Sunday Scene, Week 7: Maurice Jones-Drew limps out of Oakland

21 Oct
by in General

The image over on the right? Yeah, that's the worst.

That would be Maurice Jones-Drew on the sideline, supported by crutches, not playing football.

MJD suffered a left foot injury on the first play from scrimmage in Jacksonville's loss to Oakland on Sunday, exiting after his second carry. He spent an eternity on a bench, getting taped and de-taped, but was eventually carted to the locker room for additional maintenance. While there, he presumably picked up Rashad Jennings in all of his fantasy leagues.

When Jones-Drew emerged in the second half, he was out of uniform, looking crushed. His foot was in a boot. We don't yet know the exact nature of MJD's malfunction, but this doesn't have the look of a minor issue. If you own him in fantasy, Sunday afternoon was unusually painful.

Jennings clearly becomes a mandatory add. He's available in 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues, so most of you can make a play for his services. We've had a few false alarms with Jennings over the years, but this sure seems to be an actionable event. Rashad gained 102 yards on 28 touches against the Raiders (seven catches included), finding the end zone on a five-yard run in the second quarter. He's not perfect MJD replacement, but he's talented enough to perhaps pay 90 cents on the dollar.

The Jaguars have a few appealing match-ups remaining on the schedule (Indianapolis, Tennessee, Buffalo), games in which a healthy Jones-Drew would be a top-five fantasy option. If MJD's injury is of the multi-week variety, you'll want Jennings on your roster.

As if losing Jones-Drew wasn't painful enough, Jacksonville also had to turn to backup QB Chad Henne on Sunday. He checked in when Blaine Gabbert exited with a left shoulder injury. Henne then did many of the usual Henne things, finishing 9-for-20 with 70 yards and no TDs, and the Jags dropped a game in which they held a 14-point second-half lead.

The Raiders didn't deliver an offensive clinic, but they did enough to beat a bad team. Darren McFadden averaged less than 3.0 YPC for the fifth time this season, rushing for just 53 yards on 19 carries. Carson Palmer passed for 298 yards and one TD, and he poached a one-yard rushing score from DMC (easily my least favorite moment of the day. Let us not speak of it again).

At halftime of the Saints-Bucs game, Drew Brees was on pace to throw for over 600 yards, and various single-game passing records seemed to be at risk. But when all the stats were in, Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman actually delivered the greater yardage total. Freeman went 24-for-42 against New Orleans, passing for 420 yards and three scores. He should have had a fourth TD, but Vincent Jackson couldn't quite make it to the goal line on this long catch. (Hit that link. You just don't see many 95-yard non-scoring plays). And Freeman probably should have had a fifth TD when he found Mike Williams in the back of the end zone on the game's final play, but ... well, the NFL rulebook can be cruel. Right call, weird rule.

Freeman's huge performance wasn't really much of a surprise, because someone puts up a big number against the Saints every week. Incredibly enough, the New Orleans defense has yet to hold any opponent below 24 points or 420 total yards this season. The Bucs rolled up 28 and 513 in Week 7. Peyton Manning & Co. will feast next Sunday.

We should note that Doug Martin had a useful day for Tampa, rushing for 85 yards and one TD on 16 carries, adding three catches for 37 yards. But Martin's owners were no doubt livid when LeGarrette Blount took back-to-back-to-back goal line carries following V-Jax's long reception. Blount did nothin' with his opportunities, as he was stuffed, re-stuffed and re-re-stuffed.

Here's how that nonsense looked in the box score play-by-play...

Chris Johnson had a monster first half at Buffalo, then followed with a respectable final two quarters. CJ finished just five rushing yards shy of 200 and he found the end zone twice. He could have actually had a much bigger fantasy day, but 230-pound Jamie Harper vultured a pair of one-yard scores.

"I don't think I've ever had a bad game against [Buffalo]," said Johnson after the game. That comment may have been the understatement of the day. In three career games against the Bills, CJ has rushed for 480 yards(!) and six TDs, catching 11 passes for 107 yards.

Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller again split the backfield work for Buffalo, finishing with 17 and 18 touches respectively. Jackson gained 120 total yards and crossed the goal line once, while Spiller picked up 102 without scoring. Scott Chandler had a quiet day (2-15-0), notable because the Titans' defense has been destroyed by opposing tight ends all year.

Andrew Luck's name isn't exactly the first that comes to mind when we think of dual-threat QBs, but the kid offers sneaky value via the ground game. He ran for a pair of short scores in the win over Cleveland on Sunday, and has now totaled 29.5 year-to-date fantasy points as a rusher. Luck ran for 957 yards and seven scores in his three-year collegiate career, so the rushing contributions aren't completely unexpected. Vick Ballard and Delone Carter combined for 125 yards on 31 carries against the Browns, but neither broke the plane.

Josh Gordon delivered another Devery Henderson-style game for Cleveland, catching two passes for 59 yards and a score, dropping another ball that should have gone for a TD. Brandon Weeden had his second turnover-free outing of the season, passing for 256 yards and two touchdowns against Indy, but it wasn't enough. The Browns never managed to get anything going on the ground; Trent Richardson struggled for a half with his rib injury, carrying eight times for eight yards, then sat after the break due to ineffectiveness. He apparently did not aggravate the rib issue, if his head coach can be believed. Let's hope that's the case. But bad is bad, whatever the reason.

The Ravens were pummeled by the Texans in Week 7, as severely as the Texans were beaten by the Packers in Week 6. Baltimore was out-scored 43-13 and out-gained in total yardage, 420 to 176. The Texans defense accounted for nine points (safety, pick-six), plus they sacked Joe Flacco four times and intercepted him twice (both on tipped passes).

