September 22, 2008
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Week 3 Revelations
Ronnie Brown: Jim Rogash/ Getty Images
Miami 38, New England 13
  • To say Ronnie Brown accounted for five touchdowns (including one halfback-option scoring pass) against the Patriots is one thing. But do you realize that all four rushing scores occurred when Brown was the de facto quarterback, taking shotgun snaps, faking handoffs and then sprinting through major holes for touchdowns? All this makes me wonder ... what in the name of Darren McFadden at Arkansas went on at the Dolphins training facility this week?

    Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning: Uh, Ronnie, we know you're still recovering from major knee surgery and your thumb is hurting ... but how do you feel about taking center snaps this week against the Pats?

    Brown: Sounds great, coach. But I didn't play QB at Auburn. And I have this very-awkward throwing motion, as a left-hander.

    Henning: Not to worry. It'll be for a just a few plays, kind of a change-of-pace thing. Don't sweat it for a second.

  • It's hard to believe now -- way after the fact -- but when tracking's fantasy leagues (we're probably talking thousands of leagues), only 14 percent of Brown owners actually started him on Sunday ... meaning that, come December, the greatest single output of the 2008 season likely will have zero impact on most fantasy titles. In fact, yours truly neglected to start him in not one, but two leagues. D'oh!

    What to think of Brown's 132-yard, 4-TD rushing day: Has Brown fully regained his speed and cutting prowess after knee surgery last year? Will he finish in the top-10 for rushing yards this season (remember, he was the NFL's leader after Week 7 in '07)? Is he a must-start every week, no matter the opponent? Is he the Fins' runaway choice for No. 1 tailback, over Ricky Williams? And can we expect another 5-TD perfomance (including the passing score) again? Hmmm ... I'd say Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes and No -- only because the Lions aren't on the Dolphins schedule in 2008!

  • Denver 34, New Orleans 32
  • FOX, of course, billed it as Cutler vs. Brees in the pregame. But the Saints-Broncos affair should've been hailed as the "Brandon and Reggie Show," as in Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush ... two burgeoning all-stars and, quite possibly, the co-MVPs in PPR leagues through three weeks. Marshall only caught six passes for 155 yards and one touchdown; I say "only" because he hauled in 18 catches last week. And Bush racked up 11 catches for 75 yards (along with 73 rushing) and two TDs, justifying exactly why the Saints frothed all over the index card that was handed to Commissioner Roger Goodell in the 2006 NFL Draft. At the risk of repeating myself, Bush and Marshall are all-world PPR talents -- meaning owners should move heaven and earth to acquire 'em. Newsflash: They're also gold in standard-scoring leagues.

  • As for Drew Brees (421 yards, 1 TD) and Jay Cutler (264 yards, 2 TDs) ... suddenly they provide Peyton Manning- or Tony Romo-like production -- but at a fraction of the predraft price; and their numbers will remain strong and steady (unlike Big Ben and McNabb -- but more on them later).

  • Tampa Bay 27, Chicago 24 (OT)
  • I'm not sure which was the bigger miracle on Sunday -- that Brian Griese attempted 67 passes against the Bears ... or that he completed 38 of throws (57 percent)? Have you ever heard ... (rhetorical question alert) ... of any QB throwing nearly 70 passes in a close game, as was the case at Soldier Field? Coach Jon Gruden must've had the Chicago game circled on his calendar for months, knowing his charges would throw at least 50 times (regardless of Griese or Jeff Garcia); after all, it's not like an NFL play-caller suddenly decides to go Arena Football in a one-week span, right? It goes without saying, if Griese should throw the ball even 40 times per game the rest of the way, he is a must-have on your fantasy roster and probably a must-start, too. If that's the case, then grab Antonio Bryant (10 catches for 138 yards) off the scrap heap as the Griese handcuff.

  • The Bears, as presently constituted, have no fantasy value, outside of rookie rusher Matt Forte (155 total yards, 1 TD). And that list includes QB Kyle Orton, who threw for 268 yards and two TDs against the Bucs, but isn't anything more than a 175/1 performer. One last thing: Say goodbye to tight end Greg Olsen (two catches Sunday -- just six for the year), as well.

  • Seattle 37, St. Louis 13
  • Man! For a game that wrought 50 combined points, you'd think there'd be more to discuss -- outside of Steven Jackson (128 total yards) and Julius Jones (144 total yards, 1 TD). But no, oh god, no! Matt Hasslebeck (172 yards passing, 1 TD), T.J. Duckett (79 rushing yards, 2 TDs) and some random guy named Michael Bumpus all scored for the Seahawks, but I'd rather eat a bowl of Golden Grahams with ketchup on 'em than start any of these guys right now (sorry, Matt ... maybe when Bobby Engram comes back). As for the Rams, especially Marc Bulger (184 yards, 1 TD) and Torry Holt (four catches for 37 yards), they're simply fantasy roadkill away from the Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis.

