Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NFL WEEK 7 - T&R

Scott Chandler showing the fans how
many catches he had Sunday.
It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks.  My boldest call of the week didn’t work out.  Eli Manning for his part did throw 40 times.  He did reach 300 yards.  Unfortunately, inside the red zone, the Giants ran the football and scored twice on the ground.  Close but no cigar.  Hey, you don't get anywhere by not making a few strong predictions, and occasionally you whiff.

For this blog, the fantasy recommendations of Chris Johnson, Randall Cobb, Doug Martin, Josh Freeman, Dan Bailey along with predicting Eli Manning's 40 attempts, that Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin would score, that Cecil Shorts III was a calculated bye week play, starting Chris Givens, that Heath Miller's touchdown odds were on the money.  I said Wes Welker wasn't a strong play this week like the two tight ends.  Gronk and Hernandez had five and six catches respectively.  Gronk scored twice.  Welker ended with six for 66.  The bad was predicting Eli Manning would outscore RGIII, that Darren McFadden would bust loose, that Justin Blackmon might be worthy WR3 this weekend, that Greg Olsen was a strong start, that Dez Bryant would find the end zone, and that the Bengals would beat the Steelers.  Shonn Greene was pretty mediocre on the ground, but did get 34 receiving yards on six catches and scored a TD.  While I was worried that the Patriots running game would be shared more, Stevan Ridley was still big play I went with this week.  The Patriots carried 31 times, Ridley only got 17.  Worst, Scott Chandler disappeared in the Bills offense.   Those were three solid losses for me.  In terms of picking winners, I was 10-2.  In terms of point calls, I was 6-4 and two games ended up even.


TENNESSEE @ BUFFALO
The battle of two putrid defenses proved to be just that.  Tennessee WR Kenny Britt had 26 yards on the first drive.  He finished with 30 yards, something as baffling to me as wanting to watch this game.  The big though not surprising news is that Chris Johnson had a huge day – 195 yards rushing and two touchdowns. I've been reading other pundits say that this game shows how bad the Titans’ offensive line has been.  While that’s true, that dismisses altogether that Chris Johnson had nothing to do with it.  To ignore the aggressiveness that has gone missing from some of his runs is to ignore the player.  Unless you’re 6-1 or 5-2 in your fantasy league right now where you can afford to be a little more strategic about who you trade, you sell him high right now.  The next four weeks has Johnson going against three top five defenses.  While his final four weeks are pretty decent, Colts, Jets, Packers and Jags, let's not forget two of those matchups are divisional foes, and often the rankings get tossed because there is extra familiarity and motivation there.  My guess is you’re not holding a winning record if you drafted Chris Johnson, and you can get someone to invest him for a more consistent back in return.  Buffalo runner Fred Jackson had his best game of 2012, giving you 130 all-purpose yards and a receiving touchdown.  Of course, he did that right after I jumped his bandwagon.  Keep in mind this was the Titans, and that as the season progresses Jackson will get healthier. C.J. Spiller still received three more carries and had one less target.  Yes, you have a timeshare officially in Buffalo.

CLEVELAND @ INDIANAPOLIS
Before you go picking up Vick Ballard as a fill-in RB for your team, look at the Indianapolis' red zone offense.    The Colts had two red zone opportunities, and both saw RB Mewelde Moore as the running back behind QB Andrew Luck.  Ballard got 20 carries and turned that in 86 yards, and while Moore wasn't exactly successful putting the ball over the goal line, it does allude to the trust Bruce Arians has for his former Steeler cohort.  Josh Gordon had another touchdown catch, but on 10 targets he brought in just two receptions.  Lousy percentages, but Gordon now has four touchdowns and has scored in three straight games.  As for Trent Richardson, his rib injury was serious enough he couldn't manage a full game.  It was a killer for fantasy players, both who picked up Montario Hardesty and those who stuck by Richardson.  In deep PPR leagues Chris Ogbonnaya has become another receiver who is steady.  He has 19 receptions this year, third best on a team which is throwing more and more often.  He won't run the ball much, but he's getting three grabs a week 30 yards or six points average.  Should Richardson miss a game or two, his value may be augmented further.

