Monday Morning Takeaway – Week 8

Monday Morning Takeaway – Week 8

Fantasy Football Fanatics

By, Eric Hartvigson

 

Before we get to all the game time action, of which there was plenty, we must address one of my favorite holidays, Halloween.  This Wednesday night young kids will flood the streets punch drunk by the thought of gathering a sack load of candy; the equivalent of children’s gold. As we head out celebrate with friends and family, remember that many of these young people aren’t always paying attention to the traffic around them. Please do your part to keep our children safe by slowing down and looking out for all those little ghouls and goblins. If nothing else, take the time to admire all the great costumes and enjoy a safe holiday.

 

Tampa Bay 36, Vikings 17

Bucs

Right before our eyes Tampa Bay is developing into a very balanced offense. Doug Martin kicked off week eight rushing for 135 yards and one touchdown while catching three passes for 79 yards adding a second touchdown through the air. On countless runs Martin did an excellent job making the first man miss while pilling up yards after contact. It appears TB got the memo as LeGerrette Blount is officially in the rear view mirror, even on the goal line.

Over the years there has been a reoccurring trend of quarterbacks breaking out in the middle of their fourth season (last year is was Matt Ryan finishing fifth in fantasy scoring in weeks 8-16). Josh Freeman looks to be the 2012 candidate after scoring 28, 22 and 25 points over the past 3 weeks. Two weeks ago, almost by default, I picked up Freeman as a bye week filler, but seems to have earned spot on my roster as a blossoming low end QB1. Most encouraging is seeing the Bucs continue to throw the football despite a commanding lead.  Pleasant surprise.

Tampa Bay has officially entered the conversation for most prolific tandem of wide receivers in the NFL. This week it was Mike Williams catching six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.  Williams does an excellent job “high pointing” the football making him a preferred target in the red zone. After a sophomore slump, Williams is once again blossoming into a solid fantasy player now impossible to sit. Great draft pick for those of you who had the foresight.

Bucs offensive line deserves a ton of credit adding confidence to owners of Martin and Freeman.

Vikings

What the hell is going on in Minnesota? They started the game perfectly working the ball to Percy Harvin (90 yards one touchdown) and continuing to run Adrian Peterson (123 yards and one touchdown). Falling behind in the mid second quarter they lost their mind and converted into a vertical passing attack.

 

I recognize much of the blame goes to Christian Ponder for telegraphing his throws and failing to read through his progression. On a number of plays Kyle Rudolph (two targets) is seen wide open underneath as Ponder chooses to throw deep passes into tight coverage towards Jerome Simpson (9 targets) and Michael Jenkins (7 targets). Credit should also be given the Bucs for putting Ponder under constant duress throughout this game. However, Ponder’s regression is getting scary for Rudolph owners. Even scarier is the coaching staff’s inability to adjust their play calling. Up next is the stiff Seattle secondary at the toughest road stadium in the NFL.

Peterson is proof that modern medicine has progressed leaps and bounds over the past five years.  Being held down for much of the game, AP finally broke loose showing us he still has fifth gear ripping through the Bucs defense en route for 123 yards highlighted by a 64 yard touchdown run.

Jared Allen and BJ Penn had themselves a scuffle. Watching these to large men fight reminded me of a bull elephant taking on a lion. In this case the lion may have won the battle but the other elephants showed up and won the war.

 

Carolina 22, Chicago 23

Panthers

Despite passing for 314 yards, Cam Newton has looked awful throwing the football, wildly missing his underneath receivers and unable to read the coverage. Also killing Newton owners was a fumble at the one yard line eventually recovered by Louis Murphy.  Newton’s lone upside in the passing game is chucking the ball deep allowing playmaker Steve Smith utilize his athleticism to come down with the ball. Still able to make plays with his feet, Newton remains a low end QB1. But sporadic production could leave us shaking our heads in the fantasy postseason.

Newton’s faults have also killed the fantasy value of tight end Greg Olsen. Averaging three fantasy points per game over the past three weeks, it appears Olsen has become a mid TE2 amidst a floundering Carolina passing game.

