Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fantasy Football 2017 End of Year Review

Image result for todd gurley ramsBefore I get into my recap from my preseason picks, let me first review what happened in Week 16 with my picks versus the experts as well as my own performance in my fantasy leagues.  You may recall that I made the championship in both of my leagues, and I won one and lost the other by less than 2 points.  The loss was crazy too because going into the Eagles/Raiders game, I figured I had no shot.  I was up less than 20 points, and my buddy Carl had Foles, Agholor, and Jake Elliott still to play.  I didn't watch the first half because, well, watching Mean Girls for the 100th time just felt like a better choice (it was).  I fell asleep around halftime of the game because I still assumed the 3 Eagles would get Carl the win.  I somehow woke up late in the fourth quarter to find that I was still up a few points in my matchup thanks to a missed FG and an interception.  But then Derek Carr threw a pick, Elliott hit a FG, and I lost out on a chunk of money and my name on the trophy.  Congrats, Carl!  I hope you appreciate what Todd Gurley did for you the last couple of weeks!  :)

As for my picks versus the ESPN experts in Week 16, let's go ahead and recap those.  I was high on Joe Flacco (ESPN #22, ME #15), and he continued his streak of multiple touchdowns in 4 straight games.  He actually ended up as a top-5 fantasy QB in what was really a down week for the position.  I was down on Matt Ryan versus the experts for probably the 16th week to be honest (ESPN #14, ME #19).  Ryan hadn't had more than one touchdown in a game in over a month, and he kept that streak alive against the Saints.  Matty Ice would've finished as one of the worst options in Week 16 if it weren't for a late garbage time TD and some extra yardage, which got him all the way up to the 15th-best fantasy QB in Week 16.

Image result for cj andersonLet's move on to the running backs, where I was high on C.J. Anderson (ESPN #26, ME #16).  I said 75-100 total yards was likely based on his recent performance, and I also said if he scored a touchdown, he'd have me wishing I'd played him instead of Jordan Howard!  Well, both were right.  Anderson scored a meaningless TD late in the game and ended up as a top-5 fantasy RB.  And yes, if I'd started him instead of Howard, I would have won the championship in my Yahoo! league.  But that's how it goes.  Jordan Howard also had a solid game, scoring two TDs against the Browns.  If only I could've started C.J. instead of one of my wide receivers (Keenan Allen and Brandin Cooks, who both had bad games)!  Anyway, I was down on Carlos Hyde (ESPN #17, ME #28) because he felt more like a FLEX than an RB2.  He had scored double-digit fantasy points just once in his previous 4 games, and he had just one rushing touchdown since Week 6.  So of course he scored a touchdown against the Jags and finished as a top-15 RB.

I gave you kind of a long shot with the WR I liked versus the experts in Week 16.  Only a couple of the experts even ranked Tyrell Williams, so I just called him "NOT RANKED" (ESPN NOT RANKED, ME #36).  While he did rack up 50 yards receiving, he didn't find the endzone and finished outside of the top-40.  At least he got you some points during championship week, which is about all you can ask for that low in the rankings.  I was down on Golden Tate (ESPN #17, ME #30) who had been wildly inconsistent since Week 10.  He had just 3 catches for 14 yards against the Bengals and finished well outside of the top-50.  Someone who did about as well as Golden Tate was Cameron Brate (ESPN #13, ME #10), who I liked a lot with DeSean and O.J. Howard out with injuries.  He did virtually nothing though and wasn't a good option in Week 16.  The tight end I was down on didn't produce either, as Jared Cook (ESPN #11, ME NOT RANKED) had just 1 catch for 15 yards.

With a lot of low QB scores in Week 16 came some really high D/ST scores.  I was high on my Washington Redskins (ESPN #13, ME #5), and I said they'd get back-to-back wins for the first time this season.  Not only did they whoop the Broncos, but they finished as the #8 fantasy defense too.  I was down on the Pittsburgh Steelers (ESPN #5, ME #9) because they'd struggled without Shazier in the lineup.  Well, they destroyed the Texans on Christmas Day, and Houston even had to go to some 4th string QB I'd never heard of.  The Steelers rolled and the defense finished in the top-5.

I meant to pick games against the spread this season, but I forgot until last week.  But better late than never, right?  Let's see how I did...

