BUMPS, BRUISES AND BOWOUTS
DeAngelo Hall – Torn Achilles tendon
Matt Cassel – Broken foot
Rod Streater – Fractured foot
Kyle Rudolph – Groin
Travis Kelce – Abdominal
T.Y. Hilton – Ankle injury
Chad Henne – Mercy benching
Dennis Pitta – Hip
Danny Woodhead – Ankle
Jonathan Stewart – Knee contusion
Rookies Stepping Up
After three weeks, the NFL is coming into focus and we’re just deep enough into the season that coaches are more comfortable with their players. The rookies in particular have three weeks of seasoning in or around actual games. In summertime fantasy drafts, players are valued based on expected full season stats and that always works against first-year players. They take time to come around and start to make their mark. Many end up on the waiver wire by now from impatient owners who expected immediate veteran production. Consider the rookies who suddenly showed up last Sunday.
Bishop Sankey (Titans) – Started the year with just six carries for 25 yards in Kansas City and then was limited to only two runs in the loss to the Cowboys. But the Titans moved him to #2 on the depth charts and during the loss to the Bengals, Sankey rushed for 61 yards on ten carries and added one catch for nine yards. Shonn Greene also ran ten times but only gained 33 yards. Drafted as the best available rookie back, Sankey is starting to make the move to being the starter. This week is a tougher matchup in Indianapolis but next up are the Browns, Jaguars, Redskins and Texans before their week nine bye.
Lorenzo Taliaferro (Ravens) – The fourth-round pick wasn’t active in the first two weeks but was called on with Ray Rice gone and Bernard Pierce out. While journeyman Justin Forsett was given 11 carries to gain 63 yards, Taliaferro rushed 18 times for 91 yards and one score. When Pierce returns he’ll resume being the starter (at least for now). But Taliaferro is making the move to become the #2 in a committee backfield if not eventually more.
Alfred Blue (Texans) – Arian Foster was a surprise scratch last week and the sixth-round pick from LSU already rushed for 40 yards on 11 carries in Oakland win. Blue ran for 78 yards on 13 carries plus one catch for ten yards. He’s never going to replace a healthy Foster, but how often will we actually have a healthy Foster?
Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings) – Matt Cassel fractured bones in his foot so the Bridgewater era has officially begun. He completed 12 of 20 for 150 yards in New Orleans and also kept drives alive as a runner. He gained 27 yards on six rushes. Despite the absence of Adrian Peterson and eventually Kyle Rudolph, Bridgewater played in three quarters with success. He completed four passes for 62 yards to Greg Jennings and three receptions gaining 33 yards for Cordarrelle Patterson as the two lead receivers. His next opponents are the Falcons, Packers, Lions, Bills, Buccaneers and Redskins.
Blake Bortles (Jaguars) – After Chad Henne was benched in the Colt’s loss, Bortles not only was called to play but has already been named the starter for the rest of the season. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 223 yard and two scores. He also gained 30 yards on two runs. His schedule remains daunting but there is argument that he’ll be playing from behind almost exclusively and will need to throw. This is a very young offense attached to the worst defense in the league. That spells fantasy value if only during late game trash time.
Jordan Matthews (Eagles) – The replacement for DeSean Jackson only caught three passes for 54 yards over his first two games. But in the win over the Redskins, Mathews (9) was second only to Jeremy Maclin (10) in targets. The rookie ended with eight catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns. On a day when the run did not work, Nick Foles just turned to Maclin and Matthews to get the win.
The rookies are coming on now and will only get better – at the expense of veterans. A few already have proven their value like Brandin Cooks (Saints) who was the lead receiver this week. Kelvin Benjamin (Panthers) just notched his first 100-yard game. Jeremy Hill (Bengals) is on a two-game scoring streak and Terrance West (Browns) is already the most productive back in Cleveland.
We still wait on Carlos Hyde, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham and all the tight ends. Oh yes, and the receiver Johnny Manziel who had his one catch this week called back on a penalty.
