Hear That? It’s The Sound Of Fantasy Football Owners Weeping

Did week seven suck or what?? Did anyone in your starting lineup NOT get hurt? We all know the feeling of beating an opponent who has a player post a zero thanks to an injury and we LOVE it. We’re fantasy mercenaries and its collateral damage- “Sorry brosef!” Conversely, we know what it’s like to be on the other side of the coin, when that one goose egg probably screwed you out of a coveted “W”.  And all you can do is grind your teeth and seethe.

In probably the lamest fantasy game ever played, I started Marshawn Lynch, Tim Hightower and Darren McFadden against a dude who started Earnest Graham and Beanie Wells. The combined point total of those five players was 13. But the saddest part is the implications week seven will have on the rest of the season.

Thanks to being in the middle of a particularly ruthless stretch of bye weeks, this week could suck just as bad for a lot of fantasy owners. Who is this Alfonso Smith dude? I don’t know either but I’m starting him this week. Who is Kregg Lumpkin? Beats me but he deserves consideration next week.

At this rate, we may all be vying for the right to start “Billy, the blind kid in 4C” a week from now.

In Deep Leagues, Choice A Solid Flex Option

As I mentioned earlier in the week in this article, everything suggests that the Cowboys should pummel the Rams this Sunday in Dallas, especially now that Sam Bradford has been confirmed as “out” for the game. For a Rams offense that hasn’t been good to begin with, the Cowboys should be able to get a head early and dominate the league’s worst run defense for the remainder of the game.

While DeMarco Murray is considered to be the de facto RB to benefit from both the Rams inability to stop the run, and Felix Jones not playing due to injury, Tashard Choice could also stand in line to benefit. Choice has been limited this year with only 26 carries through five games, but has shown in the past he can produce in these types of situations.

In 2008 in three starts due to injury he averaged 78 yards rushing, 37 receiving on four receptions per game while scoring two TDs. Sandwiched between his first two starts, Choice had 143 total yards and two TDs on 13 touches in a week 14 game vs. the Giants.

Though he hasn’t started a game since that stretch, the Cowboys have kept Choice around because though he isn’t an every down back, he can contribute in certain spots. Sunday versus St. Louis could be one of those spots.

Cowboys D Should Produce Versus Rams

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Looking for a fantasy defense? Look no further than the Dallas Cowboys who host the anemic St. Louis Rams offense this Sunday. Starting QB Sam Bradford has been unable to practice all week, but even if he was healthy would that really make a difference? Though Rams QB’s (AJ Feely has thrown five passes) have the fourth most passing attempts this season they are dead last in TD passes with three and seventh worst in total yards. Their net yards gained per pass of 4.7 is second worst in the NFL.

Compounding the issues with the passing game is that the Rams can’t run the ball either.  With a meager one rushing TD on the season they are last in the league. Though they are averaging 4.9 ypc, 11th best in the NFL, they can’t run the ball enough (second least rushing attempts in NFL) to take advantage because they constantly fall behind early in games, making them incredibly predictable.

The Cowboys defense is numero uno in the NFL versus the run and have only allowed one rushing TD on the season. Their six INTs so far this season are eighth most in the NFL, which means Bradford or Feely, whoever starts at QB for the Rams, will be in for a long day.

“Miles” To Go?

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After many fantasy owners viewed Miles Austin as somewhat of an unknown commodity heading into the season, it caused his draft value to slip. Even as the number one WR in “Big D”, Austin still wasn’t getting selected until the third or fourth round in most drafts. In the first two weeks, Austin immediately punished owners who didn’t select him by totaling 14 catches, 233 yards and four TD. Then, as soon as he burst back on the scene, he was gone, missing the next two games with a hamstring injury.

The hamstring pull, the peskiest of all injuries for a fantasy owner, can linger for an entire season. But if you listen to Austin, it seems to be something he has put behind him.

“With a hamstring it's just running full speed and it grabs on you. A hamstring is one of those deals where you can be the toughest guy ever, but once it grabs you, physically you can't get going,” said Austin this week. “I’m feeling better now and I'm excited to go. You can be over anything, but then you can get it again, who knows. I'm 100 percent, though. I would say I'm over it."

