Thursday, December 5, 2013


By Michael H. Osinski
So Jacoby Ellsbury just signed a 7-year, $153M contract to leave the Red Sox and join their hated rival Yankees. And what exactly does this have to do with this week's Player Rankings? The playoffs are upon us and the need for Fantasy Intel is at its apex. Trust me, a point is coming.
In the hours immediately after the announcement, there was a Twitter firestorm of venom from Red Sox fans. A respected Fantasy Prognosticator I follow (TraderX, @Fantasytrade411) was retweeting the outpouring of new bad blood. It went on for an hour, and was the most entertaining hour I have spent on twitter.
The entertaining part wasn't the nasty things directly aimed at Ellsbury and his new status as a traitor. The entertaining part was that each and every retweet had traitor spelled "trader." After 20 or so, I sent TraderX a tweet asking whether anyone had spelled it correctly. I never saw one. There was even a hashtag #trader. All because people loyal to the Sox felt slighted by the now-traitor, Ellsbury.
The point really isn't Sox fans inability to spell the word (though it was pretty funny how unanimous the spelling was). It's that they were so incensed and so overly passionate about the perceived slight to their beloved team. 
TraderX finally answered that anytime a rivalry has a player "defect" from one to the other, there is a similar firestorm.
I don't think I have ever been so consumed with a team that I would act that way. Or have I?
I got to thinking about what I'll call "The Favorite Team Affect" (FTA) or its corollary ("Favorite Player Affect" - FPA). More specifically, I started thinking about the affect it might be having on my Player Rankings.
When I looked, I found I definitely suffered this year because of the FPA. My draft strategy was built around 2 of my favorite players (Mike Vick and CJ Spiller). I overrationalized the injury risk of both (Classic FPA mistake). In the league I got both, of course they both got injured (among other players) and I am going to go 8-6 and miss the playoffs. The league I got neither, but followed the rest of my plan, is going into the playoffs as a #1 seed and will be 11-3.
So, because teams are either in the playoffs or about to get there, I went back through the rankings a couple extra times. It caused me to move some players up and others (Spiller) down.
I suppose my overall point here is that while it is fun to root for and follow a team or a player, you have got to take a more rational approach to player value if you intend to win at Fantasy Football. And face it, we all play to win.
So here are the FTA-FPA free Player Rankings:
We were pretty good last week. Whiffed on Romo and had Brees down, but still too high. Could've had McCown and Wilson higher, but not by much. Overall pretty good.
The remaining problems ranking this week involve Rodgers, Cutler, McCown and Luck. The first three guys due to injury or return and Luck because of poor performance.
Rodgers is taking practice reps with the second team Wednesday. Conventional wisdom is that the medical team wants to compare what they saw on Tuesday's scans with how they see him perform on the field. The Packers are still only 1.5 games behind Detroit even though they haven't won since Rodgers went down. The problem is The Lions swept the Packers so the gap actually is greater. Expect him not to be ready this week and a 50/50 shot at being shut down for the season. Matt Flynn will play.
For ranking purposes, we are just going to play Cutler/McCown as a joint entry. The matchup is a good one for either, but because the Bears need to win, expect Cutler under center if he is healthy. For roster purposes, if you have both you are good. If you have one or the other, I'd have a Plan B.
1. Matt Stafford (DET): PHI is worst vs. the pass and nobody throws more than the Lions. The math is pretty easy.
2. Tom Brady (NE): Look for him to avoid Haden, but pepper the Browns with Edelman and Vereen. It'll work.
3. Peyton Manning (DEN): TENN is pretty good vs the pass, but it rarely seems to matter with Manning.
4. Phil Rivers (SD): NYG rush is good, but this game will be about Woodhead, Gates and Green.
5. Nick Foles (PHI): The Lions defend the run well...the pass not so much. Expect a 34-31 game.
6. Cam Newton (CAR): NO is good vs pass, but if Wilson can exploit it, Cam is likely to as well.
7. Drew Brees (NO): No way he throws two clunkers in a row. And he is in the dome.
8. Matt Ryan (ATL): You can throw on GB and Ryan throws a lot.
9. Cutler/McCown (CHI): DAL has been awful vs the pass. Whoever plays here plays well.
10. Russell Wilson (SEA): This is only about the matchup IN SF. There may be a letdown as well.
11. Eli Manning (NYG): SD lousy pass defense, but Eli has had trouble exploiting good matchups this year.
12. Bob Griffin III (WSH): Until KC proves they can stop people again, get used to KC def as a plus matchup.
Just out: Carson Palmer (ARZ), Joe Flacco (BAL), Alex Smith (KC)
Try to avoid: Andrew Luck (IND), Ponder/Cassel (MIN)
Possible sleeper: Ryan Fitzpatrick (TEN)
Last week we had Lynch and Lacy too high and Murray, Jennings and Tate a bit too low. With Bell coming back from that wicked concussion looking good, there are no significant injuries except for Rashad Jennings. There are also some pretty tasty matchups, so we may end up with the RB equivalent of last week's WR stats.
