Fantasy Football

The Fantasy Basement: Week 5

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
Gore has a little gas left in the tank for a fantasy bonanza against Buffalo.
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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: Andrew Luck, Colts
An unusual and sad state of extraneous circumstances surround the Colts, as head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this week. Always a fickle matter trying to project how a team or individual responds to such adversity, yet Luck and the Indianapolis offense should endure, as offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is more than capable of holding down the fort in Pagano’s absence. From an accuracy standpoint, Luck has been a little off target, flaunting a mediocre 53.3 completion percentage in three games. However, the Horseshoes have not held the reins back with the No. 1 overall pick, substanitated by 122 pass attempts, and owners cannot complain about Luck’s 846 yards and five trips to pay dirt. The Green Bay defense is improved from last year’s league-worst unit, though the Green and Yellow are still susceptible from the sky. Given the Packers could light up the scoreboard early in the Hoosier state on Sunday, envision the Colts to attack from the air often.
Other starts: Eli Manning, Matt Schaub

RB: Frank Gore, 49ers
In August, I predicted the upcoming campaign to be Gore’s last stand, as an increase in miles on the running back’s odometer, as well as a young and talented backfield in the San Francisco reserve, would spell the end to his superb run (pun intended). Though this prognosis commenced inauspiciously (Gore posted 201 yards in the first two games), it appears this finale may be coming to fruition, evidenced by a cutback in carries the past two weeks.

Despite this shrinking window, Gore does have a shot to submit a gem on Sunday versus a Bills resistance that is surrendering the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs in the early season. While we are on the subject, Gore owners may want to look at handcuffing Kendall Hunter, whose emergence and increasing assimilation into the ground game is the biggest threat to Gore’s decreasing rotisserie worth.
Other starts: Marshawn Lynch, Ahmad Bradshaw

WR: Andrew Hawkins, Bengals
Hawkins was a popular pick-up in Week 2 after grabbing eight balls for 86 yards against the Ravens in the season opener. Two 50-yard touchdowns have helped Baby Hawk proprietors avoid cognitive dissonance with their acquisition, but in the three games since his Baltimore conquest, the Bengals wideout has just seven catches.

Luckily for Hawkins, no other Who-Dey receiver has surfaced as a clear-cut second option to A.J. Green. A matchup with the Dolphins could provide the platform to take this title, as Miami is giving up 317.2 receiving yards per game, third-most in the NFL. Moreover, Hawkins’ ability in the slot should produce dividends against a Dolphins team that is shaky over the middle. In a related note, huge fan of the “Baby Hawk” nickname. Beats the hell out of the “first letter of first name – first syllable of last name” moniker trend that’s plagued our society the past decade, eh?
Other starts: Eric Decker, Domenik Hixon

TE: Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
Following three end-zone excursions in the first three contests, Rudolph hit a wall in Week 4, hauling in just two receptions for eight yards. This lack of output was more an extension of Christian Ponder, whose 111-yard performance should quell the amount of “Ponder or…” questions I receive in our Sunday chat. On the bright side, the Minnesota tight end still leads the team in touchdowns and is second in targets, and a foray with Tennessee should offer a shot at redemption, as the Titans are allowing tight ends to run wild, relinquishing the most fantasy points to the position thus far.
Other starts: Owen Daniels, Jacob Tamme

DEF: Pittsburgh Steelers
Philadelphia has one of the more explosive and threatening offenses in the NFC, so understandable if managers want to sit this one out. Conversely, for those seeking a silver lining for the Steel City, Pittsburgh hopes to have All-Pros James Harrison and Troy Polamalu back in uniform, transforming the unit from a so-so squad back into one of the more formidable foes in the league.
Other starts: Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals

Sit ‘Em

QB: Matt Cassel, Chiefs
True, the Ravens defense is more bark than bite, illustrated by their second-worst passing parapet standing. Even with this exploitable opposition, Cassel was atrocious in September, tossing seven passes to the wrong team and fumbling three times. How bad has Cassel been? Brady Quinn might make an appearance if Cassel continues to struggle. That bad.

