Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Week 8 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Drew Brees, Saints – Passed for 332 yards and 5 TDs.
Andy Dalton, Bengals – Threw for 325 yards and 5 TDs, with a pick.
Cam Newton, Panthers – Passed for 221 yards and 2 TDs and ran for 50 yards and another TD.
Peyton Manning, Broncos – Had 4 turnovers but also passed for 354 yards and 4 TDs.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Accumulated 488 passing yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs, plus 12 rushing yards and a TD.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers – Passed for 164 yards and a TD and ran for 54 yards and 2 more scores.

Frank Gore, 49ers – Rushed for 71 yards and 2 TDs, plus a 6-yard catch, though he lost a fumble.
Darren McFadden, Raiders – Ran for 73 yards and 2 TDs, plus 2 passes for 5 yards.
Andre Ellington, Cardinals – Ran for 154 yards and a TD, and caught 2 passes for 8 yards.

Marvin Jones, Bengals – Had a career day with 8 receptions for 122 yards and 4, count ‘em, 4 TDs.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – Nearly set an all-time record with 14 receptions for 329 yards and a TD.  We’ll forgive the fumble.
Jordy Nelson, Packers – Hauled in 7 passes for 123 yards and 2 TDs.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Only 3 passes turned into 72 yards and 2 TDs.
Kenny Stills, Saints – His 3 passes produced 129 yards and 2 TDs.
Golden Tate, Seahawks – Reeled in 5 passes for 93 yards and a pair of TDs, plus a ridiculous taunting penalty.
Josh Gordon, Browns – Took 5 receptions for 132 yards and a TD.

Jimmy Graham, Saints – Scored twice with 3 receptions for 37 yards.

Bengals – Accumulated 4 sacks, held the Jets to 9 points and turned both INTs into TDs.

This was a great week to play against…

Eli Manning, Giants – Passed for 246 yards, 0 TDs and 0 INTs.
Michael Vick, Eagles – Just 31 yards and an INT before leaving with an injury.

Darren Sproles, Saints – Blanked despite catching 4 passes, and never ran the ball.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – Just 23 yards on the ground and a 4-yard catch.
Willis McGahee, Browns – Ran for only 28 yards and his 2 catches produced zippo.
Chris Ivory, Jets – Ran for 11 yards.  And that’s all, folks.
Steven Jackson, Falcons – Ran for 6 yards and caught 3 balls for 7 yards.  Some return.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons – Just 19 combined yards.
Giovani Bernard, Bengals – Ran 18 yards and caught a 9-yarder.
Bilal Powell, Jets – Ran for 19 yards and caught 4 passes for 20 yards.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals – Ran for 33 yards.
LeSean McCoy, Eagles – Ran for just 48 yards and caught 4 passes for 18 yards.

Reuben Randle, Giants – One of the hottest WRs in the biz put up a goose egg.
Sidney Rice, Seahawks – Also blanked, and left with an injury.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – Only a 7-yarder on the day.
Julian Edelman, Patriots – Also had 7 yards on 2 passes.
Greg Jennings, Vikings – Had a 9-yarder.
Tavon Austin, Rams – Once again, a non-factor with 2 catches for 9 yards.
Marques Colston, Saints – Took 3 receptions 18 yards.
Mike Williams, Bucs – Just 3 receptions for 20 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury.
Denarius Moore, Raiders – Only 32 yards on 2 receptions.
Danny Amendola, Patriots – Turned 3 catches into 15 yards.
Jeremy Kerley, Jets – Put up 27 yards on 3 receptions.
Justin Blackmon, Jaguars – Only 31 yards on 4 catches.
Mike Wallace, Dolphins – Had 41 yards on 3 receptions.

Jason Witten, Cowboys – Just 15 yards on 2 balls.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – Caught 2 passes for 27 yards.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons – Only 26 yards on 3 receptions.
Julius Thomas, Broncos – Left injured after only 3 catches for 29 yards.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Debate settled: Calvin, meet Barry

Having lived most of my adult life in the Dallas area, I often find myself begrudgingly acknowledging the Cowboys’ anachronistic title as “America’s Team,” when the football chatter inevitably turns to such things.  Despite having celebrated its last Super Bowl victory nearly two full decades ago, Jerry Jones’ brand still resonates like no other – across Texas, the nation and the globe.

If nothing else, most of us either love the Cowboys or love to hate the Cowboys.  And that’s a pretty powerful combination that fans of the other 31 NFL teams would love to claim.

