With everything that happened to my daughter last week, I just sort of wrote last week’s introduction to Love/Hate without giving it much thought. To be clear, I spent a lot of time writing it and thinking through how best to tell a long story that isn’t a particularly happy one. But I didn’t give any thought to how it would be received. I wrote it because it was cathartic for me and, frankly, it was only the most important thing going on in my life the past few weeks.
The response I received was so incredibly warm and supportive, it blew me away. I heard from so many people, via snail mail, email, text and social media. It really touched my heart and that of my family. Really. It meant a lot to me, so I’m saying thank you.
I am trying to get to every note, comment and text and I am still working my way through them all. So I ask for your patience, please, if you reached out. But the comments, gifts and visits from her friends and teachers have meant so much. Anything to keep her distracted. Because it’s going … OK.
She’s had to miss a lot of things that are super-important to an 8-year-old girl. She had to drop out of dance; she’s done it for three years now and the end-of-the-year recital they work all year for will go on without her. A friend had a sleepover birthday party last week that she had to miss. I took her and a friend to a movie, but even as cool as, ahem, I am … seeing a movie with Dad isn’t nearly as fun as a sleepover birthday party.
So she has good days and bad days.
The school got her a tutor she meets with every day, and earlier this week she went back to school for the first time. She goes for only two hours a day and needs an aide with her at all times, but it’s something. It’s important to us and to her that she be around her classmates, even if it’s just for a little while every day. I took her shopping to get new poncho-type sweaters and bigger coats that will fit over her arms, so she had fun picking out a “new wardrobe.” Last week we saw Santa on the North Pole Express, and this weekend is “Frozen 2,” so we are keeping her busy. She has started to make jokes about it.
Beth (my wife): Come on. Just one bite.
Sister 1: I don’t want to eat that.
Sister 2: You should eat it. Some of us don’t have arms to eat things with.
Her sister is actually very sweet about it. They share a room, and in the middle of the night, she’ll say “My nose itches.” And the other sister will get out of bed and go scratch her nose. It’s super-cute and sweet. Of course, she will also say to me, “Why is everyone paying attention to her? I want people to pay attention to me.” Yeah, she’s very self-aware of her emotions for such a young age.
We’ve had four follow-up visits to the orthopedist and so far so good. There’s still a chance she’ll need additional surgery, but so far so good. And it’s likely another three months with some form of a cast, though she should be done with the full-length ones in two weeks or so. So … we are getting there, as a family.
And your incredible kindness and thoughtfulness has helped us get there. So thank you, truly. Words don’t describe how grateful I was to hear from many of you after last week’s column.
My plan for this week was something fun and light after the heaviness of last week’s column. My plan had been my annual edition of “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” and I’ve gotten some amazing submissions of in-season moves gone wrong. But I’m now already 700 words into this thing, so I’ll save that for next week (feel free to submit your move to me on Twitter using #TMRDLBIA if you’d like to be in next week’s column).
So since this has become a bit of an update column, I thought I’d take a moment to update some of the other subjects we’ve covered in Love/Hate this year.
Washington Redskins: I wrote about my anger and disappointment with the team after they fired Jay Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen gave a completely tone-deaf news conference, saying among other things that the Redskins had a “damn good culture” and that the team “was close” in terms of competing at a high level.
Update: The team was 0-5 at the time of the column. Since then, the team that “was close” has gone 1-4 and has the second-worst record in the NFL. And the team with the “damn good culture” has alienated All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams to the point that he is giving up millions of dollars to NOT play for the team. The team has completely bungled the value of one of its most talented players, and this summer will have to trade him for well below what it could have gotten for him had the team dealt with it immediately. Good times. Hail?
Cardinals Twitter: I did a whole thing a few weeks back about fantasy football and social media, using the Cardinals’ official Twitter handle and that handle’s trolling of fantasy players as a jumping-off point for a larger piece about social media.
Update: Since the time of that column (and the tweets of the official Cardinals Twitter account), Arizona has gone 0-4. I bring this up and will continue to bring this up for as long as the Cards keep losing. Oh yeah, you know about Bitter Berry, but have you met his cousin, Petty Berry? Lucky for the Cardinals, they are on a bye this week, so they can’t lose. (For the record, I love many Cardinals players — I just have an issue with the official Twitter feed of the team.)
