This has been bothering me since Sunday night, and since I get to write this, you guys are going to suffer through me wondering about it.
In the wake of the New England Patriots' crazy comeback Sunday night, everyone kept talking about how they were taking advantage of the Denver Broncos being without cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and throwing to his vacated spot on the field. I can't argue that. But what I never heard once is the fact that the only person worthy of blame for Rodgers-Cromartie being injured is Rodgers-Cromartie himself.
Do you remember the injury? Rodgers-Cromartie (who really needs to shorten his name to, like, Smith or something) jammed his right shoulder diving for a potential interception. Except, that interception was on the Patriots' end-of-the-first-half Hail Mary attempt, throwing a pass from the Denver 42 that fell well short of the end zone.
Rodgers-Cromartie dove for the ball with no other Patriot within at least five yards of him. Had he just let the ball fall - which it obviously would have - absolutely nothing would have changed. Had he instead hauled in the interception, absolutely nothing would have changed. So Rodgers-Cromartie injured his shoulder and maybe brought about an eventual loss for his team diving for an interception that only would have had a stat-line influence, not a football one.
Why are we blaming Wes Welker again?
Okay, that intro has little to do with The Ticker below. I just needed to get it off my chest, as we are great at harping on questionable maybe-mistakes ("Oh my god the Jets went to Dave & Buster's!"), but right there is a very obvious, very tangible mistake that injured a player, and I literally haven't heard a single person mention it.
Anyway, yes, this is The Ticker. If you're new here, where have you been? This is divided into six categories:
Stocks I'm buying, for guys who have been unexpectedly productive, and I think that will continue, because I'm an optimist.
Stocks I'm not buying, for guys who have been unexpectedly productive, and I don't think that will continue, because I'm a pessimist.
Stocks I'm selling, for guys who have been unexpectedly non-productive, and I think that will continue, because I'm a pessimist.
Stocks I'm not selling, for guys who have been unexpectedly non-productive, and I don't think that will continue, because I'm an optimist.
Futures market, for guys who might be rising up in value soon enough, whether because of playing time or gameplan or what-have-you.
Hedges, for guys whose situation could change because of the vagaries of injuries (which is a fun phrase).
Other than the "selling" categories, guys had to be owned in 50 percent or fewer of Yahoo! leagues as of Monday morning to be considered. The world is waiting for you. Good luck, travel safe ... GO!
(Sorry, was channeling Phil Keoghan. Anyway, read)
Stocks I'm buying
Carson Palmer, QB, ARI (40 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
It was a slow start to a Cardinals career for Palmer, who averaged 9 fantasy points a game through his first five weeks. He had five touchdowns against nine interceptions and only 237 passing yards a game in that time, and we were all mourning the fact that, once again, poor Larry Fitzgerald didn't have a qualified passer throwing him the ball. Then we got to Week 6, and Carson Palmer has been a wholly different quarterback. He's averaged 15.7 fantasy points over his last six games, which would rank him as a top-ten fantasy quarterback over the full year. His ratios have flipped, with 11 touchdowns, six interceptions, and 50 more passing yards a game. And it all started with back-to-back games against San Francisco and Seattle, so you can't very well say it was the schedule that helped him. The Cardinals take on the Eagles' awful defense this week, meaning Palmer is a totally legit top six or seven QB at worst for Week 13.
Nate Burleson, WR, DET (23 percent)
I resisted putting the due-back-from-injury Burleson in previous editions of The Ticker as a Futures Market buy, as I did with guys like Percy Harvin and Mario Manningham, because he's burned me so many times in the past. This is Burleson's 11th season, and I'm willing to bet I've grabbed him as a "sleeper" wide receiver in at least half of those. (Annoyingly, his thousand-yard, nine-score 2004 was not one of those.) But after he returned to action Sunday with 77 yards and a touchdown, I don't guess I have a choice but to believe it a bit. The Lions never really got a second receiver going while Burleson was hurt, with Kris Durham their best attempt, and that was nothing special. Calvin Johnson has basically demanded a constant double-team (even Darrelle Revis couldn't hold him below 100 yards), meaning the Lions' other offensive weapons are going to get more looks, and the team will sink or swim on the success of guys like Burleson.
(I don't do this much, but I am interrupting myself here for a sidebar. I'm writing this while watching Monday night's How I Met Your Mother, which, if you aren't a watcher - and, at this point in the show's run, I don't really blame you - Monday's episode was told entirely in rhyme, for some awkwardly contrived reason that basically boiled down to "The writers wanted to see if they could." What that means for me, though, is that I keep reading my sentences back in a forced iambic pentameter, and none of them rhyme. Listening to poetry is not conducive to the sportswriting process, is what I'm getting at.)
