BUMPS, BRUISES AND BOWOUTS
Derek Carr – MCL/high ankle sprain
Michael Crabtree – Foot
Joique Bell – Concussion
Mike Evans – Groin
David Nelson – Ankle
Terry Bridgewater – Ankle
Ahmad Bradshaw – Foot
We’re through the first bye week and players from the Cardinals, Bengals, Broncos, Seahawks, Rams and Browns are now available every week left to play. There won’t be any significant bye issues again until week nine when the Falcons, Bills, Bears, Lions, Packers and Titans are out and many fantasy relevant players are off. Fortunately for this week, there were many strong performances across the league that no doubt helped many seeking for a one game replacement.
Three quarterbacks had their first starts of the season and only particular players benefited from the switch.
Blake Bortles plays on a bad team. But that doesn’t mean that fantasy value doesn’t exist and more so for a team likely to be playing catch-up in almost every game. Going against the Chargers who were tough on tight ends, Bortles lead receiver was TE Clay Harbor (8-69) and this was Harbor’s first game back thanks to a previous calf injury. Rookie quarterbacks often love their tight ends and Harbor will remain the primary at least until Marcedes Lewis returns from his high ankle sprain. For leagues that value the position higher than wideouts, snapping up both Harbor and Lewis could make sense. Bortles also connected with Allen Hurns for 68 yards on five catches.
Teddy Bridgewater played at home against a weak defense but his 19-of-30 for 317 yards was still impressive along with 27 yards and a touchdown as a runner. Unlike Bortles, Bridgewater went straight to his wide receivers and in particular Jarious Wright (8-132). But Wright’s day was more likely the result of the game situation as he typically is no better than the third or even fourth passing option. It was nice to see Greg Jennings (3-72) finally catch deeper routes though troublesome that Cordarrelle Patterson (2-38) was held in check. Nothing here worth chasing yet and his next game should be more telling.
Though Mike Glennon was the starter in 2013, he’s only now passed Josh McCown to retake the helm. His passing totals last season usually remained below 230 yards in most weeks but he did throw for two scores in five of his final seven games. Starting in Pittsburgh was a tough venue but Glennon passed for a career high 302 yards and two scores in an upset win. Not only did Glennon find Vincent Jackson for the winning score, he also threw him a touchdown when he came in at the end of the previous loss in Atlanta. He also connected with the first-round rookie Mike Evans for a touchdown on his four catches for 65 yards. Like Wright for the Vikings, Louis Murphy (6-99) was the leading receiver even though they were his first catches as a Buccaneer. The take-away here is that you can believe in Jackson and Evans as viable options.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
As we’ve often preached in the past, under-valued players most often are players in a different situation and conventional wisdom just shrugs its collective shoulders. By no means is changing teams notable by itself. With running backs, the key to look for is opportunity. Several have already been injured – Ben Tate, Knowshon Moreno and Maurice Jones-Drew and their respective teams relied on more than adequate replacements which muddies their outlooks. But Justin Forsett, Rashad Jennings and Darren Sproles have far outplayed their draft spot. Chris Johnson has been upstaged in New York but turned in a nice effort just this week.
For receivers, the key should be the offense and quarterback that the player finds on his new team. Think of the best teams like Denver (Emmanuel Sanders) and Detroit (Golden Tate). And maybe the Ravens’ Steve Smith finally has a quarterback he likes because he’s already producing more than he did in any year with Cam Newton. The jury is still out on Hakeem Nicks, DeSean Jackson, James Jones and Eric Decker but all have at least shown promise for later this season if not already assumed a growing role.
I’M JUST SEARCHING FOR MY GUY
A reality about running backs is that there’s probably less difference between them all then we think. Bottom line – find the hole, run through and gain four yards before a line backer takes you down. That is the job description. And, as your mother once told you – “be likable”. Especially to the Type A guys wearing headsets on the sidelines
There are backfields that are in transition while coaches are still deciding on who exactly will be their “guy”. Committees may still rule, but at least one player will get enough work to merit fantasy consideration.