Jim Jennings: In Week 4, I told the story of Jim Jennings, a good guy who had unbelievably bad fantasy luck. He had started 0-3, had lost almost every year of his life playing fantasy football and was on the brink of quitting.
Update: Jim and I have been texting most of the season and it’s gone well. Digging out of an 0-3 hole is never easy, and he’s had some tough injury luck, the past couple weeks of George Kittle being the most recent example. But the first thing we did was change his team name from “Last Place Guaranteed” to “LFG.” Karma properly changed, we went about trying to fix up the roster with a few pickups and a trade for Dalvin Cook. Since the column, Jim has gone 5-3 and is now one game out of the playoffs with two weeks to go. He’s had some tough matchup luck, too, as he’s had the second-most points scored against him. There are a few teams bunched up, so he likely needs to win out, but hey … as we enter Week 12, he’s alive and has a chance, which is all any of us wants. His team is definitely a lot more competitive than it has been in years past.
Tracy Rudolph: I wrote about Tracy and her husband back in Week 1. Tracy, as you might remember, is the die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan who has a brain tumor and talked about her fantasy football team during the surgery to help her surgeon “map” her brain.
Update: Things are going well. Tracy’s most recent MRI in October was very positive and her doctors are very pleased with the results. She’s currently getting MRIs every three months, so her next one will be in January. Hopefully after her MRI in April, which is one year post-chemo, she can extend the frequency of her MRIs to every six months. Her husband writes, “All of her medical team read your Love/Hate article and it was very well received.” He also mentioned that the husband of Tracy’s speech pathologist read the article and told his wife about it, not realizing she was part of the surgery.
So, all in all, a bunch of pretty good updates. Thank you again for all of your support. And whether it’s your kids, your partner, your parents or just people you care about, a reminder as my good friend Rick Wolf always likes to say: Hug ’em tight.
Thanks as always to “Thirsty” Kyle Soppe of the Fantasy Focus 06010 podcast and to the Stat-a-Pillar from The Fantasy Show on ESPN+, Damian Dabrowski, for their help at various points in this column. Let’s get to it.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 12
Matt Ryan, Falcons (at Buccaneers): The Falcons are 2-0 since Ryan came back from injury, but he’s just QB19 on a points-per-game basis in those games, averaging just 15.5 points. As their defense has improved, Ryan’s fantasy numbers have gone down, but Ryan gets back on track this week as a fantasy star against a Tampa team that opponents have the fourth-highest pass rate against. The Bucs secondary is the worst this side, of, er, the old Falcons, so I have Ryan as a top-three play on Sunday.
Baker Mayfield, Browns (vs. Dolphins): It’s been an up-and-down year for Baker, his facial hair and his fantasy managers. But if you’ve hung on this long (or, more likely, dropped him only to pick him back up as a bye-week fill-in) you’re about to be rewarded. Coming off consecutive games with multiple TD passes (after having zero such games this season prior), he gets a Dolphins defense allowing, well, a lot, including the third-most yards per completion.
Carson Wentz, Eagles (vs. Seahawks): There have been four QBs to score more than 20 points against Seattle this season. Lamar Jackson you expect, but did you know the other three are Andy Dalton, Matt Schaub and Jameis Winston? I know it hasn’t been pretty for Wentz recently, but given how hot Seattle has been offensively, I see no reason the Seahawks won’t put up points. That means Wentz will have to throw against the NFL’s second-worst pass defense the past four weeks. Seattle has been in its share of shootouts, and Vegas expects Sunday to be no different, with an over/under of 48.5, as of this writing. I have Wentz as a top-10 play this week.
