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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Mostly NFL Notes: Week 3 Recap

25 Sep
by in General

The Colts' poor offensive line does him no favors, but the team's dismal defense should continue to be a boon to Andrew Luck's fantasy value. While he's unlikely to keep up his current pace to finish with 427 rushing yards, it's a sneaky part of his game in which he should continue to contribute…After kicking a field goal to go up 17-16 with 0:56 left it took all of 11 seconds for the Jaguars to retake the lead. Blaine Gabbert had 75 yards passing in the game before his 80-yard TD strike to win it…Over three games, Justin Blackmon has four catches for 31 yards. Pro Football Focus has graded him dead last among 109 wide receivers so far…So glad I held onto Austin Collie in a few leagues…It was nice to see Donald Brown catch his first pass of the year, but it sure looks like he's going to fail to live up to the preseason hype, something I fell for in a couple of leagues. The addition of Andrew Luck is going to help out the receivers a lot more than Brown, who remains an ordinary talent having to deal with poor run blocking.

C.J. Spiller was no doubt en route to another big game before suffering the shoulder injury, but the good news is it doesn't appear serious. With Fred Jackson recovering quicker than expected, it should be interesting to see how the Buffalo backfield situation unfolds in the coming weeks. It really can't be understated just how explosive Spiller looks on the field right now. Chan Gailey's system doesn't hurt either, so Tashard Choice could be useful in the short term…It's tough to get excited about Trent Richardson's performance, but he's scored in back-to-back games and has racked up 10 catches over that span. He's going to be among the league leaders in touches this season.

Come for the squirrel's rampage in the kitchen but stay for its escape "like a boss."

Where did that come from Santonio Holmes?...I'd like to personally apologize to all Reggie Bush owners for praising him so much last week. Of course he suffered an injury soon thereafter (I am that powerful!). Daniel Thomas dominated the work afterward, but Lamar Miller sure seems to pass the eye test. He's intriguing long term…What a brutal loss of Darrelle Revis…Not only was the Jets/Dolphins game one of three overtime contests Sunday, but the result came down to Dan Carpenter missing a field goal (his second of the day) in OT and another crazy sequence at the very end, when Nick Folk had his 33-yard FG attempt blocked, only to get a second chance thanks to Miami calling a timeout right beforehand trying to "ice" him.

I'm a huge Paul Thomas Anderson fan, which led to huge expectations for "The Master," especially after an incredible trailer (that scene was somehow cut from the film). But it was good, not great. Call it a "B," which means I was pretty disappointed.

I'm not saying I totally disregarded the Saints' bad offseason, mainly the big coaching turnover, but I wasn't buying the narrative that any bad vibes would ruin their upcoming season. After all, this team was arguably one of the three best in the NFL last year. I pegged them for around 9-10 wins and another trip to the playoffs. There's a lot of season left, but man, things are looking bleak in New Orleans (their opponents this year are a collective 0-6 when not playing them). After going 9-0 at home last year (including the playoffs), outscoring their opponents by a whopping 203 points, the Saints have already lost two games in New Orleans…The defense might be the worst in the league, and while I'm not totally absolving Drew Brees, he's dealt with horrible offensive line play…At one point Sunday, Darren Sproles was averaging 47.0 YPC for the season…After missing essentially all of last year and then leaving last week with a knee injury, it was pretty crazy to see Jamaal Charles get 39 touches Sunday. 39! This is a great example of how much things can change within the span of a week in fantasy football. He's gone from a legit concern to an easy top-15 commodity that quickly.

Amazing mind reader reveals his "gift."

It's clear Alfred Morris is going to be removed on passing downs this season, but he remains locked in early down work, and that was before Evan Royster got hurt yet again. Morris had an impressive run Sunday when he continued to play after losing his helmet. This wasn't Jason Witten getting caught from behind by a safety. Morris was hit by two linebackers on both sides. Badass…Mohamed Sanu's career YPA is 73.0. Andy Dalton better watch his back…Robert Griffin obviously doesn't have the TD potential as Cam Newton with his slighter build, but the rookie ran for more yards during the third game of his career than Newton ever has. RG3's upside is simply through the roof. The question now isn't if he's a top-10 fantasy QB. It's if he's top-5…BenJarvus Green-Ellis fumbled for the first time in his career. His last was in 2007 when playing for Ole Miss.

