Monday, September 15, 2014

Week 2 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

QBs
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Got off to a rough start, but rallied with 346 passing yards and 3 TDs, 28 rushing yards and a fumble.
Jay Cutler, Bears – He also started slow, but finished with 176 yards and 4 TDs, plus 25 rushing yards, without a turnover.
Philip Rivers, Chargers – Defied the vaunted Seahawks defense by passing for 284 yards and 3 TDs without a turnover.
Peyton Manning, Broncos – Passed for “just” 242 yards but had another TD trio without a turnover.

RBs
Darren Sproles, Eagles – Ran for 26 yards and a TD, but exploded with 7 receptions for 152 yards.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts – Had 70 rushing yards and caught 5 passes for 26 yards and a pair of TDs.
Giovani Bernard, Bengals – Ran for 90 yards and a TD, adding 5 receptions for 79 yards.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys – Rumbled for 167 yards and a TD, though he lost a fumble.
Knile Davis, Chiefs – Ran for 79 yards and 2 TDs and caught 6 passes for 26 yards in relief of Jamaal Charles.
Alfred Morris, Redskins – Tallied 85 yards and 2 TDs on the ground.

WRs
Jordy Nelson, Packers – Raced past the Jets with 209 yards and a score on 9 receptions.
Brandon Marshall, Bears – Pulled down 5 passes for 48 yards and a TD hat trick.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Despite an early injury, reeled in 10 passes for 103 yards and a TD.
Randall Cobb, Packers – Scored twice on 5 catches for 39 yards.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – Showed his rookie promise with 8 receptions for 117 yards and a TD.
James Jones, Raiders – Hauled in 9 passes for 112 yards and a trash-time TD, though he lost a fumble.

TEs
Antonio Gates, Chargers – Ladarius who? The well-aged TE reeled in 7 catches for 96 yards and a TD trifecta.
Jimmy Graham, Saints – Hogged all Brees’ attention with 10 receptions for 118 yards and 2 TDs.
Delanie Walker, Titans – Torched Dallas with 10 receptions for 142 yards and a TD.
Owen Daniels, Ravens – Scored twice on 5 receptions for 28 yards.

D/STs
Patriots – Smothered the Vikings with 6 sacks, 4 INTs, scored on a blocked FG and held Minnesota to 7 points.
Bills – Collected 4 sacks, 2 turnovers, a kickoff return TD and held Miami to 10 points.
Redskins – Sacked Chad Henne 10 times, got an INT and held the Jags to 10 points.


This was a great week to play against…

QBs
Robert Griffin III, Redskins – Just 38 passing and 22 rushing yards before leaving with a nasty ankle injury.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – Limited to 217 passing yards and an INT, without a score.
Matt Ryan, Falcons – After his impressive opener, passes for just 231 yards, with 3 INTs offsetting his lone TD pass.
Matt Cassel, Vikings – Tossed 4 picks while accumulating just 202 yards and 1 TD.

RBs
Knowshon Moreno, Dolphins – Knocked out of the game after a 4-yard carry.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs – Totaled just 12 yards before exiting with an ankle injury.
Carlos Hyde, 49ers – Not getting enough touches to matter, as his 5-total-yard day proved.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins – Even with the backfield mostly to himself, managed only 46 yards rushing and 7 receiving.
Toby Gerhart, Jags – Just 8 rushing and 9 receiving yards.
Fred Jackson, Bills – Totaled 51 combined yards.
Reggie Bush, Lions – Disappoints with just 26 rushing yards and 2 catches for 6 yards.
Chris Johnson, Jets – Limited to 21 rushing yards.
Shane Vereen, Patriots – Took a backseat to Stevan Ridley, rushing for just 40 yards.
Pierre Thomas, Saints – Ran and received for 16 yards each.
Matt Forte, Bears – Ran for just 21 and caught 5 passes for 15 yards.
Shonn Greene, Titans – Rushed for 40 yards (37 more than Bishop Sankey).
Ryan Mathews, Chargers – Combined for 57 yards before leaving with an injury.
Eddie Lacy, Packers – Held to 43 rushing and 18 receiving yards on 2 receptions.

