Matt Cassel: Tom Croke/Icon SMI
The unassuming heir to the throne just sits there on the waiver wire, teasing fantasy owners who cannot decide if QB Matt Cassel -- the likely yearlong sub for the injured Tom Brady in Foxboro -- is truly worthy of wearing the Patriots' crown, or just a prince who'll turn back into a frog upon throwing his first interception as a starter. Awkward references to The Brothers Grimm aside, I have no idea how The Cassel Experiment will work in New England this season. After all, Cassel hasn't started a meaningful game since high school (languishing behind Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC). So I would understand if every fantasy owner has trepidations about grabbing Cassel from the waiver wire (or even worse, spending a lot of salary-cap moo-lah on him).
For me, though, it comes down to this: Would you rather have Cassel's toys in New England (Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Ben Watson, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan) ... or JaMarcus Russell's band of misfits in Oakland (Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas, Javon Walker, Ronald Curry, Zach Miller and some guy named Chaz Schilens)? Just like The Pepsi Challenge ... the choice is clear. In relief duty against the Chiefs on Sunday, Cassel completed 13-of-18 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown. As a full-timer with the Pats, Cassel owners can safely project minimum numbers of 215 yards passing and 1.75 TDs per game.
1. Carson Palmer vs. Tennessee
2. Tony Romo vs. Philadelphia
3. Ben Roethlisberger vs. Cleveland
4. Jon Kitna vs. Green Bay
5. Kurt Warner vs. Miami
6. Marc Bulger vs. N.Y. Giants
7. Peyton Manning vs. Minnesota
The Seahawks may be without injured receivers Bobby Engram (shoulder), Deion Branch (knee), Ben Obomanu (IR -- gone for the year) and now Nate Burleson (torn ACL on Sunday) ... but that didn't stop the club from cutting Jordan Kent on Tuesday -- leaving just two healthy WRs for Sunday's home opener against the 49ers. Can you even comprehend only two receivers on a roster, in this age of all passing, all the time? (Even the Lions, with four active wideouts, think that's crazy!)As if having Courtney Taylor and Logan Payne as the go-to-wideouts wasn't bad enough (the duo has less than 10 career catches), quarterback Matt Hasselbeck recently admitted to having a bulging disk in his back, and starting tailback Maurice Morris is lost for at least two games with a sprained knee. The way things are going, I cannot recommend having any Seahawks player on your fantasy roster -- let alone starting this week -- except for running back Julius Jones, who loves the Qwest Field Flubber turf and will likely see somewhere between 25 and 60 touches in Week 2!
1. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Buffalo
2. Brian Westbrook vs. Dallas
3. Frank Gore vs. Seattle
4. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Denver
5. Marion Barber vs. Philadelphia
6. Julius Jones vs. San Francisco
7. Clinton Portis vs. New Orleans
8. Adrian Peterson vs. Indianapolis
9. Thomas Jones vs. New England
10. Larry Johnson vs. Oakland
11. Steven Jackson vs. N.Y. Giants
Not to belabor the point, but Targets are a must-know for fantasy owners -- especially in PPR leagues. This underrated stat is the best way to safeguard against one-hit wonders during a long, long, long fantasy season. To wit, SI.com presents a list of the 16 pass-catchers (including one tight end) who were targeted at least 10 times in Week 1 (excluding Nate Burleson, who's lost for the year to injury):
1. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts (17 Targets)
2. WR Andre Johnson, Texans (15 Targets)
3. WR Muhsin Muhammad, Panthers (15 Targets)
4. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (14 Targets)
5. WR Plaxico Burress, Giants (13)
6. WR Marvin Harrison, Colts (13)
7. WR Joey Galloway, Buccaneers (13)
8. WR Eddie Royal, Broncos (12)
9. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions (12)
10. WR Santana Moss, Redskins (11)
11. WR Anquan Boldin, Cardinals (11)
12. WR Matt Jones, Jaguars (11)
13. WR D.J. Hackett, Panthers (11)
14. TE L.J. Smith, Eagles (10)
15. WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles (10)
16. WR Wes Welker, Patriots (10)
Braylon Edwards: AP
Ivan in San Juan, Puerto Rico submitted a question: Should I bench Braylon Edwards until I see something more positive out of the Browns? He killed me this week, and they face the Steelers (this) week. I have Eddie Royal and Roy Williams as my other receivers to start. What are my best options?
