September 28, 2009
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Week 3 Revelations
Aaron Rodgers: AP
Green Bay 36, St. Louis 17
  • Aaron Rodgers could play 15 more years in the NFL and probably never have a more productive day -- with just 13 completions. OK, so his 307-yard, 3-TD outing came against the Rams -- my choice for the league's worst record in 2009 -- but it's encouraging to see him post monster fantasy numbers without playing at peak performance. Luckily for Rodgers, three Packers stars -- Greg Jennings, Ryant Grant, Donald Driver -- eclipsed the century mark in total yards. It goes without saying: Jennings (2 catches, 103 yards), Grant (104 total yards) and Driver (108 total yards, 1 TD) are all must-starts for the foreseeable future ... especially when you consider Green Bay's easy-schedule for Weeks 4-13 (@ Minnesota, Bye, Detroit, @ Cleveland, Minnesota, @ Tampa Bay, Dallas, San Francisco, @ Detroit). And that, in a nutshell, represents WHY you moved heaven and earth to draft Jennings and Rodgers in Rounds 3/4, respectively.

    As for the Rams, Will the last healthy player to leave St. Louis please turn the lights off? Seriously, as if this franchise didn't already have a noticeable dearth in talent, they must now combat the losses of Marc Bulger (23 yards passing before hurting his shoulder), WR Laurent Robinson (2 catches, 26 yards -- before being carted off the field) and WR Donnie Avery (he's not hurt, just Missing In Action in full-view of Rams fans). As usual, Steven Jackson brought his touchdown-less A-game to the party, racking up 163 total yards (117 rushing). But if he continues to have end-zone troubles, his trade marketability will surely suffer ... and his draft value for 2010 may be in the dumps, as well. On the other hand, Kyle Boller's 2009 stock couldn't be any higher after throwing for 134 yards and two touchdowns in relief of the injured Bulger. The one-time Ravens QB, frankly, should never be starting in 10-, 12- or 14-team leagues ... but he does possess some trade value to graduates of the University of Cal-Berkeley (Boller's alma mater) or any direct relative to Rams fullback Daniel Fells (2 TDs vs. Green Bay).

  • Philadelphia 34, Kansas City 14
  • Care to hear something amazing about Kevin Kolb and Matt Cassel, the respective starting QBs for Philly and Kansas City? Kolb (328 total yards, 3 TDs) is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300-plus yards in his first two starts. And Cassel, back in his halcyon Patriot days of 2008, is one of a few QBs in league history to exceed 400 yards passing twice in the same season. Think about that for a second. Both signal-callers could realistically walk through a grocery store in Anytown, USA without getting mobbed (or even noticed) by the general populace ... and yet Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia would never get past the grab-the-shopping-cart phase, before turning about-face to leave the store. But Kolb and Cassel represent the new breed of unknowns who possess unreal fantasy value -- if given the opportunity to succeed in progressive offensive systems. Unfortunately for Kolb, his tour-of-duty as the Eagles' starter has likely come to an end; but it's good to know that if McNabb should encounter an injury setback (rib fracture), it'll be Kolb -- not Vick -- leading the Philly offense. Speaking of (ahem) "Superman" ... he amassed all of 7 yards on Sunday, justifying a certain know-it-all's previous rants about his nonexistent fantasy value.

    Away from the QBs, we all know DeSean Jackson (6 catches, 149 yards, 1 TD) is a must-start regardless of who's throwing him the ball. But what about tight end Brent Celek and his 104 receiving yards and one score? Is he the real deal ... or is his success a byproduct of having a built-in rapport with Kolb? Right now, it can go either way. At the very least, his fantasy owners should explore all trade avenues ASAP -- just to get a sense of the marketplace. As for Kansas City's cavalcade of stars, Larry Johnson (38 rushing yards) has regressed to the point where he's only a solid play in home games ... against medicore competition (just like Julius Jones). If anything, Jamaal Charles (70 total yards) has emerged as the Chiefs' go-to back from a weekly standpoint. Ironically, he can be easily had on the waiver wires.

