Wow, what a Week 6! The Giants, Redskins and Cowboys all go down in upset fashion, the Bears blow their third fourth-quarter lead of the season in an unfathomable way, and I lost a fantasy game by .19 points when my quarterback and defense combined for -1.92 points. But, at least I’ve got two 5-1 teams sitting in first place at the present moment, and somehow Chicago is tied for first in the NFC North despite injuries and inconsistency on defense. Now for the fantasy stuff…

 

Aaron Rodgers has three 1-yard touchdown runs this season. Ryan Grant has zero. In fact, Grant has yet to score a touchdown through six games, a disturbing trend considering where Grant fell in fantasy drafts. If Rodgers is going to be punching in touchdowns from the goal-line with a separated shoulder, there’s pretty much nothing to keep him from doing so as long as he’s upright. Meanwhile, owners can be happy about the 173 yards Grant has racked up the last two weeks, but I’m concerned about his yards per carry. Since going for 7.7 yards per jaunt in Week 1, Grant has averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. So unless he’s going to get 33 carries each game like he did against the Seahawks – which will run him into the ground by Week 10, by the way – Grant is simply not going to have fantasy value unless for some reason Mike McCarthy starts calling his number by the goal line. And after playing the Colts next week he’s got a bye, then at Tennessee and at Minnesota before a home game against Chicago. So pretty much expect to go without Grant for the next month.

 

Staying in the NFC North, Bernard Berrian has absolutely become an every-week starter. He’s averaged 99.5 yards per game in his last four, has 16 catches in his last three, and two touchdowns in his last two games. Bobby Wade is getting more looks from Gus Frerrote – making him a useful third receiver in deep PPR leagues, by the way (6.3 catches for 70 yards per game in his last three) – but Berrian is a guy that is hot right now and has a great chance of lighting up the secondary of his former team in Chicago next week.

 

Were you able to buy low on Andre Johnson after four weeks? If not, your window has slammed shut after 19 catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns in a two-week stretch. Yikes!

 

Meanwhile, your time to sell Eddie Royal high has come and gone. Not only was he hurt last week, but Darrell Jackson is now back and Brandon Stokley has 16 catches and two touchdowns the last three weeks. Jay Cutler’s suddenly got a lot of mouths to feed, meaning Royal is going to be inconsistent for fantasy owners from here on out unless injuries happen elsewhere.

 

T.J. Houshmandzadeh owners NOT in PPR leagues have reason to worry. Sure, PPR owners are likely to see production drop as well, but at least Ryan Fitzpatrick has Housh on his radar. There is talk of Carson Palmer possibly needing surgery on his elbow, which would leave Fitzpatrick under center the rest of the season. Housh has 13 catches for 99 yards in the two games Fitzpatrick has played this season, but no touchdowns in either. Needless to say, he’s probably not going to perform up to his second- or third- round potential the rest of the way is Palmer is done.

 

Did you stay away from the Tampa Bay backfield in drafts? If so, you’re likely happy at this point as Warrick Dunn and Earnest Graham continue to battle it out, with Carnell Williams not far away from joining the fight. Graham has just 70 rushing yards the last two weeks, but he also has 68 receiving and a touchdown. Dunn, meanwhile, hasn’t scored a touchdown in four weeks but has been the leading rusher the last two. Sure, these numbers have kept BOTH runners fantasy relevant, but its tough to say who will have the better digits each week and it will get even more murky when Cadillac is back. That’s just not a fun game to play.

This work week has been beyond ridiculous, leaving me about as much time as Pittsburgh has healthy running backs to do any fantasy football work. But I did manage to watch some football this past weekend and make a few observations I wanted to comment on before Week 5 games get started.

 

First, I wanted to re-visit Eddie Royal. I discussed him after Week 1 as a sell-high candidate because he would be inconsistent upon Brandon Marshall’s return, which I continue to advocate. However, perhaps his most recent game is uncovering a tendency that could at least help you decide when to start or sit him. In two road games thus far, Royal is averaging nine catches for 125 yards and a half-touchdown per contest. In two games at Invesco, Royal is averaging 4.5 catches for 24 yards and a half score. I’m holding out hope that this trend breaks this week when the Broncos play host to a Tampa Bay squad allowing 306 passing yards and 2.5 passing scores per game on the road, but don’t be shocked if Royal goes silent while Marshall tears apart Ronde Barber.

 

Speaking of the Buccaneers, how about that rushing defense? Sure, they may give it up a bit in the air, but Tampa Bay has yet to cede a rushing touchdown or a 100-yard rushing game through four contests this season. And considering the Bucs faced Matt Forte, Ryan Grant, Michael Turner and Reggie Bush, that’s no small feat. Since Selvin Young has yet to score this season and Michael Pittman can’t always be guaranteed a shot at the goal line, this is probably a week to bench all Broncos running backs. In fact, the bench your backs against the Bucs theory might be in play the next three weeks until the unbenchable Marion Barber travels to Florida in Week 8.

