September 28, 2010

Monday night was a perfect example of how a good, real-life 20-17 game can be a fantasy football wet blanket. The Bears gladly accepted a gift-wrapped win by the Packers (thanks in part to 18 penalties) becoming only the second-most improbable 3-0 team in the NFL east of Kansas City.

But it was fantasy owners of the Packers' passing game who were the main winners, with most of Green Bay's central players coming through in one form or another, despite the weirdly defensive-dominant theme. So far MNF is 3-for-3 in odd, non-fantasy point producing nights, which have been great for owners playing against teams with players left, but bad for owners down to the last bullet while staring at scoreboard deficits.

What I loved:Aaron Rodgers was the real star Monday night with 316 yards, one touchdown passing and one rushing. In fact, the entire Packers passing game was a great example of an aerial democracy where everyone played a role. Greg Jennings caught an early touchdown, Jermichael Finley hit the 100-yard mark for the second straight week and Donald Driver chipped in with 61 yards on a PPR-friendly nine catches (off a team-best 11 targets).

What I liked: In the Chicago passing attack there was a silver lining and it wasn't just pollution. Johnny Knox (4 catches, 94 yards) made a strong case for himself with his second straight productive week while as predicted here, Greg Olsen (5 catches, 64 yards, 1 TD) continues to prove the preseason doubters wrong. While many predicted doom and gloom with OC Mike Martz being a notorious tight end killjoy, yours truly expected the Bears' most accomplished pass catcher to continue his upward climb this season.

What I liked Part II: Both defenses looked worth their weight in fantasy value. The Bears' clutch fourth quarter caused fumble by Brian Urlacher and interception by Lance Briggs helped make up for their lack of sacks while Green Bay got to Jay Cutler three times and notched a Derrick Martin pick to help the Packers' cause.

What I disliked: Cutler did come a couple inches from an Earl Bennett catch from getting two TD passes, but barely clocking in over 200 yards with one scoring pass and one pick isn't going to usually get it done. The good news was that he overcame his horrendous first half interception to settle down to executing the mostly conservative passing attack. It was his first real stinker after two solid games, but tough to watch nonetheless.

What I loathed: Both running games were atrocious. For those in Ryan Grant support groups, I feel your pain but it might be time to start making other plans in lieu of Brandon Jackson's ineffectiveness. It was tough to run in the trenches on both sides Monday, but 1.7 yards on seven carries for 12 yards is abysmal for anyone.

And for those who owned Matt Forte a year ago, Monday surely provided flashbacks of futility. Eleven carries for 29 yards just doesn't cut it, especially since he was virtually ignored in the passing game (2 catches for 14 yards) despite being especially productive the first two weeks.

Speculating is always fun and nothing beats rummaging through the waiver wire with the chance to turn trash into treasure. Here are some names on the radar for this week's transaction day that could pay off down the road.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots: With Fred Taylor getting banged up to the surprise of no one, the Patriots' big back picked up the slack Sunday. With running back slots always in demand, it wouldn't hurt to snatch Green-Ellis up with the chance he could play his way into the featured tailback role in New England.

Peyton Hillis, Browns: If the Browns back is still available, run -- don't walk -- to the wire. Jerome Harrison owners should especially take heed, with last year's waiver wonder battling injuries and inconsistency.

Brandon Lloyd, Broncos: While Jabar Gaffney got some sleeper hype in the preseason (grab him if he's available, too), the former 49er was such a deep sleeper, he was nearly cryogenic. Thus far, Lloyd has produced big plays for a surprisingly effective Broncos passing game and gone over the century mark in two of three weeks.

Lance Moore, Saints: Sunday felt like 2008 all over again, back when Moore was the toast of the Saints' passing game. Every week a different Saint seems to step up as Drew Brees' top target (Devery Henderson in Week 1, etc.), but taking a flier on the speedy Moore wouldn't hurt.

Austin Collie, Colts: Another passing team with a never-ending stable of receivers, Collie is a nice long shot especially for Pierre Garcon owners concerned his hamstring injury could linger. He might not sniff 12 catches in a game ever again, but Sunday could prove a big coming out party for down the road.

It was as if San Francisco's firing of offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was a statement for all fantasy fans suffering with Niners on their rosters. Well, almost.

In any event, the promotion of Mike Johnson is an attempt to spark the 0-3 49ers and resurrect their 31st-ranked offense. Hopefully, it helps free up the likes of quarterback Alex Smith and his talented receiving weapons like Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, who have hardly made a fantasy ripple. Preseason top-6 pick Frank Gore hasn't been spared in the fallout, with two performances of 44 yards rushing or less in three games. Changing horses in midstream reeks of desperation and of the tough situation the one-time NFC West's preseason favorite is in. Changing it up might turn things around with a fresh perspective, or further implode the fading stock many of us hold in our 49ers. After all, look at teams last year like the Chiefs, Bills and Buccaneers, who fired their OCs on the eve of the regular season and followed it up with horrendous offensive play. Stay tuned.

In lieu of renaming this after the missing Carolina backfield, the Jets' Shonn Greene continues to leave fantasy owners grasping for sewing pins and their LaDainian Tomlinson voodoo dolls. Unless the former Charger gets hurt, it's looking more and more like Greene is the RB2 in New York, with only 106 yards through three games. In what was the ultimate slap, the bigger and more physical Iowa product was bypassed for a goal-line touchdown that went to Tomlinson Sunday night. Ouch.

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