Monday Morning Takeaway – Week 6

Monday Morning Takeaway – Week 6

Fantasy Football Fanatics

By, Eric Hartvigson

 

Pittsburgh 23, Tennessee 26

Steelers

Returning from injury, and coming off an impressive week 5 performance this game was billed as an A+ matchup for Rashard Mendenhall. In typical Mendy fashion we open up our trust and he drops a turd in our Wheaties. Producing a meager 17 yards, Mendenhall missed the entire second half while being seen on sidelines holding his helmet. If there is a bright side the Steelers are calling his ailment a “mild Achilles injury” and not an aggravation of the surgically repaired knee. Although tough to recommend at this point, he does have the 25th ranked Cincy rush defense up next.

Also disturbing for Mendenhall owners was Isaac Redman’s heavy involvement from the onset of this game. Redman would actually lead the entire team in receiving yards with big gains, breaking tackles and rumbling bumbling stumbling through the Titans defense (channeling my inner Chris Berman). However, Redman would also be forced out of action after taking an ugly to helmet to the knee. Oddly enough the Steelers are calling this an ankle injury saying that Redman could have returned, but took the cautious route.

As both Mendenhall and Redman became spectators it was Baron Batch leading the team in carries while sneaking in the lone rushing touchdown (ugh). Batch has minimal fantasy value as early expectations have both Mendy and Redman returning next week.

On a side note, the Steelers lost two offensive linemen during this game; center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Although Pouncey is not considered serious, Gilbert could miss extended action forcing rookie right tackle Mike Adams as the next man up. Downgrade slightly all Pittsburgh players.

Titans

Since last season the Titans have been amongst the worst run blocking teams in the league. Subsequently I have defended Chris Johnson believing his struggles weren’t entirely his fault. In this game Tennessee’s run blocking showed up in a big way opening up running lanes as if they were the Dallas Cowboys circa 1995. With holes big enough for a bathtub, Johnson still looked timid and skidish. When he did make his way to the linebackers he didn’t have the same wiggle to make tacklers miss, the toughness to break arm tackles, while lacking the 4.24 breakaway speed. Furthering our concern was the use of fellow Titans running back Jamie Harper down near the goal line stripe. When the smoke cleared Johnson had a respectable 114 yards, but this should have been a classic “2K” performance. Johnson is now a low end RB2; tough to sit, tough to watch.

The insertion of Matt Hasselbeck into to Titans lineup breathes new life into the Tennessee wide receivers. In this game Kendall Wright paved the way with six receptions for 71 yards. Averaging eight receptions a game, Wright is steadily climbing into the lower WR3 range. Kenny Britt finally also made his presence felt. Still shaking off the rust, Britt had a number of bad drops but managed to salvage his day with a late game touchdown coupled with his 62 yards. As promised all week, Jared Cook even got into the mix catching four balls for 54 yards.

Like many young quarterbacks, Jake Locker isn’t confident in his passing ability, often looking to run with the ball before the play breaks down. So long as Hasselbeck remains the starter, Titans’ receivers remain viable options.

 

Oakland 20, Atlanta 23

Raiders

This week must have been a wakeup call as Darren McFadden and the Raiders rushing attack had a fire under their a**. Early in this matchup Darren McFadden looked like a man possessed ripping off big runs. Handed the ball 27 times DMC cooled off ending the contest with 70 yards but also pushing in a short yardage touchdown. Even more impressive was Mike Goodson five touches for 96 yards. Given McFadden’s extensive injury history, make sure you have Goodson handcuffed.

The Raiders also did an excellent job getting wide receiver Denarius Moore involved in the game plan utilizing him on short to intermediate passing and the allowing the allusive playmaker to run free in open space. Moore rewarded fantasy owners with 104 yards and a touchdown. Just so you have fair warning, like Jeremy Maclin, Moore is on the smaller side meaning every time he takes big you can see his pain. When healthy he makes for a solid WR3 as the Raiders most dynamic passing game threat.

Falcons

Matt Ryan uncharacteristically tossed three interceptions in the first half severely limiting his team’s possessions. As usual Roddy White is the security blanket when the Falcons struggle, which causes a decrease in production from fellow wide receiver Julio Jones.

As we already know, Michael Turner will disappoint when he is unable to find paydirt as yards alone won’t be enough. He is a plodding back who isn’t very allusive and better at leaning forward for positive yardage after contact. Following his week sever bye, Turner owners should find solace in the one of the leagues easiest schedules amongst all running backs.

