- The Season's Over -

Great Fantasy Expectations of Tim Hightower

September 7, 2011

Tim Hightower

By Brian Spencer

Foreskins head coach Mike Shanahan has a long, well-documented history of turning most any running back he touches into a 1,000-yard rusher. In his first season with the ‘Skins, though, even he couldn’t polish the turds that were Clinton Portis, Ryan Torain, and Keiland Williams into anything remotely resembling a respectable rushing attack: only the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals averaged less than the team’s 91.3 rushing yards/per last season.

Somewhat ironic, then, that Shanahan turns to Tim Hightower, who helped “lead the charge” for the Cards’ league-worst rushing attack last season, as the guy to get things back on track. A fourth-year back out of Richmond, Hightower was last seen stumbling his way to 736 yards rushing and fumbling the ball away four times in 15 timeshare appearances with Beanie Wells. Save for an anamolous burst in Week 14 against the ghastly Denver Broncos (18 carries, 148 yards, 2 TDs), his play was as uninspired as the last three seasons of NBC’s The Office (okay, that’s not fair–he wasn’t that bad).

The limp two-headed penis of Wells and Hightower was thankfully circumcised in the offseason, however, and both have been rewarded for their sub-acceptable efforts with full-time starting gigs… and it wouldn’t be shocking if both flourished with 1,000-yard seasons. Hightower, perhaps more than any starting back, may benefit most from a “right place, right time” situation in Washington, whose rushing philosophy is well-suited to Hightower’s not inconsiderable talents as a cut-and-go runner. He certainly looked the part of stud in limited preseason action, averaging 6.8 YPC while scoring twice, which was enough to titillate fantasy nation and muscle his way into legitimate RB3 and WR/RB flex territory.

Are we going overboard here, though, in expecting much more than what we’ve already seen in three middling campaigns in Arizona, or will a change of scenery–and scheme–truly do the trick?

Hightower’s career has been solidly mediocre so far. He’s topped 100 yards rushing just four times in 47 games, sports a combined 3.9 YPC, and has lost 8 fumbles in the past two seasons. It’s not like he’s joining a high-octane offense in Washington with complimentary parts surrounding him, either. Sexy Rexy Grossman (or John Beck, for that matter) and his WR cast of Ughs and I Can’t Looks strike fear into nobody but the Redskins marketing department, so Hightower will likely see stacked boxes early and often.

If the fumbles continue, he’ll quickly find his way into Shanahan’s doghouse and, likely, back onto fantasy waivers before too long. Don’t go running to bet on his production just yet, but I’m tentatively bullish on his chances to at least do some damage over the ‘Skins first seven games, a stretch which includes matchups against a number of questionable rush defenses (Carolina, Buffalo, New York Giants, St. Louis… Arizona). If he does post big numbers, consider selling high after the Buffalo game in Week 8, after which the schedule gets considerably tougher, at least on preseason paper.

As the defending champ in both of my fantasy leagues (ahem), I’m heading into one season with Hightower penciled into my W/R flex slot–and, on the same team, Wells in my RB2 slot. I didn’t plan it that way, but am now one owner who’s hoping the circumcision was a success.

Tim Hightower Photo Credit: Icon SMI

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 7, 2011 at 10:10pm in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

2011 NFL Playoffs Fantasy Football Rankings – Tight Ends

January 5, 2011

By Andrew Thell

Jimmy Graham 2011 NFL Playoffs

1. Rob Gronkowski
2. Jacob Tamme
3. Jimmy Graham
4. Tony Gonzalez
5. Heath Miller
6. Brent Celek
7. Todd Heap
8. Aaron Hernandez
9. Dustin Keller
10. Jeremy Shockey
11. Greg Olsen
12. Tony Moeaki

Gronkowski’s setup and propensity for scoring places him at the top option at the position, and it’s by such a large margin that you wouldn’t be foolish to reach on him much earlier than tight ends traditionally go. He’s in his own tier … As I’ve mentioned, I like the Colts to handle the Jets and make Tamme the clear-cut No. 2 option here … Jimmy Graham may surprise some of you this high, but Brees has been locked onto the kid in the red zone and connected for four touchdowns in the last three weeks. No team has a better shot at four games than the Saints … It may seem like I’m a Falcons hater with these rankings, but that’s not the case. I love ATL, but I just think they’re a year away from making serious noise in the postseason … Heath Miller won’t give you a ton of volume, but he’s good for two games and has a decent shot at three … I’m done trying to predict when Aaron Hernandez will be involved in the Pats passing game, and Shockey is fading, but they’re options simply because of the odds they’ll be producing for you till the bitter end. The tight end position is thin.

