We’re a little late rolling this out. That is because last night and into this morning was a spectacular time for me at the ER dealing with a ‘moderate’ case of anaphylactic shock. Hey, at least they had the game on. Early in the first quarter LaRod Stephens-Howling busted out a 25 scamper on a pass from John Skelton. Unfortunately, I was forced to drop ‘hyphen’ a couple of weeks ago due to more pressing roster needs, so this is not what I wanted to see. Fortunately my eyes were swollen half shut so the visual impact was mitigated.
Far more shocking than my experience was what football fans had to witness on the gridiron this weekend. I’m wondering how many of the Bobcat faithful had to be treated at Sheltering Arms hospital in Athens, Ohio after watching the antics of savvy quarterback Tyler Tettleton in the waning moments of Ohio University’s 23-20 loss to the Miami Redhawks. Down by 3 with a first and goal at the 7-yard line with 9 seconds left, Tettleton had one more shot to try and win it before putting in kicker Matt Weller for a chip shot to send the game into overtime. OU had zero timeouts remaining, so surely Tettleton would make a quick read and just throw the ball away if nobody was open, right? One would think, instead he decided to take a sack. He wasn’t blind-sided. He had plenty of time to get rid of it, yet he elected to swallow the ball and not throw it away, allowing the clock to run out. Hmmm….very interesting strategy in that situation. The Bobcat’s run at an undefeated season ended just like that, leaving thousands of fans ill.
As bad as that was, Jamaal Charles owners had it worse on Sunday. Arguably the most talented runner in the NFL not nicknamed AD, and certainly in the top 5, the Chiefs most potent weapon was limited to 5 carries and 3 targets. No kind of defensive scheming from the Raiders or deficit the Chiefs faced justifies such lack of involvement in the offensive game plan. Antonio Brown had a dream matchup against a leaky Redskin secondary, but all he gave owners was a headache and a meager 4 catches for 38 yards. Calvin Johnson owners have a growing sense of malaise after the preseason consensus #1 pick continued to flirt with fantasy mediocrity. More decoy than primary weapon, due to a knee injury that he is playing through, Megatron caught just 3 balls. Aaron Rodgers had a ‘great’ matchup in Jacksonville, yet produced just 186 passing yards; his lowest total since 2010. Blaine Gabbert opposed him with over 300 yards through the air, hooking up with Cecil Shorts 8 times for 116 yards, all in that impossible matchup against the Packers. Alex Smith had what was billed to be a difficult task in Arizona, but flourished throwing 3 TD’s, 18 completions and ONE incompletion on his way to his second best fantasy day of the season – 24.2 points. This list goes on and on and just gets longer every week. We’ve visited this theme before but it bears repeating, by and large playing matchups is a fool’s errand. There are a few exceptions, but almost always you have to live and die with your marquee players. I’ve talked to distraught owners of Calvin Johnson, Antonio Gates, and others, all contemplating benching their stars for mediocre talents with good matchups. Don’t do it. It’s painful at times and it might make you ill on occasion, but you have to dance with the date that brought you.
While we’re on the subject of lineup decisions, never make a decision based on the weather. Just don’t do it. Nine times out of ten it will come back to haunt you. I speak from painful experience. I’m not talking about kickers or defenses here. That can pay dividends, you don’t want kickers kicking in a monsoon and playing kickers in a dome is always a safe move, but when it comes to the ‘skill’ position players the weather effects are incredibly exaggerated most of the time. I won’t name names, but most of us saw the pregame updates and know who the culprits are. Sandy was going to wreak havoc on the passing game in Philadelphia. Matt Ryan and Michael Vick would be grounded and would be forced to keep the pigskin on the ground and make short passes to Brent Celek and Tony Gonzalez. Rubbish. Matt Ryan set the tone with a 63-yard bomb to Julio Jones. He’d finish the day with 3 TD’s and 26.9 fantasy points. It would have been much worse if Philadelphia offense hadn’t been so inept. The Eagles couldn’t move the ball, but it had nothing to do with the weather. Instead of being featured in the offense, the only thing Celek and Gonzalez displayed were their lowest target totals of the entire season.
