Mike’s Making Moves: NFL Week 15 (Playoff Edition)

By Michael H. Osinski

It was a cold Sunday in Los Angeles. Even as we near Winter, it is a rare day in the City of Angels that sees the temperature stay below 60. Sunday was one of those days.

Luckily for me, I was indoors. Of course I was watching about five football games, all being played in the snow. Snow in Baltimore. Snow in Green Bay. Snow in D.C. Snow in Pittsburgh. But of course the game I kept coming back to was the “Snow Bowl” in Philadelphia. It was comic. Whether it was Calvin Johnson getting a faceguard full or Matt Stafford fumbling the snap half a dozen times, the game kept amazing. Anytime someone carried the ball, I kept thinking of Wes Welker in that Old Spice TV commercial that sings “…you’re in a snowglobe in a dollar store.”

goodellThen, I looked outside again and began to think. Philadelphia is pretty close to the stadium in New Jersey that is hosting the Super Bowl. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts conditions on the day of the game similar to those during the Eagles-Lions game Sunday. At least the Super Bowl won’t be decided by a field goal (Only one PAT was even attempted). Playing the game in those conditions, while laugh-out-loud-funny, is no way to decide an NFL championship. The teams deserve better. The people buying tickets deserve better. Mr. Goodell, just play the game in Los Angeles and know the downside is a 60-degree afternoon.

Lots of Fantasy teams had their playoff hopes derailed by snow. Matt Stafford owners suffered. Calvin Johnson owners suffered. For those of you still in the playoffs, there is still a bit of work to do.

Quarterbacks

For the past four weeks or so, the big issues at QB have swirled around Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Josh McCown. We got some clarity, for now, in that Cutler is out and McCown is still in Monday night. We’ll see what happens next week to Championship teams owning Cutler or McCown.

Genosmith1The Aaron Rodgers story took an interesting turn Sunday when Green Bay came back and beat Atlanta, while Philadelphia beat Detroit. All three teams now are close enough that the Packers will wait another week to determine whether to shut down Rodgers. If he is healthy, the Packers can win out, finish 9-6-1 and win the division. Of course it doesn’t help the playoff-bound Fantasy owners of Rodgers. Keep a decent backup plan. Don’t fall for the “Geno Smith is back” hype. Stick to the safer options. Jason Campbell has proven reliable. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been better than OK the past 5 weeks.

Running Backs

My suspicion is that lots of Adrian Peterson owners are playoff bound. He figures to miss at least Week 15. Maurice Jones-Drew is likely out. Reggie Bush’s status is unknown. Rashad Jennings hasn’t passed the concussion protocol. If you lost Jonathan Stewart, I am going to assume you are not in the playoffs.07VIKINGS0814galThat being said, there are some options.

Toby Gerhart ran for 88 yards and a score against what is usually a good Ravens run defense. Without Peterson, Toby should see 20+ carries. He is a career backup, but if you have one of these guys who is out, hope the Peterson owner doesn’t believe in handcuffs. After Lamar Miller got concussed, Daniel Thomas came in to run for over 100 yards and a score. Yes, that Daniel Thomas. The one whom the team previously reported was out for the season with an ankle injury. So he is likely available. He still is an underwhelming plodder, but your other choices are underwhelming as well. Jordan Todman (the one who at times in the pre-season looked good) will be subbing for MJD. Chris Polk looked good, but won’t get another opportunity like that again…unless there is another blizzard. Also, Rashad Mendenhal is available in  a surprising number of leagues. He hasn’t been half bad of late. And, the Titans are not so hot against the run. Remember, if you don’t have a better option on your bench, you are kinda out of luck. Marcel Reece was a nice pick up this past week, but if Jennings is healthy avoid Reece.

Wide Receivers

Wes Welker is out. Even if he passes all his concussion protocols, the league requires five days to pass before clearing a player for contact. This is no doubt a big blow to playoff bound teams. (Denver hosts San Diego Thursday)

hi-res-174465176_crop_northHopefully you have someone like Hakeem Nicks, or one of the Patriots WR gang on your bench. If not, good luck. Cordarelle Patterson is owned in all three of the leagues in which I play. He should’ve been claimed by now, but is still available in over 50% of leagues. The two Colt WRs (Da’Rick Rogers and Lavon Brazil) both played well in division-clinching loss. It was however, a good bounceback game for Andrew Luck, so there is some hope it may continue for either or both of them. Jeremy Kerley is back from the elbow injury. The Jets pass game is inconsistent, but someone has to catch the ball. A wild card might be the guy who will probably replace Welker. Andre Caldwell has looked good stretching the field. He won’t get the short, inside routes Welker usually covers (Julius Thomas will), but he is bound to see a lot of three WR sets and may take targets away from Eric Decker. Danny Amendola got thrown back in one of the leagues in which I play. He gets a bump in targets with Gronkowski out.

Tight Ends

If we didn’t already have issues here (Jordan Reed, Julius Thomas, Delanie Walker), now we have Rob Gronkowski. Not only did he tear his ACL and MCL; he suffered a concussion as well. He is out for the year.Flaccos-favorite-TE-Dennis-Pitta-US-PresswireJohn Carlson is out. Kyle Rudolph is not going to be back. It’s getting ugly.

Thomas IS back. Reed probably will be this week. Delanie Walker got cleared for practice Monday. The Broncos used Jacob Tamme in some two-TE sets after Welker left, so he may see some targets. And, anyone catching the football in Denver has value. If Walker is unowned in your league, snag him. He plays Arizona (worst in the league defending TEs).The Eagles TEs (Zac Ertz, Brent Celek) both have a good QB throwing to them, but take away the Arizona game and they have been below average.

If you can figure out which TE will replace Gronk, you might have something. It’s more likely Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen will see the Gronk targets. Dennis Pitta may still be available. He looked much like his old self.

Defense

If you need to stream a defense for your playoff game this weekend, you could do a lot worse than plugging in Jacksonville. Yes, seriously. Since coming out of the bye five weeks ago, the team is 4-1 and averages about 10 points on defense each week. And, the matchup is a good one as they draw a Buffalo team that threw four picks and was sacked seven times.

Another surprising option is Philadelphia. They draw a Viking team that turns the ball over a lot, no matter who plays QB.

Kicker

If we learned anything from Sunday’s action, it is that you need to check the weather report each week before setting the kicker in your lineup. Henery and Akers were the best examples, but Vinateri couldn’t kick. I stream one each week. This past week…Nick Novak rewarded me with 10 points.

Same applies this week. Matt Bryant (indoor); Vinateri (indoors); Walsh (indoors); Hartley and Zuerlein (indoors). The good weather guys as well, including Janikowski, any of the kickers playing Florida or Bullock.Good luck in the playoffs. Two of my three teams are in…one was a game out. I am available for questions at @mhosinskiLLP

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