[Full disclosure: As a young Ladd, I spent many glorious Sunday afternoons in the Orange Bowl, bleeding aqua and orange for my beloved Dolphins.  To this day, I share in the cork-popping jubilation of the ’72 Perfect Team when the last undefeated club bites the dust, even as the rest of you roll your eyes at our “desperate” embrace of ancient history.  Sorry, Kansas City, but most Dolfans stopped worrying last week when the Colts toppled the Broncos.]

So while Dallas fans may have a point when it comes to their irksome nickname, it’s time they acknowledge the truths that Detroit fans – and everyone else beyond the DFW Metroplex – hold to be self-evident.

Barry was better than Emmitt.

And Calvin is better than Dez.

For all his toughness, mind-boggling durability and indispensable role in the Cowboys’ early 1990s dynasty, nobody but a diehard Dallas fan would ever honestly claim Emmitt Smith was a better running back than Barry Sanders.  I know, I know…Barry quit.  Emmitt never did (though many wished he had sooner).  I get it.  But the debate is not about which player had a bigger heart, or was more loyal to his team.

Dez Bryant showed his heart – and, arguably, his immaturity – on the sidelines of yesterday’s shootout in Detroit.  And he likewise flashed the game-changing brilliance that has landed him, justifiably, in the same conversation with Calvin Johnson as one of the best receivers in today’s NFL.

But Johnson’s near-record performance served as an emphatic statement that cannot be denied.  He is in a class by himself.  Hands down.

Decades may pass before Lions fans can lay claim to as many Lombardi trophies as those astride the Cowboys’ star.  But Motown will always have Barry.  And now, Megatron.

Debate over.


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

Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals – The rookie won’t be available in four out of five leagues much longer, after he torched the Falcons for 154 yards, highlighted by an 80-yard scoring gallop.  The concern with Ellington is his small frame, which keeps the Cardinals from giving him a large number of carries.  His performance Sunday should vault him over the aging and toe-jammed Rashard Mendenhall in Arizona’s backfield pecking order.

Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals – Is there any doubt Jones will be this week’s most sought-after free agent?  Four-touchdown performances tend to grab the attention of fantasy enthusiasts.  It’s just a shame we weren’t focusing earlier, as Jones was amassing 128 yards and 2 TDs over the previous two games.  Cincinnati finally has a worthy complement to A.J. Green.

Kenny Stills, WR, Saints – Though he has the look of a boom-or-bust type of receiver, we’d be foolish to overlook Stills’ 129-yard, 2-TD outing against the Bills.  Drew Brees has now connected with his rookie wideout for three scores in the last two games, so Sunday’s outing was no fluke.  Stills is a decent consolation prize for WR-starved owners that miss out on Jones.

Don’t be fooled

Dexter McCluster, WR, Chiefs – Though the multi-purpose playmaker has overshadowed Dwayne Bowe of late, that’s more a sign of Bowe’s fading fantasy relevance (and Joe Haden’s blanket coverage) than McCluster’s sudden emergence.  McCluster’s first scoring reception of 2013 leaves him one shy of his career-best showing in 2011.  Move along.  There’s nothing to see here.

Drew Davis, WR, Falcons – The second-year player stepped up nicely with Roddy White sidelined for his second consecutive game.  Davis certainly distinguished himself from fellow benchwarmer Kevin Cone, whose name did not appear in the box score.  But that’s not enough to warrant a roster spot for the youngster, who will likely be rendered irrelevant again once White returns.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday morning updates -- Week 8

Good morning, Fools.  I've been getting lots of tweets and posts on the blog and Facebook from desperate players looking to fill out thin roster spots.  I've been begging you to plan ahead...what's up with that?

Meanwhile, most of your competitors are in the same boat, so don't sweat it too much.  Sometimes you just have to start a Helu, or a Marvin Jones, or a Sidney Rice when the options are limited.  You never know...it just might work out great.

Here's what you need to know to lock in the best possible starting lineups for Week 8:

Already declared out for this week: Roddy White, Percy Harvin and Rashard Mendenhall.

Andre Ellington is a solid fill-in with Mendy out.

Don't count on CJ Spiller, Brandon Jacobs, James Jones, Miles Austin or Jimmy Graham being available.

We do expect to see Steven Jackson out there.  Reggie Bush, Dwayne Bowe and Danny Amendola are also planning to suit up.

Peyton Manning has not one, but two sprained ankles!  Wow...this could be interesting.  Of course you play him, but how much would that change things if he aggravated one of them so much he'd have to sit out a game or more?  (He wishes out loud since he doesn't own any Broncos except Julius Thomas....)

