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JUMbotron Friday Huddle: Week 6
John U. Miller
October 14, 2011

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Prediction A:  TE ____ _____ will catch 6+ passes and 1 TD at home vs. ____ and resume his climb into the elite group of fantasy TEs.

Prediction B:  WR ____ _____ will have a breakout game at home vs. the struggling ____ secondary, who give up more 40+ yard pass plays per game than any team. ____ has scored in four straight Monday Night appearances.

I’ll fill in those blanks in a few minutes…

We’re past the quarter-turn and my three JUMbotron fantasy teams are all doing OK.  Middle of the pack, deep benches, few injuries… but there’s a subtle malaise setting in.  Aside from a couple money players, I’m scratching and clawing for what I get.  All of my teams were built WR-heavy-and-early, with Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith, Andre Johnson, Roddy White, and Brandon Marshall all mixed throughout my squads.  Nate Washington was a late pick in two leagues.  I’m fine in that dept.  Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates are a common denominator so you can imagine how tense I am about that.  Roethlisberger, Flacco and Kolb are my backup QBs.  I will add that Brandon Pettigrew is my TE2 across the board.  He’s helped.  Team Defense By Committee flopped but I shoveled the trash off my lawn quickly and grabbed up the energetic Bills defense.  They are a true “fantasy D”, giving up eleventy-thousand yards per game but causing turnovers and scoring TDs almost every week.  My mid-round RB shopping landed me Beanie Wells, Cedric Benson, Darren Sproles, Willis McGahee, DeAngelo Williams, and Felix Jones – which hasn’t been so bad, though I’m playing a shell game for sure.  Despite my huge man-crush on Matt Forte, I didn’t roster him on any team because I tried to get cute:  In one league I passed on him at #8, feeling so sure he’d come back to me.  Nope, one pick before mine in the 2nd round.  Value Schmalue, go get the guy you want!  By the way, here’s a quick reminder – and because it sounds so cool to repeat it – JUMbotron ranked Matt Forte #5 in the preseason, highest in the fantasy football industry.

But I digress… Fantasy football is a beautiful struggle that I know you all understand.  You’re seeing and thinking so many things about so many players.  “Will he ever score a TD?” “Should I do this trade?” “Is this matchup really that easy for him?” “What’s his schedule going forward?”  Tensions are creeping higher too.  Your struggling leaguemates – namely the 1-4 and 0-5 guys – are floating desperately questionable trade offers that test the scales of justice.  “Garage sale trades” are what I call them.  Commissioners are being asked to rule on all kinds of crap.  We’re knee-deep in it, folks.  On top of all this, if you’re writing thousands and thousands of words every week about these players (like David Dorey’s 5,000-6,000 word Tunnel Vision every Monday) the mind starts to burp and expel random thoughts… mostly about players you don’t own or have a vested interest in.  For me, these flashes and images often go unshared in my columns; maybe because I’m away from the keyboard for a pee-break, and Poof!  Gone.  “What was that thought I had about Romo?”  I’m tossing out 3 Fresh JUMbo Hunches before they sink back into that fist-sized pile of neurons I call a brain:

1. Rex Grossman is about to reload and make a run at the fantasy top-10 QBs.  Deion Sanders is a huge Rexy fan (more on that below) and says he’s due for a breakout.  I usually take Deion’s analysis for entertainment purposes only – but lately he’s been making amazingly prescient observations.  The Skins are as healthy as they’ll ever be – and Rex’s schedule is nice: PHI (ranked 19th vs. fantasy QBs), CAR (9th), BUF (30th), SF (18th), MIA (27th).  I can’t help but think this 31-year old QB is about to blossom into a consistent playmaker.    

2. Felix Jones is going to shape an everlasting fantasy reputation over the next 3 games.  No more excuses.  The mildly dislocated shoulder is 110% healthy after the bye.  Marion Barber is gone.  Miles Austin is back to stretch and widen the football field.  Marion Barber is gone (did I already say that?).  Those next 3 Cowboys games are:  NE (ranked 25th vs. fantasy RBs), STL (29th), PHI (32nd).  I’ll take it a step further – I personally guarantee I’m starting a healthy Felix in each of the next 3 games.  We’ll re-visit this proclamation in the Week 9 JUMbotron.

