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Monday 16th Oct 2017

Over the baseball season, I wrote a few times about the phenomena I had discovered called #fanticide. #Fanticide occurs when you watch your pitcher or hitter or team with excitement, but as soon as you turn on the game of your choice, a meltdown, usually involving your players, occurs.

A few weeks back, prior to the kickoff of the Raiders/Redskins game, I tweeted that now the country could see how Oakland had the most versatile and efficient offense in the NFL. Well, it has simply gone from bad to worse, and I feel totally responsible for the Raiders lousy past three games. 

It is true that somehow of all the teams I have ever followed, Oakland wormed their way most deeply into my soul, but for the last 25 years, as I focused on being an objective sports analyst, I did not have to worry about favorite teams or winning titles. But as I age--and as I falsely thought Oakland was back--rooting for my roots seemed fun.

Alas, I now remember--maybe within the shadow of the Immaculate Reception--there is serious pain involved within the idolatry of team sports. Maybe a .500 season is in the cards? I hope.

On the other hand, there are a number of teams struggling like the Raiders, with many suffering injuries this past week like Odell Beckham, Jr. and Dalvin Cook and J.J. Watt, all now lost to us just as the bye weeks are upon us.

There are players out there if we glean carefully, so let's take a look. And we'll start with the struggling Niners, who are 0-5, but have lost the last four by a total of 11 points of which the last pair were overtime casualties. Through that game, the Niners did indeed show they can move the ball and among the pleasant surprises was Running Back Matt Breida, who rushed for 49 yards on ten carries while bagging three of five passes for 22 more yards. With Carlos Hyde ever brittle, Breida, a rookie out of Georgia Southern, makes an interesting play who should get a lot of looks.

On the other side of the line, the Colts' Marlon Mack made great use of his nine rushes, scrambling for 91 yards and a score while finding the end zone. Mack, a rookie from South Florida, should see increased time as the aging (but no less effective it seems) Frank Gore is used in a more specialized fashion.

The Pack gave fans another heart attack with a last minute win over Dallas, and RB Aaron Jones played a large part in the result. Jones ran for 125 yards over 19 carries along with a catch for nine yards. Another rookie RB, Jones was a fifth-round pick out of UTEP. With Ty Montgomery wounded, Jones also stands to get some looks in the interim and who knows what opportunity can produce.

If you are in a super flex league, or are hurting for a QB, or simply looking for DFS plays, three signal callers emerged this weekend who make interesting plays starting with the Bears' Mitch Trubisky, who really comported himself pretty well for a first start. Trubisky completed 11 of 19 for 128 yards, a TD and a pick and rushed three times for 22 yards. Mostly, though, he protected the ball well and that is something that cannot be taught in my opinion. A rookie who is concerted in his ball handling during a debut merits tracking.

Much of the shine around Trubisky's debut was shadowed by a last-minute win by the opposing Vikes, who struggled under Sam Bradford over the first half, only to be led to victory in the second by Case Keenum. Pushed into action after Bradford suffered a knee injury, Keenum threw for 140 yards and a score while rushing for 22 on one carry. As we hit the bye weeks, if you are playing in a two-QB format, there are never enough signal callers, so track and grab as necessary.

While we are at it, the Niners' Brian Hoyer threw for over 300 yards for the second time in three weeks, picking up a pair of scores and 353 yards albeit against a porous Colts defense. But, depending upon the matchup, Hoyer makes a pretty good and low-end DFS selection.

Ed Dixon is an eight-year veteran with the Panthers who has at worst been playing behind Greg Olsen but who also had a monster 175-yard game in which he caught all five of his targets. Dixon is still marginal, but if you need to plug a hole, give him a try.

Much the same could be said of the Cowboys' Cole Beasley, who scored a pair of TDs on two red zone passes from Dak Prescott. Beasley, who caught 75 passes last year, seems to have a solid connection with Prescott, so he too makes for a possible cheap DFS play or even free agent grab during the bye weeks.

Remember to tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

Raise your hand if you are adjusting around David Johnson, Andrew Luck, Allen Robinson, Cameron Meredith and Dalvin Cook. Are you smiling if you selected Ezekiel Elliot, Deshaun Watson or Kareem Hunt?

Fantasy football is an unforgiving kind of game for sure, but sometimes the injury horrors should be dismissed to the subtlety of players we liked, especially going into the draft, who seem to be losing it. So, as we complete the first quarter of the season, who are some of those guys who get to be the focus this time?

For example, C.J. Prosise was the guy we all thought would play the receiving back role for the Seahawks, but injury forced the hand of fate and rookie J.D. McKissic (what is it with the Seahawks and runners with initials?) got the call. The Arkansas State alum caught a pass for 27 yards and nabbed another 38 on four rushes, collectively resulting in a pair of TDs. With Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy iffy, Chris Carson on IR and Prosise hurt, another solid game for McKissic could indeed put the lock on some full-time play.

