Roundtable Week15

This week's Roundtable: Unheralded Playoff Options, Ride-or-Die, Fish Stories, and a closer look at four Week 15 games.

We're looking back and looking forward this week:

Let's roll...

Unheralded playoff options

Pick four players from the list below that you would use next week in a starting lineup in a re-draft league if the cupboard was bare due to injuries to your starters or a supporting cast of a normally productive starter (i.e. Terrelle Pryor now saddled with Robert Griffin III) and you need to make one of these tough calls. 

We all know that you probably wouldn't start these guys in a regular situation so no need to reassure the readers.

Dave Larkin: Even the poorest quarterbacks in the league have the ability and opportunity to put up decent points. Matt Moore will not be asked to do a whole lot—especially if Miami is in control—but would you really be shocked to see him rack up a pair of touchdown passes and about 225 yards? I wouldn't. If he trusts his receivers—and he has some fine ones to go to—he should be a great plug-in option. 

The next one comes down to PPR vs. non-PPR. If Doug Martin continues to run as hot as he has been, then Sims' opportunities will be limited to check down passes on third down and screens. Nevertheless, Sims is a lock for about 10-12 touches and could break one at any time. If it's a lottery ticket you're after, Sims isn't the worst choice. 

J.J. Nelson is the very definition of a lottery ticket player. If he hits, he hits big. If he misses, you're looking at a zero. The Saints defense has actually been playing better this season compared to their putrid 2015 (but I suppose anything is better than that). Still, the Cardinals offense will remain a downfield passing attack with Carson Palmer heaving it from time to time. Nelson has a chance to convert one for 50-60 yards and a score. 

The long shot of long shots among my selections, Trey Burton has a shot at a handful of catches if the Eagles are playing from behind - and they likely will be. Burton has fine hands and Carson Wentz loves to fire passes into his tight ends. It will be tough sledding in Baltimore, but Burton could produce a 5-50 and a touchdown if he is lucky. 

Chad Parsons: Sims is the big-play element of Tampa Bay's backfield. In full PPR, I like Sims as an RB2 and he hurts Doug Martin's upside plenty in the process. 

I like Kenneth Farrow's skill set overall. When he was coming out of college, his thickness, lateral explosion, and soft hands were foundation pieces to being a strong stash player. The floor of usage is high (say, 15 touches) without Melvin Gordon III in the lineup.

The Saints are improving on defense, but still a matchup worth targeting. John Brown has been a non-factor and Michael Floyd was arrested on Monday. Nelson has a sturdier floor this week to go with his big play-based ceiling.

A.J. Derby has evolved quickly into a dependable target for Denver on key passing downs. While New England will likely look to hold down Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Justin Forsett and A.J. Derby are key players to watch for an impact this week.

John Mamula: The Jets defense has given up on the season. if you are in a start 2 QB league. Moore is a fine plug-in for the week and Kenny Stills is a big-play threat work your attention.

If Melvin Gordon III is inactive as expected, Farrow will get the bulk of the touches in a high-total (50 points) game. Last week after Gordon went down, Farrow had 22 touches. If your team lacks an RB2, Farrow is a fine option.

Robby Anderson has chemistry with Bryce Petty. Back to back weeks with 11 and 12 targets. He is a fine start as a WR3 or flex option. 

Andrew Garda: While I don't expect Hall of Fame numbers from him, Moore faces a defense which is largely populated by veterans who don't care anymore. Darrelle Revis won't even tackle, Mo Wilkerson is busy counting his money, and Sheldon Richardson has forgotten he has yet to get his money. There are bright spots, but not enough. Jay Ajayi will see a lot of use, but the Jets can be thrown on, and of the assembled QBs here, he's the guy I would roll with.

It should all work in Stills' favor. Moore can go deep and Stills does deep very well. Watch him wave "bye-bye" as Revis trips over his own feet. 

The next time the Jets stop a tight end will be the first time. I didn't want to go Miami-heavy, but if you need to start guys in a passing offense, just start them against Gang Green. It means Dion Sims is also on my list. 

As mentioned above, if Melvin Gordon III is inactive, Farrow gets the nod. The Chargers will run at the Raiders, who allow 120.2 yards a game and 16 touchdowns to date. 

Jeff Haseley: Nelson has come on strong lately. I can see him making some plays in a good matchup against the Saints. The release of Michael Floyd opens up more snaps for him as well. 

Charles Sims is an X-factor player who can make a big play for his team and not be the focal point of the offense. I see him with at least four catches in this game and one of them may go for a big gain, possibly a score. 

Anderson has shown a bond with Bryce Petty that we often see with the 3rd or 4th wide receiver and the backup quarterback. They were tight with each other in 2nd or third team practices and now they are both thrust into the first team. The result is a trusting bond between the two with a higher success rate than if the regular starting quarterback was on the field. 

Stills very quietly has 6 touchdowns this year and he has not gone two starts in a row without at least one score. The Jets can be passed on and the chances of Stills making a big play or two is high. 


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Ride or Die...or Say "Buh-Bye"

Rank each position group based on how much you trust them this week sorted by most (Ride-or-Die) to least (Buh...Bye) and summarize your reasons for each group. 


  • Russell Wilson (5 INTs vs. Green Bay). Presuming your team survived the collapse, would you ride-or-die with @DangerRuss vs. the Rams?
  • Drew Brees (Consecutive weeks with 0 TDs and 3 INTs --yes, that's 6 INTs in 2 weeks for Brees). Ride-or-die or Buh-bye vs. the Cardinals?
  • Ben Roethlisberger (3 INTs, 0 TDs vs. Buffalo) facing Cincinnati in Week 15. 
  • Derek Carr (2 INTs, 0 TDs vs. KC) facing San Diego this weekend. 

