October 26, 2009
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Week 7 Revelations
Carson Palmer: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Cincinnati 45, Chicago 10
  • If Carson Palmer wants to become a Kurt Warner-esque sensation in fantasyland, he'll need to repeat Sunday's feat each and every week. We're not talking about maintaining the impossibly high standard of throwing five TD passes (which would, of course, be nice) ... no, we're talking about donning that form-fitting black glove on his left hand, which apparently helps Palmer keep uncanny control of the ball before its release. What is that thing? And why isn't every other Tom, Dick and Harry QB wearing it on crisp autumn days? All kidding aside, there are few superlatives to describe Palmer's 20-of-24 day for 233 yards and five TDs -- against one of the NFL's stingiest defenses, no less. He was pitch-perfect from the opening gun to the closing, uh, gun, dissecting the Bears D with a series of dead-eye intermediate passes. It may have been Palmer's finest hour as a pro ... and it may have triggered a seismic shift in attitude about his fantasy prospects for the rest of the year. We say maybe because it bears mention that Palmer had a 6-TD game in Week 2 of the 2007 season -- only to struggle mightily after that, tossing only six touchdowns in the next five games. Of course, does it really matter if Palmer can reach the 5-TD summit again this year? As long as he has Cedric Benson (189 rushing yards, 1 TD) and Chad Ochocinco (10 catches, 118 yards, 2 TDs) running circles around their competition, he'll always be a reasonable threat for 250 and three TDs.

    As for the Bears ... we could tackle their Week 7 travails in various ways -- like wondering if Matt Forte (49 total yards) is a one-hit wonder OR if Devin Hester (8 catches, 101 yards, 1 TD) has become a must-start in all scoring formats -- but then we'd never get to the crux of Sunday's mini-rant against WR Earl Bennett (indirectly) and Bears radio analyst Tom Thayer (directly). While driving in to work Sunday afternoon, I caught the Bears-Bengals broadcast on Sirius satellite radio. Just as I was driving down a hilly road, through a neighborhood full of kids buzzing about the street, I was unexpectedly jolted by the sound of the announcers going ga-ga over a Bennett reception late in the first half. It seems Bennett had pulled down a near-circus catch inbounds with seconds to play, eliciting the following comment from Thayer: Earl Bennett is the real deal! Nevermind the Bears were trailing 31-0 ... in Thayer's mind, the best way to deflect attention away from Chicago's 30-minute meltdown was to bring Bennett's special (and yet seemingly ordinary) talents to light. That, my friends, is called showmanship ... and that's exactly why Ochocinco acted like a buffoon in the last few years -- as a means of suppressing Cincy's annual flirtation with 5-11. What other reason could justify such erratic behavior? (By the way, The Real Deal had four catches for 48 yards for Chicago.)

  • Arizona 24, N.Y. Giants 17
  • There's no telling how many fantasy leagues were rocked to the core from Larry Fitzgerald's automatic-TD DROP from 48-ish yards on Sunday. Yes, Fitzy finished with six catches for 83 yards -- fine numbers for PPR leagues -- and played a key role in Arizona's upset win at the Meadowlands; but I'd wager that once-in-a-lifetime bout of stone-hands-itis (and not unlike Robin Williams' memorable bobble/drop in the classic 80s flick, The Best Of Times) served as the tipping point for hundreds of head-to-head matchups worldwide. From drops to tops ... we have the curious case of Beanie Wells and his out-of-nowhere production against the Giants (77 total yards, 1 TD). Did you see how hard he hit those rushing lanes? Did you see the Giants defenders gasping for air immeidately after trying to tackle him high near the goal line? It was enough to make Beanie's fantasy owners smile for a brief moment ... before cursing his name over the six previous weeks of rushing atrophy. That aside, he's still a fantasy benchwarmer for the foreseeable future, until he demonstrates more consistency between the 20s.

    Regarding the Giants, it's natural to be jubilant over Hakeem Nicks' four-catch, 80-yard, 1-TD effort on Sunday -- his four straight game with one touchdown. But in a moment of clarity, it's also important to remember Mario Manningham (4 catches, 47 yards vs. Arizona) and Steve Smith (4 catches, 69 yards) have had their peaks-and-valleys moments this year, as well. So, buyer beware when talking shop with other fantasy owners. The New York tailbacks aren't exactly the essence of bankability, either, but it's encouraging to see Brandon Jacobs (87 total yards, 1 TD) plowing through defenders again. Thankfully, he's still a must-start in standard-scoring leagues ... which cannot be stated about Ahmad Bradshaw (27 total yards) and QB Eli Manning (243 passing yard, 1 TD, 3 INTs).

