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Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 9

By: — November 8, 2011 @ 10:18 am
Filed under: Player Analysis

Welcome to the Tuesday Morning Buzz! In what should have been a week of clarity, most situations became only muddier as backups performed with skill, starters sat on the bench in pain or humiliation, and the number of winless teams fell to one. How ‘bout them Dolphins?

Beware of the offense that faces this floundering Colts team. The Julio JonesMatt Ryan connection blew up for over a hundred yards and multiple scores this week, despite showing little in any week prior. A couple of weeks ago, anyone who owned Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham likely won their game, even if they sat everyone else. I wouldn’t start any Colts, and I would start most backups versus Indy.

P.S. What if the Colts allow Peyton Manning to play just enough games to keep them out of the Luck sweepstakes? Wouldn’t that be fitting for the team who sat their starters when staring down the barrel of a 16-0 season?

Is the magic over?

The magic of the high-flying Bills offense has started to fade as defenses have begun to settle in to the new rules. The Jets proved that they can tackle in form—rather than just take headshots—and that they can cover without touching the receiver past five yards. I’m a bit skittish to go all-in on the Jets after one game, but that defense looked as menacing as ever Sunday afternoon. I’m not too comfortable with any of the Jets offensive options, but I could easily see the choice between Flacco and Sanchez leaning toward Sanchez at this point in the season.

I weep for those of you who dropped Ben Tate when Arian Foster came back. Tate won’t run against Cleveland every week, but he does seem like a good bet to get 20 yards and a touchdown in most any matchup, and especially against the Gerald McCoy-less Bucs this week. I also weep for those of you who drafted Matt Schaub early this year. He’s found himself in a situation much like Ryan Fitzpatrick’s. This offense operates through the run game, despite having an excellent quarterback and No. 1 receiver.

As the year of the leg injury continues, Miles Austin went down for another 2-4 weeks with the same hamstring that has bothered him all season. This week the Cowboys play the bend-but-don’t-break Buffalo defense, and I could see Laurent Robinson getting 100 yards and a touchdown in Austin’s place. I am all-in on the Cowboys as they take on the Bills. For the Seahawks, I might start Sidney Rice as a flex play in some weeks, but I’m steering clear of any Seahawk in any league when they face the Ravens.

In their own effort to thwart their chances at landing Andrew Luck, the Dolphins went on the road and made the Chiefs think they were reliving Week 2. As I’ve documented on multiple occasions, I’m not a fan of big-talent guys on bad-attitude teams. However, Brandon Marshall’s talent is so transcendent that it’s impossible for me to feel iffy about him. I don’t know if this was the Chiefs D looking past Miami or if Matt Moore has actually become a viable starting quarterback, but I wouldn’t advise sitting Brandon Marshall unless you have a truly elite receiving corps.

The curse about losing the Super Bowl when it’s in your own stadium may be legitimate, but New Orleans hosts the big game next year, and I believe the Saints now have the most dominant home-field advantage. It is loud, it is crazy, and you can almost see the Superdome becoming animated with trumpets just poking out of it at all times blasting swing music and jazz. Okay, that was a little overdone, but you get my point. Start your Saints when they’re at home, and start them at your own risk when they’re away. If you drafted any Buccaneers, all you can do is hang in there and hope they come alive in the second half.

P.S. Remember when everyone spoke of Josh Freeman as a running quarterback? While his two rushing touchdowns this year has infinitely increased from zero rushing touchdowns in 2010, the hope of his compiling Vick-like numbers is going to have to wait at least one more season.

In Other News…
As I told you a couple of weeks ago, I live in Oklahoma. I’m not sure if it made your local news, but tremors were felt all over the state on Saturday as three “major” earthquakes shook the ground. It was the real experience. Cups rattled, pictures fell from shelves, dogs and cats went crazy, the whole kit and caboodle. Instantly, Facebook and Twitter burst with statements harkening the end of days and the self-destruction of the planet. As if happenings in such prestigious towns as Prague and Meeker really have any sort of bearing on the status of the entire world! Did you hear about the quake in my home state?

Speaking of big events for unassuming entities, the Niners went on the road and got their seventh straight victory. Could it really just have been that Mike “Can’t-Win-With-‘Em” Singletary just couldn’t win with them? With virtually the same team, Jim Harbaugh is looking at clinching his division in Week 11 and nabbing a first-round bye. I’m looking at Crabtree and Smith as bye-week fill-ins for Week 11, but after that, I’d be hard pressed to start them unless I were really in dire straits.

As for the Redskins, yours truly was a week too soon on Roy Helu. I feel like he is a better back than Ryan Torain, and I fell for the bait last week after Tim Hightower’s unfortunate injury sidelined him for the season. However, it was this week that Helu would come alive. . . well after I dropped him for the great Brandon Jacobs.

Speaking of Big Blue, these Giants just have the Patriots’ number, don’t they? In the fourth quarter, as Jake Ballard and Mario Manningham brought the game to a close, this game drew a myriad of comparisons to Super Bowl XLII. The Patkowskis have gone from looking unshakable to pretty shaky in just a matter of weeks, but the offense keeps ticking. Brady, Welker, Gronkowski, and even Hernandez will continue to give great fantasy performances. However, when they play strong man-to-man defenses (Steelers, Giants, and now the Jets), they struggle and quite often lose. It’ll be tough to bench any New England stars, but I might consider other comparable options this week.

Chris Johnson’s talent is such that even yours truly—who was ridiculed in the offseason for saying I wouldn’t take him with a third-round pick—would not have guessed he could go all year without a hundred-yard game. For God’s sake, even Jackie Battle has one of those this year! However, keep in mind that Battle is also currently edging CJ2K on the stat sheet as well. For the Bengals, as I have said previously, their arrow has started to tilt upward. If these guys are somehow able to split their next two games (Steelers, Ravens), their confidence will grow exponentially and Dalton may become a fantasy starter.

I can only imagine how Tebowing will grow in popularity after the Broncos’ big win in the black hole. I say we begin a “Palmering” fad, where we come in with inexplicably high expectations and are all let down. It might be a little harder to pull off, but all the more glorious when it becomes a national pastime, right? Anyway, Palmer emerged from the game with passable stats, while Tebow once again blew up the fantasy football gridiron. I’d have to have pretty strong quarterback options to not start Tebow week-in and week-out. Meanwhile, it’s my prediction that the Broncos win this division in a stunning turn of events: Palmer and Rivers combine for 100 interceptions, the Chiefs lose every remaining game by 20 points, and Tebow rushes for 22 touchdowns and throws for four more. Now that would surely spell the end of man.

P.S. Willis McGahee will finish the season with more than five points per game over CJ2K. That’s not even that crazy…

My Super Bowl pick, the Chargers, are deeply entrenched in a three-way tie for first. The catch? Three AFC West teams are at .500, and fourth place is only a game back. Both teams played as they should have in this game, so there isn’t much fantasy advice here. However, the Chargers certainly had the most impressive day in the division as they went toe-to-toe with ironically red-hot Green Bay. Don’t these Packers remind you of the ’06 Saints? Great offense, hyper-elite quarterback, and a defense that can make just enough plays to ride the coattails of the offense to a win. Those Saints lost in the NFC Championship game to the Chicago Bears; can these Packers make it back to the Super Bowl?

Here are three names for you: Steven Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Beanie Wells. Start these men, close your eyes, and check the box score at the end. Skip the rest. Let’s move on…

P.S. I was on record saying that the Panthers should’ve drafted Patrick Peterson and given Jimmy Clausen another shot. Obviously, the Panthers made a great decision, but Peterson again proved his worth in this game.