"Sometimes you get thrown outta the bar," said John Harbaugh in his postgame comments. So, so true.

If anyone can explain why Arian Foster was still on the field for Houston in the fourth quarter, with his team leading 36-13, I'd love to hear it. That seemed a little risky, but it certainly worked out well for Foster's owners. Arian finished with 103 scrimmage yards and two TDs on 20 touches. Andre Johnson gave us a decent fantasy line, too (9-for-86), something you can take to the trade market. And Matt Schaub threw the non-block of the day, at the 2:50 mark in this clip.

Adrian Peterson was a highlight machine on Sunday against Arizona, running over and around the Cards all afternoon, ultimately delivering 153 yards on 23 carries. Check the tape on his 13-yard rushing TD. That thing is straight from the '08 files. Almost unfair. It's a good thing for the Vikes that AP was dominant in Week 7, because Christian Ponder offered little help. He completed just eight passes to Minnesota receivers and two to Cardinals defenders, finishing with only 58 passing yards and a 35.5 rating. Percy Harvin owners should be ecstatic that their guy caught four balls for 37 yards and a score. He owned nearly all the receiving stats.

LaRod Stephens-Howling, not William Powell, was the primary back for Arizona this week, and he overcame both a tricky match-up and an unimpressive O-line. LSH gained 149 scrimmage yards on 24 touches, crossing the goal line on a three-yard score in the second quarter. He's a teacup running back (5-foot-7, 185), not a player from whom you'd expect a huge workload, but he's obviously the Cards back to own right now (if you insist on owning one).

Once again, Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson shared backfield responsibilities for the Rams, with moderately useful results. S-Jax rushed for 57 yards and a score on 12 carries, while Richardson had 11 touches for 79 yards. For now, you should think of both players as low-yield flex options. Without an injury (which we never root for) or a trade (which we sometimes root for, but rarely happens), this situation will remain a mess. Brandon Gibson caught five more balls for St. Louis, gaining 60 yards. He's an even lower-yield flex, though the Week 8 match-up with New England is interesting.

Aaron Rodgers had exactly the sort of day you envisioned when you drafted him, completing 30 of 37 throws for 342 yards and three scores, two of which went to Randall Cobb. Rodgers' final touchdown pass, a 39-yarder to Cobb, required weapons-grade precision. Look at this thing. That's evil. Sprinting left, then firing an on-target missile. Go outside, right now, and try to make that pass. [Expletive] Aaron [expletive] Rodgers.

If you're tired of listening to fantasy gurus hyping RG3, slobbering over his highlights, then maybe you'll enjoy hearing from a few opposing defensive players. Here's a sampling of comments from various Giants, discussing Griffin (via Mike Garafolo):

"Man, that sonofabitch is legit, ain't he?" Umenyiora told USA TODAY Sports.


"He's faster than I thought he was," Pierre-Paul said. "Very fast."

Said defensive tackle Chris Canty, "He's faster in person than he is on tape. There's nothing you can do to simulate it. You try. But he's unbelievably fast and he presents another element to the offense. ... You've got to face him in person to understand what you're dealing with."

And here's just one more, because it's so good...

"He takes away your enthusiasm for the game a little bit when you play a play perfectly and he still has the 4.3 speed to outrun guys and make plays," Tuck said. "I don't think there's anybody in the league like him."

Repeat: "He takes away your enthusiasm for the game." That's Justin Tuck talking, gamers — a man with great enthusiasm.

Griffin passed for 258 yards and two scores against the champs, adding another 89 yards on the ground. The 30-yard pass he completed to Santana Moss for a late go-ahead TD was excellent, but the scrambling play he made to keep the drive alive on fourth-and-10 was better.

The bad news for Washington — well, aside from the fact that the 'Skins lost on Sunday, because they lost control of Victor Cruz — is that Fred Davis suffered an Achilles injury, and it's believed to be a season-ender. With Davis out and Pierre Garcon hobbled, there's a clear opportunity for Moss to return to fantasy relevance. He caught a pair of touchdown passes in Week 7, though he also lost a fumble that effectively ended the game (denying us more RG3 ridiculousness). Chris Cooley is expected to return to the 'Skins, replacing Davis.

The Pats and Jets delivered an exciting game on Sunday, loaded with mistakes. Rex Ryan's team has really made me hate the AFC. I'm done with that conference. Next season, I'm playing nothing but NFC-only leagues.

As much as I'd like to ignore every Jets game forever, I'm duty-bound to report on injuries. Shonn Greene was walloped by Brandon Spikes in the fourth quarter on Sunday, taking a shot to the helmet, and he remained down for a moment. Eventually Greene plodded off the field, but he was definitely dinged. Joe McKnight took over in New York's backfield, delivering a Greene-like 3.3 yards per carry.

After his team's home loss to Dallas in Week 7, Cam Newton was kind of a rambling mess in his presser. That's him pictured on the right, wearing the wookiee-fur sweater. You can listen to his full comments via this link. Here's the mopiest moment:

"The past couple of games have been the same script, by the same director. It's kind of getting boring. It always comes down to the end, when we have our opportunities. ... I sound like a broken record, and I just keep — this taste, this vibe — I'm not buying it, man. And I don't know what it is, but something's gonna have to change. Something's gonna have to change real fast in order for us to make that next step."

So he's just not right. Cam also referred to a reporter as "sweetheart," because if he's gonna dress like your creepy junior high principal then he might as well talk like him, too.

