- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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So I got this e-mail a little while back.
Michael F. (San Dimas, Calif.): Dear TMR, you are completely useless. I really don't understand why I take your advice. How you still have this job blows my mind.
TMR: I had to cut the e-mail down, but suffice it to say that Michael offered many examples of why I was, in fact, completely and totally useless. He seemed very sure of my uselessness. And as I considered whether Michael had a point, I realized that maybe he was saying it because he didn't have all the information.
Because you see, Michael, although I may not be useful to you in terms of fantasy football analysis, I provide many services for folks. For example, I can help with romance.
Jon Odell (West Des Moines, Iowa): Dear fantasy love guru, in the past week I was fired from a company I had been with for five years. Also, the most amazing woman I've ever been allowed to date informed me that she needed more space. This would have gone down as one of the worst weeks ever, however, I secured a playoff appearance in all six of my leagues, with opening-week byes in three of them. Much of this is due to following at least some of your advice. So, since I am proof that you are a fantasy genius, will you please tell "EB" that she should realize what a great catch I am and help me out. Thank you, sir. P.S.: Nothing I ever could do would thank you enough for Arian Foster.
TMR: EB, Jon is a great catch. Give him a chance. Come on, for me? Don't make me pull what Jen W. threatened.
Jen W. (San Diego, Calif.): Last week I informed my boyfriend that I would propose to him on the national stage via your column. He exclaimed that it would be emasculating if I did this. Two days later, he popped the question. Please spread this successful strategy to your female readers who have been trying to figure out how to get that ring sooner rather than later.
TMR: A few responses. First, who knew any women read this column? Second, congrats! That's awesome. Want me to officiate at the wedding? I do have some experience in that. Third, you bet. Consider the strategy spread, and the offer goes out to anyone who needs a hand. It'd be a nice change of pace for someone other than me to get emasculated in this space. Fourth, who knew I was responsible for so much love in the world?
Mike Johnson (San Andreas, Calif.): Dear Matthew Berry, first off, I must start off this letter by thanking you and your crew for offering up such a great podcast. I'm in a long-distance relationship with my girlfriend, and it makes my drives to see her much more enjoyable. It's so good, I sometimes drive extra-slow just so I can finish it before I get to her house.
TMR: Dude, you're in a long-distance relationship. Which means, um, it's a while between the time you and your girlfriend get to, um, spend time together. Get to her house ASAP. The podcast still will be there when you're done. That's the beauty of the podcast. No one likes me more than I do, but even I wouldn't waste time on me when it's been a while since I've seen the girlfriend.
You see, Michael? Not totally useless. Why, there are all sorts of things I can help with. Like grades
Rex Hackbarth (Towson, Md.): Although this may not be the time or place to discuss this, I just wanted to give you props on your draft day manifesto. Also, if you happen to post this, it would give me an A in my college English class for having something posted in the real world, and I would greatly appreciate it.
TMR: Trade offers
John Mathias (Canal Winchester, Ohio): My posted trade offer after Week 10: "I am willing to give up WR Brandon Marshall for a box of Oatmeal Creme Pies. Serious inquires only, please." No takers yet.
TMR: Potential lawsuits
Carlo J Orrico (New Jersey): Berry, as a long NFL season goes on, I'm really starting to find your column more and more enjoyable. In fact, I actually find myself looking forward to it every Tuesday afternoon. This can mean only one of two things: 1. You're growing as a writer and sports columnist. 2. I'm developing Stockholm Syndrome. Either way, I'm probably going to end up suing you. Just thought you should know. Love, Carlo.
TMR: With grieving
Brian (Austin, Texas): I got to the part where you offered a beverage to those out of the playoffs. I remembered my teams are and grabbed a beer from the fridge. I tried to make this funny but have to go. I think you get the premise. Great reading all year. Thanks.
TMR: With revenge
Sean Makarin (Las Vegas): For the past two seasons I have not missed a Fantasy Focus 0610 episode. Awesome show, most entertaining and funny podcast out there, with tons of fantasy information to boot. This year I was having an excellent year with a 7-2 record and second-place spot in my work league, LV ACCTS. The league manager of our league recently quit his position at work and this weekend deleted me as an owner and took my team. He was in first, I was in second and my team was the only team to have beaten his. Adding insult to injury, it was a cash league. He deleted me out of pure spite and fear that I would crush him again come playoff time. It would be an awesome if the 0610 called out "The Zoadiaks" for being the honorless weasels that they are.
TMR: And, of course, as a way to release stress on Sundays.
Nick Marzuk (Tampa, Fla.): You are an idiot. I am amazed you are employed and actually paid to give fantasy football advice. You have no clue what you are ever talking about, and this week, when I stupidly listen to your breakout-performance projection with Anthony Armstrong, you go and screw me again. Your projections are always off, and you are the sole reason for my anger on Sundays. I hope you have a miserable day, because at the end of the day, you are a horrible quack who takes guesses out of thin air and acts like the all-knowing. You suck take a long walk off a short pier, jerk
You see, Michael? I actually have many uses. Including killing time for you with this column, which we finally get to.
