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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

JUMbotron: Friday Huddle, Vol. 1
John U. Miller
September 10, 2010
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Fantasy Football 2010 is underway and the Vikings/Saints game was nothing less than… so-so.  What’s with Sean Payton letting off the gas?  You got the feeling that the Vikings secondary would have completely collapsed in a four-quarter aerial assault.

Adrian Peterson now only has five 100-yard efforts out of his last 20 games including playoffs.  In his 20 previous games Peterson had ten 100-yard efforts.  Of course it would help if he got more than six carries in the second half.

The Saints only scored 14 points, which I promise will be their lowest tally of the year.  It wasn’t the Vikings’ defensive prowess so much as the Saints chewing down the clock with Pierre Thomas. Bush only had 7 touches for 47 yards (?).  When Payton is attacking this offense glides on electromagnetic high-speed rail and everyone else has steel wheels.

Just for kicks, I went back and researched exactly when this Saints offense started to become the force they (usually) are.  Nope, it wasn’t the 2009 opener when Drew Brees threw 6 TDs in a 45-27 Lions vivisection, it was actually before that in 2008.  Week 12 to be exact, Monday night vs. Green Bay, Saints blew out the Packers 51-29.  That’s when the train really started flying.  Here we are 26 games later – including playoffs – and the Saints have scored a mind-boggling 828 points in that stretch. 

Most Points in 26-Game Stretch (including playoffs) QBs
St. Louis Rams '99-'00 871 Kurt Warner
New England Patriots ' 06-'07 854 Tom Brady
New Orleans Saints '08-'10 828 Drew Brees
Washington Redskins '83-'84 818 Joe Theismann
Minnesota Vikings '98-'99 807 R. Cunningham / Jeff George

If the Saints had scored 40 last night they would have tied New England for the 2nd most prolific mark.  By the way, looking at that list there is one current player that starred on two of those juggernauts.  Randy Moss.  That speaks volumes about his NFL career.

Prediction A. By Week 5 you’ll say “Wow, ____  ____ has been a nice surprise.”
Prediction B. By Week 5 you’ll say “Damn, ____  ____ has been kind of a bust.”

I’ll fill in those blanks in just a minute.

Here’s ESPN’s Mark Schlereth on LeSean McCoy: I don’t make it a habit to take fantasy advice from anyone at ESPN but in this case I’m with “Stink” all the way.  If you watch McCoy closely he tends to run into traffic and leaves yardage on the field.  On several occasions I’ve made a mental note that when McCoy does burst into the open field he ends up being caught from an angle.  I also believe Leonard Weaver (an underrated do-it-all fullback), Mike Bell, and wildcat “RB” Michael Vick will eat touches left and right. Andy Reid’s 40-60 run-pass ratio won’t change either. 

I heard a guy on FOX radio say to bench the Steelers defense until Roethlisberger comes back.  He also predicted the Steelers will be 1-3 when Roethlisberger returns after the four games vs. Atlanta, at Tennessee, at Tampa Bay, and vs. Baltimore.  His reasoning wasn’t that Dennis Dixon sucks, but that the defense could be on the field a lot.

Yes, Dixon’s play will result in a few extra punts, a couple more turnovers.  Atlanta, Tennessee and Baltimore should all score some points, I think that’s a given.  However, unless your league’s scoring favors points/yards allowed, it seems like having your Steelers team defense (and IDPs) on the field more simply means more chances for sacks and takeaways.  Plus the Steelers defense is as well-coached as any in history and with Dick LeBeau they’ll step it up another notch.  Over the years I can think of a couple similar situations where the defense didn’t miss a beat:

2008 Seattle Seahawks:  Lost Matt Hasselbeck and went with Seneca Wallace, won 2 of next 3 while tallying 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and a fumble-return TD. 

2005 Jacksonville Jaguars: Lost Byron Leftwich and went with David Garrard, reeled off 5 wins in their last 6 games, allowed 16.5 points per game and notched 18 sacks.

Those defenses weren’t near the Steelers’ caliber either, plus they had to react on the fly late in the season.  LeBeau’s known for months they have to open without Big Ben. 

I’m sick of seeing Seahawks WR Mike Williams’ name.  Too much hype.  Just because he was the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft we have to believe there’s a giant keg full of talent that’s yet to be tapped?  Not one, not two, but three NFL teams – Detroit, Oakland, and Tennessee – gave Williams a try and sent him packing.  So now he’s reportedly down to 235 lbs and this weight loss is going to magically make him a star?

