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JUMbotron Friday Huddle: Week 3
John U. Miller
September 23, 2011

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Prediction A:  WR ___ _____ will continue his hot streak aided by QB ____ _____ who’s leading the league at 11.3 yards per attempt.  These two must have found each other on because they are uniquely compatible.

Prediction B:  WR ____ _____ will break out of his funk and catch 6+ passes and a touchdown in a wild game at home vs. _____ this week.

I’ll fill in those blanks in a few minutes. 

Fantasy Free Agent of the Week:

Chiefs RB Dexter McCluster.  It’s obvious that Todd Haley had already written McCluster’s name all over his 2011 playbook as evidenced here and here – and now their 20-touch back Jamaal Charles is out for the year.  Do you really think Thomas Jones will assimilate all those touches into his workload?  Jones is 33 years old and about to pass Jamal Lewis for the 20th most rushing attempts in the history of the NFL.  His longest run in his last 120 carries is 16 yards.  Haley has to win games – now – and to do that he has to gain yards.  It’s that simple.  McCluster can gain yards in buckets and he’s already averaging 10 touches with Charles in the lineup.  Last year’s AFC West-winning team has disappeared without a trace.  Poof.  The defense lost playmaking S Eric Berry for the year and can’t get off the field, so how can the Chiefs squeeze the clock and play Thomas Jones-ball?  Their opponents so far have controlled the ball for 35 minutes per game so it’s obvious to me the Chiefs will be behind a lot.  McCluster’s schedule is nice, too:  3 of the next 4 games feature the 28th (Oakland), 29th (Indianapolis), and 32nd ranked (Minnesota) defense vs. fantasy RBs.  Flex this little boy early and often.

I had a couple huge, sweeping NFL observations queued for this week’s JUMbotron but after proofreading it felt like I wasn’t really arming you with enough fantasy info to win fantasy matchups.  Instead let’s just whip around the league – all over the place, rapid-fire – and pinpoint stats, news & personnel – JUMbo style.  When I started this column in 1999 my motto was “Tell ‘em something they don’t know.”  I’m going to get back to that idea in the coming weeks.  Here we go:

Panthers TE targets after two games: Greg Olsen 10 targets, 5 catches, 112 yards, 0 TDs.  Jeremy Shockey 8 targets, 6 catches, 107 yards, 0 TDs.  Both of them have made plays but this is pure cannibalism and I don’t like my fantasy TE involved in crap like this.

Browns TE Evan Moore seems like as juicy a sleeper as you’ll find – He’s scored a touchdown in consecutive games and is currently ranked #10.  He’s pretty popular in 14- and 16-team leagues.  But wait, could he be the No. 3 on his own team?  Last week Moore played a total of 9 snaps, compared to Alex Smith’s 32 and Ben Watson’s 36.  Wrap Moore into a package deal and see if he helps you acquire a Johnny Knox, Reggie Bush, or even a Darren Sproles if you’re lucky.

Eagles LB Casey Matthews has been moved from the middle to the weak side. That’s important news in IDP leagues.  To stay on top of IDPs always check the Free Agent Report by Darin Tietgen and then follow Steve Gallo on Twitter.

Here’s where the RBs stand in red-zone action so far:

RB Red Zone Action
Running Back Rushes Targets
Ben Tate 11 1
Fred Jackson 11 3
R. Mendenhall 10 1
Mike Tolbert 9 3
Frank Gore 9 2
Mark Ingram 9 0
Michael Turner 9 1
Peyton Hillis 8 1
Darren McFadden 8 4
Adrian Peterson 8 1
Tim Hightower 7 3
Jahvid Best 7 0
Chris Johnson 7 2
Shonn Greene 6 3
Ray Rice 6 1
LeSean McCoy 6 2

Texans WR Jacoby Jones sprained his knee last week doing the leaping chest bump with Andre Johnson after AJ caught a touchdown. Jones had his knee drained twice this week and is all jacked up.  I’ve always cringed every time these guys go up high for the bump, wondering if someone’s foot gets stepped on or something.  Anyway, Kevin Walter is coming back from a shoulder injury and should start in Week 3.  You know how this plays out:  Walter catches 6 passes for 70 yards and 1 TD, suckering us to flex him in Week 4 so he can go right back to his normal 3 catches for 39 yards.   

