Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 4 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Peyton Manning, Broncos – Passed for 327 yards and 4 TDs, without a turnover.  Ho hum.
Drew Brees, Saints – Torched the Dolphins for 413 yards and 4 TDs without a turnover.
Philip Rivers, Chargers – Collected 401 yards passing with 3 TDs and 1 INT.

Darren Sproles, Saints – Accumulated 28 rushing yards and a TD plus 7 catches for 114 yards and another TD.  We’ll forgive the fumble.
Frank Gore, 49ers – Rushed for 153 yards and a TD, though he lost a fumble.
Reggie Bush, Lions – Ran for 139 yards and 1 TD and added 4 catches for 34 yards.
Arian Foster, Texans – Raced for 102 yards and caught 6 passes for 69 yards and 1 TD.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings – Rumbled for 140 yards and 2 TDs.
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers – Rookie had a grand debut in London with 57 rushing yards and 2 TDs, plus 4 receptions for 27 yards.
Danny Woodhead, Chargers – Ran for 32 yards and caught 5 passes for 54 yards and 2 TDs.

Torrey Smith, Ravens – Hauled in 5 passes for 166 yards and a TD.
Victor Cruz, Giants – Had 10 catches for 164 yards and a TD.
Greg Jennings, Vikings – Whaddya know?  He finally got on track with 92 yards and 2 TDs on 3 balls.
Nate Washington, Titans – Scored twice on just 4 catches for 105 yards.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Caught 6 passes for 81 yards and 2 TDs.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – Collected 9 passes for 86 yards and 2 TDs.
Wes Welker, Broncos – He also had 2 TDs on his 7 receptions for 76 yards.

Tony Gonzalez, Falcons – Brought down a dozen passes for 149 yards and 2 TDs.
Jimmy Graham, Saints – Reeled in 4 passes for 100 yards and a pair of scores.
Antonio Gates, Chargers – Hauled down 10 passes for 136 yards and a TD.
Jordan Cameron, Browns – He also had 10 catches, for 91 yards and 1 TD.

Broncos – Accumulated 3 sacks and scored on a kickoff return and a blocked punt return.

This was a great week to play against…

Andy Dalton, Bengals – Only 206 yards with 0 TDs and 2 turnovers, plus 13 rushing yards.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks – Ran for 77 yards, but 123 passing yards and an INT without a score isn’t so swell.
Mike Vick, Eagles – Passed for 248 yards and ran for 41 but failed to score.

Darryl Richardson, Rams – Ran for 16 and caught an 8-yard pass.
Ray Rice, Ravens – Only got 5 carries, which only amounted to 17 yards.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals – Just 13 yards on the day.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars – Imploded against his favorite victims with just 23 yards and a 5-yard reception.
Darren McFadden, Raiders – Only 29 rushing yards before exiting with a hamstring injury.
Chris Johnson, Titans – Limited to 31 combined yards.
Rashard Mendenhall, Cardinals – 21 yards on the ground and 13 through the air.
Doug Martin, Bucs – Ran for 45 yards and caught 3 passes for 16 yards.

Ryan Broyles, Lions – Blanked despite the absence of Nate Burleson.
Stevie Johnson, Bills – Lost a yard on his only catch.
Tavon Austin, Rams – Held to 6 yards on 2 carries.
Santonio Holmes, Jets – Just a 25-yarder on the day.
Golden Tate and Sidney Rice, Seahawks – Just 17 and 11 receiving yards, respectively.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texas – His 2 receptions amounted to 27 yards.
Vincent Jackson, Bucs – Ditto.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles – His 2 passes amounted to 34 yards.
Roddy White, Falcons – Continues to be slowed with 3 catches for 28 yards.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Had 3 for 33.
Mike Wallace, Dolphins – He had 3 for 24 yards.

Week 4: There’s Peyton, and everyone else

Papa always told me “life ain’t fair.”