See Also:
Quarterback Rankings
Running Back Rankings
Wide Receiver Rankings

Jimmy Graham photo credit: Icon SMI

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jan. 5, 2011 at 11:36pm in Fantasy Rankings, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

2011 NFL Playoffs Fantasy Football Rankings – Wide Receivers

January 5, 2011

By Andrew Thell

Mike Wallace 2011 NFL Playoffs

1. Mike Wallace
2. Roddy White
3. Wes Welker
4. DeSean Jackson
5. Reggie Wayne
6. Greg Jennings
7. Marques Colston
8. Pierre Garcon
9. Deion Branch
10. Jeremy Maclin
11. Hines Ward
12. Dwayne Bowe
13. Santonio Holmes
14. Lance Moore
15. Derrick Mason
16. Johnny Knox
17. Robert Meachem
18. Anquan Boldin
19. James Jones
20. Braylon Edwards
21. Donald Driver
22. Emmanuel Sanders
23. Brandon Tate
24. Earl Bennett
25. Blair White
26. Mike Williams
27. Devery Henderson
28. Jordy Nelson

You really can’t go wrong with the top three options, but Mike Wallace has the big-play edge over Wes Welker and a better chance at seeing 2+ plus games than Roddy White. As I mentioned in the QBs section, I just have a hard time seeing the young Falcons handling more experienced teams that they struggled mightily against in the regular season like the Saints, Eagles or Packers … I like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and the Eagles to advance this weekend – but I’m not willing to gamble too heavily on that. I see GB-PHI as a very even matchup, with home field tilting the scales … I like the Colts to knock off the struggling Jets, making Garcon and Wayne very attractive options if they get two games … A few months ago who would have thought Deion Branch would ever be in a top-ten fantasy ranking again? Here he is though, in sync with Brady and with the inside track to the Super Bowl … Dwayne Bowe has been an absolute monster for a few months now, but can he make it out of the weekend alive? … Lance Moore and Robert Meachem are cheap options that could easily give you four games … It’s hard to invest too heavily in Derrick Mason or Anquan Boldin the way the Ravens passing game has been producing of late, but I think they’re good for two games … Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson are strong late hedges for anybody investing in Maclin or DeSean early … Earl Bennett may not have converted many of ‘em, but he’s been getting plenty of looks from Cutler in the red zone the last month plus … Brandon Tate is a sneaky, smart play to give you three games and still be around come the final week. Emmanuel Sanders fits that bill as well … You’re not going to get more than one game out of Big Mike Williams, but if you’re desperate for a WR to start this weekend he’ll do.

See Also:
Quarterback Rankings
Running Back Rankings
Tight End Rankings

Mike Wallace photo credit: Icon SMI

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jan. 5, 2011 at 11:18pm in Fantasy Rankings, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

2011 NFL Playoffs Fantasy Football Rankings – Running Backs

January 5, 2011

By Andrew Thell

Shonn Greene 2011 NFL Playoffs

1. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
2. Rashard Mendenhall
3. Ray Rice
4. Michael Turner
5. LeSean McCoy
6. Reggie Bush
7. Matt Forte
8. Jamaal Charles
9. Joseph Addai
10. Shonn Greene
11. Danny Woodhead
12. LaDainian Tomlinson
13. Brandon Jackson
14. Julius Jones
15. Thomas Jones