Week 16 picks results (correct picks in BOLD):
IND @ BAL (IND +13.5)
MIN @ GB (MIN -9.0)
CLE @ CHI (CLE +6.5)
DET @ CIN (DET -4.5)
LAR @ TEN (LAR -6.5)
MIA @ KC (KC -10.5)
BUF @ NE (BUF +12.0)
ATL @ NO (ATL +5.5)
LAC @ NYJ (LAC -6.5)
DEN @ WAS (WAS -3.5)
TB @ CAR (CAR -10.0)
JAX @ SF (JAX -4.5)
SEA @ DAL (SEA +5)
NYG @ ARI (NYG +3.5)
PIT @ HOU (PIT -9.0)

So after going just 7-8-1 against the spread in Week 16, I might just forget about doing this next year altogether.  But before we start talking about next season, let's recap my preseason picks from this fantasy season, shall we?

If you read my lengthy preseason article, you may recall I turned my various lists into one big Q&A this year.  And I don't like to just put lists out there and not follow up on how I did, so let's see how things shook out this year with my various picks.  This will be a long one...

Q: Who is this year's Alfred Morris (2012), Zac Stacy (2013), Tre Mason (2014), David Johnson (2015), or Jordan Howard (2016)?
[Description: A rookie NOT taken in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft who is UNDRAFTED in virtually all fantasy leagues.  He's not expected to be the Week 1 starter, but he could get a shot sooner rather than later to be the "bellcow" running back for his team and really help your fantasy squad this year.]

My preseason guess: De'Angelo Henderson
Actual answer: Alvin Kamara
Image result for alvin kamaraThis is obviously a question that's nearly impossible to answer in August, but it seems to happen every year (at least since I've been writing about it), so I ventured a guess in Henderson.  Haha, nope!  I wanted to talk up Kareem Hunt, but he was being drafted too highly at the time I wrote the article and didn't fit the category.  I ended up drafting Hunt, and he carried me quite a few games this year though, so that worked out.  As for Kamara, he wasn't getting a lot of preseason buzz because he was clearly behind Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson on the depth chart.  As a result, his average draft position was well after the 12th round in 10-team leagues (so essentially not drafted).  Well, Peterson got shipped off to Arizona (where RBs go to die), and the rest is history.  Kamara finished as a top-5 RB through Week 16, exactly tied with his teammate Mark Ingram in fantasy points.  The guy is pretty amazing.

Q: Who is this year's Knowshon Moreno (2013), Mark Ingram (2014), or Darren McFadden (2015)?
[Description: Former early round NFL draft pick, career plagued by injuries, but finally finds himself in a nice spot to be a feature running back and score a TON of fantasy points.]

My preseason guess: Carlos Hyde
Actual answer: Carlos Hyde
No one really fit this category in 2016, but Hyde was a guy I ranked well ahead of most experts in the preseason (most sites had him well into the 30s, and I ranked him 18th).  I also said he'd be a top-10 fantasy RB if he stayed healthy, and I was off by one.  He's the #11 RB through Week 16, and it's looking like he'll play in all 16 games for the first time in his career.  Lots of people had doubts about this former 2nd round pick out of Ohio State, but he was the steadiest part of the 49er offense this year.  If he stays in San Fran, he'll be in the top-10 RB discussion again next year.  And if not, he still might depending on where he lands.

Q: Who is this year's Danny Woodhead (2013), Darren Sproles (2014), Danny Woodhead (2015), or Theo Riddick (2016)?
[Description: Shifty veteran who sneakily finishes in the top-20 overall fantasy RBs.]

Image result for chris thompson redskinsMy preseason guess: Jacquizz Rodgers
Actual answer: Chris Thompson
Every year one of these tiny RBs finds themselves in the top-20...except last year when Theo Riddick was damn close.  If he didn't get injured, he would've been top-20 no question (and he got in on a points per game basis).  This year we have a similar situation with my boy Chris Thompson, who also would've fit this category if not for an injury.  He suffered a fractured fibula against the Saints in Week 11, so he was put on the IR and unable to play in the last 6 games of the season.  And yet he sits just a couple of fantasy points outside of the top-25 RBs through Week 16!  He was the #13 RB in fantasy points per game, and I hope the little guy gets healthy for 2018.

Q: Who is this year's Keenan Allen (2013), Odell Beckham, Jr. (2014), or Tyreek Hill (2016)?
[Description: Rookie WR with playmaking ability and a solid QB, who is a late-round fantasy pick or even undrafted in most leagues and will end up being a very relevant fantasy WR.]

My preseason guess: John Ross
Actual answer: [none]
John Ross seemed to fit into the same mold as those other guys because he's a freak athlete who became an afterthought in fantasy drafts.  The only problem was, he dealt with injuries and never really got much playing time to even do anything for the Bengals this season.  As for who fit this category this year?  Well, no one, really.  There were a couple of guys in Cooper Kupp and JuJu Smith-Schuster who became relevant fantasy WRs this year.  In fact, both will probably end up as top-25 WRs, but I just can't put them in the same category as those other WRs who had HUGE rookie seasons.