Others receiving votes: Don’t look now, but over the past two weeks, Jeff Driskel is QB6. In part due to using his legs effectively (13 carries for 88 yards and a TD), he has 45.5 points in those two games and now gets to face a Redskins “defense” that gives up the NFL’s highest completion percentage and has allowed 30-plus (real) points five times (tied for fourth most). … The last time Jacoby Brissett faced the Texans, he was QB4 and things haven’t gotten a lot better for Houston since then, as they’ve allowed at least three TD passes in five of their past six games and are the NFL’s third-worst red zone defense. That’s notable since Brissett ranks seventh in the NFL in red zone fantasy points this season (ahead of Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey, despite appearing in fewer games than both of them). … It’s always fun to face a west coast team traveling east for a 1 p.m. ET start, and this week the red-hot Sam Darnold gets to do that against a Raiders defense that has allowed the third-most passing touchdowns this season.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 12
Josh Allen, Bills (vs. Broncos): Only Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson have more red zone fantasy points this season than Allen, whose rushing scores always keep his floor high. But with Denver sporting a defense that allows 2.9 red zone drives per game (tied for sixth fewest in the NFL), expectations should be lowered this week. The Broncos are allowing just 1.7 offensive TDs per game (only the Patriots and 49ers are allowing fewer), so this game understandably has one of the lowest over/unders on the slate. Denver allows the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs, so I have Allen outside my top 10.
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (vs. Packers): When Jimmy G plays Arizona, he crushes, averaging 29.3 fantasy points per game and a 9.8% TD rate. Against everyone else: 12.3 fantasy points per game and a 4.3% TD rate. The Pack sports the eighth-best defense against fantasy QBs this season and they had the bye week to scheme this limited San Fran offense. Even with Garoppolo’s recent success, the Niners remain the NFL’s run-heaviest team and I expect that to continue on Sunday night.
Jared Goff, Rams (vs. Ravens): I know, I know. Obvious name. But what can I tell you? Slim pickings out there for “QB hate” and I don’t want to force things. Anyway, you know how Goff always struggles against pressure (30th in completion percentage and 26th in yards per attempt this season)? Well, the Ravens rank third in pressure rate this season and allow the fourth-lowest TD pass percentage.
Running backs I love in Week 12
Todd Gurley II, Rams (vs. Ravens): What are the Rams gonna do, let Jared Goff throw it? Exactly. Coming off a game in which Gurley saw a season-high 28 touches, expect another heavy workload in a game the Rams must win to keep their playoffs hopes alive, as they are two games behind Seattle and another wild-card contender in Minnesota or Green Bay. Quietly, the Ravens allow a TD on 4.7% of rushes (the third-highest rate in the NFL). Add to that the Rams are the third run-heaviest red zone offense in the league and I like Gurley’s chances of getting into the end zone Monday night.
Derrick Henry, Titans (vs. Jaguars): This is not your daddy’s Jaguars defense. In the past three weeks, Jacksonville is allowing a league-high 175 rushing yards per game, and the Jags have coughed up 11 rushing TDs this season (tied for the sixth most). With his workload firmly in place (he’s averaging 18.7 carries per game), expect a top-10 week from Henry with the Titans as home favorites. Among the 22 RBs with 500-plus carries since Henry entered the NFL, no one is averaging more yards per carry after first contact (2.4). I have Henry as a top-four play this week.
Jaylen Samuels, Steelers (at Bengals): You want bad Bengals stats? I got bad Bengals stats. Cincy allows a TD on drives at the ninth-highest rate, they give up a league-high 167 rushing yards per game (most since the 2010 Bills!), and certainly relevant to Samuels, they allow opponents to complete passes to running backs at the fourth-highest rate. With James Conner likely to miss this one (as of this writing), it’s worth noting that for his career when getting at least 10 touches, Samuels averages 16.6 PPG.
Phillip Lindsay, Broncos (at Bills): Lindsay has at least 17 touches in four of his past six games, and now he goes on the road to face a leaky Bills run defense. In the past four weeks, Buffalo has coughed up five rushing touchdowns (second most), and given up 5.0 yards per carry (eighth most) and 128.8 rushing yards per game (10th most). In the past four weeks, Denver is sixth in rush percentage, and I see no reason to go away from that in a tough road matchup.
