Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NFL WEEK 6 – T & R (thoughts and revelations)

Two tremendous comebacks graced our screens in Week Six, one on Monday Night Football that will be remembered for some time to come. Consistency had been hard to find this year, even for teams with vaunted reputations. Eleven NFL teams are 3-3 this year, one third of the league and five teams are one over .500. There will be some key waiver wire discussions this week, some of which you've heard. More importantly, fantasy owners have a few opportunities, depending on their situation, to improve their teams, selling a few players coming off big games, or picking up a rather disappointing runner in Minnesota. Thought and revelations on Week Six start now.
This game might have been decided on the first play. Bills RB Fred Jackson fumbled away the football and set Arizona up with outstanding field position in the Bills 35 yard line. The Cardinals settled for a field goal. The next Arizona possession, Kevin Kolb was sacked in the end zone. Those two events pretty much set the tempo for the game. The Arizona offensive line would allow five more sacks, making for a third straight game where Kolb was taken down four or more times. Kolb would leave the game injured, again taking a shot to the ribs, and John Skelton's return didn't do anything to solidify him returning as the starter. He was 2-for-10, so even though in the past Skelton's been fixated on Larry Fitzgerald, you hope for all Cardinals' fantasy value Kolb returns. As for investing in any runner in Arizona, if he's the last running back remaining for you to hold, LaRod Stephens-Howling is probably the only the long term dividend provider assuming he stays healthy. William Powell did average 5.4 yards per carry, but before you get carried away with that, remember this was the Bills defense. Howling didn't do much better, but there's a history there, and my feeling is they'll throw to him a lot more. Both quarterbacks threw for under five yards per attempt, perhaps the ugly reflection of the lack of time each of them has behind their respective lines. The good news for C. J. Spiller owners is that he appears to be healthy. He averaged over seven yards per carry and gave you 110 total yards. Jackson gave you 83 total yards, but that's his second lost fumble of the season.

Hardesty would likely take over.
Think Joe Haden makes a bit of difference? Looking at the box score you might not think so, but A. J. Green didn't get his first official target until early in the second quarter. His sixth target was picked off by Haden and gave Cleveland a field to goal to pull them within one. Green ended up with a good game, but no doubt Haden's presence kept Green from being as involved as he might have been, and by the time Green got his second touchdown, the tide had turned in Cleveland's favor.  Montario Hardesty filled in for Trent Richardson after Richardson sustained a rib injury. He's set for MRI though he claimed originally that he didn't need one. That makes Hardesty a speculative pick-up from the waiver fire. First, he's never played well when he has been given the opportunity. Second, it's clear that if Richardson can endure the pain, he's going to want to play. Pat Shurmur is going to have a hard time benching his star first round draft pick. Hardesty averaged 3.6 yards per carry on the day, and his longest run was 14 yards. His longest career run is just 27 yards. It's true that starting running backs are rare commodities off the waiver wire and he's owned in just two percent of Yahoo! Leagues. So yes, grab him for your team to replace a player that's simply not getting opportunities. Understand thought that Richardson's MRI is going to have to be pretty damning for him to allow Hardesty another shot.

Bad coaching. I started talking about it last week with my friends, and wrote about it in my previews about being surprised that Tony Romo has sought out the likes of tertiary receivers like Philip Tanner when he's got such talent at the wide receiver positions. I also mentioned in my preview how the Cowboys have let the talented Felix Jones sit on the bench this year, much to the detriment of

