Tuesday, October 2, 2012

NFL WEEK 4 – T & R

Icing the kicker... wait a minute.  Didn't I write about that a week ago Andy Reid?  You're one lucky coach I tell you.  Do I need to explain to you the uncouth tendencies of fans in Philadelphia?  It can be summed up in the phrase, Tigers eat their young. 

Cam Newton led all Carolina rushers with nine attempts for 86 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately for Newton, his final rush was a costly one, as he fumbled away the chance for Carolina to ice the game, and the Falcons turned that mistake into game-winning gold. Michael Turner had 56 yards by the end of the first half and finished with 103. However, the biggest surprise from Turner was how he scored, on a middle screen that went for 60 yards. Atlanta receiver Roddy White starred this week with eight catches for 169 yards and two scores, while Julio Jones tallied just one catch for 30 yards on eight targets. Therein lies the rub with owning players on a team contains so much fantasy wealth. There just isn't always enough to go around. The Panthers did much like I predicted, except that DeAngelo Williams was able to take his 13 yard scamper to the house. He split carries with Stewart, something I didn't think would necessarily happen. The most encouraging thing about this game, especially for fantasy owners, was Newton. Besides the late fumble, he played a nearly flawless game. He averaged over nine yards per pass, rushed for a score and threw two more. Even with Brandon LaFell falling off the face of the earth, and Louis Murphy contributing one catch, Carolina was able to keep up with the best team in the NFC. No doubt some people will be wondering what to make of Keoloha Pilares and his 36 yard touchdown. Don't make much of it. He had one target for the game, and now has three for the season. So look, but don't touch.

Percy Harvin opened this one with a 105-yard kick return for a touchdown and Marcus Sherels followed suit with a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown. That makes for Detroit's fifth and sixth returns for a touchdown in just four games, meaning Detroit's Special Teams Coach Stan Kwan better update his resume. If you played the Minnesota defense/special teams you were rewarded heartily this week as In ESPN standard scoring leagues they were the third best defense on the board, just behind Houston and San Francisco.  Jerome Simpson led all Minnesota receivers with 50 yards, while most of the rushing load fell to RB Adrian Peterson.  For Detroit, Matthew Stafford continues his woes for fantasy owners.  Though he provided over 300 yards through the air, he completed zero touchdown passes. He rushed for a short score, and that's a slight bonus, but that's not what you were anticipating from him. Calvin Johnson got a ton of looks but again Minnesota kept him from hitting pay dirt. Nate Burleson added just three less yards than Megatron, and had the same number of catches with five.  This game ended Stafford's streak of 20 straight regular season games with at least one passing touchdown, which dates back to September 2010.

Welcome to fantasy relevance Brandon Bolden. The undrafted free agent out of Mississippi, whose signing with the Patriots can't even be found on ESPN.com's transaction board for New England, ended up being the Patriots leading rusher, with 137 yards and a score. Before today he had run the ball just seven times. Stevan Ridley tacked on over 100-yards and two scores, and the Patriots added two 100-yard receivers, being the first team to accomplish the feat of having two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers since the Packers managed it in 2008. Two things can be pretty much be gleaned from this game: first, Bolden will be the number two back behind Ridley, though keep in mind a Bill Belichick back hasn't tallied 300 carries except once, and at best Bolden will see the underside of the count backing up Ridley; two, Shane Vereen owners can safely assume his injury problems have put him in the doghouse and he's not likely to make any impact this year unless one of these guys goes down.  From the middle of the third quarter until the 4:02 mark of the fourth, New England scored six straight touchdowns, and only after the fifth did Buffalo answer back. While New England fumbled away the ball early on, Ryan Fitzpatrick came back with four interceptions of his own, costing his team any chance of hanging on after halftime. Both Fred Jackson and C. J. Spiller were active, which is a good thing. Bad news is Jackson still hasn't gotten going yet, gaining just 2.2 yards per carry Sunday. Spiller was a little better, and had a touchdown nullified on a penalty.