Ravens new OC Gary Kubiak already lost Ray Rice but with Bernard Pierce active for the game, he still opted to use Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro. Both scored and ran better than Pierce has this year. Why Forsett caught fire at the age of 29 and on his fourth NFL team is a fair question. But certainly relying on the rookie Taliaferro could be the start of a long relationship. Did Pierce just think it or did he actually say it – “Hey, I was only gone a week.”
The Browns backfield lost Ben Tate the last two games but even more young backs stepped up. Tate has to reassert himself now that their bye is over assuming his knee permits his play. But Terrance West scored in the last two games and Isaiah Crowell is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Don’t begin to think the roles are done changing in Cleveland.
Lamar Miller is certainly running better than his previous two seasons. And he scored twice in Oakland. But Knowshon Moreno was brought in to help OC Bill Lazor install the new offense. And Miller still has not rushed more than 15 times in a game. The Fins go on bye this week but Moreno was targeting week six for a return so he could be worth a free agent grab since Miller is just a holdover from the old coaching staff.
Running back was about the last worry on the minds of the new Viking coaches but then Adrian Peterson became the latest player to realize the power of videotape. Matt Asiata was a holdover backup who just scored three touchdowns on the visiting Falcons. But the rookie Jerick McKinnon also ran for 135 yards on 18 carries and his role may grow given that Asiata is just an undrafted third-year back with little on his resume. McKinnon was the third round pick by the Vikes this year. And new OC Norv Turner knows a thing or two about developing running backs.
The Titans new HC Ken Whisenhunt retained Shonn Greene and brought in Dexter McCluster. But he also drafted Bishop Sankey as the first back taken in the NFL draft which naturally sparked optimism that was at the least premature. Sankey ran for 61 yards on ten carries in Cincinnati during week three while Greene was held to 33 yards on his ten carries. Whisenhunt was asked if the rookie would get more carries to which he said that Sankey’s “footwork” needed more attention. This week in Indianapolis, Sankey only ran six times in the lop-sided loss but gained 34 yards and one touchdown compared to Greene’s ten yards on three runs. Sankey also added two catches for 23 yards. The Titans next opponents are the Browns, Jaguars and Redskins. Let’s hope Whisenhunt was watching the feet.
KNOCK ALL THE WOOD YOU WANT, IT MUST BE SAID
The best running back in the league right now is DeMarco Murray. He rushed 99 times for 534 yards and five touchdowns plus added nine catches for 68 yards. For the year, that extrapolates out to 396 carries for 2136 yards and 20 touchdowns plus 36 receptions for 272 yards. Only six runners in history have rushed that many times. No one has ever rushed for that many yards. Murray has only averaged 154 carries during his three previous NFL seasons and never more than 217. So basically he is on track for nearly double the workload that he has ever had. He lasted until the third round in 2011 because he was injury prone at Oklahoma. Oh, and he’s missed between two and six games every season despite the lower workloads.
Jordy Nelson is atop fantasy wideouts with 33 catches for 459 yards and three touchdowns which is a pace for 132 receptions for 1836 yards and 12 scores. Only one person has ever caught more than 123 passes and Marvin Harrison played in a dome. Nelson would end with the #3 highest receiving yardage in history. This is the same Nelson who has never caught more than 85 passes in his eight years.
Aside from Jimmy Graham, the two best tight ends are currently Larry Donnell (25-236-4) and Martellus Bennett (29-295-4). Those paces would give Bennett 116-1180-16 and Donnell 100-944-16. That would be a nice jump for Bennett who only managed 65 catches as a Bear last season. And Donnell only had three catches over his first two seasons.
What I am saying is threefold.
- There is no way that the above players will maintain their respective paces.
- I think I speak for many when I say we’re tired of facing one or more of them each week.
