Articles By Corby Yarbrough

Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-4-pierre-garcon-evan-royster-stephen-hill

There are a few key fantasy contributors that have had a number of injury question marks surrounding their playing status leading up to Week 4 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little bit about these three and what you should consider.

Pierre Garcon, WR and Evan Royster RB, Washington Redskins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pierre GarconPierre Garcon is still living off the 88-yard screen pass for a score he caught in Week 1 against the Saints. However, it is that play that has kept the Redskins’ big free-agent signing off the field for the last two games and is expected to do the same this week.

Rich Campbell of the Washington Times was told by a source that Garcon would in today’s game at Tampa Bay. Of course, it is a late-afternoon game, so there is no try, only do.

Even a try could net Garcon points as the Buccaneers are second to only the Redskins in points allowed to fantasy receivers this season and Garcon caught two balls for 146 yards and two scores against Tampa Bay last season. So how about just those two plays, Pierre and then you can get back to the sidelines?

Evan Royster is dealing with a sprained patellar tendon but did return to a full practice on Friday. Roy Helu is on injured reserve and Ryan Grant just joined the team, so if Royster plays he should have the backup role to Alfred Morris.

In three games this season, Royster has just nine touches for 55 yards.

Since teams are having a field day on the Bucs’ pass defense in fantasy, the rush defense looks respectable — ranked sixth against fantasy running backs. They held Dallas’ DeMarco Murray to 38 yards and a score last week. Andre Brown had 71 yards and a touchdown a week earlier and Carolina rushed just seven times with its RBs in Week 1.

There is no way you are starting Royster in any capacity and Garcon is a WR2 if he plays. Yes, it is a late game for the Redskins-Bucs, but seven of the 14 remaining games in Week 4 are 4:05 starts or later. So there’s a chance that the debate between Garcon and another receiver in your starting lineup can be made without worrying about the 1 p.m. games.

Stephen Hill, WR, New York Jets vs. San Francisco 49ers

You weren’t thinking of starting Stephen Hill were you? He’s not even on your redraft-league roster anymore, right?

Well, just in case the answer is yes to either, the rookie receiver from Georgia Tech did not practice all week as he battles a hamstring injury and is listed as doubtful for today’s early game against San Francisco.

Hill is also battling not having any catches the last two weeks.

After his Week 1 statline read six targets, five catches, 89 yards and two scores he was one of the top waiver wire claims. Forgetting that Mark Sanchez was his quarterback, fantasy owners ran to the wire to grab Hill. The next two weeks have included nine targets, including seven last week, with no catches.

Jeremy Kerley, already a double-digit fantasy scorer in PPR leagues twice this season, will benefit from no Hill. San Francisco is ranked 14th against fantasy receivers but the Jets are ninth-best in the league when it comes to production from fantasy receivers.

— Corby A. Yarbrough

Post date: Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 07:11
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-4-ahmad-bradshaw-jonathan-stewart-jacob-tamme

There are a few key fantasy contributors that have had a number of injury question marks surrounding their playing status leading up to Week 4 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little bit about these three and what you should consider.

Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants RB vs. Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday night)

Ahmad BradshawAhmad Bradshaw is set to return from a game-and-a-half hiatus after a bulging disk in his neck sidelined the Giants No. 1 running back. In his sted, Andre Brown has looked more than capable of holding down the starting job — 184 yards, three scores and five catches for 36 yards.

Well, great. A No. 1 back already with an injury history, a journeyman back that has made due in his short time as the No. 1 and a Sunday night game.

What do the Giants do with two healthy, productive backs? What do you do with the two backs in your lineup?

Well, first the matchup. The Giants’ defense is taking on Michael Vick, who has looked terrible so far this season and has been more than willing to turn the ball over to the Giants. The Giants love to pass the ball — no matter who’s in or out of the lineup — and for the most part the Eagles have been pretty good at defending that the last year-plus.

So it is back to what do the Giants do with two healthy backs?

Last year when it was Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs — or D.J. Ware in Bradshaw’s absence — let’s just say it was not fun fantasy.

Only four times when both Bradshaw and Jacobs were in together (10 games) did one of the two get over 16 carries. Bradshaw led on three such occasions — 17-4, 26-5 and 16-7 — and Jacobs once at 19-8.

Bradshaw did lead in carries in all but two games in which they played together, and when he did Jacobs was relegated to nine or less carries each of those eight times.

The bright side for Bradshaw last season was that he still had 10 double-digit fantasy days. The dark side is that Brown certainly brings something different than Jacobs did last year.

This is a tough call to make, particularly with it being a Sunday night game.

I would still roll with Brown for one week on the assumption Bradshaw is eased back in and hope for the best. This would almost be a show-me game to see how Bradshaw looks and if he blows up, oh well, you know he’s back and pop in the lineup for Week 5.

Jonathan Stewart, Carolina RB vs. Atlanta Falcons

Jonathan StewartMuch like the Giants’ running back situation, two healthy backs is not necessarily a good thing in regards to fantasy.

Jonathan Stewart has battled a toe injury and that’s about as non-knee related bad as it can get for a running back. He’s great when he plays but he also has DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert to contend with, in addition to QB Cam Newton running the ball.

This offense looked miserable last Thursday against the Giants and the Falcons don’t offer much of a reprieve.

But back to the usage of backs.

Stewart played in all 16 games last season, starting three and carrying 142 times for 761 yards and four scores. His 47 catches for 413 yards and a score made the low carries somewhat tolerable. Williams played in 16, started in 14 and had 155 carries for 836 yards and seven scores. He added 16 catches for 135 yards. Then the team adds Tolbert, the TD vulture/replacement for whichever of the starters inevitably goes down.

I have never drafted any of these three in any league in any year and I am in eight leagues per season. I just don’t want to deal with headaches like this. And now we add the fact that they take on a Falcons team that actually knows how to play defense now.

Willis McGahee’s 25.4 points in PPR leagues makes him the only back to go above 12 points this season against the Falcons, and it took him getting 24 of Denver’s 30 RB touches to do that.

It’s hard to picture Carolina hanging around for long in this one, and it’s hard to picture any one of these three backs being a factor. You might get an early score or a very late score from one, but wouldn’t you rather trust someone that can continue to produce in the middle 30 minutes?

Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos TE vs. Oakland Raiders

OK, when I saw Jacob Tamme go down against the Texans last week and there was a tear in his sock I thought for sure that was a bone coming through. I watched that thing on the DVR like the Zapruder film. There was no tear in the sock when he ran the route and when the play ended, he was hurt and there was a tear in the sock.

Move along further in the game, and Tamme was out there when the Broncos made their last-ditch effort with the multiple laterals on the final play and it was Tamme who last touched the ball. I went from thinking: “Did I just see an ?" To "does Tamme lose points for touching the last lateral?”

When it was all said and done, Tamme ends up on the injury report this week as probable with a groin injury. He is likely to play and is getting looks from QB Peyton Manning; he just isn’t doing anything with said looks.

The concern of whether you should’ve drafted Tamme or Joel Dreessen is no longer an issue. Tamme has 19 targets (13th in the league) to Dreessen’s nine. However, Tamme only has 10 catches for 87 yards and a score this season.

Old man Brandon Stokley is a problem as he is getting in the way of more production for Tamme and Eric Decker, but unless you’ve already gone to the wire and picked up Martellus Bennett, Brent Celek or Thursday night bust, Dennis Pitta, then there’s really nowhere you can go at tight end.

If Tamme is playing you play him and take solace in the fact that the Broncos take on a Raiders team that is 23rd against fantasy tight ends with 19 catches for 263 yards and a score.  

— Corby A. Yarbrough

Post date: Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 07:04
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-4-steven-jackson-jeremy-maclin-doug-baldwin

There are a few key fantasy contributors that have had a number of injury question marks surrounding their playing status leading up to Week 4 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little bit about these three and what you should consider.

Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks

Steven Jackson did not practice until Friday and that was on a limited basis. Now he gets Seattle’s defense — ninth best against fantasy running backs with 119 yards allowed on the ground and two scores and 18 catches for 136 yards and no scores allowed through the passing game.

Jackson is a RB3 — barely — through three weeks of the NFL season. He is the 36th-best fantasy back currently with 41 carries for 140 yards, six catches for 36 yards and no touchdowns via ground or air.

And whether it is Jackson, Daryl Richardson or current bust Isaiah Pead, the Rams are the third-worst team in the league in regards to fantasy RB production. They have just 259 yards and 10 catches for 63 yards with no scores either rushing or receiving.

Jackson ran for 42 yards with three catches for 19 yards in the first meeting at Seattle last season (Week 11) and followed with a 20-for-63-yard performance on the ground, a 3-for-60 performance through the air and one rushing score in a Week 14 home game.

The ONLY saving grace for Jackson in this game is his history indoors. He has played 78 of his 118 career games indoors and scored 43 of his 52 rushing touchdowns inside. But that’s where indoors stops.

Since he has nearly doubled his indoor games versus his outdoor games, Jackson’s yards per game and per carry are nearly identical and his catches and receiving yards per game are nearly identical.

Bottom line: If he were to miraculously have a good game today, sell, sell, sell.


Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants (Sunday night)

Listed as probable, Jeremy Maclin practiced in full every day this week and is expected to be back in the lineup Sunday night against the Giants. It is a friendly matchup for Maclin, however, it is a not-so-friendly matchup for his quarterback, Michael Vick.

This is a tough call, due to Vick’s play at quarterback through three weeks.

Do you start a No. 1 receiver against a Giants team that is fifth worst against fantasy receivers this season, having allowed five receivers to eclipsed 70 yards and having allowed five touchdowns?

