November 23, 2009
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Week 11 Revelations
Matthew Stafford: AP
Detroit 38, Cleveland 37
  • If you thought being president of the Matthew Stafford Fan Club was a tough job prior to Sunday's game ... try being the P.R. director on Monday morning. On the strength of one 422-yard, 5-TD outing against the Browns -- including a game-winning TD pass to Brandon Pettigrew with no time left -- Stafford has become an overnight sensation in real-world football and a cult hero in fantasy circles. But what else would you expect from a golden goose (er, No. 1 overall draft pick) ... with a rocket arm ... and absurdly high tolerance for pain. Of course, Stafford needed a little help from his friends (and we're not talking about the officials) to earn the Lions' most thrilling regular-season win in 20 years ... in the form of WR Calvin Johnson (7 catches, 161 yards, 1 TD), RB Kevin Smith (149 total yards, 1 TD) and the aforementioned Pettigrew (6 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD). As for Detroit's short-term fantasy prospects, who knows if Stafford (bum left shoulder) will even be ready to play on Turkey Day against the Packers? But assuming he's raring to go by Week 14 ... he's staring at a doable slate of the injury-ravaged Ravens and bend-and-sometimes-break Cardinals (Week 15) -- just in case you're looking to catch lightning in a bottle one more time.

    Regarding the Browns, it'd be easy to chalk up the fantasy goodness of Brady Quinn (308 total yards, 4 TDs), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (5 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD) and Chansi Stuckey (5 catches, 76 yards, 1 TD) as a one-and-done byproduct of playing the Lions. But for the first time in the Eric Mangini era, Cleveland actually had the gusto to attack opposing defenses head-on, by ground AND by air. If anything, the coaching staff should realize the Browns have an infinitely better chance of winning with guns a-blazing ... than meekly trying to dink and dunk their way downfield. But at the risk of going loco here ... we'll take a wait-and-see approach with all Brownies down the stretch -- with the possible exception of Massaquoi and backup RB Chris Jennings (74 total yards), who may be the No. 1 waiver-wire pickup in 14- or 16-team leagues this week.

  • San Diego 32, Denver 3
  • There's no way we could verify the following belief so quickly: The Broncos have to be the only NFL franchise to blow 3-game divisional leads in successive seasons -- let alone to the same club. Think about that for a second ... we mean, really, really give it some thought. And after doing so, maybe you'll have a better understanding of why Jabar Gaffney was the team leader in receiving yards (55) ... why TE Tony Scheffler (1 catch, 12 yards on Sunday) came nowhere near his output against San Diego in Week 6 (101 yards/1 TD), why QB Kyle Orton was rushed into active duty after just two Chris Simms incompletions ... and WHY Brandon Marshall and Knowshon Moreno got into a heated exchange during the rout. Put it all together, and Denver has a legitimate chance to do something that has never been accomplished in NFL history: A six-game winning streak, followed by a 10-game losing skid. No need to verify that record -- if it actually comes true.

    Regarding the Chargers, it must be comforting to know the club can win a first-place showdown on the road by 29 points ... without much fantasy-friendly assistance from Vincent Jackson (4 catches, 56 yards), RB Darren Sproles (33 total yards), TE Antonio Gates (3 catches, 41 yards) or even QB Philip Rivers (145 passing yards, 1 TD). Put it all together, and you have a franchise that seems to enjoy watching LaDainian Tomlinson (73 total yards, 1 TD) play around with the radio stations/rear-view mirror while they're in cruise control -- and awaiting another AFC West title. Let's just hope they're back on the gas pedal for Week 12 against Kansas City -- where there's amazing fantasy goodness at potentially every turn.