- As for the previously unknown Donnell, it is a surely a sign of the impending apocalypse.
|NYG 45, WAS 14||Thursday game was a shocker with the Giants crushing the Redskins – in a road game – and Eli Manning (300 yds, 4 TD) doing almost more in one game than his first three combined .Victor Cruz (6-108) and Rueben Randle (8-89) finally came up big and Larry Donnell (7-54, 3 TD) has gone from “who?” to “WOO-HOO!” in only one month. Rashad Jennings (13-55) was out done by Andre Williams (15-66, TD) only because they let the rookie sweep the floor at the end of the game. Kirk Cousins (257-1-4) was as bad last Thursday as he was good the previous week. Alfred Morris ran for 63 yards and one score but Pierre Garcon slinked back to only two catches for 28 yards. Now the 2-2 Giants host the Falcons and the 1-3 Redskins host the Seahawks.|
|CAR 10, BAL 38||I guess in the end, you just do not want to play against a motivated Steve Smith. Going against his old team, Smith ended with seven catches for 139 yards and two scores. Joe Flacco (327-3-0) had a freakishly great game and even Torrey Smith (2-53, TD) played well despite facing the Panthers defense. Justin Forsett (14-66-1) had another “up” game and Lorenzo Taliaferro (15-58, TD) ran it up in the second half. Bernard Pierce… sorry buddy…. life apparently has passed you by. Cam Newton still doesn’t run much and only passed for 197 yards and a score to Kelvin Benjamin (5-76) who is looking like the real deal on an offense that is just going to ensure double coverage on the rookie. Now the 2-2 Panthers take their losing streak home to face the Bears and the 3-1 Ravens bring their winning streak to Indianapolis.|
|GB 38, CHI 17||The Packers laid down the beat in Chicago with Aaron Rodgers following his “every other” game trend and threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns. They went to Randall Cobb (7-113-2) and Jordy Nelson (10-108-2) while Eddie Lacy still only rushed for 48 yards but scored once. The Bears got 256 yards and two scores from Jay Cutler but he threw two interceptions. Martellus Bennett (9-134) blew up for the second week in a row while Alshon Jeffery (4-39, TD) and Brandon Marshall (2-19, TD) each scored once to save their fantasy value. Matt Forte ran great with 23 runs for 122 yards and 49 more yards on five catches. The Bears kept killing themselves and the Packers were only too happy to let them. Now the 2-2 Packers host the Vikings and the 2-2 Bears head to Carolina.|
|BUF 17, HOU 23||Finally a reasonable yet boring game. E.J. Manuel passed for 225 yards and two scores with two interceptions. Mike Williams (2-84, TD) had a rare notable game while C.J. Spiller was limited to 84 total yards. Fred Jackson ended with 85 total yards. The rookie Sammy Watkins (4-30) scored his second NFl touchdown. The Texans did nothing big on offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 268 yards and one score with two interceptions and Andre Johnson led receivers with six catches for 71 yards. Deandre Hopkins (5-64) scored on the lone passing touchdown. Arian Foster only ran for six yards on eight carries but at least added seven catches for 55 yards. Now the 2-2 Bills bring their losing streak to Detroit and the 3-1 Texans head to Dallas.|
|TEN 17, IND 41||No arguing that the Colts don’t belong in the upper echelon of teams. Andrew Luck passed for 393 yards and four touchdowns. Reggie Wayne (7-119, TD) and T.Y. Hilton (6-105) both broke the century mark and Trent Richardson even scored once with 99 total yards as proof how great it went. Charlie Whitehurst replaced the injured Jake Locker but only managed 177 yards and one score that went to Delanie Walker (5-84). The biggest change was Bishop Sankey finally getting six carries in the second half to gain 34 yards and one score as he once again out performed Shonn Greene. Now the 1-3 Titans host the Browns and the 2-2 Colts host the Ravens.|
|DET 24, NYJ 17||The Lions took a needed road win with Matt Stafford passing for 293 yards and two scores The best receiver was Golden Tate (8-116) and the worst was Calvin Johnson (2-12)… wait a minute. Oh – I get it. He was a decoy …wink…wink. The Lions only ran for 78 yards on 20 carries and Stafford ran in the only ground score. Geno Smith (209 yds, TD) struggled and no receiver topped 60 yards. Chris Ivory again ran better with 84 yards on 17 carries but at least Chris Johnson gained 44 yards thanks to a 35-yard touchdown run late in the already decided game. As usual, the difference in the game was the Jets not stopping the pass. Now the 1-3 Jets will head to San Diego and the 3-1 Lions host the Bills.|
