Archive for October, 2009

Ranting

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

The following is nothing more than me getting random thoughts off my chest, some about sports, some not.

Can you believe Brian Sabean is the longest tenured GM in baseball? I can’t quite wrap my mind around this. It’s like Nickelback selling the most copies in a year, or “Paranormal Activity” (which was terrible, by the way) killing at the box office – why are we consistently rewarding garbage? I’ve seen some people call his new two-year contract a no-brainer, because the Giants won 88 games this year despite an offense that was in the bottom five in runs scored. Whaatt?! Why do you think the offense sucked? Because Sabean constructed it. You do realize Freddy Sanchez was hurt at the time of last year’s trade, right? This wasn’t bad luck or anything. And how about the Ryan Garko deal? I’ll call it right now: Sabean will give Jason Bay a contract in excess of $60 million. After all, he’s a perfect fit for who Sabean targets: someone coming off (arguably) their career-year, thanks in large part to a hitter’s park during a contract-year. Bay is also more than 30 years old (a huge prerequisite for Sabean) and is one of the two or three worst defensive outfielders in baseball. Jackpot!

I must admit, I’ll miss Steve Phillips on ESPN. It just always fascinated me that a one time general manager for a MLB team with such a high payroll knew so little about baseball. He was always one of my favorite interviews.

It’s safe to say Joe Girardi is a bit of a micromanager. Pinch running for Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of a one run game for a guy with five SBs on the year with a lefty on the mound has to go down as one of the bigger head-scratchers I have ever witnessed in a baseball game. Above all, I was rooting for an extra innings game with Freddy Guzman up in a crucial situation rather than ARod.

I know you always hear not to judge spring training stats, but I must admit, I’ve let some performances sway my opinion in fantasy drafts. While I still believe those numbers shouldn’t be totally ignored, there won’t be a better example of why to mostly look past them than Zack Greinke in 2009. Do you realize he allowed 29 runs over 28.1 spring training innings? To put that in perspective, he didn’t allow his 29th run in the regular season until mid-July. It was later revealed Greinke was throwing his changeup almost exclusively in spring training, as he was more concerned with working on a new pitch than he was results. Speaking of Greinke, I’ll give my MLB awards later on in this article.

This may be old, but I still can’t get enough of it. Possibly the best moment of the 2009 baseball season.

I was shocked to learn Brad Lidge has the second most saves in postseason history. I mean, I know the stat hasn’t been around forever, and there haven’t been that many dynasties in baseball, and the wild card is relatively new, but still, Brad Lidge?

I know the general consensus is that while Matt Millen was so obviously an awful GM, he is a good TV analyst. And while this may or may not have been true in the past, he seems pretty brutal to me right now. It’s often cringe worthy, actually. Dude has no clue what he’s talking about.

I understand he doesn’t have any ACLs or whatever, but again, how in the hell did DeJuan Blair fall to the seventh pick of the second round? It’s not luck why teams like the Spurs continue to be good for such long stretches, as they don’t try to get cute or overthink things. Blair is a future star in the league, and it’s laughable how many teams passed him up.

The Cavs are off to a slow start, and Mike Brown obviously needs to get fired. But the one variable with Cleveland this season is that with LeBron James’ impending free agency, don’t be surprised if the Cavs go all out at the trade deadline this year. Expect a much different looking team (with a possible added star) come the second half of the year.

With Tim Donaghy’s latest revelation essentially saying the Kings should have beaten the Lakers in 2002, how am I supposed to feel as someone who lives 60 miles from Arco Arena? Seriously, this story has been UNDERRATED. Officials/refs/umpires get things wrong all the time, but name me one other incident in which after the fact it’s been revealed they did so ON PURPOSE. I’m not the type to dwell on the past, but really, this is a travesty. At minimum, David Stern needs to make it up to me by giving all refs this memo – quit calling so many fouls on Greg Oden! After all, he’s on two of my fantasy teams. It would at least be a step in the right direction for redemption.

Did you know that black widows are responsible for about two deaths per year, while mosquitoes are responsible for about two million deaths per year?

Did you know castmembers from “The Hills” make upwards of $90,000 per episode? Where are all those mosquitoes when we need them?

Did you know I was up 31-3 against the spread last week with the Dolphins. And lost.

Hope you’re watching “Modern Family” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” these days – easily two of the funniest shows on television.

My favorite part of the year 2009 so far has to be balloon boy. I’m sure that kid is going to grow up to live a perfectly normal and productive life with his upbringing.

Short, definitive, rash conclusions about football: Sidney Rice and Miles Austin will both be ranked as top-10 fantasy WRs next year…The Cardinals’ defense will be a fantasy difference maker over the rest of the season…Chris Wells will go higher than Matt Forte in fantasy drafts next year…If the over/under for total number of losses for the Saints and Colts combined with the amount of wins for the Bucs was 3.5 this year, I’d take the under.

My MLB awards:

AL Cy Young:

1. Zack Greinke
2. Roy Halladay
3. Felix Hernandez
4. Justin Verlander
5. Jon Lester

Greinke is the fairly obvious choice, but Halladay is closer than most think. He faced the tougher schedule (third highest aggregate OPS in MLB), had the superior K:BB ratio (5.94 to 4.75) and the better xFIP (3.24 to 3.36). Still, Greinke’s 203 ERA+ was easily the best in baseball, his K rate was far better than Halladay’s, and he had to deal with the worst defense in the league by a wide margin.

NL Cy Young:

1. Tim Lincecum
2. Javier Vazquez
3. Chris Carpenter
4. Adam Wainwright
5. Dan Haren

Comments: I’m sure I’ll get criticized for being a homer here, but the stats don’t lie. Lincecum was pretty much better in every conceivable category this year compared to his Cy Young winning campaign last season, and there isn’t exactly a worthy alternative. Timmy’s 10.4 K/9 mark easily led major league baseball, and he also showed improved command. His changeup was the single most effective pitch in all of MLB in 2009, and his ability to limit homers is starting to become a trend rather than fluke. Lincecum held opponents to an MLB-low .561 OPS this year. To put that in perspective, the lowest OPS by a batter (who qualified) this season was Emilio Bonifacio at .611. As for Vazquez, his 2.89 xFIP was actually the best this year, and he dealt with a far inferior defense than the Giants’. Still, he gave up too many homers to take home the hardware. As for Carpenter, despite the modest K rate (6.7/9), he likely would have received my vote if not for his oblique injury. But the fact remains he threw 32.2 fewer innings than Lincecum, which is obviously significant. Wainwright will probably win the award, and while his year was impressive, he was far from the best pitcher in the NL in 2009.

AL MVP

1. Joe Mauer
2. Zack Greinke
3. Ben Zobrist
4. Derek Jeter
5. Roy Halladay

Comments: The easiest pick by far. Mauer finished with the best OPS in the AL by 70 points while playing the toughest position on the field defensively. He led the league in batting average, OBP and slugging percentage. There’s really not even much more to say. I was forced to put two pitchers on this list mainly because of a lack of viable alternatives with hitters. Franklin Gutierrez was a whole lot more valuable than most people probably realize, thanks to some of the best defense from a center fielder you’ll ever see.

NL MVP

1. Albert Pujols
2. Hanley Ramirez
3. Chase Utley
4. Tim Lincecum
5. Troy Tulowitzki

Comments: Pujols is baseball’s best hitter, but it’s worth noting that of the top-five OPSs in the NL this year, all are first baseman. Further, nine of the top-14 OPSs played first base. It’s simply an easy position to find production (unless you’re Brian Sabean). That’s not to take anything from Pujols, who deserves to win because he’s also a fine defender and possibly the best baserunner in the game as well, but Ramirez’s sixth-best OPS (BA heavy, which is more valuable than BB heavy) while playing solid defense at shortstop deserves a ton of credit, especially coming in a pitcher’s park. Utley, meanwhile, not only was productive with the bat, but he was also hands down the best defensive second baseman in baseball.

AL ROY

1. Brett Anderson
2. Andrew Bailey
3. Elvis Andrus
4. Gordon Beckham
5. Nolan Reimold

Comments: Bailey was awesome and one of the best relievers in the game during his rookie season, finishing with a 1.84 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 83.1 innings pitched (a lot for a reliever). He’s deserving, but teammate Anderson was almost as impressive, and he did so as a starter. In fact, Anderson’s xFIP (3.80) ranked in the top-20 in all of baseball – ahead of the likes of CC Sabathia, Clayton Kershaw, John Lackey, Johan Santana and Matt Cain, among many others. And for those who like more traditional stats, Anderson posted a 3.48 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with 86 Ks over 88 innings after the All-Star break. Andrus didn’t embarrass himself as a hitter while going 33-for-39 on SB attempts and playing fantastic defense at shortstop. After that, it gets murky. If you want to argue Rick Porcello, Jeff Neimann and/or Ricky Romero over Beckham or Reimold, I’d understand.

NL ROY

1. J.A. Happ
2. Tommy Hanson
3. Chris Coghlan
4. Andrew McCutchen
5. Garrett Jones

Comments: Hanson had the better component stats and is a far better bet moving forward, but the fact remains Happ matched his ERA while throwing 40 more innings. Coghlan was one of the best hitters in MLB during the second half, but his defense in left field was pretty abysmal. Jones had the highest OPS, and his 21 homers over just 314 at-bats were awfully valuable, but he really only put in about a half season’s work, and teammate McCutchen gets the slight edge because he was a league average defender in center field. But this is as deep of a rookie class as I can remember, as Colby Rasmus was the best defensive center fielder in the league this year. Dexter Fowler was also worthy of consideration, and Casey McGehee posted an .859 OPS. Randy Wells was pretty good as well.

Bet on It

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 5-7-1, losing one game I was up 31-3 at one point. Moreover, I tied my best bet (incidentally, the first tie ATS all season long, which kind of seems insane) despite the Texans leading 21-0, so yes, yet another frustrating week. I’m now 50-52-1 on the season and 4-2-1 with my best bet for the year. Here are my Week 8 darts:

Broncos +3 at RAVENS

Texans -3.5 at BILLS

Browns +13.5 at BEARS

Seahawks +10 at COWBOYS

RAMS +4 at Lions

49ers +13 at Colts

Dolphins +3.5 at JETS

GIANTS pick ’em at Eagles

Jaguars +3 at TITANS

Raiders +17 at CHARGERS

Vikings +3 at PACKERS (Best Bet)

Panthers +10 at CARDINALS

Falcons +10 at SAINTS

Comments: Vegas is getting destroyed, and there will no doubt be a correction sooner or later, so I don’t feel great backing nine favorites this week. That said, it’s best to view every game singularly, and while following the trend seems like the wrong thing to do, I’m calling each game like I see it. No best bet jumped out at me this week, but I’ll go with the Packers. Green Bay’s pass protection issues are a concern, but Brett Favre has struggled outdoors, the Packers’ defense has been superior, and Aaron Rodgers has been the NFC’s MVP thus far.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ – With Leon Washington (leg) out for the season, Greene immediately became the No. 1 waiver priority in leagues he wasn’t already owned this week. Greene’s huge game last Sunday (144 rushing yards, two touchdowns) came against a soft Oakland defense, but the rookie has impressed whenever given the opportunity this season. Remember, the Jets traded basically the second half of their draft to move up to select Greene in the third round, so the coaching staff is very high on him. He won’t be on the field during third downs, and Thomas Jones remains ahead of him in the pecking order, but this Jets team has ran for 634 yards over the past two games, so it’s a productive ground game to say the least. Greene is a strong option at the goal line and will likely act as New York’s “closer” in games they are playing with the lead. He can be a decent flex play immediately in the right matchup, and if Jones were to breakdown (he’s 31 years old and approaching 2,100 career carries), Greene would have top-10, if not top-five, upside.

Miles Austin, WR, DAL – During his two starts this year, Austin has totaled 16 catches for 421 yards and four touchdowns, so it’s safe to say he’s not returning to a bench role anytime soon. In fact, it’s already abundantly clear he’s Dallas’ No. 1 wide receiver, so while this type of pace is obviously unsustainable, there’s no reason why Austin can’t remain a top-15 fantasy WR from here on out. He’s 6-3, 214 lbs with breakaway speed, and it remains a mystery why the Cowboys’ coaches were so slow to give him this opportunity (well, not that big of a mystery actually. Wade Phillips is clueless). Among wide receivers, only Wes Welker has more yards after the catch than Austin this season (256), and this was with him rarely even seeing the field until two games ago. With Tony Romo one of the most willing quarterbacks in the NFL to attack downfield, Austin is in a terrific situation, so this outburst is no fluke.

