Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — December 21, 2012 @ 3:18 pm
Has Luck hit the rookie wall?
1. Currently on pace to set a rookie record for passing yards and lead Indianapolis to a wild card playoff berth, the Colts Andrew Luck has lived up to his billing as the premier quarterback in the 2012 rookie draft. While Luck has played well, he appears to have hit the rookie wall over the last two weeks as the Indianapolis offense has struggled against the defenses of the Titans and Texans. With a subpar offensive line, the Colts struggles against Houston were hardly surprising as the team managed just 196 passing yards and 272 total yards in a 27-19 loss. Most concerning was the play of the offense in a 27-23 win over the Titans as the offensive line struggled to protect Luck, who was held under a 50% completion and finished the game with just 196 passing yards. In fact, Luck has completed fewer than 50% of his passes in three straight games and has completed just 54.6% of his passes for the season. While the Colts are likely to secure a playoff berth, a first round exit seems likely unless the team’s offensive line regains its health and the Colts rediscover the strong passing attack that has led them to a 9-5 record.
2. Sticking with rookie passers, in Miami, the Dolphins Ryan Tannehill has also enjoyed solid success as a rookie, throwing for 2,929 yards with 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions through 14 games. Tannehill has been more of a caretaker of the Dolphins offense, throwing for a career-high 431 yards in Week 9 but failing to top 300 yards in any other game while failing to top 200 passing yards seven times. However, the issue with the Dolphins passing attack isn’t so much Tannehill’s play as that of the wide receivers. Miami has arguably the least talented group of wide receivers in the league as its decision to sign Chad Johnson in the preseason and go with Brian Hartline in the leading role has proven to be disastrous. While Hartline has had some decent games, he is more suited to a backup role as is fellow starter Davone Bess. With Greg Jennings hitting free agency and unlikely to be back in Green Bay, it won’t be a surprise if he joins his former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin in Miami. That seems a match that will almost certainly come to fruition in early February.
3. In a marriage of convenience, the Broncos signed former Saints cornerback Tracey Porter to a one-year, $4-million contract in the offseason in the hopes that he would shore up the starting position opposite perennial Pro Bowler Champ Bailey. While the Broncos have shored up the position, Porter has spent most of the season on the bench as injuries and his poor play early in the season have cost him playing time. Both Chris Harris, a second year former undrafted free agent, and Tony Carter, a 2009 former undrafted agent, have passed Porter on the depth chart. Given his lack of playing time, Porter will likely be on another one-year deal in 2013, this time with his third team in three years and for far less money than he will earn in 2012.
4. The 49ers Randy Moss became the third all time leader in receiving yards this week in San Francisco’s win over New England. With 15,220 receiving yards, Moss passed former Ram Isaac Bruce.
5. Raiders backup running back Mike Goodson has had an up and down four-year career. Drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 draft by the Panthers, Goodson barely played as a rookie but was productive in 2010 when injuries struck DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Goodson finished that year with 452 rushing yards, 310 receiving yards and three touchdowns despite receiving seven or fewer touches in ten games. He spent most of 2011 on injured reserve before the Panthers gave up on him this year, trading him to the Raiders. After missing time with two separate injuries, Goodson had 89 yards on 13 carries this week and should see decent playing time over the balance of the season. With 2011 4th round pick Taiwan Jones being a non-factor during his first two years in the league and the Raiders with plenty of other needs, look for Oakland to make a solid effort to re-sign Goodson as Darren McFadden’s backup for 2013.
6. The Vikings have made an unexpected playoff run in 2012, currently sitting as the NFC’s 6th seed on the strength of Adrian Peterson’s outstanding season. While the Vikings are thought of as a young team (and to some extent they are), they are also loaded with players whose contracts will expire within two years, not to mention the current situation with enigmatic wide receiver Percy Harvin, who seems at odds with Vikings management. Four starters are free agents at the end of this season, the most important of which are starting right tackle Phil Loadholt and linebacker Jasper Brinkley. However, Harvin and defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison lead the brigade of players hitting unrestricted free agency after the 2013 season. Vikings management will need to dole out plenty of long-term extensions to avoid having the team gutted over the next two years.
