Football with the Fantasy Freak: Week 13

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Football with the Fantasy Freak: Week 13

Every Friday, Fantasy Football Draft Guides Scott Gramling (a.k.a. The Fantasy Freak) will help you make the tough decisions for your fantasy teamthe sneaky sleepers that could make or break your matchup, as well as those players you may want to consider leaving on your fantasy bench. He also delves into a hot topic with our Question of the Week. Follow Scott on Twitter @nflfantasyfreak, and watch him every Friday on UNO's Sports Tonight at 6:30 pm. To submit a question to be considered for appearing on the air, do so through Twitter@CSNNE or through our Facebook page at www.facebook.comcsnne.

Week 13 Sleeper of the Week: Jets Defense
I know the Jets are coming off a game in which they gave up 49 points to the Patriots, but a) some of those points were due to mistakes made by the Jets offense and special teams and b) it was the Patriots, who have the NFLs top offense. Arizonas offense is a far cry from New Englands, especially with rookie Ryan Lindley making his second career start as Kevin Kolb continues to be sidelined with a rib injury. Lindley was awful against the Rams, throwing four interceptions, two of which were pick-sixes. Not only do I like the Jets in this matchup, but I like them next week too, against Jacksonville. And with Tennessees offense such a mess that the Titans fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer this week, Id consider starting the Jets defense against them the following week. Theres not a fantasy defense in the league with a more attractive three-week stretch coming up than the Jets have with Arizona, Jacksonville and Tennessee.

Week 13 Sleeper No. 2: Eagles RB Bryce Brown
LeSean McCoy remains in Phase 1 of his recovery from a concussion, which means Brown will get the start on Sunday against the Cowboys. With Philadelphias season in the tank, its certainly possible that McCoy will remain sidelined far beyond Sunday, especially if Brown performs like he did while racking up 189 yards and 2 TDs on 23 touches on Monday night against the Panthers. The one downside to Browns performance on Monday is that he lost two fumbles, but I dont expect that to be a factor in terms of costing him playing time, and thats because Philadelphia is simply playing out the string. He ran with authority while showing an impressive combination of speed and power. With the way Andy Reid likes to ride one running back as opposed to using a committee, theres no reason why Brown cant be a top-10 fantasy running back not only for Week 13, but for as long as McCoy remains sidelined.

Week 13 Sleeper No. 3: Lions RB Ryan Broyles
Lions receiver Titus Young was suspended by head coach Jim Schwartz for the Thanskgiving Day gamethe Detroit Free Press reported this week that Young had "purposely lined up in the wrong spot on the field multiple times" in Detroit's Week 11 loss to the Packers. Broyles stepped in as the starting receiver opposite Calvin Johnson against the Texans on Thanskgiving, and Broyles responded with six catches for 126 yards. Young returned to practice this week but was running with the Lions backups, signaling that Broyles will likely remain in the starting lineup for a favorable matchup against a Colts defense that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season.

Week 13 Bust No. 1: All Steelers running backs
Each of the Steelers running backsRashad Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Raineylost a fumble in the teams Week 12 loss to the Browns, as the team fumbled eight times while losing five of them. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was quoted this week as saying that he "wants to stay with a primary back for now," so hes clearly been convinced that the committee approach is not working. Tomlin singled out Dwyer as having been the most consistent and productive guy, and the numbers bear that out: Dwyer has averaged 4.4 yards on 98 carries this season and posted back-to-back 100-yard games as the feature back in Weeks 7 and 8 while Redman and Mendenhall were sidelined. As long as Dwyer remains healthy, hes the only Steelers running back who can be started in fantasy leagues, but not until Ben Roethlisberger returns to the lineup to keep opposing defenses from being able to focus on stopping the Pittsburgh running game.
Week 13 Bust No. 2: Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams
I know Williams is slated to get the start against the Chiefs if Jonathan Stewart cant go because of an ankle sprain, but that doesnt mean he should be in your fantasy lineup. Williams has been averaged only 3.2 yards per carry this season, and in the two games Stewart missed earlier this season, Williams totaled just 77 yards from scrimmage with no touchdowns over the two games.