When you ask why Detroit running backs get injured, it’s like asking why the leaves fall It’s in their nature. Mikel LeShoure left the game with an injury. Detroit has denied this but they can’t be trusted. Those at the game saw him limp off. Hopefully it’s just minor and they’re lying to protect him. Kevin Smith actually received a carry on Sunday, which means that either he’s healthy, or that Jim Swartz has finally forgiven him for sleeping with his wife.
Donald Driver found pay dirt. If Jordy Nelson continues to miss time he might be worth desperation flex consideration in deep 14 team leagues if you’re stuck with other options such as Chris Ogbonnaya, just don’t expect much. He only played 27 snaps and was targeted twice.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
When Pittsburgh wasn’t shooting themselves in the foot they moved the ball at will most of the night. Mike Wallace killed their initial drive in the first quarter by dropping a first down pass on a third down, then dropped another easy toss on the next drive that negated a big gain. The dropsies were contagious as Baron Batch was as open as you can get but failed to haul in a soft lob from Antonio Brown that would have been an easy touchdown even for my grandmother. Two plays later Ben Roethlisberger threw a pick trying to force it into Heath Miller in the end zone. When the Steeler offense didn’t misfire, the Bengals defense had few answers. Dick Lebeau had answers all night for the Bengals offense. It’s really just a trump card at this point. Stop A.J. Green and you stop the Bengals. This is exactly why I don’t own Green on any 12 or 14-team leagues this year (I wish I did). I assumed defensive coordinators would focus their strategy on stopping the sophomore phenom, especially since the linebacker hurdling, drug dealing, seam stretching Jerome Simpson departed for Minneapolis and there remained no other formidable threat among the Bengal playmakers. I was wrong. Defensive schemes have been mixed but all too often I’ve seen Green exploit zones, man-to-man, or the occasional blown coverage. Not on Sunday night. The Steelers put an end to that. This is also exactly why I own Andrew Hawkins all over the place. More often than not the slant has been there for the taking, but Andy Dalton only seems interested in it occasionally. The Bengals need to run more three wide receiver sets and they need to run as well as pass from these formations. This will stretch the field and open up running lanes. They also need to slant Hawkins in the middle to take some defensive pressure off the outside. The ingredients for a 2004 Brandon Stokley type of breakout are there in southern Ohio, but for some reason Dalton and company don’t seem that interested.
Rob Housler caught 5 of 7 targets for 54 yards. This may be your last chance to get him.
Dallas Clark complained about his lack of involvement in the offense and was rewarded with 5 catches for 51 and a score. Might be another flash in the pan but still worth a buck to see.
The Washington Redskins placed Fred Davis on Injured Reserve and signed Chris Cooley. The former pro bowler has the knees of a retired plumber but is still worth putting on your watch list along with Logan Paulson. The 2nd year tight end out of UCLA was targeted 6 times after Davis was removed from the game and has the size (6’5” 258) to provide a big target for Robert Griffin on seam routes and the strength to fend off aggressive coverage.
Justin Blackmon came out of a bye with and into a matchup against a weak Oakland secondary. 1 catch and only 4 targets aren’t going to get it done. Cecil Shorts on the other hand led the Jaguars with 10 targets in week 7. When desperate for a WR4, sometimes you have to take what you can get. Shorts is fast, and the Jaguars will find the end zone once in a while and complete a least a few passes. Someone has to catch them.
Greg Little posted his best fantasy week of the season, catching 6 passes and finding the end zone. Greg has done little (nudge, nudge) to earn the trust of owners, yet he still leads the Browns in targets. He might bail you out if byes and injuries have you in a bind.
Louis Murphy has the athleticism to fill a highlight reel. He’s been criticized for bad route running and being injury prone. He’s probably not worth a roster spot yet, but he should be on your radar as an upside flex if he earns more snaps and looks across from Steve Smith.
