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Dave’s Take: Fantasy Football Tips, News & Notes – Week 10

By: — November 11, 2011 @ 6:19 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

Best backup RB in the league.

1. If there was any doubt who is the best backup running back in the league, the Raiders Michael Bush put those doubts to bed with his performance Thursday night against the Chargers. With Darren McFadden out of the line up, Bush ran roughshod over a solid Chargers run defense, gaining 157 yards on 30 carries and catching three passes for another 85 yards, allowing Oakland to win the time of possession battle and ultimately prevail over the Chargers in a key road game against a division rival. His 242 total yards were the fourth highest ever by a Raider and the most since Bo Jackson gained 235 yards against the Seahawks in a 1987 contest – many of you may remember that game. Bush has now topped 100 total yards in three straight games, gaining 482 yards and two touchdowns over that stretch. Dynasty leaguers should take note of his contract status with Bush having signed a one-year deal to remain in Oakland, allowing him to test the free agent waters in 2012. While the Raiders would clearly love to re-sign Bush, look for another team to offer him a starting role (and commensurate salary) and for this to be his last season in Oakland.

2. Sticking with the Raiders, the perplexing situation of wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey continued last night. After coming off the best four game stretch of his career (22 receptions for 385 yards and a touchdown), he barely played in a Week 8 loss to the Broncos, getting targeted only once. That carried over to last night’s game with DHB not receiving a single target despite Jacoby Ford getting injured and not returning. Consider DHB waiver wire fodder until the Raiders bring some clarity to why he has suddenly become persona non grata in the team’s offensive game plan.

3. The Seahawks made a big splash in free agency, signing tight end Zach Miller away from the Raiders despite the presence of 2009 1st round pick John Carlson. With more speed than Carlson and having averaged 61 receptions for 756 yards and three touchdowns over his past three seasons, Miller was expected to provide Seattle with a tight end capable of splitting the safeties and making some big plays in the passing game. However, even with Carlson suffering a torn labrum that caused him to be placed on injured reserve in the preseason, Miller has been a non-factor in the Seattle passing game, hardly justifying the five-year, $34-million ($17-million guaranteed) he received in the offseason. He has been targeted just 20 times, catching 11 passes for 99 yards and failing to find the end zone. With Miller spending most of his time blocking, backups Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah have combined to have more targets than Miller. Signing Miller to such a large contract and using him as little more than a blocker is another in a growing list of questionable decisions made by Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.

4. Eight games into the 2011 season, it is safe to conclude that the Eagles grand plan to utilize three Pro Bowl quality cornerbacks has backfired badly and it is not just because of the performance of those players. Free agent signee Nnamdi Asomugha has regressed badly from his play a season ago in Oakland, giving up big plays to journeyman receivers such as the Bears’ Earl Bennett and Victor Cruz of the Giants. Fellow starter Asante Samuel has played reasonably well but has not come up with the big plays that have been a hallmark of his career. He is on pace to finish the season with just two interceptions, an unjustifiably low number considering the Eagles pass rush has been solid for most games this season. Meanwhile, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has often been forced to line up in the slot and he has struggled badly in that role. His incredible closing speed is wasted in that role and he lacks the short area quickness to be effective playing out of the slot. In addition, the salary cap space used on the Eagles cornerbacks resulted in the team having to use inexperienced players in the starting line up at linebacker and caused a severe lack of depth along the offensive line, two areas that have struggled this season.

5. Bengals rookie wide receiver A.J. Green has had an amazing start to his career, catching 40 passes for 599 yards and five touchdowns eight games into the season. The fourth pick in the rookie draft has made a smooth transition to the pro game, displaying his speed and athleticism in almost every game he has played save for Week 1 where his lone reception went for a 43-yard touchdown on a busted play where he was uncovered. Green’s owners may want to take note of Cincinnati’s upcoming schedule which features five consecutive games against pass defenses ranked in the top five (Ravens, Browns, Texans and the Steelers twice). Although Green is clearly destined to be a top five wide receiver for several years, rookies often hit the wall around the 10-game mark and with a difficult schedule on the horizon, his owners may want to temper their expectations over the next few weeks.

6. Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has always been a boom or bust player but he’s testing the patience of his fantasy owners even more than usual in 2011, particularly over the last three weeks. In games against the Redskins, Cowboys and Bears, Jackson has been a relative non-factor, catching eight passes for 93 yards and no touchdowns despite being targeted 20 times. With Philadelphia’s offensive line struggling and opposing defenses playing plenty of soft coverages, the coaching staff has used more screens, checkdowns and intermediate patterns in the middle of the field in recent weeks. Jackson has always been more of downfield threat (witness his career yards per reception average of 18.1) but opposing defenses are more determined to force the Eagles to march down the field methodically rather than allowing big plays to Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Since Maclin is more inclined to go over the middle than the frequently alligator-armed Jackson, he is the Eagles wide receiver to own for fantasy purposes.

7. There has been some silly talk lately about how Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is the league MVP based on HIS NOT PLAYING and the Colts failing to win a game thus far in 2011. While Manning’s absence is a large part of the reason for the team’s poor record, a look at their drafts over the last five years provides another large clue as to why they are winless. The team has failed to hit on many players taken in the later rounds and their 1st and 2nd round picks have fared very poorly. Players taken in those rounds since 2007 that have failed to live up to expectations include Anthony Gonzalez, Tony Ugoh, Mike Pollak, Donald Brown, Fili Moala and Jerry Hughes.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 10

By: — November 8, 2011 @ 3:26 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis


Moving Up

Is Rivers ready to roll?

Philip Rivers, Chargers
Rivers struggles in 2011 have been well documented so let’s not spend time rehashing that. However, as I noted in my Dave’s Take column on Friday, the Chargers have been a great second half team with Rivers at the helm and sure enough he and wide receiver Vincent Jackson were in fine form this week against the Packers in a high scoring affair (NFL and fantasy football style). Rivers threw for season highs in yards (385) and touchdowns (four), on his way to his best fantasy performance of the season (35.2 points). Up next are the Raiders (25th ranked pass defense), Bears (27th) and Broncos (19th).

Moving Down

Colt McCoy, Browns
Over the first five games of the season, McCoy looked comfortable leading the Browns attack with a touchdown pass in every game and three games with two touchdown passes while averaging 19.4 fantasy points per game. At that point, he certainly appeared on the verge of cementing his status as Cleveland’s starting quarterback for years to come. Since then, the wheels have come off. Over his last three games, McCoy has passed for 565 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions, averaging 14.3 points per game. The recent stretch has caused him to plummet to the 26th overall fantasy ranking at quarterback, making him officially worthy of being dropped.

Curtis Painter, Colts
Hmmm. Do you think defenses have figured Painter out? The Colts third year signal caller raised hopes with a pair of decent starts against the Bucs and Chiefs where he averaged 279 passing yards and two passing touchdowns per game. Since then, it’s been mostly downhill sledding. Over his last four games, Painter has two sub-100 yard passing performances, just one touchdown pass, five picks and is averaging 151 yards per game. Yuck.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Roy Helu, Redskins
Let’s face it – if you didn’t think Helu was going to get a chance in the Redskins backfield, then you’re likely in elementary school. The only issue is that his owners were salivating at the prospect early in the season with the Redskins offense rolling and now they might just be the league’s worst due to their numerous injuries. Let’s just say I’m a lot less excited by Helu’s presence in the starting line up than I thought I would be (yes, I own him). Let’s assume Helu starts for the rest of the season (a big if). What’s the over/under on how many touchdowns he scores? Two? Three? Yeah, he’s worth grabbing (especially in dynasty leagues) but keep your expectations in check. With Helu grabbing 14 passes this week and the Redskins figuring to be playing from behind plenty over the second half of the season, I like him a lot more in PPR leagues.

Reggie Bush, Dolphins
With Daniel Thomas back in the lineup, the odds seemed pretty strong that Bush would once again be relegated to more of a backup role this week against the Chiefs despite his strong Week 8 performance against the Giants where he had 15 carries for 103 yards and added another 17 yards on four receptions. However, even though the Dolphins staked out a big early lead, a situation that would seem to call for the bigger back get more work, Bush stayed in the game, producing 92 yards and a score on 13 carries and adding three receptions for 50 yards. It’s anybody’s guess as to who will get the playing time in any given week in the Dolphins backfield but it would seem hard for the team’s coaches to ignore Bush’s solid performance over the past two weeks.

Frank Gore, 49ers
Five straight 100-yard rushing performances. Touchdowns in four of his last five games. Plays for a team that’s winning by pounding the ball on the ground. Suffered an ankle sprain this week. Three out of four ain’t bad.

Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
As my momma taught me, give credit where credit is due. And so I begrudgingly have Lynch Moving Up this week. Do I own him? No. Do I like him much? No. Has he scored touchdowns in four straight games? Yes. Does he have double-digit fantasy points in three of his last four games? Yes. After this week’s game against the Ravens, do the Seahawks face another run defense ranked better than 10th? No. Lynch is Moving Up, I just puked in my mouth and I hope you’re all happy.

