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JUMbotron: Friday Huddle, Vol. 5
John U. Miller
October 8, 2010
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As promised, here are the 20 JUMbo Axioms of Fantasy Football.

1. Fred Taylor had it.  He gave it to Steven Jackson.  He’s given it to Knowshon Moreno.  Why would you want it on your team?

2. You never, ever bench a healthy Calvin Johnson no matter who is playing QB.  He will find a way to score.  You have other more pressing lineup decisions to make, I promise.  (Fantasy football advice forums will be less cluttered if we all repeat this axiom daily.) 

3. A healthy starting Colts WR is a fantasy starter, no matter the age, speed, or build… as long as Peyton Manning is under center. 

4. “Waiting on a QB” doesn’t work out too often.  It’s up and down.  Ask Kolb- , Cutler- or Schaub-owners.  Draft a stud in the 3rd round who does it week after week, year after year.  Don’t bench him unless circumstances get crazy.  QBs can’t usually win fantasy titles by themselves but they keep your car on the road, which is hard to do for 16 weeks.

5. Your first 2 draft picks should be RB-RB, RB-WR, WR-WR, or WR-RB – whichever pairing lands you two guys who both could feasibly score 15 TDs each.  Then remember #4 above.

6. Every year around mid-season the waiver wire yields fresh-legged RBs that spark fantasy teams.  I call them Match Lights.  Shop around, snag a couple backups even if they haven’t played much yet.  Match Lights like Michael Pittman, Domanick Davis, Julius Jones, and Jamaal Charles have helped snag FF trophies.  

7. Deion Branch is never due.  It’s never coming, just so you know.

8. Lee Evans is due.  It’s definitely coming, but you must guess when.

9. A prolific tight end creates a big fantasy advantage.  You’re getting huge points at a position where points can be scarce – often masking shortcomings in your RB/WR output.  It’s like an elite fraternity and Tony Gonzalez is on the board of trustees.  Antonio Gates is the chapter’s president.  Dallas Clark is rush chairman. Jermichael Finley and Dustin Keller are this fall’s pledge class.   

10. Mike Shanahan hates you.  He hates all fantasy footballers.  If you own one of his running backs he will find out and punish you.  Sell high.  You’ll get a nice player in return because your buddy is even more excited about a Shanahan RB than you are.

11. If big, slow RBs like Tyrone Wheatley, Stacey Mack and Reuben Droughns once did it, so can Peyton Hillis… at least for one year.  Sometimes the offensive line makes the running back. 

12.  If your league devalues QB passing TDs at 4 points since they score more often, you should give a TE 8 points for a receiving TD since they score less often.  Besides, how can Matt Ryan’s 58-yard touchdown toss be barely worth more than a Graham Gano 24-yard chip shot?  In some leagues Gano scores more than Ryan’s highlight pass if it’s kicked from 50+ yards. 

13. Garbage time can be magic time (that axiom is courtesy of my friend Jeff Ingenloff).  Certain teams with offensive talent and erratic secondaries are like shootout magnets.  Their QBs explode.  Witness the ‘01 Saints with Aaron Brooks, the ‘04 Chiefs with Trent Green, the ‘08 Broncos with Jay Cutler, and this year… the Lions with Shaun Hill.

14. Lean toward owning Eastern & Central time players wherever possible without upending your roster.  Early games yield useful info on inactives and GTDs.  West Coast and frequent Sunday night/Monday night players often cause you anxiety.  Study the schedule.

15. If you’re always involved in big multi-player fantasy trades, it’s called TJTT.  You’re basically Trading Just To Trade.  It ruins the competitive integrity of this hobby.

16. Rain or snow shouldn’t stop you from starting him.  Defensive players can slip and fall down too.  Winds aren’t a problem unless they gust at 25 mph or more. However, extremely low temperatures are cause for concern.

17. Stud WRs joining a new team will never consistently match the numbers they had with their old team.  Marquee team-switchers like Brandon Marshall & Anquan Boldin are good sell-high candidates.  Stud RBs (if healthy) can actually be energized by switching teams, e.g. Corey Dillon, Cedric Benson, LaDainian Tomlinson.

18. “Good value” is a kind way of saying “Everybody else passed on him for a reason.”

19. With young WRs it’s all about first impressions. If he smells like a rat, he is a rat.  Three years ago it was Ted Ginn and Robert Meachem.  Two years ago it was Devin Thomas and Limas Sweed.   Last year it was Darrius Heyward-Bey and (gulp) Michael Crabtree?  This year we got our first whiff of Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, and Mike Williams (TB)… and it’s all good.     

20. Lee Suggs = Justin Fargas = Chris Brown = Kevin Jones = Ryan Torain.  Injuries follow certain backs… forever.  Sell highThen see #1 and #10 again.

