Note: after slight adjustments to the SEP rating system, Aaron Rodgers was elevated to number 19 in the rankings.
May 13, 2015
Most believe Aaron Rodgers to be the cream of the crop when it comes to NFL Quarterbacks, but is he a smart bet?
As that time of year approaches quickly, I know many are already thinking about fantasy drafts, over/unders for the season, and Super Bowl picks. For most, this is a task of looking at what teams did in the draft and how a teams talent projects to the upcoming season. You could say that trying to measure each team and each players abilities is the best place to start when trying to make predictions on the upcoming season. But if that is your strategy then I would say you are WRONG!
I believe it is former coach and player, and now ESPN analyst Herm Edwards who says it best; “The best ability is AVAILABILITY“. Last season was a great example of this for those who had the pleasure of having Aaron Rodgers help them dominate fantasy leagues all season. If you are one of those people, you also know that the domination came to a screeching halt at the end of the season when Rodgers injured his calf just in time for Fantasy Playoffs. Now some of you may have been supreme shakers and movers an survived this, but if you were like me, you went from favorite to win the league to out in the first round.
Some may believe that Aaron Rodgers injury was purely chance but I suggest that his injury was entirely predictable. In fact, I suggest that the probability for any player to be injured is entirely predictable. Imagine if you can not only pick the right team or the right players, but could also maximize the probability that those players would be AVAILABLE when you most need them. This is why I developed The SEP Reliability Rating!
The SEP Reliability rating is now here to make this process easier for you. My SEP rating takes Science, Evidence, and Performance and puts them in a blender which delivers a rating with the information you need. We have rated all the notable players that you will be following, and have calculated simple ratings that will allow you to determine who is more likely to be there when you need them. While a player like Aaron Rodgers may put up great numbers; should you take him over Matt Ryan or Tony Romo? If you are simply answering this question by how good you think each quarterback is, then you might just find yourself scrambling at the end of the season and starting a QB like Brian Hoyer due to injury.
The numbers are in, and if your smart you will be on the look out as we release these ratings that should guide how you look at the 2015/2016 season in its entirety. Since I have talked about Aaron Rodgers so much, I will give a sneak peek about my rating on him. Would you believe me if I told you that Aaron Rodgers is only the 20th most reliable Quarterback in the NFL? Should you be spending a high draft pick on someone who has 19 other Quarter backs who are more reliable than him? Should you be betting that the Packers can win a Superbowl with a Quarterback that may not be at full strength in crunch time? Many will use statistics on how many fantasy points Rodgers had last year and think he is great, but most leagues don’t reward you much for having a lot of points. The goal is to win match ups and to especially win match ups at the end of the season. I contend that my SEP Reliability rating is best equip to predict this most important factor.
Simply put, The SEP Reliability Rating is the next level of analysis for those who are serious about being right. I think we all agree that Aaron Rodgers is the best Quarterback in the league or at least top three, but do you really want him on your fantasy team? Do you really want to wager that he can lead his team to the Superbowl? Take my advice and do not let subjective feeling guide you when it comes to fantasy football or any other wagering. There are some big buildings in Vegas built on people’s who used gut feelings to predict outcomes. I have combined years of data, performance, and expertise to give you an edge…..Stay tuned so you can use it!
DeMarco Murray has a broken 4th Metacarpal in his left hand and had surgery to his hand on Monday. The Cowboys say that he is not ruled out for this weekends game vs. The Indianapolis Colts. Injury Science and our creator say that he will not play. Lets break it down.
The same science that led me to predict that DeMarco Murraywould not make it through the season without injury also allows me to state without hesitation that DeMarco Murray will not play this weekend. For those who follow me you know that my SEP (Science, Evidence, and Performance)analysis on Murray suggested that he would miss about 3 games this season. He almost proved me completely wrong, but with 2 games left in the season and a possible playoff birth for the Dallas Cowboys, Murray may end up being the perfect poster child for the accuracy of Injury Science. Despite my faith in my SEP rating, there is a strong chance that Murray will fall short of missing 3 games. However, I attribute this inaccuracy to the timing of his injury. With the Dallas Cowboys still fighting to get into the playoffs, I believe that most of these players, coaches and owners value making the playoffs more than they value their health. If this injury happened at any earlier point in the season, I believe Murray would have easily missed 3 weeks. My colleague Dr. Starks may have said it best when I told him that I thought Murray would miss time; “Jerry Jones will have them eating through a straw rather than miss more than a few quarters”. Jerry Jones can make a lot of things happen as the most prominent owner in the NFL, but I don’t think healing bone in 6 days is in his repertoire.