With the NFL's trade deadline rapidly approaching, there's lots of speculation about several key players being moved.  Such deals are rare, but it wouldn't be a big shock to see someone like Darren McFadden, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt or Josh Gordon being dealt in the next few days.  Stay tuned.

Okay, that's it for this morning.  Inactives coming soon via Twitter (@ladd_biro).  Good luck today, Fools!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Excerpts from 4th & Long, plus injury updates

Here are a few snippets from yesterday's 4th & Long column for Sporting News' Fantasy Source, plus some injury updates from around the NFL.

Peyton Manning sat out Wednesday's practice with a sore ankle. That is horrible news and obviously means you should bench him Sunday.
[The above lines are intended solely for Mark, my Week 8 opponent in our neighborhood league. Everyone else, move along. Nothing to see here.]
I know I'll never get back the three hours I wasted watching the Monday nighter between the Giants and Vikings. But Josh Freeman's misfortune (concussion) is Adrian Peterson's redemption. At least we knowChristian Ponder understands his limitations and actually puts the ball in AP's hands on a regular basis.
I was surprised when I saw Mike James' final stats from his Thursday night starting debut (only 39 rushing yards plus four receptions for 25 yards). It seemed like he was having a more productive outing than that against the stout Panthers defense. The rookie has good power but lacks game-breaking speed. James isn't going to save your season, but he's certainly worth a pickup as the best Tampa Bay has to offer with Martin sidelined.
Don't count on Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) returning Sunday against the Eagles. Peyton Hillis was surprisingly effective against the Vikings on Monday night, suggesting that with another week of practice under his belt, he could be a decent play for those needing a short-term fill-in for their backfield. [Update: Jacobs has been listed as doubtful.]
A toe injury could sideline Rashard Mendenhall against the Falcons this week. If he's inactive -- and only in that scenario -- Andre Ellington merits starting consideration. Remember, try as they may, the Cardinals are hopelessly inept in the rushing department. Carson Palmer's continued woes aren't helping.  [Update: Mendenhall is officially doubtful.]
On the other side of the field, Steven Jackson is pushing hard to return Sunday from his hamstring injury, though he admits to being less than 100 percent. If he suits up, Jackson would likely be on a limited snap count. And given that Jacquizz Rodgers has scored twice as a receiver and twice as a rusher in consecutive weeks, I'd put my cards on the backup over Jackson in this one. Jason Snelling (ankle) will probably be inactive.  [Update: S-Jax is probable; Snelling ruled out.]
Meanwhile, the Bucs fear Mike Williams has a torn hamstring.  If that proves true, he is all but certain to land on IR.  The news just keeps getting worse in Tampa Bay. 
All you need to know about C.J. Spiller is that the team is considering shutting him down for a week to allow his ankle to fully heal. In retrospect, this should have happened weeks ago. Spiller says his ankle has improved significantly this week, but given the strong play of Fred Jackson (despite a sprained MCL) and continued touches from Tashard Choice, he doesn't belong in any starting lineup Sunday. [Spiller is doubtful and will be a game-time decision.]
All signs point to DeMarco Murray reclaiming his starting job against the Lions. This should be a high-scoring affair, but didn't we think that last week when the Cowboys visited Philly? An active Murray would be a promising option given his heavy role in the passing game and the likelihood of a goal-line plunge or two. Barring a setback, Joseph Randle's fantasy value is now kaput, especially with Lance Dunbar (hamstring) also expected to return.
It's probably wishful thinking, but if you can find a sucker -- I mean, RB-starved competitor -- it's time to unload DeAngelo Williams. Not only is Mike Tolbert poaching touches and short TD plunges, but Jonathan Stewart (ankle) is poised to re-join Carolina's crowded backfield as soon as Week 9. Williams ran well against the Bucs, so you just might be able to find a willing trade partner.
Even if James Jones (knee) returns -- which appears less and less likely as Sunday approaches -- Jarrett Boykin will continue to see plenty of targets with Finley now out of action. Minnesota's secondary is no match for Aaron Rodgers, who isn't slowing down just because his receiving corps is in shambles. [Update: Jones is officially doubtful.]
It looks like another week of the Harry Douglas Show, with Roddy White (ankle, hamstring) on pace for his second straight week of inactivity.  [Update: Roddy has already been ruled out.]
Danny Amendola (concussion) appears to be on track to return Sunday, which when combined with Rob Gronkowski's presence, makes Julian Edelman expendable. Then again, how long can you count on Amendola hanging around?
With Reggie Wayne out for the duration, T.Y. Hilton's value just soared. But I have a hard time getting excited about Darrius Heyward-Bey, who still hasn't shed his butter-fingers reputation. He'll obviously draw more targets from Andrew Luck now, but I won't be inviting him onto any of my rosters.
Percy Harvin is back at practice for the Seahawks, and yet he's still available in roughly two-thirds of all fantasy leagues. I don't get it. While there's little reason for the team to rush him back onto the field Monday night, it won't be long before the multi-purpose playmaker makes his Seattle debut. What are you waiting for?
Meanwhile, Miles "Hamstrung" Austin is still owned in nearly 80 percent of all leagues, and Lance Moore(wrist) is rostered in nearly 70 percent. Can someone please explain?
TO MATT RYAN: My apologies for not believing in you last week. Apparently you don't need Julio and Roddy to be the bomb.
TO MIKE WALLACE: My son gave me your jersey as a birthday present. (Sadly, we hopeless Dolfans have limited options.) It was a nice gesture, but it would help if you did it more justice.
TO WES WELKER: It's official. Your commercials are funnier than Peyton's.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Week 8 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Marshawn Lynch and A.J. Green, or to bench Chad Henne and Ryan Broyles? 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 8 of the 2013 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks at Rams.  He’s been up-and-down over the last five weeks, but Wilson will be on his A game under the Monday night lights.  He may even get to take his favorite new toy out for a spin, as Percy Harvin prepares for his Seattle debut.  Regardless, the Rams are likely to be in such offensive disarray, Wilson should prosper simply from outstanding field position.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers at Raiders.  True workhorse backs are hard to find these days, but Bell has claimed the title in his very brief tenure.  While the Raiders aren’t pushovers, Pittsburgh is returning to its run-bashing roots and will give their prized rookie every opportunity to accumulate 100 yards and at least one end zone run.

Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots vs. Dolphins.  I reserved judgment after Ridley’s stellar Week 6 outing against the Saints, wanting to see how his playing time and production would stack up against the stingier Jets run defense.  He passed the test.  The going gets much easier against the average-at-best defenders from Miami.

Reuben Randle, WR, Giants at Eagles.  No team has allowed more points to opposing receivers than Philadelphia.  Meanwhile, Randle is on a prolific three-game stretch in which he’s scored four times while out-playing both Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.  In a week with so many wideouts injured and on bye, Randle is an exceptional play. 

Jarrett Boykin, WR, Packers at Vikings.  Even if James Jones (knee) returns – which appears less and less likely as Sunday approaches – Boykin will continue to see plenty of targets with Jermichael Finley sidelined.  Minnesota’s secondary is no match for Aaron Rodgers, who isn’t slowing down just because his receiving corps is in shambles.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III, Matt Stafford; RBs Knowshon Moreno, Eddie Lacy, Darren Sproles, Frank Gore, Fred Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, DeMarco Murray; WRs Marques Colston, Terrance Williams, Pierre Garcon, Larry Fitzgerald, Harry Douglas, Antonio Brown, Justin Blackmon.

Roll ‘em back

Terrelle Pryor, QB, Raiders vs. Steelers.  Those who have become infatuated by Pryor’s running prowess still need something from his arm to justify starting him.  With Pittsburgh’s stingy secondary heading into the Black Hole, Pryor’s production may indeed be limited mostly to the ground.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills at Saints.  All you need to know is that the team is considering shutting him down for a week to allow his ankle to fully heal.  In retrospect, this should have happened weeks ago.  Spiller says his ankle has improved significantly this week; but given the strong play of Fred Jackson (despite a sprained MCL) and continued poaching from Tashard Choice, Spiller doesn’t belong in any starting lineup Sunday.

Chris Ivory, RB, Jets at Bengals.  Counting on Ivory to have the proverbial “hot hand” in consecutive weeks is like banking on Pauly Shore to make a funny movie.  Bilal Powell is still firmly in the backfield mix and Cincinnati’s run defense is much less generous than New England’s.

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns at Chiefs.  After an encouraging start to the season, Cleveland’s passing attack has nearly ground to a halt.  Gordon’s talents are being squandered by poor QB play, and that may not improve soon with their third starter, Jason Campbell, stepping in against one of the league’s most formidable pass defenses.

Rams receivers vs. Seahawks.  They would have been a risky bet against Seattle even with Sam Bradford under center.  Now?  The chance that any St. Louis player tops 50 receiving yards with Kellen Clemens at the controls is slim to none.  Heck, the Rams even called Brett Favre to see if he’d consider returning – and got spurned!

