Congratulations! If you're reading this, you've very likely advanced to your fantasy league's semifinals. I’m sure this is a grueling, stressful time for you, but don’t forget to cherish the moment. While most of your fellow owners are already knee-deep in the offseason, you're guaranteed at least one more week of roster tinkering, trash-tweeting, and cursing out the grown men running across your TV screen. To enjoy such luxuries beyond this weekend, though, you’ll have to avoid the myriad pitfalls lurking in the shadows of Week 15. That’s no small task, but it’s one that can be made a gazillion times easier by reading the next 1,500 words. Good luck!
1. QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Did Luck end his slump in Week 14, portending a return to form during the season's final stretch? Or were the 32 fantasy points he posted against the Bengals simply the result of two quarters of garbage time? We could tie ourselves in knots trying to figure this out, but right now, it doesn't matter: Luck has a delectable matchup with Texans interim head coach/noted slump-buster Wade Phillips looming this week, and Phillips might as well be a drug quarterbacks take to boost their fantasy value.
The BCS title game odds are set, with Florida State an eight-point favorite over Auburn. As recently as a week ago, the projected spread for this potential matchup was in the double-digit range — but Auburn’s impressive win Saturday has stoked the passion of the SEC faithful, while also somewhat swaying discerning betting professionals.
Auburn entered the season with 1,000/1 odds to win it all, while Florida State was 40/1. In my very first Grantland article, the LVH sportsbook reported sharp action on two college teams: Florida State and Auburn. Rather than taking bows for his prognostication, LVH boss Jay Kornegay is in a predicament — one that savvy bettors can exploit. Having taken numerous Auburn BCS future bets at huge odds, the LVH faces a massive liability if the Tigers win the title. In response, the LVH very much wants lopsided Florida State money in the title game in order to hedge their liability — Florida State game bets that would obviously lose for the bettors if Auburn wins the game.
Mike Shanahan is about to be out of a job, so prepare now, Alfred Morris owners, for one final dose of Shanahanigans before the season ends.
The coach clearly wants to go out with a bang, and his scorched-earth policy regarding the world’s fantasy teams will grow only stronger as we near Week 17. You are in immediate danger; give your loved ones a hug and, more importantly, start stockpiling all Redskins running backs, past and present (and maybe even future), in case Shanahan empties his bag of tricks. As an above-average fantasy owner once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
THIS JUST IN: Mike Shanahan today says he won't commit to RGIII as his starting QB for Sunday. Says he'll make his decision in next 48 hrs.
Mike Shanahan is going to get fired. Usually there's some uncertainty when we say something like that. But there's no uncertainty here. We know Mike Shanahan is going to get fired because it's pretty obvious that Mike Shanahan is trying to get fired, and unless life at FedEx Field is actually just a screwball black comedy taking place in the mind of someone living in another dimension for their own amusement (which we haven't totally ruled out), most people who try to get fired usually get what they want. The real question is this: Is he trying hard enough?
Season Total: 0 jermajesties (Is that even possible?)
Yes — that is possible and accurate. After 13 weeks and 20,000+ nonsensical babbling words, my NFL proposition picks have netted you exactly zero jermajesties. (Obligatory weekly explanation: A “jermajesty” represents the fake name given for a dollar amount in this series. It’s also the unfortunate name of one of Jermaine Jackson’s sons.)
As ineffectual as I’ve been, I refuse to take the blame for last week. That Titans first-half screw job was one for the ages. Not to mention, I went a remarkable 0 for 3 in a three-team 10-point teaser. That’s very difficult to do. In fact, I really should receive something for that stellar effort. Maybe malaria?
It’s the very first playoff edition of the fantasy football preview post! Let us start by acknowledging our patron saint, Jim Mora.
We do want to talk about playoffs, Jim, because there is so very much to discuss. For instance: Is Andrew Luck’s recent slump a cause for concern? (Kinda.) Should I start Ryan Fitzpatrick over Luck? (NO.) How about Carson Palmer? (Yeah, as crazy as it sounds.)
There’s more: I know friends don’t let friends start Jets, but isn’t Chris Ivory in line for a big game against the Raiders? And what to make of Drew Brees, who’s on a short week and coming off his worst outing of the season? Hell, how plump is Eddie Lacy looking these days?
As you can see, only the most important questions will be answered in our Week 14 preview. Here's hoping your postseason starts off with a W instead of a Mora-esque rant.
It's playoff time! Apparently, C.J. Spiller does not want you to enjoy it. It wouldn’t be the fantasy postseason without major roster dilemmas, and Spiller provided a doozy on Sunday.
