In the name of fun
It was an insanely dumb call. It made no sense whatsoever.
That's not me talking. That's everyone who has ever played fantasy football -- or fantasy anything -- talking. It went against everything you've ever learned about fantasy sports. Even my mom, who doesn't play, knows you don't bench Tom Brady for Russell Wilson.
Yet that's just what Mitchell Larsen recently did. Russell Wilson over Tom Brady. And he blamed me for it. And you know what? I couldn't be more proud.
He writes (I've edited it a bit): "This last week I had the decision of starting Tom Brady at Seattle or Russell Wilson versus the Patriots. I am a Seahawks fan, have been going to games since 1995, when I was 7 years old. So of course I was going to this game. Despite all fantasy advice, I knew I was not going to have fun rooting for Brady on my fantasy team yet wanting the Seahawks to win. Matthew, you always preach how fantasy sports is about having fun.
"So I started Wilson, leaving Brady on the bench. It turned out to be a brilliant call, as Wilson not only outscored Brady by three points, but the Seahawks won. I also won my fantasy week. The notion of fantasy sports being for fun gave me a day to really enjoy football and fantasy football a whole lot more."
If you read my ranks last week, I had Brady at No. 7 and Wilson outside the top 20. Had I met Mitchell in person or had he asked me on Twitter or Facebook whom to start, I'd have said Brady without hesitation. As would anyone else. In a vacuum, you're not benching a consensus first-round pick and one of the best fantasy quarterbacks of the past decade for a rookie QB on a run-first team who had scored 10 points total the previous two weeks.
But Mitchell wasn't in a vacuum. He was a lifelong Seahawks fan going to a Seahawks game, and he wanted to root for his guy. And I've got no issue with it. In fact, I applaud it. And not because it worked -- that's nice, but immaterial. Mitchell plays fantasy for fun, and he wanted to have fun Sunday. And he was smart enough to understand that rooting for Brady against his team wouldn't be fun. Good for him.
If my constantly talking about the fact that, at the end of the day, fantasy should be fun above all else gave him the push to do it, even better.
Those who read or listen to me during the fantasy baseball season know that my very first fantasy league is the Fat Dog NL-Only Rotisserie League that I've been playing in since 1984. I fly to Texas for the draft every year, and six original members are still in the league, one of whom is Woody Thompson, beloved owner of the always scrappy Thompson Twins. In 28 seasons of playing fantasy baseball in a 12-man, 25-player-roster NL-only league, Woody has never, ever owned a Dodger. He hates the Dodgers, always has, and never wants to root for a Dodger. I love that.
My first fantasy football league is one with a bunch of college buddies from Syracuse (Go Orange!) that started in 1993, the year after we graduated. I co-own a team with my college roommate (shout-out to new father Chris Lindsay!). The Doug Logan league is a 12-team dynasty league where you can keep any 14 players you want every single year without penalty (doesn't cost a draft pick or anything).
Basically, if you want, you can own a player for his career. As you can imagine, turnover is very slow in a league like that, and there's not a lot on the waiver wire. It mostly comes down to rookies. And because most teams were pretty set at quarterback in this year's draft, we had a choice: Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.
Most people before the season (and I was among them) said RG3 would have more fantasy value this year but in dynasty leagues you wanted Luck. He was the (slightly) better prospect, was less injury prone and had a better franchise around which to build his career. Hindsight is easy now, but everyone was saying Luck over RG3 in dynasty leagues.
But before I lived in Texas, until the age of 12, I lived in Virginia. I have been a Redskins fan since I was 5 years old. I talked up RG3's fantasy prospects quite a bit in the preseason, but I also noted, "I am not rational when it comes to RG3." And I'd be lying if I said I expected him to be the top scorer in fantasy through six weeks.
But injury-prone, bad franchise or not, I wanted to root for RG3, not only on the field with my Redskins but also for his entire fantasy career. I never even considered Luck, because it's a league I'm in to keep in touch with college friends and give me an excuse to communicate weekly with my good friend.
So, the following is a message to my fellow Logan leaguemates, all of whom read me. Don't bother asking for a trade. Robert Griffin the Third is mine. For life. Gonna really enjoy that league.