Tim Wright, TE, TB (17 percent)
Despite being a popular sleeper pick for several weeks, Wright (a) still sits at 17 percent owned, and (b) caught two balls for 32 yards total in Weeks 10 and 11. His production jumped Sunday, though, as he caught a career-high eight passes for 75 yards, his second-highest single-game total. With Mike Glennon productive at quarterback and getting more and more comfortable there, the team is going to need a viable pass-catching option to go with the boom-or-bust Vincent Jackson, and Wright seems like a much more likely alternative that Sunday's darling, Tiquan Underwood.
Stocks I'm not buying
Benny Cunningham, RB, STL (3 percent)
Yeah, Cunningham had a great game Sunday, especially considering it was really just the second half. He ran for 109 yards and a score. On the other hand, it's not hard to find about 12 different "Yeah, but"s. (No idea if that is how one pluralizes "Yeah, but.") Yeah, but ... Cunningham did his damage against the absolutely horrific defense of the Chicago Bears, which I'm pretty sure would let me get 30 or 40 yards. Yeah, but ... Zac Stacy is not yet scratched from Week 13 or anything; it's just a wait-and-see for now, and if he's healthy, Cunningham's back to a backup role. Yeah, but ... even if Cunningham gets the start, the Rams play San Francisco, Arizona, and New Orleans in their next three games. We'll need more than one hot half to believe Cunningham is what we are pretty sure Stacy is. (That was only three "Yeah, but"s, but I think it was enough.)
Jacob Tamme, TE, DEN (2 percent)
As a Kentucky fan (and alum), I hate including Tamme in a "don't believe it" section, but here we are. Yeah, Tamme had season highs across the board Sunday - five catches, five targets, 47 yards, a touchdown - with Julius Thomas sidelined. On the flip side, Thomas might be back for the team's next game, and even if he's not, the team has Joel Dreessen (who had the only non-Thomas tight end score for Denver before Sunday) and Virgil Green (who was actually the starter Sunday) as tight ends to go with Tamme. If Thomas is in fact out again, Tamme might be a low-end TE2, but that's not worth much, and it's hard to imagine he climbs much higher any time soon.
Underwood Sunday had what I've started calling a "Look Ahead Or Look Back" game. As in, a player has an unexpectedly big game, so it's either a game that shows us what to expect from him going forward (i.e., a "Look Ahead" game), or it's the game he'll remember as his career highlight when he's 45 (or a "Look Back" game). Underwood had a career-high 108 yards Sunday, and his two touchdowns nearly doubled his career total of three entering that game. Only, he did that on three catches, including an 85-yard score that was the result of a blown coverage. The Buccaneers already have a guy who occasionally has the huge game surrounded by iffy other outings in Vincent Jackson, they don't need a second one; they need a reliable Wes Welker or Anquan Boldin type. I'm chalking Sunday up as Underwood's "Look Back" game.
Stocks I'm selling
Kansas City Chiefs defense/special teams (97 percent)
If you're a regular reader of my weekly defense/special teams rankings, you'll have noticed that I ranked the Chiefs' defense as the No. 13 unit for the rest of the season last week based on a fancy-schmancy mathematical formula I worked up. (Okay, not so fancy, but it was math.) That despite the fact that they still have the best per-game fantasy score of any unit. The Chiefs' defense has scored 4 or fewer fantasy points in three of its last four games; it has scored negative fantasy points in two straight. They face the Broncos again in Week 13. And Tamba Hali and Justin Houston might both be out. If you decided you could forget about your fantasy defense a month and a half ago because you had the Chiefs, you probably ought to start thinking about that slot again.
Stevan Ridley, RB, NE (96 percent)
Honestly, I probably don't need to list Ridley here, except that he was still started in 66 percent of leagues Sunday, and he's a big enough name. I do think he's a fine talent, and Bill Barnwell had a great point here:
What's the benching for? If it's punishment, it's not working. If it's because he's not fit to carry the ball, shouldn't ever come off bench— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) November 25, 2013
All that said, the Patriots do have Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden available to carry the ball (LeGarrette Blount has his own fumble issues), and remember the basic tenet: Fantasy football is supposed to be fun. I own Ridley in a league, and as long as I have a choice, I'm not going to start him anymore. It's just not fun. I watch every carry he gets with a greater feeling of dread than I do of excitement. That's no way to play this game.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, NYG (87 percent)
Early in the season, many of my "Stocks I'm selling" entries were as trade advice; guys owned in most of fantasy leagues generally aren't candidates for being dropped, but maybe you can cash out before their value evaporates. This isn't one of those, though - if you still own Hakeem Nicks (87 percent of leagues?!?!), DROP HIM. There is no reason to still own Nicks, even before considering his injury. There's got to be someone with more upside out there. I'm done with Nicks, and you should be, too.
