Saturday, September 24, 2011

2011 Fantasy Football: Week 3 NFL Preview

As we look ahead to week three of the fantasy football season, one can't help but notice some of the big name players who will be missing this week. That list includes Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin (hamstring), New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez (knee) and Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (knee). With all of those players missing this week (Charles for the season), some fantasy owners are probably wondering where their points are going to come from. While those owners sweat out a weekend without their star performers, here's what I'll be watching for this weekend.

1) Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers
I have an unhealthy obsession with the Bengals wide receiver group. After week one, I wanted to see if WR Jerome Simpson, who led the team with 8 targets in week one, was worthy of a fantasy roster spot. After watching him in week two (4 catches for 136 yards) the answer was yes. However, my opinion has changed this week after Simpson became the target of a federal drug investigation. Authorities allegedly found 8 and half pounds of marijuana inside his house. I can't imagine Simpson playing another down for the Bengals, which is why I'm interested in seeing Cincinnati play this weekend. I want to see if fourth-year WR Andre Caldwell can be a relevant fantasy football wide receiver. Caldwell was buried on the depth chart, but after the Simpson incident and a season-ending knee injury to WR Jordan Shipley, Caldwell is in a position to start opposite A.J. Green. Caldwell caught a touchdown last week and could be a sneaky sleeper in PPR leagues and maybe (deeper) standard leagues. Green, meanwhile, is a star in the making; keep him in your line-up.

2) Cam's quest for 400 (again)
In his first two games as a pro, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton has thrown for 854 yards. He's also accounted for five touchdowns (3 passing, 2 rushing), but he's 0-2 as a starter. I want to see if the Panthers will alter their game plan this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars to try and take some of the pressure off Newton. After two weeks, only Tom Brady (88), Philip Rivers (88) and Drew Brees (86) have thrown more passes than Newton (83). If Newton is going to throw the ball 40 times a game, the Panthers will lose a lot of games. However, from a fantasy perspective if Carolina continues to be a pass first offense, I will endorse Newton a must-start fantasy quarterback every week.

3) 'The Next DeSean Jackson'
When Detroit Lions WR Titus Young (pictured) made his first NFL catch last Sunday, his Lions teammate Nate Burleson was impressed. Young made five catches for 86 yards in a blowout win over Kansas City, and after the game Burleson compared the Boise State rookie to Philadelphia's all-pro WR DeSean Jackson. Certainly high-praise, especially considering Young has played just one game, but Young does have a great opportunity. Now that he's healthy, he has a chance to be a difference maker on a very good football team. While defenses will be focused on stopping all-pro WR Calvin Johnson, Young should be able to find plenty of single coverage in the slot. Young is another one of those sneaky sleepers in PPR leagues and maybe (deeper) standard leagues. With Minnesota and Dallas on the schedule the next two weeks, we should know soon if Young is worth a roster spot on your fantasy team.

4) Have we seen the last of Antonio Gates?
San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates is having serious foot issues (again) and did not practice on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. He's listed as questionable for this Sunday against Kansas City, but I doubt he plays. Last week, Gates played the entire game and failed to register a single catch. My hunch is that foot injury, which forced him to miss six games last season, could spell the end of a pass catching-era in San Diego. I know it sounds grim, but if he's not able to play on Sunday I'd be worried about the rest of his season. If you own Gates, maybe now is the time to trade him to someone who doesn't know any better.

5) Who replaces Jamaal Charles?
The Kansas City Chiefs season is off to a miserable start and losing RB Jamaal Charles to a season-ending ACL injury only makes things worse. The Chiefs now must find a way to replace Charles' offensive output (1,935 total yard and 8 TDs in 2010) and will looks look to three players to try and fill his big shoes. The trio of Thomas Jones, Dexter McCluster and Le'ron McClain will all play a role in replacing Charles. While none of these guys jump off the page, it will be interesting to see how each will be used. I expect McCluster to have the most fantasy impact (especially in PPR) and Jones to be a major fantasy disappointment. I'm not sure Jones has enough left in the tank to be fantasy relevant anymore. That brings us to McClain who is an intriguing player to me. He has the size and ability to be an effective short yardage back. Before any of these guys even get a sniff of your starting line-up, first see what happens this week against the San Diego Chargers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fantasy Football 2011 Waiver Wire: Week 3

If your fantasy league is anything like mine, the free agent pool is pretty shallow right now - filled with a bunch of "what ifs" and "never-will-bes." That said, there are a couple of a guys worth looking at, especially if lost someone to injury in week two.