Moving Down

Beanie Wells, Cardinals
Can you say enigma? If there’s a word to describe Wells, this is it. Minor injury, out. Stud against great defenses. Ridiculously bad against bad defenses. Despite not being expected to play last week against the Ravens due to a knee injury, Wells was a go and ran the ball 22 times for 83 yards and a score against the league’s third rated run defense. With the Rams on tap in a tantalizing matchup, Wells went flat, gaining 20 yards on ten carries. Maybe even worse is that he suffered a neck stinger in the fourth quarter. If he won’t play with a hang nail, he’s certainly not going to play after suffering a neck stinger.

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
So bad that the Broncos would rather start a pedestrian 30-year-old with a broken hand rather than him. If anybody in Denver knows a good realtor, Knowshon could use your help.

Joseph Addai, Colts
In Week 8, Addai dressed but didn’t play. In Week 9, Addai dressed but didn’t play. My wife tells me I can be a little slow on the up take at times but I do sense a trend here.

Delone Carter, Colts
Carter did play in Week 9, it’s just that he fumbled on the Colts first series and was benched for his efforts. Donald Brown stepped in and looked decent. Carter may get the start next week, or he may not. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess as to whether it’s going to be Carter, Brown or Addai in the starting line-up.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Earl Bennett, Bears
Roy Williams has been horrible (witness his horrendous drop on a deep ball on Monday night against the Eagles). Devin Hester suffered an ankle injury this week and has been almost as bad as Williams. And it seems like the Bears coaching staff is doing everything in their power to keep Johnny Knox from getting consistent playing time. Enter Bennett. In his first game after suffering a chest injury in Week 2, Bennett carved up the Eagles, catching all five of his targets for 95 yards and a touchdown. All that plus the knowledge that quarterback Jay Cutler loves throwing to his former college teammate.

Laurent Robinson, Cowboys
Moving Up last week and Moving Up once again this week courtesy of Miles Austin’s injured hamstring, an injury that may keep him out for weeks. Despite being released by the Chargers in the preseason and then signed, released and re-signed by the Cowboys and not playing until Week 3, Robinson is the 44th ranked fantasy wide receiver and sits at 28th in average points per game. This week, he caught all five of his targets for 32 yards and a score.

Vincent Jackson, Chargers
Vjax owners were having their patience tested this season with the Chargers top wide receiver posting just a pair of double-digit fantasy performances over his first seven games. There were a few ugly stat lines in there (think two for 31, three for 34, one for 15) but his owners were rewarded this week with a seven reception, 141-yard, three touchdown performance against the Packers. With defenses often double teaming tight end Antonio Gates, Jackson just might be ready to explode in the second half of the season.

Josh Cribbs, Browns
Yeah, I know, it’s hard to trust Cribbs but the numbers don’t lie. He’s had at least three targets in every game, is averaging 4.9 targets per game and we know what he can do with the ball in his hands. Over the last two games, he’s caught seven passes for 106 yards and a pair of scores. With Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty likely out at running back next week and Chris Ogbonnaya flopping badly in his first career start this week against the Texans, the Browns figure to use Cribbs a decent amount next week against the Rams and their pathetic defense.

Lavelle Hawkins, Titans
With Nate Washington going down with a hip injury, Hawkins stepped into the Titans receiving fray and posted a solid game with five receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. Interestingly enough, I checked his FFToday players page and this dude is averaging 5.7 targets over his last seven games. Who knew? And who knows how long Washington will be out but I’m guessing a hip injury isn’t a good thing for a wide receiver. Up next are the Panthers and their 14th ranked passing defense followed by the Falcons (24th), Bucs (26th), Bills (24th), Saints (11th), Colts (22nd) and the Jaguars (8th) in Week 16. If quarterback Matt Hasselbeck can stay upright and Washington’s hip is problematic, Hawkins might be a decent option in larger leagues.

