It is Thanksgiving week, and it was also the trade deadline in ESPN standard leagues today (it passed at noon ET), so with both of those things in mind, I present, for your consideration, this humble story.
At the 2008 trade deadline for the "Steelers Fan's Keeper League" out of Pittsburgh, Daniel Degnan was trying to make a move. In heavy negotiations with his buddy Dave Armitage, also known as "Tij," Daniel was trying to acquire LaDainian Tomlinson. Multiple offers went back and forth between the two friends but in the end, he came up just short, as Tij told Daniel he was going with what his brother-in-law Jason had offered. "In addition to draft picks, Jason offered to work on Tij's kitchen for free!"
That is a hard one to top. Kudos to Jason for, uh, being creative?
Anyway, Tij got a new kitchen, Jason got Tomlinson (1500-plus yards, 12 touchdowns in 2008) and the title that season, while all Daniel got, frankly, was some frustration. But as it turns out, Tij wasn't just a guy who didn't have to pay for renovations; he was also a wheeler-dealer and a truly fantastic guy.
How fantastic? When Daniel complained about being aced out of LT for a new kitchen, Tij offered to make amends. And make amends he did. He traded Aaron Rodgers (in his first year as a starter) to Daniel for below market value.
Not surprisingly, Daniel won the championship the next two years in a row. "Do I owe it to Tij's kitchen and good graces? Probably more than I want to admit."
And after the Rodgers trade, Daniel hooked Tij up in return, sending Calvin Johnson to Tij for a below-market value draft pick.
Truthfully, and this is the key to the story, whether he was getting a new kitchen or not, Tij just loved to trade, constantly wheeling and dealing. "Every year," Daniel told me, "Tij would either be a buyer or a seller, always planning for current or future domination."
In a heartbreaking turn of events, Dave "Tij" Armitage is no longer with us, losing his battle with cancer on New Year's Eve 2011.
He was 33 years old.
Daniel told me "He leaves an infant son, Kingston; his wonderful wife, Lauren; his mother, father, and sister. Besides his friends, family and his teaching career, I can't think of anything more important to Tij than fantasy sports. He was the guy when it came to blockbuster trades."
And so, two months before his death, Tij took his close friends to dinner. "We talked fantasy for hours." One last negotiation, one last deal with each of his best friends, a wheeler-dealer to the very end. By the end of the evening, Tij had traded his entire team (except Megatron) to different people in his league and amassed an absurd amount of picks for this upcoming year, "virtually guaranteeing Tij's first championship."
Tij's team is run by a close friend of his that carries on his legacy and passion for fantasy football. "This year, the rest of us are playing catch-up, just the way Tij would have wanted it." The team is currently poised for the playoffs, led by Calvin Johnson. And as for Daniel, he'll have Aaron Rodgers on his team forever. Not just because he's awesome, of course. "But also because I never want to forget just how I ended up with him. Miss you, Bud."
Heartbreaking as that story is, I love the league gathering for one final dinner/massive trade session for a guy who loved to deal. As we sit down to Thanksgiving with loved ones we'll all watch the games. We'll all cheer or complain as our teams start hot or in a hole. But regardless of how your team starts, I hope you'll smile. Because I'll be thinking about Tij. I will think about his wife, his child and his league. I will think about how they clearly cared more about camaraderie and bonding than they did about the legalities of a "RB-for-a-renovation" deal. That they focused on what's important about fantasy sports and life: having fun and enjoying every moment. Because whether it's life or fantasy football, if you're not enjoying yourself, you're doing it wrong.
So whether it's your guy going in for a junk-time score, a meal with a loved one or even the fact that you're breathing and reading this, embrace the moment and smile. Because moments are fleeting and they are meant to be grabbed and held on to tightly.
Time now for Love/Hate. With the bye weeks over, you have to be a little more discerning. These columns are always written for ESPN standard leagues, which means top 10 QB and top 20 RB and WR are starters, 21-30 are your flexes. So when you see an "If you're desperate" for a guy just outside the top 20 or 30, that's why. Shout out to John Parolin and ESPN Stats & Information and as always, be sure to use my rankings (you can click on my face!) for specific "Should I start this guy or that guy?" questions.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 12
Robert Griffin III, Redskins: After my health, family and job, I'm pretty sure RG3 is tops on my "what I am thankful for" list. I've gotten a lot of questions asking whether you should avoid offensive players on Thursday games, so I put RG3 here for that reason, as you might think it's an obvious name. But you're starting him. Merril Hoge made this point on "SportsCenter" on Monday and I totally agree with him: Despite how good the Cowboys' D is, it's going to be very hard to game-plan for all the misdirection the Redskins run.
