Fantasy Fever 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. Enjoy.
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QB: Carson Palmer, Raiders
Palmer’s propensity for passing to the wrong team endures, but that hasn’t restrained his ability to facilitate fantasy-friendly numbers. In the past two games, the former Cincinnati signal caller has tossed for 631 yards and five touchdowns. Granted, Palmer also surrendered five turnovers in that time span; nevertheless, his performance versus the Chargers in Week 10 (14-for-20, 299 yards, two scores) was impressive against a San Diego secondary that was detaining opponents to 191.6 yards per contest. The 2002 Heisman winner faces an exploitable and depleted defense this week in Minnesota, and while Darren McFadden remains sidelined, Michael Bush’s governance of the ground game will prohibit the Vikings from focusing on Palmer and the Oakland aerial assault.
Other starts: Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco
RB: Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
I wrote about his stock earlier this week, but it’s worth repeating: “Beast Mode” is back, baby! Lynch thumped the Ravens for 167 total yards (109 rushing, 58 receiving) last week, his third solid showing in his past four games. Lynch has quietly found the end zone in his last five contests and should make it six against a permeable St. Louis rush resistance (150.6 yards per game, worst in the NFL) in Week 11. In a related note, is anyone else incorporating “Beast Mode” into their daily vernacular? In the past week, I’ve utilized the phrase at least four times in reference to writing a column, grilling, grocery shopping and laying the smackdown in NBA Jam. Forced? Perhaps, but boy, does it feel awesome to declare.
Other starts: Frank Gore, Maurice Morris
WR: Mike Williams, Buccaneers
Owners can’t be too upset with the relative no-show from Williams last week, as a date with premier corner Johnathan Joseph will likely produce such results. In the three games prior to Week 10, Williams had posted respectable figures of 18 receptions for 180 yards. The second-year man out of Syracuse hasn’t tallied a touchdown since Week 1, but Williams has an opportune matchup against the Packers this week, who are conceding a conference-high 301.7 yards in receiving. It’s easy to fathom the Buccaneers falling behind early, forcing Josh Freeman and company to attack from the air. If this comes to pass (pun intended), Williams will offer dividends on Sunday.
Other starts: Dwayne Bowe, Percy Harvin
TE: Fred Davis, Redskins
Since injuring his ankle against Buffalo, Davis has submitted so-so appearances versus San Francisco and Miami. Worse, reports implicate Davis in failing a drug test near the end of July, possibly leading to suspension. However, the Cowboys are relinquishing the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this season, and the Southern California product is still receiving an ample amount of targets (seven looks last week). Outside of Rob Gronkowski, Davis is as good a play as any at the position.
Other starts: Tony Gonzalez, Brandon Pettigrew
DEF: Dallas Cowboys
Two imperative truths to know before the Redskins and Cowboys clash this weekend. The Dallas defense is third in the NFC in points allowed with a mark of 20.2 points per game, and Rex Grossman is starting under center again for Washington. Call my crazy, for some reason I feel like these realities spell doom for the Redskins.
Other starts: Jacksonville, Atlanta
QB: Tim Tebow, Broncos
In leagues that don’t favor quarterbacks, Tebow is an adequate start, as the Jets aren’t as stalwart in the rushing game as years’ past under Rex Ryan. But all does not bode well for Young Master Tim. Even for their vociferous reputation, New York seems resolute in putting a halt to Tebow-mania. Coupled with the embarrassment of last week’s loss to New England, expect Gang Green to have a field day with Tebow and the Broncos’ offense.
Other sits: Matt Hasselbeck, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RB: Chris Johnson, Titans
And on the 10th Week of the NFL season, Chris Johnson ran, and ran hard.
To famished fantasy owners of Johnson, the Titan’s conquest of Carolina (27 carries, 130 yards, touchdown; four receptions, 44 yards) was a much-needed rainstorm in the All-Pro’s two-month drought. With Javon Ringer threatening to vulture opportunities, Johnson ran with a gusto and determination that’s been AWOL all season.
Unfortunately for Johnson, this week’s tilt versus Atlanta impedes further progress. The Falcons are holding their adversaries to 90.3 yards per outing. Not helping matters is Matt Hasselbeck’s descent to reality after a blazing start to the season, putting the defense’s onus on stopping Johnson and the ground game. Johnson is a decent flex option, just don’t shoot for the stars in his expected output.
Other sits: LeGarrette Blount, Chris Ogbonnaya
WR: David Nelson, Bills
Sure, the Buffalo wideout has caught four passes in each of his last four games, making him a viable start in deeper leagues with PPR implications. But I cannot advocate the implementation of Nelson to any lineup after his pompous, mortifying and self-serving sham of a touchdown celebration in Dallas, where said player commemorated his score by hugging his girlfriend, who just happens to be a Dallas Cowgirl. While much of the female audience emitted,”Awwwww,” every male died a little bit inside. The emasculation of our society continues to sadden me. (And before you write in with, “Whatever Joel, you’re just jealous that he’s dating a cheerleader, you loser!” it should be noted that I have something exponentially better than a relationship: a Golden Tee machine. So there.)