Garrett is on the hot seat
their team. Say what you want about Jones' durability, or that he's let you down in fantasy, but he's the kind of back that can make big plays. He made one on Sunday, taking a handoff off the strong side edge for a 28-yard touchdown run. Dez Bryant made the kind of appearance that Dallas and NFL fans have been waiting for. The problem was, it was the plays he didn't make that were more important than the ones he made. Besides the drops, including the two point conversion that Romo put in his hands, for some reason with just 22 seconds left Bryant tried to argue with the referees about what appeared to be the spot of a catch. His delay, along with Romo trying to get a play called, seemed to unleash chaos. For some reason, the Cowboys offense seemed unprepared for such a scenario wherein they had moved into field goal range but had time left to improve their situation. With one timeout in the bank, they let the clock bleed down to the point where Dan Bailey was left with a 51-yard field goal – one that was clearly in his range – but he missed. And all that everyone who saw the game was left to do was throw their hands in the air and say how? How did the Cowboys thoroughly pop Baltimore in the mouth and come up short? I'm not one who advocates coaching changes at all, but this is a team without a leader on the sideline. 

DeMarco Murray sprained his foot, leaving an opening for Jones' value to increase fantasy wise. It should as long as he stays healthy. As for Baltimore, I see writers still mentioning how great the Ravens defense is. It isn't. It's very vulnerable, and the loss of LaDarius Webb for the season will simply be a pejorative. Nose Tackle Haloti Ngata's injury could also be crucial, as he's the pro bowler holding the center of that defensive line. However, nothing could cause more issue for the Ravens than the loss of LB Ray Lewis for the year. The Ravens won this game, but at a terrible cost. Terrell Suggs' return at some point this year will help, and the Ravens are no doubt a formidable team, but there are chinks in the armor. Still, you have to be impressed that through the most difficult portion of their schedule, the Raven are 5-1 and have a stranglehold on the AFC North.

Reid's solution to this debacle - fire
Juan Castillo.
The Eagles failed again to record another sack, Michael Vick threw his first interceptions of October, and the Philadelphia Eagles fell to 3-3. For just the third time in his career, Eagles RB LeSean McCoy was held to under two yards per carry. The Eagles defense was expected to be iconic this year, particularly after they finished last year so strong. So far they've managed just seven sacks in six games. Yes, it's conjoined with forcing seven interceptions, but the lack of late-game pressure on a quarterback as deadly as Matthew Stafford or Ben Roethlisberger has led to late game losses. Mikel LeShoure ran pretty well, averaging 4.7 per carry and giving you 94 all-purpose yards. Other than that, the numbers for Detroit still don't look so good. Sure Calvin Johnson got you six grabs for 135 yards, but didn't score. I don't think there's a defensive coordinator on the planet that wouldn't consider that a victory for his team. On third down, Detroit was 3-for-13. Stafford completed less than 50 percent of his passes this game. He's averaging less than seven yards per throw, and has one more interceptions than touchdowns. The good news is he wasn't sacked. However, six games into the season, he's giving fantasy owners a reason to be concerned that he' not only unlikely to duplicate last year's numbers, his TD total might not get within 10 of last year.

Plenty of pundits had the Jets winning this game, including me. However, even with the lack of a rushing attack I didn't see the Colts offense falling off the edge of the planet. Jets RB Shonn Greene not only had the best day of the season, but of his career, rushing for 161 yards and three scores. Bilal Powell's injury in the third quarter along with the loss of Joe McKnight to an ankle injury certainly did him some favors. Nevertheless, give Greene credit for running with a purpose in a must-win game for New York. The Jets now have two division games against the Patriots and then the Dolphins before their Week Nine bye. Keep also in mind that the Colts just fell to the 30th ranked rushing defense, so Greene's accomplishments while solid, weren't against the defenses he faces next. The good news for Greene owners might be that he may be the only healthy runner, leaving him in line for more carries. However, if there ever was a time to sell high, this is it. If you're a 2-4 team, use the fact the Jets have three of their final four matchups against the likes of Buffalo, Jacksonville and Tennessee and see if you might not get a more useful back. Greene might actually have value in those final three weeks, but remember the key is making sure you get to the playoffs first before planning for them. As for Indianapolis, their offense ran the ball just 17 times with Vick Ballard garnering the most carries with eight. Remember Bruce Arians is now the head coach of this team, and Arians has never seen a pass he didn't want to throw, except maybe a screen. I'm still keeping an eye on Mewelde Moore, but nothing really got settled as to who is the new runner in Indianapolis after Sunday.

