, Jennings will finally have a good game with the backup QB throwing to him. Jennings hauled in just 3 passes from Matt Cassel, but made the most of them by finishing with 92 yards and 2 touchdowns. The lack of catches is why I said to sit him. He just got lucky and made one of those catches count for a 70-yard score thanks to poor tackling and bad angles by the Steelers defense. I don’t regret the pick as Jennings just got lucky.
Robert Woods – WR, Bills: This is probably the last time I will mention Woods’s name again this season, but I have to give him credit because he finished Sunday as the No. 2-ranked WR in NFL.com standard scoring thanks to his 76 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. Woods is owned in just 1.5 percent of leagues, so virtually nobody benefited from what is sure to go down as the best game of the 2013 season for him.
Alshon Jeffery – WR, Bears: Jeffery was one of my sleeper picks at WR in the preseason because the Bears offense was going to feature the pass more under a new coaching regime, and Jeffery was starting opposite Brandon Marshall. With teams focusing on stopping Marshall, Jeffery would be able to find the holes in the defense and rack up fantasy points in the process. Week 4 was his coming-out party as Jay Cutler hooked up with Jeffery 5 times for 107 yards and a touchdown, and then found him once more for a 2PT conversion. Add in the 27 yards he rushed for on his lone carry, and you get a top 5 WR finish this week with 21.40 FP in NFL.com standard scoring.
Nate Washington – WR, Titans: As usual this season, there are more WRs than RBs to talk about when it comes to fantasy glory. Washington nabbed four of the balls thrown his way this week and finished with 105 yards and 2 TDs. That gives him a two-week total of 12 catches for 236 yards and 2 TDs. Be aware and beware with adding Washington now because Jake Locker was carted off the field with a hip injury, leaving Ryan Fitzpartick as the QB throwing the ball in Tennessee now. If Locker is out, Washington’s new-found value (currently owned in 10.1 percent of NFL.com leagues) takes a slight hit.
Antonio Gates – TE, Chargers: Gates dusted off his cleats and had himself a huge game against the Cowboys this week as he finished with 10 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. This is classic Gates play that the 92.4 percent people who own him on NFL.com have been waiting for. I am actually a big Gates fan, but I cannot ignore his age (33) and Rivers's hot and cold streak this season. No matter what, this week was a hot one and Gates’s owners are sure to be happy.
Coby Fleener – TE, Colts: Fleener is owned in just 17.6 percent of NFL.com leagues, but that number is climbing as he and Andrew Luck show that there is the same connection on the NFL field that they had on the NCAA field. Fleener reeled in five Luck passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in a blowout victory over the helpless Jaguars. Fleener is a low-end TE1 play most weeks because he has one good week, then follows it up with one bad week. But, if he continues to be a target for Luck, he will be a weekly fantasy starter in the second half of the season.
Tony Gonzalez – TE, Falcons: Gonzalez put on a clinic Sunday night as he finished the day as the No. 3-ranked player in all fantasy football according to NFL.com standard scoring with 26.90 points. Gonzo burned the Patriots defense for 149 yards receiving and 2 TDs on 12 catches. It is amazing to think that Gonzalez is 37 years old and can still put up league-leading numbers at a skill position like TE.
Indianapolis Colts Defense: Playing the Jaguars offense has a way of making average NFL defenses stand out, and that is just what happened to the Colts on Sunday. The Colts held the Jags to just 3 points, while intercepting two passes and returning one back for a touchdown. All totaled, the Colts put up 17.00 FP this week despite a projection of just 4.00 by NFL.com. As my emailers know, I was high on the Colts and started them on a number of my own teams.
Eli Manning – QB, Giants: Eli didn’t fare as well as his brother Peyton this week as he was only able to finish with 217 yards passing and a single touchdown, while throwing an interception and losing two fumbles on Sunday. When all was said and done for Week 4, this Manning brother ranked No. 26 for fantasy QBs and continues to be a major disappointment to the 86.1 percent of people brave enough to own him in NFL.com leagues. The Giants O-line is a mess and everyone is suffering because of it, so don’t expect Manning to snap out of it and turn it around in the second half of the NFL season. He is little more than a bye-week filler in standard leagues.
