BY JOE BARTEL
The home stretch is just around the corner. For many people that means a shot at ultimate glory and satisfaction, while for others, it just means four or five more weeks of misery and disappointment. But fear not! Even if you are fighting for your playoff lives or just pretending to care for the final weeks of the season, my Play/Pass rankings will be right there to ease your fantasy worries. Let’s get to it!
Plays of the Week
I put him here only because some of you might be thinking about being cute and taking out the league’s highest scoring player because of the matchup and Manning’s gimpy ankles. DO NOT! I understand that Kansas City has one of the best defenses in the NFL and Manning is less than 100% but he is still far and wide the best quarterback in the world right now. He is on pace to throw for 60 touchdowns and over 6,000 yards while completing 60% of his passes; the guy is putting up numbers that I probably couldn’t do on Madden! If you have him, you are starting him without blinking.
I am riding the Foles Express! 16 touchdowns and 0 interceptions? Sounds like the model of awesomeness to me. He might not be the most athletic quarterback to run the Chip Kelly offense, but he sure is able to make quick decisions to carve up opposing teams secondary. Next up on the Foles Express is a Washington Redskins defense that ranks 26th in pass defense, and has given up the fifth most touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. Foles is absolutely a top ten play this week, and he could easily sneak into the top 6 or 7 with his juicy matchup this week.
File him under the same category as Nick Foles. I’m not an Eagles fan, but I feel like it’s got to be a little awkward seeing Cooper do so well. After the over-publicized drama that surrounded Cooper in the preseason, I think it’s awkward to root for him, even in fantasy football. Maybe he learned how to be a better wide receiver at his racism therapy clinic. Regardless of the awkward drama that surrounds Cooper, he has an uncanny relationship with Nick Foles right now. In the games that Foles has played, Riley has amassed 448 receiving yards and six touchdowns. In other words, START RILEY COOPER.
I know I am a little biased here, but I truly believe that Lacy will have a big game against the Giants this week. New York, for as bad as they have been this year, is actually one of the better teams against the run this year, allowing just over 100 rushing yards per game. But ever since week five, when Lacy became the man in Green Bay, he has averaged 103 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. In a game that the Packers need to win, I expect Eddie Lacy to be a big difference in both the rushing and receiving game.
The latest rookie running back to make an appearance this year has helped the Cardinals enter the playoff race. Although he only has a combined total of 604 yards with a paltry three touchdowns, Arizona has hardly used their electric running back. Ellington only has a combined total of 78 touches this year. But the Cardinals do play everyone’s favorite punching bag, the Jacksonville Jaguars this week. I expect a huge dose of Ellington this week as the Cardinals continue their surprising aim at a postseason appearance. Could easily be a top 20 play this week.
Passes of the Week
Terrific Tom has picked up some momentum in recent weeks but I do not believe he will fare well against the Panthers on Monday night. While the return of Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola has helped, the Patriots offense has largely struggled this season, averaging 232 passing yards per game. That’s good for 18th in the league. Never mind all that technical stuff, the Carolina Panthers defense is just good. They stifled Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers last week and allow the second fewest yards in the league this year. Lead by the reincarnation of Ray Lewis, Mr. Luke Kuechly, the Panthers front seven is the best in the league right now. I think this is a statement game for the Panthers. Brady is not a top ten play for me this week.
I forgot him on my list of “Biggest Fantasy Disappointments” two weeks ago. I’m sorry for offending any Steven Jackson owners. My bad. For a guy who was projected to be taken in the first four rounds of fantasy drafts this year, Jackson has amassed 151 rushing yards this year and has only been able to play in five games. His last plus ten point game came in Week 1. Jackson should not be started in any leagues at this point, even against the lowly Buccanears. You have been warned.
People have been asking me, when is an appropriate time to drop Ray Rice? If Rice does not perform against the Bears this week, you will have your answer. Rice is averaging a miserable 2.5 yards per carry this year and experts have yet to find a viable reason for his demise. At this point, Ray Ray might be better off wasting away in the free agency pool instead of your bench. Not liking Rice’s chances to produce anything close to his draft value this year.
In the past two games Andre Johnson has totaled over 250 receiving yards and five touchdowns, so I imagine most of you might be saying, “WHAT THE HECK!” Or maybe you just are quietly saying I’m dumb or something. Regardless, I believe Johnson will cool off this week against the Raiders because the Texans will be leading right from the get-go. Terrelle Pryor is out for the game, leaving rookie quarterback Matt McGloin to face the vaunted Texans D. Throw in a little bit of Ben Tate and not enough of Case Keenum and I think Andre will not be a factor against Oakland. Temper your expectations for him this week.