Chad Parsons: Russell Wilson. Ride him. All but one of the interceptions last week were not his fault by my watch. The Rams are running on fumes and this week looks like a get-well week for Seattle.

Ben Roethlisberger. Cincinnati is a beatable defense and Ladarius Green is a rising wild card for big plays down the middle.

Derek Carr. I like Oakland to rebound from a freezing dud game against Kansas City. They never looked comfortable. San Diego has a good secondary, but I like Carr more than Brees against Arizona with a less-than-100% Michael Thomas this week.

Drew Brees. He has missed some uncharacteristic throws of late and Arizona can matchup across the board. Michael Thomas is not healthy and Coby Fleener has been a major disappointment.

John Mamula: 

  1. Russell Wilson: He will bounce back strong this week at home. The Seahawks have the fourth-highest projected team total of the week at 26.5 points. 
  2. Derek Carr: This is a 50-point game total and Raiders have the fifth-highest projected team total of the week at 26.25 points.  
  3. Ben Roethlisberger: It is difficult to trust Roethlisberger on the road due to his home/road splits. 
  4. Drew Brees: Brees isn't playing with the same swagger that he did earlier in the season. A road game in Arizona is not a good recipe for success. 

Dave Larkin: 

  • Russell Wilson: The trust factor is high against a Rams team who just fired their coach. I expect the Seahawks to beat up a bad team behind a strong game from Mr. Wilson. 
  • Ben Roethlisberger: Roethlisberger tends to perform well against the Bengals. While the weather may be a factor, I am discounting his three-interception performance of last week as the anomaly; normal service should resume this week. 
  • Drew Brees: You can't just brush aside his six picks in the past two outings, but Brees is too good to keep down. The upside of the offense is capped on the road, but picture the fireworks in this game if there are some early scores. 
  • Derek Carr: It's all about the finger. Carr just hasn't looked comfortable since injuring it; until I see him operate at full efficiency, I am going to fade him. 


Jeff Haseley: 

  • Russell Wilson: I don't love his chances of a big game, but he plays better at home and the Rams defense is not as good on the road. This seems like more of a heavy rushing game than a passing game, but I like Wilson at home in a national spotlight. 
  • Drew Brees: Drew Brees has to rebound right? Arizona is not a great matchup and this game is in Glendale. I'd still ride it out and live and die by Brees and his golden arm. 
  • Derek Carr: I like Carr as long as his finger is OK and doesn't hold him back. San Diego can be passed on and I like Carr's chances of a multiple -touchdown game. 
  • Ben Roethlisberger: Ben on the road...not great.  His "not great" is still pretty good, but he'd be my last option of this group of four. 

Mark Wimer: 

  1. Russell Wilson: Goff should provide Wilson lots of short fields and Gurley is ineffective. Seattle has superior field position all day long.
  2. Drew Brees: The Cardinals offense is in big trouble despite David Johnson; Brees has the better receiver corps and should have favorable field position in game
  3. Derek Carr: Carr faces San Diego this weekend and 65 total points were scored in the first iteration of this matchup. His finger is a concern, but San Diego is vulnerable on offense. Carr could be in chase position if Rivers plays well
  4. Ben Roethlisberger: AFC North duels are always unpredictable. Le'Veon Bell dominates. Roethlisberger won't need to throw as much.
Andrew Garda: 
  1. Russell Wilson: I know it's boring, but lump me in with everyone else. Wilson had a bad game last week, sure, but the Rams are not a good team on defense right now and the Seahawks are a whole different team at home. Wilson should bounce back just fine this week.
  2. Derek Carr: The Chargers are not the Chiefs and Qualcomm Stadium is not Arrowhead. The Raiders do fine on the road in general, and Derek Carr should be reliable against a Chargers team already putting their office supplies in moving boxes.
  3. Ben Roethlisberger: We're splitting hairs with these guys, especially since I think Roethlisberger rebounds from last week. That said, his brain -freeze INTs last week were a concern, and if he slacks off against Cincinnati—who will relish a spoiler role down the stretch—his numbers could be less impressive.
  4. Drew Brees: The back-to-back interception-fests are a huge concern. We know Brees is a generous guy, but Christmas gifts are for off the field. Arizona isn't playing great defensively, but they should do enough to limit Brees this week. 


Mark Wimer:

