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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

JUMbotron: Friday Huddle, Vol. 4
John U. Miller
October 1, 2010
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Philip Rivers is laser-zapping on a 5,800-yard pace with 1,087 yards after three games.  He threw for 455 yards at Seattle, breaking Dan Fouts’ franchise-record 444.  Wow!  As you know, the record is 5,084 by Dan Marino, and second-place is 5,069 by Drew Brees.  The next highest marks are 4,830 by Kurt Warner (2001) and Tom Brady with 4,806 (2007).  Rivers’ rodeo at Seattle was the second 400-yard game of his career – he threw for 436 against Baltimore (not a misprint) last year.  We’ve also had five different 400-yard passers in the first three games – the most in NFL history at this early stage.

Passing numbers are through the roof again.  Remember last year when we had a record 10 QBs throw for 4,000 yards?  Now we currently have 12 on pace for 4,000:  Rivers, Orton, P. Manning, Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Drew Brees, Matt Schaub, Donovan McNabb, E. Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Michael Vick.  Yes, Vick.  Even Alex Smith is on pace for 3,904.  

The league wanted high-flying offenses and machine-gun quarterbacks.  They got ‘em.  Speaking of the league, what’s the latest on a possible lockout?  I was about to spend the next 600 words on this subject but I’ll save that blather for later.  Just know this:  NFL Kickoff 2010 was the most-watched opening weekend since 1987, and all TV network partners are enjoying ma$$ive ratings.  This is a $9 billion per year factory that’s in bed with Walt Disney Co. (ESPN), CBS, FOX, NBC, DirecTV, Gatorade, Motorola, and a hundred other big companies.  Do you think any of those execs will back the stubborn owners in a lockout?  NBC would immediately lose $250 million in ad revenue right off the top if there is no 2012 Super Bowl to televise.

Labor negotiations always look ugly until the 11th hour – let’s enjoy the season for a while and hope that cooler heads sit at the table in January or February (Note: Here’s an easy-to-read breakdown of the labor conflict by my friend Mike Farley).   

Prediction A:  QB ____ ____ is about to go on a mini-fantasy tear, with the running game clicking and underrated possession WR ____ ____ returning to the lineup.  
Prediction B:  QB ____ ____ is about to go on a mega-fantasy tear, with the 26th and 28th ranked defenses vs. fantasy QBs, ____ and ____, next on the schedule.

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

I want to say Deion Branch is due… but one of the JUMbo Axioms of Fantasy Football is “Deion Branch is never due.”  However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Branch’s 42-yard TD vs. the Chargers… Oh wait, it was actually a 41-yard catch and a touchback, because the dingbat let a safety punch the ball out the back of the end zone. Still, Branch is healthy and his both his catches and yardage are climbing every week (Note: Tune in next week for the whole JUMbo Axiom guide).

I’m always pumping Jamaal Charles so I thought I’d give Thomas Jones some respect.  I really do like him, always have.  It just bothers me that… uh, anyway here’s a shout-out for TJ:  Since 2005 no running back in the NFL has more rushing yards than Jones’ 6,595 except LaDainian Tomlinson with 6,799.  That is amazing.  Jones also has 9,434 career rushing yards and will crack the 10,000 mark this season, joining an exclusive club of 25 running backs.  It’s not a bad time to trade for TJ and hold him as flex-filler.  Your league’s Jones-owner might part ways for cheap since he’s idle this week.  He would come in handy later because his bye is out of the way. 

It was about time the Bills cut Trent Edwards.  He got more second chances than any other QB in recent history (except Jake Delhomme, who deserved a long leash after going to a Super Bowl), and I know Buffalo fans were steaming mad.  They pay hard-earned money for tickets and in return they are subjected to a bad product, year after year.  You know what’s really wrong with the Bills, the one thing that prevents even a .500 record?  The offensive line.

Buffalo’s left tackle is Demetrius Bell, coming off an ACL blowout in 2009 with 11 career starts.  And before Bell tore his ACL last year he was leading the NFL in penalties. Their right tackle is Cornell Green, a 34-year old Raiders castoff.  Enough said.  And it’s been this way for years.  Fix the offensive line and everything else will fall into place.

However, until Ralph Wilson sells or moves the team, there will never again be a perennial AFC East contender.  Sure, he’s in the Hall of Fame and constructed one of the greatest dynasties of the modern era – the amazing ’90-’93 Buffalo squad that made 4 straight Super Bowls – but he’s in way over his head now.  Forbes.com reports, “The Bills have posted a wins-per-payroll ratio below the league average each of the past five seasons and have had five different head coaches in the past 12 seasons.”  Also, did you know Buffalo raised the average price of a non-premium ticket by 15.5% while 15 other teams kept prices level or even lowered them.  Detroit and St. Louis nobly lowered prices to reflect their product… How dare you Buffalo!