Jamaal Charles, RB, KC – It’s still not certain Larry Johnson will get cut, but his role with the Chiefs is tenuous at best after his recent tirade – first through Twitter and then to the media. At this point, even Kansas City fans are calling for his release, and it’s not like his performance merits putting up with an attitude (2.7 YPC on the year). As a result, Charles could be looking at a much bigger workload moving forward. Coach Todd Haley recently complimented the RB from Texas, and although he’s struggled with fumbles in the past and is hardly built for 20-plus carriers each week, Charles has gotten 5.3 YPC throughout his career, and he’s a major weapon as a receiver. In fact, his ability in the passing game is actually a better fit than Johnson in the Chiefs’ spread attack. Moreover, Kansas City faces the Bills and Browns in two homes games during Weeks 14 and 15, so Charles could have an impact when it matters most in fantasy leagues.

Alex Smith, QB, SF – Replacing an ineffective Shaun Hill during the second half of Sunday’s loss last week, Smith responded by completing 68.2 percent of his passes while getting 9.4 YPA and throwing three touchdowns over just two quarters. The conditions were favorable, facing a soft Texans’ secondary that was playing with a comfortable lead, but the outing was impressive nevertheless. Smith is a clear upgrade over Hill in regards to arm strength and mobility, but it remains to be seen if his past struggles with accuracy and decision-making have finally been solved. It’s worth noting a healthy Smith was unable to beat out Hill in training camp, and it’s important not to overreact to one half of football. Still, Smith was a former No. 1 overall pick and has the physical skills to at least make him interesting moving forward, and with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Frank Gore at his disposal, he’ll have more weapons to work with on offense than at any other time in his career.

Michael Crabtree, WR, SF – Crabtree made a mental mistake during the first snap of his career last week, resulting in a sack. However, his play was nearly flawless afterward, and while five catches for 56 yards won’t jump out at you, the performance was highly impressive for a rookie wide receiver who just signed two weeks ago. Crabtree was in for about 90 percent of San Francisco’s snaps, and four of his five receptions went for first downs, most of them coming in crucial third-down situations. Again, it was just one game and against a beatable secondary, but sometimes it’s immediately evident when a rookie “gets it.” To wit, Oakland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey has been starting since the season opened, yet Crabtree, who hadn’t even played football since last January, already has more catches on the year (five to four).

Jason Snelling, RB, ATL – Snelling isn’t a household name, but he got 68 rushing yards on just seven carries last week. Meanwhile, Michael Turner has gotten just 3.4 YPC this season, which is among the lowest of all qualified runners. Turner isn’t going to lose his job anytime soon, but with Jerious Norwood (hip) out indefinitely, Snelling is worth stashing in deeper leagues. He’s going to rack up receptions as the team’s change-of-pace back and could see an increase in carries as well if Turner continues to struggle.

Chris Wells, RB, ARI – Wells’ performance Sunday night against the Giants was impressive (4.8 YPC), highlighted by a touchdown run that featured a vicious stiff-arm. More importantly, he received 14 rushing attempts compared to just four for starter Tim Hightower. Hightower will remain the nominal starter for the time being, and he’s still the preferred option in passing situations, but Wells should start seeing the majority of carries in Arizona’s backfield. Provided he can stay healthy, Wells has a bunch of upside from here on out, as Arizona has the easiest schedule (combined win-loss records of each team’s remaining opponents) of any team in football over the rest of the year.

FALLERS

Bernard Berrian, WR, MIN – Berrian left Sunday’s game early with a hamstring injury, which helps explain his poor numbers (two catches, 18 yards). He hopes to return in Week 8, but the bigger problem for his fantasy outlook is Sidney Rice’s emergence. Minnesota has a strong defense and running game, and with Rice and possibly even Percy Harvin ahead of Berrian in Brett Favre’s reads in the passing game, Berrian isn’t going to put up very big numbers, especially as such a weak option in the red zone.

Carnell Williams, RB, TB – Williams has remained healthy and continues to run hard, but his teammates haven’t done him any favors. Moreover, Derrick Ward actually got more carries last week (13) than Williams (11), so it looks like Tampa Bay’s backfield is back to being a committee. With rookie Josh Freeman slated to start at QB when the team comes out of its bye, the offense doesn’t figure to improve anytime soon, so it’s going to be a long season in Tampa Bay, especially with such a difficult upcoming schedule.

Donald Brown, RB, IND – Brown was off to a terrific start last week, gaining 58 rushing yards on his first two carries. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury knocked him out of the game, and while it hasn’t been deemed serious, the problem could keep him out in the short-term. With Joseph Addai continuing to disappoint (3.3 YPC), there’s an opportunity for Brown to get more action in Indy’s backfield, but he needs to get healthy first.

Terrell Owens, WR, BUF – Owens has failed to live up to expectations regardless of who is playing quarterback in Buffalo, but Ryan Fitzpatrick appears to really prefer Lee Evans. The Bills have won their last two games, but Owens has become a complete non-factor in the offense. He’s on pace to finish the season with 41 catches, 553 yards and two touchdowns.

Tashard Choice, RB, DAL – After impressing over the previous three games, Choice wasn’t given a single carry during Dallas’ win last week. With Marion Barber and Felix Jones back to health, Choice is the odd man out, at least for now. Both Barber and Jones are injury-prone, however, so Choice needs to be held onto in fantasy leagues if possible. He’s always productive whenever given the opportunity.

Larry Johnson, RB, KC – It’s understandable for Chiefs players to be frustrated, but Johnson is a particularly dubious case; he currently ranks fourth in the NFL with 132 carries. He’s gotten just 2.7 YPC and has lost more fumbles (one) than scored touchdowns (zero). Don’t be surprised if he’s played his last game in a Chiefs’ uniform.

Chris Cooley, TE, WAS
– While it’s good news that Cooley’s broken ankle is unlikely to keep him out for the rest of the season as originally thought, it’s still a massive blow to his fantasy owners. We’re at the point of the season where it may not even be worth holding a roster spot for a second tight end who may or may not return for 1-3 games at the end. After Washington’s bye, Fred Davis isn’t a bad guy to add if you are desperate.

Podcast

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Check it out.

The Scoop

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Welcome back, Ryan Grant. His 148 yards rushing last week was his most since Week 14 of 2007, and after showing large home/road splits last season (4.9 YPC at home, 2.9 YPC on the road), he’s done the opposite this year (3.6 YPC at home, 4.7 YPC on the road). That stat isn’t all that significant, but it is an oddity. Either way, Grant’s owners have to be feeling a lot better today than they were last week, regardless of how weak the opponent was…Despite a shaky offensive line and an underperforming Greg Jennings, Aaron Rodgers currently leads the NFL (by a wide margin) with 9.3 YPA. Drew Brees also has a good argument, but when you account for the discrepancy in running games and defenses, Rodgers has been the NFC’s MVP so far…Maybe Greg Jennings will be a buy-low candidate every week this season, but I doubt it. Go target him…Mohamed Massaquoi continues to get targeted heavily, including on five deep balls and two looks inside the 10 last week. However, it doesn’t matter much when defenses are able to roll coverage his way, and his QB is terribly inaccurate. Massaquoi’s efficiency numbers are going to look awful at season’s end, and it’s not even close to his fault.

Despite the loss, 49ers fans have to be highly encouraged right now. Not only has Vernon Davis (finally) become a premier tight end in the league (and a top-three fantasy one), Michael Crabtree somehow immediately made an impact while playing for the first time in nearly 11 months, and Alex Smith might have just resurrected his career. Crabtree looks like the real deal, but it’s worth noting Smith performed in favorable conditions – playing against an already soft defense that had a big lead – so we’ll see how he does against a D prepared for him (a tough test this week in Indy). Still, with better arm strength and mobility, Smith always possessed far more upside than Shaun Hill. But accuracy and decision-making are the two most important aspects of playing quarterback, so it remains to be seen if he’s truly made improvements in those areas…Steve Slaton didn’t forget how to run between the tackles during the offseason. This is a running back who got 4.8 YPC on 268 carries last season, so while he deserves a bunch of criticism for his fumbles (this is beyond a legitimate concern, as he would’ve lost two last week if not for a close overturn on review), the Texans stagnant rushing game is all about poor blocking. The offensive line has been hit with injuries at both guard positions, and it’s not like Chris Brown (3.3 YPC) has been markedly better. With his heavy involvement in the passing game, Slaton remains plenty valuable. It really would be interesting to see what Houston would do if he continues to fumble, because that offense suffers quite a bit when he’s off the field…San Francisco’s trade last year for the Panthers’ 2010 first round draft pick is looking better each week, as that could easily be in the top-10.

Tough to evaluate this Chargers team right now, but I still say they remain more likely to disappoint than realize their potential like they did last week in Kansas City. Even in a 30-point blowout and with multiple goal-line attempts, LaDainian Tomlinson continues to disappoint. It’s going to be a long year for LT owners…You don’t need me to tell you to grab Jamaal Charles. Larry Johnson did his best to lose his job through performance, and when that didn’t work, he decided to take it up a notch and sabotage his career through Twitter. Charles is a better fit for Kansas City’s spread offense anyway, and while he’s battled fumbling problems and injuries in the past, this is a RB who has averaged 5.3 YPC throughout his career and is dangerous in the passing game. He could be a difference maker from here on out.

Even at 6-0 facing a Pittsburgh team that was at home and in much more need of a win, the Vikings hardly laid down last week, playing the Steelers extremely tough. Still, it’s worth noting Brett Favre has gotten just 6.2 YPA with only one touchdown over two outdoor games this season…It’s really hard not to view Sidney Rice as a top-20 fantasy WR right now, and that’s being conservative…Adrian Peterson is on pace to finish with about 200 fewer rushing yards this season compared to last, but he already has more receiving yards this year than he did in 2008 and is just two touchdowns shy of reaching his total from last season (10). His YPC is also up (5.0). Bottom line, AP hasn’t been overworked and has been as productive as ever…Mike Wallace’s emergence probably won’t be too big of a hindrance this year, but it’s not great long-term news for Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward’s prospective fantasy value. Wallace looks like he’s going to be a big part of Pittsburgh’s offense in the future.

Joseph Addai has eclipsed 80 yards rushing just once over his last 28 games played, and while ostensibly healthy this year, his YPC has dropped for a third straight season, somehow bottoming out at 3.3 despite defenses focusing on stopping Peyton Manning. Still, he’s active as a receiver, gets the goal-line work and with Donald Brown (shoulder) slated to miss 2-3 weeks, Addai is a fine RB2. I still bet Brown is taken ahead of Addai at draft tables in 2010…Your weekly Steven Jackson update: now on pace to finish the season with 1,838 total yards and zero touchdowns…I still like Donnie Avery as a WR3, but he’s quickly earning an injury-prone label.

Not that Laurence Maroney impressed, but at least he scored, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis got just 0.9 YPC. Maroney remains a viable flex play after the team’s upcoming bye…Wes Welker continues to get targeted more than Randy Moss, and he hauled in all 10 of his targets last week. In PPR leagues, he might be worth a top-10 pick if a draft were held today…Odds will still point against it, but looking at Tampa Bay’s upcoming schedule, don’t be shocked if a team finishes 0-16 for the second straight year.

One thing is clear, Ryan Fitzpatrick is good news for Lee Evans owners. Meanwhile, Terrell Owens is on pace to finish the season with 41 catches, 553 yards and two touchdowns…Not much more can be said about Jake Delhomme at this point, but at least DeAngelo Williams seems to be turning things around. He already has more than 50 more receiving yards this year than he did all of last season, and Carolina figures to only go even more ground-heavy if the team switches quarterbacks as well…One of the more surprising aspects of the season has been Buffalo’s play in the secondary, as the unit has allowed just 5.8 YPA (third lowest in NFL) with a league-high 13 interceptions, holding opposing passers to a 58.0 QB rating.

