Should you start Josh Freeman under any circumstance? NO NO NO NO NO NO

But what about Rob Gronkowski? Or David Wilson? Or Michael Turner? Or Sean Tomlinson? You should definitely start that last guy. As for the rest, well, they’re scrubs, and a scrub is a guy who can’t get no love from you (so sorry).

Championship week is here, and predictably your questions and roster decisions are getting difficult. They made my head hurt, but in fairness, so do multiplication tables. So let’s fill the Thursday Night Football void in our lives, and meander through the championship tweetbag together.

Grab your green hat.

Your fear of Josh Freeman is pretty easy to justify, Andrew. At this point, Freeman should be the fantasy equivalent of the three-headed cackling clown for the kid who’s petrified of clowns. The only thing worse than clowns is pulp in orange juice.

There was a time earlier this year when Freeman was more than merely a viable fantasy option, or just a QB2. We were having legitimate and heated debates about whether or not Freeman should be started over, say, Matthew Stafford on a given week, a battle the Bucs quarterback often won.

But those were cheery, wondrous times when he was throwing all of the deep balls. Before we look at how far Freeman has fallen, let’s understand how high the perch was that he tumbled from. Specifically, there was a hot stretch between Week 6 and Week 10:

  • During that five-game run his passer rating was over 100.0 in every game, peaking at 137.5.
  • He averaged 293.4 passing yards per game, topping out at 420.
  • He had a completion of 50 yards or more in each game.
  • In three of the five games, his yards per attempt was over 10.0.
  • Overall, he threw 13 touchdowns, and only one interception.

Now? He’s coming off a week in which he threw four picks, and his passer rating dropped to 37.5. Prior to Week 15 he had thrown only eight picks over 14 games, which led to a highly favorable INT:TD ratio of 8:25. Yeah, equaling half of your interception total for the season in one game is true fantasy jerk conduct.

Surely those picks came against a staunch defense that’s a combination of a rock and a wall, right? No, no not at all. Freeman was chucking against the Saints, and their secondary that’s better than only, well, the Bucs’ secondary, and they’re giving up 287 yards per game. The week prior to that Freeman completed only 41.2 percent of his passes while averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt against the lowly Eagles defense. Those two vastly underwhelming performances are coming prior to a matchup against the Rams this weekend, and their secondary that’s led by Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, a unit that’s allowed the second fewest passing touchdowns in the league.

Don’t just back away. Run, even if your other option is Russell Wilson in a less than ideal matchup against the 49ers.

 

Two great matchups here, which doesn’t make the decision any easier.

Let’s start with Luck, which means by fantasy blogger law I’m obligated to remind you that the Colts rookie has enjoyed the soothing and warm home cuisine much more than the average rookie. Of the 18 interceptions he’s thrown, 13 of them have come on the road. And while he’s been great in reality and he’ll quite rightfully receive consideration for rookie of the year, he’s been merely average as a fantasy quarterback on the road. In an even split between home and road games (seven apiece), he’s averaged 21 fantasy points per game at home, and 12.6 on the road.

In this case, though, Luck’s road woes should lead to only tepid caution. He draws the Chiefs in Kansas City Sunday, and while their secondary that includes Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry may not give up much yardage (only 215.6 per game), they’ve given up 25 passing touchdowns, and they’re tied at the very bottom with only seven picks.

Meanwhile, the appeal of Romo’s matchup is well documented, as the Saints are ranked 31st against both the run and pass. But while we fully expected Romo to produce, and produce well this week, remember that those are overall numbers for the Saints’ secondary. Over the last three weeks against Josh Freeman, Eli Manning, and Matt Ryan, New Orleans has given up only 33 fantasy points to quarterbacks. That’s troubling, especially with Dez Bryant still playing at something far lower than a normal Dez Bryant level.

This is tight, but I’m leaning towards Luck.

True story: I actually made a voodoo Brandon Lloyd, and stuck every thumb tack I own into his hands. I did that two weeks ago, and since then he’s caught 17 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown, and over the season’s 12 previous games he was averaging only 46.8 receiving yards per game. Now you suddenly own a hot wide receiver due to the increased targets he’s getting with Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski out, and I have a creepy doll and no thumb tacks.