Somehow, the Ravens have emerged from a four-game stretch that included a loss to Jacksonville and a come-from-behind win in Arizona as world-beaters. The Blackbirds marched into Heinz field and handed the Steelers an “L”. Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin were more successful than I imagined, and Joe Flacco blew up the waiver wire, where yours truly left him last week. For the Steelers, I’m really starting to come on to Antonio Brown. It seems plausible that the combination of Wallace, Sanders, and Brown may very soon become the best receiving corps that Pittsburgh has ever had.

Last week, Dot Miltrix commented on my statement that the Steelers were going to roll the Ravens:

“I hope I’m playing you next week in fantasy—you may get one TD out of all of your Steelers.”

While the Steelers technically scored two offensive touchdowns, the overall point still stands. In a week where series records were broken all over, the Ravens swept the Steelers in the regular season for the first time since 2006. I’ll own this one; I had more faith in a rejuvenated Steelers team off that great win than they apparently deserved.

P.S. How about Harbaugh 1.0 quoting Teddy Roosevelt? That was awesome.

$#^% Chris Collinsworth Says
On pregame expectations for the Ravens–Steelers game:

“This game could only get better if these defenses got to play against one another.”

Au Contraire! The defenses were great, particularly the despicable James Harrison, but the offenses made this game a thriller. However, if there were ever a paradoxical double-defense matchup I’d want to see, it would be between these guys. Ray Lewis pump fakes and passes short over the middle to Ed Reed who takes a hard hit from Ryan Clark! What???

This was the best game Jay Cutler has ever played. Sure, he’s put up better stats, but he had the game of his career as far as I’m concerned. He extended plays like the best of them, he was accurate, he was decisive, and his throws were perfect. The drive at the top of the fourth quarter was momentous, capped off with a beautiful pass to Earl Bennett. The Bears’ offensive stars will likely have to sustain some passing potency if they have any hope of staying close to the Packers and getting a wild card spot.

For the Eagles, it was as normal. LeSean McCoy was huge, Vick continued to develop as a passer, and Maclin and Jackson remained unimpressive in comparison to years past. Some of that had to do with the Bears effectively shutting down the deep ball with their Cover 2, but the Eagles passing game hasn’t been itself all year long. In fact, it was sloppy passing and receiving that sealed the deal on the Eagles’ hopes for a win.

P.S. How about the Eagles pass rush getting 0.0 sacks on Jay Cutler? When did the Bears O-line become their strength?

And that’s it! Another action-packed week of NFL play is in the books. There are no byes this week, so with any luck your team will be back to full power. If you’re hurting bad because of injuries, you might consider some of the Vikings as they face a Green Bay D that isn’t scaring anyone right now.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 8

By: — November 1, 2011 @ 10:43 am
Filed under: Player Analysis

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.

The best running back in football.

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.

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.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 6

By: — October 18, 2011 @ 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.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 5

By: — October 11, 2011 @ 3:11 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

Welcome to Week 5 of Tuesday Morning Buzz! I enjoyed the slate of games this week, even though Eric Decker, Steve Johnson, and Darren McFadden brought me a loss in my most important league. It was a week where many teams played as they were expected to, and many others showed their true colors (including Silver!)

Vick is a nightmare for fantasy opponents.

Michael Vick cannot help but score fantasy points. His underperformances are better than most QBs‘ good weeks. In contrast, Vick’s rushing numbers alone nearly eclipsed Ryan Fitzpatrick’s entire day. Or, if you like, consider it this way: Vick’s rushing yards counterbalanced four interceptions. He can throw multiple picks and still get his complete passing stats. If you aren’t completely tired of the analogy, at least this Dream Team member continues to present nightmares for fantasy opponents.

For the Bills, there isn’t much to say. They beat an Eagles team that has lost nearly every matchup they have played this year. Buffalo didn’t come from behind, which is promising, but they did lose their deep threat in Donald Jones. Seems to me they traded a receiver with good deep-threat ability this offseason… Maybe he was too high-profile for this team.

How about them KC Chiefs? They showed a little gusto and got into a bad-team shootout with the Colts in Indy. Somehow, despite both teams missing by far their best offensive stars, this matchup was far more entertaining than last year’s snoozefest. If you don’t recall—and who could blame you—these two teams kicked field goals for three quarters last year until, finally, the illustrious Mike Hart scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. This year you saw Matt Cassel and Curtis Painter looking like Joe Montana and Johnny U. I’m kidding, but thanks to the help of Dwayne Bowe and Pierre Garcon, there was at least one game where both offenses had some steam. Let’s see if either team can carry that momentum into next week and create a week-in, week-out fantasy starter somewhere.

P.S. Start Pierre Garcon until he proves you wrong.

If someone had asked me to predict this game in the offseason, this is how I would’ve predicted it. Peterson had a great game, both QBs were middling, the Vikings defense kept the Cardinals down well enough, and Percy Harvin did nothing. My perceptions of these two teams have been off this year, but this week they were dead on. Of the combined 106 men on these two rosters, there is only one player that you should be starting next week: Adrian Peterson. If the Cardinals weren’t on bye, you’d have to start Fitzgerald; but since he’s out, you can start that bench player you’ve been tempted by all year.

I warn you: do not be swayed by this Seahawks team. Their win this week was a symptom of the New York Giants being unable to handle the pressure, not of fantastic play by the Seahawks. Lackadaisical defense can often make subpar offenses look shiny for one week. For some reason, the Giants get worse in proportion to how many points they’re favored by. Right now, in a very contrary fashion, I think the Giants are both sell-high and buy-low targets. If you can get good value for any of your Giants, I suggest selling them like Biggie T-shirts. However, if you see an owner panicking and offering players like Ahmad Bradshaw at a steal, then I say buy them up like Bank of America stock.

This is another game that played out how I would have expected in the offseason. Ben Roethlisberger lit up a defense that I thought was trending downward, and the Titans, including Chris Johnson, looked generally subpar. Johnson, like a great many other RBs this year, is someone I would never have drafted because he would’ve had to fall rounds below his ADP to be worth the risk to me. Maybe CJ2K returns to form after the bye, but I really don’t see it. At this point, I would feel better starting Darren Sproles or even Jahvid Best over Johnson. For the Steelers, watch for them to continue to play well at home and continue to look unimpressive and asleep on the road.

Jed Collins has two TDs in two games. Look for him to have three TDs max by year’s end. The Saints love putting up points with guys you’ve never heard of, but the only real stars on this team are Brees and Graham, with a nod to Colston if he can ever have another healthy season. I was worried about Cam Newton’s prospects as an NFL quarterback coming out of the draft, and once the hype came to a crescendo after a great opening game, I thought for certain there was about to be a crash. However, Newton has continued to perform and put up numbers unbecoming of his experience and his situation. And Steve Smith looks a decade younger out there.

The Raiders have looked better this year than they have in a long, long time. Their quarterback has been good enough, and that speed they’ve been drafting for years has finally paid off. If Darren McFadden had been able to really get it going on the ground, the Raiders would have done everything they wanted to against a Texans defense that’s gaining steam. For the Texans, their stock just keeps plummeting. For years, yours truly has been picked them to win that division, and I finally gave up this year and picked the Colts anyway. Now I have no faith in my ability to predict this division and will not be overly surprised if the Titans come out on top. The Texans, as well as fantasy owners, are praying every day that Andre Johnson gets back ASAP to keep this year from being lost to another 8-8 finish. Houston has a great team, but their playoff potential is slipping with each major injury.