1. Demarco Murray (DAL): They discovered if they give him the ball a little, he is pretty good.
2. Matt Forte (CHI): Like we said earlier, DAL isn't stopping people so much these days. Look for a lot of his to come in passing game.
3. Adrian Peterson (MIN): This is the time of year he heats up. Over 200 on 35 carries last week.
4. Jamaal Charles (KC): WSH defense is not so good. Charles is so good.
5. Marshawn Lynch (SEA): I know it's SF, but Lynch has torched them the past 4 times (ave 125 for 20+ pts)
6. Andre Brown (NYG): The guy has been a legit #1 RB since his return. It's not like SD is gonna stop him so much Sunday.
7. Ben Tate (HOU): JAX has been better of late, but Kubiak re-discovered that if he runs, his QB stays clean and gets a chance to win.
8. Eddie Lacy (GB): Lower than you might think, but QB lack of play will put eight in the box a lot.
9. Chris Johnson (TEN): With Walker iffy, expect a lot of CJ2K in the passing game.
10. Le'Veon Bell (PIT): Assuming he is healthy, MIA not so hot against the run.
11. LeSean McCoy (PIT): Bad matchup, but expect Foles to throw to him.
12. Alfred Morris (WSH): Solid, dependable. He will get the ball this week. (Only 11 carries last week?)
13. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX): Started year slow; much better of late. Stats say it's not a good matchup.
14. Steven Jackson (ATL): I really can't argue with the past two weeks and the matchup.
15. Frank Gore (SF): This is all about the matchup. I know he is at home, but if SF is gonna win, Kaep is gonna have to do it.
16. Reggie Bush (DET): He'll catch some balls, but I worry a bit about sharing time with Joique.
17. Shane Vereen (NE): Of course, 75% of this comes in passing game and because of the TD he will score.
18. Zac Stacy (STL): ARZ is murder on the run...the Rams beat them Week 1 because of Jared Cook.
19. CJ Spiller (BUF): He will still be good, just not like last week.
20. Chris Ivory (NYJ): I almost had him higher. Just a hunch Geno is not going to throw much.
21. Danny Woodhead (SD): This is all about what I said above about how to neutralize the NYG rush.
22. Bobby Rainey (TB): Matchup is better than he has had for a couple weeks and BUF is tough on passing game.
23. Gio Bernard (CIN): He may share late game carries w/BJGE when they are killing clock w/that big lead they got early.
24. Fred Jackson (BUF): This is all about him getting the goal-line carries.
25. Ray Rice (BAL): Against good teams, he falls flat. Against bad teams, he does OK. MIN=BAD.
Just out: Montee Ball (DEN), Ryan Mathews (SD), Joique Bell (DET)
Try to avoid: any of the back playing in the NO-CAR game
Possible sleeper: BJGE (CIN)...garbage time clock killing when CIN gets up 24-6 or so.
WOW! Alshon Jeffery 36, Josh Gordon 38, Eric Decker 41...are you kidding me? We did have Gordon near the top and said Peyton would make good with Decker for the clunker in New England. We ranked Jeffery reasonably high, but really thought because of the magnitude of the game that Brandon Marshall would be the big star.
We whiffed on Welker and DeSean Jackson, but should've figured Foles would use the TEs more vs ARZ.
1. Calvin Johnson (DET): This going to be like one of those big games from last week.
2. Brandon Marshall (CHI): Like we said, DAL isn't stopping much of anything.
3. DeSean Jackson (PHI): As discussed, DET stops the run but not the pass.
4. AJ Green (CIN): Looks like he is back from that mid-season slump.
5. Josh Gordon (CLE): It doesn't matter who is throwing to him. They could bring Derek Anderson back and he'd score.
6. Larry Fitzgerald (ARZ): It's good to see LFitz getting all that red zone work lately. More coming.
7. Andre Johnson (HOU): JAX has been OK on defense lately, but Tate will run, AJ will catch, HOU will finally win.
8. Dez Bryant (DAL): Not sure why he is not putting up bigger numbers right now.
9. Vincent Jackson (TB): Bounce back week for VJax. Ryan scorched BUF secondary last week.
10. Riley Cooper (PHI): Yes, there are going to be many many scores in this game.
11. Demaryious Thomas (DEN): Expect the ball distribution to be more even this week...and not great matchup.
12. Alshon Jeffery (CHI): Twice this year he has set team records for yards.
13. Torrey Smith (BAL): Expect at least a couple deep shots in the least 1 TD.
14. Wes Welker (DEN): Makes a comeback with better distribution to neutralize a good secondary.
15. Pierre Garcon (WSH): Kind of low for him, but without Reed in the lineup, his routes are shorter. Reed plays, he ups to 10.