Here’s the official JUMbo plan for fixing the Buffalo Bills:  1.  In 2011 you must move to Los Angeles, not Toronto.  2.  Trade a third-rounder to Houston for Matt Leinart, who belongs in L.A. with his California Gurls3.  Draft OT Anthony Castanzo (Boston College) with your fifth-overall pick.  4.  Trade Marshawn Lynch to New England (Corey Dillon Part II, right?) and recoup a third-round pick.  5.  Give C.J. Spiller the ball, he can help you win football games.  Why did you pick Spiller ninth overall if he’s just gonna be another Leon Washington? 

Okay, let’s get to Sidney Rice.  We get so many “Shoud I keep him?” questions in the inbox and on the forums.  Here’s my take (Note: Keeper leagues don’t count because that’s a different ball game):

I say drop Rice.  2009 is a distant memory.  That was then, this is now, and as of Monday Sept. 27th Rice still couldn’t even walk without crutches.   Look, bye weeks are here and Rice’s dead roster spot could really hurt you.  So far many Rice-owners have already passed on adding Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Lloyd, Lance Moore, or Louis Murphy… real-life fantasy contributors that play and play well. 

Last year I held and held and held onto Anthony Gonzalez who went down in week 1 with a mysterious knee injury.  In Week 6 I had the top waiver slot and passed on Miles Austin, who just exploded for the first time, because to take him I had to part with Gonzalez. Sounds stupid now, but at the time Austin had come from nowhere... and we were told Gonzalez would return around Week 9.  Sound familiar?  So I stayed put. My team was rockin' so I figured Austin might be somewhat of a one-week wonder and keeping Gonzalez was safer “for the stretch run.”  Oof. 

Back to now, let’s suppose Rice returns to the practice field in Week 7 – which I think is already a stretch – and we start with the “limited practices” and “progressing nicely” for a week or two.  Then in Week 10 they'll say he's ready to go. Would you just throw Rice in without seeing how he looks in a game?  Let’s say he does catch three passes for 42 yards in Week 10, which is OK but not enough for fantasy use in Week 11 against Green Bay and Charles Woodson.  So maybe you’ll start him in Week 12?  Are you sure?  To summate all my ranting:  I believe Rice’s tangible fantasy season died on August 23rd when he had hip surgery.

JUMbo Quote of the Week:  “I don’t Twitter. I don’t Facebook. I don’t do MySpace. I never have. It's too accessible.  There’s too many people that maybe you went to high school with, old ex-girlfriends that dumped you and now they want you.” – Panthers WR Steve Smith.       

You might already follow the NFL Network’s Top-100 Greatest Players on Thursday nights at 9:00 pm ET.  I highly recommend it.  They’ve counted down from No. 100 to No. 51.  Next Thursday’s show begins at No. 50 and starts working down to No. 1.  Here’s how the voting was conducted according to the NFL.com website:  “The blue-ribbon panel includes both current and former coaches, players and front office personnel, as well as noted NFL media members, Hall of Fame voters and league historians.”  In other words a bunch of well-respected, cross-generational football minds ranking their favorite players with no strict empirical formula.  It’s creating countless heated debates, but that’s the beauty of it.  I’ve posted 100-51 below:

NFL Network's Top-100 Players (100-51)
100 QB Joe Namath  75  DB Darrell Green
99 DE Michael Strahan 74 RB Marion Motley
98 DE Lee Roy Selmon 73 TE Ozzie Newsome
97 LB Derrick Brooks 72 OT Jonathan Ogden
96 C Mel Hein 71 WR Paul Warfield
95 G Larry Allen 70 RB Marshall Faulk
94 RB Lenny Moore 69 LB Bobby Bell
93 LB Sam Huff 68 C Mike Webster
92 WR Michael Irvin 67 TE Kellen Winslow
91 QB Fran Tarkenton 66 CB Willie Brown
90 QB Kurt Warner 65 WR Randy Moss
89 FB Ernie Nevers 64 DB Herb Adderley
88 S Ed Reed 63 C Jim Otto
87 WR Crazylegs Hirsch 62 DT Randy White
86 DE Willie Davis 61 RB L. Tomlinson
85 RB Marcus Allen 60 LB Jack Ham
84 LB Joe Schimdt 59 TE Mike Ditka
83 QB Norm Van Brocklin 58 RB Steve Van Buren
82 LB Ted Hendricks 57 LB Mike Singletary
81 QB Steve Young 56 G Gene Upshaw
80 QB Troy Aikman 55 RB Earl Campbell
79 DB Emlen Tunnell 54 OT Forrest Gregg
78 G Bruce Matthews 53 LB Willie Lanier
77 RB Tony Dorsett 52 RB Eric Dickerson
76 OT Art Shell 51 QB Bart Starr