WRs
A.J. Green, Bengals – Left with a toe injury before catching a pass.
Marques Colston, Saints – Blanked by the Browns.
Danny Amendola, Patriots – Shut out of the action.
Greg Jennings, Vikings – Limited to a 4-yarder.
Rod Streater, Raiders – Caught a 6-yard pass.
Riley Cooper, Eagles – He had an 8-yarder.
Torrey Smith, Ravens – Caught a 10-yarder. That’s it.
Pierre Garcon, Redskins – Held to a 12-yarder.
Allen Hurns, Jags – Only 13 yards on 2 receptions. Mm-hmm.
Michael Floyd, Cardinals – Just 19 yards on the day.
DeSean Jackson, Redskins – He, too, had 19 yards before leaving injured.
Terrance Williams, Cowboys – Only 20 yards on 2 receptions.
Tavon Austin, Rams – Ran for 21 yards but didn’t catch a pass.
Reggie Wayne, Colts – Just 28 yards on 3 catches.
Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers – Collected 46 yards on 2 balls.
Roddy White, Falcons – Only 42 yards on 5 receptions.
Brandin Cooks, Saints – Ran for 31 yards but only caught 3 passes for 17 yards.
Anquan Boldin, 49ers – Only 34 yards on 2 catches.
Kendall Wright, Titans – Despite the favorable matchup, just 31 yards on 3 catches.

TEs
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – Only 32 yards on 4 catches.
Jason Witten, Cowboys – Ditto.
Vernon Davis, 49ers – Just 39 yards on 3 receptions before leaving early.

Week 2: Rough week gets rougher

After a week the NFL would love to forget, things managed to get uglier still once the players took to the field. At least this time the ugliness wasn't self-inflicted.

Jamaal Charles sprained an ankle after accumulating just 12 total yards. Robert Griffin III suffered a nasty dislocated ankle just before teammate DeSean Jackson was knocked out with a shoulder injury.

The Dolphins lost new starting RB Knowshon Moreno (dislocated elbow), reportedly for at least a month, on his first carry. A.J. Green was bounced by a strained foot before he could register a catch. Ryan Mathews was carted off the field with a knee injury and Tavon Austin left with his own knee troubles.

Dexter McCluster’s foot injury could open the door to more touches by rookie Bishop Sankey in the weeks ahead. And Marcedes Lewis (ankle) left the game with a walking boot and crutches.

Eric Decker yanked a hammy, while Vernon Davis left the Sunday night matchup hobbling on a sprained ankle.

Of course, both of Chicago’s starting wideouts entered the Sunday nighter banged up, Brandon Marshall’s bravado performance notwithstanding. Both Antonio Brown (head) and Dez Bryant (shoulder) were knocked out early but each returned to post strong performances.  

The moral of this story? Actually, there are at least three.

First, watch the inactive reports up until the last minute. Lots of fantasy players missed out on Marshall’s heroics, including many who still had the flexibility to make a change at the eleventh hour.

Second, handcuff your stud running back(s). I know I’m a broken record on this, but you never know when the backups will be pressed into service.

And third, don’t neglect your bench. Constantly look for opportunities to upgrade – not churn, mind you; but upgrade – to provide the depth you’ll need to overcome injuries and to manage the upcoming bye weeks.

Unfortunately, injuries are part of the game. They can be painful, sometimes career-ending for the players. But they need not put your season in jeopardy.


FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS

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

Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins. Many believe Cousins is a better fit for Washington’s offense than Griffin, and now he’ll have the opportunity to prove them right (or wrong). If you need help at the position, Cousins is worth a flier. RG3 is expected to be out for an extended period; and if Cousins excels, even a healthy Griffin might not get his job back.

Knile Davis, RB, Chiefs. Charles’ early exit left the backfield in his understudy’s capable hands. After scoring twice and combining for 105 yards, Davis proved he is worthy. Charles’ owner should already have him handcuffed; but if not, scoop him up.

Matt Asiata, RB, Vikings. Arguably the most anonymous handcuff in the NFL, Asiata excelled late last season in relief of an injured Adrian Peterson before racking up 84 total yards and a score against the Patriots on Sunday. Though Peterson has been re-activated for Week 3, you’re playing with fire if you don’t hedge your bets with Asiata.


Don’t be fooled

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Bengals. Sanu broke loose for a long scoring strike after A.J. Green went out. But don’t think that’s a sign of things to come. Sanu has shown flashes in the past, but more often than not has disappeared. Marvin Jones is a better bet for consistent production once he returns from his broken foot.