The Bengals' Tyler Eifert has been one of the most effective tight ends in football the past few years, at least when he is healthy. But once again, Eifert is not healthy and who would be there to back up? Well, another Tyler (something weird in the names this week), as in Tyler Kroft picked up the mantle, bagging 68 yards on six receptions and two TDs. Kroft had three catches last week and is surely working his way into the Bengals offense which has been quiet, but is really pretty good.

With Matt Forte down, another rookie running back, Elijah McGuire, got a chance and put up 93 rushing yards on ten carries, including a score, while bagging a couple of passes for 38 yards. Certainly, the Jets are avoiding following the script this season and McGuire looks like part of the "problem." That makes him worth a look and maybe cheap DFS pick depending upon the matchup.

It seems like Andre Ellington gets chances to be the featured back, and then that grasp seems to slip away. But with David Johnson down, and Chris Johnson ineffective, Ellington was the man on Sunday, catching nine of 14 targets for 86 yards and picking up 18 rushing yards on five carries. Ellington has actually caught 18 passes over four games, putting him on pace for more than 70 catches this year, gold in a PPR format.

Switching to wide receivers, Jeron Brown, who is taking advantage of down time to John Brown (who always seems injured), packed away eight receptions for 105 yards on Sunday, meaning along with Ellington, Brown becomes a lot of the cure while Johnson, as in David, recovers. Continued high production, though, pushes Jeron the Brown ahead of John the Brown on the depth chart.

Remember what a hot commodity Will Fuller V was going into Week 2 last year? Well. maybe after a year of dues paying, Fuller is back. Certainly, he participated in his team's 57-point orgy last weekend over the Titans. Fuller played his first snaps, caught four for 38 yards and a pair of TDs, and perhaps the Watson/Fuller connection will develop into something bigger?

Getting looks last week after Kelvin Benjamin went down, Devin Funchess was a target ten times, catching four passes for the second straight week prior to last Sunday's contest with New England. In that shootout, Funchess nabbed seven passes for 70 yards and two TDs with Benjamin present. In fact, the presence of Benjamin simply makes both members of Cam Newton's arsenal all the more effective.

No, Eli Manning is not dead, but a good matchup helps and his team has not only been streaky the past few years, but this middle run seems to coincide with the hot part of streaks. Manning had a solid two-score, 288-yard passing day on Sunday and added a 14-yard carry. I am not sure I like Manning in a season-long format, but he could make a great DFS pick on any given Sunday.

Finally, the sins of Mike Glennon are no more, at least for now, for Mitch Trubisky is set to start for the Bears on Sunday. Glennon was not effective after a poor performance against the Pack (4.7 fantasy points), so the North Carolina rookie gets a start. In a Super Flex league, jump on Trubisky if there is a QB shortage. Now. Next week will be too late. 

Remember to tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

It would be fun if after Week 1 of the NFL season, things seemed to stabilize or there was the kind of magic body of stats like in baseball that shed a little more light on the best players each week. Oh yeah, those suggestions would have to be correct, right?

Maybe that is both the problem and exactly what draws us to playing Fantasy games and what makes those of us who do play such contests a bit daft at times?

Still, we do keep coming back. At least I do, and if you are with me, you would want to think about the players I spotted this week who could be of some value in the coming week and beyond.

While Doug Martin waits one more game to be able to return to play, Jacquizz Rodgers is not a bad pickup and cheap DFS play. Though it seems Rodgers has been around forever, he is still just 27 and though small (5'6"), he weighs in at 205 pounds. Rodgers scored last week and ran for a solid 67 yards on 19 carries, and with 169 career receptions to his name, he is clearly a threat in the passing game as well.

It seems at this point I could write about a player on the Oakland offense every week since the team is so deep that someone gets the spotlight from time-to-time. This week it is former Viking Cordarrelle Patterson, who caught a pass and got three runs, including breaking one for 43 yards and a score. Patterson, who does have breakaway speed, returns punts and kick-offs and in a deep keeper league is worth a roster spot. Depending upon the matchup, Patterson also makes a possible low-end DFS play.

I might have been skeptical about the path forward of the Broncos, but after Trevor Siemien carved the Dallas defense up to the tune of 231 yards and four TDs, well, the Broncos seem to be another team emerging with a new face and a lot of dangerous weapons. 

Mohamed Sanu has been a #2 behind A.J. Green for four years and now seems in the same spot behind Julio Jones. But, on another big offensive unit, with a great QB, Sanu could really step up in the complementary role like Michael Crabtree gets to play behind Amari Cooper, you know?

