Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — September 30, 2011 @ 11:12 am
1. Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton spent all of the preseason looking over his shoulder at 2010 1st round pick Tim Tebow and the evidence is beginning to mount that a change may be in order in Denver. With one win and a pair of losses to open the season, Orton’s record over his last 25 games now stands at an unimpressive 6-19. While that may be an indictment of the Broncos as much as Orton, he has committed turnovers at key moments in each of the team’s losses and that hasn’t endured him to a fan base already clamoring to see Tebow in the starting line up.
2. Staying with the Broncos, there has been much speculation that former Raven Willis McGahee may take over as the team’s starting running back ahead of 2009 1st round pick Knowshon Moreno. Which begs the question – how does that make any sense? While Moreno has not lived up to his draft billing, the aging McGahee needed only two games of heavy use to prove that he is no longer a capable starter, gaining just 153 yards on 50 carries. He padded his fantasy stats with a pair of touchdowns (one on the ground and one receiving) making him an obvious sell-high candidate. While Moreno may prove that he isn’t the solution to solving the Broncos inconsistent rushing attack, there can be little doubt that McGahhe certainly isn’t the answer. Look for Denver to wisely spend the balance of the season figuring out just what they have in Moreno with McGahee relegated to a backup role.
3. Sticking with running back controversies, we move to Cleveland where 2nd year player Montario Hardesty subbed in for Peyton Hillis against Miami and had a solid game with 67 yards on 14 carries and three receptions for 19 yards. That prompted head coach Pat Shurmur to suggest that Hardesty was worthy of an increased role. However, that should come as no surprise since Hardesty was barely used during the first two games of the season, with only eight touches, this after the Browns spend the offseason saying they wanted to reduce Hillis’ workload due to his struggles down the stretch last season (272 rushing yards and no touchdowns over Cleveland’s final five games). This isn’t a case of Hardesty being a legitimate challenger to Hillis’ spot in the starting line up. It’s the Browns getting around to doing what they said they were going to do all along.
4. Next up we move to New England where rookie 3rd round pick Stevan Ridley is getting a lot of hype for out producing BenJarvis Green-Ellis this week. Ridley subbed in for Green-Ellis and looked impressive in gaining 42 yards on six carries and catching one pass for eight yards. Meanwhile, Green-Ellis struggled to his worst rushing day since Week 9 of last season with just 18 yards on 10 carries. Just don’t look for Ridley in the starting line up any time soon. The rookie missed time in training camp and the Patriots are not going to jeopardize the health of quarterback Tom Brady to get Ridley touches until he’s gotten all of the team’s blitz protections down pat. Not to mention that Green-Ellis was the Patriots most successful rusher since Corey Dillon last season, gaining 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.
Offensive line woes may hamper Turner's fantasy value moving forward.
5. The Falcons have struggled to a 1-2 record to open the season and head coach Mike Smith has squarely put the blame on the team’s offensive line. This week, Smith told his offensive lineman that he was opening up all of the team’s starting positions to competition due to the poor play in both pass blocking and run blocking. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been sacked 13 times in three games and while running back Michael Turner is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, that statistic is misleading. The Falcons trailed early against the Bears and were more focused on stopping big plays, allowing Turner to run 10 times for 100 yards, and the Falcons Week 2 opponent, the Eagles, have perhaps the worst run defense in the league. While general manager Thomas Dimitroff has done a superb job of talent evaluation on the pro and college levels, the decision not to re-sign starting left guard Harvey Dahl is proving to be ill founded since he brought a mean streak to the unit that appears to be lacking. Unfortunately for Smith, there are no solid veterans or promising prospects behind his starters. Backups Joe Hawley, Will Svitek, Mike Johnson and Brett Romberg have a combined 24 career starts with 18 of those belonging to Romberg, the least likely backup to work his way into the starting line up. That likely ensures the current starting five will retain their jobs, with Dahl’s replacement Garrett Reynolds the only starter in jeopardy of being benched, so improvement will need to come from within and that may not bode well for the fantasy prospects of Ryan and Turner.
6. There are a number of head coaches on the hot seat due to the play of their teams over the first three weeks of the season but the Jaguars Jack Del Rio has managed to escaped much of the criticism that has been leveled at the Chiefs Todd Haley, Andy Reid of the Eagles and the Dolphins Tony Sparano amongst others. Jacksonville sits at 1-2 having eked out an opening week win over Tennessee followed by a crushing defeat to the Jets and a six point loss to Carolina. However, Del Rio’s decision to jettison quarterback David Garrard in favor of Luke McCown is looking worse each week as the AFC South is there for the taking. Perennial division winner Indianapolis has struggled mightily without Peyton Manning, current division leader Houston has a history of underperforming in big games and Tennessee sits at 2-1 but appears to be more pretender than contender. Meanwhile, Del Rio was forced to quickly abandon the McCown decision in favor of rookie 1st round pick Blaine Gabbert who looked serviceable running the team’s dink and dunk offense in his first start. Del Rio’s miscalculation will almost certainly earn the wrath of owner Wayne Weaver given that a run at the AFC South title seems improbable but was a definite possibility with Garrard. Such a scenario would have reenergized the team’ fan base which is a big concern for Weaver.
7. If you subscribe to the theory that starting running backs in the NFL need to be able to successfully run the ball to maintain their jobs, then it might be time to sell high on the Lions Jahvid Best. Best has put up 44.5 fantasy points over the Lions first three games, rushing for 149 yards and a touchdown and gaining 183 yards through the air to go along with another touchdown. However, he is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry after averaging 3.2 in 2010 for which most of us gave him a free pass due to the numerous injuries that marred his rookie season. Considering the Lions have featured one of the most dynamic passing offenses in the league over the first three weeks of the season, there’s no free pass in 2011. What Best amounts to is a running back that relies on touchdowns and passing yards for points and that is a recipe for inconsistent production, not to mention a spot on the bench when a team is trying to eat up the clock.
By: Dave Stringer — September 27, 2011 @ 2:19 pm
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
Every year, a couple of quarterbacks seemingly come out of nowhere and put together a career season and Fitzpatrick is in line for such a performance in 2011. He ain’t pretty, he’s just getting a lot of yards and wins for his team and for his fantasy owners. After three weeks, it’s high time for his owners to start thinking about riding him and moving whoever they acquired to be their fantasy starter in a trade to shore up their roster. Fitzpatrick has 841 passing yards and nine touchdowns for the season but his yardage total isn’t overly impressive because he was limited to 208 yards passing in a Week 1 blowout win over the Chiefs (offset by four touchdown passes). He looks starter worthy for the remainder of the season.
Mike Kafka, Eagles
I had him here last week. Just saying. With Michael Vick possibly out with a badly bruised right hand, Kafka has a chance to be under center in a Week 4 matchup against a 49er secondary that is generous to opposing offenses. He didn’t look as good this week as he did last (two interceptions in mop up duty) but he is worth a look if he plays and you are desperate for a starter this week.
Michael Vick, Eagles
He’s not Moving Down just because he’s hurt, although the evidence is mounting that the odds of him staying healthy for an extended period are extremely low. He’s also here because he hasn’t been that good… certainly nowhere near as productive as he was in 2010. Vick is averaging just over 200 yards passing per game despite facing a porous Rams secondary, the Falcons mid-tier passing defense and a banged up Giants secondary. What’s also hurting is that he hasn’t been able to pad his fantasy stats with rushing touchdowns, having failed to find the end zone on the ground in 2011 after having nine rushing touchdowns in 12 games last year.
Ryan Mathews is taking over the Chargers backfield.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers
It sure looked like a boy became a man this week as Mathews ran all over the Chiefs defense. With Mathews adding short yardage situations and receiving chores to his regular workload, he had his finest day as a pro, rushing for 98 yards and a pair of scores and catching four passes for 51 yards. Mike Tolbert played strictly as a backup and the question is whether that is his new role or whether his snaps were limited as a result of a calf injury. Given Mathews performance and Tolbert’s lackluster start to the season (2.6 yards per carry), look for Mathews to get a much bigger workload going forward.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
Do you get the feeling the light’s never going to go on for Shonn Greene? Despite facing some mediocre run defenses (Cowboys, Jaguars, Raiders), he is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry on 41 rushes for 134 yards and a score. Meanwhile, Tomlinson is chipping in on passing downs and looking like he did over the early part of 2010. At this point, he has 30.9 fantasy points to 25.4 for Greene. If you buy the theory that the Jets aren’t going to be blowing anybody out, then LT should be getting a fair amount of work. He’s a decent flex option and that’s a step up from what was expected in the preseason.