3. Donald Brown is going to be a mini-Match Light.  Remember my Match Light theory?  There are a few mid-season RB breakouts each year that spark a fantasy team like charcoal.  Julius Jones, Domanick Davis, Jamaal Charles, etc.  I’m certainly not seeing a J-Chaz type explosion but a nice 3-game run could be Brown’s for the taking.  Joseph Addai has a hamstring pull and they say he’ll miss a week or two, but you know it’s going to be three.  Delone Carter has been flaccid and dull (3.0 per carry) in spot duty – but Brown got his very first carries last week and looked spry

I’ve been criminally undervaluing Michael Crabtree.  I was excessively hard on him back in August (while he missed camp with a lingering foot problem) when I wrote, “Crabtree’s not on my draft board until he proves he can play football.”  And lo and behold, he wasn’t on my draft board, which was just silly.  A guy in one of my leagues picked him in the 16th round and is pretty happy now.  The thing is, Crabtree can play football.  His surgically-repaired left foot is finally 100 percent and I awoke to that fact two weeks ago when Crabtree burned Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha for a 38-yard reception.  Going back through his last 16 full healthy games – I don’t count Week 1 this year because he was limping – Crabtree has 59 catches for 788 yards and 6 TDs.  That’s not bad, given the erratic quarterbacking and the fact that San Francisco switched offensive coordinators on the fly last season.  I’ll also point out that Crabtree has had 2 TD catches negated by penalty in the last 10 games (Week 3 this year, Week 10 last year), both of them on horrible officiating. 

Crabtree played 43 of 61 snaps in Week 4 vs. the Eagles as he worked up his conditioning, and caught 5 passes for 68 yards.  Last week he only played 21 snaps in the blowout win because the 49ers were running it down the Buccaneers’ gullet.  49ers OC Greg Roman deployed a 2-TE set 64% of the time while rotating Crabtree, Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams, and Josh Morgan in and out.  I noticed Crabtree laying superb blocks left and right, springing Morgan loose on one pass play -- and I believe he will be rewarded for that.  Jim Harbaugh made it a point to high-five Crabtree after one drive where he never touched the ball.  Going into Week 6 I’m very high on Crabtree at Detroit.  The ground & pound stuff might keep the Lions offense off the field for a while, but eventually the Niners are going to have throw it.  Josh Morgan is now out for the year with a broken leg too.  Alex Smith is “planting and sticking throws” according to NFL Network’s Brian Billick.  The Lions tend to do the Jim Schwartz-Titans thing and rely on pressure from only the front-four and I think the 49ers offensive line can protect Smith and allow him to hit Crabtree like thisMichael Crabtree is my JUMbo 12-Team WR3 Start of the Week.

Were you the one that grabbed Torrey Smith after that 3-TD jobbie in Week 3?  I bet ya started him the next week and got goose-egged vs. the Jets, right?  Then the bye week came and totally snuffed out Smith’s fantasy glow.  You dropped him?  Sure, lots of people did.  No one is talking about him now, even as a flex.

Torrey Smith is my JUMbo 12-Team Flex Start of the Week.  Let me explain where I’m coming from.  1) It’s a nasty WR bye week that wipes out Larry Fitzgerald, Nate Washington, Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd, Sidney Rice, Eric Decker, Doug Baldwin, Early Doucet, and Damian Williams.  A lot of us are hurting at the WR position and digging through the garage for a Danario Alexander or Harry Douglas.  No thanks.  2) It wasn’t like Smith totally disappeared in Week 4 vs. NYJ:  Rex Ryan actually put Darrelle Revis on the rookie for almost 50 percent of his snaps by my count.  That’s respect, folks.  On the 6th play of the game Joe Flacco almost hit Smith on a 38-yard TD with Revis trailing a full step behind – but Flacco overthrew him.  3) Lee Evans has a bum ankle and tried to practice Wednesday but couldn’t.  “It wasn’t 100 percent, obviously. It was some pain, but I was able to at least get out there and run around for a little bit.”  Even if Evans is active I believe he’s in John Harbaugh’s doghouse and not necessarily hurt that bad.  I’m surprised no one else (Mort? Adam?) has picked up on my doghouse vibe.  The Ravens host the Texans, who rank 6th in pass defense – but I think there’s some smoke and mirrors here:  Houston faced a shell-shocked Peyton-less Colts offense in Week 1, then Chad Henne and the erratic Dolphins in Week 2.  Over the last three games the Texans have allowed Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Darrius Heyward-Bey to make big plays. 

Which WRs do more with less?