Week 13 Bust No. 3: Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno
After not having touched the ball since Week 2, Knowshon Moreno made a surprise start in the absence of Willis McGahee and gained 111 yards from scrimmage on 24 touches in Week 12. The impressive performance came against the Chiefs, however, who this season have given up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Moreno this week faces a Tampa Bay defense that allows the fewest rushing yards per game (81.5) and carry (3.4) in the NFL.

Question of the Week:
Is Giants rookie RB David Wilson worth picking up now that Andre Brown is out for the season?
Its his time, is what Tom Coughlin said this week about Wilson. I know the Giants signed both Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin, but Im assuming thats for running back depth and that Wilson will be the No. 2 back behind Ahmad Bradshaw for as long as he holds onto the football and doesnt miss any blocking assignments that get Eli Manning killed. If youre an Ahmad Bradshaw owner and Wilson is available on your leagues waiver wire, you must pick up Wilson as insurance. If you dont have Bradshaw but have some dead weight among the running backs on your roster, you may want to roll the dice and pick Wilson up. Id consider him one of the top fantasy backup running backs because of the fact that Bradshaw is injury-prone and because Wilson would have considerable upside in a high-scoring offense if he were to get the starting role should something happen to Bradshaw.

Injury Update:
CHICAGO RB Matt Forte (sprained ankle) expects to play, but could be limited . . . MINNESOTA WR Percy Harvin (ankle) is doubtful to play . . . GREEN BAY WR Greg Jennings (groin) practiced fully on Thursday and it appears that he will be able to suit for the first time since Week 4 . . . ST. LOUIS WR Danny Amendola (heel) is doubtful to play on Sunday . . . CAROLINA RB Jonathan Stewart (two sprained ankles) is not expected to play this weekend . . . DETROIT RB Mikel Leshoure (ankle) returned to practice on Thursday and is probable this weekend . . . JACKSONVILLE top WRs Cecil Shorts (hamstring) and Justin Blackmon (groin) both missed Thursdays practice and are questionable for Sunday. RBs Maurice Jones-Drew and Jalen Parmele (groin) are both out . . . NEW ENGLAND TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm) will not play on Sunday, but could return in Week 14 . . . HOUSTON RB Ben Tate (hamstring) expects to return to the field for the first time since Week 7 . . . PITTSBURGH QB Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder, ribs) is doubtful to play on Sunday, but the Steelers could wait until right before game time to determine if he or Charlie Batch will start . . . CLEVELAND QB Brandon Weeden (concussion) practiced fully on Thursday and is on track to start in Oakland . . . OAKLAND RB Darren McFadden (sprained ankle) will return to action Sunday, but will not get a full workload . . . CINCINNATI WRs Andrew Hawkins (knee) and Mohamed Sanu (foot) are both questionable. Hawkins has a better chance of playing and Sanu may be a game-time decision . . . PHILADELPHIA RB LeSean McCoy (concussion) remains out indefinitely . . . DALLAS RB DeMarco Murray (foot) expects to play for the first time since Week 6. WR Miles Austin (hamstring, hip) was limited in Thursdays practice and is listed as questionable.

Zdeno Chara interested in summer contract extension: 'Of course I would be'

Zdeno Chara interested in summer contract extension: 'Of course I would be'

BRIGHTON, Mass – At 40 years old and entering the final year of his contract with the Bruins, one might expect that Zdeno Chara was hoping to finish things up strong next season and ride off into the Boston sunset as a future Hall of Fame shutdown defenseman. 

One would be totally wrong, however. 

Chara finished off a very strong season for the Bruins as their de facto No. 1 defenseman and averaged a whopping 28:46 of ice time during Boston’s six games of playoff hockey. It wasn’t by design, obviously, as Chara was pushed into some games where he went over 30 minutes of ice time due to the blue line injuries and overtimes, and it wasn’t always perfect as evidenced by Chara’s minus-3 rating in the series and his disastrous delay of game penalty at the end of a Game 2 loss in Ottawa. 

