Spin Doctors: Pau Gasol v. Marc Gasol

18 Oct
by in General

The Gasols are the closest thing the NBA has to the Mannings of the NFL. And similar to how Eli has elevated his game into Peyton's class, no longer is the Gasol comparison dominated by the older sibling.

In our initial fantasy rankings for the '12-'13 campaign, Pau topped Marc by a slim margin, though two of the three experts actually preferred Marc. Andy Behrens' was the bullish backer of Pau, so I'll let him get this Spanish inquisition started...

Behrens gets the Boom Boom Pau: If there's going to be a new Alpha Gasol this season, then either Marc will need to make serious gains in scoring and rebounding, or Pau will have to decline significantly. Last year, these two were separated by 2.8 points and 1.5 boards per game. Pau also shot better from the line and from the field, plus he delivered more assists. He's missed just one game over the past two seasons, and he's been a 37-minute-per-game player forever.

What's not to like?

Perhaps you're uptight about the arrival of Dwight Howard and Antawn Jamison in L.A., but let's not forget that Memphis gets Zach Randolph back at full strength. Z-Bo is obviously no small addition; he's just a year removed from a 20-12 season. I'm anxious to see Pau and Steve Nash playing together with the Lakers, a pairing that should lead to plenty of high-percentage looks. And I'm not at all convinced that Pau will lose a pile of rebounds to Howard — you'll recall that Bynum averaged 11.8 boards per game last season, while Gasol brought down 10.4. There's a very good chance that L.A. will simply increase the rebounding differential this season, while both Dwight and Pau average double-digits.

Pau is an uncommonly reliable fantasy asset, a player who can afford to lose a bit of ground in his core stats yet still maintain his edge over his brother. He also offers PF/C eligibility (like half the player pool).. For me, the elder Gasol remains a plausible second-rounder, a few slots ahead of Marc.

Funston is on the Marc: Marc has yet to match his brother on a per game fantasy basis in his four seasons (although he's been pretty close, and they have similar roto skills), so I'm letting Andy argue from a position of strength. But there are factors at work this season that lead me to believe that this is Marc's year to lay claim to the Gasol fantasy crown.

Last season, Pau averaged the fewest points and free throws of his career, and had his second-lowest averages in blocks and field goal percentage. At 32, nearly five years older than Marc, Pau is at a point in his life when numbers more easily decline than improve. And with Dwight Howard and Antawn Jamison in the fold, that's two new players on the court that will demand the basketball — Jamison's 16.1 FGA from last season was more than both Howard and Gasol. Also, let's not forget, the offense is now triggered by Steve Nash, who has a tendency to hog assists. In his past seven seasons, only one starter that Nash has played alongside has managed to break the 3.0 APG barrier (Boris Diaw). Pau could have problems reaching his usual 3-plus assists per night, especially if you figure Kobe is very likely to finish second on this team in helpers.

I also worry about Pau's rebounding totals. Yes, he was able to carve out double-digit boards with Andrew Bynum, but the rebounding prowess of Bynum and Howard is not a wash. Howard averaged 14.5 boards last season, 2.7 more than Bynum. And Jamison's expected glass-cleaning contributions can't be ignored, either.

If Pau drops an assist and, say, 1.5 rebounds off of his line from last season (a definite possibility), he doesn't finish ahead of Marc's fantasy value of a year ago. And remember, Marc's still at a stage in his career where improvement is expected. Those that think that past returns guarantee the same future returns are going to go with Pau in this debate. But, of course, this is fantasy, and nothing is ever exactly as it was before.

Tags: Antawn, Antawn Jamison, Boom, , , , Gasols, Mannings, Marc Gasol, , Pau, ,
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NFL Skinny: Week 7 preview

16 Oct
by in General

By now, you've probably already bumped up against some of the lineup problems associated with the only six-team bye week of 2012. I'm not sure why two of this week's teams on hiatus couldn't have taken a break with Pittsburgh and Indy back in Week 4, but such is the hand we've been dealt. So deal with it, we shall. Let's dive into the skinniest Skinny of the season:

Total Week 7 green-light plays by position: 7 QB; 11 RB; 14 WR; 8 TE; 5 DST

Note: Numbers in parentheses next to a player's name indicate where he ranks at his position in per game fantasy scoring


Most FPPG allowed (QB): BUF; CLE; NE; WAS; NO

Least FPPG allowed (QB): DAL; SEA; CHI; ARI; SF

Andrew Luck, who ranks 2nd in the NFL in pass attempts per game, is coming off a rough outing against the Jets, but the Browns are a cure for what ails a QB. Cleveland has allowed four QBs to throw for at least 300 yards, and the two QBs that didn't reach that mark against the Browns (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eli Manning) each threw for 3 TDs.

Of course, the Colts defense has plenty of issues, as well. Although it sits middle of the pack in FAN PPG allowed to the QB position, Indy has yielded the 4th-highest QB Rating (104.0). Game flow and the fact that the Colts run defense is so bad (see Shonn Greene, Week 6) means that teams haven't really loaded up on them in the passing game. But Brandon Weeden is averaging the 8th-most pass attempts per game, and RB Trent Richardson is iffy with sore ribs. So this feels like another game where Weeden could chuck it 40-50 times. He's a nice looking bye-week play.

Tony Romo only ranks No. 15 at QB in fantasy, but in terms of FAN PPG allowed to opposing QBs, no signal caller has faced a tougher slate of defenses, thus far. Against what has been a middle-of-the-pack Carolina pass defense, Romo makes an easy case for top 10 consideration at the QB position.

Ben Roethlisberger's recent history against Cincy leaves a lot to be desired — 203 passing ypg and a combined 4:3 TD-to-INT ratio in his past 5 meetings. But the set-up seems ripe for Big Ben stop the recent downward slide against his AFC North foe. The Bengals allow the 7th-highest yards per pass attempt (ypa) mark (7.9) and QB Rating (99.6), and that's despite facing Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden (twice). For his part, Roethlisberger ranks 4th in QB Rating (99.9) and, because the team has struggled to run the ball and the defense isn't a "steely" as usual, Roethlisberger is throwing a healthy amount (37-plus attempts in 4 of 5 games). I'd ignore the history card for Big Ben this week.

One history card I'm leery of is that of Jay Cutler, who has averaged 202 passing yards and has just 2 TD passes in his past three meetings with the Lions. Frankly, I'm probably just looking for an excuse to sit Cutler after two good games in Weeks 4-5. You have to go back to his first month in Chicago in '09 to find the last time Cutler produced 3 consecutive above average fantasy lines. Mr. Consistency, he is not.

According to ProFootballFocus.com's metrics, Pittsburgh ranks as the 2nd-worst pass rush in the league behind New Orleans. Of course, not having Troy Polamalu in the lineup doesn't help. That said, the point remains that this isn't a defense that needs to be feared as it has been in recent seasons, especially if you are the owner of Andy Dalton, the No. 6 fantasy QB, thus far, on a per game basis.


Most FPPG allowed (RB): NO; JAX; IND; CAR; BUF

Least FPPG allowed (RB): CHI; SF; SEA; MIN; DET

Matt Forte faces a tough Lions defense on Monday night. Detroit allows just 3.7 ypc and the 5th-fewest FAN PPG to RBs. But Forte has owned the Lions in his career (121.9 yfs per game and a total of 7 TDs in 8 meetings). Coming off a bye week that allowed him to further heal the ankle he sprained in Week 2, I expect Forte's versatility to be used to the fullest against Detroit, and I have him down as a RB1 lock.

Forgive Stevan Ridley the mere 34 rushing yards against Seattle last week. The Seahawks are a staunch run defense to begin with, and head coach Pete Carroll admitted that stopping the run was their first priority against the Pats. The positive takeaway if you are a Ridley owner is that he handled 16 carries, which was 6 more than Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead combined. Bolden tweaked his knee during the game, which means that Ridley is likely to push 20 carries for the fourth time this season on Sunday against the Jets, a team allowing 4.7 ypc.

Alright, Chris Johnson, after rushing for 91 yards on 19 carries last Thursday against Pittsburgh (and 141 vs. Houston in Week 4), I'm giving you top 10 status this week against what is an awful Buffalo run defense — league-worst 5.8 ypc allowed. Blow it against the Bills and you can forget about rejoining the circle of trust this season. And with 4 meetings remaining with Indianapolis and Jacksonville, it would be nice to feel good about you now at least being able to take advantage of a soft matchup.

Doug Martin is averaging just 3.8 ypc and LeGarrette Blount, who is seeing increased snaps with each passing week, is a little bit of a concern. But you have to feel real good about Martin this week against a New Orleans defense allowing 5.0 ypc. The Saints also allow 56.2 receiving ypg to RBs, the 5th-most in the league. Given Martin's versatile skill set and the real possibility that this turns into a shootout, Martin has a very good chance to tally even more yards from scrimmage than the 131 he hung on KC last week.

I'd be inclined to give Vick Ballard another chance this week after his disappointing 8/25 rushing line filling in for Donald Brown against the Jets last week. To be fair to Ballard, the Jets were up 24-3 at halftime and Ballard saw one carry in the final 25 minutes of the game as the team went to a heavy no-huddle approach. This week's opponent, Cleveland, is one of only 3 teams that have allowed 1,000 yfs to opposing RBs. As the clear-cut Brown replacement, Ballard should see double the amount of touches he got last week.

After posting 166 rushing yards and 3 TDs against Indy, I can certainly see where Shonn Greene could have a huge return to earth performance against the brawny interior defensive line of the Pats (read: Vince Wilfork). New England is allowing just 3.4 ypc and is coming off a shutdown performance against Seattle's Marshawn Lynch (15/41/0). But Greene did average a respectable 83.5 yfs and scored a TD in his 2 meetings with the Pats last season. And, frankly, he's the last man standing in the Jets backfield right now with Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight expected to miss the game with injuries. If the Jets can somehow keep this game somewhat close, Greene should see a heavy workload. He's worth a RB2 dice roll, all things considered.

