Longtime listeners of the Fantasy Focus 06010 podcast are aware that my wife likes to call at the most inopportune time. She constantly calls when I am on the air, not able to (or at least refusing to) remember my schedule. In fairness to her, she has a lot going on among all five of our kids, and my schedule is a little all over the place. But still she calls. On air, on set, in a meeting, she calls me all day, every day.
My wife doesn’t keep anything in. If she thinks it, she expresses it. She will wake me up in the middle of the night on a Tuesday to ask what I want for dinner on Friday because she suddenly thought of it. It’s annoying and adorable and it’s just how she is.
But I always answer when she calls, wherever I am, whatever I am doing, because you never know if it’s an emergency.
It never is.
Until last Monday, when it was.
My wife was in New Orleans for the weekend, as our second-oldest goes to Tulane and it was parents weekend. And I’m on set of The Fantasy Show, doing our Week 9 recaps. And my phone rings. Now, it’s on silent, and during the show we are often all over the studio, doing sketches, interacting with puppets, lots going on. But the phone is usually near me. And in between segments, I notice she’s calling.
“Hey, I’m on set. Is everything OK?”
“No! There’s an emergency at school. I need you to get there I’m trying to get an earlier flight out butIjustspoketothenurse …” She’s talking a million miles a minute when suddenly the other line rings. It’s my daughters’ school. I have twin daughters who are in second grade, and, obviously, they attend the same school. “Beth, it’s the school. Let me call you right back.”
I am standing on set. I have a microphone on, I’m surrounded by four cameras and I hear Javi the director in my ear. Daniel Dopp, producers, crew members and a guy in a bear costume are staring at me as I answer the phone.
“Mr. Berry, it’s Kate, the school nurse, and we have an emergency.”
And my heart stops in a way it never has before.
These days, an emergency at school can mean many things, and none of them good.
And I’m helpless to do anything, 30 minutes away, wearing makeup as a dozen people patiently wait for me so they can get back to doing their jobs.
As Kate the Nurse starts to tell me what’s going on, I hear a familiar sound. My daughter screaming and crying in the background. She is in pain like I have never heard before, yelling for me and her mom, but, morbid as it is to admit this, I’m relieved to hear those sounds. My first thought is, “OK, whatever it is, at least she’s alive.”
Kate explains that my daughter fell off the monkey bars at school and she has broken her arm in multiple places. They have called an ambulance. I tell them I know my daughter and that in addition to being in pain, I am sure she is scared. Who is going to ride in the ambulance with her? They tell me they’re trying to find someone. I am adamant that someone she knows rides with her.
The school offers to have me come to the school and pick her up or ride with her, but I am about a half-hour away from the school. Finally, they tell me her teacher, bless her, will ride with her. My daughter loves her teacher, so, “Great,” I say. Please get her in the ambulance and to the emergency room as soon as possible. I’ll meet them at the hospital.
I look around at my co-workers, who are all staring at me and have heard only half of this conversation — the parts about an ambulance and the emergency room. But I have no time to explain because my wife is on the other line. Our 15-year-old, who is a freshman in high school, was on the other line with Beth. He was very worried. He can’t drive yet, and like many teenage boys, is often annoyed with his little sisters, but none of that matters now. He wanted to leave his school and take a ride-sharing service to his sisters’ school, or have the ambulance come pick him up so he could ride with her. I was really touched by that. Very sweet.
But there is no time. I told them she was in a lot of pain and it was most important to get her help quickly. So I finally hang up and look at the crew. “She fell off the monkey bars at school and broke her arm. They say it looks really bad. I’m sorry, but I have to leave right now.” My producers don’t hesitate. “Go. Don’t worry. We will figure something out.” I turn to Daniel. “Will you host?” Daniel says of course, whatever is needed. I thank them all and run out of the taping. And that’s why, if you watched last week’s Monday and Tuesday episodes of The Fantasy Show, you saw a lot of Daniel and no sign of me.
Driving to the emergency room at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, I quickly talk again to my wife, who is now heading to the airport to try to get on the first flight she can back. She’ll do her best, but getting from New Orleans to Hartford, Connecticut, is not easy and certainly not direct. She hangs up to call the airline as I’m left with a new realization.
