October 05, 2008
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Week 5 Revelations
DeAngelo Williams: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Carolina 34, Kansas City 0
  • If you had the foresight to trade for DeAngelo Williams this week (just like SI.com's Cory McCartney did -- giving up Dwayne Bowe in the process), congratulations on the biggest surprise bonanza of the young season (unless you benched him on Sunday -- yikes!). Against the hapless Chiefs, Williams racked up 148 total yards (123 rushing) and three TDs (two rushing), while his running mate, rookie Jonathan Stewart, produced only 80 total yards. For one day at least, Williams disavowed the notion of Carolina using a 50-50 backfield (with Stewart -- the No. 12 overall pick in April's draft); but let's be real here: As long as the 4-1 Panthers keep winning ... and Stewart and Williams keep showing flashes of brilliance ... and run-happy head coach John Fox remains in power, the team would be thrilled with each back registering 1,100 total yards and 7 TDs this season. In other words, you're probably damned if you own Stewart/Williams in fantasyland ... and damned if you don't own 'em (just like SI.com's Jeff Ritter, the new Bowe owner) -- especially for red-letter days like Sunday in Charlotte.

    On the flip side, we have the utterly forgettable performance of Larry Johnson -- seven carries for two yards. I'm willing to give LJ a free pass on this one, given the Chiefs' early deficit and the Panthers' stout defense. But Larry, mi compadre, you are doing neither me nor any other fantasy geek who's been trumpeting your "top-15 marketability" any favors by showing all-world form one week -- and then beer-league skills the next. Of course, there is one saving grace with Johnson now (and I'm not counting his 100-yard average the last two games -- 198 + 2 divided by 2): His trade-market price has once again slipped to the depths of Randy Moss, in the post-Brady-injury era (at least before Sunday).

  • New England 30, San Francisco 21
  • Speaking of Moss ... if I didn't know any better, I could have sworn Tom Brady (a native San Franciscan) was calling the shots Sunday at Monster Park -- instead of Matt Cassel -- hitting Moss on a 66-yard TD pass and then connecting with Wes Welker eight times for 73 yards. Those were two major functions of the 2007 Patriots ... which simply means one of two things:

    1) Either Cassel (22 of 32 for 259 and 1 TD) is a solid lock for 250 yards and 1-2 TDs each week from this point, OR
    2) Cassel's Brady-like day was an aberration and not representative of some amazing bye-week transformation. (I'm guessing the latter ... for now)

    As for the 49ers, I have big props reserved for RB Frank Gore (78 total yards, 1 TD), WR Isaac Bruce (3 catches, 49 yards, 2 TDs) and QB J.T. O'Sullivan (130 passing yards, 3 TDs). But that's where the fantasy goodness ends ... and the pity train for WR Bryant Johnson (3 catches, 27 yards) and Vernon Davis (zero catches) begins. In my warped world, this underperforming duo has officially crossed the line from "wild cards" to "fantasy roadkill." Ouch!

  • Indianapolis 31, Houston 27
  • Fantasy football is a fickle mistress, ain't it? Think about it: If you owned Reggie Wayne or Peyton Manning up until 3:20 p.m. EST on Sunday, you were likely in full-blown rant mode, throwing movable items at the TV ... or perhaps even worse, staring blankly at the screen, slack-jawed and disillusioned over the utter disappointment your day had become. But in a matter of minutes, the self-loathing turned into sheer elation, as the Colts miraculously converted a 17-point deficit into a four-point win -- thanks to Peyton's two touchdowns and Wayne's one-handed circus catch for a TD (Sage Rosenfels' two major gaffes didn't hurt, either).

  • Regarding the Texans, fantasy owners everywhere would be wise to ask the following question: Will the team's come-from-ahead loss have a death-knell effect on the season? After all, Houston stands at 0-4 in the AFC's toughest division -- all hopes for a South title are probably gone; and any chances for a wild-card berth are remote, at best. And then there's the debate of who'll be the regular quarterback, Matt Schaub (missed the game due to illness) or Rosenfels (246 yards, 1 TD on Sunday)? Either way, it's good to know that Andre Johnson (9 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD) and Steve Slaton (93 rushing yards, 2 TDs) are finally week-in, week-out starting studs.

  • Arizona 41, Buffalo 17
  • One could make the argument the Cardinals have the NFL's deepest collection of playmakers. It's one thing to have Kurt Warner (250 yards, 2 TDs), Edgerrin James (78 total yards, 1 TD), Larry Fitzgerald (7 catches, 52 yards, 2 TDs) and Anquan Boldin (missed game to surgery) firing on all fantasy-friendly cylinders -- even in 21-point losses to the Jets; that's a given. But the second wave of budding stars -- from WR Steve Breaston (7 catches, 77 yards), RB Tim Hightower (2 TDs on Sunday), WR Early Doucet (six catches) and, of course, QB Matt Leinart (someday) -- could realistically start and flourish for the Rams, Chiefs or Lions. Needless to say, you shouldn't be surprised by the team's 41-point output, even against a top-notch defense. (Quick aside: There is zero excuse for Breaston or Hightower being available on your waivers this week.)