Or do you think that Vick’s play — six interceptions and three fumbles to three touchdowns — being put to the test against the Giants solid pass rush will make it a bad day for both?

Vick, regardless of his turnovers and TD production, has thrown for 317, 371 and 217 yards in the first three games and Maclin drew a team-high 14 targets in the only full game he’s played this season (Week 1 at Cleveland).

You roll with Maclin, who was Vick’s favorite target at 7.4 a game (13 games) last season, and expect there will be plenty to go around in a game with a line of 47.5.


Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks vs. St. Louis Rams

Doug Baldwin is only being mentioned for two reasons: He is on the injury report (shoulder) and he had a preseason grade that made him a WR4.

Oops! The second-year receiver has three catches for 13 yards on seven targets in two games. He plays with a rookie quarterback in Russell Wilson who has thrown for 153 or less in the first three games and is completing 57 percent of his passes.

You can only play two Seahawks until further notice: RB Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle defense/special teams.

— Corby A. Yarbrough

Post date: Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-4-jared-cook-kenny-britt-mikel-leshoure

There are a few key fantasy contributors that have had a number of injury question marks surrounding their playing status leading up to Week 4 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little bit about these three and what you should consider.

Jared Cook, TE and Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans

Jared Cook is listed as questionable with a shoulder injury that forced an early exit from the Week 3 win over Detroit, which included a 61-yard touchdown for the inconsistent tight end. Kenny Britt, playing in his second game since last year’s season-ending knee injury, also lasted just one half before an ankle injury sent him to the sidelines. He too is listed as questionable.

After not practicing on Wednesday, Cook returned on Thursday and Friday. Now he gets a Texans team that is third best against tight ends, having allowed nine catches for 90 yards and a score through three games. Jacob Tamme had 10 targets for the Broncos against the Texans last week and finished the game with three catches for 31 yards.

And if a three-game sample’s not enough, the Texans were third best in 2011 as well. Cook went 4-for-63 on seven targets in the Week 17 meeting and 2-for-22 and a TD in the Week 7 meeting.

Six targets is the high for Cook this season and he received that number each of the first two weeks. The first week he turned it into four catches for 64 yards and he followed with a 3-for-23 performance in Week 2. Last week, he caught all four of his targets before the injury, finishing with 77 yards and the 61-yard touchdown.

Britt did not practice all week with the bum ankle and is not expected to play. And as they are doing to the tight end position, the Texans are not giving up much to fantasy receivers — also third best against the position. They have allowed just one receiving score to receivers and only 30 of 64 targets have been completed for 402 yards.

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings

What an NFL debut Mikel Leshoure had against the Titans last week. Yes, it was the Titans and their miserable run defense — fourth worst against fantasy running backs this year — but it was still his first full-speed, regular-season game since college.

However, following the 26-carry, 100-yard, one-touchdown and four-catch, 34-yard effort, Leshoure enters the Vikings game off of three straight limited practices with a groin injury. He is listed as questionable but is expected to play.

The Lions had no problem with Leshoure being the bellcow against the Titans as Kevin Smith, who had 35 touches the first two weeks, did not touch the ball against Tennessee.

The matchup today for Leshoure is not necessarily favorable. The Vikings are tops in the NFL against fantasy running backs, having allowed no scores and no rusher to eclipse Maurice Jones-Drew’s 77 yards in Week 1. And no back has more than MJD’s three Week 1 receptions.

Conversely, Minnesota is ranked 18th and 20th against fantasy QBs and WRs and Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford enters with a bum hip. Perhaps they rely more on Leshoure, but it is likely you have better options in the running game this week.

It is an early game so you will know the status of all involved.

— Corby A. Yarbrough

Post date: Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /news/portland-trail-blazers-wesley-matthews-paying-fantasy-owners

Who’s the fourth-best shooting guard in NBA fantasy nine-category leagues right now? Well, of course, it’s Portland Trail Blazer Wesley Matthews.

He is certainly paying big dividends for you if you grabbed him in your 2012 NBA fantasy draft — and you likely got him at a deal — a deal that’s easily giving a nice return on your investment so far.

Matthews entered the 2011-12 season with a Yahoo ADP of 72.1 — a top-of-the-sixth-round pick — and ESPN had him ranked 14th amongst shooting guards. Matthews was selected in the middle of the sixth round — right on schedule — in this year’s Athlon Sports one-man keeper NBA fantasy draft.

Matthews is the 14th best at something currently, but its 14th-best fantasy player overall in fantasy over the last seven days.

I know it’s early, and chances of Matthews keeping pace at one of the most loaded fantasy positions in the NBA is a tough task, but he did finish as the 10th-best shooting guard in nine-category fantasy leagues last season.

It will be hard for Matthews to get past the likes of Dwyane Wade, Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Martin and James Harden at the shooting guard spot in terms of fantasy, but his ADP in Yahoo leagues made him the 17th shooting guard taken and finishing top 10 has already been proven.

Now Brandon Roy is taken out of the mix with his retirement, opening up the door wider for Matthews.

In 69 games as the starter last season, he went for 16.9 points, 3.3 boards, 2.2 assists, 2.1 3-pointers and 1.4 steals in 36 minutes per game.

So far in the 2011-12 season, Matthews is a top-four shooting guard and top-15 player with less time than last season. He is playing 34:17 minutes per game with 15.4 points, 5.2 boards, 1.2 assists, 2.4 3-pointers and 1.4 steals.

A deep bench is something of a concern for Matthews fantasy owners, but he was a proven commodity last season and has already picked up where he left off. So have faith in him and reap the rewards of your sixth-round selection.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> The Blazer is a nice surprise for NBA fantasy owners this year</p>
Post date: Friday, January 6, 2012 - 10:40
Path: /nfl/cincinnati-bengals-sleeper-deep-afc-playoffs-run

This year’s version of the NFL playoffs start with two teams on the downslide, but the winner has a legitimate shot to make a quick turnaround and at least reach the AFC Championship Game.

The Cincinnati Bengals, who have not won a playoff game in 21 years, travel to play the Houston Texans, who are in the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s 10-year history, to open the NFL postseason on Saturday.

The pressure is on everyone in the playoffs, but in this particular game it has to be on Houston more. The Texans were supposed to be in the playoffs. They finally are and the game is at home. Plus, Houston has a victory over Cincinnati just one month ago.

Meanwhile, the Bengals, with their rookie quarterback, rookie receiver, new offensive coordinator, etc., were supposed to be terrible this season. Who would’ve thought they’d still be playing the second weekend in January?

Houston survived its injuries and was able to punch its playoff ticket with the win over the Bengals in Week 14 and secure a title in the miserable AFC South Division. It did not have to worry about a 1-3 record over the final month that sends the Texans limping into the playoffs.

Cincinnati has not been much better. It started the season 6-2 and collapsed with a 9-7 record, but a win over the Titans earlier in the season and the Jets falling in Week 17 allowed the Bengals to back step in as the No. 6 seed in the AFC and one of three teams from the AFC North in the playoffs.

It’s the first game in NFL postseason history where two rookies will start against one another. And the one that has been starting all season — Cincinnati’s A.J. Dalton — will be the one that helps the Bengals move on Saturday, and has a good chance of helping his team do so again the following week in New England and it’s terrible defense.

There are those initial feelings you get when you look at the playoff matchups as soon as they are lined up, and the Bengals knocking off the Texans is the first thought that jumped out to me when looking for an upset this week and perhaps even next against the top-seeded Patriots.

Which Cincinnati run defense will we get is about as big a question as which rookie QB will lead his team to victory. It was a tale of two halves for the Bengals this season. Only Denver (Week 2) ran for over 100 yards against the Bengals through the first eight games of the season, then came the back half of the schedule as six of the eight teams ran for over 100 yards — Pittsburgh (105), Baltimore (105), Cleveland (134), Pittsburgh (136), Houston (144), St. Louis (95), Arizona (59) and Baltimore (221).

Offensively, Cincinnati has Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott, who helped the Bengals rush for a decent-not-great 111.1 yards rushing per game (7th amongst the 12 playoff teams). The Bengals have a rookie receiver in A.J. Green who did not disappoint in his debut season (65-1,057-7). And Cincinnati has the No. 7 total defense — a defense that recorded a season-high five sacks the last time these two teams met.

With rookie QB T.J. Yates at the helm, Houston sends out running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate, helping to lead the Texans to 153 yards per game on the ground this season. Houston sends out injured but still top-notch receiver, Andre Johnson. Finally, the Texans bring the No. 2 total defense to the table.

However, the Texans have not won a game since the late comeback against the Bengals — they trailed by six with 2:33 left before Yates led the 80-yard, game-winning drive with a TD pass to Kevin Walter. In that game, the Bengals held Foster to 41 yards and Tate to 67 — 44 coming on a run in the first three minutes of the game — and the tight ends combined for 122 yards and a score.

Yates helped the Texans to three straight wins over Jacksonville, Atlanta and Cincinnati after taking over for the injured Matt Leinart, who took over for the injured Matt Schaub. Yates was in for the two losses to Carolina and Indianapolis and played just one series before exiting with an injured shoulder in the loss to Tennessee last week.

The Texans certainly do not rely on Yates to try and win them games, that’s what their running game and defense are for. I doubt we will see him attempt 44 passes again like he did the first time he played Cincinnati. But if it does come down to quarterback play, in the postseason I want to take the one that, albeit by just 11 more games, is the more seasoned one in Dalton.