So here's a game that had the makings of being a tightly fought divisional battle.  Instead San Diego came in and beat the tail off of the Chiefs. Matt Cassel may have only been sacked twice, but he was rushed or hassled on nearly every drop back. Moreover, if the Chiefs weren't throwing the ball right at the San Diego defensive backs, they were tipping or fumbling it to them. Cassel ended up with three interceptions, only one of which was his doing, and in addition to three other lost fumbles (two by Jamaal Charles, and one by Shaun Draughn), the Chiefs couldn't come back from the 24 added points it cost them.  Charles found the end zone twice; with 92 yards rushing and a score, as well as 23 receiving yards and a touchdown. San Diego's running back Jackie Battle got the start and got you two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving as well.   However, the former Chief managed just 2.6 yards per carry, gaining 39 yards on 15 carries. He'll continue to get some work and possibly some goal line duties, much to the chagrin of Ryan Mathews owners, but Mathews will be the lead. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect for the Chiefs now one quarter of the way through the season has been how TE Tony Moeaki has been used, or in this case, not used. Before hurting himself last season, Moeaki finished his rookie campaign of 2010 with 47 receptions, 556 receiving yards and three touchdowns. This year he has just six receptions and 58 yards. Perhaps Moeaki's torn ACL hasn't recovered as well as the Chiefs would have hoped. Or maybe Brian DaBoll is an old-school coordinator who doesn't like to involve the tight end.   Regardless, based on the pressure Cassel received today, if that's any indication of what his protection will be like going forward, you can expect Moeaki at home to block more often, and his fantasy numbers to be disappointing.

Marshawn Lynch mustered the only offense for Seattle. Danny Amendola scored the only touchdown for the Rams. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, Russell Wilson was picked off three times, which turned out to be two, too many. I say picked off because it wasn't so much what he did but what his receivers didn't do, as in catch the ball. Doug Baldwin had a reception taken right from him. Anthony McCoy fell down. Probably the most important thing to note about the game besides the fact that these two defenses are getting tougher to move the ball against, is the Seahawks rookie RB Robert Turbin had has best output of the season, with six rushes for 45 yards. He also added two receptions for 13 yards. Note to players -- this is why you don't throw away handcuffs so quickly. When I saw Turbin become available in one my leagues due to one owners impatience, I grabbed him. It's very clear should Lynch get hurt, or even need rest, Turbin is going to be worked more and more into the offense.

I admit I really didn't see the Jets putting up a doughnut against the 49ers at home in the Meadowlands. To add insult to injury, or maybe injury to insult, Jets WR Santonio Holmes was carted off the field after a non contact foot injury. That might have been bad enough, except that when it happened, Holmes had caught the football. Upon hitting the turf, Holmes simply tossed the ball up in the air, and it was promptly grabbed by San Francisco CB Carlos Rogers, who raced untouched for a touchdown. That simply put a nail in an otherwise already half-closed coffin. The Jets need TE Dustin Keller back more than you or I need a winning lottery ticket, and I just had a child for crying out loud.   Instead of the Jets running Tim Tebow all over the 49ers, the 49ers unleashed their second-year QB Colin Kaepernick, who ran for 60 yards, and threw an unadvised pass into triple coverage (though it did hit Randy Moss right in the hands) that almost resulted in a touchdown. Kaepernick becomes a new wrinkle in Greg Roman's offense, and could take some carries away from Frank Gore as the year rolls on simply because the 49ers realize Gore needs to be healthy for them to go deep into the playoffs.

Is anyone really surprised about the outcome of this one? The only surprise came in that Houston's rushing defense was ranked fifth overall, yielding 67.7 yards per game and 3.8 per carry.  So how did  Tennessee RB Chris Johnson deliver 141 rushing yards on 25 carries?  This makes it nearly impossible for fantasy owners to dismiss him. A lot of players will be tempted to sell now as he's worth more today than he might be all season long. But if you look past Minnesota in Week Five, you'll see three strong possible games against Pittsburgh and Buffalo, with two divisional games against Indianapolis and Jacksonville looming. If you own him, I'd honestly try to sell high to get someone more consistent, and I would play up how he came on last season to salvage his year with over 1,000 yards. However, it would be nice to see how Johnson does against Minnesota, whose rushing defense is ranked eighth.  If he bombs again, his value will sink.  So field some offers, just don't be a sucker.  Don't take a combination of Brandon Bolden and Joel Dreesen or some other absurd offer you'll get.  One other note, Kenny Britt was inactive Sunday with his ankle problem. While Matt Hasselbeck could be in as QB for awhile which might certainly lift some of the Titans wide receivers values, Britt has yet to get healthy.