Dexter McCluster, RB, Kansas City
With Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles out for the season with a torn ACL, Kansas City and fantasy owners are searching for a replacement. The guys best-equipped to replace Charles is McCluster. While Thomas Jones will likely get more carries at first, I see McCluster as the guy with more upside. However, despite his big play potential, he doesn't have the frame to withstand the every-down pounding of a featured back. I'm not sure McCluster is a fantasy starter right now, but he worth a roster spot, especially for Charles owners.

Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins
The more touches Helu gets the more he looks like an emerging NFL running back. Helu played much of the second half in Sunday's win over the Arizona Cardinals and looked solid in relief of Tim Hightower. I'm ready to say Helu should replace Hightower as the starter in Washington, but if Hightower get injured or his fumbling problem returns, Helu will be an exceptional replacement. Stash him on your roster now before his value gets too high.

David Nelson, WR, Buffalo Bills
After a ten catch performance in week two, Nelson is officially on the fantasy football radar. So far this season, Nelson has 14 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. The Bills have quietly become a very good offensive team with a solid quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Nelson gives the Bills a nice complementary wide receiver opposite Steve Johnson. Nelson is big (6'5") slot receiver who will see his fair share of targets this season. Nelson is more valuable in PPR leagues than in standard leagues.

Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders
After a sensational preseason, Moore (pictured) proved he's no fluke by catching five passes for 146 yards and a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills. Moore took advantage of his opportunity to play with Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey inactive on Sunday. Moore looks like a guy who's the most ready to be a fantasy starter. Even when Ford and Heyward-Bey return to the field, the Raiders would be dumb to keep Moore on the sidelines (draw your own conclusions on that one).

Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos
Much like Moore, Decker took advantage of his increased playing time with Denver's top wide receivers on the sideline. Decker caught five passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns with WRs Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal both nursing groin injuries. It looks like Lloyd (Denver's top target) will be back this week, but Royal could be out for several more weeks. With Royal out, Decker will likely start opposite Lloyd and he's a good option for fantasy owners. My one concern with Decker is he has a history of injuries, so use him now.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Tennessee Titans
If Cam Newton or Ryan Fitzpatrick are still available in your league, pick them up immediately, if those guys aren't available go with Hasselbeck. The former Seattle QB has found his groove in Tennessee, a lot sooner than most expected. Hasselbeck dazzled in week two, torching the Baltimore Ravens for 358 yards and a touchdown (he threw two TDs in week one). With defenses focused on stopping RB Chris Johnson, Hasselbeck should find plenty of space to get the ball to WRs Kenny Britt and Nate Washington. If you're (really) desperate for a QB, Hasselbeck is you guy (especially the next two weeks: vs. Denver and at Cleveland).

Fred Davis, TE, Washington Redskins
I told you to pick-up Davis last week after his five catches for 105 yards in week one. Davis followed that up with a week two performance that included six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. Look for Davis to play a big role in the Redskins offense this year, especially with TE Chris Cooley playing with an injured knee. If you're league requires you start a tight end, Davis needs to be on your roster. Even if your league doesn't require a tight end, Davis is a solid waiver wire option (again) this week.

Monday, September 19, 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 two.

1) Kansas City is the latest franchise to enter the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. The Detroit Lions destroyed the Chiefs on Sunday 48-3. The worst part of that loss for the Chiefs, their all-world running back Jamaal Charles (pictured) tore his ACL and is done for the season. If you're looking for a replacement for Charles, here's a list of guys in line to replace him for the Chiefs (in order of pick-up): Dexter McCluster, Le'Ron McClain and Thomas Jones.

2) Cam Newton is great for fantasy football owners, but not so good (yet) for his real team. In two games, Newton has thrown for over 800 yards and has four total touchdowns (3 passing/1 rushing). While those numbers are great for fantasy, his three interceptions Sunday against the Green Bay Packers doomed the Panthers again. Newton may not be ready to lead Carolina to close-game victories, but he's ready to lead your fantasy team. If he's still on the waiver wire, pick him up.

3) The future looks bright in Cincinnati after rookie quarterback Andy Dalton nearly led his team to victory over the Denver Broncos on the road on Sunday. Dalton looked in command most of the game, especially at the end. Fellow rookie A.J. Green was spectacular as well catching 10 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown (which was amazing by the way). Dalton also found a groove late in the game with WR Jerome Simpson, who caught 4 passes for 136 yards. Dalton is the opposite of Newton right now, good for his team, but not necessarily for you fantasy team. As for Simpson, give him a long look if you need a wide receiver replacement. If you have Green, make sure he's in your lineup weekly.

