Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — December 31, 2010 @ 1:01 pm
1. The NFL can’t be too happy that the biggest game of the season’s final week is a showdown between two losing teams. With no more meaningful games to choose from, the league decided to flex the Rams-Seahawks matchup to Sunday night. That tilt will decide the winner of the NFC West as well as the fourth seed in the NFC. If the Seahawks can pull out an unexpected home win, they will win the division with a 7-9 record—not exactly the publicity the league wants out of the biggest game on the final week of the season. As it stands, three teams in the NFC will finish with better records than the NFC West champions.
2. The Rams currently sit at 7-8 after going 6-42 over the last three years. While head coach Steve Spagnuolo took a lot of heat for going 1-15 during his rookie season in 2009, he is now poised to be one of the leading candidates for Coach of the Year honors.
3. The Colts have been a bit of an afterthought in discussions regarding who will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. However, as the season winds down, Indianapolis is playing perhaps their best football of the year, and the Colts’ ability to run the ball is a large part of the season for their success. Recently re-signed Dominic Rhodes has run well, and second-year player Donald Brown seems to be hitting his stride after struggling for most of his time in the league. With Joseph Addai back in the lineup, the Colts are as deep at running back as they have been in years.
4. The Panthers have been truly horrible this season, the result of several poor decisions by the team’s owners and management. Owner Jerry Richardson inexplicably chose to allow John Fox to coach in the final year of his contract without offering an extension. In addition, Richardson put the handcuffs on general manager Marty Hurney in his attempts to re-sign the team’s best defensive player, defensive end Julius Peppers, which led to his departure. Hurney further deserves the blame for thinking that Matt Moore could hold the torch at quarterback until second round pick Jimmy Clausen developed. Those three decisions were the biggest reasons for the Panthers’ poor showing. But there was light at the end of the tunnel: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Now the whispers are growing that Luck will stay in college for his senior year, which means the prize for being so bad in 2011 might not be nearly the coup Carolina’s management and fans were banking on.
Sterger captured, eagerly anticipating Roger Goodell's ruling.
5. After weeks of purported investigation, the NFL announced this week that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was fined $50,000 failing to cooperate with the league’s investigation of inappropriate conduct against former Jets employee, game-day hostess Jenn Sterger. While that outcome may be hard to believe, it seemed clear that the longer the league took to conclude the matter, the better the outcome was expected to be for Favre. The league clearly had no interest in embarrassing one of its most iconic players during what is now expected to be his final season in the league.
6. After the 49ers were soundly beaten by the Rams in a must-win game this week, head coach Mike Singletary was given his walking papers. Despite having two years and $5 million remaining on his contract, San Francisco chose to go in another direction after a disastrous season that began with the 49ers as the consensus pick to win the NFC West. The team came out of the gate slowly, however, with Singletary adding to the disarray by firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye early in the season. He followed that up with several questionable decisions at quarterback, failing to settle on either incumbent Alex Smith or Troy Smith, who was signed after being released by the Ravens in the preseason. Singletary may have been a solid motivator, but it was clear during his time in San Francisco that his lack of head coaching experience was a hindrance, so his firing was hardly a surprise.
7. Despite the Chargers disappointing season, owner Dean Spanos is expected to retain the general manager-head coach duo of A.J. Smith and Norv Turner. Although Smith’s decision to trade multiple draft picks to select running back Ryan Mathews in the first round hasn’t panned out, he has found a number of gems late in the draft as well as several useful undrafted players. As for Turner, while many outside of San Diego felt his job was on the line, he retains the confidence of Smith, who appears ready to place the blame for the Chargers’ lackluster showing in 2010 on special teams coach Steve Crosby.
8. Here’s to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for putting together another string of amazing performances and breaking the record for most consecutive passes without an interception, previously held by former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar. Brady’s last interception came in Week 6 against the Ravens.
9. Sticking with the Patriots, with Brady leading the way, New England is on pace to finish the season with the fewest offensive turnovers in the history of the league. The Patriots enter Week 17 having turned the ball over just nine times.
10. The Bengals convinced themselves in the offseason that the road to a deep playoff run lies in acquiring better receiving options for quarterback Carson Palmer. To that end, they signed veteran free agent wide receivers Antonio Bryant and Terrell Owens and used their first round pick on tight end Jermaine Gresham. Bryant washed out and was released before ever playing a down with the team, but Owens and Gresham have had productive years in 2010. However, with both Owens and fellow starting wide receiver Chad Ochocinco out of the lineup this week, Palmer had his most impressive performance of the season against a strong Chargers pass defense, completing 16 of 21 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Owens certainly won’t be asked back in 2011, and Palmer’s performance this week may lead to Ochocinco’s exit as well.
11. After two strong performances, Broncos fans are rightly excited over the future of quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow has produced a 1-1 record as a starter, piling up 446 yards through the air and 105 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. As expected, he has proven to be a dynamic presence when running the ball, but he has struggled with his pass accuracy. While the 308 passing yards he recorded against the Texans were impressive, a closer look reveals that the performance wasn’t quite the panacea Denver’s fans made it out to be. Houston features the league’s worst secondary and yet Tebow completed only 55.2 percent of his passes against them, going 16 for 29. That percentage was the second-lowest allowed by Houston this season, ahead of only Tennessee rookie quarterback Rusty Smith, who looked horrible as the Titans starter. That being said, Tebow clearly has shown a solid grasp of the team’s offense and may be the type of quarterback who can post a solid record by making enough big plays late in games to pull out wins.
12. Texans tight end Owen Daniels has had a disappointing season as he has struggled since suffering a season-ending ACL injury midway through the 2009 season. In addition to that, he suffered a hamstring injury this season that caused him to miss five games and slowed him down in another. Houston failed to make Daniels a big part of the offensive game plan prior to his hamstring injury, with his being targeted five times or less in five of his first seven games and never getting more than seven targets in the other two. However, since returning from the hamstring injury, he has been targeted 32 times in three games and has shown the pass-receiving ability that made him so dangerous in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. In those three games, Daniels has caught 17 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown. His contract is up at the end of the season, and the Texans may be reluctant to offer him a lucrative long-term contract extension, given both his extensive history of knee problems and the solid play of reserves Joel Dreessen and James Casey this season.
13. Another player who faces an interesting offseason is Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston. While Breaston has been productive when healthy, with 692 yards receiving in 12 games, he has missed three full games and most of another this season. His inability to find the end zone (with only one touchdown) despite producing several big plays (averaging a healthy 16.1 yards per catch) continues a trend that Breaston has displayed for most of his career. In four seasons, he has caught 183 passes but found the end zone just seven times. Arizona has several young wide receivers such as Early Doucet, Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams, and Max Komar that team management has been impressed by. With the team clearly in a rebuilding mode, it won’t be a surprise if the Cardinals decide to let Breaston walk after the season and instead go with younger players at the position.
By: Dave Stringer — December 28, 2010 @ 5:59 pm
Tim Tebow, Broncos
Tebow had 24 fantasy points in his first game as a starter, but that was padded by 78 yards and a touchdown on the ground. This week against the Texans he put up 28 points by throwing for over 300 yards and scoring through the air—and chipping in another touchdown on the ground. The naysayers will claim it doesn’t mean much because it was against Houston’s porous secondary, but the bottom line is that Tebow is averaging 26 points per game as a starter. Nobody ever said the NFL draft was an exact science, and Tebow is further proving that it’s not.
Saved his best game for the right time.
Josh Freeman, Bucs
With Tampa Bay fighting for its playoff life, Freeman came up big against the Seahawks with the best game of his two-year career in what was also his most important game to date. While Seattle’s pass defense is among the league’s worst, Freeman’s 237 passing yards and five touchdowns were still impressive. The performance entrenches Freeman as a great option in keeper leagues and as a quarterback poised to become a worthy fantasy starter in 2011.
Stephen McGee, Cowboys
Jon Kitna is questionable for Week 17 with a strained oblique, which means McGee might get the start against the Eagles. Going 11 for 17 for 111 yards and a touchdown in a little over half a game, McGee looked decent against Arizona in Week 16. He also chipped in 19 yards on four carries and almost pulled out a come-from-behind victory. McGee would be an even better option if the Eagles weren’t playing for a better playoff seed next week, but it appears as though they’ll have that incentive.
Charlie Whitehurst, Seahawks
For the truly desperate, it appears that Whitehurst will start in the Seahawks’ Week 17 matchup against the Rams, in a game that will determine the winner of the NFC West. Despite incumbent starter Matt Hasselbeck having turned the ball over 13 times in the four games before Week 16, Seattle refused to insert Whitehurst into the starting lineup. However, with Hasselbeck likely out with back and hip injuries, Whitehurst will likely get the nod. He’s looked OK, but asking an inexperienced signal caller to come through in a huge game in his first career start is asking a lot.
