Archive for December, 2010

Bet on It

Friday, December 31st, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 9-7, bringing my season record to 123-113-4. I won my best bet, so I’m 11-5 there. Onto the Week 17 picks:

BUCCANEERS +8 at Saints

BENGALS +10 at Ravens

PANTHERS +14.5 at Falcons

Steelers -6 at BROWNS

Vikings +3 at LIONS

Raiders +3.5 at CHIEFS

Bills +1 at JETS

Dolphins +3.5 at PATRIOTS

GIANTS -4 at Redskins

COWBOYS +7 at Eagles

TITANS +10 at Colts

BEARS +10 at Packers

Jaguars -2.5 at TEXANS (Best Bet)

CHARGERS -3 at Broncos

Cardinals +6.5 at 49ers

Rams -3 at SEAHAWKS

Comments: I understand the Jaguars have something to play for while the Texans don’t, but this line is still surprising. On the road and with Trent Edwards starting at QB, Jacksonville is favored?

The Scoop

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Only one team in NFL history has scored two touchdowns or fewer in every game during a season. Carolina will attempt to match that feat in Week 17…Atrocious quarterback play is far more to blame than himself, but Steve Smith is on pace to finish this season with fewer than 600 receiving yards and just two touchdowns while playing in 15 games. He’s dropped a whopping 10 passes and has caught just 52.9 percent of his targets. Maybe Andrew Luck will help resurrect Smith’s career, but at age 31, he’s clearly no longer an elite fantasy option…I still don’t understand why Pittsburgh’s over/under entering the year was just 8.5.

Despite a plus matchup, Jon Kitna got only 5.8 YPA and somehow managed to throw two pick-sixes against the Cardinals in Week 16. He later left with a hip injury, after which an unknown Stephen McGee came in and played better. Kitna actually played reasonably well after Tony Romo was lost for the season this year, but he killed a lot of fantasy owners relying on him during the championship week, and he’ll be 39 years old next season, so his run even as a backup may be finished…The Cardinals’ upset was even more surprising considering Larry Fitzgerald was held to just one catch for 26 yards. I admit, I had never heard of Andre Roberts before Saturday…My friend Joey lost a teaser because of David Buehler missing an extra point. That’s rough.

The world’s craziest free throw attempt.

Matt Cassel finished Sunday’s win with a 70.6 completion percentage, a 9.2 YPA mark and a 3:0 TD:INT ratio. After throwing just 16 touchdowns with 16 picks last season, he’s currently sporting a 27:5 TD:INT ratio over 14 games in 2010. He’s also cut his sack percentage in half and fumbled 11 fewer times this year compared to last. Cassel has had the benefit of a terrific rushing attack on his side and an easy schedule, but he might be the most improved player in the NFL…Kerry Collins was absolutely brutal Sunday…I’ve heard multiple people claim Chris Johnson as a bust, but while he’s disappointed, he’s on pace to finish the year with 1,620 yards and 12 touchdowns. If you drafted Johnson and didn’t win your fantasy league, it wasn’t because of him…Jamaal Charles enters Week 17 second in the NFL with 1,380 rushing yards, just 56 yards behind leader Arian Foster, despite seeing 80 fewer carries.

Peyton Hillis has been possibly the biggest fantasy surprise of 2010, carrying teams who added him off the waiver wire for most of the year. However, he fizzled at the worst possible time, gaining just 94 rushing yards over Weeks 15 and 16. After scoring 13 touchdowns over the first 11 games, he hasn’t recorded one over the past four contests. Opposing defenses have focused on stopping him more of late, but Hillis has also worn down, as he’s already accrued 324 touches this season after entering the year with just 81 career rushing attempts. Fantasy owners can hardly complain about Hillis’ season, but they will be left with a bad taste in their mouths…Everyone applauds the surprise onside kick, but it can also backfire. After Cleveland failed to recover theirs to open the second half, Baltimore easily drove down the short field to score a touchdown…The Browns’ time management at the end of the first half was as bad as you’ll ever see. It’s now unclear if Eric Mangini believes timeouts carry over to the second half.

Most know by now Tom Brady set an NFL record when he threw his 309th consecutive pass without getting intercepted, and while he’s been a bit lucky with some drops by defenders, the streak is even crazier when you consider his last pick came on the last play of regulation on a hail mary attempt against the Ravens in Week 6…Thanks to a modest 209 rushing attempts (16 running backs have more), BenJarvus Green-Ellis has yet to reach 1,000 yards on the ground this season, but his 12 touchdowns are tied for the second most in the NFL. He doesn’t offer much as a receiver, and he’s been given 20 carries in just two games all year (season-high is 21 rushing attempts), so he’ll present an interesting dilemma at draft tables in 2011. Assuming the Pats don’t bring in a new back, Green-Ellis has as much scoring potential as any RB in the league playing for New England. Remember, those 12 scores came after not being involved much in the first two games of the season, and Green-Ellis still hasn’t fumbled once during his career. I would love to see his numbers if the Patriots made him a true workhorse…Ryan Fitzpatrick proved to be an upgrade over Trent Edwards and impressed throwing 11 touchdowns over his first four starts this year, but he’s since thrown multiple scores in just two of nine games. After his hot stretch, I strongly recommended him in fantasy leagues, but I’ll freely admit that was ultimately wrong and take solace in the fact I personally lost a lot of FAAB as a result. Fitzpatrick plays in a tough division and often in poor weather conditions, but he’s committed 20 turnovers over 13 games, and both his 57.8 completion percentage and 6.8 YPA mark are pedestrian. New England’s defense has played better of late, but they still deploy a beatable secondary, so Fitzpatrick’s performance Sunday (48.6 completion percentage, 0:3 TD:INT ratio) made it clear Buffalo needs to aim higher at the quarterback position…The fewest turnovers in a given season in NFL history is 13. The Patriots currently have committed just nine.

Good riddance, Mike Singletary. The guy literally had zero to do with the Xs and Os, so other than locker room speeches, the one thing he couldn’t get wrong was a decision like starting Troy Smith over Alex Smith, and then getting into a near physical confrontation with the former on the sidelines during the team’s biggest game of the season was the final straw. I’m not an Alex Smith apologist, but he’s a better quarterback than Troy Smith…Alex Smith lost a crucial fumble, but it came on a play in which Chris Long abused Anthony Davis, who has been one of the five worst tackles in the NFL this season. What a bust…Just because Vernon Davis tried to catch a ball whizzing above his head at high speed does not necessarily mean the TD toss to Michael Crabtree was actually intended to the tight end…Steven Jackson had 24 carries for 48 yards. Wow…Although Danario Alexander ended up stepping out of bounds by a half inch afterward, that still doesn’t excuse the fact Shawntae Spencer didn’t even bother trying to touch him while on the ground after getting beat for a 46-yard gain. Truly pathetic. Only health can prevent Alexander from becoming a major fantasy factor in the future.