There are no easy answers for the Panthers at the moment, and I have no idea why they gave DeAngelo Williams that huge pile of guaranteed money if they don't intend to use him. DeAngelo carried just twice against Cowboys, gaining four yards. He had only six carries in Week 5. All Carolina backs are off the board next week, as the team travels to Chicago.


QB Sam Bradford, St. Louis (vs. NE)
QB Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (at Min)
QB Christian Ponder, Minnesota (vs. TB)
QB Carson Palmer, Oakland (at KC)
RB Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville (at GB)
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona (vs. SF)
RB Daryl Richardson, St. Louis (vs. NE)
RB Shane Vereen, New England (at STL)
RB Kendall Hunter, San Francisco (at Ari)
WR Santana Moss, Washington (at Pit)
WR Leonard Hankerson, Washington (at Pit)
WR Davone Bess, Miami (at NYJ)
WR Brandon Gibson, St. Louis (vs. NE)
WR Andre Roberts, Arizona (vs. SF)
WR Vincent Brown (IR), San Diego (at Cle)
TE Brandon Myers, Oakland (at KC)

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Woe unto those facing Drew Brees in Week 7

21 Oct
by in General

Every Saints game has shootout potential, for obvious reasons. The New Orleans offense is ridiculously productive and the team's defense is astonishingly generous. It's an ideal setup for fantasy scoring, basically.

Thus, no one should be surprised to see Drew Brees deliver a fantasy line like this:

Still, you have to be impressed by the fact that Brees put up those numbers in the first half at Tampa Bay.

That's obscene. (Maybe not as obscene as that lady who called Fantasy Football Live on Sunday, but still pretty obscene). Brees connected with four different receivers on the touchdown passes (Colston, Sproles, Morgan, Thomas). The Bucs defense entered the week ranked No. 31 in the league against the pass, and they'll probably leave at No. 32.

If you're facing Brees in fantasy, um ... well, good luck. This might not be your week, gamer. Let's hope you didn't also face Aaron Rodgers in Week 6, because that would be a brutal back-to-back. Feel free to complain about your rotten fantasy luck in comments...

Tags: , , , , luck, ,
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Chris Johnson turns back clock, shreds a lousy Bills defense

21 Oct
by in General

Tennessee entered Week 7 with just one rushing touchdown on the year, tied with Jacksonville and St. Louis for the lowest team total in the NFL. The Titans ran for three TDs in the first half at Buffalo, however, with two of the scores belonging to Chris Johnson.

CJ has been a punchline for most of the season, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, but he's humiliating the Bills so far. His first rushing score was a 16-yarder where he bounced outside, then simply beat the defense to the goal line (pictured above). On Johnson's second TD, he sprinted 83 yards untouched through a mile-wide rushing lane. Check the tape.That was ridiculously easy.

Give credit to Aaron Williams for gaining ground near the end of the run, as Johnson eased up, but obviously no member of the Bills defense has the wheels to catch CJ. At half, Johnson has nine carries for 139 yards. This is already his biggest fantasy day since ... well, since the last time he faced Buffalo, back in December of 2011.

In case you hadn't guessed, the Bills have been miserable against the run this season (and last season, and the year before, and every season since '04).  Buffalo ranked dead-last in rushing defense entering the week, giving up 173.5 yards per game and 5.8 per carry. So CJ is really just doing what most Bills opponents have done.

As a public service, here's Buffalo's rest-of-season schedule:

We'll be picking on this bunch all year. Arian Foster might just go for 300 yards in Week 9.

Tags: Aaron Williams, Buffalo, , CJ, clock, , , , , ,
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Tip Drill: Another bye-week buying opportunity arrives

19 Oct
by in General

As we've mentioned before, more than once, the ideal time to acquire elite players via trade is when they're headed into bye weeks.

In fact, depending on the player in question, this might be the only moment when they can be added at reasonable cost. Any owner in your league with a 2-4 record (or worse) should be willing to flip anyone on their roster who can't contribute in Week 7. Sure, mathematically it may still be possible to make the playoffs following a 2-5 start, but it isn't the most likely outcome.

Thus, if your team happens to be well-positioned right now — let's say your record is 4-2 or 5-1 — then you should shop for buying opportunities. Go browse the rosters of your league's bottom-dwellers, identify trade targets, offer short-term relief in exchange for blue-chip fantasy assets. That's how it's done, vultures.

Not only do we have six teams on bye this week, but all six appear to have friendly second-half schedules (an each has at least one desirable fantasy commodity). Below, you'll find a snapshot of the Week 8-Week 16 match-ups for the Falcons, Broncos, Chiefs, Dolphins, Eagles and Chargers, with their opponents' ranks against both the run and pass. I've color-coded this thing like an electoral map, in keeping with the season.

When you see this...

at NO
26P means that New Orleans is the opponent, and the Saints rank No. 31 at defending the run and No. 26 against the pass, in terms of yards-allowed.

Make sense? Let's hope so. Here we go...


Yeah, I know, it's kind of a big mess. Basically, when you see red, it represents a tough defense, an unappealing fantasy match-up. (Note: It is not a political statement. Shut up). When you see blue — especially dark blue — it's a friendly match-up.

And there's a lot of blue on the grid above.

Check out the cakewalk schedule that Peyton Manning & Co. will face after the bye. Denver doesn't seem to have a single degree-of-difficulty opponent the rest of the way, at least from our current vantage point. Peyton will almost certainly binge against New Orleans in Week 8, then again at Cincinnati and Carolina. And tell me you don't like the end-of-year slate for Jamaal Charles, beginning in Week 11. Or the fantasy playoff schedule for Reggie Bush (JAC, BUF). Or Michael Vick (CIN, WAS). Or Ryan Mathews (CAR, at NYJ). Or Willis McGahee (at BAL, CLE).

