Archive for December, 2009

Podcast

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

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Bet on It

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 7-9, leaving me with a 117-119-4 record on the year. My best bet (the Pats) covered easily, making me 7-8-1 there. It’s been my worst year since I started picking every game ATS in 2007, but it’d be nice to finish with a record better than .500. But Week 17, as usual, features some pretty absurd lines.

COLTS +7 at Bills

SAINTS +7 at Panthers

JAGUARS
+1 at Browns

BEARS -3 at Lions

PATRIOTS +8 at Texans

STEELERS -3 at Dolphins

GIANTS +9.5 at Vikings

49ers -7 at Rams

FALCONS -2.5 at Buccaneers

EAGLES +3 at Cowboys

PACKERS +3 at Cardinals

CHIEFS +13 at Broncos

RAVENS -10.5 at Raiders

REDSKINS +3.5 at Chargers

TITANS (Best Bet) -4 at Seahawks

Bengals +10 at JETS

Comments: I’ll go with the Titans as a best bet, despite them being a road favorite. The Seahawks are playing as poorly as any team in the league, and while Seattle isn’t an ideal place to play, Tennessee has had 10 days to prepare and is 7-2 over its past nine games. Chris Johnson should run wild.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Brian Westbrook, RB, PHI – Westbrook (concussion) returned to action Sunday for the first time since Week 10, seeing 23 snaps. He remains a huge injury risk and is unlikely to be a true workhorse like in years past, but if he’s truly back to 100 percent, the Eagles will give him the majority of touches in Philly’s backfield from here on out. Westbrook is 30 years old and in the decline phase of his brilliant career, but he’s gotten 4.6 YPC and has remained active as a receiver when on the field in 2009, so he’s hardly finished. Because of his versatility, he could prove a difference maker during the Eagles’ postseason run.

Arian Foster, RB, HOU – Foster has had an up-and-down last few weeks, but he was able to gain 97 yards rushing (5.1 YPC) with a score against the Dolphins last week, taking over as Houston’s lead back in the process. A good week of practice followed by no fumbles and a productive outing Sunday should lead to a continued featured role in Week 17 against the Patriots, and if he continues to impress, he’ll enter the mix for carries in 2010. The Texans’ running back situation is far from settled, and while Foster is undrafted and lacks the explosion of Steve Slaton, he’s more of a bruiser, and the coaching staff clearly likes him. He’s someone to keep your eye on moving forward.

Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ – Aside from his fumbling problems, Shonn Greene has quietly impressed when given the opportunity this season, getting 5.0 YPC. Thomas Jones has obviously played quite well this year and will enter 2010 as the Jets’ unquestioned RB1, but he’ll be 32 years old while approaching 2,300 career rushing attempts. Jones will also be coming off five straight seasons with at least 290 carries, so he’s a major candidate to breakdown, making Greene a highly desirable target in fantasy leagues, especially on a run-first team with an elite defense.

Brandon Gibson, WR, STL – Gibson’s overall numbers won’t jump out at you. In fact, he didn’t have a touchdown on the year until last week, but he’s shown plenty of flashes of promise regardless, and this is a rookie who was traded midseason and has endured a horrible quarterback situation in St. Louis. While Gibson is unlikely to have an elite signal caller working in his favor with the Rams next season, he’s probably passed the brittle Donnie Avery to become the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, and it’s not like the QB position can get any worse. Playing for a team that will need to pass frequently to offset a bad defense and in a division with mostly soft secondaries, Gibson will enter 2010 as a deep sleeper. He’s got legit potential.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR – New York’s defense has been a big disappointment this season, but they entered last week with a YPC allowed mark ranking in the top-10 in the league and playing their final home game in Giants Stadium with its playoff lives on the line, so Stewart’s huge performance (206 rushing yards) was highly impressive. His fantasy value will remain limited as long as DeAngelo Williams is on the roster and healthy, but it’s worth noting just how good Stewart is when given the opportunity. Only eight backs have scored more than his 19 touchdowns over the past two seasons, and that’s come with a modest 389 rushing attempts. He’s gotten 4.9 YPC in 2009 despite playing through a painful heel injury, and any given week Williams is out with injury, Stewart is a top-five RB option regardless of opponent.

Devin Aromashadu, WR, CHI – No one has truly emerged from Chicago’s wide receiver corps this year, at least until Aromashadu recently, although that was too little too late to help any fantasy owners. At 6-2, 200 lbs with good speed, he possesses more physical tools than Earl Bennett and better size than Devin Hester. There’s no guarantee he’ll enter 2010 as a starter, but if Jay Cutler’s targets are any indication, the strong-armed QB thinks highly of Aromashadu, so he’s someone to consider late in drafts next year. Cutler has obviously been a disappointment this season, but he’s still got plenty of upside, and even if the interceptions continue, he’s likely to put up far bigger passing stats next season, and Aromashadu could be a big beneficiary.

FALLERS

Laurence Maroney, RB, NE – Maroney didn’t see the field again after losing his fourth fumble of the season last week and his third that occurred at the goal line. He’s the most talented back on the Patriots’ roster, but that’s still resulted in just 3.9 YPC on the year, and with such huge ball security issues, there’s no reason not to give Sammy Morris (and even Fred Taylor) most of New England’s carries from here on out. Maroney’s long-term outlook has suffered a hit as well, as Bill Belichick will have a hard time trusting the perennially disappointing back in the future.

Alex Smith, QB, SF – Smith finished with a 97.5 QB rating Sunday, but against the worst secondary in the league and with the benefit of their defense creating six turnovers, the 49ers’ offense was pretty disappointing, scoring just 20 points at home versus the Lions. San Francisco’s offensive line is solid, Frank Gore is one of the better running backs in the league and with Vernon Davis emerging as the league’s best tight end combined with exciting rookie WR Michael Crabtree, Smith has plenty of weapons to work with. The offensive scheme is hardly innovative, but coach Mike Singletary has played to Smith’s strengths, using the spread/shotgun formation often, yet it’s resulted in mediocre results. Smith’s 6.2 YPA mark is simply unacceptable, so San Francisco’s quarterback situation remains up in the air moving forward.

Darren McFadden, RB, OAK
– Even without Justin Fargas (knee), McFadden managed just 23 yards on seven carries last week against a bad Browns’ front seven. He’s averaged a paltry 3.5 YPC on the year, also fumbling five times (losing three) on just 99 rushing attempts. McFadden has only one touchdown in 2009 and too easily goes down on first contact, completely inept between the tackles. He has racked up 139 receiving yards over the past three games, so he’s not useless when used in the right capacity. McFadden can be productive as a change-of-pace type back, but he’s highly unlikely to ever live up to his draft status and has become an afterthought in fantasy leagues.

Quinton Ganther, RB, WAS – Since Ganther totaled 93 yards with two touchdowns during his first ever start in Week 14, he’s combined for just 34 rushing yards over the past two contests. He’s averaging an anemic 3.4 YPC on the season and looks nothing like a feature back in the NFL. The Redskins really need to improve their running back position during the offseason.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, SEA – Over his last seven games, Hasselbeck has gotten 6.1 YPA with a 6:12 TD:INT ratio. He’s also fumbled eight times over that span, lucky enough to lose just two during that stretch. At age 34, it seems a bit premature to say he’s finished, but last season’s horrible performance (5.8 YPA, 5:10 TD:INT ratio) was hoped to be written off by a bad back injury, but then what’s the excuse for 2010? The offensive line has obviously really declined, but that can hardly be blamed for Hasselbeck suddenly becoming a well below average quarterback in a league where passing stats are through the roof. The Seahawks might live to regret taking Aaron Curry over a QB in last year’s draft for seasons to come.

Pierre Thomas, RB, N.O.
– Thomas’ already disappointing fantasy season got even more frustrating last week, when he left early with a rib injury. He was able to rush for 60 yards with a touchdown before departing, but he hasn’t exactly proven his ability to stay healthy either, giving coach Sean Payton further reason to avoid giving him a full workload. Thomas has gotten an impressive 5.4 YPC on the year and will finish with more than respectable final numbers (1,168 total yards and nine touchdowns despite missing 2.5 games). But playing for the NFL’s best offense (33.3 points per game), Thomas was given more than 15 carries in a game just once this season, despite the gaudy YPC average, as clearly Payton simply doesn’t view him as a workhorse. It could have been so much more.

The Scoop

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Vince Young showed last Thursday he’s still far from a finished product, but with 40 rushing yards and a TD on the ground as well, the outing also revealed that even during a terrible passing performance, his fantasy floor remains high because of his running ability. Young will enter 2010 as a strong QB2 target with upside…Give LaDainian Tomlinson credit for his still strong skills at the goal-line, but San Diego has an uncanny ability of producing many 1st-and-goals from the one this season, often after pass interference calls in the end zone. Tomlinson’s 12 scores in 2009 have salvaged his fantasy value, but with a 3.3 YPC mark and just 866 total yards over 13 games, he’s clearly someone to avoid in 2010…Not much more can be said about Chris Johnson at this point. He’s both fantasy football’s No. 1 player as well as the NFL’s best running back. I’d feel comfortable spending around 40 percent of my budget on him in an auction next year.

Something is clearly wrong with the Saints, who have been outscored over the past four games, which has included back-to-back losses. It’s the wrong time of year for them to sputter, but there’s still time for correction…Over five games on the road during his rookie campaign, Josh Freeman has gotten 7.9 YPA…I’m not convinced I wouldn’t prefer Robert Meachem over Marques Colston next year, and since the latter should require a much higher pick, Meachem is the better target.

As much as any team in football, Buffalo needs to address its quarterback position during the offseason. Giving Brian Brohm one more tryout in Week 17 couldn’t hurt, but the team’s long-term answer under center isn’t currently on its roster…Where will Terrell Owens end up next season?…Matt Ryan’s YPA has plummeted this year (6.5) compared to his rookie campaign (7.9), as has his INT%. However, after throwing 16 touchdowns over 16 games last season, he’s already tossed 20 over just 12 contests in 2010. The loss of Michael Turner has led to some of the increased TDs, but expect Ryan to show marked improvement during his third year in the league. He’s a QB to target for those who wait on the position in the latter half of fantasy drafts next year.

Once again, the Texans are finishing a season strong, giving renewed hope for a playoff berth the following year. In no small part because he was finally able to stay healthy, Matt Schaub has firmly established himself as an elite quarterback. He’ll enter 2010 along with Brees, Manning, Rodgers, Rivers, Brady and Romo as a strong tier 1 of fantasy quarterbacks…Larry Fitzgerald will be the only wide receiver worth considering drafting ahead of Andre Johnson in 2010 fantasy drafts…Miami badly needs a playmaker at wideout, and it looks like age (and a full workload) finally caught up to Ricky Williams.

How nice of John Carlson to score three touchdowns over a three-game stretch during the fantasy playoffs, when most owners had already given up on him…Put a fork in Matt Hasselbeck, he’s done. Is there a worse team in the NFL than the Seahawks right now?…Brandon Jackson entered Sunday’s game with two career touchdowns, so naturally, he reaches the end zone three times in Week 16, much to the chagrin of Ryan Grant owners.

What a pathetic performance by the Giants. Truly embarrassing. That said, with Matt Moore upgrading the QB position immeasurably, this is a dangerous Panthers team (at least until Steve Smith went down with a broken arm)…What a fitting end to Brandon Jacobs’ season. He should definitely come at a discount in fantasy leagues next year, but even when he’s able to suit up, Jacobs is seemingly always injured. I can’t stomach owning the guy…Jonathan Stewart was extremely impressive Sunday, as Carolina sports two top-10 NFL backs. It’s too bad each hurt the other’s fantasy value so much.

Mohamed Massaquoi could really be a player if Cleveland ever finds a capable quarterback. Same goes for Zach Miller and the Raiders…Considering it was freezing, how long could Sebastian Janikowski’s field goal have been good from in a dome or in Denver?…There are plenty of reasons why Eric Mangini deserves to be fired but none so glaring than him wasting so many carries on Jamal Lewis this season when an obvious and extreme upgrade in Jerome Harrison rotted away on the bench. If the Browns don’t bring in any backfield competition during the offseason, how high do you rank Harrison among fantasy backs next year?