After five single-digit fantasy outings in his last six games, Spiller sprang to life against Atlanta, rushing for 149 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Of course, it wasn't all positive: He also re-aggravated his perpetually injured left ankle, hence Fred Jackson’s 11 carries. What's more, two runs (a 77-yarder and a 36-yarder) made up the bulk of Spiller's production. He was held to three yards or fewer on nine of his carries by one of the worst run defenses in the league, and next week’s opponent, the Bucs, boast a solid run-stopping unit. I bet some Spiller owners wish he'd posted one of usual 8/20/0 lines, which would have allowed them to confidently walk away at last.
Is Spiller back, or was his fruitful outing in Toronto a one-time thing, buoyed by a night on the town with Rob Ford? Will Spiller be able to handle Tampa’s stout run defense? And how does Jackson factor into all of this? These are the questions owners must answer this week, whether they like it or not, because the postseason doesn’t reward indecision. I’ll get back to you on Thursday with a final ruling on Spiller. In the meantime, let's recap the final week of the fantasy regular season.
Monday night at CenturyLink Field in Seattle was loud. Really loud. Uncomfortably loud. The loud started as a buzz in warm-ups, became a roar as the game began, and at times reached seismic levels as the Seahawks won their much hyped matchup with the New Orleans Saints, 34-7. After the game, I saw a man in a Guinness World Records blazer holding a plaque certifying exactly how loud it was. Officially, no game had ever been louder. I wasn't surprised.
“A tie leaves one with a feeling of bewilderment,” wrote Patrick Daley on this week’s e-newsletter from Kettle of Fish, the Greenwich Village bar he’s owned since the ‘90s. “With Matt and Eddie leading the way, the lads bounced back from a depressing effort to put us in a position where we are in control of our own destiny.” Patrick’s newsletter, which is usually lengthy and peppered with this kind of Packerfied romanticism, was a glint of hope amid a mostly depressing season for the green-and-gold. A run that began with great promise — 5-2 through eight weeks, the two losses coming in close games to likely playoff teams — sputtered into a campaign plagued by injuries to pretty much every critical player, listless defense playing somewhere between two and two and a half quarters of football weekly, and a quarterback carousel that rifled through Plans B, C, and D with equal, stinging failure. I had a theory: Maybe some booze and Carmine’s-catered Thanksgiving food could dull the bitter taste of a seemingly lost season. Since I stayed in New York for Thanksgiving, I meant to test out this hypothesis and got on the C train to join my other family.
For every football player, the helmet does a little something different. It turns some, like LaDainian Tomlinson, into superheroes. It felt like LT was from the future in part because he looked like he was. For others, it seems almost obligatory. I’m not sure how we’d even notice if Tom Brady played without one.
There’s a select few, though, for whom the helmet seems to make all the difference, and Nick Foles is one of those. Without it, the NaFoleseon Dynamite jokes are inevitable and apt, but with it, Foles looks like a 6-foot-6, strong-armed quarterback who belongs in an NFL huddle. It doesn’t hurt that every time he puts it on, he plays like one, too.
Week 12: +37,000 jermajesties
Season Total: +15,500 jermajesties
On to Week 13 …
(Obligatory weekly explanation: A “jermajesty” represents the fake name given for a dollar amount in this series. It’s also the unfortunate name of one of Jermaine Jackson’s sons.)
Raiders will score over 18.5 points vs. Cowboys
As a devout Cowboys fan, I am more than familiar with this team’s pattern: disappoint, stun, disappoint stunningly. We’re unfortunately up to the third leg of that equation. Mark my words: Dallas will struggle with the Raiders. This Cowboys defense has given up 38, 19, and 30 points in their last three Thanksgiving games. If you look, you’ll see each of those is more than 18.5 points. Matt McGloin’s best game (three TD passes) came on the road against a Texans defense that’s superior to the one he’ll be facing Thursday. I'm hoping for another Dan Bailey bailout. 20,000 jermajesties
You know how players like Jason Pierre-Paul and Dion Jordan were lauded as DE/OLB hybrids when they left college because they were strong enough to match up against left tackles, but agile enough to drop into coverage? Well, you're reading the fantasy football analysis equivalent, a Week 12 review/Week 13 preview hybrid, the first of its kind. The Thanksgiving holiday called for some consolidation, and now you’ve got the Barkevious Mingo of blog posts on your screen. Treat it with care.
Commemorating Week 12's most elite fantasy performances with some phenomenally prestigious honors.
• I Survived Brandon Weeden, a Stranger-Than-Fiction Tale by Josh Gordon: If I were an NFL wide receiver, here’s how I'd react to Brandon Weeden suddenly becoming my quarterback in the middle of a game:
• Politely ask the officials to pause the game
• Cry it out for a good two-to-four hours
• Head to the market to purchase a carton of eggs and an American flag as large as a football field
• Egg Weeden’s house without regard for his artfully arranged holiday decorations
• Return to the playing field and wrap Weeden in the gridiron-size flag. (Don't worry, that's Weeden’s natural habitat. Sadly, years of deforestation have forced him onto our football fields.)