These players aren't exactly unattainable right now. If you're planning for the end-game, get to work.

All the usual schedule-strength caveats apply here, of course. Making plans eight weeks ahead in the NFL is no easy thing, arguably a fool's errand. Plenty of teams will redefine themselves — some for the better, some for the worse — before December arrives. We'll see injuries, acquisitions and scheme changes; everybody's power rankings will be rearranged by Week 16.

Still, we're all trying to build the best possible starting rosters for the most important stretch of the fantasy season, and we have six weeks of data to help us make decisions. Today, the data is telling me to go make a viciously low-ball perfectly reasonable win-win pitch for Peyton and/or Eric Decker in a league that shall not be named. So I gotta go. Please entertain yourselves in comments...

Tags: , drill, , , , ,
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7-on-7: Special injured running back edition, featuring Richardson, Bradshaw

18 Oct
by in General

Let's begin with an encouraging quote from Browns rookie Trent Richardson, who was sidelined for a stretch in Week 6 with a rib issue. These were his thoughts on Wednesday, after putting in a limited practice:

"I'm going to try not to let the coaches tell me I can't play," Richardson said after practice. "I want to be out there. I want to be out there with my team. I want to be out there fighting with them, playing every down with them. They usually see me, so in my head, most definitely, I'm playing."

It's clearly a nice sign that Richardson was able to put in some work, mid-week. Cleveland has the Colts on deck, so the match-up is plenty friendly. Indianapolis currently ranks No. 29 against the run, allowing 159.0 rushing yards per game and 5.0 per carry. If Richardson can't handle a full workload, Montario Hardesty will be a factor.

Ahmad Bradshaw is again dealing with some foot problems, of as-yet-unknown severity. Bradshaw is coming off a pair of excellent games, so this is particularly unwelcome news. He didn't practice on Wednesday, so you'll want to pay close attention to the end-of-week reports. We should note that Andre Brown has returned to practice, having sufficiently recovered from his concussion. David Wilson would be in the mix as well, if Bradshaw's issues persist.

Neither Rashard Mendenhall nor Isaac Redman practiced on Wednesday, and the pair is considered questionable for the upcoming Sunday night game at Cincinnati. You'll recall that Pittsburgh's O-line is also banged up (Pouncey, Gilbert), so things aren't looking great for that offense at the moment. The Mendenhall and Redman issues don't seem severe, so there's reason to believe one or both should be good to go.

If Ed Werder can be believed on non-Favre matters, DeMarco Murray is apparently telling Dallas teammates that he'll return for the rematch against the Giants in Week 8. On behalf of Murray owners everywhere, I accept these terms. Felix Jones, of course, remains a solid single-serving play versus the Panthers.

Houston's Ben Tate (toe) practiced on Wednesday, and his head coach had some nice things to say:

Kubiak said [Tate] was "back to work full-time" and "had a really good day."

So that's nice. With Arian Foster on pace for something like 12,000 carries this season, Tate's return to health is key.

OK, that's enough RB news...

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle) didn't practice on Wednesday, and no one seems to be spreading much sunshine about his condition. This is a legit concern. Graham owners will clearly need to have a Plan B at their disposal. Here's a pile of TEs, for your review.

A bunch of Dwayne Bowe-to-the-Dolphins buzz popped up yesterday, connected to Yahoo!'s Jason Cole. However, Jason himself threw cold water on that specific rumor not long after it erupted. But then he tossed out this nugget... if you're a fan of a receiver-starved team (Washington, Miami, St. Louis, et al), feel free to speculate. Bowe is headed for free agency, unless he gets the franchise tag again. The NFL trade deadline — which is typically a lot less active than your fantasy league's trade deadline — doesn't arrive until Tuesday, October 30.

Tags: , , Browns rookie Trent Richardson, , , Isaac Redman, , , , , Richardson, ,
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Spin Doctors: LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant

17 Oct
by in General

In some ways, this is a ridiculous debate. It's like discussing which richly appointed ultra-luxury car you'd like to drive. Clearly you can win your fantasy league with either LeBron James or Kevin Durant as your No. 1 pick.

Nonetheless, James vs. Durant is a fun argument, and two members of the Yahoo! fantasy staff see it differently. Let's play the feud...

Dalton makes the case for LeBron: Let's face it, you can't really go wrong here, and the difference is slight at best with these two. In fact, because of Chris Paul's higher health risk, it could easily be argued LeBron James and Kevin Durant are in a clear tier by themselves. Durant is younger and seemingly still showing growth with each passing year, but James, who was ranked as the most valuable player in fantasy according to Basketball Monster last year, is the clear best player in the league and worth the top pick.

The additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis at the wings in Miami could lead to an uptick in assists for James, while Dwyane Wade's continued health concerns should ensure James sees plenty of run on a team that remains not that deep. James attempted a career-low 2.4 3pt last season, and while that resulted in "only" 0.9 3pt, it also led to him shooting 53.1 percent from the field. 53.1 percent! His performance at the line (77.1 percent) was also the second best of his career, while his 7.9 rpg tied for a career high.

James is one of the most durable players in the league who only continues to get better on the defensive side of the ball. And whereas Wade's minutes need to be monitored (his 33:12 mpg were a career low last season), Durant has to contend with teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who are stars in their own right and have both seen their field goal attempts increase every year they have been in the league. Again, I believe this is mostly quibbling and think Durant is a close second, but give me King James if I luck into the first pick of the draft.