The Metacarpal bone is the bone in your hand that connects your wrist to your finger. In DeMarco Murray’s case, he broke the 4th metacarpal associated with the ring finger on his left hand. The media will regurgitate over and over that Emmitt Smith had this injury and only missed a week. The Billionaire owners will tell you that it depends on how much pain he can tolerate. But Science will tell you that bone requires 6-8 weeks to heal. To be clear, I do not think Murray will miss 6-8 weeks but he has a better chance of missing that amount of time as compared to his chances of playing this weekend. Unless DeMarco Murray has Wolverine powers to heal faster than a normal human, he will be at far too much risk to play this weekend.
We have talked about bone fracturesin the past and the same principles apply here. We can make an educated guess on Murray’s fracture based simply on the fact that it required surgery. A metacarpal fracture that requires surgery will generally mean that the bone is displaced or possibly even crushed. If he had suffered a simple non displaced fracture, they would have simply given him a splint and allowed the hand to heal on its own. In this case Murray is likely to need pins, plates or other hardware to properly align the bone and initiate proper healing. Once this surgical procedure is completed and the bone has the chance to start healing, the hardware can usually be removed and the healing process will continue. What the Cowboys suggest is that a surgeon will put these pins in his bone and then say “go out on the field and have fun”. I will remind you that surgeons are some of the smartest people you will find and to reach the level of working with top athletes, you are not likely in the habit of making silly decisions that cause your surgeries to fail.
If DeMarco Murray steps on the field this weekend (as an active player) he and the Dallas Cowboys would be asking specifically for failure. To review, the 3 phases of healing include: an inflammatory phase, a repair phase and a remodeling phase.
The inflammatory phase
With Murray’s fracture occurring on Sunday night, it is safe to say that he is in the inflammatory phase. In short, the inflammatory phase is when your body sets off an alarm and all the oxygen and nutrients get to work on the fracture site. Inflammation can be confused as a bad term as it usually means pain when in joints, but in this case inflammation is a good thing and is very necessary. Even with hardware to set the bone in Murray’s hand, this stage of healing means he needs to rest and let his body do its job. This process will vary from person to person but for a highly trained athlete with good vasculature, I would guess days. Lets just guess that by Sunday, he has grossly concluded the inflammatory phase. If he were to play at this time, it would mean that they have chosen to not even allow his body to start the repair process.
The repair phase
The repair phase is essential, as this is the phase in which many of these injured players are returning to play. While this may be fairly common, returning too early in the repair phase may lead to malformation of bones and loss of function that could last a life time. Even if DeMarco Murray is a fast healer, you would still expect him to be in this phase for a month or so. With surgery, the hardware in the bone will help protect disruption during this phase. However in a game as violent as football with a “Freaky Talented” athlete such as Murray, the amount of force that is generated during his play, is not likely to be tolerated by his healing bone despite the assistance from hardware. If Murray is taking hits on his left hand, stiff arming with his left hand, falling on his left hand, or even catching a hard pass with his left hand; he will be challenging the vascular growth and immature callus and tissue that are attempting setting up to allow the bone to fully repair. The goal of the surgical hardware is to immobilize the bone, and the average person will have mobilization precautions for 6 weeks or so after surgery. The range of difference between being put in a splint and not challenging your hand for 6 weeks vs. going on a football field and running the ball 30 times in the NFL is drastic. The earlier Murray takes hits during this phase, the higher his risk of facing dysfunction in that left hand will be. The outcome of these actions may affect the rest of his career and maybe his life.
The remodeling phase
This phase happens over months and sometimes years and as I stated before, most NFL players will not wait until this phase to return to play. During this phase, the bone regains its full strength. For most NFL players, my concern during this phase would be whether the remodeling of the bone is consistent to the bones initial form or has the disruption of the early healing phases caused a deformity which is now being finalized.
