Archive for November, 2009

Bet on It

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 7-9, and it could have been much worse, as I finished the morning games at 2-8. My overall record for the year now stands at 78-81-1. It’s funny, I feel like I’ve been terrible, but being close to .500 while picking every single game isn’t THAT bad. Of course, I expect much better and plan on doing so from here on out. My best bet came through last week, putting me at 5-5-1 there for the season. But enough about the past, let’s move onto the Week 12 picks:

PACKERS -11.5 at Lions

Raiders +13.5 at COWBOYS

Giants -6.5 at BRONCOS

BUCCANEERS +12 at Falcons

Dolphins -3.5 at BILLS

Browns +14 at BENGALS

Colts -3.5 at TEXANS

Panthers +3 at JETS

REDSKINS +9 at Eagles

SEAHAWKS -3 at Rams

CHIEFS +14 at Chargers

JAGUARS +3 at 49ers

BEARS +11 at Vikings

CARDINALS +3 at Titans

STEELERS +2 at Ravens

PATRIOTS (Best Bet) +3 at Saints

Comments: New England has three losses on the season (all coming on the road) while New Orleans has none, and this should easily be one of the best games of the year, but I’m not passing up the Pats as underdogs. I’d probably rank them as the best team in football…I wouldn’t be shocked if the Broncos win outright…I’ll keep riding the Jets, even though they seem to cost me each and every week.

Podcast

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Check it out.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Rock Cartwright, RB, WAS – With Ladell Betts done for the season with a knee injury, Cartwright is suddenly Washington’s lead back, as Clinton Portis (concussion) has already been ruled out for Week 12, and his status is shaky moving forward. Cartwright isn’t an especially talented back, but he should get the bulk of the workload, including at the goal line, and since he also added seven catches for 73 yards receiving last week, he could be quite valuable down the stretch.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, NYG – Jacobs disappointed yet again last week, getting just 3.3 YPC against a poor Atlanta defense. He also left the game with a knee injury, which kept him out of the entire fourth quarter. Jacobs leaving early with minor injuries has become a theme seen far too often, but his latest problem isn’t expected to keep him out of action on Thanksgiving. Moreover, with Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle) ruled out for Week 12, Jacobs is looking at a higher workload, even if Danny Ware gets involved in the game plan. Denver’s defense has really sputtered of late, so a heavy dose of Jacobs could put up big numbers Thursday.

Chris Chambers, WR, K.C.
– Chambers was held in check until the end of last week’s game, but 119 receiving yards against a tough Steelers’ secondary was impressive nevertheless. Chambers is typically an inefficient wide receiver, but with Dwayne Bowe suspended and few other options in the passing attack, Chambers is going to continue to get targeted heavily, especially since the Chiefs’ defense is bad. Kansas City’s upcoming schedule is highly favorable, so Chambers could make a difference from here on out.

Laurence Maroney, RB, NE
– Maroney lost another fumble last week, but he continues to dominate carries, including at the goal line, on a team with possibly the best offense in football. As a result, he’s scored six touchdowns over the past five games, and Sammy Morris is still iffy to return from his knee injury. New England isn’t a dominant run-blocking unit, and it would be nice if Maroney were more involved as a receiver, but he’s still in a terrific situation to continue piling up scores. The 22 carries he was given last week were a season-high, and the Pats’ fantasy playoff schedule (Car, @Buf, Jax) is very favorable.

Terrell Owens, WR, BUF
– Owens is still a risky proposition moving forward, especially once the weather turns in Buffalo, but he gets the upgrade after his Week 11 performance (nine catches, 197 yards), including a 98-yard TD. He also got 85 yards receiving the week before, so he’s clearly become more involved in the Bills’ offense than at any point this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown a willingness to attack downfield that Trent Edwards rarely did, which is great news for Owens, obviously. There’s no way he’ll be able to duplicate last week’s huge game against a poor Jacksonville secondary over the rest of 2009, but Owens is at least back on the fantasy radar now.

Mike Bell, RB, N.O. – Bell is still an unreliable weekly fantasy start since he’s so dependent on goal-line carries, but it’s abundantly clear coach Sean Payton sees him as a valuable member of New Orleans’ backfield. It doesn’t matter at all that Pierre Thomas is the superior talent as long as Payton continues to distribute the carries this way, so unless an injury strikes, the Saints’ running back situation has a limited ceiling.

Matthew Stafford, QB, DET
– Stafford gets a short-term downgrade, as he’s unlikely to play Thursday with an injury to his left shoulder. He’s also proven to be a bit injury prone during his rookie campaign. Still, with 422 passing yards (9.8 YPA) and a whopping five touchdowns last week, Stafford’s stock is up. It came against a weak Browns’ defense, and Stafford’s overall numbers remain unimpressive, but that was the type of performance only future stars typically produce. In another year, the Stafford to Calvin Johnson combo could be deadly.

FALLERS

Calvin Johnson, WR, DET – Speaking of Johnson, the talented wideout suffered yet another injury last week, and his status for Thursday’s game against the Packers is in doubt. The injury is even more maddening after watching him go off for 161 receiving yards and a TD against the Browns. His future still looks extremely bright, especially with Matthew Stafford showing signs of progress, but it’s also worth questioning Johnson’s durability at this point. He’s been tough to own in 2009.

Matt Leinart, QB, ARI – Entering Week 11, Leinart looked like a solid guy to stash on benches in deeper leagues, ostensibly an upside play if Kurt Warner were to go down. After Leinart managed just 5.3 YPA and the Cardinals’ offense completely stalled once Warner left last week, Leinart no longer warrants a roster spot. Sure, it’s always harder to perform coming in mid-game as opposed to taking starter reps throughout the practice week, but the putrid performance came against a bad Rams’ secondary, and with a healthy Anquan Boldin (as well as Larry Fitzgerald, of course).

Marshawn Lynch, RB, BUF – Lynch was forced to leave last week’s game with a shoulder injury, and although the malady doesn’t seem likely to keep him out of action against the Dolphins in Week 12, Buffalo’s backfield may very well return to a committee. Unless Lynch or Fred Jackson suffers a serious injury, it’s far from an ideal situation for fantasy owners.

Ladell Betts, RB, WAS
– Finally given an opportunity with Clinton Portis (concussion) sidelined, Betts suffered a catastrophic knee injury last week, tearing both his MCL and ACL. At age 30 and with a long road to recovery up ahead, it looks like he’s played his last down as a Redskin. Betts had been given at least 20 carries nine times in his career, and he’s produced 100-yard rushing performances in seven of them, so the timing of this injury was especially unfortunate.

Marc Bulger, QB, STL – Bulger has a fracture in his left leg and will miss three to six weeks, and as uninspiring as his play has been, backup Kyle Boller is even worse. Few fantasy leaguers were relying on Bulger, but his loss also affects Donnie Avery and the promising Brandon Gibson, who both deserve downgrades as a result. Start opposing fantasy defenses that are facing the Rams with confidence.

Braylon Edwards, WR, NYJ – It’s never easy for receivers who are traded mid-season, and Edwards is also dealing with a struggling rookie at quarterback, but the wideout remains a disappointment nevertheless. He was held to just one catch for 10 yards against the Patriots last week, as Edwards continues to struggle with drops. All the physical talent in the world can’t overcome such inconsistent hands, and with Mark Sanchez likely to refrain from too many shots downfield in an effort to avoid turnovers, Edwards is a risky start from here on out.

Steve Slaton, RB, HOU – After coach Gary Kubiak named Slaton the starter during Houston’s bye week, it was extremely disconcerting to see Chris Brown run out with the first team offense last Monday night. Slaton managed to score from the goal line and didn’t fumble, but Brown was given more than twice as many carries (11 to five). Slaton remains active as a receiver and still has upside, but it’s pretty hard to do much damage with just five rushing attempts. Brown has gotten just 3.3 YPC on the year while failing to impress, so it’s still likely Slaton gets the bulk of the work moving forward, assuming he protects the football, but he’s been an awfully frustrating player to own in fantasy leagues this year.

The Scoop

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

It remains to be seen if a 32-year-old Ricky Williams can stay healthy with an increased workload, but any Ronnie Brown owner who also had Williams is now sitting with a better team than before Brown’s season-ending injury, as Miami’s backfield is no longer a committee. Williams’ current 5.3 YPC mark is easily a career-high (next best was 4.8 in 2002), and he’s also used in the passing game. Williams should be a huge difference maker down the stretch…I’m generally a passing guy, but it’s inexcusable for Carolina to give DeAngelo Williams just 14 touches last week. He’s averaged 6.9 YPC over the past four games and has already gained more than 100 yards receiving than all of last season, but Williams has gotten 20 carries just three times this year…Up seven points at the 30 yard line with 45 seconds left, the Dolphins went for it on 4th and 3, which would have probably been my third choice. A field goal ends the game then and there, and if it’s missed, you lose just seven yards. And if you’re going to go for it, why not pass? A failed conversion stops the clock either way.

Ben Roethlisberger is having one of the more underrated fantasy seasons, having already thrown 17 touchdowns and on pace to finish the year with 4,587 passing yards, which would best his previous high by more than 1,000 yards. Despite Pittsburgh’s defense remaining highly effective, he’s been asked to throw more than ever, and even with Santonio Holmes failing to score since Week 1, Roethlisberger has become a must-start in fantasy leagues, regardless of matchup…A Kolby Smith sprained ankle during his first carry last Sunday helped, but it was nice to see Jamaal Charles get a full workload, and the team even trusted him between the tackles for the first time. Since the team also relies on Charles in special teams, don’t be surprised if the carries are shared moving forward, but as long as Charles gets the majority of them, he should be able to do plenty of damage with a highly favorable upcoming schedule…The Steelers have now allowed a return touchdown in an NFL-record eight straight games…Chris Chambers is a sneaky WR3 play from here on out, with strong matchups ahead and as the main (only?) option in KC’s passing attack.

Entering the year, I fully expected Donald Brown’s usage to increase toward the end of the season, while Joseph Addai’s dwindled, but the opposite has happened…If there’s a better route-runner in the NFL than Reggie Wayne, I haven’t seen him…There isn’t a receiver more consistent than Derrick Mason, but Baltimore desperately needs another weapon on offense…If you’re a big fan of the field goal, the Colts/Ravens contest was as good as it gets.