  • Denver 23, Oakland 3
  • Do you recall the opening moments of Stripes, where Bill Murray's character gets fired from his job, orders a pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and roadside-gravel and then endures a sudden breakup with his girlfriend -- on the basis of not being "cute" anymore? Well, I see the same sad tendencies in JaMarcus Russell's NFL game. His lack of mobility reminds one of Byron Leftwich ... when his Marshall teammates carried him to the line of scrimmage, circa 2002. Russell's superior arm strength means nothing when factoring in his stupefying inaccuracy. And his lack of general passion for what he's doing -- at least that's my perception -- is a major fantasy downer. As a result, the other Raiders playmakers -- Darren McFadden (48 total yards), Zach Miller (2 catches, 17 yards), Louis Murphy (2 catches, 25 yards), Michael Bush (40 total yards) -- now have dwindling or no fantasy value from this point forward. Kind of like a Cone of Ignorance effect.

    Regarding the Broncos, three cheers for Brandon Marshall (5 catches, 67 yards, 1 TD) getting off the proverbial schnide. We also have major props for Correll Buckhalter (108 yards) and Knowshon Moreno (90 yards, 1 TD). But after that, there's just nothing to shout about. But hey, at least Kyle Orton (157 passing yards, 1 TD) still has his job as Denver's starting QB, his pizzas are delivered gravel-free and his girlfriend/wife presumably hasn't left him, thus forcing him into a spur-of-the-moment move to join the United States Army.

  • Jacksonville 31, Houston 24
  • The Texans may be ghastly to watch on TV when wearing those all-red uniforms ... but there's no denying their entertainment value in fantasyland. Every episode is like an EKG reading -- or as George Costanza would say, "a heart attack" of ups and downs -- where fantasygoers are forced to examine the good/bad consequences of every action. Take Steve Slaton: The optimist would point to his total-yardage improvement from Week 1 to Week 3 (113 yards on Sunday) ... whereas the pessimist would gladly recall the zero touchdowns and three fumbles to date (one lost). With Andre Johnson, the optimist would trumpet AJ's 10-catch, 149-yards, 2-TD outing in Week 2 ... while the pessimist would chalk it up to one very-high peak in a season of underwhelming lows. And last but not least, Matt Schaub has somehow shaken off a porous Week 1 to throw for 657 yards and six touchdowns in the last eight days. What does it all mean? Well, it tells us that Schaub, Johnson, Slaton and Kevin Walter (7 catches, 96 yards, 1 TD) will likely finish with good-to-great numbers by season's end ... but we'll have an impossible time separating the good games from bad before the 1 p.m. kickoffs.

    Regarding the Jags, is there any way we can fill this paragraph without mentioning Maurice Jones-Drew at every turn? At face value, Jacksonville has no business strutting out of Reliant Stadium with a victory; but it's funny how MJD can be the great equalizer when rolling up 147 total yards and three touchdowns. If you have any respectable bench depth right now ... how about offering Owner B Roddy White, Devin Hester and Felix Jones -- as part of a blockbuster 3-for-1 swap? Trust me, MJD will be worth it in the end. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for WR Torry Holt (3 catches, 57 yards), TE Marcedes Lewis (1 catch, 18 yards) and QB David Garrard (243 total yards, 0 TDs vs. Houston). None are worth owning in 10- or 12-team leagues.

  • Minnesota 27, San Francisco 24
  • When assessing Brett Favre's fantasy day (301 yards, 2 TDs), it's darn-near impossible to avoid getting swept up in the hysteria of Greg Lewis's miracle game-winning catch with 2 seconds left. Even the heartiest of Favre haters would agree that his magic -- at the tender age of 39 -- knows no bounds. If you've been paying attention to Fantasy Clicks since August, you'll know that Favre has consistently ranked as the No. 20 quarterback ... just ahead of 49ers QB Shaun Hill (195 passing yards, 2 TDs on Sunday). But now, after that performance, it'd be disingenuous to suggest that he's not on par with Eli Manning, Matt Schaub, Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel, Kyle Orton or Matt Hasselbeck (when healthy). This isn't to say Favre has officially turned a fantasy corner -- god knows more 155-yard clunkers are on the way -- but at least he possesses weekly viability ... which is more than we can say for TE Visanthe Shiancoe (2 catches, 22 yards). Life's too short to wait for this turnip in fantasyland ... especially when Brent Celek is likely amongst The Unwanted in free agency.