The Lions went 26 games (that’s a lot of days, but I’m too lazy to do the math) before winning on the road in Week 15, and then won again away from home seven days later in Week 16. The Dolphins are somehow 6-1 on the road and 1-7 at home this season…Miami allowed 17 points over a two minute and 26 second span late in the fourth quarter Sunday…Chad Henne is terrible.

First Toledo goes for a two-point conversion down 31-30, then FIU gains 17 yards and one inch on a hook-and-lateral on 4th-and 17 afterward, leading to a game-winning field goal. I’m not a big college football fan, but I run a confidence pool every year, so I definitely get into all the bowl games. Sounds like I picked the wrong time to go to the movies Sunday night (only because the NFL game was canceled). That said, “Black Swan” was pretty awesome. I make end of the year lists, and Darren Aronofsky has now directed three I’ll put at No. 1 in their given year. I also really liked this tweet by Michael Ian Black: “Black Swan spoiler alter: Natalie Portman is hot.” Seriously, if she doesn’t win an Oscar, it’s a crime against humanity.

I pegged Rashad Jennings for 125 yards and a score in my Game Capsules column last week and easily considered him a top-10 RB start. I even started him over Peyton Hillis in a crucial championship game in one of my leagues. An apology is probably in order, but it’s not like I would do anything differently in hindsight. He entered averaging 6.8 YPC on the year, and the Redskins have allowed an NFL-high 4.8 YPC, even after shutting down Jacksonville last week. What are you going to do? I’d have no problem using him in Week 17. On a side note, Maurice Jones-Drew’s season becomes all that more impressive after considering he’s been playing on an injured knee all year…Chris Cooley had four drops before it was even halftime Sunday, including one of the worst of the 2010 season. With 72 catches and 796 receiving yards, Cooley has been anything but a fantasy bust, especially since so many tight ends either got injured or disappointed this year. But his 100 targets are the second most among all tight ends (Jason Witten has 114), making Cooley’s three touchdowns really disappointing.

After throwing an egregious pick-six, Jay Cutler picked apart a strong Jets’ secondary Sunday, getting 8.6 YPA with three touchdowns despite completing just 13 passes. His deep ball was impressive, and he’s now totaled seven touchdowns over the past two games, helping fantasy owners when it matters most (although many probably had him benched against the Jets). Cutler hasn’t put up the gaudy yardage totals we all expected under Mike Martz, but his 7.9 YPA mark and 90.6 QB rating are both career-highs, and he’s done so with a middling wide receiver corps in a Chicago environment not conducive for passing. Cutler’s performance against the Jets was highly impressive. And he’s also dating Kristin Cavallari, who isn’t exactly unattractive…Mark Sanchez has 13 dropped interceptions this season. The next highest in the NFL is seven (Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning). That’s pretty incredible luck…You’ve got to admit, Rex Ryan’s wife’s feet are pretty hot.

Andre Johnson owners have to be livid that Houston’s game in Week 16 just happened to be scheduled for late afternoon…It can’t be understated just how bad this Houston secondary is (they are the only team in the NFL to allow a QB rating above 100.0 and their YPA and TD passes yielded are both league-highs), and many of his passes were screens, but I’m intrigued by Tim Tebow. The guy just exudes a star like quality. And nobody tries harder! In all seriousness, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Drew Brees all didn’t have a single 300-yard passing game during their rookie season, something Tebow accomplished during his second start.

There’s nothing wrong with liking a catchy one immediately, but truly great songs typically take multiple listens before fully appreciating them.

Other than Reggie Wayne, only six other receivers in the history of the league have recorded three 100-catch seasons in their career…Donald Brown had six carries in Week 16. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes combined for 29 rushing attempts…Since the Chiefs have only the No. 3 or No. 4 seed to play for Sunday, the Raiders have an even greater chance to become the first team in NFL history to finish with an undefeated record in their division and not make the playoffs.

Despite his teammates struggles, Ryan Mathews totaled 83 yards with a touchdown on just 15 touches in Week 16. It was obviously too little, too late for his fantasy owners, but the key here is Mathews passed the eye test, and if you squint, he resembles a young LaDainian Tomlinson. Of course, Tomlinson has been one of the most durable backs in league history, whereas Mathews has been anything but during his rookie campaign. But it’s been the nagging ankle injury that has plagued him mostly, not a plethora of ailments, and because the problem was clearly more serious than originally reported, his final YPC mark should be taken with a grain a salt. Mike Tolbert could remain a factor next season, even if it’s only at the goal line, but San Diego traded up to take Mathews at the No. 12 pick, so if he can remain healthy in 2011, he’ll likely be the team’s workhorse. He’ll be the very definition of buy low next year, and you probably won’t have to fight anyone who was burnt by him in 2010…Jerome Simpson hauled in six catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns during the Bengals’ win Sunday, as the third-year wideout benefited from Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco both being inactive. Simpson came in with just three catches during his career, as he entered the league extremely raw coming out of Coastal Carolina as a second round pick. The production was against a San Diego secondary that entered ranked among the best in the NFL (although it was somewhat skewed thanks to an easy schedule), and the Chargers were in must-win mode, so Cincinnati’s big game through the air was surprising. Let’s not overreact to one game, and it’s clear Simpson has a long way to go, but he was a highlight reel machine in college, and with Owens and Ochocinco both unlikely to be in Cincinnati in 2011, he’s a terrific chip to own in dynasty leagues…Maybe it was just happenstance, but it’s entirely possible Carson Palmer’s best game of the season wasn’t despite of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco’s absence. It could have been because of it. Maybe their route running really was the cause of all those interceptions, and he obviously no longer felt the need to force feed a big name.