All week long the Panthers have been telling us they are converting to a one-back system on the shoulders of Jonathan Stewart. Carrying the rock 17 times, J-Stew struggled to find running room against the collapsing Chicago defense ending the day at 2.5 yards per carry. DeAngelo Williams was given an expanded role in the second half taking 11 carries for 33 yards. With the Panther new game plan, and the beatable Redskins rush defense next on the schedule, Stewart could approach mid RB2 status with another 17 touches.

Bears

Chicago seemed unprepared for this game, perhaps overlooking the under matched Carolina team at home in Soldier Field. But the recent firing of Panthers GM Marty Hurney must have caught the attention of the Panthers defense because they played is if their jobs depended on this game. Throughout the contest Carolina applied constant pressure on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Easily flustered, Cutler was seen pouting after a being hit or following a Bears penalty. His fragile mind makes him unsuitable for fantasy consideration.

After 46 quick yards from Matt Forte in Chicago’s first two possessions, including a 13 yard scamper into the endzone, Carolina put the clamps on the Bears rusher holding Forte to 24 yards the remainder of the game. I suspect this performance is more a fluke than a trend, for both the Carolina run defense and Forte.

This game proved once again that no Bears wide receiver, outside of Brandon Marshall, can be trusted.

 

San Diego 6, Cleveland 7

Chargers

In a game plagued by heavy rain, offensive production was at a premium. A game of this nature is generally limited to underneath passing and rushing the football. That was the case as San Diego running back Ryan Mathews carried the load with 24 rushes equaling 94 yards. Mathews did manage to put the ball on the turf, a scary sight considering his recent fumbling issues. Rest easy Mathews owners as he was immediately inserted back into the lineup on the team’s next possession.

As the score would indicate, the weather severely hindered Phillip Rivers managing just 154 yards. Also inhibiting Rivers was Robert Meachem dropping what would have been a wide open catch-and-run for a long touchdown.  Meachem has been a serious disappointment after being lauded all offseason as the new number one wide receiver in the Chargers once high-powered passing attack. Returning home to the comfy confines of Qualcomm Stadium facing the Chiefs has Rivers pegged as a low end QB1.

Browns

Equaling Mathews 24 carries was Browns running back Trent Richardson. Fantasy owners will be ecstatic to learn the rib injury causing so much concern during the week did not inhibit the rookie ball carrier reaching 122 yards capped off by a 26 yard touchdown run. He should be locked into your lineup as an RB1 facing the suddenly porous Ravens rush defense.

As stated above, the torrential downpour severely limited the production of all wide receivers including breakout candidate Josh Gordon. Gordon would lead the team with three receptions for 46 yards and now slotted in a solid WR3, the only other Browns wide receiver worth owning.

 

Seattle 24, Detroit 28

Seahawks

Seattle’s offense played extremely well in this game as rookie Russell Wilson managed 236 yards and two touchdowns. The rookie signal caller made a point to get Sydney Rice involved with 8 targets in including an 18 yard touchdown strike in the early second quarter.  Seattle will remain a team predicated by good defense and a solid rushing attack making impossible to trust any member of the Seahawks passing game on a weekly basis.

Lions

This game was proof once that Calvin Johnson can’t run a route without three defenders tracking him at all times. Even with the added attention, Johnson was targeted eight times including an easy touchdown while running wide open in the back of the end zone, but somehow managed to drop the ball. Johnson revealed to the media during his postgame interview the troublesome knee continues to give him discomfort. And the curse continues.

This game is proof that the Seahawks big physical cornerbacks will struggle with smaller, speedy wide receivers. Titus Young had his best game of the season with nine receptions, 100 yards and two touchdowns. With Burleson now done for the season, Young’s increase in targets now have him penciled in as a mid WR3 and climbing.

Matt Stafford did a much better job moving the football around while connecting with Brian Broyles (three catches, 37 yards, one touchdown) and Brandon Pettigrew (seven catches, 74 yards). Although neither Broyles nor Pettigrew are every week starters, both are certainly on the rise.