The fans in KC wanted a change, so they got Brady Quinn.  He threw two costly interceptions, one that went for a touchdown.  Of course, the one that went for a touchdown appeared to hit Dexter McCluster in the hands, which is par for the course on most Kansas City turnovers.  Jamaal Charles wasn’t able to do much against Bill Sheridan's defense, so give the Bucs credit for taking away Kansas City's biggest weapon.  It didn't seem possible that in this game Charles would put up only 40 rushing yards, but wouldn't get a bunch of receiving opportunities.  Charles was targeted just three times and added seven receiving yards. While it's nice that Quinn was able to get Jon Baldwin and Steve Maneri involved, Maneri is not who you want listed as your leading receiver in the box score.  Dwayne Bowe had another line of nine targets and just three catches.  Bowe has managed to catch just 50 percent of his passes (34 of 66), explaining why he’s not more coveted as a WR1.  Kansas City's defense had done pretty welluntil Sunday, but Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson beat their secondary deep twice, and Josh Freeman played well enough on offense to keep his offense contributing.  Doug Martin received carries at a rate of 2-to-1 to LeGarrette Blount, and he gave you 126 all-purpose yards. 

Color me impressed. Robert Griffin III returned from a concussion and not only completed 17 of 22 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown, but he ran for two scores, highlighting why he's not only dangerous as an NFL QB, but why he can be fantasy gold. He outran his top running back Alfred Morris by 88 yards. He finished 138 yards rushing on the evening, making him the second best fantasy scorer of Week Six, behind only Aaron Rodgers. Minnesota QB Christian Ponder may not have had a great game in terms of his team, but for fantasy owners he provided another 26 points. For his career Adrian Peterson had never gone more than three games without scoring a rushing TD. Sunday marked his fifth straight week without a score. I say if you can get a frustrated owner willing to sell, this is the time to get Peterson. He'll only get stronger as the year goes on, and even if he's going to face tough defenses, the reason Peterson is a stud is because he can perform against better defenses. I'd be willing to take my chances any day on an athletically gifted veteran like Peterson as we head into November. Tight end Kyle Rudolph scored for the second consecutive week and has five TDs on the year. He's quickly rising among the fantasy tight end ranks.

Never in the Bill Belichick era have the Patriots blown a fourth quarter lead as big as the one they blew Sunday. With 9:21 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Patriots were comfortably ahead of the Seahawks 23-10. Then, in one play the entire momentum of the game seemed to shift. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson completed a 52-yard strike to Doug Baldwin, and New England LB Brandon Spikes added an unnecessary roughness call to the play. Seattle went from sitting on its own 17 yard line to 1st and 10 on the New England's 17. Two drives later, Wilson hit Sidney Rice for his biggest play as a Seahawks receiver, and the score was 24-23. In a game that required precision, Wilson didn't make the mistakes. Tom Brady did. Perhaps no mistake came back to haunt them more than late in the first half after Seattle muffed a punt that set the Patriots up 1st and 10 at the Seattle 24. With 40 seconds left, and two timeouts left, this is normally the position from which New England buries their opponents. The Patriots failed to score, using both timeouts and on third down Brady was flagged for intentional grounding, bleeding the clockout. It had devastating repercussions in what would be a one point loss. Fantasy owners will want to know if this game makes Russell Wilson a quarterback worth considering. After all, Wilson finished in the top five of fantasy quarterbacks in Yahoo! Leagues with the Monday QBs still to play. However, in the last four weeks, Wilson is 21st in terms of total fantasy points, and isn't even top 25 finisher in terms of average fantasy points in Yahoo! Leagues. The Seahawks were just 4-for-12 on third downs and only held the ball for 26 minutes. I'm leaving Wilson on the waiver wire, even though he's doing all the right things for Seattle. Of note, Brandon Bolden suffered a knee injury, so check the injury updates this week to see if he'll play in Sunday's game against the Jets.