The Color Silver
In a freakish turn of events, the Patriots had become the league’s most penalized team (in total penalties and penalty yards) through five weeks, with 40 penalties for 355 yards. The Raiders, with 11 total penalties on Sunday, in honor of their past glory, made a run at that top spot as they stalled multiple drives as the first half wound down. They even brought out the ever-popular holding penalty on back-to-back plays. But the Lions made a furious comeback on Monday Night to take first place; they were actually responsible for more Chicago first downs in the first quarter than the Bears offense was! The Lions now have 43 penalties for 315 yards.

On paper, the Jags looked better than the Bengals this weekend. Hill had better stats than Green, MJD had better stats than Cedric Benson, and Dalton had the two touchdowns, though Gabbert had better yards on fewer attempts. Really, it was the Bengals defense that made the difference, and it was their score on a fumble recovery that really iced the game. Green’s talent can’t be denied, and he certainly should be started, but you will not find him on any of my lineups per my fantasy philosophy of staying away from entire teams that I don’t feel good about. With all of the drama in Cincy, I just can’t get behind any skill players, despite how impressive their stats are. However, I would consider the Bengals DST a good fill-in for any bye weeks or bad matchups for your starters.

Well, I suppose all of those conspiracy theories that Harbaugh might throw the season to get Andrew Luck are finally put to rest. I have been hesitant to believe in San Francisco this year because of all of the hype that surrounded them last year. However, these 49ers appear to be buying into Harbaugh’s system and likely only need three or four more wins to clinch their division. If their momentum continues to grow, watch for 49ers players to quickly be snatched off of waiver wires worldwide.

If John Fox is smart, the Tim Tebow era has finally come. Tebow hasn’t proven he’s worthy of starter status, but his popularity has reached a fever pitch. The Broncos were losing when Orton was in, and they made an inspired comeback once Tebow took over. Look for Tebow to be a great Week 7 pickup as he heads to Miami where the Sunday pregame show will celebrate the ’09 Florida Gators championship. How about a maniacal fanbase cheering for your QB on the road against a team that can’t get it together at home? Yes, please. An inspired performance with that kind of crowd could win Tebow the job permanently.

For the Chargers, they have still started slow and have still been generally underwhelming through September, but unlike in previous years, they’ve managed to hang on and are 4-1. If they come on like they have in the past, this could be a devastating lead for the rest of the division to catch up to. Watch for Chargers players to be a major factor in the fortune of owners in the fantasy playoffs.

My wife’s suggestion for this section:

“Dear Jets and Patriots fans, I hated this game. It doesn’t have anything to do with your teams except for the fact that they were the ones in it.”

While mostly true, this is another game that went about as predictably as possible. The offensive line woes for the Jets are tearing apart their entire offense, and the offensive line strength of the Patriots is helping Brady tear apart defenses league wide. As much as Ryan may want the Jets to get back to “ground and pound,” they really could have stuck with the pass for one more week, as the Patriots’ pass defense is so miserable.

Honestly, I thought Aaron Rodgers would’ve defeated the Falcons twice at home by more points. I mean, with a team that talented, I thought he would throw for six touchdowns and run for two more. I can’t believe he allowed Michael Turner to run for that touchdown. Why didn’t he return a punt for a score? Certainly an athlete this fantastic should be able to play all three phases of the game.

$#^% Chris Collinsworth Says
“Right now the Packers offensive line needs to Skype somebody on the outside ‘cause they need help!”
Shortly after Chad Clifton went down, the Packers O-line looked miserable. They appeared confused, and the Falcons pass rushers were circling their prey in anticipation. However, the Packers settled down on their next possession and went on to fend off the Falcons without a hitch for the rest of the game.

Jay Cutler flashed what convinced the Bears to bring him in and what convinced the Broncos to draft him early. For at least one prime-time game, he looked downright heroic. He was throwing hyper-accurate darts all over the field and was a couple of dropped passes from being even more impressive. It is frustrating having to watch him constantly dodge the pass rush. The believer in me is screaming, “What if he had protection? He could be the next Steve Young!” but the cynic in me is saying, “Yeah right. Remember last week when he couldn’t complete a pass? The Broncos upgraded with Orton!”

The Lions looked mighty good on Monday Night as even Jahvid Best got involved on actual rushes instead of just catching passes. They did everything they wanted on offense and kept Cutler running all night on defense. The Lions earn a well deserved 5-0 start and just have to feel somewhat unlucky to be in the same division as the Packers, the only other undefeated team in the NFL.

On that note, I bid you adieu until next Tuesday, fantasy football fans. For next week, I’m looking forward to starting Ravens and Cowboys who have favorable matchups against the Texans and Patriots. Watch for Flacco, Boldin, Romo, and Dez Bryant to all have big games next Sunday.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 4

By: — October 4, 2011 @ 10:57 am
Filed under: Player Analysis

Welcome to Tuesday Morning Buzz! Most fans should be pretty happy this week. Win or Loss, most teams had a pretty good showing and proved to be either contenders for the playoffs or thorns in the sides of contenders for the playoffs. Let’s get right into it:

Panthers – Bears
How about that Cam Newton? He did everything he could to upset the status quo here. He is burning down the opinions of those, like yours truly, who said that rookie quarterbacks shouldn’t be trusted and that that Newton hadn’t proven enough to warrant the first-round pick. He threw deep on a Bears secondary that makes its money on keeping the play in front of them. And he’s certainly statistically the most impressive rookie quarterback. In fact, I’d wager that if you count tangibles and intangibles he’s probably looking the best a rookie has ever looked, especially at a 1-3 record. There’s still plenty of time for this thing to come crashing down around their ankles, but right now my guess is that Panthers fans would rather be 1-3 with Cam than 4-0 with Clausen.

For the Bears, I don’t have much to say here. The special teams unit had a punt return, a kick return, and a blocked punt and still managed to come out with fewer points than they began the day with. The Chicago defense, special teams, and receivers, along with Jay Cutler, are who we thought they were. Forte is proving his worth and making owners who were brave enough to draft a running back on the Martz-led Bears feel good about their third-round pick.

Bills – Bengals
The league’s top comeback-win team fell to the hapless Bengals this weekend. I am a big fan of what the Bills have been able to accomplish this year. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson are both starters on a great many of my fantasy teams this season. At halftime the score was 17-3, Fitzpatrick and Johnson had their typical first-half points, and I was ecstatic. These Bills just keep scoring like mad in the second half, and I was certain the minimal first-half offense was going to translate into huge gains in the late quarters. Unfortunately, it was all Bengals in the second half as the Bills were one field goal away from their final score. I still trust no Bengal, and I still love those Bills, but this is one the Buffalo fans and fantasy owners are going to need to forget quickly—the Bills come home to an angry Philadelphia Eagles team next week.

Titans – Browns
If the question “What do you think of the Dolphins and the Titans?” were posed to me at the beginning of the year, my answer would have been a single word: “Terrible.” Now, while the Dolphins have been doing their darnedest to prove me hypothetically correct, the Tennessee Titans are looking good. This is perfect for them because I could feel the anxiety coming from Houston that there just might be no teams to give the division to this year. Matt Hasselbeck has given just as much life to this franchise as this franchise has given to his career. He was dropped for the lowly Tarvaris Jackson in Seattle and now has the Titans on a three-game winning streak without their main playmakers (Kenny Britt is out; Chris Johnson might as well be.) I’m trading CJ2K this week for anything I can get and, beginning Week 7, after a matchup in Pittsburgh and the bye, I’m starting Hasselbeck for the rest of the year unless I find myself with one of the elite few at the top.

