Fantasy Fever: Week 5
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: Mark Sanchez, Jets
The Jets may think of themselves as a ground-n-pound posse, but with the ineffectiveness of the running game in the first quarter of the season, Gang Green will be forced to attack from the air. Cognizant of Sanchez’s historical inconsistency, this may seem like an unpromising proposition. Yet before last Sunday’s beatdown in Baltimore, Sanchez had tossed two touchdowns in each of his first three games in 2011. A matchup against the lowly Patriot secondary (league-high 368.8 yards per game, 91.0 opponent QB rating) should provide Sanchez the platform to revive that streak. Jerod Mayo is out for New England, which should equate to numerous opportunities for Sanchez-favorite Dustin Keller over the middle. Also expect Santonio Holmes, who has been stuck in stall the past three games, to get in gear against the Pats.
Other starts: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Matthew Stafford
RB: Mark Ingram, Saints
Owners are beginning to become impatient with the former Heisman winner. Ingram saw an extended amount of action against Jacksonville (17 carries, two receptions), but failed to do much with his opportunities, accumulating a pedestrian 58 yards. On the season, Ingram has totaled 184 yards on 53 carries (3.5 yards per attempt). A matchup against the Panthers, who own the second-worst rushing defense in the league (143.8 yards per game, 5.2 yards per carry), may be Ingram’s last chance to prove his validity as a starting fantasy back.
Other starts: Dexter McCluster, Ryan Mathews, Isaac Redman
WR: Julio Jones, Falcons
He hasn’t found the end zone, but Jones has met and surpassed the outrageous anticipations placed on him after Atlanta traded up for the Alabama product in April’s Draft. Aside from a minor hiccup in Week 2, Jones has outplayed fellow Falcon and Pro Bowler Roddy White, hauling in 24 receptions for 342 yards. More impressive is the trust Matt Ryan is displaying in the rookie wideout, targeting Jones 38 times this season (tied for ninth-most in the league). The Dirty Birds welcome the Packers into town, seeking revenge for last season’s playoff disaster. Look for Jones to take advantage of a depleted Green Bay secondary that is conceding a conference-worst 335.8 yards per game through the air.
Other starts: Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington, Pierre Garcon
TE: Owen Daniels, Texans
In the past two weeks, Daniels has posted 10 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns, evocative of the Texan tight end’s exploits before he succumbed to knee injuries during the 2009 season. Primary bull’s eye Andre Johnson is projected to miss the next three games with a hamstring injury. Deprived of a clear No. 1 receiver and confronting a vulnerable Raider linebacking corps, Daniels should be in line for a monster outing in Week 4.
Other starts: Jermaine Gresham, Dallas Clark
DEF: Cincinnati Bengals
Don’t laugh. The Bengals are the No. 1 ranked defense, yielding just 275.5 yards per contest. Going against an inexperienced quarterback in Blaine Gabbert should lower that figure.
Other starts: San Francisco, Indianapolis
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
Facing a less-than-formidable foe in Philly (217.8 yards per game but 10 touchdowns compared to two interceptions), Fitzpatrick would figure to be a logical play this week. Alas, Buffalo will likely assault the Eagles in the running game, as Philadelphia is relinquishing 139.5 yards per contest on the ground. Expect a heavy dose of Fred Jackson, hampering Fitzpatrick’s fantasy production. Since we’re on the Bills, much has been made about the team’s return to their throwback jerseys. While I’m all for the new (old) digs, what now constitutes a “throwback” for the franchise? The unis from the Jim Kelly Era? Or do they break out the Arena-style garbs they’ve been rocking for the past decade? And how pathetic is it that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of these irrelevant, hypothetical circumstances?