Baltimore at Kansas City
Kansas City went to the air only 18 times, 7 of which were late in the fourth quarter and 5 of which went to running backs That has to be concerning to anyone that owns Chiefs wide receivers Last week’s interception fiesta clearly left an indelible impression in Brian Daboll’s mind The first year offensive coordinator already had an inclination to run, and with the Ravens never building more than a 6 point lead, Kansas was content to feed the rock 30 times to the most electric runner in the league right now: Jamaal Charles The heavy workload does not bode well for his chances of holding up over the long haul, but if you could guarantee me 16 games from the former Texas Longhorn I would be tempted to draft him No. 1 overall He is that good He trusts his knee now, something he wasn’t doing in the preseason His lateral speed is back as is his explosive cuts I saw back in 2010 which led me to draft him all over the place last year I was a year too early as I think Jamaal could end up the most productive fantasy running back in 2012 The only concerns are health and if they’ll frequently have to play catch-up in the second half, forcing them to pass. Jonathan Baldwin owners need to be worried about the mere 3 targets he received Whether it’s Brady Quinn or Matt Cassel under center, Romeo Crennel is unlikely to have much faith in either Shaun Draughn looked better than the 3.3 YPC would seem to indicate He’s a nice desperation flex if you need one Torrey Smith is what he is, a feast or famine WR that will be fine in total points at the end of the year, but will frustrate you in H2H formats Anquan Boldin apparently dipped his gloves in some sort of slippery liquid before the game.
Tennessee at Minnesota
It may be time to trust Kendall Wright The rookie received 11 targets on Sunday and has 38 targets the last 4 weeks On the season he has 44 with Nate Washington second with 25 looks Javon Ringer suffered a torn MCL and will miss a few weeks Some will run to grab Jamie Harper as Chris Johnson’s backup I’d be more interested in Darius Reynaud He’s not worth a pickup yet After all, as lame as Chris Johnson’s fantasy line has been this year, he never gets injured However if he continues to put up less than 2 YPC many more weeks, Titan coaches may be tempted to give the 2nd best runner on the roster more carries If they actually did that, it would be Reynaud getting more touches, not Harper.
Cleveland at New York
I drafted Trent Richardson early and often prior to his knee scope After the operation I divorced the rookie out of LSU for more ‘safer’ first round options So much for Richardson being a risk because of his rookie status If a rookie gets touches, he’s going to produce as long as he gets consistent touches and has running skills The risk lies in the coaches not trusting rookies due to poor pass protection skills or lack of ball security Every indication was that Trent would be the bell-cow as soon as his knee would allow it He is currently the third most productive fantasy running back Those who invested a late 1st round pick were mocked on draft day, but the joke early in the season is on those that eschewed the Browns workhorse Jordan Cameron saw his snap count drop from 26 to 17 and his targets fall from 6 down to 2 That’s not going to get it done The Browns coaching staff’s actions don’t back up their high praise of the athletic rookie On the other hand much has been made recently of Rueben Randle’s lack of work ethic If the report is accurate, then the Giants must appreciate sloth as they decided to reward his laziness by targeting him more than any other Giant receiver The Tiger hauled in 6 catches for 82 yards With all the questions surround Hakeem Nicks’ knee and foot, Randle might be worth a look as a stash and hold He can’t be trusted as a fantasy start yet until we see increased snaps (still in on only half of New York’s offensive plays) It could be a weekly rotation with Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden also competing for looks. If ANY of the three emerge as Nicks’ regular/primary replacement, they will have enormous fantasy upside Yep, those preseason reports were correct Ahmad Bradshaw sure looks washed up, and that sophomore slump Victor Cruz is mired in is brutal.
The modern problem with fantasy football is not a lack of knowledge. We are inundated with so much information via television, radio, roto news sites and twitter that it’s impossible to keep up with all of the data pertinent to lineup and waiver decisions. If you’ve ever tried to drink out of a fire hose, this is the dilemma faced with the high stakes fantasy manager. However, there is a much larger problem, and that is that the fantasy expert knows so much that isn’t so.