Given the questionable status of Trent Richardson's ribs, Montario Hardesty should be a sought after commodity on the waiver wire this week. The matchup for the Browns is fantastic, as Indy allows 5.0 ypc and the 3rd-most FAN PPG to RBs. And, in relief of T-Rich last week, he had a nice 15/56/1 line against Cincy. The 3.7 ypc may not look like much, but the visual evidence was impressive. Hardesty looked healthy and ran decisively. If Richardson can't go, bump Hardesty into Felix Jones, Fred Jackson, Greene territory.


Most FPPG allowed (WR): WAS; CLE; NO; BUF; SD

Least FPPG allowed (WR): STL; SF; DAL; NYJ; MIN

In this week's Scouting Notebook, Michael Salfino called Joe Haden overrated after returning from a four-week layoff to allow A.J. Green to go for 7/135/2 in Week 6. Pretty harsh, and rash, indictment of someone that allowed only one opposing "No. 1" receiver to top 100 yard against him last season — surprise, it was A.J. Green again. Haden has always passed the eye test with me, and according to ProFootballFocus.com's metrics, he was a top 5 rated corner in pass coverage last season and No. 3 in his rookie season of '10. This season, he sits at No. 13 after his two games of work. I'm guessing the QB Rating allowed metric that Salfino sources as his reason for him being overrated probably isn't the best stat by which to judge a corner (and, it's worth mentioning, Haden was 4th-best in QB Rating allowed as a rookie). The point here is that I think Haden is a damn good corner, one of the best, in fact. I'll cut him some slack for allowing a big day to A.J. Green. And I'll suggest to Reggie Wayne owners that they should feel damn lucky if Wayne reaches my No. 11 ranking for him this week given the matchup.

No doubt about it, Dez Bryant is a frustrating player to own, and an extremely annoying player to watch. Last week, Bryant let a 2-point conversion pass attempt slip right through his hands. Had he caught it, Dallas would have at least pushed Baltimore to overtime. Bryant cried that he was interfered with, but the replay showed that if there was any contact, it wasn't enough to excuse him of the drop. And while drops have come with the territory in recent weeks, you can't fault his 2 TDs and 100 receiving ypg over his past two games. This week, he faces a Carolina defense that has been better than average against the pass. But I see two monster games from "big" targets Roddy White (8/169/2) and Ramses Barden (9/138), and it makes me feel better about Bryant's prospects this week. But, if you're a Bryant owner, you should probably just do yourself a favor and not watch how Bryant derives his totals.

Percy Harvin not only leads WRs in receptions (49), but he also has 15 carries, which is 10 more than any other receiver save Nate Burleson, who has 8. And Harvin has returned 12 kickoffs, 1 that went for a TD. With his breakaway ability and super-sized workload, I see a tough matchup like Arizona and I could care less. If he's (mostly) healthy, Harvin will most likely be in my top 5 at WR.

Over the past 5 weeks, Denarius Moore ranks No. 23 among WRs in FAN PPG, better than Dez Bryant. Among those with at least 10 receptions, he ranks 10th with a yards per reception rate of 16.9. Moore has a great chance to build upon his early success this week against a Jacksonville defense that has allowed an average of more than 205 passing yards to opposing WRs over their past 3 games.

I moved Randall Cobb all the way up to No. 24 at WR before kickoff of last Sunday's games. With Greg Jennings and Cedric Benson out, I figured Cobb might see more time as a receiver and maybe get a little more work in backfield sets. Cobb didn't end up seeing a carry against Houston, but he rewarded my faith with a top 25 finish, thanks to his 7/102 receiving line. After averaging 22 snaps in his first three games of the season, Cobb is clearly getting a boost from Jennings' groin problem, as he's averaged 41 snaps the past three games. This week's opponent, St. Louis, allows the fewest FAN PPG to WRs, but I'm sticking by Cobb as a WR2 again with it looking likely that Jennings will again sit. Green Bay's offense is finally hitting on all cylinders and, when that happens, I'll bet on the Packers being able to impose their offensive will on anyone.

Brandon Gibson is getting a lot of attention this week as a waiver wire pickup after a healthy 7/91 line last week against Miami. I'm on board with the Gibson recommendation, as the Rams will likely have to throw often against the Packers, and the Green Bay secondary has allowed the 12th-most FAN PPG to WRs. But don't sleep on Gibson's running mate, Chris Givens. The rookie is averaging a ridiculous 28.1 yards on his 7 catches, and he's caught a pass of 50-plus yards in three straight games.

Be careful not to overrate Josh Gordon this week. Of his 36 fantasy points scored over the past 2 weeks, 70 percent of it came on 2 catches, both TD grabs of 62-plus yards. It's not easy to survive on a big-play diet, and he faces an Indy team that has allowed just 2 pass plays of 40-plus yards (Alshon Jeffery and Cecil Shorts). I see Gordon and Givens as fairly similar.


Most FPPG allowed (TE): TEN; WAS; DEN; NE; DET

Least FPPG allowed (TE): IND; NO; NYG; JAX; ARI

Only Tony Gonzalez and Fred Davis have more receiving yards than Jermaine Gresham at the tight end position over the past month. Gresham is the No. 6 fantasy TE overall in that span. Gresham's on a roll, and a Troy Polamalu-less Steelers defense has been nothing to fear this season. Go Gresham this week, if you got him.

Kyle Rudolph is looking rather Gronkowski-ish this season. His TD in Week 6 looked like it was a back-of-the-end-zone throw away toss by QB Christian Ponder, but Rudolph went up and plucked it out of the air, no problem. Rudolph ranks 2nd behind Heath Miller in TE red zone targets. But he ranks just 17th in receiving yards at the position, relying on his TDs to land him among the top 10 at the position in FAN PPG. Against a fast, physical defense like Arizona, which ranks as the 5th-best in fantasy at limiting TEs in fantasy, I have a little hesitation when it comes to Rudolph this week.

Martellus Bennett is worth following closely this week to see how healthy he looks in practice. His production has suffered in recent weeks as he's dealt with a sore knee. But he's facing a Washington defense that has allowed the 2nd-most FAN PPG to TEs, allowing season-high yardage totals to Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham, while Jermaine Gresham and Kyle Rudolph finished just shy of their season highs against the 'Skins.

The Giants allow the 3rd-fewest FAN PPG to TEs, and are one of just 5 teams that has yet to allow a TE TD (Miami, Baltimore, Jacksonville and New Orleans are the others). Fred Davis is the only TE with at least 300 receiving yards without a TD, and Brandon Myers is the only other TE with at least 200 receiving yards sans a score. Davis' red zone concerns (ranked just 32nd among TE in RZ targets) are enough to bump him to the TE1/TE2 bubble this week.


Most FPPG allowed (DST): DET; KC; CIN; DAL; PHI

Least FPPG allowed (DST): NYG; NE; WAS; BAL; HOU


San Francisco 19, Seattle 17
Green Bay 27, St. Louis 16
New Orleans 31, Tampa Bay 27
Dallas 28, Carolina 20
Minnesota 23, Arizona 17
Buffalo 30, Tennessee 27
NY Giants 31, Washington 24
Indianapolis 27, Cleveland 22
Houston 29, Baltimore 24
Oakland 28, Jacksonville 18
New England 34, NY Jets 17
Cincinnati 26, Pittsburgh 24
Chicago 23, Detroit 20

Tags: , , Corner, , FAN PPG, , Hardesty, , Shonn Greene, , ,
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NFL Skinny: Week 6 preview

09 Oct
by in General

I updated my football Big Board, which attempts to determine a draft ranking for the top 50 fantasy players if a person were planning to do a draft today. I previously updated it in mid-September, and since then there has been some major shake up to the board. Alfred Morris jumps into the top 20, along with teammate Robert Griffin III. Reggie Wayne returns to a prominent position among wide receivers. And Chris Johnson falls out of contention. But that's all rest-of-season sentiments. Check it out if you are inclined, and I'll be making more regular updates to it going forward (you have my word). But I'm guessing right now that you are more concerned with the here and now, that is Week 6. So let's get to it …

Total Week 6 green-light plays by position: 7 QB; 13 RB; 16 WR; 9 TE; 6 DST

Note: Numbers in parentheses next to a player's name indicate where he ranks at his position in per game fantasy scoring


Most FPPG allowed (QB): BUF; NE; WAS; CLE; NO

Least FPPG allowed (QB): SEA; DAL; CHI; HOU; PHI

Not only is the Seattle defense tops in fantasy against opposing QBs, but it has limited Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton, among others, to less than 13 fantasy points. Admittedly, it would be hard to bench Tom Brady against the Seahawks this week, as he's proven time and again that he can hang 300 yards on anyone. But keep in mind that he's come away with just one passing TD against the three defenses that he's faced this season that rank among the better half in fantasy at limiting opposing QBs (ARI, BAL, DEN). Brady's No. 7 ranking on my board this week is about as low as you'll ever see me drop him.

I have Kevin Kolb at No. 19 this week, but I think it's an exercise in splitting hairs with the "yellow light" group this week, and Kolb has a case to be a borderline QB1 given the matchup. Not only do the Bills allow the most fantasy points to QBs, but they also yield the third-highest yards per attempt (8.8) and the fourth-highest QB Rating (103.6). Even more damning for Buffalo is that four of the five starting QBs it has faced (Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, Alex Smith) rank outside the top 16 QBs in PPG fantasy scoring. If you are a Drew Brees, Cam Newton or Jay Cutler owner looking for a bye-week replacement, Kolb is a pretty attractive waiver target.

Baltimore is tied with Seattle and St. Louis for the fewest QB touchdown passes allowed (2). But the Ravens have allowed the ninth-most passing yards, including 300-plus yards allowed to Brandon Weeden, Michael Vick and Tom Brady. I'm expecting Tony Romo, who averages 287 passing yards and is eighth in the NFL in Comp%, to become the fourth QB to top that barrier against the Ravens this season. Romo, in five career games coming off a bye, has averaged 311 passing yards and has thrown for 11 TDs, only once failing to top 300 passing yards (2008).