Dalton has thrown 20 touchdowns to 13 interceptions this season and has just one interception since Week 11. Yates has three TDs and three picks since taking over in Week 12.

According to Pro Football Focus, this season Dalton was blitzed on 200 dropbacks and completed 56.4 percent of those passes for eight of his 20 touchdowns against two interceptions. The Texans love to blitz and Dalton could find success with Green, fellow receiver Jerome Simpson and tight end Jermaine Gresham.

Green does draw former Bengals’ defensive back, Jonathan Joseph, this weekend, but he had five catches for 59 yards and a 36-yard score against him in the last meeting, And according to PFF’s Mike Clay, Simpson has lined up wide left 63 percent of the time and the Texans have allowed seven scores to that spot, including one in four of their last five games.

Again, I’m not so sure one of the rookie quarterbacks will have to win the game, but I think I’m pushing my chips toward the one from Houston — the Houston suburbs of Katy, Texas — Andy Dalton as the quarterback less likely to lose the game.

Give me the proven connection of Dalton to Green over the unproven connection of Yates to Johnson. Then follow the same formula against a bad New England defense the next week and it’s on to the AFC Championship Game for a team that had to beg its fans to come out to the Week 17 game to avoid a television blackout.

Both teams have the formula to succeed in the postseason — a decent run game, one stud receiver and a solid defense. In fact, the Texans are statistically better at a majority of categories on both sides of the ball. Numbers, however, have been a funny thing in the NFL this season — fantasy football forecasting down the stretch taught me that. And I don’t think numbers will tell the whole story when this one is all over in Houston.

It’s been that kind of year for the NFL, so why stop in the postseason.

Cincinnati: the new Seattle for 2012.

By CorbyA. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> The Bengals could be the team that sneaks into the AFC Championship game</p>
Post date: Friday, January 6, 2012 - 07:34
All taxonomy terms: Jose Calderon, Toronto Raptors, News
Path: /news/toronto-raptors-jose-calderon-nba%E2%80%99s-third-best-fantasy-point-guard

It’s not like Jose Calderon came out of nowhere, but it’s just not a name you can consistently count on — read just 68 games played each of the last three seasons — in NBA fantasy. But the Toronto Raptors’ guard is currently the third-best point guard in nine-category leagues this season and fantasy’s 12th-best player overall.

Calderon goes into Friday night’s game against the visiting New Jersey Nets already with four double-doubles under his belt and shows no signs of slowing down. The ankle injury to Jerryd Bayless, and no timetable for his return, will help Calderon to keep logging the minutes.

Calderon has reached double digits in assists in four of six games and has 60 of them to just 10 turnovers. He has reached double digits in points in four games and is shooting 52.9 percent from the field. Calderon is also perfect from the free-throw line (9-of-9).

Add in 4.2 boards per game, and he is taking great point guard numbers and turning himself into a great player across all categories.

ESPN had Calderon ranked 23rd amongst fantasy point guards entering the season, and he held an ADP of 107.8 in Yahoo leagues — a late 11th, early 12th round selection in 12-team leagues. That’s exactly where he went in the Athlon Sports one-man keeper annual NBA fantasy draft — 11th in the 11th round.

Obviously, the presence of Bayless in the lineup pushed Calderon down the board, but Bayless isn’t in there now and Calderon was still getting 30-plus minutes per game prior to Bayless’ Dec. 30 ankle injury.

Calderon has seen his minutes this season rise seven minutes above his career average (27:48), his points per game go up by 2.4, his shooting percentage rise four points, his 3-point percentage rise seven points, his free-throw percentage rise over 12 points, his assists go up by three per game.

Yes, it’s early, as just six games have been played. But all signs are pointing up for Calderon.

The one thing that has consistently held him back is just being on the court. Calderon has played exactly 68 of 82 games the last three years and has played above 77 just twice in his seven-year career.

If he can stay healthy, hold Bayless at bay, keep those shooting percentages up, Calderon is going to be a great steal as a 12th-round point guard.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> Very few people saw Jose Calderon emerging before the season started</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 5, 2012 - 18:06
All taxonomy terms: Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/let-run-20-20s-begin-lakers-andrew-bynum

Nearly two weeks into the current NBA season, the 3-2 Clippers are still the big deal when it comes to grabbing headlines out of Los Angeles. But the news about one of the game’s best big right now still comes out of the Lakers’ camp.

Andrew Bynum, suspended the first four games of the season for his removing J.J. Barea from his shoes in last year’s Western Conference semifinals, has been on a tear — in reality and fantasy — since his shortened punishment came to an end.

The Lakers’ 7-foot 285-pound center has been back since Dec. 31 and is ranked 15th overall in fantasy and seventh at the center position in nine-category leagues over the last seven days.

During those seven days and three games leading up to tonight’s game at Portland, Bynum has played 32:40 a game, is shooting .622 from the field, .571 from the stripe and averaging 22.7 points, 17.0 boards and 2.0 blocks.

He enters tonight’s Trail Blazers game coming off his first career 20-20 game — 21 points and 22 rebounds — with three blocks in a team-high 38 minutes. And he said his conditioning is still not where he wants it to be.

The condition of Bynum has always been his problem as a reliable or dependable fantasy player.

A year after being drafted last in the fourth round of last year’s Athlon Sports one-keeper, two-starting centers draft — with nine keepers ahead of him, Bynum was selected as the fifth pick in the sixth round with five keepers ahead of him.

The draft drop came on the heels of Bynum averaging 11.3 points, 9.4 boards and 2.0 blocks in 54 games — just one below the 55.3 games he’s averaged for his career.

And it’s the 55.3 that scares most fantasy players — and certainly Lakers fans — more than any other number.

ESPN’s Brian McKitish, citing the injuries that have plagued Bynum his entire six-year career, gave him a preseason rank of 19th. In Yahoo leagues this season, Bynum had an average draft position of 67.5 this season, making him a late fifth-round pick. The Yahoo/Rotowire preseason kit gave Bynum a ranking of 15th at the center position, also giving him props for his upside but acknowledging that if healthy he’s a worthy gamble.

Bynum’s production will be off the charts if that number of games played is in the 70s. Add in the departure of Lamar Odom, being surrounded by a 33-year-old Kobe Bryant, a 31-year-old Pau Gasol and a condensed season means everyone that drafted Bynum, 24, got a helluva deal this year.

Let the run of 20-20s begin.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> The Los Angeles big man is finally living up to expectations</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 5, 2012 - 08:26
All taxonomy terms: Eli Manning, New York Giants, Victor Cruz, News
Path: /news/victor-cruz-store-second-straight-dud-week-16

Since becoming a major player in the New York Giants offense in Week 3, receiver Victor Cruz had his second-lowest output of the season in Week 15 against the Washington Redskins. Not the best time to have a dud for fantasy owners counting on him in their semifinals. But Cruz could be 2-for-2 in coming up short when the Giants face the Jets in Week 16.

Cruz had just 44 yards on five catches and nine targets against the 13th-ranked pass defense of the Redskins. His other dud was a two-catch, 12-yard game against Buffalo in Week 6.

Now Cruz and the Giants face the Jets and their seventh-ranked pass defense.

It is a pass defense that has only allowed nine touchdowns to receivers all season. Two of those came in the Week 1 game against Dallas, three came against Buffalo in Week 12 and only Kansas City’s Jerheme Urban has scored against them in the last three weeks.

Buffalo’s Steve Johnson is the only receiver to gain 70 or more yards on New York since its Week 8 bye. Johnson caught three balls for 84 yards in the Week 9 meeting and 77 yards and a score on four catches in Week 12. Outside of Johnson, Dwayne Bowe came closest to 70 yards when he needed 10 targets to grab six balls for 69 yards in Week 14.

Just since the Jets’ Week 8 bye, here are how a few totals for standout receivers not named Steve Johnson’ totals read out: Vincent Jackson 1-for-15, Wes Welker 6-for-46, Demaryius Thomas 2-for-37, Santana Moss 5-for-42, Jeremy Maclin 3-for-57 and DeSean Jackson 2-for-28.

The Week 15 dud ended a run for Cruz where he had not dipped below double digits since the Week 6 dud. In the seven games between, he scored 124 fantasy points for a 17.7-point per game average.

It’s hard to sit a receiver that has produced 17.7-points per game for a long stretch of the season and had two games above 24 points prior to that, but lower your expectations for Cruz against a Jets team that has been extremely stingy against receivers for a long stretch of the season as well.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> The Giants wide receiver needs to rebound for his fantasy owners</p>
Post date: Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 08:35
All taxonomy terms: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/sit-titans-running-back-chris-johnson-week-16

Tired of rolling with Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson? Me too.

I’ve held out for as long as I can — you know, until there was one game left in the majority of fantasy football leagues — hoping for the big runs, the string of big games and it just has not happened. Now he’s battling an ankle injury that, while is not expected to keep him out of the Week 16 game against visiting Jacksonville, surely doesn’t give optimism to using arguably fantasy football’s biggest bust of the 2011 season.

As Johnson struggled through the first half of the season, optimists like myself kept saying “just wait until the back half of that schedule and he will go off.” The first seven games he averaged 8.5 fantasy points per game in Athlon’s half-PPR scoring format; the last seven he’s averaged 12.1. A 3.6-point improvement is not the “going off” I was anticipating.

Johnson’s had four games above 100 yards — three coming since Week 10 — but he’s also had nine games below 60 yards — three coming since Week 10.