I invested heavily in Darren McFadden in 2011. In week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs, No. 20 got up after an innocuous tackle. He headed over to the sidelines seemingly with his normal gait, without any sign of distress. McFadden would not return to the game. Initially it was reported that he suffered an ankle injury. That story morphed into a foot sprain. In the coming weeks fantasy owners were hoodwinked by Hue Jackson and the line coming out of Raider camp that it was very minor and that he might play next week. Frequently they disseminated the word that he might practice ‘tomorrow or the day after.’ This charade continued, but he didn’t practice and he didn’t play. Nevertheless, we were assured that he was close to a return. Then reports surfaced that he was on crutches and others reported that he donned a walking boot. As the weeks passed, the dreaded LisFranc term raised its ugly head. If you think Hue Jackson was being honest and transparent with the media, then I’ve got some swampland in Louisiana I’d like to tell you about. McFadden didn’t see another snap after week 7, and I’m convinced this was no surprise to Hue Jackson or any of the Raider brass.
Pierre Garcon’s fantasy stardom lasted just one quarter. A foot injury suffered on his 88-yard touchdown reception has relegated him to occasional decoy. Mike Shanahan has given us the day-to-day song and dance but I’m not buying. I’m no doctor and I could be wrong, but a couple days after news of his foot injury surfaced I’ve had a growing sense this injury is worse than they’re letting on and they’ve known it. Mike Shanahan has admitted to lying about injuries in the past. He lied in Denver about Jake Plummer’s injury, calling it a concussion when later he revealed that it really was a shoulder injury. He later confessed that the lie was presented to prevent a competitive disadvantage. Obviously, such admittance is rare; as such confessions often lead to a dent in the wallet. However, doing anything and everything possible to win is rather common, and so is perpetual BS sprinkled throughout injury reports. Tell me this. Why does the league even bother with requiring the Patriots to submit injury reports?
Is Josh McDaniels cursed? I kid, but he does seem to have a magical way of increasing the loss total everywhere he goes. It’s easy to question play calling from the couch, but it’s also easy to dismiss davenport coaches when they actually might be on to something. The Patriots threw the ball 58 times on Sunday. I submit to you that they should have thrown it more. Tom Brady averaged 11 yards per completion and 6.8 yards per pass attempt while completing 62% of his passes. On the ground Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, and Danny Woodhead ombined for a paltry 3.3 yards per rushing attempt. The Patriots scored only 2 touchdowns on Sunday. The first touchdown drive featured 6 passes and 0 Runs and it took them only 1:46 to march down the field. During that drive the Seahawks forced only one third down. A mostly fearless, aggressive approach helped the Patriots build a 20-10 lead in a hostile environment on the road against the toughest run defense in the NFL. Through six games Seattle is giving up only 50 yards per game on the ground. With 11 minutes left in the game the Patriots had built a 10 point lead and moved the ball into field goal range behind 48 passes and 18 rushes: a 73%/27% split. Then Josh decided to call off the dogs and ‘sit’ on the lead. 7 of the next 12 plays would be on the ground and only short conservative passes mixed in. Anytime the offense forgets that its job is to move the ball by doing what it does best problems are just around the corner. The point is that fantasy owners used to draft Patriots knowing that even if they were up 70-3 with 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Brady would be under center and making it 77-3 was their life’s mission. Those days appear to be over.
Cedric Peerman’s 8 catches for 76 yards are the very definition of flash in the pan, but if injuries have you stuck with Lamar Miller and LaRod Stephens-Howling as your only bye week options, sometimes the pan flashes twice.
Felix Jones is going to be a hot pickup this week. I refuse to spend much $ on someone who reported to camp out of shape. Phillip Tanner might be worth a $1 grab if you are desperate or are low in FAAB cash. He was very impressive during the 2011 preseason.