If Williams had been a third-round pick no one would pay any attention these days.  I’ll pass.  The only reason he’s starting is because Seattle’s WR corps is repulsive.

All you Detroit fans… I don’t want to kick up dust (because I really believe the Lions are improving) but back in 2005 you drafted Big Mike over LB DeMarcus Ware, LB Shawne Merriman, LB Derrick Johnson, DE Marcus Spears, QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Roddy White, and… well, you knew this.

Wait, I’m on a roll.  In the second round you drafted DT Shaun Cody (who’s now a Texan) over OT Michael Roos, LB Lofa Tatupu, and S Nick Collins.  This is amazing.  In the third round Detroit snagged DB Stanley Wilson instead of DE Justin Tuck, LB Kirk Morrison, and T Nick Kaczur.  Even in the fifth round where a blind man can hit a bulls-eye once out of 10 tries, The Lions selected QB Dan Orlovsky (also a Texan now) over DE Trent Cole who’s made two Pro Bowls.  Ok, I’m done.   

This wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t chime in on Mike Williams’ ex-teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who Big Mike is replacing in Seattle.  For the record I’ve never thought T.J. was talented.  He’s certainly not talented now.  I believe he piled up PPR numbers mooching off Chad Johnson’s double-teams and safety brackets (remember, Ocho was once the most feared WR in the AFC).  Houshmandzadeh was just good enough to get open consistently in one-on-one coverage, also reaping the benefits of a Bengals offense that never had a tight end siphoning targets.  T.J. had to catch a lot of balls – because there was no choice! 

He had some separation quickness at one point but it vanished pretty quickly as he approached 30.  He’d be force-fed that same little 7-yard drag route (after Chad cleared down the seams) and get tackled immediately. Defenses were glad to allow the dink-and-dunk.  It was safe for them, because T.J. can’t outrun Jonah Hill.  In T.J.’s last five seasons as a Bengal his average per catch dropped every single year – from 13.4 to 12.3 to 12.0 to 10.2 to 9.8.  But Houshmandzadeh must have plenty left in the tank, right?  I mean, why else would Seattle pay him millions to stay away from them?   You see, his contract had $7m guaranteed this year – so when the Ravens only offered $855,000 then Seattle had to pick up the remainder.  They’re paying him $6.145 million to go away.

What am I saying here?  I’m saying Houshmandzadeh won’t amount to much in Baltimore.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he was even released by October.  In fact you should trade for Anquan Boldin or Derrick Mason now while their value took a slight hit in some owners’ eyes.   

After I bashed the Vikings O-line last week I received a few inquiries about the Colts O-line.  “It’s totally messed up and you didn’t even mention it,” one astute Huddler said.  You’re right, they do have issues.  C Jeff Saturday is not 100% after missing a month because of a knee scope... but he’ll be out there.  LT Charlie Johnson has a bum foot and will be a game-time decision -- meaning undrafted rookie Jeff Linkenbach (Univ. of Cincinnati) might start.  However, I’m not worried for Peyton as long as Saturday is crouched in front of him.  When Manning audibles, which he seemingly does on every play, Saturday instantly processes the new blocking assignments and calls them out.  Saturday is like Manning’s cell phone tower – and unlike Sprint, he never drops a call.

In 2007 Greg Jennings was a semi-sleeper ninth round pick.  He finished as a top-15 WR with 53 catches for 920 yards and 12 TDs.

In 2008 Vincent Jackson was a semi-sleeper ninth round pick.  He finished as a top-15 WR with 59 catches for 1098 yards and 7 TDs.

In 2009 Derrick Mason was a semi-sleeper ninth round pick. He finished as a top-15 WR with 73 catches for 1028 yards and 7 TDs.

Ok, well… In 2010 Braylon Edwards, Eddie Royal, and Devin Aromashodu were all semi-sleeper ninth round picks...

Hey Garrett Hartley, do you wish Mark Brunell was still your holder?

