Throwing Darts: Can the desperate Packers spring an upset?

14 Oct
by in General

The public's out there throwing darts at a board, sport. I don't throw darts at a board.

Wait a minute, yes I do.

Packers +3.5 at Texans: How good is Houston, really? Arian Foster is currently a 4.0 YPC back, and the much-ballyhooed offensive line (still ranked No. 1 on some subjective lists) doesn't look good on the spreadsheet; Pro Football Focus has the Texans 18th in run blocking this year and 15th in pass blocking. Houston comes into this game on short rest and without Brian Cushing, and the Packers are the more desperate team (an angle Bill Parcells would often bring up).

Dolphins -3.5 vs. Rams: While I have much respect for the Rams defense, I'm having trouble seeing how St. Louis scores more than 10 points on the road (unless something fluky happens on defense or special teams). Sam Bradford has once again been sold out by his receivers and offensive line. Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill is the best rookie quarterback that you're hearing almost nothing about. His familiarity with the offense, dating back to the Texas A&M days, clearly shows on the tape. Miami rolls.

Broncos +1 at Chargers: You'll have to give a point or so with the Broncos in some other spots, but we use the Yahoo! Pro Football Pick-Em lines in this column, thus you see the plus-one here. It's not really a big deal crossing the equator. Peyton Manning looks more in sync with his offense with each passing week, and the Broncos pass rush might have a field day against the spotty Chargers offensive line (especially with LT Jared Gaither expected out). The Norv Turner offense still likes to throw those pretty intermediate and deep routes, but will the protection hold enough for those plays to develop?

Seahawks +3.5 vs. Patriots: As sharp as the Patriots have been on offense the last few weeks, it's a different challenge going on the road and taking on the Seahawks nasty defense and formidable home-field edge. Seattle can crash the pocket with or without gimmicks, and the secondary is the deepest (and the biggest) in the league. So long as Russell Wilson plays a clean game - and that's obviously no guarantee - I trust Seattle to keep things close or pull off the upset.

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 1-4
Season: 18-8
2011: 41-39
2010: 49-34

Tags: , Bill Parcells, Brian Cushing, , , , Good, , offensive line, , Pro Football Focus, ,
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Over/Under: Is the other Vick the right pick at RB2 in Week 6?

11 Oct
by in General

Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball here's our view on 10 intriguing over/unders for Week 6.

Vick Ballard, now starting against the Jets with Donald Brown sidelined, final Week 6 RB rank 22.5 (In other words, will he deliver RB2-level stats in 12-team leagues)?

Brad — UNDER. The once proud Jets defense is a shell of its former self. This season, the Puddle Jumpers have surrendered 4.7 YPC to RBs. Ballard will give way to Mewelde Moore on third-downs but is a strong candidate for a 17-75-1 afternoon.

Brandon — UNDER. Meaning he'll be a top 22 RB in Week 6. Jets allowing a very unRex-like 4.9 YPC. And the Jets have to be on alert first and foremost in the passing game given Luck's early success. Space should be available for Ballard.

Scott — With all due respect to the plus matchup, I'm going OVER. If Ballard has special talent, it hasn't flashed yet: 21 carries, 42 yards. He's only caught one pass. Indy's run blocking currently ranks 27th on Pro Football Focus; good luck finding holes.

Defense/Special Teams Dilemma. Pick your poison: Tampa (vs. KC), Miami (vs. StL) or Detroit (at Phi)

Brandon — MIAMI. Love that they are at home against a lousy offense — Rams have been 8th-most generous offense in fantasy to opposing defenses. And Miami has already been getting it done as a fantasy defense, ranking in the top 8 in QB sacks and INTs

Scott — Put on your snappiest white suit and meet me in MIAMI. The Dolphins defense has cut its teeth against legitimate opposition, and this week it faces an offense with no blocking and no downfield threats. Get ready to duck, Sammy Bradford.

Andy — TAMPA. This group has defended the run well (3.2 YPC), they're coming off a bye, and facing a depth chart QB.

Rashard Mendenhall total yards against Tennessee 94.5

Andy — OVER. It would help my cause if this game remains competitive for, say, three quarters. But you have to love Mendenhall's tape from Week 5, and this is an awfully friendly matchup.

Dalton — OVER. I was wrong about taking a wait-and-see approach with Mendenhall last week, as he looked fantastic. I expect Thursday night's game to be relatively close, and Mendy should exceed 20 touches, resulting in 100 yards from scrimmage.

Brad — OVER. My obnoxious affections for Illinois running backs wouldn't let me think any other way. Plus,Tennessee is the NFL's Titanic defensively. It's given up 173.9 total yards per game to RBs this season.

Pick a Packer: Alex Green or James Starks

Dalton — As someone who had far too many shares of Cedric Benson than I'd like to admit, this question pains me. Can the answer be neither? If not, then I'll say STARKS. I get that Green is far more explosive, but Starks has a better chance at a goal-line carry and is far more trusted in pass protection, so he'll be on the field more.

Brad — GREEN. McCarthy's declaration his backfield will be a 'hot hand' situation definitely favors Green, fresh off a respectable 10-63 effort at Indy. On the excitement scale, Starks barely moves the needle. He's clunky, slow and largely average.

Brandon — STARKS. Mike McCarthy says he'll ride the hot hand, but he has a much longer history with Starks and, when a coach has concerns about pass pro (as he does with Green) in an offense that pretty much is thinking pass all the time, it makes me lean towards Starks even more.

Aaron Hernandez, assuming he's active, receiving yards at SEA 54.5

Brandon — UNDER. Back in the fire off a four-week layoff, I'm not believing he'll get his usual workload. And Seattle has the kind of defensive speed to deal with a less than 100 percent Hernandez.

Scott — UNDER, and clearly under at that. The Seahawks defense is nasty, especially at home. Hernandez probably won't be 100 percent and he plays a position where timing is critical. I will not be proactive ranking him, or starting him, in Week 6.

Andy — UNDER. As of this writing, we don't even have confirmation that he'll play. So betting that he'll exceed any yardage total carries some risk.

Jordy Nelson receiving yards versus Jonathan Joseph and the Houston Texans 69.5

Scott — UNDER. I've finally thrown up the white flag on Nelson, giving him the lowest ranking of the year on my clipboard. He only needs one play to make everyone happy, but the timing and accuracy is missing with Green Bay's YAC game. Kareem Jackson is having a nice coverage year in Houston, too.

Andy — UNDER. Here's your projection: three catches on six targets, 55 yards, one TD.

Dalton — OVER. Joseph has allowed 7.7 YPA this year, so it's not like he's been exactly shutdown. Still, Houston has given up the second fewest fantasy points to opposing WRs, and Nelson has obviously been a big disappointment. I'm betting on that changing come Sunday night.

Andrew Luck, coming off a 386 combined yards thrashing of Green Bay, total yards at NYJ 299.5

Scott — I'm head over cleats for this kid, but I have to go UNDER. The Jets back seven is still a respectable lot, and Luck might have to make do without a lot of Reggie Wayne this week (he'll be coverage target No. 1 in the Meadowlands).

Andy — UNDER. Luck delivers some sneaky yardage via the ground game, but I think this game should be fairly low-scoring and messy. Can't go over.

Dalton — UNDER. I have Luck on a bunch of my teams this year, so I'm a big fan, and I know he's thrown for more than 300 yards in three of four games this year, but he's going outdoors against a desperate Jets team that's far more vulnerable against the run than pass. Luck is the real deal, but he falls short of this number this week.

Alfred Morris rushing yards versus Minnesota 89.5

Andy — OVER. I can easily see a 30-carry, 90-yard, no-touchdown effort from Morris.

Dalton — UNDER. I expect this to be very close, and I'm a full believer in Morris, but Minnesota's run D is very stout (although he previously gashed a similarly impressive TB run defense for 113 rushing yards earlier this year). And the fact RGIII looks likely to play certainly helps.

Brad — UNDER. I'm heavily invested in 'The Butler,' but it's hard to see him escaping the 80s against such a stalwart defense. MJD has the highest ground total (77) against the Vikings this year. Morris would need 35 carries to eclipse that number.

Dwayne Bowe, assuming Brady Quinn is under center, at TB 74.5 receiving yards

Brad — UNDER. Quinn is only slightly better than Blaine Gabbert. In other words, he's a borderline abomination. Another 9-6 thriller could be in order for KC, hindering Bowe's chances for a standout performance.

Brandon — OVER. Tampa Bay allows a league-high 9 yards per pass attempt. And the first (of three) passes Quinn attempted last Sunday was a 20-yard strike to Bowe. Are we really thinking that Quinn is such a major step down from Cassel?

Scott — I'm going UNDER (respect to Talib; no respect to the KC pass throwers), but fear not, Bowe sympathizers. You'll get a late touchdown that has no impact on the actual game.

