Decker coming into own for Denver
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.
QB: Jason Campbell, Raiders
Trusting Campbell may seem like a perilous proposition, but with New England in town, nothing could be further from the truth. Keeping in mind that the Pats have been torched for a league-high 1,131 yards, Campbell and the dynamic Oakland offense should deliver dividends this Sunday. For his part, Campbell owns a 93.8 QB rating and has been extremely accurate in his last two ballgames, hitting 68.3 percent of his intended targets. Jacoby Ford is set to return this week, giving Campbell another explosive entity along with Darren McFadden and Denarius Moore. And for those still on the fence on Campbell’s fantasy promise, remember, Chad Henne tossed for 400 yards on New England. (Note: this is the third straight week I’ve had Henne’s name in italics to notify the absurdity of his fantasy proficiency in Week 1. I don’t think we as a fantasy society have collectively comprehended the unlikelihood of said achievement. It’s like Nic Cage’s Oscar-performance in Leaving Las Vegas or Frank Reich’s comeback against the Houston Oilers: we’ll never see that type of feat from such an inadequate entertainer again.
Other starts: Matt Ryan, Kevin Kolb, Jay Cutler.
RB: Tim Hightower, Redskins
On the ground, Hightower came back to earth last week after two commendable outings to start the season, although he did add five receptions for 39 yards and a score in the passing game. Fortunately for Hightower owners, backup Roy Helu, who was heavily integrated into the Washington offense in Week 2 and threatened Hightower’s value, was left out of the game plan against Dallas. Hightower should devastate a St. Louis rush resistance that has surrendered 174.3 yards per game in 2011. Even if Helu sees extended action, Hightower will still be a factor in the Redskins’ aerial attack.
Other starts: Rashard Mendenhall, LeGarrette Blount, Ahmad Bradshaw.
WR: Eric Decker, Broncos
Injuries to Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal paved the way for Decker to shine, and the second-year man out of Minnesota has not disappointed. After decimating the Bengals in Week 2 with five catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns, Decker demonstrated his performance was no fluke with seven receptions for 48 yards versus a stiff Tennessee secondary last Sunday. More importantly, quarterback Kyle Orton looked in Decker’s direction 12 times against the Titans, five more targets than No. 1 wideout Lloyd obtained. Look for Decker to keep up his fantasy production countering a less-than-daunting Green Bay pass protection, which is yielding 359.3 yards per contest.
Other starts: Mario Manningham, A.J. Green, Santana Moss.
TE: Scott Chandler, Bills
Chandler’s two-touchdown exhibition versus Kansas City was universally dismissed as an aberration, as Chandler had just one previous NFL catch before the season opener. Yet with four scores heading into Week 4, it’s time we take the Buffalo tight end seriously. The Bills’ opponent this week is Cincinnati, who conceded eight receptions for 114 yards to Vernon Davis last week. The Bengals employ a stout secondary, but their vulnerability at linebacker is a weakness Chandler should be able to exploit.
Other starts: Todd Heap, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham.
DEF: New Orleans Saints
The Saints have given up an average of 29.3 points per game in the early going thanks to relinquishing scores of 42 and 33 points, but were opposing two of the better offenses in Green Bay and Houston. Traveling to Jacksonville to take on an overmatched Blaine Gabbert should deflate that bloated figure.
Other starts: Atlanta, Tampa Bay.
QB: Joe Flacco, Ravens
Flacco is a notoriously inconsistent starter, evidenced by distinguished displays against Pittsburgh and St. Louis as well as a forgettable foray into Nashville in Week 2. Expect the latter facing a Jets’ unit that is holding opponents to 188.7 yards per game and has five picks on the season. Factor in New York seeking revenge for last year’s 10-9 loss to the Ravens, plus the added frustration of an embarrassing appearance against the Raiders in Week 3, and the forecast looks ominous for Flacco. While we are here, other charter members of the Inconsistent Stars That Drive Their Owners Mad team: the Carolina running backs, Jahvid Best, DeSean Jackson, any Saints receiver, Marcedes Lewis, and of course, the captain of the squad, Dwayne Bowe.
Other sits: Tony Romo, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez.