Mark Sanchez, Jets
With a slight tear in his throwing shoulder, Sanchez is iffy at best for the Jets’ plum Week 17 matchup against the Bills. Head coach Rex Ryan has indicated that even if Sanchez plays, he may get pulled early for backup Mark Brunell. That makes him a huge risk and a player that should be started only if there aren’t any other options available.
Troy Smith, 49ers
Smith inexplicably got the nod from head coach Mike Singletary for the 49ers’ must-win road game against the Rams and rewarded his head coach with a horrendous performance. Worse yet, he argued with Singletary on the sideline after overthrowing Michael Crabtree on an interception. Smith has shown this year that he’s not yet ready to start. While Alex Smith isn’t likely to be back with the team in 2011, he will likely be under center in Week 17.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers
With Mike Tolbert out for Week 17 with neck and shoulder injuries, Mathews will get the start against the Broncos. Denver’s run defense ranks 30th in the league, so Mathews should be in line for a big game to end his rather disappointing rookie season. He was solid this week against the Bengals with 55 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and 28 yards on three receptions. With the Broncos mailing it in, Mathews could have a huge game in Week 17.
LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers
When you rush for 164 yards on just 18 carries in a key game, you’re Moving Up. Blount ran around, through, and over Seahawks defenders, displaying solid athleticism for a player his size. While he doesn’t have great speed, Blount shapes up as a solid dynasty prospect. He’s topped 100 rushing yards in each of his last two games and in three of his last four contests.
Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
Knowshon Moreno was questionable for Week 16 with injured ribs, and he left the Broncos game against the Texans for good at halftime. That allowed Buckhalter to have his best fantasy game of the year with 21 points on 92 total yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Chargers’ solid run defense is on tap for Week 17, but San Diego has struggled on the road and was eliminated from playoff contention this week.
Peyton Hillis, Browns
He was Moving Down last week and he’s there again courtesy of a rib injury. His Week 17 matchup is horrible with the Steelers on tap, and he’s already hit a major dry spell. With just 40 total yards this week against the Ravens, Hillis has topped 100 total yards only once in his last four games and has failed to find the end zone in each of those contests. Expect more of the same against the Steelers if he plays.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
He’s been banged up for much of the season and his injured ribs kept him from finishing the game against the Texans last week. Moreno’s the future at running back for Denver, so there’s no point in sending him out there in Week 17 with bad ribs.
Tashard Choice, Cowboys
Despite Marion Barber being a solid bet to be released in the offseason due to his high salary and declining production, he had eight carries for 58 yards and a score this week. That left Choice begging for scraps once again as he had just seven touches for 32 yards against Arizona. He was a solid flex option with Barber out, but he’s a huge risk in Week 17.
Jerome Simpson, Bengals
You could have won a lot of money in Vegas if you had bet on Simpson as the top fantasy wide receiver for Week 16. With Chad Ochocinco out of the lineup, Simpson had easily the best game of his very disappointing three-year career, catching six of seven targets for 124 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a solid Chargers secondary. His previous career best was a two-reception, 30-yard game in Week 15. With Ochocinco not exactly in head coach Marvin Lewis’ good graces, there is a decent chance he will sit out the Bengals’ Week 17 matchup against the Ravens. That would make Simpson a decent flex option against a Baltimore secondary that has been up and down in 2010.
Andre Roberts, Cardinals
Steve Breaston started but didn’t see any targets courtesy of soreness in his knee, and that gave Roberts an opportunity. The Cardinals’ rookie third-round pick didn’t disappoint, catching five of nine targets for 110 yards and a touchdown against a struggling Cowboys secondary. Breaston might not go in Week 17 against the 49ers’ 23rd-ranked pass defense, and that may give Roberts a chance to showcase the repertoire he developed with quarterback John Skelton while playing on Arizona’s scout team for most of 2010.
Jacoby Jones, Texans
Tabbed as a potential breakout player in 2010, Jones has been a huge disappointment for his fantasy owners. But he has come on of late. With 110 yards on five receptions this past week, Jones has now either topped 100 yards or scored in three of his last four games. Plus, with 25 targets over his last three games, Jones is becoming a more consistent option in the Texans’ weekly games plan. If only that had been the case earlier in the season, Jones may have had the breakout performance many had predicted.
Reggie Wayne, Colts
Similar to last season, Wayne is coming up empty as the regular season closes. Last year it was because the Colts were playing meaningless games at the end of the season. This year there’s no simple excuse for Wayne’s poor performance over the past two weeks. He was held to five receptions for 34 yards against a porous Jaguars secondary two weeks ago. Then the Raiders defense shut him down by shadowing him with Nnamdi Asomugha, allowing him only three receptions for 40 yards.
Wes Welker, Patriots
Welker’s roller coaster season seems to be on the downswing again, with the Patriots slot receiver catching just three passes in each of the last two games for a total of 61 yards and no touchdowns. Welker had a pair of solid games to start the season, and then he went cold for six weeks before rebounding with solid performances between Weeks 10 and 14. With New England having locked up the top seed in the AFC, there is little reason for Welker to play in Week 17. Look for him to either skip the game or to be used sparingly.
Steve Smith, Panthers
Just the numbers, baby, just the numbers. Seven receptions for 56 yards over his last three games. No touchdowns since Week 2. Two touchdowns in all of 2010. No 100-yard games this season. Only four games with more than 50 receiving yards. Time as a solid fantasy wide receiver: over.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
With Aaron Hernandez out of the lineup with a hip injury, Gronkowski had his second double-digit point game in his last three outings with four receptions for 54 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hernandez has received most of the pub, but Gronkowski has also been solid, catching close to 75 percent of his targets while hauling in nine touchdown passes. Gronkowski has great keeper potential and is a solid option in Week 17, even if Hernandez is a go.
Jared Cook, Titans
Tennessee’s 2009 third-round pick got his first start this week and came through in a big way with five receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. Better yet, he had a healthy nine targets. Bo Scaife got the franchise tag in 2010, but the team was never serious about signing him to a long-term contract extension. The plan seems to have been to buy a year until Cook was ready. Scaife will return in 2011, but in a backup capacity, and that makes Cook a solid prospect in dynasty leagues.
Bo Scaife, Titans
Benched and done as a starter in Tennessee.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
Gonzo hasn’t topped 50 receiving yards in his last four games and has just one touchdown and 104 receiving yards during that stretch. In fact, he’s topped 50 yards only three times all season, and with five touchdowns, he’s not scoring all that often either.
By: Dave Stringer — December 24, 2010 @ 10:54 am
"You're yelling at the wrong person coach."
1. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was visibly frustrated after watching the Eagles’ DeSean Jackson return a punt for a touchdown on the game’s final play this week, giving Philadelphia an epic come-from-behind win in a key divisional matchup against New York. Coughlin went off on rookie punter Matt Dodge for punting the ball to Jackson despite having been told to kick it out of bounds. While it’s debatable that Dodge didn’t have time to properly aim the ball out of bounds after handling a high snap, what isn’t debatable is that Coughlin should have been yelling at either himself or general manager Jerry Reese instead. Dodge has been abysmal this season with two dropped snaps, two bad holds on field goals, a blocked punt, a number of shanked or line-drive punts, and a delay-of-game penalty on a key fourth-quarter field goal try that resulted in a miss. If the Giants fail to win in Green Bay this week, they will almost certainly miss the playoffs, and the blame for that lies at the feet of Coughlin or Reese—or both—not on a rookie punter who should have been cut long ago.
2. The Giants choked last week, and Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio is accused of doing the same. Never known for his superlative game management skills, Del Rio took a huge risk in the third quarter of his team’s loss to the Colts this week. With Jacksonville four points behind, Del Rio went for it on fourth-and-one from his own 39-yard line, and running back Maurice Jones-Drew failed to gain the first down. After taking over on downs, Indianapolis scored on a touchdown run by Donald Brown and never looked back. With the Colts run defense struggling and Jacksonville’s running game excelling over the last few weeks, Del Rio took an unnecessary risk and lost, costing his team a chance at the AFC South title.