Mikel Leshoure was clearly hobbled by an injury the Lions are calling “calf cramp”.  Leshoure tried to reenter the game only to be seen limping after one carry. In his place stepped Joique Bell touching the ball 11 times for 58 yards but finding little running room inside the staunch Seattle rush defense. Bell will most certainly be a player of interest as we prepare for week nines free agency, depending on Leshoure’s practice status.  Also worth monitoring is the activation of Kevin Smith.

 

Jacksonville 15, Green Bay 24

Jaguars

Blaine Gabbert is puzzling. He’s the cowardly lion with plenty of arm talent showing flashes of brilliance in this game as displayed by his 303 yards, one touchdown and zero interception. Although Gabbert has zero fantasy value, the beneficiary of late has been wide receiver Cecil Shorts.  Over the past two games Shorts has put together 22 targets, 12 receptions, 195 yards and a touchdown. Shorts has carved out a role as the “deep threat” when the Jags are trailing, which happens more times than not. Given his recent success, Shorts is worth a flier as a mid WR4. Before doing so, be reminded that Green Bay was missing a number of week one starters including Charles Woodson and Sam Shields.

Justin Blackmon also flexed his muscle gaining 67 yards on four receptions. However much of Blackmon’s production came strictly in the first half, as he spent much of the second half day dreaming while “jogging” through a number of routes. Blackmon’s fantasy value is along the lines of a WR6, meaning he’s firmly planted on our watch list.

Rashad Jennings pieced together a solid game in his first start of the season amassing 115 yards on 23 touches. Now locked in as one of the leagues few three-down-backs, Jennings is a dynamic runner with mid RB2 status facing Detroit next week.

Packers

Much credit should be given to the Jaguars defense for holding Aaron Rodgers to 186 yards and one touchdown. Although the Packers never relinquished the lead, Jacksonville stood their ground giving the gun slinger all he could handle.

In the absence of Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings it was clear James Jones is the preferred target leading the team with 78 yards. Jones is near must start as a WR2.

In what should have been a plus matchup, running back Alex Green was held to a paltry 54 yards on 22 rushing attempts. One thing is for sure, Green is not the answer in the Packers backfield now averaging 2.8 yard per carry on the season. An inability to move the ball on the ground is forcing the Packers into one-dimensional offense, a gameplan good teams will exploit. I would be more concerned if James Starks was being given a greater role, but one carry and one target would indicate Green’s job is secure for the time being. Green owners would be wise to handcuff Starks on the cheap just in case. For the rest of us, Starks is merely a player of interest. Although unlikely, the Packers could be searching for a trade market to add a ball carrier with the deadline coming Tuesday.

Jermichael Finley remains the ghost of Christmas past, and I don’t know why.  We could speculate that early season drops have put him out of favor with Aaron Rodgers. Maybe his antics off the field have put him in the coaches doghouse.  Perahaps Finley is still plagued by a reoccurring shoulder injury. Any way you slice it, his menial role solidifies the notion that he should remain on our bench as a TE2 until further notice.

 

Intianpolis 19, Tennessee 13

Colts

The most important news for fantasy owners coming from this game was the return of running back Donald Brown. Pacing the Colts in touches at 14, Brown showed no ill effects from his knee scope just three weeks ago. However, we must also note the continued presence of Vick Ballard also getting 13 touches including an overtime touchdown to seal the game. This will be Brown’s job moving forward, but Ballard is in line for 10+ touches qualifying the Indy’s backfield as an RBBC. We should also note the goal line emergence of Delone Carter stealing the Colts lone rushing score. All told, Brown is a very low end RB2 while Ballard will be relegated back to a mid high RB3.

Titans

Matt Hasselbeck continues to add validity to the Titans wide receivers as viable fantasy options. The difficulty we find is a rotation of production between Nate Washington, Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright. This week it was Washington leading the way with five receptions for 69 yards.  Britt did have two catches negated by offensive pass interference including a 22 yard touchdown reception. Two plays later it was Kendall Wright catching the Titans lone passing touchdown. Further complicating this issue was the Tennessee loss which could send Hasslebeck to the bench being replaced by the less efficient Jake locker. Britt remains the most prolific of the three listed above, but an impending matchup with the Bears should relegate the play maker to low WR3.