Stocks I'm not selling
Matthew Stafford, QB, DET (99 percent)
It would be easy to look at Stafford's four interceptions Sunday - as many as he's had in any three games combined this season - and declare it's time to cash out. But that would be overlooking the fact that Stafford still managed 15 fantasy points despite the picks, and that 15-point outing, if it were his average game, would still have him as a low-end QB1/high-end QB2. So basically, Stafford had one of his worst games in a year, and even that was better than the majority of other quarterbacks. Why are you thinking you should sell, again?
Jordy Nelson, WR, GB (99 percent)
Nelson had a 34-yard completion on his first target Sunday; other than that, he had only three catches for 24 yards. He caught two of three targets from Scott Tolzien for 36 yards; he caught two of four targets from Matt Flynn for 22 yards. Nelson has had fewer than 70 yards in three of his last four games and four of his last six, and hasn't scored since late October. But I'm comfortable basically disregarding all of that; he's far and away the most talented and healthiest receiver the Packers have. In that one big game Flynn had years ago (his own personal "Look Back" game, if you will) he and Nelson connected for 162 yards and three touchdowns. And Aaron Rodgers will likely be back in the next couple weeks. Nelson's still a WR1.
Forgive the trope, but: nine catches, 77 yards, one touchdown. That would be a perfectly acceptable game from a single Broncos wide receiver, be it Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, or Eric Decker, but that was the trio's combined numbers from Sunday's game, with Thomas being the only fantasy-viable member of the group. Regardless, they're all still top-20 fantasy wide receivers, with Decker being pretty solidly the worst of the group this season and still sitting at No. 20. I find it hard to condemn any pass-catcher for an awful game when a running back got 37 carries and 224 yards. (Seriously, 37 carries? And we're surprised Knowshon Moreno is banged up now?) Weather and gameplan worked against the Denver receivers Sunday. They'll be fine.
Matt Schaub, QB, HOU (9 percent)
The Texans have already said Case Keenum is going to start in Week 13 against the Patriots. And if they've decided to make a run at the No. 1 overall pick (which they're currently leading the way for), maybe Keenum is the way to go down the stretch. He's pretty awful. But if the Texans want to ever win another game this season, they really need to look back at ex-starter Schaub, who at least has the ability to win football games. For deep leagues only, of course, but Schaub might be there for the end of the year.
Justin Hunter, WR, TEN (1 percent)
The Titans' wide-receiver corps looked to be a three-headed monster of Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, and Kenny Britt entering the season. Britt quickly proved to be bad at football and way too much of a headache to deal with, and Washington has been considerably underwhelming. Wright has been strong, but the team hasn't developed much in the way of a No. 2, leaning increasingly on tight end Delanie Walker. That is, until Sunday, when Hunter had the biggest game of his young career, catching six passes for 109 yards (both career-highs) and a touchdown. With the Titans currently holding on to the AFC's six-seed and Ryan Fitzpatrick looking like a competent quarterback, my guess is they keep going with what worked Sunday in Hunter.
Darius Johnson, WR, ATL (0 percent)
Speaking of teams in the running for the No. 1 pick, the Atlanta Falcons have now fallen behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South, in the saddest phrase I'll ever write. The team is now in full-on "evaluate for 2014" mode, and that includes seeing whether they have anything in the undrafted rookie free agent Johnson. If he can develop into anything, they can look to get away from Roddy White next year, or they can simply have another weapon. Johnson had a career-high six catches Thursday for a career-high 67 yards, and now has 171 yards and a touchdown over his six career games. If the team keeps looking his way, maybe fantasy owners can, too.
Bilal Powell, RB, NYJ (39 percent)
Chris Ivory is hurt (you can't spell "Chris Ivory" without "Ouch," so long as you spell one of those two things wrong), and we'll see if he's able to go Sunday. It was inevitable that it would happen eventually, and Powell had 36 fantasy points in a three-game stretch earlier this season. If Ivory is out, it's not like the Jets have many other options on offense. Powell stands to have a nice little stretch run.
As I noted earlier, the only real success of Flynn's career featured a powerful connection with Jordy Nelson, and it came against the Detroit Lions. This is quick-and-dirty-and-incomplete analysis, but Flynn is likely to start Thursday, throwing to Nelson, against the Lions. If you want to expand it, Flynn is now playing in an offense he knows at least reasonably well, against a defense that made Mike Glennon and Tiquan Underwood look like Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison Sunday. You don't want Flynn for any kind of stretch run, but for a single start, he could be in line for a big game Thursday.
Ronnie Brown, RB, SD (1 percent)
Brown was once a hot commodity. I remember it. It happened. He's been basically forgotten the last couple seasons, though, with only occasional touches. But with Ryan Mathews getting hurt Sunday, and Danny Woodhead hardly the prototypical every-down running back, Brown got six carries in Sunday's game, and could see similar looks in Week 13 if Mathews is out. I've hit on this a few times here, but my running backs are Zac Stacy, Stevan Ridley, and Mathews, and I'm seriously considering grabbing Brown for a one-week play if need be. He could be a sneaky play.