Spearfishing takes a sudden change.

The Lions/Titans game is the heavy favorite to go down as the craziest of 2012. Not only were 85 points scored, but a whopping 46 of them came in the fourth quarter. The Titans scored four touchdowns from 60+ yards, including three on defense/special teams. The Lions were down 14 points with 19 seconds left! After a touchdown, then a successful onside kick, the game should have been over by an ensuing interception, only a personal foul afterward negated it, which resulted in a Hail Mary TD catch by Titus Young Sr. (love that, Senior), and to make it more dramatic, DIRECTV immediately changed the channel. Like seriously within 1 second of the catch, leaving viewers unsure of what occurred. I was going to argue the "bat it down" strategy may need to be reassessed, but then Monday night happened…Nate Washington's 71-yard TD catch while reaching around a clueless DB's back was awesome…Tennessee entered having allowed five passing scores on the year, but all were to tight ends. Detroit rectified that anomaly with three TDs from wide receivers.

Kevin Smith scored two touchdowns in Week 1 and got 4.8 YPC before struggling like every running back on earth does against the 49ers in San Francisco last week, yet apparently the coaching staff has soured on him entirely, giving him zero touches Sunday and handing over a full workload to someone who had never played a snap in the NFL. Mikel LeShoure looked good enough, so fantasy owners need to make the proper adjustments. I firmly believed Kevin Smith would either be productive or hurt, so I guess I was wrong…I'm beginning to think Chris Johnson may disappoint his fantasy owners this year. He had two carries for -16 yards in overtime…As if this game didn't provide enough intrigue, it also involved the first real strategy decision with the new overtime rules, as Detroit was presented with a 4th-and-1 at Tennessee's 7-yard line down three points. A FG attempt there is 90%+ certain but gives the ball back to the Lions in what becomes sudden death. Especially in a game that totaled 85 points, I have no problem with Jim Schwartz's decision to go for it, but it resulted in a botched snap, ending an exciting game in exciting fashion.

Man allegedly steals $100K coin collection, then spends them at face value on pizza and a movie.

After getting praised as possibly the best team in football, traveling to play a 10 a.m. body clock game in a loud dome against a solid team, it's not exactly shocking the 49ers showed up flat, but this was definitely the worst game the team has played under Jim Harbaugh. That said, I don't want to discredit the Vikings, as they are far from a doormat. And even if his final numbers don't jump off the page, Christian Ponder made some terrific throws. He entered leading the NFL in completion percentage and is highly mobile, so the future looks bright in Minnesota, especially with one of the most physical backs of all time and one of the more difficult wide receivers to game plan against on his side…Donte Whitner dropped an easy would-be pick-six, but the 49ers actually benefitted from a pretty big referee gaffe in which they allowed a challenge right after Jim Harbaugh signaled for the team's final timeout…Kyle Williams, who lost two fumbles in the NFC Championship Game last year, averaged 72.0 yards on two kick returns Sunday…Counting the postseason, Vernon Davis has eight touchdowns over his past five games.

This 8-year-old is tough to bring down in youth football.

Make no mistake, this Rams team is feisty, and four of their next five contests are at home…After his first game in Chicago, Brandon Marshall looked to be in store for a monster season, but defenses have since adjusted to give him their attention heavily. I'm still buying and expect solid production moving forward but drops, especially in the end zone, continue to be a problem…I find it funny the media think they actually have any clue what Jay Cutler's teammates think of him. I'm not saying they don't have a problem with him, but to act like they know for certain based on a couple of sideline confrontations on national TV seems like a bit of a stretch…Over his last 12 games, Steven Jackson has one touchdown.

If you have a problem with flatulence, here's your solution.