Joseph Addai, Colts
It’s renaissance week on Moving Up, Moving Down. Next we present Joseph Addai, frequently injured, easily forgotten but highly productive this week against a stingy Steelers run defense. Rookie 4th round pick Delone Carter had just four touches while Addai carried the rock 17 times for 86 yards and a score. That’s impressive production against Pittsburgh. Maybe, just maybe the Colts have figured out that running the ball is preferable to having an aging Kerry Collins or an inexperienced Curtis Painter chucking it.
Kendall Hunter, 49ers
If there were any lingering doubts as to who Frank Gore’s handcuff was, they were answered this week when he went out with a right ankle sprain. Hunter stepped in and looked decent, gaining 26 yards on nine carries including a game winning seven-yard touchdown. Hunter had a solid training camp to wrestle the backup job away from Anthony Dixon and figures to get the start next week if Gore can’t go. That game is on the road against an Eagles run defense that looks absolutely horrible and is ranked 30th in the league. That makes Hunter worthy of a start if Gore is out.
Alfonso Smith, Cardinals
LaRod Stephens-Howling was supposed to Beanie Wells backup and then Chester Taylor was signed and he was supposed to be Wells’ backup. So much for that. With Wells out this week against the Seahawks, Smith stepped in and ran for 54 yards on 17 carries and caught three passes for 21 yards. Meanwhile, Taylor looked washed up, gaining just 20 yards on 8 carries while catching one pass for 12 yards. You can hardly say that Smith looked great but what you can say is that Beanie is one of the best in the league at finding a way out of the line up. This time, it was a hamstring and we all know how tricky they can be.
Chris Johnson, Titans
I gave him three weeks and it turns out that was one week too many. Against a Broncos run defense that has struggled since, oh say, the Karl Mecklenburg days, Johnson was abysmal, gaining just 21 yards on 13 carries. And you can’t blame the Titans passing attack for allowing opposing defenses to drop eight and nine man fronts on rushing downs since Matt Hasselbeck is looking like he’s 28, not 36. In fact, the passing game helped pad Johnson’s fantasy stats as he caught four passes for 54 yards. Expect better days ahead but maybe those days are further off than was expected after his lengthy holdout.
Tim Hightower, Redskins
I don’t own Hightower now, I never have and I never will. Why? He’s just not that good. If there’s a poster boy for Sell High, he is it. The Redskins turned up the O in the preseason and Hightower looked great. Then the season opened and with opposing defenses not going plan vanilla, Hightower’s true colors begin to show. This week against Dallas, he managed just 41 yards on 14 carries but his fantasy performance was saved with a touchdown pass at the goal line. For the season, he is averaging 3.5 yards per carry and the odds of head coach Mike Shanahan sticking with that kind of production with dynamic rookie 4th round pick Roy Helu and Ryan Torain (4.5 yards per carry in the same offense last season) in reserve are pretty low.
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
Of all the running backs generally ranked in the top ten, Mendenhall generally been the one the most likely not to give his fantasy owners the warm fuzzies. Sure, he plays in a Steelers offense determined to get him the ball but their offensive line has had their issues over the past couple of season and this year is shaping up to be no different. The red lights should be flashing when a player of Mendenhall’s caliber can only manage 37 yards on 18 carries against a Colts run defense that is amongst the smallest in the league in the front seven. For the season, Mendenhall has is averaging a paltry 3.0 yards per carry with 148 yards on 49 carries despite two of those games being against the Colts and Seahawks. It’s one thing to get shut down by the Ravens (as happened in Week 1), it’s quite another to get shut down by these teams.
James Starks, Packers
Can you say yo-yo? Starks was Moving Up two weeks straight but this week, he’s moving down courtesy of a disheartening 11 carry, five yard performance against the Bears coupled with Ryan Grant’s 17 carry, 92 yard outing. With Grant questionable this week with a bruised kidney, Starks figures to get another shot against a suspect Denver run defense and he needs to make the most of it.
Torrey Smith, Ravens
Well, if Smith isn’t the top wide receiver Moving Up, then my credibility goes out the window (would only need to be one of those small basement windows). Smith saw one target over the Ravens first two games but got an opportunity this week with Lee Evans out of the line up and absolutely lit up the Rams secondary by catching five of his nine targets for 152 yards and three touchdowns. Smith did it with pure speed, blowing past Rams defenders repeatedly (quarterback Joe Flacco missed him an open deep route in the end zone). While Smith looked great and may have Wally Pipped Evans, it’s worth noting that most of his yardage came against Rams reserve cornerback Justin King, who was starting in place Ron Bartell, and 2nd year safety Darian Stewart who was making his first career start.
Nate Washington, Titans
Kenny Britt was Moving Up last week and it’s Washington’s turn courtesy of Britt’s season ending knee injury. Although Washington has never become the complete player the Titans envisioned when they signed him away from the Steelers after the 2008 season, he assumes the number one wide receiver role in Tennessee with Britt out and his performance over the first three games of the season indicate that he just might be able to perform as one for the first time in his career. Washington has caught 21 of his 27 targets this season (a nifty 77.8% completion percentage) for 258 yards and one touchdown. Consider him a low-end WR2 for the balance of the season.
Victor Cruz, Giants
Let’s be honest. Watching Cruz play, it’s easy to tell that he’s not the most talented wide receiver in the league (my wife remarked that he looked slow on his 74-yard touchdown reception). But there’s a big hole in a Giants offense that is desperate for a player to step up and take the place of the departed Steve Smith and Cruz made a huge claim to that role with his three reception, 110 yard, two touchdown performance this week. In addition to the long touchdown pass, Cruz outfought Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (you may have heard of him) for a 28-yard touchdown reception. More recommended for PPR leagues and those that employ a flex position but still worth adding in all formats considering Mario Manningham’s injury situation and history of inconsistent performances.
Michael Jenkins, Vikings
Honestly, this is as lukewarm an endorsement as you may ever see in Moving Up. He’s clearly not the Vikings most talented wide receiver but he seems to be the one who plays the most snaps. If you’ve given up on Bernard Berrian (and you should since the Vikings surely will once they see he has caught one of his ten targets), then Jenkins is the go to own outside of Harvin. Or maybe he’s the Vikings receiver to own since he has 20.3 fantasy points and Harvin has 20.4. He can certainly be had for less than it would cost to trade for Harvin. Sometimes it pays to look through the bargain bins.
Dane Sanzenbacher, Bears
Seven targets and a touchdown in each of his last two games. Let’s face it – Roy Williams isn’t the answer (no receptions on four targets this week with a drop), and they demoted Johnny Knox for Williams. Devin Hester runs screen and flys and Earl Bennett was out this week with a chest injury. For larger leagues only.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles
Jackson has put up decidedly mediocre numbers over the past two weeks after having a solid Week 1 outing against the Rams with six receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown. After watching Torrey Smith light up St. Louis, we’ll put an asterisk beside that one. The Falcons and Giants both gave Jackson a healthy dose of double coverage, limiting him to two receptions in each game and 51 total receiving yards. The blue print is out there. Jackson is clearly talented enough to beat double coverage but the odds of that happening with either an injured Vick or Mike Kafka under center are slim.
Mike Thomas, Jaguars
Should wide receivers who put up 11.5 fantasy points be Moving Down? In this case, you betcha. Thomas has some positives being the lead wide receiver on a team that figures to be behind early and often and he’s currently 8th in the league in targets with 29. However, he’s turned those targets into just 139 yards so at some point, the Jaguars are going to start dishing those out to somebody else. Amongst the top 30 wide receivers in targets, Thomas has the fewest yards, behind only Mike Williams of Tampa Bay who has 89 yards on 22 targets.
Bernard Berrian, Vikings
As noted above, one reception in ten targets doesn’t get you much of a spot in the game plan.
Owen Daniels, Texans
Admit it. You thought that was a typo and it was supposed to say James Casey. This is why it’s important to watch the games. While Casey had the third highest point total amongst tight ends with five receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown and 11 yards rushing on one carry, 62 of his receiving yards came on a blown coverage and the rushing yards were also a gift as the Saints were clearly not expecting him to get the ball. Basically, the Texans did a wonderful job of surprising the Saints by giving a healthy number of touches to Casey and that only works once. More exciting was seeing Daniels get nine targets and catching five of those for 76 yards and a touchdown. Wide receivers Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are AWOL in the passing game (five combined targets this week although Walters scored on a fluke play) and that makes Daniels an enticing tight end to have.