7. The 2012 rookie draft is being hailed as the best draft ever with respect to quarterbacks, with only the 1983 draft being in consideration of that honor. That draft provided the league with a number of Pro Bowl quality quarterbacks in Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly as well as other players who enjoyed productive careers. However, this class appears likely to feature at least four players who figure to remain starters for several years in Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson. In addition to those players, Brandon Weeden has likely shown enough to remain the starter in Cleveland in 2013 regardless of who is spearheading the team’s football operations and Nick Foles will likely enter next season as the Eagles starter. Perhaps most impressive of all is that Luck, Griffin and Wilson have the chance to lead their team to playoff berths, a remarkable achievement considering each of their franchise’s had losing records a year ago.
By: Dave Stringer — December 18, 2012 @ 10:13 am
Wilson: Saving his best for last.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Despite a middling fantasy performance in Week 14 due to a blowout 58-0 win over the Cardinals, Wilson is averaging 27.9 FPts/G over the last three weeks making him the 2nd rated fantasy quarterback over that period. This week, he did it once again, throwing for 205 yards and a touchdown and managing three rushing touchdowns and 92 yards on the ground in another Seahawks blowout win, this time over the Bills. Wilson’s been using his legs more in the last few weeks and that’s padding his fantasy point totals.
Mark Sanchez, Jets
Yeah, the receivers are bad but Sanchez made a pile of awful decisions on Monday night. Decisions that a player wit four years of experience and 61 career starts under his belt should not be making.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Sure, Kaepernick’s fantasy point total looked good, courtesy of his 216 passing yards and four touchdown passes but those touchdowns weren’t exactly beauties and he could have had even more if he knew enough to put some air under the ball. Announcers drive me nuts with their fawning over newbies and that’s what happened this week with Kaepernick. Dude’s got plenty of potential but he was 14 of 25 this week despite having a whole host of wide-open receivers to throw to.
Josh Freeman, Bucs
The Bucs season was likely over anyway but Freeman provided the last nail in the proverbial coffin, courtesy of his four pick effort against the Saints.
Vick Ballard, Colts
Ballard’s getting it done in the running game for a Colts team that hasn’t been able to muster a consistent rushing attack over the past several years. The rookie 5th round pick topped 100 yards for the first time in his career this week despite facing a tough Texans run defense and with Donald Brown having another injured plagued season, look for Ballard to be the lead dog in Indy in 2013.
Beanie Wells, Cardinals
Three touchdowns was nice but the 3.9 yards per carry average against the Lions was somewhat modest. Up next are the Bears and 49ers and let’s make the assumption the Cards won’t roll up 38 points against those defenses. In fact, let’s make the assumption they won’t score 38 points in total to finish out the season.
Danny Woodhead, Patriots
Meet the only Patriots running back who didn’t fumble during this week’s home loss to the 49ers. His reward? Touches and plenty of them. Woodhead was a focal point of New England’s furious comeback, gaining 61 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 12 carries and catching five passes for 23 yards. With easy matchups against the Jaguars and Dolphins up next and the playoffs just around the corner, here’s betting that head coach Bill Belichick will send a message to Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen by loading up on Woodhead’s touches over the balance of the season.
Curtis Brinkley and Jackie Battle, Chargers
With Ryan Mathews lost for the season, Brinkley or Battle will likely step into the starting line-up. While Battle may be the better player at the moment, look for Brinkley to gain the majority of the touches as he is the younger player and the Chargers may want to see what they have in him. Of course, he hasn’t done much so maybe they already know the answer to that question.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Touted by the Chargers to become a heavy touch, Pro Bowl caliber running back this season (not to mention consensus top five fantasy back), Mathews was a total bust as injuries and ineffectiveness ruined his season. Headed to injury reserve with another broken clavicle, Mathews will finish his 3rd season in the league with 707 rushing yards, 252 receiving yards and one touchdown. Given his inability to stay healthy, it won’t be a surprise if San Diego uses a mid-tier selection in this year’s draft to provide some competition for him.
Stevan Ridley, Patriots
Two fumbles, one lost, a trip to the bench and nine carries for 23 yards. Ridley carried some teams to the fantasy playoffs but his fumbleitis likely cost more than a few fantasy owners a win this week. And therein lies the conundrum of owning Ridley or any New England back over the last several years. All it takes is a fumble or two and a bad performance to see a player’s workload decrease dramatically that week and in subsequent weeks.