Here's a sentence you haven't heard in awhile: Those Dolphins sure can throw, can't they? Miami QB Ryan Tannehill threw for over 400 yards and tossed his second touchdown pass, all the while turning receiver Brian Hartline into undoubtedly the offensive player of the week with 253 receiving yards and a score. Miami slot man Davone Bess added 123 of his own. Keep in mind this was on the road against Arizona's ninth rated pass defense as of Sunday. The only problem for Tannehill was that his second interception came in overtime, and set Arizona's offense up at the Miami 47.  For Arizona, Andre Roberts made the difference in this came, grabbing two Kevin Kolb passes for touchdowns and netting 118 yards of his own. At present Kevin Kolb is doing just enough to win, though Miami sacked him eight times and forced two interceptions, one of which was blatantly bad in the red zone. You have to remember though that Kolb is only in his second season as a starter. He's still learning, and though that red zone pick made all of us scratch our heads, Kolb is
Brian Hartline hastwo 100-yard games this season.
4-0 this year, and not necessarily against shoddy competition. Fantasy wise, he's improving, increasing his TD throws each week. I see him growing into a pretty decent quarterback as his confidence grows. So monitor him to see if you get another week or two of consistency. If you notice this it's not always a bad strategy, depending on your league's scoring system, to consider selling your first string stud QB (a Tom Brady or Philip Rivers for instance this year, both of whom has had inconsistency) for the parts your team absolutely needs to make a playoff run (say, you have little RB depth or no studs at wide receiver). You can make a deal to get two starters for someone like that while filling the void with someone like Kolb who is on a team that has to throw to win and has one of the elite receivers in the game. Rarely can you win a fantasy league by doing nothing, just saying.
About the only thing I didn't foresee in this game was Oakland RB Darren McFadden not providing at least one big play. Demaryius Thomas had the kind of day I said he would, except that for some reason shifting the ball from his right to left arm forced him to fumble away his TD opportunity. He still ended up with 103 yards receiving on just five catches. Jacob Tamme got you five catches but it was Joel Dreessen who caught the touchdown.  Third string runner and return man Taiwan Jones, who I still have hopes to contribute to the Raiders inconsistent running game, was kept without a rush again.  My take on that is if he wasn't used in an important division matchup than perhaps his ribs aren't fully healed or Oakland really wants to see what they have in Mike Goodson. Either way, Jones is worth monitoring but that's it at this point.

Kicker Billy Cundiff can't get last year out of his foot. At least, it would appear that he just misses field goals that are within his range. He missed three field goals on the day, with the 57-yard attempt forgivable.   From 21-6 at halftime, the Buccaneers held the Redskins to just three points the rest of the game and that three points didn't come until the Redskins had fallen behind 22-21. The Buccaneers pressured and hit Robert Griffin III repeatedly. Don't be surprised to see teams use this game tape to seek out a way to contain Griffin in the future. It is worth noting that RB LeGarrette Blount scored his first touchdown of the season, and that Doug Martin received eight carries to Blount's six.  TE Dallas Clark received only four targets and none in the red zone. It continues to shock me that Mike Sullivan's offense has scored just 82 points, is ranked 30st in total offensive yards per game, and they're using the veteran tight end very sporadically.   On the other side of the line Fred Davis led all Redskins receivers with four receptions and 70 yards, but he still doesn't have at touchdown this year.

There are folks that think Bengals QB Andy Dalton is bound for a regression. I'm not one of those.  His weapons are better this year than last, and Jay Gruden is showing more often than not that he believes in him. A. J. Green is in the middle of his breakout year, but he isn't alone. Andrew Hawkins is proving his speed and shiftiness can turn average plays into big ones. He is the fourth best receiver in the league in the yards after catch (YAC) category with 203. It took four games but Jacksonville rookie WR Justin Blackmon finally led his team in receptions and targets, though he still only averaged eight yards per catch. Unfortunately, Blaine Gabbert is still struggling to get his throws on target down field, and this is limiting what Jacksonville's offense does.  Gabbert was sacked twice in the first two drives and six times on the day. Growing pains are to be expected, but with the learning curve of a franchise quarterback these days being raised from gradual to instantaneous, the Jags and their fans are likely to give up on him before I do. I have that luxury. And when I say I haven't given up on him, make no mistake, I'm not recommending him for even a bench spot in fantasy.  On a higher note, Marcedes Lewis owners got their second touchdown of the year. That's two more than he caught all last year.