 

Cincinnati 24, Cleveland 34

Bengals

Andy Dalton has been a pleasant surprise. Despite tossing three interceptions, Dalton had an awesome fantasy performance with 381 yards and 3 touchdowns. A highly intelligent player with amazing poise, Dalton now looks to be settling in as a mid / low QB1.

Jermaine Gresham exited training camp listed as a possible sleeper tight end before suffering a hyperextension of his knee during the preseason. Now fully recovered he is averaging a very respectable 6.3 targets per game. In this contest Gresham hauled in three receptions for 68 yards including a 55 yard touchdown. If you are needing tight end help during the bye weeks, Gresham is slowly creeping into the very low end TE1 type value.

Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis continues to struggle as a 3-down back averaging 3.9 yards per carry against the 20th ranked Browns rush defense. We should recognize the Bengals were forced to abandon the run late in the game trailing by 17 points. The Law Firm is hard to trust with the Steelers up next.

Browns

We’ve been talking about rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon for weeks as “a deep sleeper on our “watch list”, worth adding if you have roster room”. I did just that and it looks to be paying off as the Browns downfield threat scored his third touchdown in two games. With Brandon Weedon’s growth on a steady incline, it’s time to put Gordon on your roster as low WR4, and climbing.

Giving owners a real scare was seeing Monterio Hardesty carrying the load for the Browns late in the game as Cleveland was milking a lead. Hardesty was also in the backfield on short yardage carries taking in a touchdown solidifying our nightmare that Trent Richardson had suffered injury.  The cameras then panned over to see Richardson on the sidelines holding his helmet, which is typically a good sign going forward. However, Hardesty now looks to be the primary handcuff and a must add for all T-Rich owners.

 

St. Louis 14, Miami 17

Rams

It’s overly apparent the Rams have adopted a full on RBBC as Steven Jackson was handed the ball 12 times compared to 11 carries for Daryl Richardson – so much for the philosophy that “Jeff Fischer always uses one running back” .  The rookie out of Abilene Christian was seen ripping off long runs outperforming the veteran. Although neither back scored, Richardson was in the Rams offense on a majority of goal line packages taking short yardage touches. St. Louis has one of the leagues toughest rushing schedule as both backs are now in the high RB3 range.

The question asked by fantasy owners last week was “which Rams wide receiver will step into the role vacated by Danny Amendola?” If you guessed Brandon Gibson then give yourself a high five. Gibson lit up the Miami defense for 91 yards on seven receptions. In Amendola’s continued absence Gibson is now low end WR3.

Dolphins

Much was made of the Dolphins rush defense entering this matchup but it was the Rams clamping down on Reggie Bush to the tune of 17 yards on 12 carries. Bush did managed 44 yards receiving, while being stopped just short of a touchdown late in the game. Fortunately Bush will be afforded a bye week to let his ailing knee heal before a tough second half of the season.

Amazingly, Brian Hartline was held targetless in this game being blanketed by shutdown cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Since his breakout 253 yard performance in week 4 it appears Hartline has gone from the penthouse to the outhouse. Once a rising sleeper, Hartline’s sporadic production has his him reeling into WR5 status. With Tannehill’s favorite receiver eliminated, he turned to Devone Bess with nine targets, six receptions and 42 yards. Even still, Bess is not a recommended option.

 

Indianapolis 9, New York 25

Colts

After becoming the butt of the media’s collective joke, all the credit should be given to the Jets in this game. The offense did a great job controlling the football, running up the score and forcing the Colts into a one dimensional passing offense. Their next mission was double covering Reggie Wayne who still put together five receptions for 87 yards, he’s a beast. In comeback mode for much of the game Andrew Luck also threw the ball 12 times in the direction of Donnie Avery who pulled down four receptiosn for 60 yards. It’s worth noting, despite the loss of Darrelle Revis the Jets are still ranked 7th in pass defense so take this game with a grain of salt. As for Luck, he is still a low end QB1 and Avery remains a higher WR4 as a bye week spot start.

Those with high aspirations of Vick Ballard emerging into a fantasy stardom will need to wait another week. With the game out of control Ballard was held to 25 yards on eight carries. Delone Carter was also in the mix with four touches but as stated this game was not conducive to the Colts rushing attack. Up next is the 22nd ranked Cleveland rush defense giving us a true test and propelling Ballard a high end RB3.