LeGarrette Blount gained 164 yards on just 18 carries Sunday, and his hurdle was simply one of the best highlights of the 2010 season. He has a ton of work to do as a receiver and blocker, and while his three fumbles on the year aren’t a dramatically high amount, the Bucs have been critical of the way he carries the ball, and his role as the team’s goal-line back has been tenuous. But the negatives end there, as Blount has been one of the most impressive running backs in the league as a rookie who went undrafted. During his six starts this season, he’s averaged 97.0 rushing yards per game. The NFL’s leading rusher is Arian Foster, who has averaged 95.7 yards per game on the ground. This despite Pro Football Focus rating Tampa Bay’s run blocking as the worst in the NFC. Blount leads all of football by getting 3.8 YPC after contact in 2010. If he was more active in the passing game, he’d be a surefire first round pick in fantasy leagues next year, but as is, he’s still unlikely to last much past the middle of the second round…The Seahawks had literally zero at stake when they started their game in Week 16. It all came down to a win or loss versus the Rams in Week 17 regardless of their outcome against the Bucs. While I’m not going to kill Pete Carroll for leaving in his starters, it was pretty crazy to see Matt Hasselbeck leave the game with an injury during a touchdown run when he was untouched. And while I understand how ridiculous it is if a 7-9 Seattle team makes the playoffs while the Giants and Chargers don’t, I’d be absolutely shocked if Roger Goodell changes the rules because of it. It won’t happen.

Mario Manningham is the rare receiver who appears to be much more productive as his team’s No. 2 WR opposed to No. 1…Colleague and friend Scott Pianowski said it best: “Stupid Aaron Rodgers. You’ll never get that “can’t win close games” monkey off your back by throwing 45 on the Giants.”…I could actually see Hakeem Nicks being ranked as the No. 1 wide receiver in fantasy drafts next year, but he’s clearly an injury risk…The Giants have allowed 73 points over the past five quarters…Before last week, I placed a $50 bet on the Packers to win the Super Bowl at 30-1 odds. Wish me luck! The fact they are now staring at a round one matchup in Philadelphia (assuming they even win in Week 17, which is far from a sure thing) is probably my worst-case scenario. Andy Reid is unbeatable after a bye, which is essentially what’s now in place for the Eagles.

I like NBA Hangtime for Nintendo 64 better, but the new NBA Jam released for PS3 is definitely worth buying. Speaking of which, an insane ending to an NBA game.

The Falcons are one of the weaker No. 1 seeds in recent memory. If this team wins the Super Bowl, I’ll be shocked…Two interesting prop bets two friends of mine took advantage of during the Monday night game – Michael Turner under 99.5 rushing yards, and Pierre Thomas over 38.5 rushing yards…With Brett Favre all but retired (and by that I mean there’s at least a 35 percent chance he’s finished playing), there needs to be a new gunslinger in the league, and apparently Drew Brees is willing to take the mantle. Seriously, how many risks is he willing to take these days?…Remember when analysts said the Saints would be much easier to defend with Reggie Bush injured. Good times. I have no idea how they managed to still make the playoffs with him missing eight games. He’s clearly so integral to their success (he has negative four rushing yards over the past two games)…Atlanta needed a stop either way, so please explain to me why they punted down three points near midfield on 4th-and-6 with 2:44 left. What a ridiculously embarrassing decision by Mike Smith. Frankly, it was a fireable offense.

He dealt with a ton of pressure, but Michael Vick was not good Tuesday. He had at least two or three potential interceptions dropped…Even during a pedestrian performance, Joe Webb proved why he was so valuable in fantasy leagues he was eligible at wide receiver…Down 10 points at the 50-yard line with 4:23 left in Sunday’s game, Andy Reid chose to punt. You can’t make this stuff up.

Bet on It

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 14-2, bringing my season record to 114-106-4. I was somehow 11-0 after the early games and envisioned the impossible, going a perfect 16-0 in a given week – odds are 1 in 65,536. I would complain about how one of my losses was Denver, and I was on the fence about that game even before Tim Tebow was named starter (after I was locked in), but in all honesty, backing Seattle was one of my favorites of the week. Either way, it was a nice comeback after a depressing Week 14. I won my best bet, so I’m 10-5 there. Onto the Week 16 picks:

Panthers +15 at STEELERS

COWBOYS -7 at Cardinals

Lions +3.5 at DOLPHINS

49ers +2.5 at RAMS (Best Bet)

Jets +1 at BEARS

PATRIOTS -8 at Bills

REDSKINS +7 at Jaguars

TITANS +5 at Chiefs

Ravens -3.5 at BROWNS

COLTS -3 at Raiders

TEXANS -2.5 at Broncos

Chargers -7.5 at BENGALS

SEAHAWKS +6 at Buccaneers

Giants +3 at PACKERS

Vikings +15 at EAGLES

SAINTS +2.5 at Falcons

Comments: I’m taking way too many favorites, including ones on the road that are almost assuredly on the sucker side. After I went 14-2 last week, the smart play would be to fade me in Week 16.

The Scoop

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Vincent Jackson rewarded fantasy owners who gambled on him in Week 15, when he recorded five catches for 112 yards and three touchdowns. He was inches away from a fourth score, and his numbers were also subdued thanks to San Diego getting conservative after grabbing a 31-0 lead. Jackson’s performance reminded everyone why he wants a huge contract – he’s highly talented. Malcom Floyd returning to action would cut into Jackson’s targets, but that’s hardly a guarantee for Week 16, and Antonio Gates remains highly questionable as well. Fantasy owners should start Jackson with confidence this week…Michael Crabtree has totaled a paltry 10 receptions for 126 receiving yards over the past five games, as he’s been one of the bigger fantasy busts of 2010. He’s hauled in more than five catches and reached 65 receiving yards during just one game all season long. Crabtree has a lot of work to do with his route-running, and it’s surprising to see a pedestrian receiver like Josh Morgan out produce him. Crabtree has scored five times this year, and there remains plenty of untapped upside for the sophomore wideout, but the 49ers badly need to upgrade the QB situation if he’s ever going to reach his potential…Only Joe Theismann would call it a “gutsy decision” for the 49ers to accept a penalty giving them a first down after kicking a field goal…Matt Millen: “I think the loss of Justin Smith has hurt San Francisco’s defensive front.” Really? As opposed to what, helping it?…Philip Rivers is now 20-1 during December throughout his career.

I’m not having an especially good year against the spread, so please don’t take this as bragging, but I somehow was 11-0 ATS after the early games Sunday and finished 14-2 overall. I knew I should have put in that 11-team parlay! Seriously, I doubt I’ll accomplish something so meaningful in life ever again. It’s all downhill from here.

Impressive performance by Matt Cassel toughing it out Sunday…Seeing Jamaal Charles get caught from behind during his 80-yard run was one of the more surprising plays of Week 15…Assuming the Seahawks lose in Tampa Bay, the 49ers/Rams matchup is essentially a playoff game. Surprising to see St. Louis favored by fewer than three points at home.