  1. Isaiah Crowell: The Browns don't want an 0-fer season and this is its best opportunity to win a game. Buffalo's rush defense is vulnerable.
  2. Jay Ajayi: The Jets are awful and collapsing and Miami has a realistic shot at the postseason. Ajayi did well against this group once already.
  3. Spencer Ware: Tennessee has a great rush defense, Charcandrick West vultures Ware. Stay away.
  4. Doug Martin: Sub-par rushing numbers for Martin last week despite a high number of touches. Dallas rebounds from its loss to the Giants; they won't past Tampa after the Buccaneers beat the Saints.
Jeff Haseley: 
  1. Spencer Ware: Not only is Ware a good rusher, but he has proven to be a solid receiver, which is a must for a Chiefs running back to thrive. He's my top choice of the four this week. 
  2. Jay Ajayi: The Jets just allowed 193 yards rushing to Carlos Hyde on 17 carries. I'll take my chances that Ajayi can do some damage, even if Miami's offensive line has some challenges. 
  3. Isaiah Crowell: I can see Cleveland leaning on Crowell to carry the offense including some opportunities as a receiver. 
  4. Doug Martin: I am not a fan of this game for fantasy purposes as I see this being a rather low-scoring game. 20 points may decide the winner. 
Andrew Garda: 
  1. Jay Ajayi: The Jets won last week, but it wasn't because they could stop the run. Carlos Hyde lit them up. CARLOS. HYDE. While some players are still playing on defense, not enough are and the Dolphins are going to lean on Ajayi with Ryan Tannehill out.
  2. Spencer Ware: I'd like to see Ware at the 20-carries level more consistently, but he's close enough most weeks. As pointed out, Tennessee is a tough matchup, but I agree the Chiefs will feed him the rock and control the clock.
  3. Isaiah Crowell: I trust Crowell only slightly more than Martin at this point, and think the Browns will keep it close this week. It is their last chance for a win if you ask me, and it means leaning on Crowell a bit. The downside? Robert Griffin III III might get more called runs and cap what Crowell is asked to do.
  4. Doug Martin: I would like Martin more if he could produce more with the carries he got. I can't depend on short touchdowns to win fantasy games.

Dave Larkin:

  1. Jay Ajayi: Volume should dictate a big game from Ajayi, even against a stingy Jets front seven. I project around 25-30 carries for about 90-100 yards and a score. 
  2. Spencer Ware: A safer play than Ajayi in a way, the Chiefs should rely on Ware heavily in what will be a frigid Arrowhead Stadium. Not one for the faint of heart, but Ware has the grit to thrive in this type of game. 
  3. Doug Martin: The Bucs will not go quietly into the night and Dallas' front seven will be challenged to stop the run. I just worry about the game script if a peeved Dallas team can get an early lead. 
  4. Isaiah Crowell: I'm sorry, but trusting any Browns player right now is just a sketchy bet at best. 

John Mamula:

  1. Jay Ajayi: The Jets defense looks as though it has cashed it in for the season. Ajayi has a high floor/high ceiling this week. 
  2. Spencer Ware: Ware gets the bulk of the touches with KC as a 5.5 point favorite.
  3. Doug Martin: Martin has a difficult matchup as the Bucs are 7-point underdogs with a team total of 19.5 points. 
  4. Isaiah Crowell: Crowell benefited from 2 long 2nd half runs last week when the game was out of reach. Too inconsistent to trust. 

Chad Parsons:

  1. Jay Ajayi: Like Ware, Ajayi has a high floor of snaps and usage. The Jets are allowing 132 yards per game on the ground to backs over the last five weeks.
  2. Spencer Ware: Nearly exclusive snaps and Kansas City is a run-first team. Tennessee is a tough draw, but Ware has a high floor.
  3. Isaiah Crowell: Buffalo is the best running back matchup over the last five weeks. Despite Cleveland's offensive struggles in general, trust the talent and the matchup.
  4. Doug Martin: Charles Sims back is a big decline in PPR upside for Martin. Now, Martin relies on a goal line look to have a quality fantasy performance, a pet peeve of mine in terms of starting lineup decisions.


John Mamula:

  1. Larry Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald has one of the top matchups on the board. Start him if he is on your roster. 
  2. Doug Baldwin: He will rebound at home. Only concern is if he doesn't get his points early and the Seahawks are up by a wide margin. 
  3. Amari Cooper: Game total is 50 points. There will be al ot of scoring in this matchup. I love Cooper's floor and ceiling. 
  4. Dez Bryant: Has been inconsistent this season. Has a high ceiling but a low floor. 
  5. Stefon Diggs: Floor has been lower than earlier in the season. 
  6. Michael Crabtree: Is he healthy after last week's injury? If he practices fully this week, move him up the list. 

Dave Larkin: 

  1. Dez Bryant: I know it has been going badly for Bryant recently, but I expect the Cowboys to feature him heavily this week. The Bucs defense has been on good form recently, but Bryant has the talent to trump it. Dak Prescott will be... encouraged, let's say, to feed him. 
  2. Larry Fitzgerald: A very solid play in a home game where the Cardinals shouldn't be afraid to attack downfield. I'd ride with Fitz any day. 
  3. Amari Cooper: It becomes tougher at this point, but Cooper definitely offers the highest upside with downfield targets. The Chargers defense will be missing Bosa, but baked into this ranking is the fact Derek Carr's finger might still be bugging him. 
  4. Michael Crabtree: Like Cooper, Crabtree's position is based on my lack of faith in Carr. 
  5. Doug Baldwin: Playing the Rams and should have plenty of opportunity for chunk plays. What is not to like?
  6. Stefon Diggs: A risky play due to his projected low target totals, but capable of providing a safe baseline score for you. 

Mark Wimer: I like all of these matchups this week. 