Jets

Speaking of awakenings, how about Jet’s running back Shonn Greene playing like a man possessed.  Greene would total 161 yards and three, count them three touchdowns carrying his team to a much needed victory. Greene would produce more points in week six than he has in the previous five weeks, combined. This performance should also be an indictment of how poor the Colts rush defense played. Lesson of the day; line up your running backs facing Indianapolis.

With the Colts unable to stop the run the Jets didn’t require a passing game as Mark Sanchez was limited to 82 yards and two touchdowns. Jeremey Kerley once again led the Jets in targets with six and still the only Jets wide receiver worth owning as a mid / lower WR4.

 

Detroit 26, Philadelphia 23

Lions

I am in a total quandary what has happened to this high flying Lions offense from one year ago. Held stagnant for much of the game it wasn’t until waning minutes that Detroit finally found success with late game heroics pulling out  win from the jaws of defeat, while putting up respectable numbers for fantasy owners. This isn’t the Packers or the Saints in which we know, in time, production will come. I personally traded away Calvin Johnson, Jason Witten and Jackie Battle last week in a deal that netted me Ahmad Bradshaw, Mike Wallace and Aaron Hernandez.

Mikel Leshoure has solidified his place amongst the 3-down backs with 18 touches for 94 yards. Joique Bell has also been entrenched himself as the current handcuff for now. However, with news surfacing of a return for Jahvid Best, Bell is on shaky ground while Leshoure could be headed for an a RBBC. It should also be of note that Leshoure has two very tough matchup’s forthcoming with Chicago and Seattle. Make alternate plans.

The tight-end-by-committee in Detriot continues to rage on as Tony Scheffler totaled 81 yards, doubling the production of supposed number one tight end Brandon Pettigrew. With a multi-tight end attack Pettigrew remains a sketchy low end TE1, barely startable.

Eagles

Michael Vick continues to be the Achilles heel of the Eagles hopes of making the playoffs tossing two interceptions and nearly losing a fumble. In spite of woes in reality, Vick’s fantasy performance was exceptional tossing 311 yards and two touchdowns. The lack of consistency is troubling, but odds are you don’t have alternate options.

Limited by injuries early in the season, Jeremy Maclin got back on track with six receptions for 130 yards and touchdown. So long as Maclin is healthy he remains a must start (although he does have a bye upcoming). However, given his history of missing action, one more game like today and I would try shopping Maclin around your league as possible “sell high”.

Brent Celek owners were on the cusp of a gigantic day as the big bodied tight end had a dropped touchdown in good coverage, and a later score revoked after an iffy offensive pass interference. A complete lack of regularity makes it hard to recommend Celek as anything more than a high TE2.

 

Kansas City 10, Tampa Bay 38

Chiefs

Ones thing is for sure, win lose or draw, the Chiefs are going to run the football. As I’m watching the game I see the Chiefs are down 24-3 and they are running the football. 3rd and 7, running the football. It would make sense if the running game was effective, but averaging 2.7 yards per carry, and facing a team that knows your going to run, the Chiefs are just playing scared. It will never win football games, but it’s good news for owners of Jamal Charles.

Kansas City fans who were clamoring for Brady Quinn should take note as the journeymen quarterback was downright awful. Dwayne Bowe owners should also recognize his position as a must start is in jeopardy so long as Quinn starts. The Chiefs passing game is; U-G-L-Y, you ugly.

Buccaneers

On the flip side of the football is another of the leagues pure run based offenses, right? Wrong. The Bucs took to the air as Josh Freeman lit up the Chiefs secondary with 328 yards and three touchdowns. The change of philosophy comes after the bye week meaning they planned for this over the layoff. Will the aerial assault continue in Tampa? I sure hope so.

Mike Williams was a sensation in his rookie season – I know because I drafted him that year. Then he suffered a horrible sophomore slump – I know because I drafted him last year. He now looks to be back on the scoring track averaging just over 10 fantasy points per game. Hard to deny production as Williams should be considered a low end WR2.

With the passing game operating so efficiently, it opened up running lanes allowing Doug Martin to rip off 76 yards on 13 carries. Also getting into the fray was LeGerette Blount tacking on 58 yards and a touchdown. When asked before the game my opinion of this Bucs running back situation I commented; “Blount will get the touchdowns, Martin will get the yardage”. Hate it when I’m right.