Coming off a loss and with a favorable matchup at home, fantasy owners tied to Dallas' offense were left highly disappointed, as Tony Romo didn't throw for a single touchdown while DeMarco Murray totaled just 55 yards. Jason Witten's drops have become a legit concern, and he's making other mental errors as well with penalties. Over 30 career games, Dez Bryant has eclipsed 90 receiving yards one time…With 2:51 left in the 2nd quarter, the Cowboys attempted a surprise onside kick. It didn't work, and although I respect the aggressiveness and thinking outside the box, those type of decisions typically make more sense for underdogs rather than favorites…Like Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson is one of the more boom-or-bust wide receivers in fantasy football…Over the first three games of the season, the Cowboys have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks by a pretty wide margin (the Redskins have allowed by far the most)…Of all the referee mistakes this week, this one might be the worst (ok fine, second worst).

Burglar found sleeping on kitchen floor.

I ended up with Vernon Davis or Antonio Gates in the majority of my leagues this year, not spending a top-two round pick on a tight end yet wanting to avoid the tier in which I felt there was a big drop off, and while I'm happy with the former, the latter has totaled seven catches for 65 yards with no touchdowns so far after numerous reports suggested Gates was healthier than he's been in years. The game he missed his backup scored three touchdowns, and Gates made an egregious drop Sunday, so it's been a brutal start for him…Finally returning to health, fumbling immediately at such a crucial time is such a Ryan Mathews thing to do. Still, I can't quit him. I actually don't own him in any leagues, but in trade discussions, I'd value him as a top-15 asset right now…I've been skeptical of Atlanta, but their secondary has impressed in a big way so far, even after losing Brent Grimes. And while they have been postseason disappointments, it's at least worth noting their last two losses in the playoffs came against the eventual Super Bowl champions.

Here's an extreme Prisoner's Dilemma.

The Cardinals are now 10-2 over their past 12 games. This year they have allowed just 5.9 YPA with an NFL-low two touchdown passes against. Their 12 sacks are the second most in football, and they've also yet to allow a rushing score. This defense is legit…Daryl Washington is on pace to finish with 155 tackles (139 solo) and 16 sacks. He's an absolute IDP beast…I hope you're sitting down, but Beanie Wells exited Sunday's game with an injury. Ryan Williams did later on as well, but it seemed more like a cramping issue. Not that either can be started with confidence right now, but it sure seems like this franchise has Williams' back moving forward…After scoring 20 touchdowns over 15 games last season, LeSean McCoy has hit paydirt just once over the first three games of the year…After committing nine turnovers over 12 games during his awesome 2010 season, Michael Vick has turned it over 27 times over his last 16 games. He remains a huge fantasy asset regardless, but he's routinely taking serious shots weekly. There's no way he lasts the season this way.

Sensei drops technique that goes wrong.

The Raiders/Steelers game was yet another thriller. Carson Palmer had a bizarre day for him, getting just 6.1 YPA and finishing with only 209 passing yards yet he threw three touchdowns…Despite managing just 2.7 YPC against an Oakland defense that was gashed for 263 rushing yards by the Dolphins last week, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 384 yards (7.8 YPA) with a 4:0 TD:INT ratio. Although I must say I was surprised his final TD pass was credited as such, since Antonio Brown fumbled and then later recovered it in the end zone…With 3:45 left in the 4th quarter, the Steelers went for it on 4th-and-1 at their own 29-yard line in a tie game. If they had failed, you better believe they would've been crushed in the media. Love that ballsy decision…The Darrius Heyward-Bey hit was scary. It wasn't just helmet-to-helmet (that drew no penalty), it was helmet to face mask, and the worst part was his neck hitting the ground. Ultimately, he was unconscious for about 11.5 minutes. His eventual thumbs up was the best part of Sunday's action, no question.

This has got to be the craziest bathroom ever.

While the Broncos somehow again made a once lopsided game close at the end, they were thoroughly outplayed by Houston on Sunday. The Broncos have outscored their opponents 45-6 in the 4th quarter this year. But I'm not sure that's necessarily a reflection of anything positive…If Willis McGahee has to miss time with his rib injury, expect a full-blown committee in his place…It's disconcerting for his owners just how much Houston continues to be run-heavy, but Andre Johnson's day was nearly much bigger Sunday, for what it's worth…Wade Phillips deserves some credit. Some awful head coaches can remain very good coordinators…When not facing the Broncos, Peyton Manning's opponents so far this year have a collective 6:8 TD:INT ratio, so he's not exactly had the easiest schedule coming off the injury.