San Francisco 49ers WR Braylon Edwards (knee) recently had a surgical procedure on his right knee and will be out for a month.  Edwards has no business on your fantasy roster because the season's too short and there are so many other viable pickups on the waiver wire.  As for the remaining 49ers WRs, there’s just not much to see here:  Edwards had seven targets in two weeks, Josh Morgan had seven, and Ted Ginn had seven. Michael Crabtree (foot) is expected to play in Week 3 but he doesn't exist to me until I see him spike it in the paint.

Devin Hester was targeted a whopping 9 times in Week 2 at New Orleans.  He caught 1 pass for 17 yards.  There are so many things I could say here… but gosh, I do love the 9 targets.  Now Earl Bennett (chest) is out for Week 3 and I doubt Roy Williams (groin) is coming back anytime soon.  For the love of all that’s holy, why can’t Hester or Johnny Knox put up numbers in a Mike Martz offense? 

In Week 1 Reggie Bush was on the field for a whopping 71 snaps, but in Week 2 he only had 25 snaps. Daniel Thomas was thrust into the starting role by Tony Sparano on the sly, and became the first Dolphins RB to reach 100 yards in the last 21 games.  Then on Wednesday Dolphins beat writer Omar Kelly leaked that Bush has a groin injury.  Thomas was certainly impressive last week and there’s ample evidence to suggest he’ll be a weekly 15-20 carry guy going forward.

Shonn Greene carried 16 times for 49 yards and 1 TD vs. the Jaguars.  Finally a little fantasy pop (emphasizing “little” here) from this 228-lb underachiever. Pro Football Focus reports the Jaguars only put eight-or-more men in the box on 16% of the Jets’ running plays -- and that’s all Greene could muster?  Greene hasn’t broken a 20-yard run in the regular-season in his last 139 carries dating back to Week 5 last year. To put that in perspective, another 225-lb grinder like Tim Hightower has 6 runs of 20+ yards in his last 139 carries.  And Hightower’s Cards/Skins blockers aren’t near the caliber of Greene’s buddies.  Look, if I’m giving Hightower praise you know something’s wrong – and what’s wrong is Greene.  Sell high on Greene – coming off a touchdown game – right now.  I bet you could flip a 2-for-1 swap like:

--Shonn Greene for DeAngelo Willians + a sneaky 7-8 target WR like Eric Decker or Mike Sims-Walker.  Ok, DeAngelo has disappointed but c’mon, you’ll never get him cheaper than right now, and we know he has a high ceiling that hasn’t been tapped yet.  This is a gamble that only makes sense to a gambler like me.

--Shonn Greene for Mark Ingram + TE Ed Dickson.  The Ingram-owner is fidgety with zero TDs, and Dickson could be a perfect spot-starter.  He has quietly caught 7 balls for 84 yards and 1 TD.  Again, Greene’s touchdown sells.  Ingram doesn’t have one.  But by the end of the season I am confident Ingram will have 10 scores because the Saints live in the red zone.

--Shonn Greene for Joseph Addai + WR Jabar Gaffney.  Addai is essentially the same as Greene only with a looser schedule.  The Addai–owner will be itching to unload him before this week’s ugly Steelers matchup; but then the Colts’ face Tampa Bay (20th ranked DEF vs. fantasy RBs), Kansas City (30th), Cincinnati (11th) and New Orleans (19th).  Gaffney quietly ranks 25th in WR targets so far and can help fortify your bench during bye weeks.

Tony Romo has been fitted with a Kevlar vest for Monday night’s game vs. the Redskins.  I don’t care what anyone says, I will be absolutely shocked if a $69 million quarterback plays with a hole in his lung against a hungry, aggressive division rival.  Everyone says the extra day before Monday night gives Romo a better chance to play – but I see it the opposite way, it gives a reliable backup like Jon Kitna an extra day to get ready. 