The medical watch starts with Robert Griffin III this week. He suffered what was deemed to be a "mild" concussion last week against Atlanta. The early word is that the Redskins believe he'll be cleared for takeoff against Minnesota. Considering that the Purple People Eaters have been a dead-end for opposing running backs, the team will need RGIII to keep the Vikings defense honest. RGIII is a must-start if he plays, but the whispered fears that owners had about his reckless running style became a reality in Week 5. As an owner, you have to wonder if Washington will start asking RGIII to curtail his rush attempts. And you also have to fear the next concussion. History hasn't been kind in that regard to similar dual-threat types like Michael Vick and Steve Young. Perhaps it's a little too early to be worrying too much about either issue, but it might be enough to consider selling RGIII high if he goes off in Week 6, and you have another top shelf QB on roster.

Matt Ryan has more than 4,000 passing yards and 33 TD passes in his past 14 regular season games. He has the top fantasy tight end and two top 12 fantasy wideouts. And he's in a division where the other three teams all rank below average in fantasy against opposing QBs. You can make a compelling case that he now deserves to be the No. 1 fantasy QB if you were drafting today.

Consider Brandon Weeden another worthy dice roll on the waiver wire this week. While he's been hit and miss in fantasy (25th in PPG at QB), he's averaging more than 40 pass attempts per game, and only Drew Brees has thrown more passes this season. And he's facing Cincy in the NFL's first rematch game of the year on Sunday. He hung 322 yards and 2 TDs on the Bengals back in Week 2.


Most FPPG allowed (RB): NO; BUF; JAX; NYJ; OAK

Least FPPG allowed (RB): SF; MIN; CHI; SEA; DET

Jamaal Charles has carried 30-plus times in two of his past three games. Surprisingly the Buccaneers have allowed just 3.2 yards per carry, third-best in the NFL, but I'm going to bet on a fully featured Charles against anyone. Charles leads RBs in runs of 20-plus yards (5) and 40-plus yards (3). On an expected 25-30 touches, the odds of him breaking a long one are just too good to pass up.

I have a good feeling about Willis McGahee this week. He's a top 12 fantasy back, to date, and the recent history card plays well — two of his seven 100-yard rushing games from last season came against San Diego. The Chargers have allowed just 3.7 YPC this season, but they've yielded the 16th-most fantasy points to RBs, allowing the second-most fantasy points to RBs in the passing game. McGahee has shown himself to be a factor in that capacity of late, having caught a combined 11 passes for 74 yards in his past two games.

If you haven't yet clued into this fact, the Jets are a team that you now hope your running back gets a chance to face. My, how the times have quickly changed as, under Rex Ryan, the Jets have typically been one of the nastiest run defenses in the league. This year, however, the team has issued 4.9 YPC, fourth-worst in the league. So far, we've seen C.J. Spiller and Arian Foster top 150 rushing yards against the Jets and four other backs (Frank Gore, Daniel Thomas, Kendall Hunter and Isaac Redman) have tallied at least 9.9 fantasy points against them. All of this is to say that Donald Brown, with a healthy 84 rushing yards against Green Bay in Week 5, is a solid FLEX play this week.

Rashard Mendenhall looked better than expected in his return from an ACL injury in Week 5, posting 101 yards from scrimmage and a TD against Philly. But keep in mind that the Steelers did give Isaac Redman 13 carries last week, and a timeshare is expected to continue for the near term to ease Mendenhall back into the swing of things. And, although Tennessee has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs, it has allowed 4.2 YPC, which is about average. And that includes having to face the likes of Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson. Mendenhall is a solid play this week, but I wouldn't call him a slam dunk.

Doug Martin's 3.5 YPC mark is disappointing, especially since he hasn't really faced any lockdown fantasy run defenses. Head coach Greg Schiano gave Martin an endorsement during the team's bye week, but he also had this to say: "The more LeGarrette (Blount) feels good and we keep getting him in there, the more that's a different back and forth different styles, I think that will also help in Doug's production." Martin opened the season looking like a true featured back. But it certainly appears that things could be changing in Tampa, with Blount likely to start seeing 8-12 touches a game, including goal line looks (like Week 4). I'd be leery about Martin this week, even against the Chiefs.

Fred Jackson (22 snaps) and C.J. Spiller (24) had a nearly even workload split last week against San Francisco. And neither could do much of anything against one of the best defenses in the league. This week, they don't get much of a break, as Arizona is not much of a step down from San Francisco on defense. At this point, you can't put much faith in either Bills back.

Speaking of Arizona, the matchup (Buffalo) is ideal for their backfield. But figuring out who is going to get the bulk of the carries now that Ryan Williams is lost for the season with a shoulder injury is pretty tough right now given that La'Rod Stephens-Howling (hip) and William Powell (head) have been dealing with injuries of late. And their other candidate for touches, Alfonso Smith, has yet to have a carry this season. I have Smith highest on the board of the three since he's the healthiest. But if LSH is cleared for Sunday, he'd be the Cards RB that I'd be most inclined to slide into a FLEX spot this week.


Most FPPG allowed (WR): WAS; CLE; TB; BUF; NO

Least FPPG allowed (WR): SF; HOU; DAL; STL; NYJ

I'm not sure what to make of it, but the discrepancy in Julio Jones' home/road splits is too large to ignore. The road warrior has averaged 101 yards and has 9 TDs in 10 career contests away from Atlanta, compared to just a 32.4 yards per game average and 3 TDs in 8 home games. For what it's worth, Jones is home against Oakland's 10th-most generous fantasy defense (against WRs) this week.

Hakeem Nicks, dealing with a knee injury that has knocked him out of the past three games, has hinted that he'll be able to give it a go this week. If so, move him up inside the top 20 on the WR board, around the Floyd/Nelson/Smith area.

Jeremy Kerley has 67 receiving yards or more in three of his past four games, including 94 on Monday night against fantasy's second-toughest defense for opposing WRs, Houston. This week, Kerley gets an Indy defense that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to WRs. Kerley is available in 69 percent of Yahoo! leagues heading into the Week 6 waiver period. If you need receiving help this week, Kerley is an attractive option.

I'd look to avoid Week 4 hero Brian Hartline this week. The Rams have allowed a devilishly-low QB Rating (66.6) and have yielded just one TD to a WR this season. They've also been among the best at limiting 20-yard and 40-yard pass plays, and with a 17.7 yards per catch rate, big plays have been Hartline's calling card. Another similar effort to his 4/59/0 line in Week 5 is likely.

A.J. Green has the most fantasy points this season among WRs, and he's ranked No. 1 on my WR board this week. But it's worth mentioning that shutdown corner Joe Haden returns from suspension for Cleveland this week. That said, you'd have to expect at least a little rust from Haden after a four-week absence. And Green did score double digit fantasy points against Cleveland in both meetings last season.

I like Sidney Rice's set up this week, as Seattle is unlikely to hold New England's offense to 20 points or less, as it has done with every other opponent it has faced. So there's a good chance we'll see a season-high number of passes from Russell Wilson. Rice posted a decent 5/67 line last week and, although his fantasy numbers have been sub par for the year, that has more to do with the conservative Seattle offense than it does with Rice's play. Facing a New England defense that has allowed 86-plus yards to four different WRs over the past three games, Rice has a great shot to post his first double-digit fantasy tally of the season.

I'd be fine if you wanted to put faith in rookie T.Y. Hilton as a Hail Mary prayer in Week 6. He's had 17 targets in his past two games and, considering that the resurgent Reggie Wayne is going to draw almost exclusive attention from Jets CB Antonio Cromartie, Hilton could draw even more attention from fellow rookie Andrew Luck. Similar jitterbugs like Davone Bess (5/86) and Antonio Brown (7/79) have had the best yardage days against the Jets this season.


Most FPPG allowed (TE): TEN; NE; WAS; DET; OAK

Least FPPG allowed (TE): NO; IND; CLE; SEA; PHI

I'm going all in on Fred Davis this week. Only Tony Gonzalez and Greg Olsen have had more receiving yards over the past three weeks. And Davis has caught 16 of the 17 passes thrown his way in that span. The matchup also plays into Davis' favor, as the Vikings have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends.

In his past 16 games, Brent Celek has 1,062 receiving yards and 6 TDs. Against a Lions defense that allows the fourth-most fantasy points per game to TEs, that's more than enough reason to start Celek with confidence.

Heath Miller leads tight ends with nine red zone targets. Martellus Bennett, who could be a Week 6 injury casualty, is next with 8 targets. And then comes Jimmy Graham and Kyle Rudolph, with 7 apiece. Not surprisingly, Rudolph is tied for the TE lead in TDs (4). He's just No. 20 among TEs in receiving yards but, given his size (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) and athleticism, you have to play him whenever you think Minnesota will see plenty of red zone opportunities. The fact that Washington allows the fourth-most yards per play in the league (6.4) has to make you feel good about Rudolph getting another pay dirt opportunity or two this week.

Only Tony Gonzalez is averaging more targets per game at TE than Brandon Pettigrew (8.75). And Pettigrew has produced 60-plus yards in three of his four games. The matchup, on paper, is not ideal against a Philly defense that has yielded the fifth-fewest fantasy points to the TE position this season. But Philly hasn't faced the toughest TE competition, and Pettigrew's heavy target load makes him a viable TE1 this week, in my book.


