- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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One in five.
Hold that thought.
Some more interesting tidbits from Mike Polikoff, who oversees our (free!) league manager product: Out of all of our standard, 10-team leagues, there are 990 undefeated teams still alive. I can only guess the majority of them weren't Adrian Peterson owners. Or started Tim Hightower in Week 15. Arghhh.
If you were like me and crushed the regular season only to have guys not show up for you last week, take heart. You're not alone. Per Mike, No. 1 seeds didn't fare so well in the first round, wining only 52.2 percent of their matchups. And No. 2 seeds fared even worse (48.7 winning percentage).
And, the "San Francisco 49ers award" goes to the 33 teams that have advanced to the championship despite winning just five regular-season matchups. I'm a little impressed with the five-win teams and a little surprised the undefeated number is that high, but one thing that doesn't shock me at all is this fact: Of the teams that advanced, the most owned player is now Michael Vick, who is on the roster of 21.8 percent of those teams. That's better than one in five. And since two teams advance to the championship and only one can own Vick, that means that more than 40 percent of championship matchups involve Michael Vick.
What Vick has done from a fantasy perspective is nothing short of remarkable, and if he re-signs with Philadelphia in the offseason, you can make a strong case he's the No. 1 player to be drafted overall. I'll probably have Peterson as my No. 1, but Vick would be my No. 2, even with the depth at quarterback.
With Vick involved in so many championship matchups, this reader e-mail struck a cord with me:
Michael Heppler (Boston): I can only hope that my email reaches you in time to make an impact before everyone's Week 16 championships. You can go ahead and call me a bitter team owner who lost to a Michael Vick-lead team in the semi-finals, or you can call me someone who was inspired by the generous nature of the holiday spirit. Sorry, I am getting ahead of myself.
Matthew Berry, I am writing to ask you to champion a cause that came to me when replying to an email from the manager of a Vick lead team who disposed of my 1st place team on his way to league finals. I challenged him to donate $10 of his Michael Vick-earned cash windfall to an animal rescue shelter.
I implore you to reach out to readers to do the same. I can only imagine that if half of the managers of championship-Vick-led teams donated $10, we could help a lot of animals.
TMR: Love. This. Idea. Look, I'm not going to get on a soapbox about Vick outside of football. That's not my place, that's not why you read me and it's been discussed multiple times by people much smarter than me. But I can tell you, whether you are in the "All is forgiven, he's paid his debt" camp or the "His crimes were so heinous they can never be forgiven or forgotten" camp, I think we can all agree on a few things:
Animals are awesome. And there's nothing wrong with donating money to animal charities or shelters near where you live. If you've read me for any amount of time, you know I have a 14-pound "girly" dog named Macy that I love more than life itself. She's a mutt, and more importantly, she's a rescue.
When I got this job, I moved to Connecticut in my mid-30s, single and not knowing one single person. I had no friends, only a few coworkers whom I knew and a lot of new responsibilities which, long story short, made for a lot of late nights at the office.
And in those first few months, I might never have been more glad to have my dog. The holidays are a lonely time for a lot of people, and pets, specifically dogs, are wonderful companions for people and families of all sizes. I know none of this is particularly funny or about football, so I'll stop now except with this small plea. Give what you can, especially if you've managed to win a fantasy league this year. And even better, adopt a dog. For those who claim they're too busy or wouldn't be a good "parent," I promise you, whatever life you give that dog will be better than the one they have at an overcrowded, understaffed shelter.
Thanks for the idea, Michael. And thanks to everyone for reading all year long. As always, these are players I like more or less than my fellow rankers. It's not a definitive start or sit guide; for my feelings on every player and whether I think you should start or sit someone, check out my Friday ranks.
You think that's obvious, but every week I get e-mails like this one:
Dustin (Olathe, Kan.): Your advice was actually proven worthless this week regarding Best (recommended starting) and Charles (recommended sitting). Thanks for costing me the game. I guess you are as correct as all the other "Experts" in the media who keep getting it wrong also.
Dustin, while you are correct that in this column last week I had Jahvid Best as the "ultimate risk reward" love last week, Jamaal Charles was not listed as a hate. But even if he was, it shouldn't have mattered. I ranked Charles 11th last week and had Best at 26th. I'm gonna get plenty of calls wrong on my own without you inventing new ones.
So please, use your brain, folks. As I have the past few weeks, I've added an "If you're desperate" section to the end of each position run. I tend to go more safe in the playoffs, so 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 potential. Number in parentheses are my ranks and the average rank of the other three rankers.