Some people move through the phases of healing faster but we all go through the same phases. The difference is that the players sometimes disregard the process and simply sacrifice that body part to continue playing. For DeMarco Murray I do not think this would be wise as he needs to be able to carry and catch the ball with his left hand. A dysfunctional left hand could prove to be significant when he is looking for that last contract.
What You Need to Know
One of my favorite movies of all time is My Cousin Vinny. As most of you should know, the star Joe Pesci played a slick lawyer from New York who was getting his nephew off on a crime he didn’t commit. At one point in the movie he discredited a witness because the witness spoke of putting on a pot of grits and then referenced the crime happening while he was eating those grits. To make a long story short (because I know I am butchering my description of this scene), he implied that his grits cooked in 5 minutes. Joe Pesci’s then ripped into him asking if he ate instant grits or real grits…..when he replied real grits, Pesci’s ranted “how do your grits cook in 5 minutes while everyone else’s take 20-30 minutes”. He went on to ask do you get your grits from the same person that sold Jack his beans? (much funnier in the movie)
That long ramble is to say, why would we believe the Dallas Cowboys when they say DeMarco is a game time decision? Is DeMarco Murray the Wolverines cousin? Does he have bones that heal in 6-8 minutes and not 6-8 weeks? What you will notice is these statements are coming from the Jones family. The last time I checked none of them are Doctors. I think all in the medical field are firmly on the same page, and that page says that there is NO WAY you put DeMarco Murray on that field this Sunday. Whenever he returns, I am sure it will be earlier than he should. But a return this Sunday would simply be irresponsible by all parties including Murray himself. I know a hand or finger injury may seem minor when you compare it to some of the big injuries that have occurred with players like Cam Newton or Colt McCoy, but your hands are pound- for- pound 2 of your most important body parts if you plan to play a skilled position in the NFL.
So if you weren’t keeping score God and Injury Science win! God blessed us to be able to heal, and Injury Science studied how this occurs so we can heal efficiently. Jerry Jones is a powerful man, but I am sure he will lose this battle.
If you are a league player, the most obvious option is Joseph Randle as he is likely to get the carries this weekend. Especially in a keep away game, as I am sure the Cowboys don’t want Andrew Luck on the field for long. If you have to dig deeper than Randle at this time of year, then you are in for slim pickings. Chris Polk is a touchdown thief in Philly and he gets most goal line and all garbage time carries; I would give him a try vs. the struggling Redskins. Another back that is likely available is Juwan Thompson who backs up C.J. Anderson. WIth a matchup against the Bengals on Monday night in the beautiful Ohio winter weather, I think Peyton will be handing the ball off as much as possible. I do not think Anderson can keep up the volume and I believe Coach Fox agrees; I would look for more carries for Thompson this week.
You can type in “NFL injuries” in any search box and get the details of who is in and who is out, that is the easy part. The more important questions are how long will they really be out? Will they actually play well when they come back? What players are at highest risk to get hurt next? How will one injury affect the performance of other players? Being caught off guard by any of these issues could derail your fantasy line-up at a time where you can not afford any glitches. For many, playoff time is coming and for you one-day fantasy players, your time is running out to win the big one. I will discuss which injuries I see coming and which injuries I see going, and more importantly look at all of the angles that will decide whether you win or lose with your lineup.
Lets go by position:
Some of you have been unlucky and lost your starting QB. Former fantasy owners of Nick Foles and Carson Palmer are the primary victims here. For those who took the obvious option of picking up Mark Sanchez immediately after Foles got injured–good job! I’m not too sure on Stanton and definitely would not feel good with him as my QB down the stretch with the vicious schedule that Arizona has remaining. It is clear that neither of these QB’s (Foles and Palmer) will be back this year, or at least not in time to have a fantasy impact.
If you were not able to get in the Sanchez sweepstakes, then my suggestion would be to look at Shaun Hill as he is now injury free and the Rams have endured a tough schedule that will now lighten up just a little. Another not so obvious option would be Zach Mettenberger, who I do not think is great by any stretch, but he has a great selection of defenses to face to close the season and a monster arm. Last but not least is a stretch for most, but I believe Colt McCoy will finish the Washington Redskins season as a starting QB. McCoy is also not the greatest but he will literally be playing for his NFL career, he has a ton of weapons, and he has good match ups. I would spend a little time telling you how McCoy gets that job, but if you have a TV, a phone, or any type of electronic device I am sure that you have seen the train wreck that is RG3.