Wilson over Brady was a terrible fantasy decision, but it was a fantastic decision to make in the name of "fun." So good for you, Mitchell. I have no doubt that it made the Seahawks win that much more sweet for you.
Look, winning is fun. We all want to win. But let's be honest, there are some ways to win that are just a little more satisfying than others.
Here are the top 10 most fun ways to win, as suggested by my friends on Facebook:
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10. The monster performance: Everyone else is junk, but then Sunday night you get six touchdowns from Aaron Rodgers. It's like a video game. You can't stop laughing.
9. Your last-second pickup just before kickoff coming up huge -- while your opponent's stud puts up a stinker.
8. Where can I send Elias a thank-you note? You've dealt with the pain of a close loss only to be brought back to life by a late-week stat correction. Even better when you've had to endure two days of trash talk.
7. Everyone, including guys like me, is saying you should play one guy over the other, but you go with the lower-ranked guy because you have a gut feeling. You decided you trust your gut more than you trust me. And it works. Which is awesome. And by the way, it's your team. You should always trust your gut over me or anyone else.
6. Total domination. Everything clicks, you're in massive control the whole way, and you just get to enjoy as every single player, even your kicker, goes off. Victory is never in doubt. You can light the cigar at halftime of the early games.
4. Thanks to your real-life favorite player. Last week, in our 16-team War Room league, I played Stephania Bell. With Matt Forte and Marques Colston on a bye plus Danny Amendola out, I was hurting given how little depth there is. And Jamaal Charles and Martellus Bennett, also on my team, did nothing. But then my beloved RG3 went out, put up crazy numbers and basically single-handedly allowed me to beat her. And trash-talk her on the podcast. Great.
3. Beating the person who talks the most trash leading up to the game or your most bitter rival in the league.
2. The back-and forth game. Speaking of that War Room league, two weeks ago I was up 20 heading into Sunday night, and Ed Werder had Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson going. (Ed had his own injury/bye issues that week.) Henderson quickly scores, then Meachem. It's a PPR league, so just like that we were tied. Luckily, I had Colston. Meachem scores again, but Colston is matching him blow-for-blow. Ed and I exchanged the lead every three minutes in that game until the middle of the fourth, when Colston scored for the third time. And even then I was on pins and needles in case Meachem got a third. It was nerve-racking, and I loved it.
1. By far, the No. 1 answer on most fun way to win is on "Monday Night Football." Be it by coming from behind, on a big performance or on the very last play, there's nothing quite like a Monday night win. My friend Ken Weitzman sent me a great example: A team is driving late in the game and needs only a field goal to win. You're behind and dead in the water. But then, on a breakaway play, the team scores a touchdown and you have the scoring player. If your opponent has the kicker, even better.
You have an opportunity this week for one of those really fun wins. Six teams are on a bye, and most of them are filled with fantasy studs. Even Kansas City has two legitimate fantasy starters. Chances are you're scrambling this week. You'll have to make some tough calls, play some guys you normally wouldn't and do things that you'd never consider in a typical week. Since you're in a tight spot, why not have fun with it? It is the reason we play.
Love/Hate time now: As always, a "love" does not mean automatic start and a "hate" does not mean automatic bench. This is about where they are ranked this week in comparison to other weeks or players I am higher/lower on than others. Use your brain and my rankings.
Of course, a "'Sup" goes out to my homies John Parolin and the ESPN Stats & Information crew, who tell me the word "homies" has been used in just 3.72 percent of non-Matthew Berry columns since its debut in 1992.
Due to six teams being on a bye this week, the "hates" are particularly thin. This week, it's hard to hate anyone with a pulse, you know?
Quarterbacks I Love in Week 7
Tom Brady, Patriots: I've actually gotten some slightly panicky questions on him. He hasn't topped 20 points this season except once and has just one touchdown pass in three of six games. Dude, or dudette, chill. Your concern is as irrelevant as the word "chill" in the year 2012. In his past three games against the Jets, Brady has 957 yards and six scores. And that was with Darrelle Revis out there. At home, angry after a tough loss, Brady is a top-five guy, no question.