Run, don’t walk to pick up Shonn Greene. With Leon Washington (leg) unfortunately lost for the season, Greene is an immediate flex option on a run-first team with terrific blocking. For the second straight year, Thomas Jones has been one of the sneakiest and most underrated commodities, but he’s 31 years old and approaching 2,100 career carries, so he’s no guarantee to last the year. Greene has impressed in his limited work, and he should be a real difference maker moving forward…Even though the Jets threw just 15 passes, it’s a little disconcerting to see Braylon Edwards so invisible, especially with no Jerricho Cotchery competing for targets…And no need to apologize for eating that hot dog on the sidelines Mark Sanchez, JaMarcus Russell’s play was far more offensive.

If I’m a Matt Forte owner, I’m hoping for the best this week at home against a Cleveland defense that has allowed the second-highest YPC (4.9) on the year, and then I’m shopping him, even fully aware he’ll be highly discounted…It’s safe to say Chad Johnson is back. He already has more receiving yards and touchdowns over seven games than he did all of last season (over 13 games). Carson Palmer had quite possibly the best game of his career last week, which is hopefully a sign of things to come for this passing attack…I’m a huge Jay Cutler fan, but he continues to throw too many interceptions, and he’s lucky just one of his seven fumbles have been recovered by the defense this season. That said, the Bears’ defense is a much bigger worry in Chicago.

The Cowboys had an impressive win Sunday, but it was the first time they beat a team with a winning record all year, and they were at home and coming off a bye. Still, Tony Romo has gotten a staggering 10.5 YPA with a 5:0 TD:INT ratio over the past two games, and it’s hardly a coincidence that has also coincided with Miles Austin entering the starting lineup. Chances are, Austin’s not going to match his 210.5 yards per game average as a starter moving forward, but it’s clear who is Dallas’ No. 1 wide receiver. Not to overreact, but he’s got to currently be viewed as a top-15 fantasy WR, right?…In deeper leagues, Jason Snelling isn’t a bad speculative add. With Jerious Norwood (hip) out indefinitely, Snelling is going to be involved in Atlanta’s offense, especially with Michael Turner struggling. Snelling has averaged 4.7 YPC throughout his (brief) career, and he’s going to be heavily involved as a receiver…Speaking of Turner, I would argue the “370 curse” has something to do with his disappointing year (touchdowns notwithstanding), but counting the playoffs, Adrian Peterson had 383 carries to Turner’s 394 last season, and AP has hardly been affected, and it’s not like Turner has a lot of mileage on his legs. While Matt Ryan has been more productive in the red zone, his YPA has dropped from 7.9 last year to 7.1 this season, so the Falcons’ passing game has regressed, despite the Tony Gonzalez addition. Moreover, Turner’s disappointing 2009 can easily be blamed on a much tougher schedule this year compared to last, which shouldn’t be all that surprising since he feasted on bottom-five rushing defenses last year and struggled against top competition.

Up 31-3 at one point, most backers of Miami ATS probably didn’t expect to lose Sunday but so was the case. I blame Tony Sparano. With 5 seconds left in the first half in a 24-3 game, the Saints inexplicably brought out their field goal unit at the 1-yard line, and naturally, Sparano called a timeout. Umm what? Who cares if you didn’t have the right personnel on the field? You should be begging New Orleans to kick at that point. Terrible, terrible decision (which resulted in New Orleans changing its mind and scoring a TD easily on a Drew Brees sneak)…I’m not sure if it qualified as revenge like Cedric Benson against his former team, but Ricky Williams was awfully impressive Sunday. He’s currently getting 5.7 YPC. His previous career-high was 4.8…Marques Colston was close to scoring at least three touchdowns last week, and if he can remain healthy, he’ll enter 2010 in the first tier of fantasy wide receivers.

Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise since they were just in the Super Bowl and all, but I expected regression this year, but make no mistake, this Cardinals team is very dangerous. The passing attack has taken a step back, and Kurt Warner’s health remains a long-term concern, but that aspect should only get better over the course of the season, and this defense has allowed the fewest YPC (3.0) in the NFL. The secondary is improving as well, and Arizona’s 16 sacks are the eighth most in the league…Hakeem Nicks has a bright future, but Sunday’s 62-yard TD was an obvious fluke (he wasn’t even the intended receiver), and a lot of his production over the past four games has come in garbage time. He’s still third in the receiving pecking order on a run-first team, so it might be worthwhile at least seeing if another owner values him scoring in four straight games more than you do…In my home league, I offered someone (let’s call him “Dusty”) Chris Wells and Kellen Winslow for Antonio Gates (he has Tim Hightower, who he often uses as a starter) last week. He rejected, with this response: “Wells would almost certainly sit on my bench barring an injury to Hightower.” I argued I’d never even offer this deal if not for me being 2-4 and with Winslow having a tough matchup against N.E. in Week 7 and then a bye afterward, but I’m desperate and willing to take a long-term loss of upside, but it fell on deaf ears. I know no one wants to hear about personal fantasy stories, but there’s a bigger picture at play here: owners in power at this time of year should absolutely be targeting guys like Wells (although he doesn’t qualify anymore, after he had 14 carries to Hightower’s four last week. On the year, Wells has gotten nearly a full yard more per carry than Hightower, who figures to be faded even further out of the gameplan moving forward. Wells is still an injury risk, but he’s a special talent who was drafted in the first round and has an elite passing attack, strong defense and weak division working in his favor. Three of Arizona’s next four opponents rank in the bottom-10 in rushing defense, and they get the Lions and Rams in crucial Weeks 15 and 16), as teams desperate for wins to make the playoffs are much more likely to give away long-term upside guys like Donald Brown, Shonn Greene, Darren Sproles, Felix Jones, etc. in return for short-term gains. If you’re in good position to make the playoffs this year, don’t be the “Dusty” of your league.

DeSean Jackson is clearly one of the most explosive players in the NFL, although his durability is in question. Still, no player in football is making more big plays right now…Tight end is deep this year, but after the bye, Fred Davis isn’t a bad option for those in need, although apparently Chris Cooley (ankle) may return this season after all… Jeremy Maclin has been relatively quiet after his Week 5 explosion (six catches, 59 yards over two games), but he’s locked into the No. 2 WR role in Philadelphia with Kevin Curtis (knee) done for, and he was actually targeted two more times than Jackson on Monday night, leading the team with seven looks. The talented rookie is going to make an impact over the rest of the year. Check out the Eagles’ schedule from here on out, as it appears there may be plenty of shootouts. Go get Maclin before it’s too late…Larry David is more likely to turn down a date with a handicapped woman than Jim Zorn is to return as head coach in 2010…The worst offensive unit in all of football right now might be when Michael Vick enters the game for the Eagles.

Bet on It

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 8-6, bringing my season total to 45-45, so it’s like I’m starting over again. My best bet (the Chiefs) were underdogs who won outright, so I’m 4-2 with those so far. I really don’t like all these big spreads, which has been a theme all season, but let’s take a look at the Week 7 slate:

49ers +3 at TEXANS (Best Bet)

Chargers -4.5 at CHIEFS

Colts – 13.5 at RAMS

Patriots – 15 at BUCCANEERS

Vikings +4 at STEELERS

Packers -7 at BROWNS

BILLS +7.5 at Carolina

JETS -6.5 At Oakland

Bears +1.5 at BENGALS

FALCONS +4 at Cowboys

Saints -7 at DOLPHINS

Cardinals +7 at GIANTS

EAGLES -7 at Redskins

Comments: More than half of this week’s slate consists of home dogs, which is something you’ll rarely see. Of course, that typically means there’s value there, but it’s tougher to choose which ones with so many extra options. No “best bets” jumped out at me this week like they usually do, and I don’t love Houston’s setup (them coming off a big road win, SF coming off a bye), but three points suggests these two teams are equal, something I can’t get on board with. Over their past three contests, the Texans haven’t allowed a running back to reach 45 rushing yards in a game, ceding 2.5 YPC over that span. So while their season numbers look poor against the rush, it’s not necessarily a good matchup for Frank Gore. Meanwhile, Shaun Hill has gotten 6.2 YPA this season, and the 49ers have yet to get even 200 net yards passing in a single game all year. The difference in passing attacks here is about as stark as it gets. Back the Texans.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Laurence Maroney, RB, NE – Few players have been bigger fantasy disappointments over the past two seasons than Maroney, but with Fred Taylor (ankle) and Sammy Morris (knee) down, he’s the closest thing to a workhorse in New England’s backfield. He made the most of it last week, gaining 123 rushing yards on just 16 carries against a Titians’ front seven that had been defending the run well all season long. Maroney remains an injury risk, and there’s no guarantee coach Bill Belichick turns to him as the lone feature back, but if he’s truly turned a corner (i.e., stopped dancing behind the line of scrimmage), there is a lot of upside here. Just two years ago, Maroney totaled 647 yards with seven touchdowns over the final six games.

Ray Rice, RB, BAL – Rice isn’t going to get 20-plus carries a game, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t be a top-five fantasy running back, mainly because he’s so involved as a receiver. He’s averaging 6.0 YPC and has already racked up 33 catches for 325 receiving yards on the year. Baltimore has been playing mostly from behind over its past three games, so it’s also safe to expect more rushing attempts moving forward, as Rice has averaged just 10.8 carries over the last five contests. Despite that, he’s on pace to finish the season with 2,043 total yards and 11 touchdowns.

Sidney Rice, WR, MIN – With six receptions for 176 yards Sunday, Rice is fast developing into Brett Favre’s favorite target. His upside remains somewhat limited since Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe are around to steal targets, but Rice has the physical ability to be a star. With Favre looking rejuvenated, Rice has emerged as a viable WR3, although it will be tough matching last week’s performance without more looks (he saw seven targets in Week 6). Still, he possesses good size and speed, so he’s a deep threat as well as a strong option around the goal line.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, NYG – Nicks has scored a touchdown in three straight weeks, as the rookie has steadily been more involved in the offense week-to-week. He’s still the third wide receiver on the depth chart, and inconsistency is inevitable from the rookie, but it’s clear he possesses quite a bit of talent. Don’t be surprised if he’s starting over the second half of the season, and with Eli Manning in the midst of the best season of his career, Nicks could be a difference maker.

Heath Miller, TE, PIT – One of the premier blockers in football, Miller has also been utilized more in the passing game this year than ever before. In fact, he’s on pace to finish the season with 91 catches, 840 yards and 11 touchdowns. Pittsburgh is throwing far more frequently than in years past, and Miller is an excellent target in the red zone. He’s a TE1 who can safely be started every week moving forward.

Justin Fargas, RB, OAK – The best (and typically only) compliment Fargas receives is that he runs hard, which translates into him not being all that talented. Still, with Darren McFadden (knee) out, and Michael Bush (head) banged up, Fargas looks like the Raiders’ current feature back, and coach Tom Cable seems to love him. Fargas isn’t a great goal-line option and is rarely involved as a receiver, so his upside is rather limited playing for a Raiders’ team that struggles on offense. Still, he’s probably in line for 20-plus carries this week.

Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, CLE – Massaquoi was dropped in some leagues after he followed up his Week 4 breakout with a one-catch performance, but he responded with a nice effort (five receptions, 83 yards) against a tough Steelers’ secondary last week. Massaquoi has clearly emerged as Cleveland’s No. 1 wide receiver, as he saw 10 more targets Sunday. He’s a viable WR3 moving forward.

Mike Bell, RB, N.O. – Pierre Thomas should continue to act as New Orleans’ feature back, but Bell, who is now back healthy after dealing with a knee injury, is clearly the team’s preferred short-yardage option. It’s not ideal relying on a goal-line score week-to-week, so Bell isn’t a great fantasy option right now, but there’s strong TD potential playing for such a potent Saints’ offense, and if Thomas were to suffer another injury, Bell would immediately become a top-10 fantasy running back.

FALLERS

Steve Smith, WR, CAR – Don’t overreact to Smith’s slow start, but at some point, some panic is acceptable. Smith managed just one catch for four yards against a Tampa Bay secondary that had been getting burned all season last week, and he’s still looking for his first touchdown on the year. The revitalization of Carolina’s running game should help in the future, and Smith is bound to improve, but Jake Delhomme’s struggles have really taken a toll on Smith’s stats.

