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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 4
David Dorey
October 3, 2011
 
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Aaron Rodgers 444 6
Cam Newton 409 3
Michael Vick 491 2
Tarvaris Jackson 335 3
Tony Romo 331 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Beanie Wells 138 3
Matt Forte 228 1
Arian Foster 166 1
Michael Turner 88 2
Frank Gore 135 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Hakeem Nicks 162 1
Wes Welker 158 1
Calvin Johnson 96 2
Steve Smith 181 0
Eric Decker 56 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Jimmy Graham 132 1
Jason Witten 94 1
Jared Cook 93 1
Jermaine Gresham 70 1
Owen Daniels 69 1
Placekickers XPT FG
Ryan Succop 1 5
Matt Bryant 3 3
Nick Novak 2 4
Dan Bailey 3 3
John Kasay 2 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Ravens 3 2 4
Jets 2 2 3
Lions 2 1 3
Packers 1 1 4
Bears 2 0 1

Bumps, Bruises and bowouts

Ben Roethlisberger - Foot injury
Chad Henne - Shoulder injury
Andre Johnson - Hamstring
Rashard Mendenhall - Hamstring
Ben Tate - Groin injury
Mike Williams (SEA) - Concussion

Ten random observations

1. After four games, we can start to make some conclusions. We have enough samples to counteract a bad game or a lucky play or two. And that means that Cam Newton will be a top five quarterback in the drafts next summer. Maybe higher than that. He comes off a 374 yard passing effort in Chicago with one score and then added two more touchdowns via the run. In four games, he has 1386 passing yards and five touchdowns and then 133 rush yards and four more touchdowns as a runner. He has revived Steve Smith to the point that he should be checked for steroids. And he has become the third head of the backfield in rushing and often the highest scoring one. What are the Panthers going to be like if they acquire a couple more really good receivers?

2. One of the biggest surprises that no one talks about has to be Matt Hasselbeck who is responsible for the 3-1 start for the Titans. He is averaging 288 yards and two scores per game for an offense that has not seen that sort of passing production since... ever? And Kenny Britt is out but Hasselbeck still throws for 220 yards and three scores yesterday and finally had some rushing support for the first time. The change of scenery has not only been good for Hasselbeck, it has been great for the Titans.

3. Another player to rethink - Beanie Wells. He had 90+ yards and a score in both his first games but that was against the Panthers and Redskins. Then he had the obligatory hamstring strain and missed week three. He was limited in practice and a game time decision on Sunday but ended up playing. And he had a career best 138 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries against the visiting Giants. Wells has been a huge disappointment in his first two years but 90+ rushing yards in his three games played says this Wells is not the same one we thought we knew.

4. Looks like the Chiefs are just going to go with not having a rushing game this year. Thomas Jones (11-37) is not the answer and they even rolled out Jackie Battle (5-22) . Dexter McCluster only gained 26 yards on seven runs and worse yet, had just three catches for 12 yards. The Vikings secondary was rather accommodating for the wideouts yesterday and that won't always happen. But for the running backs - looks like a wasteland with nothing on tap to solve the problem.

5. How amazing is Wes Welker? He has redefined what a slot player can do. Sure, he is a small white dude who normally would only get to play kick returner but he has redefined the position. In Oakland, he had 158 yards on nine catches while the most anyone else managed was 26 yards on two catches by Chad Ochocinco. Welker has 616 yards through the first four weeks. He already has 40 catches. That is a pace for him to end with 160 receptions for 2464 yards so he has a lot of bad games coming up or he is going to shatter receiving records. He alone is making slot receivers become primary or secondary targets - not the old two or three passes per game. The question - can he possibly hold up under this workload?

6. Been a month but we finally got to see Arian Foster back to health and it was a wondrous thing to behold. Against the tougher Steeler rush defense, Foster ended with 155 yards on 30 carries with one score and three catches for 11 yards. Plus Ben Tate hurt his groin and left Foster all alone again. With Andre Johnson likely out with a hamstring strain, Foster is going to have to be the entire offense next week when the Raiders visit. After that, the Texans go to Baltimore for a real test. But Foster is back and looking like he never left.

