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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

The Pick-up Joint: Week 5
John Tuvey
October 2, 2012
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Top Adds For Week 4
From MyFantasyLeague.com
Tashard Choice, RB, Bills 46%
Arizona Cardinals D/ST 39%
Ramses Barden, WR, Giants 38%
Bilal Powel, RB, Jets 30%
Heath Miller, TE, Steelers 29%
Total Week 3 Touchdowns: 0  
Top Drops For Week 4
From MyFantasyLeague.com
Austin Collie, WR, Colts 25%
Kevin Smith, RB, Lions 24%
Roy Helu, RB, Redskins 24%
Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Steelers 22%
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals 21%
Total Week 3 Touchdowns: 0  

GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers
Jennings found the end zone for the first time last week; then he found his street clothes and the sidelines, resting the groin injury that’s been bugging him. Early indications are that he’ll miss this week’s game, and groin injuries are a) known to linger and b) easy to aggravate. Add in the concussion that’s already on Jenning’s permanent record and he’s a risky week-to-week proposition. And then you factor in a Green Bay offense that’s coming back to earth after last season and the multitude of targets at Aaron Rodgers’ disposal and your divorce attorney has a clear-cut case of fraud to get you half of the estate.

Michael Bush, RB, Bears
Bush failed to impress with Matt Forte sidelined, and now that Forte has rushed back to the lineup—and is seeing some goal line carries to boot—he’s fully restored to wingman-only status. This might also be a good place to issue a semi-apology to Forte, as Bush hasn’t been able to crack four yards a carry behind Chicago’s abysmal offensive line. You can cling to him in TD-heavy leagues, but now you run the risk of getting vultured by Forte. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

“IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU”

Peyton Hillis, RB, Chiefs
Peaches & Herb would be so disappointed. Hillis and Brian Daboll, the offensive coordinator who oversaw his monster season in Cleveland, were reunited in Kansas City and the fantasy vibes were set to be so good. One month in, however, it’s Jamaal Charles running away with the lead role while Hills limps along in a walking boot and something called Shaun Draughn steals his touches. Even when Hillis returns it’s not likely to be to the role we pictured for him: goal line, third downs, a healthy share of the regular touches. Time to cut your losses.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
The Carolina backfield is such a mess, owners of Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are looking for any way to help decipher what might be in store this week. Here’s a little nugget for just that purpose: Stewart has scored in five of his last seven NFC South games; he’s failed to score in five straight outside the division and has just one touchdown in his last 12 against non-NFC South foes.

Carolina has already seen everyone in the division once, leaving just three scoring opportunities for Stewart in the remaining dozen games—11, actually, as the rematch with New Orleans falls in Week 17 when most fantasy leagues have already handed out the trophy.

If my math is correct, that means Stewart has a 71% chance of scoring in two of the last 11 fantasy-relevant games—or something like a 12% chance of helping your fantasy team again this year. And that assumes Stewart is 100 percent healthy for the remaining slate of games. Hey, 60 percent of the time it works all the time. You wanna mess with this backfield, you’re on your own. Sorry, Taz.

OPEN FOR SWAPPING

James Jones, WR, Packers
When Jennings missed a game earlier this year all eyes turned to Jones… except those of Rodgers, unfortunately, who connected just twice with Jones for negative one yard. His value likely won’t be higher than this week, with Jennings expected to be out again and Jones coming off a two-TD game. Unless you’re wafer-thin at wideout and willing to suffer through the ups and downs of a secondary target, this is your opportunity to swing a sweetheart deal.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders
McFadden has had exactly one run of note this season, an unexpected 64-yard touchdown run against the Steelers in Week 3. Take that away and in four games he’s averaging 14 carries for 34 yards with zero scores. He’s also on the bye this week, so his fantasy owner won’t miss him a bit if you make a qualifying offer.

And here’s what you have to look forward to: a remaining schedule that includes six defenses that currently rank in the bottom 10 in the league in stopping the run, including #24 Kansas City and #31 in the fantasy playoff weeks 15 and 16, and just two defenses that rank in the top half of the league in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Also, Raiders coach Dennis Allen has acknowledged that the team isn’t taking to Greg Knapp’s zone blocking scheme particularly well and that it’s time to find out what his team does do well and do it.

