It has been spelled out many times in this column that I will not take a victory lap unless the prediction is absolutely perfect. With your permission, I broke that rule last Monday night.
Folsom, California, native and beloved protagonist of local football lore, Jake Browning, did the thing. He was a top-10 fantasy quarterback (QB4) in Week 13. The Cincinnati Bengals went on the road to defeat the favored Jacksonville Jaguars and scored 34 points in the process.
My prediction was that they would score 35, so I asked for some grace. It was received immediately. You all couldn’t care less about one measly point away from the most miraculous and improbable Monday night miracle. “Take a lap, sir” and “I’ll allow it” were the common refrain. It has been a crystal ball season for me, with some correlating success on my personal fantasy teams. Fantasy football is f***ing fun and this elevates it to exhilarating heights.
Here’s the blurb, if you missed it.
While Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were incredulously fawning over the Browning performance, I wasn’t surprised at all. My very close friend, Joe, played junior college football with Hall of Famer Larry Allen and owns a Folsom sports bar called the Iron Bulldog. He hosted Browning and fellow Folsom alum (and current Bengals tackle Jonah Williams) in the offseason as part of the bar’s grand opening and could have told you the young quarterback was destined for greatness.
The Folsom Bulldogs won the state title under Browning in 2014, where he tossed a national record 91 (!) touchdown passes. Green Bay Packers tight end Josiah Deguara was also on that team. Their head coach was current Stanford head coach, Troy Taylor, who famously took over for David Shaw after turning Sacramento State into an FCS powerhouse. Again, no one in NorCal is the least bit surprised that the winningest quarterback in the history of the now-defunct Pac-12 Conference (the conference of champions) is having success at the highest level.
Norm Van Brocklin
Is Jake Browning the next great QB from NorCal?
— Bo McBrayer 👑 of 🌶 (@Bo_McBigTime) December 5, 2023
The region’s history with legendary quarterbacks runs deep. So does flavor and spice, since most of the food in your fridge right now hails from the fertile soils that stretch for hundreds of miles in every direction here. Maybe its really arrogant to say this, but I was born to write this column. With another incredible hit, I am fired up to start a winning streak in Week 14. Let’s dive right into it.
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Fantasy Football Hot Takes: Week 14
Justin Fields Rushes for More Than 100 Yards and Scores Three Combined Touchdowns; Upstart Bears Bury Lions in Soldier Field Slog for Fifth Win
Most of us know the narrative: Jared Goff is really good under a roof, especially within the friendly confines of Ford Field. He is not, however, anywhere near as good in outdoor road games with bad weather. The Lions have 12 of their 17 games indoors this season, but this one has been circled on the calendar for a while as their last outdoor game of the regular season. In fact, their last game in the fresh air and elements was a stunning 38-6 drubbing at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens in the Charm City. The Bears are built for this.
Fields has been stellar since returning from his thumb injury, removing any whimper from the subversive “Tyson Bagent is better” crowd. The Bears need not worry that their recent winning ways will affect the upcoming draft, since they own the Carolina Panthers’ top pick from the Bryce Young trade. That deal included the grand theft of superstar wideout DJ Moore, who is enjoying the best season of his career in the Windy City. Detroit’s weakness has been their defense, which will have their hands full with Fields, Moore & Company on Sunday. Did I mention the weather is going to be nasty?
Elijah Moore Continues Success with Joe Flacco at the Helm with 100 Yards and a Touchdown; Browns Crush Reeling Jaguars by Double Digits on the Shores of Lake Erie
Speaking of nasty weather, the Cleveland lake effect is entering its time to shine. Flacco rolled off his elite couch last week to include Moore in the most vertical offense by passing air yards in the NFL last week. Where it would be dubious to expect that sort of thing to work in the elements this week, Flacco seems to be the only quarterback with enough competence to extract the immense talent within the former Ole Miss WR.
The Jaguars might not be ready for the Dawg Pound. CJ Beathard stepped in for the injured Trevor Lawrence on Monday night and did fine, but the Bengals defense pales in comparison to the fearsome Browns unit led by Myles Garrett. Although Lawrence has logged limited practices after being carried hundreds of yards to the locker room on national tv, I would be shocked if he dressed for this one. Jacksonville is a good team, but it would be very surprising to see them flourish in the daunting conditions laid in front of them this week.
Jake Ferguson is the TE1 Overall in Week 14 with Two Touchdowns; Cowboys Win Sixth-Straight Home Game Against Philly with 500 Yards of Offense
Former Nebraska tight end Jake Ferguson has swagger. He has endeared himself to Dallas Cowboys fans around the world with his impressive production this season, while also earning the respect of his opponents through hatred. His unadulterated disrespect for Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams this past week was a sight to behold, but that wasn’t even his best game this year.
Big Ferg lit the Eagles up in Philly in Week 9. He set a season-high with 22.10 PPR points while the Kelly Green Bird Gang sneered. Dallas hasn’t lost at home to the Eagles in five years, while Philly has struggled immensely in coverage this season. Dak Prescott is scorching hot and can continue his march to MVP with a signature performance in Sunday primetime. The Eagles have faced a nasty gauntlet over the last month and now face yet another playoff-caliber team coming off 10 days of rest. I still think the Eagles are an excellent team, but weathering this storm might break their spirit on the road to returning to the Super Bowl.
Tyjae Spears Explodes for 20 PPR Points in Newly Expanded Role; Titans Bludgeon Speedy Dolphins in South Beach on Monday Night and Hold Them Under 25 Points in Close Win
Did you see it? After Derrick Henry was smacked with perhaps the hardest hit of his career, the rookie from Tulane took over. Spears is a cannonball. He has unreal football speed and his incredible vision, anticipation and pad level were on full display against the Colts. The main reason he has seen the field more than any other complimentary back next to King Henry is his receiving prowess. Spears is unbelievably gifted in space and the Titans don’t have many other weapons in the passing game for Will Levis. In an expected negative game script, the rookie will be primed for a breakout performance on Monday night.
The Miami Dolphins have had no difficulty at all scoring points this season. Receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are blinding to everyone except their point guard, Tua Tagovailoa. Raheem Mostert leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns, while De’Von Achane is enjoying one of the most ridiculously efficient seasons ever by a running back. The Dolphins defense has been adequate, but struggle against physicality. Tennessee’s modus operandi under Mike Vrabel has been to punch their opponents in the mouth and keep punching, especially as the weather turns cold. It won’t be cold in South Florida, but I expect the Dolphins to struggle to keep a breakneck pace against the Titans. This could result in a closer game that leaves them vulnerable to a last-minute loss.