Matt Forte, RB, CHI – Forte’s disappointing season continued last week, when he managed just 23 yards on 15 carries (1.5 YPC) against a Falcons’ front seven that has yielded 4.7 YPC this season. Forte remains involved in the passing game, but he also had two costly fumbles on back-to-back plays at the goal line last week. Despite Jay Cutler upgrading the passing attack, Forte is averaging just 3.4 YPC on the year. There isn’t a threat on Chicago’s roster to take away touches, so he’ll remain valuable if only because of the sure volume of attempts he gets in the offense, but it’s starting to look like Forte is a very average football player. He’s unlikely to be a consensus top-five pick once again next season.

Mark Sanchez, QB, NYJ – Of course, rough patches shouldn’t come as a surprise with the rookie signal caller, but last week’s five-interception, zero-touchdown performance was especially brutal. Over his last three games, Sanchez has posted a 1:9 TD:turnover ratio, so clearly opposing defenses have adjusted with more game tape. Remember, Sanchez was raw coming out of USC, so his long-term stock shouldn’t be differed, but it’s at least worth noting just how much the former Southern Cal QB struggled with the weather conditions last week.

Reggie Bush, RB, N.O. – Bush is healthy, playing on possibly the best offense in football and coming off a training camp in which everyone raved he was in store for the best season of his career. Unfortunately, he’s since been almost completely ignored in the Saints’ offense, on pace to finish the year with only 528 rushing yards. More disconcerting, however, is his lack of a role as a receiver. After totaling 213 receptions over the first 38 games of his career, Bush has just 15 catches for 128 receiving yards a third of the way through this season.

Willie Parker, RB, PIT – Parker is back to health, but he gets the downgrade with the official proclamation of Rashard Mendenhall as Pittsburgh’s starter. It will take an injury for Parker to be fantasy relevant once again, and his future with the organization is cloudy at best.

Trent Edwards, QB, BUF – Edwards was off to a fine start last week before suffering yet another concussion. Since he has a history of head injuries, this is serious, so don’t be surprised if his absence is an extended one. Edwards had been a disappointment so far in 2009, but Ryan Fitzpatrick figures to only be worse, as he got just 5.1 YPA in Cincinnati last year. Both Lee Evans and Terrell Owens are borderline unusable in fantasy leagues right now.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, SEA – Hasselbeck’s outlook shouldn’t be downgraded too much after just one bad game, but the bigger issue is just how decimated Seattle’s offensive line is. He wasn’t allowed to look downfield at all last week, and if Hasselbeck doesn’t start getting better protection, he’s a candidate to breakdown physically over the second half of the season.

Josh Morgan, WR, SF – Morgan entered the year on a lot of sleeper lists, but he’s failed to live up to the hype. Still, he scored a TD in Week 4 and got 78 yards receiving in Week 5 before the team’s bye, so he was showing signs of life. Unfortunately, the newly signed Michael Crabtree has already unseated Morgan in the starting lineup, and while it’s nice to see Morgan being the good soldier and helping the rookie learn the playbook, it’s a big blow to any value Morgan had in fantasy leagues. He’s safe to drop even in deep formats.

Podcast

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Check it out.

The Scoop

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Nice to see Matt Schaub living up to my big expectations, as he’s currently on pace to throw 37 touchdown passes this season despite tossing none in Week 1. Of course, durability remains a concern, and this kind of production will be tough to sustain even if he somehow stays healthy over a 16-game slate, but Schaub belongs in the discussion as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback right now. He’s gotten an insane 8.8 YPA over his past five games. Schaub’s career YPA (7.7) is tied for the 12th best all-time…After shredding a Baltimore run defense that hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 39 games last week, Cedric Benson was held to just 44 rushing yards at home against a Texans’ front seven that entered the day ceding the most YPC in the NFL. Go figure. Actually, Houston has been defending the run a lot better recently…Remember when people were actually considering benching Andre Johnson last week because Cincy had done such an excellent job shutting down No. 1 receivers so far this year? No matter the opponent, don’t ever consider sitting AJ again…Something just isn’t quite right with Carson Palmer…The Bengals have scored 54 of their 118 points this season in the last two minutes of halves or in overtime…Steve Slaton fumbled two more times Sunday (one was overturned on review), and Chris Brown received all the carries after Slaton lost one early in the fourth quarter. It’s a major concern. He’s still obviously the No. 1 back in Houston, but this issue must get resolved soon. Slaton is averaging just 3.0 YPC and has been considered a fantasy disappointment, but the Texans’ run-blocking has been extremely poor, and he’s salvaged value by actually having more receiving yards (282) than rushing yards (274). Even while disappointing, Slaton is on pace to finish with 1,483 yards and eight touchdowns. He should still be viewed as a top-10 fantasy RB.

If Ryan Grant can’t take advantage of a home game against the Lions, when will he ever be able to? Luckily, he’s become a much bigger part of the passing game, making him serviceable, but Grant looks nothing like the back who got 5.1 YPC just two years ago…I still say Greg Jennings is someone to target, but Donald Driver deserves a ton of credit for his play this season. At age 34, he’s on pace to finish with 1,264 receiving yards, which would be the second-highest of his career…Kevin Smith owners need to remain patient. Life will get easier when (if?) Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford return. After the bye, Detroit gets the Rams, Seahawks and Browns in three of their next four games…With five more sacks against the Lions, Aaron Rodgers has now taken a whopping 25 over five games this season. The offensive line remains a major problem in Green Bay.

I haven’t done the research, but I doubt any player in NFL history has totaled 1,789 yards without scoring a single touchdown, something Steven Jackson is on pace to do in 2009…Hopefully Donnie Avery’s hip injury is minor, because he was really developing into a fine WR3 option…Maurice Jones-Drew has been something of a boom-or-bust type player this season, but it’s hard to argue with the end result. His eight touchdowns lead the NFL…It wouldn’t be a stretch to call coach Steve Spagnuolo’s decision to kick a field goal with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter at the 9-yard line (and with a timeout left) a mistake.

Brett Favre has gotten 9.3 YPA over his past three games and sports a 12:2 TD:INT ratio on the year. Wow. His current 109.5 QB rating is easily the highest of his career. In fact, do you realize he’s never finished with a rating of 100 throughout his career? What he’s doing at age 40 is truly remarkable…I’d have a hard time not ranking Ray Rice as a top-five fantasy commodity right now.  Despite averaging just 10.8 rush attempts over the past five games, Rice is on pace to finish the season with 2,043 yards and 11 scores. At 5-8 and with the quickest moving feet you’ll ever see (although Darren Sproles is close), there aren’t many backs as exciting to watch as Rice either. Since he’s become the premier receiving back in football, he’s also matchup proof on a weekly basis…Sidney Rice will have a hard time being a true WR1 in fantasy leagues this year on a team with Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin, but he’s the real deal. At 6-4, 202 lbs, he’s both an excellent deep threat and red-zone target. There isn’t a Minnesota WR I’d rather own.

Now that was an impressive performance by the Saints. This is a team with possibly the best passing attack in the NFL, a strong running game and a secondary that has held opposing passers to a league-low 56.7 QB rating and has a legitimate homefield advantage. They haven’t trailed for a single second all year long. New Orleans has to be considered the favorites to come out of the NFC right now…As someone who started both Pierre Thomas and Devery Henderson in fantasy leagues, it wasn’t fun to see them account for none of the team’s combined seven touchdowns Sunday…As long as Eli Manning’s struggles weren’t directly related to his heel injury, Giants fans shouldn’t worry too much about the loss. A few calls go a different way and the game would have been closer, plus New Orleans was at home and coming off a bye. Hakeem Nicks looks like a hugely valuable commodity in keeper leagues…Pierre Thomas owners shouldn’t go jumping off a cliff, as he’s clearly the team’s No. 1 running back (plenty of Mike Bell’s carries came in garbage time). However, it’s also clear Bell is the team’s preferred short-yardage back. In fact, Bell could have easily scored four touchdowns Sunday. Reggie Bush owners, meanwhile, can go ahead and leap off that cliff.

Josh Cribbs is probably the Browns’ best player, but it’s hard for a rebuilding team like Cleveland to pay a bunch of money to someone who only touches the ball 5-10 times per game. They better not have turned down any legitimate trade offers…After Mohamed Massaquoi followed up his Week 4 outburst with a dud, I saw him dropped in a few of my leagues. He once again acted as the team’s clear No. 1 WR last week, resulting in five catches for 83 yards. He’s a suitable WR3 moving forward and needs to be owned in all leagues…Hines Ward is on pace to finish with 109 catches and 1,597 receiving yards this season. Still, it’s worth noting last year was the first time he played in all 16 games (and eclipsed 1,000 yards) in four seasons, and he’s 33 years old, so it might be worth at least seeing what he’d bring back in a trade.

Now that’s what DeAngelo Williams (and Jonathan Stewart) owners have been waiting for. Still, it’s crazy Jake Delhomme only managed 3.8 YPA (and a pick six) against a Tampa Bay secondary that has easily been one of the worst in the league this year. Steve Smith is more likely to punch someone than be a top-10 fantasy wide receiver this season…Hope London doesn’t think the Buccaneers are a good reflection of NFL football. I guess it’s a good thing that a team with no chance of making the postseason is the one effectively losing a home game this season.

I’m beginning to think Jim Zorn may not be head coach of the Redskins in 2010. Clinton Portis has totaled 296 yards with two touchdowns over the last three games, and while I understand he won’t be easy to trade in most leagues, now is the time to at least attempt it…After taking 47 sacks behind a very good New England offensive line last year, Matt Cassel is on pace to be brought down 61 times in 2009. This is an area of his game that needs major improvement.

Where did that come from Oakland? And without their best player (Nnamdi Asomugha) for most of the game, to boot. The Raiders’ front seven abused the Eagles’ offensive line…Justin Fargas is back to being relevant in fantasy leagues, but realize there just isn’t much upside there…Despite sitting out the first six weeks of the year, odds are Michael Crabtree will have more catches on the season than Darrius Heyward-Bey by the end of Week 7…Jeremy Maclin will likely remain inconsistent throughout his rookie year, and he’s no better than the team’s fourth option on offense, but in such a pass-heavy system and locked in the WR2 role, don’t let Sunday’s dud lower your perception of him too much. He was close to scoring a long touchdown, and upcoming games against the Giants, Cowboys, Chargers and Bears could all be shootouts.

I wasn’t shocked the Cardinals won in Seattle last week, but I was rather surprised they did so in a 27-3 blowout. Kurt Warner hasn’t been as sharp this season compared to last, but Arizona’s defense is much improved, so this version may be even better than the one that made the Super Bowl last year…Neither showed up in the stat book (a consistent flaw in the NFL), but Chris Wells fumbled two more times Sunday, which is simply unacceptable. It was nice to see him get 12 carries and even his first catch of the season, but he’s still a major work in progress. I invested quite heavily in him this year, and it’s been a rough ride so far…Julius Jones has had two good games in 2009. In the other four, he’s gained 75 yards on 36 carries, good for 2.1 YPC…Matt Hasselbeck had an awful game last week against an Arizona secondary that had been yielding big yardage totals on the year, but it was a jailbreak every time he dropped back to pass. That patchwork offensive line is a real problem.

While a big game from Tom Brady against a Titans’ secondary that has been one of the worst in the NFL this season wasn’t unexpected, five touchdown passes in one quarter was. Expect continued improvement moving forward, but it’s a bit odd just how much the deep ball has left the Patriots’ offense…I mistakenly passed on him in all my leagues, but I have to admit, it’s hard not to consider Wes Welker a top-five fantasy wide receiver. He’s getting targeted a ton (and more so than Randy Moss) in a pass-heavy scheme that just lost (an already weak No. 3 option) Julian Edelman to a broken arm. Welker’s touchdown potential is somewhat limited, but he’s in a terrific situation and perfectly capable of taking full advantage of it, as long as his knee cooperates…Did Tennessee really pass for minus-seven yards Sunday? Nate Washington, the team’s second “leading” receiver on the day, had one catch for minus-22 yards…Anyone who’s been burned in the past by Laurence Maroney will beg to differ, but I think it’s worth going all in with your FAAB trying to get him this week. Sure, odds are he disappoints yet again, but with Fred Taylor out and now Sammy Morris sidelined with what could be a serious knee injury (it could also be minor, admittedly, and we won’t know because it’s the Patriots), it’s possible this backfield now belongs to Maroney. The conditions were favorable, but he just got 7.7 YPC against a Titans’ defense that entered the game allowing just 2.9 YPC. The Patriots have one of the league’s best run blocking units, and defenses will be forced to focus most of their attention on stopping the passing attack. It was only one game, but Maroney showed excellent patience Sunday, and he’s always possessed good speed and tackle-breaking ability in the open field when he’s not dancing behind the line. Finally healthy, there’s quite a bit of upside here. Remember, just two years ago, he totaled 647 yards with seven touchdowns over the final six games.