Green-Ellis quietly finished tied with Rashard Mendenhall for second in the NFL in rushing scores this season, and now that Arian Foster is out of the picture he’s the odds-on favorite to lead the postseason in scores with home field advantage throughout. Despite standing in one another’s way en route to the Super Bowl, the Steelers and Pats might have the clearest path right now. The NFC picture is a complete mess … Ray Rice is coming on at the right time, and I think the Ravens will handle the Chiefs and be a tough matchup for anyone else they might face … Michael Turner has a bye round one, but his consistent production can be banked on and he’s home all the way … Reggie Bush vaults up the rankings with news that both Ivory and Pierre Thomas have been placed on IR. It also makes Julius Jones a worth late pick … Jamaal Charles is far and away the best RB still standing and could have a big game this weekend, but the Chiefs are going to have a hard time surviving the Wild Card round … I think the Jets are poised to lean on Shonn Greene heavily this weekend just as they did last year in the playoffs. The Peytons don’t have a rush defense and if the Jets can knock off Indy he’ll be one of the bigger bargains on the board … I want nothing to do with any of the Seahawks skill players. They’re as surefire a one-and-done as I can recall.

See Also:
Quarterback Rankings
Wide Receiver Rankings
Tight End Rankings

Shonn Greene photo credit: Icon SMI

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jan. 5, 2011 at 10:55pm in Fantasy Rankings, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

2011 NFL Playoffs Fantasy Football Rankings – Quarterbacks

January 5, 2011

By Andrew Thell

Drew Brees 2011 NFL Playoffs

1. Tom Brady
2. Drew Brees
3. Michael Vick
4. Ben Roethlisberger
5. Peyton Manning
6. Aaron Rodgers
7. Matt Ryan
8. Jay Cutler
9. Joe Flacco
10. Matt Cassel
11. Mark Sanchez

The league may have never had a QB humming along at home like Brady is right now, and he’ll be there till the Super Bowl. Brady is the top pick overall, but Drew Brees is a close second. He gets an extra game in the Wild Card round, and the Saints are my pick to represent the NFC this season … Michael Vick is a question mark with the balky leg, teams blitzing the living hell out of him and a tough matchup with the Pack in the first round, but the fantasy potential is too much to pass on … Don’t sleep on the Steelers passing game. They now have three dangerous deep threats in rookie receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown along with Mike Wallace and red zone threats in Ward and Miller. If any team is going to knock off the Pats, I think it’s Pittsburgh … Peyton Manning responds well to the Rex Ryan blitz and I think he gets at least two games after beating a Jets team not doing anything well right now … Rodgers is a boom-or-bust pick, I don’t have a hard time seeing the Pack lose this weekend or going all the way … Matt Ryan is a model of consistency, but I have a gut feeling the young Falcons aren’t ready for prime time … I don’t buy the Bears and Cutler is as inconsistent as they come … The Chiefs struggle against good teams. The Ravens passing game is sputtering, but I think Flacco is good for at least two games … Cassel and Sanchez are no more than weak one-shot options for this weekend.

See Also:
Running Back Rankings
Wide Receiver Rankings
Tight End Rankings

Drew Brees photo credit: Icon SMI

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jan. 5, 2011 at 10:32pm in Fantasy Rankings, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

On Mushy Brains and the Excessively Commercial Nature of NFL Broadcasts

December 29, 2010

bleachers

Photos Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

You can do better than this, NFL. A lot better.

I’m referring to the NFL Viewing Experience, which has become somewhat insufferable and nearly demanding of DVR usage. I understand that commercials and corporate sponsorships have regretfully become an accepted part of pop culture, and that all of those god-awful advertisements that are pounded into our heads every Sunday and Monday are, to a degree, a necessary evil: I don’t especially want to pay anything extra to watch football on FOX, CBS, ESPN, and NBC, and I’m guessing you don’t either. (Of course, commercials still run even if you buy the NFL Sunday Ticket.)

That said, the commercial breaks have gotten out of control and are seriously distracting from the on-field product; I’ve never spoken with anybody who disagreed with me. It’s even gotten to the point where corporate entities, like ESPN, have allegedly interfered with the organic flow of the game–or as organic as it can be with plenty of unnecessary commercial breaks already baked in–by asking coaches to use all of their time outs, regardless of the score.

That’s insane. Again, for whatever reason Americans, in particular, have come to accept commercials–and now even celebrate them, which is something I’ll never understand–but enough is enough.