Does anyone watch Real Housewives of Orange County re-runs these days?  Is there a way to DVR it so just scenes with Alexis are recorded?  I just want a 10-minute Alexis highlight clip.

You know how I feel about Brandon Marshall (ranked him #4 in preseason, higher than anyone in the industry) but do you remember how much I pimped Davone Bess last year? On September 17, 2010 I wrote: “Prediction B: Davone Bess will be a mini-stud who should be a PPR flex every week.”  And he became just that…  This season Bess is still under the radar – 12 targets, 7 catches, 134 yards, 0 TDs – but I’m telling you he’s gonna have some bigger games this year.  Chad Henne is a different player now and Marshall is drawing bracket coverage wherever he goes.  Watch closely here to see two Texans DBs leaving Marshall when they realize Bess has busted loose. 

Chris Johnson missed practice Wednesday, only the 5th regular-season practice he’s missed since entering the NFL in 2008.  He told reporters he was sore.  Of course he is, this is Week 3 of his preseason.  He did practice Thursday, although my buddy in the Titans organization told me it was no-contact whatsoever (“no one even breathed on him”) for Johnson this week.  He met behind closed doors with Mike Munchak and RB coach Jim Skipper early Thursday morning.  “They just wanted to really know how I was feeling and things like that, and I let them know I was good,” said Johnson.  “I am just a little sore.  I got a lot of mental reps.  I’ll be OK.  I am anxious to get back on the field and play games.”  Everybody wants to see the $53 million guy strutting in the end zone.  I still blame the Titans for this because they knew he was getting that contract and still played a Bengal-like game of chicken, costing CJ invaluable camp work.  PS – My guy also said Kenny Britt (hamstring) is “straight up” fine so don’t sweat it.

I’ve received so many inquiries about benching Darren McFadden vs. the Jets.  I can’t fathom such a move.  Why would you bench him against anybody?  He’s healthy, dynamic, and a complete fantasy monster.  Over his last 6 games going back to last year he’s the #1 fantasy RB.

Big 6 RBs Over Last 6 Games
Running Back Total Yds TDs FP
D. McFadden 869 6 123
Ray Rice 767 6 113
LeSean McCoy 698 6 106
Arian Foster 660 5 96
Matt Forte 803 2 92
Michael Turner 607 5 91

For all practical purposes McFadden is the #1 fantasy RB in this hobby.  And so what if he shares a little with Michael Bush, maybe loses a goal-line score here and there.  Oakland was 4th in rushing attempts last year and are currently 3rd this year so there’s plenty to go around.  Adrian Peterson missed the list with 537 total yards and 6 TDs over his last 6 games.  McFadden has 38% more total yards than Peterson in this span.  Fred Jackson also has more yards than Peterson (no joke) with 548, and 2 TDs.  By the way, it’s amazing that Arian Foster hangs in the “Big 6 Over Last 6” despite barely playing this season.  It reflects how powerful the Texans ground game is and bodes well for Ben Tate, who could be lugging 20 carries in each of the next two weeks.

JUMbo Sleeper of the Week:

Redskins QB Rex Grossman at Dallas on Monday night.  The Cowboys will dial up the blitzes and knock him around a bunch but this guy is playing at too high a level to be thwarted.  Dallas still doesn’t have their secondary at full strength and have given up 37 TD passes over the last 18 games, most in the NFL.  Again, Rex Grossman is playing at a high level.

Rex Grossman's Last 5 Games
Wk 2 2011 25-43, 291, 2 TD, 2 INT
Wk 1 2011 21-34, 305, 2 TD, 0 INT
Wk 17 2010 26-44, 336, 2 TD, 1 INT
Wk 16 2010 19-39, 182, 1 TD, 1 INT
Wk 15 2010 25-43, 322, 4 TD, 2 INT