No team’s stock has fallen further than the Jets’ over the past three games, and it’s pretty funny how much they could use a healthy Brett Favre at quarterback right now. The loss of Kris Jenkins should be devastating as well, as the run defense was already far from elite. New York’s five sacks are tied for the lowest amount in the NFL…Another concussion for Trent Edwards is serious business, and Buffalo fans have to hope it doesn’t keep him out long. Sure, Edwards has been disappointing, but backup Ryan Fitzpatrick got just 5.1 YPA last season while replacing an injured Carson Palmer. He’s about as brutal as it gets…Over his last three games, Mark Sanchez has gotten 5.4 YPA with a 1:9 TD:turnover ratio. If Sunday’s game was a true indication of how he’ll react to the windy conditions in New York, it’s going to be a rough second half to the Jets’ season. Still, no need to panic long-term…Thomas Jones’ 64-yard rush last week was the longest of his 10-year career. That is, until a 71-yard TD run later in the same quarter. New York became the first team since 1944 to rush for 300-plus yards and lose Sunday…The Bills’ defense has allowed 5.3 YPC this year, easily the most in the NFL. However, their secondary has quietly been a nightmare for opposing passers, holding quarterbacks to a rating of 58.5 with a 6:10 TD:INT ratio. In fact, their 5.5 YPA allowed is tied for the lowest in the league.

Matt Forte is a rare workhorse, and he remains involved as a receiver, but his early season performance certainly doesn’t give his owners much optimism moving forward. Maybe we all should have focused more on last season’s 3.9 YPC mark than the addition of Jay Cutler. He got just 23 rushing yards on 15 carries Sunday against an Atlanta defense that had been getting gashed by the run all season, even fumbling on two consecutive plays at the goal line. There’s nothing Forte owners can really do other than remain patient, but he’s certainly a big candidate to go down as one of the biggest busts of 2009…I love Jay Cutler, but the turnovers really need to slow down. Funny how the Bears have so quickly transformed into an extreme pass-heavy team…It really is remarkable Matt Ryan hasn’t been sacked once over the past four games. Atlanta travelling to Dallas in Week 7 should be a good one.

I still think it was a mistake to ship Jay Cutler out of town, but it’s hard to argue with the results, and Kyle Orton seems to be a perfect fit in Denver. With a strong defense, there’s something to be said about a quarterback who simply never turns the ball over (his only one was on a hail mary that basically shouldn’t count). And while it seems like he’s being a “game manager,” Orton has gotten 7.6 YPA and has thrown nine touchdowns over six games. His 2009 season deserves a ton of credit…The Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates trio is very impressive, but after that, San Diego is left with little, and when you throw in poor coaching, this team is destined to disappoint yet again in 2009. The AFC West race might already be decided…There are always some crazy stats each year, but this one is my favorite so far in 2009: the Broncos have allowed just 10 total points during the second half of games this year. That’s 10 points over 12 quarters. It probably won’t matter ultimately, but how can Mike Shanahan’s stock not take a major hit with what’s happened? Make no mistake; Denver is a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Bet on It

Friday, October 16th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 5-9, with some pretty frustrating losses mixed in (I’m talking to you Gary Kubiak). I’m now 37-39 on the season, which definitely needs improving. Somehow, I’m 0-6 over the last three weeks during the prime time games, so bet the farm on the Falcons and Chargers this week. My best bet also lost last week, as it was another stomach puncher (the Jets). I’m 3-2 with best bets on the year. Now, a look at the action for Week 6:

TEXANS +4.5 at Bengals

LIONS +13.5 at Packers

RAMS +10 at Jaguars

RAVENS +3 at Vikings

GIANTS +3 at Saints

BROWNS +14 at Steelers

Panthers -3 at BUCCANEERS

CHIEFS (Best Bet) +6.5 at Redskins

Eagles -14.5 at RAIDERS

Cardinals +3 at SEAHAWKS

Titans +9.5 at PATRIOTS

Bills +10 at JETS

BEARS +3.5 at Falcons

BRONCOS +3.5 at Chargers

Comments: Another tough slate this week, as I hate all these double-digit spreads. I’m going with 11 dogs, including my best bet, the Chiefs. I just refuse to back a bad Washington team as nearly touchdown favorites.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Braylon Edwards, WR, NYJ – Edwards wasted no time getting acclimated to the Jets’ offense, catching five balls for 64 yards and a touchdown during his New York debut Monday. In fact, a borderline review overturned a second TD, and he nearly had another score on a deep ball as well. Jerricho Cotchery is still dealing with a hamstring injury, and it’s telling Edwards was targeted nine times just days after getting traded. He’s happy to be out of Cleveland, and while his hands will likely remain inconsistent, the Jets will better utilize his talents than the Browns did. The trade is a big upgrade for Edwards’ fantasy value.

Miles Austin, WR, DAL – Miles entered Week 5 with just five receptions for 81 yards over four games this season, so expectations should probably still be tempered after Sunday’s outburst (10 catches, 250 yards). That said, Austin is by far Dallas’ most explosive receiver, so he must move into the starting lineup over the mediocre Patrick Crayton immediately. Even when Roy Williams returns, which should be after this week’s bye, he’s hardly dominant enough to demand most of Tony Romo’s attention. In fact, Romo targeted Austin a whopping 15 times Sunday, including three in the red zone. Austin is the No. 1 waiver priority this week.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, NYG
– Bradshaw totaled 165 yards with two touchdowns on just 12 touches Sunday, and while he won’t have the benefit of facing Oakland every week, it was an extremely impressive performance nevertheless. Bradshaw is now averaging 6.2 YPC throughout his career, and he’s dangerous as a receiver as well. He hasn’t been given even 15 carries in a game this season, yet remains a viable flex option regardless. If Brandon Jacobs were to suffer a serious injury, Bradshaw would immediately become a top-five fantasy back.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, PHI – Maclin broke out in a big way Sunday, catching six balls for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Regardless of Kevin Curtis’ health, Maclin needs to move into the starting lineup from this point forward. The rookie is likely to remain inconsistent this year, as he’s still rather raw, and the Eagles spread the ball around on offense. Still, it’s worth noting Maclin led Philadelphia with eight targets Sunday while DeSean Jackson saw just three. That type of distribution can’t be expected to continue, but Maclin’s TD catches were highly impressive, and it’s clear he has a bright future in the league. Philadelphia loves to throw (just 12 rushing attempts by running backs last week despite a 33-14 blowout), so Maclin needs to be added in all fantasy formats.

Donnie Avery, WR, STL – The Rams remain a mess on offense, but Avery is back to being the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, which resulted in five catches for 87 yards and a score last week. Keenan Burton actually saw more targets (nine) than Avery (seven), but the latter was far more productive with his looks and should continue to be involved in an offense that will be forced to throw frequently, thanks to a terrible defense. Avery flashed as a rookie, so despite the slow start to his sophomore campaign, he’s a WR3 option moving forward.

Roddy White, WR, ATL – And that is why you never bench your studs. White’s slow start came to an end last week, when he hauled in eight balls for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Not that White ever deserved to be downgraded in the first place, but Sunday’s outburst was a good reminder of why he was drafted so high in the first place.

Sammy Morris, RB, NE – Owning Patriots running backs can be frustrating, but with Fred Taylor (ankle) out of the way, Morris is the closest thing to a feature back in New England. Whatever the reason, Laurence Maroney has fallen out of favor, and Morris managed 107 total yards against a tough Denver defense last week. He’s finally healthy after an injury-plagued preseason, and Morris is an option as a receiver out of the backfield as well as being the goal-line guy. New England has a tough matchup against the Titans in Week 6 (they’ve allowed a league-low 2.8 YPC on the year), but Morris is a decent flex option as the back most likely to get the most touches in the Patriots’ system.

Eddie Royal, WR, DEN – Royal finally showed a pulse Sunday, catching 10 balls for 90 yards (more than doubling his season totals in both categories in the process) against the Patriots. He’s still not a safe weekly start, but it was encouraging to see him targeted 15 times. With an upcoming game in San Diego, a shootout could be in store, so hopefully Royal remains a big part of Denver’s offense.

FALLERS

Calvin Johnson, WR DET – After a back injury essentially ruined his rookie season, Johnson has dealt with a thumb injury, a thigh injury and now a knee injury this year. It’s safe to question his durability at this point. Johnson looks unlikely to play in Week 6, and fantasy owners can only hope he returns fully healthy after the following week’s bye. He’s been a pretty big disappointment, and an injury-prone label is starting to fit.

Willis McGahee, RB BAL – Since getting 15 carries in Week 2, McGahee has seen his rushing attempts fall to seven to five and then to just one during the three subsequent games. He’s still on pace to somehow score 22 touchdowns this season and remains the goal-line runner, but Ray Rice has clearly secured the feature back role in Baltimore. As a result, McGahee is a risky fantasy option week-to-week, as his value will almost assuredly be tied to scoring. He can still be used in favorable matchups, but McGahee’s decreased role is worrisome.

Jerome Harrison, RB, CLE – Despite impressing over the previous two weeks, Harrison took a backseat to Jamal Lewis on Sunday, as the veteran returned from a hamstring injury and was immediately back in the feature role. In fact, Lewis was given 31 carries while Harrison saw just eight. Lewis’ 3.8 YPC mark wasn’t overly impressive, but he looked refreshed after sitting out a couple of weeks, and Cleveland will continue to give him a full workload. Lewis is 30 years old and has accrued 2,455 career carries, so he remains a candidate to breakdown, but until then, Harrison loses all his fantasy value.

Julius Jones, RB, SEA – During a game in which Seattle won 41-0, Jones mustered just 36 total yards without a score. He’s still the team’s No. 1 running back, but three of his five games this season have been complete duds, continuing a theme of inconsistency that has plagued Jones throughout his career. With Matt Hasselbeck back, Seattle’s offense is strong, so Jones could benefit from being in a positive situation. Still, it’s hard to count on him.

Kerry Collins, QB, TEN – Not that many fantasy owners are using Collins, but this is a downgrade for the entire Tennessee passing attack. Collins has gotten just 5.8 YPA this year and already has thrown as many interceptions (seven) as he did all of last season. With an 0-5 record that should only get worse with an upcoming matchup in New England, the following bye week would be a good time to make the switch to Vince Young. The team might as well see if there’s any hope at all for Young in the future, as Collins is clearly not the long-term answer. It remains to be seen how Young will react, but it’s safe to say wide receivers Nate Washington and Kenny Britt will suffer as a result, because Young has been terribly inaccurate as a passer throughout his career.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR, IND – Gonzalez shouldn’t be dropped in deeper leagues, but it’s disconcerting that the wide receiver isn’t going to be able to return to practice during Indy’s bye week. It appears Gonzalez is going to be out for some time still, as the knee injury was clearly serious. Moreover, the emergence of Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon mean Gonzalez isn’t necessarily going to be a big part of the offense once he does return to the field. The Colts’ young receivers have really impressed and will remain involved from here on out.

The Scoop

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Cedric Benson has to currently be viewed as a top-10 if not top-five fantasy back. As crazy as it sounds, at least to this previous non-believer, there’s no denying it now. He just gashed a Ravens defense that entered Sunday allowing fewer than 3.0 YPC for 120 yards, meaning he’s matchup proof, which is rare for a RB not overly involved as a receiver…After opening the season with three straight wins, Baltimore has now dropped back-to-back games, and its next three opponents have a combined record of 14-1…Because of his work at the goal-line, Willis McGahee can still be used as a flex in favorable matchups, but his rushing attempts have dropped from 15 to 7 to 5 to 1 over the past three games, so it’s clear this is Ray Rice’s backfield. Rice, who leads the NFL with 233 yards after the catch, can easily finish the season as a legitimate RB1 despite modest touchdown numbers. He’s easily Baltimore’s best weapon on offense.

