Fantasy Football

The Fantasy Basement: Week 4

Pirate of the Coliseum
Palmer is quietly cruising along in 2012.
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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.

Fortitude is a virtue often lost in the fantasy forum. The regular season is still in its infancy, yet tolerance toward underwhelming players is running thin. In the majority of cases, I try to preach patience, that such a sample size is lacking in constitution to warrant our scorn and these competitors deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Chris Johnson is no such case.

For the second consecutive campaign, the rusher once dubbed “CJ2K” has struggled out of the gate, averaging a whopping 1.4 yards per attempt and failing to break that ever-elusive 25-yard barrier in the first three contests. Whereas last season’s stumble could be rationalized as an upshot from his contract holdout last August, Johnson’s current tribulations seem rooted in the porous play of his offensive line, which is falling apart quicker than Ryan Lochte’s post-swimming career. There have also been growls that Johnson appears tentative in working between the tackles and is looking too often to the outside, a surefire way to be brought down in the backfield in the professional ranks.

A number of owners have inquired if it’s too early to pull the plug on the Titans back. After the season’s first two weeks, I advised to give Johnson another chance to turn it around. Following last week’s debacle, far be it from me to inhibit managers from releasing Johnson onto the waiver wire. In PPR leagues, Johnson’s prowess in the passing game maintains his relevancy, yet even in these formats, it would be an endeavor to make a strong argument for roster inclusion.

R.I.P. Chris Johnson, Fantasy Stud. Some stars shine so bright they burn out before their time.

Start ‘Em

QB: Carson Palmer, Raiders
One of my prophecies in the preseason predictions piece stated the Oakland field general would finish as a top-10 performer in 2012. Through the early going, that projection is on course, as Palmer is the fifth-ranked quarterback in most standard formats thanks to 879 yards and five touchdowns. More importantly, the former Heisman winner has curtailed his penchant of passes to the wrong team, throwing just two interceptions after notching 16 picks in 10 contests a season ago. The rapport with his receivers is far from perfect, and Darrius Heyward-Bey’s injury will impede any desires of short-term enhancement in that arena. However, facing a Broncos unit that has relinquished the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, Palmer is a smart start for Week 4.
Other starts: Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco

RB: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
After racking up 91 yards on a modest 18 carries against Baltimore in the season opener, the Law Firm has regressed the last two weeks, posting 75 yards versus Cleveland and a meager 38 yards, albeit with an excursion to the end zone, in our nation’s capital over the weekend. Luckily for Green-Ellis owners, no other Bengals back is making a dent into the former Patriot’s workload, and a forthcoming matchup with Jacksonville, a squad that is surrendering 154.3 yards per contest, should provide a platform for a bountiful harvest.
Other starts: Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch

WR: DeSean Jackson, Eagles
Set aside Jackson’s middling output (three receptions, 43 yards) in the desert, as the principal figure from Week 3’s tilt is 10 targets in Jackson’s vicinity. Though Jeremy Maclin is expected to return, Maclin’s hip issue will hamper the wideout from being a full-go. Considering the Giants secondary and linebacking crew is depleted in its own right, envision Jackson to see a healthy dose of balls in his direction in the City of Brotherly Love on Sunday night. While we are on the subject, I know Philly is not exactly known for patience and empathy, but give Mike Vick a little breathing room, alright? Arizona is a tough defense, and Vick did defeat a solid Ravens team in Week 2. The turnovers are frustrating, and the miscommunication with his receiving company is disconcerting, yet given that he missed most of training camp and preseason play with various bruises, let the man get situated. And really, are you that eager to be disappointed in Nick Foles?
Other starts: Vincent Jackson, Torrey Smith

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TE: Greg Olsen, Panthers
His statistics are not eye-popping, yet for a player that went undrafted in many FOXSports.com leagues, proprietors could be dealing with a worse yield than Olsen’s 14 grabs for 167 yards. A feeble offensive line has forced Olsen to remain at home to block more often than imagined, but with the Panthers struggling on both sides of the ball, Carolina should be airing it out often this season due to large second-half deficits. That includes an upcoming date with Atlanta, which has steamrolled opponents on the offensive end in September. Carolina will likely keep it on the ground inside the 20, shackling Olsen’s ceiling; nevertheless, for those in deeper formats, Olsen is a player available in most leagues that can consistently contribute to your rotisserie roster.
Other starts: Kyle Rudolph, Owen Daniels

DEF: Seattle Seahawks
Lost in the Seattle Screwjob was the effort by the ‘Hawks defense, limiting the high-octane Packers to just 12 points. In fact, Seattle is suffocating adversaries to a league-low 13 points per contest this campaign, and is holding rushers to 58.7 yards, second-best in the NFL. Their dexterity up front and in the secondary is why…
Other starts: Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions

Sit ‘Em

QB: Sam Bradford, Rams
…Bradford earns the spot on your bench this week. Nothing against the 2010 No. 1 overall pick, who looked smooth and in command in his first two outings of the season before running into the buzzsaw that is the Chicago Bears defense, but the Rams’ woes up front (12 sacks in the first three games) could correlate to disaster versus a Seahawks squad that posted eight sacks on Monday. Bradford is blessed with an endowed receiving corps, and the Oklahoma product’s throws have looked crisper and more on-target than his forgettable and abbreviated 2011 tour. Unfortunately, with an abundance of serviceable arms available, Bradford should only be implemented in deep formats or those encumbered by the bye week.
Other sits: Tony Romo, Cam Newton

RB: Shonn Greene, Jets
Ah, the Jets offense. In the words of the immortal Dennis Green, “They are who we thought they were!” Getting little air support certainly is not detracting rivals’ focus from the running game, and the Gang Green offensive line is more bark than bite. Still, Greene’s 60 yards on 30 carries the past two weeks speaks for itself. Worse, Bilal Powell is beginning to siphon touches away, with 19 attempts the past two games. Greene remains the starter, but taking on a San Francisco front seven that is conceding just 91 yards per contest does not forecast fruition for the fourth-year back in Week 4.
Other sits: Trent Richardson, Steven Jackson

WR: Nate Washington, Titans
Johnson’s afflictions should parallel to an amplified aerial assault for Tennessee, bringing dividends to Nasty Nate possessors. Alas, Jake Locker and an inferior line against the top-ranked defense in the conference? Call me crazy, but I think Roger Goodell has a better shot at winning a mayoral bid in Green Bay (or New Orleans, for that matter) than the Titans receivers have at hitting pay dirt this weekend.
Other sits: Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery

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TE: Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
Gresham is second on the team in targets (20), yet Cincinnati’s depth at the receiving ranks tarnishes the tight end’s designation as the No. 2 option behind A.J. Green. And though the Bengals have featured more flight forays than in 2011, the Who-Deys endure as a soil-driven unit on offense. While Jacksonville may not instill a sense of fear on paper, the Jags are giving up the fifth-lowest output to tight ends this season. With a wealth of viable players at the position, owners are best served by sitting out Gresham.
Other sits: Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook

DEF: New York Jets
Not just this week, but for the rest of the season. With Revis Island out for the season, not only is the erratic Kyle Wilson vaulted to starter status, but seventh-round pick Ellis Lankster should see an extended amount of action as well. This would be fine if the Jets were playing in the Big East; regrettably, this is not the case.
Other sits: Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins

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.

The plot to the 1994 film Little Giants revolves around a gang of misfits challenging the perennial powerhouse Cowboys to earn the right to represent the area of Urbania in Pee Wee Football, due to the league’s “one town, one team” rule. What kind of youth association applies such Darwinism principles that only one squad can hail from a community? I’m ok with the castoffs pulling the upset, even though it’s a stretch to believe Al Bundy would lose to Rick Moranis in anything, but in my many dealings with little-league sports, can’t see how a district would be confined with such a ridiculous demarcation. And what type of pubescent pigskin club limits its roster size to 25 players? Really, can’t make room for an extra 13 kids? Something seems amiss in that logic.

Speaking of seeming amiss, what’s up with the Lions backfield? Reports deriving from Detroit stated Mikel Leshoure would be on a workload restriction of 15 or so plays, which seemed congruent with accounts of Kevin Smith handling the first-string snaps in practice during the week. Unfortunately, Jim Schwartz and his coaching staff threw a curveball, and we swung and missed like Adam Dunn. Leshoure finishing with 30 touches (26 rush attempts, four receptions) was digestible to some degree; Smith not receiving a single carry or catch while Joique Bell collected nine touches? Very Shanahan-esque, Mr. Schwartz. Leshoure should be owned in all formats going forward, while Smith has lost almost all value after demotion to third-string duty.

NFL replacement officials

ROUNDUP ON REF-GATE

Now that an agreement is in place, see how the replacement official fiasco blew up and was finally solved.

Waiver Wire Watch: Ryan Williams, Cardinals
Williams was highlighted as a late-round draft entity, as no one would ever confuse Beanie Wells as a paragon of good health. It appears Wells’ frailty has manifested once again, as the bruising back is reportedly dealing with turf toe. The Cardinals have been mum on Wells’ status, meaning Williams, who rushed for 83 yards on 13 carries against Philadelphia, could be in for an increased allotment versus the Dolphins. Miami has been fairly stiff on opposing rushers, forfeiting only 64.7 yards a contest, but with so few running backs available at this juncture of the season, Williams, owned in just 56 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, is worthy of pick-up consideration.

Email of the Week
This week’s comment comes from our Tuesday chat from reader Steve:

Is it time to get wacco for Flacco vs. CLE?