The Whispers Were Right
Kirk Cousins had his first start of the year and the result was spectacular. He merely threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns in an offense that is well suited to this pocket passer. Playing in Philadelphia, he produced two 100-yard receivers in Pierre Garcon (11-138, TD) and DeSean Jackson (5-117, TD). His looming schedule contains the Giants, Titans, Cowboys, Vikings and Buccaneers. In weeks 14 to 16 when most fantasy playoffs happen, he faces the Rams, Giants and Eagles again.
Never Forget Until Next Summer
Running back as a fantasy position is just brutal this year. According to the Average Draft, the top five backs drafted were LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and Eddie Lacy. Forte is the lone back that has maintained at least moderate stats each week. But for wide receivers the top five drafted were Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and Julio Jones. And then went Jordy Nelson, Antonio Brown, Alshon Jeffery and Randall Cobb. The next running backs were Marshawn Lynch, Montee Ball, DeMarco Murray, Arian Foster and Doug Martin.
It has only been three weeks. But shouldn’t all the players stand out in their first three games? So far your risk/reward has been far more favorable picking wideouts.
Evaluate Your Kicker
After three weeks, you should determine if that kicker you automatically start is really getting the job done for your fantasy team. There should be zero loyalty to a kicker no matter what he did for you last year. The highly drafted kickers who should be considered current liabilities are Mason Crosby (5.3 ppg), Phil Dawson (4.7 ppg) and Nate Freese (5 ppg). Kickers to consider are Cody Parkey (11.7 ppg), Dan Carpenter (10.7 ppg) and Chandler Cantanzaro (10 ppg). Don’t forget – Matt Prater returns in week six.
Free Agent Warning
This should be a great week for you to review who your league mates have dumped onto the waiver wire because they were too impatient. The rookies above all qualify for consideration. The sheer volume of running back injuries already demands that back-ups all be owned and in a few cases – their back-ups as well. But still be wary of the single game explosion. Players that scored well this week but who should be ignored include wideouts Eddie Royal, Stevie Johnson, Devin Hester and Allen Robinson. If John Brown of the Cardinals is available – snap him up if only to hold him. By this point, there are no more sleeper tight ends that will pop up and produce fantasy relevant numbers. Lance Kendricks, Coby Fleener and Andrew Quarless were among the best scoring tight ends in week three but none will offer the consistency and overall production. The position is not scoring much this year anyway and the tight ends already held are as good as it will get.
One waiver wire check – see if Jordan Reed was turned in. His hamstring is improving and in his place Niles Paul has 18 catches for 243 yards so far will subbing for him.
|TB 14, ATL 56||All you have to know is that there will be a line at your waiver wire this week to pick up the Steelers defense, and any other Pittsburgh players not yet claimed. The Buccaneers are exactly why we play fantasy football. There is marginal fantasy value in any of them aside from Bobby Rainey (107 total yards) and Josh McCown is injured so Mike Glennon will take over. But Vincent Jackson has lost all value. This is just a wonderfully bad team that gives away points like they were sex show flyers in Vegas. The Falcons have erased 2013 and are back to form even without Roddy White. Matt Ryan passes for 286 yards and three scores and Julio Jones (9-161-2) was a monster this week. Even Steven Jackson (14-54-1) had fantasy value. Now the Buccaneers bring their Show of Fantasy Happiness to Pittsburgh and the Falcons head to Minnesota.|
|SD 22, BUF 10||The Chargers are keeping their mojo going with Philip Rivers passing for 256 yards and two scores but Keenan Allen was held to only two catches for 17 yards. Donald Brown ran for 62 yards on 31 runs after Danny Woodhead hurt his ankle and left him all alone. E.J. Manuel threw for 238 yards and one score (pretty much every week) but only the running backs matter with Fred Jackson scoring during his 112 total yards and C.J. Spiller gaining 62 yards in total. No wideout had more than 19 yards in this game so chalk that up to the Chargers corners. Now the Bolts will host the Jaguars which is like a bye week with major fantasy implications. The Bills head to Houston.|
