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 3 Fantasy Football Notes

September 23, 2008

With Week 3 now in the bank, we can now begin drawing a few conclusions based on some early trends. The big conclusion one fantasy league has caused me to draw is to trust my brain, not my gut. Despite having Michael Turner ranked higher than Jamal Lewis and Philip Rivers ranked higher than Matt Schaub, I ended up with Lewis and Schaub on my squad when the other player was still on the board at the time. So, I guess the lesson there is to trust your work when you actually take the time to do it rather than make rash decisions based more on perceived value of players by the masses. But, at least Schaub is on my bench with Jay Cutler tearing it up. I can’t say the same for my RB situation…

 

The biggest trends I like to look at involved defenses – who is giving up what to who. Let’s take a look at a handful of defenses and see what conclusions we can draw:

 

I’ll start with Buffalo. The surprising Bills are 3-0 and a legit contender in the AFC East. Part of the reason for this success lies on the defensive side of the football. Buffalo has given up just one touchdown to a running back this season and feature backs are averaging less than 50 yards per game on the ground through three games. The passing defense has also been good, giving up just a hair over 170 yards per game and only two scores in three contests. However, I’m more sold on the run ‘D’ than the pass ‘D.’ Seattle has proven its ability to run the ball the last two weeks with Julius Jones (I definitely didn’t see that coming), Oakland can pretty much ONLY run the ball, and Jacksonville’s got arguably the best one-two running back punch in the game. Its to the point now where if I’ve got a borderline starter – Edgerrin James in Week 5, for example, he’s not getting in my lineup. The jury is still out on the pass, though. JaMarcus Russell is awful so far, and Matt Hasselbeck had just Nate Burleson to throw to in Week 1. Plus Jacksonville’s not exactly an aerial assault waiting to happen.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, I’m starting anyone and everyone against the Lions. A non-feature back has scored in all three games thus far, and Detroit has ceded six rushing touchdowns overall. That’s not to mention the 123+ yards per game feature backs are averaging against the Lions. Matt Forte owners should be licking their chops for Week 5…

 

As for pass defenses, Tennessee has been the cream of the crop thus far with just one touchdown pass allowed and seven interceptions. The talent the Titans have faced at quarterback can be questioned some, but besides a couple of meetings with a hobbled Peyton Manning, old Brett Favre, new Aaron Rodgers and ordinary Derek Anderson, Tennessee simply doesn’t face much that they can’t handle. In short, this team will continue to be a fantasy force that can score points any week.

 

The Colts fall into the mirage end of this equation, giving up just 149 passing yards per game without a touchdown allowed through three weeks. But I’m not giving Indy a ton of credit for shutting down Kyle Orton and Tarvaris Jackson. David Garrard is a little better, but the Jags were simply too good on the ground in this one. If the Colts continue to put up good numbers against the pass, its only because they are having so much trouble against the run that no one even tries to pass. I expect Schaub, Rodgers, Kerry Collins, Ben Roethlisberger, Rivers, et al to have a bit more success in the coming weeks.

 

An under-the-radar iffy pass defense resides in Denver, where the Broncos are giving up 326 yards and two scores per game through three weeks despite being undefeated. Those numbers would be even more inflated if not for the Raiders being included among Denver’s three opponents. Tyler Thigpen likely won’t do much next week, but after that you could probably use Brian Griese, Garrard or even Matt Cassell in the coming weeks as emergency starters should you need one.

 

That’s enough defense for now, I feel like ragging on the Lions. Jon Kitna is getting progressively worse, and Roy Williams has yet to be good. Sure, he caught a touchdown pass in Week 1, but there is plenty to be worried about here. Roy is catching fewer than three balls per game and has yet to hit the 50-yard mark while Calvin Johnson is emerging as the top target in Detroit. Williams has been a must-start receiver the last few years, but if Roy doesn’t do something against Chicago and Minnesota out of the bye week, he’s simply no longer on that list. 

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…