  • Minnesota 35, Seattle 9
  • We'd like nothing more than to give Matt Hasselbeck a mulligan for his 235-yard, zero-TD, 1-INT outing against the Vikings -- especially since he almost led the Seahawks in rushing (sad but true) -- but it's hard to pat him on the back and say, "You'll get 'em next time," when Minnesota backup QB Tarvaris Jackson (82 total yards, 1 TD) nearly matched his fantasy output in one quarter of play. Simply put, Hasselbeck missed an opportunity to expose a Vikings defense that's been on the brink of chafing in recent weeks; perhaps even worse, he blew a chance to punch his ticket as a must-start during the fantasy-playoff weeks. As a direct consequence of Hasselbeck's mediocre play, it's hard to green-light Nate Burleson (6 catches, 100 yards) or RB Justin Forsett (89 total yards) from this point forward, even for potentially lopsided games. It's also a tad unnerving to embrace T.J. Houshmandzadeh (4 catches, 36 yards) as a PPR monster down the stretch, even with New Orleans and Tampa Bay on the docket in Weeks 15 and 16.

    On the Brett Favre side of the ledger, we have no qualms about his fantasy-playoff potential -- or any NFL game in between. If he's not throwing for 300 yards and/or four TDs, fantasy owners can at least bank on Favre's penchant for spreading the wealth amongst The Big Four -- Adrian Peterson (98 total yards), Sidney Rice (6 catches, 89 yards, 2 TDs), Percy Harvin (5 catches, 79 yards, 1 TD) and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (8 catches, 78 yards, 1 TD). Lucky for us, everything's relative in Favre's world, as evidenced by his ho-hum 213-yard, 4-TD effort against Seattle -- which proffered only three incompletions out of 25 pass attempts. For those who aren't math majors, that's an efficiency rate of 88 percent. Yikes!

  • Kansas City 27, Pittsburgh 24 (OT)
  • Think the Ravens defense is salivating at the prospect of Charlie Batch helming the Steelers offense in Week 12? Well, it's certainly an all-too-real possibility after watching Ben Roethlisberger take an incidental-but-still-painful knee/leg to the head in overtime. Against the Chiefs, Big Ben broke the hallowed mark of 400 total yards AND suffered an injury on his lone carry of the day (4 yards). If Big Ben misses any time from this point forward, it'd be prudent to dismiss Hines Ward (10 catches, 128 yards, 1 TD vs. KC), Santonio Holmes (7 catches, 86 yards) and Mike Wallace (2 catches, 47 yards) as automatic starters during the fantasy playoffs. In fact, we're giving a tentative thumbs-up to Heath Miller (7 catches, 95 yards, 1 TD) and RB Rashard Mendenhall (116 total yards, 1 TD) down the stretch, as well. Sorry, Charlie.

    Regarding the Chiefs, instead of breathlessly hyping the fantasy improvement of QB Matt Cassel (248 passing yards, 2 TDs), RB Jamaal Charles (66 total yards, 1 TD ... PLUS one kick-return TD) and WR Chris Chambers (4 catches, 119 yards) ... we'll simply focus on the club's easy-as-pie slate of the Chargers, Broncos, Bills and Browns in the next four weeks. And did we mention three of the games are at home -- with warm and sunny San Diego serving as the only roadie? Yes, it's a match made in fantasy heaven for the legions of incredibly patient Cassel owners ... or the ones who smartly dumped him in Week 5 and claimed him off the scrap heap after Week 10). Either way, it's paydirt time!

  • Revelations, Book II
    Tom Brady (left) and Randy Moss: AP
    New England 31, N.Y. Jets 14
  • In the Week 10 Revelations, we marveled at Sidney Rice's 7-catch/201-yard outing, hailing it as perhaps the greatest TD-less performance in Points Per Reception league history. Well, so much for that distinction, eh? Say goodbye to Sir Sidney ... and hello to Wes Welker's 15 catches and 192 yards (34.2 PPR points). Now, to be fair, Jets wunderkind Darrelle Revis spent all his time and energy covering Randy Moss (5 catches, 34 yards, 1 TD); but Welker still deserves major props for falling just one reception short of tying the Pats' single-game record (Troy Brown, circa 2002). The man who fed Brown 16 times seven years ago -- Tom Brady -- was obviously behind Welker's flurry of catches, as well. On the whole, though, Brady finished with a relatively quiet 319 total yards and one touchdown, leaving one to wonder if he was merely keeping his arm fresh for the ultimate showdown in Week 12 -- at the 10-0 Saints on Monday Night Football. I'm not a Nielsen expert by any means ... but I'm willing to bet Patriots-Saints will become ESPN's highest-rated sporting event of all time -- trumping any NFL game from the last 22 years or any Big East hoops clash where Bill Raftery became a quotable star!