Last week’s dud against the Indianapolis Colts’ 30th-ranked run defense was the last straw for me — even before news of the ankle injury. And now he faces a Jacksonville team, ranked 14th against the run, which he opened the season against with a nine-carry, 24-yard day. His six catches for 25 yards is the only thing that saved you from a complete bomb from your RB1 in the opening week of the season — and that’s only if you are in PPR leagues.

If you are in PPR leagues, Johnson’s pass-catching abilities have somewhat eased the pain, but not enough to justify how high a draft pick he was in most leagues. He has a career-high 53 catches for 369 yards and no scores.

The only fantasy players probably getting any bang for their draft buck are the ones that drafted early in August while Johnson was in the height of his holdout this summer. They were able to get him in the late second, early third rounds.

Here’s a look at what Johnson’s holdout for $53 million has produced for you in three types of leagues thus far:
Non-PPR: 151.9 (10.85 ppg)
Athlon’s half-PPR: 179.4 (12.8 ppg)
Full-PPR: 205.9 (14.7 ppg)

This is after two years in which he scored 254.9 (15.9 ppg) and 374.7 (23.4 ppg) fantasy points in the Athlon format — and the 254.9 was considered a down year as he was a top-three pick in 2010 drafts.

So starting Johnson against the Jaguars this week comes down to what do you want from him? He’s on a bum ankle that he reportedly is having trouble cutting on, his home field is not the best track to be playing on this time of year and he averages just 12.8 points per game in Athlon’s half-PPR format.

Jacksonville is allowing 16.1 points per game to opposing teams’ lead ball carriers since Week 8. And if it’s worth anything, the only other team Johnson’s faced twice this season is the Colts, who held him to 55 yards last week and 34 in Week 8. So seeing a team a second time didn’t work out too well the first time this season for CJ.

Start Johnson at your own risk, but I’m done waiting on him.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> Tennessee's running back should be on your bench in week 16</p>
Post date: Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 08:30
Path: /news/adrian-peterson-going-come-through-fantasy-title-games

It’s championship week in fantasy football and we apparently have trust issues with the best back in the NFL. Well, it’s not so much trusting him as much as it is how the team uses him and what is actual health is.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson came back for the first time in three games when the Vikings played host to the New Orleans Saints in Week 15. He had been sidelined due to a high ankle sprain, and was limited to just 10 carries for 60 yards and a six-point fantasy day.

This week, Peterson travels to play a Washington team that has held the last two teams it has played in check rushing wise — New York Giants (91 yards) and New England (71) — but allowed 88 yards and three scores to Shonn Greene three weeks ago, 111 yards rushing and a receiving TD to Marshawn Lynch in Week 12, 47 yards and two scores to Reggie Bush in Week 10 and 107 yards to Frank Gore in Week 9 and 120 yards by Fred Jackson in Week 8.

So the question is two fold: What kind of run defense will the Skins provide and what kind of Peterson will we see?

There were mixed signals about how Peterson would be used heading into the Week 15 game. Coach Leslie Frazier said “we’ll have to kind of work him in there,” and “we’ll have to monitor how he’s doing.” Peterson acknowledged that he wanted to make good for fantasy players that had lost out on the game’s best back during a crucial stretch of the season, and sounded on his end like he was ready to go.

But 10 carries and six points are not going to get it done, particularly when it’s the semifinals of most fantasy football leagues. I guess it was better than the zero he gave us in Week 15 of last season when he was unexpectedly a scratch 45 minutes before kickoff of a Monday night game, leaving owners with a baron RB spot on the roster.

Last week turned out to lean more toward Frazier’s prophecy than Peterson’s assurance that he was ready for a full load. Yes, the Vikings got down early to the Saints and the team wanted to protect Peterson’s ankle, but who’s to say that won’t happen again today in Washington.

Minnesota has the third-highest scoring offense in the first quarter this season with 91 points, but it also allows the second-most first quarter points (92). And 63 of those 92 points allowed have come in the last six games, while the Vikings have mustered just 18 of their 92 first quarter points in the last six games.

That’s a troubling trend to get your running game going.

Peterson has 30 touches for 137 yards in the Vikings’ last six games. So he’s fresh, but is it healthy fresh? He reportedly didn’t look to have the same speed when he broke off a 39-yard run against New Orleans last week. He’s not on the injury report but he also hasn’t said he’s at 100 percent yet — of course no player really is after Week 1.

So last week was the “work him in there” quote about Peterson and this week came another Frazier gem that should scare fantasy owners: “We'd like to give him a few more carries for sure," Frazier said of Peterson. "But we do also want to mix Toby (Gerhart) in there. He did a good job for us. But we do want to get Adrian more carries."

We’d like to? We want to mix in Gerhart? You’re the coach. Just give Peterson the ball, please.

With the lack of conviction I’m hearing from Frazier in getting Peterson the full workload, admittedly wanting Gerhart to get more work than he had when the two backs were healthy, Minnesota possibly getting behind early again like it has in a big way the last six weeks and the Washington defense being relatively solid against fantasy RBs, particularly shared backfields. Peterson is quite a risk this week.

Like I said last week, if he’s out there and going to finish the game you can’t sit the NFL’s best at the position. But if he’s getting 10 carries and not getting into the end zone, under 10 points in the championship game from my No. 1 RB is not what I’m looking for.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> Should the Vikings running back be in your week 16 lineup?</p>
Post date: Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 08:23
Path: /news/arian-foster-and-joel-dreessen-are-only-two-texans-you-can-trust

Injuries and poor play are certainly mounting for the Houston Texans. But they play the Indianapolis Colts Thursday night and there just has to be points to be had by someone out there on the Texans, right?

That someone could be tight end Joel Dreessen, and he might be the only player on the Texans you can start besides stud running back Arian Foster.

The team’s best receiver, Andre Johnson, is out. You can’t trust quarterback T.J. Yates. You can’t trust the receiving corps that’s left in Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones. Backup running back Ben Tate has been limited in practice this week with a strained hamstring and is coming off a 3.5-point day against woeful Carolina. Owen Daniels is going to try and “give it a go” against the Colts with a knee issue.

That leaves just Dreeseen, who’s also dealing with a strained knee — not as bad as Daniels’ bruised knee — and has been a proven target for Houston QBs throughout the entire season.

Foster is going to get his, of course; he always does. The Colts, ranked 30th against fantasy running backs for the entire season, are actually seventh best against fantasy running backs over the last three weeks — 252 yards rushing, 2 TDs and 120 yards receiving on 13 catches.

So if the two receivers can’t be trusted, the back up running back and the No. 1 tight end are limited, it will come down to Foster and Dreessen to help produce a majority of the numbers. Of course Jones and Walter could come out of nowhere and do just that against this Colts defense, but if we’re talking proven commodities then only Foster and Dreessen can get the nods into a starting lineup in Week 16.

The Colts are ranked 29th this season against tight ends in Athlon’s half-PPR scoring format and are tied for the third-most TDs allowed (7). In the five of the last eight games, Indianapolis has allowed Jared Cook 103 yards on nine catches, Dennis Pitta three catches, 29 yards and a touchdown, Rob Gronkowski five catches, 64 yards and a two scores, Tony Gonzalez four catches, 36 yards and a score and Jimmy Graham six catches 54 yards and two scores.

Dreessen leads the Texans’ pass catchers with six touchdowns, and until last week against Carolina he had caught a TD in three straight games. Traditionally the yardage has not been there for Dreessen and neither have the targets — although he did have a nine-target, five-catch, 112-yard, 1-TD day against Oakland in Week 5 — but if the Texans’ offense is going to be this depleted, then maybe Thursday’s a night where he repeats Week 5. Even cut Week 5 in half, and you still have a 10-point day from a tight end — numbers I would take if I were struggling at a position.

Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> The Texans offense is getting killed with injuries</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 04:17
Path: /news/will-colts-donald-brown-do-anything-thursday-night

What do you want out of Donald Brown to consider the Indianapolis Colts running back a decent flex play against the Houston Texans in Week 16?

If it’s 10 points, then Brown could get you right at that number — and you might have to wait the entire 60 minutes for it to happen. There are two problems in playing Brown Thursday night: 1.) The Texans having allowed the lead ball carrier to cross the goal line just twice since Week 4. 2.) Brown’s own teammate, Joseph Addai.

Last week against the Titans it took a late, 80-yard touchdown to get Brown into double digits for the third time in four weeks — he was at 81 yards and one catch for two yards before the late score for (8.8 fantasy points).

Over the last four weeks Houston, No. 2 against fantasy RBs this season, has allowed a decent amount of yardage to feature backs.

Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 99 yards and had 67 receiving yards in Week 12, Cedric Benson had 91 yards rushing in Week 14 and DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 104 yards rushing and one TD. Williams last week and Jones-Drew in Week 8 are the only two lead ball carriers to get in the end zone since Week 4 against Houston.

But the larger scope, let’s say the last seven weeks, the Texans are allowing the lead back 9.01 fantasy points per game, while Brown is averaging 11.5 points per game in theat time.

Williams and Stewart are much like Brown and Addai. Williams had 15 carries to Stewart’s 11 last week and Williams posted 61 yards and a score to Stewart’s 43 rushing yards and two catches for eight yards. Last week against Tennessee, Brown had 16 carries, 161 yards and a score (80 on the one run) and one catch for two yards; Addai had 11 carries for 20 yards and two catches for seven yards. It’s the second time in three weeks that both Brown and Addai have had double-digit touches.

Obviously, Brown is the hotter hand, but with what the Texans have done in keeping opposing RBs out of the end zone for the majority of the season and Addai still chipping away at touches, I’d be hard-pressed to see the lead ball carrier for the Colts get into double digits.