If down 20-plus points at halftime, there isn’t a better quarterback in the league than Alex Smith, who put up huge stats in the second half against Green Bay last week, similar production to when he overtook Shaun Hill against the Texans earlier this year. It’s treated as an unrealistic option midseason, but I see nothing to lose with San Francisco switching to the spread offense full-time…Aaron Kampman wasn’t having a very good season while miscast in the 3-4 system, and Al Harris is about to turn 35 years old, but both season-ending injuries are costly. I still say this Packers team is dangerous, but I’m biased, as they were my one “long-shot” bet I placed to win the Super Bowl before the season started…Michael Crabtree is going to be a very good player for a very long time in this league.

Nice to see Terrell Owens finally involved in the Bills’ offense, and I guess the receivers’ backing of Ryan Fitzpatrick makes more sense now. Owens is still a pretty risky fantasy proposition moving forward, however…Buffalo is a banged up football team right now, and the injury to rookie Eric Wood last week was about as gruesome as it gets…I love me some Mike Sims-Walker, who has been worth every penny of the $36 FAAB I spent on him in the Yahoo! Friends & Family league.

Good to see Eli Manning playing well again, and it’s hard to believe that was his first ever 300-yard passing game at home, but both the Giants’ defensive and offensive lines have really disappointed in 2009. Danny Ware is a must-add with Ahmad Bradshaw unlikely to play Thursday…Jason Snelling is not as good as Michael Turner, but he’s a reasonable facsimile who will catch more passes and is in the right situation in Atlanta. He’s a top-10 fantasy back in Week 12 at home versus the Bucs.

Josh Freeman was due for some performances like last week, and it’s worth noting the main difference between past mediocre Saints teams with strong offenses and this one that is a legitimate Super Bowl contender is their ability to create turnovers on defense…There have been 18 different people who have scored touchdowns for New Orleans this year…What made Pierre Thomas even more frustrating last week was the fact Mike Bell left the game early on with a knee injury, and it was questionable if he could even return. Not only did he make it back on the field, but he scored two more touchdowns as Thomas watched from the sidelines. Maybe the strategy keeps Thomas fresh down the stretch, and there’s obviously no glaring reason to change the game plan on an undefeated team, but Thomas has gotten 5.6 YPC on the season (second best in the NFL for those with at least 100 rushing attempts) and has seen more than 15 carries in a game just once.

I joked about the Lions/Browns game entering Week 11, calling it “just like last week’s Colts/Patriots matchup. Only the opposite.” Man did they make me look dumb! How about a 27-24 halftime score? And with a fantastic finish as well (again, why did Eric Mangini call a timeout so Matthew Stafford could return to the game for the final play? Other than the obvious response that he’s clueless)…The difference between Brady Quinn’s play beforehand and his willingness to attack downfield last Sunday was as stark as it gets. I’m beginning to think Detroit’s secondary just isn’t all that good…Matthew Stafford is proving to be a bit injury-prone, and his overall numbers are still ugly, but I doubt many previous busts ever had games like his last week. Encouraging stuff for Detroit fans…Speaking of lacking durability, Calvin Johnson is killing me. I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts up 2,000 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns one season in the future, but he hasn’t been a whole lot of fun to own this year…I’m sorry, I just can’t stop the Mangini hate. Did he really call for a fake field goal with 10 seconds left in the second quarter that was converted for a first down, only to kick a FG on the very next play? And did he really call for a two-point conversion in a 35-31 game with six minutes left? Mangini makes Ray Handley look like Vince Lombardi.

The Cowboys have scored just two touchdowns (with zero field goals) over the past two games, both coming within the final three minutes of action. Despite a banged up Tony Romo and Jason Witten, expect the offense to take out its frustrations in a big way Thursday against the Raiders, especially if they get Miles Austin more involved…Rock Cartwright doesn’t have a good matchup this week, but he’s a No. 1 waiver priority type add right now. He should get the bulk of the workload moving forward, and his performance as a receiver last week revealed upside…It would take some stones, but Felix Jones is a sneaky flex play this week. He got a season-high in carries last week, with his knee supposedly back to 100 percent. Even on limited touches, don’t forget how productive he was last year (8.9 YPC, three TDs on 30 carries) and also earlier this season. Dallas is 14-point favorites Thursday, so they should be playing with a lead during the second half, and Oakland has allowed an NFL-high 16 rushing touchdowns in 2009.

I’m tired of underrating Minnesota, something I’ve pretty much done all year. Can’t wait to see them face New Orleans in the NFC Championship game (of course, predicting such a thing at this stage is a recipe to look wrong)…Make no mistake, Brett Favre is currently having the best season of his career. He’s found himself in a perfect situation, but he deserves a ton of credit as well. A 21:3 TD:INT ratio with an 8.0 YPA and 69.7 completion percentage? Are you kidding me? I now hate the media even more for making me resent him so much, but I guess all that hype and coverage was worthwhile, after all…Julius Jones returning to health is bad news for Matt Hasselbeck owners, as not only is Justin Forsett the superior runner, but he also adds a different weapon to the passing attack, evidenced by his 80 yards receiving last week. If Jones remains sidelined, Forsett has good upside this week in St. Louis.

Was it just me, or did Arizona’s offense get worse once Kurt Warner left last week? Seriously, I know it’s much tougher coming in mid-game as opposed to getting starter reps in practice all week, but even against the lowly Rams, Matt Leinart did not impress…Marc Bulger wasn’t good, but Kyle Boller is bad news for Donnie Avery and the surprising Brandon Gibson…Down 21-3 with 15 seconds left in the third quarter, Steve Spagnuolo thought kicking a field goal from the 3 yard line gave St. Louis its best chance of winning. I disagree.

Over his last five games, Laurence Maroney has scored six touchdowns and is clearly the lead back in New England. It remains to be seen how many touches Sammy Morris takes away when he returns from his knee injury, but it’s worth noting he was playing fullback earlier this season, and Maroney has been a force at the goal-line recently. His YPC could use improvement, but with Carolina, Buffalo and Jacksonville on the schedule during Week 14-16, the perennially disappointing Maroney could really redeem himself…Why does it seem like usually the most gifted wide receivers in the NFL also have flat out bad hands? I’m talking to you Braylon Edwards…OK I admit it, I’m definitely jealous of all Wes Welker owners…I still believe in Mark Sanchez long-term, but these turnovers have become an epidemic. Remember when the Jets were 3-0, coming off victories over the Texans, Patriots and Titans? Feels so long ago…Even if it hurt Rex Ryan’s feelings, pretty funny watching Bill Belichick call a deep pass up 31-14 with 30 seconds left last week.

I admire Kyle Orton coming into last week’s game clearly hurt, but if he was able to do so, why not start him in the first place? The end results may not show it, but a Knowshon Moreno fumble at the goal line somewhat hides the fact just how much better that offense looked once Chris Simms was benched…Has there ever been a 6-0 team (and up three games) such huge underdogs in its division after Week 11 quite like this Broncos squad? I kind of like them getting six points at home against the Giants on Thursday, but what an epic fall…The Chargers seemingly never do it conventionally, but they suddenly look like legit contenders right now.

It was no great shock to see a Cincinnati team unfamiliar with being nearly 10-point road favorites lose a trap game in Oakland last week, but it was disappointing nevertheless. Carson Palmer got 9.4 YPA but attempted just 22 passes and somehow finished with a 75.4 QB rating. Too conservative of an approach from the Bengals…Almost all signs pointed to Larry Johnson getting eased into action, with Bernard Scott the lead back, yet I heard the Bengals’ radio play-by-play guy in an interview last week proclaim LJ was going to be a huge part of the game plan. He really had his finger on the pulse of the team! Seriously, if Cedric Benson has to sit again this week, Scott is an excellent start at home against the Browns…Bruce Gradkowski is an obvious upgrade over JaMarcus Russell, but Dallas D needs to be considered a top-three fantasy this week.

There’s no excusing Jay Cutler’s poor play this year, as he might have had an equally poor performance last week compared to the game before despite throwing four fewer picks – he took fewer chances and missed multiple deep balls for sure scores. That said, take a look at Matt Forte’s 3.3 YPC. The offensive line is also a major problem in Chicago…My favorite part about DeSean Jackson’s 48-yard touchdown catch last Sunday was that it was his shortest score of the season (he has six TDs). Moreover, Jackson has zero receptions in the red zone this year.

Just as the Titans earlier this year were nowhere near 2008’s version, the current team is much better than their 4-6 record indicates. I won’t criticize Jeff Fisher for sticking with Kerry Collins too long, but Vince Young has clearly been an upgrade, and it’s been a pretty remarkable turnaround. Young’s schedule has been mostly favorable, but he’s shown progress as a passer, and there simply aren’t any other quarterbacks in the league with his rushing ability. His presence has also transformed Chris Johnson’s fantasy value from very good to top-three commodity…Because of his ability as a receiver, Steve Slaton can retain fantasy value even as a minority in a timeshared backfield. But come on, if he’s solved his fumbling problem (not a sure thing, of course), why bother with Chris Brown? And why go out of your way to name Slaton the starter beforehand, Gary Kubiak? Just to screw with fantasy owners? How dare you. Don’t blame us Slaton owners for taking some gratification when your ass is canned after the season…After a 53-yard field goal gave Tennessee a 20-17 lead with 47 seconds left, I hated the decision for the short kickoff. Odds are way against a TD return, but the decision to give Houston favorable field position (in this case, the 38 yard line) with a short kick absolutely increased the Texans’ chances of a game-tying field goal.