    Regarding the Jets, would it be wrong to assume no one had QB Mark Sanchez (138 total yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs) in their bye-free starting lineup? Or Braylon Edwards (1 catch, 10 yards) as a PPR flex play? Good ... because we would hate to spend precious editorial space on extolling the virtues of GM-ing with your heart vs. GM-ing with your head. Staying with the Blatantly Obvious Things in Fantasy theme, Thomas Jones (103 rushing yards) is a must-start in all formats, regardless of the matchup; and tight end Dustin Keller should get full consideration for the Jets' hospitable slate of Weeks 12-15 -- Carolina, Buffalo (Toronto), Tampa Bay, Atlanta.

  • Arizona 21, St. Louis 13
  • Whoever said that Sirius satellite radio was an unncessary purchase for adults who live less than 5 minutes from work apparently never owned a fantasy team ... because that yearly subscription rate was completely justified on Sunday afternoon. Here's the backstory: While driving to the offices around 5:30 p.m., I listened intently to the Rams-Cardinals broadcast, fearing that Kurt Warner's injury (likely a concussion) would be a 1-to-3-week problem for fantasy owners (including yours truly). But out of the blue, the Arizona sideline reporter (whose name escapes me) alerted the broadcasting team that Warner gave him the proverbial thumbs-up about his maladay and that any time off during the second half would strictly be a precautionary measure (it helped that Arizona had a commanding 21-3 lead). Fast forward to 75 minutes later, as I didn't overreact to Steve Breaston's goose-egg (aka, zero catches), nor did I start contacting other owners about sell-high deals involving Anquan Boldin (8 catches, 103 yards, 1 TD), Larry Fitzgerald (8 catches, 87 yards, 1 TD), Beanie Wells (85 total yards, 1 TD) or RB Tim Hightower (125 total yards). In other words, no news is good G-nus with Arizona, which has the easiest fantasy-playoff sked of any NFL team -- bar none.

    We'd love to discuss the Rams' fantasy prospects for the stretch run -- from Brandon Gibson's PPR viability, in comparison to Donnie Avery ... or the chances of Marc Bulger sniffing 3 TDs in a game -- but this would be an obvious exercise in futility, since no one in their right mind would take their playoff chances with any Ram not named Steven Jackson (116 yards, 1 TD vs. Arizona). So, for the sake of keeping things simple here, let's just hope that S-Jax keeps adding to his TD streak (currently at three) and stays healthy for the juicy Week 15 and 16 matchups with Houston and Arizona, respectively. If that occurs, there's a good chance he'll be Fantasy Bowl MVP ... or, on a less-prestigious level, Toilet Bowl MVP.

  • Indianapolis 17, Baltimore 15
  • Joseph Addai rushing for 74 yards against the Ravens (in Baltimore) is the mathematical equivalent to hanging 120 on the Lions, Bucs, Browns or Rams. So, perhaps we should give Addai (81 total yards, 1 TD) top billing for the accomplishment. That's not to say Peyton Manning (299 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INTs), Reggie Wayne (7 catches, 89 yards), Pierre Garcon (6 catches, 108 yards) and Tom Santi -- who? -- didn't pull their respective fantasy weight ... it's just that Addai deserves big-time credit for keeping the Colts' unblemished season intact. And in time, we shall get credit for delivering on the following promise: In Week 12 against Houston, Addai will rack up AT LEAST 140 total yards and two touchdowns. On a more conservative note, we're also predicting that Dallas Clark will tally more than 3 receiving yards.