 

Dallas 29, Baltimore 31

Cowboys

It was reported during that game that DeMarco Murray required his ankle being taped at halftime making him probable to return. He made a brief appearance, but soon gave way to backup Felix Jones. Felix proceeded to take 18 carries totaling 92 yards en route to gashing the once stout Ravens defense including a 22 yard touchdown run. The Dallas backfield remain in flux as we await the results of Murray’s MRI in what the Cowboys are calling a “foot sprain”. Jones should be added by Murray owners immediately.

Those who questioned Dez Bryant’s early season struggles finally got their reward after a 95 yard two touchdown performance.

The player of most concern for the Cowboys is wide receiver Miles Austin. Many will examine his 10 points per game and consider Austin a “must start”. My concern is Miles going missing for long stretches as Dallas attempt to hand the reigns over to Dez Bryant. Austin is an excellent run after the catch wide receiver, but just under seven targets per game is not elite status. Unless we see his opportunities increase, he may be “sell high”.

Ravens

So far this season I have been dead wrong on Anquan Boldin after being burned in previous years. The Ravens continue to use the big bodied receiver much like a tight end over the middle to move the chains. Boldin’s role has cut into the production of Dennis Pitta who’s early season emergence had him pegged as a sleeper tight end pick. Over the past five week Pitta is averaging a little over four points per game making him a mid TE2 on the decline.

 

Buffalo 19, Arizona 16

Bills

Let me inform you the RBBC attack in the Bills backfield is alive and well with an even rotation of CJ Spiller (16 touches) and Fred Jackson (21 touches).  On the upside, both manged to score a touchdown. Spiller remains the more electric player leading the team with 110 yards against the Cardinals, but it was Jackson getting the goal line looks. Both are worthy of starter consideration with the woeful Titans up next, but continue to cut into each others fantasy value.

The Bills passing game seemed to be stuck in neutral for much of the game as Fitzpatrick targeted Steve Johnson almost exclusively. Fitzpatrick early season luster has worn off making him barely worth a spot, while Stevie J remains a lower WR2.

Cardinals

Kevin Kolb also struggled in this contest but managed to find his favorite target Larry Fitzgerald  on six receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown. Kolb would be hit hard late in the fourth quarter being carted off the field with an apparent rib injury. Although early, judging by his reaction, Kolb will miss time. In his place stepped week one starter John Skelton. Larry Fitz owners should be elated as Skelton has proven he will force feed the Cards franchise player.

After the season ending injury to Ryan Williams, last week’s most popular waiver wire addition was Williams Powell. Many speculated, myself included, “will the Cards let the unproven Powell carry the load”. Our answer was a resounding “yes” as Powell took the rock 13 times for 70 yards getting downhill in a hurry and ripping through the Bills defensive line. However, Powell will put his feet to the fire with impending matchups versus the Vikings and San Francisco.

After scoring four touchdowns in the opening four games of the season, it appears Andre Roberts has cooled off considerably. With much of his production coming since Kolb took over, we could speculate Skelton’s insertion will relegate Roberts back to mediocrity. As a Roberts owner myself, he likely won’t last the free agency period.

 

New England 23, Seattle 24

Patriots

The biggest fantasy news of the day coming from New England side of the ball was the return of tight end Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez would “make it rain” in Seattle scoring a touchdown early in the second quarter. Now back and healthy it’s time to get him plugged into our lineups as a TE1.

Seattle came into this game ranked 4th in fantasy points allowed and proved their ranking once again as Steven Ridley was held to 34 yards on 16 carries. The good news for Ridley owners was the continued usage despite the reoccurring fumbling issues. We also heard reports during the game that backup Brandon Bolden aggravated his knee injury that caused him to be listed as questionable entering this contest. Bolden’s absence would certainly increase the value of Ridley with a plump matchup impending against the Jets.

Seahawks

Classic Bill Bellichick defensive game plan focused on the Hawks most valuable weapon, Marshawn Lynch. Daring rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to beat them, the Patriots held Lynch to 52 yards on 16 touches. Wilson rose to the challenge tossing for a career high 293 yards and three touchdowns en route to the upset of the week. Despite this huge game, Wilson is only averaging 15 fantasy points per game making him a very low end QB2.

