Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — November 22, 2013 @ 1:28 pm
1. With the Bears in the race for the NFC North crown, you would think the teams’ fans would be focused on the upcoming playoff run and the Bears chances of making a deep run into the postseason. However, the noise of the playoff run is being shared with debates as to whether the team will re-sign quarterback Jay Cutler at the conclusion of the season. Bears management has done its best to keep the Cutler debate out of the news, even announcing that they would not engage in negotiations during the season, but given the importance of the quarterback position, it has come to the forefront over the past several weeks. While it may seem like a foregone conclusion that Cutler will be re-signed, that isn’t necessarily the case. Cutler will turn 31 prior to the 2014 season, his backup, Josh McCown, is enjoying a solid season in relief and Cutler has led his team to the playoffs just once during his first seven years in the league. With Cutler having his second injury plagued season over the last three years, there is a solid chance the team will choose to place the franchise tag on him for the 2014 season. Given that leverage, the team can then sign him to a long-term extension on terms they are amenable to or else use a high pick in the upcoming draft on a quarterback to groom for the future.
2.In Oakland, the Raiders face a different type of conundrum at the quarterback position. Rookie undrafted free agent Matt McGloin is coming off a 18 for 32, 197-yard, three touchdown, no interception performance in the Raiders win over the Texans and incumbent starter Terrelle Pryor, thought to be the team’s quarterback of the future, is more than likely ready to return to the lineup from a knee injury. Head coach Dennis Allen has already named McGloin the starter for the team’s Week 12 matchup against the Titans but it is anybody’s guess as to what his reasoning is for that decision. It could be that Allen believes that he needs to win some games to return in 2014. While McGloin pulled out the win against the Texans, the team’s defense gets the kudos for that win, giving McGloin short fields to work with twice due to turnovers and allowing the team to play with a lead for the entire game. Meanwhile, although Pryor has been inconsistent as a passer and needs to improve his accuracy, he at least has the look of a potential starter provided he can improve on his ability to read defenses. The Raiders would do well to allow Pryor to finish the season as the team’s starter in order to determine whether they need to take a quarterback early in the 2014 draft.
Who’s really making the Quarterback call in Houston?
3. The Texans face their own quarterback conundrum and also appear to be hindered by a head coach looking to win a few games to help save his job. With Matt Schaub struggling and benched in favor of 2nd year undrafted free agent Case Keenum, it appeared likely that Schaub’s days in Houston were numbered. However, head coach Gary Kubiak gave Keenum the quick hook this week against the Raiders despite the fact that he had thrown for 822 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception in his past three games. That’s not the type of decision making that inspires confidence in a young player or that signals that the organization views the player as a potential long term solution at the quarterback position. While Kubiak has said that Keenum will get the start this week against the Jaguars, you have to wonder whether that decision is of his own making or whether it is being forced upon him.
4. There are a couple of interesting matchups this week, one of which is Broncos’ wide receiver Wes Welker’s return to New England for Denver’s Sunday night matchup against the Patriots. New England’s fans are sure to give Welker, a long time fan favorite and quarterback Tom Brady’s go to receiver during his six year run as a Patriot, a warm welcome and it seems unlikely that Welker will give former head coach Bill Belichick the same type of welcome. Welker’s fantasy owners surely start him on a weekly basis but there could be some reluctance to roll with him this week due to his Week 11 concussion. However, teams often feature players when they face their former teams and it seems likely that quarterback Peyton Manning will look Welker’s way early and often this week.
5.In St. Louis, Rams defensive end Chris Long, who lines up mostly opposite the opposition’s right tackle, will face his younger brother, Kyle, during this week’s matchup against the Bears. Taken in the 1st round of this year’s draft, Kyle Long starts at right guard for Chicago. While they don’t figure to line up opposite each other since the Rams rarely use Chris inside as a defensive tackle, the Rams will surely stunt him inside where Kyle will need to slow him down.
6. The 49ers have struggled at the wide receiver position for almost all of 2013 but they appear to be getting healthy as they make a run at a wild card playoff berth. With Seattle leading the division and holding a nearly insurmountable 3.5 game lead, San Francisco will need to enter the playoffs with a wild card slot and that means holding off the Bears and a surprisingly strong Cardinals squad. Mario Manningham returned to the lineup in Week 10 and Michael Crabtree has an outside chance of playing during the team’s Monday night matchup against the Redskins. With Anquan Boldin slowing down as the season has progressed and Vernon Davis playing well when healthy, quarterback Colin Kaepernick has not had a breakout season during his second year as the team’s starting quarterback. However, with a healthy cast at receiver (Crabtree’s return to 100% may take several weeks), he could be in line for a strong run to the playoffs for the 49ers and for your fantasy squad during Weeks 14-16.
By: Dave Stringer — November 19, 2013 @ 8:10 pm
Big Ben is now 11th in FPts/G among all Quarterbacks.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
With 971 passing yards and nine touchdowns in his last three games, Big Ben is getting hot at just the right time for the Steelers and his fantasy owners. The matchups aren’t great between now and Week 15 (Browns, Ravens, Dolphins, Bengals) but Roethlisberger is a streaky player and he’s rolling at the moment.
EJ Manuel, Bills
This one’s more for the dynasty leaguers out there, but the Bills’ rookie first-round pick was solid this week in his second game after returning from a knee injury. Despite not having leading wide receiver Steve Johnson or Robert Woods available, Manuel threw for 245 yards and a pair of scores on 20-of-28 passing during the Bills 37–14 blowout win over the Jets.
Geno Smith, Jets
Yeesh! That was ugly.
Andy Dalton, Bengals
Dalton’s hot streak ended three games ago and he has turned into a turnover machine since then (eight interceptions). I am confident going on the record in stating that he’s not going to have any more three-touchdown outings when he throws for just 93 yards. Dalton needs to be on your bench until he gets hot again.
