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Fantasy Basement: Week 3
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.
Football fans are a loyal and zealous contingent, discounting any argument that could conceivably be conveyed as opposition to their beliefs. I saw this fervor come to fruition in my mailbox last week after suggesting Tony Romo and the Cowboys might be in for misfortune in the Emerald City. Backers of the ‘Boys rained a hurricane of vitriol in my direction, incredulous that their quarterback could struggle in Seattle despite what feeble things like statistics and circumstance dictated. As alluded in Tuesday’s chat, while I usually collect a few disagreements on columns, Tweets, interviews, etc., the only other instance I was bestowed with such a body of hate was from Twilight fans after making a Kristen Stewart joke. And yes, I’m aware that comparing Cowboys fans to teenage girls won’t help my standing in their graces.
To the Dallas devotees’ credit, from the time I posted the article on Wednesday to Sunday’s Seattle-Dallas kickoff, I received a steady stream of jabs, rips and suggestions on how to remove my head from a certain orifice. Amazingly though, this discord suddenly came to a halt within three minutes of action in the first quarter. Even more bizarre, five of the Twitter accounts that were tearing me a new one suddenly disappeared off the grid. Thing is, my satellite went out Sunday, and I have mostly been Internet surfing the past few days instead of working, so still in the dark on the outcome of the contest. Did Romo throw for 350 yards and four touchdowns? Were the Seahawks run off the field like some of you suggested? Did Dez Bryant finally fulfill his first-round promise?
I kid. The funny thing is, I like Romo’s prognostication for 2012, a sentiment that was unfortunately lost in my audacity to suggest the gunslinger might have an off day.
How about this: I forgive you for implying that my mother cries herself to sleep knowing her son is laughable, uninformed joke, and you pardon my advice to start Jay Cutler against Green Bay last week, which ranks up there with rocking blonde highlights in high school and thinking The Break-Up could be a good movie as one of the worst decisions of my life. However, if acting like a spoiled, ungrateful brat registers points in your fantasy league, well, Cutler was the bomb, and you’re welcome.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Big Ben’s figures from the first two games (46-for-71, 520 yards, four touchdowns) fail to illustrate how commanding the Steelers quarterback has been in new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s air attack. That he’s functioned effectively without any semblance of a rushing game (Pittsburgh is averaging a paltry 2.6 yards per carry with Rashard Mendenhall shelved) gives additional gravitas to the achievement. Roethlisberger takes on an Oakland defense that is far from daunting, and with Mike Wallace’s assimilation into the offense rapidly progressing after the wideout missed most of training camp, Sunday’s forecast looks bright for the Steel City offense.
Other starts: Andy Dalton, Sam Bradford
This cat is going to be the bane of my existence for the next four months. Chicago appears hell-bent on employing Bush in the red zone, meaning weeks where the Louisville product posts 16-plus fantasy points, followed by games of eight rushes for nine yards and zero trips to pay dirt. Unless Matt Forte goes down, employing Bush is a risky endeavor, and one with limited upside.
My bad, Forte proprietors.
Although Forte has yet to be ruled out for Sunday’s tilt versus the Rams, Lovie Smith will likely err on the side of caution and sit his star back, opening a tremendous opportunity for Bush against a rush defense that has surrendered 259 yards and four soil scores. I remain sour on his prospects for the rest of the season, though in the short term, Bush is a sound play. As for the matter of apologizing for the jinx...get out of town. Believe me, I wish I possessed such voodoo endowment. Even then, I would use these powers for good, like placing a spell on Taylor Swift so we never have to hear her chalkboard-screeching break-up songs ever again.
Other starts: Donald Brown, Andre Brown
WR: Malcom Floyd, Chargers
Make no mistake, the Falcons are a juggernaut on both sides of the ball, but with Pro Bowl corner Brent Grimes out for the year and Asante Samuel showing signs of deteriorating play, the Atlanta secondary is slightly susceptible at the moment. Enter Floyd, San Diego’s new No. 1 target with Vincent Jackson gone and Antonio Gates nursing an injury, who leads the team in targets (14), receptions (10) and yards (175) through the team’s first two weeks. Atlanta’s up-tempo offense could correlate to early scoring for the Dirty Birds, forcing the Lightning Bolts to strike from the sky, meaning big things for Floyd this weekend.
Other starts: Stevie Johnson, Greg Little
TE: Owen Daniels, Texans
It’s no secret the Denver defense has looked pedestrian in their opening contests. However, the Broncos have especially struggled against tight ends, giving up the third-most points to the position in the young season. Taking on Daniels will do little to alleviate that woe. The 29-year-old out of Wisconsin is healthy for the first time in three seasons, a concept evidenced in his performance on the gridiron, leading the team with 17 looks and garnering 134 yards. If he can stay out of the infirmary, Daniels, still available in 26 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, may finish as a top-10 fantasy contributor in 2012.
