Welcome to the Tuesday Morning Buzz! Week 4 is all about finding patterns and things you can count on throughout the bye weeks. To that end, much of this article is about what you can take away and what you should ignore. And now, a moment of silence for the much maligned Replacements.
Pain Heals. Chicks Dig Scars. Glory Lasts Forever.
So, after our glorious debate last week, the NFL caved and gave the regular officials their pension and ridiculous pay increase. Imagine this, not only do you get to keep your pension of yesteryear, you get a 30 percent pay increase over the next five years. Can you imagine a 30 percent pay increase in five years? That is a CEO level of bump. Such is the world of the NFL! However, it is great to have the regulars back again, so that at least the teams and players can focus on playing the game and not on trying to rattle rookie refs. My favorite moment with The Replacement was the ludicrously named Don King and his JFK-esque manner of speech. What was your favorite ref-related instance from the first three weeks?
I’ve got to start this week by eating a little crow. The Browns are better than I thought they were. With high fantasy points from their star RB and WR, as well as confident play from their quarterback, the Browns looked like they just may not be the worst winless team in football. Start Richardson and maybe Little, but relying on Cleveland still terrifies me. The Ravens showed you nothing new this week, as Ray Rice, Joe Flacco, and Anquan Boldin played exactly as you expected they would when you drafted them. Make sure Torrey Smith is owned in your league, as that spotlight is not going away any time soon.
This week, Cam Newton put forth a statistical spectacular of Vick-like proportions, as though saying to fantasy owners, “Look baby, I know I hurt you last week, and I know you’re mad, but let me make it up to you.” At this point, I’d take the preacher’s son over Tom Patkowski. The Falcons have finally become a consistent offensive powerhouse, as they have been talking about for four years. Not only is Matt Ryan throwing the ball like a mad man, but White and Jones are becoming the NFL’s wide receiver tandem of the year. Don’t worry about Jones’ one catch this game; he’ll bounce back next week against a Redskins defense that will contain Roddy White.
The Pats were pissed. They’d been looking downright human the past couple of weeks, and that doesn’t sit too well with a team that considers themselves the cream of the crop—and the Bills only made matters worse by jumping out to a 21-7 lead into the third quarter. Then, with five straight possessions ending in touchdowns, the Pats came back and took a victory. I’m not sure how much I would trust Brandon Bolden, or Wes Welker for that matter, to repeat that performance again this year, but Stevan Ridley earned my vote to start the rest of the season. The Bills aren’t world beaters, but the rookie looked impressive.
For the Bills, it’s an impossible-to-win guessing game as to which one of their WRs will approach 100 yards from week to week, so I would generally stay away if you can. However, I would consider starting Spiller, even in the presence of Fred Jackson. Spiller’s injury is the only thing that kept his touches down in this game.
How ‘bout them Minnesota Vikings? With good fantasy days from Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, whose numbers were helped by a classic return for a touchdown, the Vikings are challenging for a division title (which they won’t win). However, as long as a team thinks they’re good, they’ll continue to play excellently until someone deflates them. And since they’ve recently won the toughest game on their schedule (49ers), it may be some time before the Vikings fall into fantasy insignificance.
For Detroit, it was good to see Matthew Stafford return and throw 51 passes for 319 yards, plus running back Mikel Leshoure rushed with every meaningful carry in the game—a pattern likely to repeat for higher rewards. Leshoure may be easy to trade for with your flex WR, and he is likely to be a much better value.
In the wake of an injury to Jake Locker early on, Chris Johnson flourished under the quarterback play of Matt Hasselbeck. Amazingly, when a competent quarterback stands behind them, the offensive line suddenly performs and Johnson suddenly has legs again. This likely has to do with defenses respecting Matt Hasselbeck, but that should provide a bit of breathing room, and as we all know, a little bit of room is all Johnson needs to take it all the way.
For the Texans, the only real news is the resurgence of Owen Daniels. Just in the nick of time, too, as he should fill in nicely for TEs on bye. Six receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown is no fluke.