Others receiving votes: Whether it’s Jonathan Williams or Jordan Wilkins who gets the early-down work tonight, we know Nyheim Hines will get the passing-down work. And that makes him flex-viable for those in a pinch, as the Texans allow an NFL-high 7.6 RB receptions per game. … Speaking of pass-catching running backs, Kareem Hunt has played at least 37 snaps in both of his games this season, with at least 11 touches and eight targets in both games. Would you believe I have another bad Miami stat? The Dolphins allow the eighth-most PPG to RBs this season and Miami has allowed multiple RBs from the same team to score 11-plus points on three occasions. … Don’t look now, but Tarik Cohen has a receiving touchdown in each of the past two weeks, led the Bears backfield in snaps last week and on Sunday gets a Giants squad that allows 9.4 yards per reception to RBs this season, the third-highest mark in the NFL. With David Montogmery and, well, the entire Bears offense struggling, I could see more work for Cohen as Matt Nagy tries to get some explosiveness back into the offense. … Look, this is a crucial week, and a week ago Bo Scarbrough was unknown to 99% of the fantasy world. Not to mention, Detroit has struggled to run the ball consistently all season long. So, this is definitely high-risk territory. But the Redskins have allowed a rushing TD in six of their past seven games and teams facing the Skins are averaging 32.3 rushes per game this season, the second most in the NFL. All of which means Scarbrough has a chance this week to add to his fantasy résumé after he led all Lions RBs in snaps and red zone snaps last week.
Running backs I hate in Week 12
Mark Ingram II, Ravens (at Rams): I can’t imagine benching him this week, but I certainly have lower expectations for him against a Rams team that hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown since Week 6. As a reminder, 38% of Ingram’s fantasy points this season have come on TDs. Facing an LA run defense that allows a league-low 1.8 yards per carry before first contact and a league-low five carries for 15-plus yards this season, Ingram will need a score or volume to pay off here as a top-10 play. He hasn’t had a game with more than 15 carries since the first week of October (Week 5). I have Ingram just outside my top 12.
Devin Singletary, Bills (vs. Broncos): With Frank Gore still around to get just enough work to be annoying for the fantasy prospects of Singletary, the biggest issue with Singletary has been the lack of scoring. When they get in close, Josh Allen has seven red zone rushing touchdowns on just 14 carries. All the Bills RBs combined are 4-for-29 in that same stat. And it doesn’t appear likely to get much better this weekend against a Broncos defense that is the second-best red zone defense and allows just 3.9 yards per carry this season (seventh lowest).
Brian Hill, Falcons (vs. Buccaneers): While Tampa’s run defense hasn’t been as dominant as it was earlier in the season (just 13th against the run the past four weeks), it’s still not an ideal matchup for Hill. The Bucs are allowing the third-fewest yards per carry this season, and more to the point, teams would just rather pass against them. Opponents are passing 67.3% of the time vs. Tampa this season, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. So even though Hill got a lot of work last week, and did have a touchdown called back due to penalty, he’s hard to justify as anything more than a desperation flex, as in the past two weeks he’s averaging just 1.17 yards per carry before first contact (third lowest among the 20 players with at least 20 carries over that stretch).
Pass-catchers I love in Week 12
Odell Beckham Jr., Browns (vs. Dolphins): It has been a tough year for Beckham, for those of us who have believed in him and for Baker Mayfield’s facial hair (did I already mention that?). But man, if he can’t do it this week … I’m not even going to think about that, because I think he will. Double-digit targets each of the past two games, including at least one red zone target in each (after zero red zone targets in the three games prior), tells me the Browns are trying to get him involved. And against Miami, they will. Why yes, I do, in fact, have another bad Miami stat. The Dolphins allow a TD on a deep reception at the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. Beckham has a deep reception in nine of 10 games this season.
Jamison Crowder, Jets (vs. Raiders): The Raiders are allowing touchdowns on slot targets at the fifth-highest rate in the NFL, as well as more than 12 yards per slot reception (ninth most), so the Raiders make for an ideal matchup for Crowder, who quietly has at least five receptions and a touchdown in three straight games. His 24.3% target share this season ranks 15th among WRs this season, ahead of Julio Jones and Chris Godwin, among others.
