Pinkie and the Brad: Fantasy Clicks
Tony Romo: James D. Smith/Icon SMI
Before I delve into the news of Tony Romo's broken pinkie finger (on his throwing hand), which will keep the Cowboys quarterback out of action for four weeks (or three games, plus the bye) ... you should have seen the scene at the SI offices on Monday night. A bunch of us were holding a Nerf football, wondering, "How vital is the pinkie when releasing the ball?" At that moment -- bam! -- ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer appeared on TV, giving a three-minute dissertation about a QB's dependence on the pinkie finger (outside of it going "Wee, wee, wee ... all the way to the market"). It was only then did I realize ... the retired Dilfer is four years younger than Romo's backup QB in Big D -- Brad Johnson!
To infer that Dallas won't miss a beat with Johnson at the helm is an utterly ridiculous notion ... and I will have none of that in the Clicks house. Romo has thrown for 300 yards and 3 TDs four times this season -- a feat no other QB can boast (not even the unconscious Drew Brees). He's one of the best fantasy QBs in the game, if not the best; so to assume some 40-year old has-been (who's only thrown 11 regular-season passes since December 2006) will flourish in fantasyland is truly laughable. Regarding Romo, I see no reason why he won't be ready for the Cowboys-Redskins clash in Week 11; and I assume he'll resume his dominant ways come then (the pinkie's a quick-healing appendage, right?). The two major benefactors of Romo's absence? I'd give the clear nods to RB Marion Barber (674 yards, 6 TDs to date) and TE Jason Witten (Johnson's likely safety blanket). As for Johnson, I'll be shocked if he averages more than 200 yards passing and 1.5 TDs in the next three games. Let's be real here: Johnson may have a Super Bowl ring (Tampa Bay, 2002), but he's a far cry from Hall of Famer Warren Moon at 40 or even Vinny Testaverde at the same age -- when Vinny was the Cowboys' No. 1 QB (2004).
1. Ben Roethlisberger vs. Cincinnati
2. Eli Manning vs. San Francisco (his first time on this list)
3. Peyton Manning vs. Green Bay
4. Aaron Rodgers vs. Indianapolis
5. Matt Schaub vs. Detroit
6. Jay Cutler vs. New England
You gotta love NFL parity. The 1-3 Browns attacked the Giants early and often on Monday night and cruised to a 35-14 win, while handing the G-Men their first defeat of '08. From a fantasy perspective, though, who could ask for anything more (thanks, Toyota) -- regardless of which team caught your fancy. Derek Anderson threw for 310 yards and 2 TDs, Jamal Lewis rumbled for 92 total yards and 1 TD and Braylon Edwards hauled in five catches for 154 yards and one score on the Cleveland side. Heck, even tight end Steve Heiden (not to be confused with Eric Heiden, the five-time gold medalist in the '80 Winter Games) caught five balls for 59 yards, admirably serving as Kellen Winslow's replacement. From the New York POV, RBs Brandon Jacobs (67 yards, 1 TD) and Derrick Ward (102 total yards) were superb, along with WRs Steve Smith (9 catches, 94 yards) and Plaxico Burress (58 yards, 1 TD), who has scored at least one touchdown in the last 23 Giant games I've watched LIVE on TV (or so it seems).
So, what to make of Monday's fireworks? Well, as I've been saying all year, the Browns have too much playmaking talent (and too good an O-line) to consistently struggle the rest of the way ... meaning Anderson, Edwards, Lewis and Winslow (presuming he's OK next week) are all excellent "buy reasonably low" candidates. And while Eli Manning posted pedestrian numbers (196 yards, 1 TD) against the Browns, I'm still betting that he'll exceed his career-best for TD passes in a season (24) ... falling just short of big brother, Peyton Manning. One last thing: If Ward can still be had on your waiver wire, grab him ASAP! He's got my vote as the NFL's best between-the-20s backup running back.
