Face front, true believers!
Stanley Martin Lieber, born in New York in 1922, died early Monday morning at the age of 95.
You knew him as Stan Lee, Marvel chairman emeritus and co-creator of some of the most beloved superheroes of all time, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, and of course, the enemies, love interests and best friends of our heroes, like Loki, Doctor Doom, Mary Jane Watson, Kingpin, Green Goblin and so many more.
I love the Marvel universe, and I thought our boss, Bob Iger, said it best when he tweeted, "Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created. A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart."
In its heyday, Marvel Comics sold 50 million copies a year. And after the comics came TV shows and animated series. And after that came movies.
According to Box Office Mojo, four of the 10 highest-grossing movies in history, worldwide, are based on characters he co-created: "Avengers: Infinity War" (No. 4), "The Avengers" (No. 6), "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (No. 8) and "Black Panther" (No. 9). When the fourth installment of Avengers is released next spring, it'll most likely make it five of the top 10 and seven of the top 20, as "Iron Man 3" (No. 17) and "Captain America: Civil War" (No. 19) are both on the list.
Think about that.
I mean, having even one movie among the top 100 highest-grossing films of all time is an incredible achievement. And he's got six of the top 20 and many more in the top 100.
It's an insane record and one that will be very difficult for anyone to beat.
Obviously, those movies are successful for a large variety of reasons, including the actors, writers, directors, entire film crews, marketing of the films, Marvel Studios, Disney and so much more. And the comics were also team efforts, as Stan worked with many great artists, especially guys like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.
But be it the comics or the movies, to be successful on that kind of scale, around the world, it has to resonate with millions of people. It has to transcend age, gender, religion, economic background, sexual orientation and everything else.
And the way that happens is because of characters.
Characters that, despite being able to crawl upside down or being a billionaire who flies around in a metal suit, feel real and relatable to us, mirrors of the worries, concerns and failings we all have.
The battles, the costumes, the cool powers, the clever villains, the imaginative worlds, the crazy weapons. All of them great and amazing and much fun. But it's just window dressing to the complex and vulnerable characters at the center of every story. Stan taught us that even with superpowers, no one is truly indestructible.
That the strongest, smartest, most powerful among us have egos, tempers and gripping moments of self-doubt. We learned about sacrifice, that sometimes hard choices need to be made and that when you react quickly, what seems like the right course of action often makes things worse.
I love that Stan's backstories weren't just for heroes. Villains get origin stories as well, as we meet them when they were good and often see how outside forces -- loss of a loved one, years of mistreatment, etc. -- are the reason for the creation of a monster. We rooted for the hero, of course, but we understood the villain. Just like in real life, in the Marvel universe, evil and revenge represent a vicious circle that feeds on itself, and actions always have repercussions.
In Stan's worldview, it didn't matter what you looked like. People of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders and backgrounds had powers. Some were good, some were bad, and some alternated back and forth. Life is like that, as people and their actions are rarely black and white. We learned that there's no such thing as perfect, but rather that even the most inhuman beings are, in fact, very human in nature.
When news of Stan's passing started to spread, Seth Rogen said on Twitter, "Thank you Stan Lee for making people who feel different realize they are special."
And I think, more than anything else, that was the genius of Stan Lee. Because we all feel different, right? All of us have felt out of place, awkward, insecure at some point in our lives. Lord knows, I certainly do. To this day.
Stan once said something in an interview that has really stuck with me.
"I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people's lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you're able to entertain people, you're doing a good thing."
Change "comic book" to "fantasy football" and that first sentence is all me. I love fantasy football, but there was a long time, especially when I was starting out, that I was fairly sheepish about what I do, embarrassed even, and would be very vague when asked how I made a living. I mean, at the end of the day, I write about a make-believe game. And sometimes I wear makeup and talk about it on TV. Is that really contributing to society?
When I read Stan's quote, I looked at my career in a different way. Fantasy football is an escape, just like the Marvel universe. Something we engage in to get closer to friends and family. Something we play to escape, even if just for a minute, the pressures and challenges of everyday life.
And as I absorbed Stan's words, I realized helping grow a game that brings joy to so many people is a worthwhile endeavor.
You know, the original plan for my column this week was Le'Veon Bell. I have no issue with any player getting as much money as he/she can. I just hated the way Bell went about it, with the tweets and the interviews saying one thing, but him doing another, how it appears he treated his teammates, etc. The idea was, hopefully, to make it funny, but ultimately it would have been fairly mean to him.