Here’s an NFL stat that doesn’t mean diddly-poo but looks neat in a table:

Most First Downs Per Game 2008-2009
New England 22.8
New Orleans 22.0
Houston 21.2
(tie) Indianapolis 20.7
(tie) NY Giants 20.7
Denver 20.6
Arizona 20.2
Atlanta 20.1
Miami 20.0
(tie) Green Bay 19.8
(tie) Minnesota 19.8
San Diego 19.7

5 defensive rookies that don’t get enough press but will very soon:

1. Eagles DE Brandon Graham – 1st round, Michigan: In 11 seasons as head coach, Andy Reid has only started two rookies on defense in Week 1.  Here’s the third one.  

2. Cardinals LB Daryl Washington – 2nd round, TCU:  My pick for Defensive ROY.  Cards fans will be saying, “Karlos who?”  He’s the reason I drafted AZ’s defense.

3. Packers SS Morgan Burnett – 3rd round, Georgia Tech:  He’s been working with the first-team since mini-camps while Atari Bigby held out.  Now Bigby’s on PUP.

4. Texans CB Kareem Jackson – 1st round, Alabama:  Practicing against Andre Johnson every day makes most opposing WRs seem like Bill Schroeder on game days. 

5. Panthers DE Greg Hardy – 6th round, Ole Miss:  “This guy’s been getting tons of preseason hype and some fans are comparing him to Peppers,” said NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com.

Does anyone else think Reggie Bush is ready for a much bigger workload?  I think he’s got the fire in him.  Look at this preseason run.  And did you see him smash into Vikings CB Asher Allen last night?  Bush is still listed at 203 lbs, same as four years ago – but it’s obvious that he’s heavier now.  Maybe 210, more muscle than ever.  Last year you could see Bush’s mindset and running style evolve.  Sure, his workload was sporadic as usual – too many mouths to feed in the Saints offense – but I noticed a change in Bush.  In his first seven games he averaged 3.8 per carry.  In his last seven games he averaged 9.2.  Then in the playoffs vs. three tough opponents he averaged 6.9 per carry… not to mention 9.5 yards per reception and that huge punt return TD vs. the Cardinals.     

Now Mike Bell is gone and Lynell Hamilton is on IR.  Chris Ivory has a sprained knee.  That means it’s just Bush and Pierre Thomas sharing the load instead of a three-way split.  Thomas is a helluva competitor, don’t get me wrong.   Good fantasy pick, no doubt.  I just think Bush has to get more touches if they want to keep crushing teams.  In his last three seasons his red-zone carries have dropped from 28 to 17 to 16.  I expect that number to bounce back to the 25 range. 

I know Reggie is always icing that left knee and will probably sit out a game or two, but for a fifth- or sixth-round fantasy pick he could be huge.  He could log 1000 total yards, 60 receptions, and 10 TDs off runs, catches, & punts.  Watching several experts’ PPR drafts I witnessed Ricky Williams, Marion Barber or Brandon Jacobs going before Bush, which caused me to gasp and wheeze audibly.  

Kansas City can’t keep losing forever.  Yes, they’re a very young team and Matt Cassel is nowhere near worth that $63 million contract.  But there is talent stockpiled on both sides of the ball.  And despite the youth, there is maturity: Six of KC’s seven draft picks this year were team captains in college last year.  Plus the addition of Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel as coordinators just bought them two more wins.  I predict a split with Oakland, a split with Denver, then wins over Cleveland, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Seattle, and St. Louis.  That’s a 7-9 record for the Chiefs.  You heard it here first.

Speaking of youth, ESPN beat blogger Mike Sando calculated and ranked the 32 NFL teams by age.  Here are the 10 youngest teams:

NFL's 10 Youngest Teams by Age
1 Packers 26.16
2 Colts 26.34
3 Chiefs 26.36
4 Panthers 26.39
5 Bucs 26.46
6 Dolphins 26.47
7 Bengals 26.60
8 Jaguars 26.61
9 Rams 26.73
10 Eagles 26.81

Another low-key-but-perfect quote from Cris Collinsworth, talking about Brett Favre and his wide receivers:  “It’s a timing issue, these guys haven't worked together, you can see it out there.”  Collinsworth’s voice doesn’t have the power and grit of Jon Gruden’s, but for my money Collinsworth is the best.  Sharp, timely, and easy to digest. 

Oh, and here’s the answers from above:

Prediction A. By Week 5 you’ll say “Wow, Dwayne Bowe has been a nice surprise.”
Prediction B. By Week 5 you’ll say “Damn, Ricky Williams has been kind of a bust.”

Good luck this week!

JUM

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