Lions – Cowboys
Oh my, was there a lot of silver in this game! In the first half, Dallas was rolling and Detroit couldn’t do a thing. Tony Romo and the Cowboys were looking like world beaters, and if you slowed the frame rate down you could see a halo just beginning to form around Romo’s helmeted countenance. Unfortunately for Dallas, after halftime you have to come back onto the field. It was as if the Cowboys said, “Wait a minute. Do you see the silver on our uniforms? We can’t be doing this well against a nationally acclaimed team!”

The Lions roared back in the second half, and I like to think it was just to prove me right. Last week, much to the chagrin of Lions fans, I warned that Detroit was looking like a “come-from-behind team” and cautioned that the true greats can build a lead and keep it. At that point, the Lions had won one game from behind and had soundly defeated only the awful Kansas City Chiefs and a young Buccaneers team that is still discovering who they are. Now, I wonder, how Lions fans feel as 50% of their total wins and 66% of their road wins are come-from-behind victories. I don’t mean to trash the team; they have great talent. I am just not sure that they yet know how to win. They are 4-0 and looking very impressive, but they are closer to being 2-2 or even 1-3 than most fans would probably like.

AJ may be out for "some time."

Steelers – Texans
The Texans, like the Lions, have great talent and a great record this year but, like the Lions, they make me extremely nervous. I have lost many a dollar the past few years picking Houston to win the AFC South. This year, however, they look poised to finally take that step and showed it in a solid victory over the Steelers. To contrast the big win over what may have been their most daunting opponent coming into the year, the Texans lost Andre Johnson for “some time.” In the same game that they regained Arian Foster from a nagging hamstring, they lost AJ to the same injury. Expect at least three to four weeks before Johnson is back to form. Because of that, Schaub is one of those QBs I would be sitting for Matt Hasselbeck—possibly for the rest of the year.

Saints – Jaguars
There really wasn’t much to see here. Blaine Gabbert looked like a fine rookie quarterback through the first half but went on a dreadful Jay Cutleresque 0-for-10 streak during the second. The Saints were the Saints, and the oft-injured Marques Colston came in only to block, though he did catch one check-down late in the game. Along with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson, I’ve been soaking up the greatness of the young Jimmy Graham, who I drafted in the 12th round while some owners were drafting the Pittsburgh DST.

Vikings – Chiefs
I was sure that, against Kansas City, Minnesota would break my favorite hyper-specific stat of Week 3, when the Vikings were tagged “the first team to lose the first three games of the season after leading by double digits at halftime in each consecutive game.” Well, they broke that streak, but not quite in the way I expected.

Not only did they not build a double-digit lead, they barely scored double-digits against a Chiefs defense that had allowed 36.3 points per game coming in. For Chiefs fans, if you can forgive the first two weeks of the season, you have two close games and a 1-1 record, which shouldn’t be too far away from preseason rankings. However, I am thankful I am not in a league where I have to decide if I want to put my week in the hands of Dwayne Bowe. I’ve said it before, “Dwayne Bowe: Great for fantasy team names, terrible for fantasy teams.”

49ers – Eagles
Ah, the Eagles locker room must be in a worse mood than the city of Philadelphia is these days. When I watch the Eagles play with Vick under center, they seem to be doing well. Vick has a 61.2% completion percentage and is on pace for 4,000 yards passing, LeSean McCoy has been running with purpose, and the defense hasn’t allowed that many points. And yet, Vick has pedestrian fantasy numbers in two of his four games and has been sacked just as many times as he’s thrown a touchdown (6). On the other side of the ball, the Jim Harbaugh-led 49ers are very quietly 3-1 in an eight-win division. If the 49ers are playing for the division late in the season, look for some of these guys to be heroes of the fantasy playoffs.

P.S. Can we quit with the “nightmare” and “dream team” analogies? I bet Vince Young wants to punch Dan Patrick in the face. Or at least throw some batteries at him.

Redskins – Rams
In competition for one of the most boring football games of the season, the Redskins and the Rams slugged it out for four quarters, and Washington wound up with 17 points on the back of their running game. Now, despite having infinitely more touchdowns this game than Dallas had last week, this score still would not have defeated the Cowboys’ all-field-goal score of Week 3. This Rams defense has looked mediocre over four games but had allowed 32 points per game coming into Sunday. If you can’t go on the road and outscore Dan Bailey’s leg and a team allowing that many points per game, there is no way you can compete in your division. I know what the Redskins’ record looks like now, but if they can finish this season at .500 I will frankly be shocked. As for the Rams? Maybe next year, guys. Sam Bradford is a fantastic quarterback, but this team has a lot of holes to fill, especially on offense, before they become fantasy-relevant.

Giants – Cardinals
The much maligned Beanie Wells and Eli Manning both continued to cement their comebacks in this game. Wells, on what is considered a pass-first offense, ran for 138 yards and 3 TDs versus a normally tough and hardnosed Giants defense. Granted, Wells won’t get 27 carries each week, but he also won’t be playing the New York Giants each week, so I consider that a wash in the terrible NFC West. For Eli, the NFC East is also looking particularly vulnerable, and he’s quickly turning around a poor preseason and an awful start to the regular season. Eli has always started slow but gotten better by October (he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers after all…) and it seems as though that tradition will continue. Eli Manning, Matt Hasselbeck, and Ryan Fitzpatrick are a fantastic class of QBs no one likes. I’m counting on these gentlemen to continue to impress and put at least two of their teams in the playoffs this year.

Broncos – Packers
For as far out of this game as they were, the Broncos never really acted as if they were out of it until well into the fourth quarter. Lloyd looked good, Decker scored a ton of points from fantasy owners’ benches (mine included) all around the league, Orton continued to do just well enough to keep himself in the starter’s seat, and the D played better than the score shows. For the Packers, all was normal in fantasy land: Rodgers can’t be benched, any Green Bay WR is worth a shot, and no Green Bay RB is worth a shot. I like Grant and Starks, but neither of them are going to do well enough this season to ever justify starting them in standard leagues. I would take Randall Cobb in my flex position before either RB in any matchup this year.

This game contained the hyper-specific stat of the week, “Aaron Rodgers is the first Packers quarterback to pass for 400-plus yards and four TDs since Brett Favre.” Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback, but in our incessant lovefest, we’re now looking for new ways to attribute greatness to him. Any quarterback doing anything is the “first” to do it since the previous quarterback. Credit this fantastic analysis to CBS.

Patkowskis – Raiders
Another third-round RB like Matt Forte, Darren McFadden, continued to shine in this game, though he did look somewhat human, emerging with 123 yards but no touchdowns. My money is on McFadden as this year’s leading rusher by season’s end. As for the Pats, they continue to let Tom Brady throw the ball, although he’s now on pace for a paltry 6,212-yard season. Breaking Marino’s all-time record by a mere 1,200 yards almost seems disappointing after all the swooning over Brady’s passing numbers this year.

Dolphins – Chargers
In a game where both offenses looked stale (1 rushing TD, 1 receiving TD for San Diego; 1 rushing TD for Miami), I’m not sure there is really much to glean from this game as far as fantasy goes. Philip Rivers still connected on the patented deep bomb to V-Jax for a touchdown, and Mike Tolbert still got in the end zone from the goal line. Ryan Mathews still had more carries, more yards, and a better yards-per-carry average.