As always, these are players who I think will do better or worse than my fellow rankers think. It doesn't mean start or sit but rather that I think they exceed or fall short of normal expectations. For where I stand on each specific player, check out my player rankings. My ranks and the consensus ranks of the other three rankers are in parentheses.
Given that we are in the playoffs, I've added an "if you're desperate" section to the end of each position run. These are high-risk, high-reward types that could easily blow up in your face and are not for the weak of heart. But if you're stuck, I like their matchups and potentials.
Here we go.
Week 15 players I love
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (7, 12): Here's another thing I'm useful for: Josh Freeman's ego. I feel as though he's in here every week. But every week a few things happen: I'm the highest on him, and he goes out and gets you double-digit fantasy points. In fact, he's scored double digits in 12 of 13 games this year, and now he'll face Detroit, which has given up an average of 16 fantasy points a game on the road to opposing quarterbacks. The best part of Detroit's defense is its pass rush, and Freeman is a mobile quarterback who does a great job of extending the play when he gets pressured. In a playoff week, I want safe more than upside, and to me, Freeman is as safe a bet to get 14 points or so as anyone outside the usual studs, which is why I have him in my top 10. Those of you dealing with the injury to Aaron Rodgers, you'll note all my quarterback loves are potential free agents. Freeman is available in almost 40 percent of leagues.
Jon Kitna, QB, Cowboys (9, 11): "As cute as a Kitna!" is the kind of sign that you'd see if football fans were also the type of people who liked posters of cats on a tree limb that read, "Hang in there!" Luckily for both groups, there's not a lot of crossover. When Tony Romo went down, I said Kitna would actually be a decent fantasy quarterback, given his first-team reps and the talent on the Cowboys. I got some grief on that, but believe it or not, he's averaged almost 16 fantasy points a game since becoming the starter. (Drew Brees averages 17 per game, for comparison's sake.) I also got a lot of grief for being a Redskins fan, but that was mostly from myself. The Redskins' secondary still has no LaRon Landry and potentially no Carlos Rogers. Only three teams give up more passing yards per game than Washington, which should mean a shootout. Kitna is out there in almost 80 percent of leagues. Remember when Cowboys-Redskins in December used to mean something? Sigh.
Jason Campbell, QB, Raiders (13, 18): Speaking of Redskins lament, I never thought Campbell was the problem. Thirty-seven points the past two games, and he had 17 points the last time he faced Denver. In life, there are a few surefire signs you can't ignore. If a girl turns her back on you immediately after meeting you, she's not interested. If an owner expresses public support for his head coach, that guy is dead in the water. And if you get spanked by Arizona, you've phoned it in for the year. Denver's excuse for a defense is your new best pal. It's a little risky playing someone like Campbell in a playoff week, and I almost put him in the desperate section. So recognize the risk here, but if you're playing with options outside the top 10, I like his upside a lot. And he's out there in 93 percent of leagues.
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars (12, 15): You think Colts-Jags is gonna be a low-scoring game? Me, neither. Because Garrard has five scores in his past two games against Indy, I expect the Colts to crowd the box in hopes of containing MJD, who always crushes them. Which means a solid day for Garrard, who had 24 standard-league fantasy points when he played the Colts earlier this season. Garrard is available in almost 40 percent of leagues.
Brian Westbrook, RB, 49ers (34, 32): With the 49ers going back to the spread offense in which Alex Smith is comfortable (and which they ran last year), Westbrook becomes an interesting flex play because of his role in the passing game. I expect the 49ers to be down to the Chargers, having to pass a lot, and although I don't think he'll have as good a week as he did last week, I do think he'll be useful in deeper leagues.
Mike Goodson, RB, Panthers (32, 34): Before you break up with Mike and tell him, "Hey. It was fun," or, "It's not you, it's me," or even, "You've destroyed my trust one too many times. I just can't be a Redskins fan anymore" (me only), stop and consider this: Goodson has three straight games with a rushing touchdown and at least 100 yards or a score in five straight, and the Panthers are, shall we say, in a transition year. They're trying to decide whether they want to keep DeAngelo Williams or whether they can go into next year with Stewart and Goodson. Which means Stewart is the better play, but Goodson will get a decent number of touches against the NFL's 30th-ranked run defense.