Answer: Ivan, there is no conceivable fantasyland scenario in which I would bench Edwards -- especially when he's playing at home ... against a bitter rival ... and on a warm September day. Sure, Royal and Williams have the capacity to outscore Braylon on any given Sunday (I hate that expression). But c'mon, let's get serious here, did you really invest a presumably high pick on Edwards, just so you can bench him for some 5-foot-10 Energizer bunny who looked great against the perennially hopeless Raiders? (Writer's note: I strongly endorse picking up Royal for your standard-scoring or PPR team -- just don't play him over Braylon.) As for the Royal vs. Roy debate in Week 2, Williams has averaged only five catches for 59 yards and .5 TDs in the last four games against Green Bay -- so the assumption of risk for choosing Royal (9 catches for 146 yards and 1 TD in Week 1) over Roy would be minimal, at best.
Justin in Provo, Utah asks: I have Chris Johnson and I've been offered Reggie Bush for him. Which one of these backs is a Week 1 fluke?
Answer: Justin, as much as I love Johnson's potential as a rookie, along with his long-term outlook (a top-5 pick in '09?) ... I would run -- not walk -- to acquire Bush if you're playing in a PPR league. Even in standard leagues, I think Bush will trump Johnson's numbers by about 15 percent this year ... so I'd do it! To answer your second question, neither player is a "Week 1 fluke" -- both are capable of eight catches, 160 total yards and one touchdown on any given Sunday (there I go again, damn!)
Finally, Nick in Racine, Wis. asks: I own Randy Moss. Should I consider trying to trade him because of Brady's season-ending injury for a top-5 (WR) like Reggie Wayne? Also, I own Jamal Lewis, Willis McGahee, Steven Jackson and Kevin Smith. Should I pick up Chris Johnson (with the consequence of dropping one of my other RBs) because of the injury risks?
Answer: First things first. If you can trade Moss for Wayne and a midlevel RB (like rookie Jonathan Stewart), as part of a 2-for-1 swap ... then by all means, give it a whirl. Outside of that, it would be foolish to part with Moss right now -- especially when he seems to have a decent rapport with Matt Cassel. To answer your second question, do whatever you can to rescue Chris Johnson from the ranks of the unwanted. But instead of dumping a prized RB, how about just booting your second kicker or defense/special teams? A kicker, no matter whom we're talking about, is easily replaceable. (Just like fantasy writers!)
1. Ryan Longwell vs. Indianapolis
2. Shaun Suisham vs. New Orleans
3. Rob Bironas vs. Cincinnati
4. Josh Scobee vs. Buffalo
5. John Kasay vs. Chicago
6. Shayne Graham vs. Tennessee
7. Nate Kaeding vs. Denver
8. Matt Bryant vs. Atlanta
Before we finish off the mail, I wanted to single out Lisa in Durham, N.C. ... for wondering who's the better play this season -- Ben Roethlisberger or Jake Delhomme? First of all, Lisa, thanks for the inquiry; secondly, here's an answer to a question that, at first blush, seems rather obvious -- but really isn't:
(Last 30 Games, Excluding Week 1)
Roethlisberger: 6,667 yards and 50 TD passes
Delhomme: 6,484 yards and 48 TD passes
The verdict: Big Ben has a few things working in his favor -- youth, a non-surgically repaired right elbow, his best receivers are not serving suspensions, he carves up the Ravens like nobody's business -- but on the other hand, Lisa, you cannot go wrong with Delhomme, Steve Smith (currently on suspension) and the Panthers' cake schedule this season (Atlanta twice, New Orleans twice, Kansas City, Arizona, @ Oakland, Detroit and Denver). Just be happy you have two superb options.