|MIA 38, OAK 14||The Dolphins showed just how bad the Raiders are with Ryan Tannehill passed for 278 yards and two scores and using nine different receivers. Mike Wallace (3-35, TD) did little other than the one score. Lamar Miller is enjoying life as the primary back since he ran for 64 yards and two scores on just 12 runs and even Daniel THomas gained 35 yards on just five carries. The Raiders as a team passed for 275 yards split between Derek Carr (146 yds, TD) who left injured and Matt McGloin (129 yds, TD). Andre Holmes (5-74, TD) finally had a decent game and even James Jones (6-83) produced some fantasy points. But the rushing effort is horrible. Darren McFadden (11-40) could generate little while Maurice Jones-Drew (2-1) sure looks like a clock-puncher so far. The 2-2 Dolphins and 0-4 Raiders both go on their bye. This shall be known as the “bye with no consequence”.|
|PHI 21, SF 26||The Eagles finally failed to produce a second half comeback and Nick Foles passed for just 195 yards and two interceptions. LeSean McCoy, or as his owners might say “LESEAN FREAKING MCCOY” on ran for 17 yards on ten carries but saved his fantasy value with… oh wait.. wow… not even one catch? No Eagle receiver was better than Jeremy Maclin (5-68) and he wasn’t all that good. The 49ers played like they were supposed to in the home opener against the Bears. Colin Kaepernick passed for 218 yards and two scores while running for 58 yards. Frank Gore only totaled 151 yards after three games but blew up for 119 yards on 24 carries and added a 55-yard scoring reception. Anquan Boldin led the team with 62 yards on five catches. Now the 3-1 Eagles host the Rams and the 2-2 49ers host the Chiefs.|
|JAX 14, SD 33||At least this makes sense. Thanks guys. Blake Bortles passed for 253 yards and a score with two interceptions. Clay Harbor had his first action of the year and merely led the team with eight receptions for 69 yards. Philip Rivers (377 yds, 3 TD) finally, thank you fantasy gods, found Keenan Allen (10-135) and Eddie Royal (5-105, 2 TD) for plenty of damage. But the Chargers could not run and even Donald Brown (10-19) was the wrong guy to start this week. Now the 0-4 Jaguars return home to spoon feed happiness to the Steelers and the 3-1 Chargers host the Jets.|
|ATL 28, MIN 41||Another “What The Football?” games. Teddy Bridgewater started his first game and passed for 317 yards and no turnovers and added 27 yards and a score on five runs. The Vikings were able to notch this win because the Falcons A.) cannot play well away from home; and B.) cannot stop the run even if they used barbed wire. Jerick McKinnon (18-135) and Matt Asiata (20-78, 3 TDs) caused every Adrian Peterson owner to openly and sadly weep. Jarious Wright (8-132) just had the first 100 yard game of his three year career. Matt Ryan threw for 298 yards and three scores with two interceptions and in fairness the Vikings defense absolutely stepped up to the plate. Julio Jones (6-82) and Roddy White (4-73, TD) were the best receivers though even Devin Hester (5-70, TD) mattered as a receiver in another game. But no runners matter other than the obligatory Antone Smith (4-62) touchdown which was for 48 yards this time. Now the 2-2 Falcons probably lose in New York to the Giants and the 2-2 Vikings head to Green Bay.|
|NO17, DAL 38||Yeah, go figure. The Cowboys were more than dominating in their dismantling of the Saints who apparently have no chance of winning a road game. Drew Brees passed for 340 yards and two scores and Jimmy Graham ended with a score and 86 yards on eight catches though mostly all late game. Khiry Robinson ran for 87 yards on eight carries thanks to a late 62-yard run. Tony Romo was in top form with 262 yards and three scores with no turnovers. Terrance Williams (6-77, 2 TD) and Dez Bryant (3-44, TD) were the best plays aside from DeMarco Murray who ran for 149 yards on 24 carries and scored twice. Now the 1-3 Saints return home where they are 1-0 and face the Buccaneers and the 3-1 Cowboys host the Texans.|
HUDDLE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Steve Smith – After changing teams because he was just too old, all Smith did in the first three games was top 100 yards twice and score one touchdown with his worst game still six catches for 71 yards. Going against his ex-employer in the stadium that he played in for 12 years, Smith said hello to his old fans to the tune of seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Smith is the only player that The Turk fears. According to Smith – ” I am 35 years old and I ran around on them boys like they were school yard kids.”