|TEN 7, CIN 33||By now we know the week one win in Kansas City by the Titans was more about the Chiefs than the Titans. Jake Locker threw for 169 yards and two interceptions. The only mildly interesting part was Bishop Sankey running for 61 yards on ten carries which doubled what Shonn Greene (10-33) accomplished though he scored once. At least Sankey is moving forward and getting better unlike anyone else. Andy Dalton made the highlight reels not as a passer (169 yds, 0 TDs) but as a receiver when he caught a Mohamed Sanu pass and scored from 18 yards out. Giovani Bernard only gained 54 total yards but scored two touchdowns and Jeremy Hill (7-39) scored one. A.J. Green is healthy again with 102 yards on six catches. Now the Titans head to Indy and the Bengals go on their bye.|
|BAL 23, CLE 21||This was a close game between two equally matched teams – that means the Browns are better. Joe Flacco passed for his standard 217 yards and one score with Steve Smith (5-101) yet again showing them why Torrey Smith (2-25) should never be considered a #1 receivers. Dennis Pitta injured his hip and that could be significant. Lorenzo Taliaferro becomes the new waiver wire darling if he is still there after running for 91 yards and a score on 18 carries even though Bernard Pierce will be back. For those of you who were smug about owning Justin Forsett (11-63), probably might quietly stop starting him. Brian Hoyer passed for 217 yards and one score to Miles Austin (6-51). Andrew Hawkins (7-87) still won’t score but is a reception points gem. The Browns split up the workload so that Isaiah Crowell (11-55, TD) and Terrance West (12-36-1) were both good but just barely. Now the Ravens have to host the Panthers and the Browns go onto their bye.|
|GB 7, DET 19||One of those bitterly disappointing defensive battles where we all just want fantasy points. Aaron Rodgers only passed for 162 yards and one score. No one had a bug game for the Packers including Jordy Nelson (5-59), Randall Cobb (3-29) or even Eddie Lacy (11-36). Worse yet, they allowed James Starks to run eight times for 38 yards. The Lions only passed for 246 yards and two interceptions. Calvin Johnson ended with only 82 yards on six catches as the best receiver in the game. Reggie Bush turned in a total of 99 yards and one touchdown as the only player to meet any expectations there. Now the Packers head to Chicago and the Lions go to New York to face the Jets.|
|IND 44, JAC 17||What is not to like about playing a team that averages 35 points allowed per opponents? The worst any team has done so far is 30 points against them. All Andrew Luck could do against them was throw for 370 yards and four touchdowns. T.Y. Hilton was the lead receiver with 80 yards on five catches but each touchdown was caught by a different player with even less yardage. Ahmad Bradshaw (83 total yards) was better than Trent Richardson (80 total yards) but it is a near even split. The Jaguars lost Chad Henne and Blake Bortles (223 yds, 2 TD) actually looked really good in that trash time sort of way. The Jaguars rushing offense is nearly non-existent but at least Allen Hurns (1-63, TD) Cecil Shorts (5-35, TD) and Allen Robinson (7-79) produced some fantasy points. The Jaguars are so bad on defense it that many will just follow them around each week playing anyone they can against them. The Colts return home to host the Titans while the Jaguars travel to San Diego where the Chargers get a treat. I’ve already picked up the SD defense in most my leagues for this week.|
|OAK 9, NE 16||This has to be a statement game and not one that the Raiders are getting really good. Tom Brady only passed for 234 yards and one score to Rob Gronkowski (3-44, TD) who is not only healthier now, but it doesn’t seem to matter much. Shame Vereen ended with 37 total yards and cannot be relied on at all. Stevan Ridley only gained 54 yards on 19 runs and is always a fumble waiting to happen. The Raiders were nothing special. Derek Carr threw for just 174 yards while Darren McFadden rushed for just 59 yards on 18 runs. Again – Raiders were bad but the Patriots bear little resemblance to the one that has dominated the AFC East for more than decade. The Raiders return home to face the Dolphins and the Patriots head to Kansas City.|
|MIN 9, NO 20||This has to be a disappointment. The Saints only scored 20 points and that was with a missed extra point. Drew Brees passed for 293 yards and two scores but the best receiver was Brandin Cooks with eight catches for 74 yards. Jimmy Graham was held to only 54 yards on six catches and Marques Colston scored once on his two receptions for 25 yards. Khiry Robinson ran for 69 yards on 18 carries but had no catches and the Saints let Pierre Thomas (8-30) take the touchdown. The Teddy Bridgewater era started once Matt Cassel left the game. The rookie was no bad. He threw for 150 yards and no turnovers. Greg Jennings (5-70) and Cordarrelle Patterson (4-61) both had decent showings without scoring. Matt Asiata ran for only 35 yards but added 36 yards on three catches. Now the Vikings get to host the Falcons while the Saints head to Dallas.|
