Just about every year, the fantasy owners who get off to the best starts are those who are loaded up with the most successful teams coming out of the gate. To hear the boys at The Shop, you would think that the complete opposite is true.
There are five teams that are still unbeaten in the NFL, there are precious few fantasy players anyone wants regularly in their starting lineups. It’s uncanny how these teams are going to force owners to make hard decisions because many of these guys were afterthoughts on draft day.
BALTIMORE – The Ravens still don’t have a running game – averaging just 3.3 yards a game – and there is plenty of reason to avoid all of them. In three games, the only guy worth having is kicker Justin Tucker. The Ravens have just four touchdowns in three games and three of those have been pulled in by Mike Wallace, who was brought in for pennies on the dollar.
DENVER – Trevor Siemian had just one TD pass in the first two games, which likely scared off a lot of owners from playing Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. C.J. Anderson will likely be a guy who gets played every week, but the Broncos have a lot of open questions when it comes to the sustained power of the Denver passing game.
MINNESOTA – Not many players other than Adrian Peterson were viewed as fantasy starters in most leagues and A.D. sucked prior to getting injured. Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph are both off to good starts, but likely did most of their production on someone’s bench rather than in the starting lineup. With Peterson gone, will owners jump on guys like Sam Bradford, Jerick McKinnon or Blair Walsh? Minnesota’s defense has done more to win games for owners than any individual players.
NEW ENGLAND – No Tom Brady. No Gronk. No problem. The Patriots find ways to get the job done without their top stars. To date, the only consistent fantasy starter has been Julian Edelman and he has caught 18 passes for 180 yards and no touchdowns. Stephen Gostkowski is always worth having, but the most valuable Patriots are the two that haven’t played yet – Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles were expected to be bottom feeders in the NFC East, but rookie Carson Wentz has gone 3-0 and players like Ryan Mathews and Josh Matthews have also become viable starters and do you bench a guy like Ben Roethlisberger for Wentz? Those who did last Sunday did fine.
There has often been a connection between team success and fantasy success, but to date, the teams that have been winning all their games haven’t been the stars on the fantasy boards. Will it change? That depends on how willing owners are to buy into team success and start benching guys they drafted to be starters.
- I’ve never liked taking Detroit Lions on draft day because their team sucks. Megatron was the only one I made an exception for and wasn’t disappointed. The Lions did what the Lions do fantasy-wise on Sunday. Down 31-3 in the second quarter, owners who had Matthew Stafford or Marvin Jones licked their chops. If you’re a Lions owner, you know the M.O.
- In the last five regular season games, the Cleveland Browns have started five different quarterbacks.
- Consider this: If not for an injury to Teddy Bridgewater, odds are Carson Wentz wouldn’t have seen the field yet. The Eagles were planning to start Sam Bradford and ease Wentz into his role. When Minnesota offered a first-round pick to the Eagles for Bradford, they likely agreed because next year’s draft will be in Philly and they wanted a first-round pick back. Neither team in complaining.
- On Sunday, rookie Trevone Boykin threw an interception in relief of Russell Wilson. Of all the rookie quarterbacks who have seen action this season, it was the first interception that any of them have thrown.
The Razor’s Edge
10. Classic Cleveland Collapse – It was one for the ages in for Browns fans Sunday. The less-than-stellar Dolphins were pretty much everyone’s pick to win at home against the Browns who were starting something called Cody Kessler at quarterback. The chances for the Browns to win games is a very limited window, so, when they lined up for a game-winning kick on the road at Miami, it was a testament the human spirit – and how bad Miami is. What happened? Cleveland kicker Cody Parkey missed a 46-yard field goal – his third miss of the day and the Browns lost in overtime. Classic Cleveland!
9. Drafting Rookie Wideouts is Cool – Fantasy owners in dynasty and carryover leagues always get giddy about young talent – which I find rather off-putting in a grown man. Of the four first-round wide receivers that were drafted, Will Fuller was the king of the crop with three catches for just 31 yards in Week 3. Josh Doctson can’t stay healthy. Corey Coleman has a broken hand. Laquon Treadwell was a healthy scratch. Welcome the NFL, boys.