I’m on my own here. Even if she can get an earlier flight she’s out of pocket for many hours. I’m going to have to make all the decisions. Beth and I generally decide things about the kids together, but as anyone who knows both of us will tell you, I’m an idiot. Certainly compared to her. I feel naked and nervous and completely unprepared to handle the first major emergency with one of my kids, by myself.
I can’t dwell on that because I’m now at the ER, and as hospital staff are bringing me back to my daughter’s room, I hear her screaming all the way down the hall. She is in incredible pain, and as I get into the room, I quickly understand why.
Both of her arms are broken.
Her forearms are bent in ways that they shouldn’t be.
She looks at me, eyes wide, tears in them but trying to force a brave smile. “Daddy, I want to hug you but my arms are broken.”
And my heart just snaps in two.
Too many doctors and nurses to count are all around, sticking and poking and hooking her up to everything under the sun and getting her some pain medication while I speak to her teacher about exactly what happened at school, and a doctor who explains that each of your forearms has two bones. The radius and the ulna. And my daughter has broken both of them.
In each arm.
She’s likely going to need surgery, that night. They’ll know more after the orthopedic surgeon looks at her X-rays. OK, I say, pulling the doctor away quietly. I get that this is bad and fairly rare to break both arms, especially all four bones. But she’ll eventually be OK, right? No long-term damage?
Too soon to tell, he says.
Too soon to tell.
And I just sit there with that.
My thoughts are interrupted by her teacher and the school’s principal, who had also come in the ambulance with my daughter. Making sure there was nothing else we needed, they were heading back to school. I thank them both profusely as I turn back to my daughter. The meds had kicked in by this point, so while still very uncomfortable, she is no longer in immense pain.
The doctors and nurses leave, telling us they will come grab us when it’s time for X-rays. And then a room that was full of insane commotion just 30 seconds earlier is now still and quiet. Just me, my daughter and her bent arms, lying listlessly on the bed.
And I don’t know how to make this better. That’s Daddy’s job, right? “Everything’s going to be all right, Daddy’s here, I’ll fix this, I’ll take care of it, don’t worry. Daddy’s here.” That’s the job and I say all of these things and more. But inside I have no idea how to make this better, how to fix this. I feel as helpless as I ever have.
She’s the rule-follower of my twins, and she keeps apologizing. I keep assuring her that this isn’t her fault, it’s an accident and that Mommy and Daddy aren’t mad. That now we are in the hospital and they have doctors here and everything is going to be all right, even if I don’t fully trust that myself.
I don’t know what to do, but whatever it is, I decide, we are going to do it together. It’s a busy day (and eventually night) at the ER, so I am told to get comfortable. We are going to be here a while. We decide to watch “Frozen,” her favorite movie. It’s been a while since we’ve watched it, but it’s familiar and comforting, and right now, I’m for all the comfort she can get.
We watch the movie together, me sitting as close as I can to her bed as she holds my hand with two little fingers, the only parts of her arm that can move at the moment. And as the movie starts, she looks at me. “I’m glad you’re here, Daddy.”
“I am too, love bug. I am too.”
After the movie, the X-rays, more tests, doctors and pain meds, she is hungry (they won’t let her eat) but feeling calmer. We talk about it, and I ask if she’s up for seeing some folks, because my phone has been blowing up with concerned family, friends and co-workers. She video chats with her mom (now in a layover in Charlotte, North Carolina), her aunt, grandmother, brothers and a few friends at school. Her best friend’s mom texts and asks if she can bring my daughter’s friend by to visit. This sparks a smile and a “please, please, please” from my daughter, so with the blessing of the doctor, I say come on down. She comes with gifts, and I see the smile I love finally start to peek out.
The orthopedist comes in. They need to put her under and get to work. And it goes … well. Thank goodness. More tests, more X-rays, but the orthopedic surgeon tells me my daughter did great, and the doctor expects a full recovery, with no long-term, lasting effects. I sign all the discharge papers, my daughter finally gets to eat something and chooses a multicolored ice pop. We leave the ER almost 12 hours after I got there, a little after 2 a.m.