Kellen Winslow, Bucs
A knee injury may have slowed Winslow this week and helped cause a 2 for 20 day but the bottom line is that the Bucs passing attack has been woeful and Winslow has not been able to find the end zone or make any big plays. For the season, he has just 12 receptions for 130 yards on 20 targets and there’s a disturbing trend developing. Winslow hasn’t had double-digit targets since Week 7 of last season and since that game he is averaging just 5.6 targets per game. Sell now.
By: Aaron Williams — @ 9:58 am
Welcome to Week 3 of Tuesday Morning Buzz! The NFL once again delivered with an absolute fireworks show of a weekend. We’ve got a lot to talk about, so let’s jump right in.
Patkowskis – Bills
This win can be attributed mostly to the many Tom Brady picks, which were mostly the fault of the Patriots and not indicative of a great Buffalo secondary. Even so, how ‘bout them Buffalo Bills? They looked great in the second half of this game, and yours truly has been touting Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson since last year. It seems that many forgot how easily the Bills lit up the scoreboard in 2010. Now, I don’t believe the Bills will maintain the lead of the AFC East, and I think it will be extremely hard for them to make the playoffs in this division, but they are quickly becoming this year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As they will likely do all season long, the Patriots continued their Kowski love on Sunday (despite releasing the other Gronkowski brother earlier in the week). Unless it’s the Patriot’s D/ST, I’m not flinching on any of the ownables. I’m good with any of the Patriots’ value right where they were drafted, and one loss to an emotional Buffalo team at home is not enough to scare me away.
Panthers – Jaguars
Cam Newton may have crashed back to fantasy earth, but Maurice Jones-Drew continues to simmer in fantasy hell. I mean, overall, is there a worse team in the league than the Jacksonville Jaguars? Want to bring up the Kansas City Chiefs? I would wager that the Chiefs would beat the Jaguars on a neutral field by a field goal—even with the stunning Jamaal Charles on IR. Jacksonville fans are hoping Blaine Gabbert gets comfortable quickly and makes the Jags an NFL team again.
49ers – Bengals
This game is tough to comment on. It was very boring and uneventful. To be honest, the only fantasy-draftable position I want from either of these teams is the San Francisco D/ST. Even then, it’s only a matchup play. As I always say, I want fantasy players on teams with their arrow pointing up. I’d rather have someone from the Panthers, Bills, Cardinals, or Raiders than any Bengal or 49er. That includes even A.J. Green, despite his early success as a rookie.
Dolphins – Browns
During the lockout, I made a bet that Miami would be the worst team in the NFL by season’s end. They had been playing with a chip on their shoulder and proving me wrong before this week. Against Cleveland, however, the Dolphins looked exactly as I thought they would coming into the season. A one-point loss to the putrid Browns is exactly how a team with a bad attitude and a low talent level performs. The Dolphins have changed my mind somewhat, but they need to keep Marshall involved in every play if they want to get even six wins this year.
As for the Browns, I have no faith in any of these guys. In a standard league, I can’t imagine starting any of them. Maybe I’d suffer if I left Peyton Hillis on my bench, but the Browns are simply the stalest team in the NFL. I sure hope those draft picks play better than Julio Jones.
Calvin Johnson is fantastic.
Lions – Vikings
Is it possible that Calvin Johnson is even more fantastic than Andre Johnson? I had never been able to nab Megatron in a fantasy draft until this year, and he has rewarded me by picking up points by the truckload. All your Lions are firing on all cylinders right now, but you have to watch out for teams that are making their money in consecutive fourth-quarter comeback wins. Truly good teams don’t always have to come back in the fourth quarter to win.
The Vikings, on the other hand, are in the habit of starting quick then wearing out. I don’t want to be anywhere near a Viking not named Adrian Peterson. Minnesota is also the recipient of my favorite hyper-specific stat of the week, “The first team to lose the first three games of the season after leading by double digits at halftime in each consecutive game.” That type of stat cannot continue to persist. My money is on the Vikings breaking both sides of that stat this week by beating the Chiefs in a close one.
The Color Silver
On Sunday, the Lions had the ball with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter. They start at their own 20 yard line in the shotgun formation, and they’re ready to let Stafford win them a football game. Unfortunately, Jeff Backus commits two silly false starts back to back. It’s awfully hard to let Stafford throw winning passes when you can’t hike the ball without moving back five yards. On their third attempt at the first down, now first and 20, Stafford gets sacked. After giving up and calling two conservative runs, the Lions have now successfully forced their own punt. The Lions are a great offense, but they have to get out of their own way if they really want to be seen as a contender.
It seems to me that there is a tie between the color silver and silly penalties. For example, the Raiders are nearly always among the most penalized teams. This year silver has particularly dominated the total penalties category with the Raiders (1), Panthers (8), Patriots (10), and Lions (15) all in the top 15. Heading into Monday night, the Cowboys are 25th overall, but I have no doubt they will go back to their old ways soon enough.
Texans – Saints
It is ok to settle for a field goal sometimes. Especially if you have a fantastic kicker or are capitalizing on a turnover, I have no problem with being forced to take the occasional field goal. However, anytime your red zone trips result in more field goals than touchdowns, especially against a searing-hot offense like the Saints, you are asking to lose. In Week 1, the Saints lost a close one by kicking field goals while the Packers scored touchdowns. This week, the Texans did the kicking and lost in an eerily similar game.
The Saints played exactly as they were expected to, and all of those who passed on Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark to pick Jimmy Graham in the 12th round are being rewarded. After the freak-accident touchdown that Kevin Walter scored, I wrote in my notebook “I wonder how many players will pick up Kevin Walter this week.” My next note? “Wow! I wonder how many players will pick up Lance Moore this week!”
As for the Texans, between the 20s they looked as good as any elite QB-WR combo can look. Tight end Owen Daniels, much ignored in the offseason, also proved why he deserves to be in your lineup each week. They lacked execution in the red zone, but just as the Saints couldn’t be too upset with a close loss to the Packers at Lambeau, the Texans can’t be too worked up about this loss. Start your Texans and Saints no matter the matchup each week.
Eagles – Giants
So much for the defense taking the Eagles to the Superbowl. I, along with everyone else, believe that the Eagles have a great offense that can take them deep in the playoffs if Vick can stay upright. However, I recall many colleagues who were certain that the free agency acquisitions of this team cemented them in the Superbowl. Three weeks in, they were allowing Eli Manning to put up some of his best single-game passing numbers fresh off a disgusting performance against a St. Louis defense that was simultaneously getting swiss-cheesed by Joe Flacco.
We now know that Michael Vick had a contusion in his non-throwing hand and may or may not play next Sunday. However, the original understanding was that his hand was fractured. When this was the report, Vick was sitting on the sidelines with what looked like a full inch of swelling on top of his knuckles. The report from the Eagles was that Vick was “doubtful to return after breaking hand.” This doubtful tag seemed absurd, as there appeared to be no way he would re-enter the game. Has anyone ever returned after being declared doubtful in the third quarter? Was this an attempt at subterfuge by the coaching staff? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Broncos – Titans
The Broncos, a la the Seahawks and the Browns, are pretty lackluster right now. This isn’t even a discussion on W-L records but just on overall play, demeanor, and star power. It appears to only be a matter of time now before Tebow is put in to quell the cries of the fanbase in Denver. The bigger story, however, is how Orton’s contract situation will be handled. He is in the final year of his deal, and if the Broncos don’t get some wins, or at least some encouraging stats, they won’t bring him back. Just when you thought the quarterback situation in Mile High couldn’t get any muddier…
Jets – Raiders
Is it possible that Al Davis was actually making genius moves all this time that we’ve been accusing him of making draft selections from beyond the dead? I mean, JaMarcus Russell failed, but the rest of the Raiders are looking pretty good right now as Darren McFadden leads the league in rushing thanks to a great team effort.
The Jets are really very similar to the Raiders in makeup. They both have game-managing quarterbacks who can let their playmakers win the game. The Jets have a better defense, but I’m sure they would love to have a running back like Run DMC in their backfield. Surprisingly, LT is not getting too much attention despite his impressive stats. I don’t think he can keep it up, just as he couldn’t last year, but I am surprised there isn’t more hubbub about him this week.
Chiefs – Chargers
I was asked this week if I would select the Chargers at home by a margin of 14.5 in a Pick ‘Ems game. I advised, “The Chiefs have allowed 40+ points in both games this year and have struggled to get to double digits in both games. However, it’s early and the Chargers are silly enough to keep this one close. I’ll take the Chiefs.” Sure enough, the Chargers made the Chiefs look respectable and kept this one close to the end. In fantasy, however, the Chargers have been performing well as a team in comparison to their recent slow-start years.