Moving Down

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
Raiders head coach Hue Jackson questioned his team’s smarts after they took 15 penalties for 130 yards during this week’s 38-24 home loss to the Broncos. Raiders fans questioned head coach Hue Jackson after he failed to use Heyward-Bey (one target, no catches) despite the 2009 1st round pick coming off the best stretch of his career (22 receptions, 385 yards and a score over his last four games). So, who’s dumber? Hue or the Raiders? Or is that a trick question…

Mike Williams, Bucs
Somebody in Tampa, please let the team’s coaching staff know that Williams isn’t the same player he was last season. Touchdowns: on pace for 2, down from the 11 he posted in his rookie season. Yards: on pace for 726, down from the 955 he posted a year ago. Targets: on pace for 142, up from the 128 he had in 2010. Yards per catch: down from 14.9 last season to 9.8 this season. This situation has me more confused than Elmer Fudd.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Jacob Tamme, Colts
If my memory serves, those who jumped on Tamme immediately after Dallas Clark suffered a season-ending injury in 2010 were rewarded. With Clark suffering a potentially season ending leg injury this week, could history be repeating itself? Nah. Peyton Manning is out and Curtis Painter’s been horrible so Tamme has almost no chance of replicating his solid performance from last season when he accounted for 67 receptions, 631 yards and four touchdowns. Still, he’s worth grabbing as your TE2 if you don’t like your current option.

Moving Down

Ben Watson, Browns
I needed an option to have Moving Down at tight end and Watson is what I came up with. At first glance, his performance this season hasn’t been far off what he did last season (5.9 PPG vs. 5.3) but he’s stumbled over the past four weeks, coincidentally struggling along with McCoy. Watson caught nine passes for 130 yards over that span and it also doesn’t help that he’s been targeted just nine times over the past three weeks. Let’s just say that’s it’s hard to be a productive fantasy tight end in a struggling offense when you’re averaging three targets a game.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 9

By: — @ 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.

Durable NFL running backs – a true football fantasy

By: — November 6, 2011 @ 1:43 am

In 2010, there were 25 NFL running backs that logged at
least 100 carries and played in all 16 games. In 2009, the number was 19.

This year, let’s hope you kept your rabbit’s foot alongside
your four-leaf clover and threw some salt over your shoulder while avoiding
black cats and remembering not to walk under ladders…

In 2011, the numbers are sobering. Since the season is
nearly half over, I’ll set the bar at 50 carries. By my count, only 30 runners
have surpassed that low benchmark so far. Of those 30 players, only 18 can be
considered decent (or better) regular fantasy starts – and that’s only if you
classify the likes of Chris Johnson, James Starks, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and
Jackie Battle as “decent” this season.

Taken one step further, I count only 14 of those 18 as
runners who have yet to miss a game and/or not projected to sit out this week
(which includes Darren McFadden, Ryan Mathews and Ahmad Bradshaw).

Among the more intriguing bits of information are the names
of some of the players who have survived the carnage so far: Maurice Jones-Drew
(entered season with knee concerns), Frank Gore (missed at least one game in
five of first six NFL seasons), Shonn Greene (yet to play a full season) and
Starks (missed most of 2009 and 2010 seasons due to injury).

Assuming Mathews (who hasn’t played a full football season
since high school and has suffered five known injuries already this season)
beats the odds and finds a way to play through his groin injury in Week 9 –
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune tweeted that he “had a
feeling” he would – he only adds to bizarre list of this season’s
“durable” runners.

With running back depth charts around the NFL already
looking like something out of a horror movie, I decided it was about time to
take a look at the “new wave”. For the purposes of this blog, I’m not
interested in singing the praises of a high-profile second-stringer who is about
to step into the starting lineup, I’m more interested in writing about the
talented third- and fourth-stringers that may end up deciding fantasy
championships this season if this injury wave doesn’t stop.

In no particular order…

Tashard Choice – Perhaps I’m a fool for Mike Shanahan
running backs, but unlike the other RBs on this list, Choice has already shown
a little bit in the league – albeit not much recently. However, unlike the
situation in which he found himself with the Cowboys, Choice may now be able to
show fantasy owners the skills that made him one of the best backup RBs in the
league just two years ago. With a change of scenery, more devotion to the
running game and a chance to rest his nagging injuries, Choice is as good of
bet as any to emerge as the Redskins’ lead RB by the time the fantasy playoffs
roll around.

Taiwan Jones – If the rookie from Eastern Washington wasn’t
buried behind one of the league’s premier backs (McFadden) and one of its
finest second-stringers (Michael Bush), there is a pretty good chance you would
know Jones by now. Perhaps Oakland’s plan of resting McFadden for Week 9 allows
him to play in Week 10 (a Thursday night game vs. the Chargers), but D-Mac’s
return for that game is far from guaranteed, which means Jones could have a
shot at fantasy value for two games. With his speed and playmaking ability, he
may not need more than 8-10 touches in either game to have a fantasy impact for
desperate owners.