Chris Thompson, of the Redskins, is a fourth-year player who cashed in Sunday with a pair of scores on three carries and 77 yards to go with three receptions for another 29 yards. Thompson does have a score on a reception this year, and again, in PPR formats, a back who can catch is worth a lot.

Another Chris running back would be Seattle rookie Chris Carson. The Oklahoma State alum turned 20 carries into 93 yards and probably figures to get more and more touches as the season progresses.

While we are in Seattle, my radio mate Justin Mason made Seahawks wideout Paul Richardson his special pick on the Tout Wars Hour last Thursday and Richardson caught a pair of balls, one for a score. Richardson has been targeted 12 times thus far, so it is reasonable to expect more looks. 

The Saints' Alvin Kamara is definitely one to watch, especially in PPR leagues. The rookie running back, out of Tennessee, has collected 21 yards on eight carries this season. But more notably, Kamara has racked up seven receptions for 71 yards, including a 38-yarder on Sunday. That suggests lots of future use by Drew Brees and Sean Payton. 

Remember to go to the Tout Wars site for our Friday picks. And, tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

Um, so the Jets beat the Dolphins, almost handily, and the Bears held on and beat the Steelers. The Browns were supposed to beat the Colts but T.Y. Hilton came to play and the Seahawks couldn't handle the Packers, even though Randall Cobb was out.

In all it was a sloppy, weird, wonderful day of football, full of close plays, strange calls, tight scores and bonehead moves that together made for a very entertaining day of football.

Did I mention the Raiders got their clocks cleaned? If I thought golf was humbling, it is nothing compared to tweeting "If you had doubts about the @RAIDERS, they will end tonight. Best balanced most dynamic offense in the @NFL" and then watching the team get completely destroyed.

I am pretty open these days about the Raiders having been my team since Day 1, when Cotton Davidson was their first QB, and through the days of Lamonica and Stabler, and after so many dismal years, it is great to see them solid again. So, I bet Justin Mason, my co-host on the Tout Wars Hour, who is from D.C., and, obviously, I lost.

If you want to hear the spoils of my indebtedness to Justin, tune in to the Show, 9-11 PM Eastern (6-8 Pacific) Thursday night on the FNTSY network. We have a lot of fun working out strategies for all types of fantasy games and sports. 

In the meantime, a cluster of players came to the forefront this week, so let's look at the guys who caught my eye and see if we can scrounge any value.

Deshaun Watson (QB, Texans): When I watch a quarterback, especially for the first few times, the main thing I focus on is how they handle the ball. Not just passing or handing off, but more are they willing to eat the ball, or throw it away rather than risk a turnover. Watson has committed six miscues--three fumbles and picks--but the source was as much tough plays and situations and rookie experience than mismanagement. And, Watson has improved each week, culminating with his really fine performance against the Patriots. I love the idea of Watson as a #2 QB at this point, depending upon your league. And, if allowed keepers, he makes the perfect #2 who can be stashed at a lower or cheaper price, and I say this because I think the Texans signal caller is going to be good.

Jacoby Brissett (QB, Colts): Brissett is not a rookie, but he is just into his second season having been a Patriot as a rookie, meaning he was a back-up to Tom Brady before he became a back-up to Andrew Luck. I am not sure about the long-term prospects for Brissett, especially with Luck and health potentially connecting. But, like Watson, he turned in a solid Sunday, and like Watson, Brissett has improved each of the past three weeks. And, he seems to both have clicked with T.Y. Hilton, and seems able to run with the ball (two TDs). Brissett only has value in a Super Flex league at this point, but he could be a decent addition, depending upon the aforementioned Luck and health.

Alex Collins (RB, Ravens): Collins worked into 11 games last year, and bagged 31 touches. But, just as he is a second-year player like Brissett, so did he play for a different team in the Seahawks. The Arkansas alum had seven carries for 42 yards last week, and nine for 82 on Sunday against the Jags. That bodes for a 7.8 YPC, and that is pretty good. Too good to ignore, so Collins should get increased touches as Baltimore figures out how to use their back best.

Mercedes Lewis (TE, Jaguars): Lewis is probably the most obscure guy of the week to be a starter, a former #1, and a guy who scored three TDs even though he was owned in just 2.2% of ESPN leagues. Lewis was a #1, from UCLA for the Jags in 2006, and has 31 TDs with 355 receptions and 4262 yards under his belt. Sunday was fluky, but Lewis might make a good stream during a bye week, and is a trooper, at least deserving some space by virtue of a big day.

Wendell Smallwood (RB, Eagles): I have discussed Smallwood before, and was especially big on the rookie during the pre-season, but of course he got off to a slow start in lieu of LeGarrette Blount. Note that on Sunday, Smallwood got more carries and yards than Blount, and watch his playing time and touches increase. Swear.