Bet on It

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 8-7, bringing my season total to 71-72-1, and I lost my best bet to make me 4-5-1 there. It wasn’t a great week to be mediocre, since I was in Las Vegas, but I digress. Back to a full slate of 16 games from here on out, so a lot of improving (or damage) is forthcoming. Let’s get to my Week 11 picks:

Dolphins +3 at PANTHERS

Colts -1 at RAVENS

Redskins +11 at COWBOYS

Browns +3.5 at LIONS

49ers +6.5 at Packers

BILLS +8.5 at Jaguars

STEELERS -10 at Chiefs

SEAHAWKS +10.5 at Vikings

Falcons +6.5 at GIANTS

Saints -11.5 at BUCCANEERS

Cardinals -9 at RAMS

CHARGERS -3 at Broncos

JETS +10.5 at Patriots

Bengals -9.5 at RAIDERS

EAGLES -3 at Bears

TITANS +4.5 (Best Bet) at Texans

Comments: The Texans are at home in prime time and coming off a bye, but this is an entirely different Titans team that Houston beat earlier this year.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Ricky Williams, RB, MIA
– With Ronnie Brown succumbing to yet another serious injury, Williams immediately becomes a must-start weekly. Brown’s foot injury ends his season, and while Williams is 32 years old, his current 5.3 YPC mark is actually a career-high, and he’s also been involved as a receiver. The Wildcat package may have to take a backseat, but with few running back options remaining in Miami, Williams is going to get a heavy workload from here on out. He could be a top-10 fantasy back over the rest of the season.

Bernard Scott, RB, CIN
– Cedric Benson’s hip injury doesn’t appear to be serious, but he’s likely to sit out Week 11 against a beatable Raiders team, leaving Scott to handle most of the Bengals’ backfield duties. Larry Johnson was signed, but there’s no guarantee he’s even active this week, and he’s not ready to contribute immediately. Scott has gotten just 3.3 YPC during his limited work this season, but he’s looking at 15-20 touches Sunday against an Oakland defense that has allowed 4.4 YPC and an NFL-high 14 rushing touchdowns.

Donnie Avery, WR, STL
– Avery hauled in four catches for 67 yards and two scores last week, and while he’s still searching for his first 100-yard receiving game of the year, he’s clearly the Rams’ No. 1 receiver. Steven Jackson remains the centerpiece of St. Louis’ offense, but with a bad defense and an extremely favorable upcoming schedule against the pass, Avery could be a factor down the stretch.

Vince Young, QB, TEN – Since taking over QB duties, Young has completed 65.7 percent of his passes and got 7.6 YPA while remaining dangerous as a runner. It’s a small sample size, of course, but the improved accuracy is huge, as he’s completed just 58.0 percent of his throws throughout his career. Young still has fantasy upside because of his running ability, but his ceiling isn’t too high because the Titans will avoid asking him to throw more than 20-25 times a game. Still, his recent performances have been highly encouraging.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, DEN – An early fumble by Correll Buckhalter led to Moreno dominating carries in Denver’s backfield last week, as he saw 18 rushing attempts to just two by Buckhalter. Moreno has lacked big play ability during his rookie season, but he got 5.4 YPC last week, and he might have earned the featured role in the process.

Ladell Betts, RB, WAS – Making his first start of the year, Betts ran for 114 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown last week. The performance came against a Broncos defense that has played well against the run this season, so Betts looks like an upgrade over Clinton Portis, who was clearly in decline even before suffering a concussion. Portis’ head injury could prove serious, and it wouldn’t shock if he misses a good chunk of time.

Jamaal Charles, RB, K.C. – Charles totaled 117 yards and ran a 44-yard touchdown last week, which was Kansas City’s first score on the ground all season. Charles isn’t built to carry 25 times a game, but he’s averaged 5.4 YPC during his career and is a major weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. With Kolby Smith completely unimpressive during his return from a knee injury (he got 1.3 YPC last week), Charles may have secured the featured role in KC’s backfield. He has a tough test in Week 11 against the Steelers, but the Chiefs’ schedule eases up after that, including favorable matchups in Week 14 and 15 versus the Bills and Browns.

Justin Forsett, RB, SEA
– Taking over for an injured Julius Jones last week, Forsett totaled 149 yards with a touchdown on just 22 touches. Forsett has gotten 6.6 YPC on the year and is a force as a receiver, so it’s curious why it took an injury for him to see the field more. Jones’ status is up in the air, but it’s safe to expect him to miss at least Week 11, and while the matchup is difficult in Minnesota, Forsett should be productive as long as he’s the team’s starter. There aren’t many options behind him, so he’s going to get all the touches he can handle.

FALLERS

Brian Westbrook, RB, PHI
– Westbrook suffered his second concussion over the past three weeks last Sunday, putting the rest of his season and even career in jeopardy. He’s visiting specialists this week, and right now, his life after football is far more important than his return to the field. Westbrook had a glassy-eyed look on the sidelines last week, and both of the recent concussions seemed severe. It would be surprising if he returns in 2009.

Jay Cutler, QB, CHI – Cutler is coming off a five-interception game against the 49ers last week and has now been picked off 19 times over the past 10 contests. He threw the second most interceptions last season and easily “leads” the league in that category this year. Too many have also occurred in the red zone, so Cutler is simply being too loose with the football. He’s still developing a rapport with his receivers in Chicago, and a poor Bears offensive line hasn’t helped, but Cutler’s 7.0 YPA mark is highly disappointing. He has a 4:10 TD:INT ratio over the past four games.

Matt Ryan, QB, ATL
– Ryan has already been picked off more times this year (12) than all of last season (11), and his YPA has dropped from 7.9 all the way down to 6.7, including a paltry 5.9 over his past five games. He’s been responsible for a whopping 11 turnovers over that same five-game span, so despite the addition of Tony Gonzalez, Ryan has regressed during his sophomore campaign. He still has a bright future, but he’s only currently worth using in fantasy leagues if the matchup is right.

Michael Turner, RB, ATL
– Turner suffered a high-ankle sprain last week, although the injury isn’t considered too serious. Still, he’s likely to miss at least Week 11, which is too bad because he has gotten 9.1 YPC over his past three games and had already eclipsed 100 yards rushing through one quarter last week. As a result, Jason Snelling should get the bulk of the workload in Atlanta’s backfield while Turner is sidelined, so Snelling deserves a big upgrade as well.

Trent Edwards, QB, BUF
– When you’re benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has gotten 5.2 YPA with a 14:21 TD:INT ratio throughout his career, you know things have gone south. Edwards has dealt with poor offensive line play, but his reluctance to go downfield has been maddening, as he checks down far too often. Still, 30 career starts is hardly enough to definitely declare him a bust, so in what looks like a lost season, there’s no reason why Buffalo shouldn’t stick with its former third round pick, as Fitzpatrick is obviously not the long-term answer.

Kyle Orton, QB, DEN
– Orton was on his way to a big game last week (193 passing yards, two TDs, 10.7 YPA) before a sprained ankle knocked him out of the second half. He’s expected to return to action in Week 11, but it’s at least worth noting that last year an ankle sprain severely affected his play; he got 7.4 YPA with a 10:4 TD:INT ratio before the injury and just 5.4 YPA with an 8:8 TD:INT ratio afterward.

Darren McFadden, RB, OAK
– Darren McFadden returned to action last week, but he was given just four carries compared to 10 for Justin Fargas and 14 for Michael Bush. McFadden was eased back into work coming off the injury, but he’s simply too unreliable right now with Fargas and Bush so involved. Even when healthy, McFadden has gotten just 3.1 YPC this season and hasn’t been nearly as involved as a receiver as hoped. Stay away.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, K.C. – Even before Bowe was suspended four games, he was on pace to finish the season with just 59 catches and 828 receiving yards, so he’s been a huge disappointment. He’s not due to return to action until Week 15, and it’d be awfully risky using him right away, so feel free to drop him. With few other options in the passing attack, Chris Chambers needs to be added in fantasy leagues. He’s played well during his two games in a Chiefs’ uniform and should be targeted heavily from here on out, so even if he’s inefficient like usual, the fantasy numbers should be there.

Podcast

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Check it out.

The Scoop

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

I’m a huge Jay Cutler guy, but right now, there’s no doubt his play has been a big disappointment. He’s thrown 19 interceptions over the past 10 games, with many of them coming in the red zone. A couple on Thursday weren’t his fault, and the Bears’ offensive line has played poorly, but at some point the excuses don’t matter; his 7.0 YPA mark is also unimpressive. Cutler is just 26 years old and has 68 touchdown passes over 46 career games, and his struggles in 2009 have obviously come in a small sample size on a new team, so he can’t be written off, but his decision-making needs to improve greatly for him to ever even come close to reaching his potential…After being held catchless in Week 1, suddenly Matt Forte has been even more productive as a receiver this season compared to last, saving his fantasy value…Did you realize for running backs with at least 1,000 career carries Frank Gore has the third highest YPC (4.8) of all-time?

Jason Snelling isn’t a special back, but he’s in the right situation in Atlanta, and because he’s also a threat as a receiver, he should be treated as an RB2 as long as Michael Turner is out, even when Jerious Norwood returns. Tough break for Turner owners in what turned out to be one of the most injury-plagued weeks in recent memory…Jake Delhomme’s return to competence is big news for Steve Smith’s fantasy value from here on out. He won’t become a sure top-five guy like in year’s past, but defenses simply have to concentrate on stopping the Panthers’ rushing attack first and foremost, so even without a viable WR2 on the team, Smith is going to find some space to succeed if Delhomme can get him the ball.

Josh Freeman has completed just 50.8 percent of his passes and has gotten 6.6 YPA to start his career, but anyone who has watched him play comes away with the impression he’s going to be an effective quarterback for a long time. His ball security needs a ton of work (five fumbles already) as does his pocket awareness (he needs to learn to step into it when the ends rush from the outside), but he can run effectively and has shown a ton of promise as a passer even while throwing to a bad group of receivers. Plenty of growing pains are in store, but Freeman has flat-out saved Kellen Winslow’s fantasy season…I love Ronnie Brown as much as the next guy, but if the injury-prone label wasn’t already apt, it certainly is now. For as long as he’s sidelined, as crazy as it sounds, 32-year-old Ricky Williams is a top-10 weekly RB option…Has anyone figured out why Tony Sparano called a timeout with a full 14 seconds left before attempting the game winning field goal Sunday?