    On the flip side ... we have no outlandish fantasy statements to make about the Ravens. But we do have an important Public Service Announcement to pass on: Club officials have reluctantly voted to continue the "milk carton" program for the Baltimore players who've disappeared this season -- beginning with Le'Ron McClain (Week 1), Willis McGahee (Week 4), Mark Clayton (Week 7) and ending with Todd Heap (Week 9), QB Joe Flacco (Week 10) and ex-kicker Steven Hauschka (Week 11). Of course, that still leaves Ray Rice (135 total yards vs. Indy) and Derrick Mason (9 catches, 142 yards) for public consumption ... but who's to say how long that'll last? Hopefully, not before Week 14 against Detroit.

  • Jacksonville 18, Buffalo 15
  • The fantasy similarities between the Jaguars and Bengals are uncanny. Each team has a warm-and-cuddly QB (David Garrard, Carson Palmer), a top-5 running back (Cedric Benson, Maurice Jones-Drew) and a wide receiver -- Mike Sims-Walker, Chad Ochocinco -- who's absolutely lights-out at home, but painfully ordinary in road games. After that ... it's bupkes for both clubs. Thankfully for Jacksonville, Sunday's home game wrought plenty of fantasy goodness for Sims-Walker (8 catches, 91 yards, 1 TD), MJD (84 total yards, 1 TD) and Garrard (231 total yards, 1 TD); and thankfully for the rest of us, there are still no winners in America's favorite office-pool game: When will the Jags slay that no-sellout/TV-blackout dragon at the old Gator Bowl?

    As for the hard-luck Bills, here's all you need to know about North America's Team: Excluding Terrell Owens' 197 receiving yards (nine catches and one touchdown), Buffalo accounted for only 118 yards, which might explain why free-agent coach Mike Shanahan has the Bills as his third choice for the 2010 season -- behind the Cowboys and the Savannah College Of Art & Design (it's based in Atlanta ... about two blocks away from the office).

  • N.Y. Giants 34, Atlanta 31 (OT)
  • Oh sure, most owners likely missed out on the fantasy greatness of TE Kevin Boss (5 catches, 76 yards, 2 TDs vs. Atlanta) and WR Mario Manningham (6 catches, 126 yards) ... and Steve Smith (4 catches, 79 yards)/Hakeem Nicks (5 catches, 65 yards) were solid but hardly spectacular on an ideal day for scoring (read: great weather). But if anything, we now can declare -- with 99.9 percent confidence -- the Giants have officially crossed the line from grind-it-out running team to a pass-friendly club. Don't believe us? What other explanation is there for Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw tallying only 24 rushes, 73 total yards and one touchdown? It's not like the Falcons still have B-I-G Grady Jackson plugging the running lanes; and yet, New York made a concerted effort to attack the Atlanta defense through the air, courtesy of Eli Manning and career-best 384 passing yards. From this point forward, Manning, Smith, Manningham, Boss and Nicks are every-week considerations at the flex spot (especially PPR leagues), whereas Jacobs and Bradshaw are must-trades (if you can spare 'em) before the Wednesday deadlines.

    Regarding the Falcons, there's not much to complain about here. Matt Ryan (282 total yards, 2 TDs) had a nice slump-busting day, including that pressure-packed, perfect-strike TD to Tony Gonzalez to force overtime. Gonzo (8 catches, 82 yards, 1 TD) was his typical all-world self. Michael Jenkins (6 catches, 76 yards) didn't embarrass fantasy owners in deeper PPR leagues; and Jason Snelling amassed 89 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Michael Turner (bad ankle). The only daddy-downer moment -- aside from the playoff-crippling overtime loss, of course -- came in the form of Roddy White's 4-catch, 45-yard outing ... which, frankly, is enough evidence to sell reasonably high on him before the trade deadline. White's lower-body injury (knee? ankle?) may not be enough to keep him out ... but it's sufficient ammo for getting 90 cents on the trade dollar.