Image result for ben roethlisbergerQ: Who is this year's Percy Harvin (2014), Jordan Cameron (2015), or Tony Romo (2016)?
[Description: A veteran who all of the experts have in their top-100, but who I'll be trying to stay away from in all of my drafts.]

My preseason answer: Ben Roethlisberger
Actual answer: N/A
This fit with my list of guys I wouldn't be drafting because most experts had Big Ben as a top-10 fantasy QB and well inside their top-100s (but not me).  These were his finishes as a fantasy QB the last 7 seasons: 17th, 13th, 18th, 12th, 5th, 20th, 18th. 
So I didn't get why the entire fantasy community agreed on this guy being a top-10 fantasy QB in 2017, but he ended up being one.  That doesn't tell the whole story though because Ben was nowhere near a top-10 fantasy QB before Pittsburgh's Week 9 bye.  In fact, he was waived in my Yahoo! league and probably waived in a lot of leagues before Week 9 or 10.  But from Week 10 on, no one was better than Roethlisberger.  He threw for 18 touchdowns in Weeks 11-16, and he had multiple TDs in each of those games.  I still don't mind that I didn't draft the guy, but I sure wish I'd picked him up off the waiver wire in Week 10!

Q: Who is this year's Andrew Luck (2013), Russell Wilson (2014), Derek Carr (2015), or Kirk Cousins (2016)?
[Description: A second or third year starting QB ready to jump to the next fantasy QB tier.]
My preseason guess: Carson Wentz
Actual answer: Carson Wentz

All of the preseason articles were talking up third year starters Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but I went a different way and focused on Wentz.  I mentioned how I wouldn't have considered him a few months before I wrote the article when his main target was Jordan Matthews.  But Matthews was shipped off to Buffalo (which I saw as a good thing for Wentz), and his main targets became Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Torrey Smith.  Wentz finished outside of the top-20 fantasy QBs in his rookie season, but I said he'd easily move into that next tier in Year 2.  I even said I wouldn't be surprised to see Wentz finish in the top-15.  Not only was I right, but I undersold Carson.  He's missing the last 3 games of the season, but he'll still likely finish in the top-5!

Image result for sad matt ryan super bowl 28-3
Q: Who is this year's Cam Newton (2016)?
[Description: A top-5 fantasy QB who finishes outside of the top-15 the following year.]

My preseason guess: Matt Ryan
Actual answer: Matt Ryan
Don't say I didn't warn you.  I pointed out a lot of similarities between 2017 Ryan to 2016 Newton:
Cam won the MVP in 2015, lost in the Super Bowl, and then had a horrible season the following year.  Ryan lost his offensive coordinator with Kyle Shanahan off to be the head coach in San Francisco, and I think that had a lot to do with his down year.  I reminded you that Matty Ice was barely a top-20 fantasy QB in 2015, so regression was likely.  He absolutely fit the mold of 2016 Cam Newton.

Q: Who is this year's Tevin Coleman (2016)?
[Description: A second year running back (mid to late-round draft pick) who is likely the #2 in a timeshare situation but will still find himself as a top-20 fantasy RB in 2017.]

My preseason guess: Derrick Henry
Actual answer: Alex Collins
The Titans never gave Henry the touches he earned, as he averaged more than a full yard per carry better than DeMarco Murray this season.  But Alex Collins was a second year guy who ended up breaking through a muddled backfield situation in Baltimore to finish in the top-20.  Not many people saw that one coming...

Q: Who is this year's Gary Barnidge (2015) or Kyle Rudolph (2016)?
[Description: A tight end who is virtually undrafted in fantasy leagues and ends up being a top-5 TE.]

My preseason guess: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Actual answer: Evan Engram
Image result for evan engramASJ was being drafted around the 30th TE in fantasy leagues, so you could've snagged him with the last pick in your draft.  And after he served his two game suspension, he had 173 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first 5 games as a Jet.  I was like "Yes!  My prediction is going to be right!"  But like Marvin Jones last year, that's where the production ended.  Sefarian-Jenkins likely won't even finish in the top-25 once the season ends.  But Evan Engram was a guy not being drafted in many leagues either, as he was in the 15-20 range for tight ends.  He was drafted in my Yahoo! league though because we had a new guy to the league this year who is a huge Giants fan.  That pick worked out well for him, as Engram broke the rookie tight end mold and will likely finish in the top-5 whether he plays in Week 17 or not.