John Skelton has been awful, but at least he’s made Larry Fitzgerald relevant again…Although he lost yet another fumble (his fourth of the season in fewer than 150 carries), Jonathan Stewart topped 130 rushing yards for the second consecutive game last week, and he’s averaged 5.9 YPC over the past four contests. Unfortunately, in Week 16 he faces a Steelers’ front seven that has allowed 3.0 YPC and five rushing scores on the year – both league-lows. In fact, Pittsburgh has ceded just one carry for 20-plus yards all season long, and the second stingiest run defense in football (the 49ers) has allowed a full half-yard more per carry. Stewart owners should look elsewhere during the fantasy super bowl…I’d make the over/under for offensive touchdowns scored for Carolina this week 0.5, and I’d take the under.

After throwing for 242 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 130 yards and another score, most of Michael Vick’s fantasy owners are likely still playing in Week 16. Put differently, that’s equivalent to throwing for 240 yards and eight touchdowns in a single game. If you prorate Vick’s numbers from the 10 games he’s finished this year, he produces a season’s pace of 4,330 passing yards, 32 passing TDs, 954 rushing yards and 13 rushing scores. That’s essentially the same as a non-running QB throwing for 6,238 yards and 52 touchdowns. I’m never one to take a quarterback within the first five rounds, and Vick offers plenty of risk with his style of play, but I really couldn’t fault anyone for making him the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 drafts…Like clockwork, Andy Reid once again botched a challenge Sunday in spectacular fashion…That was easily one of the craziest games I’ve ever seen in my life. Twenty-eight points scored in the final 7:30 minutes?! Unbelievable. As a result, the odds are now against the Giants making the playoffs…DeSean Jackson’s punt return was the first in NFL history to win a game as time expired.

It was a fun ride while it lasted, Buccaneers…Apparently, the Lions have the deepest QB group in all of football…Despite getting just 285 snaps (44th in the league among running backs), LeGarrette Blount leads the NFL with 45 missed tackles. That’s impressive stuff.

It’s a small sample to be sure, but Colt McCoy’s rookie season can’t be overlooked. He’s gotten 8.0 YPA with a 65.8 completion percentage despite having possibly the worst receiving corps in the NFL. Durability remains a concern, but McCoy absolutely looks like a potential franchise quarterback…Before injuring his knee a few weeks back, Terrell Owens clearly proved he has plenty left in the tank, even at age 37, but he also already wore out his welcome in Cincinnati, despite being so productive. Should be interesting to see which (if any) team takes a chance on him in 2011.

For Buffalo fans who were furious when the team passed on line help during the draft to take a running back, I can only imagine their frustrations now after the season C.J. Spiller has had…It’s pretty incredible Miami is 1-6 at home and 6-1 on the road this season. Also, they have somehow alternated wins and losses in every game since Week 4. But something’s got to give Sunday, as they are playing at home coming off a loss.

Making his first start since 2008, Rex Grossman threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns against the Cowboys. Dallas has allowed the second most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, and Grossman also committed three turnovers and produced most of his stats while coming back from a 20-point deficit, so it all needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, he produced 30 points, which is a season-high for Washington and more points than the team has scored against the Cowboys during their last four meetings combined. Donovan McNabb is done in Washington, and while the team is certain to select a QB in the upcoming draft, Grossman is going to get a trial run, and he’s always had a backer in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. With Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, Ryan Torain and an emerging Anthony Armstrong combined with an awful defense, Grossman is actually in a pretty good situation to put up stats. He’s a sneaky fantasy option in Week 16 against a Jacksonville secondary that has allowed an NFL-high 8.4 YPA this season…Miles Austin has averaged 6.6 catches and 97.2 receiving yards with Tony Romo at QB and just 3.1 catches and 42.0 receiving yards with Jon Kitna under center. Austin deserves some blame being among the league-leaders in drops this season, and his lack of production has been especially discouraging considering the team has averaged 32.2 points over six games since Jason Garrett took over as head coach. Austin will be a buy-low target at drafts next season coming off a disappointing campaign and with Romo back, but realize it’s possible he takes a backseat to the ultra talented Dez Bryant in the passing game.

Making his first appearance since Week 11, Austin Collie had already racked up eight catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the first half Sunday before leaving with yet another concussion. This is turning into a scary and sad situation, as it’s the third time since November he has departed a game with concussion symptoms. His season is almost certainly over, and at this point, it’s safe to question his career as well. It’s a shame, as Collie had scored eight touchdowns over the seven games he was able to finish this year, which is a season’s pace of 18 scores…Who would have thought Donald Brown would have 83 more rushing yards than Maurice Jones-Drew in their matchup last week…It sure looked like Mike Thomas called for a fair catch before he returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown.

While hardly a bust, Ray Rice has failed to live up to his preseason ADP, but he made it up to owners who were still alive in Week 15, when he totaled 233 yards and two touchdowns. It marked just the second game he’s reached 90 rushing yards this season, as his YPC has dropped from 5.3 last year to 4.0 in 2010. He’s racked up 417 receiving yards over the past seven games – a season’s pace of 953 yards. Rice doesn’t possess the scoring upside of other backs in the league, but like Brian Westbrook before him, he’s certainly capable of reaching the end zone 8-12 times in a given year. He’ll be someone to target late in the first round at 2011 draft tables…Drew Brees is having another strong year, on pace to finish with a career-high 35 touchdown passes, but he’s also been picked off in 10 consecutive games…Over the last seven games, Anquan Boldin has averaged just 3.1 receptions and 42.1 yards with only two touchdowns over that span. He’s been held to 50 yards or fewer in six of those seven contests despite Joe Flacco emerging as one of the better quarterbacks in the league. Boldin is now 30 years old and has taken a lot of physical punishment throughout his career, and his days as an elite fantasy option appear to be finished.

Not an ideal time for Arian Foster to rush for a season-low 15 yards in Week 15. Any fantasy owner who survived it should be rewarded in the fantasy championship, when Foster faces a Denver defense that has allowed the most points to running backs this season, assuming he’s healthy of course. Just in case, Derrick Ward is a must-add in all leagues…Seriously, what’s the deal with Randy Moss? Can he really be this bad at this stage of his career?

Matt Hasselbeck somehow managed just 71 passing yards with three turnovers and zero touchdowns at home against an Atlanta secondary that ranks in the bottom half of the league, posting an anemic 28.9 QB rating despite getting his full receiving corps back. He’s committed a whopping 13 turnovers over the past four games, and since Hasselbeck has posted a 6.8 YPA mark or lower in four of the past five seasons, the 35-year-old’s days as a starter appear to be coming to an end…Matt Ryan continues to defy the odds, somehow throwing 25 touchdowns despite a 6.5 YPA mark. That said, he actually leads the NFL in win probability added (4.43 WPA), so he’s been clutch. Atlanta is doing an excellent job of revealing just how important winning the turnover battle is.