Nothing on that list from 100-51 really jumps out as crazy or lacking merit.  I won’t stomp my feet and say Giants/Packers DB Emlen Tunnell at #79 is nuts.  It was the 1950’s, how could I possibly understand his impact?  I do believe Kurt Warner (#90) belongs on the list (maybe flip-flopped with Joe Namath at #100?)  Kurt’s a big part of NFL history, triggering the modern era’s seismic shift to a pure passing league.  Two MVP awards, one Super Bowl MVP, and he tied Dan Marino for the fastest to 30,000 yards.  Warner also has the three highest pass-yards in SB history (414, 377, 365) and should have 2 rings with 2 different teams if not for a miracle grab by Santonio Holmes.

Then there’s Troy Aikman (#80) ranked one spot ahead of Steve Young (#81)?  I know Troy has more jewelry but I’m pretty damn sure Young was the most feared QB in the NFL – by far – for a good five or six years.  Ozzie Newsome at #73?  Okay, definitely one of the first dynamic pass-catching TEs, an all-time Brown if there ever was one.  But he never had double-digit TDs and barely scraped 1,000 yards twice (1,001 and 1,002). However, this means John Mackey, Shannon Sharpe and Tony Gonzalez make the top 50, which is totally correct.  I do find myself thinking, “Who the hell is Joe Schmidt?” … the 84th best player in history?  Mike Singletary (#57) seems like he should be much higher. 

I’m gonna re-visit the Top-100 later when they’ve counted down to #1.  Right now I need to be helping you with fantasy information.

If you have deep benches in your league, say 6 RBs or unlimited spots per position, go pick up Colts RB Mike Hart.  Donald Brown might have one of those nasty chronic hammies and you know Joseph Addai will miss a game or two.  Just sayin’…

Do you think new 49ers OC Mike Johnson is telling Coach Singletary, “We gotta throw it to the diva, boss.”  I do.  Buy low on Michael Crabtree.

Every Sunday while soaking up the NFL I’m typing random thoughts into my Blackberry notepad.  Some get fleshed out into topics for columns, others remain fragmented snippets that never get used.

Here are the unused “JUMbo Blackberry Notepad Snippets” from Week 3
(Note: If you dig ‘em I’ll post these every week, if not that’s cool too):

--Kareem Huggins inactive, the new Wali Lundy, will be out of NFL in 2 yrs.
--LeGarrette Blount might have found a big fan in Bucs HC Raheem Morris.
--Dez Bryant is freakin’ unbelievable, can’t believe I passed on him in 9th rd.
--Chris Johnson 2nd TD, trucks Giants CB Terrell Thomas, power underrated.
--R. Fitzpatrick gives Bills life, they actually move ball better than Cards/Jags.
--Ouch!  I thought Pierre Thomas’ career was over. Good Lord that was scary.
--Got away with benching S. Smith (Car.) but won’t push my luck next week.
--Drew Brees took a shot in overtime, grabs knee. Wait… he’s gonna be OK.
--Seattle DEF exhausted/hangs tough vs SD, safety Earl Thomas will be a star.
--S-Jax should get a free MRI every 6th injury, like a Subway sandwich card.
--DeAngelo Williams sits out 2 full series in a row.  He wants out of Carolina.
--Darren McFadden seeking hard contact like defense called his Mom a @%$#.
--FOX just said Eagles DE Juqua Parker has a sack in every game this season.
--Beanie jumps off TV screen, A+ on eyeball test, gotta get that boy 20 carries.
--Lance Moore basically replaces Reggie Bush, Meachem’s toe surely an issue.
--Giants need C Shaun O’Hara bad.  Inactive again.  Bradshaw still fights hard.
--Is there a better dynasty-stash than QB Josh Freeman?  Skills, accuracy, upside.
--A.J. Smith knew he could live without V. Jackson because of Naanee & Floyd.
--National Football Post scooped MJD’s knee after all, obvious he’s not 100%.
--If Kenny Britt (TD vs. NYG) is balling again the Titans should make playoffs.
--Damn I was so wrong about Peyton Hillis, had no idea he was so… savage. 

Jaguars WR Kassim Osgood was involved in some bizarre, scary attack Monday night where a jealous ex-boyfriend exchanged gunfire with the girl Osgood is dating.  Osgood had to jump out a second-story apartment window.  I’m glad he’s OK.  It’s funny, when the ESPN wire scrolled right-to-left across the screen… “WR Kassim Osgood jumps out window to avoid…”  I thought it was going to say “…playing for the Jaguars again.”

Leaving no stone unturned:  Ronnie Brown has a mild hamstring issue.