|HOU 17, NYG 30||The Texans fell to the Giants after Ryan Fitzpatrick (289 yds, TD) threw three interceptions but connected well with DeAndre Hopkins (6-116) though Andre Johnson was held to only 24 yards on two catches. Arian Foster was a game time scratch and in his place Alfred Blue ran 13 times for 78 yards. Eli Manning not only passed for 234 yards and two scores, he had no interceptions. Victor Cruz (5-107, TD) and Larry Donnell (6-45) were the two main receivers. Impressive was Rashad Jennings rushing for 176 yards and a score on 34 runs. The Texans are not that good and the Giants are not that bad. But it can change at any moment. Now the Texans host the Bills and the Giants head to Washington.|
|DAL 34, STL 31||The Cowboys came back after being down 21-0 but no big stats happened. Tony Romo passed for 217 yards and two scores but had another pick-six. DeMarco Murray ended with 100 yards and a score but started very slowly. Dez Bryant (6-89, TD) was the only receiver with more than 49 yards. Austin Davis threw for 327 yards and three scores while making Jared Cook (7-75), Brian Quick (2-62, TD) and even Kenny Britt (5-69) fantasy relevant. Zac Stacy combined for 121 total yards. Starting to look like facing the Dallas defense on the road is a good thing. Now the Cowboys host the Saints and the Rams go on their bye.|
|DEN 20 , SEA 26||This was a great NFL game though less of a fantasy one. Peyton Manning ended with 303 yards and two scores while Emmanuel Sanders (11-149) enjoyed a big day. DeMaryius Thomas was held to only 31 yards on four catches but snared a two point conversion. Monte Ball only ran for 38 yards like everyone else who visits Seattle. Russell Wilson passed for 258 yards and two scores but no Seahawks receiver gained more than 56 yards or produced must fantasy value. Marshawn Lynch ran for 88 yards and gained 40 as a receiver with two touchdowns for the best play for the Seahawks. It was a great game to watch and won in overtime when Seattle drove the field on the opening drive after Manning scored eight points in the final minute to tie the score. Now the Broncos and Seahawks both go onto their bye.|
|KC 34, MIA 15||The Chiefs decide to show up this year in a road game no less and Alex Smith passed for 186 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. Of course the lead receiver was Joe McKnight (6-64, 2 TD) who had zero catches so far this year. Kniles Davis ran for 132 yards and a score on 32 carries unlike Jamaal Charles so far this year. Even when the Chiefs win big, it benefits players you would never guess. At least waiver wire hounds were rewarded with their Davis pick. Ryan Tannehill only passed for 205 yards and one score with Mike Wallace (5-74) still the lead receiver there. Lamar Miller took the start and ran for 108 yards on only 15 carries and added 24 yards on four receptions. The Chiefs return home to face the Patriots so flip a coin on what to expect and the Dolphins head out to Oakland.|
|SF 14, ARI 23||The 49ers drop their second in a row and that sets alarms off in San Francisco. Colin Kaepernick only passed for 245 yards and one score but he was the leading rusher with 54 yards on 13 runs. Frank Gore was limited to 10 yards on six runs. Carlos Hyde ran in one score but only gained 13 yards on three runs. Stevie Johnson (9-103) made his presence known for the first time while Michael Crabtree (10-80, TD) caught the lone passing score. The Cardinals did this without Carson Palmer. Drew Stanton passed for 244 yards and two touchdowns that both ended with John Brown (4-52, 2 TD). Michael Floyd (5-114) connected well with Stanton but Larry Fitzgerald was held to only 34 yards on three catches.|
|PIT 37, CAR 19||This was a surprising upset when the Steelers only asked Ben Roethlisberger to pass just 30 times and end with 196 yards and two scores. Le’Veon Bell ran for 147 yards on 21 carries while LeGarrette Blount gained 118 yards and one score on just ten runs as the Steelers wore the Panthers down and then just ran all over them. Antonio Brown ended with ten catches for 90 yards and two scores. Cam Newton is banged up and was stuck passing for 250 yards and one score with nearly no rushing. Kelvin Benjamin caught a score on his eight catches for 115 yards and Greg Olsen (5-69, TD) also scored as the only two Panthers receivers of any note. Now the Steelers host the Buccaneers for an easier win and the Panthers have to travel to Baltimore.|
HUDDLE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Julio Jones – After an injury-marred 2013, the Falcons took it easy with Jones in the preseason. Well – he is healthy for sure. He left the Buccaneers beat-down with nine catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns.