WR Fantasy Points Per Target (Min 15 Targets)
Wide Receiver FP T FP/T
Torrey Smith 34 15 2.27
Devery Henderson 40 18 2.22
Calvin Johnson 99 47 2.11
Dez Bryant 36 17 2.11
Victor Cruz 57 29 1.97
Miles Austin 47 24 1.96
Mike Wallace 72 38 1.89
Greg Jennings 69 38 1.82
Pierre Garcon 66 37 1.78
Jordy Nelson 49 28 1.75

Ok, this well-sculptured Saints fan is not a cheerleader but she’s obviously supporting her team… and my blood pressure is Rah-Rah-Risin’!! (10-to-1 Dude wallpapered the pic on his Blackberry)

Saints RBs Snap Count:  Darren Sproles 165, Pierre Thomas 116, Mark Ingram 112.  Sproles remains the No. 1 RB.  Again, it seems undesirable to be in a 3-man RBBC but this is no ordinary committee:  New Orleans has run 364 offensive snaps, most in the NFL.  More cookies in the jar.  They’ve had 24 trips into the red zone, #2 in the NFL.  More delicious cookies in the jar.  Sproles’ carries/targets by down this season: 22 on 1st down, 24 on 2nd down, 23 on 3rd down.  He’s touched the ball 57 times via run or pass – 11 per game – and continues to lead all RBs with 7.88 yards on every touch from scrimmage.  Sproles also has 23 more touches on returns and took a punt to the house in Week 1.  Thomas finally scored a touchdown on his patented swing-screen from Drew Brees, a play that’s been called for Sproles 80% of the time this year.  Ingram ranks 7th in the league with 10 carries inside the 10-yard line but has only managed 1 TD off them; last week vs. the Panthers. 

More Saints stuff:  Drew Brees is on pace for an NFL-record 701 pass attempts.  The current mark is 691 by Drew Bledsoe (NE ’94).  Brees would also hold 4 of the top-8 attempt totals of all time.  Remember, no one wanted Brees in the 2006 free-agency market just because he tore his labrum in the 2005 season finale.  Miami flirted with Brees but ended up signing Daunte Culpepper, who was coming off a November knee injury with a torn ACL, MCL, and PCL.

Speaking of Miami, Reggie Bush reportedly limped around the team facility Thursday afternoon with an ice-pack on his knee.  The bad left knee.  The one he’s had three operations on.  Isn’t it ironic that Miami wouldn’t sign Drew Brees with a torn labrum but they signed Bush despite a clear history of cartilage problems and surgeries.  Hell, I could have told Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland that Bush was a health risk.  I’m not a doctor, but I once issued a comprehensive diagnosis of Marshall Faulk’s knee problems back in 2001.  Wow, did you see that date on that old article?  August 17, 2001.  I’ve been in this business a long time, my lads.  Furthermore, I said two months ago that Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas won’t hold up. “Thomas is not 6’1, he’s 6’2½.  He’s too tall and his legs are easy targets,” I wrote on Aug. 16th.  “I have a bad feeling here.  Looks like a nice talent, though – very quick feet for a big guy, like Brandon Jacobs.  But I think he’s going to get hurt.”  Thomas’ hamstring is reportedly near 100 percent but I would proceed with caution on a Monday night lineup choice.  And he’s playing the Jets for God’s sake.  JUMbo Whisper:  Steve Slaton’s going to get his turn very soon, mark my words.

October 14, 2008:  “I thought Michael did a heck of a job.  If you play like that, you get the opportunity to have more playing time.” – Mike Shanahan on Denver RB Michael Pittman.  Pittman was named the starter and carried 20 times for 88 yards that Sunday.  The next week he carried 7 times for 4 yards.  Two days later, on Nov. 4th, he went on injured reserve with a neck injury.  On Dec. 30th Pittman told reporters he wasn’t sure why he went on IR and “could have kept playing.”

October 12, 2011: “Ryan had a heck of a game (against the Rams).  Any time a guy is averaging seven yards a carry, you’re sure going to give him an opportunity to show us what he can do.” – Mike Shanahan on RB Ryan Torain.

Have I ever posted a Jets cheerleader photo in this column?  I don’t recall it.  Meredith, you might have just made my active roster.

Can you believe that BenJarvus Green-Ellis single-handedly whipped the Jets like a tied-up goat and then jams his toe in Wednesday’s practice?  I swear, watching Green-Ellis run in the 4th quarter last week conjured up images of ex-Patriot Corey Dillon – another guy who inflicted more bruises later in games.  I was in love with BGE for the very first time.  On Tuesday morning I drew up a trade offer – DeAngelo Williams & Reggie Wayne for Law Firm & Santana Moss – but by the time I got around to sending it, the reports trickled out that BGE was limited with a toe injury.  Then he totally missed Thursday.  “The Patriots had some eyebrow-raising absences at practice [Thursday], with RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis and DT Vince Wilfork both missing the work,” wrote Ian Rappaport of the Boston Herald.