Andrew Luck, Colts: I know, he was bad last week and the Browns have Joe Haden back, but Luck is money at home, with seven total touchdowns and averaging 300 passing yards in three home games this season. The Browns give up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and Luck is averaging 44 pass attempts a game, the most in the NFL. You throw 44 times against the Browns and good things happen. Magical things. Luck-y things. Yeah, I went there. What of it? Why can't I have fun too? Everyone loves puns. Oh, you don't? Well, [pun redacted].
TMR: "What do you mean, pun redacted! I'm not actually saying the word! It could mean anything."
Editor: "No, Matthew, it's only funny if it means that one thing."
TMR: "I want to fight for it."
Editor: "Fight whom? There's no sympathetic court of appeal here."
TMR: "You all suck. I hate you all. None of you get comedy."
Editor: "I know. It's our mission in life to make you miserable."
Joe Flacco, Ravens: Stop me if you've heard this one before: Flacco likes to throw deep. He is among the league leaders in 30-plus-yard plays when using play-action. Why is that important, I'm pretending you asked? Glad you did, I fake answer. It's because of this stat: The Texans allow a league-worst 13.1 yards per attempt and a league-high five 30-plus-yard pass plays on play-action passes. A solid top-12 play this week, Flacco is.
Jay Cutler, Bears: I feel dirty just writing it. But he is off the bye, averaging 18 points a game over his past two and averaging 9.9 yards throwing downfield on the season, the second-highest rate in the NFL. Only two teams have allowed more touchdown passes of 20-plus yards than the Detroit Lions. Cutler is a safe bet for 15 points or so with upside for more.
Matt Hasselbeck, Titans: Double-digit fantasy points in two straight games, Kenny Britt is back (for now), Chris Johnson looks useable again, and it's not as if the Titans or the Bills are going to stop anyone, so this could turn into a shootout. Available in 89 percent of leagues, if you need a bye week fill-in with a good shot at 12-15 points, Hasselbeck is your guy against a defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season.
If you're desperate: It's not as if Ryan Fitzpatrick is facing a great defense either. ... Mark Sanchez is going to have to throw against the Patriots to keep up, and there's the whole "If Russell Wilson can do it" rule. The Sanchize does have at least nine points in every game this season but one.
Quarterbacks I Hate in Week 7
Matt Schaub, Texans: Another stop me if you've heard this one. Houston runs. A lot. Check this out: The Ravens rank 24th in the NFL this season in yards per rush allowed between the tackles. And that was before their entire defense got injured. Yes, the Lardarius Webb injury hurts the secondary, but the Texans are going to be so effective running the ball in this game that Schaub won't be passing that much. One touchdown or fewer in four of six games this season, he is not a top-10 play this week, despite the nice matchup.
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers: The most obvious call that could blow up in my face, I'm putting him here because I assume most people see New Orleans and think he is a no-brainer. I have him outside my top 15 on somewhat of a gut call. The Saints have had two weeks to prepare, they may get Jonathan Vilma back, and I feel the Bucs will try to run a lot (and be successful at it) to try and slow down the game and keep Brees & Co. on the sideline. Keep in mind the Bucs have the second-fewest pass attempts in the NFL. Freeman will be OK, but I'm not seeing a huge game like last week.
Alex Smith, 49ers: Seattle good. Good Seattle. Ungh. Seattle. Thus concludes today's episode of Caveman Fantasy Analysis.
Philip Rivers, Chargers: I know he's on a bye this week. Just on principle.
Running Backs I Love in Week 7
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Trent Richardson, Browns: Not worried about the injury.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings: He has gone five games without a touchdown. Think he's due? Cause I sure do. Especially against a Cardinals team that has allowed three scores to opposing running backs the past three weeks.
Fred Jackson, Bills: C.J. Spiller has more big-play upside and I have Spiller ranked higher, but the reason I'm mentioning Jackson is that in the past two weeks, with both Jackson and Spiller active, it was F Jax who got the team's only rush from inside the 5-yard line (a 1-yard touchdown last week against the Cards). The Titans have allowed a league-high seven touchdown runs at or inside the 5-yard line this season.