QB conundrum: Matt Schaub (vs. GB), Kevin Kolb (vs. Buf), Alex Smith (vs. NYG), Christian Ponder (at Wash), Andy Dalton (vs. Cle)

Brad — SMITH. His swelled 'bird' is no longer an issue. Foreseeing Corey Webster, the league's worst cover corner, getting torched by Michael Crabtree at least a dozen times.

Brandon — DALTON. Giving Big Red the slight nod here, though Cleveland's pass defense should be better with Joe Haden back. That said, can't ignore that 318/3 line Dalton hung on the Browns in Week 2.

Scott — DALTON is the play here — even if Joe Haden has his groove on, the deep Bengals receiving corps will find other matchups they like.

Andy — PONDER. This one seems like a layup. The only QB that hasn't passed for 300 yards against the 'Skins so far this year is Josh Freeman...who threw for 299.

Dalton — SCHAUB. His fantasy value doesn't approach his real life value thanks to the Texans' terrific defense and run-heavy offense, but Green Bay should be able to put up points Sunday night, resulting in Schaub attempting a season-high in pass attempts. For what it's worth, I dropped Joe Flacco for Schaub this week in Yahoo!

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

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Donald Brown has knee surgery, out 2-3 weeks. Vick Ballard, you’re up

10 Oct
by in General

Last year, for the first time in his pro career, Colts running back Donald Brown played a full 16-game season. He entered 2012 as the unrivaled starter for Indianapolis, and performed adequately enough in the opening weeks (4.0 YPC).

Perhaps you'd begun to consider him almost reliable, in a 15-carries-for-60-yards sort of way.

But on Wednesday, we learned that Brown is expected to miss the next 2-3 weeks, following surgery to repair torn knee cartilage. He had an appealing match-up on deck against the Jets, too, so this is unwelcome news for fantasy owners. New York's defense ranks next-to-last in the NFL at stopping the run (4.9 YPC, 172.0 rush YPG).

Rookie Vick Ballard steps into the starter's role for Indy, and he's a respectable short-term fantasy add — at least as appealing as the rest of the flavor-of-the-week RBs (Green, Starks, Blount, both Powells, LaRod). If Ballard gets the next three starts for the Colts, he'll have three friendly match-ups: New York, Cleveland, then Tennessee. Those defenses are all giving up more than 140.0 rushing yards per game.

Ballard's early numbers haven't been particularly impressive (21 carries, 42 yards), and some of you may know him only as the dude who did this. But he really has a terrific opportunity ahead. If you'd been planning to start Brown this week, then give Ballard a look. He's available in 85 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Tags: Ballard, , cartilage, , , , , , Rookie Vick Ballard steps, , Vick Ballard, ,
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Over/Under: Will Chris Johnson’s value continue to rise in Minnesota?

04 Oct
by in General

Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball here's our view on 10 intriguing over/unders for Week 5.

Chris Johnson combined yards at Minnesota 79.5

Dalton — UNDER. There's no question both Johnson and Tennessee's run blocking looked much improved last week, but he averaged just 27.0 yards from scrimmage over the previous three games to start the season. Plus, the Vikings have allowed the second fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this year.

Brad — UNDER. Are we really to believe the Titans have suddenly solved their run-blocking issues after one week? Tennessee's O-line couldn't part a puddle. Minnesota, which has allowed just 3.1 YPC to RBs, dominates the line of scrimmage.

Scott — UNDER always feels right with Chris Johnson. I have nothing good to say about Tennessee's run blocking (neither does CJ), and the Minnesota front seven has been stuffing everyone on the ground.

Michael Vick final Week 5 QB rank 12.5 (In other words, will he finish as a top-12 passer?)

Brandon — UNDER. I have him ranked No. 12, so I'll say barely under, but I don't feel great about him facing a Pittsburgh defense getting Polamalu and Harrison back this week .

Andy — OVER. But I ranked him No. 13, so a top-12 rank obviously wouldn't shock me. The Steelers defense is coming off a bye, getting Troy Polamalu and (possibly) James Harrison back. Not the easiest setup for Vick.

[Fantasy Football 101: Keys to survive the bye weeks]

Dalton — UNDER. The Steelers' secondary has actually allowed a 6:1 TD:INT ratio over three games this year, although the defense should return healthier after the bye. Vick is unlikely to go crazy Sunday, but I think he just barely finishes as a top-12 fantasy QB.

Ryan Mathews, currently the No. 2 RB on the Chargers' depth-chart, total yards at New Orleans 94.5

Andy — OVER. I think he can top this yardage number with ease vs. New Orleans, but the key to Mathews' fantasy value is whether he remains on the field near the goal line. I'd give Jackie Battle better odds to actually find the end zone this week.

Dalton — UNDER. New Orleans has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing RBs this season, and I am on board with Mathews being a buy low right now, but I'll fade this number thanks to the uncertainty of his usage Sunday night.

Brad — OVER. Everyone is overreacting to Jackie Battle's 'promotion.' It's a facade. Talent trumps in New Orleans. Against the league's worst run defense Mathews goes for 120-plus total yards.

What backup has the most FLEX appeal: Ben Tate, Brandon Bolden or Michael Bush?

Dalton — BUSH. I worry about his shoulder injury, but I'm banking on Bush getting a couple of goal-line carries. I don't particularly like any of these options this week.

Brad — BUSH. Even with Matt Forte back in action, the Bears' stringent defense should allow Bush to log plenty of second-half carries. Think 40-50 total yards and 1-2 goal-line vultures.

Scott — When in doubt, dial up a shrubbery. BUSH has a dedicated goal-line role, and the Jaguars have been chummy to opposing backs (4.3 YPC, six scores). I'm also leery of Tate; those garbage-time pile-on games haven't been in the cards yet, per the team's play calling.

Rashard Mendenhall, approximately nine months removed from reconstructive knee surgery, total yards versus Philly 64.5

Brad — OVER. This is extremely close, but Mendenhall is a strong candidate for 15-17 touches in what should be a triumphant return to the lineup. In his absence, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer were the Bert and Ernie of rushers.

[Survival Football: NFL upset picks for Week 5]

Scott — UNDER is my default call on any player off a major injury. I need a show-me game first. I do expect Pittsburgh to win in Week 5, but it will be because of Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game.

Brandon — UNDER. Three consecutive RBs have topped this number against Philly (Ray Rice, Ryan Williams and Ahmad Bradshaw), but I'm not confident that he gets thrown into the fire for more than 12-15 touches in his first game back, and that's probably not enough to get it done against the Philly D.

Brian Hartline, fresh off a franchise record 253 yards last week in 'Zona, receiving yards at Cincinnati 74.5

Scott — OVER. Follow the targets, follow the improving rookie QB. The Bengals secondary has been a mess all year. Turn on your Hartline.

Brandon — OVER I like the usage consistency — he's third among WRs in targets, and has at least eight in each game. And Cincy allows a healthy 7.7 YPA and is one of just seven teams allowing a QB Rating above 100, so the matchup is far from daunting.

Andy — OVER. Cincinnati hasn't stopped anyone through the air or on the ground this year, so it could be a decent day for multiple Dolphins. Hartline has topped this total twice in four games.

Thursday Night Throwdown: Ryan Williams or Steven Jackson?

Brandon — S-JAX. I like Ryan Williams, in theory, but the reality is that he's been good for 26 total yards or less in three of four games. And based upon the fantasy points allowed to RBs, this will actually be S-Jax's second-easiest matchup of the year.

Andy — WILLIAMS. Just playing match-ups here. The Rams have allowed 4.7 yards per carry through four games, and they gave up 4.8 last season.

Dalton — WILLIAMS. He has the more favorable matchup and is ostensibly the healthier back. However, I don't expect either to have a big game Thursday night.

Martellus Bennett receiving yards versus Cleveland 49.5

Andy — OVER. Is this where I'm supposed to discuss how effective Cleveland has been at limiting the fantasy production of opposing tight ends? Well, it's not as if they've faced a murderer's row of TEs, plus they were simply league-average in 2011. Eli is gonna need Bennett this week, given the injury situation in his receiving corps.

Dalton — UNDER. The Giants will likely be running the ball a lot nursing a lead during the second half, and Cleveland has actually defended tight ends well this season. I'll say Bennett finds the end zone but falls just short of this yardage output.

Brad — UNDER. Everyone's favorite Black Unicorn won't be worthy of a sticker on a tween's Trapper Keeper. Jermaine Gresham, Scott Chandler and Dennis Pitta were nowhere near this number against Cleveland over the past three weeks. Expect lots of Cruz, Hixon.

Minnesota D combined turnovers/sacks against Matt Hasselbeck and the Titans 5.5.

Brad — OVER. Jared Allen may accomplish this in sacks alone. Matt Hasselback is blessed with the elusiveness of an anchored oil tanker.

Scott — UNDER. Matt Hasselbeck's arm has seen better days, but he's still a sharp guy between the ears. He knows how to avoid negative plays.