That's the last of my preseason picks, but speaking of the Giants, boy were they terrible this year!  Like many people, I didn't think that would be the case when the season began.  Every year before the first game of the NFL season, I like to take a few minutes to do my own simulation of every game on the schedule and use that to predict division winners, conference champs, and who's taking home the Lombardi trophy.

Here's what Bart's prediction machine spat out in 2017...  

AFC East
AFC North
AFC South
AFC West

NFC East
NFC North
NFC South
NFC West

Here was my commentary on my predicted standings and one BOLD prediction for each division.  Let's see what I got right and what I got wrong...

AFC East
Prediction: The Patriots easily win the division, and the Jets are terrible. 
Result: I really went out on a limb there, huh?  Obviously this was right, but I also didn't think the Dolphins or Bills would make the playoffs (several experts thought one of those teams would also make it).  As of this writing, the Bills still have a chance at the last playoff spot, but I don't think they'll get it.
BOLD Prediction: Gronk stays relatively healthy, but Dwayne Allen also manages to finish as a top-10 fantasy TE.
BOLD Result: Haha, nope!  I guess that's why they call them "bold predictions"!

Image result for marvin lewis bengalsAFC North
Prediction: The Steelers win the division again, but the Ravens get back to the playoffs with a defense that makes Baltimore fans start to think of the Ray Lewis and Ed Reed years.
Result: Still somewhat TBD...but yeah, pretty much.  Everyone is talking about the Jags D this year, and they should be.  They've been pretty special.  But the Ravens are in the top-10 in basically every defensive category that matters, and they could actually finish as the #1 fantasy defense this year depending on the outcomes of the Week 17 games.  I think they'll beat the Bengals and get into the playoffs, but we'll have to wait and see on that.
BOLD Prediction: The Bengals miss the playoffs for the second year in a row, and Marvin Lewis loses his job after 15 seasons and ZERO PLAYOFF WINS!
BOLD Result: Nailed it!

AFC South
Prediction: This division winner will have no more than 9 wins, and this year, I think it'll be the Titans.  The Jags haven't had more than 5 wins since 2010, but this year it feels like they'll get 6!
Result: Well, I was almost right.  It's always hard to believe in the Jags, but at least I said they'd have their best season since 2010.  I was right about that, but I wasn't right about the Titans winning the division.  If the Titans get that 9th win on Sunday, they'll make the playoffs, but it was Jacksonville who already clinched the division with 10 wins.
BOLD Prediction: Andrew Luck struggles to stay healthy, and the Colts finish last in the division. Yes, I'm saying Jacksonville will have the same or better record than Indy.
BOLD Result: Believe it or not, that WAS a bold prediction in the preseason.  Luck was being drafted as a top-5 fantasy QB, even up until Week 1 when it looked like he might miss just a game or two.  As it turns out, he missed the whole season and the Colts are going to finish last in the division.

AFC West
Prediction: Oakland edges out KC for the division this year, but both easily make the playoffs.  Denver misses the postseason in back to back years following their Superbowl win.
Result: Well, I was right about Denver not being very good, but I bought into the hype that the Raiders would be a Superbowl contender.  The Chiefs won the division, and the Chargers still have a shot to sneak into the playoffs...
BOLD Prediction: The Broncos sign Sam Bradford in the offseason after failing to pry Jimmy Garoppolo away from the Patriots.
BOLD Result: As we all know, Jimmy G has already gone to the 49ers, so I'm already right in saying the Broncos won't get him from the Patriots.  Could they get him from San Fran in the offseason?  Not likely, but who knows?  I still think they'll sign someone like Sam Bradford (or now maybe Eli Manning) and get back on track in 2018.

NFC East
Prediction: The G-Men take the division and the Eagles get a Wild Card spot.  I have low expectations for my Redskins in what will probably be the last year for Kirk Cousins in Washington.
Result: I couldn't have been more wrong about the Giants, but I was right that the Eagles would make the playoffs.  I was also right to have low expectations for my Redskins.  We'll have to wait a few months to see what happens with Captain Kirk though.
BOLD prediction: Dallas falls back to earth and misses the playoffs after having the 2nd best record in the NFL in 2016 (13-3).  In fact, I say they'll finish LAST in the division.  Dak has a bit of a sophomore slump, and Zeke returns after the suspension to find his O-line isn't quite what it was in his rookie year.
Image result for dallas cowboysBOLD Result: While the Giants easily finished last in the division, I was right about the Cowboys missing the playoffs.  I was also right about Dak having a bit of a sophomore slump and about Zeke having to serve his suspension.  When I wrote this preseason article, Elliott was being drafted in the first round because people thought his suspension could be pushed to 2018 or maybe he'd miss a game or two this year.  As we know, he served a 6 game suspension, and they came at about the worst possible time for fantasy owners.