As for the Chiefs, you probably have to start Bowe if you drafted him, but otherwise there isn’t a single player on this team that deserves to be on your roster. As is apparently becoming my motto this season, you’re better off taking David Nelson, the big man out of Buffalo, than Dexter McCluster of the Chiefs. McCluster is more talented, but his team and offense aren’t able to exploit his ability.
Ravens – Rams
This week, I put Joe Flacco on my bench with the logic that Ryan Fitzpatrick was likely to be involved in a shootout and that the Rams had previously held Eli Manning and Michael Vick to unrealistically low point totals. At the end of the first slate of games, I felt pretty good about my decision. However, Flacco came in and threw so effectively he almost doubled Fitzpatrick’s stats. Torrey Smith should be the top waiver-wire pickup this week, though keep in mind that his best game of the season is already in the books. The Ravens appear to be a little feast-or-famine, but Smith in good matchups could be a great flex play.
As for the Rams, they’ve been everything their detractors imagined. In a season where the Lions and Bills appear to be contenders for their divisions, the Rams are fourth in the weakest division in football. I love Sam Bradford, and I think these Rams will be a great football team, but watch for them to add another receiver or two before Bradford and company put up the numbers needed to make them draftable.
Packers – Bears
Green Bay won this game 27-17 because of the ineffectiveness of the Bears’ offense. The Packers threw it up and down the field in short passes, as per the blueprint drawn up by the Saints last week. However, at different intervals, they would decide to simply run up the middle three times into a stout Bears D-line and get stuffed. I understand staying balanced and I wholeheartedly agree. But if you are blowing up the short passing game, you don’t then elect to get stuffed at the line of scrimmage on three consecutive downs and expect to have the game in hand. As for the run game itself, Grant by far had the better day, but that was because of the defensive play of the Bears and had little to do with the runners. This is still a 50/50 split.
Luckily for the Packers, Cutler and the Bears’ passing attack were determined to keep themselves out of the game. Cutler’s playmaking ability was as absent in this game as he is from that Bears’ Play 60 commercial. Speaking of that, one of my favorite things about that commercial is how unrecognizable the Chicago players are. Where are the stars? Do you think they even asked Cutler? The kids probably would’ve booed the poor guy off the bus after this game!
Here’s a stat line for you: In the third quarter, Cutler went 2-10 for 19 yards. One of those two completions was to Matt Forte who ran it out for nine yards. Those numbers are JaMarcus Russell-esque. I really don’t mean to hate on Cutler, I hope he does well, and I have faith that he can someday turn his game around and be successful. For better or worse, though, he is always going to be the measure of his team.
Cardinals – Seahawks
There is nothing to be gleaned from this performance. Both teams are playing poorly this year, and both proved that even against another bad team they’re still not good. Larry Fitzgerald and Kevin Kolb (by virtue of Larry Fitzgerald), are the only players on either team I want to own in fantasy leagues this year.
Falcons – Buccaneers
The Falcons and Buccaneers played an all-guts-no-glory football game in the trenches in Tampa on Sunday. Both of these teams are heavy run-first offenses with great quarterbacks and receivers in relief. But this Sunday, it was the youth of the Buccaneers’ offense that prevailed. When this matchup is played in Atlanta, it will likely be the Falcons’ experience and big-play potential that will win it. When the Falcons play at home, don’t worry about your starters. However, when they’re on the road, you might have to hold your breath a little bit.
Steelers – Colts
With 15 seconds remaining in the first quarter, I wrote in my notebook, “The Colts are WINNING!” Their much-maligned defense looked for real, with something to prove. I wonder if they can keep it up after relishing in their glory this week.
As for the Steelers, they looked disorganized and hurt for the second time in three weeks. I’m willing to write off the Week 1 loss as their being in the way of a raring-to-go Ravens team. In Week 2, they shut out a miserable Seahawks team that had to travel multiple time zones to Pittsburgh. Now, this week, the Steelers eked out a win against a Colts team that is missing their ad hoc head coach and play caller. All teams have low and high points of the season, but if the Steelers have another bad game in proximity to these two, they’re really going to lose a lot of steam.
On a side note, how did Indy win that Superbowl bid? They had to show a live landing at the airport just because there is nothing else there!
Redskins – Cowboys
Unlike going up against the Saints or Packers, if you kick only field goals against the Washington Redskins, you may just come out with a victory. A very banged-up and disorganized Cowboys team (four, count ‘em, four bad snaps!) meandered toward the end zone and made six of seven field goals for the win.
I’m not thrilled about the Dallas matchup versus Detroit next week, but then the Cowboys have a bye week of which they are in dire need. Perhaps after the bye, if everyone is healthy, we’ll see a great shootout in New England and the Cowboys will be able reward their patient owners with some fantasy greatness. For Redskins owners, you get the Rams next week. Let’s hope Grossman can do his best Joe Flacco impression and win your week for you.
$#^! Chris Collinsworth Says
Chris proved once again why he makes the big bucks on Sunday evening. He finds great ways to send intelligent observations, usually his own, into goofy and sometimes awkward analysis. I can’t imagine John Madden exclaiming, after he realizes that Robert Mathis is being asked to circle to the opposite end of the line before rushing , “Yeah, but this is idiotic here!” And it was idiotic! I’m just not sure that’s how I would’ve presented the information. I wrote in my notebook, “Chris Collinsworth is the Charles Barkley of NFL commentary.”
Bonus: Keyshawn Johnson took a hint from Chris and gave this stunning analysis on the Redskins’ offense: “Let’s not get carried away. There’s a reason he’s Rex Grossman.”
By: Dave Stringer — September 23, 2011 @ 12:00 pm
1. If Week 1 wasn’t enough evidence that Fred Davis has clearly overtaken Chris Cooley as the Redskins main receiving threat at tight end, then Week 2 cemented that notion. A week after catching five passes for 105 yards, Davis had six receptions for 86 yards and a reception this week against the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Cooley has had just five targets in two weeks and went without a reception for the first time since Week 5 of the 2009 season. Look for Davis to continue to be targeted heavily in the passing game with Cooley relegated to a secondary role and likely to be jettisoned off the roster next season unless he accepts a massive reduction from his scheduled $3.8-million salary for the 2012 season.
Welker benefits with Hernandez on the sideline.
2. Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has had a strong start to the 2011 season with 14 receptions for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns during New England’s first two games of the year. He suffered a sprained MCL during the team’s Week 2 win over San Diego and initial reports indicated he would be out for one to two weeks. Subsequent reports speculated that he could be up for up to six weeks and, in true Patriot fashion, Hernandez was apparently walking without much of a limp. Good luck figuring out how to juggle your fantasy roster to replace Hernandez. If Hernandez is out, Chad Ochocinco figures to see his playing time increase dramatically but the biggest winner is likely Wes Welker, who moves back into his customary slot position where he is far more comfortable (and productive). With the Patriots having used two tight end sets the majority of their first two games, Welker had been lining up outside most of the time with Hernandez manning the slot position.
3. With the Jaguars decision to insert rookie 1st round pick Blaine Gabbert into the starting line up, the fantasy value of the team’s other skill position players took another hit. First, there was the drop off from the steady, yet unspectacular David Garrard to veteran retread and career backup Luke McCown. Now there’s another drop to Gabbert. The rookie struggled so badly in training camp that when the Jaguars began contemplating releasing Garrard, they moved McCown ahead of him on the depth chart because they didn’t feel he was ready. Or more likely, felt like he would be overwhelmed having to start in Week 1. How has that changed in two weeks? It hasn’t. What has changed is that McCown was even worse than expected. That moves Gabbert into the starting line up and sinks the value of wide receiver Mike Thomas and tight end Marcedes Lewis, if their values could go any lower.
4. With the Seahawks sitting at 0-2 but playing in the league’s worst division in the NFC West, there situation can’t be described as dire just yet but they face a crucial matchup in Week 3 in their home opener against Arizona. Look for the heat to get turned up dramatically on general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll if the Seahawks go down to the Cardinals with the team’s key offseason additions drawing the ire of the team’s fans. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was brought in to lead the offense, Sidney Rice was signed to provide the team with a true number one wide receiver, guard Robert Gallery was expected to help shore up the offensive line and tight end Zach Miller provided a better blocking and receiving option than John Carlson. Although it’s early, none of those moves has paid dividends thus far. Jackson has struggled and could be headed to the bench with another poor performance in favor of Charlie Whitehurst. Gallery missed time in the preseason with a knee injury and will be out for 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. Rice has yet to play and Miller has been a non-factor with three receptions for 32 yards. If the Seahawks struggle to contend for a playoff spot, look for changes in Seattle’s management with Schneider likely headed out the door.