With huge improvement as a receiver, Adrian Peterson just became that much more valuable. He already has more touchdowns this year than he did in all of 2008, and a few of his runs last week could only be matched by Barry Sanders. Only health can prevent him from rewriting the record books. That said, it’s worth noting he’s already lost just one fewer fumble than Steve Slaton this year (and one more over the last two years combined)…Despite not topping 70 yards in a game until Week 6, Sidney Rice is on pace to record 1,397 receiving yards this season. Expect his modest TD total (two) to start increasing dramatically. He sure looks like a top-10 fantasy WR to me…Earlier this year, I noted all the similarities between Kevin Smith and Kevin Jones – the main difference being I thought Smith’s career would turn out far better. Unfortunately, their paths may be more identical than hoped. Detroit still needs to find its franchise back (although Smith is a must-start this week at home against Cleveland)…Speaking of comparisons, I don’t want to call Matthew Stafford the next Joey Harrington, but there’s not a lot to like about the way the rookie QB is playing right now. There’s a real good chance his knee injury is affecting him, and there’s still plenty of reason to believe a bright future is in store, but Stafford looks pretty terrible right now.

I don’t have a problem with Rex Ryan crying during a speech Monday after Sunday’s loss, but my pocket book has a huge beef with his team’s performance. What happened to the Jets’ defense?…I still like Ryan as a coach, but why did it take until a halftime adjustment for him to have Darrelle Revis shadow Mike Sims-Walker? And Ryan still has big problems with clock management…Who would you rather have from here on out, Adrian Peterson or Maurice Jones-Drew? Extremely tough call in my book…Check out the Jags’ upcoming schedule – this team could easily win 9-10 games.

It’s almost as if the Bengals want us to start taking them seriously. How about sweeping both the Ravens and Steelers this year? If not for that fluke Denver loss in Week 1, this team would be 8-1. Wow…Tough break for Cedric Benson owners, but at least the injury shouldn’t keep him out for more than the Raiders game. Pick up Bernard Scott before Larry Johnson…Don’t worry Rashard Mendenhall owners, expect a huge rebound against the Chiefs in Week 11.

If Reggie Bush’s big game Sunday increased his trade value in your league, then by all means, make a deal. He still hasn’t received more than six carries in a game since Week 3, and he recorded nearly as many receptions (26) over the first three weeks last season than he has all of this year (29)…All those injuries are starting to catch up to the Saints’ defense, although their ability to create turnovers should keep them a solid fantasy option…Marc Bulger’s two touchdown passes Sunday matched his combined total over the previous five games, and it was his first multiple TD effort since Week 9 of last season, but hopefully this was a sign of bigger things to come from Donnie Avery.

I’m beginning to think Chris Johnson is a pretty good running back. How about 759 total yards and six touchdowns over the past four games? Is that something you might be interested in? What a special talent. Fantasy owners have to be salivating with his three consecutive home games during Weeks 14-16 against the Rams, Dolphins and Chargers…Terrell Owens has zero touchdowns over his past seven games…Why did it take Bud Adams to force Jeff Fisher into starting Vince Young? I understand what happened in the past, and I’m hardly claiming I thought Young would play like this, but Fisher is a bright coach, and it’s surprising he didn’t notice this change from Young in practice. With a 65.7 completion percentage, 7.6 YPA and still terrific running ability, Young suddenly looks like the answer at QB for Tennessee once again. Nothing definitive should be declared after just three starts, but Young has really impressed, and any contending team certainly shouldn’t be looking forward to playing the Titans over the rest of the year…It’s been a lost season for Buffalo, but at least the team hit a home run with its second round pick.  Jairus Byrd has recorded a staggering seven interceptions over the past four games and leads the league with eight picks in 2009. He and Michael Oher have probably been the two best rookies this season.

With the moves the Broncos made during the offseason, I predicted a 3-13 type season. Then after a 6-0 start, I called them “for real” because their peripherals, especially on defense, pointed that way. After three straight losses, this team continues to make me look bad. I’ll now say the Chargers ultimately take the division, although Denver’s upcoming schedule isn’t all that tough…No one wants to see Chris Simms under center, but it’s worth noting just how much last year’s ankle sprain affected Kyle Orton’s performance…No one roots for an injury (at least openly) and especially a concussion (that one not even privately), but Clinton Portis owners who handcuffed Ladell Betts are currently sporting a better roster than they were two weeks ago…It looks like Knowshon Moreno has finally overtaken Correll Buckhalter as lead dog in Denver’s backfield, although it took a fumble for it to happen…Can someone please explain to me how the Broncos were burned by that fake field goal even after the Redskins’ formation was exposed before a timeout? Mind-boggling…Do you realize Washington’s 27 points scored were its most since Week 2 of last season?

As if Dwayne Bowe’s season couldn’t get more disappointing, he gets suspended four games. He’s not a good real life player, but with few other options in the passing attack and a bad Chiefs’ defense, Chris Chambers needs to be added in fantasy leagues…I don’t care what kind of preseason hype Darren McFadden is getting next year, avoid him at all costs…It’s OK to be a bust in the NFL, especially at the extremely difficult quarterback position, but JaMarcus Russell has been the worst kind – delusional and lazy…Darrius Heyward-Bey doesn’t deserve the same kind of criticism; after all, he was a projected late first/early second round pick who was extremely raw coming out of Maryland, so it’s not his fault Al Davis is crazy and was asked to start immediately, but man, those are some of the worst hands I’ve ever seen…Let me be perfectly clear to Todd Haley – Jamaal Charles is your team’s best running back, so please give him the majority of carries. By the way, his 44-yard TD run Sunday was the Chiefs’ first rushing score of the season.

Did it really need to take a Julius Jones injury for Justin Forsett to get on the field? He’s not some workhorse who can get 25-plus carries a game, but it’s been pretty clear for a while now he’s Seattle’s best back, capable of lining out wide as a receiver as well. After this week’s game in Minnesota, Forsett could have quite a bit of fantasy value as long as Jones is out…Nice to see T.J. Houshmandzadeh still has a pulse, although the whopping 17 targets certainly helped…I’ll remember exactly where I was during Beanie Wells’ coming out party last week. Obviously, the rookie still has plenty to work on in pass protection and as a receiver, but the difference between him and Tim Hightower as runners is as stark as Sacha Baron Cohen and Dane Cook as comedians. Remember, the Cardinals get the Lions and Rams in Weeks 15 and 16, so Wells could be a huge difference maker when it matters most.

What’s truly remarkable about Aaron Rodgers’ fantastic fantasy season isn’t just that he’s been able to withstand a beating, but how about the fact he’s done so with Greg Jennings being one of the bigger busts so far? And Jermichael Finley has failed to live up to expectations as well…Marion Barber is someone I’d strongly consider buying low right now…I’d also still start Miles Austin with confidence moving forward…During the broadcast Sunday, Troy Aikman questioned why Dallas would kick an extra point down 17-6 with 38 seconds left in the game. Umm, as opposed to what? Going for three to bring them within one score? Man, the Aikman/Joe Buck duo make my ears bleed.

As I mentioned earlier, concussions really aren’t a matter to take lightly, and I seriously hope Brian Westbrook’s life after football hasn’t been affected, especially after seeing his glassy eyed look on the sidelines last week. I’d be shocked if Westbrook plays another snap in 2009. In fact, I’d say there’s a greater chance he doesn’t play another one in his career than him suiting up again this year. All that said, owners of both Westbrook and McCoy might have actually caught a break. McCoy hasn’t overly impressed, and Philly remains the most pass-happy team in the league, but Westbrook was clearly in decline, and the previous plan of a true committee is now scrapped. There’s a bigger risk now (what if McCoy goes down?), and Leonard Weaver will be involved some, but McCoy is a solid RB2 moving forward…I’ve been beating it to death, but Jeremy Maclin is truly a viable WR3 right now…Don’t worry Vincent Jackson owners, those games happen to even the best wide receivers in football from time to time…Honestly, criticizing Andy Reid feels like picking on the handicap at this point, so I’ll keep this brief; unless it’s a game-winner (let alone down 14-0 at the time), you should never, ever kick a field goal at the one-yard line.

What a ridiculously good game between the Patriots and Colts. Rarely do things so hyped and with such anticipation actually meet expectations, and this one may have even surpassed them. I picked the Colts to win, but let’s be clear, the Pats outplayed them, and by a pretty wide margin from my view. Indy has won 18 straight regular season games and deserves a ton of credit, but I’m loading up on New England if/when these teams meet again in the playoffs…Welcome back, deep ball in the Patriots’ offense…Laurence Maroney’s fumble was pretty bad at the goal line, but Kevin Faulk’s final stats were a bit misleading. The game situation dictated a bunch of spread formations with multiple WR sets, which won’t happen every week…Jarraud Powers certainly looks like a budding star at cornerback. What a player…At this point, Bill Belichick’s decision to go for two has been beaten to death, but I want to make it clear I thought it was absolutely the right decision. The reasoning that he should have punted basically because that’s what all other coaches would have done is kind of the point, really; Belichick doesn’t care about that nonsense! All other coaches care more about going with protocol and losing without getting questioned than doing the outside the box, yet more advantageous move. Even before reading that the numbers clearly pointed to it being the correct call, I asked myself; if my life depended on the Colts winning this game, would I be happy or sad to see Tom Brady and the Pats come back on the field to try to get 4.5 feet to end the game? And my answer was unequivocally “terrified,” especially since the Colts needed to score a TD either way. It wasn’t a no-brainer, but it’s also laughable to question a coach such as Belichick. The worst part about it all is that all the criticism from the groupthink mainstream media means that coaches will now be even more discouraged to go with the numbers and against the tired old NFL culture.

I can’t remember an offense as bad as the Browns’ right now. With Brady Quinn under center, there are literally zero throws downfield. It’s encouraging Joe Thomas has bounced back from his sophomore slump and looks like a dominant left tackle, but pretty much every other position on offense, at least the skill players, needs to be addressed in the future…With Ray Rice’s emergence, it’s pretty cool that two of the four most valuable fantasy players are 5-8 or under…As far as Bill Belichick’s controversial coaching decision goes, I’d personally be far more irate over Eric Mangini’s call to punt down 16-0 (two scores!) with four minutes left Monday. He’s literally playing to lose by less rather than to win, which simply shouldn’t be tolerated (yet is with open arms) in the National Football League.