Last night I used a stopwatch to time all of the advertisement time during NBC’s primetime broadcast of the Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Minnesota Vikings. I started with the first commercial break once the game began, and included any and all ads that ran without any mention of football or without the camera on the field or in the broadcast booth; in other words, I kept the timer running when, for example, it cut back to aerial shots of Lincoln Financial Field as Al Michaels ran down a list of the commercial sponsors.

This was a painful endeavor that required heavy usage of the mute button. After all, one can only watch and listen to, for example, Hyundai’s dreadful pair of quirky hipsters dance around and shill for a mega billion-dollar company so many times… and, believe me, if you watched the entire game you had about 100 opportunities to see the ad. If you’ve watched any amount of football since mid-November, you’ve probably seen it 1,000 times.

Eyeballs Rolling Back in Head

I think that’s what gets me more than anything: the sheer volume of ads that are dominated by a very small number of companies. We see the same ads over and over and over again, sometimes within the same commercial break; it’s not good for my blood pressure. After awhile, the repetition lulls you into a semi-comotose state–you’re of course already there if you happen to be watching a Cardinals or 49ers game for some reason–and by the time the third quarter rolls around, your brain feels mushy, useless, a sponge ripe for the pitching.

I guess that’s the point: don’t think, just buy. Buy our products, and buy into the terrible cliches we attach those products to. I know I’m just another voice in the well-established chorus that sings the evil of commercials, but it’s disgusting, it really is, and it impacts society on more of a subconscious level than most realize. That’s a bigger discussion than what I purport to tackle here, so for the purposes of this piece, it comes down to this: we shouldn’t have to feel so fucking dumbed down every time we watch sports.

Maybe you can turn off that aspect of the broadcast and ignore it, but I can’t.

I Cannot Watch

The Eagles-Vikings game kicked off just past 8pm and lasted until 11:20, so including halftime it was roughly a 3:20 broadcast. By the time all the ads touting expensive cars, piss-grade beer, fatty foods, overpriced diamonds, and the new shows on NBC bound to be canceled by the end of spring (Harry’s Law, starring Kathy Bates? Really?) were over with, viewers had been exposed to just under 47 minutes of commercials and advertisements. NFL games last for 60 minutes, at least in terms of the running clock, so technically we only saw 13 more minutes of football than we did commercials.

This is unacceptable, and though primetime games are notoriously dragged on longer than they should be, running over 45 minutes of commercials is not atypical for your average NFL broadcast. I’d assert that this was about average given that there were fewer injury time outs than usual and just a handful of challenges.

Think about that: 47 minutes of commercials. I don’t know how many individual spots that comes out to, but most ads are only 15 – 30 seconds long, tops. Again, I’m not pretending that totally eradicating commercials is a viable action, but the NFL and the networks that broadcast their games are hugely popular and profitable entities, and probably always will be. The advertisements are excessive, insulting, and have much too much impact on the game.

I watched parts of Super Bowl XLII between the New England Patriots and New York Giants from my hotel room in Berlin, Germany. In the United States, millions of people actually can’t wait to see the Super Bowl commercials; it’s not just the super bowl of football, it’s the super bowl of advertising. But guess how many commercial breaks I endured during the broadcast in Germany? Zero until halftime. Zero. It was amazing, the most sedate, enjoyable half of football I’ve ever seen.

Give Us a Break

We don’t need extended stoppages of play and commercial breaks after every fucking punt or kickoff; we definitely don’t need them after the extra point is kicked and after the ensuing kickoff. The camera should stay on the field between most changes of possession, during which the announcers should regale us with interesting facts and stats about the two teams we’re watching; I realize that with guys like Matt Millen, Joe Buck, and Troy Aikman in the booths, that’s a stretch. A coach’s challenge should not always equal a commercial break; an injured player on the field should not always mean an injury commercial break.