Antonio Brown, Steelers
Look who’s back and hopefully just in time to help his fantasy owners grab a championship. After a pair of okay performances since returning from injury, Brown was Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target this week, hauling in eight receptions on 12 targets for 76 yards and a score, his second straight game finding the end zone. Brown is averaging 8.8 targets per game this year and with the running game struggling, expect plenty of looks for Brown over the remainder of the season.
Brandon Lloyd, Patriots
A disappointment for much of the season, Lloyd has become a big part of the Patriots offense over the past two weeks, catching 17 of his 26 targets for 279 yards and a touchdown. With New England playing from behind this week, he set a career-high with 190 receiving yards and was Tom Brady’s go to guy on the deep ball. Maybe the Patriots have finally figured out that’s what he does best and that’s why they signed him.
Danny Amendola, Rams
The little man that could is finally back fully healthy and immediately returns to his role as the Rams top wide receiver. He was only decent this week, with six receptions on 12 targets for 58 yards and a score, but he was shaking off the rust so expect better performances to end the season as he attempts to gain leverage for offseason contract negotiations with St. Louis.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Weekly Fitz update. Four receptions for 22 yards this week. Guess the Cardinals got the screen game going this week. No, I wasn’t watching. Five weeks totals: ten receptions for 89 yards. That’s 1.8 FPts/G, folks.
Jonathan Baldwin, Chiefs
He was Moving Up last week based on opportunity so it is only fair that he’s Moving Down this week based on squandered opportunity. No receptions on four targets. Looks like the Chiefs have two options at wide receiver. Give in to Dwayne Bowe’s salary demands or draft another wide receiver high.
Danario Alexander, Chargers
A donut at precisely the wrong time. Ouch.
Dennis Pitta, Ravens
Slow week at tight end so Pitta gets the nod to be Moving Up. He had the best game of his three year career this week, setting career highs in receiving yards with 125 and touchdowns with two while hauling in seven of 10 targets. He had disappeared from the Ravens offense for several weeks but apparently in back in vogue.
Vernon Davis, 49ers
Hey, what team needs a blazing fast tight end when they have Michael Crabtree? The San Francisco 49ers, that’s who. Davis got open for a touchdown this week but unfortunately Colin Kaepernick couldn’t get him the ball. Can’t remember what happened on his other TWO TARGETS.
By: Dave Stringer — December 15, 2012 @ 12:11 am
1. With former commissioner Paul Tagliabue ruling that the Bountygate suspensions should be vacated and placing the blame for the scandal squarely at the feet of the New Orleans Saints management and coaching staff, we can safely now conclude on who the real losers were in relation to this whole fiasco. First off, the Saints organization and their fans come out as losers as they watched their team struggle out of the gate to an 0-4 start on their way to their current 5-8 record. A team just two years removed from a Super Bowl victory and with a talented roster was not able to overcome the adversity that Bountygate brought to the organization and head coach Sean Payton shares plenty of blame in this regard. Not only did Bountygate happen on his watch but Payton refused to hand over the reigns of the coaching staff to an experienced hand such as defensive coordinator Steve Spagnolo, instead relying on inexperienced offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who in fact held that title in name only prior to this season. General manager Mickey Loomis presumably also had a hand in that regrettable decision. Secondly, Roger Goodell has clearly been exposed as a commissioner more interested in laying down his version of the NFL’s law and playing the league’s top sheriff as opposed to being a calm voice of reason, capable of balancing the facts of a case, arriving at a fair conclusion and dishing out punishment that is warranted without being heavy-handed. One can only guess as to Goodell’s true personality but it’s not hard to imagine him being the smartest person in all the rooms he walks into. He clearly wants his legacy to be that of the law and order commissioner who stood up for player safety but his desire to fulfill that legacy clearly clouded his judgment in this case. And having scuttled the Saints season because he was unable to view the facts in the proper light should net Goodell some sanctions of his own, perhaps even his job. However, given the solid state of the league’s overall affairs, and especially their sound financial footing despite the state of the American economy over the last several years, that is a remote possibility at best.