5. Sticking with the Seahawks, the team’s coaching staff made the somewhat surprising move to demote starting strongside linebacker Aaron Curry this week in favor of rookie 4th round pick K.J. Wright. The fourth overall selection in the 2009 draft, Curry has not been able to translate his considerable athletic ability into production on the field. Simply put, he hasn’t made enough big plays to justify keeping him in the starting line up. In just over two seasons in Seattle, Curry has recorded four forced fumbles and six sacks. He renegotiated his contract in the offseason, foregoing his guaranteed salary in 2012 in order to become a free agent at the conclusion of next season. However, even if his demotion turns out to be a motivational tactic and he improves his performance, this will be Curry’s final season in Seattle and he will go down as one of the biggest busts taken within the first five picks of the draft.
6. In Kansas City, there is increasing speculation that head coach Todd Haley could be replaced at some point during the season if the team doesn’t show drastic improvement. Despite coming off an AFC West division title last season, Haley’s personality has rubbed Chiefs management the wrong way at times as well as a number of the team’s assistant coaches. Not helping matters was Haley’s decision to buck the trend and focus on the team’s conditioning during the early portion of training camp, which appears to have left the Chiefs woefully unprepared to start the season. That decision coupled with key injuries to running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki ensures that 2011 will not go down as Haley’s finest coaching season but general manager Scott Pioli shouldn’t go unscathed if the Chiefs fail to turn their season around. Pioli has failed to add enough playmakers on both sides of the ball and made a number of questionable draft picks, starting with the curious decision to select diminutive scatback Dexter McCluster in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft. In addition, 2009 1st round pick Tyson Jackson hasn’t panned out at defensive end and critics questioned the team’s decision to use their 1st round pick this season on wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin due to character concerns.
7. Two games into the season, the Eagles have determined that their revamped linebacking corps isn’t getting the job done. Philadelphia entered the season with major question marks at the position with Jamar Chaney starting on the strongside, rookie 4th round pick Casey Mathews in the middle and Moises Fokou on the weakside. However, the team’s solution amounts to little more than rearranging the chairs on the decks of the Titanic. Chaney will move back to the middle where he played last year, Mathews shifts to the weakside and Fokou moves to the strongside. Look for the opposing offenses to run heavily until this unit improves their performance.
8. Kudos to Packers wide receiver Donald Driver who became the team’s all time leader in reception yards with 9,666 during this week’s win over the Panthers.
9. Sticking with the Packers wide receivers, if there is anybody out there still buying the notion that James Jones is going to emerge to get significant targets in 2011, it’s time to end those thoughts. Over his last five games (counting last year’s playoffs), Jordy Nelson has caught 28 of 38 targets for 447 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 13.8 fantasy points per game during that stretch. Buy now before the word gets out.
By: Dave Stringer — September 20, 2011 @ 9:30 pm
The bad news keeps on flowing for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The loss of Charles stings fantasy owners and the Chiefs.
The Chiefs have been blown out in their first two games and this week lost the services of running back Jamaal Charles for the remainder of the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Charles becomes the third key Chiefs player lost to a season-ending knee injury, following tight end Tony Moeaki and safety Eric Berry.
After scoring just ten total points in their first two games and given up a staggering 89 in losses to Buffalo and Detroit, Kansas City will now have to regroup on offense without the services of Charles, their most explosive playmaker.
Charles is coming off a superb 2010 campaign in which he established himself as one of the top running backs in the league by rushing for 1,467 yards and five touchdowns on just 230 carries and catching 45 passes for 468 yards and another three touchdowns.
Kansas City’s current backup running backs include Thomas Jones, 2010 2nd round pick Dexter McCluster and fourth-year veteran Jackie Battle. Fullback LeRon McClain could also see some carries, reprising the hybrid role he played for several years in Baltimore before signing with the Chiefs this past offseason.
Charles owners are left in a quandary because there’s simply no way to replace a player of his caliber without sacrificing major components of your roster in a trade. The biggest problem stems from the Chiefs struggles on offense, rendering whoever fills in for Charles unlikely to be starter worthy.
Look for Jones to assume the majority of the carries. Unfortunately, the veteran does not appear to have much left in the tank after averaging just 3.7 yards per carry last season, a surprisingly low figure considering Charles averaged 6.4 playing in the same offense.
In addition, he appeared to slow down as the season wore on so the Chiefs are unlikely to ask him to carry too big of a load in replacing Charles.
That spells running back by committee with McCluster assuming a change of pace and receiving role. He was a disappointment as a rookie in 2010, failing to stay healthy or register many big plays in the base offense. He is too small to fulfill the lead back role and lacks top end speed. My gramma told me not to say to anything if I couldn’t say something nice. How about teams don’t start smurfs who aren’t REALLY FAST? I hope she’s not turning in her grave.
As for the remaining options, Battle has been unable to carve out even a marginal role during his four years in the league and McClain last saw success as a running back during the 2008 season.
While Charles owners should definitely grab Jones and McCluster, options outside of the Chiefs should also be considered. Two early season surprises at running back include Danny Woodhead of the Patriots and Darren Sproles of the Saints, a pair of players whose roles appear to be greater than what was anticipated heading into the season.
And if you’re looking for a flyer, how about Roy Helu of the Redskins? Sorry, Tim Hightower owners, I don’t believe.
On the Chiefs, the player whose value goes up the most with Charles out is wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. He is the team’s second most talented playmaker on offense and figures to see plenty of targets with the Chiefs looking like a team that will regularly be playing from behind.
By: Dave Stringer — @ 8:25 pm
Cam Newton, Panthers
Two games, two 400-yard performances, two straight weeks Moving Up. Newton actually increased his passing yard total by ten this week, on his way to his second straight week with 36.9 fantasy points. His 422 yards in Week 1 were the most ever by a quarterback in their first start and his 432 this week were a franchise record. His 854 passing yards are the most ever by a player in their first two starts and the second most ever by any player over the first two weeks of the season (behind Tom Brady ‘s 940 yards). What record is he going to top in Week 3? His three interceptions are a bit of a red flag but Newton is getting it done on the ground and through the air and is only another week or two of solid performances away from establishing himself as a legitimate starting fantasy quarterback.
Mike Kafka, Eagles
Eagles starting quarterback Michael Vick suffered a concussion this week against the Falcons, leaving his status in doubt for Week 3. Vick owners without a solid option as their backup need to find a roster spot for Kafka, who went 7 of 9 for 79 yards in relief this week. After looking a bit shaky on his first few snaps, Kafka settled down and was marching the Eagles well until a Jeremy Maclin drop that ended the Eagles comeback hopes. Vince Young remains on the roster but Kafka looked good enough to get the start in Week 3 against a hurting Giants secondary if Vick can’t go.
Chad Henne, Dolphins
While I’m not ready to write off Henne’s strong Week 1 performance as a fluke, his struggles this week against a decidedly mediocre Texans pass defense are definitely cause for concern. After throwing for a career high 416 yards in against the Patriots, it was the Henne of old this week, as he went 12 for 30 for 170 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
Ah, what a difference a week makes. Apparently, reports of Thomas’ demise were greatly exaggerated (whoops). A week after appearing to be in danger of losing touches to Lex Hilliard and Larry Johnson and the Dolphins bringing in veteran running backs for workouts, Thomas was used in the featured role ahead of Reggie Bush this week against the Texans and looked solid, gaining 107 yards on 18 carries and catching a pass for ten more. Looks like the Dolphins managed to light a fire under their underperforming rookie runner, who had a terrible preseason. A fumble won’t help his cause but Thomas figures to split the workload with Reggie Bush going forward.
The RB to own in Green Bay.
James Starks, Packers
It’s official. Starks is the man in Green Bay. While Ryan Grant may be the starter, that means little when Starks is on the field for a solid majority of the plays. He ran it nine times this week for 85 yards and caught three passes for 30. Look for Starks to get more touches from here on out. More on Grant below.
Ben Tate, Texans
Tate has topped the 100-yard mark in two consecutive weeks and with Foster reinjuring his hamstring, he figures to be the team’s go to guy for the Texans Week 3 matchup against a mediocre Saints rushing defense. Based on his lay over the first two weeks of the season, Tate appears to have carved out a decent role even when Foster returns. With the Texans boasting a solid offense, Tate could be a decent flex option for the balance of the season.