Ladarius Green, TE, Chargers. Think Antonio Gates has lost a step? Who cares? The Green Era in San Diego will just have to wait. Philip Rivers is still locked onto his old pal, and Gates clearly has plenty left after his TD hat trick against the vaunted Seahawks defense. Somehow, Gates is available in roughly half of all leagues. What are you waiting for?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Week 2 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson, or to bench Johnny Manziel and Eddie Royal? 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 2 of the 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals at Giants. The old man proved he’s still got some moxie – even scrambling for 29 yards against the Chargers – and it doesn’t hurt that he’s blessed with a very talented receiving corps. Palmer will build on his solid opener against the shell-shocked Giants secondary, and you can bet he’ll get Larry Fitzgerald intimately involved this time.

Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins vs. Jaguars. Right now, about the only thing the Washington offense has going for it is Morris, who racked up 91 rushing yards against Houston in Week 1. His job gets easier when the Jags come to town. Look for the struggling Robert Griffin III to lean heavily on his trusty backfield mate.

Terrance West, RB, Browns vs. Saints. Notching “one hundo” in your NFL debut is pretty impressive, especially when you don’t even enter as the starter. With Ben Tate (sprained knee) out, West should pick up where he left off last week. Though fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell will share some carries and could poach another TD run, West is the back to start in this contest against New Orleans’ soft run defense.

Kendall Wright, WR, Titans vs. Cowboys. It’s not just about the delicious matchup. It’s that a healthy Jake Locker is starting to look like a quality NFL quarterback, and that’s all his talented wideout needs to soar. As usual, Wright did the most with his targets in Week 1, and he’s a great bet to be among the week’s receiving leaders against Dallas. Did I mention the delicious matchup?

Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints at Browns. The rookie had an impressive debut against the Falcons and will be matched up against a fellow first-year player (CB Justin Gilbert) who surrendered 97 receiving yards to Markus Wheaton, yet another freshman, in Week 1. With Cleveland rightly consumed with containing Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, Cooks should have little trouble getting open. Drew Brees will find him.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Matt Stafford; RBs Montee Ball, Arian Foster, Knowshon Moreno, Andre Ellington, Frank Gore, C.J. Spiller, Giovani Bernard, Mark Ingram, Darren McFadden; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Emmanuel Sanders, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Roddy White, Cordarrelle Patterson, Dwayne Bowe.

Roll ‘em back

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers vs. Seahawks. Facing his second tough test in as many weeks, Rivers is a risky start against the Legion of Boom, which travels down the coast on a high after beating up Aaron Rodgers & Co. Rivers put up pedestrian numbers against the tough Cardinals pass defense in the opener, but this week’s opponents won’t be as generous.

Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants vs. Cardinals. Jennings was the lone bright spot on an otherwise mediocre Giants offense last Monday night. But with little air support to open up his running lanes, Jennings’ light will be hidden against Arizona’s stout run defense.

Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers vs. Rams. St. Louis is stronger against the run than they appeared against the Vikings, and they’ll show it in Tampa on Sunday. Martin shouldn’t be trusted even when fully healthy, and he heads into this game with a “minor” leg injury. Look for Bobby Rainey to keep building his case for supplanting the overrated starter.

Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots at Vikings. With Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup and both Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins getting the lion’s share of Tom Brady’s attention, Amendola appears to be an afterthought in the Patriots’ passing game. Keep him sidelined until he gives you reason not to.

Victor Cruz, WR, Giants vs. Cardinals. Cruz managed just 24 receiving yards on two receptions against the Lions, and Arizona brings a much more formidable secondary this week. There is no reason to think Eli Manning or his receivers will get their act together in this poor matchup.

More thumbs down: QBs Eli Manning, Robert Griffin III, Alex Smith; RBs Trent Richardson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Reggie Bush, Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams, Ryan Mathews; WRs Rod Streater, Terrance Williams, Reuben Randle, Sammy Watkins, Tavon Austin, Cecil Shorts, Golden Tate.