By the time you read today's Clicks (likely 10 a.m. on Tuesday) ... we'll be 126 hours away from my favorite Week 7 fantasy matchup: Detroit @ Houston. Sure, this game pitting teams with a combined record of 1-9 seems like a dog -- which may explain FOX's teeny-tiny viewing audience of only southeastern Michigan and southeastern Texas residents -- but I am giving this NFC-AFC clash my highest fantasy recommendation ... especially if you have Houston's Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels and Defense/Special Teams on your roster. In a nutshell, every Texans player -- aside from Ahman Green (only 41 rushing yards in Week 6) -- is a viable threat for big points against the sad-sack Lions (my hometown team as a child). Detroit obviously has some fantasy studs, as well, from RBs Kevin Smith and Rudi Johnson (either one could get 90 total yards and 1 TD) and WRs Calvin Johnson (a must-start every week) and Roy Williams (assuming he doesn't get traded this week). So, while the NFL world is understandably glued to Colts-Packers at Lambeau -- another 4 p.m. game on Sunday -- the truly desperate fantasy geek will undoubtedly be living and dying on every Schaub pass ... and every mad scramble from Dan Orlovsky, the Lions quarterback. Here's hoping Orlovsky has a better read on the clear white lines that separate inbounds from out-of-bounds this week.
1. Matt Forte vs. Minnesota
2. Ryan Grant vs. Indianapolis
3. Adrian Peterson vs. Chicago
4. Frank Gore vs. N.Y. Giants
5. Marshawn Lynch vs. San Diego
6. Clinton Portis vs. Cleveland
7. Marion Barber vs. St. Louis
8. Larry Johnson vs. Tennessee
9. Brandon Jacobs vs. San Francisco
1. WR Brandon Marshall, Broncos (13.4 Targets)
2. WR Andre Johnson, Texans (13.0 Targets)
3. WR Steve Smith, Panthers (11.8 Targets)
4. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (11.6 Targets)
5. WR Roddy White, Falcons (10.8 Targets)
6. WR Wes Welker, Patriots (10.4 Targets)
7. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (10.3 Targets)
8. WR Plaxico Burress, Giants (10.3 Targets)
9. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts (9.8 Targets)
10. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions (9.6 Targets)
11. WR T. J. Houshmandzadeh, Bengals (9.5 Targets)
12. TE Kellen Winslow, Browns (9.5 Targets)
13. TE Jason Witten, Cowboys (9.2 Targets)
14. WR Anquan Boldin, Cardinals (9.0 Targets)
15. WR Eddie Royal, Broncos (9.0 Targets)
16. WR Roy Williams, Lions (9.0 Targets)
17. WR Joey Galloway, Buccaneers (9.0 Targets)
18. WR Laveranues Coles, Jets (8.8 Targets)
19. WR Derrick Mason, Ravens (8.8 Targets)
20. TE Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs (8.8 Targets)
21. WR Greg Jennings, Packers (8.7 Targets)
22. WR Terrell Owens, Cowboys (8.7 Targets)
23. WR Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers (8.7 Targets)
LaDainian Tomlinson: AP
On Monday, I gave the Clicks readers a homework assignment (at least the ones who own LaDainian Tomlinson): Have a blockbuster trade involving LT all set by Tuesday/Wednesday ... or live in regret for your laziness the rest of the season. In today's highly volatile market, you could theoretically fetch Joseph Addai and Plaxico Burress in a seemingly equitable 2-for-1 swap. But seven days from now, after LT looks good but far-from-great against the Bills, you may be hard-pressed to get Addai and Colts backup RB Dominic Rhodes (73 yards, 1 TD on Sunday) in a 2-for-1 deal -- let alone Plaxico. That negative return may be the price you pay, though, for sticking with someone who doesn't possess a second gear or cutting prowess, thanks to a borderline-serious turf-toe injury (my own assessment). In other words, he'll never match those sky-high expectations you've already set for him -- until maybe next year, when he's healthy again.