Willis McGahee, Broncos
While I don’t believe the Broncos are ready to write off Knowshon Moreno just yet, McGahee’s production in Week 2 likely ensures a pretty even split of the work when Moreno returns from injury. Since McGahee gets the short yardage work and Moreno is likely to get more targets in the passing game, McGahee may just be the Broncos back to own. If he can be head on the cheap, go for it.
Darren Sproles, Saints
Sproles looked solid in Week 1 against the Packers, looking dynamic as a pass receiving threat while catching seven balls for 75 yards. However, I wasn’t prepared to have him Moving Up since his usage may have been a case of game planning him as a bit of a surprise. Week 2 proved that wasn’t the case and he appears to be an integral part of the Saints offensive game plan on a weekly basis. His touches went up in Week 2 (nine to 12) and Sproles had 60 total yards and a touchdown against the Bears. He’s a great flex option and is worth starting as a RB2 in deeper leagues.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
Probably should have had him here last week. The Panthers offense has looked explosive in the passing game over the first two weeks of the season but the ramifications for Williams have been a lack of production. It’s so sad that you have to scroll to the second page of FFToday’s year-to-date statistics to find him down at 56. That’s what 72 total yards in two games gets you.
Ryan Grant, Packers
Grant’s a repeat offender in Moving Down. If Week 1 didn’t provide enough evidence that he’s been passed over for James Starks as the Packers lead running back, then Week 2 did. Starks ran it nine times for 85 yards and caught three passes for 30 while Grant looked far more pedestrian, gaining 25 yards on six carries and catching three passes for 14 yards. Grant may be listed as the starter but that’s in name only. Starks is now the go to guy in the Packers rushing attack.
Denarius Moore, Raiders
Big things were expected of Moore after a solid preseason but the rookie 5th round pick put up a major dud in Week 1, going without a catch. However, the Bills pass defense was all the elixir he needed and with a number of Raiders receivers out of the lineup with injuries, Moore went off on Buffalo, catching five passes for 146 yards and making an outstanding touchdown catch on a long pass. He also chipped in 25 yards on a running play. Oakland is loaded with speedsters so it’s likely a week to week proposition on who gets the ball but Moore’s coming out party in Week 2 likely assures him a number of targets each week until he stumbles.
Danario Alexander, Rams
Alexander made his 2011 debut this week against the Giants on Monday night and made the Rams look like fools for making him inactive in Week 1. With three receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown, he also made them look like fools for not using him more in Week 2. Despite Alexander clearly being the Rams best and most explosive wide receiver, he was on the field for far less than half of the team’s offensive plays. Presumably, so-called mastermind offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will review the game film and figure out that rookie drop machine Greg Salas, taken in the 4th round on McDaniel’s recommendation along with 3rd round pick Austin Pettis who has yet to see the field, shouldn’t be getting eight targets when Alexander is getting seven. Then again, knowing McDaniels, maybe not.
Eric Decker, Broncos
With running back Knowshon Moreno and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd out of the lineup, the Broncos had to spread the ball around and Decker took advantage of the opportunity. The 2010 3rd round pick caught five of nine targets for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns, setting career highs in each category. With Lloyd potentially a one-year wonder (although I’m not banking on it), Eddie Royal looking like a secondary option, Demaryius Thomas proving more injury prone than productive and no proven receiving options at tight end, Decker is worth taking a chance on.
Kenny Britt, Titans
Sometimes hindsight’s 20/20. In Britt’s case, a look in the rearview mirror tells us exactly why he was worth taking a chance on in 2011, despite a lengthy list of off the field indiscretions. The guy can play and with Matt Hasselbeck a solid upgrade over the team’s quarterback options in 2010 (sounds odd but it’s true), Britt has been spectacular in 2011, catching 14 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns over the first two weeks of the season. I’m ready to move him up to WR1 status.
David Nelson, Bills
This one’s regurgitating my Dave’s Take column from last Friday but here we go again. Nelson is the Bills secondary option to own opposite Steve Johnson, not Donald Jones. Nelson is a solid playmaker out of the slot and is a great red zone option for the Bills. This week against the Raiders, he caught ten of his 13 targets for 83 yards and a score, giving him touchdowns in four of his last six games. This week’s totals should be discounted a bit for a Raiders secondary whose backup cornerbacks consist of rookies. Nonetheless, Nelson might be ready to ascend to WR3 status in larger leagues.
Malcom Floyd, Chargers
Tease. He failed to step up as the Chargers top wide receiver in 2010 with Vincent Jackson out of the lineup but still shaped up as a solid fantasy option in 2011 as the third wheel in a dominant Chargers passing attack. In Week 1, he caught just three of eight targets for 45 yards and looked ready to dominate in the first quarter of this week’s game against the Patriots, making two solid catches for 59 yards. The only problem is that he suffered a groin injury on the second one. With some players, it’s always something and it just feels like Floyd is one of those guys. The trust factor just isn’t there.
Andre Roberts, Cardinals
There was some hope that Roberts would make the most of his earning the starting assignment opposite Larry Fitzgerald but his production over the first two weeks isn’t promising. Roberts was considered a raw prospect coming out of Citadel after the Cardinals used a 2010 3rd round pick on him and it doesn’t look like he’s ready to shape that label. He’s caught just five of 11 targets in two weeks for 51 yards. He won’t be starting for long unless that improves.
Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, Colts
With Peyton Manning at quarterback, there was enough to go around to feed three wide receivers and a tight end, with everybody having a full stomach With Kerry Collins, there’s barely enough to feed one wide receiver and Reggie Wayne isn’t leaving many scraps for anybody else.
Braylon Edwards, 49ers
He should have stayed in New York. Two games, seven targets, four receptions for 48 yards. Doesn’t look like taking a one-year deal in San Francisco in the hopes of having a big season and striking it rich in free agency in 2012 is going to work out for Edwards.
Fred Davis, Redskins
I know, I know. I’m a week late on this one. With Chris Cooley clearly settling into more of a secondary role, Davis is now the Redskins tight end to own. He played well as a starter subbing in for Cooley in 2009, averaging 8.2 points per game over the final ten games of the season. So far in 2011, he has caught 11 of his 13 targets for 191 yards and a touchdown. With the Redskins group of wide receivers leaving something to be desired, Davis shapes up as a low end TE1 for the remainder of the season. He’s a talented player who can split the safeties on deep patterns and he has solid hands. Great dynasty league potential.
Vernon Davis, 49ers
The thought was that of the 49ers options in the passing game, Davis was the only sure thing. So much for that. This week, he was kept in to help block against the Cowboys DeMarcus Ware and he caught two passes for a measly 18 yards, giving him 65 yards on the season. The 49ers passing attack looks just pathetic enough to render all of their wide receivers and tight ends as useless fantasy plays. Davis finally gets caught up in the wash.
By: Aaron Williams — @ 2:17 pm
Welcome to Week 2 of the Tuesday Morning Buzz! Maybe it’s the lockout or maybe it’s legit, but this feels like one of the most exciting NFL seasons in recent memory. The week fizzled out on Monday night, but Sunday was phenomenal. Here on TMB, I’ll break down each game each week and hopefully never have to do so with a punctured lung. Let’s start with the perennial playoff contender Buffalo Bills.
This was certainly the most interesting Raiders– Bills matchup in years. I heard one of the announcers say “We’ll be back with this thriller in Buffalo.” When do you think the last time the verbiage “thriller in Buffalo” was used in seriousness? This was a great game. McFadden showed what he can do when he is healthy, and Fitzpatrick and Steve Johnson showed why they’re worth owning and why the Bills are better than you think.
Which quarterback will be more talked about this week: media darling Aaron Rodgers or the mega-controversial, No. 1 overall drafted Cam Newton? Rodgers walked off the field with the win, but Cam Newton has almost 1,000 yards in his first two starts in the NFL. He’s less than 100 yards behind the magnificent Tom Brady through two games. Combine that with his rushing capabilities and he’s got to be all over sports talk radio this week. I have been critical of Newton since the draft for nothing other than his college scheme and lack of playing time. But he gets the Jags in Carolina on Sunday and will likely put up more stellar stats. At the very least, it’s time for Newton to come off the waiver wire in all leagues.
Believe it or not, the Chiefs defense did not look terrible, as abysmal as the final score makes them seem. They remained competitive for the first three quarters. But how much can you expect their defense to do when their offense is so pathetic? Once Charles went down with injury, it was left to Dwayne Bowe, who has proven that his mind will never match his talent. Beware: Stafford was wincing, stretching, and flexing all through the second half. But until he’s pronounced as “out,” you’ve got to start him.