7. The league should outlaw Calvin Johnson or at least make him wear boxing gloves and ankle weights when he plays. Otherwise, it just does not seem fair. He has now scored twice in each of his first four games. There were only 13 wideouts in 2010 with more than eight touchdowns and those were over 16 games, not four. Johnson is on a pace for 32 scores that won't happen. Then again no one has caught two scores in four straight games to start the season. And apparently no one in the NFL can cover him for a jump ball in the endzone. They might as well let the defensive backs carry big fishing nets to make it even.

8. Heads up! This is our first bye week and the Ravens, Cowboys, Browns, Dolphins, Rams and Redskins will be out. Make your lineup moves to cover any players out. And this is going to be interesting too since six teams are out and more significant injuries are happening and will continue. That could really shift the fortunes of fantasy teams in the coming weeks. Not a bad time to rethink your choice to not carry the actual NFL backup to your star players. Bye weeks and injuries can really change the standings.

9. Have to be impressed by the two top rookie wideouts. A.J. Green has already had his second 100 yard game while playing with a rookie quarterback. Granted - last week was only 29 yards on four catches but games of 124 and 118 yards sandwiched that. Julio Jones just turned in 11 receptions for 127 yards and he had 115 yards just last Sunday. Name the next best rookie wideout? Torrey Smith who had a monster game in week three and just comes off a one catch effort for one yard against the Jets this week. So basically - only those two have any real fantasy value and they are getting good very quickly.

10. There are now only four teams without a win. The Rams, the Vikings, the Dolphins and the Colts. The Vikings are a mild surprise but lost receivers and quarterbacks and are installing a new system. The Colts have no changes other than losing Peyton Manning. The Rams are actually better personnel wise but apparently unable to get the new offense installed and running. The Dolphins are trying out a new offense with younger players. Hard to believe one of these will get the first overall pick in the draft but so far nothing is looking up for any of the three. And do Steve Spagnuolo,Leslie Frazier, Tony Sparano and Jim Caldwell all keep their jobs? Can you really blame all of IND's woes on Manning? Or was he just the one covering up everything else? Who will be the first coach fired? I am going with Sparano for now. Just a hunch.

To the waiver wire!

The new guys showing up are getting thin already. But here are some considerations:

WR Jon Baldwin (KC) - The rookie with a bad attitude and even worse ability to pick a fight was limited in practice last week and then made inactive. But he should show up in the very new future and might be worth a stash if you have roster room on the chance that he turns into anything. He was drafted with the 1.26 pick and was the third wideout drafted overall. The Chiefs certainly need the help but he may not turn into anything this year.

Isaac Redman (PIT) - Rashard Mendenhall injured his hamstring this week and may need to sit out next week when they host the Titans. Redman rushed for 40 yards on six carries in the Houston game.

WR Laurent Robinson (DAL) - Likely not much future and on bye this week anyway, but he has impressed the coaches enough that he may end up as the #3 over Kevin Ogletree when they return and he's be one spot behind an injury prone Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Robinson had seven catches for 116 yards this week.

QB Andy Dalton (CIN) - Since quarterbacks are getting injured and bye weeks are looming, most all quarterbacks end up on rosters just in case and Dalton is worth a potential bye week cover with the right matchup. He had 298 yards and a score against the Bills and also rushed in another touchdown. He ended with 332 yards and two scores in Denver. Coming up he has @JAC, IND a bye week and then @SEA. If you are in a pinch, he is getting better and might not kill you for one week if you are having QB problems.

