Brett Favre: AP
Move over, Peyton Manning. Now that Brett Favre is officially with the New York Jets, the TV networks have a new candidate for Must-See Game of the Year -- when Favre's Jets and the Tom Brady-led Patriots tangle twice in the AFC East (beginning with Week 2 at the Meadowlands). Favre's move to the Big Apple is not a complete surprise -- since the Jets and Bucs were rumored to be the only teams seriously grappling for his services. But the turnaround-time from Favre's ballyhooed return to Green Bay on Sunday night to his emotional six-hour meeting with Packers management on Monday to being on the sidelines for Jets-Browns on Thursday was truly amazing. And it goes without saying, in the history of the NFL, there is no precedent for a Hall of Fame quarterback being traded to another team DURING training camp. So, instead of doing that one-man list, I simply researched the five other Hall of Fame QBs at age 39 (Favre's age come Oct. 10):
|Hall of Fame Quarterbacks At Age 39|
Favre's fantasy estimates aside, what kind of impact will he have with the Jets ... and their multi-million-dollar bid to go from 4-12 chumps to playoff participants? The geniuses at AccuScore have the answer, calculating the differences between Chad Pennington and Favre at QB, while also tabulating how Favre will influence the AFC East race. Here are the tabulations for the Jets' season ... and here are AccuScore's predictions for Jets-Dolphins in Week 1.
1. For Robert Meachem's sake, I hope Thursday's four-catch, 129-yard effort against the Cardinals was the prelude to a Week 1 breakout -- after missing all of last season to injury -- and not the direct result of facing vanilla defenses in the preseason. If the 2007 first-rounder is indeed legit, that'll give Saints QB Drew Brees another lethal weapon, in addition to Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister, Marques Colston, David Patten, Jeremy Shockey and the underrated Pierre Thomas. As good as Meachem was on Thursday, the Jets' David Clowney earned top honors for receivers, pulling down four catches for 163 yards and 2 TDs. (Note to self: Write Clowney's name on my "Preseason Watch List" and, just in case, the "Whatever Happened To ..." list for 2009 preseason.)
2. The Lions quarterbacks -- Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton -- completed 19-of-24 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown in a sleep-inducing 13-10 win over the Giants. It's not that I don't like Kitna (OK, maybe I do), but there is no way Kitna is a more viable fantasy option this year than the Redskins' Jason Campbell. In other words, Kitna (who is only holding the Lions' QB seat warm for Stanton) should barely be considered as a backup in 12- or 14-team leagues.
3. LaMont Jordan singlehandedly made the Patriots-Ravens game interesting. OK, so Tom Brady and Randy Moss were in street clothes, and Laurence Maroney (six yards on six carries) had limited reps against Baltimore, led by new head coach John Harbaugh. But I cannot diminish Jordan's strong outing, taking the ball 19 times for 76 yards and one touchdown. Jordan, who turns 30 in November but has less than 800 NFL carries, will never be confused with Barry Sanders, in terms of yards per carry. But New England likely got a certifiable steal in grouping Jordan -- who had 1,588 total yards and 11 TDs in 2005 -- with a backfield that already boasts Maroney, Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans.
4. While the fantasy world assumes that either rookie Matt Forte, new signee Kevin Jones or veteran holdover Adrian Peterson will win the Bears' No. 1 tailback job, the lightning-fast Garrett Wolfe stated his case for the position with a seven-carry, 64-yard night, including a 42-yarder against the Chiefs.
1. Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh: Who will get the majority of carries for the Steelers in the first half -- Willie Parker (who's coming off a broken fibula last year) or Rashard Mendenhall, my personal pick for NFL Rookie of the Year?
2. Seattle @ Minnesota: Has Adrian Peterson graduated to "LaDainian Tomlinson status," where the Vikings running back should expect less than 15 total carries during meaningless preseason games?
3. San Francisco @ Oakland: Should Alex Smith (and to a lesser degree, Shaun Hill) be worried about Mike Martz's man-crush on J.T. O'Sullivan? Both Smith and Hill will see limited reps against the Raiders on Friday, as O'Sullivan -- who worked with Martz in Detroit the last two seasons -- gets first crack at bonding with new receivers Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson.