Bobby Rainey, Bucs
Well, I told you last week that Rainey didn’t have the look of a true lead back and I guess I’m eating my words today after his 30-carry, 163-yard, two-touchdown performance this week against the Falcons. Oh yeah, he also chipped in a four-yard touchdown reception. Rainey is clearly the lead back in Tampa over the balance of the season, and the matchups from Weeks 14 through 16 aren’t that bad (Bills, 49ers, Rams).
Donald Brown, Colts
The only thing holding Brown back from emerging as a solid RB2 over the balance of the season is the fact it would be extremely embarrassing for the Colts’ management and coaches to bench Trent Richardson. But it still might happen. Brown was great this week with 15 touches for 94 yards and a pair of scores, but the Cardinals are on tap next week (third-ranked run defense) and then the Bengals in Week 14 (ninth-ranked run defense).
Rashad Jennings, Raiders
Jennings is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 8.2 yards per reception. Darren McFadden is averaging 3.6 yards per carry and 6.5 yards per reception. Jennings has a pair of 100-yard rushing games in the Raiders’ last three matchups. McFadden is a free agent at season’s end, will command a large salary on the open market, has one 1000-yard rushing season during his first five years in the league, and has topped 1,000 total yards just once. Jennings is also a free agent but will cost a fraction of what McFadden will. The Raiders have been in salary cap hell. Maybe they should spend the rest of the season finding out what they have in Jennings. He’s hot and, save for a Week 14 matchup against the Jets’ top-ranked run defense, the schedule is favorable.
Ray Rice, Ravens; Chris Johnson, Titans
Undoubtedly taken in the first round of most fantasy drafts this year, both Rice and Johnson have disappointed, with Rice being one of the biggest busts of the year. They are each coming off of solid games, with Rice topping 100 rushing yards for the first time and 100 total yards for just the second time. Johnson scored a pair of touchdowns, giving him four in his last three games. Consider Rice a sell candidate if your league’s trading window is still open, but I would ride Johnson the rest of the way.
Ben Tate, Texans
If Tate owners were hoping he would replicate Arian Foster’s success, they have been sorely disappointed. While Tate is clearly talented, he is also clearly not in Foster’s class as a running back. In the last three games, he has averaged 4.0 yards per carry, 75 rushing yards per game and chipped in just eight receptions for a measly 35 yards. He lacks Foster’s explosiveness, pass-catching ability and chops as a short-yardage runner.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
Montee Ball stole a pair of touchdowns this week, leaving Moreno with just one touchdown in his last three games. Not the kind of slide his fantasy owners want to see with the playoffs approaching.
Mark Ingram, Saints
With Ingram coming off of the first 100-yard game of his three-year career, I was cautiously optimistic the Saints would be committed to getting him consistent touches going forward. Sure enough, he had just seven touches in a close game against the 49ers this week. If the Saints aren’t committed, you shouldn’t be.
Michael Floyd, Cardinals
After averaging 7.4 targets per game over the Cardinals’ first seven games and being largely disappointing (32 receptions for 396 yards and one touchdown), Floyd saw his workload decreased to a total of six targets over the two games prior to this week. That seemed to motivate Arizona’s 2012 first-round pick, as he had the finest game of his career this week, hauling in six of his 11 targets for 193 yards and a 91-yard touchdown. He might be hitting his stride at just the right time.
Kendall Wright, Titans
Over the last two games, Wright has 21 targets, 16 receptions and 158 receiving yards. Ryan Fitzpatrick likes to look his way, and if the touchdowns every start coming (just one so far this season), Wright will emerge as a solid WR2 in standard leagues with even more upside in PPR formats.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Sure, Bowe’s an idiot and the Chiefs MAY have been fools for signing him to a lucrative long-term contract extension, but it’s fairly obvious that he has been misused for much of this season. That might be changing. He averaged just 5.6 targets per game over the Chiefs’ first eight games but has been targeted 26 times over the past two. With Kansas City needing to establish a strong passing attack with the playoffs around the corner (as evidenced during their first loss of the season this week to the Broncos), Bowe figures to see the ball plenty as the season winds down.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Colts
Since Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL in Week 7, DHB has caught five of his 15 targets for 51 yards. So much for the notion that he would step up and become consistent with Wayne out. For the year, he has caught just 23 of his targets despite averaging just 10.5 yards per reception.
Wes Welker, Broncos
He’s concussed and has just one touchdown in his last four games after scoring eight times during the Broncos’ first six games.
Victor Cruz, Giants
The schedule looks good but Cruz has scored touchdowns in just two of ten games so far in 2013, including none in the past six.
Delanie Walker, Titans
Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown 61 passes in the last two games and targeted Walker 17 times. Hmmm… Opportunity is knocking on Walker’s door and he figures to get plenty of targets going forward since he caught all ten of his looks this week for 91 yards and a touchdown. That gives him double-digit fantasy points in three of his last four games.
Coby Fleener, Colts
Reggie Wayne was lost for the season and Fleener has been targeted 25 times in the three games since then, including 20 in the Colts’ last two games. He topped 100 receiving yards for the first time in his career this week against the Titans, with seven receptions for 107 yards. With Darrius Heyward-Bey struggling, look for Fleener to continue to get plenty of targets.
Garrett Graham, Texans
It was nice that Graham put up a career performance of seven receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown this week against the Raiders, but the fourth-year pro is likely headed to the bench soon with incumbent starter Owen Daniels targeting a Week 14 return.
Martellus Bennett, Bears
Bennett can’t seem to shake the ankle injury that has hindered his performance, and he was barely used this week with just two targets (two receptions for 48 yards). With just one touchdown in his last eight games and 120 receiving yards in the last four, it might be time to see if you can do better.
By: Dave Stringer — November 16, 2013 @ 11:43 am
Kap is struggling without Crabtree.