[Also: DeSean Jackson is moving quickly toward a rap career]

Brandon — UNDER. I'll say that the Vikings fall just short (5). Tennessee has actually been fourth-best in the NFL in limiting sacks and the Vikings have just one INT.

QB Conundrum. Best play out of Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck and Christian Ponder.

Scott — DALTON, and not just for the Roadhouse references. The Cincinnati receiving group has proven to be deeper than anyone expected, and A.J. Green might be Robin to Calvin Johnson's Batman. And the Bengals secondary will do everything it can to keep the game competitive.

Brandon — DALTON. Dalton's the No. 2 fantasy QB over the past three weeks, and he's going to have to throw the ball a good amount this week as Miami allows a league-best 2.4 YPC.

Andy — DALTON. He's facing an opponent that allows nearly 300 passing yards per game. Layup.

Dalton — LUCK. I like all three this week, but the Colts should have to throw it a ton in a likely shootout. Luck is sneaky productive from a rushing perspective as well.

Brad — LUCK. He and Raggedy Andy are neck-n-neck here, but Aaron Rodgers should run roughshod over Indy's defense, greatly enhancing the rookie's workload. A 300-plus yard 2-3 TD day very attainable.

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

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Shuffle Up: Mo Mathews, Mo Problems

03 Oct
by in General

This is a Shuffle Up, my friends. These are standard ranks that consider value if the season started today. These are not Week 5 ranks and they're not PPR ranks. And this song is not a rebel song.

My actual Week 5 ranks need to be finished, so I'll shift my focus back to them for now. You're invited to peruse the ROS running back ranks after the jump. If you have respectful disagreement, I welcome your tweets. Ship them to @scott_pianowski, and include the hashtag #shuffleup. Win the debate, win the rank.

I'll add running back commentary shortly, tweak a rank or two, and fill in the tight end ranks and comments later tonight. Let's figure out this crazy season together. Quarterbacks and wide receivers return to Shuffle Up in the even-numbered weeks.

And don't forget the golden rule of fantasy: no player gains 10-20 percent of bonus value simply because you roster him.

1. Arian Foster
2. Ray Rice
3. LeSean McCoy
4. Marshawn Lynch
5. Maurice Jones-Drew
6. Adrian Peterson
7. Jamaal Charles
8. Trent Richardson
9. Darren McFadden
10. Matt Forte
11. Reggie Bush
12. Alfred Morris
13. Ryan Mathews

If you've read this series over the years, you know I'm not a Mathews guy. I don't trust his medical history, and the fumbling problem hasn't been corrected either. That said, there's only so low you can go on a back of this ability level now that he's healthy again; at some point the upside makes sense. Mathews was the No. 8 back in standard scoring last year, despite missing two games. Norv Turner is generally good to his running backs.

I don't buy Jackie Battle as a significant long-term threat — Battle's career YPA is an ordinary 4.0 and he didn't find much running room in Kansas City (15-39, 2.6, albeit with a score and 42 yards receiving). Mind you, if you have to have a Mathews handcuff or you find yourself in the market for a viable No. 2 back, okay, Battle makes some sense (and he obviously posted strong numbers in Weeks 1-3). But the Mathews benching (and the current listing of the depth chart) strikes me as a motivational ploy, nothing past that. The Chargers know who their best tailback is. Eventually, he'll get another chance to show what he can do.

14. Stevan Ridley
15. DeMarco Murray
16. Doug Martin
17. Frank Gore
18. Willis McGahee
19. Mikel Leshoure
20. Darren Sproles
21. Michael Turner
22. BenJarvus Green-Ellis

It's tricky to rank LeShoure at this juncture of his career, having played just two games and coming off a season-ending injury last year. But it's encouraging that he's been used liberally in the passing game in each start, and the Lions didn't forget about LeShoure in their last two losses — despite the flow of the game, he stayed on the field and kept a healthy touch count. Opportunity is more than half of the battle in this game. … There's not much exciting about Turner these days, but he's still a featured goal-line option for a high-octane offense, and quietly he's on a pace to snag a career-high 24 passes (not a gaudy total, but at least it's a step forward). And where is the flashy Jacquizz Rodgers we heard so much about in summer camp? He's averaging a paltry 2.9 yards per rush. … I wouldn't trust the Dallas blocking to hold my place in the grocery line, let alone open consistent rushing lanes. Sometimes the Cowboys offense looks like a bunch of intriguing puzzle pieces that have been imported from different jigsaw boxes. Where's the cohesion? Did everyone on this unit meet for the first time at opening kickoff?

For all the worrying about Ridley's workload, there he is with 74 carries, seventh in the league. The Patriots still look like a team headed for 11 or 12 wins, and that will afford them to keep the offense balanced more often than not. Sure, Brandon Bolden is an intriguing back and ready to take on a chunk of the work. And the club's fascinating with Danny Woodhead still exists, for some reason (albeit he does handle the spread formation well). But Ridley's level of play through four weeks hasn't gone unnoticed; he's carved out a decent role for himself, no matter who's around him.

While Martin hasn't done much in his opening four games, the timing could be right to deal for him. His owner might be inclined to liquidate at a nice price — Tampa is on bye, after all — and the Bucs have a favorable rushing schedule when they get back to work (Kansas City, New Orleans, Oakland). I blame most of Martin's struggles on the run-blocking problems; perhaps Schiano & Co. will have things tightened up when the club gets back to work. … I've been very impressed with McGahee to this point (numbers and tape), but I'd be careful here. He's shown YPC dips in the second half for the last two years, and he only scored one second-half touchdown last year (albeit the per-snap production was still solid). I know, new offense, Manning's in town, I get all that. The Denver line is good. It's not like I buried him on the page. But we're also talking about someone who turns 31 in two weeks. Keep rolling with McGahee as a No. 2, but maybe there's a good window to think about a sell-high, a lock-in-profits-now sort of deal.

23. C.J. Spiller
24. Fred Jackson
25. Ahmad Bradshaw
26. Chris Johnson
27. Ryan Williams
28. Cedric Benson
29. Steven Jackson
30. Donald Brown
31. Michael Bush
32. Rashard Mendenhall
33. Ben Tate
34. DeAngelo Williams
35. Jacquizz Rodgers
36. Pierre Thomas
37. Jonathan Stewart
38. Brandon Bolden
39. Shonn Greene

In-season trades rarely happen in the NFL, and even less so at skill positions, but if I ran the Bills I'd consider shopping a running back, probably Jackson (since he's the older of the two). It's not that daunting for a running back to change teams in the middle of a campaign, and there's no reason to have the offense tied to two legitimate starting backs. Jackson and Spiller have other problems staring them in the face: trips to San Francisco and Arizona are on tap, and the Bills just lost two-fifths of their offensive line (including well-regarded LT Cordy Glenn). … Mendenhall attracts some buzz simply because he's better than Ike Redman and Jon Dwyer. But the Pittsburgh run blocking has not been good all year, and Mendenhall was an ordinary back in 2011, even before he blew out his knee. If you acquired Mendenhall on the cheap, good for you — he's probably going to be the primary back on a good team and a solid offense. But the best time to shop him in trade might be in advance of him actually playing in a game.

Everyone knows what probably happens to Tate if Foster ever gets hurt; Welcome to the Machine. That's well-established territory. But it's been frustrating to see Tate receive limited work through the opening four weeks; despite Houston being 4-0 and plus-70 in point differential, Tate didn't make it past eight touches in three of his games. Mind you, Tate isn't lighting it up with a 3.9 YPC (and Foster's also surprisingly low, at 3.7). The hope before the year was that Tate might be playable as a flex option even if Foster were healthy and starting; that hasn't been the case thus far. … I thought I disliked Greene plenty, but it's clear from the comments that Yahoo! Nation is unified in its distrust of this guy. Glad we can agree on some things. The Jets line is also a concern: Pro Football Focus grades them as the AFC's worst run-blocking group through the opening four weeks. How are these guys going to move the ball against Houston on Monday night?

40. Andre Brown
41. Jackie Battle
42. Kendall Hunter
43. Bilal Powell
44. Peyton Hillis
45. Joique Bell
46. Dexter McCluster
47. Robert Turbin
48. Toby Gerhart
49. Isaac Redman
50. Ronnie Hillman
51. LeGarrette Blount
52. Evan Royster
53. Daryl Richardson
54. Mark Ingram
55. Mike Goodson
56. Jonathan Dwyer
57. Daniel Thomas
58. Bernard Pierce
59. Shaun Draughn
60. David Wilson
61. Felix Jones
62. Danny Woodhead
63. Vick Ballard
64. Rashad Jennings
65. Beanie Wells

And here are the tight ends.