  1. Doug Baldwin: Wilson was embarrassed last week and he makes L.A. pay.
  2. Dez Bryant: Dallas looking for bounce-back after a loss and Bryant was shown up by Odell Beckham Jr Jr. last week.
  3. Amari Cooper: Cooper took SD apart last time
  4. Michael Crabtree: A finger injury, but minor and he took SD apart last time
  5. Stefon Diggs: The Colts' defense stinks
  6. Larry Fitzgerald: The Saints' defense is not up to Fitzgerald.
Andrew Garda: 

  1. Doug Baldwin: I also suspect that as we see Russell Wilson bounce back at home, so to will Baldwin. This is a good matchup and the only thing which could hold him back is the Seahawks running away and hiding. 
  2. Larry Fitzgerald: He is the only dude here in the receiving corps who Carson Palmer can trust. I expect a pretty sizeable day from him at home against the Saints defense.
  3. Amari Cooper: He was more heavily targeted against the Chiefs than he had been the previous three games, and that's a good sign. The Chargers secondary isn't awful, but I don't think they can keep up with Cooper or Crabtree this week. I am concerned about Derek Carr's finger, but I am optimistic he will be fine.
  4. Dez Bryant: He looked horrible on Sunday against the Giants. He fell on one interception, either stopped on a route or misread the quarterback on the second pick and then gave up a game-changing fumble. He will bounce back against Tampa, but I don't think he'll have a huge day. Expect more Ezekiel Elliott runs and fewer Dak Prescott passes.
  5. Michael Crabtree. He gets knocked down a bit because of the finger injury, but he should be good for an increase in production back to where he was the preceding two weeks, though not all the way back. 
  6. .
  9. .
  10. .
  11. .
  12. Stefon Diggs: I'm not kidding with the space here between Crabtree and Diggs. Sam Bradford is looking for Adam Thielen, not Diggs and the short dink and dunk offense isn't one which enhances Diggs value.  Diggs is a terrible play this week, and remarkably unreliable every week
Jeff Haseley: 
  1. Doug Baldwin: He plays better at home and he's Wilson's top downfield target.
  2. Amari Cooper: Both Cooper and Crabtree bounce back this week. Cooper by a nose over Crabtree. 
  3. Michael Crabtree: See above. 
  4. Stefon Diggs: I can see him thriving or struggling in this game. Too much uncertainty. Not my top choice. 
  5. Larry Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald had chances last week but couldn't make them happen. Maybe he turns it on in this game, but he's been inconsistent lately.
  6. Dez Bryant: Dak has struggled lately and when he does, so does Dez. Tampa will bring the heat, like the Giants did. I'm fading Bryant this week. 


Jeff Haseley: 

  1. Jimmy Graham: Seattle at home against a suspect defense. I'll take my chances on Graham.
  2. Martellus Bennett: He may finally be over his high ankle sprain. If so, he can be money. 
  3. Delanie Walker: He should see quite a bit of targets in this game, one of which could be a long gainer. 
  4. Ladarius Green: I still need to see more from Green before I put him into every week starter territory. 

Matt Waldman: I'll note that Bennett could run in a straight line, but it was still easy to see that he could not drive or plant hard on his right foot. When he had to change direction, he often pivoted and dropped to the ground after the catch. Since Tom Brady can find ideal matchups for Bennett pre-snap, he still has upside because his straight-line speed and size make him a solid target on seam-like routes. 

Andrew Garda: 

  1. Martellus Bennett. Count me in the group who likes Bennett this week. It's a tough matchup, but Tom Brady will throw and the Broncos are tough on wide receivers, so Bennett should get targets.
  2. Delanie Walker. A tough matchup, but Walker is critical to this offense and will get fed.
  3. Ladarius Green. Green's snaps are a bit up and down but he saw plenty of targets last week, including one in the red zone. I trust him a bit less than Bennett and Walker, but he should still be a solid play.
  4. Jimmy Graham. I like Graham overall, but I think Doug Baldwin gets the big plays and Thomas Rawls gets a lot of carries, leaving Graham a little riskier than the above guys.
Mark Wimer: This is my least favorite group of the four. 
John Mamula: 

  1. Jimmy Graham: Has been very consistent at home this season. 
  2. Delanie Walker: The main receiving weapon for Titans. Will be relied upon. 
  3. Ladarius Green: Hard to trust Green as he has a very low floor. 
  4. Martellus Bennett: A tough matchup in Denver. Bennett bounced back last week but this will be a difficult challenge. 

Dave Larkin: I actually like Bennett facing Denver. They have a pass rush, but the linebackers are relatively toothless as cover guys.

Matt Waldman: I agree. Five tight ends this year have earned at least 60 yards or a touchdown, if not both. Teams that use the tight end routinely did well against this corps. 

Dave Larkin: Which is why Bennett is atop my list.

  1. Martellus Bennett: He looked spry on Monday night and should feast on Denver's weak linebackers over the middle. 
  2. Delanie Walker: A mainstay of the Titans passing attack. The weather has to be a concern for both passing attacks, but Walker has the ability to turn short catches into long ones. 
  3. Jimmy Graham: The matchup looks tasty, but I just trust the two options above a little bit more. 
  4. Ladarius Green: The explosion against the Giants might have been a one-off. It's all about trust here.

Chad Parsons:

  1. Delanie Walker: The Tennessee tight end has the highest market share of his team's pass game of the list. I would roll him out with confidence.
  2. Ladarius Green: Huge upside any given week
  3. Jimmy Graham: The Rams have been stingy against tight ends all season (74 yards is the high-water mark for any tight end, one touchdown allowed since Week 3).
  4. Martellus Bennett: I smell a run-centric game plan this week against Denver for the Patriots. After a good effort in Week 14, I would break ties against Bennett in Week 15.

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Staff "Big Fish" Stories

What was your worst "bad beat" in the fantasy playoffs?

Dave Larkin: I once lost a championship game (as the number one seed and presumptive champion) by 0.01 points. That was tough to take, let me tell you.