Most FPPG allowed (DST): DET; KC; PHI; DAL; CIN

Least FPPG allowed (DST): OAK; MIN; TB; NE; WAS

Note: I was 10-4 on my Week 5 predictions

Pittsburgh 27, Tennessee 16
Philadelphia 31, Detroit 27
Cleveland 20, Cincinnati 19
Indianapolis 24, NY Jets 20
Tampa Bay 23, Kansas City 20
Baltimore 26, Dallas 24
Atlanta 34, Oakland 23
Miami 17, St. Louis 13
New England 26, Seattle 20
Minnesota 24, Washington 19
San Francisco 30, NY Giants 27
Arizona 16, Buffalo 14
Houston 31, Green Bay 28
Denver 24, San Diego 23

Tags: , , , fantasy points, FPPG, , , , , WRs
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NFL Skinny: Week 5 preview

02 Oct
by in General

I have to quickly vent about a topic that Michael Salfino broached in last week's Breakfast Table column. First, let me say that when it comes to statistical analysis of our fantasy game, Salfino is a first-round draft pick. But he made the mistake of taking a shot at Marshawn Lynch last week, and as an unapologetic Seattle homer, I certainly wasn't going to take it lying down. Here's the Salfino quote I took issue with:

"… while Lynch is better than Shonn Greene, no doubt, he similarly runs straight into contact. Despite his reputation for being a tough runner, the numbers do not support it. He's average at best in yards after contact per rush. (Last year he was tied for 32nd, this year he's good, seventh, but the sample is small so I'm weighting 2011 much more, obviously)."

The problem I had is that I watch Lynch closely, week in and week out, and I simply can't fathom that he's anything less than a "tough" runner. So, are my eyes deceiving me? If not, then I have to conclude that YAC isn't really a good factor for determining "toughness." If it is, then according to ProFootballFocus, the "toughest" runner this season would be C.J. Spiller. And last year's "toughest" runners would be Fred Jackson and Darren Sproles, with Ryan Mathews clocking in No. 4. Obviously, those aren't classic tough guys. Elusive? Electric? Sure, I'm willing to concede that. But a bigger indictment of YAC other than it does not appear to be a good "toughness" evaluator, is that it really has no correlation to actual fantasy value.

Over the past two seasons, Arian Foster has led fantasy RBs in points per game yet hasn't finished inside the top 30 in YAC. Last season, he was tied for 32nd in YAC along with Lynch … and LeSean McCoy … and Ray Rice — that's four of the top five running backs in fantasy last season. In 2009, when Chris Johnson rushed for over 2,000 yards, obliterating the RB competition in fantasy, he finished ninth in YAC. If you look at the top 10 PPG fantasy scorers at the RB position over the last three years and the top 10 YAC running backs, there's simply no strong parallels that can be drawn — they are two disparate lists.

Now, if you want to look at Missed Tackles (defined by PFF as tackles either broken or avoided), you start to see some correlation. Last year's top five in that category were Michael Turner, Lynch, McCoy, MoJo and Forte. All five were among the top 12 point-per-game scorers at the RB position, and Adrian Peterson wasn't far behind this group, either. Looking back over recent seasons, I'd much rather populate my fantasy roster with the guys on the Missed Tackles list over the YAC leaders.

I'll conclude with two points here. 1.) YAC is wack. Disregard it as it relates to fantasy football, just as you would LineDrive% (where Mike Trout currently ranks No. 37 and Ryan Braun ranks No. 132) in fantasy baseball. They are mostly meaningless to the virtual game. And, by the way, Salfino is hardly alone in throwing out this stat when it seemed convenient to an argument being made. I've seen many others use it, as well. And, to be honest, I'm sure I've used it to praise or disparage a player on occasion. But, upon further review, that's a mistake I no longer plan to make. And, finally, 2.) Marshawn Lynch, currently No. 1 in missed tackles this season (five ahead of No. 2 Alfred Morris), is ridiculously tough. You might even say he's a "Beast" …

Alright, now I'm ready to talk about Week 5. Let's do it:

Total Week 5 green-light plays by position: 10 QB; 13 RB; 20 WR; 10 TE; 10 DST

Note: Numbers in parentheses next to a player's name indicate where he ranks at his position in per game fantasy scoring


Most FPPG allowed (QB): CLE; WAS; NE; NO; BUF

Least FPPG allowed (QB): SEA; DAL; HOU; PHI; DET

Cam Newton has had a tough year on the reality side of the gridiron, but those sweet rushing totals still have him among the QB elite in fantasy (17 rush TDs in 20 career games, including a TD in three straight). Seattle is the toughest defense in fantasy against opposing QBs, but Cam's legs should keep him in the top 10 money at the position.

Even if you have another strong QB in tow, I'm not sure how anyone can consider sitting Robert Griffin III at this point. His rushing numbers are easily the best at the QB position and, when he gets in that 10-yard range of the end zone, his ability to launch himself like a rocket towards pay dirt is unbelievable. It's almost unfair to attach that kind of running skill to someone that also possesses elite ability in the passing game — he currently sits at No. 4 in QB Rating (103.2). If you have Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, the two QBs I ranked ahead of RGIII this week, you have a few days still to swing a deal.

Hat tip to Jay Cutler, who looked better than expected on Monday night at Dallas. But Jacksonville has been decent against the pass this season, while struggling in run defense (4th-most FPPG to RBs). I expect Chicago to feast on Blaine Gabbert and co. and turn to a conservative ground approach on offense while playing with the lead. And for that reason, I'm flying Cutler under the caution flag this week.

Christian Ponder faces a Tennessee defense that has allowed a league-high 118.3 QB Rating. It's a nice matchup on paper, but the Vikings have kept Ponder on a fairly short leash, as he ranks just 25th in pass attempts per game. Like Cutler, there's concern here that the Vikings can win this game with a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson and defense — Matt Hasselbeck threw two Pick-6's, lost a fumble and was sacked three times in relief of Jake Locker last week. Jerome Simpson does give Ponder a deep element that was missing with this attack but, he may not need to lean on that much this week. I like Ponder, but don't overrate the matchup too much.

Andrew Luck has attempted 45-plus passes in two of his first three games, both losing efforts. Expect him to be a high-volume passer this week, too, against Green Bay, given the likelihood that the Colts will be chasing the scoreboard yet again. He's No. 14 on my board at the position, but I can see easy top 10 upside.

A couple more stats to chew on: St. Louis has allowed the lowest QB Rating in the league (64.2); the NY Giants allow the highest yards per pass attempt (9.0); San Francisco and Houston have allowed the fewest YPA (6.0); Cincinnati has a league-high 17 QB sacks; Jacksonville has the fewest QB sacks (2); Chicago has a league-high 11 INTs; Washington has allowed a league-high 6 receptions of 40-plus yards; Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Dallas are the only teams that have yet to allow a 40-yard pass play.


Most FPPG allowed (RB): NO; CAR; TEN; JAX; NYJ

Least FPPG allowed (RB): SF; MIN; CHI; SEA; DET

Only Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch have more carries than Alfred Morris, who has registered between 78 and 113 rushing yards in all four games. We know that a Mike Shanahan ground attack can be potent when things are clicking, and giving the opposition a nightmare to think about like RGIII only helps the click rate. There's nothing extra special about Morris. But he's yet to fumble, he doesn't go down easily (2nd in missed/broken tackles behind Lynch) and his style fits Shanahan's one-cut-and-go system. He's quickly become one of the safest RB plays on the board and this week he opposes an Atlanta defense that has allowed the 2nd-highest yards per carry rate in the league (5.2).

The only team that has allowed more YPC than Atlanta is Cincinnati (5.4). Reggie Bush faces the Bengals this week and he was able to post a respectable 3.9 YPC in Week 4 against an Arizona defense allowing just 3.6 YPC for the season, and he did it despite dealing with a sore knee all week. Look for the versatile Bush to get back into the RB top 10 this week against a Cincy defense that not only gives up big chunks of yardage on the ground but also has allowed the second-most receiving yards to RBs.

I'm not sure what you do with Buffalo RBs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller this week. Playing together for the first time since Week 1, neither player did much of fantasy note against New England in Week 4. And now they face the toughest run defense in fantasy in the San Francisco 49ers. Both players claim to be in good health after dealing with injuries the past few weeks but, unless head coach Chan Gailey comes out and specifically says that one back is going to have a much larger role than the other, I think you have to exercise extreme caution with both players this week.

The expectation this week is that Ryan Mathews, after being sent a ball security message last week via a diminished role, will be back in a more featured capacity against New Orleans. His owners certainly hope that's the case as no team has allowed more fantasy production to RBs than the Saints. But even if Mathews returns as the clear leader in backfield touches for the Chargers this week, Jackie Battle has earned a prominent role, likely to stick as that key short yardage, goal line guy that profited Mike Tolbert so much in recent seasons. And Battle showed some versatility with 4 catches for 42 yards last week. God help Mathews and his owners if he fumbles this week in a key situation.

I'd be leery about "Law Firm" representation this week. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, averaging just 3.5 YPC, has the unenviable task of facing Miami this week. The Dolphins have allowed the lowest YPC in the league (2.4), and it's not even close — the 2nd-lowest YPC is Seattle at 3.0. And let's keep in mind that Miami counts Arian Foster and Darren McFadden among those it has faced this season.

My hunch play of the week is Donald Brown. He has done very little so far this season, but he does have 22 carries for 99 yards and one catch for 39 yards on touches when the Colts have played from behind. With Andrew Luck likely to air it out often to try to keep pace with Green Bay, I think that should open up plenty of room for Brown, be it on draw plays, screens, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if he found his way to 100-plus yards for the second consecutive game.

I'm sure not many Chris Johnson owners started him at Houston last week. That looked like a brutal matchup for someone that was lapping the early competition for fantasy Bust of the Year. So what to do now that CJ broke loose for 141 against a good Texans run defense? Well, it's worth noting that Johnson did pick up nine carries and 63 rushing yards in the fourth quarter with the Titans down 28-7, not exactly a situation where the Texans really cared about giving up 7.0 YPC on the ground. But, that said, Johnson still managed a healthy 4.9 YPC (16 for 78) in his first three quarters of work, so he certainly deserves plenty of credit for his outing. This week's opponent, Minnesota, has allowed just 3.3 YPC and the 2nd-fewest fantasy points per game to RBs. No RB has hit the double digit mark in fantasy points against the Vikes, including Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore, Mikel Leshoure and Donald Brown. Like Brown, I think Johnson has 100 YFS upside, but that's his ceiling. He's no better than borderline top 20 RB play, in my book.