That was usually right after he stole my last French fry, or reneged on his promise to take me on a blimp ride after I finally made it through a semester of elementary school without an “N” (not satisfactory) on my self-discipline grade.

Indeed, life could be cruel growing up on the mean streets of Coral Gables, Fla.  But it steeled me for the many trials I’ve confronted later in life. 

Like now, when I compete in three fantasy leagues without Peyton Manning on my side.  Heck, other than a swift pickup of Julius Thomas after the opener, I don’t even own any of Manning’s spoiled receivers.

I can’t shake this sense that I’m just playing for second place, like 31 NFL teams, as long as Manning continues on his ridiculous tear.  For crying out loud, who starts the season with 16 touchdown passes and no interceptions?  (Milt Plum, that’s who.  In 1960.  See what I mean?  We’re in very weird territory here.)

To be sure, Manning alone isn’t enough to carry you to a fantasy title.  Even he needs a strong supporting cast.  But there’s no doubt he gives his owners a decided advantage every week.  He’s on track for yet another MVP season and, best I can tell, he has yet to break a sweat.  Despite sitting out Sunday’s fourth quarter, he’s still on pace for nearly 6,000 yards and 64 TDs!

Not fair.  Not fair at all.

My expert advice: Schedule your matchup with Manning’s owner in Week 8.


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers.  Only Jamaal Charles has had more passes thrown his way than Woodhead, who took two of them to the house on Sunday.  Like Darren Sproles, San Diego’s diminutive back is valuable primarily in PPR leagues.  Neither gains enough rushing yardage to be a steady contributor in standard-scoring leagues, but they make up for it as trusted receivers.

Rashad Jennings, RB, Raiders.  Consider this a desperation play for owners with bye-week gaps to fill.  As if on cue, Darren McFadden left Sunday’s contest with a hamstring injury.  No word yet on how much time, if any, he’ll miss.  Marcel Reece, who would normally be the best candidate to fill in, also exited with a bad knee.  That left Jennings as the last man standing, and he responded with 45 rushing yards and eight receptions for 71 more.  But you may remember how Jennings fared the last time he was asked to cover for an injured starter (Maurice Jones-Drew).  So caveat emptor.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars.  Still available in nearly 90 percent of all fantasy leagues, Blackmon has served his four-game suspension and will step right back into the starting lineup.  Before you scoff at picking up a Jag, remember that the team was just as sorry during his rookie season; and yet Blackmon became a solid fantasy contributor.

Don’t be fooled

Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers.  With the emergence of Le’Veon Bell as Pittsburgh’s shiny new workhorse, there’s no reason to hold onto Redman, who sat out Sunday’s game due to the lingering effects of a concussion.  Still owned in four out of five leagues, Redman isn’t even worth keeping as Bell insurance, as he made painfully clear over the first three games of the season.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears.  Those searching for promising receivers on the waiver wire may be tempted by the second-year wideout that just notched his first 100-yard receiving day (with a TD).  But despite 11 targets Sunday, Jeffery is still the fourth option, at best, in Chicago’s passing game.  That’s not good enough for consistent fantasy production.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday morning updates -- Week 4

Good morning, Fools.  It's a beautiful day for fantasy football -- heck, any day is a beautiful day for fantasy football, right? -- so let's get to it.  Here's what you need to know to make those final lineup decisions...

Rookie QB Mike Glennon is taking the reins in Tampa Bay.  The book on Glennon is that he has a big arm and can make every throw in the book, but he struggles with accuracy.  We'll see how that translates in his first professional outing.  At least he has a soft pass defense to warm up against. Vincent Jackson is dealing with a rib injury but will give it a go today.  He's a tough one to sit; but if you're loaded at WR, you should consider it. 

We'll finally get to see Le'Veon Bell in the Steelers' backfield, in London of all places.  I have him in the flex spot in a couple of leagues.  The Vikings are no great shakes against the run.  Fellow RB Isaac Redman won't be around to share the load, due to the concussion he sustained in Week 3.