And now, we are adjusting to this temporary yet life-altering new reality. She has a full cast on each arm from wrist to shoulder. She can’t use her arms at all. She can’t feed herself, go to the bathroom or even scratch her nose. She needs someone to do all of that for her. She needs pain medication every three hours, so we are waking up in the middle of the night to give to her medicine. It’s why I was mostly absent last week, including from this column. Thank you to my editors and to Field, Tristan and Matt for filling in last week.
We’ve met with the school about accommodations — my daughter is getting some home help, and the hope is that she can return to school on a partial basis with an aide in a few weeks. Poor thing weighs like 45 pounds soaking wet, so her arms feel like they weigh more than she does, so she might need a wheelchair at school as well. Lots of adjustments for her and for us. It’s going to be a long road back.
But here’s the thing. Beth and I feel incredibly lucky.
She fell almost 7 feet off a jungle gym. She could have landed on her head, neck … things could have been much, much worse than four broken bones. As I walked the hall of the children’s ER that night, I saw much worse than what my daughter was going through, and I know that happens every day, to way too many children. Way too many kids, all over the world, suffer significantly more than my daughter currently does.
There are a lot of clichés in this lesson — taking time to smell the roses and not taking things for granted and how you never know when life will change. But clichés are clichés because they are universally true and repeated until all the originality has been squeezed out of them.
I will tell you that, that Monday morning, I was annoyed at how some of my fantasy teams had performed the day before, and about an issue at work that continues to bug the hell out of me, and it had been a long few days of just me and the kids with Beth in New Orleans. And the minute I got that call, I forgot all about all of it. None of it really matters. And all my worries about handling all this by myself? Gone.
And this is the part where I usually try to tie my intro to fantasy football, and sometimes it’s more of a stretch than others. But I just don’t see one this time, and to be honest, I shared this with you all because writing is cathartic, it helps me deal with things, and to put them in perspective. Like, not sweating the small stuff. You know. Small stuff like the fact this story has nothing to do with fantasy football. Do you care? Because I don’t. Let’s get to it.
For those joining us in progress … this is not a start/sit column, but merely about whom I think will exceed or fall short of projections. Always check my ranks Sunday morning for the most up-to-date thoughts on where players stack up. Programming note: this week, Fantasy Football Now will be on ESPN2 from 10 a.m. ET to 11:30 and then will switch to ESPNEWS from 11:30 to 1 p.m. Thanks as always to “Thirsty” Kyle Soppe of the Fantasy Focus 06010 podcast and The Stat-a-Pillar Damian Dabrowski of The Fantasy Show for their help at various points in this column. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are for the past four weeks (Weeks 7-10). Here we go.
Quarterbacks I Love in Week 11
Jameis Winston, Bucs (vs. Saints): Quietly averaging 348.5 passing yards over his past four games, we should get “Good Jameis” this week in a potential shootout against a Saints secondary that is likely without standout corner Marshon Lattimore (hamstring). Given the success teams have throwing the ball against Tampa Bay (Bucs are 28th against the pass), the Saints will put up points, and I expect Winston to keep the Bucs in it with his arm in a game Caesar’s has as the third-highest over/under on the board this week.
Tom Brady, Patriots (at Eagles): He’s had over 255 passing yards the week following a bye in each of the past six seasons, and comes off his rest week having had more time to practice with Mohamed Sanu to face an Eagles defense that has given up at 17 points to opposing quarterbacks in six different games this year. With two weeks to prepare for the NFL’s eighth-worst red zone defense, I like Brady’s chances at a top-7 finish this week.
Josh Allen, Bills (at Dolphins): With at least 21 fantasy points in all three career games against the Fins, Allen should continue his hot streak against a hard-playing but still under-manned Miami defense that is bottom five in the NFL in yards per pass attempt, touchdown percentage allowed, pressure rate and more. With three rushing scores in his past two games, there’s a good floor here for Allen and a pretty high ceiling as well.