Behrens gives the nod to KD: To be perfectly honest, I doubt I'll convince many of the LeBron zealots that Durant should be the top overall selection. As soon as our preseason top-100 ranks were published, I began hearing from the feistiest of the LBJ supporters, and ... well, let's just say they weren't interested in arguments on behalf of anyone else.

And I get it. LeBron is exceptional, an all-time player, dominant in multiple categories. He's a machine in terms of counting stats — perhaps not 3s, but everything else — plus he's shot over 50 percent from the floor in each of the past three seasons. If you take him first, no one is going to scoff at the selection. It's easy to build a case for James.

Still, if I happen to land the No. 1 pick, I'm making Durant the centerpiece of my fantasy roster, without hesitation.

KD's counting stats are basically as absurd as LeBron's, as most of you know (last year: 2.0 3s/G, 8.0 Reb, 3.5 Ast, 1.3 Stl, 1.2 Blk, 28.0 Pts). But the trait separating Durant from the rest of the player pool is this: He might just be the greatest volume shooter, both from the field and from the line, of the fantasy era. If you build your team around KD, you're going to find it almost impossible to screw up in free throw or field goal percentage.

Over the last 33 years — since the NBA introduced the three-point arc — there have been only 10 individual seasons in which a player has shot at least 45.0 percent from the field and 86.0 percent from the line, while attempting 15.0 field goals and 7.5 free throws per game. Kevin Durant has delivered three of those seasons. He's the only player to do it more than once, and he's done it each of the last three years. Here's the full list. No shooter over the past three decades has been as reliably accurate as Durant, while hoisting shots at such high volume. Other players may shoot a lot, but not this well. Others shoot well, but not as often.

Combine KD's freakish percentages with his extraordinary contributions in other stats, and we have clear top-pick material.

Tags: , , James Harden, KD, Kevin Durant, King James, , , , , ,
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Target Practice, Week 6: Antonio Gates shows up, finally

16 Oct
by in General

If there was anything for Chargers fans to feel good about following Monday night's collapse (obviously there wasn't, not really, but let's just fake it), then the reemergence of Antonio Gates was that thing. Gates hauled in six balls on 10 targets, visiting the end zone twice and finishing with 81 receiving yards. And he nearly decapitated Denver's Mike Adams. He totaled 20.1 standard fantasy points in Week 6, which represents 58.4 percent of his year-to-date scoring. Better late than never, I suppose.

Gates has seen seven or more targets in every game he's played this season but one (Week 4, at KC), so we can't really blame his slow start on a lack of opportunities. He hasn't exactly faced a murderer's row of opposing defenses, either (Oak, Atl, KC, NO, Den). But we're talking about a player with a tremendous history, great rapport with his (very sketchy) quarterback, and the man is healthier than he's been in years (we think. It's the NFL, so you never know). Clearly his big game against the Broncos was a nice sign.

It would be nice if San Diego could put another competent receiver on the field other than Gates and Malcom Floyd, but Vincent Brown (ankle) isn't quite yet ready to practice, and he's not eligible to appear in a game until November 1. (You might wanna add Brown now, by the way. His services are needed, urgently). Gates will get a string of unintimidating defenses after the bye — Cle, KC, TB, Den, Bal, Cin — so his schedule shouldn't scare you off. If he continues to see 7-10 targets per week, the end-of-year numbers will look just fine.

Below, you'll find the full Week 6 target leader board, ready for immediate use...

Rams receiver Brandon Gibson had a mostly excellent day in Week 6, making at least one highlight grab (a sideline one-hander). For however long Danny Amendola is sidelined, Gibson gets a value boost. St. Louis will likely need to throw all afternoon against Green Bay this week.

Brian Hartline had his only targets negated by penalties on Sunday, but he was on the field. He just didn't make his way into the box score. After Miami's bye, he's facing a potential match-up with Antonio Cromartie, so you might want to find an alternative.

Cedric Peerman drew an unexpectedly significant target total in Sunday's loss, and he'll no doubt see additional work in the weeks ahead, with Bernard Scott (knee) on IR. He's still little more than a desperation heave for deep-leaguers, however.

Note the target and reception totals for Adrian Peterson in the Week 6 loss to Washington (8, 7). All-Day currently ranks sixth at his position in total targets, having caught 20 balls on 23 chances. He's on pace to set career highs in both looks and catches this season, becoming a greater PPR asset than most of us had expected.

Donnie Avery isn't actually catching a huge percentage of the balls thrown his way, but he's getting plenty of opportunities (47 targets for the year, 12 on Sunday). With so many useful fantasy receivers on bye this week (Julio, Roddy, Bowe, Maclin, D-Jax, Decker, Demaryius, Floyd, Eddie [expletive] Royal), Avery will probably land higher in my ranks than anyone's comfortable with. Apologies in advance.

Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Antonio Gates, , , KC, , , reemergence, , Vincent Brown, ,
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Confirmed: DeMarco Murray’s foot is sprained

15 Oct
by in General

The MRI images on DeMarco Murray's foot injury are in, and the Dallas running back has avoided a worst-case scenario. Details here from the team's website:

The Cowboys received some positive news regarding running back DeMarco Murray on Monday, learning the injury is nothing more than the initial diagnosis of a foot sprain.

The MRI results showed no broken bones, but some ligament damage that could be enough to sideline Murray for this week's game in Carolina, and possibly longer.

Murray's foot isn't fractured, and it's not, um...Lisfranc'd. So that's a relief.