Looks like Ray Rice will play, but he won't get a full complement of carries.  You can't afford to bench him, but don't expect greatness.

Both Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski are out, as I tweeted yesterday.  Looks like another busy day for Edelman, and more valuable reps for rookie WRs Thompkins and Dobson.

Andre Johnson is going to tough it out and play.  How well he does with his aching shin against the stingy Seattle secondary is another story.  I'm starting him and hoping for the best.

Don't forget: This may be your last chance to grab Justin Blackmon off the wire before others start fighting for him.  (He's only owned in 13% of ESPN fantasy leagues.)  I realize it's hard to get excited about any Jags receiver, but it wasn't much different last year and Blackmon had some great outings.  This is the last of his four-week suspension.

Okay, that's it for now.  I'll be tweeting the inactives in a few minutes.  Good luck today, Fools!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Exceprts from 4th & Long and other injury updates

Here are a few snippets from yesterday's 4th & Long column in Sporting News' Fantasy Source, as well as some updated injury reports.

Christian Ponder won’t play Sunday due to a rib injury, so it would be wise to avoid all aspects of the Vikings aerial attack this week. 

The above sentence was sponsored by the National Association of Fantasy Writers that Think Their Readers Are Morons.
This could be the weekend that Maurice Jones-Drew makes you glad you drafted him.  Okay, I might be overstating that a bit.  Let’s just say you won’t be cursing him as much against the Colts.  There’s no team he’s enjoyed pounding more over the years.

Ray Rice (hip) is expected back against the Bills, so of course you must return him to your lineup.  Unfortunately for Rice’s owners, though, Bernard Pierce has carved out a continuing, significant role in the Ravens’ backfield.  That will put a damper on both of their values going forward, barring an injury to either. [Update: Rice will be a game-time decision.]

Arian Foster’s owners can relate.

Ahmad Bradshaw made a strong case for retaining carries in Indy's backfield last week after Trent Richardson crashed his party.  But he'll sit out Sunday with a neck injury.

As expected, Joique Bell had his way with the Redskins defense last week.  But Reggie Bush (knee) is coming back this Sunday to square off with the Bears.  Time to silence Bell and plant Bush back in your lineup.  (Sorry…)

Is it too early to declare Mark Ingram (toe) a complete bust?

You have to start Larry Fitzgerald, even with a bum hammy.  But he’ll be running routes on Revis Island, and that usually doesn’t end well for most wideouts.  Even elite ones.

Miles Austin has been ruled out with -- stop me if you've heard this before -- a hamstring injury.

Vincent Jackson (ribs) will probably be a game-time call.  How he and Mike Williams fare with rookie QB Mike Glennon is an even bigger unknown, though optimism reigns supreme in Tampa Bay. 

Andre Johnson (shin) and Julio Jones (knee) are questionable, but all signs pointing to them playing.

If I ever meet Rob Gronkowski, I’m going to call him a tease.  He’ll be a game-time decision yet again.

Apparently no rust formed on Josh Gordon during his two-week layoff.  Jordan Cameron is the real deal.  And Brian Hoyer isn’t afraid to get them the ball. Suddenly, “Cleveland’s passing attack” is no longer a punch line.

This is the last week of Justin Blackmon’s suspension.  I realize where he plays, but he’s available in nearly 90 percent of all fantasy leagues.  You’d be hard-pressed to find another free agent with as much upside.


TO ELI MANNING: You’ve got to be kidding me.  I don’t care if you squander your own fantasy value.  But don’t drag Cruz and Nicks down with you!

TO MONTEE BALL:  If not for your fumble on Denver’s clock-killing final drive, McFadden never would have had a shot at his trash-time TD.  And I’d be 3-0.  You’re in my doghouse, bub.