By the way, I’m not the only one who considers Cassel’s performance, or lack thereof, the last three-plus seasons in Kansas City, along with Indianapolis’ woes in 2011, the difference maker in the “Manning vs. Brady” debate once and for all, right? Cassel’s success in reserve of Brady in 2008, followed by his inadequate display since, proves to me that Brady’s attainment is more a derivative of the system rather than his personal achievement. On the opposite end of that spectrum, with literally the exact same team that went 10-6 in 2010 sans Peyton, the Colts collected a whopping two victories last year. Not sayin’, just sayin’.
Other sits: Cam Newton, Sam Bradford

RB: Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
Mendenhall is owned in just 66.2 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy formats, and if he’s available in your league, by all means snatch the Steelers runner. And with a full month of practices, the 25-year-old back should show little rust this weekend. However, the Eagles have been stout against the run, and Pittsburgh will probably err on the side of caution with the amount of touches Mendenhall receives in his season debut. Only implement in deeper leagues.
Other sits: Steven Jackson, Darren Sproles

WR: Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
The good: Maclin played in all but five snaps in Sunday night’s W over the Giants. The bad: the Philly wideout brought in a lone catch for seven yards, and Michael Vick looked in his vicinity just three times. The ugly: Maclin was clearly not 100 percent, and strained to create any separation versus a credulous Giants secondary. Until he’s back to full strength, let Maclin marinate on your bench.
Other sits: Stevie Johnson, Anquan Boldin

TE: Martellus Bennett, Giants
Cleveland is without Joe Haden for one more contest, but the Browns are a top-five unit against tight ends in 2012. Additionally, with Cleveland’s front seven vulnerable against the run, the G-Men will probably keep the ball on the ground. I’m starting to buy into Bennett as a serviceable fantasy entity, just not for this soiree.
Other sits: Jermichael Finley, Scott Chandler

DEF: Atlanta Falcons
The Dirty Birds are one of eight teams holding adversaries under 20 points this season, and Robert Griffin III has yet to face an intimidating opponent. Though I think the Falcons take this one in a cake walk, can imagine a few garbage-time scores spoiling a solid effort from the Atlanta D.
Other sits: Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers

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.

No matter what your feelings are toward Notre Dame, everyone with a heart agrees that Rudy is one of the jewels of sports cinema. Nevertheless, the movie is not without sin, as a peccadillo in a practice scene has always jaded my experience with the film. While I love me some Vince Vaughn, and who doesn’t, dude is not exactly smooth on the gridiron (despite what his All-State honors proclamation in Wedding Crashers may convey). So it’s hard to believe Vince in the role of an All-American rusher when he looks like a punter running around the backfield after a misplayed snap. I know Hollywood is lacking in athletic talent, but we could have inserted someone with a semblance of sporting prowess for the part, no?

Speaking of hard to believe, how ridiculous does that Mark Sanchez offseason contract extension look after his third straight subpar outing? The deal caused more than a few double-takes at the time, given Sanchez’s forgettable 2011, yet the USC product has managed to do the impossible: make Tim Tebow look like a stable option. And though the fervor from young Jedi Tebow’s acolytes is usually too pompous and delusional to swallow, they actually may have a point. The Sanchize does have 51 starts under his belt, and not only has he failed to develop into a dependable starter, there is an abundance of verification that suggests regression in his game since the middle of his second season.

Quarterback controversy for Gang Green. Man, who would have seen that coming.

Waiver Wire Watch: Leonard Hankerson, Redskins
Pierre Garcon is the No. 1 Washington receiving target when healthy, but despite returning last week, the former Colt looks far from fully recovered from a foot ailment. Enter Hankerson, who snagged seven receptions for 57 yards against Tampa Bay. A third-round pick out of Miami in 2011, Hankerson flaunts the dangerous skillset of a possession receiver with deep-ball dexterity. Though I’m not a big proponent of Robert Griffin III making it the entire season without injury, as long as the Heisman winner is in the saddle, Hankerson should see a steady stream of pigskins in his direction.

Email of the Week
This dandy comes from TydnGKmGEiXTFEsv, who wrote:

USA.

