Fantasy Football

Fantasy Basement: Week 9

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89)
Count on Smith to deliver in Week 9.
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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.

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Start ‘Em

QB: Carson Palmer, Raiders
Accounting that he was ranked No. 23 at his position according to the FOXSports.com average draft position tool, Palmer’s 277.3 passing yards per game, fifth-best in the AFC, is impressive. Unfortunately, while the Oakland field general has not necessarily been bad the past two weeks, he’s failed to capitalize on exploitable secondaries in Jacksonville and Kansas City, tossing for 507 yards, three touchdowns and two picks. Look for that trend to stop this weekend as the Raiders welcome a Tampa Bay defense that is surrendering the second-most pass yardage (309.6) in the NFL.
Other starts: Josh Freeman, Matt Schaub

RB: Mikel Leshoure, Lions
Leshoure is making his way to many a waiver wire this week after Week 8’s soiree with Seattle (10 carries, 46 yards). In a sense, it’s somewhat understandable the Detroit back finds himself in such a predicament, as Leshoure has a scant 205 rushing yards, 90 receiving yards, two fumbles and zero trips to pay dirt in four games following his extraordinary professional debut in Week 3. However, don’t lose your fantasy faith in Leshoure just yet, as a rendezvous with Jacksonville, who is allowing the fourth-most points to running backs, should offer respite. Moreover, though Joique Bell received 11 touches last week, he’s not a viable threat to vulture meaningful time. Leshoure did appear to suffer some cramps against Seattle, but don’t envision it holding him back in Week 9.
Other starts: Ryan Mathews, Alfred Morris

WR: Steve Smith, Panthers
Perhaps it’s attributable to his scoring shortcoming (zero touchdowns in 2012), a mid-fall lull (seven catches, 92 yards combined in Weeks 4 and 5, followed by the bye week) or the inconsistency under center (see: Newton, Cam) but Smith seems to have fallen out of favor with his proprietors, evidenced by the perennial Pro Bowler starting in half of FOXSports.com formats. Yet Smith has posted at least 83 yards in five of seven outings this season, including 201 yards in the past two weeks against stout secondaries in Dallas and Chicago. That prosperity should continue this weekend as the Panthers take on a Washington squad conceding the second-most yards and third-most points to receivers. And for those lacking depth at receiver, the disenchantment from Smith owners is palpable, meaning Smith is a very attainable asset in your league. In a related note, I will always advocate for Smith, if only because he seems like a guy that would carry a personal vendetta if he found out fans were dropping him from their fantasy teams. Basically, the exact opposite mindset of Cam Newton.
Other starts: Antonio Brown, DeSean Jackson

TE: Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
Before his dud against the Steelers (three grabs, 19 yards), Gresham had hauled in a respectable 239 yards and two touchdowns in his previous four contests. Expect a bounce-back effort against the Broncos, as Denver has been susceptible against tight ends in the first half of the year. While we are here, time for Joel’s Gambling Advice of the Week. As always, “gambling” refers to “wagering a scoop of ice cream between friends.” The Broncos are getting minus-three traveling to Cincinnati on Sunday. Or, to frame in a different light, a rejuvenated Peyton Manning, who is 7-0 versus the Who Deys in his career, battles a Bengals secondary that made Brandon Weeden look like Warren Moon in Tecmo Super Bowl. Spitballing here, but I think No. 18 will cover the spread.
Other starts: Owen Daniels, Heath Miller

DEF: San Diego Chargers
Matt Cassel makes his long-awaited return to man the helm of the Chiefs offense. And by “long-awaited return” I mean in the same sense that residents of Haddonfield sweat out the arrival of Michael Myers every Halloween. Not helping Kansas City’s prospects is the little tidbit of Romeo Crennel’s confusion on why Jamaal Charles received so few touches in Week 8, disconcerting since, you know, he’s the head coach and everything. The Chargers are giving up the third-fewest points in the AFC, a rank they should maintain through Thursday night.
Other starts: Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings

Sit ‘Em

QB: Matt Ryan, Falcons
I understand most owners will not heed counsel to sit their star player, and make no mistake, Ryan has taken the leap into the upper stratum of fantasy quarterbacks in the first half. Nevertheless, Ryan’s adversary this week, Dallas, is only relinquishing 187.7 yards per game, second-lowest production in the league. Also worth noting that Ryan does have seven turnovers in his last seven games, albeit with three stemming from an interception-filled afternoon with Oakland. If you happen to own a top-12 signal caller aside from Ryan, this would be the juncture to sit the Atlanta arm.
Other sits: Eli Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick

RB: Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
The good: a lingering foot issue did not appear to encumber Bradshaw’s lateral movement and quickness last weekend. The bad: the starting back for the G-Men averaged a mundane 3.5 yards per carry, lost a fumble and had a touchdown snatched away by backup Andre Brown. The ugly: Bradshaw and New York face a Pittsburgh defensive front seven that has been resolute since the return of James Harrison. We should point out that Bradshaw has already achieved the impossible this season, racking up 116 yards on the menacing rush resistance of San Francisco, so a Herculean effort is not out of the question. Still, the safe bet is for Bradshaw to lounge on your bench.
Other sits: Marshawn Lynch, BUF RBs

WR: Santana Moss, Redskins
Four touchdowns in the past four games is enticing, and Moss’ role in the Washington offense has expanded with the extended absence of Pierre Garcon, illustrated by eight targets in last week’s tilt with Pittsburgh. However, in PPR leagues, the 33-year-old receiver’s value is diminished, as Moss brought in a prosaic harvest of 13 balls in October. Additionally, while Carolina might give owners the impression of an advantageous opponent, the Panthers have essentially been one of the tougher pass combatants in the NFL, suffocating receivers to the third-lowest fantasy output. In deeper leagues, Moss maintains some value as a third wideout or flex play, but that firework is not worth lighting in most formats.
Other sits: Hakeem Nicks, Lance Moore

TE: Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
Pettigrew is on pace for 80-plus receptions and 850 yards, yet the Oklahoma State product’s end-zone problems persist, journeying to the Promised Land just once in 2012. To be fair, this derives from Matthew Stafford’s struggles to some extent; alas, though the Detroit quarterback appeared to get the train back on the tracks last week, an engagement with the Jaguars will not facilitate fruition for Pettigrew this Sunday, considering Jacksonville is holding opposing tight ends to the second-lowest point production. With the depth at the position this season, better options exist this weekend than Pettigrew.
Other sits: Kyle Rudolph, Jermichael Finley

DEF: Baltimore Ravens
I know, any defense versus Cleveland looks appealing. Injuries to Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis aside, the Ravens unit is simply not that good in 2012. I don’t imagine the Browns lighting up the scoreboard by any means, though a stalwart effort from Baltimore is unlikely as well.
Other sits: Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles

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.

Going down a slightly different road this week, as our beef resides with the fashion sense of a certain film rather than a particular premise. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of nonsense in the adventures of Any Given Sunday to dissect, but what always killed me about this overrated tale was the attire. I understand that team logos, jerseys, apparel, etc. had to be conjured from scratch since the NFL did not grant permission to use any of their likenesses in the film, but, holy cow, were the imaginary franchise insignias created by kindergarteners? Pretty sure one team just had a cross on the front of their uniforms. Seems like the producers dropped the ball on that one.

Speaking of dropping the ball, we alluded to the situation above but it merits repeating: how does a head coach, in this case, Kansas City’s Crennel, not know that his star back had only five carries? I get that Crennel is sleeping half the time on the sidelines, and the few times he is awake, is busy making defensive adjustments, or, more likely, dinner plans. Even then, five carries for a former All-Pro? Crennel backtracked from his post-game comments this week, stating that the Raiders were stopping the run, hence Charles’ lack of touches. Somehow, this only made it worse. Giving up the run against a porous rush defense after five runs? And you wonder where the Chiefs’ lack of fortitude originates.

Waiver Wire Watch: Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
Understand it’s not easy to trust any Jacksonville entity not named Maurice Jones-Drew, but as the Jags often find themselves in early holes, the offense has resorted to attacking from the air in the second half of ballgames, and someone has to benefit from these amplified air excursions, right? Shorts’ success versus Green Bay last week (eight catches, 116 yards) may appear to be an aberration, as the triumph marked the first 100-yard game in the receiver’s two-year career. In reality, it was the second consecutive strong showing for Shorts, as he snagged four receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown in Week 7. Available in 97 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues, Shorts warrants a look in deeper formats.