2. Sticking with the Saints, their prospects for 2013 aren’t great given the uncertainty surrounding the team’s coaching staff as well as the team’s current salary cap situation and a defense loaded with aging veterans. Payton will be a free agent once he is reinstated by Goodell, leaving him free to negotiate with any team. Saints owner Tom Benson isn’t exactly known for tossing money around like a drunken sailor so there are no guarantees Payton will return, particularly given the uncertain future of Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. On defense, the Saints have struggled in 2012, relying on veteran mainstays such Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer and Roman Harper. While all of those veterans remain useful players, collectively the Saints defense lacks the speed necessary to defend against the league’s faster skill position players. In addition, the lack of a pass rush hurt the team this season although 2011 first-round pick Cameron Jordan appears on the verge of being a Pro Bowl quality player. With the Saints well over next year’s expected salary cap, New Orleans will be forced to purge a number of veterans from the roster and the defensive shortcomings this season dictate that the purge will focus on that side of the ball, particularly if Payton, an offensive minded coach, returns in 2013.
Jennings will likely be in a new uniform in 2013.
3. Entering a contract year and having suffered an abdominal tear in Week 1 that caused him to miss eight games while watching 2011 2nd round pick Randall Cobb emerge as a potential leading wide receiver in the Packers offense, veteran Greg Jennings has plenty of reasons to be motivated over the final three games of the season. Jennings has clearly not been his normal self over the past two weeks, hauling in just five receptions for 73 yards. Clearly the Packers leading wide receiver entering the season, there are now serious doubts as to whether he will remain in Green Bay following 2012. With Cobb emerging as a solid threat, Jordy Nelson coming off a career year in 2011 and James Jones having a career year this season and signed to a modest contract in 2013, it won’t qualify as a surprise if Jennings is in a new uniform in 2013. Not helping matters is the team’s desire to sign certain veterans to contract extensions before their current deals are up.
4. The Steelers offensive line struggled to stay healthy in 2011 and that remains the case this season with only left tackle Max Starks, signed to shore up in the line during the preseason, remaining healthy for the entire season. At this point, veteran guard Ramon Foster will line up on the left side for the injured Willie Colon while rookie 1st round pick David Decastro is expected to see his first action of the season as right guard playing alongside fellow rookie Kelvin Beachum, a 7th round pick. Center Maurkice Pouncey has missed time for the second consecutive season while rookie 2nd round pick Mike Adams has struggled when in the line-up at right tackle for the injured Marcus Gilbert. Add it all up and it appears that the Steelers are likely to address the offensive line once again in the 2013 draft.
5. Despite the readily apparent lack of playmakers on the Dolphins offense, there are no assurances that veteran running back Reggie Bush will return to the team for the 2013 season. A free agent at season’s end, Bush entered 2012 coming off a contract year but he has not lived up to the team’s expectations, even being benched at one point this season. With 2011 3rd round pick Daniel Thomas and rookie 4th round pick Lamar Miller waiting in the wings, the Dolphins could very well decide that it is time for a changing of the guard at running back with the salary cap space that re-signing Bush would require being allocated to the wide receiver position, where the Dolphins have what is arguably the least talented depth chart in the league. With Miami having made little to no effort to re-sign Bush, the odds are looking good that he will be elsewhere in 2013.
By: Dave Stringer — December 11, 2012 @ 6:06 pm
Kirk Cousins, Redskins
With RGIII battling a knee injury, Cousins may step into the starting line-up this week. Roundly panned for using a 4th round pick on Cousins after surrendering a bundle of picks to the Rams in order to draft RGIII with the 2nd pick in the draft, head coach Mike Shanahan is looking pretty smart for taking Cousins given his performance in limited playing time this season. He came off the bench to get the Redskins into overtime against the Ravens and helped earn the team a win and looked decent in Week 5 against the Falcons. RGIII owners should feel starting him this week against the Browns if the need arises.
Nick Foles, Eagles
With his 32 of 51, 381 yards, two touchdown performance during this week’s 23-21 win over the Bucs, Foles has clearly put the clamps on the Eagles starting quarterback position in 2013.
John Skelton, Cardinals
Turns out that Skelton’s 6-2 run as a starter in 2011 was pure fluke. This year, he’s been awful, tossing nine picks in just 201 passes and displaying the same lack of accuracy that he somehow got away with last season (54.9% completion rate in 2011). This dude is seriously bad and should be out of the league in 2013.
David Wilson, Giants
Some times this job is tough. Other times, not so much. David Wilson was an easy Moving Up inclusion this week courtesy of his coming out party against the Saints. The Giants 1st round pick carried the ball 13 times for 100 yards and a pair of scores and displayed some electrifying moves in the return game as well, piling up 327 all purpose yards. With Ahmad Bradshaw once again iffy with a knee injury, Wilson could be in line for his first career start this week against the Falcons and their 23rd ranked run defense.
