Welcome to the Tuesday Morning Buzz! At the halfway point of the season, it seems that the league is more muddied than clear. The Rams defeated the Saints, the Eagles beat the Cowboys, and the Ravens can barely hang with the worst of the league.
Cardinals – Ravens
If the Ravens could have 15 minutes back this season, I’m fairly certain it would be the second quarter of this game. They allowed a rush, a punt return, and a pass for a touchdown in that short period of time. Because of that quarter, criticism of Joe Flacco will continue to resonate through media and with fans in Baltimore, despite a 339-yard and one-interception day. Because Rice rushed for all of the touchdowns and because the Ravens defense couldn’t hold the Cardinals offense, Flacco will continue to be lambasted. That being said, this was probably the worst pass defense that the Ravens will play this year, and Flacco still had relatively unimpressive stats. I’m starting someone other than Flacco, including some scary options like Carson Palmer or Andy Dalton, for the rest of this year.
For the Cardinals, my favorite prospect from last year’s draft, Patrick Peterson, saw some highlight glory in the form of a return for a touchdown. The replay shows just a glimpse of the LSU alum’s great talent, but it firmly displays how amazing he can be. Watch for Peterson to make the Cardinal’s DST worth starting in years to come.
Vikings – Panthers
Speaking of hyper-talented Petersons, how about Adrian Peterson? We all know of his physical beastliness, but he continues to prove why he’s the best running back in the game. Count yours truly among the unsurprised if Christian Ponder rises to fantasy relevance by year’s end, thanks to the run-heavy defenses that the Vikings see on nearly every play. For the Panthers, newly enthroned football god Cam Newton continued to shine. There are exactly two Panthers worth starting in any given standard league: Newton and Steve Smith. It’s likely you have to start DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart if you drafted them, but I wouldn’t feel too good about it.
Jaguars – Texans
In what might have been the most boring game with playoff implications, the Texans defeated the Jaguars in Houston. Both defenses keyed on stopping the running backs, and in a pass-only game, the Texans were sure to win. Their offense has playmakers as potent as the Saints or the Packers, but the story is the same every week. As long as the big man, Andre Johnson, is out, that offense is missing the piece that can take them from good to great. Once Johnson returns, expect a week of rustiness and then that elite play-action deep bomb we’ve come to know and love.
Dolphins – Giants
I don’t understand putting coaches in lame-duck situations. Is there a chance that Tony Sparano is the coach next year? If not, let him go. Sparano desperately wants a win for his future resume, but the Dolphins should be looking to go 0-16 to bring in Andrew Luck. Why continue to allow a soon-to-be fired head coach to build game plans that are a conflict of interest with your organization? Dolphins ownership should thank goodness that they were able to pull the loss out in the end. In other news, one of my favorite unsung hero running backs, Steve Slaton, scored a touchdown this weekend. Hopefully he can prove himself enough to get a share of playing time somewhere.
For the Giants, it was business as usual: Do enough to get a win but don’t do anything that actually proves you’re a good team. Victor Cruz had another nice day and has proven to me that he’s worth rostering in every league. The Giants offense appears to have reasserted itself into fantasy relevance, but I wouldn’t touch their defense with a 10-foot pole.
Saints – Rams
The Saints cannot stand up to a punishing runner; it’s why the Falcons are such a matchup twice a year. New Orleans is a great team when they can pull opponents into a shootout, but when they get drawn into a “smashmouth” football game, they’re likely outmuscled (as with the Falcons, Texans, etc.). For the Rams, winning this game was a necessity. Of the teams in contention to draft Andrew Luck, the Rams are the only team for whom it would make no sense. Sam Bradford will be a phenomenal quarterback for them once (or if) the rest of the roster is in order.
P.S. Isn’t it terrible how Steven Jackson’s greatness has been lost in the quagmire of a miserable decade of Rams football? If he were on a great team, his popularity would know no bounds.
P.P.S. What’s with Jed Collins’ weird cereal-eating move?
Colts – Titans
What happened to Indy? A few weeks ago they were on Sunday Night Football determined to show that there were 52 other men on that roster who deserved NFL checks. Now it seems that these Indianapolis Colts, who consider themselves championship pedigree, are too good to lose with dignity. They’ve totally given up on this season and have checked out. Have they even considered that they’re possibly forcing Peyton Manning out by losing each week? For the Titans, Javon Ringer nearly doubled Chris Johnson’s output, as CJ2K continues to prove why holding out ruins your season. Sunday was a good look for the Titans DST, but I’m wary of forming any opinion on a team playing these Colts.
Bills – Redskins
The Buffalo Bills tied once again for first in the AFC East in a shutout against the lowly Washington Redskins. I went against instinct and tried to start a Shanahan-coached RB in Roy Helu and suffered greatly for it. There are no Redskins worth owning or starting. For the Bills, in addition to throwing off their jinx of losing in Toronto, they also won coming off their bye week, which has been a major issue for teams this year because of the new rules in the CBA. The Bills had an average day as far as fantasy points are concerned, though Scott Chandler continues to get points that used to belong to Steve Johnson.
Lions – Broncos
In what was a very interesting game on paper, the season’s two biggest fan sensations faced off in Mile High Stadium this week. Tim Tebow again completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes—for 172 yards and as many TDs (1) as INTs (1). And, again, he ran for a solid amount of yards but failed to get into the end zone on the ground. With no time in the pocket and no options, this mediocre-to-poor fantasy day and worse real-life result was about the best you could hope for from Tebow. However, I still maintain that with a year of starts and another offseason of practice, combined with a solid draft, Tebow could easily get this team 8-10 wins.
