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Dave’s Take: Fantasy Football Tips, News & Notes – Week 8

By: — October 28, 2011 @ 3:16 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

1. We have nearly hit the midseason mark so let’s go out on a limb here (not really) and proclaim Tennessee running back Chris Johnson as the biggest fantasy bust thus far in 2011. Johnson has been simply atrocious, helping to bolster two arguments often espoused by fantasy owners: don’t acquire players who are holding out and don’t acquire player who have just signed a lucrative, long-term contract. Johnson hit on both counts and maybe that’s why he’s not doing much on the field. In six games, Johnson has just 268 rushing yards, 143 receiving yards and a single touchdown while averaging 2.9 yards per carry. That’s not a typo, folks. And neither is this – his fantasy points per game average sits at 7.9, making him the 31st highest points producer at running back. If you put him ahead of a couple of players who have yet to have their byes, Johnson would rank 29th. That’s not even automatic start territory. The big plays just haven’t been there for Johnson in 2011. Or maybe he’s just not making the most of his opportunities. Either way, he’s been held under 54 rushing yards five times, topped 100 rushing yards once and had three games with less than 25 rushing yards.

2. Bears running back Matt Forte is having an outstanding, MVP caliber season and is the main reason that Chicago remains in the hunt for a wild card spot at 4-3. With 151 yards rushing and 39 receiving yards this week against the Buccaneers in London, Forte became the first player since 2004 to top 1,000 total yards in just seven games. Both Priest Holmes and Tiki Barber accomplished the feat that season.

3. The Cam Newton Show keeps on rolling in Carolina. This week, the Panthers defeated the Redskins 33-20 in a home game, lifting their record to 2-5. Newton added to his league leading quarterback rushing total, gaining 59 yards on the ground and scoring another touchdown, giving him seven on the season. That touchdown allowed Newton to tie the record for the most rushing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback. Here’s banking on Newton shattering that record by season’s end.

4. After looking decidedly mediocre and completely overhyped for the first five games of his NFL career, Cowboys rookie running back DeMarco Murray looked like the second coming of Jim Brown this week, running roughshod over a Rams defense that had more holes that swiss cheese. Murray finished the game with 25 carries for 253 yards and a touchdown, breaking both the Cowboys single game record for most rushing yards and accumulated the 9th best rushing performance in league history. After the game, Murray stated that he’d never expected to have “a game like this.” Suffice it to say that after his first five games, his fantasy owners didn’t either and many of them likely had him planted on the bench.

5. At the start of the season, the Redskins offense was playing surprisingly well with Rex Grossman at quarterback, Tim Hightower churning out decent production at running back, Santana Moss once again leading the wide receiver corps and a pair of talented tight ends in Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. What a difference a few weeks. In a key game this week against the Bills in Toronto, Washington will trot out John Beck at quarterback, Ryan Torain at running back, Davis at tight end and Jabar Gaffney as their top wide receiver. It also doesn’t help that the Redskins placed starting guard Kory Lichtensteiger on injured reserve a week ago. If you don’t see trouble ahead for Washington’s offense, take off the rose colored glasses. There is but one solid fantasy option in the Redskins offense and that is Davis, who is on the verge of becoming a top five fantasy producer at his position.

6. Sticking with the Redskins, don’t expect Cooley back in Washington for the 2012 season unless he accepts a massive pay reduction. Cooley will turn 30 prior to next season, has lingering knee problems and is due $3.8-million next season. Considering that he has been surpassed on the depth chart by Davis who is clearly an ascending player, Cooley will need to accept backup money to return to Washington in 2012.

7. Here’s a shout out to Vikings defensive end Brian Robison. After the Vikings 33-27 loss to division rival Green Bay, Robison tweeted that he was sorry for kicking Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang in the groin, that he didn’t aim for the groin and that he is not a dirty player. Which begs a couple of questions. Where exactly was Robison aiming? Does Robison think that kicking is okay, provided it’s not in the groin? Here’s hoping NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell kicks Robison really hard somewhere – like say his bank account.

8. The Rams keep getting mentioned as a candidate to land the top overall pick in the draft and the opportunity to land Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Of course, with Sam Bradford on the roster, a Luck selection by the Rams would be followed quickly with a trade of the Stanford star to another team. However, that scenario isn’t likely to happen. After this week’s game against New Orleans, the Rams play each of their NFC West rivals twice, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Presumably, the Dolphins and Colts are the front-runners in the Suck for Luck sweepstakes.

Finley is lacking opportunities.

9. Owners of Jermichael Finley have, for the most part, been disappointed in the Packers tight ends fantasy performance in 2011. Expected to be a top five producer at his position with many pundits having him pegged as the second ranked tight end behind the Chargers Antonio Gates, Finley has just 25 receptions for 334 yards and four touchdowns this season, with 85 yards and three touchdowns coming in the Packers Week 3 win over the Bears. While the consensus has generally been that his performance will turn around, a look at the tight end stats tells us that Finley is the 17th most targeted tight end on a per game basis. As you read here all the time, opportunity is the first ingredient in production and Finley just isn’t getting much of either. Over the Packers last two games, Finley has been targeted just six times.

10. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz has been a boon to the team’s offense since taking over in the slot, producing a number of big games prior to his two reception, 12 yard performance in Week 6 against the Bills. In the three games prior to that, he had 17 receptions for 369 yards and 3 touchdowns and the assumption by most is that he had put a stranglehold on the slot receiver role for New York. However, 2009 3rd round pick Ramses Barden is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list and there are rumblings out of New York that the team is anxious to see what he can do. Despite having solid size at 6’6” and 225 pounds, the team thinks Barden can produce out of the slot as well as on the outside spelling Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.

Tuesday Buzz – Week 7

By: — October 25, 2011 @ 10:48 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

Welcome to Tuesday Morning Buzz! Each week, yours truly breaks down all of the weekend’s action from a fantasy perspective. Let’s get right into it.

In classic Falcons fashion, they took what was working, broke it, rebuilt it, and almost lost because of it. Last week, I complimented the Falcons on being smart and giving more rush attempts to Turner than pass attempts to Ryan. This week, Ryan failed to dazzle as his 34 attempts turned into Tebow-esque passing numbers. We’ll get much more into Tebow later, but in the same fashion, Ryan was bailed out by a rushing touchdown on a quarterback keeper that was fueled by the mouths and actions of the Detroit front four. For Detroit, had they been able to get anything going in the fourth quarter, they could’ve steamrolled a Falcons team that only scored two touchdowns.

Ryan got roughed up by the Lions.

Rumors have been flying about Ndamukong Suh being a dirty player since his college days. On Sunday, you saw him unnecessarily shoving an offensive lineman who was fired up after an unnecessary shove of Matt Ryan by Corey Williams. Ah, there’s nothing quite like caveman-sized thugs acting like the brutes they are. This play also directly affected fantasy football, as I’m sure it was Ryan calling for the quarterback keeper to get back at the Lions’ D-line. Good for him; but I’m sure Michael Turner owners everywhere were even more furious than the average Falcons fan after that one.

This week Matt Forte continued to make his case for a new paycheck as he ran all over the “home team” Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you consider homefield advantage to be relevant in deciding the fate of the game, doesn’t it seem unfair that someone has to call the London game a home game? Why not just allow both teams to count this matchup as an away game so that they get to take full advantage of their home stadium? I understand the Bucs are very popular among the Brits, but I still find one team giving up a home game in London to be ludicrous. Due to the extreme consequences of travel, I’m willing to give the Bucs one more pass on a terrible offense before I pronounce that 10-win offense of last year a one-year-wonder.