TAKING A FLIER

Andrew Hawkins, Browns vs. Saints. With Jordan Cameron either out or, at best, pushing through a shoulder injury, Hawkins will undoubtedly be a busy man as Brian Hoyer does his best to keep pace with his prolific counterpart. In PPR leagues especially, Hawkins should post impressive numbers against a vulnerable Saints secondary.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…overreacts to the first week’s results and makes a trade you’ll regret the rest of the season. I’ve been asked to opine on several trade scenarios that appear ridiculously lop-sided, and yet the “loser” in the deal is ready to pull the trigger. Hey, nothing wrong with taking advantage of a panicked competitor; just make sure you’re not the victim!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Week 1 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

QBs
Matt Ryan, Falcons – Likes his healthy WRs, passing for 448 yards and 3 TDs without a turnover.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Threw for 346 yards and 2 TDs, and scrambled for a third score, with no turnovers.
Andrew Luck, Colts – Passes for 370 yards and 2 TDs, and runs 19 yards for another TD, though he did throw two picks.
Peyton Manning, Broncos – “Just” 269 passing yards, but a trio of TDs with no turnovers.

RBs
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – Was in full Beast Mode, rumbling for 110 yards and 2 TDs, plus a 14-yard catch.
Matt Forte, Bears – Didn’t score, but led his team in rushing (82 yards) and receiving (8 catches, 87 yards).
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers – Ran for 109 yards and a score, and added 6 catches for 88 yards.
Mark Ingram, Saints – Rushed for 60 yards and 2 TDs.

WRs
Calvin Johnson, Lions – He was so very Mega, with 7 catches for 164 yards and a pair of TDs.
Allen Hurns, Jaguars – As expected, racked up 4 receptions for 110 yards and 2 TDs. Right.
A.J. Green, Bengals – Took 6 receptions for 131 yards and a TD.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings – Only caught 3 passes for 26 yards but exploded for 102 yards and a TD as a runner.
Brandon Marshall, Bears – Turned 8 receptions into 71 yards and a score, though he lost a fumble.
Antonio Brown, Steelers – Reeled in 5 passes for 116 yards and a score.

TEs
Julius Thomas, Broncos – Torched the Colts with 7 catches for 104 yards and a TD hat trick.
Vernon Davis, 49ers – Hauled in 4 passes for 44 yards and 2 TDs.
Martellus Bennett, Bears – Snagged 8 passes for 70 yards and a score.
Greg Olsen, Panthers – He amassed 83 yards and a TD on his 8 catches.
Zach Ertz, Eagles – Fulfilled his sleeper status with 77 yards and a TD on 3 receptions.

D/STs
49ers – Three sacks, three INTs, a fumble recovery and a TD against the Cowboys.

Ks
Matt Bryant, Falcons – Three long FGs (40, 51, 52) and 4 XPs.

This was a great week to play against…

QBs
Tom Brady, Patriots – Lost two fumbles while passing for just 249 yards and 1 TD.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins – Looked lost in passing for 267 yards and fumbling once without a score, with just 2 rushing yards.

RBs
Doug Martin, Bucs – So much for the rebound after a 16-combined-yards opener and a third-quarter leg injury.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs – Only 19 rushing and 15 receiving yards to start the season.
Eddie Lacy, Packers – Just 48 combined yards before leaving in the 4th quarter with a concussion.
Frank Gore, 49ers – Ran hard but only had 63 yards to show for it.
Danny Woodhead, Chargers – Used sparingly and contributed just 11 combined yards.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Raiders – Had a poor debut in Oakland with 11 rushing and 12 receiving yards. But that was 2 yards more than Darren McFadden.
Steven Jackson, Falcons – Just 52 yards on the ground.
Bishop Sankey, Titans – Just not ready for primetime with only 25 rushing yards in limited playing time.
Bernard Pierce, Ravens -- Benched after fumbling and gaining just 14 yards on 6 carries.
Toby Gerhart, Jaguars – Only 42 rushing and 15 receiving yards before an injury knocked him out.
Ben Tate, Browns – Out-played by two other RBs, collecting just 41 rushing yards, before he exited early.
Zac Stacy, Rams – Combined for a mediocre 51 yards.

WRs
Vincent Jackson, Bucs – Held to 36 yards on 4 receptions.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – Got off to a slow rookie start, with just 3 receptions for 31 yards.
Victor Cruz, Giants – Just a pair of catches for 24 yards.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – Uncharacteristically limited to 4 receptions for 48 yards.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Was shut out till a key 22-yarder late in the game.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers – His hometown fans only saw him catch 2 passes for 25 yards.
Keenan Allen, Chargers – His 5 receptions contributed just 37 yards.
Danny Amendola, Patriots – Just 3 receptions for 16 yards.
Brian Hartline, Dolphins – Only 26 yards on 2 receptions.
Riley Cooper, Eagles – Limited to 29 yards on 4 balls.
Tavon Austin, Rams – Only managed 39 combined yards on 6 touches.