Aaron Rodgers: AP
In the history of NFL quarterbacks replacing a legend, only Steve Young (49ers in 1993) may have inherited a better team than Aaron Rodgers has with this year's Packers. But does that mean the 2005 first-rounder is a cinch to lead Green Bay to the playoffs -- let alone be a back-end starter in fantasyland? The preseason mags are out and have Rodgers earmarked for the following stats (keep in mind, these predictions did not account for the enduring lunacy of Favre's un-retirement):
Fanball: 296-of-501 passes for 3,406 yards and 21 TDs
ESPN: 232-of-403 passes for 2,620 yads and 17 TDs
The Sporting News: 263-of-436 passes for 3,010 yards and 14 TDs
Fantasy League Football: 289-of-460 passes for 3,313 yards and 20 TDs
Speaking of Favre, here's a quick chart of how some QBs in the modern era fared the year after replacing a Hall of Famer:
|Heir Apparents The Year After An Icon QB Retires|
Switching gears to baseball ... it's been a trying season, to say the least, for the Braves -- from the mounting injuries and mediocre play to legendary announcer Skip Caray's death. But little bits of good news have cropped up in the last week -- from Mike Hampton's first win in three years (for those keeping score, that'd be $45 million per victory in that span, give or take a few mil) to the activation of All-Star Chipper Jones from the 15-day DL.
Jones has fallen back to earth somewhat since mid-June, when he was hitting an otherworldly .415; but with him back in the lineup, the Braves can realistically play spoilers to the wild-card chances of the Phillies, Mets and Marlins (essentially whoever doesn't win the NL East). From a fantasy perspective, owners can expect a healthy Jones to hit around .330, while racking up another 34 runs and 32 RBIs to his yearly totals.
Can you name the perennial All-Star with the highest career batting average -- among active players? Hint: He owns one World Series ring.
For those embroiled in tight pennant races with AL-only leagues, there's a chance you may have access to two stud call-ups -- Baltimore's Lou Montanez or Seattle's Wladimir Balentien. But if you had to choose only one (and do so in the next 30 seconds, since someone else may grab 'em), who would be The Guy? Our sight-unseen friends at Baseball HQ extol the virtues of Balentien (just 24), specifically addressing his "light-tower power." And The Bleacher Report lauds Montanez, 26, for finally realizing his immense potential. Incidentally, both Balentien (18 HRs at Triple-A Tacoma) and Montanez (an absurd .986 OPS at Double-A this year) homered in their first major leauge games in 2008.
Let's pretend you're in a mixed 5x5 league and willing to part with Jonathan Papelbon, James Shields and the sweet-swinging Nick Markakis -- as part of a pre-deadline 3-for-3 blockbuster trade -- in hopes of getting back three hitters who'll bring you instant Runs and RBIs. Well, once again, SI.com has you covered with its list of the top Runs/RBI producers in the last 30 days -- along with Detroit's Miguel Cabrera (whose lack of runs can be forgiven when factoring in his prodigious RBI rate):
1. Jhonny Peralta, Indians (24 runs, 26 RBIs)
2. Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals (24 runs, 24 RBIs)
3. Albert Pujols, Cardinals (23 runs, 25 RBIs)
4. Carlos Quentin, White Sox (23, 25)
5. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (13, 32)
6. Jason Bay, Red Sox (20, 25)
7. Justin Morneau, Twins (19, 24)
8. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox (19, 23)
9. Matt Holliday, Rockies (24, 17)
10. Nate McLouth, Pirates (24, 16)
In search of an unheralded Friday spot starter for your fantasy lineup, one who may bring glory in Ks, ERA and WHIP -- if for just one night? Look no further than Cleveland's Paul Byrd. To be honest, this pick would usually make my skin crawl, given Byrd's reputation as a ground-ball pitcher (read: No Ks) who's playing on a non-playoff contender. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that Byrd is only getting stronger as the season progresses (no steroid jokes please). In the last 30 days, a span of 26 innings, Byrd has racked up three victories, a nearly 2-to-1 K/BB ratio, a decent WHIP (1.38) and strong ERA (1.73). And in three of the starts, he's allowed zero or one run three times.
If Byrd (understandably) doesn't float your boat, may I suggest an out-of-the-box candidate -- Nationals pitcher Collin Balester. The 22-year-old upstart has tallied pedestrian numbers during his short time in the bigs. However, in his last five starts (from July 6 to the present, in descending order), he's allowed 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 runs ... which means he's due to shut out the Brewers in Milwaukee on Friday.
That I will attack the following premise in greater depth next week. But if you are part of a 10-team fantasy football league this year (either standard or PPR) and you have the 7th draft pick or higher in Round 1 ... I shrewdly suggest going WR-WR-RB-QB-WR in the first five rounds. This strategy may sound like sacrilege to those who preach the merits of three RBs in the first four rounds, but the fantasy world has evolved to the point where top-flight receivers are in greater demand than top-flight running backs ... and, conversely, the depth at running back (thanks to the deepest RB-draft class in NFL history) trumps the wide receivers. The QB pool is deeper too, now that Favre has taken his aw-shucks country act to the big city.
At long last, SI.com has a fantasy football game, complete with all of the drafts, waiver wires, stats and analysis you need. Take the grand tour here and sign up a league. Heck, sign up two leagues if you want. We'll be waiting.