Most FPPG allowed (WR): WAS; CLE; TB; NO; BUF

Least FPPG allowed (WR): HOU; DAL; STL; SF; ATL

Ryan Tannehill and Brian Hartline obviously have a thing going on the past few weeks, twice hooking up for at least nine receptions, including a nation-wide 12 receptions and 253 yards last week against Arizona. Hartline has been the definition of pedestrian in his three prior seasons in Miami, but you have to now consider that that might have had more to do with system and quarterback play than Hartline. Tannehill obviously has a lack of experience, but he's more athletic and throws a better ball than anyone else Hartline has been saddled with in Miami. And new head coach Joe Philbin, former Packers offensive coordinator, has let Tannehill throw 143 passes in his first four games in the NFL, which is just four less than Matt Ryan. Against a Cincy defense that has allowed the 6th-highest QB Rating, don't be surprised if Hartline, Philbin's poor man's Jordy Nelson, delivers another solid fantasy line, which would really only have to be about one-third the production he had against the Cards in Week 4.

James Jones is a fantastic dice roll this week if Greg Jennings (groin) sits, as he's indicated he might. Maligned for concentration lapses in the past, Jones has maintained his focus this season, catching 73 percent of the passes thrown his way, 8th-best among WRs that have played at least 60 percent of their team's snaps. Jones' role would be enhanced with Jennings out and, no matter how you slice it, Indy has been a bad pass defense this season.

Over the past three weeks, rookie Kendall Wright has been targeted 27 times, ranking 17th among all receivers. His production in that span (111 yards and 2 TDs) is only good for a No. 38 placement in fantasy points at the position, but you have to like Wright's opportunities. And, with Kenny Britt (ankle) still no sure thing to play in Week 5, Wright could continue to be heavily targeted at Minnesota on Sunday. In PPR leagues, bump Wright up into WR3 territory if Britt doesn't play, as Minnesota has allowed the 8th-most receptions to WRs.

As mentioned in the QB section above, the Giants have allowed a league-high 9.0 YPA. Admittedly, Cleveland is not the best team to take advantage of that situation but it at least makes Greg Little, who had 10 targets, four catches and 77 yards in Week 4 at Baltimore, a bit more interesting. Consider him a reasonable flex option this week.

I have Jeremy Maclin as a low-end chartreuse option this week, but that might be a little too generous. Returning from a sore hip with a 1-catch, 7-yard effort against the Giants in Week 4 (he was on the field for nearly all of Philly's offensive snaps), and set to face a Pittsburgh defense in Week 5 that's expected to have Troy Polamalu and James Harrison back, I'm not sure I'd be that comfortable slotting him in an active roster spot this week.

Yes, if Hakeem Nicks (foot) sits again on Sunday, backups Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden need to be bumped up. But the biggest winner will continue to be Victor Cruz, who is tied with Dwayne Bowe among receivers in total targets (49). Against Cleveland's 2nd-most generous fantasy pass defense, Cruz could very well pace the position in fantasy points in Week 5.

Pierre Garcon (foot) has played just 60 snaps this season, but has 129 receiving yards and two TDs, one coming via a recovery of an RGIII fumble in the end zone last week. By comparison, Dez Bryant has played four times as much as Garcon (245 snaps), and in leagues where Garcon is credited for a fumble recovery TD, he's scored just two fewer total fantasy points than Bryant. As a heavily invested Garcon owner, I am champing at the bit for Garcon's full-duty return. In the short time that he's had with RGIII, the pair has looked dynamic together. Even against a tough Atlanta opponent, I'll have Garcon as a WR2 if he gets good health reports this week


Most FPPG allowed (TE): TEN; NE; DET; WAS; OAK

Least FPPG allowed (TE): NO; IND; PHI; CLE; SEA

According to FantasyPros, the leading aggregator of weekly industry expert rankings, Fred Davis is only the consensus No. 12 TE in early Week 5 rankings. Sure, he hasn't scored a TD yet, but how can you not like the 80-yard average over his past two weeks? And he's facing an Atlanta defense in Week 5 that was just burned by Carolina TE Greg Olsen for 6 catches, 89 yards and a TD last week. I like Davis comfortably inside the top 10 among TEs.

Tennessee has allowed twice as many fantasy points per game to the tight end position than 22 teams in the league. They allow more than a TD (6.3 FPPG) more fantasy points per game than any other team in the league. The best week for the Titans this season is when they held Brandon Pettigrew to 61 yards on 8 catches in Week 3. If you were looking for validation of Kyle Rudolph as a top TE play this week, here it is.

Antonio Gates had his moments in the first half against KC last week, but he ultimately finished with less than 6 fantasy points for the third time in as many games this season. For the most part, Gates has looked a bit slower, both in foot speed and reaction time, this season, and ProFootballFocus currently ranks his body of work as a receiver this season as just the 37th-best at the TE position — in the past three seasons, he's finished no worse than 5th. This week he'll face the toughest fantasy defense vs. TEs, on paper, in the Saints. New Orleans hasn't allowed a TE score and has limited Fred Davis, Jermichael Finley and Greg Olsen to less than 6 fantasy points each. I have generously listed Gates at No. 6 this week, but I get it if you prefer any, or all, of the next half-dozen TEs on my list over Gates.

It's worth a reminder since he's coming off bye, that Heath Miller rates as the No. 1 TE in FPPG. Despite already observing his bye, Miller is tied with Julio Jones and Martellus Bennett with an NFL-high 8 red zone targets. Ben Roethlisberger stated before the season that his goal was to get Miller to the Pro Bowl. So far, so good. His Week 5 opponent, Philly, has netted out well against TEs, thus far, but it played two TE non-factor squads in Cleveland and Arizona. In other words, don't shy away from Miller if you need him.


Most FPPG allowed (DST): DET; KC; PHI; DAL; TEN

Least FPPG allowed (DST): HOU; OAK; NE; WAS; ATL

St. Louis 17, Arizona 16
Baltimore 27, Kansas City 20
Cincinnati 23, Miami 20
NY Giants 30, Cleveland 16
Green Bay 34, Indianapolis 20
Pittsburgh 26, Philadelphia 24
Washington 28, Atlanta 27
Carolina 24, Seattle 20
Chicago 23, Jacksonville 16
Minnesota 27, Tennessee 17
San Francisco 31, Buffalo 17
New England 33, Denver 27
New Orleans 31, San Diego 28
Houston 23, NY Jets 12

Tags: , , , , Fantasy Baseball, , FPPG, ground, , , YAC,
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NFL Skinny: Week 4

25 Sep
by in General

In case you were wondering, more than 30,000 Week 3 matchups in Yahoo! fantasy leagues had their game decided by the final play of the Monday night game between Green Bay and Seattle. As my colleague Andy Behrens said, if you lost because of that play, that's an instant classic bad beat. As a lifetime Seattle homer, I'll unapologetically take the W — cheap victory, without a doubt, but karmic payback for some terrible calls in the past (Vinny Testaverde, Super Bowl XL). That said, I actually picked Green Bay to win in this forum last week, and that misfire meant I finished the week picking only three winnners out of a possible 16. Ouch! As I always say, reality bites. Life is just a fantasy … let's take the first look at the virtual insanity of Week 4, which excludes the first bye teams of the year, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh:

Total Week 4 green-light plays by position: 7 QB; 15 RB; 16 WR; 14 TE; 7 DST


Michael Vick is a hard QB to rank this week. On one hand, his opponent, the Giants, allow a league-high 9.3 yards per pass attempt. On the other hand, Vick is a turnover machine, and that could be a big problem on Sunday night against a relentless Giants defensive front line. But the one result you should be able to count on in this setup is Vick running often (assuming he remains in one piece). He's kept it himself 28 times combined in his past three meetings with the Giants, netting 195 rushing yards and 2 TDs.

After the Monday night debacle, you have to feel sorry for the defenseless Saints drawing the Packers in Week 4. If Aaron Rodgers doesn't open a vintage can of whoop ass on New Orleans, I'll be shocked.

Carson Palmer has averaged 293 passing yards and 1.5 TD passes in 12 games as an Oakland starter. Last year, his second-best game as a Raider came against Denver (332 yards, 3 TDs). The Broncos have allowed the 10th-highest QB rating this season and the 7th-most fantasy points to QBs. Palmer's a solid play this week and you could argue his rest-of-the-season value is as good, or better, than the QB he'll face on Sunday (Peyton Manning).

You really have to bench Jay Cutler until further notice. He owns the second-worst QB Rating in the league and, this week, he faces a Cowboys team that has been the best in fantasy against opposing QBs.

Interesting contrast in the TEN/HOU game, as the Texans lead the NFL in time of possession while the Titans rank last. Matt Schaub is coming off a big 4-TD pass game and certainly the matchup, on paper, bodes well for a nice follow-up effort. But this feels more like the Miami and Jacksonville contests, where big early leads led to an ultra-conservate Schaub.

Most FAN PTS allowed to QB: WAS; TEN; KC; CLE; CIN

Least FAN PTS allowed to QB: DAL; HOU; CHI; SEA; PHI


Adrian Peterson carried 25 times in Week 3 and became just the second RB in the past 25 regular season games to top 76 rushing yards against the 49ers. He may not be all the way back to his "must-start" designation, but he's damn close.

The Saints have allowed all three backfields they've faced this season to score 25-plus fantasy points (Yahoo! default scoring). Yes, Cedric Benson will most likely bring a can of whoop ass to the table on Sunday, as well. And, by the way, Benson looked strong in the second half of the Monday night affair in Week 3 — plenty of yards after (hard) contact.