Matt Waldman: I was on the opposite side of that exact scenario thanks to Josh Cribbs, I look at it as karma for my worst bad beat: a game where I was down 21 points in the semi-finals and I had UDFA rookie phenom Fred Lane as the sole player left in the contest.

Lane played Dallas on Sunday night and had a strong game. In the fourth quarter, Lane needed a touchdown for me to win and he improbably got five shots inside the 11—four of them inside the Dallas 1—and the Cowboys' goal line stand cost me the game and a shot at a grand. 

I was watching the game at a corner table at a local pub in Athens and a guy at the bar had bet on the Panthers and was losing his mind with each carry. After the goal line stand, he was bemoaning the $80 he lost. I'm glad I paid up before that series of plays because I might have told that guy to shut up about his $80 if I had to go to the bar.  

Chad Parson: Last weekend was the most recent installment. In one league, I lost by a few points where I debated Allen Robinson versus Kenny Britt all week as my WR4. I went with Robinson. Britt would have got me the win. Also, Brandin Cooks had a touchdown drop which would have secured the win as well. Oh, and Derek Carr happened to me on the same team....and so did Dez Bryant's dud. It was a worst-case scenario all around. 

Chris Kuczynski: This one still keeps me awake a night. In my main keeper league in 2014, it was the semi-finals Week 15 and I was up by 13 going into Monday night football with no one left.

My opponent had Alshon Jeffery, so I wasn't feeling the greatest about it. Saints were dominating all game with less than two minutes to go and up 24 to 8 with the ball on Chicago's 15. At this point, Jeffery only had 2 catches for 36 yards.

All the Saints had to do was run out the clock: get one more first down and kneel on the ball. Instead, Ingram runs for a TD, which gives the ball back to the Bears with about 1:40 left.

Cutler proceeds to march the offense down the field. Jeffery has a catch for 35 yards then, with 30 sec to go, Jeffery catches a short TD pass.

I lose by 4 points with 30 seconds to go in week 15 because of garbage time that shouldn't have even happened if the Saints didn't score a meaningless TD instead of running out the clock.

My opponent won the finals with both teams having a low scoring week and I would have easily beaten either one.

Andrew Garda: I lost a Fantasy Championship—and a fair bit of cash—by less than a point in a decimal scoring league.

It gets better.

I went to bed on Tuesday with a win. Wednesday, Yahoo adjusted player scoring and I woke up losing. 

The upside was the winner took me out to lunch, so there's that. But that was a brutal beat.

Jeff Haseley: I lost a championship over a lineup decision at defense. I went with Miami (they were playing a cupcake team in Week 16) over Philadelphia. Had I picked the right team (PHI) I would've won my league. It was approximately a $400 mistake. I'm still mad at myself for doing that, and to this day I think back to that wrong decision. Think wrong, think wrong! 

What was your gutsiest draft pick, lineup call, or trade in a league that paid off? 

Chris Kuczynski: In 2012, the same keeper league that I had described before, I actually pulled off a double trade that set me up to win a championship. We are allowed to keep one player in the third round or later, giving up the round we drafted them the year before. That year I had AJ Green for an eighth after his pretty good rookie season, but I worked out a trade for Welker that was worth giving up a fourth.

Come week 12, I had a playoff spot locked up and the guy I traded Green was right on the cusp of missing the playoffs. We had some weak spots in his starting lineup. I traded him my backup QB, backup TE, RB2, and a backup WR for Green. It gave him viable starters at three positions of need and put me over the top to have by far the best roster.

Dave Larkin: Most of my big moves occur in dynasty leagues during the offseason. I'm quite proud of the move I made to acquire a pick to draft Marcus Mariota in my main league. At first, I was skeptical of his play, but this year he has blossomed and accounted for 323 points in my league's scoring format

Andrew Garda: I took Randy Moss high in 2007. Even though we thought he could be better than he had been in Oakland, it got me some flack in the league I was in. I laughed last as he carried me deep into the playoffs

Jeff Haseley: When Darren Sproles was signed by New Orleans, I was pretty high on him. I had him as a Top020 running back in my rankings, whereas most had him in the 40's thinking he wouldn't amount to as much as he did in San Diego. That year (2011) he finished 10th in standard and 5th in PPR. 

Chad Parsons: In a dynasty league where I had a very strong roster and some titles over the years, I paid handsomely for Le'Veon Bell and the rights to the 1.01 rookie pick in the offseason to take Ezekiel Elliott. I already had a deep and elite receiver corps, Greg Olsen, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson.

I wanted to ensure I did not have running back concerns beyond David Johnson this season. I had some receiver injuries and my quarterback duo has not been exactly lights out. However, my running back trio has me running away with the total points crown and the No.1 seed for the playoffs entering Week 15.

Matt Waldman: In the same league with the Fred Lane story, I almost missed our 1999 draft. I spent the weekend an hour away from town with a girlfriend and 45 minutes into the ride back home, she realized that she forgot her wallet where we were staying. 

By the time we retrieved her wallet and dropped her back at her house in Athens, I arrived at the draft about five minutes before it began—and without any of the work I had done to prep for it. In those days, draft prep was magazines and paper and smartphones weren't around. Laptops were the big deal. 

I had the 10th pick in this 12-teamer and when the first round arrived at my pick, I was mulling over my choices and narrowed it to new Ram Marshall Faulk, Eddie George, and Colts' rookie Edgerrin James.

I had seen James as a Hurricane and his preseason game against the Saints. He looked so good, I decided to take the risk on James. The league thought I had lost my mind. 