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Here’s one that narrowly missed the list.  It’s not really an axiom, just an observation:

21. “Dynasty” fantasy-football rankings aren’t complicated.  You just rank older players five or six spots lower than normal… Brett Favre usually gets left off the list. Then, a couple rookie RBs taken in the NFL’s 1st round get ranked ahead of solid-but-unsexy vets like Joseph Addai & Cedric Benson.  Finally, in October you look back at the June dynasty rankings and say, “Why was Driver ranked #58… and who is Arrelious Benn?”     

I’ve mentioned before that the NFL has finally become a full-fledged passing league.  The numbers offer overwhelming evidence.  All those 4,000-yard passers last year, 10 in all… and now a handful of QBs are attacking Dan Marino’s 5,084 yard-record.  To beat it you have to average 318 yards per game.  These guys have a shot:

QB Games Pass Yds/Gm Pace
Kyle Orton 4 354.8 5,676
Peyton Manning 4 341.3 5,460
Philip Rivers 4 332.0 5,312
Tony Romo (bye) 3 313.3 5,013

We all heard the MNF crew say Tom Brady became the fastest QB to 100 wins, reaching the mark in 131 starts.  Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw needed 139 and 147 starts.  Here are some other milestones you might have missed:

--LaDainian Tomlinson now has 25 games with at least 100 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, tying Jim Brown for the most in NFL history.

--Terrell Owens became the first player ever to record a 200-yard receiving game with three different teams (Cincinnati, Dallas, San Francisco).  He also passed Isaac Bruce for the 2nd most receiving yards in NFL history, 15,325. 

--Peyton Manning and center Jeff Saturday started their 158th game together, surpassing passing Buffalo’s Jim Kelly and Kent Hull (157) for the most games started by a quarterback-center duo since the 1970 merger.

--Antonio Gates reached 500 receptions in 113 games, behind only Kellen Winslow Sr. (101) and Jason Witten (107) for fastest all-time by a tight end.  Tony Gonzalez also became the first tight end to reach 12,000 career receiving yards. 

That goal-line hit on Michael Vick instantly reminded me of an almost identical hit Brian Dawkins laid on him – also at Philadelphia – in the 2002 Divisional Playoff against the Falcons. 

No one else will say it, so I will.  Something is physically wrong with Marques Colston.  Look, he’s never been a breakaway threat but he used to pop one here and there.  Lately here’s what I see:  Colston runs nothing but 12-yard hitches and hook routes, always catching the ball with his back to the end zone.  Not much separation anymore.  Never streaking downfield on a post or outracing a DB.  I started noticing it last year when I owned him.  Did the two surgeries on his left knee in Jan. 2008 and Jan. 2009 take away a step?  I know one thing: Colston has been listed at 225 for years but he’s 235 lbs now, guaranteed.    

Prediction A:  ____’s defense hasn’t faced a group of wide receivers like ____’s in a long time.  The ____ will gamble and give up big plays.

Prediction B:  WR ____ ____ will be the best WR3 in fantasy as long as ____ ____ is out of the lineup.

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

Randy Moss to the Vikings?  Here's what I think:

A. I think Moss will look 2-3 years younger on that new Sportexe Momentum Turf which is supposedly a faster track than the FieldTurf they had for five seasons.
B. I think it means Sidney Rice is going from reserve/PUP to Injured Reserve and Percy Harvin goes back to single coverage.
C. I think Pats TE Aaron Hernandez is now a tight end in name only.  Hernandez, Edelman (and Deion Branch?) will collectively derail the Brandon Tate Fantasy Train that’s leaving the tracks.   
D. I think Tom Brady’s stats suffer a little, but he wasn’t a weekly plug-n-forget QB anyway.  Wes Welker, it’s called a double-team.  Ever seen one before? 
E. I think Brett Favre reclaims QB1 status in 12-team leagues… and remember, he has four of five games at home from weeks 11-15.
F. I think a selfish, stat-hungry Adrian Peterson would prefer Moss stayed in New England but he’s not that kind of player.
G. I think Revis doesn’t want to face The Slouch for the 2nd time in 3 weeks. 
 
The Cleveland Browns offensive line has allowed 11 sacks in their last 11 games going back to 2009, second only to Indianapolis (9).  They are one of only five teams to have a 100-yard rusher in five of their last seven games.  LT Joe Thomas (who’s quietly made three straight Pro Bowls) is taking names, LG Eric Steinbach is mauling people, and C Alex Mack has made 21 consecutive starts.  “Him (Steinbach), Joe (Thomas) and Alex have worked together now for a year, which is really positive,” said Eric Mangini last week. “They have got a good chemistry together over on that left hand side.” 

I like to hear the common fan’s remarks about certain players.  Here’s an interesting comment by Todd from Florence, S.C. as submitted to Peter King’s mailbag yesterday:  “Broncos LB Robert Ayers has been beastly against the run this season. He was a big reason Denver shut down Chris Johnson on Sunday with three tackles for loss. I hope you did more research than lazily peruse the stats and see that he has only one sack.”