  • Atlanta 38, Kansas City 14
  • True story: In one of my eight fantasy leagues, I was offered a 2-for-2 trade on Saturday night, where I would have gotten Carson Palmer, and more importantly, Falcons RB Michael Turner (giving up Titans rookie extraordinaire Chris Johnson and Bills QB Trent Edwards) ... and yet, I regrettably turned down the deal -- citing Johnson's electrifying potential. Well, live and learn, live and learn ... because Turner the Burner produced his second multi-TD game of the young season, amassing 104 yards and three TDs in the Falcons' easy victory. Turner's batterymate, QB Matt Ryan, threw for 192 yards and one looooong TD to Roddy White, thus strengthening his candidacy as a QB2 in 12-team fantasy leagues.

  • Regarding Kansas City, it's time to sell high on running back Larry Johnson (121 rushing yards, 1 TD), for the simple fact the Chiefs may never have a first-half lead this entire season (they won't go winless, though) -- at least during Tyler Thigpen's trial-by-fire at quarterback. But don't give up the ship on Tony Gonzalez (35 yards) or Dwayne Bowe (43 yards, 1 TD) just yet.

  • Revelations, Book II
    Marion Barber: AP
    Dallas 27, Green Bay 16
  • I could talk ad nauseum about Romo (260 yards, 1 TD), Aaron Rodgers (290 yards), Ryan Grant (54 rushing yards; the hammy seems OK), Felix Jones (76 rushing yards, 1 TD), Jason Witten (seven catches for 67 yards), Terrell Owens (two catches for 17 yards) and, of course, Miles Austin (115 receiving yards, 1 TD) ... but that would be unfair to the other teams/games. Instead, I'll focus on Marion Barber (157 total yards, 1 TD) and Packers WR Greg Jennings (eight catches, 115 yards). These guys are part of the Fantasy Elite at their respective positions through three weeks; and interestingly enough, every single owner could've drafted 'em both, with a little foresight. Barber may play on the NFL equivalent of a fantasy all-star team, the Cowboys, but I'm seriously starting to think he can get 20 total TDs this season -- he's been that dominant! And Jennings, a fellow Michigan native, I don't have you on any of my eight fantasy teams -- and yet Chad Johnson lives and breathes (but may never start again) on two clubs. Yikes!

  • N.Y. Giants 26, Cincinnati 23 (OT)
  • To clarify, when I recommended T.J. Houshmandzadeh as a Week 3 power play on Friday, I did it on the assumption Ocho Cinco would indirectly enhance Housh's stats (12 catches for 146 yards and 1 TD) -- not sprint around Giants Stadium like a ghost of his once-dominant self. Holy cow! ... was I wrong about Chad, not only today (three catches for 29 yards) but the whole season. My new advice for Housh: Run free and clear (and without WR2 help) through opposing secondaries while pursuing your dreams of a 93-catch, 1,100-yard season.

  • As for the Giants, welcome to the end zone, Brandon Jacobs (35 rushing yards, 1 TD) ... and congrats to Kevin Boss (three catches, 51 yards, 1 TD) for registering the first catch made by a Giants tight end in '08 -- although that's hardly reason to rescue him from the waiver wire.

  • Jacksonville 23, Indianapolis 21
  • Strange but true: No RB combo has a greater psychological upper-hand on the Colts defense than the Jaguars' Fred Taylor (121 rushing yards) and Maurice Jones-Drew (166 total yards, 1 TD). Even with Jacksonville's depleted offensive line, Taylor and MJD carved up arguably the NFL's fastest defense (at least with Bob Sanders on the field) and guided the 1-2 Jaguars to a huge upset win. Of course, kicker Josh Scobee pitched in, as well, with that thrilling 51-yard kick with four ticks left. Fantasy owners, it may be time to dump Houston's Kris Brown or Detroit's Jason Hanson and grab Scobee this week. By season's end, I bet Scobee finishes in the top-5 for field goals made from 40 yards or more.

  • Minnesota 20, Carolina 10
  • After watching the Panthers lay a 47-3 thumping on the Redskins in August with Steve Smith in the lineup (yes, I'm aware of the perils of exhibition games), I would have never guessed that Carolina's offensive machine actually runs smoother without the Tazmanian Devil -- or so it seems. Against the Vikes, Smith pulled down four catches for 70 yards -- decent numbers. But the rest of the Panthers offense, from QB Jake Delhomme (191 yards, zero TDs) to RBs Jonathan Stewart (15 yards, 1 TD) and DeAngelo Williams (27 rushing yards), was seemingly waiting for Smith to take over (which never happened). Speaking of stars posting pedestrian numbers ... Adrian Peterson's day -- beginning with the news that his hamstring injury had been greatly exaggerated (thanks, Mark Twain) -- was more hype than substance. The second-year wunderkind toted the rock 17 times for 77 yards, while giving no indication of whether his injury would be a factor in Week 4. It pains me to say this, but a less-than-100-percent Peterson may not be a good play next week at Tennessee.