If this column relied upon superlatives, this game would take the “Most Irrelevant Game in Fantasy” award for 2011. Both of these teams are absolutely terrible and look to continue being so into the foreseeable future. However, both have played well enough to likely keep themselves out of reach of the much coveted Andrew Luck, who, for my money, will wear a Miami Dolphins jersey next year. Montario Hardesty emerged from the scrap heap with double-digit points in standard scoring formats, but he needed an ungodly amount of tries to get there. Look for these teams to be miserable for the rest of this season, and don’t plan on getting any sort of consistent fantasy points from a single player on either team.

The Broncos eked out an overtime win on the road versus the worst team in football, in a game where the home team’s fans were all rooting for the road team. My, my, that’s impressive. The Broncos are another team that really needs to build through the draft. If they can come out of the 2012 draft with a first round-talent running back and a better offensive line, they may be able to reach 8-8 next year. For the Dolphins, it is Suck for Luck time. No other winless team needs a franchise quarterback as much as Miami, and their coach is a sitting duck. If Sparano gets fired, watch for an “interim” head coach and extremely conservative play calling for the remainder of the season.

As I’ve stated in previous weeks, I’ve never before seen such blind clamoring for an unproven athlete as there has been for Tim Tebow. For fantasy, however, he’s a top-10 option every week regardless of opponent. He can throw for 150 yards and no touchdowns but rush for enough to have a fantastic fantasy day. One rushing touchdown (which for Tebow is a near lock each week) is worth 120 yards passing in standard scoring. Combine that with the other 40 yards rushing he’s likely to accumulate, and you have incredible value at the quarterback position. As a quarterback, Tebow has all the intangibles to be great but obviously lacks a lot of fundamentals and polish. However, if he can merely come close to Jake Delhomme’s passing ability and combine that with his own rushing skills, and if the Broncos can find a decent running back (a la DeAngelo Williams), who knows how far they can go next year under head coach John Fox.

I like to think that Arian Foster is paying back fantasy owners for the first five weeks of the season. No Texan has ever gone for 100 yards passing and 100 yards receiving in a single game, but Foster did just that against the Titans. These Texans are hurting without Andre Johnson and Mario Williams, and they are one excellent Arian Foster performance away from a terrible outing. Until AJ gets back, I’m uncomfortable playing any Texan not named Foster. For the Titans, this felt like curtains to me. CJ2K is obviously not going to right this train this year. The question is, will he right the train next year, or is he doing his best Albert Haynesworth impression and giving up after getting paid?

Many fantasy owners stared at Mike Tolbert and another flex-play RB (like James Starks) on their bench and pondered, “How much work is Tolbert really going to get?” If you’re like me, you probably chose the less talented RB who was going to have more touches than the Michael Turner-esque Tolbert. Also, if you’re like me, you were wrong. Tolbert will not always get the red-zone score, but he’ll always get the opportunity. The No. 2 running back for these Chargers, who love to run in the red zone, is worth more than many top dogs in timeshares across the league. For the Jets, their defense finally looked like they turned a corner, but I have to wonder how much of that was this silly San Diego team that refuses to allow opponents to look bad.

I have no faith in any offensive players on the Redskins outside of Fred Davis. There is a quarterback, a wide receiver, and a running back carousel in Washington right now, and that will continue to be the case under Mike Shanahan. I’m fighting my instinct to pick up Roy Helu. Helu projects as a great RB, but Shanahan takes some kind of deviant pleasure in ruining fantasy players’ weeks. For the Panthers, go Cam Newton, go! If defenses can’t shake off this lockout slumber, Newton may walk away with the rookie record for passing yards in a season.

Well, Darren McFadden went down in the first quarter and the Raiders’ quarterbacks combined for 15 of 35 for 187 yards, no touchdowns, and six interceptions for an average quarterback rating of 19.8. It sounds like McFadden will be back after the bye, and hopefully two more weeks of practice will get Palmer ready to craft an actual performance. I don’t know what to think about the Chiefs, who have now won three straight, but I know I do like Steve Breaston and Jackie Battle in deeper leagues. Any team playing with momentum in a western conference has a decent chance to put up good numbers.

This entire game was predicated on one fact: the Cardinals defense stinks. Yours truly was on record in saying that Patrick Peterson should’ve been the first overall pick in the draft this year, and I stand by that; but not even No. 1 overall talent can fix a defense this bad. The Steelers are starting to roll, but I don’t think they’re as good as this game made them out to be. This game also did nothing to shape my opinion of any player on either team. Keep starting your starters and don’t pick up anyone from these teams who isn’t already owned.
P.S. Mike Wallace is really fast.

With DeMarco Murray coming two yards short of Felix Jones’ rushing total for the season, it seems likely that another game or two of strong performances could bring about a changing of the guard at running back. The Rams persist in being the Newt Gingrich of the winless teams: they have no interest in the grand prize of being worst in the league but persist in competing for it. In the coming weeks, watch for the Rams to be eliminated from that competition for worst, as they have at least three wins in them versus the Saints, Cards, Browns, Seahawks, and then the Cards again.

World Series
I live in Oklahoma. I’m almost equidistant from the St. Louis Cardinals’ and the Texas Rangers’ home fields. The Tulsa Drillers have been a minor league team for both the Cardinals and the Rangers, and there is about a 50/50 fanbase in my area. So, when the Cardinals faced off against the Rangers in Game 3 of the World Series right after the Cowboys faced off against the Rams, it was very interesting in my neck of the woods. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like in Dallas/Fort Worth for a Boys game followed by a Rangers World Series matchup.

For the Packers, I’m not sure what there is to say. Sit any Green Bay receiver at your own risk, as they’re just as likely to go for 70 yards and a touchdown as they are two catches for 30 yards. For the Vikings, Christian Ponder looked good in his first start and McNabb handled the situation with poise by giving Ponder advice as needed.

Bonus Sportsmanship
In an amazing lack of coverage, only in the MNF pregame show did I see mention of Vikings defensive end Brian Robison squarely planting his cleat in Packers O-lineman T.J. Lang’s meat and potatoes. That’ll teach the young ones how to play fair.

If I had a nickel for every point the Saints scored in this game… Well, I’d only have $3.10, but 62 points allowed by any NFL defense is unacceptable. Graham, Colston, and Sproles put up the majority of the Saints’ points, all of which were scored in the first half. There was no running up the score here, the Colts simply gave up on this game in the face of a quick deficit and the tremendous homefield advantage of the Saints. That being said, on a neutral field, I would pick the Colts over the Dolphins by a touchdown.

$#^% Chris Collinsworth says
On the collapse of the Indianapolis Colts:

“It’s always such an interesting debate, whether or not… this team would be the same or anywhere close to it without Peyton Manning, but I don’t think any of these guys, these championship-caliber players, thought it would fall apart like this.”

Ah, what a beautiful run-on, crafted as only Chris Collinsworth can. My wife posed the question to me, “Do you think it frustrates Peyton Manning or inflates his ego that his entire team is ineffective without him?” To which I replied, “I don’t know about Peyton, but I imagine the rest of this team has to feel terrible. The other 52 can’t even compete without him! Even the defense!”

Defer to your wisdom
To begin the Monday night football game, the Jaguars won the opening coin toss and chose to defer the kick to the Baltimore Ravens. This is a great strategy in Madden, but does this work in the NFL? I am generally skeptical. Especially playing against such an aggressive defense, it seemed unwise to give them the chance to build and protect a lead. Luckily for the Jags, the Ravens didn’t eclipse 20 total yards until the third quarter.

What a barnburner. Ironically, Steve Young said in the pregame that the Ravens had to be able to score 40 points to contend this year. Forty-five minutes in, they had scored none against a defense that has been gashed by many of the same offenses the Ravens figure to battle in the playoffs. Thanks to a miraculous catch by Torrey Smith and a quick post route by Anquan Boldin, they came within two points. After a failed onside kick, the Ravens D made an efficient stop only to see it rendered fruitless by a Joe Flacco interception with just less than two minutes left. The Ravens’ lack of offense—90 total passing yards—seems inexplicable. Is the Jags defense really that good?