If you watched the Bills/Browns game, you saw two quarterbacks combine for 3.6 YPA. If you didn’t see it, I’m jealous. Seriously, that was ugly. Derek Anderson was pretty awful, but Cleveland had nine drops and it was windy, for what it’s worth…Trent Edwards, now nicknamed “Captain Checkdown,” doesn’t look like much of a franchise quarterback right now, and the next Terrell Owens blowup is imminent…As a Jerome Harrison apologist, it’s hard to fault Eric Mangini turning back to Jamal Lewis too much, as it did appear the time off resulted in a fresher Lewis who ran hard. Of course, even when impressive, it resulted in just 3.8 YPC…I wouldn’t give up on Mohamed Massaquoi just yet, but an awful lot of owners are wishing they had their FAAB back…Buffalo committed nine false starts Sunday. That’s not very good…The Browns aren’t any good, but it’s worth noting they just won on the road (albeit in ugly fashion) and nearly beat the Bengals the week before. Moreover, the combined record of their opponents during their four losses is 17-3, so maybe they aren’t a complete doormat.

I don’t care if they ended up winning, Carolina was at home coming off a bye playing a Washington team that has faced only winless teams all season and yet, was down 17-2 in the second half. I’m already writing off the Panthers in 2009…I’m not all that optimistic about a big bounce back from DeAngelo Williams, but at this point, he may truly qualify as a realistic buy-low opportunity. That said, it’s frustrating watching John Fox continually turn to Jonathan Stewart at the goal-line, ostensibly just because he’s physically bigger…After taking the first carry of the season for 34 yards, Clinton Portis hasn’t had a single run for even 15 yards over his next 90 (and counting) rushing attempts.

Listen, you won’t find a bigger Calvin Johnson supporter than myself, and I drafted him aggressively this year. But it’s officially time to start worrying about his ability to stay healthy. He suffered a back injury during his rookie season that effectively limited the rest of his year. He damaged his thumb that cost him time during the preseason. He followed that up by dealing with a thigh injury, only to leave Sunday’s game early with a knee injury. And while I’m obviously hoping he can play in Week 6, it raises questions about his toughness if he’s able to return so soon from his latest injury after it cost him 3.5 quarters last week. That said, Johnson really does make for a good trade target…Daunte Culpepper took seven sacks, but he got 7.6 YPA against a solid Pittsburgh defense with Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt as his main receivers. He also showed surprisingly good speed with 44 additional yards on the ground, so he was better than expected…I’m a big Kevin Smith fan, and his ability to contribute in the passing game means he’s a viable fantasy option even against tough defenses, and Detroit’s schedule actually starts to really ease up soon. He’s on pace for 362 touches this season despite missing the second half of the Washington game…After erupting Week 1 following a dominant Super Bowl performance, Santonio Holmes has underwhelmed, even “leading” the NFL with five drops. Still, Pittsburgh appears to be a team that will rely on the pass much more than usual this season, and Hines Ward is sure to regress from his current pace (1,408 receiving yards) while also a candidate to miss 2-3 games. Holmes’ talent is undeniable, so he’s someone to target right now…Rashard Mendenhall is going to be a major part of a lot of winning fantasy teams this year.

I made a pretty ballsy trade last week with Scott Pianowski in the Yahoo! Friends & Family league, giving up Kevin Smith and Jerome Harrison for Marion Barber. While Harrison looks expendable now with Jamal Lewis playing and dominating the carries, Lewis is still a pretty big health risk moving forward, and Smith probably has at least a 50/50 chance of being better than Barber from here on out as well, so while I’m not totally regretting the move, it wasn’t too fun watching Barber still clearly limited by his thigh injury Sunday. Hopefully, the bye week gets him 100 percent healthy, but he’s going to cede some carries to both Tashard Choice and Felix Jones regardless. Still, if you prorate the four games he’s played in (none of which he’s gotten even 20 carries), Barber is on pace for 1,420 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he was hobbled throughout two of those. I’ll probably live to regret the trade, but if he can get healthy, I’d consider Barber a top-10 fantasy asset…Matt Cassel has somehow thrown six touchdowns over the last three games while getting just 5.2 YPA. That isn’t sustainable…It’s worth noting just how unproductive Miles Austin was before Sunday’s outburst, but there’s also no denying just how big of an outburst it was. Targeted a staggering 15 times, Austin has to be the No. 1 add in fantasy leagues this week, assuming he was unowned to begin with of course. The Chiefs’ tackling was a disgrace, and it’s doubtful the conditions will ever be more favorable (no Roy Williams, facing a terrible secondary, overtime), but then again, no one is counting on another 250-yard performance. 250 yards! Austin is 6-3, 214 lbs, yet extremely fast. He simply has to be in the starting lineup over Patrick Crayton moving forward, and there’s little doubt he’s a superior athlete to Roy Williams. There’s at least a chance he could be a difference maker.

I really don’t know what to say about the Raiders, but it seems so long ago that this team essentially outplayed the Chargers to open the season on Monday night. Don’t be surprised if they are 20-point (or more) underdogs at some point this season (actually, they basically are this week, as 14-point dogs at home). Not good…Eli Manning has a 147.5 QB rating in the fourth quarter this season, easily leading the league. The upcoming Giants/Saints tilt has to be the game of the week…There must be something physically wrong with Brandon Jacobs. Here is a back who has averaged 5.0 YPC over the past two seasons playing for arguably the best Giants team of his career, yet he’s gotten just 3.6 YPC in 2009, including only 3.2 YPC at home against Oakland last week. There were rumblings he was previously dealing with a knee problem, and considering how sluggish he’s looked, it wouldn’t surprise if it were still an issue…As a result, Ahmad Bradshaw is by far a superior option right now. He leads the NFL in first downs/per carry, with a 34.5% mark (20/58) and don’t think he’s a product of abusing worn down defenses after Jacobs has battered them, because Bradshaw easily leads the NFL with 7.7 YPC during the first half of games in 2009. He’s a solid flex play regardless, but if Jacobs were to suffer a serious injury, Bradshaw would be a top-10 fantasy back.

Josh Johnson got just 4.8 YPA and was picked off three times Sunday, but the Tampa Bay receivers dropped a bunch of passes and he was under constant pressure from a fierce Eagles’ defense. He deserves a couple more starts…I don’t have a problem with the Bucs making Carnell Williams their feature back, but I’ve seen Derrick Ward dropped in a few leagues, which means he’s a must-add in that case. Williams was a long shot to stay healthy regardless, but he’s even less of one if the Bucs try to give him a heavy workload. Ward is now healthy, and once Jeff Faine returns, don’t forget Tampa Bay has a decent offensive line. Ward could still make a big impact over the second half of the season…GM Mark Dominik should be fired simply for the ridiculous contract he gave Michael Clayton this offseason…Kellen Winslow has been a frustrating tight end to own in fantasy leagues this year, but it’s worth noting he’s been targeted 42 times this season – eighth most in the NFL…Jeremy Maclin is definitely worth a pickup this week, but this offense will continue to spread it around, and the rookie will remain inconsistent throughout. Still, as a starter, he’s in a pretty good situation in Philly’s offense.

There’s no doubting what the Vikings have done so far, but don’t be surprised if some bumps in the road start to occur, beginning this week with Baltimore. After all, this is a defense that allowed 400 yards to the Rams last week. Although it certainly wasn’t Jared Allen’s fault, as that trade has gone down as a clear winner for Minnesota…Fun stat: St. Louis fullback Daniel Fells has two touchdowns through five games. Steven Jackson has zero. By the way, Jackson is on pace to finish the year with 1,738 total yards…Donnie Avery probably shouldn’t have celebrated his TD catch last week, which brought the score to 31-9 at the time, quite like he did, but the fact remains he’s a decent WR3 option moving forward.

Maybe the 49ers aren’t quite ready to be considered among NFC contenders. It wasn’t an ideal situation facing an Atlanta team coming off a bye last week, but at home, a 35-10 deficit at halftime was a disgrace. As was Dre Bly pulling a “Deion” 60 yards from the end zone in a blowout only to lose a fumble…And that’s why you never bench studs like Roddy White…Michael Turner had as many touchdown runs in San Francisco on Sunday (three) as he did on the road all of last season…If only to be a fly on the wall during Mike Singletary’s post-game speech.

Steve Slaton seems to be getting killed in fantasy circles, and while he’s no doubt been a disappointment, he’s on pace for 1,315 yards, 54 receptions and 6.5 touchdowns, yet everyone seems to view him as some sort of colossal bust. Didn’t LaDainian Tomlinson have a higher ADP? Are Steven Jackson, Brian Westbrook, Frank Gore, DeAngelo Williams and Matt Forte owners pumped with their early picks? Slaton hasn’t been all that bad, although Gary Kubiak’s insistence on losing games by putting Chris Brown in at the goal-line has been frustrating, no doubt…Andre Johnson’s second touchdown catch Sunday was one of the best plays of the season, breaking three tackles on his way to paydirt. He’s a man amongst boys…Over his last four games, Matt Schaub is on a season pace of this: 5,008 passing yards and 40 touchdowns…I stubbornly remain a Chris Wells supporter (he doesn’t deserve a “Beanie” tag at the moment, however), but if he can’t pass protect, that offense becomes quite predictable whenever he’s in the game…Kubiak’s playcalling at the end of Sunday’s game was easily the worst of Week 5. Forget the decision to run Brown right up the gut against a Cardinals’ front seven that has allowed just 2.9 YPC this season (second lowest in the NFL) with an offensive line that’s soft, even worse was when Houston elected to call a timeout with 1:27 left in the game after picking up a first down at Arizona’s 6-yard line. Really, 90 seconds wasn’t enough for four plays with six yards to the end zone? Shouldn’t the exact opposite have been the goal? In fact, the decision looked even more foolish when the Cardinals called a timeout themselves after the next play was over. What were the Texans thinking?

While Kyle Orton’s style may limit Denver’s long-term potential, it’s certainly been a perfect fit so far. With a strong defense and offensive line combined with two talented wide receivers, he’s in a very good situation, and his ability to protect the football is important. In fact, Orton has just one interception on the season, coming on a hail mary that Randy Moss caught. Orton is now 19-2 in his career during home games…Call me crazy, but I’m guessing the Broncos’ past coaching regime wasn’t utilizing Elvis Dumervil correctly…I still rank Randy Moss as a clear-cut top-five fantasy WR, but it’s telling to see him targeted just four times compared to Wes Welker’s 15 looks Sunday…Nice to see Eddie Royal is still alive…Sammy Morris won’t be a truly reliable option week-to-week, but he looks like New England’s RB1, with Laurence Maroney remaining a disappointment. Morris isn’t a bad flex option.

I knew Mike Sims-Walker was valuable, but man, I never thought his absence would result in a 41-0 drubbing. Of course I’m kidding, as the loss ran much deeper than Sims-Walker being unavailable, but a surprise inactive during the 4 pm EST games isn’t cool in fantasy circles. Still, start Sims-Walker with confidence this week against the Rams…In the two games Matt Hasselbeck has started and finished, the Seahawks have won by a combined score of 69-0. While that’s obviously misleading, he really is the most important part of this Seattle team without question.  Nate Burleson ranks second in the NFL in targets this season with 49, while teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh ranks seventh with 45 looks. Both can remain plenty valuable from here on out…Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Julius Jones…John Carlson owners need to remain patient. He’ll come around.

What Peyton Manning is doing is almost unfair. So far this year he’s become just the third quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards in each of a season’s first five games. His current 9.1 YPA mark is close to the level it was (9.2) when he threw for 49 TD passes in 2004. The Colts have now won 14 straight regular season games…Continuing a theme from last season, Chris Johnson has both the most “stuffs” this year (15) as well as the most carries for 10-plus yards (14), as he’s truly a boom-or-bust type running back…The Titans have already allowed more passing touchdowns this season (13) than they did all of last year (12).

What a terrific Monday night game, highlighted by 35 points scored in the fourth quarter. In fact, the Jets allowed as many offensive touchdowns (three) in the final quarter as they had all season combined…For the first time since Dan Marino, it certainly appears Miami has a true franchise quarterback, as Chad Henne is the real deal…New York has a very good defense, and its secondary has been especially impressive, allowing just 5.7 YPA with a 3:4 TD:INT ratio this season. However, the team’s four sacks is the lowest amount in the NFL. It was fairly shocking to see Darrelle Revis get burned for that long score to Ted Ginn…Ronnie Brown has to be considered a top-five fantasy player right now. And if Ricky Williams were to suffer a season-ending injury tomorrow (remember, he’s 32 years old), there would be a legit argument to rank Brown as the No. 1 overall player.

