Tour Report: Mickelson defends his captain (PGA Tour)
Tour Report: McIlroy: ‘Just get me to the first tee’ (PGA Tour)
Sunday Scene, Week 4: Another dud for Detroit, and now a bye
Back in August, when Lions fans were looking ahead to the early weeks of the season, there's no way anybody saw a path to 1-3. No way.
Granted, if you've been following Detroit for a few years, it's possible that you're a chronic worrier, not naturally inclined toward rosy projections. Still, your team's September schedule didn't seem unusually rough — St. Louis, San Francisco, Tennessee, Minnesota — and the roster isn't short on talent.
Yet here we are. The Lions are headed into a bye, having dropped three of their first four games. Detroit has actually allowed multiple TDs on special teams in each of the past two weeks, which isn't the traditional recipe for success. When this group returns from the break in Week 6, they'll travel to Philly. Then it's another road game at Chicago in Week 7, followed by a home match-up with Seattle.
By the time the calendar flips to November, the Lions could easily be 2-5, or perhaps 1-6.
Of course the fantasy community doesn't care about real-life winning and losing. Instead, this is what worries us:
Matthew Stafford, 2011, first four weeks — 1217 yards, 11 TDs, 3 INTs
Matthew Stafford, 2012, first four weeks — 1182 yards, 3 TDs, 4 INTs
Calvin Johnson, 2011, first four weeks — 24 REC, 321 yards, 8 TDs
Calvin Johnson, 2012, first four weeks — 29 REC, 423 yards, 1 TD
It may seem greedy and unreasonable to complain about a quarterback who's averaging 295.5 passing yards per game and a receiver averaging 105.8, but fantasy owners paid for greatness when they drafted Lions, not merely goodness. The early numbers haven't met expectations.
Stafford has been victimized by multiple dropped passes — Brandon Pettigrew had a brutal drop in the end zone on Sunday — so we can only assign so much blame to Detroit's QB. He's no less talented today than he was when you drafted him. Same story with Calvin. In the end, these guys are both going to deliver useful-enough stats, assuming good health.
But here's the problem: By the time the useful numbers finally arrive, owners of Stafford and Megatron could face terrible playoff odds. Many investors in this offense are now 1-3 themselves — and, again, Detroit is on shutdown in Week 5.
Thus, there's a decent chance we'll see a fire sale on Lions in the days ahead. I've already received trade pitches from two different Stafford owners. As much as we preach patience around here, if you're a fantasy manager with a one-win (or no-win) team, you cannot afford to take another loss next week. So if you're looking to deal Stafford or 'Tron for something that improves your Week 5 outlook, I get it. These things happen.
This is how the rich get richer in fantasy, and slow-starters have their rosters picked clean. It's the circle of life, basically, with yardage bonuses. Let's just hope you're among the October buyers.
• Miami receiver Brian Hartline was only started in four percent of Yahoo! leagues in Week 4, which means that I'm part of a very small population of owners who will actually lose to him somewhere. [Expletive]. Hartline hauled in 12 catches for 253 yards and one TD in the Dolphins' OT loss at Arizona, reaching triple-digit yardage for the second time this season. He roasted William Gay on this 57-yard reception, then got him again on this late go-ahead 80-yard TD. You shouldn't need an expert to tell you to add a guy who just put up 253 receiving yards. Do it. He's a clear favorite of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and his upcoming match-ups shouldn't frighten you (at CIN, vs. STL).
Sure wish I'd added Hartline after the 111-yard performance versus Oakland, but I pinned that one mostly on the Raiders' ineptitude. Alas.
Kevin Kolb, we should note, was terrific in the biggest moments against Miami, directing a pair of fourth quarter touchdown drives. He went 29-for-48 against the Dolphins, throwing for 324 yards and three scores. Andre Roberts hauled in two of the TDs, giving him four on the season. He's a receiver of interest, depending on your league depth. Don't fret about Ryan Williams' quiet day (13 carries, 26 yards); no one has had much success on the ground against Miami's defense (2.5 YPC allowed).