  • Dallas 37, Atlanta 21
  • Remember how Tony Romo made the NFC Pro Bowl squad in 2006, despite only starting in eight games that season? Well, Miles Austin needed only two games to clinch his Hawaiian vacation, catching six balls for -- get this -- 171 yards and two touchdowns against Atlanta, thus following up on his 10-catch, 250-yard, 2-TD day against Kansas City in Week 5. Do the math, that's 16 catches for 421 yards and four touchdowns in approximately 125 minutes of game action. Jerry Rice or Don Hutson in their heydays could never touch that kind of production. It goes without saying, but Austin is a no-brainer starter from this point forward -- even when the Cowboys are playing in inclement weather or going against a classic shut-down cornerback, like Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha (Thanksgiving Day). In fact, Austin's a bigger starter-lock than RBs Marion Barber (48 total yards) or Felix Jones (43 total yards) right now. As for Romo (342 total yards, 3 TDs), who could have guessed Romo-Austin would be the most prolific QB-WR handcuff in all of fantasyland -- except when the Patriots are playing in the snow.

    On the flip side ... the Falcons are an interesting case study right now. Even in defeat, even in games where the offense looks slow and unproductive, Roddy White and Michael Turner somehow find the end zone. This is all music to fantasy owners' ears, especially those who invested Round 1 and/or Round 2 picks on Turner (50 yards, 1 TD vs. Dallas) and White (6 catches, 50 yards, 1 TD) wayyyyy back in August. QB Matt Ryan had an OK performance against the Cowboys, amassing 204 total yards and throwing for two touchdowns; but we still believe he gets intimidated playing against superstar quarterbacks, kind of like the one he'll face next Monday in New Orleans.

  • San Diego 37, Kansas City 7
  • It's easy to dismiss LaDainian Tomlinson's 73-yard effort against the Chiefs as just another pedestrian outing from a fading star, but a closer look reveals just how close he is to a major breakout. His 36-yard run in the first quarter demonstrated top-end speed; the four-yard midfield dive for a first down was equal parts graceful and whimsical; and his goal-line TD (that was invariably called back after a penalty) must've reinforced to the coaches that LT remains the Chargers' best money-time performer. (Cryptic translation: He can still be had, via trades, almost below-value) Speaking of bankability, there's just no stopping QB Philip Rivers (286 total yards, 3 TDs), WR Vincent Jackson (5 catches, 142 yards, 1 TD) and RB Darren Sproles (99 total yards, 1 TD) against bad competition. Luckily for fantasy owners, the scheduling gods have another cream puff in store for Week 8 -- a home rematch with Oakland.

    Regarding the Chiefs, we can probably wrap this capsule review in 150 words or less: QB Matt Cassel (121 total yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs) must be dumped right away (even with a cake schedule for Weeks 13-16), RB Larry Johnson (56 total yards) is nothing more than a No. 4 or 5 running back in 12-team leagues, WR Dwayne Bowe (2 catches, 11 yards, 1 TD) has wayyyyyyyyy too much talent to post Darrius Heyward-Bey-like numbers ... and tight end Sean Ryan has officially been placed on our "Do Not Draft/Do Not Pick Up/Do Not Even Drive To Missouri To Yell At Him" list after Sunday's infamous goose egg -- coming just six days after Denver tight end Tony Scheffler sliced-and-diced San Diego for 101 yards and one score.

  • Revelations, Book II
    Marques Colston: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
    New Orleans 46, Miami 34
  • Thank goodness for fantasy football, where Drew Brees owners don't care that he needed two 1-yard rushing TDs to reach his weekly (gold) standard of 300 total yards and three touchdowns. Thank goodness for Saints fans too, who've come to expect 40-plus points from their hometown heroes week-in and week-out ... but likely don't mind if two defensive touchdowns played a determining role in eclipsing the 40-mark and clinching another New Orleans win. Unfortunately, these trivialities matter to owners of any Saints rusher worth his fantasy salt -- from Pierre Thomas (only 44 total yards) to Reggie Bush (1 TD, but only 26 yards on six touches) and Mike Bell (80 rushing yards, zero TDs -- despite three goal-line carries). Those owners are left mumbling to no one in particular: How does this team score 46 points without ONE big rushing day? (deep sigh) If there is a silver lining for the downtrodden here, it's that at least eight Saints -- Brees, Thomas, Bush, Bell, Marques Colston (5 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD), Jeremy Shockey (4 catches, 105 yards), Devery Henderson (4 catches, 71 yards) and Lance Moore -- are solid plays from this point forward ... even when New Orleans musters only 45 or less points.