For Miami, the injury to Chad Henne means no chance for a win as long as he is out. I know the fans in Miami don’t like him, but he’s a good quarterback who has shown flashes of greatness this year. As for the running game, Lex Hilliard inexplicably had a better day than Daniel Thomas (out), Reggie Bush (13 carries but only 50 yards), and Steve Slaton. Heck, Slaton had the same amount of carries as “backup” quarterback Chad Henne, but, hey, at least Slaton was able to double Henne’s rushing output by gaining two yards. It’s not all bad for Miami, though. In fact, you could say that Chad Henne is the first quarterback to rush for at least one yard since Chad Pennington!

Jets – Ravens
From a technical standpoint, this was one of the most interesting games of the weekend. Both QBs had abysmal outings (they combined for 282 yards, 0 TDs, and 2 INTs), and Sanchez alone fumbled four times and lost three. Every facet of both offenses stalled, Shonn Greene went 10 for 23, and Ray Rice went 25 for 66, though he did score a touchdown. This was all about the defenses and their record-setting five returns for scores. While the offense had an off night, that Ravens D is looming mighty large for the AFC North. Could this be their year? For the Jets, this is common of the Rex Ryan era. They’re flying low right now, but watch for them to be just good enough to get into the playoffs as a wild card and be a pain in everyone’s side.

It doesn’t get much easier for the Jets next week as they go to Foxborough to battle the much-hated Patkowskis. It has become an extremely rare occurrence for the home team to lose in Gillette Stadium, and I don’t see the upset after this loss. My bets are on the Jets looking uninspired in New England, despite how important this game really is, and I’m likely sitting any of the Jets I own.

$#^! Chris Collinsworth Says
On the defensive takeaway driven scoring of the game:

“If these teams played with no offense they’d have a better chance of winning!”

Chris Collinsworth, in the way only he can, called out these offenses for being woefully inept on Sunday night. In a very Mike Singletary “I’d rather play with ten players and get penalized all the way down the field” type of comment, Chris illustrated what we all saw and what we should have expected from a Ravens-Jets game.

Colts – Buccaneers
For the first time in eight years, MNF kicked off in Tampa. At first, the Bucs seemed to struggle and the Colts offense was somehow moving well. However, during the second quarter, the Bucs began to shake the sleep off and started to fire back. But by the end of the third quarter, Pierre Garcon had caught two long-bomb touchdowns and the Buccaneers were back in dreamland, despite tying the score. These Colts have been underestimated so thoroughly that teams just can’t believe they’re in trouble against them. The Buccaneers talent eventually won out against the attrition of the Colts, but this is not the Indianapolis Colts of Week 1. If Painter starts and the matchup is right, I would consider him as a bye-week fill in.

The Colts on the other hand are banding together and playing total team football (did you see that epic Reggie Wayne block?). I can’t imagine a scenario where Curtis Painter is not the starter next week, despite Kerry Collins’ health. If the Colts want to win some games this season, though, they’re going to have to get out of those classic, simple defensive looks. The only thing more antiquated in Raymond James Stadium Monday Night was Peyton Manning’s rotary telephone upstairs. Come on Tampa, I know they’re the away team, but you couldn’t even spring for a touch tone?

Next week starts the byes weeks, and with the bye weeks come the one-week, waiver-wire superstars. Who will you pick up when Aaron Rodgers takes a week off? Maybe Curtis Painter? We’ll talk about it next week on Tuesday Morning Buzz.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 3

By: — September 27, 2011 @ 9:58 am
Filed under: Player Analysis

Welcome to Week 3 of Tuesday Morning Buzz! The NFL once again delivered with an absolute fireworks show of a weekend. We’ve got a lot to talk about, so let’s jump right in.

Patkowskis – Bills
This win can be attributed mostly to the many Tom Brady picks, which were mostly the fault of the Patriots and not indicative of a great Buffalo secondary. Even so, how ‘bout them Buffalo Bills? They looked great in the second half of this game, and yours truly has been touting Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson since last year. It seems that many forgot how easily the Bills lit up the scoreboard in 2010. Now, I don’t believe the Bills will maintain the lead of the AFC East, and I think it will be extremely hard for them to make the playoffs in this division, but they are quickly becoming this year’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As they will likely do all season long, the Patriots continued their Kowski love on Sunday (despite releasing the other Gronkowski brother earlier in the week). Unless it’s the Patriot’s D/ST, I’m not flinching on any of the ownables. I’m good with any of the Patriots’ value right where they were drafted, and one loss to an emotional Buffalo team at home is not enough to scare me away.

Panthers – Jaguars
Cam Newton may have crashed back to fantasy earth, but Maurice Jones-Drew continues to simmer in fantasy hell. I mean, overall, is there a worse team in the league than the Jacksonville Jaguars? Want to bring up the Kansas City Chiefs? I would wager that the Chiefs would beat the Jaguars on a neutral field by a field goal—even with the stunning Jamaal Charles on IR. Jacksonville fans are hoping Blaine Gabbert gets comfortable quickly and makes the Jags an NFL team again.

49ers – Bengals
This game is tough to comment on. It was very boring and uneventful. To be honest, the only fantasy-draftable position I want from either of these teams is the San Francisco D/ST. Even then, it’s only a matchup play. As I always say, I want fantasy players on teams with their arrow pointing up. I’d rather have someone from the Panthers, Bills, Cardinals, or Raiders than any Bengal or 49er. That includes even A.J. Green, despite his early success as a rookie.

Dolphins – Browns
During the lockout, I made a bet that Miami would be the worst team in the NFL by season’s end. They had been playing with a chip on their shoulder and proving me wrong before this week. Against Cleveland, however, the Dolphins looked exactly as I thought they would coming into the season. A one-point loss to the putrid Browns is exactly how a team with a bad attitude and a low talent level performs. The Dolphins have changed my mind somewhat, but they need to keep Marshall involved in every play if they want to get even six wins this year.

As for the Browns, I have no faith in any of these guys. In a standard league, I can’t imagine starting any of them. Maybe I’d suffer if I left Peyton Hillis on my bench, but the Browns are simply the stalest team in the NFL. I sure hope those draft picks play better than Julio Jones.

Calvin Johnson is fantastic.

Lions – Vikings
Is it possible that Calvin Johnson is even more fantastic than Andre Johnson? I had never been able to nab Megatron in a fantasy draft until this year, and he has rewarded me by picking up points by the truckload. All your Lions are firing on all cylinders right now, but you have to watch out for teams that are making their money in consecutive fourth-quarter comeback wins. Truly good teams don’t always have to come back in the fourth quarter to win.

The Vikings, on the other hand, are in the habit of starting quick then wearing out. I don’t want to be anywhere near a Viking not named Adrian Peterson. Minnesota is also the recipient of my favorite hyper-specific stat of the week, “The first team to lose the first three games of the season after leading by double digits at halftime in each consecutive game.” That type of stat cannot continue to persist. My money is on the Vikings breaking both sides of that stat this week by beating the Chiefs in a close one.

The Color Silver
On Sunday, the Lions had the ball with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter. They start at their own 20 yard line in the shotgun formation, and they’re ready to let Stafford win them a football game. Unfortunately, Jeff Backus commits two silly false starts back to back. It’s awfully hard to let Stafford throw winning passes when you can’t hike the ball without moving back five yards. On their third attempt at the first down, now first and 20, Stafford gets sacked. After giving up and calling two conservative runs, the Lions have now successfully forced their own punt. The Lions are a great offense, but they have to get out of their own way if they really want to be seen as a contender.