No one fumbles more from the 1-yard line than Laurence Maroney. Don’t be surprised to see Sammy Morris and even Fred Taylor get the majority of New England’s carries from here on out…Over seven road games this season, David Garrard has thrown one touchdown pass. He has ran in three scores away from home, but that certainly hasn’t helped Mike Sims-Walker’s owners.

This Bengals offense is a real problem. Their surprising season is worth applauding, but with such a weak passing attack, it’d be a surprise if Cincinnati wasn’t one-and-done in the playoffs, despite a home game…Only Chris Johnson has been a more valuable fantasy commodity than Jamaal Charles since he took over workhorse duties in KC’s backfield. Assuming the Chiefs’ RB situation remains mostly the same, who would you take higher in 2010 fantasy drafts, Charles or DeAngelo Williams?

With a touchdown dropped by the usually sure-handed Derrick Mason and nearly 100 more penalty yards than the Steelers, the Ravens’ loss Sunday was a tough one to swallow. Thankfully for Baltimore, they still make the playoffs with a win in Oakland in Week 17…Santonio Holmes has scored three of his four touchdowns this season over the past five games, which would be huge news for his fantasy value moving forward if it’s a sign of things to come. His lack of TDs has really kept him from becoming an elite option over his career, and he’s on pace to finish with 1,326 receiving yards in 2010.

While QB will remain a problem in St. Louis, it can’t get any worse than this year, making Brandon Gibson a deep sleeper next year. Donnie Avery, meanwhile, simply can’t stay healthy…Like two other games in Week 17, the Cardinals are facing a weird situation this week, as why would they show their hand against a Packers team they very well may play six days later?…Of the Rams’ 45 active players in Week 16, 30 of them were sixth-round picks, seventh-round picks or undrafted.

Alex Smith finished with a 97.5 QB rating Sunday, but against the worst secondary in the league and with the benefit of their defense creating six turnovers, the 49ers’ offense was pretty disappointing, scoring just 20 points at home versus the Lions. San Francisco’s quarterback situation remains up in the air moving forward…If you’re a Detroit fan, are you rooting for a loss this week and a win by the Rams?

Getting more playing time thanks to Eddie Royal’s injury, Jabar Gaffney scored twice last week, and the Broncos’ offense looked improved. Royal, meanwhile, is still searching for his first score of 2010…Donovan McNabb has gotten a whopping 9.4 YPA over the past four games, as the Eagles’ offense has become a force. Teams will have a harder time worrying about DeSean Jackson deep with Jeremy Maclin’s return to the lineup as well. Few fantasy picks have been as profitable as Brent Celek this year.

As a football fan, I would have liked to see the Colts go for an undefeated season, but no one should act shocked with them benching some starters after the coaches spoke of the very real possibility throughout last week. With the Saints and Vikings also sputtering, the playoffs sure look a lot more wide open than a few weeks back…What a terrific goal-line TD run by Donald Brown…Aside from his fumbling problems, Shonn Greene has quietly impressed when given the opportunity this season, getting 5.0 YPC. Thomas Jones has obviously played quite well this year and will enter 2010 as the Jets’ unquestioned RB1, but he’ll be 32 years old while approaching 2,300 career rushing attempts. Jones will also be coming off five straight seasons with at least 290 carries, so he’s a major candidate to breakdown, making Greene a highly desirable target in fantasy leagues, especially on a run-first team with an elite defense.

Tony Romo was picked off Sunday for the first time since Week 11, and while his YPA (8.1) and TD production (24) remain elite, his big improvement in ball security makes Dallas dangerous in the postseason. Romo entered 2009 with 46 interceptions over 61 career games. He has thrown just eight over 15 contests this year…The Jim Zorn era isn’t ending pretty in Washington. How does a team punt down 17-0 at their own 40-yard line with 5:55 left? Isn’t the goal to win?

What a fantastic Monday night game, especially the second half. Where has that been all year Chicago? The Bears are just an entirely different team when at home…It’s Devin Aromashadu’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it…Adrian Peterson has averaged just 3.3 YPC over the past six games, and his fumbling problem has become an epidemic. Thankfully, Peterson’s drastic improvement in the passing game has kept him as one of the four most valuable fantasy backs. But the YPC slump has been curious, especially with such a strong passing attack working in his favor. The small sample size is growing.

Bet on It

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 8-6-2, bringing my overall season record to 110-110-4. Like Jerry Seinfeld, I’m Even Steven entering Week 16. My best bet (KC) lost, making me 6-8-1 there on the year. Every single home team is favored this week until Sunday night’s game, and I really struggle with all these big spreads. Merry Christmas.

Chargers +3 at TITANS

BILLS +9 at Falcons

CHIEFS +14 at Bengals

Raiders +3 at BROWNS

SEAHAWKS +14 at Packers

Texans +3 at DOLPHINS

Panthers +7 at GIANTS

Jaguars +8 at PATRIOTS (Best Bet)

Buccaneers +14 at SAINTS

Ravens +2.5 at STEELERS

RAMS +14 at Cardinals

Lions +12 at 49ers

Broncos +7 at EAGLES

JETS +5.5 at Colts

Cowboys -7 at REDSKINS

Vikings -7 at BEARS

Comments: Pats are a sleeping giant and tough at home, whereas the Jags are frauds and extremely vulnerable on the road. That said, no best bet jumped out at me this week.

Podcast

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

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NFL Barometer

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Jerome Harrison, RB, CLE – Harrison and Chris Jennings have traded off as upgrades seemingly every other week for the past month, so Cleveland’s backfield usage is anything but predictable. After Harrison’s performance Sunday (286 rushing yards, three touchdowns), he should be the starter from here on out. The former Pac-10 leading rusher has always impressed when given the opportunity, averaging 5.2 YPC throughout his NFL career while showing good skills as a receiver as well. Poor blocking has held him back and kept him in the coaches’ doghouse, but at some point, Harrison needs to be given the chance to act as the Browns’ workhorse. Even if it came against a bad Chiefs’ rushing defense, Sunday’s outburst was truly impressive and a historically great day by the running back. It’s a shame Cleveland wasted so many carries on Jamal Lewis this season.

Maurice Morris, RB, DET
– Morris totaled 161 yards on just 22 touches last week against the Cardinals, immediately upgrading Detroit’s backfield. In fact, Morris’ 64-yard TD run provided a rare case of explosion previously missing from the Lions’ rushing attack, as Kevin Smith’s longest run of the season was 31 yards – his only carry that went for more than 20 yards on the year (217 rushing attempts). Morris is a former second round pick, but that was way back in 2002, and he’s basically a career journeyman without much long-term upside. Still, his performance Sunday highlighted what was missing from Detroit’s running game all year, so the team really needs to address the position during the offseason. Morris isn’t a terrible flex start for those desperate in Week 16, but his matchup in San Francisco doesn’t look great on paper.

Steve Smith, WR, CAR – Over the last three weeks, Smith has racked up 318 receiving yards with two touchdowns, giving a glimpse of the kind of stats he could compile with even mediocre play from his quarterback. Smith’s 2009 season will no doubt go down as a disappointment (although he could still finish with the second-highest TD total of his career), but that just means he could come at something of a discount at fantasy drafts next year. All six of his touchdowns this season have come over the past eight games.

Michael Bush, RB, OAK – Bush ran for 133 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries Sunday (7.4 YPC) in Denver, and few if any fantasy owners benefitted. That’s because coach Tom Cable has refused to give Bush much of an opportunity this season, as he’d been given a total of eight carries over the previous four games combined, despite Bush’s 5.0 YPC mark on the year. In fact, he only got an opportunity Sunday because starter Justin Fargas tweaked a knee. Fargas has gotten just 3.8 YPC this season and is an underwhelming back, and while Darren McFadden remains a factor, he’s better suited as a change-of-pace RB and not one who runs between the tackles. Bush clearly looks like Oakland’s best running back, but it remains to be seen if the coaching staff ever agrees.

Eli Manning, QB, NYG – Over the past three games, Manning has gotten 10.1 YPA with an 8:1 TD:INT ratio – all against division rivals with strong secondaries, so he’s currently playing some of the best football of his career. If you go back further, Manning has posted a 13:3 TD:INT ratio over the past six games. His current 8.1 YPA mark is by far a career-high (previous best was 6.8), and his 26 touchdown passes are already more than he’s ever had in a season with two games left on the schedule. Who knows what his final numbers would have looked like had a foot injury not affected his play in the middle of the year. With three young wide receivers fast developing into potential stars, Manning’s fantasy outlook has never looked better.

Jermichael Finley, TE, GB – Over the past three games, Finley has racked up 21 catches for 223 yards and three scores. His knee that has hampered him for much of the season still isn’t even 100 percent, so imagine the type of numbers he could put up in 2010 while fully healthy and entering just his third year in the league. Having Aaron Rodgers throwing to him doesn’t hurt either. Finley should probably be viewed as a top-five tight end entering 2010, while Rodgers is likely to go in the second round of most drafts.

FALLERS

Reggie Wayne, WR, IND – Wayne is coming off a big game last week (132 yards, one TD), topping 50 receiving yards for the first time since Week 11. Still, there’s no guarantee the Colts don’t start resting their star players in Week 16, and even if Wayne does play a full complement of snaps Sunday, he’ll likely be shadowed by Darrelle Revis this week. In seven games against Andre Johnson, Steve Smith, Marques Colston, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss this season, Revis has limited them to 32 catches for 179 yards and one touchdown combined. Wayne is at least worth considering benching Week 16 in fantasy leagues.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR – Williams cost a lot of fantasy teams their league last week, when he left Sunday’s game for good after gaining just 13 rushing yards on six carries. Williams aggravated an ankle sprain that has been bothering him for the past few weeks, and salt was poured in the wound watching Jonathan Stewart tear it up afterward (123 yards, two touchdowns). Williams has shown improvement as a receiver this season, and his 5.2 YPC mark remains impressive, but he hasn’t received 20 carries in a game since Week 9 and has been given that amount just three times all year, so he’ll go down as a fantasy disappointment in 2009.

Arian Foster, RB, HOU – After gaining 88 yards in Week 14, Foster looked like Houston’s lead back and was a popular fantasy start Sunday, but a fumble led to an early benching and zero carries the rest of the way (he had also fumbled in practice earlier that week). Ryan Moats underwhelmed in his place (13 carries, 46 yards), so as long as he corrects the fumbling problem, coach Gary Kubiak is likely to give Foster another chance over the final two games of the season. Still, he’s a gamble in fantasy leagues.

Michael Turner, RB, ATL – Turner lasted just one carry when he returned to action last week, leaving after his high-ankle sprain was aggravated. He’s been useless in fantasy leagues over the past five games, as the injury has essentially ruined the second half of his season. Even if he’s able to suit up in Week 16, Turner is simply too risky to use with the chance of him exiting early once again.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, NYG – Jacobs is still searching for his first 100-yard rushing game this season, and he’s averaged just 3.2 YPC over the past five contests. Moreover, he lost goal-line work to Ahmad Bradshaw last week, and despite already playing in more games this year compared to last, his rushing scores have dropped from 15 to five.

Brady Quinn, QB, CLE – Quinn’s season is finished after Cleveland placed him on IR with a foot injury. He got just 3.9 YPA with a 0:2 TD:INT ratio in his final game of the year, so he didn’t exactly leave on a high note. Quinn finished 2009 with a paltry 5.2 YPA mark and an 8:7 TD:INT ratio over nine starts, so it’s safe to assume the Browns will take a hard look at addressing the quarterback position during the offseason.