    Speaking of unfettered tight ends, is there ANY explanation for Vernon Davis's 7-catch, 96-yard, 2-TD day -- outside of labeling this a certifiable breakout performance? Uh, I have a theory: The Vikings are notorious for allowing tight ends to run free in recent years. In fact, didn't Minnesota's opponent score a tight-end touchdown in nine straight games back in 2007? For the time being, let's just chalk VD's monster afternoon to the stars ... or that offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye left his WR-specific pages from the playbook at his Minneapolis hotel room before the 1 p.m. kickoff. But just in case ... feel free to grab Davis as your backup tight end (or Shiancoe's immediate replacement).

    By the way, we wanted to squeeze Adrian Peterson (99 total yards) and Frank Gore (4 total yards -- left with injury) into this segment ... but we couldn't find room. Guess you'll just have to keep 'em -- and avoid Itchy Trade-Finger Syndrome for another week, eh?)

  • Revelations, Book II
    Reggie Wayne (L), Dallas Clark: Harry How/Getty Images
    Indianapolis 31, Arizona 10
  • If you think about it, the Cardinals never really stood a chance. Just six days ago, the Colts miraculously pulled out a win at Miami despite possessing the ball for only 14 of the 60 minutes. So, leading up to their much-anticipated showdown with the defending NFC champions, Indy had a full backlog of never-used-against-the-Dolphins plays -- in addition to the regular Week 3 gameplan -- for Peyton Manning to consider. The predictable results: Manning threw for a season-high 379 yards and four touchdowns, while bedazzling the Arizona defense with short-and-long passes to six different pass-catchers -- all of whom caught at least three balls or produced 62-plus receiving yards. The stars, per usual, included Reggie Wayne (7 catches, 126 yards, 1 TD) and TE Dallas Clark (7 catches, 62 yards, 1 TD). The supporting cast -- Pierre Garcon (81 total yards, 1 TD), Joseph Addai (71 total yards, 1 TD), Donald Brown (112 total yards), Austin Collie (3 catches, 47 yards) -- were similarly stellar against the Cards, so much that Addai, Brown and now Garcon should always be considered for starts from this point forward.

    As for the Cards ... the numbers look somewhat appealing for fantasyland. But the whole experience of not matching Indy's offensive flair and execution certainly leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. For starters, what to do with rookie RB Beanie Wells (-2 yards) or Tim Hightower (61 total yards)? Can they be trusted in non-blowout situations in Arizona's favor (like last week against Jacksonville)? And can we finally remove Steve Breaston (7 catches, 94 yards) from next week's injury list -- at least the "questionable" tag -- now that he's led the club in receiving yards for consecutive weeks? Geesh!

  • Regarding Anquan Boldin (6 catches, 83 yards, 1 TD) and Larry Fitzgerald (7 catches, 76 yards) ... are they possible buy-low candidates on the open trade market -- especially if Kurt Warner (332 passing yard, 1 TD, 2 INTs) keeps up his erratic pace? Here's one way to find out: Identify an owner who's desperate for running back help ... and see if he/she would surrender Fitzy or Boldin -- straight-up -- for Willis McGahee, Frank Gore or Thomas Jones.

    Chicago 25, Seattle 19
  • By any standard, this was a perfect fantasy day for the Bears offense. From Jay Cutler (247 passing yards, 3 TDs) and Matt Forte (106 total yards) to TE Greg Olsen (5 catches, 44 yards, 1 TD), WR Earl Bennett (4 catches, 80 yards) and WR Devin Hester (5 catches, 76 yards, 1 TD), you'll be hard-pressed to see Chicago repeat this across-the-board balance the rest of the way. But that's what Cutler brings to the table as The Man in the Windy City: He offers weekly hope to a legion of fans searching for the next Sid Luckman. That hope extends to fantasy owners, as well, especially those who need continual reassurances as to why Johnny Knox (1 catch, 7 yards) remains on their roster.

