If I covered every event in Week 14 in detail, you would be reading an article longer than Leo Tolstoy’s 800-plus page novel Ana Karenina, and maybe even more epic. Broken streaks, blizzards, a deflated Metrodome, Matt Cassel’s appendectomy, Jay Feely’s amazing performance, a cheap shot from a Jets’ coach and yet another Houston Texans’ heart-wrenching loss were just a few of Week 14’s headlines. Not only did some of these occurrences shake things up in the NFL this week, but some actually became huge factors in the fantasy football world where most leagues began the first week of playoff matchups.
After a massive storm struck Minneapolis and pummeled the Metrodome’s roof, the NFL scrounged at the last minute to find an alternate venue to host the New York Giants and the Minnsesota Vikings. After watching their hometown Detroit Lions upset the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Detroit football fans were given the unique opportunity of watching another game the next day at Ford Field. With an extra day of rest, Brett Favre hoped to add to his consecutive games record, but his injured shoulder ended up sidelining him. Love him or hate him, Favre is truly an Iron Man and his 297 consecutive games streak is arguably his most impressive record.
When was the last time a kicker scored a touchdown? Before last Sunday, the answer was 2001. Most fantasy owners will choose kickers on potent offenses in hopes of increased scoring opportunities. However, any owners that played Arizona’s Jay Feely had a pleasant surprise this weekend. Not only did Feely knock down five field goals and four extra points, but also ran in a touchdown after a successful fake field goal attempt. Feely accounted for 25 of Arizona’s points and was head and shoulders the most productive fantasy kicking option. As exciting and surprising as Feely’s performance was, this may not happen again for another few years so continue to choose your kickers wisely.
I could go on and on about Week 14, but I will wrap up my summary by discussing the Texans, whom I have covered in previous weeks. Houston has endured a storybook season of disappointment and heartbreak. Instead of showing improvement and finally fulfilling their potential, Houston has experienced more heartbreak than one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. After a pitiful first half effort, Houston fans booed as their home team found themselves nearly routed by Baltimore being down 28-7. Suddenly, the Texans transformed their ineffective offense to an aggressive and high-impact aerial assault led by Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson and rallied back. With their defense finally stepping up, Houston was able to fatigue Baltimore’s defense and mounted a game-tying comeback by completing a two-point conversion with 21 seconds left in regulation. Houston appeared unstoppable until disaster struck again. Baltimore put a cork in Schaub’s cannon as Josh Wilson intercepted him in overtime for a pick six. Yet again, Schaub and the Houston Texans dropped their heads as they walked into the locker room after finding another way to lose a nail biter.
If your league began playoff action, hopefully you did not experience this same agony of defeat. Let’s take a look at Week 15 to help your team advance to the next round.
Ben Roethlisberger – “Big Ben” has only one touchdown in his last three games despite averaging around 250 yards passing and leading the Steelers to four wins in the last five games. Roethlisberger should get back on track this week at home against the New York Jets. With a passer rating at home almost 20 points higher, Roethlisberger has thrown nine touchdowns and only two interceptions at Heinz Field.
Before you fear the New York Jets’ secondary and Darrelle Revis, let’s dive deeper. Quarterbacks have averaged more than 21 points per game at home when playing the Jets’ defense. In addition, the Jets’ defense may be on the field more often as their offense has appeared feeble of late. Although Pittsburgh is expecting cold weather and snowy conditions, Roethlisberger should still post a strong stat line of 225 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Michael Bush – Even though Oakland will likely miss the playoffs again, the team has been one of the most impressive ground offenses in the league. Despite minor injuries to Bush and Darren McFadden earlier in the year, both players have had career seasons. However, Bush only rushed for 22 yards last game against Jacksonville and has only managed double-digit carries once over the last six games.
Oakland will be welcoming the Denver Broncos to the Coliseum this weekend, who rank 31st against the run and have allowed a league-high 19 rushing touchdowns. In fact, Oakland ran for 273 yards and five touchdowns in Denver in Week 7. Expect McFadden to retain the bulk of carries, but I do believe there will be enough to go around. Bush will earn 75 rushing yards and a score, which may make him a solid flex option.
Deion Branch – I have noticed fairly low rankings for Branch on a variety of fantasy sites lately. This must certainly change as his quarterback Tom Brady is “en fuego” and Branch has averaged 109 receiving yards and scored four times over the last three games. The weather in Foxborough may include rain and snow, but I think we are now more than confident that means absolutely nothing for the high-octane New England offense.
Although Green Bay’s secondary has been solid lately with single-digit fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, they will fold against the Patriots, especially if Aaron Rodgers is sidelined and they are stuck on the field longer. Branch should go for another 100 receiving yards and a score.
Randy McMichael – Due to Antonio Gates’ injury woes this season, many of his owners also picked up Randy McMichael. McMichael has not caught more than two balls in a game all season long. Not to mention, San Diego’s injured wideouts, including Vincent Jackson, are healing and have been receiving nearly all of Rivers’ passes when Gates is not available. McMichael’s Week 15 opponent is the San Francisco 49ers, who are the strongest defense against the tight end. They have not surrendered a touchdown and limited opposing tight ends to an average of two points per game since Week 5. I recommend finding an alternative tight end if Gates sits as McMichael will be a bust this week and will earn only 25 receiving yards this week.
Dallas Cowboys’ Defense – Although my prediction for Tampa Bay’s defense against Washington did not work out perfectly last week, I will try again, especially with the talk that Rex Grossman may start in place of Donovan McNabb. Dallas’ defense has not been terrific lately, but has also played against offensive powerhouses including the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. Don’t expect huge numbers for Dallas’ defense this week, but I think an even 10 points is reasonable against a weak Washington Redskins’ offense.
Last week’s picks –
QB – Joe Flacco
– Week 14 stats: 235 yards, 2 TD
– My Prediction: 225 yards, 2 TD (nearly a perfect match!)
RB – Ahmad Bradshaw
– Week 12 stats: 103 rushing yards, 12 receiving yards, 1 TD
– My Prediction: 100 total yards, 1 TD (nearly another match!)
WR – Terrell Owens
– Week 14 stats: 22 yards
– My Prediction: 100 yards, 1 TD (”T.O.” was a no-show and was not nearly as effective this time against Pittsburgh. Ouch, if you expected an encore from this veteran showstopper.)
TE – Ben Watson
– Week 14 stats – 8 yards
– My Prediction: 80 yards, 1 TD (Cleveland’s pass offense is worse with Jake Delhomme, and Buffalo suddenly learned how to guard tight ends. My bad on this call.)
DEF – Tampa Bay Buccaneeers
– Week 14 stats: 5 points
Good luck in Week 15!