1. Jimmy Graham
2. Rob Gronkowski
3. Vernon Davis
4. Tony Gonzalez
5. Antonio Gates

Gates is not an easy rank; you can certainly make a reasonable argument that he belongs in the 6-10 range. He's 32 and he hasn't seen a full season since 2009; chronic foot problems never really go away, and he's taken a ton of pounding all over his body through 10 years. And when he is on the injury report, it sets you up to play afternoon roulette more often than not, given where the Chargers are slotted most weeks. I'm glad I don't have any Gates shares this year; if I did, I'd be looking to move him after the next big game. Maybe he'll go off in New Orleans this weekend.

6. Martellus Bennett
7. Jermichael Finley
8. Dennis Pitta
9. Jason Witten
10. Kyle Rudolph
11. Brent Celek

No need to sweat Pitta's no-show in Week 4: the Browns were ripe for the picking on the outside with Joe Haden out, and remember the receiver positions (by that I refer to both WR/TE) are the highest-variance spots in our numbers racket, at least when considering the four basic food groups (QB, RB, WR, TE). Everyone is going to disappear downfield from time to time. Pitta built up plenty of goodwill through Weeks 1-3, and I'm also on board with Joe Flacco's step forward. Just as important, the Ravens defense isn't anywhere near the level of previous seasons. Baltimore used to wear down teams 17-10 and 23-13; we'll see more shootouts this year.

12. Greg Olsen
13. Jared Cook
14. Brandon Pettigrew
15. Owen Daniels
16. Aaron Hernandez

Let's get the Hernandez chat out of the way. There's no right answer for injured players. I'm generally less than optimistic on anyone's return when it's a major injury, a multiple week thing. That's the story with Hernandez. And the passing game is build through timing and reps — maybe it will take him a few games back before he's fully reliable for fantasy again. And remember that roster spots are a currency, especially without DL spots in fantasy football. There's a price for that hurt guy on your bench — he forces you to add another tight end, and he keeps you from adding another free agent who catches your eye.

Every year, in every sport, I usually wind up being less optimistic on the long-term injured guys. When they come back and star right away, I hear about it. When they don't — when Andre Johnson 2011 happens, or Carl Crawford 2012 happens — there isn't as much talk. That's how these things go.

To anyone that's convinced Hernandez will step right back into his normal role and production level when he returns, that's fine. That's your constitutional right. But that's not how I play the game.

17. Heath Miller
18. Jermaine Gresham
19. Fred Davis
20. Scott Chandler
21. Jacob Tamme
22. Coby Fleener
23. Dustin Keller
24. Brandon Myers
25. Marcedes Lewis

I don't see a lot of upside to Davis. He's never been a big touchdown guy (just six spikes over his last 32 games) and the Redskins have other preferred scoring weapons from in close (most notably, Morris and Griffin). And if Pierre Garcon can get back on the field at close to 100 percent — admittedly, that's no sure thing — Davis's role in the offense will probably take another hit. I grasp that Davis has been a solid yardage man for a couple of years, but in the 2012 version of the NFL, it's not that difficult to find pass-catching tight ends. I'd rather swing for a higher return once we move into the Davis tier.

26. Anthony Fasano
27. Joel Dreessen
28. Lance Kendrick
29. Tony Moeaki
30. Zach Miller
31. Ed Dickson
32. Dallas Clark
33. Kellen Davis
34. Dwayne Allen
35. Ben Watson
36. Jordan Cameron
37. Todd Heap

Tags: , , , , Jackie Battle, , Mathews, Mo Mathews, , , , ,
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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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Mostly NFL Notes: Week 4 Recap

02 Oct
by in General

What a dominant performance by the 49ers, holding the Jets to just 2.9 yards per play on defense while rushing for 245 yards on offense (the most the Jets have allowed since Rex Ryan took over). Tim Tebow completed his first pass attempt of the season for nine yards (resulting in his vulnerable receiver getting blown up and losing a fumble), but it was Colin Kaepernick who continues to be the bigger threat when entering the game, although his deep ball to a triple-teamed Randy Moss wasn't the best decision. As a runner, he looks like a problem for defensive coordinators moving forward. And how nice was he sliding down before a sure touchdown at the end of the game?…Michael Crabtree is San Francisco's most reliable wide receiver, but Mario Manningham is clearly more explosive…That injury when Santonio Holmes gave away a touchdown to SF didn't look good. Mark Sanchez has plenty of faults, but he also might have the worst weapons at his disposal in all of football…Aldon Smith had two more sacks (and had another taken away thanks to a penalty. Although to be fair, Tebow actually blew him up while blocking on another play), giving him 20.5 over the first 22 games of his career (including the playoffs). As crazy as it sounds, Patrick Willis is probably the fourth most important player on the 49ers' defense.

Over his past 11 games, Steven Jackson has reached 80 rushing yards once. He had a 23-yard run Sunday. On his other 17 carries, he got 22 yards…If healthy, I thought Sidney Rice would have fantasy value this year. I was wrong. Feel free to cut bait…St. Louis' fake field goal was fantastic. It resulted in the team's first offensive touchdown over their previous 100 plays…So I just realized Saturday the Rams' kicker might be following me on Twitter (it could be a fake, but from what I can tell, it's him), so I was happy to see the rookie go 4-for-4 on FG attempts, including boots from 48, 58 and 60 yards out. He's now 12-for-12 on the year (including eight from 40+ yards) and became the first kicker in NFL history to kick a 50 and 60 yard FG in the same game. Greg The Leg!

Luckiest truck driver in Russia.

The Falcons entered Sunday having trailed this season a grand total of zero seconds, but they soon fell down 7-0, although that ultimately didn't matter thanks to an incredible comeback. Despite starting at its own 1-yard line with just 50 seconds left and no timeouts, Atlanta won on a last second field goal, thanks mostly to a terrific 59-yard play from Matt Ryan to Roddy White, who tore it up all of Sunday. I actually had multiple people text me wondering if Julio Jones left hurt, as he was held without a catch until the middle of the fourth quarter. Part of it is defenses giving him extra attention, but could his hand issue also be limiting him in such a capacity? He did have some drops…Worried Cam Newton owners can certainly breathe a big sigh of relief. After rushing for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, he's on pace for 668 and 12 this year, as the regression police weep. He's also getting a decent 9.5 YPA…More fun with "on pace for" numbers; Matt Ryan's current projection calls for 4,648 passing yards with a 48:8 TD:turnover ratio…Since I made fun of those who called for Cam Newton's decline, it's only fair to point out I thought Michael Turner was done like dinner. He certainly didn't look so Sunday, although now is probably the time to try to sell if possible…I'm beating a dead horse by now, but yes, Ron Rivera's decision not to go for it at the end was terrible.

TSA agent caught stealing iPad.

Before this season, RotoWire's Chris Liss argued against Matthew Stafford, saying he relied too much on volume in 2011, as his 663 pass attempts were the third most in NFL history. I argued back that while acknowledging that's not repeatable, his efficiency will increase; after all, he entered last year (at age 23) with just 13 career starts under his belt and got 8.7 YPA over his final six games (including playoffs), which I said showed real growth from a young player. So naturally, Stafford is on pace to finish with 692 pass attempts this year, which would be an NFL record (mind you this is also with Shaun Hill attempting 13 passes), and he's got just 6.8 YPA. Funny stuff…This Vikings team has officially become interesting. Here's Minnesota's upcoming schedule before its bye: TEN, @WAS, ARI, TB, @SEA, DET. So they absolutely could enter Week 12 with a 7-3 or better record…The Lions became the first team in NFL history to allow a kick and punt return for a touchdown in each of their past two games and are now 6-10 over their past 16 contests (including the playoffs)…According to Pro Football Focus, Percy Harvin has forced 10 missed tackles this season. Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Jordy Nelson, Mike Wallace, Torrey Smith, Eric Decker and Vincent Jackson combined = zero.

Here's a ridiculous 30-yard behind the back TD pass.

Well Ryan Mathews owners, I didn't see that coming, even after GM A.J. Smith called him out for his fumbling issues this week. Entering the fourth quarter, Mathews had four carries for one yard, as apparently he was lucky it was such a lopsided score so he could get some action in garbage time. Jackie Battle, really? Call me stubborn and/or crazy, but I say make trade offers to Mathews owners aggressively this week…The Chiefs surprisingly entered the week leading the NFL in offense, getting 441.7 yards per game…What was up with the Chargers attempting an onside kick with a 37-20 lead with 1:56 left? Supposedly substitute kicker Nick Novak misread a signal, but who would ever even think of such a play in that situation? Weird…Jamaal Charles didn't have his best game Sunday, losing two fumbles, but his 37-yard TD run in the second quarter was easily one of the best plays of the season so far. With the new regime clearly not worried about his workload, how high should he be ranked right now? I mean, if a draft were held today, he'd certainly be a top-five pick.

Here's a crazy 2-point conversion — AKA "The Bouquet Pass."