My bet is you can get any of those 3 players today and even if they just sit on your bench while you have another borderline QB playing, you will not end up in the back of the waiver line if they get hot.
As for the great Peyton Manning, he is being hit by the injury bug indirectly. With his number 1 and 2 running backs out, Julius Thomas’ status being unclear at Tight End, and his number 2 Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders just being cleared from concussion protocol; the future Hall of Fame QB may have the deck stacked against him. Combine the injuries with the fact that his next 4 opponents all currently rank in the top ten for total defense and that 3 out of those 4 games are likely to be played in cold weather, and you may just have given the ingredients for the kryptonite recipe. The only thing that may be missing is whipping winds and a few snow flurries. In any case, those who pay close attention know what bothers Peyton. When he is pushed off his spot, he is obviously uncomfortable. When he has to hold the ball, he is uncomfortable. With these defenses and bad weather coming, I project some sub Manning like numbers. Now I am not talking Alex Smith mediocrity, but chances are that Peyton is carrying your fantasy team in any league play and he is eating up your salary cap in any one-day play; so you absolutely need him to put up Manning like numbers.
While I do not see a day in which I tell you to sit Peyton Manning unless it is for Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers, I think Manning owners should prepare for a more conservative output and therefore be aggressive with the remainder of the roster. For Peyton and the Denver Broncos, I see very little chance of not making the playoffs, but for my fellow fantasy players this tough stretch falls right at a crucial time in regard to fantasy playoffs. In the end start Peyton as usual, unless you see wind and snow in the forecast; then I may look for one of the QB’s I listed above to hold the fort for one week. This is the closest I will get to betting against Peyton Manning and frankly it feels a little uncomfortable. Lets see what he does over the next month.
Running Back becomes very important in November and December as many of the outdoor teams will start to slow it down with hand-offs and short dump off passes. However as these running backs have their workload increased you may also see more injuries. I predicted way back in the first half of the season that DeMarco Murray would not make it through the entire season and now that its week 12, some may think I was wrong……NOT! All of youDeMarco Murray owners better have a back up plan, because it’s coming.
Another running back to beware of is Arian Foster. Earlier this season, I compared Foster to Steven Jackson as he is an oversized back who gets injured regularly. He is living up to this comparison and if he does not do something different this off-season ( I would suggest some type of Yoga/Pilates blend and a very clean diet), I think you should think long and hard before drafting Foster early. As you can see, when you need Foster most he will not be there for you. At this point, I don’t think anyone will get caught off guard with Foster being out as he seems to be on the injury reports on a weekly basis. The important thing is to not get your hopes up with this “game time decision” talk. I do not see him making it back in an effective way this week as he is only been out for 2 weeks with a groin injury that should likely take at least 3 weeks to heal. We explained the nagging groin strain a few weeks ago when predicting Monte Ball needed 3-6 weeks off before returning. As most of you know, Monte Ball did sit out for 6 weeks and then re-injured his groin on his first game back. Hopefully that lets you and Arian Foster know how serious this injury can be. The easy fix is to keep Alfred Blue on your bench no matter what. If you do own Foster or Murray or maybe even had Ronnie Hillman or Ahmad Bradshaw, there are a few options out there for you to consider:
C.J. Anderson could not have timed it better in regard to fantasy playoffs. With Ronnie Hillman down for at least another 2 weeks with a foot sprain (that should take a total of 3 weeks to heal) and Monte Ball out again with a strained groin , C.J. Anderson will basically have the backfield to himself. I expect Hillman to come back by week 14 and I expect Ball to be a non factor for the remainder of the fantasy season as his re-injury tells me he really needs to give that groin another 3 weeks or more to heal and then return slowly (I don’t expect him to play until the NFL playoffs). Furthermore, Peyton plus the cold means more running plays and more short passes. The only fear is that the volume that Anderson receives in the next few weeks will get him injured too. The good news on that front is that this is almost like game 4 for Anderson, as he has not played much this season. In my opinion he is the top running back to pick up down the stretch. Do anything you can to get him for your leagues and one-day players should spend whatever he cost to get him in the line up.