Mikel Leshoure, Lions
Leshoure wasn’t great this week against the Packers (14 carries for 49 yards) but he had six touchdowns in the five games prior while accumulating 333 total yards. The schedule looks good with the Cardinals 29th ranked run defense on tap this week followed by the Falcons 23rd ranked run defense.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
With Willis McGahee out of the line-up, Moreno has been getting loads of touches, averaging 28 per game over the last three weeks, and he was a one-man wrecking crew this week against the Raiders. Sure, it was the Raiders run D but Moreno was a beast with 167 total yards and a score. He chewed up the clock in the 4th quarter and could be used in that role again against the slumping Ravens and Browns over the next two weeks.
Montell Owens, Jaguars
With 91 rushing yards this week against the Jets, Owens nearly matched his career rushing total of 112 yards in one game. And this cat has been around since the 2006 season. I never would have guessed.
Bryce Brown, Eagles
The Bucs run defense is solid but they have given up plenty of rushing touchdowns – just not this week. And they didn’t give up much else to Brown either as he managed just 12 yards on eight carries. Up next is a solid Cincinnati run defense in a Thursday night matchup.
Beanie Wells, Cardinals
It’s hard to run when your team is relying on high school level talent at the quarterback position and that’s Beanie’s problem in Arizona. Defenses can basically stack nine guys in the box on every play given the putrid play of the Cardinals’ quarterback. Net result – 21 carries for 40 yards over the last two games for Wells.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts
I’m making up for last week’s miscue by not having Hilton in this section. This week, he was merely decent against the Titans catching a pair of balls for 50 yards. However, in the four games prior, Hilton had three 100-yard games and accumulated 21 receptions for 335 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Miles Austin, Cowboys
With the possibility of a hot Dez Bryant out of the line-up due to a finger injury, Austin will move into the lead wide receiver role for the Cowboys. The schedule isn’t pretty this week with the Steelers top ranked pass defense on tap but Austin figures to be a target machine. And just in case you are really desperate, it is worth noting that Dwayne Harris has 16 targets over the past three weeks compared to just eight for Kevin Ogletree.
Jonathan Baldwin, Chiefs
After a solid offseason, Baldwin has had a disastrous second season in Kansas City, catching just 18 passes for 261 yards and a touchdown despite lining up opposite Dwayne Bowe on the outside for much of the year. The 2011 1st round pick figures to get a chance to shine over the balance of the season, however, with Bowe out due to a rib injury. With Bowe a free agent at season’s end, Baldwin should have plenty of motivation to show the Chiefs what he can do.
Brandon Lloyd, Patriots
After being mothballed in Week 13 against the Dolphins (one target) due to his lackluster performance in the five weeks prior to that (15 receptions for 150 yards), Lloyd was dangerous once again this week, hauling in seven of his nine targets for 89 yards and a score against the Texans. Those numbers could have been even better had quarterback Tom Brady not missed him on a throw down the sideline.
Jason Avant, Eagles
With Djax out, Avant has caught 11 passes for 212 yards in his last two games.
The Titans' offense is becoming more focused on Britt.
Kenny Britt, Titans
Britt’s stat line this week (eight receptions for 143 yards) might indicate that he’s now fully healthy. Or maybe he was healthy enough to take advantage of a young Colts secondary. Maybe he’s going to do something stupid and end up in jail on Sunday morning. Who knows.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Not to pile on Larry, a fine gentleman if there ever was one, but it is mind boggling that a player of his talents has caught just a single pass in three of his last four games, totaling six receptions for 67 yards. Another truly remarkable fact is that Fitz has caught just six of his last 37 targets, a completion rate of just 16.2%.
Jeremy Kerley, Jets
Kerley is a fine little slot receiver but his lack of playmaking ability in the red zone hurts his fantasy value and the Cardinals and Jaguars have put the clamps on him over the past two weeks, limiting him to seven receptions for 64 yards in those games. After scoring twice during the first three weeks of the season, Kerley hasn’t found the end zone once in his last 10 games.
Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
After a subpar performance in Week 12 in his return from an ankle injury, Hernandez has put together two fine games, catching eight passes for 97 yards in Week 13 and dismantling the Texans on Monday night this week with eight more receptions for 58 yards and a pair of scores. He’s hot at just the right time.