The Scoop

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

At home this season, David Garrard has posted a 12:5 TD:INT ratio, but when on the road, he’s recorded just a 1:2 TD:INT ratio. There wasn’t a big discrepancy entering 2009, so it’s likely an anomaly (albeit a season long one), but it’s worth noting nevertheless. Mike Sims-Walker’s stats have been directly affected by Garrard’s splits as a result…Dallas Clark’s five touchdowns over a five-day span probably led to a bunch of his fantasy owners still being alive come Week 16…Reggie Wayne ended his mini slump in a big way Thursday, but he’s worth considering benching in fantasy leagues this week. There’s a chance he’s rested some come Sunday, but even more worrisome, Darrelle Revis is likely to shadow him all game. It’s a big concern for Wayne’s fantasy owners.

What a performance by the Cowboys. This is still a vulnerable squad, especially outdoors, but Dallas is also capable of beating any team in football when they play their “A” game. Hard to believe DeMarcus Ware was carted off the field just six days earlier…What’s up with the horrible kicking this season?…The Wade Phillips blank stare from the sidelines is easily one of my five favorite things of the 2009 NFL year. Sometimes I rewind them on DVR multiple times. It never gets old. It looks like he’s trying to do long division in his head or something…The Saints have actually been outscored over the past three weeks…Over his last four games, Tony Romo has gotten 8.5 YPA with an 8:0 TD:INT ratio, recording a 111.9 QB rating over that span. Not this season of course, but in many others he’d be a legit MVP candidate.

Over the Browns’ three wins in 2009, their quarterbacks have combined for 18-for-53 (33.9%) for 179 yards (3.4 YPA) and a 0:3 TD:INT ratio. Josh “take it to the” Cribbs is pretty ridiculous. He deserves a huge payday this offseason. Best kick returner of all-time?…For those who gambled and started Dwayne Bowe during his first game back from suspension, the end result was disappointing, but the decision wasn’t necessarily misguided considering he received a team-high 10 targets and immediately went back to being KC’s No. 1 option in the passing game. Still, rust played a factor, as he dropped three passes (then again, he does that even without time off), one of which was a sure touchdown…The back-and-forth between who to use between Chris Jennings and Jerome Harrison has to go down as one of the most frustrating aspects of the year, at least during crunch time. Harrison’s performance Sunday was one for the ages, and he was highly unlikely to be in any fantasy lineups. It may have come against a bad Chiefs’ run defense, but Harrison has always impressed (other than in pass protection) when given the opportunity. What a joke that Cleveland wasted so many carries on Jamal Lewis earlier this year. There’s no guarantee what Eric Mangini will do, but if I own Harrison, there’s no way I’m not playing him at home against Oakland in Week 16…Did you see the final play of the game Sunday? At the 26-yard line, Matt Cassel dropped back and waited about 5-10 seconds and threw basically what amounted to a hail mary that ended up hitting the field goal post. Did he think he was at the 50-yard line? Truly bizarre (and pathetic). I hope he watched Ben Roethlisberger during Pittsburgh’s final play later that day…If Kansas City doesn’t bring in any competition and Jamaal Charles stays durable over the final two games, how high does he go in fantasy drafts in 2010? Second round? Higher? His late season schedule has been favorable, but remember, he’s doing all his damage running behind an already bad offensive line that was missing its left guard and right tackle last week.

I’m all for players gutting it out and playing hurt, but Michael Turner needs to learn when it’s too soon to return to action, if only to save fantasy owners from headaches. He could be a steal if he falls to the end of the first round in drafts next year because of his injury-riddled second half this season…The Jets are a quarterback away from being one of the best teams in the NFL. Of course, that’s the most important position on the field. Hopefully Mark Sanchez takes a big leap next year…Darrelle Revis is unbelievable (no clue why he wasn’t guarding Roddy White in man coverage when the Falcons had 3rd-and-9 with 2:15 left in the fourth quarter), and it’s almost to the point where fantasy owners need to bench clear No. 1 WRs when facing him, no matter the name. In eight games against Andre Johnson, Steve Smith, Marques Colston, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Roddy White this season, Revis has held them to 35 catches for 196 yards and one touchdown combined. There isn’t a more valuable defensive player in football.

The Dolphins’ defense has allowed 8.1 YPA this year (third highest) and have given up 15 scores on the ground (bottom-10). On offense, their 20 rushing scores lead the league, but the passing attack has averaged just 203.6 yards per game with a 12:15 TD:INT ratio, so on paper this team hardly looks like a playoff contender. In reality, they seem to always find a way to be in the game on Sundays, as they are clearly better than the numbers suggest…What a catch by Brian Hartline. One of the better plays of the 2009 season…If it wasn’t abundantly clear already, it is now: Chris Johnson is the No. 1 pick in fantasy leagues in 2010. Hands down…I’m a Jeff Fisher fan, but there’s no excuse for what he did Sunday. With Miami pinned at their own 2-yard line with 56 seconds left in the fourth quarter, he decided not to use any of his three timeouts, opting for overtime instead of potentially forcing the Dolphins to punt deep out of their own end zone.

Tom Brady has a 4:6 TD:INT ratio over the past four games, although with a 7.5 YPA mark and just one sack over that span, he hasn’t been truly awful. Look for a strong finish to the season, with a home game against the Jaguars this week followed by a trip to Houston afterward…The Bills rely on their ground game and secondary to win games, but with Brian Brohm taking over QB duties, the team could be in big trouble Sunday. The Falcons defense suddenly becomes a viable fantasy option in Week 16.

Maurice Morris sure made Kevin Smith look bad Sunday, as his 64-yard TD was easily the longest run by a Lions’ back this season. In fact, Kevin Smith only had one rush for more than 20 yards all year, his long of 31 yards. Morris did so during a game when two Detroit offensive lineman were benched. The Lions really need to address the RB position during the offseason…With constant double teams and bad quarterback play, Calvin Johnson really has odds stacked against him, not to mention he’s playing on a banged up knee as well. He’s been a massive fantasy disappointment this year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a bargain in 2010…Beanie Wells remains an injury-risk and still needs to improve in pass protection, as a receiver and with ball security, but man is he a terrific running back with the ball in his hands. He’s a top-10 start in Week 16, and I might be willing to spend a second round pick on him in 2010. If he’s available later, all the better.

Steven Jackson has already played in more games this year than either of the past two campaigns, showing real toughness fighting through a painful back injury in a lost Rams’ season. The four touchdowns have been a real disappointment, but he’s also on pace to finish with 1,914 total yards playing for a St. Louis team that has averaged an NFL-low 11.4 points per game. He’ll once again be worth a mid-first round pick in fantasy leagues next year…Ultimately, those who started Arian Foster last week were burned, but if not for a fumble on the opening drive, he likely would have had a nice game. What’s with Texans’ backs and fumbling this season?

I’m not sure what was my favorite moment of the Raiders/Broncos game Sunday, Gus Johnson comparing JaMarcus Russell to Johnny Unitas, or Greg Papa’s touchdown call…If there’s one thing Oakland does well, it’s kick. Shane Lechler continues to be the best punter in the league averaging a whopping 51.5 yards per punt (the highest in NFL history, and yes, he also leads the NFL with a 44.2 net), while Sebastian Janikowski leads the NFL with five FG makes from 50-plus yards, and his only three misses all season are from 45, 57 and 66 yards out (he also ranks in the top-10 in touchbacks)…Why did it take Justin Fargas tweaking his knee for Michael Bush to get carries? Like Jerome Harrison, Justin Forsett and Jamaal Charles, it’s simply maddening how coaches refuse to give carries to superior backups, electing to give them to inferior veterans instead. Infuriating really. I hope they all get fired…While Mike Lombardi, Bill Simmons and Josh McDaniels would argue the opposite, it appears Knowshon Moreno (like most running backs) wasn’t worth a top-15 pick in the draft. He’s struggled in short-yardage situations and has yet to have one rush of 40-plus yards all year. In fact, he has just two carries that have gone for more than 20 yards over 224 rushes this year, and the Broncos’ offensive line is good. Journeyman Correll Buckhalter has averaged 5.3 YPC compared to Moreno’s 3.9 on the year. Why would any team spend an early pick on a running back unless he’s a true (and rare) game changer? Moreno can still be a plenty valuable fantasy back, but Denver made a mistake taking him so early as well as giving up a first round pick in 2010 to draft the disappointing Alphonso Smith in the second round last year.

Nice to see Carson Palmer still has a pulse, as Sunday’s game was his first 300-yard effort of the season and also his first multiple TD game since Week 7…For owners who survived Cedric Benson’s dud last week, they should be rewarded big time in Week 16 with a home game against a Chiefs’ front seven that has allowed an NFL-high 4.8 YPC and 16 rushing scores on the year…With 58 yards through the air Sunday, LaDainian Tomlinson nearly doubled his receiving output on the season. Fantasy owners would be wise to concentrate more on his 3.3 YPC average than his 10 touchdowns at next year’s draft table.

Over seven games on the road this year, Jay Cutler has thrown 20 interceptions. No other quarterback in the NFL has more than 20 interceptions in the 2009 season…Don’t tell Ray Rice owners there isn’t such a thing as too good of a matchup. He’s totaled 323 yards (and 8.7 YPC) over the past two games, but thanks to lopsided scores (they’ve won 79-10 over that span), he’s played essentially just five quarters, so it could have been so much more.

Despite playing for an offense that has averaged the second-most points in the league this year (28.5), there simply isn’t a running back on the Eagles worth using in fantasy leagues. That’s even more true if Brian Westbrook (concussion) returns in Week 16…Conversely, Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree and the 49ers’ defense are all worth using at home against the Lions this week…I’m beginning to think you might want to devote some attention to DeSean Jackson in the secondary. How did 49 players get drafted before him in 2008?

Jermichael Finley should enter next year as a top-five tight end, while Aaron Rodgers is likely to be gone by the end of the second round. I still don’t know what to make of Ryan Grant…Ben Roethlisberger has completed 67.7 percent of his passes with an 8.6 YPA mark (third-highest in NFL) this year, also throwing 22 touchdowns over 13 games. The Steelers have been hugely disappointing in 2009, but it certainly hasn’t been his fault. What a terrific pass on the final play of the game Sunday.

Matt Hasselbeck has posted a 5:8 TD:INT ratio over the past six games, and the QB position has become a real concern in Seattle. Where has that been all season John Carlson?…Thinking back on his early ADP, it’s pretty crazy that last week Derrick Ward’s 67 yards rushing were his season-high. He also hasn’t had a rushing touchdown since Week 1. I guess that’s what happens when in a timeshare on a bad team.

If DeAngelo Williams owners weren’t already burned this year, they are now after Sunday’s early exit. And if that wasn’t already frustrating enough, it couldn’t have helped watching Jonathan Stewart score two touchdowns and become the first RB to run for 100 yards against the Vikings in 37 games in Williams’ place….Brett Favre has five touchdown passes over four outdoor games this year. He has 22 scores through the air over 10 games indoors. And am I supposed to be surprised he has more control than Brad Childress?…Steve Smith was awesome Sunday night, but I was most impressed by his postgame interview when he established the “rules and regulations.”

Over the last four games, Fred Davis has 17 catches for 211 yards and five touchdowns, so while he’s still a major work in progress as a blocker, it should be interesting to see how he coexists with Chris Cooley next season…It’s so easy to criticize after the fact, but that fake field goal was pretty humorous. Might want to block the oncoming defensive linemen…Over the past three games, Eli Manning has gotten 10.1 YPA with an 8:1 TD:INT ratio – all against division rivals with strong secondaries, so he’s currently playing some of the best football of his career. If you go back further, Manning has posted a 13:3 TD:INT ratio over the past six games. His current 8.1 YPA mark is by far a career-high (previous best was 6.8), and his 26 touchdown passes are already more than he’s ever had in a season with two games left on the schedule. Who knows what his final numbers would have looked like had a foot injury not affected his play in the middle of the year. With three young wide receivers fast developing into potential stars, Manning’s fantasy outlook has never looked better.