And think the Texans aren’t embarrassed about seeing a seven-game win streak ended by the Panthers last week with a 1-13 Colts team on the horizon?

Let’s call it a split between what Brown is averaging and what the Texans are allowing, and if you are satisfied with 10 points from a flex, then throw Brown in your lineup.

Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> Can the Indy running back get you ten points?</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 04:15
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-waiver-wire-week-16

It’s Week 16 — fantasy football championship week for most of you, fantasy semifinals for some. Needless to say, if you’ve made it this far, you are biting your nails on which players you might be able to pick up to help get you that final push and either win a title or get to the title game. Surprisingly, there are still some names, albeit not household names, that could get you there.

Here are about 2,500 words on who can help you. Good luck in the playoffs.

Tim Tebow, Denver
This is just a heads up that Tebow is still available in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues. If you need a starting QB that has scored no lower than 16 points in six-point TD leagues since Week 4 and is going against a Buffalo defense that’s ranked 23rd against fantasy QBs, then Tebow’s your man.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota
He’s had games of 18.2, 10.9, 29.44, 14.34 and 22.54 in his last five outings and gets a Washington Redskins team, that although it held Eli Manning and New York to no passing TDs, are still 18th against fantasy QBs over the last five weeks. Manning managed 257 yards passing with three interceptions. He was the first QB not to throw a TD pass against the Redskins since Matt Moore in Week 10. The four QBs in between Moore and Manning averaged 240 yards, 2.3 scores and .5 interceptions. It’s a deep play, but one that could pay off with Percy Harvin on the other end as a receiver, two capable tight ends and backs that score as pass catchers out of the backfield. Ponder is available in 85 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Matt Moore, Miami
Even with a concussion, Moore threw for 271 yards and two TDs en route to a 19.68-point day against Miami. This week he gets the worst pass defense in the league in the New England Patriots. With Brandon Marshall as the No. 1, Davone Bess roaming around, Anthony Fasano at TE and Reggie Bush out of the backfield, Moore has plenty of option to get to the 17.8 he’s averaged over the last seven weeks, especially against this New England defense. He’s available in 82 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Kyle Orton, Kansas City
In his first start for the Chiefs, Orton completed 23-of-31 passes (74.2 percent) for 299 yards and managed just 11.46 fantasy points. But this week, he gets an Oakland team that is third-worst against fantasy QBs over the last five weeks and has allowed Matthew Stafford (391 yards and four scores), Aaron Rodgers (281 yards and two scores), Matt Moore (162 yards and two scores), Caleb Hanie (254 yards and two scores), Christian Ponder (211 yards and three scores) and Philip Rivers (274 yards and two scores) to have success. The Raiders have also racked up eight interceptions in that time, but the yardage and TDs allowed outweighs that for a QB like Orton that could get you the 16 to 18 points you need to win a title or advance to the Week 17 finals.

John Skelton, Arizona
He’s had fantasy days of 26.78 and 17.22 in his last two weeks in replacing the injured Kevin Kolb, who is still battling his concussion injury. The Cardinals travel to Cincinnati in Week 16 and the Bengals are 20th against fantasy QBs over the last five weeks, two of them being backups in T.J. Yates (300 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) and Kellen Clemens (229 yards and 1 TD). Moral of the story: Skelton has Larry Fitzgerald and you could do worse at QB. Skelton is available in 96 percent of Yahoo leagues.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo
He totaled 167 yards — 91 rushing and 76 receiving — and had two touchdowns against the Miami’s third-ranked rush defense. Now the Bills get a Broncos team that has allowed the last three “feature” backs they’ve faced to gain 336 yards rushing and 79 yards receiving on 11 catches but just one touchdown, and just allowed four New England running backs to rush for 123 yards and two score and 44 receiving yards. Spiller is available in 32 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Donald Brown, Indianapolis
Here we go again with Donald Brown. He was already having a decent day against the Titans and then busted off an 80-yard TD run to make it that much better. He finished with 16 carries for 161 yards and the score. It was Brown’s third game in double digits in the last four weeks. This Thursday night, the Colts get the Texans, who were just embarrassed by the Panthers. Houston is still No. 2 in the league against fantasy RBs, but over the last four weeks it has allowed Maurice Jones-Drew to run for 99 yards and get 67 receiving yards, Cedric Benson 91 yards rushing and DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart 104 yards rushing and one TD. Brown is available in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Kahlil Bell, Chicago
In the week we were trying to determine which backup would have the best week — Ricky Williams, John Kuhn or one of the Saints’ trio — it was Bell who killed it. He had 15 carries for 65 yards and 43 yards receiving on five catches with a score. The Bears travel to Green Bay for the lone Sunday game of the week, and if Bell is going to continue to get games of 14 and 20 touches like he’s had the last two weeks then he’s a decent flex play for the second week in a row. He’s available in 92 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Toby Gerhart, Minnesota
Leslie Frazier said in advance of the Week 15 game against New Orleans that Adrian Peterson would be worked back in. His work was just 10 carries for 60 yards and a six-point fantasy day after three weeks off with a high ankle sprain. Gerhart didn’t get much of a workload either, but he scored 19.8 points thanks to two receiving scores, 46 yards on four catches and just 12 rushing yards. This is another desperate flex play for those owners that have been killed at the RB position by injuries or complete lack of performance. Gerhart is available in 55 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Lance Ball, Denver Broncos
Ball’s just a player to keep an eye on. Willis McGahee has been banged up and had to leave Sunday’s game against New England for a time. Ball had 11 caries for 64 yards and a score and added two catches for 41 yards. Keep an eye on McGahee’s status for Week 16 against Buffalo — ranked 29th against fantasy RBs. Ball is available in 88 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Christopher Ivory, New Orleans
It’s hard to know which Saints RB to trust, but in the last three weeks, Ivory has had at least 13 carries and at least 53 yards. He’s gone 15-for-67, 13-for-53 and 18-for-74 to lead the team Sunday against Minnesota. If Mark Ingram (turf toe) continues to be sidelined and you need a flex back because injuries have decimated your lineup, you could do a lot worse than Ivory. The Saints play host to a tough Falcons run defense this week, but Maurice Jones-Drew just managed 92 yards against them in a blowout. Ivory is available in 96 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Sammy Morris, Dallas
Signed off the streets after the season-ending injury to DeMarco Murray last week, Morris got more work than probably expected Saturday against the Buccaneers. He had 12 carries for 53 yards and was targeted twice out of the backfield. The Cowboys are not going to let Felix Jones be the bell cow, so there is work to be had for Morris. So again, this is another desperation play for those dying at RB, but one that could come through with 15 or so touches. He is available in 99 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver
He’s still available in 66 percent of Yahoo leagues probably because of our distrust in Tim Tebow’s arm. But he was going up against one of the worst pass defenses in recent memory in the New England Patriots and came through with seven catches for 116 yards on a team-high 13 targets. That was a week after seven catches for 78 yards and a score against Chicago and two weeks after a four-catch, 144-yard performance against Minnesota. Now the Broncos get a Buffalo team that is ranked 16th against fantasy receivers.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland
The Raider receiving corps can’t seem to all be healthy at once and Heyward-Bey is reaping the benefits. He has had fantasy days of 9.8, 11.3 and 24.5 in the last three weeks and had a four-week run in Weeks 4-7 where he scored no less than 11.2 points. That’s seven days of at least 9.8 points and six of at least 11. That’s a number I would take as a flex considering the injuries and inconsistencies at the position this season. Playing against Kansas City’s two Brandons — Carr and Flowers — and the Chiefs being fourth-best against fantasy WRs does present a problem in Week 16, however. Heyward-Bey is available in 74 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Greg Little, Cleveland
The rookie had the best day of his career in Week 15 when he caught five balls for 131 yards and a score. It was a 21.6-point day and his best by 6.1 points this season. He can thank a 76-yard TD reception in the third quarter for the bulk of his points, but he’s still the most targeted Brown by far (108) this season. The Browns travel to play a Baltimore team this week that was picked apart by Philip Rivers. It’s unlikely the Browns will do that, and a repeat of the 4.3-point performance Little had in Week 13 against the Ravens is much more likely than the 21.6-point effort from Sunday. He is available in 85 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Malcom Floyd, San Diego
A model of inconsistency throughout his career, Floyd has had two 18-point fantasy days sandwiched around a 3.9-point day over the last three weeks. This week, the Chargers travel to play a Detroit team, ranked 23rd against fantasy receivers, that Carson Palmer just threw for 365 yards and a score and overthrew two more long-ball scores against the Lions with the Raiders’ lackluster receiving corps. Floyd is available in 49 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Nate Burleson, Detroit
Here we go again. Is it going to be Burleson or Titus Young as the opposite to Calvin Johnson? It seems to be one or the other every week. Burleson has posted four double-digit days in the last six games, including 17.6 points against the Raiders in Week 15 (7-81-1). But his last four games have been 17.6, 4.1, 11.8 and 7.5. In the two down games, Young had 16.7 and 8.1. The Lions get San Diego in Detroit this week and the Chargers have been solid against receivers, ranking seventh in the league vs. the position this season. Burleson is available in 58 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Andre Roberts, Arizona
A complete reach, but Roberts has had fantasy days of 15.7, 8.8 and 14.1 in the last three weeks, grabbing 16 of 21 targets during that time. He had a season-high 10 targets, catching six balls for 60 yards and a score against a stingy Browns pass defense. Now the Cardinals travel to play a Bengals team that is ranked 15th against fantasy receivers.