This game contained a great hyper-specific stat: “Sam Koch was the first alternate for the AFC punter’s group in the Pro Bowl last season.” How prestigious! How glorious it must be to be elected the alternate punter for the Pro Bowl.

Week 7 was a bit of a downer as the doldrums of the bye weeks set in. Many fantasy teams will play ugly games next week as the Falcons, Bears, Packers, Jets, Raiders, and Buccaneers go on bye. But look for good fantasy production out of your Bills and Niners. Michael Crabtree should be started in every league this week.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 8

By: — @ 3:56 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis


Moving Up

Christian Ponder, Vikings
Last week, Ponder was moving up with the proviso that it was for dynasty leagues only. After showing some moxie this week in nearly bringing the Vikings to a come from behind win over the undefeated Packers, Ponder is looking like he could be a useful asset at some point in 2011. Completing 13 of 32 passes isn’t pretty but he made some big plays, finishing with 219 passing yards and 31 rushing yards. It’s always nice when a rookie quarterback can pad his fantasy stats with three or four points on the ground every week.

Tim Tebow, Broncos
Bit of a qualifier here. My opinion on Tebow as a fantasy quarterback was pretty low compared to most so even a 13 of 27 for 161-yard, two-touchdown performance gets Tebow in the Moving Up column. Yes, he did have something like 40 passing yards with five minutes to go. Sure, if the Dolphins can chew up the clock, his fantasy point total would look really ugly. But this guy’s got some Doug Flutie in him – sans the accuracy, of course. He wins. It’s never conventional, it’s not going to be pretty but he wins. And as I said with Ponder, rookie quarterbacks who run are a little easier to live with.

John Beck, Redskins
In his first start of 2011, and first start since the 2007 season, Beck looked surprisingly good for the Redskins. Despite losing his best weapon in Santana Moss mid-game, Beck completed 22 of 37 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown with one interception. He also chipped in ten yards and a touchdown on the ground, giving him rushing touchdowns in consecutive games. Between Week 8 and Week 16, the Redskins have six games against teams with passing defenses ranked 21st or lower and just one game against a top ten passing defense.

Moving Down

Carson Palmer, Raiders
Moving from the unemployment line to being the anointed one in Oakland got Palmer Moving Up last week but I did qualify it by stating that “We will see how many weeks it takes him to shake off the rust.” After a three-interception performance in just two quarters, we have our answer – several. As in, Palmer looked so bad that it’s going to take several weeks before you can click him as your starter and feel good about it. In fact, he was so bad, he fills out my quota for the Moving Down portion at the quarterback position.

Running Backs

Moving Up

DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
Murray was moving up last week, a weak endorsement based on Felix Jones being out for a minimum of two weeks and a schedule that worked in his favor with the Rams and Eagles on tap. Well, he certainly took care of the Rams, setting a Dallas single game rushing mark with 253 yards on 25 carries and finding the end zone on a 91-yard run. Better yet, as noted, the Eagles are up next and Tashard Choice left the Rams game with a shoulder injury and there is no word yet on whether he will suit up next week. Time to rain on the parade a little… it was the Rams. They have the league’s worst run defense. Murray isn’t likely to get a 91-yard touchdown run every week where he makes exactly one defender miss. To be honest, I’m putting a major discount on this performance. I watched it and the Rams-D was UGLY. Don’t sell the farm for Murray.

Kregg Lumpkin, Buccaneers
This one’s a bit of a gamble but if you have an open roster spot, Lumpkin is worth grabbing. Starting running back LeGarrette Blount may play in Week 9 against the Saints following the Bucs Week 8 bye and top backup Earnest Graham is out for the year with a torn right Achilles’ tendon. We all know that Blount can’t catch so Lumpkin figures to get at least some playing time even if Blount is a go. Of course, there’s a reasonable chance the Bucs bring in another back with more experience catching the ball. Tiki Barber, anyone?

Jackie Battle, Chiefs
Battle was quietly efficient for the second game in a row, earning 16 carries and gaining 76 yards in the Chiefs 28-0 win over the Raiders. That gives him 216 total yards over his past two games and almost assuredly makes him the Chiefs running back to own for the balance of the 2011 season. He’s a plodder, yes. He hasn’t found the end zone yet, yes. LeRon McClain may continue to get the goal line work, yes. But Battle is the man in K.C. at the moment and that counts for something.

Ryan Torain and Roy Helu, Redskins
With starting running back Tim Hightower out for the season with a torn ACL, Torain and Helu figure to split carries for the Redskins… or maybe some other back on the roster… or maybe some other back not on the roster. At the moment, it’s one of these two. Pick your poison and mark my words, you will drink the poison. My money’s on Torain over the short haul with Helu taking over by Week 12.

Michael Bush, Raiders
Bush owners knew that starting Raiders running back Darren McFadden would get dinged up at some point but the timing isn’t exactly what they were hoping for with Oakland having a Week 8 bye. That gives McFadden two weeks to recover from the foot sprain he suffered this week against the Chiefs and reduces the chances Bush will get his first start of the season in Week 9 against the Broncos. Nonetheless, Bush looked solid against Kansas City, gaining 99 yards on 17 carries and also chipping in a pair of receptions for 12 yards.

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
Willis McGahee stole his job but Moreno gets another chance to prove he is worthy of starting for the Broncos in 2012 with McGahee out several weeks with a broken index finger. I guess he’ll be running with plenty of confidence since the Broncos essentially gave up on him when they made McGahee the starter. Don’t expect much.

Alfonso Smith, Cardinals
Smith is the man in Arizona until Chris Wells returns to action. Week 8 looks horrible with the Ravens on tap but after that it’s the Rams (32nd ranked run defense) and Eagles (24th) followed by a no-hoper against the 49ers (2nd) and then the Rams again. So, Smith is usable in three of the next five games if Wells doesn’t go.

Moving Down

Beanie Wells, Cardinals
Made. Of. Glass. Wells apparently suffered a knee bruise this week to the same knee that rendered him basically useless in 2010. Is more of the same on tap for 2011? Would you bet against it?

DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
Looks like there may be a changing of the guard at running back in Carolina. Jonathan Stewart has outperformed Williams for most of 2011 and Williams took more of a back seat role this week, getting 10 touches to 14 for Stewart. With Stewart already getting more work in the passing game and in short yardage, Williams value will take a serious hit if he starts losing carries to Stewart on a regular basis.

Thomas Jones, Chiefs
Jones starts. Battle gets most of the touches. LeRon McClain subs in for short yardage. Jones is too slow to make any big plays so he’s a 10-carry, 40-yard guy for the balance of the season. You can do better.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Roy Williams, Bears
Last week, it looked like Devin Hester was the Bears new number one wide receiver. After this week’s game against the Bucs, it looks like Roy Williams may have overtaken him, which is what Chicago had as their plan entering the season. He had his best game of the season this week, catching four of five targets for 59 yards and a score. The timing was good for Williams with Earl Bennett expected to return to the line up following Chicago’s Week 8 bye. Looks like Johnny Knox may be the odd man out if Bennett returns to assume his role as the team’s slot receiver.

Marques Colston is on a tear.

Marques Colston, Saints
Last week, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson were all Moving Down because Colston was back in the line up and there weren’t enough balls to spread around. Sure enough, Colston is on a tear, putting up his second consecutive strong performance in the Saints crushing win over the Colts. Colston caught all seven of his targets for 98 yards and a pair of scores, bringing his two week totals to 14 receptions for 216 yards and three touchdowns. He is shaping up as a mid-tier WR1 for the remainder of 2011.

