Fantasy Football

Will Newton regain his 2011 mojo?

Fantasy Basement
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Joel Beall

Joel Beall is a writer for FOXSports.com and WhatIfSports.com. He lives with a Golden Tee machine and a jump shot that’s currently broken. Reach Joel on Twitter @FOXSportsBeall.

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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.

Riggle's Picks

Compete against the NFL on FOX crew. Make weekly picks and see how you stack up against Riggle and the Boys.

Start ‘Em

QB: Andrew Luck, Colts
We highlighted Luck in this space three weeks ago, yet as the fledgling field general is started in just 36 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy leagues, his name warrants repeating with the Colts facing a Titans team that is conceding the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. For his part, the No. 1 overall pick has posted two or more touchdowns in four of his past five games, and his average of 279 passing yards per game is fifth-best in the AFC. Given the struggles of the Indianapolis rushing attack, expect Luck and the passing game to soar in Nashville.
Other starts: Brandon Weeden, Sam Bradford

RB: Willis McGahee, Broncos
Owners are licking their lips at the prospect of Peyton Manning against a Saints secondary surrendering over 305 yards per contest, and rightfully so. However, don’t forget to add McGahee to this equation, as New Orleans is also allowing adversarial backs to run wild, correlating to the second-worst resistance against fantasy rushers in the league. McGahee’s worth has been expanded in PPR leagues, as the Denver back, who finished with just 12 catches in 15 games last season, has hauled in 15 receptions for 116 yards the past three games. Throw in that McGahee is quietly on pace for a 1,150-yard terrain campaign and the Miami product is a must-start for Week 8.
Other starts: Alex Green, Reggie Bush

WR: Brandon Gibson, Rams
Fellow Rams wideout Chris Givens has been getting most of the love this week (or as much “love” as a receiver on an offensively-challenged last-place squad in the NFC West can get), but Gibson is the safer acquisition for managers seeking help at the position. Since PPR god Danny Amendola has been sidelined, Gibson has led St. Louis in targets and receptions, and his 151 yards the past two weeks would suffice in most fantasy formats. Boosting Gibson’s cause is a matchup with the Patriots, who are giving up over 300 receiving yards per game, fifth-worst mark in the NFL. His long-term value is somewhat limited when Amendola returns, but for the next few weeks, owners could do a lot worse than Gibson, available in seven percent of FOXSports.com leagues.
Other starts: Mike Wallace, Leonard Hankerson

TE: Greg Olsen, Panthers
Can’t say I’m a proponent of the Panthers passing assault this week (more on this in a moment), yet Olsen is the exception to this premise. Averaging five catches and 64 yards in his past four games, Olsen has a platform to produce taking on a Chicago defense that, despite their imperious nature as the league’s top-rated unit, has been susceptible versus tight ends. In deeper leagues that are struggling to find substitutes with Owen Daniels, Jermaine Gresham and Scott Chandler on byes, Olsen is an entity available in the majority of formats.
Other starts: Coby Fleener, Anthony Fasano

DEF: Green Bay Packers
Maurice Jones-Drew is out. Blaine Gabbert is in. That is all.
Other starts: Cleveland Browns, New York Jets

Sit ‘Em

QB: Cam Newton, Panthers
Quite the 180 from this juncture last season, eh?

Thing is, a quick comparison shows Newton’s production is fairly similar to 2011’s output:

 

Cam Newton 2011 vs. 2012

 
Year Pass Y/G Pass Y/A Pct. Rush Y/G Rush Y/A
2011 253.2 7.8 60.0 44.1 5.6
2012 231.2 8.0 58.4 45.5 5.9

 

Granted, Newton does have nine turnovers through six games, but the former Heisman winner had 19 miscues last year, so can’t conclusively state that as the catalyst for the collapse. The elementary issue at hand? Newton’s simply not making as many end-zone excursions. Posting 35 total touchdowns in 2011, the Carolina QB’s eight scores put him on stride for just 21 touchdowns. I know, I know, astute observation, right?