Andrew Luck, Colts: Perhaps another obvious name by now, but I have him ranked ahead of Drew Brees. So that's some serious love. But it's warranted here. Never less than 18 points at home this year, the Bills' defense is -- what is that word again? -- oh yes stinky. Giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, the Bills allow opponents to score TDs on 36.2 percent of their offensive drives this season, which is the highest rate in NFL.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers: As of Wednesday morning, he has not even been named the starter. But assuming he is, he's a strong play this week. Look, if you've listened to the podcast or follow me on Twitter, you know I've been high on the guy since the preseason. He can make all the throws, and you always love a mobile quarterback. I re-tweeted this stat from ESPN Stats & Information the other day: Nine of Kaepernick's 21 rushes this year are 10-plus yards. That's the fourth-most in the NFL behind RG3, Cam Newton and Michael Vick. Oh, and he's started just one game. If he was a top-10 quarterback against the Bears, what's he gonna do against the Saints?
Andy Dalton, Bengals: When he gets a bad team, he does what he is supposed to do: crushes. Three scores against the Browns (twice!), Redskins and Jags. No turnovers and seven total scores the past two weeks. The Raiders are another bad team which he will, once again, crush.
If you're desperate: Carson Palmer, lord of junk time, will continue to throw. Only Drew Brees and Tom Brady have more games with at least 14 fantasy points this year. That's right. Carson Palmer has actually been consistent. With all the scoring I expect Andrew Luck to do, I expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to do the same. With extra time to prep, he's a good shot for solid fantasy production against the Colts' 20th-ranked pass defense. Here's a weird little stat: The Jaguars have actually given up four rushing scores to opposing quarterbacks this year, most in the league. Jake Locker is a mobile quarterback who has had two weeks to prep for the Jags (who just gave up over five bills to Matt Schaub) and I could see him hit double-digit points here.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 12
Joe Flacco, Ravens: We all know about his struggles on the road, but did you know the Chargers send extra pass-rushers on 40.9 percent of dropbacks, which is the fourth-highest percentage in the league? Joe Flacco has a 50.5 completion percentage against extra rushers, which is fourth-worst in the league (among 34 qualified quarterbacks). Only people worse? Michael Vick, Jake Locker and Brandon Weeden. Don't have Flacco in my top 10 this week, which, as I explained above, means he's not a starter for me.
Philip Rivers, Chargers: Not like I'm real fond of the guy he's facing either. Leading the NFL in interceptions (Next Level: 10 of his 14 picks are a result of either an under- or overthrown pass, most in the NFL), he has scored 12, 21, 14, 6 and 5 points in his past five starts. The addition of Danario Alexander helps, but this a team in turmoil that seems to have bailed on the season. Even on the rare occasions Rivers gets something good, the turnovers limit his fantasy production. He's gonna be in the 12-15 point range, which, with no one on a bye, doesn't cut it.
Eli Manning, Giants: Supposedly his arm felt great over the bye and he's obviously better than he's shown, so I will tell you that this is the one I feel least confident about. And against Green Bay, it clearly could become a shootout. But 13 points or less in five straight, hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since Week 7 how could you possibly feel confident here or start him over some more productive players like Andy Dalton or Andrew Luck? It's for that reason he makes the list.
Running backs I love in Week 12
Doug Martin, Buccaneers: Not that you need a stat, but I'm giving you one anyway: The Falcons' defense has allowed a league-high 2.2 yards per rush after first contact this season. Doug Martin has averaged 2.3 yards per rush after contact this season, fourth-best among players with at least 75 rushes.
Marcel Reece, Raiders: Has been on this list two straight weeks. I'm letting it ride. Don't think Darren McFadden plays. And would still like him as a flex if he did. The running, the pass-catching, the fact that he's named after a mime (I can only assume). Bengals allow the fifth-most receptions to opposing running backs this year, incidentally.