Count yours truly among those who lost Jamaal Charles for the year today. It’s always terrible to see a season-ending injury for a football player, but it’s even more excruciating to see an entire franchise go down for the season with him.
The story of this game is Delone Carter. His 11 carries versus Addai’s 14 means that once Addai goes down—and he will go down—Carter will get a lot of work. Watch out for Carter in the second half of this season. Colt McCoy and Kerry Collins both had subpar passing numbers. Peyton Hillis looked fantastic, but I maintain that his head-first power running style is shortening his career with each and every run.
The Buccaneers’ success rides on LeGarrette Blount just as the Falcons’ success rides on Michael Turner. Each of those teams has great receivers and even greater quarterbacks, but the running game is the X-factor, especially for the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers had no points at halftime, but once Blount got going, they made a furious comeback and won a game that they should’ve had in hand by halftime.
On the Vikings’ side of the ball, Adrian Peterson proved why he was worth the No. 1 pick in all formats. There is no arguing with 120 yards and two TDs against a respectable front seven. He is so strong, so fast, and so decisive that he is unsittable during the season and impassable in drafts.
The Saints D was able to control a Bears offense that really doesn’t seem that explosive, but overall the Bears were able to stop the big play, which is their M.O. Brees and Henderson did get the one great 79-yard touchdown, but the Bears were otherwise able to keep them to under 20 yards on receptions. Unfortunately for the Bears, the Saints have such a great cast of playmakers that they can play short all day and move down the field.
To illustrate: the Saints had eight players catch passes and four players with positive rush yards, adding up to three TDs and three FGs. However, in my estimation, that’s three too many field goals based on the amount of catches and short runs New Orleans was able to make. The Saints are a great offense but continue to flirt with being just good enough on each drive to get points instead of really going for the throat and making sure there are no comebacks. When playing an offense like the Bears, you may be able to win with fields goals. However, as we saw last week, if you can’t score touchdowns, you can’t beat high-octane offenses such as the Packers. In a division as strong and fast-paced as the NFC South, the Saints need to up their red zone efficiency if they want to win their division.
The Jaguars, similar to the Chiefs, just don’t have the offense to contend this year. Down to essentially one playmaker, they tried to get MJD going, and he did his best with 18 carries for 88 yards. An average of 4.9 yards per carry is pretty good against what may be the stoutest defense in football. Despite MJD’s effort, the Jets defense took advantage of Jacksonville’s miserable quarterback situation, and the turnovers made this an easy contest. Watch for Keller to continue to be effective this season. He’s streaky, but Sanchez does look for him, especially when Holmes is the first but is covered.
This year the Steelers are likely to be somewhere between the seven-turnover loss to the Ravens last week and their shutout of the Seahawks this week. The Seahawks are another miserably undermatched team and have one of the worst offensive lines the NFL has ever seen. Because of this, I would not own anyone out of Seattle, and I wouldn’t get too excited about the Steelers’ play. Pittsburgh’s offensive line doesn’t look much better, and their defense will not shut down a strong offense the way they were able to shutdown these Seahawks. I’m avoiding all Seahawks, and I’m figuring any Steeler is worth wherever you drafted him.
Last week, the Ravens rode the wings of seven turnovers to a much more impressive stat line. This week, all Baltimore pass catchers combined for only 15 catches and 197 yards. For now, the Ravens are one of the best teams in the NFL in my eyes, and I’m willing to chalk this one up to a trap game. They came off a fantastic victory and probably had no belief in the Titans. Matt Hasselbeck is a great veteran quarterback who took advantage of a Ravens team that seemed to be looking past the Titans. I don’t mind Hasselbeck as a bye-week fill-in or an injury backup, and he’s certainly got Kenny Britt poised to have a career year.
It’s interesting that two pass-first teams met and the story is the running backs. Beanie Wells rushed a healthy 14 times for 93 yards and a TD, and Tim Hightower rushed a whopping 20 times for 96 yards. The Cardinals threw the ball twice as often as they ran it while the Redskins were 55/45 in their pass/run ratio. I know Grossman isn’t the savior of the Redskins, but I expected much more passing than that. Santana Moss did haul in respectable receiving numbers again, however. I was certain this was the most boring game of the week until I ran into the brick wall that was Monday Night Football.
I’m not worried about Tony Romo. Yes, he’s not as mistake-proof as Brady, Brees, and Manning, but we can’t expect every good quarterback to be as great as those guys. Romo is dynamic, he wants to make plays, and he wants the Cowboys to win. In pursuit of those goals, he sometimes makes a boneheaded mistake or gets injured trying to make unnecessary plays, but he cares about his team and gutted it out in San Fran with what turned about to be a pretty dire injury. In the third quarter, I was thinking that if Alex Smith and Jon Kitna changed jerseys, maybe they could complete passes to the correct team. However, when Romo brought competence back into the game, Dallas came back and stepped it up in overtime. It wasn’t as pretty as it could have been, but the ‘Boys came away with a win.
Kyle Orton. Tim Tebow. Eric Decker. Jerome Simpson. A.J. Green. Andy Dalton. I’m really not interested in any of these guys. Is it likely they will each have some big games? Yes. Is it likely that Decker and Green might even have consistent fantasy points? Certainly. I, however, look for players on teams with the arrows pointing up on their seasons, and both of these teams may already have as many wins as they’ll end up with by the end of the season.
On the other hand, did you see Tebow come in as a receiver? That was the best block I’ve ever seen! He has the heart of a lion, and if he can block like that on a couple of downs then he can certainly have a Hall of Fame career as a passer! Let’s trade Brandon Lloyd and make Tim Tebow our No. 1 wide receiver! Ok, I do have faith in Tim Tebow, but let’s calm it down until he can prove it. If Orton is better than Tebow on the practice field, then Orton is the starter. It’s that easy.
Brandon Marshall is looking like a top-ten fantasy wideout.
Early on, it’s looking as though Brandon Marshall may be the steal of this draft. He’s putting up top-10 numbers right now, and he was a fourth- to sixth-round fantasy pick. The man is a red zone beast and is among the hardest to tackle in open space. As long as he doesn’t get stabbed by any more women, I can see him putting up numbers similar to the Texans’ main man, Andre Johnson.
Speaking of AJ, a touchdown per game seems like an afterthought for him. If he finished a game with 60 yards and a score, I might think he missed a quarter or two. In other playmaker news, Foster rushed back from his hamstring injury and aggravated it. If he actually wants to be successful this year, he needs to sit long enough to fully regain his health. All he is doing by taking a few handoffs before having to leave is upsetting the rhythm of his offense. Despite that, Schaub and Ben Tate were enough to keep the Texans in the lead to the end of the game.
I wonder if the Patriots are the first team in NFL history to have three of eleven men on the field with “kowski” in their last name on field goal attempts. For that matter, I wonder if they’re the first team with two Gronkowskis. Watch for NBC to sometime turn this into a hyper-specific obscure stat: “Tom Brady is the first quarterback to complete 15 or more passes to two tight ends with the last name Gronkowski in the same half while playing below the Mason-Dixon line.” Maybe Chad Ochocinco could change his name to Chad Johnkowski just to make sure the record is never broken. Then again, he would have to get involved enough in the offense to actually get onto the field.
The Chargers started by doing what they do best by setting up the run with the pass, and Mathews looked good throughout the game. They are trying to give Mathews the job; he just has to continue to improve. Even though the Bolts had a lot of sloppy turnovers, the game was still relatively close. I would say that this loss should not be too harrowing, especially since it was lost in Foxborough.
Now, how about that Vincent Jackson! Some people love quick, lightning bug playmakers like Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead, Wes Welker, and Miles Austin. I, however, am smitten by the giant physical receiver. I’ll take Vincent Jackson, Greg Jennings, Dez Bryant, and Calvin Johnson any day. There’s nothing more exciting to me than seeing Vincent Jackson leap over four defenders to haul in a 50-yard TD pass, or seeing Brandon Marshall catch a short pass in the flat and proceed to manhandle several DBs and a linebackers in pursuit of the end zone.
If you have a target that’s huge and fast, you can send him out wide and throw indefensible passes for major chunks of yardage. Once in the red zone, a big receiver’s value grows exponentially, as jump balls to the back corner are likely to result in either a touchdown or pass interference. When considering which WRs to draft (after examining their QB situation), I always look for fast and big targets.