NFC North
Prediction: Unless Aaron Rodgers misses significant time due to an injury, I don't see how you can pick against the Packers in this division.  I think the Vikings and Lions are just average enough to miss the playoffs, and the Bears will take a slight step forward from last year's 3-13 season.
Result: Well, Rodgers did miss significant time due to an injury: 7 games, in fact.  Actually it was more like 8 because he got knocked out so early in that game against Minnesota in Week 6 (which Green Bay lost).  In those 8 games, the Packers went 3-5, and that included needing overtime to beat the Browns.  They're just not the same team without A-A-Ron, and the Vikings won this division by a long shot.  The Lions will finish with 8 or 9 wins, but they've already been eliminated from the playoffs.  The Bears did look like an improved team, and they have 5 wins after Week 16.  That'll probably stay at 5 wins because they play in Minnesota on Sunday.
BOLD Prediction: I decide not to keep Ty Montgomery over Demaryius Thomas in my fantasy league, and HE decides to score more fantasy points than Jordan Howard (who I am keeping).  Yes, this is somewhat of a reverse jinx, but I also think it's within the realm of possibility.
BOLD Result: I was really worried about this after just a couple of weeks into the season, but Monty fell off after dealing with various injuries that ultimately landed him on the IR.  Meanwhile, Jordan Howard was a bit inconsistent due to the Bears being quite terrible at times, but he ended up as a top-10 fantasy RB, so no complaints there.

NFC South
Prediction: Lots of experts picked the Bucs to make the playoffs, but they have a really tough schedule.  I think the winner of this division will be 9-7, and Atlanta will regress.  However, I think they'll be that 9-7 team and squeak into the playoffs.
Result: This division ended up a lot better this year than many people expected (including me).  I'm not sure the Falcons can squeak into the playoffs at 9-7, but they can at 10-6 (which is still a possibility).
BOLD Prediction: Drew Brees throws for his lowest total passing yards in a season since 2010 and is not a top-5 fantasy QB.
BOLD Result: As of this writing, Brees isn't even a top-10 fantasy QB (much less top-5).  As for the passing yards, I was spot on.  He has 4089 passing yards heading into Week 17, and he could even end up with his lowest total since 2005!

NFC West
Prediction: I have the Cardinals making the playoffs as a Wild Card team, since I think the Seahawks will win this division.
Result: I'm slightly paraphrasing without using the proper punctuation, but whatever.  Deal with it.  Bottom line is this - I didn't think the Rams had any kind of shot of winning this division.  I don't think a lot of people did.  I think they're a great story though, and I'm kind of rooting for them in the NFC with the Redskins out of it.  The Seahawks could still make the playoffs, but the Cardinals will finish 8-8 at best (which isn't anywhere near good enough this year in the NFC).
Image result for jimmy garoppoloBOLD Prediction: The 49ers lead the NFC in team rushing yards and end up with a respectable 6 wins in their first season under Kyle Shannahan.
BOLD Result: I was way off on the rushing yards, but they could get to 6 wins if they beat the Rams this week.  And that's not only possible but likely because LA will be resting their starters.  Once they finally started Jimmy Garoppolo at QB, the Niners looked pretty good.  In fact, they're 4-0 in his starts...maybe 5-0 after Sunday.

So here's what I predicted for 2017 (correct division picks in BOLD):

AFC East: New England Patriots
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC South: Tennessee Titans
AFC West: Oakland Raiders
AFC Wild Card1: Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Wild Card2: Baltimore Ravens
[Patriots over Raiders in AFC Championship Game]

NFC East: New York Giants
NFC North: Green Bay Packers
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks
NFC Wild Card1: Philadelphia Eagles
NFC Wild Card2: Arizona Cardinals 
[Packers over Seahawks in NFC Championship Game]

Super Bowl Prediction: Patriots over Packers

Image result for patriots super bowlWow.  Two out of eight division winners right.  I think that's a new personal worst.  I'll stick with my pick of New England to win the Super Bowl, but I hope the Ravens figure out a way to get there (not likely).  The NFC should be interesting, as I think it's way more wide open.  I'd love to see the Rams get there!  Anyway, I'll try to get my "Way Too Early 2018 Rankings" out in the next couple of weeks...


