Fantasy Football Intelligence: Riding the Rollercoaster

The final two minutes of last night’s Ravens/Browns game are why we play fantasy football. If I had written the blog yesterday, I would have missed the chance to write about the game of the year to date, a game that had huge implications on fantasy playoffs across the country. Consider what we saw in just the final two minutes:

* The Browns led 35-34. Trace McSorley, who replaced Lamar Jackson (cramps) earlier in the half, went down on the Browns’ 44 setting up 4th and 4 for the Ravens. After the two minute warning, Jackson (66% started in Yahoo leagues) threw a TD pass to Hollywood Brown (38% started) on 4th down to give the Ravens the lead.

* J.K. Dobbins (39% started), who had scored earlier in the game, went over for the two point conversion, Ravens led 42-35.

* Baker Mayfield led the Browns on a four play, 75 yard drive culminating in a 22 yard TD pass to Kareem Hunt (59% started). Parkey’s PAT tied the game at 42 with 1:04 left.

* Jackson took the Ravens back downfield. Mark Andrews (69% started) had a couple of receptions contributing about 20 of his 78 yards for the game. With :07 left on the clock, perhaps the game’s all-time best kicker, Justin Tucker (94% started), who had an extra point blocked earlier in the game, connected from 55 yards for the game-winner. Ravens led, 45-42.

*Mayfield took one more snap with two seconds left and the Browns had an extended scramble with multiple laterals that culminated with the Baltimore Defense (70% started) recording a safety when Jarvis Landry was dragged out of his end zone to end the game.

That sequence of events accounted for more fantasy points than the Jets had in the entire game against Seattle – by a lot. Numerous fantasy games turned on the last two minutes of the final game of the week. In one of my leagues, the outcomes of three games changed based on the last two minutes, including one that was won on the otherwise meaningless safety. For every owner smiling this morning, there’s another cursing into his corn flakes. But that’s why we play – to make every game more interesting, and if you’re on the right side of it, more fun.

A bit more about the past…I had some hits and misses with guidance last week, but if you took advantage of my #1 streaming defense recommendation, the Washington Football Team, you’re welcome. The Keke Coutee and Tim Patrick calls were good as well. Curtis Samuel racked up 90 yards, but no score. Gallman was disappointing and Gaskin ended up on the Covid list, and I, like most others, did not anticipate Miles Sanders and the Eagles performance against New Orleans.

All the leagues are into the playoffs now, most are in the semi-finals. Team needs are fairly specific – a streaming defense, an injury replacement, etc., or they are looking to make a tough call on a starter where they have some depth. If you’re a Christian McCaffrey owner and you’ve made it this far without him, you might get him back for a Saturday night matchup with Green Bay. If you have Mike Davis shares, you are hoping the Panthers are cautious with their superstar. Watch the practice reports; at least it is a Saturday game so you have plenty of time and lots of games left if you need to stick with whatever plan B you’ve been employing.

If you are shopping for a defense, Buffalo (@DEN) is only 60% owned and worth a play if available. If not, these are the best options below 50% ownership.

Arizona (24% owned, vs. PHI) is coming off a good game and faces the Eagles, who may be riding a bit high after upsetting New Orleans. The Cardinals also get a game’s worth of film on Hurts and how the Eagles use him, which the Saints didn’t have. The Cards are 6th in the league in sacks, a more predictable defensive stat than turnovers.

Tennessee (38% owned, vs. DET) hasn’t sacked a QB since November, but may get the opportunity to face Chase Daniel rather than Matt Stafford. If so, they are a viable streamer. Stafford’s ribs are not broken and he is famously tough, but there’s really no reason for him to be out there. Even if he starts, it is easy to see him getting pulled if the game gets out of hand.

Minnesota (46% owned, vs. CHI) Not a great play, but if you’re desperate, Trubisky is a port in the storm.

If you lost Mike Gesicki at TE, the following below 50% owned players are reasonable dart throws, but hopefully you already have something better on your roster.

Trey Burton (36% vs HOU) – He doesn’t do much in the middle of the field, but is the most likely of the below 50% owned group to find the end zone.

Cole Kmet (6% @MIN) and Jimmy Graham – While Graham (29% owned) caught a TD last week, Kmet has been seeing more targets and snaps.

Dan Arnold (1% vs. PHI)  – Murray has been targeting him more lately, both downfield and in the red zone.

The WR pool isn’t deep, but Patrick (28% owned) is still available. He doesn’t have a great matchup with Buffalo. If desperate, I’d prefer Nelson Agholor (36% owned, vs. LAC) this week.

There are no available RBs that are great starts in a playoff game, but watch the practice reports for San Francisco and Miami. If Mostert is limited, Jeff Wilson Jr. (19% owned, @DAL) has a good matchup and will see plenty of carries. If Gaskin remains on the covid list and Salvon Ahmed (16% vs. NE) returns from his shoulder injury, he may see enough volume and/or a score in a real pinch. DeAndre Washington was the flavor of the week against KC, but does not look viable.

Keep an eye on the practice reports to see how Ronald Jones Jr. (broken pinky) and DeVante Parker (leg) are progressing. You may need a bench option. In the case of Parker, even if healthy, I don’t like his matchup with New England or his play the last two weeks. His performance suffers when Fitzpatrick doesn’t play. As an example, I would play T.Y. Hilton over him this week regardless of health. If Jones plays, you probably start him, though I doubt you’ll have the peace of mind of the healthy Fournette scratch this week.

Have a tough playoff matchup question? Happy to discuss. Email me at [email protected] In the meantime, here’s the Red Hot Chili Peppers covering The Ohio Players’ Love Rollercoaster, from Beavis and Butthead Do America.

 

Lee Benjamin has been a football fan since Jim Plunkett was under center for the Patriots and his first ever fantasy football pick was a young Jerry Rice. He’s won more championships during Tom Brady’s career than Tom Brady, though unfortunately, they pay a lot less. His blog, Fantasy Football Intelligence, is published regularly on the WTPL, WTSN and Frank-FM sites. Lee spent over 25 years in New England media. He now resides in South Florida and enjoys freelance writing about sports and politics.