Week 16 Players I Love
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons (7, 9): And people say there's no such thing as a Christmas miracle. But as much as I don't like Ryan on the road, or outside the dome, I do like him at home. Last time he played the Saints, he had 228 yards, two scores and even ran for 20 yards. Ryan is 19-1 as a starter at home and while that matters none at all in fantasy, it's gonna be hard to beat the Saints if you don't score. Do I expect a monster game from him? No, the Falcons offense just isn't built that way. But I ranked him this high because I think he is a very safe bet to get at least 14-15 points, and in Week 16, I want safe. Matt Ryan is it this week.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (8, 10): Flacco registered three scores the last time he faced the Browns, and he has at least two touchdowns or 300 yards passing in eight of his past nine games. The one he missed out on was against the Steelers. The Browns ain't the Steelers. Who says I don't do hard-core analysis?
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars (12, 14): Since coming back from injury he's averaged better than 17 fantasy points a game. And that was against actual NFL teams that were trying, and everything. Now he gets the Redskins, whose defense doesn't qualify for either. When Garrard has been at home, he has averaged 17 points a game (if you throw out the Titans game, in which he got hurt) and what's most impressive is how effective he has been in the red zone. Garrard is top-10 in the NFL in red zone passing touchdowns. And guess who is top-10 in opponent red zone scoring allowed? Oh yeah. Hail to the Redskins. Sigh.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers (2, 7): An obvious name, of course, but listing him here because I have him as a top-2 play and there are some big-name guys whom you could have that I would bench for him. Yes, the Panthers' run defense contributed to me looking stupid last week as Hightower killed fantasy owners (including me). But on the road, it's a different story, as Carolina has allowed eight touchdowns to opposing running backs the past three road games. Trust me here, Mendy will make your opponents bendy! (Pause) Hey, what do you want from me? It's the end of the season and we're all tired.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots (12, 14): If I had to bet my life -- and by my life, I really mean yours because, to be fair, I can always get another reader -- on one person to score a touchdown this week, I'd push all my chips in on the law firm. Sixteen for 98 and a score the last time he faced Buffalo, he's a scoring machine and it's the Bills in cold weather.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears (16, 21): Don't feel he goes crazy or anything, but listing him because you might be scared off by the matchup with the Jets. Since losing safety Jim Leonhard from their defense three weeks ago (their "defensive quarterback" and a great tackler), the Jets give up 4.2 yards per carry compared with their season average of 3.6. In fact, the Steelers ran for 147 yards against them last week and Forte looked strong Monday night. The Jets have been worse against running backs when they've been on the road and Forte is such a big part of the pass game as well that he'll get you double-digit fantasy points at a minimum.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks (24, 27): Not you. Not me. And certainly not Marshawn Lynch. Tampa Bay can't stop anyone in the run game these days. Too many injuries, not enough depth, the Bucs give up an average of 23 fantasy points to opposing teams' running backs. I certainly understand the trepidation with using Lynch in a final, so buyer beware. He is Marshawn Lynch, after all. But 60 yards and a score against the Falcons last week is nothing to sneeze at, and on the road with a struggling pass game, you expect the Seahawks to pound it. OK, I expect that. I have no idea what you expect.
If you're desperate: Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals (25, 37); you're damn right I'm a glutton for punishment. But I'm going back to the well. Brian Westbrook, RB, 49ers (26, 32), Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars (37, 45; a huge part of the passing game and there's a chance Maurice Jones-Drew won't play).
Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants (5, 11): When Eli Manning gets blitzed, he's targeted Nicks 45 times, with 28 receptions, 371 yards and four scores. No other Giant has more than 25 targets when Eli gets blitzed, and the Packers are one of the blitziest teams around. It is too a word.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers (7, 12): OK, let's get a couple of things straight here about the "gut call" from last week. At the time I wrote it (I write this Wednesday night and turn it in Thursday morning for editing, etc), Malcom Floyd was questionable and we hadn't seen Vincent Jackson play a game. Forget a good game, he hadn't even played a full game. Or even a full quarter. He was risky last week. This week? Not so much. Love him against a Bengals team that gives up the fifth most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
Deion Branch, WR, Patriots (23, 28): Think he gets deep for one here. That simple.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts (24, 26): Speaking of simple, no Austin Collie and I expect Nnamdi to be busy with Reggie Wayne most of the afternoon. There have been five games this year in which Collie missed the entire game. Garcon averages six receptions and 67 yards in those games with three scores. Six to eight points with a shot at a touchdown and Peyton throwing it to him? That's a decent flex play to me.
Derrick Mason, WR, Ravens (27, 37): You know how I loved Flacco above? Guess who he's throwing it to. No, really, guess. I'll bet you can't guess -- dammit, who told you? It was Ravitz, wasn't it?
