The AFC North and NFC South are polar opposite divisions, and not only because of their cardinal directions and conference affiliations. Heading into Week 12, all four teams in the AFC North were over .500. Meanwhile, every NFC South team was at least two games under .500, presenting the very real possibility of a division winner with fewer than eight wins. Those two divisions have met all season in inter-conference play, and, even if you don’t already know, you can probably guess how those games have gone. Through 11 weeks, the AFC North was 9-1-1 against the NFC South. Perhaps the most surprising element about all of this is that the only win was by the Buccaneers over the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Two of those teams met each other on Sunday, with the last-place 6-4 Browns visiting the first-place 4-6 Falcons. Brian Hoyer threw three interceptions, but led the Browns on a successful two-minute drill, setting Billy Cundiff up for a game-winning 37-yard field goal in Cleveland’s 26-24 victory. However, we’re much more interested in the fantasy implications in this space, and there were a few big ones on the Cleveland side of the ball.
Some notable names made their way to free agency this week, when both Ben Tate and LeGarrette Blount were given their walking papers. Both have found new homes since (Tate in Minnesota, Blount in New England). Do they still have any value in fantasy football leagues? How do they affect the value of their new teammates? We explore below.
This week’s waiver wire isn’t filled with established veterans, and it likely won't be a battle for Josh Gordon, who is already owned in most leagues, but it does have plenty of young players who are finally getting their shot.
Will this week's most popular acquisitions be stars? That’s doubtful. But replacing struggling duds and short-term injuries may make the difference between making the playoffs and quietly seething in the season's final weeks. The last two teams take their byes this week — Panthers and Steelers — and then the league returns to a full slate.
Each week, we’ll share 8-12 players we think are worth a look in standard fantasy football leagues based on performance and upcoming matchups. Each of these players listed are owned in fewer than 30 percent of leagues on CBS Sports, ESPN and Yahoo! leagues.
Since they are barely owned in more than 30 percent of CBS leagues, you won’t see these rising players on this list: Drew Stanton, Josh McCown, Jonas Gray, Isaiah Crowell, Bryce Brown, Davante Adams, Kenny Stills, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Coby Fleener, Cairo Santos, Blair Walsh and Packers defense.
Entering Week 11, favorites against the spread were over .500 after going 10-3 the previous week. The swing back in favor of the underdogs came this week, and we didn’t have to wait too long for one of the biggest upsets of the season.
The Rams unpredictably shut down the Broncos, holding them to seven points and 397 yards in a 22-7 win. Peyton Manning threw for 389 yards, but he needed 54 pass attempts to get there. He had one touchdown against two interceptions, scoring just 16.46 points in standard-scoring leagues, his worst fantasy performance this year. The Rams pressured Manning into his interceptions, and sacked him twice, keeping him uncomfortable in the pocket. Manning, of course, will be fine. The story may not be the same for a few of his weapons.
Determining when a player's perceived value is higher than his actual value is one of the keys to winning fantasy leagues. Right now, owners should take advantage of these overrated players and sell high to bolster lineups for the playoffs. Some are seemingly elite talents who are about to take a step back, while others are more modest talents who cannot be trusted in starting lineups.
But one thing's for sure — all will underperform in the second half of the season.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing. It allows us to see everything so clearly, making everything we should have done in the past seem obvious. It works in all facets of reality, and it is equally as effective in the fantasy world. If only we knew that Calvin Johnson would suffer an ankle injury or that DeMarco Murray would launch an assault on the record books, we could have adjusted our draft boards accordingly. Alas, we will always have to rely on foresight when filling our fantasy rosters.
At the same time, hindsight does not give us a window into everything we need to know. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future performance, even within the same season. The history of fantasy is littered with players who lit up scoreboards in the first half of the year, only to fall off dramatically in the second half. It takes a combination of hindsight and foresight to accurately predict what will happen the rest of the season once we are midstream.
With that, allow me to present the SI.com First Round Redraft. The following is meant to reflect what the first round would be if you were starting a league from scratch right now. What players have done to this point of the season is important, but equally as important is what they will do for the rest of the year. The goal is to combine hindsight and foresight into an all-seeing eye that grants us the sort of fantasy omniscience heretofore only dreamed of by the most brazen of fantasy owners.
If Aaron Rodgers could play every game against the Bears, he’d probably already have all of Peyton Manning’s records by now. Rodgers threw six touchdowns in the first half of Green Bay’s Sunday night’s 55-14 shellacking of their division rival. He probably would have set the NFL record for most touchdown passes in a game, if not for the good sense of the Packers’ coaching staff to get him out of the game halfway through the third quarter. In two games against the Bears this year, Rodgers threw for 617 yards, 11.22 yards per attempt, and 10 touchdowns against zero interceptions. He did grab one record on Sunday with a 73-yard scoring strike to Jordy Nelson – it was his 16th career touchdown pass of 70 or more yards, a number no other quarterback has reached in NFL history.