3. Great PR job going on in Washington as Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan hangs former starting quarterback Donovan McNabb out to dry in order to deflect focus from the team’s dismal showing—and Shanahan’s role in it—this season. Since Shanahan traded a 2010 second-round pick and a 2011 fourth-round pick for McNabb, he shares the blame for the Redskins’ poor performance this season and for helping to sabotage their future by giving away valuable draft picks in what has become a lost season. If there was ever any question about McNabb’s future in Washington, it was settled a couple days ago when Shanahan responded to McNabb’s comment that he would like to return to Washington next year by stating that he would be welcome as a backup. Despite being known for his offensive prowess, Shanahan will enter the offseason with quality offensive starters at only four positions: wide receiver, tight end, and left and right tackle. Guards Will Montgomery and Kory Lichtensteiger have shown some promise but are far from finished projects. By acquiring McNabb and hoping for a one-year turnaround, Shanahan has put Washington in a clear rebuilding position.
4. With his squad sporting a surprising 6-6 record after Week 12, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has been mentioned as a possible Coach of the Year candidate. However, the Rams have lost their last two games and the defensive turnaround that had sparked their comeback season is quickly beginning to fade, with St. Louis playing their worst football of the year as the season winds down. That’s bad news for a Rams team needing to win their final two games (at home against San Francisco and on the road in Seattle) in order to win the NFC West crown. Over their last five games, the Rams defense has surrendered 34, 33, 6, 31, and 27 points—with that 6-point game coming against the lowly Cardinals. That’s a surprising downturn for a unit that allowed 18 points or fewer in seven of eight games to start the season.
5. Texans owner Bob McNair stated before his team’s Week 15 contest against the Titans that his Texans were headed in the right direction and were close to being an outstanding team. His comments were largely construed as a show of support for head coach Gary Kubiak and as a sign that Kubiak would return for a sixth year in 2011. Those comments and Kubiak’s likely return next season stand contrary to what most commentators were predicting, with the accepted wisdom being that McNair would pull the plug on Kubiak since he is the longest-tenured coach in the league to fail to reach the playoffs. It was surprising to see that type of positive reinforcement as the Texans, who were expected to challenge for a playoff spot, stumble toward a losing record despite having one of the most talented offenses in the league—and despite featuring an unexpected breakout season from running back Arian Foster. Sure enough, McNair’s ill-advised comments were followed shortly thereafter by a Texans loss to the Titans, in a game in which they failed to show up for the first half once again.
6. Forty-niners head coach Mike Singletary is on the hot seat with his team having a largely disappointing season despite being the consensus pick to win the NFC West. The 49ers came out of the gate slowly, losing six of their first seven games, with four of those losses coming by three points or less. While their failure to win close games has been cited as the reason for their 5-9 record, it is Singletary’s handling of the quarterback position that is causing the most head-scratching in San Francisco. When Alex Smith was injured in Week 7, Singletary chose to bypass backup David Carr in favor of third-string quarterback Troy Smith, who was picked up after being released by Baltimore at the end of the preseason. Despite going 3-2 in five starts, Troy Smith was then benched, with Singletary rationalizing that the 49ers needed a quarterback who knew the entire playbook. Alex Smith started two games, beating Seattle and losing on the road to San Diego in a game in which the 49ers offensive line had perhaps their worst performance of the year. Despite being given little time to throw during a blowout, with almost no chance of winning, Smith’s performance drew Singletary’s ire and led to the switch back to Troy Smith this week. Singletary will add to his long list of curious quarterback decisions by turning to an inexperienced play caller over a veteran in a must-win game on the road against a divisional rival. To make matters worse, Singletary is splitting the reps between his top two quarterbacks, with the clear indication that if his starter doesn’t perform well, a quick hook will be in order. That amounts to added pressure and a horrible message to send to the inexperienced quarterback he’s chosen to start. Add it all up and it will be no surprise to see Singletary fired if the 49ers fail to make the playoffs.
7. In their two games against the Raiders this season, the Broncos surrendered 98 points and more than 1,000 yards. Those are remarkable statistics considering that the Raiders feature one of the lower-ranked passing offenses in the league.
8. Sticking with the Raiders, they have a chance this season to become the first team in the history of the league to sweep its division and not qualify for the postseason. The Raiders currently sit 5-0 against their AFC West counterparts, with a Week 17 game against the Chiefs as their final divisional matchup. However, with a 7-7 record and little hope of earning a wildcard berth, they sit third in the division behind the Chiefs and the Chargers. In order to make the playoffs, the Raiders need to defeat the Colts this week and the Chiefs next week. They also need Kansas City to lose this week to Tennessee and the Chargers to lose to either the Browns or the Bengals. That’s a tall order.
9. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford went over 3,000 yards passing this week, becoming only the third player in the history of the league to accomplish that feat in his rookie season.
10. The Dolphins were eliminated from playoff contention following their home loss to the Bills this week. With a 6-1 record on the road and a 1-6 record at home, Miami becomes the first team to have opposite home and away records by such a wide margin.
11. While the Dolphins have been great on the road, the Lions have been horrible in away games for years. This week they managed to beat the Buccaneers in overtime, however, snapping a league-record 26-game road losing streak. The win also gave Detroit their first two-game winning streak since the 2007 season. Ouch.
12. With Panthers fans clamoring for the team to use the first pick in next year’s draft (assuming Carolina finishes last overall) on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, rookie signal caller Jimmy Clausen finally won his first professional game this week (over the Cardinals). That win helped Clausen in two ways. First, it should quiet his critics a bit. Second, it put the Panthers one more win away from avoiding a last-place finish. While this week’s game on the road against Pittsburgh doesn’t look promising, a Week 17 matchup against a Falcons team that will likely rest a number of starters offers Clausen another opportunity to potentially save his job.
13. As mentioned here before, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones merely paid lip service to the team’s fans by mentioning that several big names were interested in the team’s head coaching position in 2011. More likely than not, Jones’ real intention is to avoid bringing in a big-name coach who may want authority over the football operations side of the organization, allowing Jones to continue to meddle in the team’s affairs, particularly on the player personnel side. It looks like interim head coach Jason Garrett is well on his way to securing his current position for next season. With the Cowboys’ win over the Redskins this week, Garrett’s coaching record is 4-2. With Arizona up next and with the Eagles in Week 17, in a game that may carry no playoff implications, Garrett has a decent chance to finish the year at 6-2. That would provide cover for Jones to hire Garrett full-time and continue with the current organizational structure.
By: Dave Stringer — December 21, 2010 @ 4:07 pm
Rex Grossman, Redskins
In torching the Cowboys this week for 322 yards and four touchdowns, Grossman threw for more touchdowns in a single game than Donovan McNabb did all season, so he must be doing something right. The question is: Is Grossman that good, or is the pass defense of the Cowboys that bad? While it’s a bit of both, it’s worth noting that Grossman has been in the league eight years and he’s started the majority of a season exactly once. His schedule should be the determining factor in deciding Grossman’s value, and the Jaguars 25th-ranked pass defense is up next.
Tim Tebow, Broncos
Tebow had a solid debut this week against the Raiders, throwing for 138 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 78 yards and a score. The Broncos appear set to give him starts in the remaining two games, and the Texans are on tap next in a home matchup. Houston’s pass defense ranks a lowly 29th, so Tebow has a shot to top 200 yards passing, and he seems a solid bet to add to his fantasy point total each week with his running exploits. For the truly desperate (and with a number of quarterbacks injured or benched, there are owners desperate for help at quarterback), Tebow could be worth a look. He rates below Grossman, but not by as much as you might think.
Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks
Hasselbeck was pulled during the Seahawks loss to the Falcons this week and was expected to be benched for the remainder of the season. Remarkably, head coach Pete Carroll will stick with Hasselbeck despite his 10-for-17, 71-yard, three-turnover disaster in Week 15. Over his last four games, Hasselbeck has turned the ball over 13 times, and the team has won just twice in their last seven games. The Seahawks travel to Tampa Bay this week, followed by a home game against the Rams in Week 17. The only explanation for Carroll sticking with Hasselbeck is that Seattle will capture the NFC West if they win both of their remaining games…as if that’s going to happen.
Charlie Whitehurst, Seahawks
If your head coach won’t bench the guy ahead of you despite 13 turnovers in four games, you have a pretty good idea where you stand. Think career backup.
Sam Bradford, Rams
After a solid six-game stretch where he threw for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns with just one interception, Bradford has gone cold. Over his last three games he has 599 yards and no touchdowns with five picks. Looks like Bradford has hit the rookie wall at exactly the wrong time for the Rams, and offensive coordinator Pat Shumur has no answers against opposing pass defenses.
Donald Brown, Colts
Brown has been a huge bust for the Colts since being taken with the 27th pick in the 2009 draft, but he came through in a must-win game this week against the Jaguars, topping 100 rushing yards for the first time in his career. Brown had 129 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries in his finest performance to date. With Joseph Addai’s return looking more unlikely with each passing week, Brown figures to start in the Colts backfield for the balance of the regular season.