Nice to see Chris Johnson have a pulse, although I imagine he was on a lot of fantasy owners' benches during a tough matchup in Houston. He really did look much better, but the worry here is that now with this performance he's going to be started with confidence next week, which happens to be in Minnesota against a Vikings defense that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, presenting an opportunity for him to become even more frustrating…It's almost as if Kenny Britt can't be relied upon to stay healthy…Arian Foster is on pace to finish with 448 touches this season. Entering the fourth quarter with a 21-point lead, he was still given seven carries compared to just two to Ben Tate. Houston should eventually ease back this pace (and this is coming from someone heavily invested in Foster), but this is no timeshare in Houston.

I saw "Menomena" last week in what turned out to be a perfect combination of a group I absolutely love yet not famous enough to still have to play in an awesome venue like this. Easily a top-five concert I've ever been to. Their new album  is lyrically genius and ridiculously good.

The last time the Patriots faced the Bills, they found themselves down 21-0 after the first quarter, only to ultimately win 49-21. This week New England was down 21-7 to Buffalo into the second half, ultimately winning 52-28. Of course this means nothing, but it's pretty crazy to point out the Pats have scored 80 points after halftime during these teams previous two meetings…After ruining my Survivor pool, I can't say I was exactly broken up to see Stephen Gostkowski shank his first two attempts, although it was a bit like cutting off my nose to spite my face, since I bet on the N.E. "over" before the season…Ryan Fitzpatrick put up a nice fantasy day, but some of his passes were truly awful, highlighted by his interception toward the beginning of the second quarter…The Buffalo backfield situation didn't clear up much, as Fred Jackson saw 16 touches while C.J. Spiller saw 10. Jackson totaled 79 yards compared to Spiller's 38, but both lost fumbles, and Spiller was considered the more injured of the two entering the game…As for the Pats' backfield, Stevan Ridley owners can't be thrilled with Brandon Bolden getting 16 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown, but on the other hand, how can you argue with 22 totes for 106 yards and two touchdowns? His production may be more unpredictable than you'd like, but barring an injury, Ridley should easily finish as a top-15 fantasy back…And yes, this is pretty much the best picture ever.

Here's a pretty funny "Key & Peele" sketch.

After going his entire NFL career without fumbling, BenJarvus Green-Ellis has now done so in back-to-back weeks, with Sunday's being lost at the goal line…Even after Sunday's game, the Bengals have still allowed an NFL-high 5.4 YPC, so it was highly disappointing to see Maurice Jones-Drew run for just 38 yards (2.9 YPC)…A.J. Green had another nice game, racking up 117 yards and an 18-yard touchdown, but while his fantasy owners won't want to hear it, he was also tackled during two different drives at the 1-yard line. His day was so close to being truly monstrous.

Woman screams at a bear on her property. Bear runs away frightened.

Both the Broncos and Raiders entered their matchup Sunday 1-2, with each of their lone victories coming against the Steelers. Still, I thought their similarities ended there and didn't understand all the hate on Denver, whose two losses came against the two teams most likely to be considered the best in football (@ATL, HOU), so I happily made the Broncos part of my two-team teaser this week (please don't take this as bragging, as my other team was Green Bay -1.5. Damn me for being cheap with the juice, but how rare does 1.5 vs. 0.5 matter?! But I digress). Anyway, bottom line, this Broncos team is very good, and Peyton Manning isn't even close to done. And even if he's not what he once was, he has the benefit of working with probably the most (at least athletically) skilled teammates he ever has…While Denarius Moore clearly shouldn't be on any waiver wires, Mike Goodson shouldn't be either in deeper leagues…It's interesting to note most of Demaryius Thomas' big plays this year have come off WR screens, but it's worked either way. He's on pace for 1,300 yards this season. Keep it up!

Here's  possibly the best HR trot in baseball history, as Michael Morse first runs the bases backward, then swings with an imaginary bat, then re-runs bases forward.

This Dolphins defense is no joke against the run, now allowing a league-low 2.4 YPC (next best is 3.0). They also tallied eight sacks Sunday, while on the road facing one of the only three remaining undefeated teams in football. Even with Ryan Tannehill (who actually got 10.5 YPA on Sunday) at QB, don't confuse Miami with a doormat…The Cardiac Cards! As someone who roots for the 49ers and started Miami's defense (in a last second decision over SD's, which was agonizing after seeing the Chargers get six turnovers and a defensive touchdown before the Dolphins game even started), watching yet another crazy finish go Arizona's way wasn't exactly ideal. But I've got to hand it to them. The NFC West is no joke…The Dolphins entered as the only team in the NFL without a QB to WR touchdown. I, for one, didn't see Brian Hartline's outing coming. And for that, I apologize.

This has to be one of the better mug shots of all time.

Robert Griffin continues to be an absolute fantasy monster, and this considering he lost a fumble about an inch before recording yet another rushing score Sunday (he may have crossed the line, but the review became moot - although certainly not to fantasy owners - when teammate Pierre Garcon recovered the fumble in the end zone). It was also nice to see Garcon back in action, but let's hope it didn't cause further damage to his foot…Griffin is on pace to finish with 1,008 rushing yards, just shy of Michael Vick's NFL record 1,039 set in 2006. Of course, Vick ran for just two scores during that campaign, while RG3 is on pace for 16 rushing TDs…Billy Cundiff was 0-for-3 Sunday (missing badly on every attempt) before making the game-winner with just three seconds left…Doug Martin hasn't lived up to the hype, but fantasy owners should remain patient. After the Bucs' upcoming bye, he faces teams that rank in the bottom nine in RB fantasy points against in three of the following four weeks.

Restaurant shut down after roadkill brought into kitchen.

Before scoring on their second drive Sunday, the Packers were the only team in the NFL that had zero points in the first quarter this season…With 9:27 left in the second quarter, Green Bay successfully executed a fake punt at their own 17 yard line, which was quite the gutsy call…Regarding the Darren Sproles kick return in the fourth quarter in which he clearly fumbled, the main takeaway is that referees should always err on the side of "can this close call be reviewed or not?" The Packers had no challenges left in this case and were therefore, totally screwed. Of course, Mike McCarthy deserves some of the blame for using a challenge early in the game on a play that wasn't of significant consequence…Kudos to the Saints for making such a game out of it (and they looked awfully bad using the transitive property in the early games after the Chiefs got annihilated at home to SD), but the score could have been much different. With five minutes left in the third quarter, the Packers had 1st-and-goal from the 2 yard line, and a touchdown would have put them up 28-17. But Aaron Rodgers sat out a play thanks to a scratched cornea, and backup Graham Harrell couldn't execute a simple handoff, tripping over his own lineman's feet while losing a fumble. And boom, an 80-yard TD pass by New Orleans right afterward (of course, they deserves credit for that). Not that I'm bitter about losing that teaser or anything.

If by "worst" you mean "best" death scene in a movie, then I agree.

Michael Vick entered Sunday night's game having been sacked nine times, yet remarkably, none were by a defensive lineman. LB Chase Blackburn made it 10 before Osi Umenyiora brought an end (no pun intended) to the madness…The Eagles' three wins this season are by a combined four points…It's a meaningless stat, but Philly is now 8-1 over its last nine games against the Giants…As impressive as he was against the Panthers, it's clear it will take an injury for Andre Brown to be usable in fantasy leagues. Also, David Wilson sure was explosive during his kick returns…It's certainly not a stretch to call Victor Cruz the No. 2 fantasy wide receiver right now. Andre Johnson has the most receiving yards per game in NFL history with 78.8. Since becoming a starter, Cruz has got 110.5 ypg.

A pretty crazy read about someone getting quite a surprise after discovering who's been trolling him online in the worst way.

And speaking of trolling. Wow is this a terrible article.

Not that he was making big plays downfield or anything, but it was nice to see Jason Witten finally have a good game, as he reeled in 13 of his 14 targets. The same can't be said about Dez Bryant. While he set a career-high with 105 receiving yards, Bryant couldn't possibly have been any less impressive while doing so, as he was likely responsible for at least one interception and probably more while leaving a ton of yardage on the field as well thanks to his shaky hands. What a massive disappointment. Could the Dallas offense look any more discombobulated?...For the second year in a row, I made a Dez Bryant vs. Miles Austin bet before the season (backing Bryant), but it looks like it's going to take another hamstring issue for me to win again. I've changed my tune and would prefer Austin right now in fantasy leagues…I'm a believer in DeMarco Murray's talent, and his schedule has been awfully tough so far, but man does Dallas have a bad run blocking O-line…With seven minutes left in the second quarter, Brandon Marshall caught a 13-yard pass on 1st-and-15, but Lovie Smith decided to accept a 5-yard penalty for illegal contact instead. Um, what? Not only is 2nd-and-2 preferable to 1st-and-10, he also forfeited eight yards! Ultimately it's a minor thing, but it continues to blow my mind just how bad coaches are with the simplest of common sense issues…Speaking of Marshall, don't underestimate just how impressive his performance was Monday night. The Cowboys entered having allowed by far the fewest points to opposing WRs this season.