1. In San Francisco, the 49ers are anxiously awaiting the return of wide receiver Michael Crabtree to the lineup. Tight end Vernon Davis suffered a concussion early during the team’s Week 10 loss to the Panthers, leaving quarterback Colin Kaepernick with a group of unproven receivers outside of Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham, who was playing in his first game since tearing both his ACL and PCL in December of last season. With Crabtree and Manningham both out of the lineup, Kaepernick has struggled during his second season as the team’s starting quarterback, failing to throw for 200 yards in seven of nine games. With Crabtree in the lineup last season, Kaepernick topped 200 receiving yards in nine of his ten starts. Unfortunately for Kaepernick owners, the 49ers have not put a timetable on Crabtree’s return and there are no guarantees that when he returns he will be the player he was at the end of last season when he had solid chemistry with Kaepernick and was playing at a Pro Bowl level. A torn Achilles’ tendon is a significant injury for a wide receiver and it is unlikely that Crabtree will return to Pro Bowl form at any point this season.
2. Another team with issues at wide receiver is the Kansas City Chiefs. A schedule littered with back up quarterbacks and key injuries to their opponents has helped the Chiefs start the season with a 9-0 record. With a key showdown against the Denver Broncos on tap for Week 11, Dwayne Bowe, the team’s top wide receiver, was arrested this week for speeding and possession of marijuana. One of the league’s most talented receivers, Bowe’s lack of maturity was the key reason behind the Chiefs reluctance to sign him to a long term contract after the 2011 season. They chose to place the franchise tag on him for the 2012 season before signing him to a five-year, $56-million contract prior to this season. Their reward has been the least productive season of his seven-year career as he has just 33 receptions for 369 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While some of that decline is explained by the conservative style of quarterback Alex Smith, the Chiefs can’t be too pleased to be paying Bowe over $11-million per season and for him to be on pace to finish with less than 800 yards receiving. His troubles this week aren’t likely to help his team in Denver or help him get on track in 2013.
3. The Vikings travel to Seattle this week to play the Seahawks and there is a good chance that former Viking Percy Harvin will make his Seahawks debut. While Minnesota received solid value in return for Harvin (1st, 3rd and 7th round draft picks), they enter the game with major issues not only at quarterback, where Christian Ponder has failed to assert himself as a solid starter, but also at wide receiver where Greg Jennings, signed in the offseason to replace Harvin, has struggled, Jerome Simpson has continued to disappoint and rookie 1st round pick Cordarrelle Patterson remains very much a work in progress. Jennings is a poor fit with a checkdown artist like Ponder at quarterback and Patterson is so raw that he is unlikely to contribute much even in 2014. It seems clear that Harvin was an excellent fit in Minnesota, especially with Ponder under center. Meanwhile, in Seattle, Harvin has yet to see the field after undergoing hip surgery at the beginning of training camp. Fortunately for the Seahawks, the struggles the 49ers have endured have allowed them to open up a two and a half game advantage in the NFC West. Otherwise, they might very well be regretting this trade.
4. With Donald Brown asserting himself in the Colts backfield on Thursday night (94 yards and a touchdown on 15 touches) and continuing his run of solid production over the team’s last seven games (421 total yards and four touchdowns in a backup role while averaging 9.4 PPG), Indianapolis will have an interesting dilemma at the running back position during the 2014 offseason. Brown’s rookie contract expires at the end of the season, making him a free agent. After the trade for Trent Richardson, it seemed clear the Colts intention was to use him as their starter in 2014 with Vick Ballard, out for the season with a torn ACL, in reserve. That scenario left Brown on the outside looking in but his strong play, coupled with Richardson’s massive struggles (3.0 yards per carry average and no games with more than 60 yards rushing as a Colt) could result in his return. That wouldn’t bode well for Richardson’s already rapidly declining dynasty league value.
5. It seemed a foregone conclusion when Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was lost for the season with a torn ACL in late July that he would re-sign with Philadelphia in the offseason. While Maclin has never fulfilled the potential many thought he had after being taken in the 1st round of the 2009 draft out of Missouri, the Eagles lack of a solid option behind DeSean Jackson signalled Maclin would return in 2014. However, the recent strong play of Riley Cooper increases the Eagles options at the wide receiver position as well as reducing Maclin’s negotiating leverage. While Cooper is also a free agent, his contract demands are likely to be much more modest than those of Maclin, who may need to sign a prove it contract to return to Philadelphia.
6. With the fantasy playoffs around the corner, it is time to review the upcoming schedule for your key performers and one player who seems likely to be in for a rough ride is Chargers running back Ryan Mathews. After a solid matchup this week against the Dolphins, the Chargers face the Chiefs, Bengals, Giants, Broncos and Raiders. While Mathews has actually played well in recent weeks when given an opportunity, this slate of games spells trouble since the Chargers figure to be playing from behind plenty and Mathews rarely sees the field on passing downs (just eight receptions on the season) and is only used sporadically at the goal line. He rates as a RB3 over the remainder of the season so unless you are in a flex league, he should likely be on your bench.
By: Dave Stringer — November 12, 2013 @ 8:14 pm
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
It has been an inconsistent year for the Seahawks’ second-year quarterback but he seems to be clicking on all cylinders with the fantasy playoffs just around the corner. With his 287-yard, two-touchdown passing performance this week, Wilson has now thrown for 878 yards and nine touchdowns over his last four games. Did we mention help is on the way in the form of one Percy Harvin? A couple of caveats: Seattle has a Week 12 bye and the schedule shows some tough passing defenses between now and Week 16.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Anybody hoping to ride Kaepernick through the fantasy playoffs is asking for trouble. The 49ers’ signal caller has topped 200 passing yards just twice in nine games this season and he just lost tight end Vernon Davis to a concussion. Until Mario Manningham or Michael Crabtree get up to speed, the 49ers don’t have any receivers that gain much separation, at least until Davis returns.