Chris Ogbannaya – Peyton Hillis aggravated his hamstring
(again) and is likely to miss multiple weeks while Montario Hardesty is on the
same timetable with a calf injury, which means Ogbannaya is already assured a
starting job for the next week or two. Ogbannaya, who did some good things with
the Texans in the preseason, struggled in his first real shot at significant
touches in Week 8. However, as long as he is only fighting off the likes of
Thomas Clayton, Ogbannaya will have a shot at 15-20 touches and will be a
usable bye-week fill-in/desperation start in PPR leagues because the Browns
lack playmakers in the passing game but rank among the league leaders in pass

Kregg Lumpkin – There’s a pretty good chance Lumpkin is
already rostered in deeper leagues. HC Raheem Morris is talking up LeGarrette
Blount as an every-down back in the wake of Earnest Graham’s season-ending
injury, but I can’t imagine how that experiment will work out well for the
Bucs. First and foremost, when Blount returns to the field in Week 9, it will
be for the first time he’s played in nearly a month, so conditioning will be an
issue. Secondly, Blount isn’t the most able or willing in blitz pick-up nor is
he an accomplished receiver, so defenses like the Saints will be even apt to
load the box and blitz more than they already do. Last but not least, I have my
doubts about Blount’s ability to avoid another injury.

Curtis Brinkley – The Chargers’ running-back rotation of
Mathews and Mike Tolbert takes turns getting hurt, which means owners of either
one or both players really need to consider keeping tabs on Brinkley. While he
is hardly a threat to either player and is clearly a backup, PPR owners
undoubtedly took note at what Brinkley was able to do following Mathews’
departure in the Monday night loss to the Chiefs. Should Mathews and/or Tolbert
both miss games at the same time, Brinkley would quickly become a temporary RB2
in PPR since San Diego utilizes its backs so often in the passing game. With
bye weeks mercifully coming to an end, I would strongly advise owners of
Mathews and/or Tolbert to find room for Brinkley.

Phillip Tanner – I briefly discussed Tanner in the Blitz
last week, so suffice it to say that his opportunity to shine on the likelihood
that DeMarco Murray cannot stay healthy and Felix Jones continues being
“fragile”. Since both Murray and Jones are huge injury question
marks, it is not a stretch to think that Tanner won’t get an opportunity as the
featured back for a 1-2 game stretch. There’s also a pretty good chance Tanner
never gets that shot, but Dallas should consider using him in a goal-line role
and make sure it reduces its risk of burdening any of its runners by making
sure it uses all of them.

Da’Rel Scott – Even by the standards of this blog, Scott is
a complete shot in the dark for any modicum of fantasy value this season.
However, his chances just increased this week with Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot
injury. Coming off his own injury, Brandon Jacobs is talking and playing his
way out of New York and D.J. Ware has essentially been pigeonholed into a
third-down back role. The one thing Scott has is what Bradshaw brings to the
table and the other two do not – speed. Like Bradshaw, Scott enters the league
as a talented but injury-prone enigma. Either way, it would not surprise me if
Scott got his first real chance vs. New England today and makes the most of it.

Dave’s Take: Fantasy Football Tips, News & Notes – Week 9

By: — November 4, 2011 @ 2:41 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

A good buy-low candidate.

1. With the trading deadlines for most fantasy football leagues just around the corner, the Rams Steven Jackson picked a fine time to notch his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season, also ending a nine-game drought in which he had been held below 100 yards. Jackson’s performance has been underwhelming for the early part of 2011, as the Rams have faced a grueling schedule and he missed most of two games with a thigh injury. However, the Rams schedule gets decidedly easier over the next eight weeks with the Seahawks and Cardinals on tap twice as well as games against the 49ers, Bengals, Browns and Steelers. If you’re looking for a mid-tier, reasonably low cost option at running back, SJax just might be your guy.

2. While Patriots quarterback Tom Brady remains on track to eclipse Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a season, his performance over the last four weeks seems to indicate that possibility is getting more remote as the season progresses. After averaging 332 passing yards over his first three games, the Patriots passing attack has come back to the pack over the last four weeks with Brady averaging a 259 yards per game. This week against the Steelers, he was held to a season-low 198 yards, his lowest passing yardage total since a Week 16 blowout win over the Bills in 2010. Opposing defenses have clamped down on wide receiver Wes Welker over the past two weeks. Look for that trend to continue until the Patriots find a way to exploit single coverage with their other receivers.