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Over/Under: How big of a jolt will Ryan Mathews deliver in return?

20 Sep
by in General

Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball here's our view on 10 intriguing over/unders for Week 3.

Ryan Mathews combined yards versus Atlanta 109.5

Brandon — UNDER. That's a pretty big number for his first game. I do think he'll get close, and a TD will put him in the top 15 RBs this week, but I have to go a bit under here.

Brad — OVER. Mathews was a monster in a full-time role down the homestretch last season averaging 117.4 total yards per game from Weeks 12-16. Provided his clavicle doesn't explode on first contact, he should exceed this number with ease. As Willis McGahee proved last week, the Falcons' defensive line nowhere near the impenetrable fortress it was a season ago.

Dalton — OVER. Maybe he won't get a full complement of snaps during his first game back, but Mathews was able to stay in condition while out with his injury, and the Falcons have struggled against RBs this year. Mathews should immediately have a positive impact.

Ben Roethlisberger passing yards at Oakland 279.5

Andy — OVER, potentially by a lot. The re-watch of OAK-MIA was...well, alarming. There's no way Oakland's corners can handle Wallace, Brown and Sanders.

Brandon — OVER. Pittsburgh has one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. I think Big Ben will be pushing this number most weeks to cover for the anemic ground game.

Brad — OVER. Big Ben could do this without the benefit of either arm. Oakland's secondary, already down starter Shawntae Spencer, is completely vulnerable. The Steelers' lack of an effective ground game only enhances the QB's chances.

Michael Bush standard league fantasy points versus St. Louis 13.5 (Non-PPR)

Brad — OVER. Bears sound guys should have Sam Elliot's voice queued for Sunday's tilt against St. Louis. It's quite possible the Soldier Field faithful hear "BUSSSSHHHHH!!!" over the loudspeakers multiple times. The Rams have allowed 4.9 yards per carry to opposing RBs. Sensing a 20-100-2 day could be in the offing.

Dalton — OVER. This is of course assuming Matt Forte is out. St. Louis has allowed an NFL-high 5.5 YPC this year, and Bush should get a ton of touches in a game the Bears will likely be playing the majority of the time with the lead. Bush is an RB1 this week.

Scott — OVER, easy. One touchdown is just about a lock, and I'm expecting two.

Larry Fitzgerald receiving yards against Philly 69.5

Brandon — UNDER. Given Arizona's QB/O-line issues, and Philly's two play-making corners (DRC, Asomugha) it'll likely be another tough outing for Fitzgerald.

Brad — UNDER. The last time Fitz tangoed with Nnamdi Asomugha and company he thumped them for 146 yards and two touchdowns. However, with Kevin Kolb under center and Nnamdi being deployed differently, the receiver underwhelms one last week. Consider this your final opportunity to buy low.

Dalton — UNDER. The Eagles' secondary has allowed an NFL-low 4.5 YPA and an anemic 35.1 QB rating so far, including a league-low 12 catches to opposing wide receivers. Fitzgerald should make for a nice buy-low opportunity after another disappointing game this week.

Jamaal Charles total yards at New Orleans 99.5

Dalton — UNDER. There's just no knowing how healthy his knee is. I like Charles on turf in a favorable matchup otherwise, but the risk is he doesn't see enough touches to break the century mark this week.

Scott — OVER, though it would be nice to have his health status now. The Saints defense is a giveaway, game is on the carpet.

Andy — UNDER. It's a nice sign that he's practicing, but Charles clearly did something to his knee in Week 2. I'm not bullish until we see him put in a full game.

RB Roundup — What unheralded rusher scores the most fantasy points this week: Pierre Thomas, Mikel Leshoure, Ben Tate or Andre Brown?

Andy — PIERRE. This should be a good week for the Saints, and they clearly need to help the defense by playing keep-away. Obviously Brown is a strong candidate to put up a big number, too.

Brandon — THOMAS. Great matchup for PT, and I think he gets a bump in playing time this week after his 13 touch, 143 yards from scrimmage effort last week. He's been so good in this offense, even on limited touches, and, at 0-2, the Saints can't afford to give ineffectual Mark Ingram a dozen-plus carries a game right now.

Brad — BROWN. The PT Bruiser is a close second, but I have to follow the volume. Without Ahmad Bradshaw in uniform and with David Wilson still banished to Tom Coughlin's doghouse, the journeyman should net upwards of 15-20 total touches in Charlotte. He totaled a rock solid 2.9 YAC/ATT working in relief versus Tampa. If he displays similar power, he's destined for 80-plus total yards and a score. Carolina has given up 5.2 YPC to RBs this year.

Tom Brady passing yards at Baltimore 259.5

Brad — UNDER. Betting against Brady is usually an unwise exercise, but the Ravens defense, despite its advanced age, continues to perform at an elite level. That combined with New England's suspect pass-blocking holds Mr. Bundchen under this number. Recall, he only totaled 239 yards versus Baltimore in last year's AFC title game.

Dalton — OVER. Even while struggling, Brady has averaged 276.0 passing yards this season. Baltimore's defense remains solid but isn't what it once was, actually ceding 8.6 YPA so far this year. Brady should easily eclipse this number as the offense gets back on track.

Scott — OVER, because I trust Brady and Belichick in a bounce-back game. The TD upside isn't here, however.

Chris Johnson rushing yards versus Detroit 49.5

Scott — OVER, because they'll probably give him 18-20 carries. I still want no part of this guy.

Andy — UNDER. This line is ridiculous. Stop it. There's too much blowout potential in this game. No way Tennessee will have the luxury of giving CJ 28 carries, which is what he'd need to get this number.

Brandon — UNDER. He's been under this number in 14 of his past 20 regular season games and he hasn't even sniffed the neighborhood of this total in two games this year.

Tight end pick 'em: Martellus Bennett (vs. Car), Dennis Pitta (vs. NE), Owen Daniels (at Den) or Brent Celek (at Ari)?

Dalton —  I'll give the slight edge to BENNETT over Celek. Bennett is just such a beast in the red zone.

Scott — I ride with BENNETT, who is needed more in the absence of Hakeem Nicks. You can beat the Panthers down the seam.

Andy — CELEK. Philly will need him desperately this week, assuming Jeremy Maclin can't go.

Matchup mash-up — What high-profiled back with a difficult opponent cashes in: Adrian Peterson (vs. SF), Michael Turner (at SD), Darren McFadden (vs. Pit), Stevan Ridley (at Bal), Steven Jackson (at Chi), or Cedric Benson (at Sea)?

Andy — ALL-DAY. He emerged from Week 2 feeling great, so I find him difficult to bench. As great as the Niners are, I don't think they'll run away from many teams this year, so the run will be in play.

Brandon — RIDLEY. You have to defend the pass first against the Pats, which will always benefit Ridley. And Baltimore hasn't proven to be a dead end yet in '12 for RBs, as The Law Firm and LeSean McCoy have both netted 80-plus rushing yards and a TD against them.

Brad — MCFADDEN. The popular first-rounder's has performed miserably between the tackles. Oakland's newly installed zone-blocking scheme is a work in progress for all Silver and Black parties. Like death, taxes and Raiders coaching changes, Pittsburgh is an elite run D, but DMC's contributions in the pass game will separate him from the above group.

Dalton — MCFADDEN. I like the fact he's at home and catches so many passes. The latter really helps backs in difficult matchups.

Scott — It's just a matter of time before MCFADDEN figures out the zone-blocking scheme, and he obviously has the pass-catching backdrop. I'd still dial him up in Week 3.

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Tags: Brandon Funston, , ground, Jamaal Charles, Larry Fitzgerald, , Mathews, , , , , ,
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by in General

What an impressive performance by Reggie Bush, highlighted by his terrific 23-yard touchdown run when he broke multiple tackles. After averaging 3.98 YPC while with New Orleans, Bush has averaged 5.18 since joining Miami. He's also been much more involved as a receiver so far this year compared to last, so his fantasy value continues to climb…I'm beginning to think Denarius Moore might be injury prone…According to Pro Football Focus, Darren McFadden has been the worst running back in the league over the first two weeks of the season by a wide margin. He's getting an anemic 1.3 YPC after contact while also grading out poorly as a receiver and blocker. In such an unpredictable sport, it would be fitting if McFadden played in all 16 games this year yet saw his production drop greatly while doing so…Carson Palmer certainly hasn't played great, but since becoming Oakland's starter, he's averaged 300.6 passing yards (8.3 YPA) over 11 games, good for a season's pace of 4,810 yards, which would rank as eighth best all time.

Reporter confident dead man will make full recovery.