    Regarding Seattle, Julius Jones' impressive outing (136 total yards, 1 TD) may have brought unexpected joy to fantasy owners ... but let's not forget his Jekyll-and-Hyde reputation for being lights-out at home ... and eminently forgettable on the road. Or do we need to take the Way Back Machine to Week 2 ... when he registered only 9 total yards on double-digit touches? On the positive side of the above condemnation, not everyone is aware of Jones' horrid play on the road ... which gives you six days to conceive a sell-high swap before Seattle leaves Qwest Field for five of its next eight games.

  • San Diego 23, Miami 13
  • In a perfect world, Philip Rivers would throw 3-4 touchdowns each week. But life isn't always fair. Sometimes, you just have to settle for his 310.3-yard average and move on from there. Sarcasm aside, how long can Rivers maintain his Brees-like yardage pace? Two more games? Three? The early line suggests he'll struggle three times over the next seven weeks (beginning with Pittsburgh in Week 4); but then again, who thought he'd go for 739 yards against Baltimore and Miami, respectively? Here's one thing you can bank on: As long as Rivers is dealing a hot hand, Vincent Jackson (5 catches, 120 yards vs. Miami) will continue to push for the title of fantasyland's best receiver, ahead of Fitzgerald, Johnson, Johnson, Moss and Wayne. He's that good!

    Regarding the Dolphins, would they have reached a different outcome Sunday if Chad Pennington hadn't fumbled at the San Diego 1 on the opening possession? What if Miami had found paydirt on that 18-play, 94-yard drive that ended with a touchback in the Chargers' end zone? We'll never know, of course, but it is fun to dream about Ronnie Brown capping a 115-yard day with a touchdown. It's fun to imagine how Ricky Williams (84 yards, 1 TD) would be perceived -- from this point forward -- if he had somehow found the end zone twice. In the meantime, we'll just have to gauge the extent of Pennington's injury before making any sustainable judgments on WRs Davone Bess (7 catches, 54 yards) or Ted Ginn, Jr. (zero catches). Right here, right now, they're not worth your time in standard-scoring leagues (although both hold Points Per Reception-league value).

  • Detroit 19, Washington 14
  • As a Detroit native who usually has no trouble separating real-world football from the whimsical wonderment of fantasyland, I cannot help but take pride in the Lions' landmark victory -- one that stops all chatter of the 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 26-game losing streak and hopefully puts the Matthew Stafford is a bust talk to rest (at least for now). At face value, Stafford's 264-yard, 1-TD day was decent; but looking at the bigger picture, this win allows him to clear those cumbersome mental hurdles of The Streak AND securing his first professional victory. From this point on, he can just sit back, relax and focus on getting sharper as the weeks and months progress. Without a doubt, Stafford will be a top-5 fantasy QB someday (2012?) ... but in the meantime, ambitious fantasy owners can confidently pencil him for emergency starts in Week 8 (St. Louis), Week 9 (at Seattle), Week 11 (Cleveland) and Week 15 (Arizona). As for Detroit's other playmakers, Calvin Johnson (5 catches, 49 yards) is a permanent must-start (assuming he's standing upright) and Kevin Smith (119 total yards) is the perfect RB3 or flex start. After that, you'd be hard-pressed to even want Bryant Johnson (4 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD), TE Brandon Pettigrew (2 catches, 27 yards) or RBs Aaron Brown (15 total yards) and Maurice Morris (22 total yards, 1 TD) as benchwarmers -- unless Smith's upper-body injury is substantial.