But by and large it was an excellent season for Chara as a shutdown D-man paired with Brandon Carlo where his leadership benefited the 20-year-old rookie, and Carlo’s mobility and puck-moving helped bring out the best in Chara’s game as well. The 10 goals and 29 points and plus-18 in 75 games while averaging 23:20 of ice time was a strong showing for the Bruins captain, and undoubtedly encouraged Chara that the end is not near for his career. 

With that in mind, Chara said during Tuesday’s breakup day that he welcomed a discussion about a contract extension with the Bruins following July 1 as he hopes to continue playing beyond next season. 

“Of course I would,” said Chara, when asked if he’d be interested in an extension this summer. “It’s something where I want to continue to play, and I take a lot of pride in my offseason training and being ready for every season. It’s probably something that management has to think about and make a decision about, but I’ve said many times that I would like to play beyond this contract. 

“I want to still be very effective and still get better and improving while maintaining my game, and adding to my game. It’s a game that’s going extremely fast as we go forward with a lot of skill assets. You have to be able to make those adjustments, and that’s a focus for me going into every season so I can be an effective player.”

Clearly it would need to be under optimal conditions for the Bruins to extend Chara at this point in his career, but a short term contract that pays the aging D-man something in the neighborhood of next season’s cap hit ($4 million) would be palatable for a player that’s easily still a top-4 defenseman in the twilight of his career. 

There just shouldn’t be any expectation he’s going to get additional term or be anywhere close to his salary total for this season that was in the $7 million range, and instead it will be a potential contract extension that reflects Chara’s value to the Bruins even if Mother Nature is starting to slow him down a little bit. 

Chara’s skating game certainly has slowed for a 6-foot-9 defenseman that never counted skating as a real strength, and you don’t ever see him wind up and blast away full strength with that 108-mph slap shot that was featured in so many All-Star Game Skills Competitions over the years. But he can also still be a shutdown guy, a dominant penalty killer and an intimidating presence in the defensive zone that causes every offensive player to take pause when he’s out there. 

Even if Chara eventually becomes a middle-pairing defenseman over the course of the next couple of seasons, the Bruins could still use his presence on and off-the-ice as a defensive stopper and a mentor to all the young D-men in the organization. So it may be that the Bruins are just as interested as their 40-year-old captain in extending things another year or two with so much roster turnover toward youth expected on the B’s back end over the next few seasons.  

Red Sox circle wagon around Dustin Pedroia's words in weird fashion

Red Sox circle wagon around Dustin Pedroia's words in weird fashion

A rained-out Tuesday was pretty action packed, and a little head-scratching.

The Red Sox circled the wagons well, arriving at a unified message about the Dustin Pedroia and Manny Machado situation: this is behind us, and we’re all good. But it was a weird string of events that brought the Sox to that bottom line.

Happy Hanley Ramirez decided he was going to be Matt Barnes’ public relations representative, running bubbly interference when reporters approached Barnes in the clubhouse.

Ramirez then said there was no team meeting to discuss the fallout from that pitch Barnes threw too close to Machado’s head.

Interesting.

At first, Sox manager John Farrell said nothing about the fallout. He then later referred to a hypothetical meeting that took place.

But it wasn't hypothetical. Diplomatic Dustin acknowledged the discussion that touched on his words to Machado: “It’s not me, it’s them.”

Defiant David Price, meanwhile, was off tweeting something passive aggressive about another matter entirely.

But whether or not you believe the Sox, Tuesday’s rain-out scene was simply weird. A strange mishmash of approaches and attitudes.

We’ll take it chronologically, and begin our day with a tweet from Price.

1. Perhaps someone’s story or commentary recently irked Price. Or maybe he was just in a bad mood. 

Why else would Price announce that he's holding his media session about Monday’s bullpen session on Twitter, and that he won't answer no questions?