Other starts: Jermaine Gresham, Brandon Pettigrew
DEF: Detroit Lions
Concededly, the Motown defense is more bark than bite, illuminated by relinquishing 50 points to ordinary offenses in the Rams and 49ers. Nevertheless, they are an opportunistic group that is capable of accruing multiple turnovers in a contest. A trip to Nashville will provide a platform to shine for the Lions, as Jake Locker and a leaky Tennessee line will assist in a bountiful day.
Other starts: New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
QB: Peyton Manning, Broncos
Though individuality and disposition are integral components of this gig, one must repress personal vendettas or affinities so as to give fantasy owners the most objective outlooks. So in full disclosure, I harbor Manning on three rotisserie rosters, making last Monday’s game, henceforth known as the Georgia Dome Debacle in these parts, that tougher to swallow. To give you a brief insight on my state of psyche that night, I ventured out of the bachelor pad after one of Manning’s Frisbee throws to pick up a pack of cigarettes. I don’t smoke.
Acrimony aside, a matchup with Houston is unpromising to even the sharpest of signal callers. Keeping in mind the copious volume of capable QBs on the market, let Manning marinate on your bench this week. As for his conjecture for the rest of 2012, still a proponent of the 6’5”, 230-pound quarterback, sans laser-rocket arm, as he can make do with slants and quick-hits a la Drew Brees. Considering I checked online to see if “McWobbles” could be printed onto a Broncos jersey at one point Monday night, that’s as strong as an endorsement as you will find.
Other sits: Josh Freeman, Carson Palmer
RB: Ben Tate, Texans
Received a sizeable bulk of inquiries regarding starter implementation for Tate after the backup back rushed for 74 yards and made two excursions into the end zone against Jacksonville. While I can appreciate the theory, my retort would be Tate’s feats, or lack thereof, from Week 1 (five attempts, six yards). Cognizant over the alleged hex I allocated to Forte via Bush last week, and that I own Foster in two big-money leagues…think you know where I am heading on this road.
Other sits: Cedric Benson, Michael Turner
WR: Sidney Rice, Seahawks
True, the Packers forfeited the most receiving yards in the NFL in 2011, getting torched for 311.8 yards per game. This season has been a different tale, however, with Green Bay suffocating adversarial passing assaults to 132.5 yards per contest, as the unit replenished through the draft and free agency. (Thanks again, Mr. Cutler.) As proven last week against the Cowboys, Seattle is not the most conducive environments for opponents. Yet, while I understand the excitement behind rookie arm Russell Wilson, which in turn has spawned Rice into a hot commodity, this stimulation has not manifested itself in the box scores. Rice may be worthy of a roster stash, but is not on the fantasy starter level at this stage.
Other sits: Anquan Boldin, Lance Moore
TE: Jermichael Finley, Packers
Patience is running thin in the fantasy forum with Finley, as it should: after an inconsistent campaign in 2011, this season has rendered much of the same, logging just 73 yards in two weeks, albeit with 11 receptions. Unfortunately, to say I envision a sudden progression would be a fabrication, as there are simply too many weapons in the Green Bay receiving corps for Finley to contribute on a steady basis. He will see his fair share of red-zone looks, but Finely no longer deserves inclusion in the upper echelon of fantasy tight ends.
Other sits: Jacob Tamme, Marcedes Lewis
DEF: San Diego Chargers
You have seen the Atlanta offense, right? Outside of Michael Turner, who may want to retire that “Burner” nickname, the Falcons are loaded with explosive entities at every skill position. Better options exist on the wire than the Chargers.
Other sits: Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants
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.
To get “I don’t play by anybody’s rules” quarterback Jonathan Moxon to, um, play by the rules, coach Bud Kilmer threatens to doctor Moxon’s transcripts, insinuating Mox would lose his scholarship to Brown University. One slight conundrum: Ivy League schools don’t hand out athletic grants, a relatively well-known fact that would have been exposed with the slightest amount of diligence. Of course, judging by the rest of the movie, the screenwriters did little background work on most matters covered in the film, like football, steroids, Texas culture, basic story structure…
Speaking of conundrums, how about the fantasy outlook of Chris Johnson? Last season’s statistical deficiency was somewhat comprehensible, as his contract holdout and unfamiliarity with a new offense and quarterback suggested trouble. But 2012’s travesty (19 rushes, 21 yards) is unfathomable, and moreover, unacceptable. Yes, the Tennessee offensive line is a bigger train wreck than Hit and Run, yet Johnson is far from the only back operating behind an impaired o-line. Damnedest thing is, Johnson looks stronger and spryer than he has in three years. His aptitude in the air attack makes him serviceable in PPR formats, but it’s looking like the “bust” label will be applied to the Titans back for the second year in a row. (What’s that, you haven’t seen Hit or Run? Don’t worry, no one has.)