If he says he’s over it, start him until he proves he isn’t. His gaudy previous production warrants a must start scenario versus the Patriots, owners of the worst pass defense in the NFL.

Without Johnson, What To Expect From Schaub?

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Last season Johnson missed three games due to injury and Schaub was productive in each game without him.  In a week four matchup versus the Oakland Raiders, Schaub totaled 192 yards and two TDs. In week 16 he had 310 yards, one TD and one INT. Finally in week 17 he had 253 yards and a TD, making his average performance in those three games 251 yards and a TD. While those numbers won’t exactly set the world on fire, they are solid, and mean you don’t have to scrounge the waiver wire like a junkie digging through the dumpster in your apartment complex at 4 AM for a decent meal, i.e. Andy Dalton.

The Raiders rank 22nd in the NFL in passing defense, which is good for Schaub owners. And now that Arian Foster is apparently healthy, you’d have to assume he will carry the ball 20-25 times, which should also open thing sup for Schaub.

After being a complete non-factor last week on the heels of his five catch, 126 yard, one TD game the previous week, can James Casey swoop in and produce for fantasy owners? Even after the awful week, he’s third in both receptions and receiving yards for the Texans. Someone will have to pick up the slack and it can’t just be Owen Daniels by himself.

Mike Williams Is The New Michael Clayton?

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What is it about Tampa Bay that kills a receivers career? In 2004 rookie WR Michael Clayton burst onto the scene with a 80 catch, 1,193 yard, seven TD campaign. It was the best season for a Tampa rookie in franchise history. He looked great, especially considering he had three different QB’s throwing him the ball that year and didn’t start the first three games of the season. Hopes were high. He was the next can’t miss young WR.   

Then a strange thing happened- he was never productive again. And fans started to hate him (check it out.) He didn’t even score a TD in 2005 and it would take him the next three and a half seasons to cumulatively eclipse his yardage total from his rookie year, only scoring three TD’s in the next six seasons. Now, after a stint last year with Omaha in the UFL, he is barely surviving as a reserve for the Giants.

Is Mike Williams headed down the same unproductive, weird path? Through the season’s first three games Williams has only totaled 10 catches for 89 yards and a TD, making Monday night’s matchup versus the Colts a make or break scenario for starting him from here on out. At this point last year, Williams had totaled 12 receptions, 139 yards and two TD’s. Week four was his breakout game with 7 catches, 99 yards and a TD vs the Bengals.

One stat that favors Williams owners is that his 22 total targets by Bucs QB Josh Freeman is tied for the team lead, meaning his lack of production may just be the extension of a struggling TB offense. The Colts are 18th in pass defense, giving up 251 ypg, so Williams should get his chances to produce.

Consider MNF a critical game in determining what you can expect from Mike Williams for the rest of the season- or the Michael Clayton comparisons will only increase.

Can You Start Denarius Moore, Consequence Free?

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I know it’s hard to wrap your mind around the concept- how can Denarius Moore be putting up these numbers? Can I start him in my fantasy league?

I think it has a lot to do with who you are currently starting at wide receiver. If you were starting Kenny Britt and are in a 12 or 14 teamer and there is almost nothing on the waiver wire (like it was for my friend and co-host Major Bradley which we discussed here on the “Major Paul and Paul Show”), a player like Moore is just what the doctor ordered.

In a lot of ways Moore is like the 2011 version of Jacoby Ford. In 2010 Ford scored TD’s in four of the final six games, excluding kick returns. If you include them, he scored TDs in six of his final eight. In two games since entering the starting lineup due to injury, Moore has scored two TDs while averaging four catches and 90 yards per game, plus an additional 48 yards on two rushing plays.

So can you rely on him? This week will give us a pretty good idea.

The Patriots are surprisingly ranked dead last in pass defense. They have also allowed the most plays of 20+ yards so far this season, which bodes well for a big play receiver like Moore.

If you like to gamble and have a questionable match-up with a WR you drafted but aren’t sold on him, throw Moore in there. Otherwise, take a flier and see how this week plays out.