Can Kansas City (3-0) keep it up?  Yes.  Because of their defense.  After a two-year drought from 2008-2009 with only 32 sacks (least in the NFL over that stretch) they already have eight in the first three games.  The Chiefs rank third in opposing QB completion percentage (a stingy 54.5%) and fourth in allowing 3rd down conversions (27%). They haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in three games – after facing Ryan Mathews, Peyton Hillis, and Frank Gore.  Patrick Allen of ArrowheadAddict.com wrote some lofty praise on his blog, and even though his pen’s dipped in homer ink, it speaks volumes:  “Not since the days of Neil Smith and Derrick Thomas has a Chiefs defense looked as good as it did against the 49ers.” 

Here’s my take on the Chiefs fantasy defense.  First, I have them ranked 6th on my personal Rest of Way list.  Sky high.  Their next five games are @ Indy, @ Hou, vs. Jax, vs. Buf, and @ Oak.  Second, in my experience a young defense like this starts balling early and they pretty much won’t stop, except for a few hiccups here and there. Who cares if they were the 24th ranked fantasy DEF last year, because something has obviously changed overnight.  Last year New Orleans, Denver and Arizona’s defenses made the same quantum leap.  The Chiefs also have vapor-speedsters Javier Arenas (who had a 99-yard KR TD negated in the preseason) and Dexter McCluster in the return game.  Look out!  

Ignore any injury news on Reggie Wayne – limited, did not practice, questionable, etc. – because he’s the Brett Favre of WRs.  He’s made 117 consecutive starts, more than any wide receiver in the league -- the closest to him is Lee Evans with 62. 

JUMbo Quote of the Week:  “That’s the worst part of it. I’ve never seen this many bitter people in my life.  They’re calling me everything in the book, I’m benching you, you’re this, you’re that, you’re trash.  It kind of hurts a little bit.” – Jaguars WR Mike Sims-Walker on receiving angry Tweets from fantasy football owners.   

Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett were teammates at Cal.  Lynch even attended Forsett’s wedding.  Their friendship will be tested because Pete Carroll is going to ride the two-time 1,000-yard rusher.  The Lynch-to-Seattle news hit the wires Tuesday afternoon, only to be completely pushed aside by the Randy Moss stuff.  It reminded me of last year with Farrah Fawcett’s death being trumped by Michael Jackson later that same day.  Note:  Seattle is now without a 3rd-rounder (used for QB Charlie Whitehurst) and a 4th rounder (Lynch) in 2011. 

The Jaguars are the only team in the league without a 30-yard play from scrimmage yet. Their longest play is a 26-yard reception by both Marcedes Lewis and Mike Thomas. 

Man, I just can’t get away from the pass-happy numbers we’re seeing.  In Week 4, a whopping 14 of the 28 teams executed a Pass/Run ratio of at least 60/40.  Eight teams even went as far as 65/35 Pass/Run.  I broke down all the chuck-n’-duck teams and listed whether they got a win or loss:

Week 4 Pass/Run Pass % Run % Result
Denver 74 26 W 26-20
Detroit 73 27 L 28-26
Arizona 73 27 L 41-10
Indianapolis 71 29 L 31-28
Miami 70 30 L 41-14
Chicago 69 31 L 17-3
Cincinnati 69 31 L 23-20
Buffalo 65 35 L 38-14
Seattle 63 37 L 20-3
Philadelphia 63 37 L 17-12
Oakland 63 37 L 31-24
New Orleans 63 37 W 16-14
St. Louis 62 38 W 20-3
Atlanta 61 39 W 16-14

Notice Denver still pulled off a huge win at unfriendly Tennessee.  The Titans defense was exhausted in the 4th quarter.  You can bet Josh McDaniels has no problem calling 45 passes per game with the way those plays are being executed.   

Clinton Portis (groin) is out for the year.  Don’t listen to the “four-to-six weeks” timetables, or “could possibly return in December” stuff.  He tore the muscle off the bone.  Drop him in all formats – Redraft, Keeper, Dynasty, Empire, whatever.  Fred Taylor had the same injury in Week 2 of 2001 and missed the last 14 games.  