Bet on It

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 11-5, finally finding some success. My season record now stands at a more palatable 102-104-2. My best bet (the Skins) won easily, bringing me to 6-7-1 there overall. Let’s see if I can keep it up:

COLTS -3 at Jaguars

COWBOYS +7.5 at Saints

Bears +11 at RAVENS

PATRIOTS -7 at Buffalo

Cardinals -12 at LIONS

Browns +1.5 at CHIEFS (Best Bet)

Falcons +6 at JETS

49ers +9 at Eagles

Texans -12.5 at RAMS

DOLPHINS +4 at Titans

Raiders +14 at BRONCOS

Bengals +6.5 at CHARGERS

Packers +1 at STEELERS

BUCCANEERS +6.5 at Seahawks

Vikings -9 at PANTHERS

Giants -3 at REDSKINS

Comments: No best bet jumped out at me this week, but I’m going with the Chiefs. Arrowhead is never an easy place to play in December, and this line suggests Cleveland is the better team, which isn’t necessarily true despite how both have played recently. The return of Dwayne Bowe should boost a sagging KC offense, and Jamaal Charles should have a big game against a poor Browns’ defense.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Chris Wells, RB, ARI – Wells has 28 carries over the last two weeks while previous starter Tim Hightower has been limited to just eight. In fact, Hightower was given just two rushing attempts last Monday and none after he lost his fourth fumble of the season early in the game. Wells would later lose a fumble himself, so he’s not the safest bet for a full workload moving forward, but since he’s really impressed when given the opportunity (5.3 YPC last week against a tough 49ers run defense), he’s the favorite to act as Arizona’s lead back from here on out, especially with Hightower dealing with a thumb injury that has affected his ability to pass protect. Wells is a bruising runner with good speed, playing in an offense that has an elite passing attack. He’s a fine RB2 start against a soft Lions’ defense in Week 15.

Chris Jennings, RB, CLE – The back-and-forth between Jennings and Jerome Harrison as Cleveland’s lead back has been maddening, but it seems Jennings’ quiet Week 14 was more due to a shoulder injury than the team’s confidence in Harrison. Jennings dominated touches last week, and while he’s not an elite back (3.7 YPC), he was able to score against a strong Steelers’ front seven, and his 20 carries were the most important number. Assuming Jennings remains the Browns’ lead back, he should be worth using in Weeks 15 and 16, when Cleveland faces the Chiefs and Raiders, who have allowed a combined 33 rushing scores on the year.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, DEN – With Correll Buckhalter (ankle) out this week, Moreno should be a top-10 fantasy start. He’s banged up some himself, but he will likely be asked to carry the load regardless, and in a home matchup against an Oakland defense that has allowed 4.6 YPC and an NFL-high 20 rushing TDs, big results should follow. In cold conditions and as 14-point favorites, Denver should reach 30-35 rushing attempts with ease.

Arian Foster, RB, HOU – After Ryan Moats lost yet another fumble last week while continuing to struggle in pass protection, Foster was given the chance to act as Houston’s lead ballcarrier. He responded by totaling 88 yards on 17 touches, and although the team has struggled running the ball in 2009, any primary back in a potent Houston offense is worth using in fantasy leagues. With an upcoming matchup against the Rams, Foster isn’t a bad gamble as a flex play this week.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, K.C. – Bowe will return from his four-game suspension in Week 15, and fortunately, he returned to practice in top shape, so he should immediately slide right back into the starting lineup. With few other options in the passing game, expect Bowe to get targeted heavily, and KC gets a Cleveland secondary this week that has allowed the second-most YPA (8.2) in the NFL this season.

Laurence Maroney, RB, N.E.
– Maroney eased concerns about his decreasing role in New England’s backfield last week, dominating the carries (22) while Sammy Morris saw just six rushing attempts and lost a fumble. Sunday’s matchup in Buffalo sets up for a run-heavy affair, as the forecast points to snowy conditions, and while the Bills possess an elite secondary (6.2 YPA, 10:25 TD:INT ratio), their run defense has been poor this season (NFL-high 4.9 YPC, 17 TDs). Maroney is a solid RB2 option in fantasy leagues in Week 15.

Jason Campbell, QB, WAS – Over the last three games, Campbell has totaled eight touchdowns while getting 7.7 YPA. His 12 interceptions are already a career-high, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially for fantasy purposes, as that number suggests he’s been far more willing to take risks downfield this season. Campbell is currently playing the best football of his career, and the Giants’ secondary has played poorly in 2009 (7.1 YPA, 23:10 TD:INT ratio), so he’s a viable fantasy play in Week 15. The same goes for Fred Davis, who has scored four touchdowns over the past three games. New York has also been the second worst team defending tight ends this year as well.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, NYG – Nicks had a couple of ugly drops last week, but he also made up for the gaffes with 110 receiving yards and a touchdown. He’s finally getting more snaps than Mario Manningham, and while Steve Smith is still the favorite to lead the team in receptions, Nicks is clearly New York’s most explosive and talented wide receiver. Even during just his sophomore year next season, he’ll have quite a bit of fantasy upside.

FALLERS

Kevin Smith, RB, DET – Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, and his status for the beginning of the 2010 season is in doubt as well. Smith played admirably through a painful shoulder injury for much of the year, but with a 3.4 YPC mark and an inability to make plays on his own, his role as Detroit’s feature back was going to be in question even before the injury. Smith lacked breakaway speed before shredding his knee, and it’s unlikely he’ll be 100 percent until 2011, so expect the Lions to address the running back position early in next year’s draft. Smith’s value in keeper leagues has taken a huge hit.

Carson Palmer, QB, CIN – Palmer somehow threw for just 94 yards last week, and he’s tossed just three touchdowns over the past five games. He hasn’t reached even 225 passing yards in a game since Week 7, as the loss of Chris Henry has really hurt. Palmer insists he’s fully healthy, but even so, this is a passing attack to avoid in fantasy leagues. He can’t be trusted in Week 15, even in a possible shootout in San Diego. Chad Johnson, meanwhile, has reached 70 receiving yards in a game just once since Week 7 as well, so Palmer’s struggles have affected Ochocinco as well.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, JAX – Sims-Walker was able to play through a calf injury last week despite being listed as doubtful, but it was clear he wasn’t close to 100 percent. He has just two catches for 18 yards combined over the past two games and has reached 50 yards receiving in a game just once since Week 9, as opposing defenses have started to double-team the only real threat in Jacksonville’s passing attack. Sims-Walker should be closer to full strength this week against the Colts, but Indy’s secondary has allowed just 6.3 YPA with a 13:15 TD:INT ratio this year, so he’s not the safest fantasy start in Week 15.

LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI – Despite early optimism this week, it appears Brian Westbrook (concussion) is unlikely to return to the field in Week 15. However, McCoy has been consistently losing touches to Leonard Weaver, as the Eagles’ backfield has become a full-blown timeshare. McCoy isn’t necessarily someone who must be benched in fantasy leagues since he contributes as a receiver, but he’s removed from goal-line situations and faces a San Francisco defense this week that has allowed just 3.7 YPC on the year.

Nate Burleson, WR, SEA – Burleson’s season appears to be finished after he suffered a high-ankle sprain last week, as the wide receiver once again succumbed to injury. Burleson’s 2009 fantasy season was OK, but ultimately, a declining Matt Hasselbeck and crumbling offensive line really hampered Seattle’s passing attack.

Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ – Greene has likely cost himself carries moving forward after losing his second fumble over the past three games last week. In fact, it was already his third fumble lost over just 71 rushing attempts this season. He still looks like the future main back in New York, and his role won’t completely disappear this season as the RB2 on a run-heavy team, but the Jets are in a playoff race and can’t afford any turnovers with such a conservative offense, so expect Thomas Jones to continue to dominate the carries over the rest of the year.

Percy Harvin, WR, MIN – Harvin no doubt has a bright future in the league, but his migraine headaches have become pretty worrisome. The ailment kept him out of Week 14, and his status for Sunday remains cloudy as well. Harvin has been dealing with the problem on-and-off for quite some time, and with no real solution in sight, it’s a long-term concern since they could crop up at any moment.

The Scoop

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

The weather for Thursday’s game wasn’t conducive for passing, but clearly Pittsburgh’s problems run deeper, evidenced by Ben Roethlisberger’s eight sacks. His sack-adjusted YPA was 4.4. Hines Ward’s toughness is admirable, but sometimes it’s actually better to sit than play through injury…The Browns have won two games this season, and over those two victories, their quarterbacks have a combined eight completions for 3.1 YPA…Good thing Cleveland had such a tough matchup on paper, because if not, there would have likely been a lot of frustrated Jerome Harrison owners. Chris Jennings, who scored the first rushing touchdown by a Browns’ running back all season last week, now appears to be the lead back. Especially after what happened last week, there will be safer starts, but Jennings isn’t a bad flex play gamble this week against the Chiefs (as well as in Week 16 versus the Raiders). It’s now clear a shoulder injury limited his playing time in Week 13, not the coaches’ fondness for Harrison…Speaking of Cleveland running backs, it sure would be interesting to see how Josh Cribbs would handle the position. He’s not all speed, as he also possesses terrific tackle breaking ability and is stronger than he looks. Over 42 rushing attempts this year, he’s averaged 7.3 YPC.

Pierre Thomas owners finally got their wish Sunday (no Mike Bell) and in a plus matchup to boot, but after just 13 carries (although a solid 100 combined yards) with no touchdowns, he continues to find ways to disappoint, as Reggie Bush scored two touchdowns out of the backfield.  Despite missing essentially the first two games of the season (and starting in only five), Thomas is on pace to finish the year with 1,188 total yards and nine touchdowns, but with the fourth-best YPC mark (5.3) in the NFL and playing for the No. 1 ranked offense in football, it could have been so much more…New Orleans’ stats as a secondary remain impressive overall, but all those injuries have started to catch up to them, as they somehow allowed Chris Redman to complete 67.6 percent of his passes for 8.9 YPA last week…Roddy White has been getting targeted like crazy recently, and I’d almost never recommend benching a player of his caliber during the fantasy playoffs, but with an upcoming matchup against Darrelle Revis, it’s certainly worth considering.

Peyton Manning has thrown nine interceptions over the past five games. In fact, his current total (14) matches his highest since 2002, and there’s still three games left to play. Of course, his completion percentage (68.1) is a career-best, and he’s on pace to finish with 36 TD passes, which would be the second-highest total of his career. And it’s not like the interceptions are preventing Indy from winning, that’s for sure…Fitting that Terrell Owens’ NFL-record for catches in a game was broken by “Baby T.O.” Marshall wasn’t a bad start in PPR formats last week. But what about Eddie Royal, who hauled in one catch for three yards? I obviously had too high expectations for him personally this year, but even if you weren’t overly bullish on Royal in fantasy formats, he’s still got to be considered one of the bigger busts in 2009. He hasn’t missed a game and is the No. 2 receiver for a team that’s 8-5 yet is on pace to finish with 42 catches for 390 yards and zero receiving touchdowns, which has to be historically awful.

Fantasy owners can hardly complain, but considering Matt Schaub had 336 passing yards and Andre Johnson had 184 receiving yards at halftime, the second half of Sunday’s game was quite a letdown…It’s that time of year again, when Houston beats up inferior opponents while at home and looking exceedingly impressive while doing so, just in time to barely miss the playoffs and give incentive to predict a postseason berth in 2010…Arian Foster gained just 2.6 YPC Sunday, but he led the team in carries and also added 54 receiving yards. With Ryan Moats losing another fumble and still struggling in pass protection, Foster could be the feature back from here on out, at least if you believe Gary Kubiak’s high praise of the rookie runner. He’s certainly not without risk, but like Quinton Ganther last week, he’s an upside (albeit unknown) flex play this week against the Rams.

With 22 carries and no fumbles (Sammy Morris lost one), Laurence Maroney appears to remain the Pats’ lead back moving forward. It’s big news heading into the all-important Week 15 against the Bills, who have a fantastic secondary (6.2 YPA, 10:25 TD:INT ratio) yet are extremely vulnerable on the ground (NFL-high 5.0 YPC, 17 rushing scores are third most in league)…Randy Moss may or may not have been dogging it last week (it seemed like he was), but there’s no way he can be benched this week in fantasy leagues, even with a difficult matchup on paper…The same goes for DeAngelo Williams, who is facing a Minnesota defense that has allowed an NFL-low three rushing touchdowns in 2009. Williams hasn’t scored since Week 9, but he remains a huge threat regardless (averaging 5.5 YPC since his last score), and with Jonathan Stewart once again battling his toe injury, Williams should be looking at an increased workload Sunday.