A great bounce back victory for the Jets, but the Steelers are still in the driver’s seat for the AFC North, needing only to beat the Panthers and Browns over the final two games to win the division…Mark Sanchez didn’t play great, but he did well protecting the football, and that naked bootleg TD run on fourth down legitimately faked me out. One of the best I’ve ever seen.

Tim Tebow’s first NFL start was mixed, as his 40-yard touchdown run and 33-yard TD pass to Brandon Lloyd were both impressive, but he also completed just 50.0 percent of his passes while implementing one of the most scaled back game plans you’ll ever see. Of course, the conservative attack should come as no surprise for a rookie QB making his first career start, especially for a passer as raw as Tebow. He’s clearly got a long ways to go, but any quarterback with his rushing potential is noteworthy in fantasy leagues. With Tebow’s dominance at the goal line, 15 rushing scores isn’t out of the question if he became a full-time starter down the road…With a win in Week 17, Oakland could become the first team in NFL history to go undefeated in its division and not make the playoffs…The Raiders scored 98 points against the Broncos this year, which is the most ever against a single opponent since the merger…Knowshon Moreno left Sunday’s game after gaining just five rushing yards with a rib injury, which is too bad since he had totaled 682 yards with four touchdowns over the previous five games. As one of the few backs in football who dominates his team’s carries, including at the goal line, and is also plenty active as a receiver, he offers a ton of fantasy potential, even if he’s not a special running back, but it’s safe to say Moreno is an injury risk at this point.

Matt Flynn proved what a difference a week’s worth of starter snaps in practice can be. Also, Green Bay’s system is pretty good…Week 16’s matchup between the Giants and Packers should be one of the best of the regular season. Either team is absolutely capable of winning the NFC, yet the loser likely won’t even make the playoffs…Surprisingly, Wes Welker has the third most drops in the NFL this season (only Steve Johnson and Mike Williams have more)…Yes, Dan Connolly’s 71-yard kick return was absolutely one of the coolest plays of the year.

Adrian Peterson has produced a fine season and has been worthy of a top fantasy selection despite his team crumbling around him, but his surprise inactive was crushing, considering it came on a Monday night and during a crucial Week 15. He also managed just 26 total yards the week before, so Peterson’s collapse couldn’t have come at a worse time…With those weather conditions and defenses in battle, it was quite surprising to see the Bears and Vikings combine for 54 points. That’s 21 more than the over/under…What a crazy turn of events for fantasy owners who started Peterson or Joe Webb on Monday night. And while I would use Webb as a WR3 in Week 16, you better have a backup plan, because it’s bad news the team once again plays a night game. We’ve been here before with Brett Favre, so don’t be surprised if he plays no matter how bleak his outlook appears.

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Thursday, December 16th, 2010

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Bet on It

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 6-10, bringing my season record to 100-104-4. I lost my best bet, so I’m 9-5 there. It was salt in the wound during a week in which I also lost in my home fantasy league, thanks to facing a team that has Michael Turner, Darren McFadden and Pittsburgh defense, and I also lost in Yahoo Friends & Family despite having the most overall points for the year. Another league with a $100 buy in I went to sleep with a 1.5 point lead Monday night, only to wake up to find I lost by 0.5 points thanks to some scoring change. Good times. As for ATS, I’ve actually been on fire with teasers, but I’m embarrassed with my performance here this season. After being 27 games over .500 during my first two years picking every game, I’m now five games under .500 over 2009 and this year. Onto the Week 15 picks:

49ers +9 at CHARGERS

BILLS +5.5 at Dolphins

Browns +1.5 at BENGALS

LIONS +6 at Buccaneers

Jaguars +5 at COLTS

Cardinals +2.5 at PANTHERS

Saints +1 at RAVENS (Best Bet)

EAGLES +3 at Giants

CHIEFS +1 at Rams

REDSKINS +6 at Cowboys

Texans +1.5 at TITANS

Falcons -7 at SEAHAWKS

JETS +6 at Steelers

BRONCOS +6.5 at Raiders

PACKERS +11 at Patriots

BEARS -3 at Vikings

Comments: I was close to making the Panthers my best bet but just couldn’t stomach it. The Eagles/Giants game was the one I had the toughest time with, and I also switched to the Redskins at the last second. No clue why the Ravens are giving fewer than the standard three points.

The Scoop

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Normally I use this space to bash the Thursday night announcing crew, but I’d like to thank them for informing me that the first country song Kerry Collins wrote was titled “Momma’s fried chicken”…Kenny Britt managed just four catches for 39 yards during his return to the lineup, although it’s worth noting it was his first action since Week 7. He started and played a full complement of snaps, and it’s clear he’s back as Tennessee’s No. 1 wide receiver. Britt had scored seven touchdowns over five games before suffering the strained hamstring, as the sophomore wideout was enjoying a breakout season. At home facing a Houston defense that has allowed the second most fantasy points to wide receivers this year, Britt can be started with confidence in Week 15…What a ridiculous backdoor cover by the Titans. Unreal. I’d hate to be Jeff Fisher’s bookie…The 37 drops by Colts receivers this year are the most in the NFL.

What a horrible time for Mike Williams to have his worst game of the season. Still, fantasy owners should keep him going at home against the Lions in Week 15…Making his first appearance since Week 8, Ryan Torain had 24 carries for 172 rushing yards Sunday, including a remarkable 121 yards on the ground in the first quarter. Keiland Williams was the only other Redskins back to get a rushing attempt, receiving just four totes on the day, as Torain has clearly retaken the team’s featured role. He’s reached 100 yards rushing in each of the past three contests he’s been able to finish, averaging an impressive 4.9 YPC on the year. Torain is a viable RB2 option for fantasy leaguers down the stretch…Those in deep leagues desperate for a WR sleeper in Week 15, look no further than Anthony Armstrong. Before last week’s disappointing performance, he averaged 73.2 yards over the previous five games and gets a matchup in Week 15 against a Dallas defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers in the NFL this season by a wide margin.

That’s eight fumbles for Peyton Hillis now, easily the most in the league among running backs…Lee Evans was lost for the season with a high-ankle sprain, ending yet another disappointing campaign for the once promising wide receiver. Evans will enter 2011 taking a backseat to teammate Steve Johnson, and he’s now become an afterthought in fantasy leagues.