GREEN BAY @ ST. LOUIS
This game wasn't as close as some had thought it would be.   QB Aaron Rodgers averaged 9.2 yards per attempt in the continued revival of Green Bay's big-play offense.  Alex Green's second appearance didn't go quite as planned with a 1.8 yards per carry average.  This just goes to remind you that in most cases, waiver wire replacements are on the waiver wire for a reason.  The opportunities are still there for Green until Benson returns but you have to choose the match-up wisely for it to translate into anything viable for your team.  For St. Louis, Chris Givens has leapt far and above the competition at wide receiver, providing the Rams with a credible deep threat.  He's been targeted 17 times in the past three weeks, and had six receptions and 158 yards the past two games. 

ARIZONA @ MINNESOTA
LaRod Stephens-Howling got the majority of carries and seemed to provide a spark to the offense.  He was the guy I
toted several weeks ago as the only runner in Arizona I would consider.  William Powell got his chance last week and did well, but there is speculation by Chris Harris at ESPN his opening kickoff fumble is what relegated him to the bench.  It's possible, but the question is would Whisenhunt stay with the inexperienced runner over Stephens-Howling, who was fighting injury earlier this year and has more experience.   Now Stephens-Howling is healthy, and that is more likely the reason Powell got less carries.  As for the fans of JSFLF (that’s John Skelton For Larry Fitzgerald) numbers, I supplied the increased stats for Fitzgerald when Skelton was under center, mainly because I didn't believe them myself.  The fact is they did show Fitzgerald getting an uptick – It just didn't happen against the Vikings.  Unfortunately, another seven sacks were yielded by Arizona's line, even with Stephens-Howling providing over five yards per carry.  As for Minnesota, at this point I'd recommend keeping QB Christian Ponder, but benching him right now.  He's still a developing quarterback who I believe has a bright future, but he's getting careless with the football.   Arizona is a tougher defense, and Ponder's limited weaponry makes it so you use him only against very friendly foes, or if you're other quarterback is up against an incredibly bad matchup.  Depends who it is.

WASHINGTON @ NEW YORK GIANTS
When people speak of elite quarterbacks, Sunday's game is the reason people have a hard time mentioning Eli Manning in that company, even with two Super Bowl wins.  Let's be realistic, his first Super Bowl win against New England was impressive, but it wasn't Manning's throw that saved that game, it was WR David Tyree’s helmet catch.   Sunday's game reminded all of us who really thought Manning was beyond laying eggs at home, that he’s still going to be Eli Manning.  And even against one of the worst defensive backfields in the NFL up to this point, Manning will occasionally make some mind-boggling throws.  While he's still a top ten fantasy QB (he is after all leading in passing yards) he reminded all of us he is blessed with as good a group of receivers as any team in the NFL.   Even more importantly, he was sacked just once, making that just six sacks the Giants have given up for the season.  His offensive line is NFC gold, and if you're looking for a team that could take down Atlanta, it is again the Giants. 

As for Washington, Robert Griffin III has truly been amazing.  Even when he makes mistakes, and he made some crucial ones Sunday, he is resilient, something Cam Newton is now taking heat for not being.
  Santana Moss continues to be the receiver to own while Pierre Garcon is on the mend.   He won’t always be the biggest yardage gainer, but he is the most trusted hands, especially around the goal line.  Alfred Morris was hardly mentioned prior to the draft.  He was a sixth round pick out of Florida Atlantic.  Suffice it to say, Morris might be the rookie MVP of this season.   Many will point to Griffin, but without a steady running game that has credibility, Griffin’s job becomes ten times harder.  No team can afford to have their quarterback continually scramble, even as good of an athlete as Griffin is.  Losing Morris would render this offense very one-dimensional.