Things I’ve Noticed That Perhaps You Haven’t:

--Not only has Buffalo’s defense scored in 3 straight weeks, they also had another TD called back against the Bengals in Week 4.
--49ers LG Mike Iupati (knee) has not practiced and could miss the Lions game.
--Panthers WR Legedu Naanee has 8 red-zone targets, Steve Smith has 5.
--Owen Daniels and Scott Chandler lead all TEs with 9 red-zone targets each.  However, Daniels has 34 overall targets (ranked 7th) and Chandler only has 15.
--Willis McGahee ranks 12th among all RBs with 102 “plays” this year – combined carries & targets from The Huddle Stats – just one less than LeSean McCoy’s 103.
--Texans K Neil Rackers is on pace to be a top-5 guy for the second straight year.
--Percy Harvin has almost as many carries (7) as catches (9) over the last 3 games.
--Over his last 10 full healthy games Matthew Stafford averages 270 passing yards and 2.6 TD passes.  If you extrapolate to 16 games it’s a 4320-yard/42-TD season.
--Tom Brady is 8th all-time with 275 TD passes.  At his current pace he’ll end the season with 306 and rank 5th all-time ahead of John Elway, Warren Moon, & Johnny Unitas.
--Knowshon Moreno only played 20 snaps last week vs. San Diego and 18 of them were obvious pass plays.  (Thanks to Mike Clay)
--Tennessee will come out of the bye week with 3 straight home games vs. Houston (without LB Mario Williams), Indianapolis, and Cincinnati.
--San Diego will come out of the bye week with the easiest 6-week fantasy QB schedule in the league:  NYJ (ranked 2nd vs. fantasy QBs), KC (21st), GB (29th), OAK (28th), CHI (26th), and DEN (32nd).
--Dallas is at New England this week with a healthy Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.  The Patriots rank 32nd against fantasy WRs.
--TE leaders in targets per game:  Jason Witten 10.5, Jimmy Graham 9.6, Aaron Hernandez 9.0, Tony Gonzalez 8.2, Ed Dickson 8.0, Ben Watson 7.5, Brandon Pettigrew 7.2, Kellen Winslow 7.2. 
--The Redskins defense leads the league with 3.75 sacks per game and is ranked 5th in opposing QB completion percentage at 54.6%.
--Falcons CB Chris Owens (concussion) and SS William Moore (shoulder) are out vs. Carolina.  Moore’s replacement James Sanders is going to play with a tender hamstring.
--The Huddle’s Steve Gallo (‘keggerz’ on the Forums) is 5-0 in the 2011 SOFA IDP Experts League

JUMbo Recreational Wager of the Week:

New Orleans (-4.5) at Tampa Bay:  Um, is it just or me or did Vegas miss the boat on this one?  Bucs DT Gerald McCoy -- their second-best football player -- who leads them in QB pressures and tackles for loss, is likely out with a knee injury.  If McCoy can’t go then rookie DE Da'Quan Bowers has to drop inside on passing downs, something he hasn’t done yet this year.  Playing the Saints is not the best time to begin a leaning curve.  CB Aqib Talib is limping on a sore knee and the Week 8 bye can’t come fast enough for him.  The Bucs already rank a curious 23rd in total defense.  Opposing QBs post a breezy 99.0 rating against them after they held QBs to a stingy 77.6 mark last year.  Oh, and RB LeGarrette Blount has a sprained knee and is out.  The mean streak behind the Bucs’ offense, Blount’s been running like a hellion ever since he watched the opener from the sideline (5 carries for 15 yards).  Look, Tampa Bay is the youngest team in the NFL and I just don’t see how they can hang with a polished, focused New Orleans team, especially after that debilitating 48-3 scene in San Francisco.  I think the Saints will roast them like a free-range chicken.

JUMbo Quotes of the Week:

1. “You guys know Earnest has done everything for us.  Whether it's playing fullback, being the third-down back, and now this week he's going to get the majority of the reps, the majority of the carries.  I mean, he's done it before.  He’s a guy we know can get it done.” – Bucs HC Raheem Morris on RB Earnest Graham with LeGarrette Blount out (10/12).