Jabar Gaffney, Redskins
With reports indicating that Santana Moss will be out for 5-7 weeks with a fractured hand, Gaffney becomes the Redskins top threat at wide receiver. Or maybe “threat” isn’t the best word since he’s scored once in six games this year and just twice over his last 21 games. Maybe “consistent” is the better adjective. Here are Gaffney’s yardage totals this year – 54, 62, 60, 62, 55 and 68 for an average of 60 yards per game. In 2010, he averaged 55 yards a game. There you have it – you know what you’re getting with Gaffney – consistent mediocrity.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
I had DHB Moving Up two weeks ago and he has forced my hand with another pair of solid performances. Don’t look now but it is beginning to look like maybe the Raiders did the right thing in taking DHB over Michael Crabtree. Over his last four games, Heyward-Bey has 22 receptions for 385 yards and a touchdown, averaging 11.1 FPts per game. That’s mid-tier WR2 territory. Sure, the sample size is small but DHB rates no lower than as a WR3 for the balance of 2011.

Moving Down

Mike Thomas, Jaguars
I was all set to have Jason Hill Moving Down with Mike Sims-Walker back in Jacksonville and Hill likely headed to the bench. The only problem is, Thomas is headed to the bench. Worse yet for his owners, Hill led the Jaguars in targets against the Ravens, catching four of eight looks for 62 yards. Sims-Walker was targeted just twice with Thomas getting a single look. Despite getting a lucrative long-term extension a few weeks back, Thomas has seen his targets decrease for three straight weeks from 11 to 7 to 6 to 1.

Santana Moss, Redskins
With 39 and 38-yard performances in Weeks 4 and 6 (the Redskins were on a bye in Week 5), I was getting ready to have Moss Moving Down. His fractured hand seals the deal.

Danario Alexander, Rams
Brandon Lloyd is in town and while Alexander isn’t a forgotten man, the target total dropped to six this week, his lowest of the season. It doesn’t help that he’s caught just 16 of 39 targets.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Antonio Gates, Chargers
After pondering to the media whether he would even play in Week 7, Gates started and looked good, catching five of seven targets for 54 yards and a touchdown. Reports indicate that he didn’t have any setbacks so Gates is back to being a fantasy starter. Just make sure you keep a decent backup on standby.

Heath Miller, Steelers
After a slow start to the season, Miller has been a bigger factor in the Steelers passing attack over the last three weeks, particularly in the red zone. In Steeler wins over the Titans, Jaguars and Cardinals, Miller has totaled 11 receptions for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Up next is the Patriots 32nd ranked pass defense just in case you need bye week filler.

Moving Down

Jermichael Finley, Packers
Sure, he scored a touchdown – that was nice. However, in his last two games Finley has been targeted a measly six times, with just three receptions for a miserly 33 yards and the touchdown. At the beginning of the season, nobody was expected to read “measly”, “just” and “miserly” in paragraphs about Finley. But here’s one that has all three. Time to change our assumptions about this cat. Here’s one more thing to consider – one game with double-digit fantasy points out of seven. Convinced?

Dave’s Take: Fantasy Football Tips, News & Notes – Week 7

By: — October 21, 2011 @ 3:18 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

1. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite the passing of Raiders owner Al Davis, Oakland once again hit the trade market in a desperate manner this week, giving up a 1st round pick in the 2012 draft and a conditional pick in the 2013 draft that could also be a 1st round pick in exchange for Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer. At worst, the 2012 pick will be the Raiders 2nd round choice. Unfortunately for the Raiders, Palmer hasn’t been the same player since suffering elbow ligament damage in 2008 and having shoulder issues last season. The bottom line is that the Raiders are a team loaded with deep threats at wide receiver and they gave away a boatload to acquire a player who hasn’t been much of a deep passer over the last two years.

The most successful rookie quarterback in 2011?

2. Sticking with the Palmer situation, the play the Raiders lost starting quarterback Jason Campbell for the season due to a broken collarbone occurred when Cleveland linebackers Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong took Campbell down on a pass rush. What kind of karma is that for the Browns? Credit Fujita and Gocong for helping hand the Bengals two premium picks in the next two drafts. If the Bengals hit on those picks, Browns fans will remember that bad karma for years to come.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the first player taken in the NFL draft, has taken the league by storm as well as the fantasy world with his amazing start to the season. However, you could make the argument that the most successful rookie quarterback, and the one with the best chance of taking his team to the playoffs, is the Bengals Andy Dalton. While Newton’s Panthers sit at 1-5, Dalton’s Bengals are 4-2 with a legitimate shot at making the playoffs.

Here’s a reminder why it’s always nice for your fantasy prospects to load up on players from the top offenses in the league. The Patriots failed to top 30 points this week against the Cowboys, marking the first time in 14 games that they failed to score 30 or more points. The Rams squads from the 1999 and 2000 seasons set the mark with 14, leaving the current New England squad one game shy of matching their record.

Sticking with the Patriots, while they didn’t hit the 30-point plateau this week, they did eek out another home win, giving them 20 straight wins at Foxboro. It seems like they manage to pull out wins there even when they play poorly, as was the case this week against Dallas.

Staying with that game, it was certainly a curious decision by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett to play for a field goal near the end of regulation, relying on his defense to hold against the Patriots offense. That decision backfired and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called him out on it this week. Of course, that was Jerry being Jerry since he also wasn’t pleased when the Cowboys continued to play aggressively despite a big lead over Detroit, that decision also backfiring when quarterback Tony Romo threw three second-half interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns, as the Lions came back to beat the Cowboys.

Sticking with questionable coaching, if Buffalo wasn’t a small market team, there would be howls of outrage over the decisions Chan Gailey made this week. With a little over four minutes remaining in a tied game, the Giants with two timeouts remaining and the Bills already in field goal position at the Giants 27-yard line, Gailey called for a go pattern down the sideline to Steve Johnson. However, Corey Webster had spent much of the day draped all over Johnson and already had one interception. Webster picked off an underthrown pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Giants promptly marched down the field for the game winning field goal. While running back Fred Jackson had been bottled up by the Giants run defense saved for a couple of big runs, Gailey would have been better served playing more conservatively, with the worst case scenario having the Giants needing a field goal to tie.

The Panthers placed starting right tackle Jeff Otah on injured reserve this week, marking the third time in his four seasons in the league that he has finished the season on injured reserve. Carolina’s 1st round pick in the 2008 season, Otah was outstanding in his rookie year but not as impressive in his sophomore season before missing all of the 2010 campaign. With Otah out of the lineup, the Panthers will turn to rookie undrafted free agent Byron Bell but that may be a stop gap measure until recently signed Reggie Wells is ready to play. If Bell struggles, look for left guard Travelle Wharton to slide out to right tackle with Wells stepping in at guard. Otah’s loss hurts the Panthers rushing attack, which is already struggling with neither DeAngelo Williams nor Jonathan Stewart having solid seasons.

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates is listed as questionable this week but the odds are on him suiting up against the Jets. Head coach Norv Turner has indicated that Gates will be scaled back if he plays but one area where that likely won’t be the case is in the red zone, where the Chargers have struggled. Quarterback Philip Rivers has made a habit of protecting the ball in the red zone but has already thrown two picks there already in 2011. Look for Gates to resume his role as the Chargers preferred option near the goal line, resulting in fewer scoring opportunities for wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd.

While Saints rookie 1st round pick Mark Ingram has not performed up to expectations thus far in 2011, he gets a solid matchup this week in a home game against Indianapolis. The Colts run defense ranks 30th in the NFL and has played well in only one game thus far, a Week 4 road loss to the Steelers. Ingram has been a disappointment, averaging just 3.3 yards per touch but his fantasy performance has been saved by the three touchdowns he has scored in his last four games. If he can’t get it going this week against the Colts suspect run defense, it might be time to nail Ingram to your bench, if you haven’t already done so.

