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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

JUMbotron: Friday Huddle, Vol. 8
John U. Miller
October 29, 2010
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Here we go again…

“Romo’s out, the Cowboys are toast, Jon Kitna’s got a weak arm.” 
“Bench or drop all your Dallas skill players, a hard rain’s a comin’…”
“This is a nightmare, damn I should have picked Roddy over Austin.”

Déjà vu.  Six weeks ago the Lions lost Matthew Stafford and it was:

“Stafford’s out, the Lions are toast, Shaun Hill’s got a weak arm.” 
“Bench or drop all your Detroit skill players, a hard rain’s a comin’…”
“This is a nightmare, damn I should have picked Roddy over Calvin.”

I laughed and calmly refuted the Chicken Littles who spewed doom and gloom (I still giggle at the “weak arm” remarks, dumbest thing I’ve ever heard).  “Shaun Hill can get it done, I just thought you Megatron-owners should hear that,” were my exact words.  Hill averaged 303 total yards and threw 8 TDs from Weeks 2-5.  In that four-week span Hill had top-5 QB numbers, Megatron had top-5 WR numbers, and even Brandon Pettigrew had top-5 TE numbers. 

Déjà vu.  Take a deep breath and repeat after me.  Jon Kitna can get it done.  There’s an algebraic formula I call the “Journeyman Gunslinger Sequence” and it’s been proven true time after time.  I won’t bother you with the parallel algorithms so here are the basic polynomials:  Jeff George = Brian Griese = Jon Kitna = Shaun Hill.  Simply defined, there are certain QBs who bounce from team to team for whatever reason, but they can always be counted on for prolific fantasy spurts.  Kitna has been here before.  Give him a full week of practice reps and it’s like riding a bike. 

And just like I wondered when Stafford gave way to Hill, I’ll pose the same question again:  What has Tony Romo really done that Kitna hasn’t done?  This isn’t Peyton Manning and Curtis Painter, is it?  Sure, Romo has three straight seasons with 20+ total TDs and counting… but Kitna has four of his own.  Romo’s racking up Pro Bowls – three in four years – but Kitna’s also been to a Pro Bowl, in 2001.  Two 4,000 passing-yard seasons?  Check, check.  My point is, a few of these backup QBs are really good.  Some of the older ones even choose to be stuck behind a franchise QB who makes $10 million per year.  Kitna and guys like Marc Bulger (Ravens) have undoubtedly turned down starting gigs on crappy teams to hold a clipboard on great teams -- and mentor a youngster for $3 million per year.  Why not?  They’ve already made so much dough that their grandchildren won’t have to work a day in their lives.  It’s a wonderful American day job.  You stay healthy, extend your career, and maybe even pick up a Super Bowl ring as a bonus…   

You want to trade Miles Austin?  Why, what’s changed?  Romo’s been wildly erratic with his go-to receiver: Austin’s had three games with 14> fantasy points and three games with <4 fantasy points.  If anything Jon Kitna could improve Austin’s fantasy worth by just leveling out the peaks and valleys.  Good lord, I’m trading for him now while there’s a discount.  Kitna drops footballs in the hands of wide receivers – great ones, good ones, even some who-are-they ones.  I’ll prove it to you below:

Jon Kitna Can Get It Done
Year Team Threw to WR ___ ____ Games Rec Yds TDs
1998 SEA Joey Galloway 5 21 315 5
1999 SEA Derrick Mayes 15 62 829 10
2002 CIN Chad Ochocinco 13 65 1108 4
2003 CIN Chad Ochocinco 16 90 1355 10
2003 CIN Peter Warrick 16 79 819 7
2006 DET Roy Williams 16 82 1310 7
2006 DET Mike Furrey 16 98 1086 6
2007 DET Shaun McDonald 16 79 943 6

Prediction A:  I’ve made it a point to watch portions of all ____ ____ games this year and TE ____ ____ is about to take his game to the next level. 