Dennis Pitta, Ravens
With 18 targets over the last three weeks, it looks like Pitta is once again in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s offensive game plans. Whoops, Cameron just got fired. Either way, Pitta has played well in recent weeks, averaging 7.6 PPG over the last three weeks and he has scored touchdowns in three of his last five games.
Greg Olsen, Panthers
It looks like the late season swoon that Olsen had in 2011 won’t repeat itself this season. Olsen remains a key cog in the Panthers passing attack, with 344 receiving yards and four touchdowns in his last six games.
Tony Scheffler, Lions
Brandon Pettigrew suffered an ankle this week and is questionable for this week’s matchup against the Cardinals. Since the Lions will likely have 50 minutes of time of possession, Scheffler should be able to at least match last week’s production of 20 yards and a score. Not pretty, I know, but the 10 targets were nice.
Vernon Davis, 49ers
Davis has been here before and now he is back again. This week, he was once again persona non grata, catching one pass for four yards against the Dolphins, a team that doesn’t exactly possess the most athletic safeties in the league. Davis’ three weeks totals are now three catches on six targets for 19 yards and no touchdowns. Looks like the 49ers are saving him for the playoffs (no, not the fantasy playoffs).
Antonio Gates, Chargers
At this point, it’s safe to conclude that Gates is either playing hurt or a shadow of his former self. This week against the Steelers, he caught just three of eight targets for 31 yards. He has failed to find the end zone in four straight and has amassed just 224 receiving yards in his last seven games.
By: Dave Stringer — December 7, 2012 @ 2:45 pm
A big Week 14 from Moreno may lead to a bigger 2013.
1. After spending eight consecutive weeks on the inactive list, Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno was expected to fill a backup role behind rookie Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball when he was added to the game day roster when Willis McGahee was lost for the remainder of the season with a torn MCL. However, Moreno was inserted into the lead back role and has responded with three solid performances, including this week’s 119 rushing yard, 48 receiving yard, one touchdown effort against the Raiders in a game in which he received a whopping 36 touches, a career high. That marked the first time Moreno had topped 100 rushing yards since Week 13 of the 2010 season and gave him 361 total yards and a touchdown during his three game renaissance. His performance ensures that Moreno will remain the Broncos starter over the remainder of the 2012 season and opens the possibility that he will regain the starter’s role in 2013. McGahee will almost certainly return to the team given his manageable salary of $2.5-million and with Moreno set to earn just $1.7-million and Hillman $515,000, Denver figures to have a solid three player rotation at the running back position for a very reasonable salary cap charge.
2. Sticking with the Broncos, with his 310-yard passing performance in Week 14, Peyton Manning is now on pace to finish the season with 4,701 passing yards which would be a career high. His previous best was the 4,700 yards he threw for during the 2010 season. With 30 touchdown passes with three games to go, Manning is likely to post the 2nd most touchdown passes of his career, bettering the 33 he threw for during the 2000, 2009 and 2010 season. In the preseason, Manning’s fantasy value took a hit based on the historical differences in his production in games played outdoors and his return from a neck injury but it is now long past time to put those theories to rest. Manning shapes up as an upper tier QB1 for the 2013 season.
3.In San Diego, reports circulated this week that Chargers owner Dean Spanos would fire both general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner at the conclusion of the season. Turner was surprisingly retained following a disappointing 2011 season that reportedly also almost cost Smith his job. Now it appears that a third straight season out of the playoffs will cost both men their jobs. With the team’s personnel clearly in decline, Smith has been blamed for a number of less than stellar drafts in recent years, including the questionable decisions to draft players such as Craig Davis and Larry English in the 1st rounds of the 2007 and 2009 drafts. In addition, Smith’s run of finding solid role players later in the draft ended years ago. However, Smith’s biggest mistake this past offseason was the decision not to sign veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson to a long-term contract. Jackson was a huge asset to an aging and seemingly in-decline Philip Rivers at quarterback and free agent acquisition Robert Meachem, signed to replace Jackson, was an absolute bust before finally losing his starting job to in-season pick-up Danario Alexander.