  • Philadelphia 15, Pittsburgh 6
  • A message to all the Brian Westbrook owners: Even if his latest injury (a strained ankle on Sunday) turns out to be a day-to-day thing, I hope you've sufficiently been scared straight into moving heaven (but not necessarily earth) to acquire Philly's two backup runners, Lorenzo Booker (13 total yards) or Correll Buckhalter (87 total yards, 1 TD) -- the better PPR option. Both backs have similar builds and similar moves to Westbrook and should provide Chester Taylor-like insurance throughout the season. Regarding the Steelers, there's two schools of thought on their wretched performance: 1) They won't encounter another defense like the blitz-happy Eagles all season, or 2) Big Ben (if healthy) is now primed for another 5-TD passing night against the Ravens next week (like last year). Either way, it may be time to "Sell High" on Willie Parker (20 rushing yards on Sunday) -- not to mention dropping rookie RB Rashard Mendenhall.
  • Quick-Hitting Revelations
    Jon Kitna: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
  • Baltimore 28, Cleveland 10: Congratulations, Le'Ron McClain, with your 70 total yards and two TDs on Sunday, you have moved just ahead of T.J. Duckett in the fullback fantasy food chain. On the flip side, Cleveland's Derek Anderson, with your 125 passing yards and 3 INTs, you have dipped just below Tarvaris Jackson on the QB food chain -- but still ahead of Brady Quinn.

  • Washington 24, Arizona 17: So much for my crackpot theory of Kurt Warner (192 yards, 2 TDs) favoring Anquan Boldin (25 receiving yards, 1 TD) over Larry Fitzgerald (109 receiving yards, 1 TD) all the time. Apparently, it only plays out against AFC teams -- like the sad-sack Dolphins last week and maybe the Jets next week.

  • Tennessee 31, Houston 12: I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV; but I sense something's amiss with Texans QB Matt Schaub's arm, elbow, hand or head. What else could explain the kind of numbers (188 yards, 3 INTs) that would even make Jeff George or David Carr blush? Furthermore, how long before Texans fans start chanting for Sage Rosenfels to take over the starting gig in Week 4 -- another roadie at Jacksonville?

  • Buffalo 24, Oakland 23: I'd love to begin endorsing JaMarcus Russell (156 yards, 2 total TDs on Sunday) as a QB2 (12-team leagues) or QB3 (10-team leagues) in fantasy football. But I need more production than 15 completions -- his combined total for the Raiders' last two games! That's only 14 completions more than Ronnie Brown had during that span.

  • San Francisco 31, Detroit 13: Talk about being on the cusp of historically bad. The Lions were a fruitless Jason Hanson field goal away on Sunday from unofficial NFL history -- becoming the first team to post 21-0 deficits in three consecutive games to start a season. It's no wonder how/why Frank Gore ran wild for 141 total yards and 1 TD (frankly, I thought he'd get more). It's also no wonder how/why the 49ers offense has quickly morphed into a point-a-minute outfit. The credit goes to coordinator "Mad" Mike Martz and quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan (189 yards, 2 TDs) -- two principals, strangely enough, that were exiled from Detroit in the offseason. One last word on the Lions: Sell QB Jon Kitna for a bag of balls, or some magic beans ... before it's too late!

  • How'd We Do?

    The other day, I offered specific predictions for Week 3 -- some pure gold and others that flopped worse than Stewardess School, the post-Happy Days flick starring Don Most, aka Ralph Malph. Here's a rundown of things so far:

    QB Locks For 275 Yards and/or 3 TDs
    1. Jay Cutler (264 yards, 2 TDs -- just missed)
    2. Drew Brees (421 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
    3. Peyton Manning (216 yards, 1 TD -- incorrect)
    4. Marc Bulger (184 yards, 1 TD -- incorrect)

    RB Locks For 120 Yards and/or 2 TDs
    1. Michael Turner (104 yards, 3 TDs -- correct!)
    2. Larry Johnson (121 yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
    3. Marshawn Lynch (114 total yards, 2 TDs -- correct!)
    4. Ronnie Brown (141 total yards, 5 TDs -- correct!)
    5. Brandon Jacobs (35 total yards, 1 TD -- incorrect)
    6. Frank Gore (141 total yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
    7. Julius Jones (144 total yards, 1 TD -- correct!)
    8. Steven Jackson (128 total yards -- correct!)
    9. Brian Westbrook (12 total yards -- incorrect)
    10. Marion Barber (157 total yards, 1 TD -- correct!)

    I Cannot Leave Without Saying ...

    If you're operating a winless fantasy team, one that's already in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs (Weeks 14-16), the time has come to explore any and all trades with other teams. Oh sure, you can afford to be a little stubborn if eight teams qualify for the postseason. But, for the most part, it's time to put on your Creative Trading Hat and cultivate a 2-for-1 swap (Calvin Johnson? Clinton Portis?), a 3-for-1 swap (Adrian Peterson? Joseph Addai?) or groundbreaking 4-for-1 swap (Marion Barber? Brian Westbrook? Brandon Marshall in PPRs?).

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