With a 1:8 TD:turnover ratio over the past three games, Matt Cassel is really struggling and making all Chiefs fans regret the big contract. The return of Dwayne Bowe should help, and his recent schedule hasn’t been easy, but with 41 sacks over 12 games, Cassel has been a bust thus far…Speaking of struggling quarterbacks, Ryan Fitzpatrick has posted a 1:4 TD:turnover ratio over the past two games, with a 4.3 YPA mark. Buffalo simply must address its QB situation in the draft…Jamaal Charles really isn’t built to be a workhorse, but there’s absolutely no denying how electric he is when given the opportunity. Since taking over full RB duties five games ago, he’s totaled 570 yards with five touchdowns. Consider him a top-10 fantasy back Sunday at home against the Browns.

I’ve compared Kevin Smith to Kevin Jones a few times this year, and it really is unfortunate just how apt that’s come to be…What a TD catch by Derrick Mason last week; one of the better plays of the 2009 season…Ray Rice’s day was one of the rare examples of having too good of a matchup. He had a legitimate chance of totaling 400 yards if not for the lopsided score…Willis McGahee has had a truly weird season, as he’s scored 11 touchdowns yet is on pace to finish with just 521 combined yards, rendering him unusable in fantasy leagues.

Carson Palmer and the Cincy passing attack was worrisome before last week, but now, it’s officially time to panic. Palmer has just three touchdown tosses over the past five games with a 6.2 YPA mark over that span. The loss of Chris Henry has hurt, and Palmer swears he’s fully healthy, but whatever the reason, the Bengals’ passing attack is the team’s anchor, which is pretty ironic…The loss of Domata Peko has certainly been a blow to the Bengals’ run defense, but Adrian Peterson was still held to just 3.7 YPC last week (although with two touchdowns). Peterson has averaged just 3.2 YPC over the past four games (three of them at home), but his improvement as a receiver has really helped…Brett Favre has a 17:2 TD:INT ratio at home this season.

The Jets’ gameplan was about as conservative as it gets Sunday. With Kellen Clemens at QB and a dominant defense, the strategy certainly made sense. If Mark Sanchez returns in Week 15, facing an Atlanta secondary that has allowed 7.9 YPA and a 23:8 TD:INT ratio (and doesn’t have Aqib Talib like the Bucs did last week), Braylon Edwards isn’t necessarily a bad start….With yet another lost fumble, Shonn Greene’s fantasy value is all but gone this year, even in deep leagues as a flex on a run-heavy team. Thomas Jones just continues to get it done…Josh Freeman has a 3:11 TD:INT ratio over the past four games, but he’s faced three elite secondaries over that span and has gotten 7.6 YPA away from home this year, so don’t be shocked if he’s able to move the ball in Seattle this week.

Ricky Williams took a beating in a physical game last week and was fortunate to lose just one of his three fumbles. Still, he’s been able to withstand a full workload and continues to act like an RB1 since Ronnie Brown went down…Whether it’s Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo, Ted Ginn or even Brian Hartline, trying to predict who will be Miami’s No. 1 receiver in a given week is a fool’s errand…Mike Sims-Walker is clearly playing hurt. He’s been a great story in 2009, but he’s a risky fantasy start Thursday against the Colts.

Aaron Rodgers didn’t exactly pick an ideal time to have his worst fantasy game of the season, although Ryan Grant’s best fantasy performance of 2009 had a lot to do with it. Rodgers should bounce back in Week 15 against a Steelers’ secondary that badly misses Troy Polamalu…Matt Forte has reached 100 yards rushing in just one game this season, and his current 3.4 YPC mark is the second lowest among RBs with at least 150 rushing attempts (LaDainian Tomlinson is last with 3.2 YPC). Forte’s activity as a receiver has prevented him from being a complete bust this year, but with just four touchdowns, his ADP will take a major dive in 2010.

When an already bad team is relegated to its third string QB, the result is an unsurprising 47-7 blowout. Keith Null, by the way, had Ryan Leaf as his quarterback coach while playing at West Texas A&M…Not much more can be said about Chris Johnson at this point, but how about his performance at home this season? He’s averaged 7.1 YPC with 11 touchdowns over six games. Good thing he has two more over Weeks 15 and 16 for his already spoiled fantasy owners. To me, it looks like there will be a clear tier 1 in 2010 fantasy drafts: 1) Chris Johnson 2) Adrian Peterson 3) Maurice Jones-Drew 4) Ray Rice. After that, it gets murky.

Darren McFadden isn’t likely to go down as big of a bust as Darrius Heyward-Bey or JaMarcus Russell, as he’s got good speed and is dangerous in open space, but he’s clearly a limited player, lacking vision and incapable of running between the tackles and too often going down at first contact. His 84 yards receiving on just three catches were impressive last week, but only Glen Coffee (2.6) has a worse YPC mark among qualified rushers this year than McFadden (3.1)…I personally rolled the dice with Quinton Ganther in two of my fantasy leagues last week, which says two things: 1) I didn’t have a solid flex play despite making the playoffs and 2) the NFL changes so much on a weekly basis, while preaching “start the studs who brought you to the dance” usually makes sense, it’s also OK to reevaluate things based on matchups and variables, even if it involves an unknown commodity. Roles play such a big part in fantasy football…I’m beginning to think JaMarcus Russell might not have been worth the No. 1 pick…Don’t look now, but Jason Campbell has totaled eight touchdowns over the past three weeks. With a 65.2 completion percentage and a 7.4 YPA, he’s actually played pretty well this season. No playoff contender should welcome a matchup with the Redskins right now.

The Chargers have by far the worst rushing offense in the NFL (3.2 YPC) and a middling defense yet currently look like the AFC’s second best team, and Philip Rivers is mostly to blame. Over the past five games, Rivers has posted an 8:1 TD:INT ratio with a whopping 10.1 YPA mark…Nice to see Vincent Jackson back on the scene, but don’t discount what Malcom Floyd did last week either. His final stats were misleading, as he also drew multiple pass interference calls on deep balls…Over his career, Tony Romo’s numbers have really decreased in December, but over two games in the month this year, he’s recorded a 5:0 TD:INT ratio with a 111.9 QB rating, so he’s hardly to blame for the team’s back-to-back losses. And with upcoming games in New Orleans and Washington, the schedule certainly hasn’t been friendly…Marion Barber hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards rushing since Week 2, but it’s been his lack of touchdowns that’s truly been puzzling (he hasn’t scored since Week 8). He remains a punishing goal-line back on a potent offense, so consider it an aberration when evaluating Barber moving forward.

On a per play basis, the Eagles rank in the top-10 in all four phases of football this year (YPA, YPC, YPA against, YPC against). Donovan McNabb is playing at an elite level and might have his best complement of receivers ever. This is a dangerous team…If I’m an opposing defensive coordinator, I’m paying attention to DeSean Jackson. What an explosive player…What a great sequence of events on one specific drive for Hakeem Nicks, who dropped a sure long touchdown and then had another deep ball fall through his hands later, only to follow that with a terrific 68-yard TD reception. The physical tools are there for him to be a true No. 1 wide receiver eventually…LeSean McCoy, who has four capital letters in his name, has seen his fantasy value really take a hit recently, with Leonard Weaver’s emergence and the possible return of Brian Westbrook as well.

The Cardinals have been hit-or-miss all season, but a flat performance from a team that has all but locked up its division coming off an impressive win against the Vikings wasn’t exactly shocking, and seven fumbles further illustrate the flukiness of the loss. That said, the 49ers are better than their record indicates…Alex Smith continues to be something of an enigma, but his underwhelming numbers Monday would have looked a whole lot better if not for multiple drops by Vernon Davis. Of course, Davis remained productive nevertheless, and when talking about fantasy steals of 2009, he’s got to be toward the top of the list…After Tim Hightower lost a fumble on his second rushing attempt, he didn’t receive a single carry the rest of the game. His thumb injury may have contributed, but with eight rushing attempts versus 28 from Beanie Wells over the past two games, it appears there has been a passing of the torch. A late fumble by Wells on Monday makes the situation less certain, but Wells really impressed beforehand against a stout 49ers’ front seven, so he’s a solid flex play in Week 15 against a Detroit defense that has allowed 4.5 YPC and 14 rushing scores on the year.

Bet on It

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week was ugly, as I went 5-11, including losing my best bet (Houston) as well. I’m now 91-99-2 on the year, which is pretty frustrating. Let’s try to right the ship this week, as weather starts to have a much bigger affect on outcomes.

Steelers -10 at BROWNS

Saints -10.5 at FALCONS

Lions +13.5 at RAVENS

PACKERS -3 at Bears

SEAHAWKS +6 at Texans

BRONCOS +7 at Colts

DOLPHINS +2.5 at Jaguars

BILLS pick ’em at Chiefs

BENGALS +6.5 at Vikings

Panthers +13.5 at PATRIOTS

Jets -3.5 at BUCCANEERS

Rams +13 at TITANS

REDSKINS (Best Bet) -1 at Raiders

CHARGERS +3 at Cowboys

EAGLES +1 at Giants

Cardinals -3.5 at 49ers

Comments: There are five games this week featuring essentially equal teams (Mia/Jax, Buf/KC, Was/Oak, SD/Dal, Phi/NYG), and for some reason, I backed the road team on all of them. While the other four were my least confident picks of the week (and I feel like I’m mostly backing the sucker side), the Redskins are my best bet. It’s a good time to sell-high on Oakland and buy-low on Washington, who’s simply better. Besides, the Raiders only show up when facing the best teams in the league.

Podcast

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Check it out.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Jerome Harrison, RB, CLE – While Cleveland coaches talked up Chris Jennings, he’s an undrafted and uninspiring back who is now dealing with a shoulder injury, so Jerome Harrison is the favorite to act as the team’s lead back from here on out. Harrison totaled 97 yards with two touchdowns on just 17 touches last week, and coach Eric Mangini even praised his pass protection, an area of Harrison’s game previously viewed as a major weakness. He’s averaged 4.7 YPC throughout his career and should also rack up receptions in the Browns’ dink-and-dunk offense. Harrison could make for a legitimate flex start during Weeks 14 and 15, when Cleveland faces Kansas City and Oakland, respectively.

Robert Meachem, WR, N.O. – Meachem has scored seven touchdowns over the past five games and is also seeing an increase in targets (he got 10 Sunday) in a terrific offense. The former first round pick is finally living up to his pedigree, and over the past four games, he has just 10 fewer receiving yards than Marques Colston. Drew Brees still spreads the wealth, but Meachem has become a viable flex option in fantasy leagues.

Jermichael Finley, TE, G.B. – Finley hauled in seven catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns Monday night and looked unguardable while doing so. If he’s truly over his knee injury (he briefly left Monday’s game after getting hit on the knee), he could be a force down the stretch, especially with Green Bay’s offensive line performing so much better (Finley won’t have to block nearly as much). The former third round pick was hyped quite a bit during the preseason, and it just took a bit longer than expected for him to live up to it. With his size and speed and with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, Finley should be treated as a top-10 tight end right now.

Antonio Bryant, WR, T.B. – There are no guarantees Bryant’s knee issues are truly behind him, but he’s racked up 207 receiving yards over the past two weeks. The latest game came against a very good Panthers’ secondary, and Bryant has averaged a remarkable 22.9 yards per catch over the past four contests, so his explosiveness has returned. Despite the interceptions, rookie Josh Freeman sure looks like a future star, and he’s developing a nice rapport with Bryant. His reemergence means Kellen Winslow’s value takes a hit, but Bryant is back to being fantasy relevant.