Miami at Arizona
Rob Housler saw his snap count increase the first three weeks of the season. Last week it dipped slightly from 50 down to 44 but his targets increased from 2 to 3. Arizona doesn’t typically incorporate their tight ends heavily into their offensive game plan, but they should, because they have a jewel they are hiding in Housler (he reminds me of a young Jason Witten). Housler has that type of upside, but until Arizona realizes this he remains merely someone to monitor. Be ready to swoop in if his targets increase. Michael Floyd has played in just under 50% of the Cardinals snaps the last two weeks and received eight targets against the Dolphins. He remains at best the third passing option behind Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts, but Floyd's role is growing and he should eventually receive more goal line targets than the latter as he has 4 inches and 25 pounds on the 2nd year pro out of Citadel. Ryan Williams was stifled by Miami’s run defense. William Powell actually had more snaps and was featured in the Arizona’s hurry up offense in the fourth quarter, which is something to monitor if you are counting on a heavy dose of number thirty-four. You might not get enough touches if Arizona is forced to play catch-up. Lamar Miller received only eight snaps and Daniel Thomas saw 21. Miller is clearly a better runner than Thomas but he may need two injuries before he becomes fantasy relevant.
Houston at Tennessee
Remember all the preseason talk about Ben Tate eating into Arian Foster’s workload? Tate outpaced Foster a full yard per carry in 2011 leading to fears that offensive coordinator Rick Dennison would be ‘forced’ to feed him the rock more in 2012. The opposite has been the case. Foster has seen no fewer than 24 carries in any given week and leads the entire NFL in carries. Even with Houston up 31-7 late in the fourth quarter Tate remained on the sidelines twiddling his thumbs as Foster handled mop up duty. Tate has been fantasy death three out of four weeks this year and remains nothing more than a Foster insurance policy or a desperation flex play until he sees the field more often. Kendall Wright received eight targets. All other Titan WR’s received eight total. Wright also leads the team with 33 targets on the year. Jared Cook has seen his snap count dwindle from 60 on opening day to just 25 on Sunday. Not a good sign for those who drafTed Cook to be a TE1.
Cincinnati at Jacksonville
Justin Blackmon tested the waters of marginal fantasy relevance with a ‘breakthrough’ performance catching 6 passes for 48 yards. Remember that he reported late to camp and is still learning the nuances of Bob Bratkowski’s offense. If Blackmon keeps getting touches the points will eventually come as the rookie has massive YAC ability. I wouldn’t start him yet unless you are desperate, but I wouldn’t drop him either as some others have suggested. Keep Blackmon stashed in hopes of making an impact in the second half of the season. Marcedes Lewis is unstartable as long as he’s kept in to block. It remains to be seen if Lewis will have any fantasy relevance this year. Cincinnati needs to wake up and run more three wide receiver sets so that the team can get their second best offensive weapon out on the field more often. After getting nine looks week one, Andrew Hawkins has only been targeted 10 times the last three weeks and remains a feast or famine flex play.
San Diego at Kansas City
Excessive hype pushed Mr. Glass up to a mid-first round draft position in early preseason drafts. Since then Ryan Mathews owners have received one piece of bad news after another. Yet roto nation continues to view one of the most brittle backs in the NFL through rose colored "Glass"-es. The latest rosy picture painted before us is that the time share with Jackie Battle on Sunday was a one time aberration solely used to motivate the third year injury prone halfback. While that is certainly possible I would not assume that is the case. Mathews has always been part of a time-share during his short career. He’s never carried the ball more than 222 times in a single season. He’s had ball security issues and is as fragile as they come, so if the time-share continues it should be no surprise. Yes, he’s clearly the most talented running back on the roster, but that alone doesn’t guarantee anything. If you judged only by the box score it might seem that Antonio Gates is slowly being fazed out of the offense. Receiving only 3 looks on Sunday, his 18 targets on the year barely outpaces Eddie Royal. He poses an interesting problem to fantasy owners. Do they keep plugging in TE3 production into their starting lineup? Or do they bench him and risk watching a Jason Witten like explosion (13 catches for 112 yards) on their bench? Jonathan Baldwin is a sleeping giant waiting to explode himself. He just needs more targets. He’s only received 15 total the last three weeks. If some impatient owner in your league cut bait on him, gobble him up for the upside.