The moral of that story is to start Lloyd, and don’t even consider Steven Jackson. Yes, Jackson was solid with 5.6 yards per carry and 73 rushing yards overall last week, although that falls short of spectacular. However, he’ll be running against the Bucs this week, and they still own the league’s best run D. It’s not even close either, as Tampa is giving up 83.3 yards per game, while the second place Broncos are allowing 91.0.

First of all, it’s an honor to be conversing with Ludwig van Bake Oven. A true master of both melody, and doughy softness. A legend.

If this was a PPR league, Amendola would be the easy answer. But even though it’s a standard league, it’s still only slightly more difficult. A healthy Amendola — and he’s healthy now, as there’s finally an injury report in St. Louis without his name on it — will receive a high volume of targets (he’s had double digit targets in five of his nine healthy games) against the Bucs’ lead-worst secondary. It takes true skill for a team to have the best run defense and the worst pass defense, but here we are. And on the extreme opposite of the run D and its gap at the top, Tampa’s pass defense has set a new standard for creaky, swinging gate-ism. They’re averaging 310.6 passing yards allowed per game, while the 31st Saints are significantly ahead at 287.0. Here’s how far the NFL has come as a passing league: in 2003, the worst secondary was allowing 237.5 yards per game.

Slot in Danny boy with confidence, especially with Aaron Rodgers spreading the ball around so much in Green Bay, and Beanie set to run into a wall repeatedly against the Bears. Wilson is tempting as the Ravens’ defense crumbles, but there’s still far more production potential in Amendola.

There’s just simply far too much risk here.

As I write this on Thursday afternoon, Gronk has made it through two practices this week, but he’s been limited. That means the following events are almost inevitable: he’ll be a limited participant again tomorrow and then be slapped with the questionable tag, entering the weekend with that always horrible game-time decision looming. It’s championship week for most leagues, and a player with that kind of uncertain status can’t be trusted.

Unless highly encouraging reports emerge tomorrow (unlikely), I’d stay away from Gronk in all formats.

Ahmad Bradshaw’s injury status is complicating this Wilson decision, and many others (see: above, and the concerns of Ludwig van Bake Owen). Yes, Bradshaw sat out again today and didn’t practice, and his game participation will be determined by team doctors, not head coach Tom Couglin. Translation: game-time decision (likely).

Usually this is the part where I would write something about waiting until the last minute on Bradshaw to see if Wilson will start. But that’s not possible this week, as the Giants-Ravens 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff time is complicating matters. There are only three late-afternoon kickoffs this week, and of course the Giants are involved in one of them. Taking our time problem further, there’s also the matter of the Falcons playing Saturday night. Neat.

But if we assume that all else is equal here and Bradshaw is out, start Wilson. Turner is only valuable to you now if he scores a touchdown. Sure, he’s sort of done that often lately, with six scores over his last seven games. But during that stretch he’s also had three games with less than 20 rushing yards, and 2.0 yards per carry or fewer.

Wilson has a much higher ceiling than the still plodding Turner.

Comments (2)

  1. Texans D vs Vikings or Pakcers D vs Titans?

    I’ve gone with Houston almost all year but I’m hesitant starting them here against AP. I get the feeling that any interceptions/fumbles off ponder, and there will be at least one, will be negated by AP monster runs/tds. I doubt the titans have anything left to give, especially coming off a primetime win and heading into lambeau. thoughts?

    • I understand your hesitation, but remember that although the absence of Brian Cushing has clearly hurt, the Texans still rank fifth overall against the run while allowing 93.2 yards per game. Peterson will do some gashing, because he’s gashed everyone, and that will lead to some points on the board. But fantasy points from defenses primarily come from sacks, interceptions, and fumbles, and it’s simply impossible to sit a defense with J.J. Watt that’s second in the league in sacks (42).

      Go with what got you to the championship. Good luck.

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