The Chris Johnson resurrection continued with 117 yards on 23 touches as the offensive line has made great strides of late. Be aware that much of his success should attributed to facing the Bills and Colts paper thin rush defense the past two weeks. Johnson’s next opponent will be the mighty Chicago Bears as his newly elevated fantasy value will take a hit.

 

New England 45, St. Louis 7

Patritos

The headlines will read; “New England mops up the Rams in Old England”

Although Steven Ridley remains the feature back, including a short yardage touchdown, it was Shane Vereen vulturing the Patriots first short yardage touchdown of the day. I find no discernible trend here, just Bellichick messing with fantasy owners. The burden of who to start is off our shoulders as Ridley and the Patriots will be going on bye next week.

Last week I called Lloyd a buy low after playing 3 of the league’s toughest shutdown cornerbacks (Champ Bailey, Antonio Cromartie and Richard Sherman). Despite his WR6 production through those games, his targets have remained steady as a favorite of OC Josh McDaniels since their time together in Denver. After a bye in week nine, Lloyd will face the Bills and Colts returning to a lower WR2.

Rams

The Rams started the game hot as Chris Givens caught a 50 yard touchdown on the opening drive. Givens has now set an NFL rookie record with a 50 yard catch in each of the past five games. He has proven himself to be the real deal as the Rams deep threat and worthy of a high WR4 roster spot.

Running back Steven Jackson posted a season low seven carries only able to scrape out 23 yards on the ground. Jackson playing time was a circumstance of game situation as the Rams were getting blown out in Europe. Rumors have begun to circulate of Jackson being traded prior to the Tuesday deadline. Now being phased out in St. Louis, best case scenario is Jackson landing in a favorable situation (Green Bay?). Also note that should Jackson be traded, the fantasy value of Daryl Richardson would skyrocket.

Owner beware; St. Louis wide receiver Danny Amendola is set to return after the Rams week nine bye. Should Amendola be available in your league he would certainly would be worth adding this week as a solid WR3.

 

Miami 30, New York 9

Dolphins

The Monday morning headlines in Miami will certainly be a leg injury sustained by quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It’s never a good sign seeing the starting quarterback on the sidelines with his pads off. The good news is Tannehill was never a fantasy option.

Replacing Tannehill was Matt Moore. I’ve been a strong proponent of Moore (almost to a fault) since his 2009 performance in Carolina. Moore’s presence will maintain a higher WR4 status for wide receiver Brian Hartline, but also aiding the value of Reggie Bush.

Speaking of Bush, the Fins starting running back opened this game on fire racking up big gains early. However, the Fins obviously don’t view Bush as a viable goal line option instead turning to Daniel Thomas. Bush was also given much of the second half to rest allowing Thomas to carry the load and grind out the game. Up next is the anemic Colts rush defense as Bush should be slotted as an RB1.

Jets

The other butt whipping of the day was handed down by the Miami defense who simply overpowered the Jets.  Completing 52% of his season-high 54 passes, Mark Sanchez still only managed 283 yards and one meaningless touchdown to Chaz Schillens. With the Tebow chants growing, and a bye week to prepare, Sanchez days as the Jets signal caller could be numbered.

Dustin Keller continues to be a security blanket for quarterback Mark Sanchez hauling in seven receptions for 67 yards. Given Keller’s high number of targets over the past two weeks, and his hamstring injuries a thing of the past, Keller is now emerging into a lower TE1.

 

Atlanta 30, Philadelphia 17

Falcons

What can I tell you about the Falcons that you don’t already know? How about the fact that Atlanta will throw the football even in the leading edge of a hurricane. Despite the rainy weather Matt Ryan had his way with the Eagles secondary working the ball underneath to soften up the defense before taking the lid off with a Julio Jones 66 yard touchdown bomb. The only factor hurting Ryan’s performance on the day was the Eagles inability to score points putting the Falcons in clock killing mode for much of the second half. Ryan will face his toughest challenge of the season in week nine with the Dallas Cowboys coming to Atlanta.