If you ever need a replacement defense—say, if you own the now Revis-less Jets—the Chargers are always a good choice. They never seem all that dominant, even when they are first in the league, as they were a couple of years ago, but they will likely be a top-10 DST by season’s end. Also, look for Ryan Mathews to come back and be a workhorse in the coming weeks—that is, if he can stay on the field.
The Chiefs have exactly two players worth owning in 10-team leagues: Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles. Both played highly important roles in the Chiefs’ limited success on Sunday, and both are automatic starts most weeks. If you picked Charles at value, you should feel extremely confident in the explosive back’s play for the rest of the year.
What is there to say that hasn’t already been said by these San Francisco 49ers? The defense is fantastic, the offense is good enough, and their fantasy value is a razor-thin line between not-enough and decent. Essentially, Frank Gore is matchup-proof and should be started at all times, with Kendall Hunter waiting in the wings for his inevitable fall.
For the Jets, is Greg McElroy the best passer on this team? I hate to be so terrible to Mark Sanchez, who just got paid and has a great record, but I’ve liked McElroy since college. I’ve spoken at length on how a quarterback’s brain is more important than his arm or legs in modern-age football, and this is why Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are able to play at the level they do. Not to mention his Rhodes scholarship finalist status, McElroy scored a 48 out of 50 on the Wonderlic test (twice the average score of quarterbacks) and was sadly underwritten.
Why do I bring this up? In my opinion, the Jets are sitting on a goldmine in McElroy and will someday be rewarded if the Sanchez–Tebow combination ever gets run out of town. I don’t know what will happen if this team continues to flounder, but if they give McElroy a real starter’s chance, I believe he will change the concept and the skill level of the Jets offense on the field. He’s definitely worth a pickup if the Jets continue to flame out.
How sad is the state of affairs for these offenses when there is but one player between both teams who is worth starting each week? Marshawn Lynch broke free from the bonds of Buffalo and has since electrified the Seattle fanbase, but otherwise there are no fantasy studs in this matchup. “But what about Steven Jackson?” you ask. Jackson has taken 59 carries for 195 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and has scored as many touchdowns as Marshall Faulk this season. Don’t let the name and the NFL Shop commercials fool you—Stevan Ridley will end this season with more points.
In Training Camp Hype, yours truly stated that, “Brian Hartline is the best thing [the Dolphins] have got talent-wise, and that is certainly damning with faint praise.” I have known that the wide receiver was good since his Ohio State days. However, he has always been good for a few big catches per year but has never been an every-week starter. We shall see if he can turn that corner and become a consistent target for Ryan Tannehill. Either way, he is definitely worth a bench spot—at least as trade bait—in case he turns out.
Another DST unit in the same underrated and ugly class as the San Diego Chargers is that of the Arizona Cardinals. They are so good up front that they can sometimes pressure the quarterback with only two down linemen. They don’t always hold off a high point total, but they’re usually good for some defensive bonus points. And in the manner of Brian Hartline, I would also consider stashing Ryan Williams, just in case the Cardinals do the sensible thing and feature him.
What? The Raiders played a sloppy football game and got forced to play out of their comfort zone in a big divisional matchup on the road versus Peyton Manning? You don’t say! I hope you started your Broncos, as Manning, McGahee, Thomas, and Decker all did very well for themselves, and should continue to produce when the matchup is favorable enough. This was a game that went exactly as the Broncos drew it up. Get to a lead early to reduce the risk of Darren McFadden, and then pummel the weak Raiders passing offense with lockdown D. Raiders fans should have heart, though, as McFadden and Sebastian “White Trash Awesome” Janikowski will continue to be startable in all formats.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis owners everywhere must have ripped their hair out when Andy Dalton scored the only rushing touchdown of the game for either side. Sadly, Green-Ellis’ stat line looks a little flat with 82 yards and zero touchdowns. I still maintain that he will end the year ranked far higher than he was drafted due to the Bengals red-zone rushing tendencies, but this definitely put a hamper on his week. He should fare better next week when they play the Dolphins in Cincy.