Still, he's dealing with ligament damage, perhaps significant enough to sideline him for the Panthers game in Week 7. Felix Jones is the obvious add — he gained 92 yards on 18 carries at Baltimore on Sunday — and Phillip Tanner is the stealth/deep-league pickup. The fantasy community has a long and complicated relationship with Felix, so I'm sure you're all aware of his fleas. For a week, I'd be willing to rely on him, assuming Murray can't play. Jones was a mess early in the season, but he looked lively enough against the Ravens. Tanner should see a few touches (7-10?) in a supporting role at Carolina.

For what it's worth, Murray suggested on Sunday that he'd wanted to return in the second half at Baltimore, particularly after Felix checked out with cramps:

"I wanted to, but I have to do what's best for the whole team. It's a long season."

DeMarco reportedly didn't leave the stadium in a walking boot, another decent sign. Let's just hope he can make it back relatively soon, at full strength. Murray is easily the team's best backfield option — we resolved that debate last year — and there are several appealing match-ups remaining on Dallas' schedule, including a Week 16 tilt with New Orleans.

For now, we place our $25-$29 bids on Felix, and we wait. (If you're going $30, he's yours. I'm out. Hell, I don't have $30 left in many leagues anyway). This is a massive and unexpected opportunity for Jones, a free agent in 2013. And when has he ever squandered an opportunity in the NFL? Never. What could possibly go wrong?

Tags: DeMarco, , , , , , foot sprain, , ligament damage, , Phillip Tanner, sideline, , website
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Steven Jackson, Daryl Richardson share the workload for St. Louis

15 Oct
by in General

If you're a Rams fan looking for somebody to blame for your team's Week 6 loss at Miami, don't look to the offensive skill players. For the most part, they were not the problem.

Sam Bradford had a solid day at quarterback, completing two-thirds of his throws, finishing with 315 passing yards and breaking the plane on a rushing score from the 1-yard line (barely). You couldn't possibly have expected more from Bradford, not when you consider the fact that he was without Danny Amendola, his security blanket receiver.

Brandon Gibson was mostly excellent (except for an early bobble), hauling in seven balls for 91 yards, including a ridiculous one-handed snag along the sideline. Tight end Lance Kendricks made a few plays (4-for-40), Chris Givens delivered his usual field-flipping reception (a 65-yarder), and the team's running game was outstanding. Facing the NFL's top-ranked run defense, the Rams piled up 162 rushing yards on 27 attempts (6.0 YPC). The backfield also contributed six catches for 54 yards.

St. Louis actually gained 462 total yards on Sunday -- 270 more than Miami's offense, which is silly -- but they were kneecapped by penalties (12 for 94 yards) and poor special teams play. (That, and rookie corner Janoris Jenkins suffered a narcoleptic event on Marlon Moore's 29-yard TD reception). So it goes. Fantasy owners don't generally care about such things.

[Related: Why Jeff Fisher chose the Rams over Miami]

But the fantasy community certainly does care about the emergence of a backfield committee, and it appears one has formed in St. Louis.

Steven Jackson ran well against the Dolphins, carrying 12 times for 52 yards, adding three catches for 28. He was a monster between the tackles, he delivered punishing stiff-arms, and he had at least one long run negated by penalty. All things considered, it was an impressive effort from a guy who'd battled injuries earlier in the year. Jackson is healthy now, looking like his old productive self.

However, he isn't receiving the same old workload. Daryl Richardson took 11 carries in Week 6, rushing for 76 yards. He also caught two passes for 23. Richardson was basically used in a straight rotation with S-Jax. The game's first carry went to Jackson, the second to Richardson -- and the rookie exploded down the sideline for a 44-yard gain. When Richardson gets the ball outside the numbers, he's a dangerous man, an ideal complementary back for the Rams. He made an appearance when his team was inside-the-5, too.

The job-share arrangement worked so well for St. Louis on Sunday, in fact, that you have to think it will continue in the weeks ahead, as long as both players remain uninjured. This is obviously a nice development for the team, if not so great for Jackson owners. Volume hasn't been a worry with S-Jax since the Faulk years, forever ago.

If I were tied to Jackson in fantasy, I don't think I'd actually shop him today because A) his trade value remains relatively low, and B) he looked great on Sunday. Seriously great. S-Jax clearly is not cooked. But Richardson needs to be owned in many more leagues, and not simply as a handcuff. He's been a revelation, another unexpected find out of Abilene Christian. Richardson is currently available in 88 percent of Yahoo! leagues, worth a claim this week.

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Tags: , , , , Sam Bradford, sideline, , , , ,
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Sunday Scene, Week 6: Dalton-to-Green still paying the fantasy bills

14 Oct
by in General

AJ Green drew a tricky individual match-up on Sunday, spending much of his afternoon covered by Cleveland corner Joe Haden ... and it didn't really matter.

With receivers of Green's caliber, you don't sweat the opponent.

Haden actually had a solid day against Cincinnati on Sunday, with seven tackles and a pick. But he alone couldn't prevent Green from roasting the Browns, as the second-year receiver hauled in seven balls for 135 yards and a pair of scores. The first TD was a four-yarder — linebacker D'Qwell Jackson picked him up in coverage, which was never gonna work — and the second was a 57-yard surgical strike, with Haden trailing (see above).

Entering the week, Green was the top fantasy scorer at his position. He'll exit Week 6 still atop the leader board. Green has visited the end zone at least once in each of his last five games, and he's topped 100 receiving yards in three of four. He's a beast, basically. Green has also boosted the fantasy value of his quarterback in no small way.