J.J. Watt has been a man possessed, dominating against the run (seven stops already), against the pass (five blocked passes) and rushing the passer (three sacks, four QB hurries). He led a Texans defense Sunday that somehow held the Jaguars to just 117 total yards of offense, barely possessing the ball for more than a quarter (16:43)…Maurice Jones-Drew's 4.4 YPC is actually quite respectable considering the defensive fronts he's faced after immediately coming off his holdout. Better days should be in store, although QB remains a major problem in Jacksonville (Blaine Gabbert got 2.8 YPA on Sunday)…It's impossible to complain as an Arian Foster owner with him getting 34 touches — how they distribute the rest of the play calls really should be irrelevant, but it's hard not to be a little worried about Ben Tate's presence. Foster is the superior all around back and clearly the team's workhorse, but at this stage of their careers, it's difficult to argue Tate isn't the more explosive runner. Still, Tate is only a flex option based on matchups for the time being.

Harrowing footage of a drunken man falling onto train tracks, only to see a would-be savior drop down to rob him and let him subsequently get run over.

What an improvement by Brandon Weeden. Can't say I saw that coming. The Bengals, who have allowed 9.4 YPA with a 4:0 TD:INT ratio over two games, look like a highly favorable matchup for opposing QBs this year…Speaking of looking better, Trent Richardson was night-and-day compared to Week 1. Remember, he was being drafted aggressively back in early August for a reason. He's an RB1 moving forward…Sunday marked the first time Andy Dalton got more than 5.8 YPA and threw multiple TDs in a game since Week 2 of his rookie season.

Here's a pretty funny farting prank.

The only question remaining with C.J. Spiller at this point is whether or not he's the No. 1 overall fantasy player as long as Fred Jackson is out (well, also if he can withstand 300+ touches as lead dog over a full season). Dude is so explosive, he should have no problem scoring 10+ touchdowns even if he loses some goal-line carries to Tashard Choice. Over his last five games, Spiller has totaled 769 yards with seven TDs, averaging just 14.0 rushing attempts over that span. He's tied for the NFL lead this season with 10 broken tackles and has 211 yards after contact — the next highest is LeSean McCoy, with 117. It took him a while to learn the pro game, but the light bulb has quite clearly turned on…It's obvious something wasn't totally right with Jamaal Charles physically. Let's just hope the knee soreness was normal and not something long lasting…Talk about garbage time stats. Dwayne Bowe scored both of his touchdowns inside seven minutes left in a 35-3 game. But hey, they all count the same for us.

Crazy footage of a car taken for an unwanted ride. The motorcyclist passing by didn't seem too worried about it.

During two Eagles games this season, quarterbacks have combined for 13 turnovers…Love Jeremy Maclin's talent. Hate his inability to stay on the field…After seeing a whopping 15 targets, Dennis Pitta is obviously fantasy noteworthy. That said, owners of Torrey Smith need to remain patient. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who's allowed a QB Rating of 9.4 this season, shadowed him Sunday. The Eagles' secondary looks much improved this season, with NFL lows in YPA (4.5) and QB Rating (35.1)…Michael Vick has been a turnover machine but a fantasy beast nevertheless. He continues to take a ton of shots though…LeSean McCoy has played 150 snaps so far this season. The next highest back is Darren McFadden with 118. McCoy finished first in the category last year and third the season before, so it's clear no team relies on its back more than Philadelphia.

Maybe I'm judging a book solely by its cover, but I can't say I'm surprised this gentleman is a criminal.

After some preseason hype, Donald Brown has got just 3.7 YPC while totaling 93 yards over the first two games. He remains locked in as the team's feature back on an offense clearly improved and has also faced some tough defensive fronts. But it's really too bad he's so poor as a receiver…I still say Austin Collie is worth stashing in deeper leagues, but as long as he's out, Donnie Avery becomes interesting, although he carries plenty of health risk himself…He hasn't scored yet, but it sure looks like Percy Harvin is in store for a monstrous season. He has 25 touches (30 if you count kick returns) over two games…When throwing to Vontae Davis this season, quarterbacks have a perfect rating of 158.3.

What a fight between Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Martinez essentially won the first 11 rounds (in not boring fashion), and Chavez, trying to repeat dramatic history his dad once did (knocked out an opponent with 2 seconds left down big on the cards), knocked down Martinez in the 12th round and looked in total control. And to Martinez's credit he stood up and didn't clinch for the final 90 seconds. What an ending. And if you also watched Canelo Alveraz fight Saturday, you know boxing isn't totally dead.

Where do I even start? I was very close to taking the Giants in Survivor this week, but I ultimately decided to play it "safe" and take the Pats, who had never lost a home opener in Gillette Stadium, and Tom Brady entered 35-1 over his past 36 regular season starts at home. The Cardinals might be underrated, especially their defense, but this was a two-touchdown spread. Arizona got 4.0 yards per play! Larry Fitzgerald had four yards!...This game got my full attention when New England was down 20-9 with 14 minutes left. Normally I watch all the games on the NFL Game Mix channel with just my wife Sunday mornings, and she's long known my psychosis. But because there was a large group of us going to the Niners game and leaving after the morning games, there were poor unsuspecting people showing up to my house for this final quarter in which my rage cannot be properly explained through words. There's a real chance people feel genuinely different about me after witnessing my behavior during this game. I have a problem.

So the Pats lucked out with Stephen Gostkowski's 53-yard field goal being good bringing it to a "one score" game with 6:45 left. And then after a failed two-point conversion, I was happy to see Arizona not even attempt to return the ensuing kickoff with 2:06 left, ensuring the two-minute warning was in play. After a first down seemingly ended the game, it was much to my delight to see Ryan Williams put the ball on the carpet, an absolute miracle scenario. Then a Danny Woodhead would-be winning touchdown run was negated by a (rightfully called) holding penalty. And then for reasons I will never be able to explain, the Patriots (the team that once (rightfully) went for it on fourth down in their own territory and has possibly the best offense in the NFL and most importantly had a time out to work with), decided to call it quits. And this isn't just hindsight, as I was going crazy at the time, as there was zero reason to settle for a 40+ yard field goal there. The ensuing shank almost felt inevitable after such a crazy back-and-forth span. The combined pools payout this affected me was for more than $100,000. Check out the end game WPA.

Crazy bank robbery in which fleeing suspects throw a bunch of cash out of speeding getaway car.

No player's fantasy value changes more based on format than Darren Sproles. He's yet to record a carry this season…I own Mark Ingram in Yahoo! Friends & Family and have zero shares of Pierre Thomas, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit the latter is the far superior back. A terrific receiver, Thomas has got a mere 6.5 YPC after contact this season, but it appears no coaching staff in New Orleans will ever trust him with a full workload. It's to their detriment…I like how Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert all scored Sunday. Talk about spreading it around…The Saints have allowed a mind-boggling 12.5 YPA so far. They have zero interceptions and just three sacks. They've also given up an NFL-high five rushing scores. That's not an ideal combination.

This own goal is about as bad as it gets.

What an exciting Bucs/Giants game, right down to New York scoring 25 fourth quarter points and Tom Coughlin cussing out Greg Schiano at the end. Eli Manning's 510 passing yards tied for eighth most all time…Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks became the first teammates  in NFL history to have at least 175 receiving yards in the same game. Over his last 16 regular season games, Cruz has 97 catches for 1,756 yards and 10 touchdowns…Vincent Jackson just barely missed another 45-yard touchdown. The Giants' secondary is no doubt struggling, but he's looked better so far in his new environment than I expected…Has one lost fumble (and the ensuing cry) erased all the David Wilson preseason hype? It appears so, as he saw only six snaps Sunday even after Ahmad Bradshaw left early in the second quarter. You're going to need to bid fairly aggressively on Andre Brown.

This reporter berates a baby to tears.

I'm not saying a Washington WR won't have a big game in Pierre Garcon's absence but none are remotely reliable to start even without him in the lineup moving forward. And I'd be more than a little concerned if I owned Fred Davis…Danny Amendola had 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown with 1:58 left in the first half. That's prettay, prettay good…The craziest aspect of Josh Morgan's horrible penalty was that he went out of his way leading up to the game saying how he won't be baited by Cortland Finnegan's antics, and that the player retaliating is always the one who gets flagged…Apparently Daryl Richardson is the RB2 to own in St. Louis, whereas Isaiah Pead can be dropped in all formats…Robert Griffin is going to put up silly stats this year. Please, please don't be among the first to take a quarterback in your league next year.

I wasn't able to catch this Dr. Phil interview but the preview was so intriguing. Please anyone who caught it let me know how it was. That said, Amanda Bynes is putting Lindsay Lohan to shame as far as train wrecks are concerned.

I'll give a pass to Dez Bryant, as Seattle's secondary is really tough, especially playing at home, but I'm also getting pretty tired of coming up with excuses for him…At some point, I'm just going to have to admit I've been flat out wrong about Marshawn Lynch. And I guess that time is now…Tony Romo didn't have a great game Sunday, although he dealt with some brutal drops while playing in possibly the toughest environment in football. And call me crazy, but I'm going to go ahead and consider him one of the 70 most valuable trade commodities in the NFL. You know, the guy who has the highest Net YPA in the history of football.