Bengals' ground game should get a workout the last two weeks.
Cedric Benson, Bengals
Benson ripped off a 150-yard, one-touchdown game this week against the Browns, topping 100 yards for just the third time this season on his way to his best fantasy performance of the year. His efforts gave him over 1,000 rushing yards for the second consecutive season. He has been roundly criticized throughout the season, but the Bengals’ poor play has been a large part of the reason for Benson’s drop in production. While there has been much speculation that Bernard Scott should have a bigger role, that hasn’t happened, proving that the Bengals coaching staff is confident in Benson’s abilities.
Ray Rice, Ravens
Like Benson, Rice has been a bit of a disappointment in fantasy circles, particularly given his high draft position. And just like Benson, Rice had his best fantasy performance of the season this week, compiling 153 rushing yards, 80 receiving yards, and a pair of touchdowns against the Saints. That likely appeased his owners who are still in the fantasy playoffs but were expecting more of those breakout performances in 2010.
Maurice Morris, Lions
Morris was essentially splitting time with Jahvid Best in Weeks 13 and 14, but he assumed the lead role this week, gaining 109 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries against the Bucs. His schedule isn’t great with the Dolphins and Vikings up next, and it’s anybody’s guess as to how the workload will be divvied up. That relegates Morris to flex status and a bit of a desperation play as a RB2, but at least he’s coming off his best game of the season.
Toby Gerhart, Vikings
Adrian Peterson sat out Week 15 with knee and ankle injuries, causing him to miss his first game of the season—also his first missed game since his rookie season in 2008. Gerhart stepped into the starter’s role against a tough Bears run defense, gaining 77 yards on 16 carries and 18 yards on three receptions. Impressive stats, especially considering that the Vikings were forced to play rookie quarterback Joe Webb for much of the game. If Peterson can’t go in Week 16, Gerhart makes for a decent flex option against the Eagles.
Lance Ball, Broncos and Derrick Ward, Texans
If Knowshon Moreno and Arian Foster can’t go, these guys are in.
Peyton Hillis, Browns
Hillis had been averaging an impressive 19.1 fantasy points per game during the first 11 games of the season, but he has slowed down considerably over the past three weeks. Despite having reasonably decent matchups against Miami, Buffalo, and Cincinnati, Hillis averaged just 9.3 points per game against those teams, gaining 224 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards while failing to find the end zone. With 311 touches, he has eclipsed his career-high in that category (82 in his rookie season in 2008) and looks as though he has hit a wall. The Ravens and the Steelers are up next, so the schedule doesn’t offer him any relief.
Mike Goodson, Panthers
Jonathan Stewart took back his lead role in Week 13, though touchdowns in Week 13 and 14 allowed Goodson to put up decent points. However, Goodson failed to find the end zone this week as he gained just 21 yards on ten carries against a fading Cardinals team. With the Steelers and the Falcons up next, Goodson won’t get many touches for the remainder of 2010 unless Stewart gets hurt, so he needs to be nailed to your bench in all formats.
Reggie Bush, Saints
Since returning from a broken fibula in Week 12, Bush has gained just 136 yards on 35 touches (3.9 yards per touch) and has failed to find the end zone. It looks like the effects of the injury are hurting his performance as he was especially awful this week against the Ravens, with only 32 yards on 11 touches. Stay away.
Danny Amendola, Rams
With seven receptions for 60 yards this week, Amendola put himself on pace to finish with a whopping 86 receptions. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s also on pace to finish with the lowest average yards per reception for any wide receiver in league history with 60 or more catches. In PPR leagues he’s still very useful and a great dynasty prospect, but he’s not much use in standard scoring formats.
Mario Manningham, Giants
If there’s a more inconsistent wide receiver than Manningham, please let me know who it is. Manningham has big games as the team’s third receiver, but he fizzles when both Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith are out. And just when you’ve finally given up on him, he goes and has a big game this week against the Eagles in place of Smith, catching eight balls for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s clearly talented but doesn’t always show up. What else is there to say?
Santana Moss, Redskins
Grossman looked his way 13 times this week, with Moss catching eight passes for 72 yards and a pair of scores. That gives him 15 receptions for 154 yards and three touchdowns over the last two games. With the Jaguars on tap, Moss is due for another big game in Week 16.
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos
Many fantasy football enthusiasts were waiting for Lloyd to bust, and it seemed as though that was happening after he posted four receptions for 63 yards and no touchdowns through Weeks 14 and 15. Sure enough, despite having Tim Tebow under center, Lloyd responded this week against the Raiders with four receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown. While his chances for a huge game are reduced with Tebow replacing Kyle Orton at quarterback, his production this week proves that Tebow won’t be the albatross many imagined.
Terrell Owens, Bengals and Austin Collie, Colts
T.O. was Moving Down last week and now he’s done for the year—just as Collie should be. Given his uncertain future, Owens has little value in dynasty leagues. Collie’s value is also on the decline after he suffered his third concussion of the 2010 season on Sunday.
Anquan Boldin, Ravens
With 813 yards through 14 games, Boldin is in danger of missing the 1000-yard mark for the first time since his injury-plagued 2007 season. He has topped 1,000 receiving yards in five of seven seasons—he missed the mark previously in 2004 when he played in just ten games. Let’s go ahead and conclude that his move to the Ravens was not the fantasy elixir that Boldin owners had hoped for. Over his last six games, he has 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with 141 of those yards and one touchdown coming in Week 13. This week he had one reception for two yards. Looks like a 1000-yard season isn’t in the cards—nor may be a fantasy championship if you’re relying on Boldin.
Sidney Rice, Vikings
With the Vikings down to rookie third-round pick Joe Webb (their third-string quarterback), Rice makes for a risky play in Week 16 when Minnesota goes on the road against the Eagles. Webb looked clueless during Monday night’s loss to the Bears, unable to read coverages or avoid negative plays. That doesn’t bode well for the touchdown opportunities of any of the Vikings’ skill position players.
Jimmy Graham, Saints
Go figure—the Saints have found another stud offensive weapon to add to their arsenal. The rich get richer. Graham is certainly talented, and he came through this week, catching five of seven targets for 29 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Ravens. Over his last five games he has 17 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns, which translates to 6.7 points per game. He offers great dynasty league potential and is worth using this year if you don’t have better options.
Antonio Gates, Chargers
He was Moving Down last week and he’s there again courtesy of speculation that he may sit out until the playoffs—if the Chargers even get there.
By: Dave Stringer — December 17, 2010 @ 12:46 pm
1. Week 15, Titans–Texans, Johnson–Finnegan: The Sequel. With the NFL watching closely, and any extracurricular activity guaranteed to result in hefty fines (think six digits), don’t expect another round of hockey-style fisticuffs between Johnson and Finnegan. My money’s on Johnson having a huge game, with Texans head coach Gary Kubiak feeding his stud receiver a huge amount of targets and with Johnson embarrassing the feisty Titans cornerback.
2. Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen has struggled during his rookie season, and with Carolina currently sitting last in the league standings, speculation has swirled that the team may consider using the first pick in the draft on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, just one year after taking Clausen in the second round. Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith added fuel to the fire this week, suggesting that Clausen has “a lot to learn.” That qualifies as stating the obvious since Clausen sports an 0-7 record as a starter and has just one touchdown pass on the season, yet has seven interceptions and a 51.3 completion percentage. However, Smith is a veteran who should know to support a rookie quarterback rather than tear him down. Perhaps Clausen should remind Smith that he had a lot to learn as a rookie as well. A third round pick, Smith had just ten receptions for 154 yards and no touchdowns during his rookie season in 2001.
3. The Buccaneers were handed a pair of gifts this week, but they may not matter given their current injury situation. Tampa Bay walked away with a win in Washington when Redskins holder Hunter Smith failed to catch the snap on what should have been a game-tying, final-minute point-after attempt. Also, the Bucs benefitted from the Packers loss to Detroit, as Green Bay’s offense sputtered with quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the sideline with a concussion. The Bucs and the Packers both sit at 8-5, one game behind the Giants in the race for the final wild-card spot in the NFC, but the Bucs hold the tiebreaker advantage. However, Tampa Bay lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Quincy Black to season-ending injuries this week, marking the third consecutive game in which Tampa Bay has had to place two starters on IR. Last week they lost cornerback Aqib Talib and center Jeff Faine, and the previous week they lost right guard Davin Joseph and rookie safety Cody Grimm.