    On the flip side ... there are few revelations to behold with the Redskins. Clinton Portis (48 total yards) requires more than 13 touches to be great, Jason Campbell (361 total yards, 2 TDs) needs 40 or more passes to be a QB1 (good luck guessing when that'll occur) ... and Santana Moss (10 catches, 178 yards, 1 TD) is always good for 3-4 bust-out performances every year. You just need to exercise patience when he's mired in two, three and sometimes four-game slumps.

  • N.Y. Jets 24, Tennessee 17
  • At this point, we must raise a practical question: Has Mark Sanchez (181 total yards, 3 TDs vs. the Titans) evolved into a semi-regular fantasy starter, a la Matt Ryan from 2008? The answer, in short, is a resounding Yes. Oh sure, it was easy to poke fun at all the unmerited hype Sanchez had generated over the summer -- for no other reason than having attractive features and living in New York City. But who are we to dismiss his penchant for racking up 1-2 touchdowns per game, while showing the capacity for 250 total yards every now and then? Speaking of potential, wouldn't it be nice if Jerricho Cotchery's official ascension to Tier II fantasy receiver (along with Chad Ochocinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Terrell Owens, etc.) actually began with this Week 3 performance? We can think of a few name-brand, yet underachieving receivers who'd kill for eight catches, 108 yards and one touchdown -- on the season.

    Regarding the Titans, there's not much to say about the club's 0-3 start (matching their regular-season-loss total from '08) ... other than Chris Johnson (105 total yards) must become more consistent in the passing game, skinny LenDale White (27 yards, 1 TD) is still wasting space on fantasy benches and Justin Gage, Nate Washington and Kenny Britt (4 catches, 59 yards) are too good to be this mediorce. Seriously, it'd be easier to correctly identify a box of Frosted Flakes in a crowded grocery store -- while blindfolded -- than determining which Titans wideout will yield a big return each week.

  • Quick-Hitting Revelations
    Willis McGahee: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
    Baltimore 34, Cleveland 3
  • Sometime in this calendar year, skeptical fantasy owners will realize that Willis McGahee (67 yards, 2 TDs vs. Cleveland) is the new Le'Ron McClain (aka, goal-line vulture). They'll also learn that McGahee will continue his 50-50 partnership with Ray Rice for between-the-20s carries/touches. Add it all together ... and you have a healthy, happy and intensely focused McGahee commanding about 75-percent market share of the Ravens' rushing attack. And in case you haven't noticed ... business is good right now. But why stop there? Could anyone have envisioned Joe Flacco (347 total yards, 1 TD) being a weekly lock for 300 yards? And what about Derrick Mason (5 catches, 118 yards, 1 TD)? The way I see it, he's a regular must-start at the flex position. As for the Browns ... there isn't much to tell here. Brady Quinn (34 passing yards, 1 INT) and Derek Anderson (92 passing yards, 3 INTs) probably belong in the UFL, Jerome Harrison (52 yards) and James Davis (11 yards) cannot handle Jamal Lewis's typical workload and Braylon Edwards (3 catches, 35 yards) has devolved into fantasy roadkill -- at least until Mike Martz takes hold of the Cleveland offense. (Martz and Eric Mangini in the same war room ... wouldn't that be a hoot?)

  • Cincinnati 23, Pittsburgh 20
  • The Bengals' Big Three of Carson Palmer (184 yards, 1 TD), Cedric Benson (76 yards, 1 TD) and Chad Ochocinco (5 catches, 54 yards) certainly carry a lot of weight from week to week. But let's not forget two underrated components at play: WR Andre Caldwell (6 catches, 52 yards, 1 TD) and the Cincinnati defense (good for 7-10 points every outing) could be major factors in your run to a fantasy title. And as luck would have it ... both entities can easily be found on waivers. So run -- don't walk -- to land 'em ... and drop Chris Henry and Laveranues Coles (5 catches, 34 yards) in the process. Regarding the Steelers ... we could celebrate Willie Parker's 129-yard, 1-TD effort, Hines Ward's four catches for 82 yards or even Ben Roethlisberger's strong performance (279 total yards, 2 TDs). Instead, we'll leave this segment with the following questions: Who is Mike Wallace (7 catches, 102 yards)? ... and what are the odds of the Rams trading for him this week?