    Regarding the Dolphins ... in all honesty, there are still only three players worth fawning over: Ronnie Brown (48 total yards, 1 TD) will likely finish as a top-10 running back, QB Chad Henne (211 yards passing, zero TDs) is a decent play in deeper leagues ... and Ricky Williams has officially become a weekly starter in the flex spot, given his recent tear and quality of the Dolphins' run-blocking offensive line! Or do you need more convincing after his 92-yard, 3-TD effort against the Saints? For someone who's already announced his retirement after the 2010 season, Williams attacks the hole with the intensity of a 25-year-old ballcarrier playing for a contract extension, not just a thrilling conclusion to a respectable career. Nevertheless, Williams would fetch a fair price in non-keeper leagues right now (a low-end WR1), for those owners carrying great backs but few top-end receivers.

  • Pittsburgh 27, Minnesota 17
  • Just when we thought it was safe to hail the Steelers as the AFC's most prolific passing team ... poof! this aerial dud appears. But just like the Saints, it's nothing more than a bump in the fantasy road for QB Ben Roethlisberger (176 total yards, 1 TD) and WRs Santonio Holmes (2 catches, 59 yards) and Hines Ward (1 catch, 3 yards). In other words, as long as offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is calling the shots -- pushing a 60/40 pass-to-rush ratio on opposing defenses -- Big Ben and Co. should serve as regular threats for 300 yards passing or 100 receiving. (Indirectly, we're crediting a stout Vikings defense, playing without CB Antonie Winfield.) As for the running backs, what's not to like about Rashard Mendenhall's 6.9-yards-per-carry against Minnesota? But here's hoping he totes the rock more than 10 times Week 9 against Denver.

    Switching to Minnesota, it's wonderful to see Brett Favre (334 yards passing) fling the ball 51 times in a non-blowout affair. If a group of sabremetricians were to deduce probablility from Sunday's game -- while factoring in the Vikings' heavy pass-to-run ratio on the season -- they'd tell you, with glee, that Favre has a 90-percent chance at three or more touchdowns with 51 attempts/334 yards ... and not to worry about Week 13 (@ Arizona) and 14 (vs. Cincinnati), the quarterfinal- and semifinal-weeks of the fantasy playoffs. On the flip side, the eggheads would discourage us from earmarking 60 yards receiving for Adrian Peterson (129 total yards, 1 TD) ... or 11 catches and 136 yards from Sidney Rice, even though Sir Sidney is undeniably Favre's go-to target in short- and long-range situations. Of course, you may also get a big I told you so from the group on tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (4 catches, 27 yards). Yikes!

  • Houston 24, San Francisco 21
  • Vernon Davis (7 catches, 93 yards, 3 TDs on Sunday) may be the ultimate feast-or-famine tight end in fantasyland, but he also deserves credit for being consistent. For every third game, at least this year, Davis morphs into a lock for seven catches, 90-something yards and at least two touchdowns. With that kind of production, do you even care about the middling numbers from the other two games? Personally, I'm willing to sit through borderline-ugly performances in Week 8 or 9 ... and simply brace for another coming-out party at Week 10 against the Bears. As for Vernon's quarterback on Nov. 12, the easy money seemingly rests with Alex Smith, who threw for 206 yards and three scores in relief of Shaun Hill. But fantasy owners have been led down this primrose path with Smith before, which explains why Hill got his shot at starting two seasons ago. As for the wide receivers, wasn't that nice of ballyhooed rookie Michael Crabtree (5 catches, 56 yards) to shun the spotlight, in favor of Davis? In fact, he may have already accrued enough goodwill to earn a fantasy start next week against Indianapolis. At the very least, he's a strong flex-option consideration, with six teams out on byes.

    As for the Texans, Owen Daniels is certainly making up for lost time. In addition to racking up seven catches for 123 yards Sunday, he also pulled down his fifth touchdown -- three more than all of 2008. His contribution couldn't have come at a better time, considering Andre Johnson (2 catches, 62 yards) left early to injury and that Kevin Walter (3 catches, 29 yards) cannot bust his year-long slump for anything. Speaking of slumps, RB Steve Slaton appears to be on the Road to Wellville -- although 89 total yards and two touchdowns certainly won't vault him back into the top 10, either. At the very least, though, he has returned to being a must-start in deeper leagues, while perhaps garnering a top-5 ranking at Buffalo in Week 8. That leaves us with Johnson and QB Matt Schaub left to discuss: If you can find any justification for not starting 'em every week (injuries aside), congratulations on clinching a wire-to-wire fantasy championship before Daylight Savings Time.