Aaron Rodgers managed just 4.2 YPA with no touchdowns and a pick against a porous Detroit secondary before departing with a concussion, so fantasy owners have to feel cheated. It was his second concussion suffered this season, so Rodgers’ status for Week 15 is in question, and the answer may not be revealed until Sunday night, with the Packers/Patriots matchup being in primetime…Greg Jennings certainly didn’t help, as he dropped a sure 80-yard touchdown and turned it into an interception…Needing just three feet toward the end of the game, it was curious to see Green Bay throw a deep ball into the end zone on 4th and 1.

Darren McFadden totaled 209 yards and three touchdowns on just 19 touches Sunday, helping many fantasy teams move onto Week 15 in the process. He’s missed two games this season due to injury and totaled just 16 rushing yards over Weeks 11 and 12, but he’s still on pace to finish the year with 1,760 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. McFadden is tied for second in the NFL with 3.4 YPC after contact, and few runs in the league this season have been as impressive as this. Fantasy owners have to be salivating at the thought of him going against a Broncos team that has been gashed for the second most fantasy points to running backs this season in Week 15…David Garrard’s TD pass to Jason Hill was the throw of the day…Maurice Jones-Drew should have taken a knee at the 1 yard line at the end of his 30-yard touchdown run with 1:34 left, but he has himself on all his fantasy teams, so he knows better, especially during the first week of the playoffs.

Despite Cincinnati’s defense keeping the Steelers out of the end zone all game long, the Bengals still lost 23-7 in Week 14, thanks mostly to two costly pick-sixes by Carson Palmer. He managed just 5.6 YPA and tossed three interceptions in all, as his nightmare season continued. Palmer’s 18 picks are the second most in the league, and his 6.4 YPA mark is a career-low. The two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns were simply inexcusable…According to Pro Football Focus, the Steelers have the worst pass blocking and the worst run blocking in the AFC. They also have been the most penalized team and have the second worst special teams in the conference…Pittsburgh spiked the ball on 1st and goal with 34 seconds left in the first half and a timeout remaining. Of course, they then kicked a field goal with 21 seconds left. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Dan Marino has the most wins ever (33) by a quarterback over their first three seasons in the league, but Matt Ryan currently has 31 wins and counting…Jonathan Stewart is a borderline RB1 in Week 15 at home against the Cardinals, but he’s already lost three fumbles this year on just 120 carries…A new nominee for worst announcing moment of 2010 – “Matt Ryan can just walk into the end zone” right before he gets clobbered short of the goal line.

Alex Smith completed 17-of-27 passes for 255 yards and a 3:0 TD:INT ratio during the 49ers’ win Sunday, finishing with a 130.9 QB rating. Smith was starting for the first time since Week 7, and his performance made coach Mike Singletary’s decision to go back to him look brilliant. Smith has gotten 7.9 YPA with nine touchdowns over four home games this season, but he has a tough matchup Week 15 in San Diego against a Chargers defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season…With three kick return touchdowns already this season, it’s hard to figure how Leon Washington has been given only 24 rushing attempts.

Making his first appearance since Week 3, Pierre Thomas led the Saints with 12 carries Sunday, although that resulted in a modest 39 rushing yards. He added four catches for 29 receiving yards as well, and Chris Ivory was limited in practice this week with a hamstring injury. If Ivory misses any game action, Thomas would once again become a viable fantasy option, although a Week 15 matchup against a Ravens defense that has allowed the sixth fewest fantasy points to running backs this season is hardly enticing…As funny as it sounds, the Chiefs/Rams matchup is basically a playoff game.

Deion Branch hauled in eight catches for 151 yards against a Bears defense that entered having allowed an NFL-low 6.2 YPA and just nine passing TDs on the year. Over the past three games, Branch has racked up 328 receiving yards and four touchdowns. If you prorate his stats since joining New England over a full season, he’s on pace to finish with 78 receptions, 1,152 yards and nine scores. Branch hadn’t reached 750 receiving yards or scored five touchdowns in a season since leaving New England in 2005, but at age 31, he’s clearly not washed up. All he needed was Tom Brady as his quarterback again…Since 2001, when the Patriots have a plus turnover differential, they are 80-3. (h/t Ken Tremendous)…New England is now 11-0 under Bill Belichick in the snow, and during their last three such games, the team has outscored its opponents 109-0 during the first half…New England has now gone five straight games without a turnover, setting an NFL record.

Tim Hightower ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries against the Broncos last week, and it’s clear he’s the RB to own in Arizona’s backfield. Hightower has averaged 5.2 YPC this season, and Beanie Wells hasn’t received more than eight touches in a game since Week 8. In a matchup against a Carolina defense that has allowed the third most fantasy points to running backs this season, Hightower is a fine start in Week 15…Arizona scored as many points in Week 14 as they did during its previous four games combined…Jay Feely’s fantasy performance was one for the record books…Over the past two games, Kyle Orton has completed just 40.6 percent of his passes while getting a paltry 4.1 YPA with zero touchdowns and four turnovers. Week 14’s performance was especially galling, as his 27.1 QB rating came against a middling Arizona secondary in perfect weather conditions. Orton has enjoyed a fine season – easily the best of his career – but he’s slumping at the worst possible time for fantasy owners, and he’s a risky proposition down the stretch.

Mark Sanchez completed just 17-of-44 passes at home against the Dolphins in Week 14, getting only 4.9 YPA, and he’s lucky just one of his four fumbles was lost. Sanchez has committed six turnovers over the past three games after not committing one over the first five games of the year. In fact, he’s been intercepted at least once in eight consecutive contests. While the Jets’ receivers have done him no favors, dropping 35 passes, which is the second most in football this year, Sanchez’s 53.3 completion percentage is the lowest in the AFC. He’s really regressed of late, but it’s obviously too soon to give up on the sophomore signal caller…While Kareem McKenzie has been fantastic, Jake Long is the best offensive tackle in all of football…What an indefensible drop in the end zone by Santonio Holmes. Pathetic.

Brodie Croyle is now 0-10 as a starter throughout his career…Ryan Mathews gained 65 rushing yards on 16 carries Sunday during his first action since Week 9, also hitting paydirt. Mike Tolbert received the same amount of rushing attempts, and while he’s a better bet to score each week as the team’s goal-line back, don’t be surprised if the rookie starts getting the majority of the carries from here on out. As nearly double-digit favorites at home against the 49ers on Thursday night, the Chargers should be playing with the lead mostly, resulting in plenty of carries to go around…With Antonio Gates highly questionable and Malcom Floyd also banged up, Vincent Jackson deserves an upgrade…During Weeks 6-12, Dwayne Bowe recorded 49 catches for 733 yards and 13 touchdowns. Over his other six games this year, he’s totaled 10 catches for 155 yards and one touchdown. There hasn’t been a bigger boom-or-bust player in football.

