FOX Sports Exclusive
Fitzpatrick set to fly in Week 7
The Fantasy Basement is a weekly piece that provides fantasy advice on lineup calls, sleepers, waiver-wire moves and rookie spotlights, along with the occasional ramble or four. Why “Fantasy Basement” you ask? There is a common misconception that sports writers dwell in their childhood cellars, that the institution promotes an arrested development. However, instead of railing against this claim, I am embracing this subterranean bourgeoisie. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy coming home to fresh-baked cookies and having their laundry done? But I digress…Enjoy.
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
Wait, is that…you’re damn right we have an appearance by the Bearded Bomber! A fan favorite of the Fantasy Basement, Fitzpatrick has been quietly effective this season, making 12 air excursions into the end zone in six contests. Granted, failing to surpass 200 yards in four games and tossing eight passes to the wrong team has prevented the Buffalo quarterback from a top-12 standing at the position, yet the Harvard product (sorry, it’s a bylaw of sports journalism to note any athlete of Ivy League pedigree, because hey, those kids never make it to the top) has outscored flashier names like Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford and Philip Rivers in the early going. Fitzpatrick has a platform to produce this weekend against a Titans secondary that is surrendering the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, making the Bearded Bomber a sly start for those dealing with bye-week woes.
Other starts: Josh Freeman, Ben Roethlisberger
RB: Doug Martin, Buccaneers
To all Martin owners apprehensive about Bucs backup LeGarrette Blount posting a creditable outing of 58 yards and a touchdown in Week 6, heed this assurance (channeling my best Nic Cage impersonation): CALM DOWN! All but five of those yards came in garbage time for Tampa, meaning Blount is not a genuine threat to vulture some of Martin’s shine. The rookie out of Boise State has been solid, if not spectacular, in his first five games, with only a lack of trips to pay dirt holding the rusher back from top-15 status. Look for that to change against NFC South foe New Orleans, as the Saints are conceding a conference-worst 172.8 yards per game on the ground. Even if the Bucs fall behind early and have to resort to the pass, Martin’s receiving prowess will pay dividends.
Other starts: Chris Johnson, Felix Jones
WR: Kenny Britt, Titans
In real life, Britt had a forgettable foray versus the Steelers, dropping multiple passes and displaying a chaotic and cavalier attitude toward his routes. However, in the fantasy forum, Britt was able to put a dent in the box score with four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. Better yet, Matt Hasselbeck looked in Britt’s vicinity a team-leading 11 times. Showing no signs of hindrance from offseason knee surgeries, the Tennessee wideout has an advantageous date with a Bills unit that is giving up the second-most fantasy points to receivers.
Other starts: Antonio Brown, Denarius Moore
TE: Heath Miller, Steelers
Miller’s gone two games without finding the end zone but has remained rotisserie relevant, hauling in 10 balls for 107 yards in that span. Miller is still on pace for a career year in Todd Haley’s new up-tempo attack, and should be a force facing a Bengals defense that is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends in the young season. Moreover, though Rashard Mendenhall is expected to play, the running back’s bruised, and Pittsburgh’s battered offensive line may correlate to the Steelers looking to pass in the red zone over a soil strike. In all formats, Miller is a must-start.
Other starts: Greg Olsen, Jared Cook
DEF: New England Patriots
Admittedly, not the most trustworthy of starts, as New England is in the bottom half of defensive fantasy points through six weeks, and the Pats were torched by Russell Wilson for 293 yards and three touchdowns last weekend in the Emerald City. My retort: Mark Sanchez on the road. That is all.
Other starts: Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears
QB: Matthew Stafford, Lions
In August, if owners were told Stafford’s statistics would rank 16th in standard formats entering Week 7, they would assume the former No. 1 overall pick had succumbed to injury. Alas, the truth is the Lions offense has simply stalled, as Stafford has thrown more picks (five) than touchdowns (four), though it is worth noting the Detroit quarterback owns two rushing scores. On the bright side, the oft-ailed Stafford has stayed relatively upright and his average of 298.6 yards per game is second-best in the NFC. Still, taking on a Chicago team that is suffocating adversarial field generals to the lowest fantasy output in the league fails to forecast fruition for Stafford on Monday night.