Devin Thomas, WR, WAS – Thomas broke out with seven catches, 100 yards and two touchdowns last week against a tough (albeit injured) Saints’ secondary. Not only was it the first time he’s reached the century mark in receiving yards during his career, it was the first time he had ever gotten 50 yards in a game during his two-year tenure in the league. The Redskins’ offense has played much better of late, so while Thomas shouldn’t suddenly be counted on in fantasy leagues, he’s definitely worth watching. It would hardly be the first time a receiver took a couple of years before the light went on.

Quinton Ganther, RB, WAS – Ganther has been named the starting running back for Week 14, with Rock Cartwright moving to the bench. It remains unclear how many carries that will truly result in, but the former seventh round pick averaged 5.8 YPC during his work last week. It would be risky starting him in the fantasy playoffs with such an uncertain role, but those who are desperate might want to think about using Ganther against a Raiders’ front seven that has allowed 4.6 YPC and an NFL-high 18 rushing scores on the year. Washington’s offense has really improved recently too.

Louis Murphy, WR, OAK – Murphy went off for 128 receiving yards with two touchdowns last week in Pittsburgh, and while there was no Troy Polamalu (knee), it’s still a tough Steelers’ secondary. Murphy was placed in the starting lineup only because Darrius Heyward-Bey injured his foot in practice Friday, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Heyward-Bey has been a massive disappointment, and while it’s understandable for a rookie WR to struggle, he has just nine receptions over 11 starts, which is truly awful. As a result, expect Murphy to see the field more moving forward, and it’s apparent Bruce Gradkowski trusts him. The Raiders may very well have found a steal with their fourth round pick.

FALLERS

Steve Slaton, RB, HOU – Slaton’s season is officially over after he was placed on IR Tuesday, as he’s continuing to deal with numbness stemming from a neck/shoulder injury. The early prognosis suggests it’s not career threatening, but it’s clear the problem is far more serious than the team originally let on. It’s a fitting end to a disappointing season by Slaton, and it’s safe to assume Houston won’t enter 2010 with him as their clear lead back. Slaton’s fantasy value took a big hit this year.

Matt Cassel, QB, K.C. – Cassel played so terribly last week, he was benched for Brodie Croyle, who has a career YPA mark of 5.4. Cassel is still the Chiefs’ starter, which is pretty much dictated by his huge contract if nothing else, but he’s been a bust during his first season in Kansas City. Over the past four games, he’s completed just 50.8 percent of his passes with a 3:4 TD:INT ratio and 63.4 QB rating. His 5.7 YPA mark on the season is simply unacceptable, and that number looks even worse when you consider Cassel has also taken a whopping 37 sacks over 11 games. A poor receiving corps and offensive line haven’t helped, but it’s clear New England’s system had a lot to do with Cassel’s success last year. His future as a starting NFL quarterback is in question.

Hines Ward, WR, PIT – Ward suffered a grade one hamstring tear Sunday and is highly questionable to play in Week 14, especially since Pittsburgh has a short week with Thursday’s game against the Browns. Ward is as tough as they come, but it looks like he may have to miss a game. Mike Wallace deserves a look in fantasy leagues as a result.

Laurence Maroney, RB, N.E. – Maroney entered last week having scored eight touchdowns over the previous six games, but with Sammy Morris back in action, he saw his lowest amount of rushing attempts (13) since Week 5. Maroney did receive more carries than any other Patriots back, but that included just two total touches in the second half, and Morris could cut more into the action the further he’s removed from injury. Moreover, Fred Taylor (ankle) is back practicing. Maroney has a very favorable matchup at home against the Panthers in Week 14, but with the uncertainty of how he’ll be used, he’s a risky fantasy start.

Justin Forsett, RB, SEA – Forsett picked a bad time to injure his quadriceps, as Julius Jones was immediately given 25 touches upon his return to the lineup. Forsett is no doubt the superior player, but he’s less than 100 percent, and it figures Seattle is going to stick with the veteran Jones. Forsett’s fantasy value has taken a big hit.

Matthew Stafford, QB, DET – Stafford (shoulder) has been ruled out for Week 14, which makes sense considering he’s been playing through a lot of pain, and Detroit has to travel to face a physical Baltimore defense Sunday. Stafford has thrown eight interceptions over the past three games, and his season completion percentage (53.3) leaves a lot to be desired, but he’s also shown flashes of promise, so the rookie QB can hardly be written off.

Mark Sanchez, QB, NYJ – Sanchez (knee) is going to miss Week 14, with Kellen Clemens getting the start instead. Sanchez might be able to return the week after, but his inability to slide is going to cost him at least one more game. Clemens will benefit from having a full week of practice with starter reps, and the matchup Sunday against the Bucs is highly favorable (7.7 YPA, 24 TDs allowed through the air), but Clemens is a huge downgrade for the Jets. He’s posted a 5:11 TD:INT ratio over his career and has consistently looked bad when given the opportunity. Downgrade both Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery as a result.

The Scoop

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Hard to fault Mark Sanchez for going head first to get that first down, but it’s pretty crazy that the play resulted in him having to leave the game after Joe Girardi was specifically brought in earlier that week to teach him how to slide. Sliding, by the way, often leaves the QB in an extremely vulnerable situation, and defenders often hit them anyway…That Braylon Edwards drop was one for the ages. Wow…If you own both Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch and are playing in your league’s first playoff game this week, good luck. I certainly don’t want any part of that decision. And it’s a very good matchup as well…I’m beginning to think Darrelle Revis is pretty good at covering receivers.

If the Rams ever properly address their quarterback situation (and they better during this year’s draft), Brandon Gibson could eventually become a real fantasy option. He looks like he’s going to be a very good player…Normally the running back position is overrated, but can you imagine this Rams team with Kenneth Darby and Samkon Gado in their backfield instead of Steven Jackson?…Of Jay Cutler’s 20 interceptions, 17 have come on the road.

If Antonio Bryant could ever put his knee issues behind him, he and Josh Freeman could form a deadly combo in the future. Don’t forget about Bryant at your draft table next year…The Bucs totaled 469 yards Sunday. And scored six points…Can you imagine the type of season either Jonathan Stewart or DeAngelo Williams would have if one were to miss significant time with an injury? Stewart owners aren’t exactly rooting for a quick return by Williams.

It seems crazy since he’s only averaged 3.3 YPC this season, but especially with Owen Daniels out, the Texans’ offense really misses Steve Slaton’s presence. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like he’s returning anytime soon either. Fantasy owners are stuck with the Ryan Moats/Chris Brown pu pu platter…Nice to see Matt Schaub fight through the pain and return to the field Sunday, but with just a 6:7 TD:INT ratio over the past five games, he’s been a disappointment. He’s really missed Daniels…If Jacksonville is able to beat the Dolphins at home this week, they’ll be 8-5, yet have been outscored by 48 points on the year. Please don’t make the playoffs Jaguars.

Eddie Royal is on pace to finish the season with 44 catches, 419 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. That’s not very good…Despite seeing 20 carries just once, Knowshon Moreno has rushed for at least 80 yards in each of the past four games, with a 5.2 YPC over that span. He’s starting to separate himself from Correll Buckhalter and is looking like a major fantasy factor down the stretch…Jamaal Charles lost another fumble Sunday, but really, who else are the Chiefs going to turn to?…To call Matt Cassel inaccurate would be an understatement. He missed a sure 60-yard touchdown early in last week’s game and has completed a pathetic 53.9 percent of his passes in 2009. He might be slightly overpaid.

How big of a disappointment has Donald Brown been this season? This year’s rookie class of running backs was just like last year’s. Only the opposite…Despite 91 drop backs, Vince Young has ran for just 24 yards on the ground over the past two games on eight rush attempts. Use those legs Young!…Chris Johnson’s 113 rushing yards Sunday was his lowest total since Week 5…Pierre Garcon has 307 receiving yards over the past three games. Reggie Wayne has 156 yards over that span. Fun fact: Garcon means “servant” or “waiter” in French.

In Michael Vick’s return to Atlanta, he scored two touchdowns on just six touches and finished with a perfect QB rating. You can’t make this stuff up…In a game in which the Eagles put 34 points on the board, LeSean McCoy owners probably weren’t too happy. Actually, the same could be said for those who started Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Brent Celek. Even Donovan McNabb’s numbers were underwhelming…If anything, the switch to Chris Redman has actually been beneficial to Roddy White, who saw a whopping 20 targets Sunday.

While the Saints’ comeback last week was incredible and easily made it one of the best games of the season, the win also revealed some flaws with New Orleans when playing outdoors. Of course, that point should be moot until the Super Bowl come playoff time…During the “Meachem Miracle” play, I hope your Saints’ fantasy defense was credited with a touchdown. I know mine was…Speaking of Robert Meachem, he’s quietly scored seven touchdowns over the past five games and has become the second most desirable New Orleans fantasy receiver to own…It’s true the Saints’ secondary is beat up, but Devin Thomas really impressed Sunday. Maybe he’s not a bust after all. Definitely someone to keep your eye on.

Entering Week 13, the Raiders hadn’t scored more than 20 points in a single game all season. They put 21 points on the board in the fourth quarter alone in Pittsburgh against a Steelers team that had lost three straight and was playing for their playoff lives. It’s safe to say I didn’t see that one coming…Rashard Mendenhall has a pretty good spin move for someone his size and has impressed since taking over as Pitt’s workhorse. He’ll be a borderline first round pick in fantasy drafts next year…Wouldn’t it be funny if Ben Roethlisberger called out Hines Ward in the media this week to suck it up and play through his hamstring injury? You know he secretly wants to…The Raiders have no chance of winning last week if Darrius Heyward-Bey doesn’t injure his foot in practice Friday, thus thrusting Louis Murphy into the starting lineup. For as bad as Oakland whiffed on the DHB pick, they may have made up for it with the Murphy selection in round four.

I don’t care if they’re 9-3, it’s officially time to worry Bengals fans. The defense and running game are both legit, but after Carson Palmer posted a 1:2 TD:INT ratio and a 65.3 QB rating at home versus a historically bad Detroit secondary, it’s officially time to panic about the passing attack. After all, Palmer got just 4.6 YPA at home against the Browns the week before, and he’s thrown just three touchdowns over the past five games…Now that was a backdoor cover by Detroit if I’ve ever seen one. Of course, Kevin Smith and Calvin Johnson owners aren’t complaining. Somewhat quietly, Johnson has gained 378 receiving yards with three scores over the past four contests, and if he falls to the third round in fantasy drafts next year, he’ll be a huge bargain.

We are in Week 14, and the Patriots have yet to win a game outside of New England (or England) this season. Pretty crazy. And what’s up with the mystery surrounding Tom Brady and his health?…Do you realize Wes Welker leads the NFL with 95 catches (next best is 83) despite missing two games this year? He also easily leads the league with 105.3 yards per game, with the next best falling well short (Randy Moss with 88.2 ypg)…When Ronnie Brown’s season ended, it appears so did the Dolphins’ use of the Wildcat.

Brady Quinn somehow has a 7:0 TD:INT ratio over the last three games. Of course, in one of those contests, he threw zero TDs and finished with a 2.9 YPA, but Sunday was his best game of his career that didn’t involve Detroit’s secondary. Shawne Merriman later said the Browns’ gameplan caught San Diego’s defense completely off guard, as they attacked downfield like never before this year, which makes Quinn a little more interesting moving forward (after all, he still only has 10 career starts). However, last week’s big game came with a 55.6 completion percentage and a 6.0 YPA mark, so odds are Cleveland’s offense (and Quinn) remains one of the worst in the league from here on out…I have no explanation for Vincent Jackson’s last four games (nine catches, 147 yards, zero touchdowns), but I know I’d personally keep him in my fantasy lineup in Week 14…With a 21:6 TD:INT ratio and a ridiculous 8.9 YPA mark, in most other seasons, Philip Rivers would be the clear MVP frontrunner right now. He has posted a 7:0 TD:INT ratio with a 76.0 completion percentage and a 10.7 YPA mark over the past four games, so few players in football have performed at a higher level over the past month…Chris Jennings was getting hyped by the Cleveland coaching staff, but he’s a mediocre RB who wasn’t even drafted and is now dealing with a shoulder injury. After Jerome Harrison totaled 97 yards with two touchdowns on just 17 touches last week against the Chargers (and maybe more importantly, did well in pass protection), he clearly should be the Browns’ lead back moving forward. Harrison has averaged 4.7 YPC throughout his career and is an excellent weapon as a receiver, and after this week’s tough matchup versus the Steelers, the Browns face the Chiefs and Raiders, so he’s a must-own in all fantasy leagues.