NEW ORLEANS @ TAMPA BAY
The key to New Orleans winning this game was simple.  While Drew Brees had had good yardage totals against Tampa Bay in the past, he often turned the ball over.  Sunday, Brees threw four touchdowns against one interception, turning the tide of previous performances in Raymond James Stadium.  Wide receiver Lance Moore met my expectations but did everything but find the end zone.   For Tampa Bay, Vincent Jackson delivered what might have been his career best performance.  He caught seven of 14 passes throw his way for 216 yards and a score.  That made him not only the best fantasy receiver of the week, but the best NFL receiver of the week period.  Admittedly, having watched Jackson now for years, I have always felt he was overrated, that he’s always been a 50-catch receiver with higher ceiling potential, but that his attitude had limited his talents.  He’s still catching fewer than 50 percent of the balls thrown his way (27 of 60), which really for a top receiver is inconceivable.  However, he has given Tampa Bay a more consistent downfield presence then they’ve had in a long while and he’s been worth his contract.  He almost was the difference maker on Sunday.

DALLAS @ CAROLINA
I’ve written about it before.  So have others.  It’s really unbelievable that the Panthers paid RBs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams over $14 million together and have only giving them a total of 85 carries in six games.  There are 20 running backs in the NFL which currently have more than 85 attempts on their own.  Then, in the off-season the Panthers added Mike Tolbert for another $2.7 million instead of someone like Vincent Jackson who might have given Newton an outlet besides the aging Steve Smith.  It’s a simple question of managing the resources you invested in, and Ron Rivera and his staff clearly prefer to throw the football.  This is why GM Marty Hurney found himself without a job Monday.  Felix Jones received 15 carries but only managed 2.9 yards per carry.  He did add five catches for 30 yards, making him a better PPR candidate than standard league runner.  Philip Tanner didn’t do much better, though at least the two shared 28 carries. 


BALTIMORE @ HOUSTON
If Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback then we are going to have to redefine our terms.  Flacco’s numbers in September were that of an elite QB.  He completed 63.5 percent of his passes with an 8.14 average attempt and had a 7:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.  But being elite is more than a month of great numbers.  It’s winning big games, and while New England was a huge victory, it turned out that New England wasn’t as strong as we once thought.  October has seen Flacco’s number correct to a 53 percent completion rate, a 5.92 average pass attempt and two touchdowns versus three interceptions.   Perhaps most impressive was his counter-part Matt Schaub.  While it seemed apparent that Arian Foster would deliver a solid day, Schaub picked up more than his fair share of the slack.  He completed 23-of-37 for 256 yards and two touchdowns.  Schaub has a pretty favorable schedule coming up, with his toughest test coming against Chicago in Soldier Field November 11.  The Houston offense this year still advances behind the running game, but Schaub is having a stronger season than just a game manager.

4PM GAMES

NEW YORK JETS @ NEW ENGLAND
Three plays.  This was the difference between an upset and a loss.  The Jets got a huge turnover, forcing Darren McCourty to fumble on a kick return, setting them up with 2:01 left on the New England 18.  This was when Offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano decided to get cute.  The Jets brought in Tim Tebow, and ran, then gave Joe McKnight a run, then on third and long had to pass.  Mark Sanchez was sacked; obviously a result of the coverage sitting back on a pass play, and the Jets almost blew tying the game.  If you're a Jets fan, you blinked and thought you were watching the way Pittsburgh has played in that situation – for a safe field goal.  Playing for a safe field goal versus the Patriots is like spending hours deer hunting and then coming across a prize-winning buck and letting him saunter off (I’m not a hunter, but hey, good analogy).  This series of plays cost the Jets the game. 
Observation one:  why bring in Tim Tebow if you're not going to use him for what he can give you – an option, a roll out, something different than a straight up QB draw?  Two:  Why was Joe McKnight out there in crunch time?  If you're standing behind Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene as Rex Ryan has, why during the most crucial point was your starting QB and RB on the sidelines to start this drive.  Why weren't you throwing against the weak New England secondary?  Hindsight is always 20-20 I know, but who didn't watch that series and have to refasten their chin to their face. 

It's hard to know why, but Shane Vereen started this game at running back for New England.  Vereen is a smaller shiftier back than Ridley, who forces more of a power running game.  Considering Vereen saw zero snaps against the Seahawks and Stevan Ridley was nowhere to be found on the injury report, this seems like another Bill Belichick move just meant to mix up defenses.  Not sure this one worked.