Vick Ballard, Colts: Everyone thinks this guy is in a time share. He isn't. Over the past five weeks, he is eighth in the league with 76 rushes. The only backs with more carries in that time? Doug Martin, Arian Foster, Matt Forte, Trent Richardson, Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. Good list, no? Now, of those guys, Ballard is the only one to not rush for a touchdown this year (he does have one receiving TD). Law of averages being what it is, I say that changes and I say it happens this week against the Bills, as Buffalo has allowed an NFL-worst 16 rushing touchdowns this season.
If you're desperate: I expect Lance Ball to be in the mix, but coming off 14 touches for 59 yards last week, I like Ronnie Hillman to get the majority of work against a Chiefs team that is giving up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Would I feel super confident starting Jalen Parmele? No. But he did have a very productive game last week and should get the majority of work against a porous Titans run defense. You can't start Bryce Brown unless you also own McCoy because it's the Monday night game, but if LeSean were ruled out, I do like Brown's skill set and feel he'd definitely be flex-worthy against the Panthers.
Running backs I hate in Week 12
Cowboys running backs: This whole thing is a mess. Felix Jones missed practice Tuesday so Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner split the first-team reps. As of Wednesday morning, Dunbar is getting the start, but I have no idea how the carries will break out. It's a short week and, for all the Redskins' struggles, they're seventh against the run this year. My guess is that even if Felix Jones tries to gut it out and appears in this game, he gets hurt midway through the second quarter with an acute case of "Being Felix Jones." I'm avoiding the whole hot mess if at all possible.
Michael Turner, Falcons: Hey, Thanksgiving is for traditions, right? For Turner, it's basically come down to whether you think he scores or not. Buccaneers have allowed just three goal-to-go rushing touchdowns all year. If you think Turner gets No. 4, start him. I don't.
Dolphins running backs: Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush are splitting carries, both being ineffective and now have to play a Seahawks team that has had two weeks to prepare. I believe no Dolphin is startable until we see some signs of life. Because it's fantasy football, I'm sure that a week after being horrific against the Bills, they'll go off against Seattle, but I don't trust it.
Beanie Wells, Cardinals: Just because he's back doesn't mean he's not Beanie Wells. Let's see this first and watch how the split goes. He should be picked up if available in your league, but I'd feel much more comfortable starting Ronnie Hillman or Jalen Parmele, and that should tell you everything you need to know.
Wide receivers I love in Week 12
Dez Bryant, Cowboys: A fantasy whack-a-mole to be sure, I like him a lot this week. Twenty targets the past two games and you know I don't think they run the ball effectively here. And that I think RG3 puts some points up. Which means Dez should continue to get looks. Looks that will be effective, mind you, because the Redskins' idea of pass defense is to wave their arms in the air as the guy runs by, screaming "Miss! Hey, look over there! Miss I say, miss!"
Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, Buccaneers: Jackson is the obvious name here but I included him because of this nugget I like a lot: Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are one of two sets of teammates in the top 20 in targets outside the numbers (Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are the other combo). Jackson has caught 25 of 51 targets for four touchdowns, while Williams has caught 18 of 39 targets for four touchdowns outside the numbers. Meanwhile, Atlanta has allowed the second-highest completion percentage outside the numbers this year (64.7) and have also allowed nine plays of at least 30 yards outside the numbers, tied for sixth-most in the league.
Steve Smith, Panthers: Ring. Ring. Ring. Hello? Yes, hi, this is the Eagles' defense. Just phoning in the rest of the season. We started last week. I mean, you really think Aldrick Robinson can get that open on his own? Oops! Gotta go. Mimosas just showed up. Yeah, honey, just set it down there. Hey, do you guys have onion rin -- click.