Sunday Snippets

CAR 29, CHI 34 Great game and a GOTW contender. Devin Hester scored his 11th punt return TD for an NFL record. Matt Forte set his own personal best with 25 carries for 205 yards. But the Bears offense did little else while the Panthers are the most dangerous 1-3 team in the league. Cam Newton is still passing for major yardage (374) and Steve Smith (8-181) is right back to where he started in the first two weeks. Just to indicate the change in this team, consider that they rushed for 169 yards. That was DeAngelo Williams (10-82), Jonathan Stewart (8-52) and Newton (8-35, 2 TD). Not often that a team has that many rushing yards and no running backs with much of a fantasy game.
BUF 20, CIN 23 Upset! The Bills were becoming the darlings of the AFC East but maybe beating the Pats last week left them a bit flat. How else to explain why Ryan Fitzpatrick only passed for 199 yards and no scores? The Bengals scored with an Andy Dalton run with four minutes left and then got the ball back and kicked the game winning field goal as time expired. The surprises were Dalton with 298 yards and two scores and even Cedric Benson rushed for 104 yards on 19 carries. A.J. Green turned four passes into 118 yards and Jermaine Gresham (4-70, TD) had another big game. A down week for the Bills but out of the division. And the Bengals are now 2-2 with a rookie quarterback.
TEN 31, CLE 13 The Titans are 3-1 and had no problems with a trip to Cleveland. Not only did Matt Hasselbeck pass for three touchdowns but Chris Johnson rushed for 101 yards on 23 carries. That's more than his three game total coming into the game.The Browns had Colt McCoy throwing 61 times for 350 yards and one touchdown, The only interesting thing about this game was that Peyton Hillis (10-46) is being ruined by Montario Hardesty (7-22). And the rookie Greg Little was the best receiver for the Browns with 57 yards on six carries. But Chris Johnson is back! At least until next week in Pittsburgh.
PIT 10, HOU 17 Low scoring, mostly snoring game. This game saw numerous injuries - Andre Johnson (hamstring), Rashard Mendenhall (hamstring), Ben Tate (groin) and even Big Ben was hobbled after the game with a bad foot. The big news is that Arian Foster (30-155, TD) finally paid back his owners in a big way But Mike Wallace (4-77) finally did not score. This game changed up many fantasy teams with all the injuries and not much else. The Texans are 3-1 now in the wide open AFC South.
NO 23, JAX 10 Saints playing down to the competition. At least in the red zone when they accepted field goals. Once again Darren Sproles has taken over the Saints with 7-75 rushing and 5-56 receiving. Jimmy Graham (10-132, TD) was the only Saints receiver with any decent stats or a score. Maurice Jones-Drew (11-84) was effective but mostly all in the second half of the losing affair. Blaine Gabbert (16 of 42 for 196 yards, TD and one interception) was wildly inaccurate at times and is making the Jags worthy of following each week with your fantasy defense. Mike Thomas managed to end with five catches for 73 yards but not much was happening in this game.
MIN 17, KC 22 Someone had to win. Adrian Peterson (23-80) was held at bay but Donovan McNabb (202 yards, 2 TD) was better than usual even if he had no receivers do much. Matt Cassel (260 yards, TD) connected with Dwayne Bowe (5-107, TD) once the defender fell down and even Steve Breaston (4-91) had a decent showing. The Chiefs rushing game is still a mess and four different running backs combined for 83 yards on 24 carries with no one gaining more than 37 yards. The only thing this game did was give the Chiefs a win that may have not happened for a very long time otherwise. The Vikings are already thinking about making changes since 0-4 means standing pat "aint working".
SF 24, PHI 23 Definite contender for GOTW and a nice upset no less. Other than that whole scoring thing, the Eagles had a great game. Michael Vick passed for 416 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 75 yards. DeSean Jackson (6-171) was on fire and Jeremy Maclin (7-74) was effective up until that part about losing the fumble at the SF 31-yard line that could have been a game-winning field goal. LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing until this week, playing AT HOME and against the visiting 49ers. He only managed 18 yards on nine carries. The Eagles led 23-3 in the third quarter before allowing 21 unanswered points by the 49ers. This is where it gets surreal and you should play the song "This Magic Moment" while you read it. . Frank Gore - the injured one barely able to play - ran 15 times for 127 yards and one score. Michael Crabtree (5-68) and Josh Morgan (3-65, TD) both were actually productive and mattered. Kendall Hunter played sparingly because of Gore but did have a 44 yard catch and ended with 100 total yards. Alex Smith passed for 291 yards and two scores with no turnovers. This was like the 49ers offense all worked. The 1-3 Eagles are no longer considered quite the powerhouse they seemed on paper. All this in front of a hometown crowd that just saw the Giants wax them last week.
WAS 17, STL 10 This was as much of a snooze-fest as expected. Sam Bradford (164, TD) is about to be asked to return the R.O.Y. tiara from last year. Steven Jackson (17-45) could not run but did score on his four catches for 19 yards. Someone needs to check to see if new OC Josh McDaniels' playbooks were written in Spanish by mistake because nothing is working for the 0-4 Rams who are erasing any gains made last season. The only interesting part of the game was that the Redskins are now using three running backs so the game is to guess which one has a good effort. Roy Helu (8-35) and Tim Hightower (8-24) were incorrect answers this week since Ryan Torain (19-135, TD) just made this an official cluster... mess. And somewhere in Washington D.C., Mike Shanahan is laughing an evil laugh.
