Monday, September 26, 2011

2011 Fantasy Football: Tuesday Takeaways

Every Tuesday The Source takes a look back at the weekend (and Monday night) that was in the NFL. Here are The Source's ten takeaways from week three.

1) The Minnesota Vikings ARE NOT yet in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. However, a couple more second half collapses and we'll revisit the matter. From a fantasy football standpoint, RB Adrian Peterson is the only player on the Vikings who is worth starting each week (no, I did not forget about Percy Harvin).

2) The Buffalo Bills are one of three unbeaten teams left in the NFL (Packers and Lions other two) and they're for real - at least their offense is. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has emerged as an every week fantasy starter and RB Fred Jackson has turned out to be a viable RB1 option. Also, WR Steve Johnson is proving last year wasn't a fluke and WRs David Nelson and Donald Jones are worth a roster spot in deeper leagues, PPR leagues for sure. After beating New England 34-31 on Sunday, the Bills won't sneak up on anyone anymore. Still, their offense is good enough that you count on their players for fantasy points each week.

3) There's a new top target in Cincinnati and his name is Andre Caldwell (pictured). With Jerome Simpson in legal limbo, Caldwell started at WR for the Bengals against San Francisco on Sunday and led the team in targets (12), catches (6) and yards (53). I fully expect those numbers to continue for Caldwell and if I were a betting man, I'd say Simpson's season (and football career) is over. If you need a WR, Caldwell is a solid option in PPR and deeper standard leagues.

4) We learned in week three that Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton can be contained, you just need a lot of rain. After two straight weeks of 400+ yards passing, the rookie managed just 158 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But again, the weather was a major factor in this game and that stalled Carolina's high-powered offense. Don't worry too much about Newton's "down" week, he's still an every week fantasy option if you need him. That goes for WR Steve Smith as well.

5) After WR Kenny Britt got into trouble with the law during the lockout, the Tennessee Titans likely figured they would be without their star WR for at least part of this season. However, before the long-arm of the NFL commissioner's office could slap a suspension on Britt, he was done in by a gimpy leg. Britt's ACL tear in the Titans week three win over the Denver Broncos is devastating, especially to the fantasy owners who took on a chance on him on draft day. Britt's season was off to a tremendous start - 17 catches, 289 yards and 3 TDs - but now it's over. Maybe it's karma calling after an offseason of mischief, regardless, the Titans and Britt fantasy owners are now left with a huge hole in their starting line-up. Look for WR Nate Washington to get more targets, he's a good free agent option in most leagues. Other players who could see more targets include: WRs Lavelle Hawkins and Damian Williams and TE Jared Cook. But I'm not putting much stock in any of those guys just yet.

6) San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said RB Frank Gore will be 'good to go' when the Niners face the Philadelphia Eagles in week four, but I'm not sure that's such great news. Gore sprained an ankle in the Niners week three win over the Cincinnati Bengals, but even before that injury he's been less than impressive. In the first three weeks, Gore has carried the ball 59 times for 148 yards, an average of 2.5 yards per carry. I'm not ready to say Gore should be benched in favor of rookie RB Kendall Hunter, but maybe Hunter deserves more carries. I realize Hunter averaged 2.9 yards per carry on Sunday (nine carries for 26 yards), but he looks more versatile than Gore and doesn't have the injury history (or the mileage). Consider Hunter a good waiver wire guy this week and a must pick-up player if you own Gore.

7) Speaking of Jim Harbaugh, we're going to need your nickname coach. Tony Romo is the new 'Captain Comeback'. Romo led the (extremely) shorthanded Dallas Cowboys to a second-consecutive fourth quarter comeback over the Washington Redskins on Monday night. Romo, who was playing with broken ribs, had a terrible statistical game (255 yards, 1 INT), but was brilliant down the stretch making plays when he needed to.

8) If the Seattle Seahawks go 8-8 this season, I wouldn't be that surprised. I also wouldn't be shocked if all their wins came in front of the '12th Man'. Seattle is a different team when they play at CenturyLink Field and the stats back it up. Since 2002 (the year the stadium opened), the Seahawks have won 50 regular season homes games (including three 8-0 seasons) and lost just 22. Over that same period, they're 24-48 on the road during the regular season. And the trend is the same in the playoffs. At home, the Seahawks are 7-1 and on the road they're 0-5 (including a loss in Super Bowl XL). What's my point? Regardless of how bad the Seahawks look on paper (and at quarterback), they have a shot at winning some (home) games this year. From a fantasy perspective, if you have RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Sidney Rice or Seattle's DST, play them only when the Seahawks are at home (if you must play them at all).

9) After two weeks of going back-and-fourth, it's clear now that Chargers RB Ryan Mathews is the front-runner in San Diego's backfield (for now). The second-year back from Fresno State took advantage of his full workload on Sunday, rushing for 98 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns (he also caught 4 passes for 51 yards). While Mathews carried the Chargers to victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, Mike Tolbert (who scored 3 TDs in week one) played a true back-up role. Tolbert finished with four carries for 19 yards and three catches for 24 yards. Mathews looked the part of an every down back, even staying on the field on third down and goalline. This is obviously good news for Mathews' owners and bad news for Tolbert owners. But before you declare this back-and-fourth battle over, remember that Mathews was injured (a lot) last year and Tolbert was nursing a toe injury much of last week. Until we see this type of production out of Mathews over the course of several weeks, keep both players in your line-ups.

10) The St. Louis Rams were supposed to be better than their 0-3 start, but right now they're a mess. Their defense is getting shredded by opposing offenses and their offense looks very much like a work in progress (which was expected with first-year OC Josh McDaniels). But before you write-off the Rams as losers this year, take a look at the second half of their schedule. They have a stretch (week 9-15) where they face: @Arizona, @Cleveland, vs. Seattle, vs. Arizona, @San Francisco, @Seattle, vs. Cincinnati. While the Rams may not be able to dig out from their 0-3 start and make the playoffs, their skill players (QB Sam Bradford and RB Steven Jackson) should be able to help your fantasy team make a late-season run.

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