  • New England 26, Atlanta 10
  • Let's be honest: If you had Fred Taylor (109 total yards, 1 TD) in your Week 3 lineup, you're probably not on the road to a fantasy championship. But hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then ... so enjoy the short-term high of playing a long-term fantasy disappointment (at least at his age -- 33). Yes, for one day, Taylor stole the spotlight from Tom Brady (277 yards, 1 TD), Wes Welker (DNP -- injury) and Welker's DNA clone, Julian Edelman (3 catches, 20 yards); AND he gets same-sentence mention with Randy Moss (10 catches, 116 yards). But don't expect numbers like this every week -- unless New England's playing in a torrential downpour. As for the Falcons, so much for stating their case as the "Patriots of the NFC," eh? Roddy White (4 catches, 24 yards) and Tony Gonzalez (1 catch, 16 yards) had uncharacteristically bad performances; Matt Ryan (199 yards, 0 TDs) struggled mightily in his Beantown return and Jason Elam only had one field goal try (he made it). On the flip side ... Michael Turner (56 yards, 1 TD) remains a reasonable threat to score every week (and thus, should not be traded on the low-side) and Michael Jenkins (5 catches, 78 yards) serves as an ideal bye-week and/or emergency replacement.

  • New Orleans 27, Buffalo 7
  • Instead of talking about what happened in this game -- like Pierre Thomas escaping injury purgatory to rush for 126 yards and two touchdowns ... or that tight end Jeremy Shockey actually caught six balls (for 48 yards) -- let's focus one what didn't occur at Orchard Park: Drew Brees (180 total yards) didn't throw one touchdown pass (neither did Bills QB Trent Edwards, if you care); Reggie Bush (3 catches, 81 total yards) didn't announce his presence as a dominant PPR asset; and Marques Colston and Devery Henderson (7 combined catches, 107 total yards) didn't set the fantasy world on fire in Week 3, as expected. But hey, at least they weren't invisible on the receiving front -- like Robert Meachem (zero catches) and Terrell Owens (zero catches, zero references to his dying reality show during the postgame presser).

    So, what did we learn from Sunday's snoozer? For starters, let's remember that New Orleans still scored 27 points off a painfully mediocre showing and that Brees, Bush, Thomas, Colston and maybe injured Lance Moore are entrenched as week-in, week-out starters. As for the Bills, now that Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson will be splitting carries in the Buffalo backfield, it's the perfect time to either buy low on Lynch ... or sell high on Jackson (97 total yards vs. New Orleans).

  • N.Y. Giants 24, Tampa Bay 0
  • Here's a scary thought for Buccaneers fans: In August, you'll recall the club booted coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski because he reportedly lacked the "sophistication" to call a pro offense, play-after-play, game-to-game, month-after-month. Well, if Tampa Bay could only register 86 yards within a complex, pro-style scheme ... just imagine how poorly they would've fared if Jagodzinski had been given a fair chance to prove -- or disprove -- his worth. Sacrasm aside, what did you expect with an offense helmed by Byron Leftwich (36 passing yards), whose slow-as-molasses release and two left feet were naturally no match for the Giants defense? The Bucs' top rushing duo -- Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward -- combined for 20 total yards, which is upsetting because, at the very least, I figured Ward would have had success against his old teammates (plus Tampa Bay supposedly has a top-10 offensive line). But on this day, no Buccaneer was spared from perhaps the NFL's worst offensive showing in the last 30 years -- including Kellen Winslow (3 catches, 14 yards). Yikes!

    As for New York ... Ahmad Bradshaw (104 yards) and Brandon Jacobs (92 yards, 1 TD) were the real Gruesome Twosome -- while subtly reminding fantasygoers that the Giants, at the core, are still a power-running team. In other words, please don't expect 20 combined catches every week from Mario Manningham (4 catches, 55 yards on Sunday) and Steve Smith (7 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD). They're productive flex options, for sure, but they only have the luxury of playing the Cowboys' Charmin-soft secondary twice a year.

  • 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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