    However, you should be shocked at how inept the Buffalo offense was, regardless if Trent Edwards or J.P. Losman was handling the QB duties. Take away Losman's picture-perfect 87-yard TD bomb to Lee Evans ... and you're stuck with a team that, for one day, resembled the Bills' dark days of 2006 -- a time when only Willis McGahee (and Evans, in deeper leagues) had any real fantasy value.

  • Revelations, Book II
    Clinton Portis: Paul Spinelli/Getty Images
    Washington 23, Philadelphia 17
  • So, this would be the portion of Clicks where I eat some big-time crow (I'm speaking to you, Jerome the Redskins Nut): Last week, I made not one, but two air-tight predictions of an Eagles thumping (somehwere in the neighborhood of 34-3), based on the Redskins' satisfaction with beating the Cowboys in Dallas in Week 4 ... and Philly's desperate need for a home victory. Well, I received some early validation when the Eagles took a 14-0 lead (a Brian Westbrook rushing TD; a DeSean Jackson return TD); but from that moment on, it was all Redskins. Leading the way, of course, was RB Clinton Portis (158 total yards, 1 TD) and TE Chris Cooley (8 catches, 109 yards, 1 TD) -- two must-start options on a weekly basis. But here's the weird thing about Cooley and correct me if I'm wrong, Redskins fan: Today was the first time I could recall Cooley scoring a TD while wearing the team's maroon jerseys. Hmmmm ...

  • N.Y. Giants 44, Seattle 6
  • Even if I had unlimited space here, I wouldn't devote one sentence to Giants backup WR Domenick Hixon (4 catches, 102 yards, 1 TD), outside of this: Enjoy your moment in the sun, dude. Also, I will not be giving props to any Seahawks playmaker except Bobby Engram, who corralled eight catches for 61 yards in his '08 debut (cracked shoulder). Instead, I will simply focus on the Giants' gruesome (in a good way) twosome -- QB Eli Manning (267 passing yards, 2 TDs) and RB Brandon Jacobs (145 total yards, 2 TDs). For the few remaining fantasy doubters out there (and believe me, I used to be one of 'em), Eli is primed for the best statistical season of his career; and Jacobs (380 rushing yards, 3 TDs this season) will literally run through (or over) any defender who stands between him and a contract extension next offseason.

  • Dallas 31, Cincinnati 22
  • Sad but true: For those in deep 10-team leagues, I am officially endorsing the dumping of Cincy's Chad Johnson for a less-heralded receiver (Kevin Walter, for example). He's been a drag on our fantasy teams for too long (it'd be different if he were injured ... or modest in his predictions), meaning it's time to get what you can via trade OR just cut him altogether. On a day when Carson Palmer threw 39 passes, how is that Ocho Cinco only caught three for 43 yards? Ugh! It's over ... I'm done with him. On the flip side, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (7 catches, 85 yards, 2 TDs) has crept back into regular-starter territory again; but how can you not cringe every time Carson winces in pain after a simple deep slant? (Can you believe it? I went an entire Clicks without mentioning the Cowboys. But for the record, I am blissfully aware of the superb outings for Felix Jones, Terrell Owens and Jason Witten -- with each one scoring a TD and piling up good yardage. All three, plus Tony Romo and Marion Barber are stellar plays in Week 6 against Arizona.)

  • Pittsburgh 26, Jacksonville 21
  • So many useless fantasy names ... so little time. The regular fan in me marvels at the energy and excitement of Steelers-Jags on Sunday night. But the fantasy honk in me immediately dismisses WR Nate Washington (94 receiving yards, 1 TD), TE Marcedes Lewis (one catch, one TD ... not worth the gamble) and some random Jags WR named Mike Walker (6 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD) -- unless you're stuck in a 14- or 16-team superleague. I'll even knock the fantasy viability of Mewelde Moore (116 total yards), simply because Fast Willie Parker is returning in Week 7, just in time for the Steelers' next game. Instead, I will tip my cap to Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (309 passing yards, 3 TDs) and Hines Ward (7 catches, 90 yards, 1 TD) ... and say, "Guys, you have earned a season-long pass as must-starters!"

  • Quick-Hitting Revelations
    Ronnie Brown: Doug Benc/Getty Images
  • Miami 17, San Diego 10: I am casting my early-season Fantasy MVP vote for Ronnie Brown, even though he's only dominated in two games, and here's why: The Chargers had to know the "Wildcat" formation (where Ronnie simply takes direct-center snaps out of the shotgun) was coming on Sunday ... and yet, they could do nothing to stop the Dolphins' progress. Sure, Brown didn't account for 5 TDs against the Bolts (like he did versus the Pats in Week 3), but his 133-yard, 1-TD encore performance was truly the stuff of fantasy legend. So, it goes without saying, start him at all times -- even if Reggie Bush (No. 1 in PPR leagues) and Frank Gore are your other two backs.