Andre Brown, Giants
I reminded you last week that Brown was returning to the Giants lineup and would likely emerge as an RB2 over the balance of the season. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Sure enough, Brown was given a massive workload, carrying the ball 30 times for 115 yards and a score. The Giants face run defenses ranked 13th or lower over the next five weeks before they head to Detroit to face the Lions’ eighth-ranked run defense in Week 16.
Bobby Rainey and Brian Leonard, Bucs
Mike James is out indefinitely with a fractured ankle so these guys get the Moving Up treatment, but the truth is that I wouldn’t trust either of them. Leonard is a solid pass receiver out of the backfield but he is ill equipped to handle lead back duties. Rainey had a solid stat line this week with eight rushes for 45 yards and a score to go along with an 11-yard reception. However, he didn’t have the look of a true lead back and we have no way of knowing if the Bucs trust him in pass protection.
Shane Vereen, Patriots
It is a light week for RBs in the Moving Up category so let’s make note of the fact that Vereen is eligible to return to the Patriots’ lineup this week. He will assume the pass-catching role and eat into Stevan Ridley’s rushing attempts as soon as he is ready. Since he’s a Patriot, we have no idea when that will be.
Mark Ingram, Saints
A first-round pick in the 2011 draft, Ingram this week finally had his first 100-yard rushing performance, carrying the ball 14 times for 145 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys. Lo and behold, he also caught a pair of passes for 15 yards. Yeah, it all happened in a blowout win, but at least it happened. Maybe he will emerge as a flex play in larger leagues as the season winds down.
Steven Jackson, Falcons
Even though the Seahawks run defense was like a sieve for the last couple of weeks, SJax couldn’t take advantage of them this week, carrying the ball nine times for 11 yards. The truth is that he doesn’t appear to be fully recovered from the hamstring injury that sidelined him in Week 2.
C.J. Spiller, Bills
Hey, Spiller could have a monster game this week against the Jets’ league-leading run defense. He’s here because you never know what the Bills coaches have in store for him. After a solid 14-touch, 155-yard game against the Chiefs solid defense, Spiller had just 11 touches this week for 34 yards, with Fred Jackson getting 15 touches.
Andre Ellington, Cardinals
Remarkably, after missing two games, Rashard Mendenhall had 14 touches this week to just 13 for Ellington. Mendenhall averages 3.4 yards a touch and Ellington averages 7.7. If this isn’t proof that the Cardinals view Ellington as nothing more than a change-of-pace, receiving back, then I don’t know what is.
Riley Cooper, Eagles
Cooper gets the Moving Up treatment for the consecutive weeks courtesy of his three-reception, 102-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Packers. That gives him six touchdowns in his last five games, during which he has recorded at least 88 yards four times. He’s a WR2 the rest of the way, folks.
Tavon Austin, Rams
Has Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer finally figured out how to use Austin? Or was Austin’s two-reception, 138-yard, two-touchdown performance this week just a fluke? No and no. Austin was targeted just three times on the same plays the Rams have been running for him all year, but his speed and elusiveness cannot be discounted. Sure, he’s Moving Up, but with just 14 targets over his last five games, you shouldn’t expect consistent production.
18 targets for Jeffery in Week 10.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears
Just in case you haven’t noticed, Jeffery has been on fire of late with double-digit fantasy points in five of his last six games. He was targeted a whopping 18 times this week, hauling in nine receptions for 114 yards. Over his last six games, Jeffery has 34 receptions for 631 yards and three touchdowns.
Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Seahawks
Kearse went three for 75 and a score this week while Baldwin had five receptions for 76 yards. Last week, both players had double-digit fantasy points. Unfortunately, some dude named Percy Harvin is expected to return to the Seahawks lineup in Week 11.
Rishard Matthews, Dolphins
Let’s face it, the Bucs did a poor job covering Matthews. But, hey, the kid looked good, hauling in 11 of his 14 targets for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sure, he had just ten receptions coming into the game, but Matthews showed that he has enough talent to succeed. With Brandon Gibson out for the year and Brian Hartline struggling to replicate his 2012 success, Matthews could be a solid flex play in larger leagues.
Vincent Jackson, Bucs
Jackson hasn’t found the end zone for three consecutive weeks and put up his second straight dud this week. He has just ten receptions for118 yards over the Bucs’ last three games despite being targeted 25 times.
James Jones, Packers
Since returning to the lineup in Week 9, James has five receptions for 61 yards, and the quarterback situation in Green Bay is a mess.
Greg Jennings, Vikings
Speaking of quarterback messes, how about the Vikings? Jennings just might be wishing he was still in Green Bay. He has ten receptions for 101 yards in his last three games. This guy is still capable of making big plays but he needs somebody who can get him the ball down the field.
Nate Washington, Titans
Washington seemed ready to emerge after a pair of solid games in Weeks 3 and 4 but it has been all downhill since then. He hasn’t scored since Week 4 and he has topped 60 receiving yards in just one of the Titans’ last five games. He put up an O-fer in Week 9 and followed that up with a three-reception, 29-yard performance this week against the Jaguars’ lowly pass defense.
John Carlson, Vikings
Back from the dead, we present John Carlson. With Kyle Rudolph out for four to six weeks with a broken foot, Carlson stepped up this week, catching all seven of his targets for 98 yards and a touchdown. He was also targeted a healthy six times in Week 9. After the coming game against the Seahawks, the Vikings face four straight passing defenses ranked in the lower half of the league.
Tyler Eifert, Bengals
Eifert, one of the Bengals’ first-round picks in this year’s draft, has had a disappointing rookie season so far but may be on the verge of turning that around. Although he only hauled in three receptions for 55 yards this week, he was targeted ten times. He could emerge as a low-end TE1 with that kind of usage.
Vernon Davis, 49ers
Davis left this week’s game against the Panthers with a concussion and will need to go through the league’s concussion protocol before he can return to action. With the fantasy playoffs around the corner, Davis owners will need to add a quality backup.
By: Dave Stringer — November 5, 2013 @ 8:00 pm
What a difference a week makes.