RB: Ben Tate/Arian Foster, Texans
Foster is set to start this week for Houston, negating Tate’s value despite the Texan back rushing for 301 yards in the first three games. As for Foster, owners remain cynical after Foster’s Week 2 performance (or lack thereof) of 10 carries for 33 yards. If Foster is truly healthy, last season’s leading-rusher can be a top-five fantasy contributor behind a dominant front line. Unfortunately, Foster faces one of the better run-stopping defenses in football in Pittsburgh this week. Feel free to start Foster with his potential, but don’t be surprised with a stink bomb.
Other sits: Ray Rice, Shonn Greene, Knowshon Moreno.
WR: Brandon Marshall, Dolphins
The Miami wideout’s 261 yards in 2011 may excite, but 139 of those bad boys came against New England in Week 1. Henne struggled to get the pigskin in Marshall’s direction last week, an issue that should resurface against a San Diego crew that is confining passing attacks to 203 yards per outing. In deeper leagues, Marshall could still contribute as a No. 2 receiver, but in 12-team-or-less formats, he deserves a seat on your bench.
Other sits: Mike Thomas, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice.
TE: Heath Miller, Steelers
Miller may have grabbed some eyes with five receptions for 71 yards last week, but expect the Steelers to run early and often against a vastly improved Houston secondary. Additionally, with Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders coming into their own, Miller is the fifth option in Pittsburgh’s passing scheme.
Other sits: Owen Daniels, Marcedes Lewis, Brent Celek.
DEF: St. Louis Rams
Never thought I’d see the day where a Rex Grossman-led team would cause a unit to be exiled to the bench. But in the words of Ty Webb from Caddyshack, “You're not… you're not good. You stink.”
Other sits: New England, Chicago.
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.
When the Independence shuttle is shredded trying to navigate the asteroid field, how the hell does the bomb strapped to the ship not explode? I’m no nuclear physicist, but one would assume that space rocks traveling at a thousand miles an hour striking a missile would cause some sort of blast or detonation. Instead, all we are treated to is a few of the astronauts/drillers floating into the abyss. And while we are here, how did Ben Affleck, Michael Clarke Duncan and the Russian guy survive the crash? We vaguely see the trio hopping into the refuge of a moon rover, but wouldn’t that still be torn to pieces? Something doesn’t add up.
Speaking of not adding up, congrats to the Vikings for abandoning the running game after surmounting a 20-0 lead against Detroit last week. Despite owning the best back in the game, Minnesota allotted just five carries to Adrian Peterson in the second half. This behavior would be somewhat justifiable if the Vikings had a passing game similar to the Patriots. Alas, Minnesota lies on the opposite side of the aerial spectrum, as they employ Donovan McNabb behind center. Yes, that McNabb, who threw a jaw-dropping 39 yards in the team’s season debut. No wonder the Vikes are o-for on the season.
Waiver Wire Watch: Antonio Brown, Steelers
After a solid preseason and two sound showings for the Steelers, Brown is a name that should be on every owner’s radar. With Hines Ward nearing the end of his career, Brown appears to be stepping up as Pittsburgh’s No. 2 receiver, illustrated by four receptions for 75 yards against the Colts in Week 3. A late-rounder in the 2010 Draft out of Central Michigan, Brown has the hands and speed to be a dependable receiver in the league. However, concerns surrounding Brown’s route-running has been a recurring issue, one that he’ll need to abolish if he plans on snagging a starting role for the Steelers. Owned in just 19 percent of leagues, Brown is worth the gamble in deeper formats.