A favorite for the craziest stat of the 2010 season: LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 709 yards after the catch. He has 538 receiving yards on the year…Michael Vick has gotten 9.3 YPA with a 17:3 TD:turnover ratio over five games on the road this season…To me, the Tashard Choice asking Vick for an autograph issue is much ado about nothing.

If that wasn’t a safety on Tavaris Jackson, then I don’t know what one is…Returning to action after a two-game absence, Hakeem Nicks racked up seven catches for 96 yards Monday night. Nicks’ 81.5 receiving yards per game this season rank as the fifth most in the NFL, and his nine TD receptions are also tied for the fifth most in football, despite playing in just 11 games. With Steve Smith out for the season, and Mario Manningham also hobbled, Nicks is going to be targeted heavily, returning him to elite status in fantasy leagues. The Giants could be in a shootout against the Eagles in Week 15, although the likely return of Asante Samuel isn’t ideal…Brett Favre’s purple hand was pretty gross. Joe Webb, who might get the start under center in Week 15, presents an interesting fantasy option, as he’s eligible at WR in Yahoo leagues.

While Monday night’s game was thrilling, the Ravens showed exactly how not to play with a big lead. What kind of defense was that? Matt Schaub, who’s the only quarterback in the league yet to commit a penalty this season, was somehow sacked just twice despite dropping back (mostly in obvious passing downs) a whopping 63 times…Anquan Boldin has reached 70 yards receiving just twice over the past nine games, and after entering the year as the all-time leader in receiving yards per game, he’s dropped to third on the leaderboard (Andre Johnson is currently first with 79.9 Y/G).

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Bet on It

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 7-9, bringing my season record to 94-94-4. Through 13 weeks, I’m like Jerry Seinfeld – Even Steven. I’m not too happy about it, so let’s see if we can finish strong. I won my best bet, so I’m 9-4 there. Onto the Week 14 picks:

COLTS -3.5 at Titans

Falcons -8 at PANTHERS

BENGALS +9 at Steelers

GIANTS -2 at Vikings

Packers -7 at LIONS

RAIDERS +4 at Jaguars

Buccaneers -2 at REDSKINS

BROWNS +1 at Bills

RAMS +9.5 at Saints

Seahawks +5 at 49ers

Patriots -3 at BEARS

Dolphins +5.5 at JETS (Best Bet)

Broncos -5.5 at CARDINALS

CHIEFS +7 at CHARGERS

EAGLES -3.5 at Cowboys

RAVENS -3 at Texans

Comments: Lots of home dogs this week, but no best bet jumped out at me. I’ll take the Jets, who should bounce back after getting embarrassed Monday night.

The Scoop

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Despite getting 20 carries in a game just once this season, LeSean McCoy is on pace to finish with 1,809 total yards and 12 touchdowns thanks to his activity in the passing game. In fact, he’s on track to record a whopping 89 catches this year. McCoy has clearly established himself as Philadelphia’s franchise back for years to come, and while the Eagles skew toward the pass, it’s still a terrific situation to be in, especially with Michael Vick’s transformation, as the Eagles possess one of the best offenses in the league. McCoy is just 22 years old, so there’s even room for improvement. He’ll enter 2011 as a top-five fantasy running back…Michael Vick has more 300-yard passing games this season (three) than he had during his entire career beforehand (two)…The difference between the Eagles’ pass defense with Asante Samuel compared to without him is quite drastic…With 3:30 left in the fourth quarter down 34-24, Joe Theismann asked whether the Texans should consider it four down territory. Seriously. How can NFL Network possibly think this booth is a good idea?

Chad Henne was downright awful Sunday, throwing three interceptions and getting 5.4 YPA at home against the Browns. He completed just 50.0 percent of his passes and posted a 37.8 QB rating versus a middling Browns secondary that entered having allowed 19 TD passes over 11 games. Henne now has a 12:15 TD:INT ratio on the season, and his status as Miami’s franchise quarterback has come into question. He’s been picked off eight times over the past four games, and the money spent on Brandon Marshall has largely been wasted so far. According to Pro Football Focus, the Dolphins have been the best pass blocking team in football in 2010, making Henne’s poor play all that more discouraging…Sunday marked the first game Jake Delhomme didn’t commit a turnover since Week 10 in 2009…Ben Watson (my wife hates me because every time he’s mentioned I inevitably say “Mr. Randy Watson!”) gained 100 yards and scored a touchdown last week, catching 10 of his 11 targets, as Delhomme locked onto him. Delhomme will get another start in Week 14, so expect Watson to once again be heavily involved. Moreover, Cleveland faces a Buffalo defense that has allowed a league-high eight touchdowns to tight ends this season, as only Houston has allowed more fantasy points to TEs…Props to Cleveland for taking a knee and not trying to score a TD at the end of the game.

This movie looks rather bizarre.

James Starks made his NFL debut Sunday and immediately acted as Green Bay’s lead back, gaining 73 yards on 18 carries (the most by a Green Bay RB this season). Brandon Jackson received only four rushing attempts, so if this is a sign of things to come, Starks could be a difference maker in fantasy leagues from here on out. Green Bay is likely to institute a committee, but Starks is clearly the most talented member of the Packers’ backfield, and coach Mike McCarthy referred to him as an “every-down back.” Starks would have been drafted much higher if not for his injury history, and he’s got fresh legs at this stage of the year. While his workload is no sure thing, Starks is the Packers running back worth owning in fantasy leagues…Over the last three games, Greg Jennings has totaled 393 yards with five touchdowns, as no receiver is hotter in football. After averaging just 36.6 receiving yards over the season’s first five games, he’s topped 70 yards in every game since, and his 11 touchdowns rank third in the NFL. Jennings scored 21 times over 29 games from 2007-2008, so last year’s low TD total looks increasingly like an anomaly. There might not be a better fantasy WR start than Jennings at Detroit in Week 14…Jeff Reed’s legs are absolutely ridiculous. Bigger than some linemen without a doubt. My torso may be smaller. And I have a beer gut…Troy Smith is 3-2 as a starter this season, while Alex Smith is 1-6. So naturally, the team is switching back to the latter for Week 14.

This is a worthwhile read.

I fully expected a different outcome, but after they combined for 78 points during their first meeting, I was surprised to see the Broncos and Chiefs total 16 points Sunday. Funny, Kyle Orton has been one of the team’s lone bright spots all season, and on the day they have their best defensive performance and rushing attack, the QB has his worst game of the year…Josh McDaniels might be the worst personnel decision maker in NFL history, but he can coach up an offense. The team that buys low on him as their next OC will be happy. That said, what a coward for punting down four points on 4th and four with 2:23 left Sunday. That alone was a fireable offense…I’m a big Adrian Peterson fan, but the best running back in football is Jamaal Charles.