Marcedes Lewis, similar to Martellus Bennett, is a low-value waiver-wire TE pickup. Perhaps you have Jermichael Finley or Jason Witten and are looking for a replacement until they get it together. If so, look no farther than Lewis, who has quietly had two excellent games this year. He’s definitely a matchup play, but TE is tough this year.
Drew Brees, last year’s rightful MVP according to yours truly, showed his mettle on Sunday, throwing for 446 yards, three touchdowns, and just a dash of hope for fantasy owners. Most of the scoring in this game has to do with the bad defensive play of both teams, and little to do with the power of either offense. Rest assured that Marques Colston probably has his best game behind him and should be shipped off to the highest bidder. Brees will not allow this team to quit on this season, so expect point production all year long from at least Brees and Graham.
A couple of interesting points for the Packers: James Jones believed in himself and filled in nicely for the oft-injured Greg Jennings. Perhaps those Jet Ski push-ups aren’t the best rehab option for a groin injury. Cedric Benson also showed up briefly and ran against the Saints’ miserably weak run defense. Around 85 yards and maybe a touchdown is about the best performance you can expect from Benson, who won’t get a lot of carries in a five-wide Packers offense.
I want to say that Alfred Morris has earned a role as a fantasy starter. However, the arrival of Ryan Grant may throw a wrench into those plans. If you drafted RGIII as the backup to any quarterback, sell your previous starter as quickly as possible. Griffin’s going to be just fine all season long and should produce staggering fantasy numbers. For the Buccaneers, Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount cannibalize far too much of each other’s game to make either anything more than a bye-week fill-in. The Bucs passing game is clicking, however, as Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson played excellent games on Sunday and should continue to produce for the remainder of the season.
In Week 1, I brought to your attention the R.E. Shay quote, “Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit,” after the Eagles managed a 1-point victory over the Cleveland Browns in a game rife with turnovers. This statement still holds true, as the Eagles won their third of four games this season by less than one field goal—thanks to a rare miss by Lawrence Tynes—and Michael Vick has been a one-man turnover machine (albeit he was clean this week).
This year, the Giants have found early success on the stat sheet and in the win column, which means one of two things: Either this will be Eli Manning’s best season to date, or the Giants will fizzle out by playing their best football early. Remember, this team has made their hay by turning it on late the past few years. Your Giants starters may become less valuable as the season wears on, so it would be prudent to keep a close eye on their momentum.
“God Bless Tony Romo—They need to change the words of this song!”
All of my frustration with Gruden’s berating of The Replacements last week was gone, as he related Cutler to my favorite spaghetti western character, Josey “Buzzards Gotta Eat Too” Wales. If you haven’t seen Clint Eastwood’s Josey Wales flick, do yourself a favor and check it out—it’s fantastic. If you didn’t catch Gruden’s pre-game, he also compared Tony Romo to John Wayne in stating, “This is the toughest Cowboy in Texas.”
I don’t see how someone could have written a script more telling of the storylines for these two teams. The Cowboys came out, at home, and threw away the game by throwing the ball to the other team. Those interceptions were all good plays by the defense on ruined routes by the Dallas wide receivers, but it will all be blamed on Tony Romo. However, Romo did end up cancelling out some turnovers with a touchdown throw early, and Kyle Orton helped the slow-starting Jason Witten save his fantasy day with a late touchdown. For the Bears, it was a good, but not great, offensive performance. Cutler had a modest stat line, and Brandon Marshall racked up some yardage and a touchdown on a busted play in garbage time. These Bears are for real if they can ever develop a consistent O-line. I’m looking to a strong remainder of the season from Forte, Cutler, and Marshall.
P.S. How weird and awesome was that Los Lonely Boys intro? I have no idea who they are, but I hope ESPN continues to make really cool region-pieces for all of their Monday Night Football games.
And that’s it! Week 4 is in the proverbial books and there was not much controversy to mar the actual football talk of the week. For Week 5, I believe you should maximize matchup decisions and bye-week fill-ins using players from the following teams: Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Chargers, and Texans. Feel free to ask me questions in the comments here or on my brand new Twitter account!