Calvin Ridley, Falcons (vs. Buccaneers): See Ryan, Matt. The Bucs allow a league-high 46.7 WR PPG this season and Ridley likes to beat up on bad teams. He has four games this season against bottom-eight WR defenses. In those games, he has averaged 22.3 points and his average finish in those weeks is WR13. Fresh off of catching all eight targets for 143 yards and a TD at Carolina last week, Ridley gets an awesome matchup at home against a burnable Tampa secondary that allows opponents to throw a TD on a deep pass at the seventh-highest rate in the NFL.
Mark Andrews, Ravens (at Rams): Andrews has been targeted on 35% of his routes this season, which leads all TEs. He should again be a focal point of the Ravens’ passing attack with some extra emphasis there given how good the Rams’ run defense is. George Kittle, Austin Hooper, Tyler Eifert, Will Dissly and Cameron Brate have all cleared 12.5 fantasy points against the Rams this season. With Jalen Ramsey expected to shadow Marquise Brown, I like Andrews’ chances to not only lead the Ravens in targets in this one but find the end zone as well. He’s a top-two play for me this week.
Others receiving votes: Opponents are completing a league-high 79.3% of slot passes against Washington this season. That would be the highest rate over the past 15 seasons, which is weird because I was told the Redskins “were close.” Huh. Anyway, Danny Amendola is on the WR3/flex radar this week. … DK Metcalf is tied for second in end zone targets and has at least eight targets in three of the past four games. I prefer him to Josh Gordon in this game, but both are interesting fliers against an Eagles team that gives up deep touchdowns at the eighth-highest rate in the NFL. … Tight end streamers can look toward Ryan Griffin, who faces an Oakland defense that gives up touchdowns to opposing tight ends at the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. Here’s the entire list of tight ends who have at least three games with 50 receiving yards over the past four weeks: Travis Kelce and … Ryan Griffin. That’s it. That’s the list.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 12
Amari Cooper, Cowboys (at Patriots): Hard to imagine benching him, but facing shadow coverage from Stephon Gilmore makes this the toughest matchup Cooper will have all season. Since Week 4, only two WRs have had more than 60 yards in a game against New England, and as you may have heard, the Patriots have allowed just one — count ’em (it), one — touchdown this season to an opposing wide receiver. With Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb stepping up, there is no need for Dak Prescott to force throws to Cooper. Remember, Dak threw for 444 yards last week and Cooper accounted for 38 of them. He’s a low-end WR2 for me this week.
Golden Tate, Giants (at Bears): Yes, he was WR8 in total points the four weeks prior to going on bye, but going to Soldier Field is a little different than beating up on the Cardinals, Lions, Cowboys and Jets (three of which came at MetLife). The Bears allow just 3.3 yards per catch after the reception this season to opposing WRs (second fewest) and just 6.5 yards per slot pass attempt this season (sixth lowest). With the potential return of Sterling Shepard this week and possibly Evan Engram, the emergence of Darius Slayton and of course, Saquon Barkley’s passing-game usage, Tate’s target share is likely to take a hit in this one as well.
Terry McLaurin, Redskins (vs. Lions): Man, I hope I’m wrong on this one, as I’m forced to start McLaurin in a few deep leagues this week, but I’m not optimistic. It’s not his fault. McLaurin has been a bright spot in a very bleak Redskins season, but with an expected shadow from Darius Slay, this doesn’t look like his week. He has been just WR75 on a per-game basis since Week 7, and McLaurin’s connection to his college QB hasn’t translated to the pros just yet. He was targeted on a season-low 11.1% of his routes last week (four targets on 36 routes), and Dwayne Haskins will once again be running for his life behind an offensive line that doesn’t even seem interested in listening to the kid. (Search for the video of Haskins asking his line how he can help them and all of them ignoring him on the sideline last week. Which is super-weird, because I was told the culture was “damn good” there. But I digress.) The future is bright for McLaurin, but you’re going to need one big play for him to pay off this week, and I’m pessimistic that happens.
Matthew Berry — the Talented Mr. Roto — will be at “Frozen 2” this weekend and would like to know if you’d like to build a snowman?