Again, how did Brandon Jacobs outrun all Dallas defenders on his 74-yard TD catch? Pretty impressive for someone who weighs nearly 275 pounds…Tony Romo completed 74.5 percent of his passes, threw for 392 yards while posting a 3:0 TD:INT ratio and a 112.1 QB rating, so it’s pretty tough to blame him for yet another December Cowboys loss. And to those who bought Jason Witten low, congratulations…How about Eli Manning completing just 44.0 percent of his passes (and 11 total), yet getting 9.6 YPA?…Felix Jones’ season-high in carries is 10, which he received in just one game this season. Whether its his struggles in pass protection or the knee injury he suffered in Week 3 that clearly continues to affect his explosiveness, he’s been a massive disappointment…Roy Williams has become the Cowboys’ designated goal-line receiver, which has salvaged his fantasy value of late. Still, he’s averaged just 33.4 yards per game over 21 contests since coming to Dallas.

The refs no call on a blatant pass interference during the 49ers’ fourth-and-goal in the first quarter of last week’s game was one of the very worst of the season. Just awful…Anyone claiming for more Frank Gore carries has less of an argument after the running back’s fourth quarter fumble cost San Francisco the game last week, although in fairness, it was his first lost fumble of the season. It’s pretty funny that a Mike Singletary led team has averaged the fewest rushes per game in 2009 (21.1)…Does anyone know if John Carlson is even still alive? Check your milk cartons…His YPA may remain unimpressive, but Alex Smith has a 7:1 TD:INT ratio over the past three games, and SF has clearly gone all in with the shotgun/spread formation. He’s a fantasy option both in Week 14 (against the Cards) and in Week 16 (versus the Lions)…I can understand the argument against the 49ers passing in a tie game at their own 11-yard line with 51 seconds left Sunday, but they had two timeouts left, only needed to get in FG position and had been moving the ball pretty well all game. It’s true the average field position after a kickoff is the 30-yard line, but there’s no guarantee SF wins the coin toss in overtime, and the team had the ball for sure then. I’d personally never criticize a team for being aggressive like that, especially since they have one of the very best punters in the NFL (it was the 21-yard return that was the killer, in this instance).

What a performance by the Cardinals, who are truly a dangerous team, especially if the deep ball is going to be reincorporated into their game. Kurt Warner has gotten 9.0 YPA with a 12:0 TD:INT ratio over his past four games…Did Al Michaels really say “tough break” when talking about E.J. Henderson’s gruesome fractured femur injury? I could think of better times for a pun…Although Cris Collinsworth called it a “risky” selection, how again did Percy Harvin last until the 22nd pick of last year’s draft? Then again, Collinsworth is also under the impression Harvin was a running back in college who is just now learning to play the wide receiver position. It’s safe to say Monday wasn’t Collinsworth’s best effort.

Man is Aaron Rodgers good. His stats on third down and in the red zone are off the charts, and with just four sacks taken over his past three games, his biggest weakness appears to have been properly addressed. And Rodgers’ two interceptions Monday night shouldn’t even go on his stat sheet, as one was purely Donald Driver’s fault, while the other was essentially a 55-yard net punt…Both teams need to correct their big problems with penalties fast. What a bizarre game Monday, as there’s never been a contest with so many pass interference calls. Unreal…Something’s wrong, Ryan Grant, when a 32-year-old Ahman Green makes you look bad…I’m still confident in Joe Flacco long-term, and that’s a good Green Bay defense, but it’s safe to say it wasn’t the sophomore quarterback’s best game Monday night…Jermichael Finley is a beast. Good luck trying to defend this Packers’ offense if they continue to utilize the tight end like that. I for one would absolutely love to see round three of a Vikings/Packers battle in the postseason (which should be much closer than the previous two).

Bet on It

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 8-7-1, bringing my season record to 86-88-2. But man, was it a frustrating week, as I was 8-2 after the morning games Sunday, including one of my losses being the Texans who were up 20.5-0 ATS at one point. Not only that, I backed both Arizona and Pittsburgh, who ended up starting backup quarterbacks despite Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger practicing all week. Oh well. What are you going to do? An 0-5 finish to the week ended spectacularly as well, with my best bet, the Pats, losing in ugly fashion. Let’s try to start a winning streak, which will be challenging with a tough Week 13 slate:

JETS -3 at Bills

Eagles -5.5 at FALCONS

BUCCANEERS +6.5 at Panthers

Rams +9 at BEARS

Lions +13 at BENGALS

TITANS +6.5 at Colts

TEXANS (Best Bet) +1 at Jaguars

Broncos -4.5 at CHIEFS

Raiders +13.5 at STEELERS

Saints -9.5 at REDSKINS

PATRIOTS -5.5 at Dolphins

CHARGERS -13 at Browns

Cowboys -1.5 at GIANTS

49ers +1 at Seahawks

Vikings -4 at CARDINALS

Ravens +3 at PACKERS

Comments: Most have given up on the Texans by now, but they defend the run well and should light up a fraudulent Jags team. I get the Saints and Vikings wrong every single week, so if I were you, I’d load up on them this week.

Podcast

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Check it out.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Justin Forsett, RB, SEA – Forsett ran for 130 yards on just 22 carries last week against the Rams, also scoring two touchdowns in the process. He’s averaging 5.7 YPC on the year and continues to impress when given the opportunity. Forsett didn’t record a catch in Week 12, but he racked up 18 receptions for 151 receiving yards over the three previous games, so even against tough run defenses and despite the fact Seattle’s offensive line is shaky, he’s a decent start regardless of matchup. Julius Jones’ (rib/lung) status remains up in the air, but at this point, he needs to be relegated to backup duty regardless of his health. Forsett is clearly the superior running back.

Fred Jackson, RB, BUF – It’s tough to get a good gauge on Buffalo’s backfield situation, but Sunday may have marked a changing of the guard, as Jackson saw 20 touches compared to just four for Marshawn Lynch. While Lynch has averaged 3.1 YPC this season, the far more explosive Jackson has gotten 4.2 YPC, and he’s also a better option as a receiver. The Bills’ offense has really improved since Ryan Fitzpatrick took over quarterback duties (and since Dick Jauron was fired), so if Jackson truly is going to get the majority of carries, he would fast become an extremely valuable fantasy commodity down the stretch.

Chris Jennings, RB, CLE – With Jamal Lewis shut down for the season and placed on I.R., Cleveland has an opening in its backfield. Jerome Harrison remains in the mix, but he’s fallen out of favor for some reason, so Jennings could be looking at a decent sized workload over the final stages of the season. The undrafted Jennings isn’t a special talent, and the Browns’ offense is terrible, but with the Chiefs and Raiders on Cleveland’s upcoming schedule, he’s worth stashing to see how things shake out.

Jason Avant, WR, PHI
– Over the last three games, Avant has hauled in 17 catches for 276 receiving yards and a score. With DeSean Jackson looking unlikely to play Week 13 because of a concussion, Avant should see increased targets against a beatable Falcons’ secondary. On an offense with a pass-first philosophy, it’s a good situation to be in. Avant is a must-add in all leagues this week and makes for a decent flex option as long as Jackson is sidelined. Jeremy Maclin gets a boost in value as well, as he’s now Philadelphia’s No. 1 receiver.

Pierre Garcon, WR, IND
– Garcon has at least 50 yards receiving in five straight games, and he’s scored in two of the past three contests. He’s fast emerging as Indy’s No. 2 wide receiver, and with Anthony Gonzalez’s (knee) return nowhere in sight, he should be able to finish the season that way. Having Peyton Manning throwing him passes is an obvious benefit, but Garcon himself has impressed, averaging 15.5 yards-per-catch and exhibiting strong ability to rack up yards after the catch. He’s probably the Colts’ most explosive option on offense right now.

Larry Johnson, RB, CIN
– Johnson was given 22 carries last week, resulting in 107 yards (4.9 YPC) against the Browns. The matchup was favorable, and Cedric Benson is likely to return from his hip injury this week, but Bernard Scott (turf toe) is highly questionable for Week 13, so Johnson should remain involved in the offense. He’ll likely take a backseat to the former starter once Benson proves he’s back to 100 percent, but Cincy has gone ground heavy this season, and Johnson and the Bengals’ rushing attack have an extremely favorable matchup at home against the Lions this week. He’s at least worth stashing on benches now that he’s apparently become the RB2 in Cincinnati.

Kenny Britt, WR, TEN – Britt had seven receptions for 128 yards and the game-winning touchdown catch last week, as he’s emerging as Vince Young’s favorite target. Tennessee remains a run-first team, as Young is rarely asked to throw more than 25 times in a given game, but the former first round pick has scored in back-to-back contests and should only get better with more experience. There aren’t any other exciting options in the Titans’ aerial attack, and after a tough matchup this week in Indy, Tennessee faces the Rams, Dolphins and Chargers all at home, so Britt is suddenly a viable fantasy option.

FALLERS

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, SEA – Hasselbeck somehow managed just 102 passing yards (4.1 YPA) and zero touchdowns against a terrible Rams’ secondary last week, and it’s clear his best days are behind him. Despite an extremely favorable schedule, Hasselbeck has posted a 2:4 TD:INT ratio over the past four games, as he’s been battling accuracy issues and a crumbling offensive line. Moreover, with Justin Forsett emerging as a big upgrade in the backfield, Seattle won’t have to go so pass-heavy like when Julius Jones was getting shutdown.

Michael Turner, RB, ATL
– Turner left last week after re-injuring his ankle, and it certainly appears he returned to action too soon. He was held out of practice Wednesday, and his status for Week 13 is in doubt. It’s not a great matchup this week against a Philadelphia front seven that has allowed 3.9 YPC on the year, but Jason Snelling needs to be owned as insurance. Also, Jerious Norwood could become a big factor as well, especially if Turner is forced to miss multiple games.

Carson Palmer, QB, CIN
– Palmer threw for just 110 yards against a bad Cleveland secondary at home last week, as the Bengals have really concentrated on running the football. In fact, Palmer hasn’t attempted even 25 passes in each of the past two games, and he hasn’t topped 35 attempts through the air since Week 4. Palmer hasn’t played poorly, as he’s limited interceptions, but he has just two touchdown tosses over the past four contests, and the team’s philosophy clearly relies around its defense and rushing attack. With an upcoming schedule that gets much tougher starting in Week 14, Palmer and the Bengals are going to have to open it up or their season won’t end well.

Matt Ryan, QB, ATL – Ryan suffered a turf toe injury last week, knocking him out of the game against the Bucs. The fact he was ruled out of Week 13 so soon isn’t great news moving forward, as it appears the malady will keep him sidelined for a while. Ryan was struggling during his second year in the league, but Atlanta can ill afford losing its quarterback at this time of the year with the playoffs looking like a long shot. Chris Redman takes over QB duties, and it’s worth noting the career journeyman played pretty well when last forced into action in 2007.

Jake Delhomme, QB, CAR – After another four-interception game last week (with a 41.2 completion percentage and 3.8 YPA), Delhomme is getting benched for Matt Moore. Delhomme also suffered a broken finger in last week’s loss, but his play more than merited him sitting regardless. He’s recorded an 8:18 TD:INT ratio this season, while also losing three fumbles and getting a career-low 6.3 YPA. After Steve Smith, there’s little doubt Carolina has possibly the worst receiving situation in football, but the team also sports a strong running game, and Delhomme’s ball security issues became too hard to ignore. Time to see what Moore can do.