Other sits: Ben Roethlisberger, Kyle Orton, Jay Cutler
RB: Ahmad Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs, Giants
At first examination, Bradshaw and Jacobs would project to inflict their usual damage against a 1-3 Seahawks’ unit that has allowed five rushing touchdowns and 420 yards. However, Seattle is only giving up 3.2 yards per rush, second-best in the NFC. Granted, the Giants may get up early on the Hawks, leading to an excess of opportunities for the New York backfield. But don’t be surprised if the efficiency is lacking for Bradshaw and Jacobs against a supposed-susceptible squad.
Other sits: Michael Turner, LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley
WR: Mike Wallace, Steelers
All the man needs is one bomb to fulfill his fantasy obligations. Nevertheless, a battered and bruised Ben Roethlisberger behind a perilous offensive line does not bode well for Wallace’s prospects.
Other sits: Brandon Lloyd, Marques Colston, Johnny Knox
TE: Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
Pettigrew has put forward two consecutive commendable performances, with 17 receptions for 176 yards the past two weeks. And a date against a Chicago defense that is granting 301.5 yards per game would seem to be an advantageous endeavor. But with the middle of the field protected by Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, the Detroit tight end could have an issue getting open. Consider Pettigrew a fairly risky start this week.
Other sits: Todd Heap, Marcedes Lewis
DEF: Pittsburgh Steelers
The secondary has held up its’ end of the bargain with a league-low 157.5 yards per game, but the Pittsburgh front seven has been thumped in the early going, evidenced by Arian Foster’s 155 yards on the unit last week. Things won’t get easier with a revitalized Tennessee offense heading into town.
Other sits: New Orleans, Atlanta
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.
I’m sure if I ever have a daughter I’ll be an overprotective father, but what was Bruce Willis doing with a shotgun on an oil rig? Seems to me one wouldn’t want fire arms around explosive natural gas pipes. And am I supposed to believe that Willis, a man who saved the world from terrorists in Die Hard, Die Hard with a Vengeance and Live Free or Die Hard can’t hit Ben Affleck in in the near-claustrophobic arena of an oil platform? Doesn’t add up. (Notice I left out Die Hard 2. Simply not worthy to be mentioned with the other films of the series.)
Speaking of not adding up, how about Ronnie Brown’s ill-fated passing attempt on a goal line-stuff on Sunday? (My favorite part of the video, right around the 37-second mark: Michael Vick throwing his hands in the air towards the sideline, conveying a, “What a knucklehead” sentiment.) Brown realizes he’s not in Miami’s Wildcat formation anymore, right? After the game, the maligned back said, “I was trying to out-think myself a little bit.” In the words of Lt. Pete Mitchell from Top Gun, “You don’t have time to think (out) there. If you think, you’re dead.” Although that is not exactly the outlook I want my fighter pilots to employ, it’s applicable to Brown. Next time, take the two-yard loss like a man.
Waiver Wire Watch: Jared Cook, Titans.
Nate Washington has been surprisingly steadfast through four games, but with Kenny Britt sidelined for the season, the Titans desperately need a complementary target. Tennessee may have this resource in Cook, the third-year man out of South Carolina. Cook was anointed as a breakout candidate for the 2011 season, but those expectations cooled after an inauspicious start (five receptions, 56 yards, zero scores). Yet the Tennessee tight end validated his worth with 93 yards and a touchdown against the Browns in a Titans’ win on Sunday. Admittedly, his output was aided by an 80-yard excursion into the end zone, and Cook’s two receptions certainly won’t appease possible PPR proprietors. However, Matt Hasselbeck completed a mere 10 passes on the afternoon, with the Titans sticking to the ground. Look for Cook to become more engaged in the passing game as the season progresses.