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 Fantasy Football Week 16 Rankings

Image result for antonio brown injuryYou often need a bit of luck to win a fantasy championship, and I definitely caught a break in Week 15 when Antonio Brown suffered a calf injury in the 2nd quarter against the Patriots. I felt a little bad for, well, not feeling bad about it.  But I was playing against Antonio in both of my leagues, and an early exit was just what I needed to help pull out a win in one of them.  My other league is a two week playoff, and it looks like AB will be out this week too, so I'm still reaping the benefits of the man's injury.  And while I wasn't rooting for the guy to get hurt, I might've done a little dance when it happened...and my daughter might've laughed at me quite a bit when I did said dance.  We'll see if I can pull one or even both championships out this week, but let's get into the recap of my picks last week before diving into the rankings.

As always, let's start with the quarterbacks, where I was high on Jameis Winston (ESPN #19, ME #10).  I said he'd be good for 300 yards and multiple touchdowns on Monday night, and he missed the 300 mark by 1 yard.  He had 3 passing TDs though and finished as a top-5 QB, so I nailed that pick.  I was down on Jimmy Garoppolo (ESPN #15, ME NOT RANKED), and I talked about how I wasn't quite ready to dub him the next Tom Brady just yet.  Well, he did his best Brady impression at the end of his game to quickly set up the Niners for a game winning field goal.  He had just the one touchdown to go with his high yardage total, but he did finish as a top-20 QB and even a couple of spots higher than Brady in Week 15.

My RB picks were way off, but I think both were somewhat excusable.  I was high on Mike Davis (ESPN #29, ME #16) who was facing a Rams D that was giving up the second most fantasy points to RBs this season.  But Seattle got blown out and was playing from behind the entire game, and Davis didn't even touch the ball in the second half.  I was down on Dion Lewis (ESPN #19, ME #30) because Rex Burkhead had really been coming on strong lately, and Lewis wasn't getting as many touches.  That trend continued until Burkhead left the game with an injury (after scoring a touchdown I might add).  Lewis found the endzone himself late in the game, but I'm fairly certain that would've been Sexy Rexy if he didn't leave the game due to the injury.  Lewis took advantage of the extra touches and ended up as a top-15 RB.

As for the receivers, I pretty much whiffed on them too.  I was way down on Alshon Jeffery (ESPN #16, ME #31) because I didn't trust Nick Foles as much as the ESPN experts did.  Well, Philly's offense barely skipped a beat with Foles in for Wentz, and Jeffery found the endzone.  His yardage total was low, but he managed to finish as the #21 WR in Week 15.  I was high on Devin Funchess (ESPN #17, ME #7) because he'd been a top-10 fantasy WR since Week 9, and he'd scored double-digit fantasy points in each of his previous 4 games.  Somehow against a weak Green Bay secondary, he only had one catch for 19 yards...huh?!? 

Image result for eric ebron touchdownIn that same game, I continued to not rank Greg Olsen because I didn't trust the guy until I saw some production out of him.  I was down on him for the FOURTH week in a row versus the experts (ESPN #12, ME NOT RANKED), but the experts were finally right!  I guess if you keep saying something, eventually it might happen...?  Olsen finished as the #2 fantasy TE, but don't forget I was right about not ranking him the three weeks before that (and the experts had him as a top-10 play each of those weeks).  It's clearly time to get Olsen back into your lineups though.  I did hit my pick with Eric Ebron (ESPN #22, ME #12), and I told you he had a floor of 3 or 4 fantasy points and a ceiling of maybe 10.  I couldn't have been more right because he ended up with 33 yards and a touchdown, and he finished in the top-10.

I'd rather not talk about my defense picks, but I will.  I was high on the New Orleans Saints (ESPN #5, ME #2) because they were facing Bryce Petty and the Jets at home, but somehow they didn't take advantage of the matchup and finished outside of the top-12.  I was down on the LA Rams (ESPN #8, ME NOT RANKED) who were playing in Seattle, and like a lot of people I thought this would be a shootout.  That was not the case.  The Rams dominated the Seahawks, and their defense was one of the best in Week 15.

But enough about the past.  Let's move on to championship week!  I've narrowed down my RB & WR rankings from 50 to 40 because if you're playing for something this week, you shouldn't be getting into the 40s like it's a college frat party.  (I've kept my other positions the same length.)

One more thing before the rankings: picks against the spread.  I started to prepare my End of Year Review article this week too, and I'd forgotten that last year I picked games against the spread the last few weeks of the regular season.  So even though I forgot about it for the entire season, I thought I'd go ahead and do a week of it and see how I do.  I'll do a recap when I get my Way Too Early Rankings out in a couple of weeks.