Grossman is still throwing an ill-advised pass here and there but I think it’s because Mike Shanahan is giving him a lot of rope.  40 passes a game, folks.  Rex has had at least 7 throws batted down too, otherwise he’s in the top-6 in passing yards (he’s still ranked a tidy 9th).  It’s obvious to me that Rex has studied film on his opponents and devoted himself to the craft.  He’s going through progressions rapidly and releasing the football – making that look easy, frankly.  Matt Bowen of the National Football Post says there are 3 routes that defenses must stop in order to win in the NFL – Flat-7, Spot, and Dagger – and Grossman is hitting them over and over.  His wide receivers, who were fantasy afterthoughts this summer, are all involved and getting separation when their number is called:  Santana Moss (17 targets, 11 catches, 137 yards, 1 TD), Jabar Gaffney (15 targets, 8 catches, 116 yards, 1 TD), Anthony Armstrong (10 targets, 4 catches, 38 yards, 1 TD).  Did you know Fred Davis is #2 among all TEs with 191 receiving yards?

JUMbo Deep League Flex Play of the Week:

Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray.  Another Monday nighter, it’s the perfect time for Dallas to unveil their new toy in front of a sauced home crowd.  Felix Jones has a sore shoulder and Tashard Choice is well, him.  Murray is only the 3rd RB Dallas has drafted in the first 3 rounds since 1996 (Felix Jones '08, Julius Jones '04) and there’s no way they can’t give him 8-10 touches vs. the Redskins, especially if they are behind – which they might be very early.  All Murray needs is a little space and he’ll handle the rest, like he did in the preseason.

WR Jordy Nelson played 33 of the Packers’ 58 offensive snaps at Carolina. But he did play more snaps than Donald Driver (29) for the second straight week, which proves Nelson is the No. 2 WR.  Yeah, Nelson only caught 1 pass… but it was a 84-yard TD.  This ain’t Michael Jenkins out there, this Nelson kid is a playmaker. Week 1 phenom Randall Cobb played 11 snaps and caught 2 passes for 25 yards.

Matt Forte is only 25 years old and has 3,353 career rushing yards and 1,702 receiving yards. 5,055 total yards from scrimmage in his first 50 games.  Marshall Faulk had 4,763 total yards in his first 50 games.  If I was a fantasy psychic I’d tell you Forte will join the 10,000/5,000 Club with Faulk, Marcus Allen and Tiki Barber.  Seriously, I’m going to keep telling you how great this guy is until each and every one of you buy it.  This is a new NFL where RBs have to get out into pass routes and get their yards two ways.  Forte might be the best dual-threat in cleats right now.  JUMbo Humblebrag:  I ranked Matt Forte #5 in the preseason, highest in the FF industry.  I also ranked DeAngelo Williams #9. 

It’s early in the season but I like to count and see which WRs get target love near the goal line:

WR Targets Inside 5-Yd Line
Calvin Johnson   4   He only had 5 all last season
B. Marshall 3 He ranked No. 1 In 2010 with 11
Miles Austin 2 Out for a while, who steps up?
Kenny Britt 2 Again, only had 2 all last season
Jordy Nelson 2 Long, short, he's in the playbook

Matthew Stafford has everything going for him now, including luck.  In the 2nd quarter he threw a pick but the Chiefs DB fumbled and Tony Scheffler recovered it.  3 plays later, Touchdown Calvin Johnson.  Then later, Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt, perennially a top-10 guy, shoinked one off from his own 14-yard line that Lions PR Stefan Logan snagged at midfield.  2 plays later, Touchdown Tony Scheffler.  Hey, I mentioned on Tuesday that Keiland Williams was the Lions No. 2 back because he took over when Jahvid Best got an early exit in the blowout – but technically Jerome Harrison was the second RB in the game, not Williams.  Harrison slipped in two uneventful carries early in the 2nd quarter.  However, it was Williams that hauled the rock when it was time to ice it so I’m assuming he’s Best’s handcuff. 

What’s up with Lee Evans?  He’s supposedly hindered by a bad foot but I saw him running really fast against the Titans... early in the game.  Joe Flacco pumped his way a couple times when Evans had beaten S Jordan Babineaux deep – but didn’t pull the trigger.  Evans did snag a 32-yard pass in the 4th quarter but seemed labored coming out of the break.  Evans didn’t practice this week and HC John Harbuagh said “We’ve been nursing this thing for a month and I don’t see it getting a whole lot better.”