Fred Jackson is expected to practice (and play) for the Bills this week, well ahead of his original targeted return date from his knee injury suffered in Week 1. New England has been strong against the run this season but, then again, they've faced two of the worst rushing offenses (Tennessee and Arizona). Brad Evans has been quick to point out this week that F-Jax owns a 5.0 YPC mark against the Pats in his career. And his lone meeting with them last season produced 161 YFS and a TD. Assuming Jackson gets a green light from the Bills this week, he has to get at least a yellowish-green light from fantasy owners.

Michael Turner picked up nice garbage time production last week in a win over San Diego. But, for the first three quarters, he looked like the same old flat tire from the previous two weeks. In other words, he's still far from a safe bet. But the history card against Carolina (97.9 rushing yards per game and 11 TDs in 8 career meetings) is too juicy to ignore. And Carolina has allowed more fantasy points to RBs this season than all but New Orleans and Jacksonville.

I can't get myself to fully endorse Mikel Leshoure this week. Although he became the first Lions RB to rush for 100 yards in his first game since Billy Sims in '80, he needed 26 carries and overtime to reach that total. And Tennessee had already yielded large returns to Stevan Ridley and Jackie Battle in previous weeks. Minnesota should present Leshoure with a stiffer test. The Vikings are the top fantasy run defense, to date, shutting down the likes of Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore and Donald Brown. Don't make the mistake of assuming Leshoure is an automatic start this week.

I won't attempt to get into the mind of Bill Belichick to explain why Danny Woodhead, and not Stevan Ridley, led the team in carries at Baltimore in Week 3. But Ridley should return to a decisive lead backfield role against Buffalo. Ridley averaged 5.9 yards per carry on 21 attempts against the Bills last season.

Chris Johnson is last in the league among starting RBs in yards after contact (1.3), which is not surprising since he's been hit in the backfield often before he even has a chance to build up a head of steam. Johnson has an awful matchup against a Houston defense that he combined for just 79 rushing yards (0 TDs) on 25 carries in two meetings last season. I have Johnson listed as an extreme caution flag, but that's probably still giving him too much credit.

Most FAN PTS allowed to RB: NO; JAX; CAR; TEN; CIN

Least FAN PTS allowed to RB: MIN; SF; CHI; TB; DET


I've been harder on Vincent Jackson than most the past few years, deriding his inconsistent, rollercoaster nature. But even I have to fully endorse him this week against a Redskins secondary that has allowed a receiver to reach 120-plus receiving yards in each of their three games. Only Tampa Bay has allowed more passing plays of 20-plus and 40-plus yards.

As I mentioned, the Bucs have had big-time issues in defense of receivers, as well. Unfortunately for Pierre Garcon owners, the likelihood of Garcon returning from a foot injury this week is not good. If Garcon doesn't go, bump up his replacement, Leonard Hankerson, several spots (into late chartreuse territory). He led Redskins WRs in targets (7) and yards (56) last week.

Lance Moore has three more targets, two more catches, 60 more receiving yards and two more touchdowns than Marques Colston through three games. Moore also has nine touchdowns in his past 10 regular season games, while Colston has five in that span. I'm not saying that I'd start Moore over Colston this week, but the gap between the two is getting closer.

San Diego has been tough against receivers this season (6th-best in fantasy), but it'd be hard to sit Dwayne Bowe this week considering he's been targeted 15-plus times in each of the past two weeks. Bowe ranks behind only Reggie Wayne and Victor Cruz in total targets for the season among receivers.

DeSean Jackson ranks 13th in total targets but, according to ProFootballFocus, only Calvin Johnson has seen more than Jackson's 226 snaps among receivers. Typical Andy Reid, who also has LeSean McCoy atop the snap leaders among RBs. Reid loves speed and the big-play threat and, obviously, Jackson supplies that in spades. The Giants have allowed at least 8.5 fantasy points to six receivers through three games and it's reasonable to go fishing for more of the same with Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin, this week.

If nothing else, Sidney Rice ranks second among WRs in red-zone targets (6). And one of his two TDs last season came against the Rams. Seattle hasn't had much opportunity to cultivate the Russell Wilson-to-Rice connection because they've faced teams (Arizona, Dallas Green Bay) that apply relentless pressure on the QB (all rank among the top 10 in QB sacks, thus far). The Rams, however, have just four sacks on the season, 6th-lowest in the league. This is a good week for the Seahawks to explore Rice's avenue a bit more. I can easily imagine a 60-yard, TD type of performance from Rice.

Jacksonville rookie Justin Blackmon has caught just four of 13 passes thrown to him, the lowest catch percentage among WRs that have played 50 percent of their team's snaps. Apparently, he's frustrated with how things have gone for him in his first three games as a pro. But likely not as frustrated as his fantasy owners. He's droppable at this point in shallow leagues and he has no business starting this week in anything but the deepest of leagues.

Stevie Johnson has just one 100-yard game in his past 25 regular-season contests, but he's topped 50 yards in 18 of those games. And he has a TD in four straight games, going back to Week 17 of '11. He's also scored in three of his past four games against New England. You have to like his chances of scoring this week as the Pats have already allowed 4 TDs to WRs. When New England went to Buffalo last season, Johnson finished with a 8/96/1 line. And that's about what I'd be expecting this time around.

Most FAN PTS allowed to WR: WAS; TB; CLE; BUF; NYG

Least FAN PTS allowed to WR: DAL; CAR; HOU; GB; ATL


Time to start paying attention to Oakland's Brandon Myers. He keeps showing up with nifty catches across the middle each week. Not only is he the only TE to have at least 55 receiving yards in each of his first three games, he's also caught all 15 passes thrown to him. Denver, his opponent in Week 4, has allowed the 4th-most fantasy points to TEs, thus far. While I didn't give him the official chartreuse designation this week, I'm already having second thoughts for not doing so.

Really, there's a ton of outstanding TE options for Week 4 — 14 green lights and four others (from Celek to Myers) that I also like. Conversely, there's not a lot of slam dunk receivers this week. This is a good week to think about running a second TE in a FLEX spot instead of a dice roll from the weak middle class of receivers this week.

Rob Gronkowski is coming off his worst fantasy effort since Week 4 of last season. But he gets the best hangover cure possible this week in the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have been solid against the tight end position this season, but they haven't faced any A, or even B, listers at the position. And Gronk has owned them in his two seasons in the league, averaging 78.5 receiving yards and scoring 7 TDs in four career meetings.

Kyle Rudolph was talked up over the summer, tabbed by some as the MVP of Vikings training camp. Those good vibes have carried into the season, as he's finished No. 18, No. 10 and No. 2 at the position in fantasy points, respectively, in the first three weeks of the season. This week, he faces a Detroit squad that has allowed the 2nd-most fantasy points to TEs, thanks to back-to-back big weeks from Vernon Davis and Jared Cook. Rudolph absolutely deserves top 10 considertaion at the position this week.

Most FAN PTS allowed to TE: TEN; DET; WAS; DEN; SF

Least FAN PTS allowed to TE: NO; IND; PHI; BUF; HOU


Most FAN PTS allowed to DST: PHI; DET; CIN; STL; KC



Baltimore 26, Clevland 13
Houston 30, Tennessee 17
New England 37, Buffalo 27
San Francisco 22, NY Jets 13
Seattle 17, St. Louis 14
Atlanta 31, Carolina 23
Detroit 24, Minnesota 23
Kansas City 27, San Diego 24
Arizona 20, Miami 12
Cincinnati 23, Jacksonville 20
Washington 24, Tampa Bay 20
Denver 28, Oakland 20
Green Bay 41, New Orleans 27
Philadelphia 30, NY Giants 26
Dallas 27, Chicago 17

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NFL Skinny: Week 3

18 Sep
by in General

Week 3 feels like make or break week for several early round draft picks — Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, Michael Turner, Jamaal Charles, Larry Fitzgerald, Eric Decker — another sub-par effort from any of those guys and their owners have every right to hit the panic button, not that they haven't already.

In the case of Johnson and Turner, you'll see below that I'm not holding out much hope for a turnaround. I said all preseason long that owning Johnson was the most miserable part of my '11 fantasy football experience. The complaints about his offensive line and him not hitting the hole decisive enough seem like deja vu all over again. As for Turner, the game tape has been an indictment against him. His 1.3 yards after contact rate ranks tied for last (with Run-DMC) among those RBs with at least 15 carries. By my estimation, there's at least 25 running backs better suited for your lineup this week. I've listed them below, along with my rankings at the other positions.

Take a look and let me know in the comments what you think about the new Skinny format. I'll be tweaking my weekly rankings up until kickoff, just like I do every week, but hopefully this gives you a good first take at what Week 3 has in store for us.

Total Week 3 green-light plays by position: 11 QB; 12 RB; 21 WR; 10 TE; 8 DST


If you own Drew Brees or Matt Cassel, you couldn't ask for a much better matchup, as the Chiefs face the Saints. These two defenses have allowed the highest QB Rating in the league, the Saints have allowed the most fantasy points to QBs, and the Chiefs have allowed the 5th-most. Not only is Brees a slam dunk this week but Cassel, who is 6th in passing yards, also gets a green light.

Tampa Bay has allowed an average of 406.5 passing yards per game and only New Orleans (12.5) has allowed more yards per pass attempt than the Bucs (9.7). Tony Romo has averaged over 300 yards and has a 6:0 TD-to-INT ratio against TB in two meetings over the past three years. In his first home game of '12, another 300 yards and 3 TD passes is very possible for Romo.

For many, Tom Brady holds "never bench" status, but the history card certainly does not favor him this week at Baltimore. The Ravens have limited Brady to an average of 236 passing yards and a combined 4:7 TD-to-INT ratio in the past four meetings (playoffs included) since '09. And it's worth noting that none of those previous meetings were held in Baltimore.

Andy Dalton gets chartreuse status (for the uninitiated, that's somewhere between a green and yellow light play) this week following his 3-TD effort last week against Cleveland. Dalton faces the 2nd-most generous fantasy pass defense through two weeks in Washington, a team that lost front-7 defensive starters Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo for the season in Week 2 to injuries. The two combined for 14.5 sacks last season.