Felix Jones, Cowboys: Remember that dirty feeling I had after recommending Cutler? I went on a shame spiral, and now I'm binge-recommending Jones. Ugh. But hey, he is going to get 65 percent of the running back touches, if not more. The Panthers have allowed 2.3 yards after contact per rush this season on runs inside the tackles, worst in the NFL, and 4.47 yards total per rush inside the tackles, eighth worst in the league. Jones is averaging five yards a carry this season. Now someone find me an industrial-strength loofah. Must wash. Forever unclean.
If you're desperate: Yeah, I'm back on the Vick Ballard bandwagon. The Colts fell behind last week and had to bail on the run. That won't happen this week, and teams can run on the Browns. ... As much as I talked up Jones, he is not going to get all the work, so Phillip Tanner becomes an interesting flex in deeper leagues thanks to a good matchup and maybe 10 touches or so coming his way. ... Everything I said about Martin also applies to LeGarrette Blount, who has scored in two straight weeks. ... If Ahmad Bradshaw misses the game -- he didn't practice Wednesday -- Andre Brown and David Wilson would be interesting flex plays against the Redskins.
Running Backs I Hate in Week 7
Frank Gore, 49ers: Just eight carries last week, down from 14 the week before, down from 20 the week before that. Seattle is a tough defense, and Joe Staley is banged up. I have Gore outside my top 15 this week, unlike the rest of my fellow rankers.
Shonn Greene, Jets: Don't get cute. The Patriots defense has the fourth-best yards per rush allowed average (3.4) in the league and is allowing a league-best 1.05 yards after contact per rush. It just shut down Marshawn Lynch, who is -- how do I phrase this? -- much better at football than Greene.
Mikel Leshoure, Lions: Even with all the byes and the job all to himself, it's hard to trust LeShoure against a Bears defense that held DeMarco Murray to 24 yards rushing and Maurice Jones-Drew to 56 yards in its past two games. Leshoure is nothing better than a flex play this week.
Wide Receivers I Love in Week 7
Dez Bryant, Cowboys: Two games, 28 targets. Hold on, Poindexter. You can put down that calculator. I'll do the math for you. That's an average of 14 targets a game. Fourteen. Against the Panthers 19th-ranked pass defense, that'll be more than enough to do some damage.
Steve Johnson, Bills: With at least six receptions in three of his past four, it's a great matchup with Tennessee. And come on, I just did a whole intro about fun. No way I'm not including Mr. Why So Serious?
Antonio Brown, Steelers: The targets are there; the production will follow. Ignore last week.
Denarius Moore, Raiders: Scores in two of the last three, he leads the Raiders in targets despite missing a game. The Jaguars have allowed a whopping 616 yards and four touchdowns to opposing wide receivers in the past three weeks. Plus, it's always fun to say "Denarius? I hardly knew her!" While they try to figure that out, Moore will have flown by, scoring on a long touchdown.
Randall Cobb, Packers: A week after leading the Packers in total yards from scrimmage after Cedric Benson's injury, Cobb goes out and gets a seven-for-102. He is fifth in the NFL among wideouts in yards after the catch, and I like his speed on the turf in St. Louis.
Donnie Avery, Colts: Only Reggie Wayne has more targets for the Colts than Avery. Then you look at Joe Haden for the Browns who, despite playing only two games this season, is just one defended or intercepted pass below the league leaders. One. With Haden all over Wayne, I expect even more love for Avery in what should be a high-scoring game for Indy.
If you're desperate: Mike Williams has 100 yards or a touchdown in four of six games this season, and there's a good chance I'm going to be wrong on Freeman. ... Chris Givens has at least 50 yards in three straight games. ... With Hakeem Nicks still not 100 percent, it's worth noting that Domenik Hixon leads New York in targets and catches on throws at least 15 yards downfield. The Redskins have allowed an NFL-high 34 completions on throws at least 15 yards downfield this season.
Wide Receivers I Hate in Week 7
Steve Smith, Panthers: Hasn't scored yet this season, single-digit fantasy points in three straight games and the Cowboys, believe it or not, have the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL. With Ryan Kalil out for the season, the Panthers offensive line is having to change a lot of positions, and that's not ideal for Cam Newton to get time and let deep plays with Smith develop. Get the sense this is a dump-off and tuck-and-run kind of game for Cam. Smith is a low-end No. 2 this week, even with all the byes.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers: See Gore, Frank. Told you the hate was light this week. Fun!