NYG 31, ARZ 27 Another GOTW contender. Eli Manning (321, 2 TD) was the good Eli this week and Hakeem Nicks (10-162, TD) had a monster game along with Victor Cruz (6-98) but the Giants had only 57 rush yards on 21 carries despite both Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs scoring once. Kevin Kolb (237 yds) was fairly quiet while not only did Beanie Wells play, but the game time decision went on to roll up 138 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. Not bad for questionable and "iffy" to play. Larry Fitzgerald (8-102) took most all the passes from Kolb. Good game and the Giants scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to win the game with 2:46 left when Nicks had a 29-yard score for the winner. The Giants are 3-1 and still a force in the NFC East while the 1-3 Cardinals are still better off playing in their own division. The fun play in this game was when Victor Cruz caught a long pass and then crumpled on the ground when surrounded by three defenders. He lost the ball before being touched but instead of it being a lost fumble that would have preserved a win for the Cardinals, it was called a play where the receiver "gave himself up" and that it was not challengeable.
ATL 30, SEA 28 Another very close game with good points. And another head scratcher. Somehow Tarvaris Jackson passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns which was roughly his total stats of last year. That was a record performance by Jackson whose memory chest is full of mostly sub-200 yard games. He used nine different receivers with Sidney Rice (3-79, TD) still a factor every week. Beast-mode Marshawn Lynch scored once with eight carries for 24 yards. Matt Ryan (291, TD) has a decent game with Julio Jones (11-127) setting a team rookie record for catches in a game and Roddy White (6-78) producing nice but non-gaudy numbers. This game went off like the 49ers - Eagles game. The Falcons led 24-7 at the half but then were outscored 21-6 in the second half. The Seahawks tried a 61-yard field goal with 13 seconds left to win the game but came up short and to the left. But hey - go figure. Close game.
DEN 23, GB 49 Finally. A good, thorough butt-whooping like we expected. This was a fantasy nirvana game. Kyle Orton passed for 273 yards and three touchdowns. Willis McGahee had 113 total yards and Brandon Lloyd (8-136) and Eric Decker (5-56, 2 TD) were both big. Aaron Rodgers alone destroyed a lot of fantasy opponents this week when he passed for 408 yards and four scores and then added two more touchdowns and 36 yards on his nine runs. Greg Jennings (7-103, TD) and Jordy Nelson (5-91, TD) were both productive according to the weekly script though Jermichael Finley (3-28) was quiet. And Starks got the backfield to himself but only ended with 13 runs for 63 yards and five catches that totaled 38 more yards. This is why we play fantasy football. Great game, predictably so for most players and tons of fantasy points to split up.
NE 31, OAK 19 The Pats won this and led from the first quarter but the Raiders made it look like more of a game than it was. In our bizarro weekend, Jason Campbell passed for 344 yards and one touchdown that once again ended up with Denarius Moore (3-19) at the very end of the game. Darius Heyward-Bey (4-115) and Kevin Boss (4-78) both played way over their heads thanks to the always welcoming New England secondary. Darren McFadden only managed 123 total yards. But Tom Brady cooled off too with just 226 yards and two scores that almost entirely went to Wes Welker (9-158, TD). Just imagine what it would be like if you could combine Stevan Ridley (10-97, TD) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (16-75, TD)! Now forget about it because you would always pick the wrong guy.
MIA 16, SD 26 The Fins did pretty well considering they lost Chad Henne on the second series of the game and was without Daniel Thomas. Brandon Marshall was the best Dolphin player with 52 yards on five catches. No Thomas and no Henne and this team did not look like it was going to change their winless streak anytime soon. The Chargers seemed to play down to them more with Philip Rivers only posting one touchdown on his 307 passing yards and Ryan Mathews ending with 81 yards on 16 carries and Mike Tolbert stealing the touchdown run. Vincent Jackson only caught three passes but gained 108 yards and a score for about the only big performance by anyone on either team. It was just a "meh" game that you hate because you know the Chargers could have scored a lot more if they were motivated. But the Henne-less 0-4 Dolphins are not going to make anyone work any harder.
NYJ 17, BAL 34 We had a Sunday last week without any defensive or special teams scores. This one had five. There was nothing happening offensively on either side. The game would have been 13-3 without the defenses and special teams. No receiver had more than 37 yards and only Ray Rice turned in a decent game with 130 total yards and one score. Otherwise this was a defensive extravaganza. It started with a 107 yard touchdown on a kick return, then had two fumbles and two interceptions returned for touchdowns. If you had a defense in the game, it was great fun. Less so if you were counting on anyone besides Ray Rice.