A Couple Quick Notes

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

First, I wasn’t able to get to the “weekly rankings,” so if you have a specific lineup question, feel free to ask in the comments below.

Secondly, and I should have mentioned this much earlier, but if any of you play in Yahoo! Fantasy football leagues, I have a weekly column you can access by first clicking “RESEARCH” and then clicking “SCOUTING REPORT” and then finally “TEAM REPORTS” (and then download a PDF file). It’s fairly buried, but it’s easily the longest article I write, breaking down every single game each week. Check it out if you have some time to spare. It usually goes up on Fridays.

Lastly, I participated in a midseason draft earlier this week, which is a pretty decent way to gauge how players’ values have changed from before the season started. Here are the results:

Bet on It

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

I went 10-4 last week, but for the second straight week, I lost both prime time games, making me feel like I’ve left some wins on the table. Still, my season record is now a much more palatable 32-30. I won my best bet for the third straight week, making me 3-1 there (and due for a loss). While it’s nice I’ve already dug myself out of my early season hole, I’m not feeling overly confident about this week’s slate, but I’ll give it a shot:

BENGALS +9 at Ravens

BROWNS +6 at Buffalo

Redskins +3.5 at PANTHERS

STEELERS -10.5 at Lions

Cowboys -9 at CHIEFS

RAIDERS +16 at Giants

BUCCANEERS +15.5 at Eagles

Vikings -10 at RAMS

FALCONS +2.5 at 49ers

TEXANS +5.5 at Cardinals

PATRIOTS -3.5 at Broncos

Jaguars +1 at SEAHAWKS

Colts -4 at TITANS

JETS (Best Bet) -1.5 at Dolphins

Comments: When was the last time a 4-0 team was such a small favorite over an 0-4 team? That Tennessee line is so nutty it’s forcing me to back the Titans…All the huge favorites covered last week, and maybe that’s going to remain the theme throughout 2009, but I’m mostly going the other way this week, even if my mind cannot fathom the Raiders, Bucs or Rams staying competitive Sunday…Miami is no doormat, and I’ll rarely go against a home dog on MNF, but I just can’t see them matching up well with a Jets team that is coming off a loss. What are the Dolphins going to do when they can’t run the ball?

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, PIT – It seems like coach Mike Tomlin’s effort to motivate Mendenhall has worked, as the second-year back totaled 191 yards with two touchdowns Sunday night. The Chargers have been struggling against the run all season, but it was clearly the best Mendenhall has ever looked in a Pittsburgh uniform. Willie Parker’s YPC has dropped for the sixth straight season this year, currently bottoming out at 3.1, and that was before he suffered a turf toe injury that’s likely to linger. Pittsburgh should have no problem letting Parker walk at the end of the year, as he’s a free agent, so don’t be surprised if the team gives Mendenhall, the Steelers’ second round pick in 2008, every opportunity to be the workhorse from here on out. There’s quite a bit of upside here.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, DEN – Over the last three games, Moreno has averaged 19 touches, a number that’s only likely to rise with Correll Buckhalter suffering an ankle injury. The Broncos’ defense has allowed just 26 points over four games this season, and the offensive line is one of the best in football, so Moreno is in a terrific situation. The rookie back has talent, and some more explosiveness should show up the further he’s removed from the preseason knee injury. Moreno should currently be viewed as a top-15 fantasy running back.

David Garrard, QB, JAC – The schedule hasn’t been particularly tough, but Garrard is on pace to finish the season with 3,764 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. What really makes him a sneaky fantasy option, however, is that the quarterback is also in line to finish with 432 rushing yards and four scores on the ground. Over the last two weeks, Garrard has gotten 8.0 YPA, and his next four opponents have a combined record of 1-15. With Mike Sims-Walker emerging as a legit wide receiver, Garrard could remain a QB1 option throughout the season.

Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, CLE – Massaquoi busted onto the fantasy scene last week, recording eight catches for 148 yards. Like most rookie wide receivers, expect inconsistency moving forward, but Massaquoi clearly benefits from the switch to Derek Anderson at quarterback, as he was targeted a whopping 13 times Sunday, including seven of those looks on deep balls. With Braylon Edwards since getting traded to the Jets, Massaquoi’s outlook appears even better, so he’s a must-add in all leagues right now.

Brett Favre, QB, MIN – Favre has posted a 7:1 TD:INT ratio over the past three games, and he exhibited arm strength during Monday night’s impressive performance that had been missing at the end of last season. Clearly, his arm is back to full strength, and with Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin as weapons, Favre is suddenly posting gaudy passing numbers. Of course, Minnesota remains a run-first team with a strong defense, but if opposing teams continue to load the box to defend Adrian Peterson, Favre is certainly capable of taking full advantage of the situation.

Michael Crabtree, WR, SF – Crabtree finally caved, agreeing to a six-year deal with the 49ers, an offer similar to the one San Francisco had on the table from the very beginning. Crabtree hasn’t played in a football game in nearly a year, as a foot injury was later followed by the holdout that resulted in him getting no reps in practice, so expect a long learning curve, especially coming from a spread offense in college. Luckily, San Francisco has an upcoming bye, but it’s worth noting the team implements a run-heavy mentality, so Crabtree is unlikely to put up big stats in his rookie season.

Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ
– For those in deeper leagues, it’s worth noting Greene saw the first carries of his career Sunday, and he impressed, gaining 5.8 YPC against a tough Saints’ defense. The Jets’ backfield is crowded with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington around, but Jones has averaged just 3.8 YPC on the year and is a 31-year-old with 2,010 career rushing attempts. Greene is a good guy to stash, as he could be a difference maker over the second half of the season, especially playing for a team with a terrific run-blocking unit.

FALLERS

Jerricho Cotchery, WR, NYJ – Maybe the addition of Braylon Edwards will lead to less defensive attention paid toward Cotchery, but it will also assuredly lead to fewer targets. Cotchery is currently on pace to finish the season with 92 catches and 1,424 receiving yards, so it’s unlikely any of his fantasy owners want any sort of change. He’ll remain plenty valuable, but the Edwards addition is probably not great news to his long-term value.

Darren McFadden, RB, OAK – McFadden, who suffered yet another injury that will sideline him 2-for-4 weeks, continues to be one of the bigger disappointments. Facing a Texans’ defense last week that has been the worst in the league against the run this season, McFadden somehow managed to lose three yards on six carries. His straight-line speed hasn’t translated to the pro game, and his inability to break any tackles has become apparent. The injury means he’ll be firmly planted on fantasy benches, but he warranted that anyway.

Kellen Winslow, TE, TB – The quarterback situation has become a big problem in Tampa Bay. Maybe it was just a one-game aberration, and it figures a raw QB like Josh Johnson could find a safety valve in his tight end, but Winslow saw just three targets Sunday, resulting in a second straight quiet game. He caught a touchdown in each of his first two games as a Buc, but Winslow has totaled just 35 yards over the past two weeks, and his 9.1 yards-per-catch mark is easily a career-low. It’s time to panic if he doesn’t bounce back in Week 5.

Ted Ginn, WR, MIA – Ginn fooled some with a big Week 2 performance, but he’s totaled just three receptions for 30 yards combined over his other three games this season, including a goose egg in Week 4. Miami’s coaches have become extremely frustrated with Ginn, and his fantasy owners can relate. Feel free to drop him in shallow leagues, and he needs to be benched until further notice even in deep formats.

Reggie Bush, RB, NO – After a preseason filled with hype, Bush has really disappointed this year, as he’s already fumbled three times and has seen a big drop-off in production as a receiver. It’s sad his current 4.1 YPC mark is easily a career-high, and with Pierre Thomas emerging combined with the healthy return of Mike Bell, Bush isn’t going to get many carries moving forward. Maybe he’ll return from the bye week truly healthy, and New Orleans will start using him more in the passing attack, and the Saints’ offense is powerful, but right now, Bush can’t be safely used in non-PPR formats.

Tony Romo, QB, DAL – Since shredding a Tampa Bay secondary in Week 1 that has since been exposed as one of the worst in football, Romo has posted a 1:3 TD:INT ratio. As many feared, Roy Williams looks nothing like a true WR1, and no other Dallas receiver has stepped up as well. Romo has still gotten a healthy 7.6 YPA this year (although that number has now dropped for the third straight season), but he looked especially rattled and was terribly inaccurate against the Broncos last week. Hopefully he can rebound with a big game against the Chiefs heading into the team’s upcoming bye.

Mario Manningham, WR, NYG – Manningham, who is coming off back-to-back relatively quiet weeks after a huge game in Week 2, should be fine, as he did see eight targets Sunday. Still, Hakeem Nicks’ emergence is a bit of a concern, as is Eli Manning’s (heel) health. Steve Smith is clearly the No. 1 target in the Giants’ passing attack.

The Scoop

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

The Lions have entered halftime tied or with the lead in three of their four games this season, but this team clearly wears down over the course of 60 minutes. Detroit is obviously improved this year, but the defense has allowed 5.2 YPC and 7.7 YPA with a 12:2 TD:INT ratio…Kevin Smith’s 3.2 YPC is ugly, but he’s one of the few true workhorses in today’s NFL and showed good toughness playing through a shoulder injury that was originally termed “significant.” Smith gets a brutal matchup this week, but the schedule eases up after that…After an awful Bears’ debut, Jay Cutler has recorded eight touchdowns with just one interception over the past three games. The gaudy yardage totals have yet to come, but the production is encouraging despite a true WR1 yet to emerge in Chicago… Matt Forte owners can breath a sigh of relief, but it’s worth noting that if you take away his two long runs, he managed just 2.3 YPC in a home game against the Lions. Of course, those two long runs count, but if a trade partner is willing to approach paying full price, I’d listen. Remember, Chicago faces the Ravens and Vikings in Weeks 15 and 16.

Derek Anderson isn’t all that good, but to call him an upgrade over Brady Quinn would be a pretty massive understatement. His willingness to attack downfield makes Cleveland’s offense just so much more difficult to defend than Quinn’s dink-and-dunk version. Anderson’s productive day was especially encouraging considering Braylon Edwards’ goose egg…The Bengals’ defense is clearly improved, as is their running game. However, Carson Palmer still doesn’t look close to where he once was. Whether it’s the knee injury or him still regaining arm strength from last year’s elbow problem, something isn’t quite right…Mohamed Massaquoi was impressive Sunday, but I wouldn’t break my FAAB bank acquiring him…Jerome Harrison is a player. Not sure he can withstand many more 34-touch games like Sunday, but he certainly looked capable for one week, at least. He has better power than his 5-9 frame suggests, and he’s a real weapon on screens. Hopefully, Jamal Lewis’ carcass stays in the garage.

I’m starting to get the sneaking suspicion this Raiders team isn’t very good. JaMarcus Russell just doesn’t “get it.” When your franchise player is the last to arrive and first to leave, it’s probably not a good sign. His numbers so far are mind-boggling: 39.8%, 4.7 YPA, 1:5 TD:turnover ratio. Oakland is now 25-75 over its last 100 games…Since a bad performance in Week 1, Matt Schaub has gotten a whopping 9.2 YPA with an 8:2 TD:INT ratio. Houston plays four of its next fives games on the road, but the team hasn’t even begun its matchups with the NFC West yet…After losing another fumble Sunday, Steve Slaton was benched in favor of Ryan Moats. A 32-yard touchdown run followed by an 18-yard TD catch really eased some concerns, but Houston’s offensive line has done a terrible job of run-blocking. Slaton’s 3.3 YPC can only go up, so remain patient. That said, in what originally looked like a good matchup in Week 5, the Cardinals have yielded just 3.3 YPC this season…His teammates haven’t helped, but it’s safe to say Darren McFadden has been a pretty big bust so far during his NFL career. Not only can he not stay healthy, but his straight-line speed just hasn’t translated well, and his inability to break tackles has been apparent. Even after shutting down Oakland’s rushing attack last week, the Texans’ defense has allowed an NFL-high 5.5 YPC this year, making McFadden’s Week 4 performance (six carries, -3 yards) even more troubling.