Prediction B:  In his next 6 games RB ____ ____ only faces one defense that ranks higher than 20th against fantasy RBs.  He’s going to be delightful.

JUMbo Quick Six:

1. A couple kickin’ fools you might not have noticed:  Seahawks K Olindo Mare and Dolphins K Dan Carpenter.  Mare went 5-of-5 last week vs. Arizona, and get this… His third FG was good from 31 yards but a penalty forced a re-try from 41 yards.  Good again.  Wait, another penalty, re-try from 51 yards.  No problem.  Mare’s in the zone.  As for Carpenter, he’s 11-of-12 over his last four games – with 6 of those 11 kicks from 40+ yards, a little boost in distance-FG leagues. 

2. Jaguars RT Eben Britton is out for the year.  It’s a huge blow.  Britton was becoming an outstanding run and pass-blocker, but more importantly his play allowed TE Marcedes Lewis to do less blocking than in previous years.  Now the Jags have to go with OT Jordan Black, once a promising young player in Kansas City but his reputation has since crumbled.  One fan-blogger named ‘JonesDrew32’ wrote:  “If you want a sack, line up against Jordan Black.  He sucks.”  Jacksonville plays at Dallas this week.  

3. Here are some stats that probably only interest me:  Through 7 weeks the Raiders are the NFL's most penalized team with 65 flags.  They also lead the league in penalty yards with 552.  Think about that:  It’s like giving your opponent about 80 free yards in every game.  Detroit is next with 59 penalties.  The least penalized teams are Miami (24) and Indianapolis (26).

4. Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall had a career day against Jay Cutler, picking him off 4 times.  Hall’s #23 jersey was shipped off to Canton for a HOF display because he tied the NFL record held by 18 other players. The first guy to ever record 4 INTs?  None other than Redskins HOF QB-and-safety Sammy Baugh… and thanks to The Post’s Dan Steinberg we have a photo of one of Baugh’s 4 picks that day in 1943.

5. If you follow the JUMbotron closely you pick up hints about which players I own, which players I like, etc.  You may have figured out by now I’m not a huge Knowshon Moreno fan.  Too brittle at the pro level.  Saw several of his games at Georgia, always felt he was just a good halfback, not great.  I did a spit-take when Denver took him 12th overall in 2008.  Anyway, I never actually disliked Moreno until he scored vs. Oakland last week and starting hopping around like Peter Pan.  Uh, you’re down 38-7.  Please stop.

6. Back to the Redskins, did you realize they’re on a pace to give up 4,674 passing yards?  That would be the all-time worst mark in NFL history, eclipsing the Atlanta Falcons’ 4,541 mark in 1995.  Playing devil’s advocate, I’ll note that Washington’s been drawn into 2 extra periods with Matt Schaub and Aaron Rodgers – but nevertheless this is a defense that allows tons of passes to be completed.  They play at Detroit in Week 8, have a Week 9 bye, then host Philly in Week 10. 

On numerous occasions I’ve talked about how the NFL has finally morphed into a pure passing league.  Overall scoring is up, QB and WR yardage is up, but have you also noticed the INTs lately?  And they aren’t just picks, these guys are going to the house.  In Week 7 there were an NFL-record 9 interceptions returned for touchdowns (of course I didn’t avail myself of a single one).  I’ll delve deeper into this another time, but it seems that with 1) quarterbacks dropping back more often, 2) more balls flying around the field, 3) more TDs and hence more kickoffs, that fantasy D/STs are also racking up.  A preliminary scan confirms my hunch:
 