Huddle Player of the Week

Aaron Rodgers - Sure, he just won the last Super Bowl and he was a top pick for quarterback in fantasy drafts this year, so we expect big things from the Packers quarterback. But most weeks will not serve up 408 passing yards with four touchdowns and then 36 yards on nine runs with two rushing touchdowns. That'll win a few leagues. He became the first player in NFL history with 400 pass yards, 4 pass TDs and 2 rush TDs in the same game.

Salute!

Drama 101 - Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Yards TDs Tragedy Yards TDs
QB Tarvaris Jackson 335 3 QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 199 0
RB Ryan Torain 135 1 RB Peyton Hillis 68 0
RB Lex Hilliard 38 1 RB Tim Hightower 28 0
WR Josh Morgan 65 1 WR Andre Johnson 36 0
WR Darius Heyward-Bey 115 0 WR Brandon Marshall 52 0
WR James Jones 48 1 WR Steve Johnson 58 0
TE Jared Cook 93 1 TE Rob Gronkowski 15 0
PK Ryan Succop 1 XP 5 FG PK Shaun Suisham 1 XP 1 FG

Huddle Fantasy Points = 123

Huddle Fantasy Points = 31

Sunday's Couch Commentary

Fascinating week. We had nine games end with one touchdown or less difference in the score. The Eagles came out and were beaten by the visiting 49ers? The Bears barely held off the visiting Panthers? The Chargers beat the Fins but made it look like it was hard? This is the spot in the season when several teams each week will come out flat after being "up" for a month. Especially after a big emotional win or before a really big divisional game the following week. Every week focus is hard to maintain and even hard to predict.

There were several games deserving of the Game-O-The-Week. And yet just one was selected.

Detroit 34, Dallas 30

This was a tale of two half's.