4. With their win over the Packers this week, the Lions snapped a 19-game losing streak against teams in the NFC North.
The Broncos-D had no answer for Feely.
5. How many fantasy owners lost in the first round of the playoffs because they were going up against Cardinals kicker Jay Feely this week? Playing in one of the NFL’s worst offenses, Feely was ranked in the bottom third of the league’s kickers. But his owners got an early Christmas present when he kicked five field goals and had a five-yard touchdown run in Arizona’s 43-13 thrashing of the Broncos. No doubt many teams lost because of Feely’s 25-point explosion (which included four extra points, as well). His touchdown run marked just the fourth time in the past 40 years that a kicker has run it in for six points.
6. The Bengals have been a doormat for most of the last two decades, including having the worst record of the 1990’s, but they surprisingly set a new record for futility this week. Despite winning the AFC North last year, the Bengals have foundered this season, and this week’s loss to Pittsburgh marked their tenth in a row, establishing a new franchise record for most consecutive losses.
7. Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been a major star since bursting onto the scene in the 2008 season. Jackson has regularly burned opposing defenses for big plays, averaging a healthy 18.3 yards per reception during his career. Interestingly, though, Jackson has not fared well against division rival Dallas. Prior to this week, he had 13 receptions for 232 and no touchdowns in four games against the Cowboys. But he changed all that on Sunday night, catching a 91-yard touchdown pass en route to a four-reception, 210-yard performance against Dallas.
8. In the preseason, the Chiefs expressed confidence in quarterback Brodie Croyle as the team’s backup behind Matt Cassel for the next several years. After his dismal performance against the Chargers in Week 14, look for the Chiefs to move in another direction. Croyle is not signed beyond this season, and it seems likely that Kansas City will look to either free agency or the draft to replace him for the 2011 season.
9. Sticking with the Chiefs, while Croyle might not be a part of the team’s future, Jamaal Charles will be, courtesy of the five-year, $32.5 million contract extension he signed prior to this week’s game. Thomas Jones is signed through 2011 but will be 34 years old before the 2012 season starts, making him an unlikely candidate to be re-signed by Kansas City. Dynasty leaguers shouldn’t just assume that Charles will take on a workhorse role in 2012, however, since Jones’ original signing seemed a clear indicator that management was concerned about the 5’10”, 200-pound Charles staying free of injury if used in such a capacity. While a workhorse role may be in the offing for 2012, it seems more likely than not that the Chiefs will acquire another running back, either in the draft or through free agency, to compliment Charles.
10. The Buffalo Bills poor personnel decisions have been well documented, and one often overlooked area where they have failed miserably in recent years is in acquiring a solid pass-catching tight end. While most of the rest of the league has been placing an increased emphasis on the position, and while several teams feature solid pass-catching threats at tight end, the Bills have been unable to adequately fill the position despite using several draft picks trying over the last decade. Buffalo has not had a tight end top the 50-reception mark since the 2001 season when Jay Riemersma caught 53 passes. Since then they have used reasonably high draft picks on Mark Campbell, Kevin Everett, Derek Fine, Derek Schouman, and Shawn Nelson, as well as acquiring free agents Robert Royal and Michael Gaines—but they have come up empty. This has to be particularly distressing for Bills fans during a season in which division rivals New England drafted not one but two excellent tight end prospects in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski and in which the Jets will likely send Dustin Keller to the Pro Bowl.
11. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is having his finest season with New England, currently the odds-on favorite to capture the Super Bowl despite entering the season with several question marks on defense and having to deal with disgruntled wide receiver Randy Moss. Belichick should be considered the front-runner to win the league’s Coach of the Year award despite solid turn-around seasons by Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay, Todd Haley in Kansas City, and Steve Spagnola in St. Louis. It is worth noting that despite predictions the sky was falling on the team after Moss was traded, the Patriots have tallied an impressive 8-1 record since. The teams that acquired Moss, Minnesota and Tennessee, are 1-8 when he has been in the lineup.
12. St. Louis running back Steven Jackson lost an opening-quarter fumble in the Rams loss to the Saints this week. It was his first lost fumble in 562 touches, going back to Week 5 of the 2009 season. On the play, Jackson went over 1,000 rushing yards for the sixth consecutive season, becoming the first Rams running back to accomplish the feat.
13. With the Jets scoring just nine points in their last two games (both losses), fans chanted for the ousting of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer after this week’s home loss to the Dolphins. Interesting that less than a full season removed from being praised for his offensive play calling in helping the Jets get within a game of the Super Bowl, Schottenheimer is being scorned by the team’s fans. Quarterback Mark Sanchez should be the target of Jets fans’ derision, given his play in recent weeks. Over the team’s last three games, Sanchez has completed 50 of 105 passes for 546 yards with one touchdown against five interceptions. The low completion percentage is even more startling considering the Jets’ reliance on short and intermediate plays. Head coach Rex Ryan chimed in this week that he will bench his second-year quarterback if he deems it necessary. Sanchez currently ranks 24th in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks with eight or more starts, a distressing situation for his dynasty league owners who were hoping that the addition of Santonio Holmes at wide receiver would allow Sanchez to develop into an upper-tier backup for fantasy purposes.
14. With his touchdown in Week 14, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis had caught touchdown passes in five consecutive games, while averaging 64 receiving yards per game, with Alex Smith starting at quarterback. During Troy Smith’s five starts, Davis had caught one touchdown and averaged 50 receiving yards per game. Unfortunately for Davis owners, the 49ers threw it to him only once in Week 15, and his touchdown streak with Smith at quarterback ended.
15. How fitting that in the game in which Brett Favre’s consecutive-games-started streak was snapped at 297 his replacement suffered a season-ending injury. Tarvaris Jackson suffered ligament damage in his toe, forcing the Vikings to place him on injured reserve. As for all the commentary about Favre’s streak being the most impressive in all of sports history and unlikely to be beaten, don’t buy it. With 205 consecutive starts, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning needs five full seasons and 13 games of a sixth season to break the record. Are you betting against him? I’m certainly not. Here’s my vote for the most impressive consecutive game streak: the 502 consecutive games Blackhawks goalie Glenn Hall played between 1955 and 1962. Goalies didn’t even use masks back then, and if you count Hall’s time in the minors, he played in 881 straight games beginning in 1951.
16. The Giants placed wide receiver Steve Smith on injured reserve this week with cartilage damage in his knee that will require complex microfracture surgery as well as a mosaicplasty procedure. His recovery time is expected to be between six and nine months, which puts his availability for training camp in doubt. With medical procedures becoming more sophisticated, recovery times for major surgeries have been reduced. The Patriots Wes Welker started slowly this year but has been solid, despite suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 17 last season. However, Smith’s surgery is more complex and comes at an inopportune time given that he is in a contract year. The situation increases the dynasty league value of Mario Manningham, a player who has generally produced when given an opportunity.
By: Dave Stringer — December 14, 2010 @ 1:13 pm
Alex Smith, 49ers
Alex Smith was back in the saddle this week after Mike Singletary came to the realization that Troy Smith’s upside and leadership abilities weren’t going to help him secure his place as the team’s head coach in 2011. So in steps Smith for San Francisco’s home game against a Seahawks defense that struggles mightily against the pass. The 49ers quarterback didn’t disappoint, throwing for 255 yards and three touchdowns.
Kerry Collins, Titans
After a dismal Week 13 performance against a suspect Jaguars secondary in his first game back from a calf injury, Collins put up a solid game this Thursday night during the Titans’ 30-28 loss to the Colts. Despite not getting much production from his wide receivers (including Kenny Brit, who was back in action), Collins went 28 of 39 for 244 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Up next are the Texans and their league-worst pass defense, followed by a Chiefs team that is struggling to slow down opposing quarterbacks.
Jason Campbell, Raiders
Campbell has had an up and down first season in a Raiders uniform, but this week against the Jaguars he put on a show, playing his best game of the season. With the running back duo of Michael Bush and Darren McFadden playing well (McFadden also chipped in with a 67-yard touchdown reception), the Raiders were able to effectively use play action against the Jaguars. At the end of the day, Campbell had 324 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Rodgers got the Moving Up designation last week due to his outstanding performance this season and because there weren’t any performances that warranted inclusion in that category. This week, he’s Moving Down due to the concussion he suffered in the Packers road loss to the Lions on Sunday. Rodgers went out in the second quarter, after being used as a human yo-yo by Lions defenders Landon Johnson and Amari Spievey. The concussion is his second of the season (the other came in Week 5 against the Redskins) and that increases the likelihood that he won’t start in Green Bay’s Week 15 game against the Patriots. No doubt that many of his owners lost this week due to his meager production, but those that survived may have to rely on their backup next week—and it’s safe to assume that most Rodgers owners didn’t invest heavily in an upper-tier backup.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
With his subpar performance this week against the Bengals (258 passing yards and no touchdowns), Roethlisberger has now been entirely average for three straight games. Over that span, he has thrown for a respectable 757 yards but has just one touchdown pass and hasn’t padded his fantasy point totals with much rushing production. Worse yet, those performances have come against the Bills, Ravens, and Bengals, a trio of mid-tier passing defenses.