There was a lot of noise coming out of Chicago this week, the result of quarterback Jay Cutler being caught on camera telling Bears quarterback coach Shane Day to tell offensive coordinator Mike Martz to do something that shouldn’t be repeated on a family friendly website. This shouldn’t come as any surprise and is hardly newsworthy. Martz is known for riding his quarterbacks wherever he has been, including in St. Louis with his star pupil Kurt Warner. When Todd Haley was the Cardinals offensive coordinator, he had frequent sideline blowups with head coach Ken Whisenhunt, Warner and wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Cutler’s apparent broadside amounts to little more than a tempest in a teapot.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees is having an MVP caliber season with his team throwing the ball far more than most expected. Having signed veteran free agent running back Darren Sproles away from San Diego and trading up to take Ingram near the end of the 1st round of the draft, the Saints were expected to run the ball more frequently than they did in 2010 when they struggled with injuries at the position. Their ability to run the ball was a key factor in their Super Bowl winning season and head coach Sean Payton was expected to attempt to replicate that strategy in 2011. However, the running game has struggled, leaving Brees to throw early and often. He threw for 383 yards in this week’s loss to the Bucs, making Brees the first player in league history to throw for 350 or more years in four consecutive games.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 7

By: — October 18, 2011 @ 4:41 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis


Moving Up

Jay Cutler, Bears
While it’s far past the time to be coming to the realization that Mike Martz isn’t going to turn Cutler into a Kurt Warner fantasy god (mostly due to his horrendous supporting cast), he has looked very good over the past two weeks. In a Week 5 loss to the Lions, Cutler singlehandedly kept the Bears in the game until the fourth quarter, completing 28 of 38 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown, despite a woeful performance by the team’s offensive line. This week against the Vikings, he completed 21 of 31 passes for 267 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s protecting the ball and completing passes in the face of tremendous pressure and that’s keeping the Bears offense on the field.

Movin' up in Silver and Black.

Carson Palmer, Raiders
If Palmer was headed to the Bay Area, his image seems more in line with that of the 49ers but he will be wearing the Silver and Black beginning this Sunday. Of course, these are the new Raiders sans Al Davis so maybe a change is afoot in Raider Nation. Nah. When you are an unemployed former number one selection in the draft who has had a highly productive career, you definitely get a Moving Up when you find a new team. The Raiders have plenty of speedsters for Palmer to throw to. We will see how many weeks it takes him to shake off the rust.

Christian Ponder, Vikings
For dynasty leagues only.

Moving Down

Rex Grossman, Redskins
Looks like Bad Rex has reappeared and Good Rex has gone missing. After throwing for 1,686 yards and 12 touchdowns with 7 interceptions over his first six starts with the Redskins, Grossman has imploded over the last two weeks. In games against the Rams and Eagles, he has thrown for 286 yards and one touchdown with 6 interceptions, including four this week. On Wednesday, head coach Mike Shanahan will announce the Redskins starting quarterback for Washington’s Week 7 matchup against the Panthers. I’m announcing now that you don’t want him in your starting fantasy line up anytime soon.

Donovan McNabb, Vikings
Another struggling veteran signal caller, McNabb found out today he’s headed to the bench. McNabb wasn’t horrible this week, completing 19 of 24 passes for 177 yards but he isn’t making any big plays, witness his four touchdown passes in six games.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Earnest Graham, Buccaneers
Starting in place of the injured LeGarrette Blount, Graham looked solid against the Saints, gaining 109 yards on 17 carries and adding two receptions for 22 yards. Speculation on Blount’s absence from a sprained MCL in his left knee has ranged from two to six weeks and third string running back Gregg Lumpkin had just two touches this week. With the Bucs having a Week 8 bye, Graham rates as a low end RB2 for this week’s game against the Bears.

Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
After a disappointing first four games to the season (58 carries for 173 yards and two touchdowns) and being inactive due to a hamstring injury, Mendenhall had his best game of the season this week against the Jaguars. He put up 146 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and looked rejuvenated in the Steelers 17-13 win. The Steelers remaining schedule gets interesting starting this week with five matchups against run defenses ranked 9th or better and four matchups against teams with run defenses ranked 18th or lower. It might just be feast or famine for Mendenhall owners for the balance of the fantasy season.

Donald Brown, Colts
Both Joseph Addai and Colts management have described his hamstring injury as “minor” and “day to day”. Yet he basically ruled himself out of the Colts Week 6 matchup against the Bengals very early last week. So, maybe he’s out for a few weeks but maybe not. What we do know is that it probably won’t be long before he’s out again with some other ailment … or maybe the same one. Either way, Brown has looked better than rookie 4th round pick Delone Carter. Over the past two weeks, Brown has 13 rushes for 73 yards and a touchdown while Carter has run the ball 26 times for 67 yards and a score. Maybe, just maybe Brown is ready to prove the Colts didn’t make a horrendous decision when they made him the 27th overall selection in the 2009 rookie draft.

DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
What’s he done? Nothing. Unless 71 yards on 24 carries is your idea of production. What can we expect over the next two weeks with Felix Jones out with a high ankle sprain? Maybe something. The schedule works in the favor of Murray owners as he figures to get the starting assignment and plenty of touches in a home game against the Rams (worst run defense in the league) followed by a road contest against the Eagles (24th ranked run defense). Sometimes you get lucky, folks, and this is one of those examples.

Maurice Morris, Lions
Looks like Jahvid Best is out with another concussion, his second in 2011, and that makes Morris the man in the Lions backfield. He ain’t pretty but he’s going to be getting some touches in the Lions surprisingly productive offense.

Editor’s Note: The Lions have traded RB Jerome Harrison to the Eagles for RB Ronnie Brown. Morris should still be the main ball carrier in Week 7 with Brown used in a minimal role.

C.J. Spiller, Bills
Looks like the Spiller will be player taking the place of injured Donald Jones in the Bills offense. He regularly lined up as a receiver outside during the Bills 27-24 loss to the Giants this week, catching all five of his targets for 39 yards. That makes him an interesting bye week fill in PPR leagues that employ a flex position.

Moving Down

Stevan Ridley, Patriots
Seven touches in Week 6 and three this week. So much for the notion that Ridley was ready to steal the starting role away from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has 43 touches for 218 total yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks.

Reggie Bush, Dolphins
Hurt. Again.

Felix Jones, Cowboys
Hurt. Again. Sometimes this job isn’t so tough.

Mark Ingram, Saints
I feel bad piling on a rookie but his fantasy stats are so misleading that I feel it’s my job to set the record straight on Ingram. Has he been successful running the ball? No. But he’s scored three touchdowns despite averaging a paltry 3.4 yards per carry running behind the best guard tandem in the league. Has he been productive catching the ball? No, unless 3.3 yards per reception is your idea of explosive. Ingram. First round pick. No explosive plays.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Arrelious Benn, Bucs
With Mike Williams suffering through a sophomore slump, Benn has become the Bucs big play receiver in 2011. The only problem is that he’s not getting enough targets to make many big plays. This week, he caught three of his six targets for 83 yards including a 65-yard touchdown. Two weeks ago on Monday Night Football, he had an amazing 62 yard catch and run touchdown called back because he stepped out of bounds prior to catching the ball. Oops. Let’s suppose he didn’t make that brain cramp. Then Benn would have 12 receptions for 234 yards and a pair of scores over his last three games. You just get the feeling that this guy is ready to make good on the promise the Bucs saw him when they took him in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft.

Devin Hester, Bears
Is Hester finally becoming the consistent threat the Bears envisioned when they made him a full time wide receiver and handed him a $10-million a year contract and a starting job? With five receptions on seven targets in each of the last two weeks, he just might be. He’s totaled 123 yards and a score over the Bears past two games and leads the Bears receivers in targets. Looks like Hester is the Bears wide receiver to own.

A.J. Green, Bengals
Is this guy a legit WR1 six games into his rookie season? I’m ready to anoint him as such. Let’s tally up the positives. Double-digit fantasy points in five of six games? Check. Team’s top wide receiver? Check. Amazing athletic ability? Check. Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? Nada. It’s all there, folks. Six games, 29 receptions for 453 yards and four touchdowns with a nifty 15.6 average yards per reception. Let’s call him a low end WR1 for the balance of 2011.