The Cowboys were at home with Tony Romo, Felix Jones and Dez Bryant all banged up and nursing injuries. Bryant was a game time decision because of his quadriceps that he tweaked in practices. All three would be active.

The Lions first series ended in an interception and the Cowboys responded with a seven play drive that ended with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Bryant. Yeah - he was feeling better.

The Cowboys got their second score at the start of the second quarter when Bryant - again - was there for a six-yard touchdown. The same guy who was limited in Wednesday practice, hurt himself and then missed all practices on Thursday and Friday not only played but scored twice in the first 20 minutes of the game.

Dallas would add two more field goals before halftime while the Lions could only manage one field goal for a 20-3 deficit. It wasn't even that close. The third quarter opened with Tony Romo passing to Jason Witten for a touchdown to end their six-play, 44 yard drive. 27-3 and what could possibly go wrong?

The Lions had a fruitless series and punted to the Dallas 27-yard line with 10:30 left in the third quarter. On first down, Romo threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by ex-Cowboy linebacker Bobby Carpenter who was incidentally in Tony Romo's wedding this summer.

The Cowboys took the ensuing kickoff and marched to the DET 48-yard line in seven plays when on third-and-two, Romo throws a second interception which is returned 56 yards for a second touchdown.. With 5:34 left in the third quarter, the Lions are only being 17-27.

The Cowboys are shaken but puts together a nice drive that ends with the Cowboys not being able to score from the nine-yard line for three plays and and they kick another field goal. The Cowboys lead comfortably 30-17.

Only the fourth quarter starts and the Lions only need five plays to go 80 yards and have Matt Stafford throw an offensive touchdown to Calvin Johnson who merely out jumps three defenders that surround him. It looked like a synchronized swimming thing only without the water. The Lions trail 30-24.

The Cowboys then a re unable to convert for a first down after the kickoff and punts to the Detroit 33-yard line. But there is some really funky feeling in the air. Like the winds of inevitability. Or just the joy and terror of playing with Tony Romo. The Lions reach midfield but are forced to punt. Dallas takes over on their own three yard line with 9:39 left to play. They are held to a punt and the Lions take over with 7:36 left to play and their drive finally stalls at the DAL 33-yard line where Jason Hanson kicks a field goal to draw to a 30-27 deficit.

All Dallas has to do is take the ball on their 20-yard line and burn up the last 4:22 on the clock and get the hell out of there.

Well. The Romo factor was not yet over. On first down, he throws over the middle and is intercepted. First down. Not even a clock burning run.

The Lions have the ball with 4:13 left to play at the DAL 40-yard line and only need a tying field goal. Two passes later and they are on the DAL 16-yard line. Two runs later and they are on he DAL 4-yard line. On third and three, the Lions throw an incompletion but there is Defensive Holding and first down at the 2-yard line. Why wait?

Single coverage on Calvin Johnson split wide at the end zone is like playing russian roulette with a semi-automatic handgun. One play and Johnson is landing in the endzone with his second touchdown of the game and the Lions lead 34-30.

It was enough. Though the Cowboys had 1:39 left to play, they only reached the DAL 45-yard line and ended with a short pass to Felix Jones instead of deep strike to the endzone. It was the whimper instead of the bang. And the Cowboys meltdown was a franchise record after leading by 24 points. And the Lions now become the first team in NFL history with two consecutive games won after trailing by at least 20 points in each.

Four weeks into the season and we are seeing upsets and teams playing down and others playing over their head. More injuries and now bye weeks to mix it all up more. Look at your league standings and know that all tose teams could be 4-4 a month from now. Now is when changes are really going to start and when your depth is going to matter. And some of the best players this week were injury question marks coming into the game. Wells and Gore and Bryant played very well. Marques Colston, Roddy White and Steven Jackson were less productive in similar situations. It's all fantasy football and it was never supposed to be easy.

That's why winning is so much fun. And so hard to be consistent. Just ask Tony Romo.

Now get back to work...


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