In terms of making a statement in the NFL, none was heard more loudly and more clearly than the Giants in their blowout victory of San Francisco. Forget the fact that they won again in San Francisco. Forget the fact that 49ers QB Alex Smith had a very bad day in throwing three interceptions. Instead look at the fact that Giants' QB Eli Manning threw for just 193 yards and only one touchdown. The New York Giants didn't defeat San Francisco with any fancy, high-flying aerial show. In fact, the receiver who gained the most yards for the Giants was Domenik Hixon with just 87. The Giants beat San Francisco up front. Five guys whose names mean so little to most people watching football that they're never mentioned week in and week out: Sean Locklear, Chris Snee, David Baas, Kevin Booth and Will Beatty; the Giants offensive line knocked around DEs Justin Smith, and Ray McDonald. They knocked over LBs Patrick Willis, Ahmad Brooks, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith. They ran right through NT Isaac Sapoaga. There was nothing the 49ers could do. On defense the Giants simply removed the 49ers leading receiver Vernon Davis from the equation with constant double-teams. And they blitzed Smith over and over, constantly taking him out of his rhythm. The Giants had eight total sacks as they entered Week Six. They left with 14.  

There is one thing to note that could be important in the future. The Giants forced three interceptions from Alex Smith, two of which were returned to within 12 yards of the goal line or closer. Both times the Giants managed only a field goal, keeping the 49ers in the game. That does not bode well should a rematch occur in the playoffs. Fantasy wise, Ahmad Bradshaw finally looks healthy and is running as such, but if San Francisco hadn't been so thoroughly outplayed this game, there's little doubt that Manning would have spent much of the game throwing. While Bradshaw had his second 100-yard game in as many weeks, I'm not putting a lot of stock in him for the future. He's another sell high candidate considering the Giants tendency to throw and Bradshaw's injury history. You need to make note of David Wilson's speed in his 63-yard kick return to open the second half, as well as his runs later in the game. Should Bradshaw falter, and knowing Bradshaw's history that wouldn't be surprising, you're watching his fill-in. If you're in one of those in leagues where Wilson was thrown to the waiver wire grab him, if for no other reason than you'll have a guy Week 16 or 17 who could be the starter as the Giants rest Bradshaw for the playoffs. 


Oh, how the Raiders could have had this game. The Atlanta Falcons didn't so much beat the Raiders as the old penalty-prone Raiders beat themselves. Darren McFadden only ended up with 70 yards rushing in the box score, but he must have run for well over 100. The Raiders were flagged 12 times for 125 yards, and McFadden fumbled away an early opportunity, allowing the Falcons off the hook. However, McFadden's yardage totals matched my expectations to a tee. What made Oakland competitive this week was they brought a pass rush. Matt Ryan certainly didn't have one of his sharpest days, but the Oakland rush caused an interception in the third quarter, hitting Ryan as he threw. The Falcons managed just 15 rushing attempts, which isn't surprising considering their weapons in the passing attack and the fact Michael Turner hasn't had a quick start. Yet, Oakland's rushing defense held Atlanta's runners to just three yards per carry. Carson Palmer played the near perfect game, until that fourth quarter interception. Falcons CB Assante Samuel, who had been beaten early on a similar route, baited Palmer, who bit for the costliest mistake of the game. Darius Heyward-Bey had only two targets and both came after his end around run where he took a good shot. It makes you wonder if the Raiders were being cautious with him, or he just did a Heyward-Bey disappearing act. Denarius Moore really had a stellar game, and returned after taking a huge shot. However, his durability already in question, he didn't renew my faith that he can survive a whole season after being shaken up on that clean hit.