Jason Hill, Jaguars
Am I totally committed? Hardly. But Hill is shaping up as decent bye week filler with 11 receptions for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns over the past two games. If you’re in a deep league and have bye week issues, Hill isn’t a ridiculous option, hard as it is for me to type that.

Moving Down

Mike Sims-Walker, Rams
It’s the penthouse to the outhouse for Sims-Walker. Signed to be the Rams number one wide receiver shortly after the lockout ended, Sims-Walker has been a bust for St. Louis with just one decent game over the team’s first four games (a six reception outing against the Giants in Week 2). After a two-drop performance in Week 4 (the Rams had a Week 5 bye), Sims-Walker was a pre-game inactive this week against the Packers. Danario Alexander, rookie Greg Salas and Brandon Gibson all played in Week 6 and with the Rams sitting at 0-5 and not contending for a playoff spot out and Brandon Lloyd on the way to town, Sims-Walker was unceremoniously handed his walking papers on Monday and lands back with his former team in Jacksonville. Stay away.

Austin Collie, Colts
Last year, Collie caught an amazing 80.6% of his targets. This year, he’s caught just 37.1% of his targets, an equally amazing total for a slot receiver. Which goes to show you that amazing cuts both ways. I’m guessing that the drop off from Peyton Manning to the combo of Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter isn’t the only reason for the huge decline in Collie’s play. There’s basically no reason to keep Collie on your roster.

Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson, Saints
With Marquis Colston back in the line up and Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles playing lights out, there just aren’t enough touches to go around in New Orleans. This week, Moore got three looks while Meachem and Henderson had two each. Last week, they split 12 targets. Unless one of these three emerges, I’m planting them all on my bench.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Dallas Clark, Colts
Tammy Wynette sang “Stand By Your Man” and that’s what I’m doing with Clark, Okay, not really since I had him Moving Down last week. However, he put together his best game of the season this week against the Bengals, catching six of seven targets for 53 yards and his second touchdown of the season. He seems to be on the same page as quarterback Curtis Painter and, just as importantly, the Colts offensive line seems to be holding up better, lessening the need for Clark to stay in to block.

Moving Down

Vernon Davis, 49ers
Just the numbers, baby, just the numbers. Let’s look at average targets per game for Davis. In 2009 when he had a career year with 965 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, it was 8.1. Last year, with the 49ers struggling on offense, it was 5.8. This year, his targets were expected to go back up with new head coach Jim Harbaugh bringing his version of the West Coast offense to the 49ers but they are down once again to 4.7 per game. Targets equal opportunity and whether it’s by design or because of declining skills, Davis is becoming a smaller part of the 49ers offense and that is hurting his fantasy value.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 6

By: — @ 11:18 am
Filed under: Player Analysis

Welcome to the Tuesday Morning Buzz! In Week 6, the plays on the field were less exciting than the action off the field. From coach fights, to empty threats of getting into fights, to quarterback controversies, it was one for the headlines but not very exciting between the hash marks. Let’s get right into the action that did go down.

More run attempts for Turner than pass attempts for Ryan in Week 6.

Panthers– Falcons
The Falcons once again won with the strategy that seems to have sold everyone but them: Run the ball. The more Turner runs the ball, the more dominant the Falcons are. I would take Atlanta in nearly any game versus any opponent if I was guaranteed that Michael Turner’s rushing attempts would outnumber Matt Ryan’s passing attempts. Everyone wants Ryan to be “unleashed,” but the fact is that his team scored 31 points while he had 14 completions for 163 yards and one touchdown. Hopefully for Turner owners and Falcons fans, the coaching staff will realize this and quit trying to be the Chargers or the Saints.

For the Panthers, Newton had (so far) uncharacteristically low passing numbers but salvaged his fantasy day with 50 yards rushing and a touchdown. Since any offensive success on this team runs through Newton, most everyone else had relatively pedestrian fantasy days as well. Jonathon Stewart actually had a nice day, but I just can’t put any stock into either running back until I see some consistency for two or three weeks straight.

Colts – Bengals
Any other year, the Bengals winning this matchup by any means would be unheard of. This year, however, the mighty Bengals brought in the 0-5 Colts and very nearly came to a 20-20 overtime matchup. The final score looks like the Bengals had this game in hand, but it took a blocked field goal and a recovered fumble to make it happen. Curtis Painter almost led the Colts to a coveted fourth-quarter comeback (the most overrated of football stats) and should be a pickup for bye weeks. These Colts are motivated and angry and their fantasy points will start increasing.

49ers – Lions
And you thought the Seahawks getting to the playoffs at 7-9 was a firestorm! Just wait until the 49ers have a first-round bye in the playoffs after they run the table on their division. The Niners are 5-1 right now, with five games left against their own miserably bad division. I wonder if a less fantasy-relevant offense has ever had such a great winning record. Certainly, terrible teams have had very fantasy-relevant offensive stars, but I’m straining to remember a team with double-digit wins that didn’t have a fantasy player I really wanted. The status is quo for the Lions; if fans really thought they were finishing this season with no losses, then the delusion had gone far past the bonds of sanity.

In what was possibly the most entertaining event of the weekend, Lions coach Jim Schwartz erupted after the insufferably great Jim Harbaugh reportedly added injury to insult, literally, by smacking Schwarz then cussing at him. I imagine Jim Harbaugh said, “Hah! Looks like we’re the best f%!&ing terrible team turned great this year!” and then slapped an “actually good team” sign on Schwarz’s back. Of course, the coach of the team that holds the prestigious no-wins-in-a-whole-season award wasn’t going to host any thought of his team not being the sole feel-good reformation story, so Schwartz blew up. Afterwards, Harbaugh blamed the incident on “too hard of a handshake.”

Rams – Packers
Packers are good, Rams are bad. However, late today Brandon Lloyd was traded to the Rams for a fifth- or a sixth-round pick. It will take a couple of weeks for him to get acclimated, but remember the stats he had last year under former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels? If you’ve forgotten, McDaniels is the offensive coordinator in St. Louis now, and Bradford is a heck of a lot better quarterback, talent-wise, than Kyle Orton. Watch for Lloyd to have a big second half if he can manage to avoid the injuries that are wracking the football world this year.

Bills – Giants
Just like the Colts, the Buffalo Bills did an impression of a 2008 team Sunday—the 2008 Buffalo Bills! Those Bills started 4-0 then had a fatal loss of momentum and went 3-9 the rest of the way. At least 2008 draft steal Stevie Johnson caught a touchdown in this game. The Bills started hot but couldn’t maintain as they allowed the Giants to just keep scoring while the Buffalo offense sputtered. For the Giants this week, Ahmad Bradshaw was this close to scoring four touchdowns, and Eli Manning looked above average again. This game was evidence that the season is starting to double back toward preseason expectations.

Jaguars – Steelers
Just like the Rams–Packers game, the Steelers and Jags went down just like it might’ve been scripted. Both quarterbacks combined to complete 24 passes for a 309 yards and two touchdowns (a slow day in comparison to most quarterbacks this year), and each running back carried the offense on their back. Let’s hope both of these teams continue to let their running backs win the battle, because God knows we fantasy owners need better RBs this year.

My Kingdom for an RB!
To that point, where have all the RBs gone? Did you know Fred Jackson, Beanie Wells, and Jahvid Best are top-10 fantasy backs through six weeks? And Willis McGahee ranks 15th! No wonder each team feels weak at RB. After all, how much confidence does McGahee inspire in you? I blame this one on the lockout in an indirect way. It is widely understood that the faster you can put up points, the better chances you have. And it is widely understood that passing against a bad pass defense runs up the score faster than rushing would. With the rule changes (which I support) and the lack of time defenses have had to “gel,” it seems that just about any offense can pass on just about any defense. So, by deduction, if scoring quickly wins, passing scores quickly, and passing is easier than ever, then the running game suffers. As the defenses start to rally, watch for passing numbers to fall and rushing numbers to rise. Buy low on RBs now if you can.