Here are the JUMbo Blackberry Notepad Snippets while I watched the Week 4 action:

--OMG L.T. has 5 touches, 39 yards, TD on opening drive.  It’s déjà vu 2006.
--Yikes Buffalo fumbles next kickoff, L.T. has 7 touches in the first 5 minutes!
--3 of Palmer’s first 7 passes thrown at TE Gresham, very un-Bratkowski-like.
--7 of Sam Bradford’s first 9 passes toward Clayton. Are they blood brothers?
--Reggie Bush has a weird fantasy rep, in real life he’s crucial to their playbook.
--Chris Ivory is rollin’.  Ladell Betts looks OK too.  I’d get Ivory if I had to pick.
--If you “bought low” on DeAngelo you’re going to be rewarded. Big time, baby.
--Wind kills a Cundiff 46-yd’r at the last second.  Don’t start kickers at Heinz.
--McFadden grabs his hammy.  See ya around Week 7.  Damn!  What a shame.
--Titans G Leroy Harris yells at O-line on sideline after CJ gets stuffed twice.
--FOX’s Brian Billick says “Best’s toe an issue.”  I disagree, he looks just fine.
--Alex Smith has been in the league for years and the light simply won’t flick on.
--Ouch, another INT.  Think the 49ers locker room wanted Shaun Hill to leave?
--Mike Wallace is simply blowing past DBs.  Ben will enjoy this fleet-footed lad.
--Matt Ryan looking for Gonzalez a lot, usually the first read. Keep starting him.
--Sims-Walker not even getting one look.  Decoys suck, especially Jags decoys.
--Can’t believe MJD doesn’t have concussion after helmet smashed off on TD.
--Squint my eyes, Gradkowski/Miller looks like Manning/Clark in darker jerseys.
--Cards G Alan Faneca is a liability. OL coach Russ Grimm needs new blood. 
--Even in the first 20 minutes without Arian Foster, Texans ran on 11 of 22 plays.
--Jets offensive line, Damn.  They’re like a giant sweaty wall with 5 pairs of legs.

Speaking of the Jets offensive line, they haven’t allowed a sack in two straight games, both on the road at Miami and Buffalo.  If this keeps up they’re not just going to be a running team – Sanchez is going to be a legitimate fantasy quarterback.

Brandon Jacobs has 196 carries in his last 16 regular season games.  In the previous 16 games he had 277.  That’s a sharp 41% decrease in his workload.  No wonder he threw his helmet. 

Call it a hunch, but this guy probably picked up Ryan Torain for sure.

Here are the Top-10 Red-Zone RBs:
 

RB Red Zone (Week 1-4) Carries Targets TDs
Chris Johnson 21 0 3
Arian Foster 16 2 3
Darren McFadden 14 3 2
Clinton Portis 14 3 2
Michael Turner 14 3 1
L. Tomlinson 11 4 2
Joseph Addai 10 5 2
A. Peterson (3 games) 11 1 2
Peyton Hillis 12 2 4
Matt Forte 12 2 1

I’m one of the excited Roethlisberger owners who plans to start him next week. I’ll likely bench the red-hot Orton unless he rips up Baltimore, then I’ll leave him in on sheer principle alone.  Still, the thought of a fresh Roethlisberger vs. Cleveland, yesss… In his last two home games vs. the Browns (scratch the 2008 finale when Pittsburgh rested starters) Big Ben has completed 67% of his passes, thrown for 695 yards, and tossed 4 TDs.  He also has 60 rush yards and another TD.  Don’t forget, Antwaan Randle-El is back and making key plays too.

JUMbo IDP Grab of the Week:  Houston Texans S Troy Nolan.  He came of the bench to intercept two passes in Week 4 against the Oakland Raiders. Starting FS Eugene Wilson (hamstring) was injured and Gary Kubiak decided to give Nolan a look instead of veteran Dominique Barber.  It looks like Nolan, a 2nd-year player from Arizona State, might crack the lineup for good.  “Even in practice, he's got a knack for getting the ball,” said LB DeMeco Ryans.  Kubiak added that Nolan will “get a lot more playing time.”  The Texans have their next two at home vs. the Giants & Chiefs.  Note: Texans Pro Bowl LB Brian Cushing is back from suspension. 

JUMbo Start of the Week:  Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew vs. the Rams.  The second-year man from Oklahoma State has been the most targeted tight end in the NFL the last 3 weeks – with a silly 28 passes thrown his way.  Antonio Gates and Zach Miller are next with 27 and 26, incidentally.  Pettigrew has basically become the Lions No. 2 WR while Nate Burleson was out, while Tony Scheffler plays the traditional in-line TE spot.  People forget B.P. because he wrecked his knee last year – but this dude was the 20th overall pick of the 2009 draft.  He’s on your league’s waiver wire?  Jeez, at least pick him up and keep him off someone else’s team.

Prediction ABaltimore’s defense hasn’t faced a group of wide receivers like Denver’s in a long time.  The Ravens will gamble and give up big plays.

Prediction B:  WR Lance Moore will be the best WR3 in fantasy as long as Reggie Bush is out of the lineup.
 
I’ve always peeked at NFL cheerleader pics here and there, and today I came across one that must be shared:  This is Rachel, a Bucs cheerleader from 2006-2008.

Good luck this week!

JUM

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