1. Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams has had a rough start to the 2010 season with just 361 yards and a single touchdown during the team’s first six games. Williams has suffered from Carolina’s lack of production in the passing game. However, there is hope on the horizon in the form of the Panthers upcoming schedule, and that makes Williams a definite buy-low candidate provided his foot injury isn’t severe. Over the next five weeks, the Panthers face run defenses ranked 15th or lower (Rams, 15th; Saints, 16th; Bucs, 31st; Browns, 19th). Unfortunately, the fantasy playoffs are a mixed bag, with the Falcons (8th), Cardinals (29th), and Steelers (1st).
2. Keeping with that theme, let’s have a look at the case of the Cowboys’ Felix Jones. Jones hasn’t been a complete bust this season, but his 36th ranking at running back is disappointing considering many were predicting a breakout season for the speedy tailback from Arkansas. There are some positives for Jones, however, and he could be ready for a big second half. Over the last three games, he has 55 touches to just 24 for Marion Barber; and Jones has racked up 126, 93, and 62 total yards in those games, with the 62 coming against a stiff Giants defense. Here are the rankings of the run defenses the Cowboys face between Week 8 and Week 16: Jaguars (25th), Packers (23rd), Giants (3rd), Lions (26th), Saints (16th), Colts (25th), Eagles (18th), Redskins (20th), Cardinals (29th). That makes Jones perhaps the ultimate buy-low candidate.
3. With the acquisition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall from the Broncos and with strong-armed Chad Henne at quarterback, the Dolphins offense was expected to feature more big plays in the passing game this season. However, that has failed to materialize, and Marshall has contributed just four plays of 20 yards or longer, two plays of more than 40 yards, and only one touchdown. While he has been a solid contributor in the passing game with 524 yards in six games (projected to a career-high 1,397 yards), the big plays aren’t going to come until the Dolphins rushing attack begins forcing opposing defenses to play closer to the line of scrimmage and out of the cover two defense the team has faced for most of 2010.
4. There have been a lot of stops and starts on Beanie Wells’ path to becoming the Cardinals full-time starter at running back, but it now appears that he will assume the starting role over incumbent Tim Hightower. After Hightower lost his fourth fumble of the season (all of which have come at inopportune times), head coach Ken Whisenhunt noted that there would be a point where fumbling issues would cost players playing time—a comment clearly directed at Hightower. If Wells does indeed get the promotion, it comes in perfect timing with the Cardinals facing the Buccaneers’ 31st-ranked run defense this week.
5. Speaking of the Buccaneers run defense, it has gone completely downhill over their last four games. After allowing just a combined 223 yards on the ground to the Browns and Panthers during their first two games, the Bucs have allowed 723 rushing yards over their last four games, an average of 181 yards per game. Safe to say that it’s high time to get your running backs in the starting lineup if they face the Bucs.
6. It looks like the biggest benefactor in Green Bay’s offense after tight end Jermichael Finley’s season-ending injury is wide receiver Greg Jennings. Jennings has come out of his four-game slumber over the last two weeks, catching 12 passes for 207 yards and a pair of scores. With Donald Driver suffering from a quadriceps injury that is clearly slowing him down (3 catches for 31 yards in Week 6, and held off the score sheet this week), Jennings figures to keep producing. As for Driver, keep him on your bench until the quadriceps injury is healed.
7. It appeared that Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston would be back in the lineup in Week 7, but instead he missed his third consecutive game. He was held out due to the playing conditions in Seattle but will return to the starting lineup this week. That bodes well for quarterback Max Hall and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who should see fewer double teams with Breaston starting.
8. It looks like the Bills are close to giving up on 2009 first-round pick Aaron Maybin. With Buffalo switching to a 3-4 defense, Maybin was converted to a pass-rushing role as an outside linebacker after a disastrous rookie season in which he failed to record a sack and saw minimal playing time due to his inability to hold the point in the rushing game. He was inactive this week during the Bills trip to his hometown of Baltimore, and Bills head coach Chan Gailey was clearly sending a strong message, reasoning that the team would play the players who give them the best chance to win. Maybin barely played during the two games prior to the trip to Baltimore, and it doesn’t look like he will see field again for a while, barring injuries to the team’s other linebackers. This is likely to be his last season in Buffalo, and if that happens, he will be another in a long line of questionable Bills draft picks.
9. The Texans were dealt a huge blow to their defense when middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury during the their Week 6 win over the Chiefs. The team announced this week that starting strong-side linebacker Brian Cushing will slide over to the middle with Kevin Bentley starting on the strong side. While that would generally increase a player’s IDP production, it’s not necessarily the case this time. Since entering the league, Cushing has out-produced Ryans, so he may see fewer tackles in his new role. Bentley becomes an intriguing option, although you should wait to see how he does this week against the Colts before adding him to your roster in IDP leagues.