The Real Debate
Comprised of vagabonds and cast-offs, Buffalo has knocked off two playoff-worthy rosters in dramatic fashion in back-to-back weeks. The upstart 3-0 Bills are the toast of the pigskin realm, and with a fairly manageable slate the rest of the way, have a legitimate shot at the postseason for the first time since the 1999 season. But the discussion surrounding the Bills shouldn’t concern how a journeyman signal caller and a former Division III back are igniting one of the league’s most exciting offenses; rather, the real debate should be this: why haven’t NFL teams made strides in their uniforms? After years of looking like an Arena Football franchise, the Bills ditched the clown outfits for throwbacks this year to much delight. However, there hasn’t been a new uniform design in years that was met with approval. Yet the college ranks seemingly debut new digs every year to much acclaim. How does the most popular sport in America have the most unimaginative and pedestrian ensembles? And by pedestrian, we don’t mean plain; as Penn State has proved, simple can be sweet. With Nike set to take control as the league’s apparel provider in 2012, a few suggested changes: 1) Notwithstanding the Cowboys, Raiders and Patriots, no gray helmets. 2) Aside from Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City and Indianapolis, all white pants are banned for home teams. 3) No more ridiculous lines on the top of helmets that don’t cover the entire dome. 4) Eliminate the double-sock scheme, stick with one color. 5) Denver, Houston, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Arizona, Seattle, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Philadelphia are all in need of a uniform upgrade. Please Roger Goodell, make your league’s attire somewhat aesthetically-pleasing.
Fantasy Flyer: Curtis Painter, Colts
Granted, by flyer, I mean “odds that Kurt Warner transforms from stock boy to Super Bowl MVP” long shot. But there’s a possibility, albeit remote, that Painter can suppress the storm enclosing on the Indianapolis season. True, he looked awkward and stiff at times in the pocket during training camp. Yet he still had his moments, tossing for two touchdowns against Cincinnati in Game 3 of the preseason, and has a sensible understanding of the Colts’ playbook. This grasp of the offense should open the field for the Indianapolis attack, awakening a dormant squadron. For those in need of a backup or fringe starter in deep leagues or two-QB formats, roll the dice with Painter.
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: Rashard Mendenhall.
“Not firing on all cylinders, are we son? A stumble out of the gate ain’t life or death, but two no-shows in three games has your owners worried. And let’s be honest, you didn’t exactly light the world on fire against those sorry souls from Seattle.
“Normally during these spiels, I tell the player in question to get his act together. But in your case, this pitiful performance isn’t pinned on you. That tissue-paper partition you call an offensive line might be the worst in football. Every time you touch the ball, you have three defenders in the backfield waiting to tear you apart. If I were you, I’d be upset too.
“But in life, it’s not what happens to us; it’s how we react that matters. Unless Dermontti Dawson comes walking through the door, that front line ain’t improving, so let’s throw that dream out the window. However, you aren’t the only rusher to stand behind a porous line. Adrian Peterson’s barricade in Minnesota is hardly the reincarnation of “The Hogs.” Same goes for LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte. Hell, Corey Dillon crossed the 1,000-yard barrier six straight seasons in Cincinnati, and he was “protected” by a line with more holes than the plot of Con Air!
“So you see, Rashard, how this whole song and dance plays out is up to you. You can attribute your atrocious fantasy output to your line, and no one would blame ya. Or, you can man up, start throwing a couple blocks yourself, become more active in the passing game, stop stuttering in the backfield and just run, baby. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been one to pass the buck! The question is, what are you going to do about it?!?!”
Rookie Review: Torrey Smith, Ravens
Smith’s first career reception against the Rams doubled as his inaugural excursion into the end zone. While the Raven rookie’s 74-yard score was worthy in its’ own right, Smith was far from done wreaking havoc on the St. Louis secondary. Smith would find the Promised Land two more times in the first quarter, setting a milestone as the first player in NFL history to record touchdowns off his first three catches, as well as most touchdowns in the first quarter by a rookie. With Lee Evans set to return, Smith’s value will take a slight hit. However, the Maryland product does provide Flacco a much-needed deep threat and is a valuable commodity for those in deeper leagues.
This Week in Kevin Walter
For those that had the audacity to question if the Texan wideout merited his own fantasy segment, K-Walt’s preposterous pick of a bobbled ball should subdue that skepticism.
Walter’s 2011 Stats: Four receptions, 49 yards, one touchdown.
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: Two.
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Jason Hanson, Lions.
Hanson, who has been stuck in the pigskin purgatory known as Detroit since 1992, connected on a 32-yard kick in overtime to give upstart Detroit a 26-23 victory over Minnesota. Hanson was 4-for-4 on field goals on the day and has converted all eight of his upright attempts on the season.
Personal Foul on: Philadelphia offensive line
In theory, instead of investing $850 million (numbers approximate) into Michael Vick, Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, maybe they should have thrown a penny or two at shoring up the offensive line.