But as I was reading retrospectives after Stan's death, I came across an old quote. When he was writing the comic books, he had a column called "Stan's Soapbox." Despite the column being written many decades ago, one quote from it struck me as particularly relevant today: "Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our heart with tolerance."
I no longer had any interest in writing something mean about Le'Veon Bell.
Instead, I wanted to write about Stan Lee. Stan said, "You know, my motto is 'Excelsior.' That's an old word that means 'upward and onward to greater glory.' It's on the seal of the state of New York. Keep moving forward, and if it's time to go, it's time. Nothing lasts forever."
It's a great quote, but I think Stan is wrong. Because his characters, his stories, that universe, will live forever. In books, on the screen, in our everyday world. To this day, his heroes inspire people to be the best version of themselves.
A football writer I follow on Twitter, Mike Tanier, tweeted: "Stan Lee is the most influential storyteller of this century. His creations have colonized the brains of people like me since we were children. The impact of his imagination and his work on our culture is immeasurable. He added excitement, delight and wonder to the world."
I especially love that last line.
He added excitement, delight and wonder to the world.
That's something we should all strive for.
Let's get to it now. As always, Love/Hate is not a start/sit column. Rather, it's based on ESPN Fantasy official projections for PPR leagues. "Loves" are players I believe will meet or exceed their projections. "Hates" are players I believe will fall short of their projections, with a half-point margin of error. Thanks to my superheroes, "Thirsty" Kyle Soppe and "The Stat-a-Pillar" Damian Dabrowski, for their help at various points in this column. Here we go.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats are for the past four weeks.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 11
Cam Newton at Lions (ESPN projection: 23.3): It's a big number, but Cam is playing the best football of his career under Norv Turner, so I'm taking the over here. Newton has eight straight games with multiple TD passes (only once in his career has he had more than eight such games in an entire season, forget consecutive). Off the Thursday night embarrassment, he has had 10 days to prepare for a Lions team that gives up a touchdown pass on 7.5 percent of attempts this season, the second-worst rate in the NFL.
Drew Brees vs. Eagles (ESPN projection: 19.7): Who dat in the secondary? Seriously, I'm asking. Since Week 7, the Eagles are giving up the fifth-most points per game to QBs (22.37), and their banged-up secondary just lost corner Ronald Darby for the season and is likely to be without Jalen Mills as well. So it's a good matchup regardless of who is playing the Eagles. And in this case, it's a home game for a red-hot Brees, who is completing 79 percent of his passes since Mark Ingram II came back, with 11.5 percent of those completions resulting in a touchdown.
Carson Wentz at Saints (ESPN projection: 20.3): Don't think the Eagles are grinding out a win in this one. Wentz will have to outscore Brees, and he has a shot in what should be a very high-scoring game. Since Week 11 of 2016, the Saints are giving up the most QB PPG when playing at home (19.7). Wentz has six straight games with at least 275 passing yards and multiple TD passes. Since 2012, only Peyton Manning (twice) and Tom Brady have done that. I like his chances at keeping the streak going against a Saints squad giving up the third-most yards per dropback this season. It's worth noting that Wentz ranks fourth in dropbacks per game this season (43.4).
Dak Prescott at Falcons (ESPN projection: 18.8): Quietly, Prescott has more than 20 fantasy points in three of his past four games and is completing better than 70 percent of his passes since the Amari Cooper trade. Now he gets a Falcons defense that, since Week 2, has given up either 300 yards passing or three touchdowns in every game. Atlanta is also giving up the third-most QB rushing yards per game, so Prescott, who has a rushing touchdown in three of the past four, should continue to add value with his legs this week as well. He's still available in 65 percent of ESPN leagues.
Others receiving votes: No team gives up more rushing yards, more passing yards or more total points than the Cincinnati Bengals. Assuming Joe Flacco is out, whoever gets the start for Baltimore (Lamar Jackson or Robert Griffin III) should have some nice streaming value, especially given how much each guy runs. ... Anyone who has watched, read or listened to me for any amount of time knows I am not the biggest Marcus Mariota fan. But give credit where it's due. He has played well recently, and facing a Colts team that creates pressure at a bottom-10 rate and allows opponents to complete passes at the second-highest rate in the NFL, I like his chances to beat his projection of 16.2. ... Six teams on a bye make for some interesting lineup decisions, like starting Eli Manning, but off a three-touchdown game and at home against Tampa Bay's 29th-ranked scoring defense, you can squint your eyes and make it work for you in a "I'm desperate and I won't have to actually watch the game, right?" No. 2 QB sort of way.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 11
Ben Roethlisberger at Jaguars (ESPN projection: 18.6): I think the #RoadBen thing is done, but I'm not so sure the Jaguars' defense is. Getting A.J. Bouye back this week should help a defense that still is giving up a league-low 200.6 passing yards per game this season and is second in the NFL in pressure created. (When pressured this season, Roethlisberger has only two touchdowns and four interceptions.) I honestly think Ben will be fine in this one, but 18.6 is a big number, so I believe he meets or falls short of this in a game where Vegas has the over/under at 47.5. Since the beginning of last season, Roethlisberger is averaging 15.0 PPG in games that have fewer than 50 total points scored.