Last week, I offered specific predictions for Week 1 -- some pure gold and others that flopped worse than the arrival of Bo and Luke Duke's cousins, Coy and Vance, during the Dukes of Hazzard days. Here's the breakdown:
Six TE Locks For 1 TD
1. Jeremy Shockey (wrong)
2. Ben Utecht (wrong)
3. Heath Miller (wrong)
4. Kellen Winslow (right)
5. Vernon Davis (wrong)
6. Zach Miller (wrong)
Switching gears to baseball ... it's the 25th anniversary of the Baltimore Orioles' last world title (my god ... how time flies!). From that '83 team, Hall of Famers Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken finished 1-2 in homers. But, using multiple-choice format, which player finished third in HRs that season?
Let's pretend you're just two agonizing points away from a fantasy league title and desperately need to break a four-way tie in the strikeouts category. What's the easy solution? Well, since it's too late to trade for James Shields, Ervin Santana or CC Sabathia, you'll need to hit the waiver wire -- hard!. SI.com's presents a list of the 10 most unheralded pitchers with the best combination of Ks and WHIP in the last 30 days. We're talking about guys with monthly minimums of 22 strikeouts and WHIP-maxes of 1.26 (except for Toronto's David Purcey, whose prodigious Ks rate could not be ignored).
1. Josh Johnson, Marlins (38 Ks, 1.20 WHIP)
2. Kevin Slowey, Twins (31 Ks, 1.10 WHIP)
3. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros (34 Ks, 1.25 WHIP)
4. Derek Lowe, Dodgers (25 Ks, 0.86 WHIP)
5. David Purcey, Blue Jays (28 Ks, 1.28 WHIP)
6. Todd Wellemeyer, Cardinals (24 Ks, 1.01 WHIP)
7. Huroki Kuroda, Dodgers (23 Ks, 0.99 WHIP)
8. Mike Pelfrey, Mets (22 Ks, 0.99 WHIP)
9. Kevin Millwood, Rangers (24 Ks, 1.19 WHIP)
10. Bronson Arroyo, Reds (23 Ks, 1.18 WHIP)
I'm happy to see that Evan Longoria has rejoined the Rays in time for the team's final playoff push; but from a personal fantasy perspective, his return is sadly a case of too little, too late. Before suffering a wrist injury on Aug. 7 -- by way of a wayward J.J. Putz heater -- Longoria had been a resident on one of my favorite AL-only teams since Day One ... even when he was wallowing in the minors in April. But since I couldn't afford to stash him on my Reserve List last month, he eventually became someone else's September savior. (deep sigh) For those who chose to hang onto Longoria even after the injury, here is an AccuScore.com projection for the next 21 days:
Longoria: 10 runs, 4 HRs, 16 RBIs, 1 SB, .287 average, .359 OBP
The answer is D. Gary Roenicke hit 19 homers in 1983, third-most on the Series-winning Orioles ... and the third-most HR total of his career.
On the Lions' D: I know Detroit is just slightly better than Mater Dei High School, but Atlanta showed off today. Even Jerious Norwood chipped in 93 yards and a score on just 14 carries. My mom could rumble for a C-note on this sorry D!
On the Seahawks' running game: Julius Jones and Maurice Morris couldn't run out of a wet paper bag with machetes.
On Seattle's playoff chances: Lucky for the Seachickens they're in the worst division in the NFL and can probably still make the playoffs with a 6-10 record.
On the Dolphins' offense: The fantasy star of this one for the Phins was TE Anthony Fasano ... 8 grabs for 84 yards and a score. Keep your eye on him for waiver wire help. (Chad) Pennington seems to love the guy and with Pennington's noodle arm, a TE is a good player to have.
On the Saints: Can someone please tell me why I benched Reggie Bush for Ray Rice? Trying to play the flavor of the week and catch a hot sleeper in favor of a proven solid RB has once again stretched my bat wing over hot coals.