Falcons At Buccaneers: Promising Match-up For Fantasy Owners

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Sometimes you look at the NFL schedule and certain games jump out at you from a fantasy perspective. This week Atlanta travels to Tampa Bay in a game that should feature plenty of scoring.

So far thru two games this year, the Falcons have given up 30 and 31 points in their first two games while the Bucs have given up 27 and 20, respectively. In two meetings last season, the average combined point total of those games was exactly 50 points. That should continue in this week’s match up.

The Tampa Bay offense hasn’t really lived up to expectations considering the talent they have. Some of that talent finally gelled in last week’s game versus the Vikings when they scored 24 points in the second half. LaGarrette Blount bust out of his shell scoring two TDs and Josh Freeman put together a productive game. Considering what Jeremy Maclin did against the Falcons last week, second year WR Mike Williams could finally produce this week versus ATL after only putting up five catches for 46 yards a TD thru two games.

For Atlanta, Michael Turner has consecutive 100+ yard rushing games, a string which should continue against a Buc defense that just gave up 120 yards and two TDs to Adrian Peterson. Tampa’s run defense is second worst in the NFL so Turner should get plenty of chances. Is this the week rookie Julio Jones busts out? You can feel the momentum building in the first two games with Jones collecting 14 total targets, just three less than Roddy White. If you’re in need of a WR this week, there are plenty of worse options than Jones.

Who Benefits The Most From Aaron Hernandez’s Injury?

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At first blush, the most obvious benefactor is fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski’s three TDs are tied for second most in the NFL, but part of what makes him so successful is working in tandem with Aaron Hernandez.

Another thing to consider is the season ending injury to center Dan Koppen, placed on IR on Wednesday with a broken ankle. Losing a starting offensive lineman generally requires a tight end to block more and since Gronkowski is an absolute beast at 6-6, 265, why wouldn’t he help out in protecting franchise QB Tom Brady?

So who benefits the most? I think receiver Deion Branch does.

Thru the season’s first two weeks, Branch quietly has 15 catches for 222 yards, averaging over seven catches and 111 yards per game. Though he has no TUDs, Branch is Brady’s “go to” receiver when the Pats offense needs a big play. We know what we’re going to get from Ochocinco (straight-line speed) and from Welker (tirelessly working the middle) but Branch is the real x-factor this week.

Also, this week’s opponent, the Buffalo Bills, in the first two games this year have only allowed opposing tight ends to accumulate six catches for 55 yards, and for a team that runs a base 3-4 shutting down the TE makes sense.

Any idiot can tell you a big game for the Patriots receivers is on the horizon the way Tom Brady is throwing the ball, but I think this week is perfect for Branch to score his first TD and have a very productive week, more so than Gronkowski.

Don’t Give Up On LeGarrette Blount Yet

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Fantasy owners are fickle, especially if one player costs your team a game. LeGarrette Blount had a bad first week, there is no other way to slice it- five carries for 15 yards isn’t going to cut it. In one fantasy league I am in, Blount went from being started on 98% of the teams to 75% which is indicative of the dip in his perceived value across most fantasy leagues.

Detroit’s defense deserves a lot of credit for limiting Blount and the entire Buc offense in week one, as I mentioned here. Tampa was consistently in third and long scenarios throughout the game, which gave back-up Ernest Graham a lot more work that anyone, even the Bucs, expected. A big part of that was head coach Raheem Morris’ decision to run the two minute offense for the entire second half, an offensive set that rarely includes Blount. Morris later stated he regretted the decision. "We have a weapon in Blount, we want to be able to run the ball with him,'' Morris said Monday. “Maybe as a coach, I went too fast, I went too early to the two-minute offense.”

Sunday, Blount and the Bucs travel to the Metrodome to face the Vikings which could be exactly what he needs. The Vikings gave u[p the most fantasy points to running backs in week one, allowing Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert to combined for 224 total yards and three TD. With Morris publically question his decision making, you’ve got to think Blount will be featured early and often.

Don’t give up on Blount LeGarrette Blount yet.