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Email of the Week
This week’s winner comes from Bill McFarland from Massillon, Ohio, who writes:

As we all know the top college place kicker in the nation each year wins the Groza Award. How is it possible that the top kicker in the country this season isn't even on the Groza watch list? This young man is Steven Schott, the senior kicker at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He has kicked 20 field goals so far this season which is first among all kickers and is fifth in the nation in overall scoring with 93 points. He obviously leads the Mid-American Conference in scoring and field goals made. I feel that his efforts have been overlooked by the Groza committee and college football as a whole. This might be due to the small conference he plays in. Could someone explain how the top kicker in the country is not on the Groza watch list??

Well, Bill, I appreciate such fervor over a MAC kicker, and while college football is not this column’s forte, I assume it’s due to the fact that this list is created before the season starts. Considering Schott was only 15-for-20 and sixth in MAC scoring last year, that probably is the catalyst for his exclusion. That, or he’s being penalized for making the terrible decision to attend Ball State. (Ohio Bobcats rule!)

Fantasy Flyer: Davone Bess, Dolphins
Since posting 123 yards on the Cardinals’ stringent secondary in Week 4 off seven catches, Bess has fallen off the fantasy radar, contributing an insignificant 119 yards and 12 receptions. The fifth-year receiver’s worth has also been hampered by his ventures for six, or lack thereof, as Bess has yet to set-up shop in the end zone. On the bright side, he’s receiving the looks, entering this week’s play with 56 targets, and Indianapolis’ defense is far from formidable. If you’re searching for a sleeper, Bess is your man in Week 9.

The Real Debate
You’ll never believe this: Tim Tebow is back in the headlines. With the NFL’s trade deadline this week, rumors have Tebow heading in a few directions, most notably to his hometown of Jacksonville. Yet the discussion should not center on Tebow’s virtues as a quarterback; rather, the Real Debate should be this: with all the fake pictures swirling around Twitter, how has not one Photoshopped image of Tebow walking on water surfaced? Isn’t this what the Internet was created for? What’s wrong with you people?!?! (In a related note, hope everyone on the East Coast is safe and sound, and with any luck this column brings a slight reprieve to the chaos around you.)

Rookie Review: Doug Martin, Buccaneers
Can you believe some knuckleheads recommended sitting the rookie rusher versus the Vikings last Thursday? Wait, what’s that? Oh. Well, uh, this is awkward…

In my defense, the Vikings arrived as the third-best rush resistance, and Martin, while sound in the rotisserie world, was far from entering the top-15 echelon at the position. However, his prowess in the passing game finally paid off, finishing with three catches for 79 yards and a touchdown in the receiving arena to go along with 135 yards and a score on the ground. A season-ending injury to lineman Carl Nicks could be damaging to Martin’s forecast for the rest of the season, but up to this point, possessors of the Tampa Bay back have gotten their money’s worth.

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This Week in Kevin Walter
An off week for Houston, meaning no additional cornerback casualties occurred in Week 8. Reader Jeff inquired on the activities of K-Walt during this retreat, with his contention that the Pride of Ypsilanti spent his time cutting down trees in the wilderness and/or sleeping in a cryogenic storage chamber like Demolition Man. While I champion the thought of Walter training Rocky IV style in the mountains like a lumberjack, have to shoot down the latter suggestion. We all know that, like Chuck Norris, Kevin Walter does not sleep. He waits.
Walter’s 2012 Stats: 19 receptions, 279 yards, two touchdown
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: Eight

Personal Foul on: Arizona Cardinals
I know they have one of the better defenses in the league, but until the Cards get a quarterback not named Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, can we mandate that Arizona is forbidden from nationally televised games? They almost make Jacksonville look watchable in comparison. Almost.

Gatorade Shower Goes to: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
Granted, I’m sure he has never been to Buckingham Palace. Probably doesn’t even know it exists. In fact, wouldn’t doubt if Gronk fully knew he was out of the country last week. Yet his imitation of the Queen’s Guard after a touchdown against the Rams? Bravo, my friend. Bravo.

Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Lions, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings, Patriots, Giants, Jets, Eagles, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Jaguars, Ravens, Cardinals, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, Santana Moss, Steve Smith Sr., Kevin Walter, Matt Schaub, Eli Manning, Matt Cassel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Kolb, DeSean Jackson, Matt Ryan, Davone Bess, Brandon Pettigrew, Andre Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Ryan Mathews, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Mikel Leshoure, Cecil Shorts III, Doug Martin

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