Yep, some cat broke into our work accounts and spammed the hell out of our mailbox. Received that email a solid 120 times. To the loser who is responsible for sending this surfeit of trash, I have a message for you: I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for fantasy advice, well, most of my readers would discourage such counsel. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long fantasy career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my email go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you…with dozens of stories of personal and secondhand fantasy football glory. Seriously, is there anything worse than listening to someone else’s rotisserie success? A fate worse than death, indeed.

Fantasy Flyer: Domenik Hixon, Giants
Listed above in the “Other starts” suggestions, Hixon had a career game against the Eagles in Week 4, racking up six catches for 114 yards. Don’t consider that triumph a one-week wonder, as Hakeem Nicks’ injury will bestow further opportunities for Hixon to shine. As earlier declared, New York’s plan of attack will probably revolve around the run initiative, yet Eli has been prone to take to the skies, and a weak Cleveland secondary could facilitate a second bounty for Hixon and his owners. Available in over 97 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, Hixon is worth the gamble.

The Real Debate
With a quarter of the season in the books, more than a few fan bases of preseason playoff hopefuls are concerned with their team’s performance, most notably New Orleans and Detroit. But the discussion should not center on the prospects of each respective squad turning their fortunes around; rather, the Real Debate should be this: what in the world did Kevin Smith do to Jim Schwartz to not register a single snap in two consecutive games? I get that the Lions are buying into Mikel Leshoure, but that doesn’t explain why stupid Joique Bell is randomly getting touches over Smith. It’s not like Smith was bad in the opening weeks, either, averaging four yards per rush attempt, adding six receptions for 46 yards in the receiving game and traveling to the Promised Land twice. My theory: the director Kevin Smith was furious that his movies were dropping in Google relevancy thanks to the rise of the Detroit back, and went to Schwartz, pleading the coach to bury his namesake on the depth chart. Why Schwartz would yield to these demands is beyond me. Maybe he’s a fan of Mallrats. Granted, this premise might be a bit off base, yet what other possible reason could explain Bell seeing time in a non-CFL game?

Rookie Review: Brandon Bolden, Patriots
Little was expected from Bolden out of the fantasy community in Buffalo, as the undrafted rookie from Ole Miss amassed a total of seven carries through the first three weeks. Apropos, then, that Bolden busted out for 137 yards against the Bills, including a seven-yard scamper for six, in New England’s 52-28 win. The Patriots backfield cannot be classified as a committee situation just yet, as Stevan Ridley remains the main man. Furthermore, the Patriots will continue to be a pass-first enterprise. However, in deeper leagues or those looking for a suitable backup, Bolden has a strong upside that’s lacking in most replacement rushers, and is definitely worth a roster stash.

This Week in Kevin Walter
Concededly, Walter returned to Earth this week with one catch for eight yards. Yet it’s understandable if the Pride of Ypsilanti was distracted. After all, this week is the premiere of the film based on his summer hijinks through Europe. I am, of course, referring to the release of Taken 2. (For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two Taken references in one article. That’s got to be some kind of record.)
Walter’s 2012 Stats: Nine receptions, 131 yards, one touchdown
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: Five

Personal Foul on: Tony Romo, Cowboys
His receivers weren’t helping his cause, but three of those wayward passes rest on the shoulder of the Cowboys QB. In a related note, we are approaching the five-year anniversary of another five-interception Monday night spectacle from Romo, one that correlated to my first major gambling win in college. Aw, memories. (And by “gambling” I’m indicating the friendly bet of soda between buddies, Mr. IRS agent…)

Gatorade Shower Goes to: The Bengals-Jaguars TV Production Crew
To introduce the referees in the same fashion as the Sunday night game starting lineups was sheer genius. The fact that Ed Hochuli was headlining the crew made it that much sweeter.

Tagged: Robert Griffin, Bills, Bengals, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Colts, Chiefs, Rams, Vikings, Patriots, Giants, Jets, Eagles, 49ers, Redskins, Panthers, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Kevin Walter, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Eli Manning, Frank Gore, Matt Cassel, Domenik Hixon, Brady Quinn, Rashard Mendenhall, Kevin Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Andrew Hawkins, Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Leonard Hankerson, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Brandon Bolden

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