  • Revelations, Book III
    LeSean McCoy: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
    Philadelphia 24, Chicago 20
  • It's scary to think about how good WR DeSean Jackson (8 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD) and rookie RB LeSean McCoy (99 rushing yards, 1 TD) are at this point -- compared to what they'll be in roughly 3-5 years. Seriously, is there a better RB/WR combination of under-24 performers in the league? Kevin Smith/Calvin Johnson? Adrian Peterson/Sidney Rice? Whatever the case, these guys could easily carry Philly to a playoff berth (and beyond) in '09, while also doubling as primary purveyors of fantasy championships ... especially if Brian Westbrook's concussion problems are serious and if Donovan McNabb goes on an unconscious roll in the very-near future. Against the Bears, McNabb owners had to settle for 249 total yards and two touchdowns. But hath no fear, for McNabb is on the hook for 300 yards and/or three TDs in Weeks 13 (@ Atlanta) and 15 (vs. San Francisco).

    On the flip side, there are no guarantees with the slumping Bears -- from QB Jay Cutler (182 total yards, 1 TD, 1 INT vs. Philly) and RB Matt Forte (54 total yards) to TE Greg Olsen (5 catches, 42 yards) and WR Earl Bennett (5 catches, 57 yards). It's the nature of the beast with the Monsters of the Midway: Every week is a non-predictable and oh-so-frustrating grab bag of fantasy goodness or badness. Heck, we can't even guarantee that WR Devin Hester (4 catches, 18 yards) will keep his pants on from this point forward. And frankly, that's a concern.

  • Green Bay 30, San Francisco 24
  • Need further proof that Ryan Grant is a classic second-half back in fantasyland? Look no further than his 145-yard, 1-TD effort against the 49ers, thus overshadowing the impressive days of Aaron Rodgers (357 total yards, 2 TDs), TE Jermichael Finley (7 catches, 54 yards in his return from injury) and WR Greg Jennings (5 catches, 126 yards, 1 TD). In fact, of the five times Grant has amassed at least 130 yards and one touchdown in the same game (over three seasons), only once has this feat occurred before Week 8. Maybe that's a product of the harsh winters in Green Bay (allowing for fewer passes) ... or maybe it's because the man simply gets stronger down the stretch (hamstrings aside) and represents the perfect trade commodity during the fantasy playoffs. Either way, we're banking heavily on him right now -- along with his Jonathan Stewart-like sidekick in Brandon Jackson (81 total yards on Sunday) ... as a handcuff, of course.

    As for the 49ers ... FOX TV analyst Brian Billick paid Michael Crabtree the ultimate compliment by saying he'd underestimated Crabtree's desire to get the job done -- no matter the Green Bay coverage or the occasional inaccurate pass from QB Alex Smith. He's not a typical rookie. He doesn't shy away from contact or pressure. As a result, it's easy to believe that Crabtree's career-best outing of 4 catches/77 yards/1 TD will immediately be eclipsed next week against Jacksonville. Tight end Vernon Davis (6 catches, 108 yards, 1 TD) also deserves major kudos for fighting through the Packers' press coverage, often against cornerbacks Charles Woodson/Al Harris. If there's any player who's made a greater fantasy leap this season ... we're genuinely struggling to name him. Thankfully, Frank Gore isn't about wild shifts of production from year to year; he's about pleasing fantasy owners, even on days with 10 measly touches (68 total yards, 1 TD).