JUMbo Quotes:

“Just after 4 o'clock that day, when the final score read Detroit 48, Kansas City 3, a football-forlorn city was brimming with hope.  A crowd gathered outside the Lions' locker room.  Celebrities lingered, long after the boys dumped Gatorade on their defensive coordinator.  Something had changed, and Kid Rock and Bob Seger felt it as they stood outside the locker room like the groupies that follow them.  The double doors opened, a security guard whisked them in, and 10 minutes later, Seger emerged with an autographed football and what appeared to be a tear streaming down his face.
‘We're on our way now!’ the aging rocker said.” –’s Elizabeth Merrill 9/22/11

“When defenses go to Cover 2, the corner, instead of dropping down into his zone, he's following me.  So, it's like there’s a safety over the top and the corner's coming, too.  Even the ball that I did catch [last week], I got hit by the safety, too.  It's always two defenders where I'm at.  I just have to adjust to it.” – Bucs 2nd-year WR Mike Williams 9/21/11

JUMbo Quick Tidbits:

--Bengals QB Andy Dalton posted a 102.4 and 107.0 rating in his first 2 NFL starts.
--Cam Newton leads all QBs with 16 passes of 20+ yards. Brady (15), Henne (13), Grossman (11), Romo (10), and Rivers (9) are next.  Josh Freeman only has 3 despite ranking 11th in pass attempts (74).  Donovan McNabb only has 2 passes of 20+ yards.
--Bills TE Scott Chandler leads all TEs with 6 red-zone targets. Dustin Keller, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez are next with 5.  With Hernandez (knee) out for a while that leaves some juicy red-zone love for Brady to redistribute.
--Beanie Wells was limited Thursday with a hamstring but he appeared on KTAR’s The Big Red Rage show Thursday night and reportedly wasn’t limping.
--Packers TE Jermichael Finley only has 1 red-zone target after two games.
--Over his last 9 games going back to 2010 Peyton Hillis has averaged 3.7 yards per carry.  In the previous 9 games when he first broke out he averaged 4.8 per carry.  And remember kids, Cleveland lost LG Eric Steinbach (back) in the preseason.
--Ray Rice was the only RB in the league last year with >250 total touches and zero fumbles.  He still hasn’t fumbled.
--Steven Jackson (quad) is doubtful, Cadillac Williams (hamstring) is questionable, which leaves Jerious Norwood to possibly start vs. the Ravens.
--Another fantasy expert who I shall not name keeps telling his subscribers that Michael Turner has “lost a step” and “looks so slow” etc.  Uh, well… I’ll admit he’s not “Turner The Burner” anymore but he’s averaging 6.9 yards per carry after games at Chicago and vs. Philadelphia.  He already has 72 receiving yards too; after compiling only 161 receiving yards in his previous three years combined in Atlanta.  JUMbo Whisper:  Atlanta has been without stalwart C Todd McClure (knee) for the first two games. He’s back at practice and could be ready next week.
--The top-5 QBs in red-zone pass attempts last year were Drew Brees (106), Matt Ryan (92), Tom Brady (89), Peyton Manning (88), and Aaron Rodgers (88).  So far this year it’s Matthew Stafford (21), Ryan Fitzpatrick (19), Cam Newton (18), Chad Henne (17), and Rex Grossman (17).

Lions WR Nate Burleson said he wants to be “The Black Wes Welker.”  With at least 8 targets in 8 of his last 13 games, Burleson is at least in the ballpark (?).  Funny stuff.

Prediction A:  WR Steve Smith will continue his hot streak aided by QB Cam Newton who’s leading the league at 11.3 yards per attempt.  These two must have found each other on because they are uniquely compatible.

Prediction B:  WR Percy Harvin will break out of his funk and catch 6+ passes and a touchdown in a wild game at home vs. Detroit this week.

JUMbo Cheerleader Series:

Cowboys:  Cassie (moving in .gif action!)
Bucs:  Rachel
Falcons:  Margaret
Chargers:  Victoria
Bucs:  Jaime
Broncos:  ??

Good Luck This Week!


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