Kirk Cousins at Bears (ESPN projection: 17.7): Since Week 5, Cousins is just QB19 on a per-game basis. And now that Dalvin Cook is back, I expect a more balanced attack from the Vikings. Cousins also has to face a Bears defense that, since the beginning of last season, has given up only 15 TD passes in 13 home games. During that stretch, the Bears are also a top-10 defense in sack percentage. Opposing QBs are averaging less than 14 points in those games, so yeah, gimme the under on Cousins this week.
Andy Dalton at Ravens (ESPN projection: 14.4): Over Dalton's past three games, he has completed just 57.8 percent of his passes while averaging 11.7 PPG. On a per-game basis, that's QB27 during that stretch. That'd be discouraging if you'd played the '85 Bears three straight, so what do you call it when that came against the Chiefs, Bucs and Saints? Blah. Now he gets to face a Ravens defense that is among the top three in fewest touchdowns allowed and lowest completion percentage allowed this season ... and without A.J. Green? Not feeling it, even in a week with six teams on bye.
Running backs I love in Week 11
Kareem Hunt at Rams (ESPN projection: 18.6): Obviously everyone is starting Hunt, but I'm putting him on the "love" list because I project he'll meet or exceed 18.6 points this week (our projections have him at RB9 this week, while I have him as RB2 in my ranks). The best way to stop the Rams is to not let them have the ball, you know? (Guy tapping at his temple GIF.) The Rams give up a league-high 5.20 yards per carry this season, which includes an NFL-high 2.12 yards per carry after first contact. They're also allowing opponents to complete the eighth-highest percentage of passes when targeting RBs this season. Since Week 6, the only player in the NFL with more receiving touchdowns than Hunt is his teammate, Tyreek Hill.
David Johnson vs. Raiders (ESPN projection: 19.9): As often stated, the most important trait in fantasy success is opportunity. Johnson has at least 20 touches in five of his past six games, and he has handled 65.7 percent of Arizona's red zone touches this season. That's not only the highest rate in the NFL, it's on pace to be the highest rate since Arian Foster in 2012. Oakland gives up the third-most red zone drives per game and is 30th in scoring defense.
Aaron Jones at Seahawks (ESPN projection: 15.2): We did it, fam. Since early this summer, I have been screaming, "Free Aaron Jones!" Many other great Americans joined this cause and, though it took longer than it should have, Jones has finally been freed. During the past three weeks, Jones is averaging almost 7.5 yards per carry and now he gets a Seahawks defense that's bottom five in yards per carry against. Jones also has gained 10-plus yards on an absurd 19.5 percent of his career carries, and Seattle is giving up such runs at the fourth-highest rate this season. After receiving 14, 16 and 18 touches the past three weeks, Jones should have another heavy workload, especially on the road on a short week. I leave you with this bonus Aaron Jones fact: Over the next four weeks, Jones will see three of the six worst defenses in terms of the percentage of allowing runs of 10-plus yards.
Dion Lewis at Colts (ESPN projection: 14.7): Last week, Lewis out-touched Derrick Henry 22-11 and out-snapped him 47-15. And then Henry got two scores and more than doubled Lewis' fantasy points, because life is unfair and fantasy football reminds you of that every single week. But I'm back in on Lewis this week against a Colts team that gives up the fourth-most receiving yards to running backs, as Lewis has averaged 21.3 touches per game during the past three weeks.
Others receiving votes: As noted above in quarterbacks, as of this writing I am not expecting Joe Flacco to start this week. That means whoever is under center for the Ravens will be a mobile QB (which traditionally has been good for the running game), and along with an expectation that the Ravens will want to run more, in general, against the worst run defense in the NFL, give me Alex Collins to match or exceed 12.3 points. ... OK, I will begrudgingly admit Doug Martin has actually run well recently, averaging 4.7 yards per carry the past three games and looking the part when it comes to the eye test. Martin has received 75 percent of Oakland's carries the past three games, so I like his chances at beating 12.1 points against a Cardinals team that has given up the second-most running back rushing yards this season. ... For all the (deserved) talk about Kerryon Johnson, very quietly Theo Riddick has 13 catches on 15 targets in the two games since Golden Tate was traded, and he had season highs in snaps and routes run last week. The ceiling is limited, but there's a decent floor here. And in a bye week like this one, you could do worse ... and probably have.