JACKSONVILLE @ OAKLAND
As if Jacksonville had anything positive going its way after scoring 13 points in the last two games, the Jags lost both their quarterback and running back for the foreseeable future.  Blaine Gabbert has a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder.  That means surgery is likely at some point.  Maurice Jones-Drew’s foot injury is the wound most of us worried about and a lot of us figured would have happened earlier.  MJD has always been questioned as an every down back because of his size, but remember, this year he was coming off the most carries of his career, 343.  There has been significant connective tissue to runners with that many carries and an injury soon after.  Now, to be fair, this is football, and accidents happen.  This writer does not think this injury was the result of wear and tear.  Instead, it’s an odds game, and the more carries a runner gets, the closer he gets to the one where something goes wrong.  In MJD’s case, it was number 86.  Strange enough, this was Blaine Gabbert’s best game up until the injury.  He had just 12 pass attempts, but had completed eight of them, for 102 yards and a touchdown.  He was averaging almost four more yards per pass than his season average of 5.5.  Not too many people would have argued prior to Sunday that it was possible Chad Henne was a better prospect as a QB.  He looked rusty Sunday.  Now it appears that he’ll get a chance to lead this offense, with Rashard Jennings behind him.  Jennings will be among the hottest waiver wire grabs this week.  He’s definitely worth an add right away.


SUNDAY NIGHT GAME
PITTSBURGH @ CINCINNATI
Jonathan Dwyer reprised a role he played against Tennessee last October.  In a big divisional meeting against the Bengals, Dwyer delivered 7.2 yards per carry average for 122 yards on 17 carries.  Left Guard Willie Colon has struggled in pass blocking assignments.  However, on Sunday he was not only productive, but was a viciously aggressive run blocker.  He was a high point in the Steelers rushing attack, paving the way not only for Dwyer, but for Chris Rainey, who gashed the Cincinnati line for the go-ahead touchdown.  Mike Wallace had his second week in a row of dropped balls, but this week he nearly cost Pittsburgh the game.  However, the most surprising development was that CB Ike Taylor contained WR A. J. Green, probably because I predicted Taylor would get eaten alive.  Remember the two games Taylor had this year and last against Bronco’s wide receiver Demaryius Thomas?  Remember last week’s outing against Kenny Britt?  Both are not quite at the level of Green, and yet Green managed one catch for eight yards and a touchdown.  Second year man Ryan Whalen led all Bengals receivers with four receptions for 31 yards. Whether he’ll replace the injured Armon Binns temporarily, and whether he holds future promise in this offense remains to be seen.  But he now is worth monitoring, especially in deep leagues.


 
MONDAY NIGHT

DETROIT @ CHICAGO
Two fumbles by the Detroit runners inside their opponent’s 20 yard line against a defense like Chicago’s will cost you a football game.  The Lions learned that Monday night.  The Bears defense caused six fumbles total, and recovered three, but none were more important than the two red zone fumbles they took away.  For the game, Detroit’s runners Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure both averaged over four yards per carry but for some reason only got 15 carries between them.  Titus Young led all Detroit receivers, but most of his yardage came in the last few minutes when the game was hardly in question, and struggling to get anything of any real threat going.  Meanwhile, for the second time in three games Calvin Johnson was held to under 60 yards receiving. He has one touchdown on the year, and as the first receiver off the fantasy board, has been a minor disaster for your fantasy season.  There are 10 games left and at this pace Johnson would end the season with maybe three touchdowns.  Johnson is on his way to another 80 catch season and nearly 1500 yards.  You can’t bench him.  You can’t really trade him because his contribution down the stretch could still be a huge factor in your season.  This goes to a point I used to make all the time, which is the person who scores the touchdown is very random.  Yes, in the case of receivers like Johnson, the odds are greater because we know he’ll get more chances to score.  In most cases, the play that is called which results in the score is often determined by strategy, not by the player.  And thus, when you do your research for fantasy drafts and rank your players, estimating TDs is at best, a dubious task.  As for Titus Young, how annoying is it to see a receiver catching the ball at the most crucial and harried time of the game and celebrate his first downs.  Now Young becomes crucial because Nate Burleson suffered a broken leg, and Young is in line for those receptions.  The kid’s got talent but you have to worry about where his head is cause it sure isn’t on football.