Other sits: Tony Romo, Andy Dalton
“What the hell has happened to Shonn Greene? Remember the 2009 postseason where the then-rookie rusher took the playoffs by storm (three games, 304 yards, two touchdowns) and everyone thought Greene was the next big thing? Since that conquest, Greene has just over 2,000 yards in 36 regular-season contests. That’s what we in the business call, “not gettin’ it done.”
Apropos, then, that Greene enjoyed a career conquest last Sunday against the Colts, racking up 161 yards and three touchdowns. With backups Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight hurting, Greene holds decent value in the upcoming weeks. Unfortunately, that sentiment is not applicable to Sunday’s soiree in Foxborough, as the Pats are holding opposing rushers to 3.4 yards per carry, the second-lowest harvest in the AFC. Besides, if New England was able to keep Beast Mode away from his Skittles in Seattle, think of the pain they will inflict on the Gang Green back.
Other sits: Frank Gore, Mikel LeShoure
WR: Miles Austin, Cowboys
The upshot to Dez Bryant’s recent statistical onslaught has been the phasing out of Austin, who has fallen short of 75 yards in four of five games in 2012. Perhaps a hamstring issue is encumbering Austin more than believed, or simply the rapport between Tony Romo and Austin is off. Whatever the case, though the Panthers may seem like a feeble defense, Carolina is repressing receivers to the seventh-lowest output in fantasy. Moreover, I can envision the Cowboys surmounting an early-game lead and pummeling the Panthers on the terrain. Stay away from Austin in most standard leagues.
Other sits: Anquan Boldin, James Jones
TE: Fred Davis, Redskins
Davis has yet to make a journey to the Promised Land in six games, and has neglected to exceed 55 receiving yards four times. Why owners are starting Davis to a higher degree than Kyle Rudolph, Martellus Bennett and Brandon Pettigrew beats the hell out of me. If you need further illustration for benching Davis, the Giants are yielding the second-lowest output to tight ends this season.
Other sits: Jermichael Finley, Dustin Keller
DEF: Baltimore Ravens
Even with Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis, the Ravens were relinquishing nearly 400 yards of total offense. The rushing game was already in shambles without Terrell Suggs, evidenced by their submission of 136.5 yards per game, but with Webb on the sidelines, the secondary suddenly becomes suspect as well. By the way, Webb is an exponentially bigger loss than Lewis, who’s pre-game dancing and barbaric screams have concealed the fact that he’s been lit up by rushers and tight ends for the past three years. And trust me, this is coming from a man who replicated Lewis’ rumba ritual before high school basketball games, so such an admittance is not easy to swallow.
Other sits: New York Giants, Buffalo Bills
The Sports Movie Head Scratcher of the Week
There’s an inherent petition from most sports films that the patrons must suspend belief regarding some of the picture’s narrative. However, while a grain of salt is usually acquiesced from the audience, there remain storylines from these athletic classics that defy logic and reason that need to be examined with greater scrutiny. These preposterous plot points will be analyzed along with a questionable call from the previous week of football.
Why does everyone on the Mud Dogs, save for the dude who played D'Angelo Barksdale on The Wire, hate Bobby Boucher in The Waterboy, even when the team is having success? Jealously? Spite? Because he used to be a waterboy? If that’s the case, do all the Penn State Nittany Lions detest starting QB Matt McGloin since he’s a former walk-on? I know it’s hard to take any Adam Sandler vehicle seriously, but even for him, this one seemed like a stretch.
Speaking of a stretch, how about Andy Reid firing Juan Castillo? Let me be the 1,328,526th person to make the requisite, “I didn’t know it was Castillo’s fault that Michael Vick fumbles” joke, but the Eagles defense is far from the weak link in that organization. More on this later in the column.
Waiver Wire Watch: Brandon Gibson, Rams
For those looking to offset the loss of Danny Amendola, Gibson is your guy. A fourth-year man out of Washington State, Gibson snagged seven catches for 91 yards versus the Dolphins last week and led all Rams receivers with nine targets. The de facto bull’s-eye for Sam Bradford, Gibson has an exploitable matchup with the Packers this weekend, as Green Bay is in the bottom third of receiving points allowed this season. Easy to imagine St. Louis digging an early hole and relegated to assaulting from the sky, meaning Gibson could be in for bountiful return.