Dez Briscoe, Tampa Bay
He got back into the starting lineup in Week 15 because of injury to Arrelious Benn — and should’ve been there all along. He’s caught 26 of 39 targets for 328 yards and four scores this season. One fear is that Carolina is ninth-best against fantasy receivers because its defense against the run is bad. So this could be a LeGarrette Blount-Kregg Lumpkin type of game, but you can’t trust them, either. And it’s not as if the Bucs’ defense will put up much of a fight; so Briscoe might have more opportunities. Briscoe did have a score against the Panthers in Week 13 as five targeted receivers combined for 188 yards and Briscoe’s score.

Jabar Gaffney, Washington
The connection with Rex Grossman continues to be there and Gaffney continues to come through as a good flex. He caught a team-high six balls for 85 yards against the Giants for a 12.5-point fantasy day in Week 15. He has had at least five catches and 72 yards in four of the last five games. This week, the Skins play host to a Vikings team that is ranked 30th against fantasy receivers. Gaffney is available in 46 percent of Yahoo leagues.

David Nelson, Buffalo
In a full-PPR he could be a good play against the Broncos in Week 16. Denver should have no trouble against the bad Buffalo defense, and Steve Johnson should draw Champ Bailey in coverage. Again, only a PPR play, but Nelson caught six balls for 60 yards against Miami in Week 15 and has always been a red zone target for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick this season. He is available in 58 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Brent Celek, Philadelphia
He had five catches for 156 yards, including a 73-yard catch he took to the 1-yard line. After being invisible the first five weeks, he has scored at or above nine points in six games. Celek gets a Dallas team in Week 16 that is 24th against fantasy TEs. Somehow he’s still available in 63 percent of Yahoo leagues when he should have been scooped up by midseason.

Anthony Fasano, Miami
He’s had three TDs since Week 9, including one in Week 15 against tbe Bills. It was one of just two catches for 28 yards, so the TD helped. The two weeks prior, Fasano had 56 and 66 yards receiving. The Dolphins travel to New England to take on the worst pass defense in the league in Week 16. Fasano is available in 93 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Jared Cook, Tennessee
The epitome of talent gone to waste thus far for the Titans. Cook has reached at least nine points just three times this season and Sunday was one of those games. He caught a season-high nine catches for 103 yards against the Colts. Obviously, you can’t trust him, but if Jake Locker starts for Matt Hasselbeck then there is the old “tight end’s a young QB’s best friend” theory. Tennessee plays host to Jacksonville this week, which is ranked 25th against fantasy tight ends. Cook is available in 74 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Jeremy Shockey, Carolina
Like Fasano, Shockey had just two catches and one went for a score in Week 15. That is back-to-back weeks with touchdowns for Shockey, and now the Panthers play a Tampa Bay team that is middle of the road against the tight end position, but have allowed 77 yards to the position each of the last two weeks. He splits time with Greg Olsen, but if you are desperate for a TD Shockey is available in 94 percent of Yahoo leagues.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> Tim Tebow, Kahlil Bell and Darrius Heyward-Bey lead the way for championship week</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 08:31
Path: /news/jonathan-joseph-means-bad-news-panthers-steve-smith-week-15

It’s the semifinals of most fantasy football leagues and you have a dynamic receiver in the Carolina Panthers’ Steve Smith going against the Houston Texans in Week 15. But he and you could not have drawn a worse matchup.

Smith will likely draw Johnathan Joseph in coverage. One of the league’s top corners, Joseph hasn’t allowed a TD since Week 9 and has allowed just two all year, according to Pro Football Focus. He has only given up 34 yards or more once since Week 6 and that came last week against the Bengals and 6-4 rookie A.J. Green who had five catches for 59 yards— 36 yards coming on one play. The 36-yarder is the longest play Joseph has allowed since Week 6.

So in starting Smith you have to hope the Panthers will be moving him all over the field, letting him find seams and empty pockets with which to catch the ball and go to work. But just two TDs allowed by Joseph all season and just one game above 67 yards allowed by Joseph all season certainly has to be a scary proposition to think about when you shift Smith into your starting lineup.

Smith, who was quiet last year with the terrible QB play the Panthers had, came out like gangbusters in 2011. He had a 33.8-point game right out of the gate and followed with 16.2 before a 2.5 dud in Week 3. He bounced back in Week 4 with 22.10 points, followed by 15.4, 9.1 18.4 and 20.7 by Week 8. Seven of his first eight games he scored at least 9.1 points and six of his first eight he scored at least 15.4 — you couldn’t ask for much more from a mid-to-late-round pick by most drafters.

But then the inconsistent fantasy days followed more often than not. Week10, coming off a bye, was 5.8 points, followed by 15.1, 9.2, 4.2 and last week’s 15.5.

In the last two wins, Smith has not been a good play; in the last two losses he has scored at least 15 points. Herein lies the problem. It’s safe to say the visiting Panthers are going to get gashed by Houston RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate and be down in this game from the jump. So the trend of Smith scoring well when the team is losing could continue.

However, the Texans have won seven in a row by an average of 15 points per game and the hopes of Smith racking up points as part of a trailing team could be shutdown by Joseph, who over those last seven games has allowed 17 catches, for 192 yards and one TD — 2.4 catches, 27.4 yards and .14 TDs per game for an average of 4.78 fantasy points in Athlon’s half-PPR format.

So you take Smith’s inconsistencies versus Joesph’s consistency and I’m shying away from the veteran receiver in Week 15.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> Carolina's top receiver has a tough match up in Jonathan Joseph</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:37
Path: /news/if-lions-rb-kevin-smith-active-hell-run-through-raiders

If Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith is active, you play him against the Oakland Raiders in Week 15.

It’s as simple as this. You saw what Ryan Grant did last week against the Raiders right? He came out of nowhere, and busted off a 47-yard TD run in the first three minutes that no one thought he could still do and finished with 85 yards and two scores on the day.

Smith aggravated a high ankle sprain in Week 13 and had an exit that frustrated many owners in what would have been a good matchup against the New Orleans Saints. He sat out last week’s game against Minnesota and has been limited in practice this week while he deals with the injury.

The running back situation is such that it’s hard to be wrong because there aren’t that many healthy ones left to have to make a decision. But in weeks like this where Rashard Mendenhall, Frank Gore have matchups that barely make them worth plays; Adrian Peterson is coming back from a three-game layoff due to a high ankle injury of his own and Michael Turner, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeGarrette Blount and Felix Jones have already played, with a matchup that’s easy on paper, it would certainly be nice to have Smith in the fold.

The Raiders are ranked 28th this season against fantasy running backs and are 21st the last three weeks. Since Week 9, Oakland has allowed Willis McGahee to run for 163 yards and two scores on 20 carries, Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews to combine for 130 total yards, Matt Forte and Matt Forte and Marion to combine for 147 total yards, Reggie Bush 100 yards rushing and a score and Ryan Grant and John Kuhn 144 total yards and two scores. They were also the benefactors of Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte having to exit early due to injuries against them.

Detroit hasn’t been the model team when it comes to running the ball this season — it ranks 24th in rushing at 100.5 per game and is ranked 21st with just eight rushing TDs from its running backs — but if Smith is active he will be a good workhorse to help control a game the Lions should be in control of as the Raiders are reeling as of late.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> Detroit's running back has a nice match up, if he can get on the field</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:34
Path: /news/continue-ride-hot-redskins-rookie-rb-roy-helu

He continues to get it done since coach Mike Shanahan made the correct call and decided to let the rookie be the main ball carrier in Washington. Now he gets a Giants defense that has been more than friendly over the past few weeks to not only running backs but wide receivers as well.

Good news for Helu owners, he can be both for you.

Helu has 73 carries for 334 yards and 13 receptions and 102 yards over the last three weeks. That’s an average of 24.3 carries for 111.3 yards to go with 4.3 catches for 34.0 yards and two TD in just the last three weeks.

Yes, please.

And that’s before you’ve seen the numbers the Gitans have allowed the last five weeks.

The Giants have allowed Felix Jones to come off the bench and get 106 yards rushing on 16 carries and 31 yards on six catches last week. They allowed Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles to combine for 163 yards rushing on 29 carries and seven catches for 89 yards and two scores in Week 12; they allowed LeSean McCoy to rush for 113 yards on 23 carries and add a non-McCoy like two yards on three catches in Week 11.

All told, since Week 10, the Giants have allowed 558 yards rushing on 115 carries (4.9 YPC) and 25 catches for 196 yards and three total touchdowns. They aren’t giving up much via the end zone, but they sure are letting backs run up and down the field en route to the goal line.

In addition to the terrible run defense, the Giants pass defense is ranked 29th and has allowed more TDs and less interceptions than the Patriots (24-15 to 21-18). So the Redskins might actually be able to stay in this one to keep Helu relevant as a pure runner.

The hope of course is that Shanahan does not come and screw us Helu owners in our semifinal weeks, but this looks to be showcase time for the 4-9 Redskins and there’s no better player on the team to showcase right now than Roy Helu.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> Helu should continue to put up big fantasy numbers in Week 15</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:28
All taxonomy terms: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, News
Path: /news/chargers-philip-rivers-just-edge-qb1-status-against-ravens

Numbers can certainly be skewed when it comes to who has done what against whom in recent weeks in the NFL. Safe to say this is what we are dealing with when it comes to looking at San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers as QB1 against Baltimore in Week 15.

The Ravens No. 1 against fantasy QBs this season and are ranked third against them over the last five weeks, but have faced the likes of Dan Orlovsky, Colt McCoy, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton and Tarvaris Jackson.

However, it is not just the below-average QBs the Ravens have been able to give trouble.