These little things add up over the course of an entire game and bring us to that 47 minutes number. What’s a reasonable amount? 30 minutes would be a step in the right direction. That might still seem like a lot of commercials–and it is–but that’d roughly translate to “just” 5 minutes or so of ads per quarter if allowing for more to run during halftime. Something tells me the NFL and its partners would still be pulling a handsome coin if they cut their ad time by 17 minutes. Advertisers would have no choice but to get over the fact that their ad–the same one we’ve already seen all season long–is only going to run 10 times instead of 25 times.

Is this too much to ask, NFL?

For all of your sport’s inherent flaws, rulebook inconsistencies and banalities, etc., god help us we still love the on-field product. We might not always like how it tastes or how it smells, but we live it and breathe it and often obsess about it for months. The commercial nature of the game, however, and the impact you allow it to have has grown tiresome. You can do better, and we deserve better.

9 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 29, 2010 at 3:47pm in ETB Articles, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

To Start or Not to Start the Philadelphia Eagles Team Defense, That Is the Question

December 28, 2010

Philadephia Eagles Defense

Philadelphia Eagles Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

I’m faced with one of those difficult decisions that makes you look brilliant when it works and like a total maroon when it doesn’t: think a head coach going for it on 4th and 2 at their opponent’s 40-yard line late in the game, leading by a field goal.

Heading into this evening’s make-up match between the Eagles and Vikings, I hold a narrow 2.79 point lead over my opponent in our league’s Fantasy Football Super Bowl. (Though the rosters have obviously changed since these team previews were written, if you’re interested this is my team, and this is my opponent’s team.)

Here’s the catch though: his starters are all done. He can’t score anymore points… unless, that is, there’s a stat correction later this week that either takes points away from my team and/or adds points to his. The possibility isn’t that far-fetched; I’m sure it’s happened to somebody out there reading this, and in fact it happened to ETB’s very own Mr. Thell last year. He of course still brings it up through bitter, gritted teeth every chance he gets, and I have no interest in suffering the same fate.

That brings me to my ace in the hole: the Philadelphia Eagles Defense. At home against an anemic Vikings offense led by a “quarterback” in Joe Webb that was drafted as a receiver and has practiced all season long as a receiver until a few weeks ago, the Philly DEF is projected to rack up 14.57 points on the night. Logic says that sacks, turnovers, and very few points scored by the Vikings are in the cards… but what if they aren’t? This is the game we call football, after all: it’s unpredictable and stupid and mindnumbing and exhilarating and beautiful and maddening all at once. You truly never know what’s going to happen (unless you’re Vegas, in which case you know almost everything).

In passing, the casual NFL fan would probably say the Eagles field one of the league’s better defenses, and certainly one of the best in the NFC. They’d be kind of wrong. Though the Iggles do lead the NFC in interceptions with 23 (one behind the league-leading Patriots) and are fifth in their conference in sacks (35), they’re allowing over 24 points per, which puts them near the bottom of the NFC. In their last four games they’ve surrendered 113 points, or 28 per. Granted they were playing a number of high-powered offenses, but still… considering the stakes, it’s enough to give me pause.

What if the Vikings come out and control the clock behind a rested Adrian Peterson, limiting turnovers, avoiding sacks, and scoring a few touchdowns? What if Michael Vick throws a pick-six (or two), and/or what if LeSean McCoy fumbles the ball twice and Jared Allen returns one for a touchdown? Points scored by opposing defenses and specials teams still count against Team DEFs.

In our league, -3 points are assessed to a Team DEF when it allows 28 – 34 points, and – 5 when allowing 35 points or more. Could the Vikings put up, say, 31 points while not turning the ball over and not allowing any sacks? I don’t think so–I’m sure most people don’t think so–and that’s why I’m rolling with the Philly DEF. As SCLSU Mud Dogs said this morning, “Definitely play your defense: if your D ends up in the negatives vs. Joe Webb, then you don’t really deserve the title anyway.”

I’ll never hear the end of it if I bench the Philly DEF and lose later this week due to a stat correction; then again, same thing if I start ‘em and they fall flat on their face, finish in the red, and there are no changes to the current scoring. I’ve made my decision: tonight, I’m a hardcore fan of the Philadelphia Eagles defense. Kick some ass, boys.