Here's a classic: fear of balloons. "Oh no, don't go back there that's worse."

Tom Brady is on pace to finish with 21 passing touchdowns this year. Even as someone who constantly preaches the wait on QBs motto, I'm not exactly going to say I told you so, as I expected a big season from Brady (as in approach 50 TDs big). Crazy how disappointing the top ranked quarterbacks have been early on…Pretty cool to see Torrey Smith's big game considering his recent loss of his brother…Wes Welker owners can breath a sigh of relief, while Rob Gronkowski owners have no need to panic. Also, it feels like Brandon Lloyd could be undervalued right now based on his production vs. potential moving forward…Justin Tucker's game winning field goal was an awfully tough call. I'm not making excuses for the replacement refs (more on them below), but I can't remember a FG like that to decide a game. One thing I will say is that these refs haven't had the greatest luck when it comes to having to decide controversial calls…Running the hurry up offense constantly, Stevan Ridley saw his snaps decrease significantly, even getting two fewer carries than Danny Woodhead while also losing a goal-line score to Brandon Bolden. As someone who's hyped Ridley's value, I can't say it's not concerning (or exactly shocking), but let's just hope it was situational, as he remains by far the team's best option in the backfield.

Longread of the week: Great story about a wine collector who executed one of the biggest hoaxes ever.

Aaron Rodgers is on pace to be sacked 85 times this year, which would easily beat David Carr's record of 76 set in 2002…The Packers haven't had a 100-yard rusher since Week 5 in 2010, but Cedric Benson looked solid enough, albeit with a poor 2.6 YPC mark against a very tough Seattle defense (there's an argument to be made the three best defenses all reside in the NFC West, and it's not like the Rams have a bad unit either). Benson has eight catches over the past two games after totaling 15 all of last season…After scoring five touchdowns over the final two games last year (and 15 total), Jordy Nelson has zero over his last four games (including the playoffs). Fantasy owners obviously should remain patient, but it hasn't been a great start…So I had previously taken something of a contrarian view of the replacement refs, not getting overly worked up since I have always thought the normal refs were generally also terrible, but the Monday night game was too much. There were numerous game-changing calls (the horrible PI involving Sidney Rice comes to mind), and you don't need me to tell you about the Golden Tate "catch." But if we mock this, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out this from last year. Either way, this was obviously a travesty that also happened to occur in prime time, and as much as the NFL held the hammer beforehand, this was literally Roger Goodell's worst nightmare. I was surprised the Packers eventually brought out players to go through the motions for the extra point.

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Week That Was: Kung Fu (Panda) Fighting

23 Sep
Glenn Colton takes a look at the Kung Fu Panda's hot streak and provides some fantasy football wisdom to boot.
Tags: boot, , , Fighting Glenn Colton, , Kung Fu, Kung Fu Panda, , , ,
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Matchups: Thursday Matchup: NYG @ CAR

20 Sep
Evan Silva previews Thursday night's Giants-Panthers game with a fantasy football spin and picks a winner.
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Earlier today, we reported what appeared to be the NFL's latest conflict-of-interest debacle with its replacement refs. One side judge was pulled from the Week 2 New Orleans Saints-Carolina Panthers game for his public displays of Saints fandom, and it was revealed that the field judge in the Week 1 Arizona Cardinal-Seattle Seahawks game may have been paid by the Seahawks as a practice official in recent years.

Then, in an interview that must have had the league office passing out the Advil, Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said on Philly radio station 94WIP that one of the officials in the Eagles' Sunday win over the Baltimore Ravens told McCoy that he needed the running back for his fantasy football team.

"It was more like joking," McCoy told me on the phone Tuesday afternoon during an interview promoting BODYARMOR SuperDrink. "People blew it up into more than it was. It was definitely that.