On the receiving end was Sydney Rice who amassed 81 total yards including a game winning 46 yard touchdown. Averaging just under 7 fantasy points per game, the downside to Rice is the lack of usage in close games dominated by the running game. Rice remains a high risk player with WR5 written all over him.

 

New York 26, San Francisco 3

Giants

This game saw the long awaited return of Hakeem Nicks after a three game layoff dealing with knee issue. Unfortunately Nicks was seen limping on the field and later admitted to the media that his troublesome knee was giving him problems. Make sure to monitor Nicks’ progress throughout the upcoming week before cementing your lineup.

Domenik Hixon continues to have a prominent role in the G-Men offense picking up 4 receptions for 78 yards. If the aforementioned Hakeem Nicks is forced to miss extended action, Hixon could be worthy of a spot start against the very beatable Redskins.

The other player entering this game with a lingering injury was tight end Martellus Bennett. He too was seen limping after his lone catch over the middle for five yards. A solid TE1 early in the season, the ongoing injury concerns should relegate Bennett back to our bench for the foreseeable future.

The Giants have proven they are going to run the football regardless of the opponent. That bodes well for Bradshaw owners as the veteran ball carrier wasn’t relieved by rookie David Wilson until late in the game as New York went into clock killing mode. Bradshaw is borderline RB1 with the Skins next up.

49ers

Those who viewed Alex Smith as a potential fantasy quarterback got a reality check with a stat line reading like bad romance novel; 200 yards, three interceptions and zero touchdowns. Even in two quarterback leagues Smith is tough to rely on.

Mario Manningham played like he wanted to punish his old team for letting him walk in free agency. Targeted 10 times Super Mario pulled in five balls for 72 yards. Averaging 8 points per game over the past three weeks Manningham is on the precipice of being a waiver addition, although he in store for a slugfest with Seattle on Thursday night.

 

Minnesota 26, Washington 38

Vikings

Second year quarterback Christian Ponder continues to play above his head when his team falls into a hole. In comeback mode for much of the game Ponder delivered a solid game for fantasy owner amassing 26 points. Now averaging just shy of 19 points per game, Ponder is pegged as a high end QB2 with excellent spot start potential during the bye weeks.

Redskins

The newest trend in fantasy football is the reliance on rookie quarterbacks as Robert Griffin III delivered another stellar performance. Prior to Cam Newton, no first year signal caller over the past decade had finished inside the top 10 in fantasy scoring. Now we have young players emerging all over to become viable fantasy options led by RGIII. Fantasy owners who took the risk are being rewarded heavily.

In the absence of Pierre Garcon the Skins have hinted at getting Santana Moss more involved in the passing game. He would equal tight end Fred Davis with four targets totaling 46 yards apiece. But 4.6 fantasy points won’t get it done as Moss is a low end WR4 with Davis a mid TE2.

 

Green Bay 24, Houston 42

Packers

Aaron Rodgers 6 touchdown passes equaling a Green Bay record held by Matt Flynn (?). In cas you forgot, Rodgers is really good.

This game was an absolute circus as James Jones caught two touchdowns only to be outshined by Jordy Nelson’s three touchdowns.

The one player who remains absent from the Packer’s passing game is tight end Jermichael Finley. Dropped passes are becoming a real problem for Finley as Rodgers has discontinued his tight end from the assault. At just over four fantasy points per game, Finley is permanent bench material until he can prove otherwise.

Alex Green made his 2012 season debut as the Packers starting running back and although his statistics were unimpressive (22 carries, 65 yards) his stranglehold on job is undeniable. In fact training camp starter James Starks didn’t see significant action until the waning minutes. Up next for Green is the 16th ranked Rams rush defense with an early prognosis in the low RB2 range.

Texans

I’m officially concerned for the progress of Andre Johnson. We come to the resolve that Johnson will struggle in games where the Texans mount a big lead only to grind out the game with solid defense and a heavy dose of running. This game was set up perfectly for Johnson to thrive as the Texans fell behind early. Although Johnson was targeted 12 times, he could only muster 75 yards. He doesn’t posses the same strength after the catch to break tackles and lacks the speed to create separation down the field. Although impossible to jump ship, the nervous meter is now reading 8.5.

 

Week seven byes – Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia and San Diego

 

“If you aren’t’ going all the way, why go at all?”

Joe Namath

About Eric Hartvigson