This game could’ve been a stinker. I don’t care how great the “Vick returns to Atlanta” storyline is, if the game isn’t electric then the storyline build-up is pointless. I don’t care how many playmakers you have, if it doesn’t have exciting headlines then it won’t get your attention. No, this game wasn’t a surefire, trademark game-of-the-season until Samuel L. Jackson took the field to scream a fiery cult-like chant to inspire the crowd. I don’t see how any team being enchanted by the only man awesome enough to play Nick Fury and Mace Windu could possibly lose.
That sweet Sammy J. mojo took the form of Michael Turner, who dominated this game. This offense runs through Turner, not Ryan, as long as he is healthy. That’s why all Philly’s strength in the secondary couldn’t stop the Dirty Birds. I’m well aware that Ryan threw the touchdowns, but Tony Gonzales would certainly not have been that effective had Turner not steamrolled the Philly D and forced them to play heavy run defense.
On the Eagles side of the ball, Vick proved exactly why he is not my QB in any league. He may be the most complete athlete in the NFL, but anyone who gets hit that often is too risky for my blood. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first sack or the forty-first, if you’re getting hit you’re likely to be hurt. Fantasy football is a weekly game, and Michael Vick is not going to perform every week for you.
My favorite line from this game: “Hoomanawanui tackled by Mathias Kiwanuka.” I’m sorry, what? If only Lofa Tatupu could’ve made it into the conversation somewhere. Coming into this game, I pondered what the NFL schedule makers were thinking when they made this the Monday Night Football selection. This is a perfect 1 p.m. Sunday nap-time game, and both teams played it like one. It was sloppy, it was slow, and the Giants weren’t nearly as good as their four-touchdown score looks.
Sam Bradford continued to show he’s worth the pick and the paycheck , even in an ugly mess of a terrible game. Bradford is physically gifted, but he really shines with his cerebral quarterback play. I’ll take the smart quarterback over the fast or strong quarterback every time. These Rams feel like the Lions when they were coming off their 0-16 season. They’re still a couple years away from being truly good, but their arrow is pointing up and they have the quarterback to make them elite. Watch for St. Louis to draft some big names at receiver and be a fantasy force to be reckoned with next year.
P.S. – Man, Hakeem Nicks is really good.
$#^! Chris Collinsworth Says
Nearly every Sunday night, Chris Collinsworth says something ridiculous. This week, however, he was generally respectable in his commentary, no outrageously obvious nuggets. No, this week the role of Collinsworth was taken over by the normally fantastic but just as goofy Jon Gruden. Coach Gruden on the St. Louis Rams’ ineffective red zone play in the first quarter: “If the Rams don’t get their red zone offense under control, they’re going to have problems beating anyone!”
And that’s it! Week 2 is in the books, and, gosh, it’s good to have football back. Check back next Tuesday for more breakdowns and fantasy advice.
By: Dave Stringer — September 16, 2011 @ 1:08 pm
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1. As expected, it didn’t take long for the heat to get turned up on Seattle starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and head coach Pete Carroll can blame himself for at least a portion of that problem. The Seahawks 2nd year coach signed Jackson and immediately installed him as the team’s starting quarterback sans competition. The team’s fans may not have been completely behind backup Charlie Whitehurst but there was strong sentiment that a competition was in order. And Jackson did nothing to dispel that notion with a middling Week 1 performance against division rival San Francisco, competing 21 of 37 passes for 197 yards, a pair of scores and one interception. With Seattle going on the road to face Pittsburgh, they are staring with an 0-2 record before their home opener against the Cardinals.
2. When the Jaguars decided to release David Garrard, the fantasy prospects of the team’s wide receivers and tight ends took a hit with running back Maurice Jones-Drew also going down a notch, albeit not a big one. While Garrard is clearly not a top-notch passer, he is a proven commodity which is more than can be said for his replacement Luke McCown. And if Week 1 is any indication, those predictions figure to be proven correct. The Jaguars ran the ball 47 times at home against the Titans with McCown attempting just 24 passes, completing 17 for 175 yards.
3. Sticking with that game, rookie Tennessee head coach Mike Munchak came up with one of the more perplexing Week 1 offensive game plans. Although Chris Johnson was coming off a lengthy holdout and the team correctly chose to limit his touches, they may have gone a tad too far. Johnson ran the ball just nine times (gaining 24 yards) in addition to his six receptions (25 yards). By game’s end, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had attempted 34 passes to just 13 rushing plays. It will be tough for Tennessee to balance out their run-pass ratio in Week 2 against a solid Ravens defense.
4. Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman wasn’t getting much love in the preseason and for good reason: he spent most of it listed second on the depth chart behind John Beck. However, he opened the season as the team’s starter and promptly lit up a leaky Giants secondary for 305 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This was clearly a case of Good Rex and based on history, we can expect to see plenty of Bad Rex in 2011. That being said, a quick look reveals that Bad Rex hasn’t been hanging out in Washington much. In four career starts for the Redskins, Grossman has thrown for 1,145 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions, averaging a healthy 23.5 fantasy points per game. That type of production makes Grossman a solid option if you plan on playing matchups at the quarterback position.
5. With Michael Crabtree unable to finish the 49ers game in Week 1, the team was forced to use Ted Ginn in the base offense for a number of plays. However, the team’s coaching staff would prefer to have him focus on the return game where he was outstanding against Seattle, returning both a kickoff and punt for touchdowns. If Crabtree is unable to play, look for Kyle Williams, the team’s 2010 6th round draft choice, to see time in the base offense and an increase in the number of two tight end sets.
Bush will share the workload with Daniel Thomas in Week 2.
6. The Dolphins acquired former Saints running back Reggie Bush to be their lead back in 2011 but few saw him receiving the type of workload he had in Week 1. Bush carried the ball 11 times in Week 1 against the Patriots and also caught nine passes, finishing the game with 94 total yards and a touchdown. The highest number of touches he had in 2010 was 14 and the 20 touches he had in Week 1 were his highest total since Week 3 of the 2008 season. With Bush not looking as dynamic in the fourth quarter as he did in the first, it was no surprise when the Dolphins announced this week that the plan going forward was for Bush to share more of the workload and earn about 70% of the touches out of the backfield. While that shouldn’t come as a surprise, what was a bit of a shocker was that the plan is apparently for rookie running back Daniel Thomas to share the workload with Bush. Thomas sat out Week 1 with an apparent hamstring injury and the Dolphins signed Larry Johnson and have also worked out a number of other veteran running backs. Nonetheless, Thomas seems set to make his debut and likely get 6-8 touches in the Dolphins Week 2 home game against the Texans.
7. Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell shaped up as a bit of a sleeper option in 2011 based on his final five games of the 2010 season when he averaged 19.1 points per game, not to mention a wide receiver depth chart loaded with speedsters. However, the depth chart isn’t looking so loaded these days with a number of banged up players including tight end Kevin Boss who missed Week 1 with a knee injury and may not be ready in time for the team’s game on Sunday in Buffalo. The end result for Campbell owners was a Week 1 disaster, with 105 passing yards with his fantasy day saved by a touchdown run. Week 2 isn’t looking too promising with Jacoby Ford nursing a sore hamstring, Louis Murphy suffering from a groin injury, Darrius Heyward-Bey injuring a knee in practice on Thursday and rookie 5th round Denarius Moore predictably doing a Week 1 disappearing act after having an outstanding preseason. There’s an outside chance Campbell might be chucking it to Chaz Schilens, Derek Hagan and Nick Miller a lot on Sunday.
8. You have to love the passion the Broncos fans have with reports that they are planning to post Play Tim Tebow billboards in the Denver downtown area. Personally, after watching the team’s horrendous offensive line play in Week 1, maybe the billboards should be directed at replenishing that unit, although that clearly isn’t a realistic option given the dearth of available veteran talent at the moment.
9. With Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson having only one solid season and Lee Evans having been shipped out of town, the team’s other wide receivers were worthy of late round picks in larger fantasy leagues and monitoring on the waiver wire in smaller leagues. With the news this week that 2010 4th round pick Marcus Easley was placed on injured reserve with a reported heart ailment, that proposition became a lot less lottery like. Veteran Roscoe Parrish shapes up as nothing more than an option out of the slot, leaving David Nelson and Donald Jones to battle for playing time on the outside opposite Johnson. Nelson has good size at 6’5”, 215 pounds and shapes up as a solid red zone option, as evidenced by the three touchdowns he scored in the final four games of 2010. That likely makes him the better option for a spot on the end of your fantasy bench.
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