Saturday, September 17, 2011

2011 Fantasy Football: Week 2 NFL Preview

It happens every year, and I'm guilty of it, fantasy football owners jump to conclusions after just one week. While there are some situations that become more clear once real football starts (i.e. Mike Tolbert > Ryan Mathews, James Starks > Ryan Grant), it's too soon to consider your season a disaster just because Matt Ryan melted in Chicago or Chris Johnson ran like a guy who's still holding out.

As you're watching the games this weekend, here are five things to keep your eye on. They aren't the sexiest topics and Terry and Howie won't be tackling them on Sunday morning, but they might just give you an advantage in your fantasy league going forward. And really, that's what's most important.

The Atlanta Falcons offense vs. Philadelphia
Falcons QB Matt Ryan threw for over 300 yards in Atlanta's opening weekend loss to Chicago, but failed to toss a touchdown. Ryan also looked shaky in the pocket throwing an interception and losing a fumble. I'm sure if the Bears defense is that good or if I've overstated Ryan's fantasy value. One thing I noticed from the cheapseats (and again, maybe it was the Bears defense) was the Falcons offense needs to get more creative and less conservative. I'd like to see Ryan force the ball downfield more to Roddy White and Julio Jones. Also, ten carries for Michael Turner won't cut it. He's the guy who helps the passing the most. When he's running well defenses are on their heels. Again, all this may have been the result of Chicago's defensive scheme - that's why I want to see this game this week.

Greg Salas replaces Danny Amendola in St. Louis
I'll be watching this game primarily because it's the only game on TV at the time. St. Louis and the New York Giants play on Monday night and I'll be watching to see if Rams rookie Greg Salas (pictured) can be a PPR machine like Danny Amendola was before his elbow injury. Amendola suffered an elbow injury in week one that could keep him out a couple of a weeks (six weeks was the last I read). If Salas can fill that slot role for St. Louis, he has value in PPR leagues. More importantly I want to watch this game to see if the Rams passing offense can get on track. QB Sam Bradford looked like a lost man on the field throwing for 188 yards and zero touchdowns. The Rams have a brutal schedule ahead, a ton of injuries and an offense that is still new. I want to see how they respond against a very good Philadelphia team.

Cam Newton vs. Green Bay's defense
Newton threw for 400 yards in week one and the Packers gave up 400 yards through the air in week one to Saints QB Drew Brees. This match-up intrigues me for a couple reasons, first, I want to see how Cam Newton handles the Packers' complex defensive schemes. You can count on Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers to mix-up coverages and personnel to try and confuse the rookie QB. If Newton can handle the Packers pressure and keep the Panthers close in this game, then I have high hopes for the young man. The Packers are much better than the Arizona Cardinals who Newton torched last Sunday. The other reason why I'm interested in this game is because the Packers defense showed very little resistance against a very good New Orleans offense in week one. I want to see if the Saints were that good or if the Packers were that bad. Sunday's game at Carolina should provide us with some clarity.

Cincinnati's WRs
This is probably the least sexy topic of the bunch, but I want to see what Cincy's WR Jerome Simpson and rookie A.J. Green do this week against the Denver Broncos. Simpson led the post-Chad Ochocinco/Terrell Owens/Carson Palmer-era Bengals with nine targets in week one and could be a PPR league sleeper. As for his running mate Green, he was quiet for most of the last weekend's game until the third quarter when caught his only pass (4 total targets), a 41-yard game-winning TD (from QB Bruce Gradkowski not Andy Dalton). In Green's defense he was being covered most of the afternoon by Cleveland's Joe Haden, who's one of brightest young cover corners in the league. I want to see if Dalton and Green can establish a rapport - and maybe the rookie duo can connect on their first pass.

Rex Grossman and the Washington wideouts (and tight end)
Rex Grossman is a poor man's Eli Manning, at least when it comes to his standing in the court of public opinion. Not sure why people dislike Grossman so much, especially when you consider in his last four games (including the three he started last season), he's thrown for more than 280 yards per game on average and two touchdowns. This week, Grossman and the Skins face an Arizona defense that got shredded by a quarterback who is nine months removed from kissing the Waterford Crystal football after leading Auburn to a national championship (Cam Newton's line vs. AZ: 422 yards passing, 3 TDs (2 pass/1 rush). Grossman is a sneaky fantasy play this week, but I'm more interested to see which one of his receivers he targets the most. Santana Moss led the way with 8 targets (6 catches for 76 yards), Jabar Gaffney was next with 7 targets (3 catches for 54 yards) and Fred Davis, who looks like a real player, had 6 targets (5 catches for 105 yards). These are all guys you should look at in PPR leagues, Moss and Davis should be considered in most standard leagues as well.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

9/15/11 Podcast: Week One NFL Recap

The NFL season officially arrived this past weekend and it got off to an explosive start. In week one, quarterbacks threw for a total of 7,842 yards - a new NFL record. That number is even more impressive when you consider Minnesota Vikings QB Donovan McNabb passed for 39 yards.