Andy Dalton has thrown a dozen touchdown passes over his last five games, six of them caught by AJ. When all the numbers are in the books this week, he'll have his fourth top-10 fantasy finish among QBs this season. Dalton completed 31-of-46 passes for 381 yards in his team's loss to the Browns, with three touchdowns and four turnovers. (There's a game straight from the Jim Everett files). Clearly it wasn't a clinic from Dalton at all times — he's thrown interceptions in every game this year, so you probably weren't expecting a flawless performance. But he has an all-world receiver at his disposal, plus a sketchy defense that consistently forces him to the air. There's a lot to like in this setup, and Dalton has a home match-up on deck with Pittsburgh's aging, scuffling D.

Fantasy owners are facing a brutal bye situation in Week 7, so keep the not-yet-universally-owned Dalton in your plans. Green, obviously, should be on the un-benchable list.

Turns out it was a big week for various other Green(e)s as well, with Shonn delivering a monster effort against the Colts' miserable run defense. We checked in with Greene at halftime, and he only got better over the final two quarters, finishing with 161 yards on 32 carries. It's fine to call him a sell-high right now, but you'd actually need to find someone who believes that Sunday's effort represents Shonn Greene's true talent level. That won't be easy. He began the day averaging just 2.9 YPC. Still, Green's fantasy stock is definitely trending up, with Bilal Powell suffering a shoulder injury.

The big performance from Greene allowed the Jets to minimize Mark Sanchez's impact, as he attempted just 18 throws, accounting for 82 yards and two scores. New York corner Antonio Cromartie had a mostly excellent day against Reggie Wayne, holding him to almost nothin' while the game was in the balance, although he drew multiple flags. Cro also had a pair of pick-sixes negated by penalty, which you don't see every day (and which absolutely crushed his IDP owners).

Vick Ballard was a dud for Indy, gaining just 25 rushing yards on eight attempts against a defense that had been yielding 4.7 yards per carry. Delone Carter and Mewelde Moore were in the rushing mix, too, though neither fared well. And Coby Fleener should have caught a touchdown, but Andrew Luck just overshot him (possibly ruining my week. We'll see. Like you care).

The Ravens managed to edge the Cowboys on Sunday, 31-29, but the win was offset by massive personnel losses. Baltimore's defense lost both Ray Lewis (triceps) and Lardarius Webb (knee) to injuries that have season-ending potential. If you hadn't already downgraded the Ravens D from the upper tier, you'll want to do it now. That team allowed a franchise-record 227 rushing yards in Week 6, prompting this reaction from DT Haloti Ngata:

"It's disgusting. We need to fix it right away."

But their problems aren't going away if they're forced to deal with major injuries at every level.

Dallas running back DeMarco Murray is headed for a Monday MRI on his strained foot, after X-rays ruled out a fracture. Murray at least attempted to return in the second half on Sunday, which should give hope to his owners. Both he and Felix Jones topped 90 rushing yards against the Ravens. One these guys, if not both (or maybe Phillip Tanner), will feast on the Carolina run D in Week 7.

Dez Bryant had another very nice fantasy day (13-99-2), marred by a killer drop. Tony Romo put a two-point conversion attempts on Dez's hands, but the ball skipped away. Jason Witten made at least one degree-of-difficulty catch among his six for 88 yards, so he seems to have self-corrected. Also, we should note that the end-game management was awful for Dallas, for the thousandth time in the Jason Garrett era. It's not even a story anymore; it's just expected.

Perhaps taking advantage of Danny Amendola's absence, Brandon Gibson caught seven balls for 91 yards against Miami. Chris Givens hauled in another long catch (65 yards), finishing with three receptions for 85. Daryl Richardson and Steven Jackson split the backfield touches fairly evenly for the Rams — 13 for D-Rich, 15 for S-Jax — combining for 179 scrimmage yards against the NFL's top-ranked run D.

Ryan Tannehill had a decent enough day in Miami's 17-14 win (185 yards, two TDs), but Brian Hartline was notably absent from the box score. Reggie Bush was a dud, too, rushing for just 17 yards on 12 carries. The 'Phins offense delivered just 192 total yards, yet still pulled out a win, joining what is now a four-way tie atop the AFC East.

And one of the reasons we have a logjam in the East is that New England dropped a thriller in Seattle, 24-23. The Pats held a 13-point fourth quarter lead, but Russell Wilson tossed a pair of late TD passes, capping off a 293-yard, three-touchdown performance. His game-winning bomb to Sidney Rice was a perfect throw, poorly covered. Wilson hasn't quite been a fantasy machine this season, but check the list of opposing QBs that kid has beaten over his first six NFL games: Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Tom Brady.

Not too shabby.

Brady delivered a big fantasy number in Week 6, but he did it on volume, attempting 58 passes. He finished with 36 completions for 395 yards and two scores, but he was also picked twice. The Pats offense was stuffed late in the fourth quarter, after the Seahawks boldly/crazily punted the ball to New England on fourth-and-3, trailing by six points with 3:20 on the clock. All things considered, it was an impressive effort from Seattle's D, again. Wes Welker hauled in 10 passes for 138 yards and one score, shrugging off at least two big hits. Aaron Hernandez returned from injury, catching six balls for 30 yards, including a first half TD.

Cardinals kicker Jay Feeley had a ridiculous few minutes in Arizona, nailing a 61-yard(!) missile to tie the Bills late in the fourth quarter, but doinking a 38-yarder in the final seconds of regulation (possibly tipped). The Cards eventually lost in OT, after a Jairus Byrd interception return (his second pick) set up Buffalo deep in Arizona territory. John Skelton was quarterbacking the Cards offense at the time, because starter Kevin Kolb had checked out with a rib/chest injury. (Prior to the pick, Skelton had done nothing to threaten Kolb's job. He finished 2-for-10).