This Colts team is extremely dangerous. With a strong secondary, the most valuable player in the league and an influx of young talent (Donald Brown, Pierre Garcon), Indy has to be viewed as serious Super Bowl contenders. Imagine when Anthony Gonzalez returns too. The Colts have now won 13 straight regular season games…For the second consecutive season, Seattle has had to deal with a ton of injuries.  Matt Hasselbeck can’t return soon enough, but at least T.J. Houshmandzadeh finally showed a pulse Sunday. The Seahawks’ season may be on the line this week against the Jaguars.

Aside from a Week 2 drubbing at the hands of the Cardinals, the Jaguars lost by just two points to what appears to be an elite Colts team and have now scored 68 points over back-to-back wins in Houston and at home against a desperate Tennessee team. Their next four opponents have a combined record of 1-15, so this team could easily remain in the playoff picture for a while. Factoring in all those rushing yards, David Garrard has to be considered a QB1 right now…I supposed Kerry Collins deserves some of the blame, but the quarterback has been asked to attempt 38.3 passes per game this season. That number was 25.9 last year, and no one should expect him to have to carry an offense at this stage of his career. The real culprit has been the secondary, which has gone from allowing 6.0 YPA with a 12:20 TD:INT ratio in 2008 to giving up 8.1 YPA with a 10:3 TD:INT ratio in 2009…Over the last three games, Mike Sims-Walker has averaged 6.3 catches, 92.7 yards and one touchdown. He’s hardly a lock to remain healthy, but he can safely be started as a WR2 moving forward.

Nice to see Brandon Jacobs finally crack 4.0 YPC in a game, but Ahmad Bradshaw so clearly looks like the superior back. The Giants’ running game may soon become that much more important if David Carr is forced into action…Eli Manning’s injury is especially unfortunate in the midst of what was shaping up to be the best season of his career. How about a sack-adjusted YPA of 8.2? And to think, he was recently named as one of the NFL’s most overrated in an SI players’ poll…It might be worthwhile to see just how much Steve Smith would fetch in a trade, but he’s by no means some must sell-high candidate, as he’s fast become a legit wide receiver, bucking the USC wideout curse. I wouldn’t trade him for Carolina’s version…With a quarterback who’s gotten just 5.1 YPA and already been sacked 10 times over three games combined with a running back who’s gotten only 2.6 YPC, it’s safe to say the Chiefs’ offense is sputtering.

It’s true Baltimore’s secondary hasn’t been great this year, but it looks like Tom Brady is rounding back into form, with Wes Welker’s return helping as well…In the right matchup, Willis McGahee remains a fine FLEX option, especially since he’s the Ravens’ back most likely to score. Still, Ray Rice is clearly the superior option week-to-week, as he’s routinely seeing far more touches (and succeeding with them)…After not fumbling for 622 straight plays, New England fumbled on back-to-back snaps Sunday…How do you not catch that ball Mark Clayton?

Josh Johnson is obviously quite raw as a passer, and he’s unlikely to be a long-term starter, but he’s definitely the most athletic and fastest quarterback in the league right now…Be afraid Kellen Winslow owners. Be very afraid. Nice to see an Antonio Bryant sighting, but the Tampa Bay QB situation is going to be a season-long problem…Do you realize Jason Campbell is getting 7.8 YPA this season? He’s also committed as many turnovers (seven) through four games as he did all of last year…The Buccaneers were down six points with 4:30 to go at the 4-yard line Sunday and elected to kick a field goal. Look at it this way, if you were a huge Redskins fan or had a large sum of money bet on them, which decision would you actively be rooting for TB to make? I’m guessing that one, right?

Over the last three games, Ronnie Brown has totaled 366 yards with four touchdowns, as Miami has finally given him ample opportunities. It looks like he’s going to be worth every bit of his ADP…Ask any Buffalo fan, the only way Marshawn Lynch’s return was good news is if Fred Jackson suffers a serious injury. That timeshare is going to be a major downer for fantasy owners. Who cares if one was drafted in the first round while the other wasn’t drafted at all, playing time should be dictated by performance and ability.

It’s official – New Orleans’ defense is legit. With a true homefield advantage, Drew Brees and a running game that’s approaching dominant, the Saints have an argument as the best team in football. Their Week 6 matchup against the Giants is shaping up to be one of the biggest of the 2009 season (assuming Eli Manning is healthy, of course)…Don’t worry about Mark Sanchez, those types of games were bound to happen. The Jets will be just fine. If possible, picking up and stashing Shonn Greene might not be a bad idea…Not only is Reggie Bush worthless between the tackles, but that’s three fumbles already this year. His receiving numbers are also way down this season, making him one of the more disappointing fantasy players so far…It remains to be seen how Mike Bell is implemented after the bye, but it’s hard to argue with Pierre Thomas’ production. The holes have been gaping with opposing defenses playing mostly cover 2, but Thomas has good vision and speed and rarely goes down on first contact. Since he’s also such an asset as a receiver, I’m not sure there is a fantasy RB with more upside. Of course, Bell could take away carries when he returns, so there are plenty of backs with a much higher floor.

Jerry Jones better hope him questioning Marion Barber’s toughness last year didn’t lead to the back returning too soon from his quad injury this season, leading to an aggravation that could linger for a while. With more than capable replacements, Barber needs to let that injury fully heal before coming back…The Broncos’ defense is playing very well, but Tony Romo was pretty awful Sunday, and I’m usually an apologist. He’s really struggled with accuracy issues at times this season, and since torching a Bucs’ secondary in Week 1 that has since been revealed as one of the worst in the league, Romo has posted a 1:4 TD:INT ratio over his last three games…I’m beginning to think Roy Williams is slightly overpaid…Great play by Brandon Marshall, and maybe it will lead to more downfield attempts by Kyle Orton in the future. This offense is too vanilla right now, which can work over a 16-game regular season but leaves little upside come playoff time…Moving forward, I’d consider Knowshon Moreno a top-15 fantasy running back.

The 49ers’ defense is much improved and playing well, but this Rams’ offense is nothing short of terrible. Imagine if Steven Jackson were to get hurt. Whoever is playing QB this week may very well get killed by Minnesota’s pass rush…Josh Morgan dropped a sure (long) touchdown Sunday, but just about everything else went right for a San Francisco team that is playing its best football in years. Can’t wait to see what will happen if Michael Crabtree is also added into the mix – an explosive option in the passing game is the main area of need for the 49ers.

You don’t want to overreact to one game, especially since it came against a San Diego team that has struggled against the run all season, but Rashard Mendenhall owners have to be feeling “pretty, pretty good” right now. Willie Parker is a soon to be free agent who looks nothing like his old “Fast Willie” days, and Pittsburgh would love to see its first round pick from last year justify the high selection. The Steelers’ offensive line isn’t good, but on a team that won the Super Bowl last year that has a dominant defense and strong passing attack, Mendenhall is in a fantastic situation. I’d much rather him on my team than LaDainian Tomlinson from here on out…Speaking of Tomlinson, it was maddening listening to the NBC crew keep talking about his age as the main factor in his decline Sunday night. While turning 30 years old over the summer is certainly part of the problem, Tomlinson’s 2,677 career carries are obviously the biggest reason for his downfall. As much as those who took him early this year don’t want to admit, he is human, after all. And that’s not to say he can’t remain in fantasy owners’ starting lineups against weaker opponents moving forward, as Tomlinson is in a good situation in San Diego…Quietly, 33-year-old Hines Ward is on pace to finish the season with 104 catches and 1,420 receiving yards, which would easily be a career-high. Of course, he’s still looking for his first touchdown, but Ward usually excels in the red zone, so he’ll reach paydirt soon enough…In the second quarter Sunday, Pittsburgh went for it on fourth down at its own 31-yard line. Other than maybe Bill Belichick, I doubt any other coach would have done the same. Got to love Mike Tomlin.

I’ve become so sick of Brett Favre’s act (like many others, and ESPN may be as equally to blame as the QB himself), I’ve almost found myself openly rooting against him at times recently. But even I must admit that was a tremendous game Monday night. It’s now abundantly clear last year’s second half fade had far more to do with injury than age, and his ability to attack downfield has proved me wrong. An easy schedule has helped, but there’s no denying Favre’s eight touchdowns over four games…Aaron Rodgers, who is very, very good by the way, was to blame for a couple of the eight sacks, but Green Bay’s offensive line better get healthy over the bye. While the Packers’ O-line was abused Monday, there was one play in which Favre had the cleanest pocket I may have ever witnessed in an NFL game, with at least 10 full seconds to look downfield. The Packers do know he wasn’t wearing a red no-contact jersey, right?…I still view Greg Jennings as more of a buy-low opportunity than I do a big long-term concern…If you’re in a deeper league, go ahead and stash Jermichael Finley…Late in the third quarter in a 28-14 game, I’m not sure why the ESPN announcers were questioning Green Bay’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Even if they failed, the 30-yard difference in field position is worth roughly three points. It was especially a no-brainer when you consider how much the Packers’ defense was having trouble stopping Minnesota’s offense.

Week 4 Lineup Rankings

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Quarterbacks

1. Peyton Manning

2. Drew Brees

3. Tom Brady

4. Matt Schaub

5. Jay Cutler

6. Aaron Rodgers

7. Philip Rivers

8. Carson Palmer

9. Tony Romo

10. Ben Roethlisberger

11. Joe Flacco

12. Eli Manning

13. David Garrard

14. Trent Edwards

15. Shaun Hill

16. Kerry Collins

17. Brett Favre

18. Jason Campbell

19. Kyle Orton

20. Mark Sanchez

Running Backs

1. Adrian Peterson

2. Matt Forte

3. Steven Jackson

4. Chris Johnson

5. Steve Slaton

6. Cedric Benson

7. Pierre Thomas

8. Brandon Jacobs

9. Maurice Jones-Drew

10. Glen Coffee

11. Joseph Addai

12. Ronnie Brown

13. Julius Jones

14. Ryan Grant

15. Jerome Harrison

16. Rashard Mendenhall

17. Reggie Bush

18. Darren Sproles

19. Kevin Smith (check status)

20. Clinton Ports/Ladell Betts

21. Carnell Williams

22. Darren McFadden

23. Marion Barber

24. Knowshon Moreno

25. Ahmad Bradshaw

26. Donald Brown

27. Fred Jackson

28. Thomas Jones

29. Leon Washington

30. Michael Bush

31. Ray Rice

32. Willis McGahee

33. Tashard Choice

34. Fred Taylor

35. Larry Johnson

Wide Receivers

1. Randy Moss

2. Reggie Wayne

3. Andre Johnson

4. Calvin Johnson

5. Vincent Jackson

6. Santonio Holmes

7. Chad Johnson

8. Greg Jennings

9. Steve Smith

10. Marques Colston

11. Jerricho Cotchery

12. Brandon Marshall

13. Santana Moss

14. Mike Sims-Walker

15. Braylon Edwards

16. Wes Welker (check status)

17. Dwayne Bowe (check status)

18. Mario Manningham

19. Roy Williams

20. Donald Driver

21. Nate Burleson

22. Terrell Owens

23. Devin Hester

24. Derrick Mason

25. Kevin Walter

26. Nate Washington

27. Percy Harvin

28. Hines Ward

29. Lee Evans

30. Devery Henderson

31. Eddie Royal

32. Ted Ginn

33. Davone Bess

34. Earl Bennett

35. Donnie Avery

36. Johnny Knox

37. Pierre Garcon

38. T.J. Houshmandzadeh

39. Torry Holt

40. Isaac Bruce

Bet on It

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Last week I went 9-7, which ultimately felt disappointing since I entered the prime time games at 9-5. Still, it was obviously an improvement from Week 2, so hopefully we can keep it going this week. I’m now 22-26 on the year. My best bet won, making me 2-1 for the season. Here’s how I see Week 4 shaking out:

Lions +10 at BEARS

Bengals -5.5 at BROWNS

RAIDERS +9.5 at Texans

Seahawks +10.5 at COLTS

TITANS -3 at Jaguars

GIANTS -9 at Chiefs

Ravens +2 at PATRIOTS

BUCCANEERS +7 at Redskins

Bills -2 at DOLPHINS

Jets +7 at SAINTS (Best Bet)

Cowboys -3 at BRONCOS

Rams +10 at 49ers

CHARGERS +6.5 at Steelers

PACKERS +3.5 at Vikings

Comments: What if the Saints match their No. 1 ranked offense with a very good (if not elite) defense? That’s an awful lot of points given to a legit and undefeated Jets team, but I’m crazy enough to lay them.