Bet on It

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 7-6, bringing my season record to 63-65-1. It was disappointing since I felt confident with my picks and had another potentially big week go down the drain with two more losses in the primetime games. I also dropped my best bet, leaving me 4-4-1 there on the year. I’m especially hopeful of a good showing this week, since I’ll be in Vegas and will no doubt be putting some money where my mouth is.

Bears +3 at 49ers

Falcons -1.5 at PANTHERS

BUCCANEERS
+10 at Dolphins

LIONS +16.5 at Vikings

Jaguars +7 at JETS (Best Bet)

BENGALS +7 at Steelers

SAINTS -14 at Rams

Bills +6.5 at TITANS

BRONCOS -4 at Redskins

Chiefs +2 at RAIDERS

SEAHAWKS +9 at Cardinals

Cowboys – 3 at PACKERS

EAGLES +2 at Chargers

Patriots +3 at COLTS

RAVENS -11 at Browns

Comments: Jets are coming off a bye and get a warm weather team that struggles on the road and has to travel to New York. Back gang green.

NFL Barometer

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR – Like last year, Williams got off to somewhat of a slow start this season, but over his past four games, he’s totaled 630 yards with five touchdowns. Over that span, he’s also received 90 rushing attempts – a 360-carry season pace that would be nearly 100 carries more than het got in all of 2008 (he had 273 carries last year), so it’s clear Carolina knows who its best player is. Just halfway through the year, Williams already has more receiving yards (185) than he had all of last season, and he’s getting 5.0 YPC or more for the third straight year too. If Adrian Peterson is the best running back in football, Williams is a close second, and even with Jonathan Stewart’s presence, Williams is a top-five fantasy commodity.

Chris Johnson, RB, TEN
– Over his last three games, Johnson has totaled 527 yards and four touchdowns, with the last impressive outing coming versus a 49ers’ defense that still ranks as the best against the run (3.4 YPC). Johnson remains underused in the passing game, but LenDale White has become completely moot, even at the goal line. In fact, Johnson’s current 6.7 YPC mark is the highest for the league’s leading rusher through nine weeks since 1970. There simply isn’t a more explosive player in the NFL right now.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, SEA – Hasselbeck remains at great risk for injury playing behind such a porous offensive line, but at least left tackle Sean Locklear should return in Week 10. Moreover, with a mediocre defense and awful rushing attack, the Seahawks have become quite the pass heavy team in 2009, despite Mike Holmgren’s absence. Hasselbeck really stands to benefit, evidenced by last week’s 51 attempts through the air. With a highly favorable upcoming schedule against the pass, as long as Hasselbeck stays healthy, he should put up nice stats and be a viable QB1 for fantasy purposes.

Laurence Maroney. RB, N.E.
– Maroney has totaled 258 yards while scoring in each of the past three games, two of which came against tough run defenses. He was given 20 carries last week, so he may have finally earned the trust back from New England’s coaches. Sammy Morris will probably get back into the mix at some point, but as of now, Maroney is clearly the lead dog in the Pats’ backfield, and while he usually disappoints, there’s still plenty of upside if he’s finally 100 percent healthy. The Colts have a very good pass defense and offense, so don’t be surprised if New England runs more than usual Sunday night.

Devin Hester, WR, CHI – Devin Hester has racked up 27 receptions and 359 yards over the past four games, which is a pace of 108 catches and 1,436 yards over a full season. With the Bears’ defense regressing and no other Chicago receiver emerging, Hester has become a solid WR2 for fantasy purposes. Jay Cutler throws too many interceptions and frustrates at times, but the production is usually there ultimately. Greg Olsen, who caught three touchdowns last week, also deserves an upgrade.

Chris Chambers, WR, K.C.
– After totaling just 122 yards with one touchdown over seven games with the Chargers, Chambers racked up 70 yards and two TDs during his debut with Kansas City last week. The change in scenario followed by the big game deserves some attention, but odds are that will go down as Chambers’ best game of the season. He’s not a great route runner and has questionable hands, so chalk it up as a fluke more than anything else.

Kellen Winslow, TE, T.B.
– Winslow’s targets (five) last week weren’t overwhelming, but Josh Freeman’s performance gives hope for the future. Winslow’s yardage total (57) was his most in a month, and it was also the first time he’s scored a TD over that span as well. With a poor defense and few other options in the passing attack, expect Winslow’s increased production to continue with Freeman now at the helm.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, PIT – Mendenhall has had plenty of fantasy value ever since he became Pittsburgh’s lead back, but coming off the team’s bye, Monday night’s performance (22 carries, 155 rushing yards) against a Denver defense that has played well all season was especially impressive. He’s gotten 7.0 YPC over the past two games, and Willie Parker has been rendered useless. With a terrific passing attack and defense on his side, Mendenhall has big time upside over the second half of the 2009 season.

FALLERS

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, S.D. – If it wasn’t clear last season or through the first five games this year, Tomlinson’s performance last week (1.8 YPC) made it abundantly so – he’s done.  Even in the most favorable of matchups, the current version of LT2 is risky, and against tough run defenses, he’s a must-sit. Tomlinson doesn’t offer much as a receiver these days, and while he remains the goal-line back for a potent offensive team, his 3.2 YPC is simply unacceptable. He’s a Hall of Famer who’s had a great career, but all running backs fall off at some point, and his 2,748 career rushing attempts mean Tomlinson’s decline should have surprised no one.

Clinton Portis, RB, WAS – Portis isn’t quite at Tomlinson’s stage of his career, but he’s also not far off. He also suffered a pretty severe concussion last week, leaving his immediate status in heavy doubt. As a result, Ladell Betts deserves an upgrade. Washington’s offensive line is a big problem, but Portis’ explosion has been missing since 2007, so it will be interesting to see what a different running back can do in this offense.

Mike Bell, RB, N.O. – Bell still needs to be owned in all leagues, but he’s now become more of a backup with upside than a viable flex option, although he may have some value in highly favorable matchups like this week against the Rams. Bell took a backseat to Pierre Thomas last week, getting just five carries in the game. Thomas has gotten 5.5 YPC on the year compared to 4.4 YPC for Bell, and the former is a much better option as a receiver as well. Since Bell is also no longer the sure goal-line back, he needs an injury to truly be fantasy relevant once again.

Chris Henry, WR, CIN – Henry will miss the rest of the season after having surgery on his broken left forearm. With Henry headed for injured reserve, the Bengals will rely on Andre Caldwell as their No. 3 wideout, with Jerome Simpson and perhaps Maurice Purify, candidates to work in the No. 4 role. Henry could still be a sleeper next season if he lands in the right situation.

Brian Westbrook, RB, PHI – In addition to his concussion, Westbrook is also dealing with swelling in his ankle. Coach Andy Reid confirmed that it was the headache Westbrook suffered Friday that kept him out of Sunday’s game but added that Westbrook “had some work done on his ankle.” Reid didn’t specify the nature of the “work” but did say surgery was not involved. In any case, there are now two health variables to be concerned about regarding Westbrook’s Week 10 status. The concussion, which knocked him completely unconscious, was bad enough, and with further ankle problems, fantasy owners can’t feel too comfortable entering crunch time.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, DEN – Moreno gained just three yards on five carries Monday, as he continues to disappoint. He’s averaging just 3.2 YPC over his last four games and hasn’t been nearly as involved as a receiver as hoped. He’s also scored just two touchdowns through eight games and is clearly in a committee with Correll Buckhalter. There’s still upside running behind a good offensive line, but the rookie isn’t even a flex option right now against tougher opponents.

The Scoop

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Michael Turner is a top-five fantasy commodity, but he gets it done in a rather rare way. His yardage totals can vary wildly, especially since he offers next to nothing as a receiver. However, his TD production is about as consistent as it gets, as he’s reached paydirt in seven straight games. He’s also gotten 44 percent of his rushing yards this year over his last two games (317). Turner is proving how silly the 370-carry curse thing is too. I worry about workloads more than anyone, but that matters more over a career, and Turner entered 2009 with extremely low mileage on his legs. Running backs often fail to repeat big performances coming off 370-carry type seasons because rarely do ideal conditions remain the same in the NFL, not because they received one more carry than 369…Ladell Betts has failed to impress ever since his surprise 2006 season, but it will be interesting to see what a different RB can do in this offense. Odds are not much with that offensive line, but the current version of Clinton Portis offered zero explosion…A tougher schedule and more game film are mostly to blame, but Matt Ryan has taken a step back this year, as his YPA has dropped a full yard (7.9 to 6.9), and he’s thrown just one fewer pick over eight games compared to his rookie season. Ryan’s future no doubt remains bright but true stardom is still some time away.

The Bears are tough to define right now, as they are the only team in football with two wins by 20 points and two losses by 20 points this season. One thing is clear; they certainly can’t be viewed as elite and have been pretty big disappointments. If Lovie Smith can’t fix the defense himself, where do they go from here?…Quietly, Devin Hester has developed into a legitimate WR2 for fantasy purposes. Over the last four games, he’s racked up 27 receptions and 359 yards. That’s a season’s pace of 108 catches and 1,436 yards…With a 4-0 record on the road this year, the Cardinals already have won more games away from home than during last year’s Super Bowl run (in the regular season), but the big play still eludes them. In fact, Arizona has just two plays that have gone for more than 27 yards all season, which is pretty incredible. Of course, Larry Fitzgerald’s fantasy value remains intact, as the multi-faceted receiver can beat you in a number of ways.

Not much more can be said for Cedric Benson’s fantastic season, as he’s totaled 470 rushing yards with four scores over the past four games. No running back had ran for 100 yards in 39 games against the Ravens’ front seven until Benson did so each of the past two times he’s faced Baltimore. The 4.2 YPC and lack of catches are a knock, but he’s obviously improved greatly as a runner, and the volume can’t be denied; he’s on pace to finish the year with 396 carries, which would be the seventh most in a single season in the history of the NFL…Ray Rice has been an even more valuable fantasy back, and he’s done so in a much different way, as he’s on pace to finish with just 216 rushing attempts. Rice’s eight receptions last week nearly matched the rest of Baltimore’s receivers (10) combined…Joe Flacco has a 1:4 TD:INT ratio against the Bengals this year and an 11:3 TD:INT ratio against the rest of the league.