Week 16 picks versus the spread:
IND @ BAL (IND +13.5)
MIN @ GB (MIN -9.0)
CLE @ CHI (CLE +6.5)
DET @ CIN (DET -4.5)
LAR @ TEN (LAR -6.5)
MIA @ KC (KC -10.5)
BUF @ NE (BUF +12.0)
ATL @ NO (ATL +5.5)
LAC @ NYJ (LAC -6.5)
DEN @ WAS (WAS -3.5)
TB @ CAR (CAR -10.0)
JAX @ SF (JAX -4.5)
SEA @ DAL (SEA +5)
NYG @ ARI (NYG +3.5)
PIT @ HOU (PIT -9.0)
OAK @ PHI (PHI -9.0)

Let's do the rankings!

1.Russell Wilson
2.Cam Newton 
3.Ben Roethlisberger  
4.Tom Brady  
5.Drew Brees 
6.Case Keenum
7.Philip Rivers 
8.Nick Foles
9.Matthew Stafford
10.Alex Smith 
11.Jared Goff 
12.Jameis Winston   
13.Blake Bortles 
14.Dak Prescott 
15.Joe Flacco 
16.Kirk Cousins 
17.Tyrod Taylor
18.Derek Carr 
19.Matt Ryan
20.Marcus Mariota
I'm high on: Joe Flacco (ESPN #22, ME #15)
Image result for joe flaccoI was high on Joe once before this season (against a terrible Houston defense), and he burned me.  But Indy is equally as terrible, so I'm going back to the well.  He's also now put together a string of good fantasy games, which he hadn't done leading up to the game against the Texans.  If you just look at the starting QBs this week, Joe is easily in the top-10 in average fantasy points per game over the last 4 weeks.  He has multiple touchdowns in each of his last 3 games, and he's averaging about 20 fantasy points in those contests.  The Colts have given up top-10 numbers to opposing quarterbacks this year, and I think that means Flacco finds himself at least in the top-15.

I'm down on: Matt Ryan (ESPN #14, ME #19)
It's my last rankings of the 2017 season, so it's fitting that I'm still down on Matt Ryan versus the ESPN experts.  It's taken them nearly the entire season to stop ranking him as a top-10 fantasy QB, so I applaud them for that (*sarcasm*).  But guess who hasn't had more than one touchdown in a game in a month?  Guess who just threw for 1 TD and 3 picks against this same Saints team just two weeks ago?  Yes, the answer to both of those is Matt Ryan.  I don't see how you could have trusted him at all this season, but I definitely don't trust him very much here in the fantasy championship week!

1.Le'Veon Bell 
2.Todd Gurley 
3.Ezekiel Elliott
4.Mark Ingram
5.Melvin Gordon
6.Alvin Kamara
7.Kareem Hunt
8.Leonard Fournette
9.LeSean McCoy
10.Devonta Freeman  
11.Dion Lewis 
12.Alex Collins 
13.Kenyan Drake
14.Jordan Howard
15.Christian McCaffery
16.C.J. Anderson 
17.Latavius Murray 
18.Jay Ajayi 
19.Joe Mixon
20.DeMarco Murray
21.Samaje Perine
22.Marshawn Lynch 
23.Jerick McKinnon 
24.Jonathan Stewart 
25.Kerwynn Williams 
26.Lamar Miller
27.Jamaal Williams 
28.Carlos Hyde 
29.Isaiah Crowell
30.Frank Gore
31.Mike Davis
32.Bilal Powell 
33.Duke Johnson 
34.Peyton Barber 
35.Wayne Gallman 
36.James White
37.Theo Riddick
38.Javorius Allen 
39.Derrick Henry 
40.Tevin Coleman 

Image result for c.j. andersonI'm high on: C.J. Anderson (ESPN #26, ME #16)
Anderson has been getting more an more work the last three weeks.  To prove it, here are his rushing attempts (in order to least to most recent): 15, 22, and 30.  If that trend continues, he'll rush 39 times against the Redskins on Sunday (ha!).  And while I don't think that is likely, I do think he'll continue to dominate the Bronco backfield and could find some room to work in Washington.  I think 75-100 total yards is likely based on his recent performance, and if he scores a touchdown, he'll have me wishing I'd played him instead of Jordan Howard!

I'm down on: Carlos Hyde (ESPN #17, ME #28)
Here's a guy who is consistently getting 15-20 touches a game, but he hasn't done much with them the last few weeks.  Hyde has scored double-digit fantasy points just once in his last 4 games, and he has just one rushing touchdown since Week 6.  He feels more like a FLEX play than a trustworthy RB2, so that's how I've ranked him.