Tight Ends I Love in Week 7
Aaron Hernandez, Patriots: Just putting him here since he showed up on the injury report. I'm not worried. He is going to be just fine, especially against a Jets team giving up the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Scott Chandler, Bills: Insert tight end playing Titans here. As good a bet to score a touchdown this week as any player on the board. The tight end on the other side, Jared Cook, also has a pretty sweet matchup.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings: Only putting him here because he is still available in 25 percent of leagues. He is third in tight end scoring. Third. Through six weeks. What are you waiting for?
Owen Daniels, Texans: Leads the Texans in every major receiving category. Tied for fourth-most TE receptions and second-most TE receiving yards this season.
If you're desperate: Brandon Myers has at least five points in four of five games this season. ... I've already mentioned how much I expect Luck to throw. Dwayne Allen has two scores in four games and is tied with Wayne for the team lead in targets inside an opponent's 10-yard line.
Tight Ends I Hate in Week 7
Jermichael Finley, Packers: Remember when he was going to be the next big thing? That got dropped pretty quick. Hahahahahahahaha. See what I did there? Dropped? Hoo boy! Oh yeah. Hahahahaha. What? [pun redacted]
Again? Come on! Cant' a TMR have a little fun around here?
Fred Davis, Redskins: Hasn't scored this season, which is interesting, since the Giants haven't allowed a tight end to score this season. RG3 is too much of a red zone threat running to count on Davis being anything more than a second-tier tight end this week.
Defenses I Love in Week 7
Minnesota Vikings: The sixth-highest scoring defense in fantasy is still available in 25 percent of ESPN.com leagues and is home to a Cardinals team that allows the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses.
If you're desperate: The Oakland Raiders played very well last week against a very good Falcons team. Now they are at home to a, well, not as good Jaguars team.
Defenses I Hate in Week 7
Baltimore Ravens: Seriously, do I even need to write something here?
New York Jets: Yeah, same as Greene. Don't get cute after last week. Home to a rookie QB isn't the same as on the road in New England.
That's all we have time for this week. Here's hoping your pickups this week lead to a top-10 fun win.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- lost by one point to his 8-year-old last week in the family eight-team league because the 8-year-old started Shonn Greene. That wasn't fun. Berry 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.
Fantasy Football Week 7
Aaron Rodgers is coming off a season-best 38-point effort. What will he do for an encore against the Rams this week?
Fantasy Football Tools• Week 7 Projections
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Week 7 Rankings
• Harris: The Hard Count
• Berry's Love/Hate
• Carpenter: Gridiron Challenge preview
• Daube: Trendspotting
• Cockcroft: Consistency Ratings
• Harris: Free-agent finds for Week 7
• Harris: Instant Impressions from Week 6
Bell Injury Blog
• Karabell: Sneaky pickups
• Karabell: Week 7 flex rankings
• Karabell: Week 7 rankings reaction
• Pro Football Focus: TEs on the rise/decline
• Football Outsiders: Top matchups
• Karabell: 2012 season rankings update
• Joyner: Sell high on Stafford, Lynch
• Goal-Line Grid: Through Week 6
• Karabell: Four Downs -- Week 6 recap
• Friday: Fantasy Football Now
• Thursday: Berry's Love/Hate
• Wednesday: Seahawks-49ers preview
• Wednesday: Fantasy Focus on rankings
• Tuesday: Grading the Chargers
• Monday: Patriots tight ends
• Monday: Value of Stafford, Greene, Nelson
• Fri. Focus: Week 7 preview
• Thu. Focus: Rankings talk
• Underground: Matthew Stafford, Felix Jones
• Wed. Focus: Talking about running backs
• Tue. Focus: Injury talk; MNF recap
• Mon. Focus: Week 6 recap
• Friday, 3 p.m. ET: KC Joyner
• Friday, 11 a.m. ET: Stephania Bell
• Thursday, 2 p.m. ET: Matthew Berry
• Thursday, 11 a.m. ET: Christopher Harris
• Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET: Eric Karabell
• Tuesday 3 p.m. ET: Stephania Bell
• Monday 11 a.m. ET: Tristan H. Cockcroft