Marques Colston caught nine passes for 153 yards and a score, reminding you why you invested in him in the first place. The oft-injured tight end turned professional wide receiver averaged a whopping 17 yards per catch against the Packers top rated pass defense. It was Colston's first receiving touchdown of the year. The other touchdown was grabbed by….Joe Morgan? Who? The old baseball player? Who the heck is Joe Morgan? Well, let me introduce you. Morgan went undrafted at out Walsh University.   He ran a 4.44 time in the 40 yard dash and has soft hands. He has two grabs this year – one for five yards, the other for 80.  In the Saints system, where they seem to feed everyone at some point, he's probably not going to steal too many looks from Colston, Jimmy Graham and Lance Moore, but plays like that won't get him benched either.  The other thing that comes to light in this game is that the Saints couldn't run on Green Bay, a team that had yielded 135 yards per game. Often times it's about matchups in the trenches, but it seems that the Saints lines are having problems on both sides of the ball, something that is not easily overcome. For Green Bay,
James Jones is the only consistent scorer for Packers
offense...right now.

James Jones is quickly becoming more than just a WR3 in the Packers offense. For the third game in four, Jones had four or more receptions and fifty plus yards. He's scored in three of four games, and remember this was the guy Aaron Rodgers lobbied the Green Bay management that he had to have on his offense. He's not necessarily Rodgers' first target on many plays, but he certainly has the QB's trust. The Packers offense is struggling right now to find itself. The only one who isn't is James Jones.


For the first time this season the Eagles didn't turn the ball over and it meant a victory. LeSean McCoy continued to run well versus the G-men, gaining 123 yards on 23 carries. Michael Vick added 49 rushing yards in addition to his 241 passing yards and a touchdown. Courtesy of ESPN Stat and Information, only four teams have started a season 3-1 with a worse point differential than the Eagles minus 17. Perhaps even more worrisome should be the fact the Eagles couldn't finish drives. They were one out of four in the red zone, and on the final drive that put them ahead, Vick was sacked on a crucial third down from the two yard line.  Giants receiver Ramses Barden, a hero just last week, may have put himself right back into goat-dom, as he committed a costly offensive pass interference penalty that moved New York out of Lawrence Tynes field goal range. It should be noted that Martellus Bennett, who has been a mark of consistency weekly in the Giant's offense, was held for the first time to just one grab on just three targets. He had scored a touchdown in every game before Sunday night. David Wilson was again given a chance to impact on offense with an early shovel pass. While it wasn't a very good one from Eli Manning, Wilson dropped it. His sleeper status for this year is beginning to look as likely to awaken as Rip Van Winkle.


A friend of mine was very keen on Chicago winning this game. All I kept thinking and saying was, 'how are they going to score?' It turns out two defensive touchdowns count for as much as two offensive touchdowns. Yes, for some reason it never dawned on me that the Dallas offense would do its best imitation of the Kansas City Chiefs and turn the ball over five times. The Dallas line is clearly in shambles, as the Bears got grizzly on the Cowboys, frustrated DeMarco Murray to the tune of 11 carries and 24 yards, and confused Tony Romo enough to have him make several bad throws. Jason Witten, under-utilized to this point perhaps because of his lingering spleen injury, led Dallas with 13 grabs on 14 targets for 113 yards and a touchdown. Dez Bryant had his first 100-yard game but also dropped several passes, including a deep over-the-shoulder throw that went right through his hands. Give Jay Cutler some credit, he still throws off balance way too often, but he put some pretty touch passes into spaces at key times. Kellen Davis may not have led the team in receptions or yards, but he was clutch and good enough to be targeted all for all three of his reception on third down. Each resulted in a first down, keeping drives alive. Matt Forte played, and you hope not too early. He managed four yards per carry and gave you one reception that resulted in a loss. Keep an eye on the injury report this week to see how he's doing as high ankle sprains can recur and he has just six days rest until his next meeting.