Steve Slaton owners obviously can’t be happy with Ryan Moats dominating the carries last week, but there’s plenty of room for optimism as well. Moats managed just 2.4 YPC against a middling Colts’ run defense and also lost a fumble himself near the goal line (how did Houston not run a play before the two minute warning to prevent the challenge from occurring?). Slaton wasn’t much better on the ground during his limited work (2.8 YPC), but he did convert a goal-line score, and the Texans’ offense is simply much harder to defend when he’s on the field and used as a weapon as a receiver. The bye week might have come at a perfect time, as Slaton could reemerge as the team’s primary ballcarrier in Week 11. He’s a huge risk because one more fumble and all bets are off, but it might be worth at least seeing how cheap you can acquire Slaton right now…After Kris Brown had his field goal blocked to end the first half only to get another chance (which he made) because Indy called a timeout beforehand, can we end that silly practice once and for all?…Peyton Manning, who attempted a whopping 42 passes in the first half Sunday, was sacked in the fourth quarter for the first time all season. Can’t wait for the Colts/Patriots showdown in Week 10.

I love Mike Sims-Walker, who has helped carry my Yahoo! Friends & Family team, but it would be nice if David Garrard improved his play on the road this season (5.7 YPA, zero touchdown passes)…Nice debut by Chris Chambers in a Chiefs’ uniform, but I’d be surprised if that doesn’t ultimately go down as his best game of the 2009 season…Maurice Jones-Drew is an absolute beast, on pace to finish the year with 1,870 total yards and 22 touchdowns…With Larry Johnson jettisoned, coming off the bye and a healthier offensive line, it was discouraging to see the Chiefs give Jamaal Charles just six carries. An early lopsided score was part of the problem, but Kansas City needs to trust him on runs between the tackles, as Kolby Smith is hardly the answer. Charles will be worked more into the offense moving forward, and because he’ll be involved as a receiver, he can be a fantasy factor in the right matchups, like this week in Oakland (and in Weeks 14/15 versus Buffalo and Cleveland).

Miami is better than its 3-5 record indicates, but last week marked the third straight game the Wildcat has been completely shutdown, and with a first-year starter at quarterback throwing to possibly the worst group of receivers in football, the team remains a work in progress…Why would any defense single cover Randy Moss? That’s pure insanity…Laurence Maroney has quietly been productive for three straight games. The 20 carries he received last week were his most since Week 15 in 2007, so he may be regaining his coaches’ trust. It remains to be seen what will happen when/if Sammy Morris returns from his knee injury, but Maroney is clearly the most talented back on New England’s roster, so if he’s finally recovered from all those injuries and the light bulb has also turned on, he could be a difference maker from here on out. Of course, he’s better known for disappointing.

I’ve tried to defend Green Bay all year, but you simply can’t give up 21 fourth quarter points to a Tampa Bay team with a rookie QB making the first start of his career. The Bucs’ backfield has become useless in fantasy leagues, but Josh Freeman impressed Sunday, especially when utilized out of the shotgun. At the very least, Kellen Winslow owners can breath a huge sigh of relief…At what point do we consider Greg Jennings a “sell-low” candidate rather than a “buy-low” one?…The Packers’ offensive line is very bad, but Aaron Rodgers deserves a ton of blame for all those sacks. Staying in the pocket to the last second is admirable and can often lead to big plays (see: Roethlisberger, Ben), but Rodgers holds onto the ball far, far too long in most cases. It’s a big problem right now.

When on their game, the Panthers can run on any team, but it’s also clear the Saints’ front seven badly misses Sedrick Ellis and Scott Fujita. Set your lineups accordingly…I’d still rate Adrian Peterson as the NFL’s best running back, but DeAngelo Williams is a close second (I’d put Chris Johnson third). Williams has improved as a pass-catcher this season, and if not for Jonathan Stewart, he might very well be the No. 1 fantasy commodity. As is, he’ll have to settle for being a top-five option…If nothing else, Lance Moore’s ankle injury makes both Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem more attractive fantasy starts for owners in a bind…New Orleans has outscored its opponents 91-18 in the fourth quarter this year… I love Drew Brees as much as the next guy, but he’s committed eight turnovers over the past three games, which is an awful lot…Mike Bell will remain involved, but Pierre Thomas has clearly regained his role as the Saints’ lead back. He should currently be viewed as a top-10 fantasy running back, at minimum.

For those who backed Seattle ATS and were down 27-0 at the end of the first quarter (and by “those” I mean me), Sunday’s backdoor cover was a beautiful thing. Seriously, how does a Seahawks team playing at home with Matt Hasselbeck nearly lose to a Detroit team whose quarterback throws five interceptions?…For my money, John Carlson has been one of the bigger fantasy disappointments of 2009…I know he’s old and all, but Dick Stockton might want to learn how to pronounce Olindo Mare’s name before he announces another Seattle game…With a terrible offensive line, a balky back and damaged ribs, Hasselbeck isn’t a great bet to last the rest of the season. However, with a shaky defense and awful running game, he should be a solid QB1 when upright. He won’t attempt 51 passes each game like he did last week, but it’s safe to expect Seattle to throw as frequently as any team in the league moving forward, meaning he’ll put up counting stats even if he’s not as efficient as the league’s best signal callers. Remember, Hasselbeck tossed 28 touchdowns while getting just 7.1 YPA two years ago. Getting left tackle Sean Locklear (ankle) back will be huge, and with a ridiculously favorable upcoming schedule against the pass, Hasselbeck will be well worth using.

Over his last 24 games, Philip Rivers has thrown 48 touchdown passes and has gotten 8.3 YPA. He plays in favorable weather conditions in San Diego and has solid weapons to work with, but he gets little support from the running game and has to overcome Norv Turner as his head coach. Rivers is 28 years old and would easily be a top-five pick if a team were starting a franchise from scratch. It’s past time he’s recognized as one of the NFL’s best players…The Giants lost Sunday, but they played well on all accounts: held SD to just 226 yards (and 80 were gained in the final two minutes), got 4.0 YPC on offense (compared to just 2.3 for the Chargers), and Eli Manning posted a 112.6 QB rating. Don’t get me wrong, the defense continues to underperform, and the offense really struggles in the red zone, but this is still a very dangerous 5-4 team (and only the second one in NFL history to start 5-0 and then lose the next four games)…I’m beginning to think LaDainian Tomlinson might be slowing down some. Seriously, get Darren Sproles more touches!…Antonio Gates has scored in just two of his past 14 games played.

I actually think the 49ers are still very much alive in the NFC West, but do you realize they haven’t won a game since Week 4?…Vernon Davis will enter 2010 No. 1 on most TE draft boards, with Dallas Clark a close second. Not only is VD on pace for 84 catches and 954 yards, but he’s also tied for the NFL lead with seven touchdowns (and in a tight end twist, both Greg Olsen and Visanthe Shiancoe have six scores)…Football is such a team sport, I hate pointing to records when it comes to evaluating a quarterback, but it’s at least interesting that Vince Young is now 20-11 as a starter throughout his career. It’s been just two games, obviously, but his current completion percentage (64.3) and YPA (7.1) are both easily career-highs…I keep hearing Chris Johnson referred to as “boom-or-bust,” but he’s gotten fewer than 94 yards in just two of his eight games this year. I guess when so many games are “boom,” anything less appears “bust.” Johnson’s 6.7 YPC mark is the highest for the league’s leading rusher through nine weeks since 1970. I’d personally rank him as the third best RB in the NFL, and barring an injury, he’ll enter 2010 as a universal top-five fantasy pick.

Tony Romo is playing the best football of anyone in the NFL over his past four games, as he’s gotten 9.1 YPA with a 9:1 TD:INT ratio over that span. He’s now undefeated over his past 13 starts in November, and while it was nice to see Roy Williams get involved, expect Miles Austin to be targeted more moving forward…The Eagles are truly an enigma. They finished in the top-four in both pass defense (6.1 YPA) and run defense (3.5 YPC) last year yet barely made the playoffs. They then went on to make the NFC Championship game and continue to confound again this season. Donovan McNabb can both be viewed as overrated (career 6.8 YPA) and underrated (entered last week with the lowest interception percentage in the history of the NFL), and while Andy Reid is easily one of the best coaches from Monday-Saturday, he’s equally as bad on game days. I don’t want to harp too much about his decision to attempt a 52-yard field goal (Akers had made 3-of-10 from 50-plus yards since 2005) with 4:30 left in Sunday’s game with zero timeouts left when he still needed to score a touchdown to have any chance of winning the game, but let’s just say it was one of the most bizarre decisions I’ve ever witnessed in sports. The Eagles’ franchise is worth roughly $1.024 billion, yet Reid continuously gets away with this type of decision-making. I don’t get it. Hey, at least he accomplished the impossible – Wade Phillips actually outcoached someone.

It means little that Pittsburgh barely beat Tennessee on opening night and lost to the Bears the following week, as this Steelers team is clearly one of the most dangerous in football right now. Ben Roethlisberger is attempting 32.8 passes per game this year compared to 29.3 last season, yet is getting an astronomical 8.8 YPA. Rashard Mendenhall, meanwhile, is getting 5.7 YPC and continues to impress…There’s not much fantasy value to be had in Denver right now, at least other than Brandon Marshall. It’s worth noting that his yards-per-catch numbers have dropped for the third straight season, but with Denver’s defense regressing and a more difficult upcoming schedule, expect the team to rely heavily on Marshall moving forward.

Podcast

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Not to be confused with the podcast I posted earlier, here’s my second one of the week. I’m only on for the first 40 minutes this time, but the indefatigable Jonah Kerri follows, so the full hour is worth checking out.

Bet on It

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 6-7, with the Saints loss especially excruciating. I’m now 56-59-1 on the year. I also lost my best bet, bringing my record there to 4-3-1. The good news is for the first time in a long time, I actually like my picks this week, but it obviously remains to be seen whether that matters.