It seems to me that there is a tie between the color silver and silly penalties. For example, the Raiders are nearly always among the most penalized teams. This year silver has particularly dominated the total penalties category with the Raiders (1), Panthers (8), Patriots (10), and Lions (15) all in the top 15. Heading into Monday night, the Cowboys are 25th overall, but I have no doubt they will go back to their old ways soon enough.

Texans – Saints
It is ok to settle for a field goal sometimes. Especially if you have a fantastic kicker or are capitalizing on a turnover, I have no problem with being forced to take the occasional field goal. However, anytime your red zone trips result in more field goals than touchdowns, especially against a searing-hot offense like the Saints, you are asking to lose. In Week 1, the Saints lost a close one by kicking field goals while the Packers scored touchdowns. This week, the Texans did the kicking and lost in an eerily similar game.

The Saints played exactly as they were expected to, and all of those who passed on Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark to pick Jimmy Graham in the 12th round are being rewarded. After the freak-accident touchdown that Kevin Walter scored, I wrote in my notebook “I wonder how many players will pick up Kevin Walter this week.” My next note? “Wow! I wonder how many players will pick up Lance Moore this week!”

As for the Texans, between the 20s they looked as good as any elite QB-WR combo can look. Tight end Owen Daniels, much ignored in the offseason, also proved why he deserves to be in your lineup each week. They lacked execution in the red zone, but just as the Saints couldn’t be too upset with a close loss to the Packers at Lambeau, the Texans can’t be too worked up about this loss. Start your Texans and Saints no matter the matchup each week.

Eagles – Giants
So much for the defense taking the Eagles to the Superbowl. I, along with everyone else, believe that the Eagles have a great offense that can take them deep in the playoffs if Vick can stay upright. However, I recall many colleagues who were certain that the free agency acquisitions of this team cemented them in the Superbowl. Three weeks in, they were allowing Eli Manning to put up some of his best single-game passing numbers fresh off a disgusting performance against a St. Louis defense that was simultaneously getting swiss-cheesed by Joe Flacco.

We now know that Michael Vick had a contusion in his non-throwing hand and may or may not play next Sunday. However, the original understanding was that his hand was fractured. When this was the report, Vick was sitting on the sidelines with what looked like a full inch of swelling on top of his knuckles. The report from the Eagles was that Vick was “doubtful to return after breaking hand.” This doubtful tag seemed absurd, as there appeared to be no way he would re-enter the game. Has anyone ever returned after being declared doubtful in the third quarter? Was this an attempt at subterfuge by the coaching staff? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Broncos – Titans
The Broncos, a la the Seahawks and the Browns, are pretty lackluster right now. This isn’t even a discussion on W-L records but just on overall play, demeanor, and star power. It appears to only be a matter of time now before Tebow is put in to quell the cries of the fanbase in Denver. The bigger story, however, is how Orton’s contract situation will be handled. He is in the final year of his deal, and if the Broncos don’t get some wins, or at least some encouraging stats, they won’t bring him back. Just when you thought the quarterback situation in Mile High couldn’t get any muddier…

Jets – Raiders
Is it possible that Al Davis was actually making genius moves all this time that we’ve been accusing him of making draft selections from beyond the dead? I mean, JaMarcus Russell failed, but the rest of the Raiders are looking pretty good right now as Darren McFadden leads the league in rushing thanks to a great team effort.

The Jets are really very similar to the Raiders in makeup. They both have game-managing quarterbacks who can let their playmakers win the game. The Jets have a better defense, but I’m sure they would love to have a running back like Run DMC in their backfield. Surprisingly, LT is not getting too much attention despite his impressive stats. I don’t think he can keep it up, just as he couldn’t last year, but I am surprised there isn’t more hubbub about him this week.

Chiefs – Chargers
I was asked this week if I would select the Chargers at home by a margin of 14.5 in a Pick ‘Ems game. I advised, “The Chiefs have allowed 40+ points in both games this year and have struggled to get to double digits in both games. However, it’s early and the Chargers are silly enough to keep this one close. I’ll take the Chiefs.” Sure enough, the Chargers made the Chiefs look respectable and kept this one close to the end. In fantasy, however, the Chargers have been performing well as a team in comparison to their recent slow-start years.

As for the Chiefs, you probably have to start Bowe if you drafted him, but otherwise there isn’t a single player on this team that deserves to be on your roster. As is apparently becoming my motto this season, you’re better off taking David Nelson, the big man out of Buffalo, than Dexter McCluster of the Chiefs. McCluster is more talented, but his team and offense aren’t able to exploit his ability.

Ravens – Rams
This week, I put Joe Flacco on my bench with the logic that Ryan Fitzpatrick was likely to be involved in a shootout and that the Rams had previously held Eli Manning and Michael Vick to unrealistically low point totals. At the end of the first slate of games, I felt pretty good about my decision. However, Flacco came in and threw so effectively he almost doubled Fitzpatrick’s stats. Torrey Smith should be the top waiver-wire pickup this week, though keep in mind that his best game of the season is already in the books. The Ravens appear to be a little feast-or-famine, but Smith in good matchups could be a great flex play.

As for the Rams, they’ve been everything their detractors imagined. In a season where the Lions and Bills appear to be contenders for their divisions, the Rams are fourth in the weakest division in football. I love Sam Bradford, and I think these Rams will be a great football team, but watch for them to add another receiver or two before Bradford and company put up the numbers needed to make them draftable.

Packers – Bears
Green Bay won this game 27-17 because of the ineffectiveness of the Bears’ offense. The Packers threw it up and down the field in short passes, as per the blueprint drawn up by the Saints last week. However, at different intervals, they would decide to simply run up the middle three times into a stout Bears D-line and get stuffed. I understand staying balanced and I wholeheartedly agree. But if you are blowing up the short passing game, you don’t then elect to get stuffed at the line of scrimmage on three consecutive downs and expect to have the game in hand. As for the run game itself, Grant by far had the better day, but that was because of the defensive play of the Bears and had little to do with the runners. This is still a 50/50 split.

Luckily for the Packers, Cutler and the Bears’ passing attack were determined to keep themselves out of the game. Cutler’s playmaking ability was as absent in this game as he is from that Bears’ Play 60 commercial. Speaking of that, one of my favorite things about that commercial is how unrecognizable the Chicago players are. Where are the stars? Do you think they even asked Cutler? The kids probably would’ve booed the poor guy off the bus after this game!

Here’s a stat line for you: In the third quarter, Cutler went 2-10 for 19 yards. One of those two completions was to Matt Forte who ran it out for nine yards. Those numbers are JaMarcus Russell-esque. I really don’t mean to hate on Cutler, I hope he does well, and I have faith that he can someday turn his game around and be successful. For better or worse, though, he is always going to be the measure of his team.

Cardinals – Seahawks
There is nothing to be gleaned from this performance. Both teams are playing poorly this year, and both proved that even against another bad team they’re still not good. Larry Fitzgerald and Kevin Kolb (by virtue of Larry Fitzgerald), are the only players on either team I want to own in fantasy leagues this year.

Falcons – Buccaneers
The Falcons and Buccaneers played an all-guts-no-glory football game in the trenches in Tampa on Sunday. Both of these teams are heavy run-first offenses with great quarterbacks and receivers in relief. But this Sunday, it was the youth of the Buccaneers’ offense that prevailed. When this matchup is played in Atlanta, it will likely be the Falcons’ experience and big-play potential that will win it. When the Falcons play at home, don’t worry about your starters. However, when they’re on the road, you might have to hold your breath a little bit.

Steelers – Colts
With 15 seconds remaining in the first quarter, I wrote in my notebook, “The Colts are WINNING!” Their much-maligned defense looked for real, with something to prove. I wonder if they can keep it up after relishing in their glory this week.