  • Denver 16, Tampa Bay 13: The real-world Broncos fan now knows his favorite team can win a game without scoring 20 points (something I doubted); but the fantasy honk who has Denver and/or Tampa Bay players littered throughout his roster gleaned absolutely nothing from the experience -- except that Broncos QB Jay Cutler (227 yards, 1 TD) can throw in the rain ... or Bucs WR Antonio Bryant (7 catches, 58 yards) is the favorite target for both Brian Griese (knocked out by injury) and backup Jeff Garcia. Outside of that, it was a pointless game; and Brandon Marshall (No. 1 in WR targets), Earnest Graham (80 total yards on Sunday) and Eddie Royal (only 23 receiving yards) can be counted on for beaucoup points beginning next week.

  • Tennessee 13, Baltimore 10: Attention, Todd Heap (4 catches, 41 yards) ... this is WAY TOO EARLY to be the end of the line. Staying in the tight end family ... I'm sorry I dropped you one week too early, Bo Scaife (7 catches, 79 yards). And Titans rookie RB Chris Johnson (48 total yards) ... lucky for you fantasy man-crushes last the entire season.

  • Atlanta 27, Green Bay 24: I'll have to look it up, but it's quite possible Matt Ryan (194 yards, 2 TDs), Michael Turner (121 yards, 1 TD) and Roddy White (8 catches, 132 yards, 1 TD) had the greatest day of any QB-RB-WR combo in Week 5. Perhaps more importantly, Turner has officially broken the Away From The Georgia Dome Jinx, which lasted all of two Falcons road games, meaning fantasy owners can feel free to start him wherever, whenever. As for Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (313 yards, 3 TDs), don't let the stats fool you -- the man winced after nearly every throw ... which spells trouble down the line.

  • Chicago 34, Detroit 7: Last, and certainly least, we have the sad-sack Lions, my hometown team; and I'll keep this short and sweet: Don't give up the ship on receivers Calvin Johnson (2 catches, 16 yards) or Roy Williams (7 catches, 96 yards) just yet ... because help is coming in the form of an unlikely source. His name: Drew Stanton, Detroit's QB of the future and the potential savior of a downtrodden franchise! (Of course, that may be my Michigan State rose-colored glasses kicking in ... but anything's better than a Jon Kitna with happy feet, a bruised ego and a tired arm, right?)

  • How'd We Do?

    The other day, I offered specific predictions for Week 5 -- some pure gold and others that flopped worse than The Tony Danza Show, the short-lived sitcom from 1997 (and not the daytime talk show that bears the same name) that starred -- who else? -- but former Taxi star, Tony Danza (what ... you thought I was going to say Judd Hirsch?). Here's a rundown of things so far:

    QB Locks For 275 Yards and/or 3 TDs
    1. Peyton Manning (247 yards, 2 TDs -- wrong)
    2. Matt Schaub (did not play -- illness)
    3. Philip Rivers (159 yards, 1 TD -- wrong)
    4. Donovan McNabb (196 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
    5. Jay Cutler (227 yards, 1 TD -- wrong)
    6. Kurt Warner (250 yards, 2 TDs -- wrong)
    7. Tony Romo (176 yards, 3 TDs -- correct!)
    8. Drew Brees (TBD on Monday night)

    RB Locks For 120 Yards and/or 2 TDs
    1. Adrian Peterson (TBD on Monday night)
    2. LaDainian Tomlinson (57 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
    3. Reggie Bush (TBD on Monday night)
    4. Frank Gore (78 total yards, 1 TD -- wrong)
    5. Marion Barber (92 yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
    6. Marshawn Lynch (65 total yards, 0 TDs -- wrong)
    7. Brian Westbrook (84 total yards, 1 TD -- wrong)
    8. Brandon Jacobs (145 total yards, 2 TDs -- correct!)
    9. Ronnie Brown (133 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
    10. Matt Forte (61 total yards, 2 TDs -- correct!)
    11. Larry Johnson (2 total yards, 0 TDs -- wayyyyyyyyyyyy off!)

    I Cannot Leave Without Saying That ...

    The time for fantasy owners with Itchy-Finger Syndrome has finally come ... after Week 5 and before Week 6, you should have enough empirical evidence to accept serious trading bids involving stars on your roster. And for Wednesday's Fantasy Clicks, I will devote a large chunk of the column to the science of making 1) fair trades, 2) conservative trades, 3) bold trades and 4) extreme swaps that'll make your fellow owners shake their heads and say, "He's either an idiot ... or the shrewdest man walking the earth!" My guess is it'll be a little of both.

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