1. If you’ve read my columns much, you know that I love to pile on Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels. This week, with the Broncos having a first down at the Colts one-yard line, McDaniels gave Laurence Maroney carries on first and second down before calling an unsuccessful pass on third down. Maroney was then stuffed on fourth down, part of his 12-carry, 24-yard performance. Meanwhile in Baltimore, Browns running back Peyton Hillis (who McDaniels traded away in order to acquire quarterback Brady Quinn) had a nice 22-carry, 144-yard, one-touchdown performance to go along with 36 yards on seven receptions. Oh, he’s also a good short-yardage back.
2. Keeping with McDaniels…During the Broncos 27-14 loss to the Colts, Denver failed to score on any of their five trips to the red zone, twice turning the ball over on fourth down. After the game, McDaniels explained that you need to score touchdowns if you want to beat the Colts. Hmmm. Five field goals equals 15 points. Add the 14 points they actually scored and you get 29 points. A field goal on each trip to the red zone would have resulted in a Broncos victory. We all know McDaniels is a bad head coach. Now we know he’s also bad at math.
3. 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree: six receptions, 81 yards, no touchdowns.
Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey: ten receptions, 140 yards, no touchdowns.
Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin: 11 receptions, 147 yards, four touchdowns.
Colts wide receiver Austin Collie: 27 receptions, 359 yards, four touchdowns.
So, who was the best receiver taken in the 2009 draft?
4. With those stats in mind, Crabtree seems to be a great buy-low candidate at the moment. After catching a respectable 48 passes for 625 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games as a rookie, despite missing all of training camp, he has been a huge bust in 2010. Word out of training camp was that he had developed an inflated ego (which was reputed to be big enough already coming out of college) and that he was not working hard during the team’s practices. However, he is clearly a talented player, and the move to replace offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye with quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson may be the move that ignites Crabtree. Johnson is expected to use more spread formations and reduce the team’s reliance on running back Frank Gore, which should translate into a bigger role for Crabtree going forward.
5. If the Lions lose to the Packers this week, which seems very likely, head coach Jim Schwartz will have coached the Lions to two wins over their first 20 games. If that happens, Schwartz will have the worst record of any Lions head coach over their first 20 contests, eclipsing (hey, hey) Marty Mornhinweg’s 3-17 record.
6. There seems to be a fair amount of debate about whether Packers general manager Ted Thompson will make a trade for a running back, with Marshawn Lynch of the Bills often mentioned as a potential trade target. Here’s my take on this one: While Thompson has a well-known affinity for draft picks and is loath to trade them, the team’s running game since losing Ryan Grant for the season two weeks ago has been nothing short of pathetic. The only reason for the Packers not to trade for a running back is that they are convinced rookie sixth-round pick James Stark can provide a spark. But he hasn’t played since 2008, so that seems very unlikely.
7. Here’s how I would make the Packers running back situation work to my advantage in my fantasy football leagues: First off, try to get Lynch on the cheap from his owner, with the upside in mind that he could do some damage if he were the starter in Green Bay. Secondly, I would make a play for C.J. Spiller and/or Fred Jackson. Both can likely be had for a song in redraft leagues. If you can pull off both deals, you’ve gained a potential RB1 as well as a solid RB3 or flex league player.
8. Here’s a name to consider in deep leagues and dynasty formats: Stephen Williams. The Cardinals undrafted rookie wide receiver had an impressive training camp, forcing his way onto the team’s opening day roster. Now it looks like he will get a solid opportunity much sooner than expected, with injuries decimating the team’s depth chart at wide receiver. Steve Breaston will miss at least one game after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and Early Doucet will miss another game—more likely two—as he recovers from hernia surgery. With rookie third-round pick Andre Roberts still playing behind both Williams and fellow undrafted rookie Max Komar, Williams will likely start each of the next two games. He has ten targets over the first three weeks and could post decent numbers this week if the Cardinals fall behind early against the Chargers.
9. See you later, Trent Edwards. If you’re looking for career advice, I hear you can win in Pop Warner throwing five-yard passes all game.
10. Great move by the Jaguars to pick Edwards up. Let’s call this one desperation. David Garrard continues to disappoint and the team has only Todd Bouman behind him. It will be shocking if Jack Del Rio is back in Jacksonville next year.
11. It might be time to bump Broncos wide receiver Eddie Royal down your wide receiver rankings a few notches. With rookie Perrish Cox struggling as the team’s punt returner, Royal is expected to take over that role. Last season, the Broncos cut back his snaps on offense when he handled punt returns, and there is a solid chance that will happen again this year, particularly with Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, and rookie first-round pick Demaryius Thomas all producing at wide receiver.
12. Another player to drop in your rankings is Saints running back Pierre Thomas. Entering the season, it was expected that Thomas would have a much larger role in 2010, with Lynell Hamilton possibly earning the short-yardage role. Once Hamilton suffered a season-ending injury, it seemed Thomas was a safe bet to get major touches each week. But even with Reggie Bush also injured, head coach Sean Payton has not used Thomas as his workhorse back. Chris Ivory split the workload with Thomas in Week 3, and that development is solid evidence that Thomas will never be a true lead back in New Orleans. In 43 career games, Thomas has just three 20-carry outings.
13. The word out of St. Louis is that Laurent Robinson, currently out with a foot injury, is struggling to gain separation after tearing his ACL in Week 3 of last season. Robinson didn’t endear himself to the coaches during his time in Atlanta due to his inability to stay healthy, and he seems well on his way to the same outcome in St. Louis.
14. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is renowned as being one of the best at his craft in the league, a reputation he deservedly owns. However, Newsome may have outsmarted himself with the decision to sign Seahawks castoff T.J. Houshmandzadeh prior to the season, which forced the team to trade Mark Clayton to the Rams. Houshmandzadeh has not produced in his three games as a Raven, and he voiced his displeasure with his lack of use this week—hardly a surprising development given his overinflated sense of his own abilities. Houshmandzadeh has been a disappointment ever since leaving a pass-happy Bengals offense that featured Chad Ochocinco opposite him. Meanwhile, Clayton, who had his best training camp as a Raven this year, is enjoying great success in St. Louis. With 17 receptions for 228 yards and two touchdowns, he has developed into the Rams top receiver in 2010.
15. The word out of Tampa Bay is that LeGarrette Blount has earned the role of backup to starter Cadillac Williams and that Blount will assume the short-yardage duties going forward. If Kareem Huggins fails to get any work next week, you can safely drop him from your roster in redraft leagues—if you haven’t done so already.
16. For what it’s worth, Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher stated this week that he wants to give backup running back Javon Ringer more opportunities to spell starter Chris Johnson. With Johnson playing well but with his production down slightly from a year ago, there may be some truth to this one. He is currently on pace for a 400-carry season, and it looks like Fisher doesn’t want to overload his star running back.