Fantasy D/ST Scoring is Trending Up
2010 Current Leaders 2009 Final Leaders
D/ST FP/game D/ST FP/game
Seattle 10.83 New Orleans 10.44
Tennessee 10.71 Philadelphia 10.00
Pittsburgh 10.33 Green Bay 8.94
Arizona 10.17 San Francisco 8.00
New England 10.00 Denver 7.69
Detroit 9.67 Baltimore 7.50
Chicago 9.00 Minnesota 7.25
Washington 9.00 Carolina 7.19
Philadelphia 8.43 Arizona 7.06
Green Bay 8.29 NY Jets 7.00
NY Giants 8.00 Chicago 6.94
San Diego 7.86 San Diego 6.94

And speaking of pass-happy, does it always translate into wins?  The experts say no, though last year out of the eight division winners only Cincinnati did not have a top-10 passing offense.   However, this year we’re back to the conventional wisdom that passing doesn’t necessarily mean winning.  See below.

Does Passing = Winning?
Top-8 Passing Teams  W-L Top-8 Rushing Teams  W-L
San Diego  2-5 Kansas City  4-2
Indianapolis  4-2 NY Jets  5-1
Denver  2-5 Oakland  3-4
Dallas  1-5 NY Giants  5-2
New Orleans  4-3 Houston  4-2
Cincinnati  2-4 Atlanta  5-2
Detroit  1-5 Minnesota  2-4
Green Bay  4-3 Tennessee  5-2

JUMbo IDP Keeper DeluxeSeahawks FS Earl Thomas.   He needs one more pick – and we’re barely halfway through the season – to tie the Seahawks record for rookie INTs (5) set by Michael Boulware in 2004.   Thomas picked off Max Hall last week on the fifth play of the game.  Thomas is tied for 2nd in the NFL with his 4 INTs.  Here’s a cool nugget I found at the Seahawks 12th Man Army blog:  In Thomas’ last season at Texas as a red-shirt sophomore he broke the Longhorns’ school record with 8 INTs.  The record had belonged to Seahawks DB coach Jerry Gray and three others.  You dynasty-heads out there should never let Thomas go.  He’s got a bright future with that volcanic home-field advantage 8 times per year, plus a division with Arizona and San Francisco totally reshuffling their QB position. 

JUMbo Trade Pickup of the WeekChiefs TE Tony Moeaki. The hype wave has subsided since this amazing catch and I bet you could acquire Moeaki for cheap now.  Heck, he might be on the waiver wire.  I think Moeaki is about to launch an extended haul of fantasy points.  Matt Cassel is heating up with three 100+ QB ratings in his last four games, Dwayne Bowe is drawing high/low bracket coverage again, and finally, look at the schedule below.  If Tony Moeaki’s schedule was a trick-or-treat bag it would be full of delicious Reese’s cups and tangy Smarties!
 

Tony Moeaki's Schedule
Week Opponent
8 vs. Buffalo - ranked 32nd vs. fantasy TEs
9 at Oakland - ranked 27th vs. fantasy TEs
10 at Denver - ranked 26th vs. fantasy TEs
11 vs. Arizona - ranked 29th vs. fantasy TEs
12 at Seattle - ranked 9th vs. fantasy TEs
13 vs. Denver - ranked 26th vs. fantasy TEs
14 at San Diego - ranked 28th vs. fantasy TEs

Let’s discuss Joseph Addai.  It’s not a separated shoulder so much as nerve damage.  Just nerve damage… sounds like no big deal, right?   No ruptured ligaments or damaged rotator cuff.  I’m not a doctor but I can draw on my 20-year database of fantasy football injury experience, and try to correlate Addai to similar cases.  I found three:

1. Matt Hasselbeck had a back problem in 2008 and developed a nerve impingement that caused his entire leg to weaken.  He was in and out of the lineup all year and ended up missing 9 games.  Everyone bags on Hasselbeck for being a brittle player, but hold on… before 2008 he started 90 of his last 96 games.  Still, the nerve thing stopped him cold, and quarterbacking doesn’t require colliding with 300-lb men 20 times per game like Addai’s job does. 