  • New England 35, Tampa Bay 7
  • Which was the bigger miracle on Sunday: The Patriots dismantling a Bucs team by four touchdowns with Laurence Maroney (43 yards, 1 TD) and Randy Moss (5 catches, 69 yards) only getting 18 touches ... or that both clubs weren't burdened by rain or fog while playing in often-dreary London, England? We're going with the latter. All kidding aside, the 28-point cushion was the result of stellar playmaking from QB Tom Brady (313 total yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs), WR Wes Welker (10 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD) and one defensive touchdown (Brandon Meriweather's pick-six in the first quarter). One can assume Moss and Co. will return to their dominant fantasy ways two weeks from now (Pats @ Dolphins); of course, one can also assume that New England will use its 14-day break to transform from a 4-wide passing attack to all-things Wildcat ... with Brady playing wideout and explosive rookie Brandon Tate taking all the center snaps. Boom!

    Regarding the Bucs, one of the NFL's three remaining winless teams, QB Josh Johnson actually has sneaky-good potential in deeper leagues right now -- not unlike Tyler Thigpen with Kansas City last year, and not unlike Josh Freeman in 2012. For what it's worth, Johnson (156 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs) has a top-10 arm ... but a top-100 feel for the game. But that could change in the coming weeks, especially for those playing in leagues where QB turnovers don't matter. Speaking of the future ... how much more time does WR Antonio Bryant (2 catches, 51 yards, 1 TD) really need to fully recover from his summertime knee injury? If Sunday's outburst was just happenstance or luck, he should communicate that very notion through some cryptic response on Twitter ... otherwise, impatient owners (like yours truly) will be lining up to bid for Bryant this week.

  • Revelations, Book III
    Dante Rosario: Gary Halverson/Getty Images
    Buffalo 20, Carolina 9
  • Can you feel that earthquake-like surge in the ground? Can you see it shaking -- almost imperceptibly -- every time DeAngelo Williams touches the ball? And if so, do you get the sense Williams is primed to repeat his devastating second half of last season -- instantly morphing from flex-week consideration (around October) to franchise fantasy back (in December)? Well, if not, perhaps you'll want to catch Williams' highlights chronicling his 139-yard, 1-TD effort against Buffalo. Right here, right now, only Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady and Drew Brees possess stronger value on the trade market. The same cannot be said for wide receiver Steve Smith, despite the six catches for 99 yards. The Bills were almost content to let Smith make a play or two -- without ever seriously reaching the end zone -- which artificially inflates his cachet in the short-term. Regarding the other playmakers ... Jake Delhomme easily gets our vote for Fantasyland's Most Enigmatic QB. After all, what other signal-caller could manage to throw for 325 yards (against a high-end passing defense, no less) ... and not even come close to registering a TD pass? What other quarterback could be a lock for three interceptions every week? The answers, my friend, are blowing in the Carolina wind, the answers are blowing in the wind.

    On the flip side ... the Bills may be turning things around in real-world football, but their fantasy prospects remain bleak. Yes, Lee Evans (5 catches, 75 yards, 1 TD) scored for a second straight game; yes, RBs Marshawn Lynch (47 total yards) and Fred Jackson should always be starting considerations (when healthy) ... but there's no point in having Terrell Owens (3 catches, 27 yards) or QBs Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick (133 total yards, 1 TD) on your fantasy roster. Their preseason values were wrongfully inflated by the eternal promise of what could be. Think we're overreacting here? Check out WR Targets -- as in the number of times a receiver has the ball thrown his way: For the season, Mohamed Massaquoi, Bryant Johnson, Nate Washington, Mike Sims-Walker, Louis Murphy, Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton are routinely seeing more footballs. T.O.'s fantasy decline has been in the works for some time.

  • Indianapolis 42, St. Louis 6
  • Forget that Peyton Manning and Marc Bulger played the entire game. Block out the fact CBS aired this clash on its main network, using unbiased announcers. This, ahem, gem, had all the familiar trappings of a preseason game in late August ... so much that any forward-thinking fan inside (or outside) the Edward Jones Dome could've predicted the final score loooong before the opening kickoff. Seriously, we all knew Indy would take this one ... but are the Rams really that feeble as to lose by 36 on a day when Steven Jackson rumbles for 134 yards? (Side note: I forecasted the end of S-Jax's TD drought in Week 7; obviously, I was wrong.) It's not like Bulger (140 total yards, zero TDs, two INTs) is the worst quarterback in today's NFL (hello, JaMarcus Russell), and it's not like Jackson wouldn't be an MVP candidate if he played on a perennial playoff contender. But, for whatever reason, St. Louis looks like Charleston Southern going against No. 1-ranked Florida in college football when facing the NFL's titans (but not necessarily the Titans). Don't believe me? Then explain how the Rams could be in full-passing mode as early as the second quarter -- thanks to a 21-3 deficit -- and still have their leading receivers (Donnie Avery/Danny Amendola) total seven catches for 97 yards. It goes without saying: No Ram, aside from Jackson, is worthy of your fantasyland attention, excluding leagues that chart punts attempted.