"But I'll tell you what," he said with a laugh, "I wouldn't mind if [the officials] gave us some calls in some of those games for their fantasy teams."

In truth, McCoy is a bit less heavy on the subject of replacement officials than some have been. "There are times when players get frustrated, but to be honest, I think [the calls] have gone both ways. There have been bad calls for the opponents and bad calls for the Eagles, so it goes both ways, and it really matters who's playing ball."

Joking or not, we're hoping that the NFL will advise the official in question that any appearance of impropriety at a point where all replacement officials are taken to task at a forensic level isn't the best way to go.

Fantasy football advice from the Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Minute:

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Citi Field crowd gives Chipper Jones a nice sendoff (Video)

10 Sep

"Standing ovation" doesn't seem to be quite the right term for what Chipper Jones received after drawing a four-pitch walk in a pinch-hit opportunity at Citi Field on Sunday. But let's just go with it because "dedicated applause in a raised position from some, though not all, of the half-interested and half-full crowd of Mets fans who weren't busy checking their phones for fantasy football scores or still waiting in line for Shake Shack" is just a bit too wordy.

Though the Mets rolled out a nice weekend for their anti-hero from Atlanta, Jones and the Braves didn't show much thanks as the guests of honor. A 3-2 victory on Sunday gave Atlanta a series sweep and a 10-5 edge in the season series with three games at Turner Field to go.

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Tags: applause, Chipper Jones, Citi Field, , , , , , , sendoff,
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Matchups: Matchups: Ridley Me This

09 Sep
Evan Silva dissects every Week 1 game from a fantasy football perspective and recommends to start Stevan Ridley.
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Matchups: Matchups: Steelers – Broncos

07 Sep
Evan Silva dissects Sunday night's game from a fantasy football perspective and predicts the winner.
Tags: Broncos Evan Silva dissects, , , , , perspective, ,
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Mostly NFL Notes: Is Darren McFadden worth the risk?

17 Aug
by in General

Over his last 19 games (not counting Week 7 of last year when he immediately left with what would turn out to be a season-ending foot injury), Darren McFadden has totaled 2,428 yards with 15 touchdowns. While looking like something of a bust after being taken 4th overall during the first two years of his career, he now looks like one of the very best backs in football, at least when on the field. McFadden still has never played more than 13 games in any of his four seasons in the league, and while he claims the injuries have been bad luck, at some point it has to be consdered more than that. That said, if he were to stay healthy over a full season, he'd almost certainly be a top-3 fantasy asset, especially in what looks like an Oakland offense with sneaky upside and with Michael Bush now gone — an underrated aspect of Run-DMC's game: he's 6-for-7 at the goal line over the past three years. There's some concern with the new coaching staff implementing a zone-blocking scheme, which has proven in the past to be unsuited to McFadden's strengths, but conversely new OC Greg Knapp typically uses a run-heavy system. It seems crazy to consider someone as injury-prone as McFadden as a top-8 pick, but with so many other question marks surrounding running backs, it suddenly becomes more reasonable, especially if you make sure to grab Mike Goodson later on.

Gator attacks trainer at county fair.

Highway sign bouncing along with music.

Broken iMac prank. "I accidentally dropped it, 27 times."

I've spoken plenty about being someone who waits to draft quarterbacks, but I really can't blame those taking Tom Brady early this season. I worry some the defense could improve greatly, especially after adding three players in the top-50 picks of this year's draft, but New England tends not to be concerned about running scores up. And while Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will likely improve the backfield, BenJarvus Green-Ellis' strong ability at the goal line is gone. Speaking of which, do you realize which QB had the second-most rushing attempts inside the red zone, 10 yard line and 5 yard line last season? That's right, it was Brady. At age 35, he's past his physical peak, but Brady is a relentless worker both on the practice field and in the film room, and you can bet he will be extra motivated coming off his second straight Super Bowl loss. He got 8.6 YPA last season. To put that into perspective, he got 8.3 during his historical 50-TD year in 2007, and he actually attempted 33 more passes last season compared to his record-setting campaign, making it all that much more impressive. Deion Branch tied for the most targets inside the 5 in the NFL last season, and a premier red-zone target in Brandon Lloyd will be replacing him (and the horribly ineffective Chad Johnson), joining the likes of Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez with two athletic backs capable of catching passes in an embarrassment of riches. It's certainly not a stretch that Brady approaches 50 touchdowns again in 2012.