DRAMA 101 – SOMEBODY HAS TO LAUGH, SOMEBODY HAS TO CRY
|QB||Austin Davis||327||3||QB||Tom Brady||227||1|
|RB||Joe McKnight||67||2||RB||LeSean McCoy||22||0|
|RB||Lorenzo Taliaferro||91||1||RB||Eddie Lacy||45||0|
|WR||Jordan Matthews||59||2||WR||Keenan Allen||17||0|
|WR||John Brown||52||2||WR||Randall Cobb||29||0|
|WR||Eddie Royal||42||2||WR||Andre Johnson||24||0|
|TE||Lance Kendricks||29||1||TE||Antonio Gates||8||0|
|PK||Josh Brown||3 FG 3 XP||PK||Mason Crosby||1 XP|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 135||Huddle Fantasy Points = 27|
Sunday’s Couch Commentary
The inconsistency of teams from week to week makes predicting outcomes a study in frustration and starting fantasy players always a bigger risk than we want to think. After just three weeks, there are only three teams that are 3-0: Arizona, Philadelphia and Cincinnati. That is it. There are only three teams that are 0-3: Oakland, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. And those are three really bad teams and have been so for years. If you could somehow only use players who faced the Jaguars every week, chances are the league is yours. All three teams seem bent on a race to see which will be the last one without a win. Let’s hope that does not stretch into 2015.
19 teams scored 23 points or fewer. But we have some nice high scoring games as well like the Falcons who could have beaten that NFL record of 63-0 but took mercy at the end of the 56-14 win over the Buccaneers. Someone needs to discover what happened to the real Packers and Patriots offenses. The Game-O-The-Week? This is why we play fantasy football. This is why we care.
WAS 34, PHI 37
A total of 71 points. 763 passing yards. Three receivers over 100 yards. It’s all good other than LeSean McCoy owners.
Kirk Cousin’s first start of the year went for 473 yards and three touchdowns. Pierre Garcon (11-138-1) and DeSean Jackson (5-117, TD) had big games and for Jackson it was a chance to stick it to his old team. Niles Paul (6-68) still looks great imitating Jordan Reed. But Alfred Morris was held to only 77 yards on 23 carries. Nick Foles passed for 325 yards and three touchdowns that went to Jeremy Maclin (8-154, TD) and Jordan Matthews (8-59, 2 TD). But LeSean McCoy only gained 22 yards on 20 carries, had one catch for no gain and missed time while being checked for a concussion.
The scoring was over with 4:19 left to play when they let Roy Helu run in the touchdown that would make the eventual 37-34 win. Unlike many other divisional rivals, they did not end the game with a low score. None of this 19-7 win by the Lions over the Packers. Not even the 23-21 win by the Ravens over the Browns. They not only combined for the highest point total game of the week, they did it while making six different players super stars for the week.
The beauty is not just that this happened.
The beauty is that the rematch happens on Saturday, December 20th. You know – week 16 of the NFL season and Super Bowl for the fantasy world.
And a merry Christmas to all…
Now get back to work…