16. Keenan Allen (SD): He is putting together quite a good rookie season. It continues this week vs Giants.
17. Victor Cruz (NYG): The inconsistency is puzzling, but we are thinking it has been on Eli.
18. Antonio Brown (PIT): Tough matchup this week, but that didn't keep him out of the end zone vs Joe Haden.
19. Michael Floyd (ARZ): He is on a nice 3-4 game roll and no reason to believe it won't continue.
20. Kendal Wright (TEN): Good matchup. He just doesn't get the red zone touches.
21. Eric Decker (DEN): Probable outcome is that he goes back to season averages this week.
22. Dwayne Bowe (KC): He has been sneaking back up the ranks as Alex Smith has thrown a bit deeper.
23. Roddy White (ATL): Looked like he was back last week. Let's see it again before he gets back to the Top 15.
24. Jordy Nelson (GB): All about the QB. With Rodgers, Nelson is a Top 10 guy.
25. Harry Douglas (ATL): Even with White going off, Douglas had 14 targets and 9 catches.
26. Julian Edelman (NE): He has become the WR Brady trusts. 9 catches in each of the past 2 games.
27. Cecil Shorts (JAX): Gets a steady diet of 10+ targets.
28. Mike Wallace (MIA): There is just something about a player going back to play his old team.
29. Rueben Randle (NYG): With Nicks disappearing act, he has become the clear second option.
30. TY Hilton (IND): Not sure what's going on there. After those 2 big games, a bunch of nothing.
Just out: Steve Smith (CAR), Marques Colston (NO), Nate Burleson (DET)
Try to avoid: The WRs in the SF-SEA game, the non-Nelson WRs for GB
Possible sleeper: Cordarelle Patterson (MIN)
We have seen a lot of grief here recently. Fasano, Walker, Thomas, Reed hurt. Cameron, Cook, Gresham lousy.
1. Rob Gronkowski (NE): TD catches in 4 straight games...this one will make it 5.
2. Jimmy Graham (NO): Torched CAR last year. Expect CAR to have a plan for him this time. Might still not work.
3. Julius Thomas (DEN): His owners heave a collective sigh of relief when he gets in end zone Sunday.
4. Jared Cook (STL): Re-visit Week 1 and realize ARZ hasn't got any better stopping TEs.
5. Vernon Davis (SF): Not sure what to make of the game, but Vernon and Kaep are SF's chance to win.
6. Jason Witten (DAL): CHI has a lot of problems on defense.
7. Jordan Reed (WSH): Hopeful he is back and healthy, but hedging a bit nonetheless.
8. Antonio Gates (SD): He will be instrumental in the gameplan against the NYG rush.
9. Garrett Graham (HOU): 26 targets in the past 3 games.
10. Tony Gonzalez (ATL): You think he'd like to have re-thought that not wanting to go back to KC?
11. Martellus Bennett (CHI): Higher if Cutler plays.
12. Ladarius Green (SD): He has averaged 70 yds and has 2 TDs last 3 games...and targets are on the rise.
Just out: Greg Olsen (CAR), Charles Clay (MIA), Delanie Walker (TEN)...if he plays
Try to avoid: Rob Housler, whoever plays for KC
Possible sleeper: Heath Miller (PIT)
1. BAL: Cassell/Ponder at QB. Need more be said?
2. OAK: NYJ have a way of making defenses look good.
3. NE: 2 QBs with concussions and Alex Tanney.
4. HOU: JAX still turns the ball over
5. SD: NYG still turns the ball over as well.
6. ARZ: Create their own turnovers.
7. SEA: If you watched MNF, you are not surprised.
8. SF: Playing really well as of late.
9. CIN: Got a bad feeling about this game.
10. NYJ: They actually look good on defense.
11. DEN: Fitzpatrick, no matter how good, is usually good for a couple picks.
12. PIT: Same as #11, just substitute Tannehill for Fitzpatrick
1. Stephen Gostkowski (NE): Those 2 50+ pressure FGs were convincing.
2. Matt Prater (DEN): Lots of points.
3. Justin Tucker (BAL): Lots of things to like. Matchup and a K on a hot streak.
4. Alex Henery (PHI): Points, points, points.
5. David Akers (DET): Same game, same reasons.
6. Nick Novak (SD): Have to like a K playing in SD for a team scoring a lot against a team that allows a lot.
7. Graham Gano (CAR): Expecting lots of indoor FGs.
8. Garrett Hartley (NO): Ditto.
9. Randy Bullock (HOU): Expect HOU to score a lot.
10. Phil Dawson (SF): Good conditions, potentially FG-fest
11. Steven Haushka (SEA): Ditto.
12. Ryan Succop (KC): They figure to score a bunch Sunday.
Good luck everyone. Hope you are already in...or poised to make the playoffs. I am available for questions at @mhosinskiLLP.

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