1. Kris Brown vs. Detroit
2. Ryan Longwell vs. Chicago
3. Matt Bryant vs. Seattle
4. Shaun Suisham vs. Washington
5. Josh Brown vs. Dallas
6. Nate Kaeding vs. Buffalo
Last week, I offered specific predictions for Week 6 -- some pure gold and others that flopped worse than Four Kings, the buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy sitcom from 2006 starring Seth Green (aka "Chris Griffin" on Family Guy) and Josh Cooke. Quick aside: Does anyone remember Seth's old "Cha-Ching" commercial for Rally's from the early 90s?
WR Locks for 110 Yards and/or 1 TD
1. Brandon Marshall (98 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
2. Terrell Owens (36 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
3. Calvin Johnson (85 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
4. Wes Welker (73 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
5. Devery Henderson (68 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
6. Steve Smith (112 yards, 0 TD -- correct!)
7. Andre Johnson (178 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
8. Patrick Crayton (84 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
9. Bernard Berrian (131 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
10. Larry Fitzgerald (79 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
11. Braylon Edwards (154 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
Five Players Who'll Disappoint
1. Laurence Maroney (0 yards -- correct!)
2. Chad Johnson (57 yards, 0 TDs -- barely correct!)
3. DeAngelo Williams (35 total yards, 0 TDs -- correct!)
4. Laveranues Coles (61 receiving yards, 0 TDs -- judgment call)
5. Donovan McNabb (278 passing yards, 2 TDs -- wrong)
Five Unsung RB/WR/TEs Who'll Score 1 TD
1. WR Patrick Crayton (84 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
2. RB Le'Ron McClain (0 total yards, 0 TDs -- wayyyyy off)
3. TE John Carlson (22 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
4. RB Darren Sproles (17 total yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
5. WR Chris Henry (13 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
Five Highest-Scoring Games
1. Dallas @ Arizona (54 total points -- correct!)
2. Jacksonville @ Denver (41 total points -- correct!)
3. St. Louis @ Washington (36 total points -- wrong)
4. N.Y. Giants @ Cleveland (49 total points -- correct!)
5. Detroit @ Minnesota (22 total points -- wrong)
Prior to Week 6, the Browns hadn't won a Monday Night Football home game in 15 years (against the 49ers). Can you name the team's receptions leader for that '93 season?
1. Treat this deal like a 3-for-2 blockbuster ... but with a psychological edge
2. Don't be afraid to sacrifice talent on the bench for a proven star
Last week, I addressed four different strategies for executing fantasy trades -- The 1-for-1 Swap, The 2-for-1 Psych Job, The 2-for-2 Schmoozola and The 3-for-2 Blockbuster. But I still have one trick left in the old grab bag: The 3-for-3 Drop Scam.
The rationale behind this one is easy: Simply identify one absolute star on another owner's roster and then make an educated guess as to which two players he'll drop after getting three solid players from you. For example, say Owner A (you) needs a stud WR (and two other underrated pass-catchers) to complement Brandon Marshall and Steve Smith in 2 RB/3 WR leagues -- for which he's already swimming in running backs. When pursuing Colts WR Reggie Wayne (33 receptions, 468 yards, 4 TDs in '08) as the primary mark, Owner A also covets Derrick Mason (8.8 targets per game) and Justin Gage (easily Kerry Collins' favorite receiver with Tennessee) as secondary targets. Hence, he deals one good QB (say Jason Campbell), one roller-coaster-like WR (Laveranues Coles) and one stud RB (Steven Jackson) in the 3-for-3 swap -- only to see Owner B begrudgingly surrender Wayne, but unflinchingly give up Mason and Gage in the process (since he had to dump two players anyway). It's all about psychology, folks: If Owner A had pursued Owner B about Gage or Mason the previous week -- as part of a 1-for-1 straight deal -- Owner B would've been skeptical about such a cosmetic move (thinking Owner A knows something he doesn't). But when using the Drop Scam principle ... Owner A gets his preferred supporting pieces AND a star wideout -- all in the name of surrendering high-profile names with mediocre production this season.