More thumbs down: QBs Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Ryan Tannehill; RBs Zac Stacy, Roy Helu, Willis McGahee, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashard Mendenhall, Brandon Jacobs, Steven Jackson, Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle; WRs Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Stevie Johnson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman, Greg Jennings, Denarius Moore, Cecil Shorts, Miles Austin.


Michael Vick, QB, Eagles vs. Giants.  He’s back at practice and there’s little doubt his club needs him this weekend.  Assuming Vick doesn’t have a setback with his temperamental hamstring, he will face a delicious matchup with the hapless Giants.  The playmakers around him are due for a nice rebound as well.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…gives up prematurely on your season.  First of all, this is only Week 8.  You can’t be that far out of contention, can you?  More important, deliberately tanking disrupts the competitive balance of your league and isn’t fair to your fellow owners.  Come on, if nothing else, you can find satisfaction in being a spoiler!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Week 7 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Andy Dalton, Bengals – Passed for 372 yards and 3 TDs with no turnovers.
Peyton Manning, Broncos – Came up short, remarkably, but still passed for 386 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Threw for 357 yards and 3 TDs without a blemish.
Matt Ryan, Falcons – No Julio?  No Roddy?  No problem.  Passes for 273 yards and 3 TDs without a turnover.
Andrew Luck, Colts – Beat his beloved predecessor with 228 passing yards and 3 TDs, plus 30 rushing yards and a 4th score.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins – Passed for 298 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT, plus ran for 84 yards.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Accumulated 260 yards and 3 TDs without a turnover, with a 12-yard run.

Matt Forte, Bears – Scored a TD hat trick with 91 rushing yards and 2 receptions for 18 more.
Roy Helu, Redskins – Also had a TD trifecta with 41 rushing yards to boot.
Frank Gore, 49ers – Ran for 70 yards and 2 TDs and turned 2 catches into 34 yards.
Chris Johnson, Titans – Had his best performance of the season, thanks to 4 catches for 71 yards, including a 66-yard TD reception, and 39 yards on the ground.

Calvin Johnson, Lions – Was in full Megatron mode with 9 receptions for 155 yards and 2 scores.
Vincent Jackson, Bucs – Loves Mike Glennon after reeling in 10 passes for 138 yards and 2 TDs.
Harry Douglas, Falcons – Picked up the slack with 7 receptions for 149 yards and a score.
Eric Decker, Broncos – Pulled down 8 balls for 150 yards and a TD.

Jordan Reed, Redskins – The rookie showed well with 9 receptions for 134 yards and a TD.

This was a great week to play against…

Jay Cutler, Bears – Lost points for his owners with just 28 passing yards and an INT before leaving with a groin injury.
Tom Brady, Patriots – Another down day with 228 yards, no TDs and an INT.
Nick Foles, Eagles – Held to 80 passing yards without a score (or turnover) and 25 rushing yards before exiting injured.

Arian Foster, Texans – Leaves with a hamstring injury after gaining only 11 yards.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings – Marginalized by poor QB play with 28 yards rushing and 28 receiving.
Doug Martin, Buccaneers – Just 47 rushing yards and a 7-yard reception before leaving injured.
Trent Richardson, Colts – Hardly worth a first-round pick to Indy with a 37-yard outing plus a costly fumble.
CJ Spiller, Bills – Totaled just 11 rushing yards and somehow lost 4 yards on 3 catches.
Bilal Powell, Jets – Ran for 6 yards before exiting injured.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers – Ran for 40 and caught a 19-yarder.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars – Stymied again with 37 rushing and 19 receiving yards.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins – Outplayed again by Daniel Thomas with only 43 rushing yards and a 4-yard catch.
Willis McGahee, Browns – Limited to 39 rushing yards.

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Only 17 yards on 2 catches.
Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers – Caught a 7-yarder.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles – Limited to 21 yards on 3 catches.
Kenbrell Thompkins, Patriots – His 2 receptions went for 16 yards.
Josh Gordon, Browns – Just 21 yards on 2 receptions.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Only 2 receptions for 27 yards, though he barely missed a long TD.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Just 28 yards on 2 receptions.

Tony Gonzalez, Falcons – Blanketed all day and finished with 2 receptions for 30 yards.
Brandon Myers, Giants – Held to 15 yards on 2 passes.
Joseph Fauria, Lions – A week after scoring thrice, had a 15-yard catch on the day.
Antonio Gates, Chargers – Just 31 yards on 6 catches.
Jason Witten, Cowboys – Only 48 yards on 4 receptions.