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Crystal Ball Week 14 2017
By Evan Tarracciano
With Week 14 now upon us, the vast majority of Fantasy Football leagues have entered the final stretch run towards crowing a champion, beginning with the playoffs. Hopefully, a significant portion of you managed to make it in all of your leagues. If at some point along the way my advice or recommendations aided your in the process, I’m thrilled! I know that through the ups and downs of 2017 I’ve received plenty of positive feedback, both from my radio appearances on Sirius XM during the “7 at 7” segments, to the articles or video chats that I put out each week. I very much appreciate all of the kind words!
During my video chat last evening on Periscope (we switched things up from Facebook to reach a broader audience, more information on those developments below) a significant portion of all questions were directed at the uncertainty at both the running back and tight end position this upcoming week. With that in mind, I wanted to give my thoughts about a couple of the players we discussed, noting if they are worth an addition or should be left on the waiver wire.
Seattle Seahawks – (Mike Davis) I wrote about Davis in prior columns, and advised everyone to add him two weeks ago when he was injured, since there was a solid amount of evidence that he would regain the starting role for the team upon his return from a groin injury. That prophecy turned out spot-on, as Davis played nearly 75 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, with backups Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls only getting one carry a piece. At this point both Lacy and Rawls can be safely dropped in most formats, and J.D. McKissic should only be held onto in the deepest of PPR formats. Davis has been the Seahawks best running back since Chris Carson went down earlier in the year, and owners should expect that his usage will only increase in the final few weeks. For owners contemplating if he is worth an add, consider the following. His stretch run sets up as follows:
Week 14 (Jacksonville Jaguars) – 20th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game
Week 15 (Los Angeles Rams) – 27th
Week 16 (Dallas Cowboys) – 12th
Week 17 (Arizona Cardinals) – 9th
The Jaguars have a well-publicized impressive passing defense, but do allow over 115 yards on the ground each game. Russell Wilson will be under pressure all afternoon, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team utilize Davis in the screen game, or give him delayed draws to slow down the pass rush. I view him as a low-end RB2 the remainder of the way.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – (Peyton Barber) This was a bad call on my part last week, so I’ll cop up to whiffing mightily. My assumption was that the team would go back to using Jacquizz Rodgers in the every down role, with Barber mainly seeing action in short-yardage situations or near the goal line. Not so much. Barber saw an absurd 27 touches against the Green Bay Packers, totaling 102 yards on the ground on 23 attempts, while adding in four receptions for 43 yards in the air. In his first game back from action, Jameis Winston clearly wasn’t on the same page as his receiving core, and the team appears to be content with him not testing his ailing shoulder by forcing throws downfield. Barber’s value is directly tied in to the health status of Doug Martin, who is still looking to complete the final stages of the league’s concussion protocol. Martin did manage to return to practice on Wednesday, so this situation is murky at best. In the event that Martin suffers a setback or misses Week 14 against the Detroit Lions, Barber will vault into RB2 discussion. The Lions have allowed the second most rushing TDs in the league (16) and rank in the bottom half of yards allowed on the ground per game. If Martin does return, Barber would still split carries with him at a minimum, but the upside would obviously be lost. Unless they are totally clueless, one would have to assume that the Bucs know that Martin has been awful yet again this season, barely averaging three yards per carry. Barber is worth a minor bid, but don’t go whole-hog with expectations.
Cincinnati Bengals – (Giovani Bernard) Of all the backs I’ll cover in this article, Bernard is the most appealing option available from a one-week standpoint. He was more widely-owned than the other options entering the week, but had been one of the most dropped running backs for the past few weeks prior. Joe Mixon suffered a concussion in Week 13, leading to Bernard’s first double-digit carry game of 2017, and he made the most of the opportunity, rushing for 77 yards on 13 attempts. The Bengals are facing a short week before taking on the Chicago Bears at home, which really puts the pressure on Mixon to play. Should Mixon sit, Bernard only has Brian Hill to compete with for touches in the backfield. The Bears aren’t the greatest matchup on paper, but Bernard would be guaranteed a major role in the offense, something which has alluded him for several years. Especially in PPR formats, Bernard is a must-add, and one of the few plug-and-play options available in the majority of formats this week. Keep an eye on practice reports for updates on Mixon’s health status.