If you're desperate: Michael Crabtree now has four scores in the past three weeks and you know I love Colin K versus the Saints. Danario Alexander was my "Going deep" sleeper on last week's "Fantasy Football Now," Danario is the only wideout this season with at least ten targets under 15 yards downfield who has a perfect catch percentage (which is helpful when Rivers is under- and overthrowing, dontcha know). San Diego is going to have to throw in this game and Alexander is an upside WR3 or decent PPR play this week. Hard to ignore what Justin Blackmon did last week with Chad Henne as his quarterback, and it's certainly a favorable matchup for both him and Cecil Shorts (I actually have Shorts higher) against the Titans. Santana Moss seems to always crush the Cowboys. At least 70 yards in four straight against Dallas, and in seven of the last nine, in which he's also scored four touchdowns.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 12
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: Came real close to not ranking him at all. Banged up, the Chiefs offense is a mess, and Champ Bailey has had a lot of success against Bowe. Four different games with under 40 total yards and he has just two career touchdowns against Bailey in nine career games, and those came in the same game during junk time when the Broncos ran up the score to 44. Now, there may very well be junk time here, but I'd hate to count on it.
Brandon Lloyd, Patriots: This kills me, because I loved him so coming into the season. And weirdly, the targets have been there. Just not the production. Just 6 yards the last time he faced the Jets, he has just one game with over 50 yards since Week 4. Even with Gronk out, I'd hate to count on red zone looks for Lloyd, and so far this year, that's been the only thing you can really hope for.
DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, Eagles: No, you missed a spot. Just down there OK, cool. Hand me the suntan lotion. Now I'll do you. Turn over Oh hey, excuse me, can I get some more towels? Thanks, doll.
Tight ends I love in Week 12
Aaron Hernandez, Patriots: If he's active, you're playing him.
Jermichael Finley, Packers: I know, I know. I feel super dirty. I'm not proud of this. But I am willing to buy the reports of him and Rodgers getting together prior to last week and clearing the air and getting on the same page. The Giants have allowed the second-most receiving yards to opposing tight ends and he's always a red zone threat so what the hey. I'm giving him a shot. If he lets the opportunity slip through his fingers (see what I did there?), it's back to hate next week.
Brandon Myers, Raiders: Jason Witten is the only tight end to have more catches than Brandon Myers the past five weeks. Three scores and at least 50 yards in three straight, he's still available in 80 percent of leagues and either he or the next guy should be the first Gronk replacements you look at. Bengals give up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Jermaine Gresham, Bengals: Among tight ends, over the last five weeks, only Rob Gronkowski has more yards after catch than Jermaine Gresham. And the Raiders give up the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
If you're desperate: As I said, bet the over in the Colts-Bills game. Dwayne Allen has a nice matchup in a high-scoring affair. I kinda like Logan Paulsen here, whom RG3 keeps looking for (50 yards or a score in three of his last four), and who gets a Cowboys team that gave up two scores to Benjamin Watson last week. Tony Moeaki has started to come on, believe it or not, with at least 50 yards in three of the past four, and no team in the NFL gives up more fantasy points to tight ends than the Denver Broncos. With Dwayne Bowe banged-up and the Chiefs likely to be down, I could see Moeaki getting some work here.
Tight ends I hate in Week 12
Antonio Gates, Chargers: Remember when he used to be Antonio Gates? Sigh. The Ravens have allowed just one touchdown to an opposing tight end this year.
Brandon Pettigrew, Lions: Just not a consistent, significant part of the offense, he has three points or less in four of the last six. You're hoping for a score with him, and there are better bets for that.
Brent Celek, Eagles: "Hey guys, anyone seen my flip-flops? I had them on just before swimming up to the pool bar but then -- ooh, are those mojitos?"
Defenses I love in Week 12
Carolina Panthers D/ST: "Would you gentlemen like a hot stone massage, shiatsu or maybe a Swedish massage?" "Hey, we're all offensive linemen here. Can we get a group discount? Gonna need deep-tissue. And instead of that new-age crap, can you turn on some AC/DC?"
Denver Broncos D/ST: The Chiefs think Brady Quinn is an upgrade. And they might be right. Pretty much all you need to know about the Chiefs' offense this season. @saveourchiefs, indeed.
If you're desperate: The Browns are averaging eight fantasy points a game over their last five and now get a crack at Charlie Batch, also known as the guy who couldn't beat out Byron Leftwich for the No. 1 backup job. The Rams have 12 points in their past two games and now face the force of nature that is Ryan Lindley.
Defenses I hate in Week 12
Philadelphia Eagles D/ST: "Fore!"
New York Jets D/ST: One point the last time they faced the Patriots. Was surprised it was that many.
That's all I have this week. Please have a safe and happy holiday. And smile.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is thankful. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.