E.J. Manuel – QB, Bills: Despite the Bills beating the Ravens by a score of 23-20, Manuel came crashing back to reality and barely beat out Blaine Gabbert in the race for dead last in fantasy points for a QB in Week 4. Manuel was only able to throw for 167 yards and a TD while also throwing 2 INTs and losing a fumble. The 4.78 FP he scored this week was not what those brave souls who started him where hoping for as he entered this week ranked 14th overall in the fantasy QB department on NFL.com.
Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce – RBs, Ravens: That’s right, both Rice and Pierce were major disappointments on Sunday as the tandem combined for 24 yards on 9 carries. Together they scored 2.6 FP in NFL.com standard scoring, and it would be just two points had it not been for fractional scoring (Pierce’s seven yards rushing isn’t even good enough for a single standard point). The Ravens threw the ball 50 times, and ran it just nine times; that’s about as lopsided as it gets in professional sports.
Rashard Mendenhall – RB, Cardinals: Mendenhall is one of those RBs I avoided in fantasy drafts because the offense in Arizona just doesn’t emphasize the run enough for him to be a fantasy starter. He entered the week 23rd in NFL.com standard scoring, which is a low-end RB2, but finished this week as the second-worst RB owned in more than 75 percent of leagues thanks to his 21 yards rushing, 13 yards receiving and lost fumble. He’s worth owning, but is more in the flex play range than a starting RB (RB1/RB2) play.
Golden Tate – WR, Seahawks: Tate was a preseason breakout candidate from some well-known fantasy websites, and he has managed just one week with more than 6 FP this season (Week 3). Even though he was targeted a team-high five times in Week 4, he managed just 17 yards on 3 receptions. 13 catches for 175 yards and no TDs in four games this season sure isn’t breakout material in this guy’s opinion.
Tavon Austin – WR, Rams: Austin was the much-hyped rookie WR in this year’s fantasy drafts, and to this point he has been a bust outside of Week 2. Sure, Austin has 20 receptions and 2 TDs, but those touchdowns came in the same game and the receptions are only worth a point at most in PPR formats. He finished Week 4 with two catches for six yards, which isn’t even a full point in non-fractional scoring formats. He is owned in 93.9 percent of NFL.com leagues, and that number is down 3.5 percent this week. You can expect to see Austin on more waiver wires this coming week as owners jump ship and look at either Jeffery from Chicago or Washington from Tennessee.
Kyle Rudolph – TE, Vikings: Rudolph was last year’s fantasy sleeper pick, but this year he has been in more of a coma than anything. This week he managed just 2 catches for 6 yards, raising his season totals to 12 catches for 103 yards and a TD. Rudolph isn’t a part of the offensive gameplan outside of the red zone, so the 82.1 percent of people who own him in NFL.com leagues are going to continue to be frustrated with his production, or lack thereof.
Brandon Myers – TE, Giants: Myers is owned in 80.4 percent of NFL.com leagues, but his fantasy totals have been on a steady decline in the first quarter of the season. He started out hot with 66 yards and a TD for 12.60 FP in NFL.com standard scoring in Week 1, but then proceeded to put up 7.40 and 3.30 points the next two weeks, and then a whopping 0.00 points in Week 4 with no catches and no targets. The problem with the Giants is their O-line, which is causing Myers to go from a pass-catching TE to strictly a blocking TE. Until things change with the line in New York, I wouldn’t even consider playing Myers in any fantasy format.
Chicago Bears Defense: It just wasn’t the Bears day as the defense allowed a staggering 34 points to the Lions, causing them to finish with just 6.00 FP this week. They were able to recover two fumbles and add a sack and an INT to the totals, but that is not much comfort to the 97.8 percent of NFL.com owners who count on them to produce each and every week. With all the weapons at the Lions disposal, it really isn’t a surprise that this happened. Chalk it up as a bad game and move on.