Email of the Week
This week’s winner comes from Greg in St. Pete, who writes:
Oh Greg. Greg, Greg, Greg, Greg, Greg, Greg. Normally I would not ridicule a reader for a question, but fairly certain this is the same guy who harassed me during halftime of the Tampa Bay – Kansas City game last weekend when I told him to start Vincent Jackson over Mike Willams in the morning chat, sending spiteful emails my way after Williams went for six in the first quarter. Did I get an apology after V-Jax notched two touchdowns in the second half? Of course not! So this derision is somewhat warranted. Plus I’m still in a grouchy mood after getting a ticket this morning for running a light. For whatever reason, my charm and flirtation was lost on the officer. Go figure…
Not sure what I like most about this email: that Greg thinks he can trade a quarterback currently ranked 25th at the position for the fifth-best arm in standard formats, or that Greg’s team will have a “drop-off” by going from Sproles, entering the week as the 97th overall player, to Ridley, rocking the tag of a top-20 performer. Even in PPR leagues, Sproles fails to crack the top-75 barrier. Going out on a limb and saying that offer is getting shot down, my man. More on Rivers in a moment.
Fantasy Flyer: Montario Hardesty, Browns
This comes with a caveat, as Hardesty’s value is contingent on the health of Trent Richardson, who has practiced this week but is dealing with bruised ribs. In replace of Richardson last week, Hardesty racked up 56 yards on 15 carries, including a journey to the end zone. Cleveland’s Week 7 opponent, Indianapolis, is forfeiting the third-most points to fantasy rushers this year, making it an auspicious matchup for Hardesty if Richardson is reinjured. In deeper leagues, Hardesty is at least worth the roster stash.
The Real Debate
Though the Broncos’ comeback from a 24-point deficit was impressive, the game will be remembered more for the total collapse of the aforementioned Rivers, whose precariousness in the pocket equated to six turnovers. Yet the discussion should not center on Rivers’ lack of competence in the past two years; rather, the Real Debate should be this: why isn’t the San Diego signal caller held in the same contempt as Jay Cutler? Everyone rides Cutler at the slightest perceived transgression, yet Rivers’ demeanor and behavior is atrocious in its own right, and in many regards, worse. Is it because Rivers allegedly doesn’t cuss? Or that Cutler looks like a snobby villain from a cheesy ‘80s movie? Does Rivers just get lost on the West Coast? Whatever the catalyst, either we lay off Cutler or start jeering Rivers, but this current dichotomy between the two cannot stand.
Rookie Review: Daryl Richardson, Rams
The second-to-last pick of the 2012 Draft, Richardson, hailing from Abilene Christian, has vaulted fellow rookie runner Isaiah Pead on the Rams depth chart and has started to siphon carries from Pro Bowler Steven Jackson. Richardson is making the most of these opportunities, posting 99 total yards on 13 touches against the Dolphins. If Richardson is available in your league, the vulnerability of Jackson makes the pick-up a worthwhile endeavor.
This Week in Kevin Walter
The Pride of Ypsilanti was targeted just three times in Sunday night’s battle with Green Bay, an enterprise that saw the Texans come out on the losing end. Coincidence? I think not. Of course, you will have to forgive K-Walt if his output occasionally wanders, as I’m pretty sure he’s staring in the new television drama Last Resort on the side. You think I’m kidding? I thought the third lead of the rouge submarine show was a doppelganger for the Texans wideout, but when I saw the character in question take out three Russian spies in one fell swoop, there was no doubt in my mind it was Mr. Walter.
Walter’s 2012 Stats: 15 receptions, 205 yards, one touchdown
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: Five
Personal Foul on: Andy Reid, Eagles
I always thought the Philly fan base – tough crowd, those Philly fans – was too harsh on Reid over the years. Nevertheless, he earns our scorn this week, not necessarily for the firing of Castillo, but for putting the former offensive line coach in the defensive coordinator role in the first place. What was the mindset there? That, because Castillo’s job the previous 12 years was devoted to prohibiting a defensive attack, maybe he knew how to create such chaos? That would be like me, someone who possesses an Adam Dunn-esque strikeout percentage on dates, getting a gig at eHarmony.
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Peyton Manning, Broncos
Sure, Denver’s win was as much San Diego’s loss, but it still took Manning to capitalize on the Chargers’ mistakes to deliver the Broncos a W. Since Manning’s Georgia Dome debacle, the four-time MVP has tossed for over 1,300 yards, 11 touchdowns and just one interception. That, my friends, is layin’ the smackdown.
More Stories From Joel Beall