Running backs I hate in Week 11
Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith vs. Cowboys (ESPN projection: Coleman 14.8, Smith 9.2): So, Smith has seen 42.9 percent of his fantasy points this season come while in the red zone, a role that doesn't project well against a Cowboys defense that ranks in the top eight in both limiting red zone drives and red zone efficiency. And Coleman has only two games of 52-plus rushing yards this season. LeSean McCoy is the only running back averaging fewer yards per carry after first contact, which is concerning, because the Cowboys are allowing the fewest yards per carry BEFORE first contact this season. The Falcons own the fourth-highest pass percentage when leading this season, so there's no guarantee these guys get work if Atlanta is leading. And while there should be points scored in this game, I'm not convinced enough of them will come from this duo to beat their combined projection of 24.
Adrian Peterson vs. Texans (ESPN projection: 13.7): Another week, another game where Peterson is running behind a banged-up and makeshift offensive line. In fairness, the line played much better than expected against Tampa Bay, but still. Peterson didn't do much in that game and Houston is a whole other deal. The Texans give up the sixth-fewest rushing yards per game (92.9) and the second-lowest yards per carry against. The slew of injuries to Washington's O-line is just too much for Peterson to overcome right now. In the past two weeks, he's averaging just 1.1 yards before first contact.
Marlon Mack vs. Titans (ESPN projection: 13.7): Titan Up! Tennessee has the best red zone defense since the 2008 Steelers, and only three players have a rushing touchdown against the Titans this season. The three: Alex Collins, James Develin and Josh Allen. In other words, only once all season has a team's primary rushing threat gotten into the end zone against the Titans. Vegas has the Colts as a two-point home favorite and Indy is the third-pass-happiest offense when the game is within six points. Without a touchdown, it's hard to see Mack getting to this number, given that last week he got just 52.2 percent of the Colts' rushing attempts.
Lamar Miller at Redskins (ESPN projection: 13.5): He has been below 50 rushing yards (and no more than 3.5 YPC) in four of his past six games, and now Miller gets a Redskins defense that is giving up only 90.9 rushing yards per game this season (fifth fewest). Tevin Coleman is the only player with more than 61 rushing yards against Washington this season. Since Miller has limited appeal as a pass-catcher (two receptions or fewer in every game but one this season), you're banking on a touchdown here to go over 13.5 points. How lucky do you feel?
Pass-catchers I love in Week 11
Michael Thomas vs. Eagles (ESPN projection: 19.8): A big number here, but if ever there was a guy in a game to beat 19.8, Thomas is it. You saw in the Brees section just how beat up the Eagles secondary is. Julio Jones, Mike Evans and Stefon Diggs all caught 10 or more passes against this Philly team, and when Thomas gets at least eight targets this season he averages 29.6 points. In a game with an over/under of 54.5, there should be plenty of volume for Thomas. Six wideouts have gone over 21.5 points against the Eagles this season, and I say Thomas makes it seven. Gimme the over.
Tyreek Hill at Rams (ESPN projection: 17.9): Am I hyping this game a little? Of course. I'm a #companyman. But I also believe Hill beats 17.9 points in this one. He already has a career-high nine touchdown catches, and he should once again be a focal point in the Chiefs' offense in a game that features the highest over/under in history. The Rams have given up a league-high 11 receptions of 40 yards or more, have given up the sixth-highest deep completion percentage and have given up one deep touchdown per game, on average. I guess the point I am trying to make here is they struggle against the deep ball.
T.Y. Hilton vs. Titans (ESPN projection: 14.1): This Titans defense is real and spectacular ... except on the perimeter. Did you know that the Titans are giving up the fourth-most points per completion to players lined up out wide? But against all other positions on the field, they are No. 1 in terms of fewest fantasy points allowed per completion. With this defense playing at a high level, look for a red-hot Andrew Luck to exploit their primary weakness and find Hilton (the team's leader in yards, targets and touchdowns when lined up out wide) for a few big gains.
Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay vs. Panthers (ESPN projection: Jones 13.6, Golladay 12.6): The second-worst red zone defense in the NFL travels to Detroit to face the 6-foot-2 Jones and 6-foot-4 Golladay. The Panthers are also giving up the third-most deep passing yards per game. As of this writing (Wednesday afternoon), it was expected Jones would play after getting banged up in Week 10, but make sure, of course. An over/under of 51.5 suggests this should be a high-scoring game, and I feel good about Carolina's chances of scoring, meaning Detroit will have to throw, throw, and throw some more.