Animal Antics: This cat is a real prick…Dog terrified of low-fat lamb jerky…Cat drops into classroom, terrifies everyone inside it...This dog is extreme.

So what do we make of the running back situation in Buffalo? Fred Jackson was the NFL's leading rusher when he went down with a fractured right fibula in Week 11 last year, and the former undrafted back also had 442 receiving yards at the time, making him one of the bigger surprises in fantasy football. He was as impressive as it gets, leading all backs with 5.5 YPC (minimum 100 rushing attempts), thanks in no small part to an NFL-high 3.75 YPC after contact. He was also a terrific blocker and had zero drops. Pro Football Focus graded him as the NFL's No. 1 RB, a fact made all that more impressive when you realize it's an aggregate score, and Jackson missed the final 6.5 games. Still, he's coming off a serious injury, will be 31.5 years old this season (a dangerous age for running backs) and will have to compete with C.J. Spiller for touches.

Spiller didn't receive double-digit carries in any of the first 24 games of his career, but when Jackson went down he responded surprisingly well. Over the final six games, Spiller totaled 633 yards with five touchdowns. He improved greatly as a blocker, proved to be a major threat as a receiver and got 5.2 YPC while holding up just fine with a bigger workload. He's capable of finishing as a top-10 fantasy back in 2012, were he given the opportunity. However, Jackson should return 100% and is clearly the favorite for touches, and Buffalo likely remains skeptical whether Spiller could hold up with a full workload over a full season. I can certainly understand the reasoning, but it's still pretty crazy that a 31+ year old undrafted back coming off a serious injury has such a higher ADP (26) compared to his teammate (44), who's 25 years old with a top-10 pick pedigree and totaled 405 yards with four touchdowns over the final three games last season. It's an interesting situation likely to result in a committee, resulting in disappointed fantasy owners.

This review of a new popular restaurant in New York that serves food in total darkness isn't exactly endorsing.

Back in the day, when Charles Woodson's BAC of .24 equaled his jersey number (when he was arrested at his own charity golf event), I thought that was extreme, but this gentleman not only called him but put all his chips onto the table, registering an unfathomable .627 BAC — enough to kill two men over.

Woman denies man padlocked her in room for years, says "I don't like to go out."

I totally agree Jordy Nelson's 15 TD catches with 68 receptions last year was an unsustainable rate. The same goes for his 13.2 YPT mark, which was by far the highest by any receiver with at least 90 targets since the stat has been recorded. A WR who gets 18.6 YPC while catching 73.1% of his targets is like a pitcher who posts a .200 BABIP — it's simply not something savvy fantasy owners want to bank on repeating. But it also feels like he's almost getting punished in drafts for doing so well last season. Even if we regress his production by 20%, you would still get top-5 type fantasy WR numbers (1,010/12). And while the efficiency will almost certainly regress, what if he gets more targets? After all, 35 receivers saw more looks than him last season, and this is a guy who's 6-3, 217 who had just two drops and forced more missed tackles than Brandon Marshall and Roddy White in 2011. Greg Jennings is two years older and may currently be dealing with a concussion issue that's moderately serious. Nelson is coming off a season in which he scored 15 touchdowns, has the best player in the NFL as his QB and has an ADP currently outside the top-50. Go get him.

So after going to the Lincecum vs. Strasburg matchup Wednesday that certainly didn't live up to the hype, my friends and I tried this pizza joint run by this crazy intense chef who makes every pie personally. If you're ever in San Francisco, I recommend it (although be warned there will be a wait). I actually thought it was better than Pizzeria Bianco.

Longread of the week: The long, lawless ride of Sheriff Joe Arpaio  — America's meanest and most corrupt politician.