Other sits: A.J. Green, DeSean Jackson
TE: Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
In theory, with primary target A.J. Green hobbled, Gresham should see an extended allotment of looks in Baltimore. Unfortunately for the former Oklahoma Sooner, the Ravens have suffocated tight ends, giving up the lowest amount of fantasy points on the season. Unless no practical options exist, sit Gresham. And since I have nothing else to add, let’s go back to Nelson’s transgression. I know the league has curtailed end zone activity, but is it too much to ask for some more exciting and entertaining executed exaltations? (Try saying that five times fast.) We used to have the Funky Chicken and Icky Shuffle; now we have unimaginative actions like LaDainian Tomlinson’s ball-flip and Tony Gonzalez dunking the ball over the post. I respect Aaron Rodger’s championship belt (also known as the Discount Double-Check), yet Freddie Mitchell and pro wrestlers get the ingenuity credit for that move. On the off chance that an NFLer is reading this column, a few suggestions that will facilitate a spot on SportsCenter: have your teammates form a “replay booth” with a few players and a towel, go under the “booth” for a few seconds, and emerge with the “touchdown” signal; grab a t-shirt cannon and fire apparel into the stands; a team reenactment of the “school spirit” scene from Old School, with the team mascot filling in for Will Ferrell; imitating the Harlem Globetrotters, substituting the rock for the pigskin. Will these festivities lead to excessive celebration penalties? Undoubtedly, but refs are already throwing the laundry out for less artistic expressions anyway. Just a thought.
Other sits: Benjamin Watson, Jared Cook
DEF: Chicago Bears
On paper, Week 11’s matchup should be bountiful for the Bears. A Chicago unit that forced six turnovers last Sunday, facing the erratic arm of Philip Rivers. In Solider Field. With a weather mid-40s forecast, featuring possible rain. But Rivers and the San Diego offense are still dangerous, and the Bears’ secondary is giving up a sizeable amount of yards. More of a risky play than owners realize.
Other sits: Cincinnati, New York Giants
The Armageddon Head Scratcher of the Week
Granted, a movie based on a team of rag-tag drillers saving the world by detonating a nuke on an inbound asteroid should be taken with a grain of salt. However, there remain a few storylines 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.
After Head of NASA (not sure if that’s his official title) Billy Bob Thornton details the preposterous premise of landing a ship on the incoming asteroid, drilling a hole in the meteor and dropping a nuke down the outlet, Bruce Willis inquires on the contingency plan, with Billy Bob informing Mr. Die Hard that one ceases to exist. Willis does not take to the news kindly, ranting that NASA is filled with the most cerebral individuals on the planet and should have a room of people simply conjuring up ideas and backup plans for such an event. Fast-forward ten minutes in the film, where the drillers are touring the grounds and come upon two space shuttles, with a NASA official exclaiming something along the lines of, “Here at NASA, we don’t take chances, we double-up on everything.”
Um…what? As the dialogue illustrated moments before, clearly that’s not the case. I know the script was probably secondary to this film, but could they have at least proof-read to weed out anomalies in the screenplay? Unbelievable.
Speaking of unbelievable, how about the Ravens losing to Seattle? That’s the problem with an emotionally-charged roster: they play to the level of their competition. Baltimore has all the tools to make a championship run, all of which were thoroughly on display in beating the Jets, Texans and Steelers (twice). Hard to buy into Baltimore though with losses to Jacksonville, Tennessee and Seattle. I’m sticking with Pittsburgh, Big Ben busted hand and all, to take the AFC crown.
Waiver Wire Watch: Earl Bennett, Bears
It may not be the easiest endeavor to put fantasy faith in a Chicago wideout (or any Chicago player in general, other than Matt Forte). Yet Jay Cutler’s affinity for his former college teammate has been evident since Bennett returned from a chest injury, as the two have hooked up 11 times for 176 yards and a touchdown in the past two games. For those in need of a receiver in the second half, Bennett is owned in only 16.9 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy leagues and Chicago’s manageable schedule down the stretch (Oakland, Kansas City, Denver, Seattle, Green Bay, Minnesota) makes EB a safe pickup.
The Real Debate
The Packers laid another beatdown last week, this time at the expense of the Minnesota Vikings. At 9-0, the discussions about an undefeated campaign have begun to arise. But the dialogue should not center on Green Bay’s chances of 16-0; rather, the Real Debate should be this: why do we (the media) continue to hit up Mercury Morris for his conceited, supercilious and groundless opinions? My beef isn’t with Morris’ arrogance (although that’s certainly not helping matters); my argument is the merit of Morris as a figure head of the ’72 Dolphins, or lack thereof. That chump had a few decent seasons, but Morris certainly wasn’t the catalyst of that team by any means. If an NBA team ever challenges the Bulls’ 72 wins, is the media going to head to Toni Kukoc’s house? Will Scott Brosius be the voice of the 1998 Yankees? True, Morris was a Pro-Bowler and was inordinately more imperative to his team compared to the other aforementioned athletes, but damn, is that man deplorable.