However, the reason Newton is not scoring parallels with the Panthers’ schedule, as the team has played tough opponents in the Giants, Falcons, Seahawks and Cowboys the past month. This week’s matchup against Chicago signals similar struggles, but the horizon doesn’t look quite as ominous in November, with Washington, Denver, Tampa Bay and Kansas City on tap. In short: bench Newton this week, though don’t give up the faith just yet.
Other sits: Mike Vick, Matthew Stafford

RB: Doug Martin, Buccaneers
Last week we recommended Martin as a Start ‘Em, and the rookie rusher did not disappoint, racking up 122 total yards and a touchdown against the Saints. Alas, Martin sits on the opposite end of the spectrum for Thursday’s venture to the Metrodome, as only the Bears and Texans are suffocating ground games to a worse harvest than the Vikings. Only start as a flex player or in deeper formats.
Other sits: Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore

WR: Malcom Floyd, Chargers
Have been impressed with what Floyd has given San Diego after the departure of primary target Vincent Jackson and lack of production from offseason acquisition Robert Meachem, as the 31-year-old Floyd is projected to surpass the 1,100-yard mark. Additionally, with Antonio Gates returning to full health and second-year man Vincent Brown nearly recovered from an ankle injury, a viable complement in the receiving arena should take some of the rival focus off Floyd.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to project providence for Floyd as the Chargers travel to Cleveland, as the Browns possess an underrated defense enhanced by the return of Joe Haden. With a plethora of decent options available at the position, avoid Floyd in standard leagues.
Other sits: DeSean Jackson, Malcom Floyd

TE: Vernon Davis, 49ers
Davis is the tight-end equivalent of Chris Johnson, as he’s either blowing up a box score or barely making a statistical dent. Davis’ zero-catch performance versus Seattle last Thursday marks the fourth occasion in 2012 that the former first-round pick was held to three receptions or less, amazing given that Davis has scored the fifth-most points at this position. While most of the truncated yield can be blamed on the suddenly shaky play of Alex Smith, it’s worth noting that Davis failed to accumulate 50 yards in 11 games last season. Don’t be surprised if he lays another stink bomb against an Arizona team permitting the second-fewest points to tight ends.
Other sits: Jared Cook, Antonio Gates

DEF: Oakland Raiders
I understand the allure of starting any defense against the immortal Brady Quinn. (Is “immortal” the word I’m looking for?) However, the Men in Black’s front seven is vulnerable on the soil, bad news considering a fresh-off-the-bye Jamaal Charles is across the line this week. The risk is not worth the reward.
Other sits: Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons

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.

Even by sports-movie standards, a scenario involving a group of inmates taking on law enforcement seems far-fetched (that is, unless the Miami Hurricanes play the Cincinnati Bearcats in a bowl…hey-o!). Nevertheless, my problem does not lie with the implausible plot, but with Adam Sandler portraying a former NFL quarterback, considering his windup makes Byron Leftwich’s mechanics look textbook. (In a related note, Sean Salisbury served as a consultant to this film.) Anyway, seems like casting dropped the ball on this one.

Speaking of dropping the ball, can we host an intervention for Pete Carroll to stop playing Russell Wilson when a perfectly adequate arm in Matt Flynn is available? With Seattle’s ridiculously robust defense, along with San Francisco’s Smith suddenly looking like pre-Jim Harbaugh Smith, the Seahawks could legitimately capture the NFC West crown with a steady presence under center. And trust me, as illustrated in Marshawn Lynch’s "Beast Mode" bum rush versus the Saints two Januarys ago, nothing but good can come from a home playoff game in the Emerald City. Instead, with Wilson at the helm, they’re nothing more than a .500 ball club. Do we kidnap Wilson? Whisper to Carroll that Seattle is facing sanctions, that way he can get out of Dodge before trouble hits? Open to any and all suggestions.

Waiver Wire Watch: Dustin Keller, Jets
Sidelined for most of the fall with a hamstring issue, Keller entered last Sunday’s Foxborough foray with a meager two receptions for 13 yards. Those figures saw a major enhancement, as the Jets tight end finished with seven catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. If Keller can remain on the gridiron, Gang Green’s depleted receiving corps makes the fifth-year man out of Purdue an intriguing play as the primary target for New York. This week’s opponent, Miami, has been pedestrian against the tight end position, making Keller, attainable in 74 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, a worthwhile pickup.

NFL Pick'em

Make weekly picks throughout the NFL season. Free to play with weekly prizing.

Email of the Week
This week’s winner comes from Alice Rita from Jacksonville, who writes:

Montario Hardesty, if Trent Richardson is hurt, should he by my waiver-wire choice? Need help with (Fred) Jackson on bye.