Our understanding of Michael Turner continues to hold true. Entering the twilight of his career Turner is merely a plodder as yardage alone will not provide fantasy owners enough points to win a championship. Even more disturbing is the increased role of Jacquizz Rodgers after producing 60 yards on eight carries. “Quiz” will not be going away any time soon. On a side note; Turner’s inefficiency does help the passing game production.

Eagles

In this game the Eagles were out matched, out gunned and clearly outplayed by the Falcons in every phase.

Is it a prerequisite that Vick take a hit on every play? Still holding on to the football way to long Vick was repeatedly slammed to the turf and seen grimacing after a number of plays. Still having trouble reading the defene he is one big sack away from the infirmary.

Coming out of last weeks bye, it was overly obvious the Eagles plan to scale back their play calling with quick hitters to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Although Jackson was able to amass 59 yards on five receptions, Maclin’s production was severely hindered with no downfield shots finishing the game with six passes for 33 yards.  Should the conservative game plan continue, Jackson and Maclin’s fantasy value will suffer.

 

Washington 12, Pittsburgh 27

Redskins

Dick LeBau and the Pittsburgh defense came to play clogging up the running game limiting Alfred Morris to 59 yards. Even more impressive was containing the explosive Robert Griffin III to eight rushing yards (surprisingly that wasn’t his season). The young quarterback was also outmatched in the passing game tossing for a meager 177 yards and one touchdown. In his defense, the Skins wide receivers had a number of crucial drops that would have extended drives. On the upside, Griffin will take on the hapless Carolina Panthers in week nine and return to fantasy dominance.

Many speculated last week that Leonard Hankerson would be the new go to wide receiver with Pierre Garcon still dealing with a foot injury. Instead it was Santana Moss being targeted nine times reeling in six passes including a 2 yard touchdown. Totaling five touchdowns over the past six games Moss has secured a place as a mid WR3.

The other player of intrigue was tight end Logan Paulsen. Reeling in four of his six targets, Paulen had a deep ball just overthrown that surely would have vaulted the third year player up the waiver wire. Although I’m not convinced what he will deliver on a weekly basis, Paulsen could be added if you are desperate for tight end help. Otherwise he should be planted on our watch list.

Steelers

Looks like the Steelers busted out their Halloween costumes dressing up like bumble bees summoning their inner Blind Melon.

As Ben Roethlisberger stated in his press conference last week, Pittsburgh is now a dink-and-dunk offense predicated upon short to intermediate passes and running the football. This game plan accomplishes three goals; 1) keeps the aging Pit defense rested and healthy, 2) holds Robert Griffin on the bench, and 3) stops Ben from taking the big hit by getting the ball out of his hands quickly. Missing the deep ball is killing the WR1 value of Mike Wallace who also goes missing in the red zone in favor of the big bodied tight end Heath Miller. You’re never going to sit Wallace, but temper your expectations.

As predicted, a matchup with the Skins was an A+ game for Jonathan Dwyer who continued the role as the Seelers 3-down running back. So long as Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall remain sidelined by injury, Dwyer’s fantasy value is solid.

 

Oakland 26, Kansas City 16

Raiders

Carson Palmer is doing just enough to sustain the fantasy relevancy of Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey.  Moore continues to prove he is the most prolific of the Raiders wide receiver finishing the game with five receptions for 96 yards including a sick grab in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Moore is locked in as a WR2, especially with the severly depleted Bucs secondary next on the schedule. A reduction in targets tells us Heyward-Bey is more along the lines of a lower WR4 while Palmer continues to produce as a higher QB2 level.

Raiders tight Brandon Myers remains a player of interest after three receptions for 49 yards. The only reason Myers isn’t an instant waiver wire addition is the goose egg in the touchdown column. Lacking a red zone presence, Myers is on our watch list as a mid TE2, and will remain there until he can find paydirt.

Chiefs

The Brady Quinn experiment lasted all of one quarter before sustaining a “head injury” forcing him to leave the game. In stepped week one starter Matt Cassel. However, Cassel was unable to sustain drives as both quarterback are killing the fantasy value of everyone around them. Both Quinn and Cassel are better suited for a backup role on another NFL team, at best.