As wacco as one can get for the Baltimore QB, Steve, as Flacco has thrown for 913 yards and six touchdowns in the first three games. I wrote on Monday that Flacco seems to be flourishing in the new up-tempo pace for the Ravens offense, and having Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta and Ray Rice undoubtedly helps his cause. Yet, from a fantasy value standpoint, Flacco’s worth is limited strictly to the team that owns him, as most managers lack the faith that Flacco can continue this aptitude throughout the season. From a trade perspective, one would not receive the proper worth that a player with Flacco’s statistics dictates.

However, facing a Joe Haden-less Browns defense, Flacco is a must-start in all formats.

Fantasy Flyer: Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
Granted, Freeman was dreadful against the Cowboys in Big D (10-for-28 for 110 yards, an interception and two fumbles recovered by Tampa), but the Buccaneers signal caller has an opportunity to bounce back against a Washington unit that is surrendering the most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Also fortuitous for Freeman is the absence of Redskins defenders Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker. Though he seems far removed from his remarkable 2010 campaign, Freeman does have weapons available in Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson to bequeath enough upside to constitute as a sly start in deeper formats this week.

The Real Debate
Not sure if you’re aware, but Monday night’s Seattle-Green Bay affair concluded with a call that was judged by some as questionable. And in the aftermath, a minority of folks made a quiet fuss over the state of replacement officiating. But the discussion should not center on the merits of the referees or their decisions; rather, the Real Debate should be this: why aren’t all calls reviewable? Obviously the verdict emitting from the Emerald City is garnering the most attention, yet the Baltimore-New England tussle ended with a field goal that sailed over the top of the upright. For whatever reason, calls of this nature cannot be reevaluated. Um…why, exactly? You can review the spot of the football, so not buying the “determining the exact location of the ball” nonsense. And the spiel regarding the neglect of overturning or enforcing pass interference calls or holds? Calling shenanigans on that as well. Frame it in this perspective: if Golden Tate pushes Sam Shields with that fervor on the playground, dudes are throwing down. Thank the gridirons gods that Ed Hochuli is returning soon.

WHAT'S GOING ON?

Touchdown? Touchback? See how it all unraveled Monday night.

Rookie Review: T.Y. Hilton, Colts
A third-round pick out of Florida International, Hilton was projected to complement Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie this season and bestowed super-sleeper status as a non-drafted fantasy pick. While Donnie Avery has thrown his name into the mix, Collie is done for the year, meaning Hilton should see enlarged involvement in the Colts passing scheme. Hilton showed glimpses of his potential against the Jaguars, hauling in four receptions for 113 yards and a score. Of greater significance are eight targets, signifying that Andrew Luck has enough trust in the rookie receiver in the slot. In most leagues, Hilton does not justify a roster spot just yet, though in divisions with 12 or more franchises, the neophyte may be worth the gamble thanks to Indianapolis’ pass-happy attack.

This Week in Kevin Walter
You know those little write-ups in the News and Notes section of the player pages in fantasy games? I’ll refrain from naming names, but one of the content providers for this sector has been extremely condescending to our boy K-Walt the first few weeks in terms of potential for the rest of the season. So what did this certain contributor compose after the Pride of Ypsilanti smacked Denver for 73 yards and a touchdown?....NOTHING! Not another snide remark along the lines of, “this game was an aberration,” not an apology…nada. The lesson: refrain from betting against a bad man like Kevin Walter.
Walter’s 2012 Stats: Eight receptions, 123 yards, one touchdown
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: Four

Personal Foul on: Dan Carpenter, Dolphins
If Carpenter makes one of his two missed field goals, we actually might be having a reasonable dispute of “Tebow or Sanchez?” right now instead of the prefabricated farce that’s currently being discussed. I mean, has anyone looked worse throwing for 300 yards than Sanchez did last week? At least the Jets didn’t extend Sanchez after a second consecutive year of regression, right?

Gatorade Shower Goes to: Seahawks fans
Yes, Monday night’s outcome was a charade, but if any fan base deserves to be on the favorable side of such a consequence, it’s the good people of Seattle, who were on the business end of some questionable zebra calls a few years back in the Super Bowl. Throw in that the town lost the Sonics a few years back, only to see their former franchise flourish in Oklahoma City, and think its ok to throw a bone to Seattle for a change.

Tagged: Bears, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Lions, Packers, Titans, Colts, Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Giants, Jets, Eagles, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Ravens, Cardinals, Texans, Carson Palmer, Kevin Walter, Steven Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Nate Washington, Greg Olsen, Joe Flacco, DeSean Jackson, Kevin Smith, Dan Carpenter, Ellis Lankster, Shonn Greene, Josh Freeman, Beanie Wells, Golden Tate, Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, Sam Shields, Chris Johnson, Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Torrey Smith, Mikel Leshoure, Ryan Williams, T.Y. Hilton

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