In other words, with a bye week to tweak, expect the Raiders to return to football in Week 6 and start feeding Run DMC the rock in three games against teams ranking 22nd or lower in shutting down opposing running backs. Oh, and don’t forget to mention McFadden’s injury history when making your pitch.

PUT A RING ON THAT THING!

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers
Never been a big Mendy guy; always seemed like an ordinary back who got what was blocked and played for a team that had a smashmouth reputation but when push came to shove was a passing team at heart. But with Mendenhall’s value right around rock bottom it’s a great time to lock him up long-term.

Mendenhall may start in a committee with Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, but even Redman has already acknowledged that the feature gig is Mendy’s as soon as he’s able to take it. He also enjoys a very favorable schedule to help him get his footing, with three super-soft matchups over the next five weeks and, with Baltimore losing a step or two off its run D, no real stoppers the rest of the way. When it comes to snagging a potential feature back midseason, you can’t be picky; Mendy will have to do.

Andre Roberts, WR, Cardinals
Through the first month of the season Roberts leads all NFL wideouts with four touchdown grabs—yet he’s available in more than 70 percent of MFL leagues. Not hard to understand why, as Arizona’s quarterback situation is underwhelming at best, Michael Floyd was expected to bust into the lineup opposite Larry Fitzgerald, and Fitz himself was struggling so the perception was that the entire Cardinals passing game was unproductive.

Instead, Roberts is thriving in Fitz’s shadow and has been the Cards’ top fantasy target in three of the first four games. What does the wingman role hold in store? Consider that Roberts has been targeted the same number of times as Andre Johnson and Steve Smith, at least six times in three of four games and nine times twice. And yet he hasn’t stepped on Fitzgerald’s toes, outpointing him but not outtargeting him. Defenses can choose: focus on Fitz and let Roberts continue to find room, or play straight up and let Fitz have his way. More often than not defenses will scheme to take Fitzgerald away, meaning Roberts’ production is likely to continue. He’s still out there; go get him.

BEAT THE CLOSING-TIME RUSH

We’re into the bye weeks, and in Week 5 fantasy owners are already scrambling to replace the likes of Tony Romo, Calvin Johnson, and Vincent Jackson.

Of course, you had already beaten them to the punch using the “go ugly early” theory.

So let’s stay ahead of the curve and start planning for Week 6, when (among others) Cam Newton, Maurice Jones-Drew, Brandon Marshall, Drew Brees, and Jimmy Graham will be on the bye.

Zach Miller, TE, Seahawks
If you spent big auction money or a high draft pick on Graham, odds are you spent about as much thought on a backup tight end as Antonio Cromartie spends on birth control. But Miller is re-establishing himself as the Seahawks’ top tight end; he saw 50 snaps and ran 23 pass routes last week according to Pro Football Focus, while Anthony McCoy ran fewer than half that number.

What’s so special about Miller? He’s available, for starters, and won’t cost you more than a minimum bid to acquire him for the one-week window you need to fill. And in that game he’ll face a Patriots defense that has allowed at least 50 yards to every starting tight end they’ve faced, giving up three TE TDs in the last two games. For a one-week fill-in you’re throwing a dart, but nowhere in the rules does it say you have to throw it blindfolded.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs
Cassel’s numbers actually have him on the fringe of fantasy relevance, yet he’s still available in more than half of MFL leagues. Those with a Newton or Brees bye on the imminent horizon will want to snag him now, however, and tee him up for a juicy matchup with Tampa Bay. The Bucs are giving up an average of 354 passing yards a game and every quarterback they’ve faced this year has thrown for at least 283. Tampa Bay somehow shut out Tony Romo and RG3 (passing, at least) the past two weeks so this isn’t a stone-cold lock. However, if you’ve been riding Newton or Brees you aren’t likely carrying an insurance policy; at least Cassel comes with the potential of a big payout.


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