Jahvid Best, RB, Lions (36, 34): From 10 touches to 14 last week, Best is getting healthier and getting more work. This is the ultimate in risk-reward here, so be forewarned, but here's why I like him: Tampa Bay's run defense is horrific. I mean, you saw what Ryan Torain did to the Bucs last week behind a bad offensive line, right? They give up 133 yards a game on the ground and have allowed 570 total yards to opposing runners in just the past three games. Now you add that they've just lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Quincy Black to injury. So that bad run defense just got a lot worse. Expect Best to go up in my rankings for Friday's update.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles (8, 18): Not overreacting to one game. The Giants don't give up the big play the way Dallas does. In fact, only San Diego has allowed fewer pass plays of 20-plus yards this season, which means fewer crazy, big-strike plays to DeSean Jackson (only 5-for-50 the last time he faced the Giants). I'm the only one of the four analysts to rank Maclin in the top 10 and ahead of Jackson, and I'm sticking by it. Maclin has more targets, receptions and touchdowns than Jackson this year, and against the Giants, I expect that trend to continue. I love Jackson as well, mind you, but if I'm choosing, I go with the guy whom only I call Daddy Maclin.
Kenny Britt, WR, Titans (20, 23): I thought he looked really healthy last week and the Texans' pass defense didn't. Sing it with me now. He's a Britt House. He's mighty, mighty. Letting it all hang out.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins (21, 26): Moss seems to always kill the Cowboys. He has at least five receptions in five straight games against them, he has four career 100-yard games against them as a member of the Redskins (10 total) and he had a six receptions-for-77 yards game against them in Week 1. If I tell you the Redskins won't stop anyone in this game and will have to throw a lot, will you be shocked? Exactly.
If you're desperate: Vincent Jackson (I have a weird feeling he'll go off Thursday night, but it's just a gut call. Very risky, of course), Mario Manningham (33, 40), Earl Bennett (34, 48), Lance Moore (41, 37), Anthony Armstrong (44, 47), David Nelson (I ranked him 50, but no one else ranked him, so he didn't show up) and Austin Collie (unranked by me but with reports of practicing and an expected return, I'll have him in the 30s on Friday).
Kevin Boss, TE, Giants (8, 11): He has four scores in his past six games, the Eagles give up the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and with Steve Smith North out and Mario Manningham banged-up, Eli Manning will be looking for his big tight end more and more. Third on the team in targets since the bye week, he's available in 36 percent of leagues.
Kellen Winslow, TE, Buccaneers (7, 9): He has three scores in his past five games, and the Lions have struggled against tight ends recently. Oh, and he's a soldier. That's gotta be worth something.
Oakland Raiders' D/ST (7, 10): This unit averages more than 10 points a game at home and scored 17 the last time it played the Broncos, who clearly don't have the same offense without Josh McDaniels calling plays. It's available in almost 80 percent of leagues.
Cleveland Browns' D/ST (8, 12): Happiness is your defense facing Carson Palmer. The Browns are averaging more than nine points a game since their bye week and scored 10 the last time they faced the Bengals, who lead the AFC in giveaways. It should come as no surprise that defenses facing the Bengals have scored the third-most fantasy points this season.
If you're desperate: Cowboys (10, 17), Dolphins (11, 18).
Week 15 players I hate
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons (15, 7): 8, 9, 14, 12, 11. Those are the standard-league fantasy-point totals for Matt Ryan in games played in open-air stadiums. It's a great matchup, yes, but so was last week against the Panthers. The Seahawks play much better defense at home, with Qwest Field known as a tough place to play a road game, as the team gives up an average of 13 standard points a game to opposing quarterbacks there. Now, it's a bit skewed because of ridiculously poor games by Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen. But the fact remains: Ryan is not great on the road, and with a 60 percent chance of rain for this game, I expect a cold, rainy day that features a lot (and I mean a lot) of Michael Turner. I ranked Turner second overall as a result and figure Ryan will get you 225 yards, a score and a pick. Which is a decent day, but nothing to write home about, and there's not a ton of upside.
Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos (21, 17): It was good while it lasted, Kyle. Hey, hey, hey, none of that. We had some great times together. But let's not make this more awkward than it already is. I still want to be friends, OK? No, really. I mean that. I'm just I just well, I just have different needs right now than you can provide. It's not you. It's me. I gotta find myself. But there will always be a special place in my heart for you What's that? No, we are not having "one for the road." Goodbye, Kyle.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears (22, 12): More fun with numbers: 10, 4, 7. Those are the fantasy-point totals of opposing quarterbacks since Leslie Frazier took over the Vikings. I thought Cutler looked terrible and ill-prepared to play in blizzardlike conditions last week, and I don't expect it to be any better this week at the University of Minnesota. Twelve points or fewer in three of his past four games is too risky a play for me in a playoff week.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings (10, 6): Chances are you're starting him. I'm starting him, too. But I'm listing him here because, at 10th, this is the lowest I've had him all year. And there is a chance you could have two or three guys I ranked ahead of him on your roster, such as say, Foster, Peyton Hillis and Darren McFadden. Which would explain why you're in the playoffs. Peterson had just 26 yards on 14 carries last week; it's clear the Giants didn't respect Tarvaris Jackson and stacked the box to stop All Day all day. It worked, and I expect Chicago to do the same thing with rookie Joe Webb. Keep in mind that the Bears are ranked second against the run and held Peterson to just 51 yards on 17 carries earlier this year (he also added 24 receiving yards), and that was with Brett Favre. Peterson will be the focal point of the offense and the defensive attention, and my guess is that he winds up with 60-70 total yards. It basically boils down to whether he scores.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers (18, 14): Since Ben Roethlisberger came back, the Steelers have played nine games. Mendenhall has run for more than 100 total yards in just two of them. He's scored nine or fewer standard fantasy points in four of his past five games, and a banged-up offensive line isn't helping matters. The Jets allow the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs and have given up only three scores to them on the road this year, two of which were during the "Monday Night Football" blowout at Foxborough. Mendenhall is a low-end No. 2 for me this week, nothing more.