10. Has there ever been an instance in which a team as talented as the Chargers made two completely boneheaded plays in one game? First off, rookie wide receiver Richard Goodman was credited with a fumble after making a 25-yard reception on his first reception as a pro. No big deal, right? Except he went to the ground untouched after making the catch, put the ball on the ground, and got up and walked away. It’s not college, big fella. Later, fullback Jacob Hester was the target on a swing pass that he failed to catch. Only problem was the swing pass was actually a backwards pass, and as Hester jogged back to the huddle, the Patriots recovered the ball and returned it 63 yards to the Chargers eight-yard line.
11. Keeping with the Chargers, they have now lost 12 fumbles, the most in the league, including three in the red zone. With all the fumbles, it’s no wonder the Chargers sit at 2-5 despite having the top-ranked offense and defense in the league.
12. Here’s to Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens, who scored his 150th career touchdown this week against the Falcons, making him only the fifth player to accomplish that feat. Owens is currently on pace to finish the year with 1,504 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, so we can now officially say that his lack of production last year in Buffalo was a direct result of the team’s poor quarterback play and unimaginative offense.
13. Despite uneven play at the quarterback position, the Titans offense has been on fire this season. They are second in the league in scoring at 28.4 points per game and have topped 30 points in each of their last three games. If you follow the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats (and you should), then it’s time to start adding some Titans to your roster. Running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Kenny Britt have seven touchdowns each; but it’s unlikely that distribution will continue going forward, so Nate Washington and Bo Scaife are decent pickups given that they can likely be had for next to nothing at the moment.
14. Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has been a staunch defender of head coach Josh McDaniels over the last season and a half, and the team’s fans have generally been supportive of McDaniels as well. However, that support seems to have dried up considerably after the Broncos were crushed at home this week by a score of 59-14 to the hated Raiders. It seems that bad coaching, bad drafting, and horrendous trades are perfectly acceptable to Bowlen and Broncos fans, but losing to the Raiders is simply unacceptable. After going 6-0 to start the 2009 season, the Broncos are 4-13 since then, and their biggest problems have been their inability to generate a consistent rushing attack and their failure to stop the run. As John Madden used to repeatedly say, if you can’t run and you can’t stop the run, you’re not going to win many games in the NFL. During the Broncos’ 13 losses over the last two seasons, they have given up 173 or more rushing yards seven times and over 200 rushing yards five times. If the Broncos don’t start winning soon, look for McDaniels to insert rookie first-round pick Tim Tebow into the starting lineup in an attempt to appease the Broncos faithful and buy himself one more season in Denver.
15. The Ravens secondary had a strong start to the 2010 season, which was unexpected given preseason predictions that they would struggle early with safety Ed Reed out of the lineup. After four games, that proved to be wrong, and the Ravens were near the top of the league in passing defense, having surrendered only one passing touchdown and just 119 passing yards per game. However, the wheels have come off over the past three weeks, with Baltimore giving up 314 yards to Kyle Orton, 292 yards to Tom Brady, and—worst of all—382 yards this week to Ryan Fitzpatrick. They have also allowed seven touchdowns over that span, with Fitzpatrick tossing four of them. Looks like it’s time to get your receivers and tight ends in against Baltimore.
16. Earlier this season, Rams running back Steven Jackson moved past Marshall Faulk to become the franchise’s second all-time leading rusher. During the Rams loss to the Bucs this week, Jackson moved ahead of Eric Dickerson into first place. Nice company to keep.
17. The question du jour this week is what to make of new Cowboys starting quarterback Jon Kitna. With Tony Romo on the shelf for a minimum of six weeks with a broken left clavicle (and most likely for the season since the Cowboys are unlikely to be in the playoff hunt by the time he is healthy), Kitna shapes up as the team’s starter for the balance of 2010. While he has barely played since the 2008 season, he did put up a pair of 4,000-yard seasons in 2007 (4,066 yards) and 2006 (4,208 yards), and the Cowboys offense features more talented skill position players than those teams—along with a comparable offensive line. Kitna is thirty-eight years old, but his arm showed some zip this week and appears to have the strength to hit some deep passes to the team’s trio of talented wide receivers. My guess is that he shapes up as a solid backup for fantasy purposes—one I would be comfortable starting on a weekly basis if necessary. If you need a quarterback and Kitna is available, grab him from the waiver wire rather than deplete your roster in a trade to fill your quarterback needs.