Others receiving votes: Philip Rivers is coming off a “mini-bye” after the Chargers having played Week 10’s Thursday game and being featured in Week 11’s Mexico City Monday Night Football game, so that helps mitigate a bit of the travel concerns. Rivers averaged 23.7 points per game against the Chiefs last year and should have to throw to keep up with Patrick Mahomes. K.C. has allowed over 17.5 points seven different times this season (and over 21 points five times). … The week’s obvious top streaming option is Derek Carr against a Cincy team that has allowed each of the past five quarterbacks it has faced to score at least 21 fantasy points, and coughs up a league-high 7.2 yards per catch after the reception. … Two first names, always a crowd pleaser. As is a matchup with the Falcons’ porous defense (last week notwithstanding). All of which means Kyle Allen is a very “QB2 with upside” this week against an Atlanta team that has allowed at least two touchdown passes in six of its past seven games and that hasn’t had an interception since Week 2.
Quarterbacks I Hate in Week 11
Carson Wentz, Eagles (vs. Patriots): Been a tough year for Carson Wentz. The eighth QB off the board in most ESPN drafts this year, Wentz has yet to finish better than QB8 a single time this season and has more finishes outside the top 15 at the position than he does in the top 10. Lamar Jackson, who has a decidedly different skill set, is the only QB to score more than 12 fantasy points against the Patriots. Vegas projects 20-22 points for Philly this week, and for his career, Wentz averages just 14.99 FPPG when the Eagles are held under 25 points.
Kyler Murray, Cardinals (at 49ers): Yes, he had a nice game two weeks ago against these same 49ers. But don’t forget that 55.7% of his points in that game came on one completion (the 88-yard TD to Andy Isabella). Yes, all completions count, but we are in the business of preparing for what is most likely to happen, and banking on an 88-yard score from a player who had eight receiving yards on the season prior seems … optimistic. With five different games this year without a single TD pass, Murray is merely a boom/bust option on the road against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Sam Darnold, Jets (at Redskins): I get it, I swear. Dude put up 21.7 FP last week and now he gets the Deadskins. But look closer. As the sixth-best passing defense, Washington allows the 7th lowest deep completion percentage this year. It’s partially because it is so easy to run on the Skins, and teams are rarely down to them, so you just don’t need to pass on Washington. With one of the lowest under/overs on the slate featuring two of the slowest offenses in the league, there are better Week 11 streamers.
Running Backs I Love in Week 11:
Josh Jacobs, Raiders (vs, Bengals): A popular fade for many during draft season, my 2019 preseason Fantasy Ride or Die has been much more ride than die these days, with five rushing scores in his past five games. Vaulting into the top 10 of fantasy running backs in total points, Jacobs has six straight games with 17+ touches. And I expect the heavy workload to continue as a double-digit home favorite against a Cincy squad allowing a league-high 173 rush yards per game this season. He’s a top three play for me this week.
Melvin Gordon, Chargers (vs. Chiefs in Mexico City): Ohhh, that’s right. That’s what Melvin Gordon looks like. We said all along in the preseason we didn’t expect Melvin Gordon back until Week 10 and, while we got the reporting date wildly wrong, we were right on in terms of him being the guy the you drafted. With 23 touches in each of the last two games, expect a heavy dose of him as the Bolts try to slow down K.C. Five teams this season have seen their running backs rush for at least 150 yards versus the Chiefs as KC allows the third most yards per carry (5.14) and is bottom-6 in terms of both yards before and after first contact.
Le’Veon Bell, Jets (at Redskins): As hinted at in the Sam Darnold section, the way to beat Washington is exploiting a run defense (I use the term “defense” loosely here) that allows the fifth most rush yards per game (136) and the seventh most RB PPG (27.5). Well, to be fair, there are many ways to beat Washington, but the run seems to be a popular one. Only Christian McCaffrey has a higher percentage of his team’s touches than Bell, so a heavy workload is coming against a squad that also allows a 78.8% completion rate on passes shorter than 15 yards.