  • New Orleans 38, Tampa Bay 7
  • The notion of burying the Saints in Book III seems a little cruel. After all, they did rack up 38 points and Drew Brees registered his typical three TDs (187 yards passing). But let's be honest here: Not one person in the fantasy universe had little-used TE David Thomas (4 catches, 66 yards, 1 TD) in their starting lineups; and a fraction of the fantasy masses probably had Robert Meachem tabbed for two touchdowns. Going one step further, how many people still showed loyalty toward RB Mike Bell (80 total yards, 2 TDs) after his disappearing act in recent weeks? Nope, the only tangible topics for discussion lie with Marques Colston (5 catches, 74 yards) and RB Pierre Thomas (93 total yards): They're automatic starters from Weeks 13-16, a stretch that features Washington, Atlanta, Dallas and -- cha-ching! -- Tampa Bay.

    On the flip side ... the Bucs are a real-world and fantasy mess -- but you already knew that. QB Josh Freeman totaled only 156 yards and one touchdown ... with three interceptions. After that, no other Bucs playmaker produced more than 40 yards. In summary, either Tampa Bay is still in 'hangover' mode from the Green Bay comeback win of Week 9 ... or the Bucs left all of their home magic in those retro-chic creamsicle uniforms.

  • Oakland 20, Cincinnati 17
  • How's this for a segue? We go from the Bucs ... to the West Coast version of the Bucs, aka the Raiders. Yes, Oakland pulled out a somewhat shocking victory over Cincinnati -- thanks to Andre Caldwell's crucial fumble in the final seconds, setting up Sebastian Janikowski's game-winning field goal. And yes, QB Bruce Gradkowski (191 total yards, 2 TDs) deserves some credit for doubling the regular fantasy output of JaMarcus Russell (cue sad music). But that aside, it was truly a pitiful performance by every playmaker NOT named Zach Miller (5 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD) -- including the three-headed albatross of RBs Justin Fargas (49 total yards), Darren McFadden (35 total yards) and Michael Bush (27 yards). Interesting note about Bush: On the heels of a 119-yard effort against Kansas City in Week 10 ... he merited only four touches against Cincy. Ain't continuity grand?

    The Bengals didn't fare much better in this collective snoozefest. If Carson Palmer (214 total yards, zero TDs, 1 INT) and Chad Ochocinco (4 catches, 67 yards) weren't bland enough to send DirecTV Sunday Ticket viewers scrambling for the remote control, then the mundane Cincy receivers (2.5 catches/35 yards per man) certainly sealed the deal. The only bright spot, surprisingly, was RB Bernard Scott, whose 151 total yards likely accelerated the recovery timetable of Cedric Benson AND de-emphasized the midweek signing of Larry Johnson (2 carries, 5 yards). Talk about killing two fantasy birds with one stone. Boom!

  • Dallas 7, Washington 6
  • There are two ways of looking at Rock Cartwright: The fantasy optimist would say his 140 total yards were a long time coming AND that he will post similar numbers if given a chance to start in Week 12 (considering the tenuous health of Clinton Portis/Ladell Betts, that's a real possibility). The pessimists, however, would say that Washington's offense is so putrid right now ... there's no reason to start Cartwright or QB Jason Campbell (256 passing yards, zero TDs). After all, what self-respecting fantasy owner would choose a player from a team that's averaging 8.9 points per game??? (or something like that)

    It'd be easy for us to ignore the latest installment of Redskins-Cowboys on the simple premise of, Life's too short to worry about things that make you sad. But in the spirit of the holiday season, we'll humor the delusional owners who still believe that Tony Romo (158 yards passing, 1 TD) is a top-10 fantasy QB, Miles Austin's 15 minutes of fame aren't almost up, Jason Witten (5 catches, 43 yards) is more than just a blocking tight end and that Roy Williams (zero catches) and Felix Jones are even worth owning in 12- or 14-team leagues. Wow ... that's a lot of negatives when describing America's Team. But since we're just three days from Thanksgiving, let's finish with a positive: Marion Barber (107 total yards) would make the perfect flex player during the fantasy playoffs -- especially for leagues that aren't touchdown-obsessive. Oops, there I go ... with another negative.

  • Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night (@SI_JayClemons), accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday and Monday during the NFL season.
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