    As for the Colts, is there anything left to say about Manning (235 passing yards, 3 TDs)? At this point, he apparently has complete confidence in the offensive line and receiving corps; to wit, it just seems like he has all day to pick apart mediocre NFL defenses. Obviously, he's a must-start every week, including next Sunday's home tilt with San Francisco. Do you know who else is start-worthy? Every Colts pass-catcher with two healthy knees (sorry, Anthony Gonzalez) ... beginning with Reggie Wayne (7 catches, 83 yards, 1 TD), Austin Collie (4 catches, 36 yards, 1 TD), Pierre Garcon and tight end Dallas Clark (3 catches, 44 yards, 1 TD). After all, 49ers cornerback Nate Clements can only guard one of 'em at a time.

  • Green Bay 31, Cleveland 3
  • When you think about it, the chain of causation is absolutely stunning: The Browns have beaten the Bills, who shocked the Jets, who stifled the Texans, who thumped the Bengals, who dumped the Packers. And yet, there is no comparison between Green Bay and Cleveland when judged on the same field. Exhibit A comes in the form of Aaron Rodgers (269 total yards, 3 TDs) vs. Derek Anderson. Exhibit B pits Ryan Grant vs. Jamal Lewis. And Exhibit C features the tag-team of Donald Driver/Greg Jennings vs. Mohamed Massaquoi/Mike Furrey (2 combined catches, 27 yards). Translation: Yes, the Browns have a better record than the Rams, Titans and Bucs right now ... but they're still the clear favorites to land the No. 1 pick in next April's draft. Ouch!

    Regarding the Packers, Rodgers remains a reliable threat for 300 yards/2.5 touchdowns every week, regardless of how the offensive line gets reshuffled. Grant (151 total yards, 1 TD) has an excellent track record in the latter half of seasons, Driver (2 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD) has emerged as a flex-option must-start in PPR leagues and Mason Crosby will emerge as a top-5 kicker as the year progresses. The only real question mark -- and it's a big one -- concerns Jennings and his middling stats (147 total yards, zero TDs since Week 5). He may be the most talented pass-catcher on Green Bay's roster, along with the team's highest-paid non-quarterback ... but he has officially devolved into a fantasy benchwarmer for the time being.

  • N.Y. Jets 38, Oakland 0
  • Leon Washington owners, like myself, were taught an invaluable fantasy lesson on Sunday: Instead of overpaying for a white-hot Thomas Jones to secure the almighty RB handcuff, why not just devote all time and energy on a more reasonable offer for rookie Shonn Greene, the forgotten tailback of the Jets' three-headed rushing monster. Of course, after rushing for 144 yards and two touchdowns against the hapless Raiders, it's a safe bet that Greene's trade value has skyrocketed from just 19 hours ago. But that's not the point. After last week's 5-INT debacle against the Bills, the Jets coaches will try to insulate rookie QB Mark Sanchez from having to carry New York to victory. And amid this newfound faith in a 70/30 rush-to-pass ratio, it's only natural that Greene, Washington and Jones (124 total yards, 1 TD vs. Oakland) will get a boatload of touches from this point forward. (This just in: Washington is out indefinitely with a broken leg. Damn!)

  • On the flip side, the poor Raiders USED to serve as fantasyland's best hope for carrying three viable rushers on the same NFL team ... but there are no more positives to glean from the mess in Oakland. Darren McFadden is out indefinitely to injury, Michael Bush (31 total yards) looks like a shell of his late-2008 self, rookie WR Darrius Heyward-Bey has only four total catches (one less than Michael Crabtree's one-day career), JaMarcus Russell (61 yards, zero TDs, 2 INTs) gets shakier by the week and tight end Zach Miller (2 catches, 15 yards) is woefully inconsistent.

    Did you notice how I just slipped the Heyward-Bey/Crabtree comparison into the conversation? This is what it's come to, folks: The best way to promote the Raiders in fantasyland ... is to talk about those who aren't Raiders.

    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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