They have had five games against veteran, fantasy-start worthy QBs this season — Ben Roethlisberger twice, Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Sanchez and Matt Schaub — and those five averaged 261.4 yards per game with four total TDs and six interceptions for an average of just 12.9 fantasy points per game amongst them.

So the numbers say the yards are there to be had for veteran QBs, but the TDs will be limited to one per game and all of the veterans were intercepted at least once.

This is where the problem lies when it comes to starting Rivers. After a struggling start to the season — 11 TDs, 14 interceptions and three lost fumbles over the first nine games — he is now more protective of the ball in the air. He has thrown 11 TDs to three INTs over the last five games and no picks in the last three games; he does have two lost fumbles in the last five games.

The yardage has always been there for Rivers this season. Only twice has he dipped below 240 yards. He has five games above 16 points in his last six outings. But can he survive behind his offensive line’s struggles going against this defense for long enough to have the good outweigh the bad?

It is unlikely the Chargers’ ground game will get going against the No. 2-ranked rush defense. So Rivers will have to have success through the air. Rivers has Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and rookie Vincent Brown at his disposal. The only troublesome trio Baltimore has had to face this season is that of the Steelers twice (280 and 330 yards in the two meetings). Rivers also has tight end Antonio Gates, who is unlike any other the Ravens have had to face this year, and he gives the Chargers four targets with which to work in addition to Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews as pass catchers out of the backfield.

In three games vs. Baltimore, Rivers averages 276.7 yards passing with six TDs and three interceptions. The Week 15 game is in San Diego, on national television and Rivers is throwing for 285 yards per game with 13 TDs and eight interceptions in seven home games this season — six of which came in the first nine weeks of the season.

And there’s Rivers’ December numbers over his career — 25 games, 22 wins, 5,754 yards, 46 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for a 102.0 QB rating.

Rivers is not a top-12 QB for me this week, because I don’t trust his offensive line to keep him upright, but I would still start him ahead of his opponent Joe Flacco as well as Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> Rivers needs to shake off his rust against the top-flight Ravens</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:28
All taxonomy terms: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers, News
Path: /news/antonio-brown-will-shine-steelers-49ers-defensive-struggle

Something’s got to give when the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to San Francisco for a Week 15 Monday night game. And Antonio Brown might be the one to help blow it open for the Steelers.

The San Francisco 49ers have the No. 1 rushing defense in the league at 70.5 yards allowed per game and no touchdowns surrendered. No back has eclipsed 64 yards rushing this season. But they also bring just the 19th-ranked passing defense that allows 234.5 yards per game with 18 touchdowns allowed and 18 interceptions. The Steelers are ranked sixth against the run (97.0 YPG) with six TDs allowed and No. 1 against the pass (179.1 YPG).

San Francisco brings the seventh-ranked rushing offense (126.9 YPG) and 29th-ranked passing offense (182.1 YPG). Pittsburgh brings the ninth-ranked passing offense (257.1 YPG) with 21 TDs and 11 interceptions and the 17th-ranked rushing offense (114.5 YPG).

Advantage: Steelers passing game.

However there are two BIG question marks heading into the game. First, whether Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) will start and secondly, whether he will have enough time to be productive behind a beat up offensive line. Center Maurkice Pouncey has already been declared out. The 49ers are ranked 14th in the league with 32 sacks.

So let’s assume the 17th-ranked run game of the Steelers is shut down by the top-ranked run defense of the 49ers as we all expect and Pittsburgh will be able to have success through the air. If it’s Roethlisberger, the deep ball can still be there, if it’s Charlie Batch in for Big Ben, then Brown can still be productive as the receiver that can catch passes all over the field.

In PPR leagues, Brown should thrive. And in non-PPR leagues, he showed that if you wait he will pay off — see his 79-yard TD catch in the closing minutes to help the Steelers beat the Browns two Thursdays ago.

Brown has been targeted 24 times in the last four weeks for 16 catches, 385 yards and one score. That’s just the last month, In the three games before that, Brown was targeted 35 times — 35 TIMES — for 21 catches, 278 yards and a score.

Since Week 10, the 49ers have allowed four receivers to eclipsed 60 yards — Mario Manningham (6-77-1), Victor Cruz (6-84-0), Anquan Boldin (4-63-0) and Larry Fitzgerald (7-149-1) and have given up six total touchdowns to receivers in those five weeks.

You hope that Big Ben can play and be mobile enough to keep his solid connection going with Brown, but even if it’s Batch it is hard to sit a top-12 fantasy receiver over the last four weeks, on a team that is ninth in passing, going against a 49ers team that gives up the pass and will struggle to find any offense — ground or air.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> The emerging Steelers wide receiver should break through against San Fran</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:24
Path: /news/you-have-sit-ben-roethlisberger-against-49ers-monday-night

First off, this is written Sunday morning before the Week 15 early games kick off. With that in mind, and knowing you have to set your lineup here in the next couple of hours, can you honestly take the chance that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may not play Monday night in San Francisco?

This is the semifinals. This is the quarterback position we are talking about. That’s a big position to leave up to hope for more than 24 hours after the rest of your lineup has finished their games.

Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle sprain against the Cleveland Browns two Thursdays ago but managed to get himself back in the game after halftime, limp around in the pocket and be productive. Eventually, he found Antonio Brown for the game-winning 79-yard touchdown pass down the sidelines in the closing minutes.

Eleven days removed from that injury and one cross-country flight later, we are all hoping that Roethlisberger can play because we know the Steelers aren’t going to be able to run against the 49ers’ top-ranked rushing defense (70.5 yards per game) that has allowed no rushing touchdowns. So we would like to feel confident that Big Ben will be out there to make other fantasy stars we count on valuable in the semifinals — namely receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.

I think the 49ers’ 19th-ranked pass defense that allows 234.5 yards per game will still be vulnerable with Charlie Batch as the Steelers’ signal caller, so Wallace and Brown should be safe starts. Pittsburgh has the ninth-ranked passing offense in the league at 257.1 yards per game with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The 49ers, in addition to being ranked 19th against the pass have allowed 18 TDs with 18 interceptions.

But it all seems tied in to the health of Roethlisberger.

He sat out three practices before participating Friday, something the coaches said they wanted to see him do before they made a decision on his status. Roethlisberger has certainly proven his toughness over the years, even in coming back into the Cleveland game in which he suffered the latest injury. Can he backpedal enough to get out of the way of the pass rush that is certain to come from the 49ers’ defensive line — one that won’t have to deal with center Maurkice Pouncey now that he’s already been declared out? Can he step into his throws to make accurate connections with Wallace and Brown?

There are just too many question marks surrounding Roethlisberger for me to wait until Monday night to see if he can go. And if he does go, will he be able to make it through the entire game as an effective QB?

Unless you want to pick up San Francisco’s Alex Smith now and wait if you have no other options, then might I suggest Christian Ponder, Rex Grossman, Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton or even Kyle Orton to get garbage-time production against the Packers.

And if you do go the Smith route, keep in mind he faces the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense and its sixth-ranked rush defense. Good luck.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> You can't take a chance that the Steelers quarterback will sit out</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:10
All taxonomy terms: New York Jets, Shonn Greene, News
Path: /news/can-shonn-greene-keep-it-going-against-eagles

Oh, Shonn Greene are you teasing us or is this for real?

The New York Jets’ running back has certainly paid off for those of us who waited all season for him to do just that. He has three straight double-digit weeks for the first time this season and now faces a Philadephia Eagles defense that is ranked 18th against the run at 115.1 yards per game. However, the Eagles have given up the eighth-most rushing yards to RBs the last three weeks (355).

Greene had 10.5 points against Buffalo in Week 12, busted off his season high of 30.9 points in Week 13 against Washington and came back with 26.2 points against Kansas City last week. And this is with QB Mark Sanchez having three rushing touchdowns the last five weeks. It has helped that Greene has added nine catches for 96 yards — 14.1 points in Athlon’s half-PPR scoring fotmat — to help counter Sanchez vulturing those scores.

But is this a mirage or can we start Greene in the semifinals of our fantasy football playoffs?

Well, the Jets are facing Michael Vick and a still high-powered yet inefficient Eagles offense, Run the ball, control the clock and keep Vick off the field. Greene can certainly help the Jets do that.

New York allowed Reggie Bush to run for 103 yards n 14 carries and get five catches for 27 yards last week in Miami. A week earlier, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch gashed the Jets for 148 yards and two scores on 22 carries. Lynch and Bush are two of six runners to gain over 100 yards against the Jets and two of eight to get at least 86.

Greene needs to get in the end zone to make it a successful day, and he has done that four times in the last three games after having done it just twice in the previous 11 games. He has games of 78, 88 and 129 yards rushing the last three games after having just two games above 78 in the previous 11. He has three games of three catches in a row after having just one game of over three catches in the previous 11.

So it has either clicked for Greene or he is peaking at just the right time. Whatever it is, the combination of his recent performances and that of the Eagles against opposing running backs makes Greene a solid start in Week 15.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> The Jets running back might finally be living up to expectations</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 09:09
Path: /news/rashard-mendenhall-not-even-flex-play-against-49ers

This is not what you like to write about a player you helped project as a top-10 fantasy pick in Athlon Sports’ 2011 fantasy football magazine, but Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall can’t even be considered a Flex1 against the San Francisco 49ers Monday night.

I’d love to say the factors are the beat up offensive line, or that Charlie Batch may have to start in place of Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback or it’s just because the San Francisco rush defense is just too good to waste your time. All those are certainly factor, but in regards to how a true first-round back should perform, Mendenhall hasn’t really been worth an RB1 or RB2 slot all season — and he’s one of the few workhorse backs left.