On the Texans' last-second 29-28 victory: This game was back and forth all day and showcased Andre Johnson like you wouldn't believe. Dude is just insanely skilled. That grab he made on 4th and 10 on the final drive was SICK! That defensive back should be slapped for not batting that ball down. ... Not to be totally outdone, the Dolphins are pulling out all the stops on offense these days. I love the trickeration. They run the Wildcat formation with the direct snap to the RB, they have Chad Pennington line up at WR and catch a pitch to throw a pass ... they're just getting very creative. You gotta love that. Too many teams get caught up in the standard offense crap. Miami is saying screw that, 'Let's run a triple-reverse-double-pass and see what happens' ... they're making football fun again. What a game!
On the Falcons' thrilling, last-gasp win over the Bears: Matt Ryan is playing way beyond his years, Roddy White is coming into his own and the once-hapless Falcons are a team with that magic around 'em. Michael Vick be damned! This game had all the excitement and finished amazingly. If you were watching this one and you didn't jump up and yell at the end, you're dead.
On the anemic Ravens: Baltimore's offense is just plain pathetic. I'm not going to give the Colts' D credit here because we've seen them get ripped like old shirts for weeks now. The Ravens are just horrid. No imagination, no good play-calling and no playmakers makes for a putrid offense. Joe Flacco threw three INTs on the day and they couldn't run through wet paper towels.
On the high-powered Saints ... and low-wattage Raiders: JaMarcus Russell has a cannon arm, but what good is it if he's just winging passes to nowhere? On the rare occasion he actually hit one of his WRs, they dropped the damn ball. The Raiders couldn't run, couldn't pass and couldn't cover a Saints WR if they had a blanket. Reggie Bush had two TDs on the day and Drew Brees hit every Saints WR and two cheerleaders with passes. Brees is just plain in the zone. He understands the system and doesn't try to push anything. He's playing under control and making plays all day ... this offense is doing all of this with Lance Moore as the WR1! I think Brees could make Larry, Moe and Curly 1,000 yard receivers.
On the Redskins' stunning home loss to the Rams: Losing to the Rams is like going to the prom with your cousin -- if you're not from Kentucky (where that's expected). Josh Brown kicked the game-winner in the closing seconds and really bailed out the (numbskull) lineman who got a 15-yard penalty for running his mouth to the ref. Wonder what he said to the ref to get that flag?
Using only The Sporting News' Top 200 list as my benchmark, here's a hypothetical look at my first 15 draft picks in a roto-style league with 10 teams. I have the 7th pick in Round 1 -- a serpentine draft; and as you'll see below ... I prefer point guards and guys with statistical versatility over one-dimensional "stars."
Round 1 -- SF Josh Smith, Hawks (7th overall)
Rounds 2 -- PF Elton Brand, 76ers (14th overall)
Round 3 -- C Al Jefferson, Wolves (27th overall)
Round 4 -- PF Chris Bosh, Raptors (34th overall)
Round 5 -- PG Jose Calderon, Raptors (47th overall)
Round 6 -- PG Mo Williams, Cavs (54th overall -- tough call over Okafor, Miller, Wallace, Bogut)
Round 7 -- C Tyson Chandler, Hornets (67th overall)
Round 8 -- PF Al Horford, Hawks (74th overall)
Round 9 -- PG T.J. Ford, Pacers (87th overall)
Round 10 -- SF Peja Stojakovic, Hornets (94th overall)
Round 11 -- SG O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies (107th overall -- the ultimate upside pick)
Round 12 -- SG Ronnie Brewer, Jazz (114th overall -- a master thief)
Round 13 -- PG Rodney Stuckey, Pistons (127th overall -- should have PG/SG versatility, like Mayo)
Round 14 -- PF Luis Scola, Rockets (134th overall -- a double-double guy this year?)
Round 15 -- SF Jeff Green, Thunder (147th overall)