• If you can see any issues with Adrian Peterson's surgically rebuilt knee on this 18-yard run, please share it with the group. AP looked outstanding in Week 4, as he has pretty much all year. He rushed for 102 yards on 21 carries against the Lions on Sunday, and then chatted about it with YSR's Peter Brown.
• We discussed the Ryan Mathews-Jackie Battle workload split early in the day, and it's clear enough that Mathews was being shamed for fumbling in Week 3 (and for the 10 other fumbles in his pro career). Mathews still served as the closer in Sunday's win at Kansas City, a fact that Norv Turner mentioned in his post-game comments:
"You ask about the confidence I have in him. We're trying to put the game away, and he's the guy handling the ball, so I think that answers that question."
Mathews finished with 61 rushing yards on 14 carries, adding two catches for 21. Whatever else you think about this situation, you have to recognize that Mathews legitimately played his way into trouble. Ball-security equals job-security. The kid gets it...
"I showed them I could put the ball on the ground," Mathews said. "Now, I've got to show them I can keep it in my arms."
Battle becomes a necessary add, the clear Plan B for the Chargers, an effective goal line runner and competent receiver. He broke the plane twice in Week 4.
• Elsewhere in the Chargers-Chiefs tilt, Dwayne Bowe was again a garbage-time monster, hauling in a very late 29-yard TD. (Will he ever catch a touchdown when a game's outcome is in doubt? Dunno, and don't much care. The current arrangement is working for me). Matt Cassel was mostly awful (3 INTs), but Jamaal Charles was helpful for a second straight week. Charles finished with 115 total yards, two touchdowns, and one of the year's better highlights
• Nothing went right for the Jets on Sunday, and a few things went terribly wrong. Santonio Holmes was carted off with what appears to be a serious foot injury; he's headed for a Monday MRI, and you can't be expecting good news. Mark Sanchez played so poorly against the Niners (13-for-29, 103 yards, INT) that his coach had to offer a post-game vote-of-confidence. Tim Tebow, stay ready. The Jets host another punishing defense next week, as Houston rolls into town. Start no one in green in that one. And start no one named Greene. Avoid green(e) in all its forms.
• The MVP of the Rams-Seahawks game was unquestionably St. Louis kicker Greg Zuerlein. That dude booted a 24-yarder, a 48-yarder, a 58-yarder, and a 60-yarder, which is like kicking for the cycle. Phenomenal performance. He's now 12-for-12 on field goal attempts this year. Marshawn Lynch had an excellent day for Seattle in a losing effort (118 yards, TD), and Danny Amendola caught a touchdown pass from his team's punter. Because it was that sort of afternoon. Zuerlein is so good, they use him as a decoy.
• The Panthers dropped another game on Sunday, falling to 1-3, but Cam Newton's owners are feeling a whole lot better. Cam passed for 215 yards and two TDs against the Falcons, plus he led his team in rushing with nine carries for 86 yards and a 4-yard score. There was never any reason to panic with Newton, and hopefully you didn't. He's still a dual-threat monster.
For Atlanta, it was just like old times in Week 4. Michael Turner broke out with 103 rushing yards, adding an uncharacteristic 68 as a receiver. He didn't exactly set a land speed record on his 60-yard touchdown catch, but he eventually crossed the goal line. Roddy White had a huge game, with eight catches for 169 yards and two scores, while Matt Ryan was excellent again (369 yards, 3 TDs). If you like to play the on-pace game, you'll note that Ryan's current level of production will lead to 4648 yards and 44 scores. He's got Washington and Oakland on deck, so you can't expect the good times to end.
• Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker suffered an early injury to his non-throwing shoulder in Week 4, forcing Matt Hasselbeck into the fray. Locker could be out for multiple weeks, but we won't have clarity on his situation for a few days. There's no need to mess with Hasselbeck, except in two-QB leagues. He threw two touchdown passes to teammates on Sunday and two to Texans. Chris Johnson unexpectedly gained 141 yards on 25 carries against Houston, essentially quadrupling his year-to-date rushing total. (Would I buy CJ today? Nope, I'm not there yet. This offense is swimming in problems). Rookie Kendall Wright caught a final-minute TD that meant very little in reality, but might just get me a fantasy win ... not that you're expected to care.
• Stop me if you've heard this one before: Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is off to a blazing start in the opening weeks. He entered the day with eight touchdown passes, then tossed four more on Sunday, along with four picks. Fitzpatrick's fantasy outlook gets a boost from Buffalo's defensive incompetence, but his schedule is about to take a bad turn: at SF, at ARI, vs. TEN, bye, at HOU. Exercise caution here. We've had this drill before. Fred Jackson out-carried CJ Spiller in the Bills' loss to New England (13 to 8), but we won't have a clear read on this split until both players are at full strength. Spiller clearly wasn't right on Sunday; he seemed to feel his injury more than once.
New England rolled up 580 total yards and 52 points on Buffalo, embarrassing a defense that was well-hyped and well-paid during the off-season. The Pats ran the ball 40 times, as Stevan Ridley and undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden each topped 100 yards. Ridley you already know, but Bolden is an interesting puzzle piece, too. He's a hard charger, a run-you-over back with a Green-Ellis vibe (same school, similar style). He has the Pianowski endorsement, which is key. Clearly worth a speculative add.
• Andy Dalton didn't quite deliver a third straight 300-yard game, but you can't complain if you started him in Week 4. Dalton passed for 244 yards and two scores, plus he rushed for another. AJ Green was sensational again, per his usual, catching six balls for 117 and one TD. "Any time [Green] can get one-on-one, we're gonna throw him the ball," said Dalton after the game. It's crazy that any defense ever leaves AJ singled up, but there it is. His quarterback knows what to do.
• Peyton Manning was a layup start this week, facing Oakland. He finished with 338 passing yards, three scores, and no sacks. All the key Broncos feasted on the Raiders D, as Willis McGahee, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker all delivered double-digit fantasy production. Both of Denver's fantasy-relevant tight ends made highlight-quality catches, too. Here's Joel Dreessen, here's Jacob Tamme.
For those who wish to continue picking on Oakland (smart move), here's the team's upcoming schedule, following a Week 5 bye: at ATL, vs. JAC, at KC, vs. TB, at BAL, vs. NO, at CIN. Make your plans now.
• And while we're on the subject of generous defenses, you'll note that Josh Freeman finished just one yard short of becoming the fourth straight QB to pass for 300 against Washington. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams each hit triple-digits in receiving yards, with V-Jax hauling in a second-half score. Tampa didn't inflict much damage on the ground, however, as Doug Martin gave us another meh performance (eight carries, 33 yards). LeGarrette Blount gained 17 yards on six carries, and he poached a short-yardage score in the fourth quarter. Blount is a worry for Martin owners.
Robert Griffin III was great again, to no one's surprise, passing for 323 yards, rushing for 43 and a score, directing a game-winning drive (without a headset). The degree of difficulty increases for Griffin next week, as the 'Skins host Atlanta. You've heard my RGIII take already, and Sunday's performance certainly didn't my stance.
• Usually, when fantasy experts hype a game as a potential epic shootout, we end up getting a 16-13 dud. But that was not the case with Sunday's meeting between the Saints and Packers at Lambeau. The teams combined for 895 yards and 56 points. Drew Brees passed for a ridiculous 446 yards on 54 attempts, and Aaron Rodgers delivered 319 yards and four scores. Marques Colston had the inevitable breakout game (153 yards, TD), Jordy Nelson finally returned to the end zone, and James Jones caught a pair of touchdown passes (one of which may have been intended for Jermichael Finley). Randall Cobb reestablished himself in the box score, too, with seven catches for 66 yards.