Redskins +10 at FALCONS

CARDINALS +3 at Bears

RAVENS -3 at Bengals

TEXANS +9 at Colts

CHIEFS +6.5 at Jaguars

PACKERS +10 at Buccaneers

Dolphins +10.5 at PATRIOTS

PANTHERS +13.5 at Saints

Lions +10 at SEAHAWKS

CHARGERS +4.5 at Giants

Titans +4 at 49ers (Best Bet)

Cowboys +3 at EAGLES

Steelers -3 at BRONCOS

Comments: I’m not in love with the idea of backing four more double-digit favorites this week, but for the first time since maybe Week 1, I actually feel confident with my picks. Of course, that doesn’t mean anything, but it’s at least better than the alternative – agonizing over every single game. I especially like the Chiefs, Packers and Broncos, with the 49ers as my best bet. The four-point line essentially says Vegas views San Francisco as just one point better than Tennessee? The 49ers actually haven’t won since Week 4, but their league-best run defense matches up pretty well against the Titans. Back SF.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS


Ryan Moats, RB, HOU
– After Steve Slaton lost yet another fumble Sunday, Moats stepped in and totaled 151 yards with three touchdowns. The performance came against a Bills’ defense that has allowed an NFL-high 5.1 YPC, but it was impressive nevertheless. Moats was drafted in the third round back in 2005 by the Eagles, but his NFL career has been non-descript, and he’s not nearly the receiver Slaton is. Still, Moats has clearly earned some carries in Houston’s backfield, so he’s a must-add in all fantasy formats. If Slaton continues to fumble, Moats could easily turn into the Texans’ workhorse, which is a terrific situation to be in.

Kevin Walter, WR, HOU – Walter has taken a backseat in the Texans’ passing attack this season, but with the recent season-ending loss of Owen Daniels (knee), he should be relied upon far more moving forward. Walter is a weapon in the red-zone, and with an increase in targets in a passing attack that is one of the best in the league, Walter could be a difference maker from here on out.

Malcom Floyd, WR, SD – Not only has Floyd been moved into San Diego’s starting lineup, former starter Chris Chambers has been subsequently released, so it’s Floyd’s job for good now. Floyd was undrafted, but he has good size (6-5, 225 lbs) and speed, averaging a remarkable 22.8 yards-per-catch this season. Floyd is still no better than Philip Rivers’ third read, but with the Chargers’ rushing attack struggling, and Rivers getting 8.6 YPA, that role can be plenty lucrative. After averaging just 29.9 pass attempts per game last year, Rivers is throwing the ball 34.0 times per contest in 2009, so Floyd could fast become a fantasy factor.

Vince Young, QB, TEN – There’s no need to rush to pick up Young right now, but he’s at least back on the radar. There’s little reason why he won’t be Tennessee’s starter over the remainder of the season, especially after leading the team to its first victory last week. Young will never be an elite passer, but it’s great news to see him attempt 12 rushes against the Jaguars. Remember, Young ran for 528 yards over just 13 starts during his rookie year, which is gold from a quarterback. If he goes back to his running ways and stops trying to be primarily a pocket passer, he could once again be worth using in fantasy leagues.

Pierre Thomas, RB, N.O. – For the second straight game, Thomas received fewer carries than Mike Bell (14-to-17), but he was far more productive with his touches, getting 6.5 YPC compared to just 2.9 from Bell. On the season, Bell has gotten 4.4 YPC, whereas Thomas has gotten 5.8. Thomas is also the much better receiver out of the backfield, so while it’s likely to remain a committee, Thomas is so skilled and plays in such a terrific environment in New Orleans, he can retain plenty of fantasy value even without getting 20-plus carries. Bell is viewed as the team’s “closer” and short-yardage back, but the fact remains it was Thomas who had the fewest stuffs/carry last season, and he’s gotten 7.4 YPC during fourth quarters this season.

Michael Turner, RB, ATL – Turner shouldn’t be the type of back who needs weekly upgrades or downgrades, but Monday night’s outburst (151 rushing yards) was just the second time all season he eclipsed 100 yards rushing, and it was the first time he got better than 4.4 YPC. The touchdowns have remained steady, but especially since he offers next to nothing as a receiver, the improved running game is big news for the future. New Orleans was missing Sedrick Ellis and Scott Fujita, but they have been generally strong against the run this year, and Turner looked rejuvenated, breaking numerous tackles in an impressive effort.

FALLERS

Steve Slaton, RB, HOU – Slaton entered last week on pace for 1,474 yards and 11 touchdowns, so even though his 3.1 YPC mark is brutal, he remained highly productive. Unfortunately, he put the ball on the ground yet again, losing his fourth fumble over the past five games and his fifth of the season, resulting in a benching for the rest of the game. To make matters worse, backup Ryan Moats replaced him and shredded a bad Buffalo run defense for 151 yards and three touchdowns, so at a minimum, Houston’s backfield looks like a committee. How the carries get distributed is a mystery for now, and Slaton will probably get a chance to redeem himself, but the fumbling issue is clearly in his head, and if he loses another one, all bets are off.

Kevin Smith, RB, DET
– Smith managed just 2.8 YPC in a home game against the Rams last week before exiting early with yet another shoulder injury. He’s still productive as a receiver, and more holes should open up once Calvin Johnson (knee) returns to the lineup, but Smith’s 3.1 YPC mark is simply unacceptable. He’s also making a habit of leaving games early with injuries, and while his latest one was said to be minor, Smith missed practice Wednesday, so his status for Week 9 is a bit uncertain. Maurice Morris should be added in fantasy leagues just in case Smith is unable to go Sunday.

Eli Manning, QB, NYG – Over the first five games of the year, Manning got 9.0 YPA with a 10:2 TD:INT ratio while taking just two sacks. Over his last three games, Manning has gotten 6.0 YPA with a 3:6 TD:INT ratio while taking six sacks. The competition has no doubt improved, and while Manning is probably somewhere in between the two starkly different quarterbacks we’ve seen this season, the latest stretch has really been brutal. He’d never admit it, but maybe the foot problem is a bigger issue than Manning has led us to believe.

Anquan Boldin, WR, ARI
– It’s admirable watching Boldin fight through pain and refuse to miss games, but his current problem is a high ankle sprain, which typically keeps players out multiple weeks. Instead, Boldin has played through the injury, but it’s clear he’s far from 100 percent. For everyone involved, it’d probably be for the best if he sat out a few weeks and returned 100 percent, because even he admits the only way for it to truly heal would be through rest. The current version of Boldin is a shell of his former self.
Owen Daniels, TE, HOU – Daniels was in the midst of a career-year and was one of the three best fantasy tight ends before suffering a torn ACL last week, ending his season. It’s a huge blow to fantasy owners and the Houston offense alike, as Daniels entered last week on pace to finish the season with 89 catches, 1,136 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Derek Anderson, QB, CLE – Not that Anderson was fantasy relevant, but his ineptitude is worth discussing regardless. He’s gotten 4.4 YPA with a 2:12 TD:turnover ratio over six games, completing just 42.9 percent of his passes while recording a 36.2 QB rating. Somehow, he seems to be the favorite to remain the starter in Cleveland, which makes little sense in a lost season. The team needs to be sure Brady Quinn isn’t the answer, and he hasn’t played enough games to fully declare so.

Roy Williams, WR, DAL – Williams is getting paid like a star No. 1 wide receiver, but right now, he’s not even playing like a WR3. Despite playing alongside a quarterback that has gotten 8.3 YPA with 12 touchdowns passes over seven games, Williams is on pace to finish the year with 37 catches, 664 yards and five touchdowns. He hasn’t surpassed 35 receiving yards in a game since Week 3. While Williams looks slow and lacks burst, Miles Austin has developed into Dallas’ clear-cut No. 1 WR. Michael Irvin recently said on his radio show that while Austin was receptive to advice during Dallas’ training camp, Williams was unwilling to listen, so it appears he simply doesn’t get it. Don’t be surprised if he’s not even in the league two years from now.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, SEA – Like Roy Williams, Houshmandzadeh is another overpaid wideout, only he also continuously complains about his role in the offense. He has good hands and is a weapon in the red zone, but Houshmandzadeh isn’t much of a deep threat and lacks explosiveness. He hasn’t topped 10.9 yards-per-catch since 2006. Teammate Nate Burleson, who has seen the sixth most targets in the NFL, has more receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Houshmandzadeh has scored in just one game this season, and he’s eclipsed 80 yards receiving also just once. He’s not much of a fantasy option.

Podcast

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Check it out.

The Scoop

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Baltimore came out of its bye and gave Ray Rice 20-plus carries for the first time all season, while Willis McGahee has become completely moot. Rice is on pace to finish the year with 1,998 yards with 87 catches and 11 touchdowns. And that’s with him averaging just 13.7 carries per game, so if Sunday’s increased usage was a sign of things to come, his numbers will look even bigger at season’s end. He’s not only matched his preseason hype, he’s exceeded it. Rice is the No. 3 player on my board right now…Eddie Royal has yet to catch a touchdown this year and has recorded three catches or fewer in all but one game this season. He’s on pace to finish with 46 receptions for 361 yards. I had high hopes entering the year, but I could not have been more wrong about Royal’s 2009 fantasy prospects.

What a tough break for Owen Daniels owners. His season-ending knee injury will likely adversely affect Matt Schaub as well, but Kevin Walter deserves an upgrade as a result…Schaub was able to muster 7.9 YPA Sunday, but with a 0:2 TD:INT ratio, this Buffalo pass defense continues to impress. It’s officially a terrible matchup for opposing quarterbacks…Entering 2009, Terrell Owens had totaled 58 receiving touchdowns over his past 68 games. He has one through eight games this year. He also “leads” the NFL with seven drops…Even if he was doing so unconventionally, Steve Slaton was easily a top-10 fantasy back entering last week, despite the fact most of his owners continued to complain about him. After losing his fourth fumble over his past five games (four games really, since the last one happened at the very beginning of Sunday’s game) and fifth of the year, even his most staunch supporters, including myself, couldn’t blame Gary Kubiak for benching him. Ryan Moats is obviously the No. 1 waiver priority this week after his performance, but don’t confuse him for anything but an average back who happened to be facing the NFL’s worst run defense. Slaton would have likely matched or surpassed those numbers if given the opportunity, and he remains the team’s most dangerous back, especially as a receiver. Still, it looks like a three-headed committee for the time being, making all risky starts.