The Real Debate
Brett Favre was back in the headlines this week for his absurd assertions against Aaron Rodgers, including a declaration that the reigning Super Bowl MVP should have won a championship sooner. But the discussion shouldn’t center on the gunslinger’s transformation into a full-fledged derelict; rather, the real debate is this: why can’t other fallen stars like Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Alex Rodriguez embrace the dark side? Because of their transgressions, it’s nearly impossible to revert to their once-beloved status. With this as the case, why can’t they undertake the role of a villain? Favre has been raked over the coals for his comments, but narratives are more engaging with an enemy involved. In the case of James, he’ll be booed the rest of his career. If I were him, I’d soak in this abhorrence with delight, egging on the crowd to continue their catcalls, akin to professional wrestlers. Hey, I can dream.
Fantasy Flyer: Titus Young, Lions
While Nate Burleson continues to be designated as a serviceable secondary receiver to Calvin Johnson despite evidence to the contrary (four receptions for 28 yards in the past two games), Titus Young has quietly submitted three straight solid weeks for the Lions (12 receptions, 21 targets, 181 yards in that time span). Owned in just 2.3 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy leagues, Young could be a safe flex option in deeper leagues or those craving a backup. While his play hasn’t earned him lineup implementation yet, he’s someone to keep an eye on in the second half of the season.
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: Shonn Greene.
“I’ll give you credit, Greene. You’ve somehow parlayed two playoff games from 2009 into two years of amnesty. Did I see that right, a 3.1 yards-per-attempt figure on the season? My goodness, even Jahvid Best has a better average per carry than that pathetic production!
“In case you haven’t noticed, this offense is supposed to run through you, kid. Sure, Sanchez has his moments, and he thinks he can hold his own. Without a running game? The man runs around like a chicken with its’ head cut off. LaDainian Tomlinson is a nice back, but last time I checked, it’s not 2006 anymore. You were supposed to provide some semblance of consistency. Instead, all you’ve delivered is disappointment.
“Yet here’s the great thing about football: when it knocks you on your a**, it gives you a chance to get back up. And you’ll get that chance this week against the Patriots. They might be 3-1, but they are surrendering nearly 500 yards of total offense per game. Holy Moses, 500 yards! Sounds like a walk through the park if you ask me.
“Kid, in this life, you only get so many chances to prove your worth. This may be your last opportunity, as fantasy owners are this close to exiling you to the waiver wire. I keep hearing you’re going to be a top-15 back when you get going. Well Shonn, that time is NOW! No more ifs, stipulations or commas; after this game, you’re getting a period at the end of your game synopsis. What goes before that punctuation is up to you. Now I can’t write that sentence for ya, but I can tell you what I want it to read: that Shonn Greene laid the hammer DOWN! So how about it Hemmingway, what are you going to write?!”
Rookie Review: Kendall Hunter, 49ers.
One wouldn’t have deduced this truth from reading the box score, but Hunter earned his first NFL start last week in hopes of igniting a dormant San Francisco offense. The rookie out of Oklahoma State performed admirably, posting 38 yards on just nine carries and contributed 62 receiving yards in the Niners’ upset of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Hunter was upstaged by a dominant second-half conquest from Frank Gore, who finished with 127 yards on the day. Still, Gore’s revival could be an anomaly, making Hunter a handcuff in every league. His explosiveness in the lanes and proficiency in the passing game will make Hunter a viable option in the latter parts of the season.
This Week in Kevin Walter
Mentioned above, Johnson could be out for a month, correlating into Jacoby Jones as a trending pickup. Amateur move. While Jones and Daniels are two entities expected to rise in Johnson’s absence, K-Walt is the real winner in this ordeal. I anticipate something along the lines of 11 receptions, 180 yards and three touchdowns from the Texan Tornado this week.
Walter’s 2011 Stats: Four receptions, 49 yards, one touchdown.
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: Two.
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Baltimore Defense
Three touchdowns for the unit (two fumble returns and a pick-six) and surrendering a scant three points (New York’s two touchdowns came off of a kick return and interception) earns the Ravens the medal this week. Although I don’t imagine Ray Lewis will be too happy doused in Gatorade.
Personal Foul on: Philadelphia Eagles
Dream Team? More like Obscene Team! (Insert rimshot.)