Fantasy-wise, the only bad news coming out of Green Bay this week is that Greg Jennings aggravated his groin injury, forcing him to the sidelines in the second half. He found the end zone before checking out, so that's somethin', but the Packers may not have his services next week at Indy.
EARLY ADDS FOR WEEK 5
QB Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (vs. MIA)
QB Alex Smith, San Francisco (vs. BUF)
QB Kevin Kolb, Arizona (at STL)
RB Brandon Bolden, New England (vs. DEN)
RB Jackie Battle, San Diego (at NO)
RB Kendall Hunter, San Francisco (vs. BUF)
WR Brian Hartline, Miam (at CIN)
WR Kendall Wright, Tennessee (at MIN)
WR James Jones, Green Bay (at IND)
WR Andre Roberts, Arizona (at STL)
WR Donald Jones, Buffalo (at SF)
WR Jeremy Kerley, NY Jets (vs. HOU)
TE Greg Olsen, Carolina (vs. SEA)
D/ST Minnesota (vs .TEN)
Final minute of Giants-Eagles gives everyone something to debate
The Giants and Eagles could have played just the final minute of Sunday night's game, because that minute will give everyone enough to talk about until next week.
Where to begin? The ticky-tack pass interference calls, one on each side? How about questionable decisions from both coaches, including the continuation of the inane icing the kicker strategy that almost made Andy Reid the most second-guessed man in America?
The teams were already engaged in a thrilling game when Philadelphia kicked a field goal to grab a 19-17 lead with 1:49 left (actually, the questionable coaching probably goes back to Reid's decisions to run with Bryce Brown and not LeSean McCoy on second down, then running a give-up play on third down to settle for the field goal).
Then, the fireworks really started. On fourth down and 1, Philadelphia cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was called for a pass interference penalty, allowing New York's drive to continue. That call seemed justified. The next two were far more controversial.
[Related: RG3's equipment malfunction ... or sabotage?]
On third-and-10, Eli Manning threw incomplete, but Philadelphia cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was called for pass interference. From whatever angle the replay was shown, it was tough to see a foul serious enough to draw a flag. NBC's Cris Collinsworth just kept groaning and repeating that he wouldn't have called it. Welcome back, regular officials.
Was the next call on Giants receiver Ramses Barden a makeup call? Perhaps. On a deep pass downfield — which was a curious call because the Giants were already in line for a 44-yard field goal, but we'll get to Tom Coughlin in a second — Barden was all over Asomugha. Still, it isn't a call that gets made too often. The flag on Barden put the Giants back 10 yards.
After an incompletion, things really started to get strange.
First, Coughlin decided to attempt a 54-yard field goal on third down with 15 seconds left. He had no timeouts left, but a sideline route could have gotten Lawrence Tynes closer. A completion in bounds wouldn't preclude the Giants from running on the field-goal team. But Coughlin played it safe.
Tynes missed, the Philadelphia crowd started going crazy — oh, but wait. In 2009, Mike Shanahan called a timeout just before Sebastian Janikowski made a field goal. Janikowski missed the follow-up attempt, spawning a craze of coaches calling a timeout a moment before a kicker tries a field goal, despite no evidence it works (last week Miami coach Joe Philbin nullified a blocked field goal in overtime by his team, a particularly embarrassing example of the strategy). Reid had done the same to try and ice Tynes. The miss didn't count. Tynes got to try again.
Tynes was at the absolute edge of his range and his retry was just short, meaning Barden's pass interference penalty cost the Giants immensely. So did Coughlin's decision to play it safe on third down and kick. Reid's timeout went from a full-blown controversy in Philadelphia to a footnote in the Eagles' win, which moved them to 3-1.
Hope that was enough late Sunday night excitement for everyone.