Most Matt Forte owners were probably hoping for a big game against one of the league’s worst run defenses with the hope of dealing him afterward. With 121 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, there won’t be a better time to execute the plan. Don’t even think this is the beginning of a turnaround either, as his 3.5 YPC against a Browns’ front seven that has allowed 5.1 YPC on all non-Forte rushing attempts this season only solidifies the reason to deal him… Even though the final score was lopsided, the Bears’ offense was highly disappointing last week. The offensive line has been a real problem in Chicago…What Derek Anderson is doing is fairly unprecedented. With a 42.9 completion percentage, 4.4 YPA and a 2:9 TD:INT ratio, it’s hard to believe this is the same quarterback who threw for 29 touchdowns two years ago. Putrid doesn’t even begin to describe it. Anderson has done the impossible – make Brady Quinn seem like an upgrade…Do you realize that Eric Mangini punted on 4th and 1 down 24 points with 2:31 left in Sunday’s game? I wouldn’t expect anything different from such a gutless coach. He should be fired yesterday.

Over his past three games, Tony Romo has gotten 9.3 YPA with an 8:0 TD:INT ratio. Not coincidentally, that stretch has also coincided with Miles Austin’s insertion into the starting lineup. Unexpected players surprise every year in the NFL, and some even come out of nowhere, but this is a pretty rare case, as Austin is an undrafted WR from Monmouth who is already in his fourth year in the league. He entered Week 5 with five catches on the season. Since he’s in a terrific situation with Romo as his QB and few other options at wide receiver in Dallas (not only is Roy Williams not a No. 1, I’d argue he’s a below average No. 2), Austin has to be viewed as a legitimate top-10 fantasy WR, especially since his skill set can take full advantage of the situation; he’s got meaningful snaps in just three games this season, yet his eight catches for 25-plus yards lead the NFL. Austin’s upcoming schedule isn’t easy, but he’s a must-start at this point…I remember being shocked when Edgerrin James was selected ahead of Ricky Williams during the 1999 draft, which looked especially crazy when New Orleans traded its entire draft to move up to grab Williams. But after Edge scored 35 touchdowns over his first two seasons compared to 11 by Williams, it’s odd to see James cut by Seattle while Williams is quietly having one of the best years of his career at age 32. Of course, James’ 1,000 more career carries is the main reason why…T.J. Houshmandzadeh can bitch about his role all he wants, but like Roy Williams, he has a superior WR playing opposite him. Nate Burleson, who is on pace to finish with 87 catches, 1,113 yards and seven touchdowns, is an underrated fantasy commodity. He’s tied for sixth in the league with 66 targets.

The Lions’ offense was shutout at home against the Rams until 1:38 was left in Sunday’s game. I’m beginning to believe the team misses Calvin Johnson’s presence in the lineup. Speaking of, Johnson isn’t a bad target for fantasy teams right now. He could still make a big impact from here on out…I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t help but compare Kevin Smith to Kevin Jones. Both played for Detroit, wore #34, showed good promise as rookies, consistently got banged up and hampered by injuries, often leaving games early only to not even appear on the following week’s injury report, effective receivers yet poor YPC marks with similar running styles (not flashy or fast but effective enough). Here’s to Smith’s career turning out better…Part of me is sad Steven Jackson won’t finish with 2,000 yards and zero touchdowns this year. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

I actually think Frank Gore is going to be more valuable over the second half of the season, since he’s received more than 16 carries in just one game this year, but his current 5.6 YPC mark is a bit misleading. If you take away three of his rushing attempts, that number drops all the way down to 2.3 YPC. Of course, those long TD runs count, but it’s at least worth noting just how boom-or-bust his performance has been so far…Alex Smith wasn’t great Sunday, but he was facing one of the NFL’s best secondaries without his two starting tackles for most of the game, so it has to be considered yet another encouraging outing. Michael Crabtree continues to look like the real deal…There isn’t a bigger dichotomy of real life value versus fantasy value than Josepha Addai right now…There are only about seven or eight fantasy running backs I’d rather own than WR Reggie Wayne.

Rarely will you see a team outgain their opponent 378 yards to 104 and lose, but so was the case with the Jets on Sunday. A lot of people are killing New York for kicking to Ted Ginn, but the team entered the game with one of the best coverage units in football, and Ginn hadn’t exactly been some prominent returner throughout his career. Still, Rex Ryan clearly blew a (non) challenge as well, so his in-game management has been a major issue this year…Part of me thinks this Miami team is really good, but more of me sees the Dolphins’ bad secondary (8.2 YPA is second-most allowed in football), and if their ground game is shutdown, that offense can be ugly. Start New England’s defense with confidence this week…Don’t give up on Shonn Greene. The fumble returned for a score Sunday was a killer, but in favorable matchups, he’ll be a viable flex moving forward…The Jets are 4-4, but with a pass defense that has yielded the fewest YPA (5.5) in the NFL, a terrific rushing attack and now a healthy Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards (not to mention Dustin Keller) in the passing game, New York remains dangerous, although a rookie quarterback will ultimately be their downfall…I’ve previously made a “worst decision of 2009” proclamation this year, but the Dolphins’ decision to go for two up 30-19 with 8:48 left takes the cake. Truly mind-boggling. I don’t see the upside of going from 12-to-13 points, but I surely see the downside leaving it at 11 (it now only takes a FG and a TD instead of two touchdowns). More than any other outcome Sunday, I was rooting for the Jets to kick a field goal and then score a TD with a two-point conversion to tie the game. What was Tony Sparano thinking? This was first grade math type stuff. Unbelievable.

I’m not sure what to make of the Giants right now, but a good bet is that they are somewhere in between the team that looked unstoppable (mostly when beating what has later been revealed as bad teams) early in the year and the one that has looked awful during three straight losses. Health has played a role, but in a tough division, New York can’t afford to lose to the Chargers this week…With the broken bone revelation followed by Sunday’s lackluster performance, Ahmad Bradshaw owners shouldn’t be sleeping well at night. It’s not time to totally panic, but picking up Danny Ware wouldn’t be a bad idea…Is there a more explosive player in the NFL than DeSean Jackson? Jeremy Maclin is also a sneaky WR3 option from here on out…Donovan McNabb has been a bit up-and-down this season, but his astronomical 151.9 QB rating at home easily leads the NFL.

After he scored two touchdowns last week, LaDainian Tomlinson owners should be shopping him around like crazy. Remember, he also got 3.1 YPC while at home against the Raiders. His value will never be higher this season. In one of my leagues, I was recently offered him for Roddy White, and I considered it a personal attack, on par with someone insulting a family member, or even worse, dissing this season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”…I’m sorry, but how funny is it that Al Davis selected Darrius Heyward-Bey ahead of Michael Crabtree? Will that ever get old? I say no…Finally, Norv Turner replaces Chris Chambers with Malcom Floyd. Better late than never, I guess.

Maurice Jones-Drew’s line Sunday (eight carries, 177 yards) has to go down as one of the craziest in 2009. David Garrard might want to stop audibling away from those run plays…Speaking of Garrard, we are entering Week 9, and he has zero touchdown passes on the road this season…It’s a shame how underused Chris Johnson is in Tennessee’s passing game. He’s clearly one of the best and most dynamic backs in the league.

During the two games against his former team this year, Brett Favre has gotten 9.2 YPA with a 7:0 TD:INT ratio, which is pretty good. Favre returned to a perfect situation – great offensive line, best running back in football, solid defense, underrated receiving corps, but there’s no denying just how good he’s been. As it turns out, he’s only enhanced, instead of tarnish, his legacy. I for one certainly didn’t see it coming…Jared Allen is an unstoppable force. What a beast. But I’m tired of hearing about his “motor.” Can we please come up with a better word?…Through seven games, Aaron Rodgers has almost been sacked as many times (31) as all of last year (34). Green Bay’s offensive line has not played well, but plenty of the blame belongs on him as well. Still, this is a quarterback who has gotten 9.8 YPA with a 12:2 TD:INT ratio over the past five games, so he’s the least of the Packers’ worries…In a game that had already totaled 58 points with 10:26 left, Green Bay’s decision to go for two down five was questionable, although this one was at least debatable, unlike the Miami one.

Funny how the Cardinals/Panthers game last week played out basically exactly the opposite as last year’s Divisional playoff meeting. This time, Arizona was the double-digit home favorite, yet it was Kurt Warner committing the six turnovers instead of Jake Delhomme…If I’m an Anquan Boldin owner, I’d rather him sit out and get 100 percent healthy than fight through a clearly hobbling ankle injury. His toughness is admirable, but it’s not helping matters either…Do you realize Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards receiving this year? It’s not his fault, of course, but his current 10.8 yards-per-catch mark is a career-worst by a wide margin…Arizona’s 28-7 deficit Sunday was the worst possible thing to happen to Chris Wells, who still is an afterthought during obvious passing situations…Carolina rushed for 270 yards against an Arizona defense that entered the game leading the NFL in YPC against. The Panthers will live and die based on their running game.

With Michael Turner running for 151 yards on just 20 carries after entering the game with just a 3.4 YPC mark, it appears the absence of Sedrick Ellis will be quite a blow for New Orleans. Turner deserves plenty of credit himself, of course, as he looked quite impressive breaking numerous tackles all night long. Speaking of, this was Atlanta’s first loss ever when Turner ran for more than 100 yards, which highlights how silly that stat was to begin with…Mike Bell isn’t some scrub, but as the superior runner and pass-catcher, it’s hard to see why Pierre Thomas isn’t getting a greater majority of the carries. Bell is viewed as the more punishing back and the team’s “closer,” but Thomas has gotten 6.2 YPC during the second half of games this season, including a whopping 7.4 during fourth quarters…After the Saints came back down 31-3 ATS last week, how did they ruin my cover this week up 11 with 1:23 left and with the ball? Even without the benefit of hindsight, why not kneel there? The only chance the team had of losing the game (forget the spread) was a fumble there, and there’s little chance of gaining the first down with the Falcons obviously loading the box (and there’s also added risk of injury). The thing I hate most about today’s NFL is how coaches behave based more on “protocol” than what’s right regarding percentages.