With a team led by James, I won every eligible prize in 1999: Best Record, Most Points, and the League Championship and I didn't make a single transaction the entire year. It was one of the better seasons I've ever had and it all came from a draft that I almost missed and with a rookie first-round pick.

As a post script, Faulk and George were available for me in the second round and I chose George, who had the third-best season among backs in our league. Faulk either had the best or the second-best to James. I would have been set with my first two picks either way but the James pick was the most foolish draft pick I ever made that paid off handsomely. 

Who were some of the players on your first fantasy roster? 

Matt Waldman: Jerry Rice was my first, first-round pick in 1996. It created a buzz because early-RB was the way to go. My next two picks were Ricky Watters and second-year Broncos running back Terrell Davis. Other players included TE Keith Jackson (oooohhh Nellie), Irving Fryar, Michael Jackson, Derrick Alexander, and for some reason, I remember taking a shot on rookie Stephen Davis late in the draft. 

I remember that I went late-round quarterback and I somehow wound up with Ty Detmer as my starter for several weeks on a team that earned the best record and most points but lost in the playoffs due to a huge game by Ram Eddie Kennison versus Atlanta. 

Andrew Garda: Man this takes me back. I had Curtis Martin because Ii was a Jets fan—in this case, it worked out as he played well. I also had Corey Dillon, Brett Favre, and Derrick Mason. I think I made the playoffs, but have no idea how far I went. 

Jeff Haseley: Oooh, great question. Some of the guys I had from my mid-90's fantasy debut: Warren Moon, Jeff Blake, Errict Rhett, Emmitt Smith, Adrian Murrell were some of the running backs. Isaac Bruce, Carl Pickens, (I remember having a Blake to Pickens duo), Robert Brooks, Frank Sanders at wide receiver and Mark Chmura, at tight end or was it Eric Green? I'm sure I probably have some of them mixed up between years, but that's what I recall from the mid-90's. 

Matt Waldman: That Blake-to-Pickens and Blake-to-Darnay Scott deal were so much fun to watch! 

Chad Parsons: I remember my first foray into fantasy football being in the late 1990s. I came from fantasy baseball the few years before and watching plenty of football, but without fantasy knowledge on the NFL front.

I drafted Randy Moss early as a notable pick (his second season) and then waited until very late in the draft and took Daunte Culpepper to pair with Moss. Culpepper had yet to throw an NFL pass that offseason but was projected to be the Vikings starter. The pair blew up as one of the top offenses in the NFL and I lost only one game all season en route to a fantasy title in my first season.

Dave Larkin: My first-ever roster had Larry Fitzgerald, Clinton Portis and both Steve Smiths (Giants and Panthers). Those were the days. Other luminaries among my first roster (this is a dynasty league) were Chaz Schilens, Ladell Betts, and David Garrard. 

Chris Kuczynski: I'll have to dial it back to 2000. I was 14 and had only really understood the rules of football for a couple of years even though I had been watching since I was a young kid, so this would be the next step in my football fandom. 

It was a live draft and I studied up using a draft magazine. The commish even kept track of the stats and figured out the results using a newspaper and adding by hand because we didn't know about fantasy football hosting websites. 

Somehow, I ended up with Rich Gannon, Marshall Faulk, and Marvin Harrison. Needless to say, I had a successful rookie campaign and have been hooked ever since.

If you were instantly blessed with youth, health, athletic talent, and the necessary skills, which two positions (1 offense and 1 defense) on the field would you want to play in the NFL? Which one do you like the most?

Dave Larkin: Great question! On offense, it would have to be running back. I have played a bit of rugby in my time and I have often been complimented on my vision, cutback ability, and direct running style.

On defense, it would be cornerback. I love the challenge of taking on a receiver one on one—and especially winning the ball in the air (which doesn't happen much since I'm five-seven on a good day). 

Alex Miglio: If I had the size and ability of an NFL player, I would love to play quarterback. It seems like a generic dream, but it stems from my pitching days in baseball. I love being in that role, with the ball in my hands.

On defense, I always gravitated towards free safety. It's fun to try to read the play and where the quarterback is going with the ball in flag football, though there is much more to it than that in the pros.

Chris Kuczynski: I never played organized football. I played baseball my whole life, but I can throw and catch alright in a pick-up game. I think the two most fun positions would be WR and LB. There's only 32 starting QBs so you have to be very good to have meaningful playing time, but many teams have 4 WRs who make an important contribution to the team.

Plus, you most likely aren't taking as much punishment as the QB or RB since you're really only dealing with defensive backs hitting you. On the flip side, being a linebacker laying the wood on QBs and RBs seems like it would be a major adrenaline rush.

Chad Parsons: Wide receiver on offense. I have always liked the position when playing casually as a kid. On defense, I would enjoy safety in terms of reading the offense and being involved in every level of defense depending on the play. 

Jeff Haseley: Offense? Kicker. I've kicked a few 50-yard field goals when I was in my mid-20's. Defense? Safety. I would love having the freedom of roaming around the field making plays where the ball is. 

Matt Waldman: Dude, I don't know whether to give you grief for wanting to be a kicker or give you props for admitting it so freely! On offense, I'd want to be a running back. I loved the "me against the world" feeling the position often requires. I liked the physicality of the position and how it pushed you. And I liked the versatility of the role.  