8. Go West, Old Man – There is always a taboo about Western Time Zone teams heading east and playing early games. Arizona did everything it could to reinforce that stereotype. Playing against a woeful Bills team that fired its offensive coordinator, the Cardinals fell behind 17-0 early and, at one point late in the third quarter, they trailed 30-7. Carson Palmer threw four interceptions and the Cardinals defense allowed 208 rushing yards. A one-game hiccup? The last time that Cards went east they got gutted by Carolina in the playoffs. Their visit to Niagara Falls went no better.
7. Trash Talkin’ Needs Backing Up – At the end of the Ravens-Jaguars game, it somehow seemed fitting that career trash talker Steve Smith found his way right up into rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s grill to get the last word. Ramsey has been earning an early reputation for talking smack, but there’s a simple rule he seems to have deflected – to talk that kind of talk, you need to walk the walk. At 0-3, the Jaguars aren’t impressing anyone and maybe it’s time to shut up and start playing better.
6. Bungle In the Jungle – The Cincinnati Bengals have been the class of the AFC North the last few years (in the regular season anyway) and had a chance to exorcise some demons by taking out the Steelers and Broncos in back-to-back weeks. Instead, they got dominated by Pittsburgh in Week 2 and, gave up two touchdowns in two-and-a-half minutes in the final seven minutes of their home game with Denver. Allowing Trevor Siemian to throw for four touchdowns and having his only two legitimate receivers (Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders) to both go off for 100 yards and combine for three touchdowns. The Bengals are digging a pretty deep hole early on for themselves if they’re looking to repeat as division champs that have won double digit games the last four seasons.
5. They Shoot Bears, Don’t They? – When John Fox took over the Chicago Bears, his plan was to transform a defense that had run a 4-3 forever into a 3-4 scheme. The result was a mid-season fire sale of trades and cuts with the hope that, by season’s end, the new core of players and draft picks and free agents coming in would make the difference and show the improvement Fox has become famous for. Instead, not only are the Bears losing, they’re losing badly. They’ve been outscored in every quarter, haven’t scored more than 17 points in a game and have been beaten by 9, 15 and 14 points – the last two losses coming against rookie QBs. What happens when they go up against QBs like Aaron Rodgers?
4. Lowered Expectations – The Houston Texans had the chance to leave the rest of the AFC South far behind them with a long to prepare for their fourth game after going up against a Patriots team down to its third quarterback and still without Rob Gronkowski making an impact. Not only did the Texans blow the chance, they got shut out – a rarity in the NFL and almost an impossibility for a playoff caliber team and, more importantly, if they do make it the playoffs and meet up for a rematch, it’s probably going to be in Boston in January. Good luck with that.
3. Picked Six – There’s no shame in losing to the Chiefs in Kansas City, but it was how the Jets got beat that has to have the New Yorkers concerned. The Chiefs offense only scored one touchdown and, from the second quarter on, despite being pressed into bad spots, the Jets defense allowed just three points. The problem was the Jets offense allowed 14 points in a 24-3 loss and Ryan Fitzpatrick served up six interceptions. That is a rare number because most QBs would have been pulled before they could throw a fifth or sixth pick. But, when your Plan B is Geno Smith, maybe just let the Lorax take his beating.
2. Welcome to Wentzylvania – It may not mean a lot outside of Pennsylvania, but when the Steelers and Eagles meet every four years it’s a big deal in the Keystone State. The Steelers had basically had their way with Washington and Cincinnati and the Eagles appeared to be another notch in Big Ben’s belt. Not only did the Steelers lose, but they got dominated 34-3 by a rookie quarterback and a defense that appeared to have the Steelers playbook. One game doesn’t derail a season, but everyone else now knows how to manhandle the Steelers and others are bound to copy it.
1. Kryptonite Takes Down Superman – A funny thing happens when a reigning MVP starts bringing back his choreographed dance moves against a defense that has some bad intentions. Cam Newton thought it was going to be another hometown blowout of the visiting Minnesota Vikings and, when his team went up 10-0 ten minutes in, he was pulling open the Superman outfit for a blowout. In the final 50 minutes, he got sacked eight times and threw three interceptions. Apparently he got voted off NFL Dancing With the Stars. Maybe Cam should start keeping his eyes on the prize instead of being so cocky when he’s a frontrunner. In three games this season, Carolina matched its loss total from 2015, when the Panthers played 19 games.