Quadruplets have numbers shaved on their heads.

Malcom Floyd looks like a rock solid WR2 as long as he's healthy (not something that can be counted on). Not sure he's treated as such though. He's averaged 87.5 receiving yards with a touchdown over two games, and Robert Meachem has been non-existent and looks like money wasted. Floyd has a ton of potential for more too…Brutal inactive for Antonio Gates owners that wasn't expected, and to watch his random backup score three times had to make it only worse…R.I.P. Ronnie Brown. You can officially be put out to pasture…Both of the teams Chris Johnson has faced this year rank in the top five in YPC against. Of course that could be because they faced the Titans, but in their other outings, the Patriots allowed 3.2 YPC while the Chargers gave up just 2.3. It's probably grasping at straws, but for desperate Johnson owners, at least it's something.

This elephant is kind of a prick.

In such a lopsided final score, it's easy to forget the Jets actually held a 10-6 lead with about a minute left in the first half. The running backs in this game combined for 134 yards on 49 carries, good for a 2.7 YPC mark…Santonio Holmes has reached 75 receiving yards in three of 33 games (including playoffs) since joining the Jets…Antonio Brown is a very good receiver, but it's at least worth pointing out he's scored just two receiving touchdowns over 27 career games…Darrelle Revis is one of the few non-quarterbacks who move the needle when it comes to Vegas lines, so his health moving forward is obviously important.

Illegal monkey living on Frosted Flakes bites woman.

I witnessed the 49ers' win first hand Sunday night and what a defensive performance. The potent Lions offense didn't even get into the red zone until their final drive when SF was playing prevent with a 15-point lead. Matthew Stafford had averaged 403.8 passing yards over his past five games (including playoffs). He had 133 passing yards before that final meaningless drive…Thanks to a lost fumble on a Kendall Hunter kick return, the 49ers didn't tie an NFL record for consecutive quarters without a turnover, but Alex Smith is now up to 216 passes without throwing an interception…I was way down on Frank Gore's fantasy prospects entering the year, but he's certainly proved me wrong so far…There's been talk about Mikel Leshoure immediately taking over Detroit's backfield in Week 3, but realize Kevin Smith was dealing with such a tough front seven Sunday night. I'd still prefer Smith, although he obviously remains a huge health risk…I was surprised to later read Jim Harbaugh's decision to "take points off the board" was in any way controversial. That's a no-brainer.

Meet the world's tallest dog. "If he's thirsty, we turn on the kitchen faucet."

I for one didn't expect Peyton Manning and company to become the first team in a decade to commit four turnovers in the first quarter Monday night. And yet, they still made a game out of it. And while Manning may have lost some velocity, those picks looked to me like rust and decision making were the responsibility, as he's always been the rare exception of an elite QB whose throws are often wobbly without tight spirals…Yes, the officiating was very, very bad. And it happening in the national spotlight might have a bigger impact. But let's not pretend normal refs in general aren't pretty terrible. It's a very difficult job…Michael Turner truly looks like a flat tire…Eric Decker might make for a nice buy low now, but I'd definitely prefer Demaryius Thomas from here on out…Willis McGahee is approaching 2,000 career carries and will turn 31 next month, so he's an injury risk, but it's hilarious some people actually thought the move from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning was a DETRIMENT to his fantasy value. If he can stay healthy expect double-digit touchdowns…It ultimately didn't matter, but Denver not calling a timeout before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter cost the Broncos six seconds. Just so stupid. This isn't exactly rocket science.

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Juggernaut Index No. 5: The New York Giants

02 Sep
by in General

The Giants ranked dead-last in the NFL in rushing last year, on both a per-game and per-carry basis (89.2 YPG, 3.5 YPC), and their defense struggled in the regular season, finishing as a bottom-third unit in points and yards allowed (25.0 PPG, 376.4 YPG).

Back in the day, we didn't expect teams like that to approach .500, let alone win Super Bowls.

But of course we're not back in the day. Arizona nearly claimed a championship a few seasons ago with similar flaws. And prior to 2011, the winning formula for the Colts was essentially "no ground game + meh defense + a Manning at QB = division title." Heck, last year's AFC champion Patriots didn't run the ball particularly well, either (4.0 YPC), and that D ranked 31st in the league (411.1 YPG).

So while New York's Super Bowl victory may have been unexpected, we can't claim the team had such unique characteristics among winning clubs.

What the Giants did have is stellar play from the quarterback position. Eli Manning was ridiculous all year, and he was at his best in the biggest moments. He averaged a career-best 308.3 yards per game and 8.4 per pass attempt during the regular season, posting the sixth-highest yardage total in league history. His phenomenal level of play continued in the postseason, too, as he totaled 1219 passing yards over four games (7.5 Y/A), tossing nine TD passes and only one interception.

Manning's 38-yard Super Bowl completion to Mario Manningham was as perfect a throw as you will ever see.

Not so long ago, Eli was a punchline — remember this game? Or this one? Or this one? — but there's really no mocking him now. He's a terrific fantasy asset, available at a reasonable price (ADP 56.3).

Manningham is no longer in the team picture, but that's likely only a small inconvenience. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are back and coming off huge seasons. Cruz was a revelation, catching 82 balls for 1,536 yards and nine TDs, finishing with five 100-yard efforts over his final seven games. Nicks had an excellent regular season (76-1192-7), then beasted in the playoffs, hauling in 28 catches for 444 yards and four scores. Both players are perfectly acceptable WR1s for fantasy purposes. Nicks had surgery back in May to address a fracture in his right foot, but it sounds like he'll be available for Wednesday's opener against Dallas.

New York's No. 3 receiver, at least to begin the season, will reportedly be Domenik Hixon. But he's returning from ACL surgery (not for the first time), and rookie second-rounder Rueben Randle will see the field eventually. (Randle isn't my favorite of the rookie wideouts — I'd prefer Jeffery, Blackmon and Wright, to name three — but he's still a person of interest in dynasty). Ramses Barden is still on this team's depth chart, too. The 6-foot-6 Barden gave Charles Tillman fits in Week 3 of the preseason, catching a TD pass and later drawing a PI flag in the end zone.

Martellus Bennett takes over at tight end for the Giants this season, after a few disappointing years as Jason Witten's understudy in Dallas. If you're in a fantasy league that somehow awards bonuses for delightful quotes, then take a flier on Bennett for sure. In standard formats, however, he doesn't project as a starting-caliber tight end. The position is too deep, and Bennett has put too many ugly moments on tape. He's merely a deep league sleeper.

Ahmad Bradshaw opens the season as the lead runner in the New York backfield, but rookie David Wilson is going to make plenty of noise. We had the Wilson discussion just a few days ago (right here), and I certainly haven't stopped targeting him in drafts. Wilson is a tackle-breaking machine, a guy who starred at the combine (41-inch vertical) and who rushed for over 1,700 yards at Virginia Tech last season (5.9 YPC). Bradshaw is definitely a tough dude, a guy who's played through injuries in the past, but he's lost some tread from the tires. His yards-per-carry average has declined in every season of his career, down to 3.9 in 2011.

It's unlikely that Bradshaw will receive (and it's unlikely he could handle) a full workload. Wilson should have a share of the touches immediately, with a clear chance to play his way into a bigger role. Brandon Jacobs signed with San Francisco in the offseason, as most of you know, and DJ Ware was one of New York's final roster cuts. I like Bradshaw well enough in fantasy this year, but I'd prefer Wilson at his ADP (75.5) than Ahmad at his (38.1).

The Giants' front four is scary-good, even with gigantic tackle Chris Canty (knee) on the PUP list. When a defense can pressure hurt quarterbacks consistently with only four pass-rushers, they simply have a huge advantage — almost unfair. New York's D gave up plenty of yards and points last year, but this group also tied for third in the league in sacks (48.0) and sixth in interceptions (20). They'll assist fantasy owners more often than not. Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck are elite IDPs, no question. Michael Boley, Mathias Kiwanuka, Kenny Phillips, Osi Umenyiora and Antrel Rolle belong on IDP draft boards, too.

2011 team stats: 24.6 PPG (NFL rank 9), 89.2 rush YPG (32), 308.3 pass YPG (5), 32.95 yards/drive (8), 0.120 turnovers/drive (14)

Previous Juggernaut posts: 32. Miami, 31. St. Louis, 30. Indianapolis, 29. Jacksonville, 28. Cleveland, 27. Arizona, 26. Seattle, 25. Minnesota, 24. Tampa Bay, 23. Buffalo, 22. New York Jets, 21. Washington, 20. Oakland, 19. San Francisco, 18. Kansas City, 17. Cincinnati, 16. Denver, 15. Tennessee, 14. San Diego, 13. Pittsburgh, 12. Baltimore, 11. Dallas, 10. Carolina, 9. Chicago, 8. Houston, 7. Detroit, 6. Atlanta

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