Mistakes abound the Chiefs continue to shot themselves in the foot turning the ball over four times. Turnovers equate to reduction of possessions severely limiting fantasy production.

Jamaal Charles should be pictured on the back of a milk carton as he went missing in this game only being given five carries totaling 12 yards. So far this season Charles has had two games totaling over 30 carries and two games totaling under seven carries. Sorry to inform you but there is no rhyme or reason to the madness of the Kansas City play calling. Charles is a must start, just cross your fingers the KC coaching staff pulls their head out of their Halloween costume.

 

New York 29, Dallas 24

Giants

Dealing with a reoccurring foot injury, Ahmad Bradshaw scontinues to get a full workload as evident by his 22 carries for 78 yards. However, Bradshaw is losing lose goal line touches to backup Andre Brown as evident by Brown’s short yardage plunge for a touchdown. Considering his upcoming matchup with the Steelers, and the Giants continued use of the RBBC around the goal line, Bradshaw is a low end RB2.

If you didn’t already know, the Cowboys pass defense is really, really good. In this game they limited Eli Manning to 196 yards and zero touchdowns. Some of Eli’s poor production could be attributed to the G-Men building a 23-0 lead and putting the game in cruise control, and I don’t mean Victor Cruz who ended the game with and an astonishing 23 yards on two receptions. The low output should fuel the competitive fire of the Giants potent passing attack next weekend.

Cowboys

It was a trick-or-treat game for Tony Romo throwing three interceptions in the first half including a pick-six to Jason Pierre Paul. Digging his team into a deep hole, Romo came out firing in the second half ending the game with 62 pass attempts, 437 yards passing, one touchdown through the air and one touchdown on the ground. The rollercoaster ride that is Tony Romo will makes it’s way to Atlanta facing the 12th ranked Falcons pass defense.

Tight end Jason Witten set the NFL record with 18 receptions, ending the day with 167 yards. Fantasy owner won’t complain, but only one touchdown on the season is a bit annoying.

Mistakes by Dez Bryant are killing the Cowboys chances of winning games, but fantasy owners will take his stat line including five receptions for 110 yards. Bryant’s day could have been greatly improved had he been able to come down with a last-minute touchdown preserving the Cowboys win.

Felix Jones appears to be the feature back for Dallas, but gaining 19 on the day, his only saving grace was four yard touchdown plunge. In this game Jones ran tentatively while unable to capitalize with the Giants playing prevent defense while nursing a big lead. Jones also had a critical fumble running into the hind quarters of his own player leading to a game clinching field goal for New York. We are already hearing comments from Jerry Jones how he “hopes DeMarco Murray will be ready for week nine”. Jones remains a poor fantasy starter.

 

New Orleans 14, Denver 34

Saints

In a game billed as the shootout at the OK Corral, apparently the New Orleans Saints didn’t get the message. Instead it was a house of horrors as Drew Brees had one of his worst games all time throwing for 215 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. However, much love should be given the Broncos defense. Facing the prolific New Orleans passing attack Denver’s applied constant pressure to Brees while the secondary erased the Saints receivers paying close attention to the underneath targets. Also inhibiting the Saints offense was their own defense.  Unable to slow down the Broncos and give the offense the football put tremendous pressure on Brees to play catch up for much of the game. Better games are on the horizon.

Darren Sproles owners will be happy with 56 yards and a touchdown while Jimmy Graham owners must be elated seeing their beast mode tight end play the entire game while squeaking out a late game touchdown (how many fantasy games shifted on that play?).

Broncos

Ding-Dong. “Who’s there?” It’s Peyton Manning and his friends Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Willis McGahee. In a game dominated by the usual suspects, finding hidden news to uncover is difficult. The only information our investigation will uncover is continued presence of Ronnie Hillman as the primary handcuff. Playing the clean up role, Hillman produced 86 yards on 14 carries. If you own “what you talkin about Willis”, you better secure Hillman.

 

Teams on bye week 9 – St. Louis, New England, New York Jets, San Francisco

“I love football, and love is an understatement”

Russell Wilson

About Eric Hartvigson