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Jake Locker, Santonio Holmes headline Week 4 injuries
Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker re-injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder when he was hit by blitzing Houston Texans safety Glover Quin in the first quarter of the Texans' 38-14 win on Sunday. Locker suffered a dislocated shoulder in the 2012 regular- season opener against the New England Patriots and has been playing with a harness ever since. The 2011 first-round pick out of the University of Washington will undergo an MRI on Monday, at which point his status for next Sunday's game against Jared Allen and the Minnesota Vikings will be determined.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha injured his eye while attempting to press New York Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden at the line of scrimmage with around 12 minutes to play in the second quarter on Sunday night. Barden appeared to inadvertently poked Asomugha in the right eye and reports from the sideline were that he was sent to Wills Eye Hospital, but that turned out to be a false alarm as the cornerback returned to the field in the second half and was flagged for and drew pass interference penalties on the final drive of the Eagles' 19-17 win over the Giants.
The Giants lost safety Kenny Phillips to a right knee injury in the first quarter. According to Jenny Vrentas of The Star-Ledger, head coach Tom Coughlin wasn't sure how much time Phillips would miss.
As if the New York Jets do not have enough problems, wide receiver Santonio Holmes left Sunday's 34-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers with a foot injury. Holmes was injured while making a 4-yard reception on the opening play of the fourth quarter. The injury was of the non-contact variety and to add insult to injury, Holmes let go of the football, which was scooped by 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers and returned 51 yards for a touchdown.
Holmes was carted to the locker room and will undergo an MRI on Monday. While the playing status of the veteran receiver will not be known until Monday, Holmes' financial future is secure. Holmes is earning $7.75 million in fully guaranteed base salary this season and, because he was on the Jets' roster on Feb. 12, 2012, $7.75 million of his $11 million base salary next season is fully guaranteed.
Wide receiver Greg Jennings re-injured his groin during the first half of the Green Bay Packers' 28-27 win over the New Orleans Saints. Jennings had a 9-yard touchdown on his only reception on Sunday, giving him 12 receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown in his pivotal contract season of 2012. Jennings also has per-game roster bonuses ($25,000 per game), so any time missed this season will have financial ramifications now and moving forward.
Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather and wide receiver Aldrick Robinson were injured during a collision during pregame warm-ups before their 24-22 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Robinson was hit in the head by Meriweather, who landed awkwardly on a left knee that has kept him out of the first three games of the season. Buccaneers cornerback Eric Wright took a knee to the head in the third quarter and left the game.
For the second consecutive weeks, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Laurent Robinson left after taking a blow to the head. Signed to a five-year, $32.5 million contract on March 15, Robinson has nine receptions for 134 yards on the season and the club will likely be very cautious about rushing him back to the field. The Jaguars host the Chicago Bears next Sunday and then have a bye week.
The Denver Broncos lost starting center J.D. Walton for the season to a broken ankle during Sunday's 37-6 blowout of the Oakland Raiders. A third-round pick out of Baylor by the Broncos in 2010, Walton has started 36 straight games and, according to official playing-time documents, had missed just one snap in his career up until suffering his injury on Sunday. Walton will be replaced in the starting lineup by veteran Dan Koppen, who was signed to the 53-man roster on Sept. 11.
First-round linebacker Dont'a Hightower injured his hamstring in the first quarter of the New England Patriots' 52-28 win over the Buffalo Bills. The Boston Herald reports that Hightower's hamstring is "good."
Five Bills starters left the game with injuries, including starting left tackle Cordy Glenn and right guard Kraig Urbik who could miss significant time with ankle injuries. Safety Jairus Byrd left the game with a hip injury and tight end Scott Chandler and wide receiver Donald Jones exited with head injuries, though Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News reports both passed concussion tests after the game and should be fine. Chandler and Jones have combined for six of the Bills' 12 passing touchdowns this season.
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