For the Lions, it was a day to get right. Stafford is hurt, Best is hurt, but Calvin Johnson is still the man. The Lions went on the road, got an easy win, and got their team amped up for next week’s bye and then a huge Week 10 matchup against the Bears at Soldier Field.
P.S. Pick up Titus Young. He’s a great bye-week fill-in.
Patriots – Steelers
In addition to some great football, this contained my favorite hyper-specific stat of the week. As Ben Roethlisberger took the field, Jim Nantz announced that the Steelers quarterback had compiled the first “ten touchdowns in one month since 1990.” Now, the stat was meant to show how great of a sergeant Roethlisberger has been this year, which cannot be overstated—though neither can the ridiculousness of such a hyper-specific stat.
The Steelers controlled this entire game and the contest was not nearly as close as the final score may appear. The Patriots have been a powerhouse all year, but they were simply out-muscled and intimidated by the Steelers defense on Heinz Field this Sunday. Case in point:
There was 11:10 remaining in the second quarter. The Patriots have the ball and have just started to really get going (they only hiked a few snaps in the first quarter). While Tom Brady is adjusting the play at the line, Polamalu sneaks up and screams something right into Logan Mankins’ face. The Steelers all-pro Safety then backs up for a second, surveys Brady’s adjustments, then quickly moves right back into Mankins’ face and Mankins jumps for a false start. This is why Polamalu and the Steelers D are the best at their game.
For the Steelers, Roethlisberger had more than 30 pass attempts in the first half alone. Watch for Rashard Mendenhall’s value to continue to sink and Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders’ value to continue to rise. However, if I could trade Roethlisberger for a great RB or WR and start Ryan Fitzpatrick or Eli Manning, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Bengals – Seahawks
Alright, so I started this year screaming not to draft A.J. Green or Andy Dalton as fantasy options. The Bengals ownership and coaching staff are a mess, but the raw talent and drive of the young, talented players has started to shine through. My number two mantra in football is “don’t pick high talent guys on teams with their arrows pointing down.” At the beginning of the year, one could argue that no one’s arrow was pointing more downward than that of the Bengals. However, they’re now on a four-game tear and their arrow is obviously pointing up. That means start your Bengals, as momentum and attitude is swinging their way. The Seahawks are proof of the negative side of this philosophy, as they have talented players (Sidney Rice, Tavaris Jackson, Marshawn Lynch) that are doing nothing and are not worth owning in fantasy because they’re stuck in a bad system.
Browns – 49ers
I’m not certain on the fantasy relevance of any 49ers, as Frank Gore is an injury guarantee and their passing offense just hasn’t impressed me enough, but their arrow is also obviously pointing up now. The 49ers played just as they should have this week, and hopefully a lot of people won pick ‘ems (and maybe some cash in Vegas) on the nine-point spread these 49ers laid and still won. For the Browns, Montario Hardesty went down but Peyton Hillis should be back next week. For that reason, on top of the fact that the Browns are a terrible team, I would not pick up any other Cleveland running back—even if both Hillis and Hardesty are out next week.
Cowboys – Eagles
Nnamdi Asomugha and the Eagles D came in playing coverage tighter than Faith Hill’s leather biking suit. There were a few passes allowed to Jason Witten and one big play to Laurent Robinson that they would like to have back, but overall the defense looked very good against a Cowboys O that is no joke. DeMarco Murray didn’t get the amount of attempts that he would’ve liked coming off a huge performance last week, but when you get down three scores in the blink of an eye, there isn’t much time for the run game. Keep starting Murray; the Cowboys seemed committed to him early on.
$#^% Chris Collinsworth Says
Chris on the Cowboys run defense:
“No offense to LeSean McCoy, but a lot of people could run through that hole!”
This week my favorite color commentator lent his great skill of overstatement to the domination of the Eagles over the Cowboys. LeSean McCoy went as DeMarco Murray for Halloween and absolutely gashed the bogusly ranked, No. 1 rush defense of the Cowboys. However, it was not McCoy’s talent alone, as our intrepid analyst so eloquently put it. The Eagles O-line looked as if Juan Castillo were still coaching them. The Cowboys came in expecting the deep pass and got picked apart by McCoy and Brent Celek. I’m not sure I believe in Celek’s resurrection, as Vick has never passed in high percentage to the tight end, but McCoy could very well end this year as fantasy’s top rusher.
P.S. Doesn’t Chris Collinsworth look like Will Arnett in 20 years?
Chargers – Chiefs
How ‘bout them Chiefs! Neither team looked very good Monday night, but the Chiefs are on a four-game winning streak. The Triple-B receiving corps hauled in Matt Cassel passes for nearly 200 yards combined, but they caught only one touchdown. Watch for these Kansas City receivers to catch at least two touchdowns next week as they host the miserable Dolphins. For the Chargers, it has to get better. It has been their bread and butter the past few years to get better as the season progresses, so I’m buying low on the San Diego starters that everyone else is bailing on. If you can get Rivers, Jackson, Mathews, or Tolbert for cheap, I say go for it. Watch for the Chargers to right their offensive woes against a weak Green Bay secondary next week.
And that’s it! I don’t know about you, but I’m in denial that the regular season is already halfway over. After the longest offseason in recent memory, this has seemed to be the fastest regular season so far. Watch next week for the Steelers to defeat the spiraling Ravens in Pittsburgh, as this series nearly always splits. Despite the reputation of the Steelers defense, I’m taking Pittsburgh in all pick ‘ems and I’m starting all my Steelers in all formats next week.