As for the Steelers, they looked disorganized and hurt for the second time in three weeks. I’m willing to write off the Week 1 loss as their being in the way of a raring-to-go Ravens team. In Week 2, they shut out a miserable Seahawks team that had to travel multiple time zones to Pittsburgh. Now, this week, the Steelers eked out a win against a Colts team that is missing their ad hoc head coach and play caller. All teams have low and high points of the season, but if the Steelers have another bad game in proximity to these two, they’re really going to lose a lot of steam.

On a side note, how did Indy win that Superbowl bid? They had to show a live landing at the airport just because there is nothing else there!

Redskins – Cowboys
Unlike going up against the Saints or Packers, if you kick only field goals against the Washington Redskins, you may just come out with a victory. A very banged-up and disorganized Cowboys team (four, count ‘em, four bad snaps!) meandered toward the end zone and made six of seven field goals for the win.
I’m not thrilled about the Dallas matchup versus Detroit next week, but then the Cowboys have a bye week of which they are in dire need. Perhaps after the bye, if everyone is healthy, we’ll see a great shootout in New England and the Cowboys will be able reward their patient owners with some fantasy greatness. For Redskins owners, you get the Rams next week. Let’s hope Grossman can do his best Joe Flacco impression and win your week for you.

$#^! Chris Collinsworth Says
Chris proved once again why he makes the big bucks on Sunday evening. He finds great ways to send intelligent observations, usually his own, into goofy and sometimes awkward analysis. I can’t imagine John Madden exclaiming, after he realizes that Robert Mathis is being asked to circle to the opposite end of the line before rushing , “Yeah, but this is idiotic here!” And it was idiotic! I’m just not sure that’s how I would’ve presented the information. I wrote in my notebook, “Chris Collinsworth is the Charles Barkley of NFL commentary.”

Bonus: Keyshawn Johnson took a hint from Chris and gave this stunning analysis on the Redskins’ offense: “Let’s not get carried away. There’s a reason he’s Rex Grossman.”

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 2

By: — September 20, 2011 @ 2:17 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

Welcome to Week 2 of the Tuesday Morning Buzz! Maybe it’s the lockout or maybe it’s legit, but this feels like one of the most exciting NFL seasons in recent memory. The week fizzled out on Monday night, but Sunday was phenomenal. Here on TMB, I’ll break down each game each week and hopefully never have to do so with a punctured lung. Let’s start with the perennial playoff contender Buffalo Bills.


This was certainly the most interesting Raiders– Bills matchup in years. I heard one of the announcers say “We’ll be back with this thriller in Buffalo.” When do you think the last time the verbiage “thriller in Buffalo” was used in seriousness? This was a great game. McFadden showed what he can do when he is healthy, and Fitzpatrick and Steve Johnson showed why they’re worth owning and why the Bills are better than you think.


Which quarterback will be more talked about this week: media darling Aaron Rodgers or the mega-controversial, No. 1 overall drafted Cam Newton? Rodgers walked off the field with the win, but Cam Newton has almost 1,000 yards in his first two starts in the NFL. He’s less than 100 yards behind the magnificent Tom Brady through two games. Combine that with his rushing capabilities and he’s got to be all over sports talk radio this week. I have been critical of Newton since the draft for nothing other than his college scheme and lack of playing time. But he gets the Jags in Carolina on Sunday and will likely put up more stellar stats. At the very least, it’s time for Newton to come off the waiver wire in all leagues.


Believe it or not, the Chiefs defense did not look terrible, as abysmal as the final score makes them seem. They remained competitive for the first three quarters. But how much can you expect their defense to do when their offense is so pathetic? Once Charles went down with injury, it was left to Dwayne Bowe, who has proven that his mind will never match his talent. Beware: Stafford was wincing, stretching, and flexing all through the second half. But until he’s pronounced as “out,” you’ve got to start him.

Count yours truly among those who lost Jamaal Charles for the year today. It’s always terrible to see a season-ending injury for a football player, but it’s even more excruciating to see an entire franchise go down for the season with him.


The story of this game is Delone Carter. His 11 carries versus Addai’s 14 means that once Addai goes down—and he will go down—Carter will get a lot of work. Watch out for Carter in the second half of this season. Colt McCoy and Kerry Collins both had subpar passing numbers. Peyton Hillis looked fantastic, but I maintain that his head-first power running style is shortening his career with each and every run.


The Buccaneers’ success rides on LeGarrette Blount just as the Falcons’ success rides on Michael Turner. Each of those teams has great receivers and even greater quarterbacks, but the running game is the X-factor, especially for the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers had no points at halftime, but once Blount got going, they made a furious comeback and won a game that they should’ve had in hand by halftime.

On the Vikings’ side of the ball, Adrian Peterson proved why he was worth the No. 1 pick in all formats. There is no arguing with 120 yards and two TDs against a respectable front seven. He is so strong, so fast, and so decisive that he is unsittable during the season and impassable in drafts.


The Saints D was able to control a Bears offense that really doesn’t seem that explosive, but overall the Bears were able to stop the big play, which is their M.O. Brees and Henderson did get the one great 79-yard touchdown, but the Bears were otherwise able to keep them to under 20 yards on receptions. Unfortunately for the Bears, the Saints have such a great cast of playmakers that they can play short all day and move down the field.

To illustrate: the Saints had eight players catch passes and four players with positive rush yards, adding up to three TDs and three FGs. However, in my estimation, that’s three too many field goals based on the amount of catches and short runs New Orleans was able to make. The Saints are a great offense but continue to flirt with being just good enough on each drive to get points instead of really going for the throat and making sure there are no comebacks. When playing an offense like the Bears, you may be able to win with fields goals. However, as we saw last week, if you can’t score touchdowns, you can’t beat high-octane offenses such as the Packers. In a division as strong and fast-paced as the NFC South, the Saints need to up their red zone efficiency if they want to win their division.


The Jaguars, similar to the Chiefs, just don’t have the offense to contend this year. Down to essentially one playmaker, they tried to get MJD going, and he did his best with 18 carries for 88 yards. An average of 4.9 yards per carry is pretty good against what may be the stoutest defense in football. Despite MJD’s effort, the Jets defense took advantage of Jacksonville’s miserable quarterback situation, and the turnovers made this an easy contest. Watch for Keller to continue to be effective this season. He’s streaky, but Sanchez does look for him, especially when Holmes is the first but is covered.


This year the Steelers are likely to be somewhere between the seven-turnover loss to the Ravens last week and their shutout of the Seahawks this week. The Seahawks are another miserably undermatched team and have one of the worst offensive lines the NFL has ever seen. Because of this, I would not own anyone out of Seattle, and I wouldn’t get too excited about the Steelers’ play. Pittsburgh’s offensive line doesn’t look much better, and their defense will not shut down a strong offense the way they were able to shutdown these Seahawks. I’m avoiding all Seahawks, and I’m figuring any Steeler is worth wherever you drafted him.


Last week, the Ravens rode the wings of seven turnovers to a much more impressive stat line. This week, all Baltimore pass catchers combined for only 15 catches and 197 yards. For now, the Ravens are one of the best teams in the NFL in my eyes, and I’m willing to chalk this one up to a trap game. They came off a fantastic victory and probably had no belief in the Titans. Matt Hasselbeck is a great veteran quarterback who took advantage of a Ravens team that seemed to be looking past the Titans. I don’t mind Hasselbeck as a bye-week fill-in or an injury backup, and he’s certainly got Kenny Britt poised to have a career year.