Nick Foles, Eagles
Seven touchdowns are what most pundits expected Foles would throw for a full season, or half of one. Not one game. But that is what Foles did this week against the Raiders. He needed just 28 attempts to throw all those touchdowns while accumulating 406 yards through the air. His performance should give him a stranglehold on the starting job over the remainder of the season, but remember that just two short weeks ago he was nothing short of awful against the Cowboys.
Tom Brady, Patriots
It’s not often you discount a performance against the Steelers defense, but that is where we are at with the underperforming Pittsburgh squad. After throwing for just two touchdowns in his last four games, Brady found the Steelers’ porous pass defense to his liking, throwing for 432 yards and four touchdowns. With both Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola healthy, perhaps Brady is ready to elevate his game. I’m not ready to make that proclamation just yet, but things are looking a whole light brighter than they did a week ago.
Case Keenum, Texans
Keenum knows his bread is buttered by Andre Johnson and was smart enough to go to him often this week on his way to 20 of 34 for 350 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts. While it wasn’t enough to secure a Texans victory, it was almost certainly enough to earn him more starts ahead of Matt Schaub.
Geno Smith, Jets
You surely weren’t riding the Smith train this season, but if you have him as your backup, you might want to look for an upgrade. Despite scoring rushing touchdowns in two of his last three games, Smith has averaged just 15.8 fantasy points per game over that span. With the Jets turning to the running game, Smith has throw for 233, 159 and 115 yards over his past three games, with just one touchdown pass and three interceptions. It appears as though the Jets are dialing down the passing offense as the season progresses, not expanding it.
Zac Stacy, Rams
Cue the Alfred Morris comparisons. After a very good performance last week against a stout Seahawks run defense (134 yards on 26 carries), Stacy was even better this week against the Titans with 178 total yards (127 rushing, 51 receiving) and a pair of touchdowns on 33 touches. With the Rams’ offensive line jelling, Stacy looks like a candidate to break out in the second half and carry some fantasy squads to the promised land. It’s probably too late to grab him in most leagues, but if there is an owner out there who doesn’t believe, then make your move. It never hurts to ask.
Mike James, Bucs
First off, let’s clear up the notion that the Seahawks have one of the league’s top run defenses. At the moment, they certainly don’t. Rams rookie Zac Stacy ran over them last week (134 rushing yards), and James, another rookie, ran over them this week (158 yards). James isn’t the most talented running back but seems to get what is blocked and isn’t averse to running defenders over. The only caveat here is that the Bucs are often trailing, and that takes away some of his fantasy appeal.
Andre Brown, Giants
Just a reminder that Brown is expected back this week and the Giants face run defenses ranked 16th or worse between Weeks 12 and 16. He will apparently get a set package of plays this week against the Raiders, with his role expanding over the balance of the season. There is a good chance that Brown will emerge as an RB2 given the lack of talent on the Giants depth chart at running back.
Chris Johnson, Titans
Johnson scored his first touchdown of the year this week against the Rams. Woo hoo. Then he added another on his way to a 150-yard performance, his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season. That’s the good news. That bad news is that Shonn Greene appears to be fully healthy and had nine rushes this week, including a short-yardage touchdown. With CJ2K, the glass is always half empty.
Rashad Jennings, Raiders
When Darren McFadden left this week’s game against the Eagles, Jennings took over and had his most productive game as a Raider, with 15 carries for 102 yards and a score. He also chipped in seven receptions for another 74 yards. Look for McFadden to miss at least a game or two, leaving Jennings to benefit from the soft run defenses that await. Up next are the Giants (10th-ranked run defense) followed by the Texans (18th), Titans (26th), Cowboys (16th), Jets (1st), Chiefs (24th) and Chargers (23rd).
Lamar Miller, Dolphins
Thanks a lot, Mike Sherman and Joe Philbin. Right after I buried Miller, the Dolphins increased his workload. In each of the last two weeks, he has had at least 20 touches and more than 100 total yards. The touchdowns still aren’t there (just two on the season), but if he keeps up this workload, they will start appearing.
DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert, Panthers
With Jonathan Stewart back in the lineup, the Panthers running back situation is a fantasy mess that you want to avoid. Stewart had 12 touches this week (65 yards) to Williams’ 15 (54 yards) while Tolbert had nine (37 yards). Ugh.
Eddie Lacy, Packers
This one falls into the “maybe” category, but if quarterback Aaron Rodgers is out for an extended period, Lacy will likely see plenty of eight- and nine-man fronts. While he has been a beast over the last five weeks with 545 rushing yards and three touchdowns, he doesn’t have a hope in hell of maintaining that with Seneca Wallace (or maybe Matt Flynn?) under center.
Darren McFadden, Raiders
Run-DMC hasn’t been very good this season (3.6 YPC and just 85 receiving yards) and, once again, is proving how brittle he is. He came out this week against the Eagles after re-aggravating a hamstring injury that slowed him down earlier this season and caused him to miss the Raiders game against the Chargers in Week 5. He will likely miss more time, and that’s unfortunate given Oakland’s favorable run matchups over the next several weeks.
Andre Johnson, Texans
As noted above, rookie starter Case Keenum was smart enough to go to AJ early and often this week, with Johnson hauling in nine of his 13 targets for 229 yards and three touchdowns, his first scores of the year.
Aaron Dobson, Patriots
Moving Up. Again. I told you in my Week 7 Dave’s Take that Dobson was the Patriots rookie WR to have, and he has left fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins in his dust since then. This week, Dobson topped 100 receiving yards for the first time, with 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns on his five receptions. The Patriots passing offense has struggled thus far in 2013, but it might not be a bad idea to gamble on them turning it around.