**UPDATE** Like I said, this is pro football and you never know what’s going to happen: the Minnesota Vikings kicked off the game as 14-point underdogs and walked off the field as 10-point winners. The defense battered and bruised and confused Michael Vick all night long, while Joe Webb earned the “gamer” tag with a controlled, effective performance at quarterback (17-26 for 195 yards, 31 rushing yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs).

As for that Philly Defense? They had me worried there for a minute in the fourth quarter with the Vikings threatening to hang 30+ on the scoreboard, but 2 sacks and a fumble recovery were my saving grace. That, and the fact that apparently touchdowns scored by opposing defense don’t count against Team DEF in our league (Antoine Winfield scooped up a Vick fumble and took it into the endzone).

It’s been an up-and-down fantasy football season, as usual, but after 5 long years without a Fantasy Super Bowl win, I’m happy and fortunate to walk away from both of my highly competitive leagues this year as the league champ.

I clearly owe a thank you to the all-powerful fantasy gods.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 28, 2010 at 3:36pm in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Shaun Hill is Never Sexier Than Tom Brady

November 15, 2010

Tom Brady PatriotsBy Brian Spencer

I should have known better.

Heading into the Patriots’ Week 10 matchup with the Steelers in Pittsburgh, Tom Brady had been performing like your everyday, run-of-the-mill fantasy quarterback. Since Week 3 against the toothless Buffalo Bills, Goldie Locks had thrown more than 2 TD passes just once and had yet to top 300 yards passing in any game, period. Real-life wins and losses matter not in the ratings driver that is this imaginary sport: while Brady was leading his Patriots to the top of the AFC, he was simultaneously barely keeping millions of imaginary teams above water, including mine.

Detroit Lions backup Shaun Hill, on the other hand, had become a viable low-end QB1 for over a month after stepping in for the injured Matthew Stafford (he of the golden throwing arm with a throwing shoulder made of Pyrite). During a four-week span before he suffered an injury of his own (broken left forearm), Hill posted the highly useful totals of 1,130 yards passing (including two games with over 330 yards), 8 TDs, and 6 INTs. The picks limited his value, to be sure, but two or three of those were the receiver’s fault, not Hill’s.

You know where this is going, right?

Fast forward to Week 10, which saw Brady travel to Pittsburgh to take on one of the best defenses in the league, and Hill make his return behind center for the Lions at Buffalo, which was fielding one of the statistically worst defenses in the league. Things hadn’t been the same in New England since Brady lost his lone, consistent playmaker in Randy Moss; things also hadn’t been the same–in a good way–in Detroit since Calvin Johnson began flexing his muscles, Nate Burleson came back to the lineup, and Brandon Pettigrew had developed into one of the NFC’s leading pass-catching tight ends.

In the end, I went against my best judgement (and my own fantasy advice) and got cute: I played the matchup and started Hill. That didn’t work out so hot:

Brady: 30-43, 350 yards, 3 TDs, 1 rushing TD, 35.87 fantasy points
Hill: 29-50, 323 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 17.64 fantasy points

That’s a difference of about 18 points; I lost my matchup by 23, but that’s besides the point. (Adrian Peterson, I don’t appreciate that performance, buddy.)

In getting cute and benching the guy I drafted with my second-overall pick for a guy I picked up on waivers, I rode short-term logic and ignored long-term results. Real-life results like the fact that Brady has a higher career QB Rating against the Steelers than anybody else, and that Brady has beaten Pittsburgh six of seven times and four of five times in Pittsburgh. And that Brady has proven he can step up in big games regardless of who he’s throwing to. Hill? Well, Hill has a YMCA physique, journeyman’s pedigree, and wears honolulu blue for a team that never, ever wins on the road.

I don’t expect you to care about my fantasy team’s fate, specifically, but there’s a moral to this story: don’t bench your studs, especially this late in the season. Don’t outsmart yourself. You drafted these guys in the first, second, and third rounds for a reason, and even if they’ve underperformed up until this point, you can’t turn back now as long as they’re healthy. Roll with ‘em and hope for the best.