Another back who’s fantasy value just got a big boost is Trent Richardson. I say this reluctantly as prior to this injury, I literally considered him a bottom 10 back that I would never consider starting. However, the bottom line is Ahmad Bradshaw and his fractured fibula means he is done, and for now Trent will get all the goal line carries as well as a likely 20+ total carries per game. In a more traditional running back way, I think this will actually help Trent Richardson, who has the potential to be a wear on you/hard to stop at the end of the game back. The final kicker is really to look at the Colts remaining schedule. There are some blowouts coming and you know who will be killing that clock, even if it is 3 yards at a time. Look for some fantasy numbers in the form of 25 carries for 72 yards with 2 touchdowns with 2-3 catches sprinkled in. I think many of us can live with those 20 + fantasy points.
Giovani Bernard appears to be ready to return for week 12 and based on reports of a hip pointer and a clavicle issue, he appears to have taken the proper time off. For some, this may seem to be a good thing, but I look at this as a lose-lose situation for fantasy owners. Jeremy Hill showed the ability to be a fantasy stud while Bernard was out and Bernard was a stud before he got hurt. When you put two fantasy studs in one backfield, unfortunately they turn into one half a stud each. If you already have Bernard and are in a PPR format, he is definitely worth keeping, but I do not see the Bengals taking Hill back to his previous role of simply spelling Bernard. I see a backfield that will almost be half and half which is a disaster for fantasy owners. If you can trade either of these player based off of name value, now would be a good time. Jeremy Hill owners may consider sitting tight for a couple of games, as Bernard is undersized and as the cold weather sets in, he may be in line for another injury. If I could pick, I would much rather the style of Hill to carry me to the fantasy playoffs, but by no means would I wish injury on any player.
It appears that the wave of wide receiver injuries is over with Megatron, A.J. Green, Andre Johnson, and Odell Beckham Jr. all back and healthy. Despite this abundance of health at the position, there are some injuries that will make some receivers more attractive than others.
T.Y. Hilton is already a must own everywhere but for you one-day fantasy players who are comparing T.Y. to Dez or Megatron or Jordy Nelson on a weekly basis, here is the reason why T.Y. might have eclipsed many of them. With the injury to Ahmad Bradshaw, the Colts have lost their only receiving back. Additionally, the Colts have an injury to their best tight end Dwayne Allen. Allen is listed as day-to-day with an ankle injury but I expect him to miss at least one game or at the very least see less time on the field. This means more Coby Fleener during the competitive portion (there will be garbage time for Trent Richardson to get his!) of the Colts games; it means less running as Allen is the obvious running game tight end while Fleener is the passing game tight end. T.Y. is by far the most targeted player for Andrew Luck and these injury developments likely just increased his targets. As we hit the stretch for the fantasy season, I think T.Y. Hilton will be as good as it gets at the receiver position.
Demaryius Thomas may also get a little bump up from his already superstar status after The Dnever Broncos lost Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas in week 11 to injuries. Sanders went down with a concussion and looks to be probable for week 12, however there is evidence out there that correlates concussions to poor performance shortly after recovery from said concussion. As for Julius Thomas, he appears to have a simple low ankle sprain but he likely will miss a couple of weeks. This sets up for Demaryius to have an even bigger role in the Broncos pass game. We may even get a Wes Welker flash back for my fantasy league players who are desperate for a short-term play at receiver.
Brandin Cooks thumb fracture has effectively ended both his fantasy and real football seasons. This means someone who is healthy on the Saints likely gets more targets as Cooks was the second most targeted player on the team to Jimmy Graham, and the most targeted receiver on the team. This is a tough call between Marques Colston and Kenny Stills, but I would take a chance on Colston as Drew Brees targets him more than Stills, and Brees and Colston have more history. This must be a cautious play as Cooks injury may actually just lead to Colston, Stills and who ever replaces Cooks to split the targets by 3, which would make no one happy. This may be one to take a look at for a week or two before making a move.