Three players threw for over 400 yards (Drew Brees, Cam  Newton and Chad Henne) and one threw for over 500 yards (Tom Brady). It was a wild week and it's only going to get better.

This week on the podcast, I look back at week one, plus which fantasy football free agents you should target. Also, The Source unveils a new segment this week called "Jump to Conclusions Matt."

Click here to listen to The Fantasy Football Source Podcast.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fantasy Football 2011 Waiver Wire: Week 1

Whether it was the injury to New Orleans Saints WR Marques Colston or the lackluster performance by New England Patriots WR Chad Ochocinco that brought you here, it's never too early in the NFL season to look at improving your fantasy football roster. Here are 15 players (and one defense) worth exploring this week on the waiver wire in your fantasy league.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills
While everyone seems to be on the Cam Newton bandwagon right now, I prefer Fitzpatrick as the top QB free agent. While Fitzpatrick isn't the sexiest pick-up, he's put together a pretty solid resume over the past 14 games. Fitzpatrick would be a conservative addition to your roster, while Newton would be a huge risk/reward pick-up. I recommend targeting Fitzpatrick if you need a QB right now.

Colt McCoy, QB, Cleveland Browns
Despite looking shaky in the season opener, McCoy did toss two touchdown passes in the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. I think McCoy could be a very good QB2 and is someone you could plug into your starting line-up a handful of times this season. If you don't need a QB now, wait another week and watch him play one more time before you decide.

Other QBs to consider: Newton, Chad Henne and Rex Grossman
Droppable QBs after week one: Donovan McNabb and Alex Smith.

Cadillac Williams, RB, St. Louis Rams (pictured)
A leg injury (strained quad) to Rams RB Steven Jackson early in Sunday's loss to Philadelphia gave Williams an opportunity to show he can still a factor on Sunday. The former Buccaneer tallied 140 total yards on 25 touches, which included six catches. The Rams travel to New York to face the Giants on Monday night, which could be a tough test for Williams considering the Giants shutdown Redskins RB Tim Hightower in week one. Regardless, if you're already hurting at running back, Williams is best of the bunch on the waiver wire right now. Just be prepared to watch his touches decline once Jackson is healthy again.

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans
A hamstring injury kept RB Arian Foster from the field in week one and Tate took advantage of his opportunity. While Tate looked very good while rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts, don't expect him to be a backfield regular in Houston. Once Foster returns from his injury, Tate will be back on the bench. However, with Tate running as well as he did, the Texans should be in no hurry to bring Foster back until he's fully healed. Tate has a shot at being a solid RB2 in most fantasy leagues for the next 3-4 weeks.

Other RBs to consider: Deji Karim and Dexter McCluster
Droppable RBs after week one: Thomas Jones, Ryan Torain, Jamie Harper and Maurice Morris

Devrey Henderson, WR, New Orleans Saints
Injuries to Colston and Lance Moore are the reasons why Henderson is on this list. Henderson isn't a great player, but he finds himself in a great situation. With Colston out 4-6 weeks with a collarbone injury and Moore nursing a groin injury, Henderson could see the field more for the pass-happy Saints. Against the Green Bay Packers, Henderson finished with six catches (on nine targets) for 100 yards and a touchdown.If you're desperate for a WR3, Henderson is likely available in your league.

Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers
While not fully ready to endorse Cobb as a week two pick-up, I am intrigued by his potential. He's a playmaker who could force the Packers to use him more often. Cobb needs to clean-up his in-game mistakes before he sees the field more, but again, I think he has potential. If you're saddled with a dud of a receiver on your bench and it's a position where you're deep, then give Cobb a try. Bottom line, if he's a low risk pick-up for you, go grab him.

Fred Davis, TE, Washington Redskins
Despite their win over the New York Giants on Sunday, I still may be the only person who thinks the Redskins are headed for a 9-7 season. Davis was a big part of that opening day win, catching five passes for 105 yards. Davis will be a big part of the Redskins offense, especially with TE Chris Cooley playing with an injured knee. If you're league requires you start a tight end, Davis is a legitimate weekly starter. Even if your league doesn't require a tight end, Davis is a solid waiver wire option this week.

Other WR/TEs to consider: Jabar Gaffney, Jacoby Jones and Ed Dickson
Droppable WR/TEs after week one: James Jones, Steve Breaston, Kevin Walter and Visathe Shiancoe

Houston Texans DST
The Texans had one of the worst defenses in the league last year, but what a difference a year makes (and a new defensive coordinator makes). Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips, who's now the Texans d-coordinator, had his players playing fast on Sunday and it showed up in the stat sheet. The Texans finished with three sacks, two fumble recoveries and allowed just seven points against the Indianapolis Colts. On top of that, Jacoby Jones returned a punt 79-yards for a score. The Texans defense looks revamped and should be a top your list if you need a defense.

Other DST to consider: Washington Redskins
Droppable DST after week one: Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings

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 one.

1) Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton was spectacular in his debut, throwing for 422 yards and 3 TDs (2 passings, 1 rushing). But before we anoint him the next John Elway, let's see how he does against the Green Bay Packers this week. Fantasy impact: Unless you drafted Donovan McNabb, Peyton Manning, David Garrard or Tarvaris Jackson - keep Newton on your radar, but don't move on him yet. Also, WR Steve Smith worked very well with Newton. Keep him in your line-up as a starting WR.

2) The Indianapolis Colts will be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes come April 2012. Fantasy impact: With QB Peyton Manning likely done for a significant amount of time this season, the only Colts player with any kind of fantasy value each week is WR Reggie Wayne.

3) Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and New England Patriots QB Tom Brady will finish one-two in the MVP voting this season. The order still to be determined. Fantasy impact: If you drafted one of these guys, you're good. As for their offensive teammates, there are studs and duds. Studs: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, James Starks, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Duds: James Jones, Ryan Grant and Chad Ochocinco.

4) Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson got a nice payday, but it was Titans WR Kenny Britt who was money on Sunday. Britt's 5 catches for 136 yards and 2 TDs sure got my attention, especially considering Britt's offseason included an arrest for alluding police. Fantasy impact: As long as Britt can stay healthy (and out of trouble), he has the talent to be a WR1. As for Johnson, his 9 carries for 24 yards were about as uninspiring as possible. He'll get better, but be ready for more days like this from him.

5) My pick to be this year's "Arian Foster breakout fantasy star" Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB LeGarrette Blount, finished a frustrating day with just 15 yards rushing on five carries. Good news: Tampa Bay was facing a good Detroit front-seven, plus, the Bucs vows to get Blount more involved in week two against the Minnesota Vikings. Fantasy impact: I'm still buying Blount as a strong fantasy performer this year. However, Tampa Bay looks like a team that could take a step back this season. My high hopes for Blount have been tempered a little.

6) Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco looks like the real deal this year. He torched the Pittsburgh Steelers defense for three touchdown passes in a 35-7 blowout on Sunday. Fantasy impact: Flacco only threw the ball 29 times, but he's really good when he gets deep in opponents territory. Ravens RB Ray Rice looks like the front-runner for fantasy MVP and WR Anquan Boldin appears poised for a bounce-back season. Also, in leagues that require tight ends, take a look at Raven TE Ed Dickson (5 catches for 59 yards and 1 TD).

7) The St. Louis Rams offense is going to be a work in progress for much of the season. Josh McDaniels complex offense looked to baffle Rams QB Sam Bradford at times on Sunday in their 31-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Making things worse, the Rams schedule gets extremely difficult the next several weeks and now a handful of players are banged up. Bradford (finger), RB Steven Jackson (quad) and Danny Amendola (elbow) all suffered injuries. Fantasy Impact: I cannot recommend starting Bradford this week against the New York Giants on Monday night (Bradford my be droppable even). As for Jackson, he's likely out this week and will be replaced by RB Cadillac Williams. Williams ran well (and caught well) in relief of Jackson, pick-up Williams if you're desperate for a RB this week. I don't recommend starting any of the Rams WRs in week two.

8) The San Diego Chargers may have the best running back duo in the league. The Ryan Mathews/Mike Tolbert combo had its way with the Minnesota Vikings defense, combining for 211 yards and 3 touchdowns (all by Tolbert). Fantasy impact: Mathews will frustrate fantasy owners all season, but keep him in your line-up for now (preferably as a flex player). You know the minute you give up on him, he'll have a huge game. As for Tolbert, keep him in your starting line-up. He's a solid RB2.

9) The Atlanta Falcons gave up virtually their entire 2011 draft class to draft WR Julio Jones with the sixth overall pick. The move didn't yield much success in week one, in fact the Falcons offense looked like a mess. Sure QB Matt Ryan threw for 319 yards, but he also had zero TDs and failed to lead the Falcons on a single touchdown drive. Fantasy impact: Ryan's performance on Sunday concerned me, he looked uncomfortable, very un-Matty Ice-like. I still like the Falcons offense, but the 30 TDs I predicted for Ryan this year looks a long way off. Don't panic yet, but if the Falcons offense sputters again (I'm looking at you Roddy White, Jones and Michael Turner) this week, it's okay to be nervous.

10) I wrestled with this question last year, and I find myself doing the same this year, should I pick-up Buffalo Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick? I regretted not doing it last season, so this year I'm getting in the Fitzpatrick game. Fitzpatrick torched the Kansas City Chiefs for four TDs on Sunday and looked like a guy who's ready to overachieve again this season. Fantasy impact: Fitzpatrick is like Rodney Dangerfield, he gets no respect. But after 23 TDs in 13 games last year, Fitzpatrick is worthy of consideration. If you need a QB2, take a long look at Fitzpatrick. Yes he has a tough schedule and no he doesn't have a running game, but he throws TDs. Now serious am I? I'm dropping Sam Bradford as my QB2 and adding Fitzpatrick.