Brodie Croyle, Chiefs
I warned you in my “Dave’s Take” column that he was 0-9 as a starter entering this week’s game against the Chargers. In case you missed that debacle, he’s now 0-10 as a starter, and if he gets the nod in a road contest against the Rams in Week 15, you can bet that will move to 0-11.
Ryan Torain, Redskins
It’s been my position ever since Torain stepped in for Clinton Portis that he is the best young pure running back on the team’s roster, and he proved it again this week. Sure, he can’t seem to stay healthy, which limits his upside in dynasty leagues, but he has been productive when in the lineup. This week he gashed the Bucs for 172 yards on 24 carries. That marks the third time that Torain has topped 100 rushing yards in the five games that he has started when he has played the entire game. The Redskins will enter the 2011 offseason with plenty of needs, and head coach Mike Shanahan has a history of using unheralded running backs, so Torain will likely enter next season atop the team’s depth chart at running back, with a mid- or lower-round draft pick looking to unseat him. With Dallas and Jacksonville up next, Torain has a chance to further entrench himself as the team’s starter and help his fantasy owners win some championships.
Brian Westbrook, 49ers
I figured Westbrook would get the majority of the work when Frank Gore was lost for the year, but the team has basically split the work between Westbrook and rookie sixth-round pick Anthony Dixon. No matter, as Westbrook apparently plays better when he can stay fresh. Both players had 15 touches this week, but Westbrook was the better performer, gaining 23 yards on the ground to go along with six receptions for 87 yards, which included a 62-yard scamper for a touchdown. Two factors are working in Westbrook’s favor. One, Alex Smith is in at quarterback, and he’s more of a check-down artist than Troy Smith, who likes to throw it down the field. Two, the 49ers remain in the playoff hunt, so there’s no reason for them to give Dixon more work.
Tim Hightower, Cardinals
Chris Wells was expected to be the man for the Cardinals this season, but injuries and ineffectiveness have prevented that from happening. While his owners keep expecting Wells to step to the forefront of the Cardinals backfield, it appears—if the last five weeks are any indication—Hightower will remain the team’s starter. Over that five-week span, Hightower has 69 touches to just 24 for Wells, and he had a solid game this week against Denver with 148 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns.
Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
Jacobs and Bradshaw both have three touchdowns and 200 or more rushing yards over their last two games. Let’s just say the Giants running game is rolling and both players are safe plays in your starting lineup.
Rashad Jennings, Jaguars
Jennings has exploded onto the scene over the last three weeks, moving from a handcuff with almost no value to a solid flex play. This week against Oakland, he had the first 100-yard game of his career and scored on a 74-yard touchdown run. He also had a 16-yard run where he was stopped just shy of the end zone. Jennings has now scored a touchdown in three straight games, hitting double-digit fantasy points in each contest.
Javarris James, Colts
Do I think he’s that good? No. Do I think he will start for the rest of the season? No. Basically, I don’t think much of him, but here are the numbers: six touchdowns in his last six games. If you use him as your flex and he scores, you’re smiling. If he doesn’t score, you’re kicking yourself. That’s where it’s at with James. Up next are the very average run defenses of the Jaguars (15th against the run and just gave up 209 total yards and three touchdowns to Darren McFadden) and the Raiders (21st against the run and just gave up 234 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground to the Jaguars).
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
I gave Lynch a lukewarm Moving Up last week, courtesy of his 83-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance against the Panthers. Sure enough, he had a stinker this week, gaining just 29 yards on ten carries against the 49ers. He did chip in seven receptions for 37 yards to come away with a respectable fantasy point total, but his lack of ability to make big plays has to be a concern for Seattle management. It remains to be seen whether Lynch has done enough to earn a starting role in 2011 and prevent Seattle from using a high draft pick on the position.
Chris Ivory, Saints
Ivory looked good against the Rams this week, gaining 47 yards on just seven carries before leaving the game with a hamstring injury. That injury coupled with Pierre Thomas’ return to the lineup significantly reduces Ivory’s value. While he had the potential to be a low-end RB2 with Thomas out, Ivory now rates as nothing better than a low-end flex option in leagues that employ the position. That is an unfortunate turn of events for an undrafted free agent who leads all rookie running backs in rushing yards, carries, and touchdowns.
Reggie Bush, Saints
Is it permissible to have two Saints players Moving Down at one time when their offense is rolling? We’ll find out. In his three games since returning from a broken fibula, Bush has been a disappointment. He has been used sparingly in both the running and the passing game, with just 15 carries for 66 yards and nine receptions for 34 yards. At this point, he’s a risky flex play at best.
Thomas Jones, Chiefs
Jones hasn’t found the end zone in three weeks, and with the Chiefs playing from behind early this week against the Chargers, he finished with three rushes for one yard. That was his fewest touches in a game this season. If Matt Cassel isn’t a go at quarterback, Jones could be in for a rough ride in this week’s road contest against the Rams, who have been solid against the run this season (12th overall).
Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers
With Mike Williams slowing down, Benn stepped to the forefront of the Buccaneers passing game, having easily his best game of the season this week against the Redskins. He caught all four of his targets for 122 yards, upping his yards-per-reception average to 16.4. That is an impressive figure considering that Benn has been used mostly on short throws and screens, and it appears as through Tampa Bay is ready to expand his role. Benn has questionable value over the remainder of 2010 but is a great prospect in dynasty leagues.
Steve Johnson and David Nelson, Bills
With Lee Evans likely out for the season with what may be a high ankle sprain, the Bills will move Nelson into the starting lineup. He caught a touchdown pass this week and has looked good when given an opportunity this season. Johnson has slowed down recently, failing to find the end zone in the last three weeks and gaining just 146 yards in those games. That begs the question: Will opposing defenses be able to shut Johnson down now that Evans isn’t starting across from him? I think that Johnson is good enough to remain productive, despite the added attention, and he should benefit from the extra touches.
Malcom Floyd: A high end WR2.
Malcom Floyd, Chargers
It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for Floyd since his return in Week 11 from a hamstring injury. He caught two passes and had a touchdown in his first game back, followed that up with a doughnut, and then caught four passes for 72 yards last week. This week against the Chiefs he snagged four balls for 51 yards and a pair of touchdowns and likely would have lit up the stat sheet had the Chargers not gotten out to such a big lead. With Vincent Jackson being used sparingly and Antonio Gates iffy, Floyd is Philip Rivers’ go-to guy, especially in the red zone. He’s a high-end WR2 from here on out.
Ruvell Martin, Seahawks
Ruvell who? Unless you’re an NFL diehard, Martin isn’t somebody you’ve heard of, and he’s not likely somebody you will here from in 2011. The Seahawks were without their top two receivers in Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu this week and then lost Deon Butler to a season-ending injury. So Martin stepped up, catching four passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. If you’re desperate, Martin is worth a look, particularly if Williams and Obomanu are out again this week.
Randy Moss, Titans
Benched. No targets. Fantasy value: zero.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
No receptions against the Broncos’ Champ Bailey is allowed. A single reception for three measly yards against the Chargers secondary isn’t. Bowe has always been a streaky receiver, and the odds of him being on the wrong side of that equation go way up if Brodie Croyle is under center again this week.
Terrell Owens, Bengals
T.O. has had a productive year with the Bengals, although his fantasy points belie his true value on the field. He and quarterback Carson Palmer haven’t been on the same page on several plays this season, and the two had a somewhat animated sideline conversation about just that this week. With the end of the season nearing and Owens having played well enough to justify a contract somewhere in 2011, he seems to have grown disinterested in Cincinnati and has put up just ten receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown over his last three games. Not exactly the type of production his fantasy owners were banking on.
Jason Witten, Cowboys
Witten has been a bit of a sleeping giant at tight end in recent years, posting solid yardage totals but having a tough time finding the end zone. He’s bucked that trend in 2010, especially over the last two weeks with three touchdowns. With six touchdowns on the year, he is one shy of matching a career-high set in 2008, and he appears a solid bet to get there. Over the last three games, Witten has caught all 22 of his targets—as well as 26 of his last 27. With Dez Bryant out and Roy Williams apparently not part of the game plan, Witten is in line for plenty of looks over the balance of the season.