1.DeAndre Hopkins  
2.Michael Thomas 
3.Adam Thielen 
4.Julio Jones 
5.Keenan Allen
6.Tyreek Hill 
7.Mike Evans 
8.Brandin Cooks 
9.A.J. Green 
10.Doug Baldwin 
11.Jarvis Landry 
12.Michael Crabtree 
13.Alshon Jeffery  
14.JuJu Smith-Schuster    
15.Devin Funchess
16.Larry Fitzgerald    
17.Robert Woods  
18.Dez Bryant
19.Marvin Jones, Jr. 
20.Josh Gordon 
21.Demaryius Thomas
22.Stefon Diggs    
23.Mike Wallace   
24.Jamison Crowder  
25.Nelson Agholor  
26.Martavis Bryant 
27.Marquise Goodwin
28.Rishard Matthews
29.Sterling Shepard 
30.Golden Tate 
31.Dede Westbrook 
32.T.Y. Hilton
33.Keelan Cole
34.Robby Anderson
35.Mohamed Sanu 
36.Tyrell Williams
37.Cooper Kupp
38.DeVante Parker 
39.Randall Cobb  
40.Eli Rogers

I'm high on: Tyrell Williams (ESPN NOT RANKED, ME #36)
Image result for tyrell williams chargersI had a hard time finding a guy I was high on versus the experts, so I went deep to talk about someone that virtually none of the experts even ranked in their top-50.  Tyrell Williams is certainly a boom-or-bust type of fantasy player, but he's in my top-40 this week for his "boom" potential.  Keenan Allen exited the game against the Chiefs late with a back injury but is apparently fine (I'm hopeful that is the case).  On the other hand, Hunter Henry ended up with a lacerated kidney and was placed on IR this week.  Considering those injuries and the fact that the Jets give up the 8th most fantasy points to WRs, I think Tyrell could end up having a decent game this week.

I'm down on: Golden Tate (ESPN #17, ME #30)
I don't own Tate in either of my leagues, but I'd imagine I'd be frustrated if I did.  He was having a solid season up until about Week 10, but he's been wildly inconsistent since then.  In 3 of his last 5 games, he has had 33 or fewer receiving yards.  He also has had just one touchdown in those 5 games, and that did not come in one of the games with the low yardage total.  So he's had one good game in over a month.  Forgive me for not ranking him as a WR2.

1.Rob Gronkowski
2.Travis Kelce
3.Zach Ertz
4.Greg Olsen
5.Evan Engram
6.Delanie Walker 
7.Jimmy Graham
8.Kyle Rudolph
9.Jack Doyle
10.Cameron Brate
11.Eric Ebron 
12.Jesse James 
13.Jason Witten
14.Charles Clay 
15.Vernon Davis

I'm high on: Cameron Brate (ESPN #13, ME #10)
With O.J. Howard expected to be out with an ankle injury, Brate is once again the clear go-to guy for Jameis Winston.  I'd actually be surprised if he didn't score a touchdown in this game, and I'm a little shocked that none of the experts considered him as a top-10 play this week.
Update: At the time I'm now posting this, ESPN's consensus ranking has gone from 17th to 13th, and one expert ranked Brate where I did at 10th.  Still, I'm sticking with my pick because I'm not really that high on anyone else versus the experts anyway (other than Ebron...again!).

I'm down on: Jared Cook (ESPN #11, ME NOT RANKED)
Jared Cook sucks.  How's that for analysis?


I'm high on: Washington Redskins (ESPN #13, ME #5)
Image result for ryan kerriganThe Redskins have been much better at home than on the road this season, and I'm not just talking about their 4-3 record at FedEx Field (which is obviously pretty average).  Their defensive stats have been much better at home, and when the competition hasn't been great, the defense has thrived.  They held the Raiders to just 10 points in Week 3, the Giants only managed a field goal in Week 12 (New York scored a TD but it was a pick 6 by Janoris Jenkins), and the Cardinals only put up 15 just last week (all field goals by the way).  Denver is coming to town with either Brock Osweiler or maybe even Paxton Lynch running the show, and I like for the Redskins to show up and get back-to-back wins for the first time this season.  Defensive touchdowns are impossible to predict, but I'm feeling one this week from my Redskins!

I'm down on: Pittsburgh Steelers (ESPN #5, ME #9)
The matchup is obviously great, as Pittsburgh is travelling to Houston to face T.J. Yates and the Texans, but the Steelers defense hasn't looked good the last couple of weeks without Ryan Shazier.  It's kind of understandable to allow the Patriots to hang 27 points on you and not really get to Tom Brady very much, but the Ravens scored 38 against the Steelers the week before that.  This unit has just 5 sacks in its last 3 games combined, and they haven't had a fumble recovery since Week 8.  They probably won't allow the Texans to score much on them, but I couldn't put them all the way up in my top-5 based on how they've been playing lately.

Good luck to everyone in Week 16!
(Except you, Carl.....and Courtney!)