DRAMA 101 – SOMEBODY HAS TO LAUGH, SOMEBODY HAS TO CRY
|QB||Teddy Bridgewater||344||1||QB||Nick Foles||195||0|
|RB||Matt Asiata||100||3||RB||LeSean McCoy||17||0|
|RB||Jerick McKinnon||152||0||RB||Joique Bell||39||0|
|WR||Jarius Wright||132||0||WR||DeSean Jackson||9||0|
|WR||Devin Hester||70||1||WR||Calvin Johnson||12||0|
|WR||Mike Williams||81||1||WR||Hakeem Nicks||12||0|
|TE||Heath Miller||85||1||TE||Vernon Davis||8||0|
|PK||Randy Bullock||11 pts||PK||Cody Parkey||3 pts|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 127||Huddle Fantasy Points = 15|
Sunday’s Couch Commentary
The inconsistency of teams and players are still very challenging to predict and after a month, we should be seeing teams settle down more into whatever it is they will be. Sure, it is fair to assume the Raiders and Jaguars are going to be bad. But what teams are truly good? Only the Bengals and Cardinals have unbeaten seasons and they are off on bye this week.
We saw six different wide receivers with two touchdowns and that was without the Cardinals, Bengals or Broncos playing. But only 11 had 100 yards so there was plenty of room for your players to do little. DeMarco Murray, Matt Asiata and Larry Donnell all scored three times. There were some very big scores out there this week.
But Calvin Johnson was a decoy and LeSean McCoy just a dud.
The Game-O-The-Week? The poor 0-3 Buccaneers were blown out 56-14 in Atlanta in week three and lost their quarterback. The 2-1 Steelers laid a 37-19 laugher on the Panthers. So naturally:
Buccaneers 27, Steelers 24
Just to make this game even more out there, Mike Glennon passed for a personal best 302 yards and two scores. His best receivers were Louis Murphy (6-99), Mike Evans (4-65, TD) and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (3-44) all of which did not play with him last year. Doug Martin returned to gain 56 total yards and one score and make Bobby Rainey instantly irrelevant in fantasy terms.
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 314 yards and three scores with no interceptions. That meant Antonio Brown (7-113, 2 TD) had a monster game and even Heath Miller (10-85, TD) came up big. Le’Veon Bell only ran for 63 yards but added six catches for 46 yards.
The Steelers were likely a bit down after their monster win the previous week. And the Buccaneers pre-game prayer does include “make this a trap game if it is your will”.
The Steelers led 24-17 going into the fourth quarter. But the Buccaneers drove from their own eight-yard line to kick a 27-yard field goal for the 20-24 deficit with 11:41 left to play.
After the Steelers stalled at mid-field they punted and the Bucs drove to the Steelers 14-yard line where fourth-and-ten failed and the Steelers took over with 1:49 left to play.
But three plays only gained three yards and they punted to the PIT-46 yard line with 15 seconds to play.
After one incompletion, Glennon found Louis Murphy down the middle for a 41 yard game to the PIT 15-yard line. he spiked it to stop the clock with 35 seconds. Then he threw an incomplete on second down with 12 seconds to play. Then – Glennon laid a perfect out pass to Vincent Jackson on the left side of the endzone. 27-24 which stood after one lateral play by the Steelers resulted in a fumble.
Just a weird game where you would never think a win would be hiding for the Buccaneers. But they have a new/old quarterback now and it helped. Many backfield are still in transition and while there may not be many (any) players on the waiver wire who will blow up later in the year, there are almost certainly many on rosters as depth who will step up and reward the crafty hoarder.
Can the top players maintain their paces for record production? No – that happens every year and they tail off gently or sharply in some cases.
I’ve faced enough Donnells, Murrays, Nelsons, Julio Jones and Andrew Lucks in the first month.
No doubt there is a new round of surprises ready to start cranking out the fantasy points. Better check your roster and waiver wire to make sure they are on your team.
Now get back to work…