William Powell and LaRod Stephens-Howling split the carries for Arizona, 13 to 11, but the former K-State back outperformed LSH decisively. Powell rushed for 70 yards and caught one pass for eight. For now, he's the Cardinals back to own if you absolutely have to own one. (You don't, but let's just say). Keep in mind that Arizona's end-of-year schedule is awful, and this team's O-line isn't exactly the best group of run-blockers.

Trent Richardson was sent to the sideline on Sunday with a rib/side injury, leading to an unexpected workload for Montario Hardesty (15 carries, 56 yards, TD). Richardson sounded optimistic following the game...

...but he'll still require a Monday MRI, so his owners can't completely relax.

Maybe Ahmad Bradshaw didn't single-handedly deliver anyone a fantasy win in Week 6, but he certainly deserves a game-ball after rushing for 116 yards and one TD on 27 carries against the Niners. Bradshaw became just the second opposing rusher to top 100 yards against San Francisco in their last 44 games, which is nuts. Rookie David Wilson had nothing more than a small supporting role for the Giants, carrying seven times for 35 yards.

Alex Smith was a mess on Sunday, tossing three picks, getting sacked four times, posting a rating of 43.1. Antrel Rolle picked off Smith twice, then later said, "I think this is our most complete game all year long." Well, yeah, I suppose it was. A 26-3 result ain't bad.

Robert Griffin III was unfair on Sunday afternoon, accounting for 182 yards through the air, 138 on the ground, and three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing). If you're involved in a fantasy format that awards bonuses for long TDs, then RG3's late 76-yard rushing score may have clinched your Week 6 win (unless you're facing an Aaron Rodgers and/or Jordy Nelson and/or James Jones led team, in which case you're cooked. Sorry). I'm not ready to rule out the possibility that Griffin will lead the 'Skins in rushing this season. I'm also not ready to back off my concern about the injury risk associated with RG3, but that's an easy issue to dismiss when he puts up 30-something fantasy points for your fake team. The Giants are up next for Griffin, on the road, as he finally gets a taste of division play.

Christian Ponder delivered 300-plus yards against Washington, because ... well, because everyone does it. Ponder was also picked twice and he lost a fumble, so it was hardly a clean box score. Percy Harvin caught 11 balls for 133 yards, which leaves him on-pace for an insane 131. Adrian Peterson was dealing with ankle pain on Sunday, but he still gained 129 yards on 24 touches, including seven catches. He also delivered the perfect game summary for the Vikes: "We've got to turn those 3s into 7s." Blair Walsh kicked four short-range field goals for Minnesota, with three layups in the first quarter (from 20, 27 and 27).

The Raiders didn't actually get a win in Atlanta coming off the bye, but they did give us a few reasons to believe that their offense won't be a complete wasteland this season. So that's something. Carson Palmer passed for 353 yards on just 33 attempts, connecting with Denarius Moore five times for 104, and Darren McFadden gave us 98 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. Keep the faith, DMC owners. Your guy is still healthy, and he has a string of friendly match-ups ahead (JAC, at KC, TB, at BAL, NO).

Tampa Bay's Mike Williams continued his quietly useful season, catching four passes for 113 yards and one score against Kansas City. Vincent Jackson brought in Josh Freeman's other two touchdown tosses, in the Bucs' 38-10 win over the Fightin' Succops. The best plan for Kansas City might just be to keep losing, thus putting the franchise in the best position to draft its future quarterback. Whoever that guy is, he's not on the current roster.

Matthew Stafford passed for 311 yards in Detroit's comeback win at Philly, 700 of which seemed to arrive in the final five minutes of regulation. The Lions' win was a season-saver, as they surged back despite trailing by 10 points late in the game. Eagles fans should be accustomed to losing these un-losable games by now. Mikel LeShoure was solid for Detroit, gaining 94 yards on 18 touches. Jahvid Best could return soon, assuming he's sufficiently de-concussed, but LeShoure is still the Lions back I'd want, no doubt.

Jeremy Maclin posted his first big fantasy total since Week 1, catching six passes for 130 yards and one score. Michael Vick matched Stafford's 311 passing yards, plus he gained 59 more on the ground, but turnovers and other negative plays remain an issue (two INTs, three sacks). Vick now has multiple turnovers in five of his six games this season, which helps explain why this seemingly loaded team is stuck at 3-3.

Apologies for the late delivery on Sunday Scene this week, but I was busy being pummeled by Aaron Rodgers in four leagues, and found it impossible to turn away. Like watching a rogue surgeon remove your kidney, while you're drugged in a tub. At least I started James Jones in every league where there's no money on the line, so, um ... [expletive]. Rough night.


QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (vs. TEN)
QB Brandon Weeden, Cleveland (at IND)
QB Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (vs. NO)
RB Felix Jones, Dallas (at CAR)
RB Daryl Richardson, St. Louis (vs. GB)
RB LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (vs. NO)
RB Jahvid Best, Detroit (at CHI)
RB William Powell, Arizona (at MIN)
WR Mike Williams, Tampa Bay (vs. NO)
WR Kendall Wright, Tennessee (at BUF)
WR Brandon Gibson, St. Louis (vs. GB)
WR Devery Henderson, New Orleans (at TB)
WR Josh Gordon, Cleveland (at IND)

Tags: , , , Bilal Powell, , , , Joe Haden, , Shonn Greene, , ,
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