4) Mike Tolbert, Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert, Ryan Mathews - this is going to be a tough to sort out all season. Tolbert was great in week one, Mathews was great in week two, that makes for a fantasy football dilemma. The thought after week one was that Tolbert would be the lead man in San Diego. However, after a dud of a performance Sunday against New England, Tolbert isn't the clear-cut favorite anymore. Mathews looked like the better runner in week two, he ran tough, he was more decisive and he caught the ball nicely. Tolbert still has value, but after watching him get stuffed (multiple times) at the goalline and lose a costly fumble, one can only wonder if the pendulum has swung back in Mathews' favor. Keep both in your lineups this week as the Chargers host the lowly Kansas City Chiefs.

5) MVP voting after two weeks: 1) Tom Brady 2) Everyone else

6) The Buffalo Bills erased an 18-point first half deficit on their way to a 38-35 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. The Bills are now 2-0 this season and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is the main reason for the early success. Fitzpatrick is the most underrated quarterback in the NFL and now has a seven touchdowns on the year (30 TDs in his last 15 games). Fitzpatrick has brought stability to Buffalo's offense and he's made a star out of WR Steve Johnson (and maybe WR David Nelson and TE Scott Chandler). Fitzpatrick turns 29 in November so his career still has some legs. The Bills need to do the right thing and reward Fitzpatrick with a new contract for his solid play. Fitzpatrick has several good fantasy match-ups coming up, against teams with shaky pass defenses. That's good news for Johnson, Chandler and Nelson (who you should be picking up this week). Side note about the Bills: RB Fred Jackson is leading the NFL in rushing. Their offense is pretty good.

7) The Minnesota Vikings are off to a 0-2 start, but don't blame WR Percy Harvin. The team's most talented wide receiver has played well this year, despite being on the field only a fraction of the snaps as his fellow (less talented) wide receivers. ESPN1500's Tom Pelissero did his weekly breakdown of the Vikings game and the tape doesn't lie - Harvin is being grossly under-utilized by the Vikings. According to Pelissero, Harvin played just 30 of the team's 68 offensive snaps in Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That means that Harvin was on the sidelines (55% of the plays) more than he was on the field (45% of the plays). Despite his lack of playing time, Harvin still led a below-average wide receiver group in catches and yards (7 catches for 76 yards). Also according to Pelissero's report, Harvin's not being used in the red zone either, in fact the numbers are much worse. Against the Bucs, Harvin was on the field for just three out of the Vikings 17 red zone snaps. It doesn't take a genius to figure out the Vikings need to get Harvin on the field more, which is good news for Vikings fans considering early returns suggest new Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is not a genius.

8) The Green Bay Packers have the offensive fire power to outlast most opponents, but their defense has some major flaws. A year after ranking near the top of the league in total defense, the defending champs are near the bottom after two weeks this year. They're giving up nearly 500 yards a game and they've surrendered back-to-back 400-yard passing games to start the season (Drew Brees and Cam Newton). Things won't get easier for the Packers after it was revealed this week that Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins will miss the entire season with a neck injury. The Packers defense is still a solid fantasy play because of their big play potential, but in reality, they have major issues.

9) It's time to show some respect to Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo. After getting lambasted by virtually every fan and member of the media after the Pokes week one loss to the New York Jets, he led his team to victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday with a broken rib and a punctured lung. Physicians will tell you, doing anything with a punctured lung can be potentially life-threatening. So let's back-off Romo a little bit and give the guy his due. If you have him on your fantasy team you'll want to monitor his progress throughout the week and prepare for him to be out. Just because he played through the pain Sunday, doesn't mean he'll be good to go Monday night against the Washington Redskins.

10) The Tennessee Titans gave in to RB Chris Johnson's demands for a new contract, but he's hardly repaying them on the field. In the first two weeks, Johnson has 77 rushing yards on 33 carries, that's a 2.3 yard average and to make matters worse for Johnson owners, Titans head coach Mike Munchak now says he wants back-up RB Javon Ringer to get more touches. There are two ways to approach this situation if you own Johnson in your fantasy league: 1) Stand pat and hope he regains his form or 2) trade him. I recommend holding on to him - but only because his trade value is so low right now.