4. After starting the season 7-1, the Bears have dropped three of their last four games to fall to 8-4 and to 2nd place in the NFC North behind the surging Green Bay Packers. While Chicago’s schedule over their remaining four games likely ensures a playoff spot, a deep run into the postseason seems unlikely. The Bears have struggled against quality opponents, losing four of five games against teams that would currently qualify for the playoffs and that win came in Week 1 against an Indianapolis Colts squad that is a vastly superior now than they were back then. With a banged up Brian Urlacher, a defense that is no longer turning turnovers into points and the league’s 31st ranked passing attack, look for the Bears to make an early exit from the 2012 playoff picture.
5. Cleveland currently sports a very modest 4-8 record, a mark that is likely to cost head coach Pat Shurmur his job after the team’s recent management shuffle. However, a closer look reveals a squad that could make some noise during the 2013 season. The Browns have won their last two games and three of their last five with the defense surrendering an average of just 15.2 points per game over that five-game stretch. In addition, the average margin of defeat in Cleveland’s eight losses has been 6.5 points, with three losses by four or fewer points and two more by seven points. With five potential cornerstone pieces on offense (left tackle Joe Thomas, running back Trent Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little), the Browns figure to show marked improvement in their scoring ability in 2013. The defense also features a number of young, up and coming performers (defensive linemen Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard, cornerback Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward) as well as solid veterans such as Ahtyba Rubin and D’Qwell Jackson on a unit that currently ranks 16th in points allowed missing key players due to injuries and suspension during the season.
6. Long considered a mainstay of the Dolphins offensive line, there are now serious doubts as to whether left tackle Jake Long has played has last game in a Miami uniform. With a triceps injury, Long will finish the year on injured reserve for the second consecutive season. He will be a free agent entering the 2013 season and the Dolphins will have the remainder of this season to determine if rookie 2nd round pick Jonathan Martin is a potential replacement for Long at left tackle. While the Dolphins are high on Martin, they appear to be committed to re-signing Long although the two sides have thus far failed to agree on extending his current contract. With Long’s recent injury history and coming off what may have been the worst year of his career, the Dolphins will likely prefer using the franchise tag to retain Long’s services giving them the option to re-sign him at the conclusion of the 2013 season provided he bounces back strongly next season.
7.Another player with an interesting contract situation is Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola. Clearly the team’s top threat at wide receiver (with apologies to solid rookie 4th round pick Chris Givens), Amendola is a free agent at season’s end and has proven to be both productive and injury prone over the past three seasons. Given his small stature and inability to remain healthy, it seems unlikely that St. Louis would sign Amendola to a lucrative long-term contract or place the franchise tag on him.
By: Dave Stringer — December 4, 2012 @ 1:29 pm
Cam Newton, Panthers
After a lackluster season, Newton is getting hot at just the right time for his fantasy owners. Over his last two games, Cam has piled up 538 passing yards and five touchdowns to go along with 130 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Up next are the Falcons, Chargers and Raiders.
Tony Romo, Cowboys
Dez Bryant is heating up and so is Jason Witten and those factors are helping propel Romo’s fantasy production. The return of Demarco Murray this week also helps. Romo has thrown three touchdown passes in each of his last two games (giving him nine in his last four games) and 744 yards.
Michael Vick, Eagles
Benched for the season barring injury. Let me go on record as the first to predict that his new home in 2013 will be Arizona.
A dud against the Saints in Week 13 have Ryan owners concerned.
Matt Ryan, Falcons
Ryan was looking like a potential top five fantasy quarterback over the first half of the season but the wheels have fallen off lately. Over his last three games, Ryan has just two touchdown passes to go against six interceptions. The yardage totals are decent over those games (301, 353 and 165) but his dud against a soft Saints defense this week has to be cause for concern.
Bryce Brown, Eagles
This week, Brown proved that his Week 12 performance of 178 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Panthers was no fluke as he gained 169 yards and scored another pair of touchdowns against the Cowboys. He gets a stiffer test this week against the Bucs top ranked run defense but is likely to top 20 touches once again with LeSean McCoy unlikely to return to the line-up and Nick Foles now entrenched as the Eagles starting quarterback.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
The Law Firm is on a roll with three straight 100-yard rushing games to go along with a pair of touchdowns in those games. Prior to that, he was looking like a low-end RB3 since he had scored just once in six games and hadn’t topped 82 rushing yards in those games. Up next are the Cowboys, whose injury problems at linebacker and at nose tackle have caused them to give up plenty of yards to Bryce Brown and Alfred Morris in their last two weeks.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
Jonathan Stewart will likely miss at least another week or two with an ankle sprain, leaving Williams to shoulder the load for the Panthers running game. While Williams is on pace to finish with career lows in rushing yards removing his injury shortened 2010 campaign, he has a chance to finish the season strong as the Panthers face the Falcons (20th ranked run defense), Chargers (6th), Raiders (28th) and Saints (32nd).