Tom Brady Photo Credit: Icon SMI

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 15, 2010 at 10:14pm in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Believe It: Oakland Raiders In the Hunt for AFC West After Downing the Chiefs

November 8, 2010

Darren McFadden of the Oakland Raiders

Darren McFadden Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Joel Martin

It’s rainy season in the Bay Area, and the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders brought sloppy play to match the sloppy weather in Week 9. The game was billed as the coming-out party for two former contenders returning to the spotlight, but I saw two young, undisciplined teams with a lot of talent. Check back in a couple years and we’ll have some contenders. Yesterday, penalties said it all: 14 penalties on the Raiders and 12 on the Chiefs (tying a season high in the NFL).

Chiefs Running Backs

The lead story of this one has to be the Chiefs’ running back situation. We all know that head coach Todd Haley’s been playing an odd game with how he distributes the workload between Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles, but until now it hasn’t cost them a game.

Yesterday against one of the worst run defenses in the league, a week after Charles went off for 238 total yards, he was again the clear backup. This makes no sense at all. Thomas Jones is a fine back, but he’s not in the same league as Jamaal Charles. The latter goes for at least six yards on 60% of his carries, and averages 6.5 YPC overall. Jones gets you two or three yards, with the occasional run of 5-10, for 4.0 YPC overall.

The Chiefs should have Charles as the feature back with Jones coming in to rest him, not the other way around. You saw it Sunday every time KC touched the ball. The commentary crew kept talking about how the Raiders had really “shown something” with their run stopping on Sunday, but that was only true with Jones carrying the ball. When Charles ran the ball, they looked porous and slow. For the game, Charles ran 10 times for 53 yards (5.3 YPC), while Jones ran 19 times for 32 yards (1.7 YPC).

If you reverse the carries and assume the same YPC, the Chiefs run for a healthy 118 yards instead of a pedestrian 85 and probably win handily instead going to overtime again, this time losing. Now obviously that’s a big assumption, but 45 extra rushing yards means a couple of extended drives, possibly a field goal or touchdown, and less time at the end of the game for Oakland to mount their comeback.

Either way, Chiefs win.

The only thing I can think of to justify the carry distribution is keeping the veteran happy. That works as long as you keep winning, but now that it cost them a game, I have to imagine they’ll see the light.

Raiders’ Running Backs

The first possession for Oakland was three runs to Darren McFadden, all to the outside. If he gets around the corner or catches a pass in the open he’s great, with good speed and leaping ability. But they didn’t go to the middle, and there’s a reason. He’s tall (6’2”/210lbs) and runs with a very upright style. This works for Adrian Petetrson (6’1”/220lbs) because of his strength, but I haven’t seen the same from McFadden. Power sweeps to the outside were his bread-and-butter in college, and the Raiders seem to have finally figured it out.

It often seems like McFadden has been disappointing us for years, but he’s actually only 23 years old. If offensive coordinator Hugh Jackson can tailor the offense to his abilities, big things will continue. That said, the Raiders should keep Michael Bush involved through the middle, and if they do he’ll stay a viable fantasy option. (The Raiders also have a delicious playoff schedule for running backs – @JAC, DEN, IND – so he’s a good target for a cheap trade if you’re looking ahead to December already.)

Coaching

These coaches are part of a new breed in the NFL, proving it on consecutive drives in the first quarter. On fourth down at the Oakland 45, Todd Haley was in his “four-down mode” (he tells the team on first down that they’ll go for fourth-and-short) but the Chiefs were pushed back by a false start. Instead of taking his medicine and punting, Haley calls fake punt and switches to the wildcat formation. The play came up short, but just barely.

Coming back the other way, the Raiders came up empty on three downs. Fourth down arrives, and Tom Cable calls fake punt. Again, they came up short, but the exchange was telling. I think we’ll see more of this in the coming years. For fantasy owners, this might make offensive players on these teams more attractive. The math says this approach gives your team a higher chance of scoring, which is good news for their skill players.

More on the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs after the break….