Waiver Wire Watch: Brandon LaFell, Panthers
During the preseason, I tabbed Greg Olsen as the player most likely to complement Steve Smith in the Panthers passing game. Alas, a weak protection scheme will likely compel Olsen to stay at home and block rather than work over the middle, giving LaFell, a third-year man out of LSU, the chance to excel. Underwhelming in his first two seasons in Charlotte, LaFell is an early nomination for rising star of the year, hauling in nine receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown. Likewise, Cam Newton is searching in his vicinity to a high degree of regularity, with 13 targets to LaFell. A date with the depleted defense of the G-Men could deliver a bonanza for LaFell this Thursday.
Email of the Week
Short and sweet, from Joey P. outside of Chicago:
Jay Cutler just threw another interception.
Why did this astute observation earn appointment? Joe sent this my way on Monday morning. As I Tweeted last Friday, “Walked outside to see neighbor’s dog pooping on my driveway. Now I know what it’s like to be a Bears fan.” Again, my bad on the Cutler suggestion. Moving on…
Fantasy Flyer: Matt Cassel, Chiefs
Don’t misconstrue this as an argument that Cassel is, you know, actually good. Because he’s not. Far from it. Rather, the feeble condition of the Kansas City defense has facilitated an enlarged garbage time for the Chiefs offense, leading to a plethora of prevent coverages from opponents. It’s in this condition that has enabled Cassel to throw for 559 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games. Expect much of the same against New Orleans, which already “flaunts” one of the shakier secondaries in the game. In deeper leagues or two-QB formats, owners can do a lot worse than Cassel this week.
The Real Debate
Luckily for Denver’s Manning, his putrid performance was overlooked by some egregious whistles from the replacement referees on Monday night, capping a forgettable weekend for the zebras. But the discussions should not center on the merits of the temporary umpiring crews or the dire straits of the referee strike; rather, the Real Debate should be this: if fans are this upset about the NFL refs, why hasn’t there been a bigger outcry against wrestling judges? Have you seen these clowns? NFL refs are watching up to 22 players, whereas these jerks get distracted with just two combatants in the ring. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a wrestling match that was compromised thanks to a referee missing an illegal object being utilized. Forget the NFL referee labor dispute; we need to clean up the action in the ring before tackling anything on the gridiron.
Rookie Review: Kendall Wright, Titans
The entire Titans offense is a mess, with the capriciousness of Locker and CJ2K’s Space Jam-like loss of power, yet Wright is the lone bright spot. An All-American out of Baylor, Wright has snatched the starting job as slot receiver for Tennessee and shown flashes of brilliance, snagging seven receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. Kenny Britt’s return may be seen as a threat to his targets, but Britt’s presence should shift attention away from Wright, giving the diminutive receiver room to roam. In deeper formats, Wright is worth the look, as the Titans will be forced to pass late in ballgames this season.
This Week in Kevin Walter
FACT: the Pride of Ypsilanti had more yards in Week 2 than Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones and Dez Bryant. That K-Walt only brought in three receptions for 34 yards does little to diminish the veracity of said claim.
Walter’s 2012 Stats: Five receptions, 50 yards
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: Two
Personal Foul on: NFL’s “Lack of Integrity”
Yes, there have been blown calls, and the fact that mild-mannered Mike Tirico referred to Monday night’s proceedings as “embarrassing” speaks volumes. However, enough with this “lack of integrity” spiel, as if the league has been a bastion of righteousness. The NFL has always made a mockery of virtue: the cold-shoulder approach to the fans during last year’s lockout, the blind eye toward player health, the practice of TV blackouts, allowing Mike Brown to preserve control of a franchise despite not winning a playoff game in his 21-year reign…we could spew this stuff for hours. Pointing out the NFL doesn’t care about us is like saying Clint Eastwood occasionally plays gruff, raspy anti-hero characters. We all love our professional pigskin; unfortunately, it’s a one-way street. (And yes, perhaps this dour mood stems from Manning’s Georgia Dome Debacle. That said, by divine intervention, or at least Danny Amendola, somehow still won three of my four leagues this week. But let’s wrap this up before I continue to ramble…)
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Arizona Cardinals
Judging by a conversation I had with one of the workers on the FOXSports.com Survivor game, approximately 104.3 percent of users, including myself, had the Pats over the Kevin Kolb-led Cards in Foxborough for Week 2. Though I should be more morose that my dreams of a perfect season were smashed at such an early stage of September, it’s nice to see the little guys go into New England and lay the smackdown.
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