Speaking of rushing, guess who is leading the league? The dynamite combination of Vick and McCoy, of course! Really, there isn’t another team I’d consider over it. McCoy is one of the top scoring RBs each week and the Eagles’ QB is a lock for 50 plus yards a game. It was apparent to anyone who knows the Redskins that they would lose this game. The poor, poor Redskins are the only team better than the Cowboys at shooting themselves in the foot. I wouldn’t touch any Washington player with a 10-foot pole, and I’m starting all Eagles as I normally would for the rest of the season. But, you say, haven’t the Eagles been a low-performance, bad-attitude team all year? Don’t you always say not to start players on teams with their arrows pointing down? Yes, that’s true. Everyone has been down on the Eagles, but the Eagles haven’t been down on themselves. The offense has been clicking in general, and Vick has continued to put up top-3 QB numbers.

Okay, so Flacco and Boldin didn’t do that awesome. Flacco did rush for a touchdown, but that simply countered his interceptions. Boldin did have a good game on an encouraging eight catches but was missing a touchdown that would’ve really made his day. Jacoby Jones had a great day, but let’s see it consecutively before we crown him Andre Johnson II. From what I saw, the Texans got outmuscled without their fantastic receiver and couldn’t stay in the game.

McFadden had a good day against these Browns, but Cleveland has allowed 100-plus yards on the ground to their opponents every game this year. And in that light, McFadden had 91 and a touchdown on 20 carries. Look for him to get even more work in the coming weeks, as the passing game just went down with the loss of Jason Campbell. Until the Raiders can trade for a quarterback and get him integrated, McFadden will approach 30 carries a game. Look for him to be the No. 1 scoring RB next week against the Chiefs in the Black Hole.

Oh, Dallas Cowboys, how do they hate thee? Let me count the ways. It was already penciled in that Dez Bryant and Miles Austin would both have 100 yards and a score or two. Against the worst pass defense in football, each receiver got less than 80 yards and no touchdowns. Just when it looked as if the Patriots would finally lose one at home (it’s been since 2006!), it was as if Dez Bryant were on the sidelines screaming, “What?! We can’t win this game! Can’t you fools see we are meeting our expectations! Coach, call three consecutive run plays and give the ball back to Brady!” and Jason Garrett listened. Pats fans beware: this is the second time this year the Patriots have committed four turnovers in a game. Those are the type of miscues that come back around to bite you.

The Patriots are number one in total offense, the Eagles are three, the Packers are four. So who is number two? The New Orleans Saints, of course. Due to the inflated passing stats this season, being second in passing offense and 18th in rushing offense makes you second overall. However, the Saints did not look like world beaters on Sunday. Once Jimmy Graham fell on head coach Sean Payton (who suffered a torn meniscus and a fractured knee in the accident), the momentum was just sapped from the team. Drew Brees tried to pull his team back from the dregs with another Herculean effort, but not even the Super Bowl-winning, franchise quarterback could pull this one out. However, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham both combined for great fantasy numbers and should be started as the Saints face the Colts then the Rams in Weeks 7 and 8.

For the Bucs, this was a mediocre game that was enough to get a win over a sleeping Saints team in Tampa. Earnest Graham was a nice replacement for LeGarrette Blount, but you have to be feeling pretty nervous about any Buccaneers you may own.

There were really only two statistical stars in this game: The Bears DST and Devin Hester. Hester looked great as he had a couple of incredible returns—including one for a score—and also caught a touchdown from Jay Cutler. You cannot count on this kind of performance every game, however, and the returns are frequent but impossible to predict. Shy away from Hester unless your league allows points for return yardage. For the Vikings, if his name isn’t Adrian Peterson, don’t start him. I don’t care about matchup; there is someone on the waiver wire better than any other Viking

$#^% Chris Collinsworth Says
On rookie QB Christian Ponder:

“And there goes some of the mobility that made him an attractive draft choice. A lot of issues, arm, elbow, shoulder, issues down there. Some surgery and they feel like he’s back to full strength again.”

Now, I’m no grammarian, but I’m not really sure what that one meant. I loved it so much I had to include it though. I’m assuming that Chris was trying to get across that Ponder had some injury questions coming into the draft, though I’m not sure what “issues down there” was referring to. Ponder is the story of this game, however, as it looks like the reins may have finally come off. If he can keep the footballs off the turf, maybe he can take advantage of the passing spree that the rest of the league’s quarterbacks have been enjoying.

Andrew Luck fans, are you prepared to see him in a Dolphins jersey? AFC East fans, does it make you nervous? No pun intended, but luck has not been on the Dolphins’ side when it comes to quarterback, as everyone knows they’ve had a new one nearly every season since Marino hung up his cleats. I, for one, will be very interested to see the Luck–Marshall Combination. Defense wins championships, but I believe that the league is changing so that defense alone won’t get you there. You don’t have to be a spread offense going five-wide, but you have to be able score touchdowns more often than kick field goals. These two offenses are not Super Bowl bound this year because they cannot score points. Obviously, the Dolphins are not even three-win bound, but the Jets have legitimate playoff hopes. If they don’t get this offense shored up and able to score at least a couple of touchdowns per game, they’re going to find tough sledding in winning the division against the Patriots or competing for the wild card.

And there you have it. I’m excited for the Tebow-mania that will ensue in Miami next week as he takes the field after the ’09 Florida Gator championship celebration for his first NFL start . Expect Tebow to throw for 20 touchdowns and rush for eight more. There is no QB I would start over Tim Tebow next week. None.

Denver Ships Brandon Lloyd to the Rams

By: — October 17, 2011 @ 3:00 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

The St. Louis Rams got a head start on Tuesday’s NFL trading deadline by acquiring wide receiver Brandon Lloyd from the Denver Broncos.

In return, published reports indicate the Rams will ship a conditional 6th round pick to Denver that becomes a 5th round pick provided Lloyd catches 30 passes over the Rams final 11 games.

Lloyd is reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

With Denver making the decision a week ago to insert second year player Tim Tebow into the starting line up at quarterback, the Broncos have clearly moved into rebuilding mode. The decision to trade Lloyd comes as little surprise given that he is in the final year of his contract and the Broncos were not willing to sign him to an extension with young players such as 2010 1st round pick Demaryius Thomas, 2010 3rd round pick Eric Decker and 2008 2nd round pick Eddie Royal on the roster.

In St. Louis, Lloyd will be reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who coached the Broncos during the 2010 season when Lloyd enjoyed a career year after languishing on several rosters during the first seven years of his career. With McDaniels leading a pass first offense, Lloyd caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns.

With the offense becoming more conservative under new head coach John Fox, Lloyd had seen his opportunities, and production, diminish. During four games this year, he had accumulated just 19 receptions for 283 yards and no touchdowns.

Fantasy Impact

Almost assuredly, Lloyd immediately becomes Sam Bradford’s top target in St. Louis. It will also be no surprise if free agent signee Mike Sims-Walker is given his release. Sims-Walker has been a bust for the Rams, dropping several passes which led to him being a game day inactive during this week’s game against the Packers.

The question isn’t so much whether Lloyd can duplicate his 2010 success with St. Louis (he can’t) but whether he can provide the Rams and Bradford with the true number one wide receiver they have lacked for years. On that count, Lloyd should be successful although he doesn’t rank amongst the top wide receivers in the league.

Consider solid a low end WR2 or high end WR3 for the balance of the season. If that seems too low, consider the current state of the Rams offense, which has scored two touchdowns in the last three games and put up just three points this week against the Packers.