Others receiving votes: Since Week 8, Devin Singletary has out-snapped Gore 122-57 and is averaging 6.4 YPC this season. A true three-down back (16 targets in his past three games) the only concern is that they seem to use Gore (and QB Josh Allen) at the goal line more than you’d like. And there’s always a chance they give Gore a chance to run one in against his former team. Still, Singletary is good enough to be a very viable RB2 against Miami. … Eleven different RBs have scored 10+ points vs. Carolina this season as the Panthers have allowed a league-high 17 rushing TDs (five more than the next closest team). And with Devonta Freeman unlikely to play, this sets up as a week to flex Brian Hill in a game with an over/under of 49.5. … Always dangerous picking a Patriots running back, but this smells like a James White game to me against an Eagles defense that creates pressure at the fifth-highest rate. Expect lots of dump-offs to White, who quietly trails on Austin Ekeler and Christian McCaffrey in running back receptions. … Speaking of PPR flex types, my “bold prediction” last week on Fantasy Football Now was that J.D. McKissic would finish as a top 20 RB in PPR. He finished as RB 19. With Ty Johnson still banged up as of this writing, you could do worse than McKissic as a desperation flex this week against a Cowboys team that has allowed the third most RB receptions per game this season.
Running Backs I Hate in Week 11
Todd Gurley II, Rams (vs. Bears): Free Todd Gurley? Gurley has not caught a pass in consecutive games and has failed to catch multiple passes in five of his eight games this season. He has yet to have more than 18 carries in a game this season, and 45% of his points this season have come on plays in which he has scored, making him a (checks notes) touchdown-dependent RB2. Um, yeah. Free Todd Gurley! Sadly I don’t think it happens this week against a Bears team that is fourth in yards-per-carry-against. Add to that a struggling offensive line that just lost its starting center for the year and will be without their right tackle this week. You likely don’t have better options but to play him, but I’m not optimistic about a big game unless he falls into the end zone.
David Montgomery, Bears (at Rams): Other side of the ball in that same game, Rams are the No. 1 run defense in the NFL over the past four weeks and are second-best in yards-per-carry-against. Montgomery is another guy who is touchdown-dependent for fantasy value as, if you remove a fluky 55-yard-run against the Chargers in Week 8, he is averaging 3.21 yards on his other 128 carries this season.
Ronald Jones II, Bucs (vs. Saints): Since Week 4, the Saints have allowed 3.5 yards per carry (third best) and 69 rush yards per game (fewest in the NFL). They are the third-best run defense in the NFL over the past four weeks and hey, I know Bruce Arians said he wasn’t going to hold Jones’ fumble against him this week, which is promising, but still, it’s a tough matchup. Jones’ floor is helped if he continues his passing-down work, but we saw that in only one game and that game was against Arizona. Hard to declare it’s definitely a thing now, and if he doesn’t get the passing-down work, this is a tough sell as anything other than a cross-your-fingers flex this week.
Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, Broncos (at Vikings): The only teams that have rushed for even 110 yards vs. Minnesota this season had an elite QB or deep threats to keep the Vikes defense downfield (Packers and Chiefs, in a game where Patrick Mahomes was injured but Tyreek Hill had returned). Can’t imagine Brandon Allen coming into Minnesota and moving the ball at all in this one, and falling behind quickly does not help this split job on a team that is unlikely to have a lot of possessions and isn’t likely to be in scoring position often. As double-digit underdogs on the road in a game with an over/under of 40, they are merely desperation flex plays at best.
Pass Catchers I Love in Week 11
Keenan Allen, Chargers (vs. Chiefs in Mexico City): How bad has it been for Allen? Been so brutal I can put him on the “love” list and it doesn’t seem obvious, as he is just WR56 since Week 4, behind guys like Danny Amendola and Randall Cobb. Brutal, but this is his week in a shootout against a Chiefs team than allows the 10th-highest completion percentage, the fifth-highest touchdown percentage and third-highest passer rating, all to the slot this year.
DJ Moore, Panthers (vs. Falcons): With double-digit targets in two straight and in three of the past four, and at least eight targets in five straight, Moore should stay busy on Sunday against a Falcons team that is bottom three in the NFL in yards per completion, catch rate allowed, touchdown rate and passer rating allowed. Over 15 fantasy points in four of his past five games, I have Moore as a top-12 play this week.
Michael Gallup, Cowboys (at Lions): With Darius Slay expected to shadow Amari Cooper, I expect Dak to take at least a few deep shots to Gallup here as he’s had multiple deep targets in four of his past five games. That’s significant because since Week 5, the Lions have coughed up the second-highest deep completion percentage and the highest deep-touchdown pass percentage in the league. Gallup’s 102.1 air yards per game (12th most in the NFL) are not a fluke and against the Lions’ bottom-2 pass defense, I expect him to get looks early and often. I have Gallup as a top-20 play this week and like his chances to get into the end zone for the third straight game.