Devin Hester, WR, CHI
– Hester has totaled just 38 receiving yards over the past two weeks, as the Bears’ passing attack continues to disappoint. He hasn’t scored since Week 7 and is losing targets to Greg Olsen, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett. Still, despite the rough patch, Hester and the Bears have a tasty matchup at home against the Rams this week, as St. Louis’ secondary has yielded 7.6 YPA and a 15:8 TD:INT ratio on the year.

The Scoop

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Aaron Rodgers now has a 22:5 TD:INT ratio with an 8.3 YPA mark on the season. He’s also completed 65.5 percent of his passes while adding 247 yards and three scores on the ground. He’s taken two sacks or fewer in each of his past two games, and Rodgers’ 104.9 QB rating ranks third in the NFL. With a defense that has allowed just 6.4 YPA and 3.3 YPC, Green Bay is a dangerous team moving forward…To say Kevin Smith left some yards on the field on Thanksgiving would be an understatement, as the turf monster made multiple tackles. He’s in a poor situation with Detroit’s offensive line, and Smith’s activity as a receiver certainly keeps his fantasy value somewhat afloat, but his inability to make defenders miss is glaring. On 18 carries last week, his longest rush went for six yards…What an absolute dominant performance by Charles Woodson. What about seven tackles, a sack, two interceptions, a touchdown, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery with four passes defended? Now that’s a pretty decent IDP game. He also completely shut down (a clearly hobbled) Calvin Johnson.

Bruce Gradkowski is an upgrade over JaMarcus Russell, but that doesn’t mean Oakland still isn’t a great opponent for your fantasy defense. Things could get ugly in Pittsburgh against a desperate Steelers team this week…Where has that been all year, Jason Witten?…Miles Austin is the real deal and should enter next season as a borderline top-10 fantasy wide receiver.

The odds were stacked against the Giants, travelling to play in the thin Denver air on a short week against a Broncos team focused after four straight losses, but that was still a flat performance by New York. The schedule has had plenty to do with their drop off, but Eli Manning’s foot injury has really derailed their season. Moreover, what happened to both their offensive and defensive lines? With mostly the same personnel as last year, the Giants’ poor play in the trenches has been one of the biggest surprises of 2009…What terrific catches made by Brandon Marshall…It’s so easy to overrate the QB position, but Denver is an entirely different team with Kyle Orton under center rather than Chris Simms.

It’s easy to forget now, but the Dolphins actually entered the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s 31-14 loss up 14-7, as Ricky Williams continued to impress (although his passing ability could use some work)…I’m not saying Marshawn Lynch is bad, but it’s always seemed apparent Fred Jackson was the superior running back, despite the difference in pedigrees (Lynch was a top-15 pick, Jackson went undrafted). There’s no guarantee the discrepancy in touches last week means Jackson has become Buffalo’s workhorse, but if it truly is a sign of things to come, he could be a beast from here on out. It shouldn’t be too shocking that the Bills have played much better since utilizing Terrell Owens downfield while also giving its better players more touches; this is why you were so rightfully fired Dick Jauron.

Speaking of superior backup runners, if Julius Jones gets even a handful of carries at Justin Forsett’s expense once he returns from injury it will be a crime against humanity. A back who actually breaks tackles, imagine that…Can someone please wake up Matt Hasselbeck and tell him there are fantasy seasons on the line? Really, 102 passing yards with zero touchdowns against the Rams? Maybe he’s playing more hurt than letting on, but Hasselbeck has been extremely inaccurate of late, and he’s posted a 2:4 TD:INT ratio over his last four games, coming against favorable matchups as well (Det, Ari, Min, Stl). Stay away in fantasy leagues…Steven Jackson is an animal, and was there really ever any doubt he wouldn’t fight through his back spasms? After failing to record a touchdown over the first seven games this year, he’s now scored in four straight.

If DeSean Jackson (concussion) is forced to sit out Week 13, go ahead and play Jason Avant as a flex. He’s impressed of late, is in the right system and faces an Atlanta secondary that has allowed 7.8 YPA and 18 scores through the air this season. Jeremy Maclin could be considered a WR2 or even WR1 this week as well…It’s too bad LeSean McCoy isn’t used at the goal line, but he’s still going to be an extremely valuable fantasy back as long as Brian Westbrook (concussion) is out, which could be the rest of the season. He’s currently an RB1 in PPR formats…Despite modest stats last week, continue to start Rock Cartwright with confidence while Clinton Portis (concussion) is sidelined (yes, it’s officially the year of the concussion). Cartwright should continue to get 15-20 carries while being active in the passing game and at the goal line, and he gets the Raiders in Week 14.

So that’s why people who suffer high-ankle sprains typically sit out 4-6 weeks. It’s clear Michael Turner wasn’t ready to return, and he’ll now pay the consequences. Although in reality, Atlanta’s season may be over regardless, and it’s hard to fault him for trying to tough it out. Pick up Jerious Norwood immediately…Josh Freeman continues to impress, while rookie head coach Raheem Morris does not. He routinely botches time/game management, and his lack of aggressiveness during the second half last week likely cost Tampa Bay the game (as well as Aqib Talib having to leave during the final series with a hamstring injury).

All right Gary Kubiak, Steve Slaton has been punished enough, now get your best running back the football more. You’re going to be fired either way, so do you really want to go down while giving Chris freaking Brown a bunch of carries?…Andre Johnson is a very good wide receiver, but it’s worth noting he has only one touchdown over the past six games…This Texans team is soft, as usual, but the Colts also deserve a ton of credit for their ability to pull off fourth quarter comebacks this season…Pierre Garcon looks like the real deal, with even more explosion than Reggie Wayne. With Anthony Gonzalez (knee) highly unlikely to make much of an impact over the rest of the year and Austin Collie taking a backseat, Garcon could be a big difference maker in fantasy leagues from here on out.

Maybe I’m biased as a Chad Johnson owner, but that performance by Cincy’s offense was pathetic last week. Sure, I can understand the offensive line has issues, and the game was mostly in hand, but the Bengals’ utter lack of confidence in their passing attack (and against a bad Cleveland secondary, no less) was apparent. Since Week 7, Carson Palmer has thrown two touchdown passes. This team doesn’t have much upside come playoff time if the passing game doesn’t make huge strides…It will be interesting to see whether Larry Johnson and Bernard Scott cut much into the carries of a possibly less than 100 percent Cedric Benson moving forward…When facing the Lions this year, Brady Quinn has gotten 9.2 YPA with a 4:0 TD:INT ratio. When not facing Detroit, he’s gotten 4.3 YPA with a 1:5 TD:INT ratio.

I’m not saying Jake Delhomme’s finger isn’t truly broken, but he finished last Sunday’s game, and it’s an awfully convenient way to bench a quarterback that was just given a $42.5 million contract extension during the offseason. Either way, his benching was clearly warranted, although it’s true he’s dealing with probably the worst secondary group of receivers in the league (which becomes especially difficult when a guy like Darrelle Revis can shut down Steve Smith by himself). I have no idea how Matt Moore will perform, but it’s worth finding out at this point…After scoring one touchdown over 16 games in 2007, Thomas Jones has reached paydirt 21 times over his last 23 games.

To say the Chiefs had some problems snapping the ball last week would be an understatement. Seriously, how hard is it to snap out of shotgun?…LaDainian Tomlinson’s two scores were nice, and he could continue to rack up the TDs on that offense, but he was still able to manage just 3.0 YPC at home against a bad Kansas City defense in what was essentially a blowout. What’s worse is his disappearance in the passing game this season; after recording 52 receptions for 426 receiving yards last year, he has just 45 yards total through the air in 2009…Jamaal Charles needs to protect the football, but he’s really impressed since given a chance as the Chiefs’ lead back (only a few other backs in the NFL could have pulled off his 49-yard catch last Sunday). With three upcoming home games, including tilts versus the Bills and Browns in Weeks 14 and 15, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call Charles a top fantasy commodity right now.

Kudos to coach Mike Singletary for realizing his preferred smash mouth style doesn’t fit his personnel, as the team allowed Alex Smith to operate out of the spread/shotgun formation 34 times last week and went with a pass-heavy philosophy right from the get go. Of course, the run/pass ratio likely won’t be so skewed moving forward, and Frank Gore needs his touches, but there’s no reason why Smith shouldn’t be given more opportunities with his most comfortable formation moving forward…I don’t care if his system typically ignores pass-catching tight ends, what was Mike Martz thinking with his use of Vernon Davis last year?…David Garrard has thrown just one touchdown pass over six games on the road this season.

Forget all this Vince Young nonsense, the Titans are undefeated ever since Jeff Fisher wore the Peyton Manning jersey. Seriously, how cool would it be if Young went 10-0 and Tennessee made the playoffs? A 99-yard game-winning drive with a TD pass coming on fourth down with no time left on the clock? You can’t make this stuff up, and the fact it came against Matt Leinart makes it all the more crazy. Over the last four games, Young has gotten 8.1 YPA and thrown just one pick…I can’t remember a fantasy player so fun to own as Chris Johnson this year. You do realize he’s totaled 968 yards over the last five contests, right? That’s a decent 3,098-yard season’s pace. He has three 85-yard TD runs this season. No other player in the history of the NFL has three in their entire careers…Kenny Britt is good. The rest of the AFC playoff contenders should really be hoping the Titans don’t make the postseason…One take away from the Cardinals’ loss is that they nearly won a road game against a surging team without Kurt Warner. Leinart wasn’t awful, but that was one conservative gameplan. Arizona is a very good football team. Should be a great game Sunday against the Vikings…I’ve never in my life seen a running back have so much trouble catching simple tosses than Beanie Wells has this season.

I’m beginning to think Brett Favre made the right decision returning to play another year. He’s never thrown fewer than 13 interceptions in any season during his 18-year career, yet is currently posting a 24:3 TD:INT ratio. Favre has done so while also completing a career-best 69.3 percent of his passes with a career-high 8.0 YPA (he’s only fumbled one time as well). Dude has a 12:0 TD:INT ratio over the past four games!…I love Adrian Peterson as much as anyone, but there’s no denying Chris Johnson is having the better season at running back, especially when you account for AP’s five lost fumbles already…If you saw Jay Cutler’s TD pass to Johnny Knox last week, you know why plenty of people still believe in his ability – the upside is just so apparent. However, Cutler’s arm has never been questioned; it’s his decision-making and turnover proneness that are the major issues.

After taking the Cardinals and Steelers last week, remind me never to back a team ATS with their quarterback coming off a concussion, even if they practice fully the week after. Dennis Dixon wasn’t awful, but Baltimore should be ashamed of themselves for nearly losing last week. The Ravens have a strong resume, losing to only the best teams in the league this year, but they haven’t played good football for a month now…As long as Ben Roethlisberger is able to return this week without complications, I say Pittsburgh runs the table, makes the playoffs and maybe even wins the AFC North.

The receivers deserve plenty of credit as well, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better performance than Drew Brees on Monday night. New England’s secondary blew a couple of assignments, but for the most part, that was one of the best players in the league showing some of the best accuracy you’ll ever see. Brees threw five touchdown passes with 371 yards on just 23 attempts! Right now, his 112.6 QB rating would rank as the fourth best in a given season in the history of the NFL…Tom Brady certainly wasn’t at his finest, but it’s now clear New Orleans has the best secondary in football. Their 6.2 YPA and nine TDs allowed are both second-best in the league, while their 22 interceptions and opposing 57.6 QB rating both rank first in the NFL…That’s three lost fumbles over the past three games for Laurence Maroney, but he’s also scored eight touchdowns over the past six contests, so as long as he stops fumbling, he’ll be a major fantasy asset down the stretch, although not one without risk. Not only is Sammy Morris back, but Fred Taylor still looms as well. Hold onto that football, Maroney…The Patriots are essentially winless on the road this season. Their record shows them 1-4, but New England’s lone win away from home came on a neutral field in London, so this is a team that struggles when traveling. However, I still think they are legitimate Super Bowl threats.