3. 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree has been a major disappointment over most of his two and a half year career in San Francisco but may be ready to finally make good on the promise he showed coming out of Texas Tech. He notched his first touchdown reception of the season this week against the Browns and finally seems to have found a rapport with quarterback Alex Smith. Smith has been reluctant to throw to Crabtree courtesy of his several drops, many of which led to interceptions, over the last year and a half. However, he has targeted Crabtree 24 times over the past two games, connecting 14 times for 131 yards and a touchdown. While Crabtree is unlikely to ever match the expectations he had placed upon him coming out of college, he shapes up as a solid WR3 over the remainder of 2011.

4. Sticking with the 49ers, here’s a tip of the cap to head coach Jim Harbaugh for his imaginative play calling this week in San Francisco’s 20-10 home win over Cleveland. In the first quarter, Harbaugh had starting left tackle Joe Staley report as an eligible receiver and Staley gained 17-yards on a catch and run play. Then in the fourth quarter, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga reported as an eligible receiver, gaining 18 yards. Staley and Sopoaga accounted for 26 yards after the catch displaying as much playmaking ability as the Browns receivers did in Week 8.

5. With Philadelphia’s win over Dallas, Eagles head coach Andy Reid has now won 13 consecutive games after his team’s byes. The Eagles clearly had a superior game plan than Dallas, both on offense and defense, proving yet again that Reid is a great game planner when given additional time to find his opponent’s weaknesses.

6. Saints quarterback Drew Brees had a garbage time touchdown pass with six seconds remaining this week against the Rams, keeping his streak of consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass alive at 35 games. If Brees throws a touchdown pass this week against the Bucs, he will move into a tie for second place on that list. Johnny Unitas has the record for most consecutive games with at least one touchdown at 47 games.

7. If you hitched your fantasy wagon to the Chargers quarterback-wide receiver combo of Philip Rivers and Vincent Jackson, odds are you are scrapping to make the playoffs. However, as any Chargers fan or astute NFL fan knows, San Diego has been a second half surge team for the past several seasons and that will need to be the case once again if the team is to reach the postseason. Over the past three years, the Chargers have a record of 21-5 over the final two months of the season (three if you count January). Up next for San Diego are the 7-0 Packers who feature the league’s 31st worst pass defense, which is at least partly attributable to Green Bay getting big early leads in several games this season. However, that recipe bodes well for fantasy success this week for Rivers and Jackson. Between this week and Week 16, the Chargers face five pass defenses ranked 19th or worse, making Rivers and Jackson great buy low candidates.

8. How bad have the Rams been over the last few years? When safety Darian Stewart intercepted his first NFL pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown, it was the team’s first defensive touchdown since Game 6 of the 2009 season.

9. How bad have the Rams been this year? When they took a 3-0 lead this week over New Orleans, it marked their third lead of the season.

10. While the Raiders recent signing of free agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was greeted with a collective yawn from fantasy football owners, look for him to earn enough looks to render one of Jacoby Ford or Denarius Moore irrelevant in the Oakland offense. Since his Week 2 breakout game over the Bills, Moore has caught just nine passes over his last five games for 66 yards and a touchdown, despite averaging 5.2 targets per game. With Moore playing out wide, Ford has been relegated to the slot and has just 11 receptions for 114 yards in four games. Houshmandzadeh isn’t worth owning but his presence makes Moore and Ford not worth owning either, except in dynasty leagues.

11. In the oddball statistic category, we present the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs were left for dead after being outscored 89-10 over the first two games, losses to the Bills and Lions. Of course, at the midway point of the season, those teams appear to be much stronger than was expected entering the season. Since then, Kansas City has outscored their opponents 118-81 over their last five games, going 4-1. Add it all up and the Chiefs now sit atop the AFC West, ahead of San Diego and Oakland by virtue of tiebreakers, despite having a negative point differential of 42. Oh yeah, the Chiefs ranked 20th or lower in passing offense, passing defense and run defense.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 9

By: — November 1, 2011 @ 4:57 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis


Moving Up

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Big Ben is back on track in Pittsburgh and put up perhaps his finest game of the season this week at home against New England. He threw 50 passes, completing 36 for 365 yards and 2 touchdowns with 1 pick. Over the past four weeks, he is averaging 25.7 points per game and that is with a subpar stat line in a Week 6 win over Jacksonville when the Steelers went ultraconservative (23 pass attempts). Consider Roethlisberger just outside the top tier of quarterbacks for the remainder of 2011.