Now this one has nothing to do with an injury per say, but those who read my work often know that I split my skilled players into Freaky Talented and Supremely Skilled. Around this time of season the Freaky Talented group will start to slow down as the weather elements may not be ideal for their talents to fully shine. Additionally, it is my theory that these Freaky Talented athletes need pit stops to rejuvenate as they max their bodies out while utilizing all of their god given talent. But if I can get one of the most Freaky Talented players in the league with completely fresh legs at this point in the season, I am all over that!. Josh Gordon is exactly that. Not only does the physical play in his favor, but the mental sounds like it is ready too. One of the first quotes given to nfl.com from Gordon was “I’m going to tear this league up”. If your league is anything like the one I am in, Gordon has been owned all year despite not playing…he is that coveted. If there is any way to get him, I would go for it. For one-day fantasy players, this may be the only week you will get him cheap. After he faces the worst pass defense in the league down in Atlanta, my guess is that his price will be right up there with the elite wide receivers where it belongs.
Marqis Lee is a low-level benefactor of the foot fracture that Allen Robinson suffered. This consideration is more for the one-day fantasy players who have the bare minimum to spend on a flex player that has the chance to actually do something. The two things I think I know is that Lee will now be on the field in all 3 wide receiver sets (with Robinson out) and that Lee has lots of talented. Everything beyond that is a gamble….your choice.
As I mentioned earlier, the Dwayne Allen injury may officially push Coby Fleener to the TE1 conversation. Fleener has been inconsistent despite being Andrew Luck’s teammate in college, but now he appears to be ramping up. 1-2 weeks of Allen being out may generate a role for Fleener that will become a little more permanent int the Colts offense. Additionally, if Trent Richardson does not take advantage of his opportunity like I think he will, you may see the Colts just turn into a pure passing team in which Fleener stays on the field a bunch more as run blocking would not be needed. I would keep my eye on Fleener in fantasy leagues and pick him up if a roster spot is available. He is also a good one-day play if you don’t want to spend on one the big three of Gronk, Graham, or Thomas.
Some of you may be waiting for Jordan Cameron to be cleared from the concussion protocol and are ready to plug him in as your starter. I would look in another direction. Again, performance after concussions can be tricky and with the reports indicating Cameron having some long-term concerns, I would simply stay away from Cameron this year. Any return will be on egg shells and the likelihood of poor performance or another concussion is a very real possibility.
Tight End is a tough position to pick up late in the season and in most cases the match up should dictate who you play, but there are a few that you may be able to pick up and fill in with. Zach Ertz had a big buzz at the beginning of the season but that buzz has faded fast. I am not saying Ertz will win any week for you but I think the addition of Mark Sanchez to the equation allows him to not lose a week for you. Sanchez and Ertz have a relationship that ranges from preseason as they both had significant 2nd team reps. Sanchez is definitely looking for him more than Foles did. Now all Ertz has to do is find a way to stay on the field for more snaps and you may have a decent TE2.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are about to get real healthy and are likely sitting there waiting to be picked up in most leagues. With the return of 5 starters including their leader-Troy Polamalu as well as the addition and rejuvenation of the great James Harrison, the Steelers may look like the traditional Pittsburgh Steelers down the stretch. The tricky thing with these injuries is that when the players make it through and the team stays competitive, the return from injury is that much greater. The Steelers should have a lot of fresh legs on the field vs. many who are simply worn down from the grind of a 16 game season.
The Philadelphia Eagles should be on everyone’s radar as they are having a near historic year on Special Teams with punt blocks, field goal blocks, and even extra point blocks. Combine this with arguably a top 3 punt-return man in Darren Sproles and Chris Polk who already has a kick return for a TD and you would think picking them up is a no brainer. But then the leader of the defense Demeco Ryans goes down and Aaron Rodgers puts up a million points. I can see how people may get nervous about this being their starting defense. As bad as the Demeco Ryans injury is for the actual defense, I think the response to the injury by the Eagles is even more telling. Instead of looking for another linebacker to replace Ryans or even just looking for another defensive player, the Eagles signed Chris Prosinski. Posinski is a safety from Jacksonville who is primarily a Special Teams stud. They added him to a Special Teams that already boast Chris Maragos who is arguably the Michael Jordan of Special Teams. So while losing your middle linebacker is bad, the Eagles may have gotten even better with rushing the quarterback by bringing more speed and agility to the linebacker position with Mychal Kendricks as the new focal point. The bigger point is that I don’t think any other team in the league takes Special Teams as serious as the Eagles and frankly that is where all the points are coming from rather than the actual defense. They should be the premiere DST going down the stretch in all formats despite losing the leader of their defense for the remainder of the season.