TEs
Jason Witten, Cowboys – Made a bystander with just 2 receptions for 14 yards.
Jordan Reed, Redskins – Managed a 4-yarder before leaving injured.

Jordan Cameron, Browns – Settled for 47 yards on 2 receptions before he, too, exited early.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Opening week shockers just part of the game

Chad Henne to Allen Hurns. I told you to expect a huge game from this dynamic duo.

Jamaal Charles amasses 34 combined yards against the Titans. As predicted here.

Two rushing scores for Cleveland RB Isaiah Crowell. Yes, that Isaiah Crowell.

What, you didn’t read those predictions? From me or anybody?

That’s because no one on the planet saw them coming. They’re what we in the fantasy guru biz call “aberrations.” And the good news is, they are unlikely to happen again this year. If ever.

So avoid the knee-jerk reactions that your league-mates are about to act upon.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t dismiss everything we saw throughout opening weekend.

Doug Martin’s pathetic one-yard-per-carry rushing performance before exiting in the third quarter with an apparent knee injury set a new low for the over-rated tailback and should send shivers through anyone that used a premium draft pick to acquire him.

Matt Ryan proved that top-shelf receivers really do make a difference, while Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson proved they can’t do much when their quarterback is lost, on his back or gun-shy.

Ben Tate’s starting role in Cleveland may be very short-lived.

It could be a loooong season for the St. Louis offense.

And here’s a question you may want to ponder: If you insist on owning a Colts running back, why wouldn’t that be Ahmad Bradshaw?

FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS

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

UPDATED 1:54 PM CT:
Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens. Oh my. Now that Ray Rice has been cut by the Ravens – after graphic video surfaced of him striking his then-fiancĂ© in an Atlantic City hotel elevator – it’s time for a new era in Baltimore. Given Bernard Pierce’s benching against the Bengals, and Forsett’s impressive work in relief, the third-stringer looks like the Ravens back to own. And if you drafted Rice, well, I guess that’s what you get for ignoring my “Put Rice On Ice” campaign.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts. Need depth at RB? Bradshaw is available in four out of five leagues and shows more promise than Trent Richardson in the Colts offense. He won’t carry your team any more than he will Indy, but he offers gritty, underrated consistency as long as he’s healthy.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Buccaneers. If you own Martin and haven’t handcuffed him with Rainey, you’re nuts. Rainey out-played the starter last year when given the chance, and he could get another opportunity sooner than expected if Martin’s injury proves to be significant.

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns. If he’s available in your league, grab him pronto. Pending changes to the NFL’s drug-testing policy could reduce – possibly even eliminate – Gordon’s season-long suspension. Last year’s top fantasy wideout would be a nice addition, no?

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers. Even with Cam Newton on the sidelines, the rookie showed why Carolina invested a first-round pick on him. Benjamin is clearly the class of the Panthers’ ragtag WR corps. Available in more than 60 percent of all leagues, he’s worth grabbing and stashing.

Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers. Lost amid Antonio Brown’s stellar outing was the key role played by the second-year wideout. With six receptions for 97 yards, Wheaton gave just a hint of what’s to come in his new starting role. Grab him now, before your competitors notice.

Don’t be fooled


Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars. Sorry, I’m just not buying it. Undrafted rookie wideouts, especially those playing on offensively challenged teams, just don’t become fantasy studs overnight. (Remember Frisman Jackson? Of course you don’t.) With all due respect to Hurns’ four-catch, 110-yard, 2-TD debut, I can’t in good conscience recommend investing a roster spot in him in anything but the deepest of leagues. (Note that he was shut down, and out, in the second half.) Let someone else take the bait.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Week 1 4th & Long column

Good news, Fools. This year, my award-winning 4th & Long column for Sporting News' Fantasy Source is running in their FREE section, meaning you no longer need a subscription to read it.

Wait a minute...Could this be a statement about how highly they regard it? You get what you pay for?

Hmm.

Regardless, 4th & Long combines my starters and benchwarmers, my reflections on the previous weekend and an extensive run-down of the injuries that matter heading into the weekend's games. Plus a special "Personal Notes" section. One look and you'll see why it's called 4th & Long.

It's available here, now: http://www.sportingnews.com/fantasy/nfl/story/2014-09-05/4th-and-long-ten-burning-questions-heading-into-sunday-week-1-fantasy-football-advice-sleepers.

Enjoy.