Moving Down

Tim Tebow, Broncos
Tebow was Moving Up last week but I did qualify by pointing out that my opinion of him as an NFL starting quarterback was pretty low. If that sounds like a whole lot of excuse making, that’s because it is. In two starts this season, Tebow has been horrible for 115 of 120 minutes. Five solid minutes in two games does not make you a QB1. If Tebow keeps this up, Broncos management will banish him to the bench first and to running back in 2012 and Denver’s fans will have nothing to say about it. If you’re looking for Vegas style odds, how about 3 to 1 to Tebow’s a running back next season.

John Beck, Redskins
Man, I was bad at quarterback last week. Beck was also Moving Up but at least this one’s not entirely on me. The Redskins offensive line was absolutely putrid this week, allowing nine sacks against a Bills defense that had generated just four sacks in their first six games. As mentioned in my Dave’s Take column on Friday, the Redskins have replaced or lost starters at five offensive positions since opening day. Beck threw 33 passes, was forced to run three times and took the nine sacks, hitting the turf 23 times. If that’s not an indictment of the team’s offensive line, then what is? Conclusion: it’s going to take a few weeks for the Shanahan boys to overcome the loss of so many offensive players from a team that lacked talent and playmakers on offense even when everyone is healthy.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Jackson has earned the title of RB1.

Fred Jackson, Bills
Who would you rather start – Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte or Fred Jackson? At the start of the season, I don’t think anybody thought Jackson (or Forte for that matter) would be in that conversation but Jackson has morphed into a top five running back and there’s basically no reason why that should change over the remainder of the season.

Steven Jackson, Rams
With the Rams hoping for a prayer against the Saints this week, SJax (and the team’s defense) delivered big time, going for over 100 rushing yards for the first time since Week 13 of last season. Jackson basically carried the offense in workhorse fashion, gaining 159 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries and catching four passes for 32 yards. With their horrendous early season schedule out of the way, the Rams now get their NFC West division rivals twice each in addition to Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh over their remaining nine games with San Francisco’s stingy run defense in Week 17. If that sounds yummy, that’s because it is.

Arian Foster, Texans
With 499 rushing yards, 310 receiving yards and five touchdowns over the last five weeks, looks like we can put those hammy issues to rest. This is a reminder to consider Foster a top five running back over the remainder of the schedule.

Javon Ringer, Titans
With Chris Johnson continuing to struggle, the Titans ramped up Ringer’s use for the first time this season. In a 27-10 win over the Colts, Ringer matched Johnson’s 14 rush attempts and caught five passes – two more than Johnson. The questions are whether the plan was to use Ringer more or whether the score dictated his extra use and what is the plan going forward? After the game head coach Mike Munchak stated that the Titans would ride the hot hand. There is no question that Ringer was more productive in Week 8, gaining 102 yards on his 19 touches compared to Johnson’s 51 yards on 17 touches. Don’t be surprised if Ringer ends up being the hot hand in Week 9.

Joseph Addai, Colts
Hopefully Addai owners didn’t start him this week based on the pregame reports of being active. While he dressed, he didn’t play and the plan was to only use him in an emergency situation. With another week of rest, Addai’s injured hamstring should be good to go in Week 9 against the Falcons. Neither Delone Carter nor Donald Brown did enough to claim the starting gig during Addai’s absence and it’s possible that they will both be relegated to pure backup status in a couple of weeks. Indy’s offense is a horror show but Addai was reasonably productive during the first four games of the year when he was healthy.

Moving Down

Ryan Torain, Redskins
On the positive side, Torain had eight carries this week to none for rookie Roy Helu. On the negative side, he gained just 14 yards, often getting hit in the backfield, and now has just 31 yards on 20 carries over three games since his big Week 4 against the Rams. While the performance of the offensive line is largely to blame, you can almost guarantee that head coach Mike Shanahan will turn to Helu in hopes of sparking his dormant offense which is averaging 11 points per game over the last three games and 16.6 points per game for the season.

Chris Johnson, Titans
See Javon Ringer above. Consider Johnson officially benchable.

Montario Hardesty, Browns
Hardesty is working hard to prove that the label he had coming out of college of being injury prone was bang on. Last year, he tore his ACL in training camp and he’s been nicked up this season and will likely miss time due to a moderate tear in his right calf. So, just when it looks like the Browns may have given up on Peyton Hillis and Hardesty’s got a chance to be the BMOC, he pulls up lame.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Laurent Robinson, Cowboys
Robinson was Moving Up a couple of weeks back with the proviso that he was more of an option in deeper leagues considering that Dallas’ starting wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant seemed to be taking turns on the inactive list. It turns out that their being injured isn’t a prerequisite for Robinson to get a solid number of looks in the team’s offense. Granted it was in a blowout loss but Robinson had eight targets, catching five passes for 103 yards and a touchdown this week against the Eagles. And just as importantly, the guy has looked good when given an opportunity, catching 19 of 28 targets this season for 336 yards and a score.