Jamison Crowder, Jets (at Redskins): Revenge game! Or… just another really good matchup for a slot receiver against a Washington squad that allows a league-high 78.9 completion percentage to slot receivers and gives up touchdowns to the slot at the ninth-highest rate. Crowder has scored in two straight with a strong chance to make it three in a row on Sunday in front of a bunch of Jets fans at FedEx field.
Darren Waller, Raiders (vs. Bengals): Been a tough few weeks for Waller the Baller, but that turns around this Sunday at the Black Hole. Cincy has been pummeled for a league-high 7.2 yards per catch after the reception this season and they allow opponents to complete 73.1% of their TE targets. Still getting a 24% target share (fourth highest at the position), Waller the Baller gets back on track this week against the NFL’s 32nd-ranked scoring defense the past four weeks.
Others receiving votes: For all that has gone wrong this year for the Jets, they have a great run defense. Which is why teams try to exploit their bottom-10 pass defense. Definite risk here, especially with unproven rookie Dwayne Haskins under center, but I like Terry McScorin’s chances (Come on, that’s better than F1 for a nickname) to get into the end zone, or at least have a top 30-ish day. … The Texans cough up over 295 passing yards per game on the season (fourth most) and there’s not a QB in the NFL hotter than Lamar Jackson. Gimme some Marquise Brown on Sunday. … Don’t look now, but since the Bills’ bye week, Cole Beasley is the 29th best WR in fantasy. You could do a lot worse for a WR3 this week than Beasley against Miami. … Since Week 5, the fifth-best tight end in fantasy has been Darren Fells. He’s touchdown dependent, but most tight ends are. Off the bye and potentially a nice target for Deshaun Watson given how tough Baltimore’s secondary is, Fells is available in 75% of ESPN leagues. … With George Kittle likely out, the tight end that gets the most snaps against Arizona this week is likely to be Ross Dwelley. As desperation dart throws go, the tight end against Arizona has paid off a lot more often than not this year.
Pass Catchers I Hate in Week 11
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Allen Robinson II, Bears (at Rams): With Jalen Ramsey likely shadowing him and Mitch Trubisky on the road trying to get him the ball against the Rams’ No. 1 scoring defense, lowering expectations for A Rob is the most likely outcome. In the past four weeks, the Rams are fourth best in opponent TD pass percentage, fifth in sack percentage and seventh in fewest yards per completion. A Rob has played great this year, but in Week 11, he’s outside my top 20.
Mike Williams, Chargers (vs. Chiefs in Mexico City): One of these weeks Williams will go off, so since I am putting him on the “Hate” list, I’m sure it’ll be this week. As you’ve read, I like Rivers, Gordon and Allen in this game, so this is not anti-Charger. But 69.6% of Williams’ points have come on the perimeter this season, and KC allows the fewest completions to perimeter WRs and the third-lowest completion percentage to perimeter wideouts, and have allowed just one perimeter WR to score in eight of the past nine games. Williams has just seven targets in the two games since Ken Wisenhunt was fired, by the way.
Zach Ertz, Eagles (at Patriots): Ertz had the big week against the Bears, but prior to that he had three straight games outside the top 15 of tight ends and it gets no easier this week, off the bye. The Patriots allow the third-fewest TE PPG this season. If you have Ertz, you likely don’t have better options, but just realize the odds say he is unlikely to provide significant fantasy upside this week.
Stefon Diggs, Vikings (vs. Broncos): Man, I hope I am wrong here, because I have Diggs on a team that desperately needs him this week. But with Adam Thielen likely out, my expectation is Diggs sees a lot of Chris Harris. That’s not ideal, considering he’s got just four catches for 53 yards (and zero touchdowns) in his past two games combined. In a game where Minnesota is likely up and up big, running all over Denver, it’s worth noting the Broncos held Davante Adams (9.6 points), Allen Robinson (8.1), T.Y. Hilton (7.4) and Keenan Allen (5.8) to single-digit fantasy points this year.
Matthew Berry — The Talented Mr.Roto — is now firmly anti-monkey bars.