2. Ed Reed had a clear-cut nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder.  It’s probably the most similar case to Joseph Addai you’ll find out there.  Reed first suffered the injury in the 2007 season finale but somehow kept playing the last two years – only missing 4 games. Reed began 2010 on PUP because of this injury and was just activated last week. Of course he picked off Buffalo twice.     

3. Steve Slaton suffered nerve damage in his neck and shoulder that weakened his right arm in 2009, even rendering his fingers numb for days at a time.  He played through it for 11 games, averaging 3.3 per carry and losing 6 fumbles. It turned out to be a very serious neck injury that required cervical fusion surgery.  Many insiders were (are) shocked that he’s still in the NFL. 

Those three “nerve damage” injuries give us perspective on Addai’s situation, but sometimes we get the best clues by just listening to the player.  “Nothing torn or anything,” Addai said on Oct. 20th.  “It’s just the nerve.  That’s the biggest thing, that and getting the strength back.  It could come back any time between now and four or five weeks.”  There you go, on Oct. 20th Addai himself said four or five weeks (I wish Belichick’s players blabbed like that but they would be cut).  Give him the benefit of the doubt and say four weeks – from Oct. 20th – and Addai is back for Week 11 at New England.   Donald Brown and Mike Hart should be rostered in all 12-team leagues nationwide.  Brown missed 3 games with a hamstring and might be OK now, though he’s still not practicing much yet.  It’s nothing but a hunch after watching him play, but I think Hart’s going to be the guy to step up.    

Clinton Portis is about two weeks away from even testing his groin. That injury is nasty and debilitating.  He’s not coming back this year, at least not for fantasy purposes.  For the sake of argument, let’s suppose he starts practicing in a few weeks and is active for Week 13 at the New York Giants.  It’s win-and-get-in for your fantasy postseason.  Are you gonna roll Portis out that day?  He’s gone.  Dump him if you haven’t already.  Pick up Marion Barber or Derrick Ward, anyone with a pulse.

For those of you new to the concept, Rest Of Way (or ROW) rankings mean “How would you rank them from this day forward?”  It’s not to be confused with weekly rankings, which fluctuate wildly to keep up with the action.  Weekly rankings are much more important, frankly - but ROW does assist in your roster management by gauging long-term perspectives:  Personnel moves, remaining strength of schedule, recent trends, etc.  The Huddle has a comprehensive Rest Of Way list updated every week.  Today I’m breaking down Rest Of Way for just the rookie RBs… You should close your eyes if you don’t like thinking outside the box:

1. Jahvid Best – A well-placed bye week can do wonders for a running back, especially a rookie who’s slogged through a brutal Jim Schwartz Titanesque training camp, not to mention four weeks with a jammed toe.  His next 6 games are: vs. Washington (ranked 19th against fantasy RBs), vs. NY Jets (1st), at Buffalo (30th), at Dallas (17th), vs. New England (16th), vs. Chicago (15th).  At least four of those are at home.  Matthew Stafford will give them an emotional lift. 

2. LeGarrette Blount – It’s homer fluff but Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times writes about Blount’s “bowl-you-over, punishing” running style.  You know what?  Stroud’s right.  I’m buying.  Blount had 11 carries for 72 yards last week and his power jumps off the TV screen.  Forget the character issues, he’s a good kid.  Jeff Fisher wanted to keep Blount around as a project but the Titans had a roster squeeze because they keep like a zillion defensive linemen. 

3. Chris Ivory – Put it this way… If you drafted a brand new fantasy team right now, a new season beginning in Week 8, would you draft Ryan Mathews over Ivory?  This kid leads all rookies in avg. per carry (5.5) and rushing yards (325).   But wait, you argue, Best and Mathews have been hurt.  Yeah, so has Ivory.  He sprained his MCL in the preseason finale and didn’t even suit up until Week 3.  UpdatePierre Thomas saw a 3rd foot specialist this week.  Hold onto Ivory, he’s not through yet.