TO LANCE MOORE:  They told you the regular season started four weeks ago, right?  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Week 4 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Drew Brees and your Broncos receivers, or to bench Jake Locker and Brandon Jacobs? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 4 of the 2013 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers at Vikings.  Big Ben struggled to start the season, hampered by the lack of a running threat and the absence of Mike Wallace and Heath Miller.  He got his tight end back last week and promptly passed for 406 yards against the Bears.  On Sunday in London, Le’Veon Bell will attempt to restore hope in the Steelers’ running game.  If your QB is on bye, Roethlisberger has a great matchup with the secondary that just got torched by Brian Hoyer. (But check the weather reports first.)

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders vs. Redskins.  If not for a passing score and a trash-time TD by the hair of his chinny chin chin, RunDMC would have been a bust against the Broncos on Monday night.  He’ll have much more room to roam against Washington’s subpar run defense.  And McFadden will surely be leaned on with Matt Flynn likely under center.

Bilal Powell, RB, Jets at Titans.  In what shapes up as a low-scoring affair, Powell should be the Jets’ most potent weapon.  With Chris Ivory nursing a bum hammy, Powell will get the workhorse treatment against the below-average Titans run defense.

Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots at Falcons.  Kenbrell Thompkins stole the show last week while Edelman was lost on Revis Island.  Look for a return to double-digit targets for Edelman, who is still the most reliable wideout in Tom Brady’s arsenal.  Atlanta’s secondary has been fairly generous to opposing receivers.

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Bengals at Browns.  With Joe Haden preoccupied with AJ Green, Sanu will benefit from the lax coverage offered by the rest of Cleveland’s secondary.  Though he has yet to score this season, Sanu is an especially dangerous red-zone threat.  Look for plenty of passes his way, including his first trip to the end zone.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III; RBs DeMarco Murray, Ray Rice, Knowshon Moreno, Trent Richardson, Giovani Bernard, Darren Sproles; WRs Marques Colston, Antonio Brown, Pierre Garcon, Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, Josh Gordon.

Roll ‘em back

Matt Schaub, QB, Texans vs. Seahawks.  At best, he’ll be facing the stingy Seattle secondary with a limited Andre Johnson.  At worst, AJ and his ailing shin will be watching from the sidelines.  Either way, Schaub should be on your bench this weekend.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills vs. Ravens.  The well-known axiom in fantasy football is that you never sit your studs, regardless of the matchup.  But when your first-round pick hasn’t lived up to his billing, he’s hobbling on a sore thigh, Fred Jackson is stealing half his carries and he’s playing one of the league’s stingiest run defenses, it’s time to challenge convention.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Cowboys.  As expected, San Diego is operating a full-fledged committee backfield, with no less than four RBs getting touches.  That’s trouble for Mathews no matter who they’re playing, but Dallas’ second-ranked run defense makes him a must-sit.

David Wilson, RB, Giants at Chiefs.  He hasn’t topped the 50-yard mark yet, due in no small part to the ineffectiveness of the Giants’ entire offense.  Wilson’s fortunes aren’t likely to change in the unfriendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium. 

Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins at Saints.  As much as this ole Miami boy would like to believe, I’m afraid my beloved Dolphins are about to get a rude awakening on Monday night.  Hartline has scored in two of three outings this season, but the Saints have been very stingy with opposing receivers.  I don’t like his chances.

More thumbs down: QBs Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill, Brian Hoyer; RBs Rashard Mendenhall, Willis McGahee, Joique Bell, Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden; WRs Miles Austin, Roddy White, Hakeem Nicks, Andre Roberts, Santonio Holmes, Kenny Britt, Cecil Shorts, Greg Jennings.


Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers at Vikings.  Normally I would steer away from a rookie making his first start after an injury, but Bell plays for a team in desperate need of a strong running game and he’ll be facing one of the league’s rushing doormats.  He’s a good flex play with plenty of upside, especially if the winds and rain start swirling in Wembley Stadium.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…waits till the last minute to deal with your bye week issues.  The NFL is easing us in this weekend with only the Packers and Panthers out.  But four teams will be idle in Week 5.  It’s wise to look ahead at least a week and consider making an early move to avoid having to fight for the player(s) you want on the waiver wire.  This is the time of the season when savvy players have an extra edge.  (Hint: Justin Blackmon is available in most leagues.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Week 3 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Cam Newton, Panthers – Finally played up to his potential with 223 passing yards, 3 TDs and an INT, plus 45 yards and a 4th TD on the ground.
Drew Brees, Saints – Passed for 342 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT, and ran for 21 yards and another TD.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks – Threw for 202 yards, ran for 14 yards, notched 4 TDs and 2 turnovers.
Peyton Manning, Broncos – Passed for 374 yards and 3 TDs, mostly in the first half, while missing on just 5 of 37 attempts.  Ridiculous.

Jamaal Charles, Chiefs – Ran for 92 yards and 1 TD and caught 7 passes for 80 yards.
LeSean McCoy, Eagles – Didn’t catch a pass, but 158 rushing yards and a TD, is pretty salty.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys – Obviously loves playing the Rams, rushing for 175 yards and a TD, and adding 3 receptions for 28 yards.

Antonio Brown, Steelers – Put on a show with 196 yards and 2 TDs on Sunday night.
Josh Gordon, Browns – Returned with a flourish with 10 receptions for 146 yards and a TD.
Santonio Holmes, Jets – Came back from the grave to haul in 5 passes for 154 yards and a score.
Sidney Rice, Seahawks – Caught 5 passes for 79 yards and 2 TDs.

Jordan Cameron, Browns – Didn’t miss a beat with his new QB, catching 6 passes for 66 yards and 3 TDs (one on a fake FG).
Jimmy Graham, Saints – Another explosive outing totaling 9 catches for 134 yards and a pair of TDs.

Panthers – Accumulated 2 INTs, a fumble recovery, 7 sacks and a shutout against the Giants.
Ravens – Scored on INT and punt returns while notching 3 sacks, the INT and holding Houston to 3 FGs.
Bears – Compiled 3 sacks, 5 turnovers and TDs on an INT and fumble return.

This was a great week to play against…

Eli Manning, Giants – Looked awful while passing for 119 yards and 1 INT without a TD.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers – His second consecutive stinker amounted to just 150 passing yards, 20 rushing yards, an INT and a fumble, without a TD.
Matt Schaub, Texans – His 194-yard, 0-TD, 1-INT outing was downright awful.
Joe Flacco, Ravens – Held to 171 yards without a TD or fumble.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals – Passed for 187 yards and 2 INTs without a score.

Daryl Richardson, Rams – Blanked after leaving on his first play.
Chris Ivory, Jets – Injured, then thoroughly out-played by Bilal Powell, with just 5 rushing yards.
Willis McGahee, Browns – Off to a slow start in Cleveland with just 9 yards on 8 carries.
C.J. Spiller, Bills – Bombed with 10 combined yards, then limped off with a knee injury.
Rashard Mendenhall, Cardinals – Ran for 29 yards and caught a 12-yaarder.
David Wilson, Giants – Just 39 yards rushing, but at least he held onto the ball.
Stevan Ridley, Patriots – Another lackluster day, with just 35 rushing yards and an 8-yard catch.
Arian Foster, Texans – Just 54 rushing yards in a losing effort.
James Starks, Packers – His 55 yards were looking good until he went down with a knee injury.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers – Limited to 58 rushing yards.

Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Blanked by the Panthers.
Kenny Britt, Titans – So was he, by the Chargers.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – Held to a 4-yarder.
Andre Roberts, Cardinals – Just a 6-yard pass on the day.
Lance Moore, Saints – Same for him.
Roddy White, Falcons – Claimed 16 yards on 2 passes.
TY Hilton, Colts – Only 13 yards on 2 catches.
Miles Austin, Cowboys – Limited to 2 for 22.
Mike Wallace, Dolphins – Same for him.
Victor Cruz, Giants – Only 25 yards on 3 receptions.
Eddie Royal, Chargers – Held out of the end zone with just 34 yards on 2 catches.
Greg Jennings, Vikings – Just 43 yards on 3 catches.
Andre Johnson, Texans – Only 36 yards on 5 catches before leaving with an injury.
Vincent Jackson, Bucs – Left with a rib injury after catching 3 passes for 34 yards.

Jermichael Finley, Packers – Knocked out with a concussion before he could haul in a pass.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons – Held to 4 catches for 24 yards.
Martellus Bennett, Bears – Only 10 yards on 2 balls.

49ers – The “best” defense in the land registered a solitary sack.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Several stars flame out in low-scoring weekend

How confident would you have felt going into Week 3 with this starting lineup: Colin Kaepernick, C.J. Spiller, Daryl Richardson, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Dwayne Bowe, Jermichael Finley, Phil Dawson and the 49ers defense?

I’m sure you wouldn’t have felt invincible; but you must have assumed you could make it to double digits, for crying out loud.

No, that wasn’t my lineup; and I don’t know anyone that was so scorned by the fantasy gods.  But it just goes to show how fickle this passion of ours can be. 

Scoring was down noticeably in all three of the leagues in which I play, through Sunday night’s games.  While there were a few exceptional performances – Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Jamaal Charles, Antonio Brown and Cameron Jordan come to mind – the list of zeros far outnumbered the heroes. 

Don’t get overly worried if your fantasy team turned in a dud this weekend.  These things often run in cycles, and Week 3 will be forgotten quickly.   

Heck, if Browns fans can have hope after the week they just went through, anybody can!


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Bilal Powell, RB, Jets.  The Jets aren’t as bad as we thought they’d be, but we still didn’t want any part of their backfield committee.  That is, until it turned into a one-man show.  Once Chris Ivory left with a hamstring injury, Powell turned on the afterburners.  His 149-yard rushing day, albeit against a very soft Bills defense, suggests he could be a viable bye-week substitute in favorable matchups.

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns.  Apparently his two-week layoff didn’t hurt.  Nor did the third-string quarterback. Gordon exploited the Vikings’ awful secondary for 146 yards and a score while being targeted a whopping 19 times by Brian Hoyer.  Suddenly, “Cleveland’s passing attack” is no longer a punch line.

Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, Patriots.  Rookie wideouts have a sketchy track record in New England.  This year may be different, if only because Tom Brady is more desperate.  Thompkins, who was passed over in the 2013 Draft, had already out-performed second-round selection Aaron Dobson during the preseason.  After his two-TD performance Sunday, Thompkins is worth a spot on your bench.  The upside is obvious.

Don’t be fooled

Willis McGahee, RB, Browns.  A starting RB is a starting RB.  But McGahee is returning from a season-ending knee injury, he’ll be 32 next month and he just got off the couch to play for a run-challenged offense.  He’ll surely improve on his 1.1-yard-per-carry performance against the Vikings, but McGahee’s days as a reliable fantasy contributor are most likely behind him.

Johnathan Franklin, RB, Packers.  Apparently Green Bay can run if it really wants to.  After losing its second starting RB in as many weeks, the third-stringer stepped in, breached the 100-yard mark and scored.  Unfortunately for Franklin, the Packers are heading into their bye and fellow rookie Eddie Lacy (concussion) will almost certainly reclaim his starting job in Week 5. 

Brian LaFell, WR, Panthers.  Every now and then LaFell teases us with a strong outing like Sunday’s (53 receiving yards, 2 TDs).  Then he promptly returns to the shadows, reminding us why he’s rarely drafted in the first place.  Don’t take the bait.