It’s interesting that two pass-first teams met and the story is the running backs. Beanie Wells rushed a healthy 14 times for 93 yards and a TD, and Tim Hightower rushed a whopping 20 times for 96 yards. The Cardinals threw the ball twice as often as they ran it while the Redskins were 55/45 in their pass/run ratio. I know Grossman isn’t the savior of the Redskins, but I expected much more passing than that. Santana Moss did haul in respectable receiving numbers again, however. I was certain this was the most boring game of the week until I ran into the brick wall that was Monday Night Football.


I’m not worried about Tony Romo. Yes, he’s not as mistake-proof as Brady, Brees, and Manning, but we can’t expect every good quarterback to be as great as those guys. Romo is dynamic, he wants to make plays, and he wants the Cowboys to win. In pursuit of those goals, he sometimes makes a boneheaded mistake or gets injured trying to make unnecessary plays, but he cares about his team and gutted it out in San Fran with what turned about to be a pretty dire injury. In the third quarter, I was thinking that if Alex Smith and Jon Kitna changed jerseys, maybe they could complete passes to the correct team. However, when Romo brought competence back into the game, Dallas came back and stepped it up in overtime. It wasn’t as pretty as it could have been, but the ‘Boys came away with a win.


Kyle Orton. Tim Tebow. Eric Decker. Jerome Simpson. A.J. Green. Andy Dalton. I’m really not interested in any of these guys. Is it likely they will each have some big games? Yes. Is it likely that Decker and Green might even have consistent fantasy points? Certainly. I, however, look for players on teams with the arrows pointing up on their seasons, and both of these teams may already have as many wins as they’ll end up with by the end of the season.

On the other hand, did you see Tebow come in as a receiver? That was the best block I’ve ever seen! He has the heart of a lion, and if he can block like that on a couple of downs then he can certainly have a Hall of Fame career as a passer! Let’s trade Brandon Lloyd and make Tim Tebow our No. 1 wide receiver! Ok, I do have faith in Tim Tebow, but let’s calm it down until he can prove it. If Orton is better than Tebow on the practice field, then Orton is the starter. It’s that easy.


Brandon Marshall is looking like a top-ten fantasy wideout.

Early on, it’s looking as though Brandon Marshall may be the steal of this draft. He’s putting up top-10 numbers right now, and he was a fourth- to sixth-round fantasy pick. The man is a red zone beast and is among the hardest to tackle in open space. As long as he doesn’t get stabbed by any more women, I can see him putting up numbers similar to the Texans’ main man, Andre Johnson.

Speaking of AJ, a touchdown per game seems like an afterthought for him. If he finished a game with 60 yards and a score, I might think he missed a quarter or two. In other playmaker news, Foster rushed back from his hamstring injury and aggravated it. If he actually wants to be successful this year, he needs to sit long enough to fully regain his health. All he is doing by taking a few handoffs before having to leave is upsetting the rhythm of his offense. Despite that, Schaub and Ben Tate were enough to keep the Texans in the lead to the end of the game.


I wonder if the Patriots are the first team in NFL history to have three of eleven men on the field with “kowski” in their last name on field goal attempts. For that matter, I wonder if they’re the first team with two Gronkowskis. Watch for NBC to sometime turn this into a hyper-specific obscure stat: “Tom Brady is the first quarterback to complete 15 or more passes to two tight ends with the last name Gronkowski in the same half while playing below the Mason-Dixon line.” Maybe Chad Ochocinco could change his name to Chad Johnkowski just to make sure the record is never broken. Then again, he would have to get involved enough in the offense to actually get onto the field.

The Chargers started by doing what they do best by setting up the run with the pass, and Mathews looked good throughout the game. They are trying to give Mathews the job; he just has to continue to improve. Even though the Bolts had a lot of sloppy turnovers, the game was still relatively close. I would say that this loss should not be too harrowing, especially since it was lost in Foxborough.

Now, how about that Vincent Jackson! Some people love quick, lightning bug playmakers like Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead, Wes Welker, and Miles Austin. I, however, am smitten by the giant physical receiver. I’ll take Vincent Jackson, Greg Jennings, Dez Bryant, and Calvin Johnson any day. There’s nothing more exciting to me than seeing Vincent Jackson leap over four defenders to haul in a 50-yard TD pass, or seeing Brandon Marshall catch a short pass in the flat and proceed to manhandle several DBs and a linebackers in pursuit of the end zone.

If you have a target that’s huge and fast, you can send him out wide and throw indefensible passes for major chunks of yardage. Once in the red zone, a big receiver’s value grows exponentially, as jump balls to the back corner are likely to result in either a touchdown or pass interference. When considering which WRs to draft (after examining their QB situation), I always look for fast and big targets.


This game could’ve been a stinker. I don’t care how great the “Vick returns to Atlanta” storyline is, if the game isn’t electric then the storyline build-up is pointless. I don’t care how many playmakers you have, if it doesn’t have exciting headlines then it won’t get your attention. No, this game wasn’t a surefire, trademark game-of-the-season until Samuel L. Jackson took the field to scream a fiery cult-like chant to inspire the crowd. I don’t see how any team being enchanted by the only man awesome enough to play Nick Fury and Mace Windu could possibly lose.

That sweet Sammy J. mojo took the form of Michael Turner, who dominated this game. This offense runs through Turner, not Ryan, as long as he is healthy. That’s why all Philly’s strength in the secondary couldn’t stop the Dirty Birds. I’m well aware that Ryan threw the touchdowns, but Tony Gonzales would certainly not have been that effective had Turner not steamrolled the Philly D and forced them to play heavy run defense.

On the Eagles side of the ball, Vick proved exactly why he is not my QB in any league. He may be the most complete athlete in the NFL, but anyone who gets hit that often is too risky for my blood. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first sack or the forty-first, if you’re getting hit you’re likely to be hurt. Fantasy football is a weekly game, and Michael Vick is not going to perform every week for you.


My favorite line from this game: “Hoomanawanui tackled by Mathias Kiwanuka.” I’m sorry, what? If only Lofa Tatupu could’ve made it into the conversation somewhere. Coming into this game, I pondered what the NFL schedule makers were thinking when they made this the Monday Night Football selection. This is a perfect 1 p.m. Sunday nap-time game, and both teams played it like one. It was sloppy, it was slow, and the Giants weren’t nearly as good as their four-touchdown score looks.

Sam Bradford continued to show he’s worth the pick and the paycheck , even in an ugly mess of a terrible game. Bradford is physically gifted, but he really shines with his cerebral quarterback play. I’ll take the smart quarterback over the fast or strong quarterback every time. These Rams feel like the Lions when they were coming off their 0-16 season. They’re still a couple years away from being truly good, but their arrow is pointing up and they have the quarterback to make them elite. Watch for St. Louis to draft some big names at receiver and be a fantasy force to be reckoned with next year.

P.S. – Man, Hakeem Nicks is really good.

$#^! Chris Collinsworth Says

Nearly every Sunday night, Chris Collinsworth says something ridiculous. This week, however, he was generally respectable in his commentary, no outrageously obvious nuggets. No, this week the role of Collinsworth was taken over by the normally fantastic but just as goofy Jon Gruden. Coach Gruden on the St. Louis Rams’ ineffective red zone play in the first quarter: “If the Rams don’t get their red zone offense under control, they’re going to have problems beating anyone!”

And that’s it! Week 2 is in the books, and, gosh, it’s good to have football back. Check back next Tuesday for more breakdowns and fantasy advice.

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