4. Ryan Mathews – Since he returned from the ankle injury Mathews averages 11 total touches per game.  Norv Turner flatly admitted he prefers Darren Sproles over Mathews in pass protection, and Mike Tolbert continues to steal goal-line work.  So Mathews is in a 3-RB committee on a pass-wacky team.  Ouch.  I had reservations about Mathews way back in July but I never thought it would be this bad. 

5. C.J. Spiller – If I said in August that Spiller would only have 1 TD (plus a kick-return TD) after 6 games you would have laughed.  If I had told you that in late October Buffalo would bag 505 yards and 4 TDs at Baltimore -- while Spiller was barely on the field -- you would have demanded that The Huddle fire me.  Anyway, they’ll start getting Spiller more involved soon… won’t they?

6. Deji Karim (Jaguars) – Has anyone noticed that Karim has touched the ball 26 times in the last three games?  And it’s not just mop-up/garbage stuff – last week at Kansas City he had 3 touches in the first 3 offensive series.  Not much, but a trend worth watching.  All I know is, Maurice Jones-Drew’s not a healthy football player.    

7. James Starks (Packers) – You’re a hip fantasy dude if you have Starks sitting on the end of your bench.  He quietly came off PUP and could be activated soon.  The thing is, I’m not hip.  If I’m hoarding a Packers RB it’s gonna be Dimitri Nance from their practice squad.  I’ve seen Starks’ college highlights and he’s too slow in my opinion.

JUMbo Start of the Week:  Bengals RB Cedric Benson.  He’s at home vs. Miami, who have the 10th best defense against fantasy RBs – but that ranking is inflated by matchups against RB-deprived Buffalo, New England, and Green Bay.  Benson’s yet to really get it going this year but I see two reasons why he will vs. Miami.  1) Fellow Longhorn Ricky Williams, Benson’s idol in high school, will be watching on the sidelines, and 2) Benson has a chip on his shoulder after that disastrous 4th quarter fumble at Atlanta last week.

JUMbo 2:00 Offense:

--The Bears have had 10 rushes at the 1-yard line and couldn’t punch it in.
--Josh McDaniels started off 6-0 but is 4-13 since (thanks, Mr. Easterbrook).
--Out of 2009’s top-12 fantasy tight ends, only 6 are in the top-12 this year.
--Dallas Clark & J. Finley are among those 6 but they’ll obviously drop out too.
--The Saints will be without their 3 best CBs (Porter, Gay, Greer) vs. Big Ben.
--Knowshon Moreno grabbed his hamstring again Wednesday.  Here’s a photo.
--Danny Woodhead is a RB, not a WR.  I don’t care what Yahoo! Sports says.
--Don’t throw Sam Bradford a parade yet, he averages a timid 5.7 yds/attempt.
--Eli Manning has 11 INTs, on pace to lead the NFL for the 2nd time in 4 years.
--Marques Colston has 5 catches of 20+ yards.  7 TEs have as many or more.
--T.O. had 10 dropped passes in both 2008 & 2009.  He has 3 so far this year.
--Raiders WR Jacoby Ford will start for the injured Louis Murphy this week.
--Mike Tolbert is 3rd in the NFL with 11 rushing attempts inside the 10-yd line.
--Jamaal Charles averages more yards on grass (6.2) than artificial turf (5.4).
--The Titans have two DLs, Jason Babin & Dave Ball, in the top-8 in sacks.
--Darren McFadden averages 5.5 per carry and is #1 with 111 yards per game.

Prediction A:  I’ve made it a point to watch portions of all Detroit Lions games this year and TE Brandon Pettigrew is about to take his game to the next level. 

Prediction B:  In his next 6 games RB Marshawn Lynch only faces one defense that ranks higher than 20th against fantasy RBs.  He’s going to be delightful.

Digging through my cheerleader photo vault, I found a sizzling young lady from Houston.  That one’s for Huddler Aaron, who requested a Texans gal.   

Good luck this week!

JUM

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