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
Despite it being readily apparent that Murray was not 100% percent healthy, he still looked solid this week against the Eagles, gaining 102 yards on 27 touches and finding the end zone once.
C.J. Spiller, Bills
Spiller had 15 touches to 27 for Fred Jackson so I guess Spiller isn’t the clear-cut number one guy after all. He was still decent with 84 total yards but Spiller owners were clearly hoping their guy was going to load up on touches and that didn’t happen.
Chris Ivory, Saints
After a pair of nice efforts in his first two games of the season in Weeks 9 and 10, Ivory has slowed down with just 75 yards in his last three games, including a three carry, four-yard performance this week against the Falcons.
Pierre Garcon, Redskins
Moving Up two weeks in a row. Last week, he got the nod based on solid health and his production during his two healthy games (nine receptions for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns). This week, Garcon was dynamite again, catching eight of his 11 targets for 106 yards and a score and helping ice the Redskins win over the Giants.
Danario Alexander, Chargers
Sure, having Alexander Moving Up is getting repetitive but the kid is on fire. Removing his first game of the season (a one target cameo in Week 8), Alexander is averaging 93.4 receiving yards and 0.6 touchdowns per game. That’s WR1 territory, folks. This week, he caught six of his 10 targets for 102 yards against the Bengals and it is now clear that he is the team’s top threat at wide receiver, having led the team in receiving yards in his last five games. The only downside to Alexander is a tough schedule over the next three weeks.
Chris Givens, Rams
Almost exclusively a big play threat for the first part of the season, Givens emerged as a threat all over the field this week, catching 11 of his 14 targets for 92 yards.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Ryan Lindley is putrid. Despite attempting 31 passes, he failed to top 75 passing yards and he’s absolutely killing Fitzgerald’s fantasy value. In Fitz’s last three games, he has five receptions for 65 yards. With Kurt Warner at quarterback, he could post those numbers and more in a quarter.
Denarius Moore, Raiders
I never quite understood the fascination with Moore. He has ability, yes, but in two years, he has been remarkably inconsistent and he has failed to catch a high percentage of his targets. Last year, he caught just 33 of 76 targets, a woeful reception rate of 43.4%. This year, he’s caught just 38 of 87 targets, upping his completion percentage to 43.6%. And he’s slowing down as the season comes to a close, catching just four of 19 targets over the last three weeks for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Eric Decker, Broncos
With Demaryius Thomas clearly emerging as the Broncos top threat at wide receiver, Decker has been a bit of a forgotten man over the past three weeks with just 15 targets after averaging 8.1 targets per game over the first nine games of the season. He had 23 yards and a score in Week 11 but has followed that up with 64 and 17-yard performances, making him a risky play in the fantasy playoffs.
Brandon Myers, Raiders
Entering the season, you couldn’t have found a football fan who felt the Raiders had a starting caliber tight end on the roster. Turns out they may have a Pro Bowl quality tight end on the roster. Myers caught 14 of his 15 targets this week for a career-high 130 yards and a score. He is now on pace to finish the season with 92 receptions for 961 yards and five touchdowns.
Jason Witten, Cowboys
So much for a lacerated spleen slowing down the Cowboys 30 year-old tight end. Witten is on pace to finish the season with 117 receptions which would shatter the league’s record for most receptions by a tight end in a single season (currently held by Tony Gonzalez with 102 during the 2004 season). Unfortunately, he’s only caught one touchdown.
Scott Chandler, Bills
Last season, Chandler was basically a touchdown play, finishing the season with 389 receiving yards and six touchdowns. At the outset of this season, he was accumulating decent yardage totals (215 yards in his first five games) while continuing to find the end zone (four scores in those games. However, he has reverted to form over the past seven weeks with just 215 receiving yards (31 yards per game) and the touchdowns have dried up (just two in those games).
Dustin Keller, Jets
The quarterback situation isn’t helping and Keller now has to deal with an ankle injury but at least it isn’t of the high ankle sprain variety. Yeah, the good news isn’t exactly good and neither is his production over the last three weeks (nine receptions for 97 yards and a score).
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