Fantasy Flyer: Tyler Palko, Chiefs
Sure, let’s hear the laughs. In fact, I may have instigated part of this ridicule, as I mentioned in Tuesday’s chat that the last time I saw Palko, he was throwing a pick-six in overtime as my beloved Ohio Bobcats upset Palko’s Pittsburgh Panthers in Athens. But the New England defense is yielding the most passing yards in the NFL (308.9 yards per contest), and Palko does have weapons at his disposal in Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Jon Baldwin and Jackie Battle. And for those questioning my sanity, I did correctly forecast the fantasy fruitions of John Skelton and Damian Williams in this space the past two weeks. Conceivably the law of averages will strike this prediction down, yet for a flyer in Week 11, Palko offers an abundance of upside.
Any Given Sunday Pep Talk
Sometimes NFLers need a little inspiration, or even a kick in the behind, to get properly motivated. Luckily for us, Al Pacino will be reprising his Coach Tony D’Amato character to provide players the necessary pep talk to enable fantasy success. This week’s recipient: Mike Shanahan.
“You know Mike, usually I provide players with some tough love to get them back on track, to get them properly motivated, and more times than not, it works. But you’re a different case, Mikey-boy. Make no mistake, my friend: there’s no “love” in the venom I’m about to discharge on your PATHETIC, ROTTING CARCASS!
“Mike, allow me to sum up the general sentiment from the fantasy realm toward your coaching prowess: WHO the HELL do you THINK YOU ARE?!?! You inexplicably change running backs at a moment’s whim without any regard to common sense and sound judgment! Your lack of prudence would be disconcerting if you were playing a video game, let alone running a REAL NFL TEAM! Your irrational decisions have become so habitual that there’s even a term for these asinine assessments: “Shanahaned.” Not exactly the way to cement your legacy, no?
“I keep hearing that you’re a master of quarterbacks, that you know how to regulate the workload among a backfield. Well hell, I guess I’d have that rep too if I coached JOHN ELWAY AND TERRELL DAVIS! You want to talk about a quarterback “genius,” have a look at Andy Reid. Sure, the man doesn’t know his way around a game clock, and selecting an offensive line coach as your defensive coordinator was certainly a faux pas, but he made the likes of Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb adequate! THAT is a mastermind, Mike!
“Last Sunday, after proclaiming all week – repeat, ALL WEEK – that Roy Helu was your guy, you trot out the wretched Ryan Torain in the first half. This made sense, considering Torain had a WHOPPING total of 33 YARDS in the past four games, while Helu single-handedly kept you competitive against the 49ers thanks to 14 receptions! Even for you, Mike, this was a new low.
“So STOP with the Jedi mind tricks, because there’s nothing smart about the way you are running shop! Go back to basics, starting with this Sunday, by handing off to Helu 20 or so times. And here’s an idea: if he’s stopped on consecutive runs, don’t immediately YANK HIM OUT!
“You want us to cease jeering your existence? Then stop screwing with our fantasy teams! Do that, and we’ll get off your back. We are a simple group, Mike. Just act like a normal, reasonable fellow – an arduous task for you, I’m sure- and we’ll leave you be. Got it? GOOD. Now go out and try to stick to one running back! Is that too much to ask?!?!”
Rookie Review: Leonard Hankerson, Redskins
Before any wayward owners rush to grab the Washington wideout, it should be noted that Hankerson is OUT FOR THE SEASON. This is simply a case of, in the words of Tom Haverford, “Game recognizing Game.” Before a torn labrum forced him to the sidelines, Hankerson hauled in eight receptions for 106 yards against the Dolphins last week. A third-round pick out of Miami, Hankerson has the height (6’2) and speed (4.4 40-time in February) to become an elite receiver. Keep an eye on Hankerson in the later rounds of next year’s fantasy draft as a possible steal.
This Week in Kevin Walter
One reception for the second week in a row for Walter, although that total is more a byproduct of Houston’s dominance on the ground rather than any fault of K-Walt. Walter will face a true test of his mettle when the infamous Matt Leinart takes over for the injured Matt Schaub next weekend. If K-Money can make that burnout look effective, we can go ahead and make a reservation for the Pride of Ypsilanti in Canton.
Walter’s 2011 Stats: 25 reception, 298 yards, two touchdowns.
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: Seven.
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Mike Smith, Falcons
The poor dude has been raked though the coals for his decision to go for it on fourth down in his own territory against the Saints last week. I’m giving him props: that takes some cojones to pull the trig on that decision. For all the haters: if Atlanta would have punted, Drew Brees would have guided New Orleans down for a score anyway.
Personal Foul on: Philadelphia Eagles
“All off the ‘Dream Team’ bandwagon! You can get your tickets for the North Carolina Tar Heels’ basketball team to your right, or wait to see which squads Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder sign with in December, but all chic-fanatics must vacate Eagle train immediately!”