Most FAN PTS allowed to QB: New Orleans; Washington; Tampa Bay; St. Louis; Kansas City

Least FAN PTS allowed to QB: Houston; Jacksonville; Philadelphia; Dallas; Seattle


To quote the Talking Heads, the Colts defense is the "same as it ever was" against the run. Indy has finished among the 12-most generous fantasy run defenses in each of the four previous seasons, and it has allowed the 8th-most fantasy points to RBs through the first two weeks of '12. It should also be the "same as it ever was" for Maurice Jones-Drew this week, as he's averaged nearly 130 yards from scrimmage and has 12 TDs in 12 career meetings with the Colts.

The Chiefs were almost non-existent on some of C.J. Spiller's big plays last week, but you have to give credit to Fred Jackson's replacement, nonetheless. He's amassed at least 100 yards from scrimmage in five straight games, dating back to last season, and he's scored 7 TDs in that span. And, really, the level of competition hasn't mattered for Spiller, he's been crushing them all. I'm not expecting the Browns to slow his roll.

Only one RB (Marshawn Lynch) has topped 76 rushing yards against San Francisco in its past 24 regular season games. After picking up just 60 rushing yards against the Colts last week, it's hard to imagine that Adrian Peterson will do much better against the Gold Rush defense.

Marshawn Lynch was second in the league in missed tackles last season, behind Michael Turner (of all people). This season, he's leading the league with 14 missed tackles. With so many early round running backs fizzling out of the gate, you can make a case that Beast-Mode is a top-5 RB for the rest of the season. He's averaged 100 rushing yards in three career Monday night contests, and another 100 rushing yards and a TD against Green Bay on MNF in Week 3 would hardly be a surprise.

Given Mike Shanahan's history of playing musical chairs in the backfield, Alfred Morris is a tough player to pledge allegiance to for the remainder of the season. But that's not a Week 3 concern as Cincinnati has allowed the 2nd-most fantasy points to RBs, thus far, and Morris has handled 44 of 51 carries by Redskins RBs this season. While he doesn't have the explosive upside of the other chartreuse RBs in front of him, he has a higher floor than all of them this week.

Michael Turner runs like someone that is trying not to fumble as they try to stay inbounds and keep the clock running. That's fine for late in a game with a big lead. But it's pretty frustrating to watch for an entire game. As mentioned above, Turner led the league in missed tackles last season, but he has just two in '12, good for 25th among RBs. San Diego should shutdown "The Burner" in Week 3, making it a hat trick for the Chargers against early bust RBs — San Diego has allowed a combined 49 rushing yards against Darren McFadden and Chris Johnson, thus far.

According to ProFootballFocus, Pierre Thomas graded out as the No. 2 overall RB in combined run/pass/block evaluations in '11 behind Fred Jackson. This season, he's back at No. 2 behind C.J. Spiller. It's beyond frustrating to see his fantasy value watered down by the Saints' ridiculous three-RB system but Thomas only needed 14 touches to put up 143 YFS last week at Carolina and I'd still be looking to find a way to get PT in the lineup this week against a Chiefs defense that has been absolutely dreadful out of the gates.

Most FAN PTS allowed to RB: Jacksonville; Cincinnati; New Orleans; Tennessee; Oakland

Least FAN PTS allowed to RB: San Francisco; New England; San Diego; Tampa Bay; Denver


Victor Cruz is the most-targeted player in the NFL through two weeks. He now has 1,756 receiving yards and 10 TDs over his past 16 regular season games. Many people still think there's an argument to be made that he's not the best fantasy receiver on his own team. That's ridiculous. Outside of Calvin Johnson, there's not a WR in the league I'd rather have. Don't sweat the matchup against a Carolina team that has slammed the door on Tampa Bay and New Orleans wideouts this season. Cruz has shown the ability to transcend even the toughest matchups.

Baltimore and Cleveland employed two of the worst fantasy receiving corps in '11. Facing both of these teams in '12, Cincinnati has allowed the 9th-most fantasy points to wideouts, even allowing Brandon Weeden to come back from the dead with 322 passing yards and 2 TDs in Week 2 after throwing for 118 yards and 4 INTs in his Week 1 debut. All of this is to say that, if Pierre Garcon manages to return from a foot injury in Week 3, you'll definitely want him in there. Garcon went for over 100 receiving yards in 12 minutes with RGIII before leaving with the injury in Week 1.

Larry Fitzgerald has earned a long leash and he'll get my green light courtesy this week. But he may not get such preferential treatment next week if he lays another egg — 1 catch, 4 yards in Week 2 at New England. He's been able to rise above his shoddy QB play in the past, but the offensive line and running game are so bad this year that it may be more than even Fitzgerald can overcome. And this week he faces a Philly secondary that is allowing a league-low 35.1 QB Rating. Without a doubt, this Eagles defense is miles better than the unit that allowed 146 yards and 2 TDs to Fitzgerald last season.

New Dallas corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have been impressive, thus far, as no WR has scored a TD or reached the 60-yard mark against Dallas. Coming off an ugly loss in Seattle and playing at home for the first time, I like how this game sets up for the Cowboys. I'd be leery about Vincent Jackson. who I expect to finish closer to his Week 1 tally (4/47/0) than last week's breakout (5/128/1).

Cincy mighty mouse Andrew Hawkins leads all receivers in yards after the catch (13.1). nearly three yards better than Steve Smith, who is No. 2 on the list. Hawkins, the No. 25 WR in fantasy through two weeks, would make for a nice sleeper play again in Week 3 if Redskins corner Josh Wilson sits after suffering a mild concussion in Week 2. He's been the teams best cover corner, thus far, as DeAngelo Hall and Cedric Griffin have rated out as negatives in that area, according to ProFootballFocus. The Redskins have allowed the 6th-most fantasy points to WRs.

Wes Welker has caught just 8 of 16 targets this season, an unusually low target total and catch percentage for Welker. I was one of the more bearish experts in regards to Welker this preseason but even I am shocked by his usage pattern (losing snaps to Julian Edelman) in '12. Apparently injury is not the issue, so it's hard to say for sure what Bill Belichick has been thinking. But with TE Aaron Hernandez now out for 4-6 weeks, you can bet that New England will once again lean heavily on their slot machine. But it's worth noting that Welker hasn't topped 53 receiving yards and is scoreless in his four career meetings with Baltimore. Even with Hernandez's injury, he's still no sure thing this coming Sunday.

Most FAN PTS allowed to WR: Tampa Bay; NY Giants; Buffalo; Cleveland; Indianapolis

Least FAN PTS allowed to WR: Houston; Carolina; Tennessee; Dallas; Philly/Jacksonville


Martellus Bennett is tied with Jimmy Graham and Heath Miller at the TE position in red zone targets (5). The Giants under Tom Coughlin have always done a good job of incorporating the tight end in the passing game, be it Kevin Boss, Jeremy Shockey or, now Bennett. Overall, only four tight ends have seen more targets than Bennett this season. Carolina is not a daunting matchup for Bennett on Thursday night, making him a borderline must-play.

No tight end has seen more overall targets than Baltimore Dennis Pitta. The No. 9 fantasy tight end through two weeks has a tough matchup against a New England defense that, under Belichick, is always tough at defending the position. But Pitta put up a 5/41/1 line against the Pats in a playoff loss last January and the Pats have allowed 60-plus yards to Jared Cook and Todd Heap this season. In other words, Pitta is a defensible play in Week 3.

Antonio Gates owners had to cringe at the sight of backup Dante Rosario scoring a TD hat trick last week. Gates was close to playing in the Chargers' route of Tennessee, making him a likely participant this week against Atlanta.

While Gates is a must-start if he plays, Dustin Keller is another intriguing injury watch of the week at the tight end position. Keller has combined for 13 catches, 143 yards and 3 TDs in his two trips to South Beach the past two years, and the Dolphins have allowed 80-plus yards to a tight end in each of the first two games. A healthy Keller, who has been nursing a hamstring injury, would be a welcome addition for a Jets offense that has generated the fewest fantasy points from the TE position, thus far. If Keller ends up giving it a go in Week 3, consider him more chartreuse than his current yellow listing.

Most FAN PTS allowed to TE: Tennessee; Washington; Denver; Detroit; Kansas City

Least FAN PTS allowed to TE: Houston; NY Giants; New Orleans; Buffalo; Philadelphia


The Kansas City offense has been the most generous unit to opposing defenses, thus far. But it's hard to get excited about New Orleans, the Chiefs upcoming opponent. The Saints defense has forced just one turnover and has recorded just two sacks, thus far. And it is allowing an NFL-high 37.5 points per game. Despite the potentially juicy set up, I'd keep New Orleans down this week.

With 6 INTs, a fumble and four sacks through two games, Michael Vick has been an opposing fantasy defense's best friend. And if you've watched Arizona play this season, you know that defense is for real — how else do you go 2-0 with their QB and offensive line play? The Cardinals are a nice defensive waiver stream this week.

The Cleveland Browns have been one of the top fantasy defenses of the early season, tied for the league-lead in INTs (5) and fifth in sacks (6). They face a Buffalo offense that has been the 5th-most generous in fantasy to opposing defenses. The Browns can be had in about 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Arizona can be had in about 80 percent of Y! leagues. If you need a defensive upgrade this week, you should have options.

I like the Bears above all else at defense this week. Just like I liked the way the game set up for the Packers defense last week playing at home after a disappointing loss, I like the Bears being able to lick their wounds at home this week against the Rams. Chicago ranks second in the league in sacks and St. Louis hasn't done a very good job of protecting Sam Bradford, thus far. There should be some big play opportunities for Chicago this week.