If you're desperate: Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings (30, 33), Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars (39, 47), Anthony Armstrong, WR, Redskins (40, 46), David Nelson, WR, Bills (he'll be ranked in my Friday updates; it's a mistake that he's not listed on my ranks), Andre Caldwell, WR, Bengals (Chad is hurt, T.O. is out and they're gonna be down).
Kevin Boss, TE, Giants (8, 7): I thought I was high on him, but Erik Kuselias has him as his No. 2 tight end. I'm guessing Erik likes the same things I do: Five scores in his past seven games and the fact that he's a big red zone target on a team that is missing Steve Smith. The Packers give up the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and by the way, Boss is available in 33 percent of leagues.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots (9, 17): Speaking with one of Bill Belichick's former players recently, he told me that the Patriots way is to spread the glory around. That it's a conscious effort by Belichick and Tom Brady to make sure everyone gets love. That's not earth-shattering news, and let's be honest, if you're looking to this column for earth-shattering news, I need to have a serious talk with my bosses about branding. But I digress. The point is, while not exactly earth-shattering, it does bear out fairly perfectly with our tight ends. Last week? Aaron Hernandez went off. Week before? The Gronk. Since the bye week (when the Patriots added Deion Branch and divested themselves of Randy Moss), Hernandez has had at least five points in Weeks 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15. It's taken a little longer for Gronkowski, but at least six points in Weeks 10, 12 and 14. I believe this is at least partially by design, and against the Bills, while I like both guys, if I'm picking one, it's the Gronk.
If you're desperate: Greg Olsen, TE, Bears (13, 20), Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions (15, 16; Hill likes him a lot more than Stanton, though Miami is tough versus tight ends), Benjamin Watson, TE, Browns (16, 17), Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals (20, 23; the Chargers struggle with tight ends and the Bengals' receiving corps is really hurt. Ultimate Hail Mary, but if you needed the play with the most upside, he's probably it).
San Diego Chargers D/ST (3, 5): Did you know they are available in 56 percent of leagues? Totaling 26 points a game in their past two and the No. 7 defense overall this season, you might also be aware that Carson Palmer turns the ball over occasionally.
Kansas City Chiefs D/ST (9, 18): And these guys are available in almost 75 percent of leagues. They average more than 10 fantasy points a game at home and no disrespect to Kerry Collins, but he's Kerry Collins. Chiefs are tied for 12th in the NFL in sacks and Collins is not the most mobile guy around. Like, he's slow for 38. In the AFC, only the Bengals and Jaguars have more giveaways this year than the Titans. Some of that is inflated by Rusty Smith, but still. Kerry Collins. Arrowhead. Which one are you betting on? Exactly.
If you're desperate: Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST (16, 27): Key word is desperate here, but they are at home and you really think Rex has a turnover-free game?
David Buehler, K, Cowboys (12, 16): Oh hells yeah. Told you it was a Christmas miracle kind of day. But averaging more than 12 points a game over the past month, he has four straight double-digit games. He's available in 89 percent of leagues, he'll be kicking in good conditions on Saturday and I'm the highest on him among my fellow rankers. There. A holiday present for you. A kicker recommendation. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to take a "Silkwood" shower.
Week 16 Players I Hate
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (10, 6): Look, I have him as a top-10 guy and you're probably starting him if you have him. But he makes me really nervous and here's why: First, it's a bad matchup. Giants are second best in pass defense and allow just 12 fantasy points a game to opposing quarterbacks. Take out Mike Vick's crazy 38-point explosion last week and the number drops to 10 points a game. The Giants (especially the defense) are angry after last week's letdown and need this win bad. Next, you consider the Giants' defense. Six different times this year the Giants have forced a QB to leave the game. They are second in the NFL in both sacks (42) and quarterback knockdowns (89). Rodgers has had two concussions this year; if there's even the slightest worry, he's coming out. Now, the Packers know all this and they'll make adjustments. More rollouts, more shotgun, etc. But still. You can't tell me there isn't risk, especially since he wasn't doing much in the first half against Detroit, the last time he played. (Not that it was all his fault, [cough] Greg Jennings [cough].) I hope I'm wrong. I probably am. But I'm nervous.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers (14, 10): What seems like a cake matchup isn't that easy when you look closer. Giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, the Panthers have a top-10 pass defense. Part of that is because it's so easy to run against them and teams get up and don't need to throw, but Matt Ryan (11 points) and Joe Flacco (14) are among the recent big-name guys who haven't gone off on the Panthers. They've allowed just 16 touchdown passes this year, fourth-best in the NFL and I don't see much of this changing on Sunday. As his owners are painfully aware, just two touchdown passes for Ben in his past four games. Two total. In four games. Some of that is due to not needing it, like when his defense keeps scoring against the Bengals, but the fact remains. Regardless of the reasons, this is a cold fantasy quarterback with a poor matchup.
Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets (not ranked, 20): Impressive win or not last week, we're still waiting for Sanchez to have his first good fantasy day in the freezing cold. On the road at Chicago (fourth-fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks) is not when I expect it to happen.
Kerry Collins, QB, Titans: (not ranked, not ranked): Arrowhead. No thanks. Who says I don't do hard-core analysis? Or reuse the same jokes?
Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns (15, 13): I know. He was great last time he faced the Ravens. And he's a big reason you're still alive this week. And I do have him 15th. But I can't put him as a top-10 guy or even as a top-12 guy, as two of my fellow rankers have. Single-digit fantasy points in his past three games, he had just 16 touches last week in a close game, after getting 25 each of the two weeks prior and 32 the week before that one. Maybe he's wearing down; he is dealing with a knee injury after all. Maybe the league has caught on to ways to control Hillis. Maybe the Browns don't want him getting all conceited. Dude, it's the Browns. Anything is possible. But the Ravens (fourth fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs) have been playing better recently and Hillis is not an automatic start for me this week if I'm stacked at running back.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers (38, 33): Look at it this way. If you're playing this week, you got here in spite of Mathews, not because of him. Why change now?
Maurice Morris, RB, Lions (35, 27): In case you were thinking of getting cute. He's not a top-30 play to me, despite having success last week. Look at what the Dolphins have done to opposing running backs the last few weeks. Six, seven, seven, four. That's the total amount of fantasy points they've given up the past four games. And look who they've faced. The Bills, the Jets, the Browns and the Raiders. Four very good running teams. Four teams whose running backs are, among other things, leaps and bounds better than Maurice Morris.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles (15, 6): At some point, my fellow rankers are gonna start ranking Jeremy Maclin ahead of D Jax, the way the fantasy points and targets dictate. I'm guessing the Vikings punt away from him, you know? They're middle of the pack in terms of touchdowns of more than 20 yards given up this year and I like Jackson fine, but not as a top-10 guy. The Eagles have too many weapons. And with the Vikings starting Joe Webb at quarterback, I figure Philly runs a lot in the second half with a lead.
Hines Ward, WR, Steelers (32, 28): See Roethlisberger, Ben.
Johnny Knox, WR, Bears (37, 32): Revis Island. Who says I don't run jokes or analysis into the ground?
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals (41, 32): You can search on Chad's Twitter timeline. On Aug. 29, @Ochocinco tweeted this: " I heard ESPN's @MatthewBerryTMR said I was a fantasy football bust this year. Draft me if you want to win this year, it's on!!! #childplease."
While I admire the "child please" hash tag, I admit we all have tweets we'd probably take back if we could and I really wish I was wrong on this one (I actually kinda like Chad). But I think Ocho owes me and his owners an apology. Drafted in the fifth round as a No. 2 fantasy wide receiver, Chad is currently 28th among wide receivers, behind guys like Lance Moore. And with a bad ankle, no Terrell Owens to take attention away and the Chargers' top-ranked pass defense in town, I'm avoiding, avoiding, avoiding.
Zach Miller, TE, Raiders (14, 10): This is a risky one to be sure. Recognize it's actually a decent matchup; the Colts have allowed six scores to opposing tight ends in their past six games, including three two weeks ago. Tight ends average 10 points a game against them in said past six. And Miller does seem to be getting healthy. But I expect the Colts to put eight or nine guys in the box to stop the run and that the Raiders will need both Miller to stay in and help block, and that when they throw, it'll be deep to stretch the field. So you're basically hoping for a score here from Miller, as I don't see more than 40 yards from him. How lucky you feeling?
Baltimore Ravens D/ST (11, 6): Remember when they were the Ravens defense? Remember last week, when I wrote the same thing in this column? And when they scored just four points last week? Or when they scored just three points against the Browns the last time they faced them?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST (21, 10): Last week I got called out for ranking the Bucs 27th while the rest of my rankers had them 13th. Last week in ESPN standard scoring? Minus one point. This is the third straight week I've had them as a "hate" and fourth that I've ranked them lowest among my fellow rankers. Their scores the past three weeks? Minus one, five and zero. What do my fellow rankers see here? Two of them have the Bucs as a top-10 play this week. This is a decimated -- I mean decimated -- defense that doesn't generate a pass rush and is not a big turnover generator. I know the Seahawks aren't very good, but it's not like Drew Stanton on the road is Peyton Manning, and he threw for 250 and a score on Sunday.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- afraid of running a joke into the ground? Child, please. 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