How did this qualify as an email of the week? Because a) Judging by the attendance at Jaguars games, I was not aware NFL fans in Jacksonville existed and b) Alice sent the exact same email last week and simply changed “McGahee on bye” to Jackson. But since I’m a man of the people, I will acquiesce.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Richardson is listed as questionable and practicing, but wouldn’t be surprised if he sat Sunday’s game out to nurse his bruised ribs. Even if he does suit up, not ecstatic about his ceiling, keeping in mind his struggles with the ailment in Week 7. However, if Richardson is on the sidelines, we might see more of Chris Ogbonnaya over Hardesty, as the former excels in passing blocking and the receiving game. I’d stay away from all Browns backs this this weekend. On the other hand…

Fantasy Flyer: Brandon Weeden, Browns
Alright, so four of Weeden’s nine scores are via the Bengals’ frail defense, but for those in two-quarterback formats, the Cleveland QB is a sneaky start against a Chargers defense that is allowing the fifth-most points to fantasy signal callers. Additionally, aside from the debacle in his professional debut versus Philadelphia, he hasn’t been that bad. And in Cleveland, “not that bad” is the biggest compliment a Browns player can get.

The Real Debate
The Saints bounty scandal took another turn this week when Paul Tagliabue was named to hear the appeals of the New Orleans players, with the NFLPA opposing the former commissioner as an impartial judge. Yet the discussion should not center on Tagliabue’s neutrality or that fact that Roger Goodell has officially turned into Vince McMahon; rather, the Real Debate should be this: where is Judge Mills Lane when you need him? Remember that dude, who worked the Mike Tyson – Evander Holyfield fight and was the referee for the awesome claymation show Celebrity Deathmatch? Pretty sure he’s a respected magistrate to rule on this bad boy. Or how about Judge Judy, she still around? Actor Karl Urban was good in the new Judge Dredd movie, how about him? Sad thing is, these are all better options than Goodell or Tagliabue. Move over, Bud Selig, you’re no longer the most hated commissioner in sports.

Rookie Review: Vick Ballard, Colts
The neophyte out of Mississippi State submitted his first solid performance in the pro ranks, rushing for 84 yards on 20 attempts in a win over Cleveland. Getting an extended look in the spotlight with Donald Brown in the infirmary, Ballard is showcasing the skills that earned glowing reviews in training camp. The Colts are still operating under a committee umbrella with Delone Carter and Mewelde Moore in the mix, as well as Brown when he returns from knee issues, but clearly the future of the Indianapolis backfield belongs to Ballard. Speaking of Mewelde, that cat deserves a spot in the Fantasy Hall of Shame, as he’s always a good bet to vulture touches away from rushing assets without amounting much on his own accord. In this regard, I’d like to nominate the nickname “Barnacle.” I’m sure Moore will be thrilled.

College Pick'em

Make weekly picks throughout the college season. Free to play with the Top 25 schools or a specific conference.

This Week in Kevin Walter
The Pride of Ypsilanti had his best game of the season with four catches, 74 yards and a touchdown in the Texans’ takedown of Baltimore. While we are here, went to see Argo this week. Film gets a “Good Job” from this man, although I was distracted halfway through the film thinking, “Why not just send in K-Walt to clean up this mess?” I then realized the time setting was 1979. I need help.
Walter’s 2012 Stats: 19 receptions, 279 yards, two touchdowns
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: Seven

Personal Foul on: Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Seriously, you watched last Thursday’s San Fran – Seattle tilt, right? The final numbers for the rookie Wilson: 9-for-23, 122 yards and an INT. Yes, the 49ers are a good defense, but this isn’t the ’85 Bears we are talking about. Why isn’t Wilson getting more flak? Is he getting lost on the West Coast? Because he’s a nice guy? Because everyone assumes the division belongs to San Francisco? I need answers, dammit.

Gatorade Shower Goes to: Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots
If the Jets had won, security would have been cemented for Mark Sanchez the rest of the season. Now at 3-4 with hard-hitting defenses in Miami, Seattle and St. Louis on the upcoming slate? You know what that means…..TEBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW! (Page views increase 37 percent when Tim Tebow is mentioned. Sorry I’m not sorry.)

Tagged: Bills, Bears, Browns, Broncos, Packers, Titans, Colts, Raiders, Rams, Patriots, Saints, Jets, Eagles, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Panthers, Jaguars, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, Willis McGahee, Kevin Walter, Antonio Gates, Mewelde Moore, Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, Alex Smith, Vernon Davis, Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Greg Olsen, Dustin Keller, DeSean Jackson, Brandon Gibson, Chris Ogbonnaya, Mike Wallace, Mark Sanchez, Donald Brown, Tim Tebow, Chris Johnson, Cam Newton, Alex Green, Vincent Brown, Doug Martin, Brandon Weeden, Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, Russell Wilson, Vick Ballard, Chris Givens

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