Read the rest of this article »

No CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Nov. 8, 2010 at 5:18pm in ETB Articles, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

NFL Observations, Including the Randy Moss-less Patriots and Moss-full Brett Favre

October 27, 2010

Danny Woodhead

Danny Woodhead photo credit: Icon SMI

By: Andrew Thell

- If you play in Yahoo! and you’re in need of a WR or flex play, you could do a lot worse than Danny Woodhead. He’s almost surely owned in your league, but after last week’s relatively quiet game you might still be able to get him at a discount. Woodhead looked very good in the Chargers game, shifty and quick, and it appears he’s going to be heavily involved in both the passing and running game going forward; he even got several carries between the tackles on Sunday. There aren’t many guys who will be getting 8+ carries a game that you can drop into a WR slot.

- Now is the time to invest in Atlanta Falcons skill players. Heading into their bye a lot of teams might be desperate to fill out their starting lineup, and after the bye Atlanta only faces one scary defense for the rest of the fantasy season (Baltimore in Week 10). Matt Ryan looks like he’s ready to be a reliable option from here on out and Tony Gonzalez is a definite buy-low. You’re not going to be able to get Roddy White on the cheap after that dominant performance, but for my money there’s not a WR in fantasy football I’d rather have right now. Matt Ryan is locked onto him every week.

- Ryan Fitzpatrick has a 102.0 Quarterback Rating. His four TDs last week were named White Horse, Red Horse, Black Horse and Pale Horse.

- I’m buying Robert Meachem where I can. He might be the most talented receiver on that team, and he’s definitely their best vertical threat. The Saints offense is better when Meachem is on the field and active, stretching defenses out, and they’re starting acknowledge that in his usage. The matchup in Pittsburgh is rough this week, but the schedule clears up after that.

- It’s amazing how quickly the Kansas City Chiefs has been rebuilt through the draft. We’re seeing the Scott Pioli influence taking effect, and it’s impressive. They’re a solid team now, and just a QB away from really competing.

- As predicted in this space two weeks ago, Tom Brady has had a rough go of it sans Randy Moss. You really can’t overstate the impact he had on the Patriots’ passing game, taking the opposing team’s best corner and one safety out of the picture on every play even when he wasn’t catching passes. The last two weeks Brady has put up 5.9 yards-per-attempt (YPA) with 2 INTs and just 2 TDs despite 76 pass attempts. The year before Moss came to town Brady posted a modest 6.8 YPA, and the last two healthy seasons with Moss Brady had impressive 7.8 and 8.3 YPAs. Brady will still be useful though, he’s a solid QB on a passing team, and he may have even gone from a sell-high to a buy-low.

Wes Welker, on the other hand, I want nothing to do with. In three years playing with Moss Welker caught 112, 111 and 123 passes, but now he’s drawing opposing team’s top corners and has caught just 11 passes for 78 yards combined the last two weeks. Welker’s never been a big red-zone target (3 TDs last year, 4 the year before), so if he’s not catching a huge volume of passes he’s not doing much for your fantasy bottom line.

- The NFC is terrible. Just terrible. You could argue the top six teams in the NFL all reside in the AFC (Jets, Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, Titans, and Colts in no particular order). The only two teams in the NFC I would actually characterize as “good” right now are Giants and Falcons. No team in the NFC West deserves to be in the playoffs.

- If the NFL is going to try and showcase their product for an overseas audience, why can’t they give them a halfway decent game? I know nobody saw this San Fran implosion coming, but 49ers versus Broncos was never what you would call a marquee matchup.

- I never though I would say this, but it might be time to give Tarvaris Jackson another shot. As bad as he looked at times during his limited career as a starter, Brett Favre has been worse this season. The Vikings have too much talent to be 2-4 and on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Brian Burke over at Advanced NFL Stats sums up just how bad No. 4 has been:

“This season is different. Injuries and distractions appear to have taken their toll. Through week 7, Favre ranks a very distant last in total WPA, with -1.89, nearly three times worse than the next worst passer. That’s -0.32 WPA per game. He’s behind Trent Edwards, Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen, Max Hall–everyone.

It’s not just bad timing or bad luck in high leverage situations, either. Over his six games, he’s responsible for -20 EPA, which is basically net point (dis)advantage. He’s 5th worst in Success Rate (SR) among qualified QBs, meaning he’s consistently bad, and not just a victim of a handful of high impact plays.”

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Oct. 27, 2010 at 11:15pm in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

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