I’m a Jahvid Best owner and a huge fan so you’ll see him in my columns almost every week, for one reason or another.  This week it’s “another.”  This turf toe thing cast a dark cloud over my fantasy team’s locker room.  I really hope Jim Schwartz deactivates him this week (I have RB depth, more on that later) and lets the swelling go down.  Best could probably suit up at Green Bay and handle 12 touches for 60 total yards through courage and gritted teeth – but that could be a disaster.  He’ll never heal all season.  People forget Darren McFadden was set for an immediate and huge rookie breakout in 2008 if not for turf toe.  In Week 2 that year he busted off 164 yards and 1 TD on 21 carries at Kansas City – but jammed the big toe in the fourth quarter.  After that McFadden averaged 3.4 yards per carry the rest of the year, never breaking a run longer than 15 yards.  And because he kept playing through it, he developed turf toe on the other foot from overcompensating.  Turf toe also hammered another nail in the coffin for older players like Eddie George, Willie Parker, and (so we thought) LaDainian Tomlinson.

Now here’s a positive spin on Best’s toe.  Steve Slaton suffered the same Grade II turf toe in his rookie year, during the third preseason game, and we all know how his rookie year went: 1,659 total yards, 10 TDs.  How did he do it?  1) Younger guys bounce back quicker, and 2) He sat out the preseason finale.  Slaton wore a walking boot for a week, let the soreness subside, changed to orthotic shoes, and everything was fine.  This is how the Detroit Lions must treat Jahvid Best.  If I hear that he’s active Sunday morning I will throw up in my mouth.  

Some mid-round busts so far:

--WR Pierre Garcon:  Taken at 4.11 in an experts draft I watched, still a costly sixth-rounder across the board… Garcon’s had dropped pases, penalties, now a bad hamstring.  He could be extradited from Manningville.  Don’t forget, Blair White was a star at Michigan State, All-Big Ten, sticky hands.     
--RB Marion Barber:  A consistent sixth-rounder, though as high as a fourth-rounder in TD leagues.  He’s getting blown away by afterthoughts like Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis, Tim Hightower, and Thomas Jones.  Now Barber’s on bye, with Tennessee and Minnesota coming up next.  
--QB Brett Favre:  He had five TDs and one INT at this point last year.  Now it’s two TDs and six INTs.  He’s averaging 199 pass yards per game!  I still find it hard to believe that Minnesota couldn’t pry Vincent Jackson away from San Diego.  You know they offered San Diego everything but Ryan Longwell’s BMW X5.

JUMbo Grab of the Week: Dolphins WR Davone Bess vs. New England.  A nifty PPR bench guy, he might be floating on waiver wires after his up-and-down start this season:  6-51-0, 1-12-0, 6-86-0.   Bess is the Dolphins’ designated third-down playmaker.  You could even flex him this week vs. New England.  Their young secondary will be bug-eyed staring at Brandon Marshall all day:  Four of their six top DBs have two years experience or less.  Bess also has an early bye week (5) so he’ll be available to you during the tedious stretch from Weeks 6-10 when tons of WRs are idle.  I think he has a double-digit catch game in him soon.    

JUMbo Start of the Week:  Seahawks RB Justin Forsett at St. Louis.  Fantasy GMs squabble over which Redskins scrub tailback to pick up while Forsett played a feature-like 44 out of 56 offensive snaps last week vs. San Diego, carrying 17 times for 63 yards plus three catches for 31 yards.  I counted five times last week where Forsett lined up split wide (empty backfield) and Hasselbeck targeted him twice in that situation.  He also had a six-yard TD called back in Week 2 (betcha didn’t know that), otherwise the Fantasy Herd is all over him right now.  I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and start Forsett at St. Louis over Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Chicago.  Let’s re-visit Forsett (gulp) next week.

Adrian Peterson has zero fumbles in 83 touches this year.  In his 83 previous touches last year (including playoffs) he had four fumbles.

At the time of this writing Saints RB Pierre Thomas (ankle) was in shorts and a t-shirt during Thursday’s practice.  If Thomas is inactive all that’s left is Ladell Betts and Chris Ivory.  Since Ivory is still not 100% from spraining his knee in the preseason finale, Betts would be the lead back between the 20’s – but watch out for FB Heath Evans inside the 3-yard line. Muddy fantasy water, unsuitable for drinking. 

Prediction A:  QB Matt Ryan is about to go on a mini-fantasy tear, with the running game clicking and underrated possession WR Michael Jenkins returning to the lineup.  
Prediction B:  QB Aaron Rodgers is about to go on a mega-fantasy tear, with the 26th and 28th ranked defenses vs. fantasy QBs, Detroit & Washington, next on the schedule.

Good luck this week !

JUM

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