Especially with the Trent Richardson and Ryan Mathews injuries, I'm warming up to Matt Forte as a first round pick. He had 1,487 total yards while racking up 52 receptions in just 11.5 games last year before a sprained MCL forced him to miss the season's final four games. Despite running behind an offensive line that was among the worst in football, Forte's 4.9 YPC was easily a career high, and his 12 carries for 20-plus yards were the second most in the NFL. Fantasy owners seem to be worried about the addition of Michael Bush, who will take over goal-line duties, but Forte has scored just three times from the GL over the past three seasons (going 3-for-33 there), so albeit not ideal that he'll no longer have the opportunity, not much will change from the past as far as production from in close is concerned. Forte's knee injury was minor, as he even played in the Pro Bowl, so he'll enter 2012 fully healthy, and with the return of Jay Cutler and the trade for Brandon Marshall (not to mention the loss of pass-happy OC Mike Martz), Forte's environment in Chicago has been greatly improved. He's among the favorites to lead the league in yards from scrimmage, and while he won't get goal-line carries, as someone who catches a lot of passes and is capable of scoring from far out, 6-10 touchdowns are reachable.

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First Down: Moderation method could be key to ’12 draft success

15 Aug
by in General

Ever since fantasy football was first conceived on a rainy November night in Manhattan some six decades ago one perplexing question has racked the brains of gamers both novice and experienced: Floor or ceiling?

Over the years, millions have passionately argued each side over buffalo wings and barley pops declaring no clear-cut winner. It's a classic case of pick your poison.

Those who prefer to keep their feet on solid ground are generally cautious individuals. In their minds, dousing a taco in an unknown hot sauce isn't an option. Getting into a car after a night out with Kenny Britt, too risky. They're typically punctual, responsible and extremely stubborn, holding track-record and durability in high-regard. Safety is always first.

Meanwhile, those who shoot for the sky are aggressive drafters, the risk-takers. Most would describe them as ultra-confident, overly optimistic and open-minded. Buy them a shot of Jager and they'll demand three more. Chasing the river in poker is well-worth the gamble. Upside is everything.

So, what viewpoint is best for 2012 drafts?

In a nutshell, neither.

Admittedly, the Noise usually dances on the ceiling. Simply, the payoff potential is too enticing to pass up. Nail three or four reaches and the odds of raising a virtual trophy increase exponentially. But this year the smartest strategy isn't walking a tight line or on a tightrope — it's a blend of the two.


The blood already spilled by the injury imp has created fantastic buying opportunities not previously anticipated. Round 2 is absolutely loaded with RB values. Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marshawn Lynch, Trent Richardson and Ryan Mathews could be had at that juncture. And based on current trends (See the chart from Fantasy Football Calculator below), the last two possibly a full round later. Can you say discount double-check?

Because workhorse rushers are few and far between nowadays, those positioned in the top-three are in an ideal spot. But the same could be said for back-half drafters. If gifted a pick in the 8-12 range, you could laugh all the way to the bank. Think about it. In average standard drafts (4 points per passing TD) high-floor options Drew Brees and Tom Brady are, in general, slipping past pick No. 6. Grab one in the first then roll the dice on a high-ceiling RB on the comeback, like a Mathews, and feel free to streak the draft room in jubilation. Take a look at these mockups for example:

Obviously, several variables are at play, but it's not unrealistic to think the Mix n' Match lineup could materialize. Though the above exercise is only five rounds, the green team looks mean. Brady is a proven quantity with weapons galore and entrenched in a pass-happy offense. Mathews and Richardson, despite their injury flaws, are in excellent, run-heavy situations. Both could easily cash a top-10 return in per game average (among RBs) once activated. Finally, Nicks and Lloyd are reliable receivers immersed in great environments. Both are in line for 75-1100-10 seasons. And that's a modest projection.

Bottom line: This year, moderation equals moola.

Can't get enough Andy Behrens, Brandon Funston, Scott Pianowski, Dalton Del Don and "The Noise?" Listen to The Fantasy Freak Show (Now on iTunes) every Friday at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on Yahoo! Sports Radio

Tags: , , Jamaal Charles, , , , Moderation, novice, rainy, , ,
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