Arizona Cardinals – (Kerwynn Williams) Similar to Barber above, Williams was thrust into action late in the week due to an injured starter, and received a much larger workload than many anticipated. D.J. Foster’s name was bandied about as a sleeper, yet it was Williams who came away with the majority of backfield touches. Best known for his disappointing run in Weeks 2-4 as the “starter” in place of David Johnson, Williams did little earlier this year to suggest any sort of breakout was ever coming, especially against the Los Angeles Rams. To his credit, Williams averaged over 6 yards per carry, and could have had an even bigger day if the team didn’t elect to use Elijhaa Penny on the goal line. This is yet another situation where the health of the starter will dictate touches and workload. The most recent news on Adrian Peterson from coach Bruce Arians suggests that the medical staff hasn’t cleared a return to practice yet, which places him in very murky water to start. Thankfully, Arians is fairly straightforward when it comes to sharing information about injuries and isn’t tight lipped like Bill Belichick or intentionally optimistic akin to Pete Carrol. I’d place Williams behind Bernard and Davis, but ahead of Barber for FAAB bidding and waiver wire claims.
RB SUMMARY – (Assuming all are declared starters) Bernard>Barber>Davis>Williams
New England Patriots - (Rob Gronkowski) “Gronk” recently lost his appeal of the one-game suspension laid down on him by the league for his illegal hit on Buffalo Bills CB Tre’Davious White. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to watch the video, well after the conclusion of the play Gronk took out his frustrations and rammed White from behind, driving his head into the ground while diving on him. Though he doesn’t have a lengthy track record of discipline issues, the league opted to take a hard stance on this case, especially since White suffered a concussion. In his absence, the Patriots will roll out both Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister, with Martellus Bennett being placed on season-ending IR at the end of November. Allen has played second or third-fiddle in the pecking order all year, mainly being asked to block. Though he won’t get nearly the workload of a healthy Gronkowski, Allen still has the chance of a red zone target, but owners shouldn’t expect anything more. He isn’t an advisable option, and shouldn’t be considered startable, especially with the news that Chris Hogan recently started practicing again.
Philadelphia Eagles – (Zach Ertz) The league’s most consistent option at the dumpster-fire position known as tight end left Week 13’s contest against the Seattle Seahawks with a concussion in the third quarter, after his head bounced off of the turf. This marks his second concussion in the past two years, and Ertz will now try to beat the clock to get onto the field. Given that the Eagles are a shoe-in to make the playoffs, that they have two very competent backups in Brent Celek and Trey Burton AND what an integral part of their offense Ertz plays, it would be a major surprise to see the team try and “rush” to get him back out on the field. Burton is the much more intriguing player to grab, and is worth streaming against the Los Angeles Rams if Ertz is indeed ruled out. While filling in for Ertz over the past few seasons, Burton has proven to be more than capable of inheriting the role and not causing a hiccup in the offense. Carson Wentz has proven that he also has the ability to find him in the end zone, should the need arise. His athleticism and versatility makes him the better option to target.
Houston Texans – (C.J. Fiedorowicz IR) I’ll fully admit that I wasn’t closely following the return of Fiedorowicz after he came back in Week 10, largely in part due to the loss of Deshaun Watson, coupled with his minor usage in an offense so centered around Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins. That said, the more that I read about Stephen Anderson, the more I’m intrigued. A 6’3, 230 lbs. athletic player out of California, Anderson caught five passes for nearly 80 yards and a touchdown last week against the Tennessee Titans, after being asked to take on a larger role. Will Fuller is still expected to miss another week, leaving Anderson as the only non-running back threat other than Hopkins on the team for the immediate future. Hopkins still figures to see double-digit targets from Tom Savage, but a repeat of last weeks numbers isn’t out of the question, especially with the Houston Texans defense being in the bottom half in the league for yards allowed per game.
TE SUMMARY – Trey Burton>Ricky Seals-Jones>Stephen Anderson
::Update on Tuesday Night Q&A chats:: For those who haven’t heard yet, I’ve switched things up a bit on Tuesday nights. Rather than hosting a Facebook LIVE! Chat over on our Football Diehards page, I’ve opted to replicate my colleague Bob Harris, and conduct Periscope chats instead. This allows me to reach a wider audience on Twitter, and I also enjoy the live interaction and participation by followers much more. The time will remain the same – 8 PM EST. If you have a chance, join us live or check out a rebroadcast of the feed later on!