2. “Here's the one Al Davis story you didn't read over the weekend.  In 1983, rookie Baltimore GM Ernie Accorsi told teams he wanted three first-round picks and two second-rounders for the first pick in the draft.  The first pick was going to be John Elway, and Elway had said he wouldn't play for Baltimore.  The team that came the closest before the draft was the Raiders.  In truth, Oakland officials never came close to what the Colts wanted, but they called Accorsi several times with offers and pursued the deal the hardest of any team before the draft.  How history would have been changed if the Raiders had made the deal.” – SI’s Peter King reflecting on Al Davis’ life and career (10/10).

3. “The Lions started six first-round draft choices on offense -- their own first-rounders, not castoffs -- and two second-rounders.  Long years of bad drafts in Detroit are over.  The franchise has been stockpiling quality and it shows, the Lions being one of the league's highest-scoring teams and first in point differential, at plus-70.  Everyone in football wants playmakers: Detroit has them.” –’s Gregg Easterbrook on the 5-0 Detroit Lions (10/11).

4. “This whole mechanics thing is getting out of hand.  I mean, somebody said something about mechanics.  You watch the film and you try to work on different techniques.  So, this whole mechanics thing is really something that I haven't changed or anything to that nature.  The grand scheme of things, it's just when the plays are there to be made, just make them.” – Donovan McNabb reacting to rumors that Minnesota wants him to change his mechanics (10/11).  McNabb ranks 15th all-time in passing yards (37,099) and 22nd in TD passes (234).

5. “Really, I’m gonna say something that could shock you.  Let me look at my camera and spit this game:  Rex Grossman may be the best quarterback right now in the NFC East.  Yeah, I said it, and I didn’t stutter.  He may be.  And the team with the most balance may be the Washington Redskins.” – Deion Sanders on NFL Network (10/11).

6. “As Steve Smith enjoys what could prove to be the finest season of his 11-year pro career, you have to wonder what sort of numbers he could have put up the past few years had he not been stuck with an over-the-hill Jake Delhomme and then a green-as-grass Jimmy Clausen at quarterback.  Smith already has more receiving yards (609) and TD catches (3) than he had in 14 games last season.” – PFW’s Pat Fitzmaurice (10/12).

Here’s Ashton Kutcher’s alleged mistress, Sara Leal.  Discuss…

“Win the turnover battle!”  How many times have you heard that?  I bet “turnover differential” is the most commonly repeated stat on a weekly basis by NFL commentators and analysts.  Hmmm…

Win The Turnover Battle
Team TO Diff. W/L Rec
Bills + 11 4-1
49ers + 10 4-1
Ravens + 7 3-1
Packers + 7 5-0
Lions + 7 5-0
Giants + 2 3-2

Who is Giants TE Jake Ballard?  4 targets, 3 catches, 72 yards and 1 TD vs. Seattle.  Hey wait a minute, he’s scored two weeks in a row.  Take note, Zach Berman of the Star-Ledger just said Ballard is the undisputed starter – not Travis Beckum.  Ballard, a 6’6/275-lb behemoth, isn’t a speed guy but he doesn’t need it – not with Nicks, Cruz, and Manningham flying all over the place.  He just needs to find space and haul it in.  This guy could be an improved, more Wittenesque version of TE Kevin Boss, who was quite a sleeper target for Eli Manning in the red zone:  Boss quietly snagged 15 TDs in his last 30 full games as a Giant.

More Giants stuff:  QB Eli Manning has 995 passing yards over the last 3 games, the highest-3-game streak of his entire career.  RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) didn’t practice again Thursday.  Their bye is next week so he’ll sit again.  Not to mention teammate Antrel Rolle told reporters Jacobs’ knee had swollen up like a volleyball.  Ahmad Bradshaw carried 17 times for 58 yards last week without Jacobs in the mix.  He also caught 2 passes for 27 yards – and had 2 more catches for 24 yards negated by holding penalties.

Prediction A:  TE Aaron Hernandez will catch 6+ passes and 1 TD at home vs. Dallas and resume his climb into the elite group of fantasy TEs.

Prediction B:  WR Plaxico Burress will have a breakout game at home vs. the struggling Dolphins secondary, who give up more 40+ yard pass plays per game than any team. Burress has scored in four straight Monday Night appearances.

Behold, the Amy Reese Cheerleader Gallery:  Pic 1  Pic 2  Pic 3  Pic 4  Pic 5 (swimsuit)

Follow me @HudldeJUMbotron or I’ll ding-dong-ditch on Halloween and leave a flaming bag of poop at your doorstep.

Good Luck This Week!

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