On defense, I'd want to be a 4-3 defensive end like Bruce Smith where I had the quickness and agility to bend the edge, but the strength to stop the run. Knowing what it would feel like to blindside a quarterback or burst through the line past a 320-pound dancing bear and hammer a great running back into the turf like a tent stake has to be an incredible feeling.

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Week 15 Game Previews

Pick one game from the first list to profile. Answer each of the questions on the second list as the method to your madness:

  • Denver at New England
  • Miami at New York Jets
  • Baltimore at Philadelphia
  • Detroit at New York Giants


  1. FOX analyst and former All-Pro LB Chris Spielman says the NFL is about exploiting matchups. What is the most exploitable matchup (player vs. defender) that will benefit fantasy owners?
  2. Which known fantasy commodity on the offense will the defense try to shut down as a top priority and how successful will they be?
  3. Which player(s) will have to play above his current rate of production to compensate for the defense shutting down the known commodity? How successful will he be?
  4. Which team will win and what will be the fantasy production for each of the players you named?

Dave Larkin: I'll take the Lions and Giants....

FOX analyst and former All-Pro LB Chris Spielman says the NFL is about exploiting matchups. What is the most exploitable matchup (player vs. defender) that will benefit fantasy owners?

He has been fairly quiet since he exploded for seven catches on eight targets against the Vikings, but Eric Ebron has a chance to make some noise in the frigid conditions at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Matthew Stafford tends to look to Anquan Boldin when he targets the middle of the field, but Ebron profiles as a mismatch for Eli Apple or any of the Giants' linebackers. The concern here is that Boldin will suck some potential targets away from Ebron in high-leverage situations. 

Which known fantasy commodity on the offense will the defense try to shut down as a top priority and how successful will they be?

If I were the Giants defense, my top priority would be shutting down Golden Tate. Their cornerbacks have played very well this season, however, so perhaps their best bet would be to trust them on the outside and flood coverage towards the middle—where Boldin and Ebron will be lurking.

If Theo Riddick plays after his wrist injury, that will give the Detroit offense a significant boost. He could be a real X-factor. Such has been the level of play from Stafford, it is difficult to pin down one player to 'shut down'. 

Which player(s) will have to play above his current rate of production to compensate for the defense shutting down the known commodity? How successful will he be?

Marvin Jones Jr is the first name that comes to mind, but his targets have been very erratic in recent weeks. Even when he has gotten opportunities, he has not made the most of them. As I outlined previously, the Giants should feel confident with their cornerbacks on islands against these Lions receivers. I don't believe Jones will be able to capitalize. 

Which team will win and what will be the fantasy production for each of the players you named?

The Giants offense is at the lowest of low ebbs right now. Even if their defense produces a stellar performance like they did against Dallas, I believe the Lions have the ability to secure an upset victory here.

I would expect Tate and Jones to notch around six to seven catches each, with Tate getting the better chance of scoring a touchdown. Both are boom-bust WR2 options. Ebron and Boldin are the names to watch here.

If the Lions are ineffective running the ball—and most teams have been against New York—then expect five to six targets for each of them, with Boldin cashing in at some point in the red zone. Both are strong flex options. 

John Mamula: I'll do Philadelphia and Baltimore

  1. FOX analyst and former All-Pro LB Chris Spielman says the NFL is about exploiting matchups. What is the most exploitable matchup (player vs. defender) that will benefit fantasy owners?  Kenneth Dixon will be able to exploit the Philadelphia defense. Last week, Dixon had 19 touches for 81 yards and 1 TD. The Eagles defense has come back to earth from their early season start. Last week, Rob Kelley amassed 88 total yards and 1 TD. 
  2. Which known fantasy commodity on the offense will the defense try to shut down as a top priority and how successful will they be?The Ravens have been shutting down opposing rushing attacks all season. Ryan Matthews will have a long day. The Ravens defense is ranked first in rushing yards allowed (981) and first with only 3.4 yards/per carry. Matthews will not have any room to run this week. 
  3. Which player(s) will have to play above his current rate of production to compensate for the defense shutting down the known commodity? Jordan Matthews will have to play above his current rate of production to compensate for the lack of a running game. Matthews has been average at best this season with only (1) 100-yard receiving game way back in Week 1. He will have to have a big day if the Eagles have any chance to compete. 
  4. Which team will win and what will be the fantasy production for each of the players you named? The Ravens will win this game handily...24-10 is my prediction. Kenneth Dixon will have 95 total yards and 1 TD. Jordan Matthews will be his average self, 6 receptions for 70 yards. Ryan Matthews will struggle with 14 rushes for 45 yards. 

Alex Miglio: I'll take the Dolphins-Jets. 

FOX analyst and former All-Pro LB Chris Spielman says the NFL is about exploiting matchups. What is the most exploitable matchup (player vs. defender) that will benefit fantasy owners?

This game could wind up being a slog with two backup quarterbacks getting starting nods. However, neither of these defenses is particularly good, and there is plenty of fantasy scoring to be had if Matt Moore and Bryce Petty can capitalize.

The matchup we should enjoy watching is Kenny Stills or DeVante Parker against Darrelle Revis. Whoever the faded star gets tasked to cover should find himself open deep often, as Revis has become a shell of his old self. Moore's "gunslinger" mentality should mean some deep shots in the game, and Stills and Parker can get behind defenses without the help of broken down Revis, to begin with.

Which known fantasy commodity on the offense will the defense try to shut down as a top priority and how successful will they be?