 

Staying on the topic of defenses for a moment, its time to point out that the Chargers simply cannot stop the pass. I mean, we all knew it would be difficult without a healthy Shawne Merriman for this unit to live up to its potential, but this is borderline embarrassing. Through four games, San Diego is giving up more than 286 yards and 2.5 passing scores per game. These numbers are bad enough on their own, but now consider that they come after facing a Carolina team without Steve Smith in Week 1 and a dysfunctional Raiders squad in Week 4 that hadn’t passed for more than 180 yards in the first three weeks. It’s to the point that I would feel comfortable in a pinch playing Chad Pennington this week and Trent Edwards (although he’s becoming more serviceable by the day) in Week 7. If your quarterback goes down with an injury the final week of the fantasy regular season, keep in mind that the possibly available Matt Ryan gets the Chargers in Week 13.

 

Finally, in a year where so far its seemed an above average number of receivers have shown up big one week only to flop the next, consistency in a group of mediocre free agents is key. I’m starting to convince myself I’ve found it in Tennessee, where Kerry Collins has been a non-fantasy factor, but may have found a favorite target in Justin Gage. In the two full games Gage has been healthy for with Collins at quarterback the entire time, he’s caught five passes each game while averaging 75.5 yards. He’s even got a touchdown! I’m not saying he’s an every-week starter, but if you’ve been busy chasing the previous week’s stats at the wide receiver position because Jerry Porter, Reggie Williams, Javon Walker and a host of others have been flops so far, Gage might be the guy to fill in the back part of your roster.

Week 1 Fantasy Highlights

September 10, 2008

For the first time in four years, I spent the opening Sunday of the NFL season watching games from the comfort of my couch. It was just as glorious as I remembered.

 

I still had my computer close by, though, obviously keeping track of my fantasy squads (I’m down to five from six last year, but that’s still entirely too many) and my pick ’em selections. I’d prefer not to get into my individual teams much more than to say I only selected Tom Brady in the first round in two of my five leagues, so my year isn’t completely f#@*ed, but trading up in one league to get him digs the knife a bit deeper.

 

But I digress, here are some of the fantasy highlights that stuck out to me the most…

 

Donovan McNabb looked plenty good, and double points for doing it with his top two receivers on the sidelines. However, Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown aren’t exactly Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, and the rest of the Eagles receivers fall in line at least above average competency. Then there’s the part about the Eagles playing at home against a Rams team that I thought would be fighting for next year’s No. 1 pick before I witnessed them shredded into Philly Cheesesteak. So, before the Eagles apologists and McNabb backers get too giddy, let me remind you that McNabb last played 16 games in 2003 and has only thrown more than 20 touchdown passes in a season three times since becoming a starter in 1999. His career-high of 31 came courtesy of Terrell Owens, with his other high-water mark a respectable 25 TDs. McNabb shouldn’t have a problem hitting 3,500 yards if he can play a full-slate, which I certainly wouldn’t bank on, but don’t kid yourself into thinking he’s going to surpass, or even reach, the 20-touchdown mark.

 

Eddie Royal certainly opened some eyes with his 9-catch, 146-yard and one-touchdown performance against what has been a stout pass defense the last couple of years. As an owner of the rookie in a few leagues, I was certainly pleased with the results. However, I picked up Royal in those leagues with the sole intention of selling high to a knee-jerk owner. Brandon Marshall will be back next week, and Marshall was fifth in the NFL in receptions and sixth in receiving yards last season. And this is a guy who has only been playing the position for a few years. In other words, Royal just had what will likely turn out to be his best game of the season, so don’t rely on him as anything more than a No. 3 receiver.

 

Michael Turner busted out in a big way for an offense that I didn’t expect to have much pop this season in Atlanta. Tougher defensive tests certainly await, as do road games, but on first glance I wish I would’ve stuck to my guns on my cheat sheet and taken Turner over Jamal Lewis in the two leagues I flip-flopped last minute. I knew the guy had talent, but if Matt Ryan can simply be Kyle Orton-esque, Turner could be in for a big year.

 

Speaking of the Bears, I had Chicago’s defense penciled in at No. 1 when the preseason began because it is virtually the same unit as 2006 with everyone healthy. The final preseason games gave me pause, and I have to admit, my faith was shaken. But the same reasons I trusted them to bounce back are the same reasons I’m now confident that their undressing of the Colts on Monday night wasn’t a fluke. Yes, Peyton Manning wasn’t at 100 percent and Chicago benefited from it, but this could very easily turn out to be the best fantasy defense in the league.

 

I’ll check in after every week with some fantasy analysis of what stuck out to me the most. I’ll also have broken down weekly rankings in some capacity soon, although probably not for Week 2. My bad…