Antonio Gates, Chargers
When he’s in, he’s great, but it’s nearly impossible to figure whether he’s actually going to play. This week, the Chargers play in the Thursday nighter, so the start/sit call is an easy one. In Weeks 16 and 17, when San Diego plays in the late afternoon, that’s going to be much tougher to figure out.
By: Dave Stringer — December 10, 2010 @ 12:43 pm
1. With the Chiefs getting ready for their biggest late-season game in the year, it appears they will be without quarterback Matt Cassel for this week’s road game in San Diego. Cassel underwent appendectomy surgery this week and will likely be a game-time decision. With an 8-4 record, a Chiefs win coupled with a Raiders loss in Jacksonville would likely give Kansas City an insurmountable lead in capturing their first AFC West title since 2002. However, if Cassel can’t go, backup Brodie Croyle will take over under center, and he has compiled a horrendous 0-9 record as a starter since being taken in the second round of the 2007 draft.
2. While Kansas City is within sight of their first division title in years, the Colts are getting precariously close to sitting out the playoffs for the first time since the 2001 season. Surprisingly, the main problem for the Colts at the moment is at quarterback. Peyton Manning had thrown 11 interceptions in the three games prior to Thursday night’s win over the Titans. Those three games ended up as losses, due largely to four of Manning’s interceptions being returned for touchdowns, one of which resulted in a game-winning field goal for the Cowboys in overtime. Indianapolis was outscored 40-0 off turnovers in those games. The four picks Manning threw in each of the two games prior to Week 14 are a career first. Despite all of this, the Colts still control their own destiny. Having beaten the Texans on Thursday night, they still have the opportunity to take the AFC South title if they can win their two remaining games.
3. Despite playing with a broken nose for almost the entire game, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger continued his mastery over the Ravens on Sunday night. With the Steelers racking up ten fourth-quarter points to come from behind for a 13-10 win, Roethlisberger now has an 8-2 lifetime record against Baltimore, which includes six straight wins.
4. With losses in their last two games, the Buccaneers’ surprising run at a playoff spot is losing steam, and you don’t have to look any further than the team’s lengthy injury list for an explanation. The group most affected has been the offensive line, where left tackle Donald Penn is the team’s only offensive lineman lining up where he started in Week 1. Center Jeff Faine was placed on injured reserve this week, joining right guard Davin Joseph. Also, right tackle Jeremy Trueblood has lost his starting spot to James Lee. Rookie Ted Larsen has taken over at left guard for Keydrick Vincent, who was released a few weeks ago. Jeremy Zuttah, a converted guard, will step in for Faine this week while another rookie, Derek Hardman, will start in place of Joseph. The Bucs have featured a trio of surprise fantasy performers this year in quarterback Josh Freeman, running back LeGarrette Blount, and wide receiver Mike Williams, but the state of the offensive line should concern those players’ owners.
5. The Bucs ship might be sinking, but division rival New Orleans appears to have hit their stride over the past five weeks. And the fantasy owners of the Saints skill position players should continue to reap the benefits over the remainder of the season. The Saints have won five straight games and have scored at least 30 points in each of their last four games. If any Saints players are available on the waiver wire in your league, they are likely worth grabbing.
Taking care of the ball.
6. The Packers offense has been a boon for any fantasy owner wise enough to have grabbed Green Bay’s skill position players in this year’s draft; and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is once again the top fantasy quarterback. On the field, Rodgers is continuing to build upon his solid 2009 season and has now thrown 177 consecutive passes without an interception, the second-longest of that streak in Packers history. And, no, Brett Favre (of course) is not the current owner of that record. It belongs to another Packers legend, Bart Starr.
7. The sad-sack Bills haven’t been able to buy a break thus far in 2010. They have lost five games by five or fewer points, including three losses by three points in overtime with one coming on a last-second field goal. With a glaring need for a franchise quarterback as well as reinforcements at several positions, Bills fans are now looking toward the draft and hoping for a quick turnaround similar to the Rams’ solid season, which has come largely through the performance of this year’s first overall pick, quarterback Sam Bradford. With a 2-10 record, Buffalo sits tied with Detroit and Cincinnati and is one game ahead of Carolina (1-11). However, the chances of Buffalo landing the top pick and selecting Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck remain disappointing slim for Bills followers. That’s because the tiebreaker in determining draft position for non-playoff teams is the strength of a team’s opponents, with the team with a more difficult schedule being ranked above a team with an easier schedule. The Bills lose out due to the excellent records of the team’s in their division, with the Patriots, Jets, and Dolphins having a combined record of 25-11. In essence, the Bills get punished for being in a good division, and that will likely prevent them, once again, from acquiring a potential franchise quarterback.
8. If there’s a silver lining for Bills fans, look no further than the battered state of the team’s offensive line, which will greatly reduce their chances of winning another game in 2010. With the Dolphins, Patriots, and Jets on tap for Weeks 15-17, the Bills only realistic chance for another win comes this week when they face the Browns in Buffalo. Cleveland lost both its starting and second-string centers this week when Geoff Hangartner and Kraig Urbik were lost to knee injuries. Those injuries will likely result in left guard Andy Levitre sliding over to center, a position he has never played professionally. Undrafted rookie free agent Cord Howard will take over for Levitre at left guard. Eric Wood will likely return to the starting lineup at right guard after having missed two games with an ankle injury. And Mansfield Wrotto, who wasn’t even with the Bills in training camp, will line up at right tackle. Buffalo has regularly ignored the offensive line in the draft—a philosophy that obviously needs to change going forward.
9. As you’ve heard several times by now, the Chargers have been ranked near the top of the league in both offense and defense for much of the season; they were even ranked No. 1 in each category for several weeks. However, they are coming off a poor showing at home in a key divisional game against the Raiders and, surprisingly, it was their inability to stop the run that was their undoing. Michael Bush finished with 104 rushing yards, becoming the first player to gain over 100 yards on the ground against the Chargers in 2010. Prior to that, the most yards they had given up to one player was the 91 they allowed to the Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles on opening day. Worse yet for the Chargers, Darren McFadden finished with 97 yards, leaving him just three yards shy of the century mark. With a 6-6 record and four games remaining, the Chargers need help to reach the playoffs and are behind both Oakland and Kansas City with a division record of 1-3. Their schedule isn’t daunting, however, with this week’s game against the Chiefs being their biggest test. But barring a Kansas City collapse, the Chargers seem destined to be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
10. Falcons wide receiver Roddy White has been on fire for much of the 2010 season. With seven receptions for 74 yards this week, he topped his previous high in receptions and now has 91 on the season. At this point, it appears White will become the first Falcon to catch 100 passes since the diminutive Eric Metcalf did so in 1995.
11. The Cowboys have had a three-headed fantasy monster at running back this season with Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice all playing a role—yet none of them have been significant fantasy performers. With Barber out of the lineup last Sunday and the Colts and their feeble run defense on tap, Dallas had their best rushing performance of the season, courtesy of a 100-yard, one-touchdown performance by Choice and a 22-carry, 83-yard performance by Jones. Barber has been a huge disappointment this season and carries a hefty price tag for next season, which will result in his release unless his accepts a drastic salary reduction. Look for Dallas to go with a Jones–Choice tandem in 2011, and don’t be surprised if Choice ends up being the better fantasy performer. He has been productive when given an opportunity, and the Cowboys view him as the better short-yardage runner, which should translate into better touchdown production than Jones.
12. Another young running back whose performance in Week 13 increased his value in dynasty leagues is Green Bay’s James Stark. The rookie fell to the sixth round of the NFL draft due to injury problems in college, but the Packers like his size/speed combination. Incumbent Ryan Grant is on injured reserve and carries a 2011 salary of just under $6 million in the final year of his deal. Despite not having played since his junior season, Starks was solid in his first game as a pro, gaining 73 yards on 19 carries. With Brandon Jackson having used his extensive playing time in 2010 to prove that he is nothing more than a backup, Starks will almost certainly enter 2011 at no worse than second on the depth chart.
13. Raiders rookie fourth-round pick Jacoby Ford has been impressive in limited action this season and has come on of late, with a pair of 100-yard receiving games and two touchdowns in his last four games. Although Ford has been productive, Oakland head coach Tom Cable announced this week that Ford isn’t assured of retaining his starting spot once the team’s veteran receivers are healthy. That may just be a motivational ploy, but it won’t be a surprise if Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey take over as the team’s starters, relegating Ford to a backup role.