Riley Cooper, Eagles
Who knows, maybe time lessens the pressure of making a complete ass of yourself. No matter how you cut it, Cooper turned in a career-best performance this week against the Raiders with five receptions for 139 yards and three touchdowns. Cooper doesn’t usually generate much separation, but he was solid this week and is averaging six targets per game over the Eagles’ last four games. He just might emerge as a low-end WR3 over the balance of the season.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts
No surprise here as Hilton emerged as the Colts’ top wide receiver with Reggie Wayne out for the year. The Indy coaches could talk Darrius Heyward-Bey up all they want, but Hilton was clearly the player with more upside. While Hilton is hardly a complete player at this stage of his career (he has caught only 52.2 percent of his targets this season), he figures to emerge as Andrew Luck’s go-to guy, and his seven-reception, 121-yard, three-touchdown performance this week went a long way to securing that honor.
Lance Moore, Saints
Nothing special this week with six receptions for 70 yards, but the 10 targets were nice. Also, there are no assurances that tight end Jimmy Graham will remain healthy, that Darren Sproles (concussion) will be ready for next week or that Marques Colston will be effective when he returns to the lineup after struggling for most of 2013. That spells opportunity for Moore.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
With Justin Blackmon out for the year, Shorts is once again the Jaguars top wide receiver, and he has been productive filling that role over the last year and a half. He rates as a mid-tier WR2 over the last half of the season.
Stephen Hill, Jets
Hill appeared to be on the verge of a breakout season, with 13 receptions for 233 yards and a score during the first three weeks. He has fallen off the face of the earth over the last six games, however, with just 10 receptions for 107 yards. Did he pee in Geno Smith’s or Marty Mornhinweg’s corn flakes? Inquiring minds want to know. With Santonio Holmes out this week and Jeremy Kerley injured early in the game, Hill had only one target, which he failed to bring in.
Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin, Packers
Another bunch of maybe Moving Downs. If Rodgers is out, Nelson becomes an upper-tier WR2, Jones becomes an upper-tier WR3 and Boykin becomes a major question mark (he had just one target this week).
Greg Olsen, Panthers
Nothing too exciting going on at TE this week, so Olsen gets the Moving Up treatment. After his four-reception, 66-yard, one-touchdown performance this week against the Falcons, he has touchdowns in consecutive weeks and is on pace to better his career year from last season when he finished with 69 receptions for 843 yards and five touchdowns.
Jordan Cameron, Browns
Cameron has cooled down considerably since his hot start to the season. After four games, he had piled up 30 receptions for 360 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 10.8 targets per game. In the five games since, he has 20 catches for 240 yards and a score (just 5.8 targets per game). I’ll do the math for you: 16.5 PPG to 6.0. Opposing defenses have focused more on him and his production is suffering.
By: Dave Stringer — November 1, 2013 @ 1:45 pm
Michael Vick’s days in Philadelphia are numbered.
1. In Philadelphia, quarterback Michael Vick’s latest injury could sound the death knell for his career as an Eagle. Less than a quarter into his return from a hamstring injury suffered in Week 5, Vick reinjured his hamstring, proving once again how unreliable he has become during the later stages of his career. He has failed to appear in all 16 games since the 2006 season and has missed 19 games, and parts of several others, over the past four and a half seasons. The odd part of this situation is that Vick’s only hope to return in 2014 depends on how Nick Foles performs over the remainder of the season. If Foles plays well to convince the team’s management that he is their quarterback of the future, then the team could look to bring Vick back in a backup role. However, if Foles struggles, the Eagles will almost certainly look to the 2014 draft to find their future starter.
2. Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon hasn’t had an easy go of it in his rookie season and his job is about to get even tougher with the news that starting wide receiver Mike Williams will miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury. The Bucs have been without running back Doug Martin since Week 7 and there is no definitive time set for his return. Journeyman Tiquan Underwood, who had a career year in 2012 with 28 receptions for 425 yards and two touchdowns, will replace Williams in the starting lineup. Underwood lost his third receiver role to Kevin Ogletree to open the season but won it back when Ogletree was released. Behind Underwood are four 1st or 2nd year players that have combined to catch 12 career passes. Fortunately, the Bucs appear to have hit on tight end Tim Wright, who figures to see plenty of targets with Williams out. With 181 attempts in Glennon’s first four starts, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan has proven that he isn’t averse to relying heavily on the passing game.
3. Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne tore his ACL in Week 7 and was placed on season-ending injury reserve last week. The Colts will look to promising 2nd year player LaVon Brazil, David Reed and Griff Whalen to fill Wayne’s role. With Wayne out, it will mark the first time since late in the 1998 season that Indianapolis will field a lineup without Wayne or his former running mate Marvin Harrison. Not only have the Colts had stability at the all important quarterback position, they have also been blessed to have it at wide receiver.
4. In Carolina, running backs DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert have had reasonably solid fantasy production over the first seven games of the season with Williams chalking up 588 total yards and one touchdown and Tolbert chipping in 252 yards and five touchdowns. However, look for that to change with the return of Jonathan Stewart to the lineup this week against the Falcons. A return to their respective roles last season seems likely, with Stewart and Williams sharing the early down work and Tolbert subbing in on passing downs and in short yardage situations. This is a situation to avoid unless you are looking for flex options in larger leagues.
5. After racking up a career high 147 targets in 2012, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has just 56 targets thus far in 2013, putting him on pace to finish the season with 112. That would mark his lowest number of targets since the 2006 season and the question has to be asked if Father Time is catching up to the Cowboys 31-year old tight end. Entering his 11th year in the league, Witten has a lot of tread of his tires but a closer look reveals there is a reason for his lack of targets. Running back DeMarco Murray was injured in Week 6 and his absence has allowed opposing defences to focus on Witten. His targets have dropped from an average of 8.6 over the first five games of the season to just 4.3 over the Cowboys last three games. Look for that to change when Murray returns to the lineup, as early as this week, making Witten an excellent buy low opportunity if you are in the market for an upgrade at tight end.