James Jones, Packers
Jordy Nelson has cooled down after two solid fantasy performances to start the season and has now posted three duds in his last five outings. Meanwhile, after three duds to start the season, Jones has been catching everything in sight. Over his last four games, he has caught 13 of his 16 targets for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Right now, I would be more comfortable starting Jones than Nelson.

Anquan Boldin, Ravens
After posting just one double-digit fantasy point performance over the first four weeks of the season, it seemed Boldin was on the verge of becoming a low end WR3 in 2011. However, he has come on strong over the past three weeks and Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron may finally have figured out how to best utilize Boldin’s talents. Geez, only took a year and a half. With 33 targets, 19 receptions, 317 yards and a score over the past three games, Boldin may be ready to emerge from his Baltimore slumber to become the high-end WR2 most expected when he moved from the Cardinals to the Ravens.

Jonathan Baldwin, Chiefs
The Chiefs rookie 1st round pick made his first big contributions this week against the Chargers, getting targeted eight times and catching five balls for 82 yards, including a nice 39-yard touchdown reception. Better yet, while Baldwin didn’t start, he was on the field opposite Dwayne Bowe in almost all two receiver formations, relegating Steve Breaston to more of a third receiver role. With Bowe getting plenty of attention from opposing defenses and no threat at tight end, Baldwin may be useful of the second half of the season. His stat line would have looked even better had he not had a drop.

Antonio Brown, Steelers
With Hines Ward out, Brown stepped up for the Steelers against the Patriots this week, catching nine passes for 67 yards and his first touchdown of the season. The Patriots basically left the middle of the field wide open for much of the day and the Steelers took advantage of it, with Brown getting a whopping 15 targets. Ward figures to return from an ankle injury this week and Emmanuel Sanders actually started over Brown, but it is Brown who has been the team’s second most productive wide receiver behind Mike Wallace thus far in 2011. Just a note that I like Sanders better in dynasty leagues.

Moving Down

Santonio Holmes, Jets
Mea culpa. Should have had Holmes here last week courtesy of his two reception, 24-yard performance in Week 7 against the Chargers. He was supposed to be the Jets top threat at wide receiver this season, and while that may be the case, he hasn’t exactly been producing much and his three touchdowns have saved his fantasy performance from being truly abysmal. Why? He’s not seeing the ball. Taking away his games against the Cowboys and Ravens where he had 22 targets, Holmes averaged 3.8 targets per game in his five other starts. That’s not receptions, folks. Oh yeah, he hasn’t topped 70 receiving yards in a single game and has five games with less than 50 receiving yards. Add it all up and Holmes shapes up as a guy who needs to score a touchdown to be useful. Can you say bust?

DeSean Jackson, Eagles
The last time I had DJax Moving Down, he responded with a six reception, 171 yard performance against the 49ers and followed that up with a five reception, 86 yard, one touchdown performance against the Bills. Since then, defenses have clamped down on him once again and he has just six receptions for 77 yards over his last two games. Talented, yes. Ridiculously streaky, you bet.

Brandon Marshall, Dolphins
Consider the prospect of Marshall returning to top ten status at wide receiver officially dead. After a nice pair of games to start the season, Marshall has gone cold. He has been held under 62 receiving yards four out of the past five games and failed to score in all of those games. At this point, he is on pace to finish the season with two touchdowns, one less than the three he had last season. Basically, Marshall is being held back by poor quarterback play and a Dolphins offense that is averaging 13.1 points per game and has topped 20 points just once in 2011.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Brent Celek, Eagles
Celek has been a forgotten man in the Eagles passing attack for the past year and half but with defenses focused on shutting down wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the outside, Philadelphia has attacked the middle of the field over their past two games… and that’s been good news for Celek. He has been targeted nine times in each of the Eagles past two games, catching a touchdown in each contest with eleven receptions and 136 receiving yards over the two game span.

Moving Down

Jared Cook, Titans
Take away an 80-yard touchdown reception in Week 7 against the Browns and Cook is averaging a whopping 3.6 fantasy points per game. It certainly looks his fantasy owners should give up on the prospect of Cook having a breakout campaign. And with four targets over the past two weeks, it certainly looks like the Titans have too.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 8

By: — @ 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.

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