Raul Martinez of NBC Boston said on Twitter: “Went to his ice cream (charity) event yesterday, said we're going to ask about health & got up & left.”

Maybe that’s it.

So you’ve got the rehabbing $30 million pitcher off in one corner doing his thing, still having trouble with the attention he's receiving.

2. Around lunchtime, Farrell made his first remarks of the day, in a weekly spot on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio. He was asked a couple questions about the Pedroia-Machado-Barnes brouhaha, and wanted nothing of it. 

Farrell told hosts Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin that he did not mean to be short. Except he did. His answer may as well have been, “We’re on to Cincinnati.”

3. Move forward a couple hours. The Yankees-Sox game gets rained out and the Sox clubhouse opens for 30 minutes. Reporters approach Barnes, who’s appealing his four-game suspension for throwing at Machado.

But Barnes had to take care of something first before talking to reporters. Ramirez, who wasn't far from Barnes’ locker when reporters approached, tried to be some sort of shield. A goofy shield.

Remember that Ramirez has spiritually taken over for David Ortiz, or just really wants to. And Ramirez, clearly in a good mood, wanted the media to talk to him instead of Barnes.

(Ramirez, of course, doesn’t control who talks when. The media talked to both players.)

“No more talking about what happened in Baltimore,” Ramirez said at the end of his chat. “It’s over. … Let’s go Sox nation!”

Ramirez was being playful. But let’s go Sox nation? What? Who says that? 

4. Pedroia could have dodged the media for the 30 allotted minutes in the clubhouse, but he seemed to know there was an issue to quell.

“We all talked about that. We’re going to keep that in house,” Pedroia said, not nearly as jovial as Ramirez. “We feel good about each other. We all have each others’ backs. Everybody knows how everybody feels about each other. We’re pretty excited about the group we have."

Pedroia said he clarified what he meant by that “it’s not me, it’s them” comment — privately.

“I think guys that should know, know how we feel about each other and things like that,” Pedroia said. “It’s unfortunate that the outside has an opinion, but they’re going to have an opinion about everything. We all know how we feel. We’re moving on. We’re getting ready for this series, then the Cubs, then the Orioles. We’ve got a tough stretch. We’re focusing on baseball and turning the page.”

Pedroia was more testy when responding to a reporter’s question about his own words than he was a question about Orioles closer Zach Britton’s allegation that Pedroia can’t control his clubhouse.

Britton was way off-base when he suggested to BaltimoreBaseball.com that Pedroia didn’t have control of his group because Barnes threw at Machado. As though Pedroia was supposed to throw himself in front of the pitch.

But Pedroia, now 33, didn’t show off his fiery side.

He still can get riled up, but you have to wonder if his new position as the de facto team leader and his age have mellowed him. In the absence of Ortiz, is Pedroia now a diplomat?

“Everybody has their opinion. I don’t know Zach,” Pedroia said. “I haven’t played with him. I’m sure if I had played with him, his opinion of what he said would be different. I just know him as one of the best closers in the game. That’s it. His comments were said after an emotional game. Obviously he was upset at the situation. I don’t think negatively of him. I try to look at both sides before I jump to conclusions on anything.”

How pragmatic.

5. Then it was Barnes’ turn.

The Sox reliever who could have been offended by Pedroia said nothing at all, which was really his only choice. But Barnes wasn’t exactly loose, free and easy while giving non-answers. This was a tense situation, and Barnes didn’t disguise that. You can understand why.

6. Seemingly in a better mood a few hours after his satellite radio talk, Farrell had a little more to say about the the whole thing when he met with reporters at Fenway Park.

“I didn't feel any rift that was in the clubhouse because of what transpired,” Farrell said. “Any conversation that might have been needed was had and we're on to this series upcoming. What's done is done. 

“The one thing that I will say is, whether we are challenged by performance, injuries, things that take place between the lines, (I feel) very confident and strong that this is a team that's got one another's back and we handle it as a team.”

Maybe the Sox just need to work on their public relations a little bit, unify their approach. They all seem to know the bottom line.