6. Mea culpa. Just six short weeks after ripping the Browns for their decision to jettison running back Trent Richardson from the roster just over a year after making him the 3rd overall selection in the 2012 draft to the Colts for a 2014 1st round pick, we are now likely at the point where we can conclude the Browns knew best. Richardson has been nothing short of ordinary in Indianapolis, failing to top 60 rushing yards in his five games as a Colt while averaging a paltry 3.0 yards per carry. While the Colts clearly hoped that Richardson’s presence would force opposing defences to respect the run, allowing for more single coverage on their receivers, that hasn’t been the case. Given Richardson’s lack of explosiveness, look for him to share the role with impending free agent Donald Brown over the remainder of the season and with Vick Ballard in 2014.
7. Rams rookie running back Zac Stacy has put together an impressive four game run with 75 carries for 344 yards including this Monday night’s impressive 26 carry, 134-yard performance against a stout Seahawks run defense. However, his fantasy upside appears to be limited based on the poor performance of the Rams offensive line in short yardage situations. St. Louis has yet to score a rushing touchdown in their eight games. Not helping matters going forward is that Harvey Dahl, the team’s top guard, suffered a knee strain the Seattle game and will miss several weeks. While Stacy has upside in keeper formats, he is best left as a depth player over the balance of the 2013 season.
By: Dave Stringer — October 29, 2013 @ 9:08 pm
Tom Brady has a 55% completion rate through eight weeks.
Jason Campbell, Browns
After his 293-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception performance against a stout Chiefs secondary, Campbell is worth adding in most formats as your QB2.
Michael Vick, Eagles
While opposing defenders have had a hard time catching Vick, it appears that Father Time isn’t having that same problem. After three weeks of resting his injured hamstring, Vick lasted just three series before re-injuring it.
Tom Brady, Patriots
Another dud. Another Moving Down. There is no way that anybody should feel compelled to start him, provided they have a decent alternative. It’s called changing with the times, folks.
Andre Ellington, Cardinals
Don’t believe Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians when he says Rashard Mendenhall will get his job back when he returns to the lineup. Ellington has been flat-out the better of the two this season, averaging a nifty 7.7 yards per carry. Sure, he had an 80-yard touchdown run this week, but even with that play removed, he would still be at 6.0 yards per carry. And he also chips in as a receiver, with 22 receptions for 198 yards and a score on the year. He rates as a solid flex play or high-end RB3 over the balance of the season.
Frank Gore, 49ers
With a depleted and largely ineffective group of wide receivers, the 49ers have turned to Gore and the running game. End result: five straight wins. Let’s assume they won’t change their MO on offense. Gore has been a beast during the winning streak with 516 total yards and six touchdowns. After a Week 9 bye, the 49ers face a stingy Panthers run defense, but they follow that up with some plum matchups the rest of the way.
Darren McFadden, Raiders
Was it just a blip or is McFadden ready to reward his believers over the second half of the season? Pick your answer. He was effective this week against the Steelers with 73 yards and a pair of scores on 24 carries as the Raiders never trailed. Just remember, that doesn’t happen often and it definitely impacts his touches.
James Starks, Packers
Starks looked good this week, running for 57 yards and a score on seven carries and continuing his strong performance thus far in 2013. Unfortunately, injuries have derailed him once again, as has the presence of rookie Eddie Lacy. We all know about Lacy’s injury history, however, and Starks is now up to 244 rushing yards and a pair of scores on just 41 carries while averaging 6.0 yards a pop.
LeSean McCoy, Eagles
With the Eagles having problems at quarterback, McCoy’s production has suffered. He hasn’t found the end zone in three games and has produced just 81 and 65 total yards in his last two games. The upcoming schedule isn’t horrible but the quarterback play in Philadelphia just might be if rookie fourth-round pick Matt Barkley has to start until either Vick (hamstring) or Nick Foles (concussion) is ready.
Stevan Ridley, Patriots
His stat line this week was decent (14 carries for 79 yards and a score) but Ridley shared the load with Brandon Bolden (10 touches) and LeGarrette Blount (11). Bolden figures to lose his role when the Pats go no-huddle once Shane Vereen returns. Vereen also figures to cut into Ridley’s time in the base offense.
Rashard Mendenhall, Cardinals
Done as a starter and not active on game day due to a toe injury. The Cards have almost certainly moved on and so should you.
Marvin Jones, Bengals
Who else? After his eight-reception, 122-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Jets, Jones gets the nod. He is likely available in several leagues and it is becoming increasingly clear that he is the Bengals’ favored choice to start opposite A.J. Green, rather than fellow second-year player Mohamed Sanu. Jones has good speed and decent size and he is looking like the long-term starter in Cincinnati.
Calvin Johnson, Lions
Based on the games he has played (he missed one), Johnson is on pace to finish the season with 1,759 yards and 15 touchdowns, which would give him 265 fantasy points at season’s end—40 more than he had last season. If some bottom feeder in your keeper league is willing to let him go, you need to be asking what the price will be.
Kenny Stills, Saints
Marques Colston looks like a shell of his former shelf, Lance Moore just returned from injury, Robert Meachem has always been hit-and-miss, and Jimmy Graham is on a limited snap count. That means Stills just might be Drew Brees’ favored target over the balance of the season. The Saints average 14.2 yards per pass attempt on Stills’ targets and he has taken three of his 23 looks to the house. That warrants a bigger role in the offense.
Terrance Williams, Cowboys
If you didn’t already know it, all you had to do was see Williams 60-yard catch-and-run touchdown on a slant pattern this week to know that he is the real deal. The rookie third-round pick has touchdowns in four consecutive games and there is little reason to think that Miles Austin is going to eat into his targets, even if he gets healthy from the hamstring that kept him out this week.
Drew Davis, Falcons
Meet the Falcons’ new No. 2 receiver. And that means something when Harry Douglas is No. 1 (no, I’m not totally buying into Douglas’s impressive two-game run). Davis had five receptions for 77 yards and a score this week and should prove useful, at least until Roddy White returns. Whenever that is.