Amari Cooper at Falcons (ESPN projection: 13.4): Since coming to Dallas, Cooper has led the Cowboys in both catches and targets in two games, and as a result it's the first time he has had consecutive games with at least five catches for 50 yards since Weeks 8 and 9 in 2016. It's a good matchup here, as the Falcons are giving up the sixth-most points per game to WRs (41.58) and the third-most yards per game to WRs (221.75) since Week 6.
Austin Hooper vs. Cowboys (ESPN projection: 10.8): The Cowboys are a bottom-five defense against TEs over the past four weeks and are allowing opponents to complete 76.8 percent of passes when targeting the position this season. Hooper is coming off a 10-reception game and this should be a high-scoring affair, so I like his chances of another double-digit fantasy-point game and beating his projection of 10.8.
Others receiving votes: Only DeAndre Hopkins has a higher target share this season than Corey Davis, who gets 31 percent of the Titans' looks. Against a Colts team that is giving up the second-highest completion percentage on deep balls and the seventh-highest touchdown percentage, I like his chances at beating 12.9 points. ... Larry Fitzgerald has 11 targets per game in the Byron Leftwich era (Weeks 8-10), and that volume should help quite a bit against a Raiders squad that has allowed 12 wide receivers to score more than 13 points this season. ... Death, taxes, and start your slot receivers against the Buccaneers. This week, it's Sterling Shepard. ... Anthony Miller has six or more targets in four straight games, and with Xavier Rhodes expected to shadow Allen Robinson, he should see that kind of volume against a team that has struggled against the slot some this season. ... With the Raiders giving up the third-most touchdowns to tight ends this season, and given the fickle nature of the position in fantasy, it's worth noting that Ricky Seals-Jones leads all tight ends in the NFL in routes run per game (35.5) during the Leftwich era and had a career-high nine targets in Week 10.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 11
Keenan Allen vs. Broncos (ESPN projection: 17.7): You're obviously starting him, but 17.7 strikes me as high, considering the matchup with elite slot corner Chris Harris Jr. In two games against the Broncos last season, Allen was WR17 and WR46, with a combined eight catches for 76 yards and a score in those two games. With his target share expected to be lower than usual, Allen probably needs to find the end zone to get to his projection, but his red zone target share has been more than slashed in half from what it was last season. I'll take the under on 17.7.
Devin Funchess at Lions (ESPN projection: 12.3): This changes somewhat if Darius Slay doesn't play, but as of now, I am expecting him to play and to shadow Funchess. If Slay is out, I'd take Funchess off the "hate" list, but still there's cause for concern here. During the past three weeks, Funchess has just a 16.5 percent target share. That's way down from the 23.5 percent he was receiving during the first seven weeks, Greg Olsen has returned and DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel have started getting more run. The Lions also have an above-average red zone defense, so Funchess could struggle to find the end zone.
Allen Robinson vs. Vikings (ESPN projection: 12.2): To be fair, Robinson was on the hate list last week and made me look like an idiot. Well, a bigger idiot. Now, part of the reason I was down on him was an expected shadow from Darius Slay, who wound up being ruled out after the article published, but still. Bad call last week. That said, I'm diving back in, as I expect a shadow from Xavier Rhodes in this one. Minnesota has had a lot of success this season (Rams game excluded) holding No. 1 wideouts down. Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, Larry Fitzgerald and Alshon Jeffery averaged just 6.76 yards per target when facing the Vikes, a 22.5 percent drop-off from their averages against the rest of the NFL.
Courtland Sutton at Chargers (ESPN projection: 11.2): I still believe this kid can play, but with a likely Casey Hayward shadow, the breakout might not happen this week. The Bolts are the third-best defense against wide receivers during the past four weeks and for the season. In addition, they've been great at limiting the big play, ranking seventh in deep touchdown percentage.
Kyle Rudolph at Bears (ESPN projection: 8.6): He hasn't scored since Week 3 and has caught just 53.8 percent of his targets over his past three games. No tight end has 50-plus receiving yards against the Bears this season, and this doesn't seem like a spot to call for that to change. Rudolph is going to need a touchdown to get to this projection, and while that could certainly happen, his involvement in this offense (just six more targets this year than Laquon Treadwell) doesn't make it likely.
Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, reminds you that with great power comes great responsibility. He is the creator of RotoPass.com and RotoPassDaily.com. He is also one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app and FantasyLife.com.