With Lloyd in town, Danario Alexander’s six-reception, 91-yard performance this week got a whole lot less exciting. Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine the Rams scaling him back too a minimal role given his enormous upside. He rates as a low end WR4 for 2011 but remains a solid dynasty prospect provided his gimpy knees holed up.

The biggest losers from the Lloyd acquisition are Sims-Walker and Brandon Gibson. While Sims-Walker was a long shot to see action on game day barring injury, Gibson may become an afterthought with Lloyd in town and the emergence of Alexander and rookie fourth round pick Greg Salas (eight for 77 this week).

In Denver, another fantasy loser is Tebow. The inexperienced signal caller’s job gets a whole lot tougher with his best wide receiver shipped out of town. While Eric Decker has looked solid thus far in 2011, he benefitted from the additional attention that Lloyd drew playing opposite him.

Thomas is expected to take Lloyd’s place in the starting line up but he has had trouble staying on the field, much less being productive. He missed six games last season due to injury as well as the first five games of this season. Expected to be placed on the physically unable to perform list due to a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in 2010, Thomas proved healthy enough to play in the preseason but broke a finger on his first day of practice.

Decker becomes the Broncos top threat at wide receiver but remains a low end WR3. Thomas remains a solid prospect in dynasty leagues but there’s no point in grabbing him off the waiver wire in redraft formats unless you are truly desperate.

As for Tebow, let’s hope you weren’t relying on him in the first place.

Dave’s Take: Fantasy Football Tips, News & Notes – Week 6

By: — October 14, 2011 @ 2:19 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

1. There probably isn’t a team in the league better at mining late round draft picks and undrafted free agents at the wide receiver position and turning them into productive players than Buffalo. Last year, former 7th round pick Steve Johnson stepped up to become the Bills go to wide receiver and with Lee Evans traded to Baltimore, David Nelson and Donald Jones, both undrafted free agents, stepped to the forefront over the first five weeks of the season. When Jones went out of the game with a high ankle sprain this week against the Eagles, Naaman Roosevelt, another undrafted free agent, took his place and caught five of seven targets for 41 yards. He also scored a 28-yard touchdown in Week 5 on his only target. If you’re looking for an option in a deep league, Roosevelt is worth keeping an eye on.

2. The 49ers lost starting wide receiver Josh Morgan to a potentially season-ending broken leg, leaving a large hole in their starting line up. Former Jet Braylon Edwards isn’t expected to return until after the team’s Week 7 bye, which means Ted Ginn Jr. will start opposite Michael Crabtree. In reserve, San Francisco has a pair of young receivers in Kyle Williams and Brett Swain who have a combined eight career receptions. Look for opposing defenses to put increased attention on tight end Vernon Davis and that may put a damper on his production until the team’s wide receivers start producing.

3. The news out of Cleveland is that rookie 2nd round pick Greg Little will be inserted into the Browns starting line up in Week 6. Little has more athletic ability than the team’s other wide receivers and appears to have shaken off the rust after little activity during his final season in college at North Carolina. While having a player move into the starting line up is generally positive for their fantasy prospects, this move isn’t quite the panacea some have made it out to be. Little was already heavily involved in the team’s passing attack, mostly at the expense of starter Brian Robiskie, with 18 targets over the past three weeks. Look for Little to see more targets than he has but at this point there isn’t any indication that the Browns plan to reduce the roles of Mohamed Massaquoi or Josh Cribbs, who rank 2nd and 4th on the team in targets with 28 and 20.

4. Texans coach Gary Kubiak felt the need to defend wide receiver Jacoby Jones’ performance during the team’s Week 5 loss to the Raiders where Jones put up a lackluster performance in catching just one of 11 targets. As my gramma used to say, it’s not what you say, it’s what you do. To that end, Jones’ fantasy prospects should be based not on what Kubiak said but what the Texans did which was immediately go out and acquire Derrick Mason from the Jets. Jones remains an enigma, a player who clearly has the athletic ability to succeed but has failed miserably in developing a rapport with quarterback Matt Schaub during his four plus seasons in the league. Meanwhile, veteran Kevin Walter did make the most of his increased opportunities this week, catching five of six targets for 81 yards and a score. He’s the Texans wide receiver to use as your replacement for Andre Johnson, not Jones.

5. With Mason out of the picture, rookie 5th round pick Jeremy Kerley becomes the Jets slot receiver and he played well in a Week 5 loss at New England, catching all three of his targets for 35 yards and a touchdown. However, the Jets passing attack can barely provide enough production for the team’s starters so Kerley makes for a poor fantasy option. While he figures to have an increased role in the team’s offense going forward, tight end Dustin Keller figures to benefit more with Mason’s departure and the recent reduction in LaDainian Tomlinson’s playing time. Look for Keller to be featured on more short and intermediate routes.

Driver has lost his fantasy relevance.

6. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was agitated this week when faced with questions over the reduced role of veteran wide receiver Donald Driver. With just nine receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown, Driver has been the 5th most productive wide receiver on the roster behind Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and rookie 2nd round pick Randall Cobb. With Driver having made his opinion known during training camp that he felt he should remain a starter, the last thing McCarthy wants is for his 5-0 Packers to lose focus over the 36-year old Driver’s playing time. Unfortunately for McCarthy, the questions are likely to keep coming because Cobb has played well enough to be a part of the team’s game planning and Jones has come on strong over the last two weeks after a slow start to the season. Look for Driver to remain little more than an afterthought in the Packers dominant passing attack.

7. Sticking with the Packers, this might be the first week in fantasy football history that an offense has eight startable players in one week. With a home game on tap against a Rams team that is ranked 31st against the run and 11th against the pass mostly because teams can run on them at will and they have been playing from so far behind, it’s not a stretch to say that wide receivers Jennings, Nelson, Jones and Cobb along with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tight end Jermichael Finley and running backs James Starks and Ryan Grant are all worthy starters in 12 team leagues. If you’re a Rams fan, yes, it’s that sad.

8. Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams has been a major disappointment thus far in 2011 and noted to the media this week that he’s been playing poorly. However, a closer look reveals that, while Williams play isn’t on par with his performance during his rookie season, opposing defenses and quarterback Josh Freeman are also to blame. Opposing defensive coordinators have been playing softer coverages, forcing Freeman to check the ball down more frequently and causing his yards per attempt to drop from 7.2 last season to just 6.5 in 2011. In addition, he has thrown six interceptions against just three touchdowns and failed to connect on many big plays. Averaging just under eight targets per game, Williams remains the focal point of the team’s passing attack and the Bucs best hope to get increased production in that area over the balance of the season.

9. Sticking with the Bucs, the local Tampa Bay media reported late this week that running back LeGarrette Blount has a torn MCL that will keep him out of the lineup for at least four and possibly up to six weeks. If that’s the case, Earnest Graham figures to take over as the team’s starter during Blount’s absence with Kregg Lumpkin likely in store for a healthy dose of touches. The 31-year old Graham hasn’t had a 15-touch game since Week 9 of the 2008 season and there is little to suggest that he will be a workhorse back for Tampa Bay. That makes Lumpkin a speculative add in deeper leagues and also increases the likelihood the Bucs placing increased reliance on their passing attack until Blount returns.

10. Reports out of Denver indicate that the team has put wide receiver Brandon Lloyd on the trading block. If that’s the case, his fantasy owners should too. Lloyd’s remarkable 2010 season in which he caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns was an amazing story. However, there is a reason why Lloyd had seven seasons of marginal or low production prior to his breakout campaign and that makes the probability of him being traded midseason, having to learn a new playbook and being productive over the balance of the season very low. In essence, if you believe Lloyd will be traded, it’s high time to move him now. And with Lloyd a free agent at season’s end and the Broncos rebuilding and having three solid young receivers in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Eddie Royal, Lloyd’s days in Denver are numbered.

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