Taylor Gabriel (WR, Falcons): I liked Gabriel a lot last year and think he will get increased looks and action playing off Julio Jones. The speedy receiver caught 35 passes for 579 yards and six scores last year and managed a solid game on Sunday, scoring once and racking up 79 yards on five catches. The fourth-year man, originally drafted by the Browns, who might indeed like having him back, should also really come into his own this season in the #2 role.

Robert Woods (WR, Rams): Woods is another guy I froze on a couple of Ultra teams. Going into his fifth season, with a developing Jared Goff and offense around him, he too is a great option if you are looking to plug an injury hole. Last week, his 108 yards surpassed Sammy Watkins, but again, being a #2 WR and playing off a really great #1 increases value. Obviously, too many guys like Woods or Gabriel could be problematic, but one is fine. And, well, if you drafted Cameron Meredith and Julian Edelman and Allen Robinson, both look pretty good right now. 

Remember to go to the Tout Wars site for our Friday picks. And, tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

When Derek Carr went down in the final week of the 2016, I knew the season was done for the team. But, similarly, I had a strong feeling for not just how good the team would be this season, but that in 2017 Oakland would pass the Patriots as the best team in the AFC.

Of course this was before the Raiders signed Marshawn Lynch, a move perfect for the team, but I felt the collection of young stars, led by serious MVP candidate Derek Carr, were a bunch of veterans now, and a team that had tasted some limelight, knew what to expect, and now could challenge to be the best.

I say this noting that Bill Belichick is the best and smartest coach in the NFL, also noting the greatness of Tom Brady. The thing is the team is indeed getting a little longer in the tooth, and though it was the first game of the season, Kansas City taking charge and manhandling New England for the bulk of the second half confirmed this belief. Not that I don't think the Patriots will be a playoff team. Rather, they will be like last year's Raiders in the scheme, and the Raiders--or some team--will grab the best mantle away from Brady/Belichick.

So, while we are looking at the Raiders, who in god's name is Giorgio Tavecchio? Well, he was the rookie kicker behind the now IR'd Sebastian Janikowski. Tavecchio nailed all his field goal attempts--two at 52 yards--banging the ball right down the middle of the goal posts. If you are looking for a kicker out of the FA pool, he is surely there and has the gig for eight weeks. Maybe longer as the Raiders might have a kicker controversy.

A couple of quarterbacks had interesting first weeks if you are in a two-QB or Super Flex set up, starting with the Browns' DeShone Kizer. The Notre Dame rookie banged out 20 completions in 30 tries in his first game, good for 222 yards and a score, adding one more TD with his legs. Kizer and his teammates looked a lot better than anticipated against the Steelers, and Cleveland looks to be on a good rebuild path with Kizer at the center.

Similarly, Mike Glennon and the Bears looked a lot better than I feared, completing 26 of 40 for 213 yards and a score. Glennon has some pretty fun weapons with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen and while he might not be a long-term answer to much, if your league is deep when it comes to QB, or as a cheap DFS pick depending upon the matchup, Glennon is worth watching.

With the Week 1 injury to Allen Robinson, I feel good that I have a lot of Allen Hurns shares. Two years ago, Hurns bagged 1030 yards and 10 TDs playing off Robinson, and on Sunday, the three passes and 42 yards the 25-year-old garnered led the team. I like Hurns as the guy to get the most touches with Robinson out for the year.

Similarly, the Cardinals' Kerwynn Williams seems the most likely back to get the ball in the wake of the David Johnson injury. A fifth-year back, Williams ran the ball five times and scored once, but expect his time with the ball to increase over the next eight weeks.

Some quick hits, starting with the Lions' Kenny Golladay, a third-round pick this year who caught four passes on seven targets for 69 yards and a pair of scores, including a fantastic layout goal line reception for one of the TDs.

Tight End Austin Hooper was a third-round pick of the Falcons in 2016 and the Stanford alum had a great first week, catching both of his Matt Ryan passes for a score and 128 yards. Expect that relationship to improve over the course of the season, making Hooper a solid play for you and weapon for Ryan.

Another Tight End, 6'7" Jesse James was the Steelers' fifth-round pick in 2015, and he clicked with Ben Roethlisberger, catching six of eight targets for 41 yards and two scores. Big Ben has a lot of weapons and that actually means James should get a lot of looks as the team spreads the ball around accordingly. 

Nelson Agholor is a Wide Receiver selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. Agholor has had an increasing role with the team over the past three years and started strong this past weekend, catching six of eight targets for 86 yards and a score. He too should be getting looks as he and Carson Wentz become a unit of sorts. 

Finally, Saints rookie RB Alvin Kamara looks like he should play an increasing role with the team, starting with seven carries and four catches out of six targets. The third-round pick in the spring out of Tennessee merits tracking and grabbing to fill a hole in a deeper league right now. 

Remember to go to the Tout Wars site for our Friday picks. And, tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

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