Jay Ajayi defied the experts and rushed for 111 yards and a score the last time these two teams met. For all their woes against the pass, the Jets have been pretty good all season. As much as the Dolphins would love for Ajayi to do it again, this week could prove disastrous for his fantasy owners. Miami's offensive line is banged up, including the loss of Mike Pouncey for the season. Add that to a rush defense that is still tough and we have a recipe for disappointment.

Which player(s) will have to play above his current rate of production to compensate for the defense shutting down the known commodity? How successful will he be?

Jarvis Landry is going to have to get the ball deeper if he is going to produce. The question is how the Dolphins are going to use him in the wake of Ryan Tannehill's absence. Landry has been a safety valve and screen machine with Tannehill at the helm, but things might change with Moore under center. Landry's fantasy production hasn't been great mostly because of he is targeted so close to the line of scrimmage all the time. That will need to change for him to score big on Sunday.

Which team will win and what will be the fantasy production for each of the players you named?

The Dolphins relied on a kickoff return to save them in Miami, and that was when the offense was playing at a good level. With the offensive line in trouble and Matt Moore under center, it's going to be tough to keep up with the Jets this time around. Bryce Petty isn't anyone to be scared of, but the Dolphins defense has given up the eighth-most points this year.

Mark Wimer: Denver at New England...

FOX analyst and former All-Pro LB Chris Spielman says the NFL is about exploiting matchups. What is the most exploitable matchup (player vs. defender) that will benefit fantasy owners?

1. LeGarrette Blount vs. Denver defensive front. Blount scores rushing TDs often this year and the Denver defensive front allows almost one rushing TD per game. Brady can threaten the defense so many ways in the passing phase of the game in the red zone that Blount should find paydirt at least once in this game.

Which known fantasy commodity on the offense will the defense try to shut down as a top priority and how successful will they be?

2. The Patriots will get after Trevor Siemian, who is one of three quarterbacks to average at least 300 passing yards per game since Week 8. He has averaged 303.8 yards passing per game played, and is obviously the only hope for Denver to win the game given Devontae Booker and Justin Forsett at running back.

New England shuts down Siemian/wide receivers (mostly successfully) and begs Denver to beat them with the running backs. The Broncos will try to hit Brady a lot as that is a way to discombobulate the New England passing game - New England is tied for seventh in NFL with only 21 sacks allowed, though, so getting to him will be sporadic. I give Denver a 50 percent chance of actually hitting Brady enough to rattle him.

Which player(s) will have to play above his current rate of production to compensate for the defense shutting down the known commodity? How successful will he be?

3. Booker and Forsett have to play better in this game if Denver is going to win. I think James White becomes a wild card for New England if they hit enough short passes over the blitzes/with draw plays to White then Denver will have to back off the pressure on Brady.

Which team will win and what will be the fantasy production for each of the players you named?

4. Picking the winner is hard due to the other two phases of the game (special teams, possible/probable defensive scores by either team). I lean towards Denver due to their solid pass defense and home field advantage.

Blount will be the most fantasy-worthy back in my opinion over either Booker or Forsett. Siemian may actually edge out Brady in the passing department. Big plays on offense will be key for the eventual winner I see a lot of punts mixed in with drives in this one.

Andrew Garda: I'll also go with Denver-New England...

FOX analyst and former All-Pro LB Chris Spielman says the NFL is about exploiting matchups. What is the most exploitable matchup (player vs. defender) that will benefit fantasy owners?

I like this game like Wimer, but let me take a different tack. We've seen the Denver Broncos get beat when teams attack the linebackers in coverage, usually with a running back. Despite the return of Dion Lewis, James White is still getting a bunch of targets. I don't think that changes and I don't think the matchup of an athletic back will escape Bill Belichick's notice. 

I suspect in PPR leagues, White will be a nice surprise.

Which known fantasy commodity on the offense will the defense try to shut down as a top priority and how successful will they be?

Denver will try to shut down two people: Julian Edelman, who is by far the top option with Rob Gronkowski out, and LeGarrette Blount who has been really effective this season and did well against a top-ranked Ravens defense last week.

Denver has problems against the run, and are a top-rated pass defense. They will concentrate on making Tom Brady uncomfortable and Edelman useless, but they will be focused on the run as well. They haven't allowed a 100-yard back since Week 9, including Latavious Murray. They will focus on Blount as much as Edelman.

Which player(s) will have to play above his current rate of production to compensate for the defense shutting down the known commodity? How successful will he be?

Martellus Bennett had a great week against the Ravens, but he's been pretty inconsistent this season. Along with James White, though, he should be a real mismatch for the linebackers who have to cover him.

I might be concerned that a safety like TJ Ward would be tasked with keeping him in check, but Ward is going to have to be involved in run defense a lot, which will leave Bennett lined up against guys who will struggle to contain him.

Bennett can produce. Now it's time for him to do it consistently.

Which team will win and what will be the fantasy production for each of the players you named?

Like Mark, I think this is a tough call, but again I will head in the different direction and call this a Patriots win. By no means will it be a blowout, but the New England defense is good enough to contain the lackluster Denver offense, while the Patriots offense will struggle. Ultimately New England will have enough success to beat the Broncos at home.

James White should see some targets, and that's where his value will come from. I am expecting six or seven catches and somewhere near 65 or so yards with some upside. That will be about equal to what I expect from Blount on the ground—about 65-75 yards. Edelman will see a good dozen targets, but struggle to put together more than 70 yards. 

To me, the guy to watch is Bennett and my prediction is he has a huge game against this defense—upwards of 70 yards and a score for sure.

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