Thomas Jones, RB, Chiefs (33, 25): The big appeal of Jones, other than having two last names, is that he's got a good chance to score at the goal line. But only the Steelers and Browns have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Rams this season, so it's not as cakelike a matchup as you might think. He's also been ineffective recently, with single-digit standard-league fantasy points in five of his past seven and only one truly "great" game against Arizona. The Rams aren't the Steelers, but they're not the Cardinals, either. It sounds as though Matt Cassel will play, which will help, but Jones has been too inconsistent for me to consider him a top-25/solid flex play guy the way my fellow rankers do.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers (35, 31): There's an old Adam Ant song called "Goody Two Shoes." The lyric goes like this: "Don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do?" I sort of feel like that with Mathews here. Don't block, don't score, what do you do? The Chargers do not trust Mathews in pass protection at all; he missed some pretty bad blocks last week. Obviously, Darren Sproles will get some third-down work, and Mike Tolbert will get goal-line work. Which means that, at best, Mathews will split first- and second-down carries with Tolbert. And he's doing it against the 49ers, who rank ninth against the run and have allowed only two touchdowns to opposing running backs on the road this season. Keep in mind that 10 of Mathews' 17 touches last week came in the second half, when it looked as though San Diego had things well under control and was just grinding down the clock.
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets (43, 35): No Damien Woody, a struggling passing game, splitting carries with Tomlinson and facing the No. 1 run defense in the league, which has given up just one rushing touchdown at home all year? I almost didn't rank him at all.
Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers (24, 15): Revis Island.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens (25, 19): Fair warning. Last time he was on the hate list, he went off. It was, actually, the only time he's had more than 12 points since the Ravens' bye. With four points or fewer in four of his past six, he's the ultimate feast-or-famine guy. The Saints have very solid corner play, making a long bomb less likely, and Derrick Mason is the one getting all the possession looks, making Boldin a shaky flex play for me, not a top-20 starter.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers (49, 31): Did the Panthers suddenly change quarterbacks while I wasn't looking? Or offensive schemes? Or did they invent a time machine? With five points or fewer in six straight games, he isn't anywhere close to a starter in a 10-team, three-receiver league, which is where the other rankers have him. It's a playoff week. You're really gonna start a guy who hasn't scored since Week 2?
Dustin Keller, TE, Jets (17, 14): It was good while it lasted, Dustin. Hey, hey, hey none of that. We had some great times together. But let's not make this more awkward than it already is. I still want what? What do you mean this sounds rehearsed? No, I've never said these things to anyone else before, why do you ask?
Brent Celek, TE, Eagles (24, 16): The Giants allow the third-fewest points to opposing tight ends, and Celek is a nonfactor in this offense, with zero, count them, zero fantasy points in three of his past five games, including the last time he faced the Giants.
Baltimore Ravens' D/ST (15, 10): Remember when they were the Ravens? They got a gimme touchdown last week, but for the year, they are tied for being the 11th-best fantasy defense. And with Drew Brees coming to town, I'm going lower than 12, not up.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers' D/ST (27, 13): Said this last week, too. Maybe I'm too low on them, but I certainly don't think they are anywhere close to a top-20 defense, let alone a top-15. Only two teams have fewer sacks and in six home games this year, and the Bucs' defense has had zero or negative points three times and five or fewer twice. If that's not enough, as mentioned in the Jahvid Best entry, this is a really banged-up defense that just lost two key guys last week. The Lions have issues, but not on offense. They can put up points, which means potential for negative points for you.
That's all I have this week. Whether you're reading this column for playoffs purposes or to finally get that engagement ring, good luck this week!
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is also available for bar mitzvahs. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend
Matthew Berry takes umbrage to being called useless. After all, what other columnist can you leverage for an engagement ring or in an attempt to get revenge on an unscrupulous owner?