Aaron Dobson, Patriots
I told you Dobson, not Kenbrell Thompkins, was the Patriots’ rookie wide receiver to have. Dobson has more targets than Thompkins in the last three games with Thompkins getting just one look this week.
Marques Colston, Saints
I don’t know if he’s injured or on a steep, downhill slide into oblivion, but Colston has just six receptions for 44 yards in his last three games. At this point, he isn’t even startable in 12-team leagues that start three WRs.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles
Anybody who went into the season hoping to ride the Chip Kelly fantasy wave to a championship has had their team crash over the last couple of weeks (yours truly included). Jackson caught eight balls for 63 yards this week after his three-reception, 21-yard performance a week ago. However, he is most effective when Michael Vick is under center, and his performance figures to take a big hit if rookie Matt Barkley is forced to start this week.
Sidney Rice, Seahawks
Hurt. Again. Ineffective. Again. Take away the game where he beat up on the Jaguars and Rice has been abysmal this season. Again.
Sorry, folks, nothing exciting at TE this week, so nobody gets the Moving Up treatment.
Garrett Graham, Texans
Based on his performance in a limited role in the Texans’ first four games (12 rec for 126 yds and 3 TDs), it seemed like Graham would be a solid replacement for the injured Owen Daniels. Not so much. In Houston’s last three games, Graham has hauled in just eight of his 17 targets for 78 yards with no touchdowns.
By: Dave Stringer — October 25, 2013 @ 2:00 pm
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A trade of Josh Gordon is unlikely.
1. Usually when there is smoke, there is fire but that may not be the case with the constant trade rumors flying around Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon has been on a tear since returning from a two-game suspension, catching 27 passes for 450 yards and two touchdowns over the last five weeks. In essence, he has played so well that he has made it nearly impossible for Cleveland to move him. A 2nd round pick in the 2012 supplemental draft, Gordon has elite physical skills that are not matched by his level of maturity. With two strikes against him in the league’s substance abuse program, another failed test will likely result in a year long suspension. That makes it unlikely that another team will offer the Browns a 1st or 2nd round pick to acquire his services although his upside and recent production compel Cleveland to hold onto him unless they receive such an offer. Add it all up and the odds are strong that fantasy leaguers can go ahead and assume he will remain in Cleveland for the duration of the 2013 season.
2. Sticking in the AFC North, Bengals third-year quarterback Andy Dalton is on the most impressive run of his young career with 709 passing yards and six touchdowns over the past two games. Long criticized for his inability to consistently connect on deep passes, Dalton connected with A.J. Green for an 82-yard catch and run touchdown this week and is averaging a career-high 7.7 yards per attempt which ranks 10th in the league. With a surrounding cast of young skilled position players, Dalton’s stock in keeper leagues is on the upswing.
3. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is currently ranked 3rd in FPts/G but his owners have to be asking themselves when the carnage around him starts to affect his production. With Randall Cobb on short term injured reserve, James Jones likely to miss his second consecutive game due to a knee injury and tight end Jermichael Finley out indefinitely with a bruised spinal cord suffered on a frightening looking play this week, Rodgers no longer has the weapons at his disposal that he is accustomed to having. With Jarrett Boykin (nine career receptions) starting at wide receiver and Andrew Quarless (28 career receptions) subbing in for Finley, Rodgers could be in line for a number of sub-300 yard passing games. His owners will have to hope that he pads his fantasy production with touchdown passes and in the ground game.
4. Jets quarterback Geno Smith has been surprisingly productive in his rookie campaign, throwing for 1,723 yards with eight passing touchdowns and two rushing scores over the first seven games of his career. He has topped 200 passing yards in every game but one (he had 199 yards against the Falcons) and has thrown touchdown passes in five of seven games. While those numbers aren’t earth shattering, they are impressive especially considering that he has been without the team’s leading receiver in Santonio Holmes and fellow wide receiver Stephen Hill has been slowed due to a concussion. Hill, second-year player Jeremy Kerley and Bills castoff David Nelson have lead a no name group of receivers and that may continue for the foreseeable future with Holmes stating this week that he had no idea when he would return to the lineup. Hill and Kerley rate as sneaky additions if you are looking for fill ins at the wide receiver position in larger leagues.
5. Brett Favre to the Rams tells you all you need to know about Kellen Clemen’s viability as St. Louis’ starting quarterback over the balance of the season. Outside of running back Zac Stacy, who rates as no better than a flex play or bye week fill in, the Rams don’t have a single player that should see the starting lineup of a 12-team fantasy league.
6. Watching Thursday night’s Panthers-Bucs game, it was hard not to come to the conclusion that Carolina has done a very poor job of managing their salary cap. Despite having DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart locked up on lucrative long-term deals, the Panthers signed Mike Tolbert to a multi-year contract prior to the 2012 season. While that is an impressive array of talent at the running back position, the salary cap space used to acquire it could have been better spent at the wide receiver position where an aging Steve Smith starts alongside Brandon LaFell with Ted Ginn Jr. in reserve. With Smith in his 13th season and averaging a very pedestrian 10.5 yard per reception, Carolina must replenish their wide receiver depth chart or else they risk wasting some of the best years of quarterback Cam Newton’s career. While Newton is clearly a fantasy stud, his upside is limited by the team’s lack of explosive weapons in the passing game.
7. The Lions released backup tight end Tony Scheffler this week, crystallizing their obvious desire to hand that role over to 2013 undrafted rookie free agent Joseph Fauria. Fauria has been a surprise with eight receptions for 81 yards and three touchdowns on just 13 targets. With the team’s wide receivers not named Calvin Johnson having underwhelming performances in 2013 and tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the final year of his rookie contract, Fauria, who has solid size at 6’7” and 255 pounds, could make another move up the depth chart in 2014. Dynasty leaguers might want to use stash him on the back of their roster in the event the disappointing Pettigrew is not re-signed.
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