Mendenhall has had just one game over 100 yards — a 23-for-146 effort against Jacksonville in Week 6 — and all the other games have been 76 yards or less, including eight at 60 or less. He has banged out the occasional two-TD game — Weeks 10 and 13 to help offset rushing days of 60 and 44 yards in those two contests — but otherwise has gone six games without a score. And as a pass-catcher, forget it. He had at least had 23 or more catches the last two years; this year he has just 13.

So that’s just the 13 games leading up to the matchup against the 49ers. The resurgent team from San Francisco is tops in the league in rushing defense and have basically made starting a player against it a waste of a roster spot.

The 49ers allow just 70.5 yards per game and have not surrendered a touchdown. No back has eclipsed 64 yards rushing this season; so at least Mendenhall will feel comfortable that he’s right at home with these numbers.

Like Frank Gore on the 49ers’ side, who also is just barely a flex going against the Steelers’ sixth-ranked rushing defense (97.0 YPG) that has allowed just six TDs this season and only two to running backs since Week 5, Mendenhall would probably need a turnover deep in San Francisco territory or a trip inside the 5 to have a legitimate chance at scoring a TD.

One thing going for Mendenhall is that he has five scores in the last five games — none coming beyond 10 yards. So he is clearly the go-to guy around the goal line. The Steelers can get down there with their passing offense going against the 49ers’ 19th-ranked passing defense that allows 234.5 yards per game.

But at what cost do you play a RB like Mendenhall who will go up against a team that gives up the pass but still has not allowed a single rushing TD this season?

Injuries might have killed you this season and you are forced to start Mendenhall, and I am sorry for that. But if you also have players like Willis McGahee, Cedric Benson, Pierre Thomas, Brandon Jacobs, Ben Tate, Marion Barber, Donald Brown, I would pop them in before the Pittsburgh back if for nothing but the upside.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> The Steelers running back is in the worst fantasy spot against San Francisco</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 08:53
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald, News
Path: /news/larry-fitzgerald-has-brutal-match-do-you-have-guts-sit-him

The long ball will need to be Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s friend in Week 15 if he plans on having success against Cleveland Browns standout corner Joe Haden.

Haden got burned two Thursdays ago on a late pass to Antonio Brown, who turned it up field for a 79-yard touchdown to help win the game for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Prior to that catch, Haden had limited receivers to two catches for 21 yards on two targets.

A week earlier, Haden was targeted four times against Baltimore and allowed no catches. In Week 12, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green caught three balls for 110 yards, Haden giving up a long of 51 to Green during the final minute of the game. Green also had gains of 35 and 24 yards against the Browns.

So the moral of the story: You better hope Fitzgerald breaks a big one to be a decent producer for you in fantasy football.

Outside of the 51-yarder to Green and the 79-yarder to Brown, Haden had not given up a pass longer than 41 yards this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Green was also on the receiving end of that play, his only catch of their Week 1 game that went for one of the three scores Haden’s allowed this season.

As for consistent production, receivers have pretty much just been able to get long-ball bulk over the last five weeks. Haden gave up 79 of his 94 yards on the catch to Brown last week. He gave up no yards in Week 13. He gave up 125 yards in Week 12 against Cincinnati with the late 51-yard play and another 35-yard catch. He allowed 73 yards against Jacksonville with a long of 28 and 48 yards against St. Louis with a long of 24. In that time, Haden’s been targeted 31 times and given up 17 catches.

Fitzgerald’s 6-3 frame and ability to go up and grab any ball certainly puts him in the category to be able to get a long ball from QB John Skelton. And having Skelton, who’s willing to push the ball down field more than Kevin Kolb, will be a benefit for Fitzgerald today. But the numbers do say that Fitzgerald’s likely success will come from a long ball as opposed to consistent production.

The Browns do have the second-ranked pass defense thanks to being thrown on a league-low 27.6 times per game thanks to their 31st-ranked rush defense (150.9 yards per game). So this could be a game where Beanie Wells gets going again.

You would hope the run game would open up room for Fitzgerald, but Haden knows he is taking on one of the game’s best for the first time in the NFL, and for the most part of 60 minutes per game this season he has not backed down from his responsibilities.

Fitzgerald is coming off a 7-for-149-1 TD game with a long of 53 in there against the 49ers. His other longs of the season include 73, 47, 66, 42 and 41. You have to lower your expectations against Haden, but you can’t sit a receiver like Fitzgerald.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> The Arizona Cardinals wide receiver could be held in check, but what can you do</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 08:53
Path: /news/if-james-starks-and-brandon-saine-are-out-play-ryan-grant-if-two-are-active-sit-both

Green Bay Packers running backs James Starks (ankle) and Brandon Saine (concussion) are game-time decisions in Week 15 against the Kansas City Chiefs. And this makes the status of the aforementioned as well as Ryan Grant completely up in the air in regards to their use in fantasy football.

It’s the semifinals of the fantasy football playoffs for most, and game-time decision is not something we like hearing this time of year. We are already biting our nails with every decision we make anyway, and having already had two games in the books on Thursday and Saturday that we may or may have not chosen wisely makes setting your rosters in the next few hours even more crucial.

I was completely off about Ryan Grant as the lead back last week against Oakland. Saine’s concussion certainly helped Grant get more looks, but he hadn’t done anything all season, the Packers’ backs hadn’t done anything all season and Grant busts off a 47-yard TD run in the first three minutes and then scores on a 6-yarder in the middle of the second quarter.

Grant finished with two scores and 85 yards on 10 carries. Starks’ one TD in Week 1 was the only other TD a Green Bay feature back had scored this season, and the Packers, despite beating teams by an average of 13.2 points per game coming into the Oakland beatdown, were 22nd in rushing attempts per game at 25.7 and 29th in rushing yards per game (96.5). Guess that philosophy changed against the 28th-ranked Raiders.

If Grant is the only back available in Week 15, you might as well roll with him again.

The Packers will be without No. 1 receiver Greg Jennings but have plenty of other targets for Aaron Rodgers to find and keep the offense moving just as efficiently as they have all season. And they should be up again on a Chiefs team that allows 23.5 points per game (23rd), 341.8 yards per game (15th), 209.3 yards per game in the air (10th) and 132.5 yards per game on the ground (26th).

The Chiefs are seventh worst against fantasy running backs this season and have allowed 133.4 yards rushing per game and 41 yards receiving per game with three scores to the position over the last five weeks.

But if Saine can return, he steals looks from Grant and has better hands out of the backfield. If Starks returns, we already know how that worked with Grant and Starks together — Grant was practically invisible.

Starks reportedly had trouble getting his ankle to respond this week and did not practice. Saine did not practice this week, either. If the 13-0 Packers feel they can get it done against the 5-8 Chiefs with Grant and fullback John Kuhn alone, and they should be able too, then there would be no reason for a playoff team to risk the health of their two younger backs.

This is one of those games where if all three are active I avoid all three as you did all season prior to Starks’ injury, but if Grant is the only one then he’s a must play as a flex at worst.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> The Green Bay Packers running back situation is tricky this week</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 08:48
Path: /news/joe-flacco-wont-score-over-16-fantasy-points-against-chargers

What do we do with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in Week 15 at San Diego?

A week after scoring 4.2 fantasy points against Cleveland, thanks to RB Ray Rice running wild, Flacco bounced back with 16.08 points against Indianapolis.

We could look at trends, if you put any stock in them, and how Flacco has done this season after scoring at least 16 points.

In four-point passing TD leagues, he scored 20.96 in Week 1 and followed with 9.88 at Tennessee. He scored 28.26 the next week at St. Louis and followed with 3.22. It then took until Week 11 for Flacco to reach at least 16 points, scoring 17.6 against Cincinnati, which he followed with 10.64 against San Francisco.

So the trend is three games above 16 fantasy points prior to last week and drop offs of 11.08, 25.04 and 6.96 the following weeks for an average drop of 14.36 points after 16-point performance.

Now he gets the Chargers, who are favorable to running backs over the last five weeks and ho-hum against quarterbacks.

Baltimore brings a hot RB in Ray Rice — 497 yards rushing, 177 yards receiving, 24 catches and four TDs in the last five weeks — and an average QB in Flacco that you never know what you’re going to get.

In the past five weeks against RBs, San Diego has faced C.J. Spiller (56 total yards), Maurice Jones-Drew (188 total yards and 1 TD), Willis McGahee (117 rushing yards), Matt Forte (85 total yards) and Michael Bush (242 total yards and 1 TD) for an average of 17.76 fantasy points in Athlon’s half-PPR scoring format. All told, the Chargers are 18th against fantasy RBs over the last five weeks.

In the last five weeks against QBs, the Chargers have faced Ryan Fitzpatrick (176 yards, 2 INTs), Blaine Gabbert (195 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), Tim Tebow (143 yards, 1 TD), Jay Cutler (286 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD) and Carson Palmer (299 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT). All told, the Chargers are 20th against fantasy QBs over the last five weeks.

So, again, what do we do with Flacco this week? Trends say he won’t produce. The Chargers defense is averaging right around, oddly enough, 16 points per game allowed to QBs the last five weeks.

There’s more upside to starting Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Rex Grossman and Andy Dalton over Flacco because I think the chance of being guaranteed the 16 from these four is greater than hoping Flacco will be consistent enough to get there. Plus, the success Rice has had this season on the ground scares me away from the Raven QB.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> The Ravens quarterback should struggle against San Diego</p>
Post date: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - 07:35