By: Dave Stringer — December 7, 2010 @ 5:10 pm
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Aaron Rodgers, Packers
I’m loath to have a guy who was my preseason pick as the top fantasy quarterback Moving Up, but it’s an extremely dry week for solid performances by mid-tier players at the position, so Rodgers gets the nod. With 1,232 passing yards, 11 passing touchdowns, no interceptions, 152 rushing yards, and a touchdown in his last four games, Rodgers is peaking at just the right time for his fantasy owners.
Manning's INTs make his fantasy owners sad.
Peyton Manning, Colts
In standard scoring leagues, Manning is running smoothly, collecting 83 fantasy points over his last three games. In leagues that penalize interceptions, it’s an entirely different story. Manning has thrown four interceptions in consecutive games and has 11 picks in his last three games, both firsts in his career. In leagues that deduct two points for interceptions, his totals for the last two weeks are 14 and 18.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
After racking up a healthy 23.5 points per game over his first eight games, Fitzpatrick has fizzled out with 29 combined points in losses to the Steelers and the Vikings. The Minnesota game represented his second-worst fantasy performance of the season, and the state of the team’s offensive line reduces his chances of bouncing back. The Bills lost starting center Geoff Hangartner and backup Kraig Urbik this week. With both players likely out for the season, Buffalo will start Mansfield Wrotto, who was signed off the street in October, at right tackle.
Kyle Orton, Broncos
Orton is coming off his worst game of the season, and with head coach Josh McDaniels fired this week, the probability that Tim Tebow will get a start or two for the Broncos increases. McDaniels was fighting to return in 2011, so he was obligated to play Orton in order to secure as many wins as possible. Now that he has been replaced by former running backs coach Eric Studesville—and with the Broncos fans in a serious state of discontent—it won’t be a surprise to see Tebow inserted into the starting lineup to accomplish two things: appease the team’s fan base, and get Tebow some valuable playing time. I predict that Tebow starts in Week 16.
James Starks, Packers
Meet Green Bay’s new lead running back. Incumbent Brandon Jackson may continue to get the nod in the starting lineup, but—make no mistake about it—Starks will lead the team in carries over the remainder of the season, barring injuries or fumbling issues. Starks put up 73 yards on 19 carries in the Packers win over the 49ers, with Jackson getting only eight total touches in the backup and pass-receiving roles. Starks’ upside is limited somewhat with John Kuhn likely to continue getting the goal line work, but Starks is the Packers back to own in the fantasy playoffs. With Ryan Grant turning 28 before the start of next season, coming off an injured ankle, and due $5.75 million in the final year of his contract in 2011, Starks is an excellent prospect in dynasty leagues.
Tashard Choice and Felix Jones, Cowboys
With Marion Barber out against the Colts and their sad-sack run defense, Choice and Jones stepped up with their best games of the season. Choice had 19 carries for 100 yards and a score while Jones gained 83 yards on 22 carries, along with three receptions for eight yards. With Barber expected to be released after the season, these guys are the Cowboys’ running back duo of the future. And with the playoffs out of reach, there’s no need to bring Barber back into the picture. Up next are the Eagles (ranked 12th in run defense), the Redskins (26th), and the Cardinals (28th).
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
Lynch has been mostly atrocious since joining the Seahawks (273 rushing yards and two touchdowns through seven games before this week) but had his best game in a Seattle uniform this week against a Panthers run defense that has ranked near the bottom of the league for the entire season. Lynch ran it 22 times for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns and also chipped in 17 yards with a reception. If this sounds like a lukewarm endorsement, it is. But having the second-most fantasy points of the week at running back gets you Moving Up.
Chris Ivory, Saints
One week he’s losing touches to Julius Jones, the next week he goes off for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Great flex option, but difficult to rely on as your RB2.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews was healthy enough to play but never saw the field this week against the Raiders. The list of reasons for his lack of productivity is a lengthy one: injuries, poor pass protection, inadequate receiving skills, game situations dictating the use of Mike Tolbert or Darren Sproles. At this point, Tolbert is the guy running it and Sproles is the guy catching it. Mathews is the guy sitting on the bench.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
For the first half of the season, LT was the feel-good story of the year because of his surprising production as the Jets’ lead running back. Since then, he’s fallen off and his fantasy owners are starting to wonder when he will find the end zone next. He has now gone six games without scoring, hasn’t topped 60 yards rushing in any of those games, and has hit double-digit fantasy points only twice during that span. Basically, he’s fallen to RB3 status.
Keiland Williams, Redskins
After two games as the Redskins’ lead runner, head coach Mike Shanahan ditched Williams in favor of the former Brown, James Davis. Williams is a serviceable pass catcher out of the backfield, but he’s not explosive in that capacity and he leaves plenty to be desired when running the ball. I doubt he even makes the team in 2011.
Mike Goodson, Panthers
Goodson was solid when given an opportunity. Jonathan Stewart was not. With both players healthy, who did head coach John Fox give the nod to last week? Stewart. Good luck figuring that one out.
Sidney Rice, Vikings
It looks like those of you who held on to Rice hoping he would be productive in the fantasy playoffs are about to be rewarded. He torched the Bills this week for 105 yards and a pair of scores on five receptions. He’s a startable commodity from here on in.
Roy Williams, Cowboys
Dez Bryant is out for the year with a broken ankle, so Williams will resume a more prominent role in the Cowboys passing attack. Williams has been mostly forgotten since Week 4, but prior to that he was productive. Over the first quarter of the season, he had 18 receptions for 278 yards and three touchdowns. That’s solid WR3 production, and there’s little reason to suggest he can’t post those types of numbers again with Bryant out.
Earl Bennett, Bears
When the Bears decided to cut back on Devin Hester’s snaps at receiver so he could concentrate on his return duties, Bennett’s opportunities increased. This week he took advantage of that to the tune of a career-best 104 yards and matched his career-high in receptions with seven. Last week, he had four receptions for 56 yards and a pair of touchdowns, so he is peaking at just the right time for his fantasy owners. He has caught 11 of his 13 targets over the past two weeks, so a bigger role might be in the offing.
Deion Branch, Patriots
In his first game back with the Patriots, Branch was solid in a win over the Ravens, but he followed that up with three stinkers. Since then, with Tom Brady on fire, Branch has had 71, 70, 113, and 74 yards, with two touchdowns in Week 12 and one this week against the Jets. That’s steady production and it means that Branch should be a reliable starter in the fantasy playoffs.
Mario Manningham, Giants
With Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks out of the lineup, Manningham was expected to be Eli Manning’s go-to guy at wide receiver. That hasn’t happened, and recently signed journeyman Derek Hagan got most of the looks during this week’s blowout win over the Redskins. Manningham has been a disappointment over the last three games, with just eight receptions for 121 yards and a score.
Steve Smith, Panthers
With a favorable matchup against the porous Seattle secondary, Smith caught just three of ten targets for 54 yards. That was just his second game in his last nine with more than 50 yards receiving, and he hasn’t found the end zone since Week 2. Smith will be 32 by the start of next season, and his yards per receptions went from 18.2 in 2008 to 14.8 last year to 12.8 this season. How much of that relates to Smith’s declining abilities and how much of it relates to poor play at quarterback is difficult to determine, but the bottom line is that he is no longer a big-play threat at wide receiver.
James Jones, Packers
Jones has been up and down like a yo-yo in 2010. With Donald Driver back to health this week, Jones surprisingly took a back seat, getting just four targets and catching two balls for eight measly yards. With his work this season, Jones shapes up as a solid prospect in dynasty leagues, but he’s a risky start for the remainder of 2010.
Brandon Pettigrew, Loins
Steady as she goes for Pettigrew. With five receptions for 36 yards this week, Pettigrew became the first tight end in Lions history to catch 60 passes in a season. He’s a dynamite prospect in all dynasty leagues but especially so in PPR formats. With 33 targets over his last four games, Pettigrew has emerged as a consistent receiving threat in a Lions passing offense that’s been surprisingly productive and should be even better in 2011.
Ed Dickson, Ravens
Todd Heap pulled a hamstring early in the Ravens’ loss to the Steelers, and after the game head coach John Harbaugh said the team’s young tight ends would have to step up. Dickson figures to take over for Heap, and he has the talent to make some plays in the passing game—although he has displayed questionable hands thus far in his rookie season. His seven targets after stepping in for Heap on Sunday night show that he will get an opportunity. Let’s see if he can take advantage of it.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
It’s been four games since Shiancoe has found the end zone, and he has only 106 receiving yards during that stretch. With three targets in two of the last three games, he isn’t getting many opportunities, and that’s hurting his production.
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