Fantasy Football Week 13: What We Learned

Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller
Dec 1 2013 Toronto ON Canada Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore 25 tries to tackle Buffalo Bills running back CJ Spiller 28 during the second half at the Rogers Center Falcons beat the Bills 34 to 31 in overtime Timothy T Ludwig USA TODAY Sports

Sunday showed in horrifying clarity why no player should ever be dead to you.

A group of much ballyhooed players — guys we loved in August — inevitably draw the scorn of fantasy footballers as injuries, bad luck, and unforeseen changes in offensive schemes turn our summertime obsessions into the bane of our Sunday afternoons.

A few letdown performances from these players, no matter the reason, puts them on our “do not play” list — a list that shouldn’t exist in any fantasy football format. And now, on this Week 13 Monday, owners of Eric Decker, C.J. Spiller, and Roddy White know why.

It was that trio that won and lost innumerable fantasy throw-downs yesterday, posting giant stat lines after weeks — even months — of lackluster production for fantasy owners that burned high draft picks to acquire what was supposed to be title-winning talent.

A look at mitigating circumstances and pre-game chatter would’ve shown why Spiller, Decker, and White were about to emerge from their fantasy slumbers and push owners into the playoffs, why they should’ve never been written off.

White and Spiller had been hobbled by similar injuries: high ankle sprains that continually flared up on the playing field, turning them into ordinary players for most of the 2013 campaign.

Seeing that both players, along with their coaches, proclaimed last week that they were almost entirely over their respective ankle injuries — and had juicy Week 13 matchups — should’ve given pause to anyone who had demoted Spiller and White to their benches forevermore.

It’s a natural phenomenon, as social science research has shown.

Decker, who had averaged five fantasy points per game over the past month, had a career day against Kansas City’s crumbling secondary, hauling in eight catches for 174 yards and four touchdowns. This happened just days after Peyton Manning pledged to get Decker more involved in Denver’s passing attack. Decker on Sunday went from Manning’s fourth option to his first.

Benching any and all of these guys is understandable, even expected. We can all learn a valuable lesson though: No player should be permanently shelved because of the irreparable emotional harm he’s caused you.

Sure, you threw a party with 200 of your closest friends after drafting Spiller at the end of the first round. You danced a happy dance when you stole Roddy near the end of the third round. You shaved an 87 into your hair after Decker’s first-half hot streak. Then they all let you down, for one reason or another, so you shooed them away and looked for another fantasy prospect to love.

Nothing is permanent in fantasy football. Injuries heal, players’ roles change, and matchups determine more than we like to admit. Do away with your “dead to me” list.

  • I took to Twitter Saturday night to ask why fantasy owners still viewed Josh Gordon as a boom-bust wide receiver who might not even be worthy of a flex spot. Then the Browns stud wide receiver went bananas, exceeding 200 yards for the second consecutive week and single-handedly winnings fantasy games with 48.1 PPR fantasy points. Only Calvin Johnson has more receiving yards this season, and Gordon missed the season’s first two weeks. The 22-year-old now has more than 80 yards in seven of his 10 games. Stop wondering if Gordon deserves a place in your lineup. He’s not a part of your roster; he’s the anchor. As I wrote two weeks ago in this space, many Gordon owners weren’t aware that he was their most valuable player. Now they should.
  • Josh McCown in Week 13 was a top-10 fantasy quarterback for the third time this season. Jay Cutler’s backup has two things working in his favor: his head coach is a quarterback whisperer, designing schemes and plays that lead to lots of high percentage throws, and he’s throwing to the best receiver duo in the NFL. No signal caller, not even Peyton Manning, has the luxury of chucking the rock to two top-10 receivers, but that’s precisely what McCown has with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. That ridiculous receiver pairing offers McCown and Cutler — upon his return — absurdly high fantasy floors. Either McCown or Cutler next week get the pleasure of taking on a Dallas secondary allowing 295 passing yard per game.
  • No team has been gouged through the air over the past three weeks like the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs’ once-vaunted secondary has been exposed, due in large part to the almost total lack of pressure applied to the quarterback. Peyton Manning’s destruction of the Chiefs’ coverage unit was just the latest salvo. Kansas City is now allowing 371 passing yards per contest over the past month (249 passing yards per game on the season), and they should be a target for fantasy footballers rolling into the playoffs. They play Washington next week, Oakland in Week 15, and the Colts during Week 16’s fantasy title week. Plan accordingly.

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