I almost nailed a score for the second time in three weeks. St. Louis was totally dependent on Sam Bradford, and though Bradford threw for 315 yards and rushed for a score late in the fourth quarter, he just didn't deliver. Rams WR Brandon Gibson did step up for seven grabs and 91 yards, and Chris Givens was targeted deep. However neither could make the plays count for seven. Something to note is that rookie RB Daryl Richardson got 11 carries and outran Steven Jackson. Jackson got 12 carries and performed well with his 52 yards, but Jackson owners should be looking to get Richardson soon. Sell Jackson high if he has a great performance because Richardson's 6.4 yard per carry average against the top rated rush defense will not go unrecognized. Perhaps the most perplexing thing about this game is Dolphins RB Lamar Miller's absence. Reggie Bush struggled mightily in this one on the ground, managing an uncharacteristic 1.4 yards per carry with 12 yards on 17 carries. Yet Miller was got zero carries. Bush was the second leading target for QB Ryan Tannehill. Davone Bess was the top target getter, garnering nine and bringing in six. However, it was Marlon Moore, the undrafted third year man out of Fresno State, who added three receptions to his career six and as well as one for a touchdown, Tannehill's third passing TD of the year. He'd add his fourth to tight end Anthony Fasano. What should be taken from this game is that the once receiving yardage leader, Brian Hartline, put up a doughnut. Not a single target, and thus, no receptions.

Much like LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster had only three games in his career where he averaged less than two yards per carry. He added a fourth on Sunday, and as goes Foster, so go the Texans. His 29 rushing yards might have wrecked your fantasy week, except this is Arian Foster, the touchdown machine. He scored twice and added 12 more yards receiving. And while 16 points on an off day was nice, this day belonged to Aaron Rodgers. For five weeks the Green Bay Packers have been out of sync and the big play eluded them. On Sunday, Rodgers threw six touchdown passes, three to Jordy Nelson, who brought his fantasy season back to respectable in one night. I'm not recommending selling high on Nelson, as the thought did cross my mind. However, with Greg Jennings out and Jermichael Finley playing through an injury, he's now the top receiver in an Aaron Rodgers offense. Sorry, I'm not selling that guy just six games into the season. Green Bay's offensive output was a surprise. I was willing to recommend playing the Texans defense because Aaron Rodgers had been sacked the second most of any quarterback in the league. J. J. Watt added two sacks, and a few QB hits, but for the first time, Houston didn't look so unbeatable. Also, Green Bay RB Alex Green had a pretty decent game in his first start. While his yards per carry weren't anything to write home about, this was against Houston, and where he differs from someone like Montario Hardesty is that opportunities often dictate waiver wire pickups such as Green. He's going to get plenty of them.

For a half of football, the Chargers showed that they were to be taken seriously. Their offense capitalized on Denver special teams mistakes. Their defense hit hard and prevented Peyton Manning's offense from getting into any kind of rhythm. Then halftime arrived. The team that emerged from the halftime cave was still in hibernation, as the Chargers reminded us why we all had questions about them to this point. Their competition had been less than stellar, and when faced with Peyton Manning standing across the line of scrimmage down 24, the Chargers folded like a house of cards. Demaryius Thomas only had two catches but one was for a score. 

Gates is a strong sell high candidate
Thomas only has two touchdowns this year, but remember, he should have two more. That might not help your fantasy team any, but fumbles aside, the intent is to use Thomas as a big play guy with Manning throwing the ball. (See: Nelson, Jordy, for my thoughts on selling). For the Chargers, we finally had an Antonio Gates sighting. Here is a case where if I could get the right deal I'd consider letting Gates go. Look, those won't be the only two touchdowns he scores this year, but Gates is an aging entity that has a high probability of injury.  His name recognition is second to none, so if you can use this game to get a package of a better QB, or even a more targeted tight end like Vernon Davis, or a more solid starting RB like C.J. Spiller, I'd go for it.  Besides, there are replacements available.  If you're paying attention, Joel Dreeseen is available in 95 percent of ESPN leagues and is ranked 20th among tight ends. He has three touchdowns that past four games, and for the last four weeks has averages over nine points per week. He has become Manning's red zone tight end, not Jason Tamme.