Most FAN PTS allowed to RBs: Kansas City; Chicago; Philadelphia; Cincinnati; Buffalo

Least FAN PTS allowed to RBs: Atlanta; Washington; NY Jets; Oakland; SDG/NE/DAL/ARI/TB


Carolina 28, NY Giants 26
Chicago 24, St. Louis 16
Buffalo 27, Cleveland 23
Indianapolis 24, Jacksonville 23
Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 22
Washington 20, Cincinnati 17
New Orleans 38, Kansas City 24
Miami 19, NY Jets 17
Detroit 30, Tennessee 23
San Francisco 24, Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 24, Arizona 20
Pittsburgh 23, Oakland 16
San Diego 28, Atlanta 25
Denver 24, Houston 23
New England 27, Baltimore 24
Green Bay 23, Seattle 20

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NFL predictions, 2012: Go big, or go home

04 Sep
by in General

With the 2012 NFL regular season set to get underway, we've asked the Yahoo! experts (Brandon Funston, Andy Behrens, Brad Evans, Scott Pianowski, Dalton Del Don) to take one final look into their crystal ball and share their most outrageous visions for the upcoming season. And, for the record, preseason player accuracy has been a specialty of this Yahoo! contingent, so don't discount the possibility that some of these bold predictions might actually come true — well, except for the last one (below).

The Quarterbacks

Peyton Manning is a notable disappointment and the Broncos don't make the playoffs. (SP)

Andrew Luck is a top-12 fantasy quarterback, and the Colts make a serious run at the playoffs. (DDD)

Andrew Luck rushes for the same number of touchdowns as Russell Wilson/RGIII. (BE)

Robert Griffin III finishes ahead of Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger in per game average. (BE)

The Redskins will be led in rushing this season by their quarterback, RGIII. And he'll run for less than 750 yards. This ground game is simply noise; try to tune it out if you can. It's not worth the chase. (AB)

Jay Cutler will throw for less than 4,000 yards and 25 TD passes. (BF)

Kyle Orton will finish as a top-12 scorer at his position on a per-game basis. (Alternate quarterback name for this bold/ridiculous prediction: Shaun Hill). (AB)

Nick Foles fills in for an injured Michael Vick in five games, records a top-10 fantasy QB total during that stretch. (BE)

The Seahawks win the NFC West, the defense is excellent, and Russell Wilson is an overnight star. (SP)

The Running Backs

Maurice Jones-Drew will appear in less than 12 games this season. (AB)

Ryan Mathews miraculously plays 14 games, finishes No. 1 in per game average among RBs. (BE)

Stevan Ridley is more valuable than Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Ahmad Bradshaw and Frank Gore. (DDD)

Former Hokies Ryan Williams and David Wilson will finish with more total fantasy points than their respective backfield running mates. (BF)

David Wilson is a top 10 fantasy back in the second half of the year. (SP)

David Wilson overtakes Ahmad Bradshaw by Week 7, and, from that point on, compiles top-12 numbers among RBs. (BE)

Cedric Benson finishes as a top-15 fantasy back. (DDD)

After finishing as the No. 10 fantasy running back last season, Darren Sproles finishes outside the top 20 at the position and does not end up as his own team's best fantasy RB. (BF)

Kevin Smith is a top-12 fantasy back on a per-game basis. (DDD)

Kevin Smith will gain at least 25 percent of his 2012 total yardage in Week 1 against the Rams. I'm trying to imply two things here: 1) Smith has an outstanding match-up in the opener, and 2) I do not trust him over a full season. (AB)

Fred Jackson tramples the competition en route to a top-5 fantasy season among RBs. (BE)

DeMarco Murray lives up to his hyped ADP and produces top-5 fantasy production from the RB position. (DDD)

DeMarco Murray will enter 2013 as a consensus top-5 fantasy pick. No explanation required. (AB)

Jonathan Dwyer emerges as the most valuable fantasy asset in Pittsburgh's backfield. (DDD)

Peyton Hillis bowls his way into the end zone 12 times, chipping in an additional 1,200 total yards. (BE)

LeSean McCoy has a better fantasy year than Ray Rice, while Chris Johnson scores more fantasy points than Darren McFadden. (DDD)

Doug Martin becomes the most revered rookie rusher, logging 1,300 total yards and 7-9 touchdowns. (BE)

Doug Martin does not finish as the best among the top 2 fantasy running backs of the '12 class. (BF)

The Wide Receivers

Thanks to a historic season by Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones ends the year as "just" the No. 2 fantasy wide receiver. (DDD)

Brandon Marshall does not lead the Bears in touchdown catches. (SP)

Malcom Floyd will finish with a higher single-season fantasy tally than Vincent Jackson ever produced as a member of the Chargers. (BF)

Torrey Smith scores 11 touchdowns and goes well over 1,000 yards. (SP)

Kenny Britt amazingly staves off his ninth arrest and knee woes and tallies a top-15 WR line . (BE)

Victor Cruz leads the NFL in receiving yards and scores double-digit touchdowns. (BF)

Greg Jennings finishes outside the top-10 fantasy wide receivers, while teammate Jordy Nelson ends up top-5. (DDD)

Andre Johnson scores five times or less. (SP)

Pierre Garcon finishes as a top-15 fantasy wideout. (BF)

Eric Decker leads the AFC in receptions with 106. (BE)

Greg Little catches 78 passes, and the Browns somehow win seven games or more, most of them in ugly fashion. (SP)

Miles Austin easily outpaces Dez Bryant as the Cowboys top fantasy WR. (BF)

Josh Gordon emerges as Brandon Weeden's go-to guy, totals 60-850-6. (BE)

Stephen Hill leads the Jets in receiving touchdowns. (SP)

The Tight Ends

Aaron Hernandez outpaces Rob Gronkowski finishing only behind Jimmy Graham in overall tight end value. (BE)

Vernon Davis leads all tight ends in fantasy scoring. (AB)

Vernon Davis scores a dozen touchdowns. (DDD)

Jermichael Finley will catch more touchdown passes than Jordy Nelson this season. (AB)

Jason Witten is not a Top-12 tight end. (SP)

Jared Cook leads the Titans in receiving yards. (BF)

The Others

In an effort to spark his slumping team, Jeff Fisher shaves his mustache in November. (SP)

By November, Mike Shanahan is starting a running back that we haven't talked about at all this summer. (BF)

In a moment of confusion, Bill Belichick discloses useful injury information about one of his own players. (SP)

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Tags: , Brandon Funston, , DeMarco, , , , , , , SP,
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Fantasy Funhouse: Second-year secrets

02 Aug
by in General

I learned my lesson with Mike Shanahan long ago. I simply avoid his backfields at all costs these days. Trust me, it's a fantastic sleep aid. But, if you're one that plans to mess with the bull that is Shanahan, let me just say that early ADP numbers suggest you're going to end up getting the horn.

Evan Royster, last year's Round 6 pick from Penn St., the guy who leads the Nittany Lions in all-time rushing yards and who closed out the 'Skins '11 campaign with back-to-back 100-yard games, is currently running with the first team offense in camp. This could be a problem for those that have already helped push Roy Helu's ADP value inside the top 70 overall (No. 26 RB off the board according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. By comparison, Royster can be had No. 56 overall at the RB position. That's six spots later at the position than another Washington RB, Tim Hightower, who is mostly a bystander in camp right now because he's still not fully recovered from an ACL injury suffered last season.

Now I'm not saying that Royster and Helu should be flip-flopped in the rankings. Knowing Shanahan, he'll profess his love for Helu (or Hightower, or Alfred Morris, or …) as soon as you do that. But I think it's a mistake to dismiss Royster as a potential leading man in this offense. The correct course of action here is to move Royster up close to the top 40 neighborhood at RB, while moving Helu down to a similar spot. This will likely be a fluid situation, as things could change quickly once Hightower is deemed sufficiently recovered. You can adjust your rankings accordingly as further developments take place in this backfield. But the main takeaway is that I certainly wouldn't be drafting Helu inside the top 100 overall, and Royster is a steal right now going outside the top 150 overall. Of course, I won't be drafting them regardless.

We're fond of Atlanta second-year RB Jacquizz Rodgers here at Yahoo! We like him as a viable top 40 fantasy running back, whereas his ADP has him currently sitting at No. 49 at the position. Atlanta brass has been paying a lot of lip service to "The Quizz Show" this preseason, and the latest tongue bath comes from Falcons head coach Mike Smith, who was quoted as saying that Rodgers "… has the skill set to play on all three downs." Rodgers is only 5-foot-7 (and that might be pushing it), but he's built like a pony keg. At Oregon St., he averaged more than 25 touches (22 carries) per game, often utilized between the tackles, even at the goal line.

Last season, Atlanta ran the third-most plays from scrimmage behind only New Orleans and New England. And this year's squad could be even more potent with the extra year of development of QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones and Rodgers. There's plenty of pigskin to be shared even if Michael Turner remains the top option in the backfield. Regardless, all indications are that Turner will see a significant downturn in workload after rushing more than 300 times in three of his four seasons in Atlanta. There'll be 200-plus touches to be had for Rodgers, as ESPN's Pat Yasinskas suggests that Atlanta envisions him as the team's next Warrick Dunn.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph continues the theme of potential second-year breakouts here. The Vikings' second-round pick in '11 is getting rave reviews in camp, being praised for both his receiving and blocking skills. With Visante Shiancoe out of the picture and free agent signee John Carlson out for up to a month with an MCL sprain, Rudolph has a huge role ahead of him. Outside of perennial questionable tag Percy Harvin, the team lacks a proven go-to option in the passing game. A large, athletic, sure-handed underneath option like Rudolph could standout like a beacon for second-year QB Christian Ponder. I wouldn't reach for Rudolph in fantasy drafts because there's plenty of quality talent that will land in your lap no matter which direction your draft goes. But Rudolph, going outside the top 20 at the TE position according to his ADP numbers, is a great late-round bench stash if you end up missing out on a top eight guy at the position. Pair him with another potential breakout star like Jared Cook and you'll most likely have a top 12 fantasy tight end on your hands, one way or the other, when the dust settles.


Photos courtesy US Presswire

Tags: , Evan Royster, , Funhouse, , , lesson, , , , RB, Roy Helu, Shanahan,
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