Sidney Rice hauled in five receptions for 105 yards and two scores Sunday, and his 31-yard TD catch was highlight worthy. He benefitted from playing a poor Buffalo defense and not having to battle Percy Harvin for targets, and his schedule gets much tougher over the next three games, but Rice looks like he’s back to full health. A strong option in the red zone as well as a terrific downfield threat, he should be worth using in fantasy leagues down the stretch…Pretty hard to evaluate Tavaris Jackson after that performance. The three interceptions (including a pick six) against the team that entered with the fewest picks in the NFL were pretty ugly, but he also got 8.5 YPA and tossed two touchdowns. I fear the Vikings less with Brett Favre at the helm…Fred Jackson loses some fantasy value with the return of C.J. Spiller, but Stevie Johnson should be started with confidence in Week 14.

I introduce to you, the better marriage blanket. They say it “makes a great wedding gift.”

Earl Bennett led the Bears with seven catches for 104 yards Sunday, one week after scoring twice, so he’s quietly emerging as the team’s No. 1 option in the passing game. Johnny Knox is a superior downfield threat, but Jay Cutler is developing a nice rapport with his former college teammate. Mike Martz hasn’t produced the gaudy passing stats many expected in Chicago, but Bennett has become an option for owners in deep leagues…Surprising to see Jahvid Best rise from the dead and record both a run for 45 yards and also a catch for 32 yards. I’d still stay away until 2011, when I’ll be recommending him aggressively.

Chris Johnson ran for just 53 yards Sunday in a home game against a mediocre Jacksonville defense one week after being held to just five rushing yards in Houston. Johnson is on pace to finish with nearly 1,000 fewer yards from scrimmage this season compared to last, as his YPC has dropped from 5.6 to 4.3, and his activity as a receiver has dramatically declined. Johnson is still on pace to finish with 1,527 total yards and 12 touchdowns, and he’s a top-five start in Week 14 against the Colts, but fantasy owners have to feel a bit let down. Pro Football Focus ranks the Titans as the third worst run blocking unit in the NFL (with only the Steelers and Buccaneers worse), which is a big step back from last year and certainly a big part of the problem…Teams with Randy Moss this season are 4-8. Those same teams without him on their roster are 16-7…Over the last five games, Maurice Jones-Drew has totaled 803 yards and while his fantasy owners (and by that I mean myself) have panicked seeing Rashad Jennings score two touchdowns to open both games, it really is hard to complain. MJD is peaking at the right time, and over the next three weeks, he faces run defenses (Oak, @Ind, Was) that all rank in the bottom 10 in fantasy points allowed versus running backs this season.

I always suspected DeLino DeShields was up to no good.

Mario Manningham managed just two catches for 36 yards last week despite a plus matchup at home against the Redskins, who are severely depleted in their secondary. He hasn’t had more than three receptions or topped 65 yards receiving in any of the past three games, so he hasn’t exactly taken advantage of being the Giants’ No. 1 wide receiver. With Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks both due back soon, Manningham’s role is going to be diminished. His fantasy value is fleeting…I wouldn’t start either, but I trust James Davis more than Keiland Williams at this point.

Cedric Benson has scored more touchdowns and recorded more receptions and receiving yards in one fewer game compared to last season, but his YPC has dropped from 4.2 to 3.5, and he’s lost four more fumbles in 2010, meaning he’s been one of the least valuable running backs in football. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, teammate Brian Leonard, who has played 175 snaps compared to 492 by Benson, has been more valuable thanks to his superior blocking…Chris Ivory has five touchdowns over the past three games, but with zero action in the passing game and averaging 15.0 carries over that span, he’s a risky play in the fantasy playoffs….The Cincy offsides penalty Sunday was the single dumbest play of the 2010 season, without question.

This guy is almost certainly not sane.

I’m beginning to think San Diego is the type of team that doesn’t live up to its potential…I’m also willing to admit Ryan Mathews might have been drafted too high this year. In all seriousness, Mathews will likely be a pretty good target in 2011 drafts…With Legedu Naanee proving me wrong last week and again succumbing to injury, Seyi Ajirotutu is a viable option in deep leagues…Maybe Nnamdi Asomugha is healthier than anticipated.

LeGarrette Blount ran for 103 yards and a touchdown against Atlanta, which was especially noteworthy since the Falcons have allowed the second fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Blount has just two catches on the year, and there are rumblings he may lose his role as the team’s short-yardage back, but he’s averaged 18.9 rushing attempts over the past six contests, so he’s clearly emerged as Tampa Bay’s featured runner. Over the next three weeks, the Bucs face the Redskins, Lions and Seahawks – three teams that rank in the bottom-eight in fantasy points allowed to running backs, so Blount could be a huge difference maker during fantasy crunch time…The season-ending loss of Aqib Talib was brutal, but the loss of Jeff Faine, who was horrible in pass protection, wasn’t nearly as impactful.

Seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

Mike Goodson scored for the second straight week Sunday, but he finished with just three touches and later left with an injury to his shoulder. Jonathan Stewart, meanwhile, ended up with 22 touches and has taken control of Carolina’s backfield. Goodson is now only a handcuff for fantasy purposes and can’t be trusted in Week 14 against a Falcons defense that has been stingy against the run…What a ridiculously unpredictable game by Marshawn Lynch…What a tackle by punter Jason Baker.

In Yahoo Friends & Family and my home league, I needed to either win OR have an opponent lose to get a Week 14 bye. Went 0-4 in those scenarios. FML.

After fumbling a simple handoff in Week 11, a problem he’s had throughout his brief career, Chris Wells blew a blitz pickup Sunday, which led to his playing time once again being reduced. He received just three carries, giving him a total of 18 touches over the past four games. His YPC is down to 3.6 on the year, as the sophomore back continues to disappoint. Wells has talent, and he’s tempting to use in Week 14 at home against a Denver defense that has allowed the second most fantasy points to running backs this season, but he’s in a timeshare and has the disadvantage of playing on a team with the worst quarterback situation in the league…Chris Long’s 47 QB pressures are the most in the NFL.

Dez Bryant was lost for the season with a broken fibula, and after totaling just four catches for 22 yards over the final three games, his year ended on a low note. It was still an encouraging rookie campaign to be sure, and he’ll likely cost a relatively high draft pick next year. Miles Austin and Roy Williams should see a bump in value as a result of Bryant’s injury…Seriously, what’s the deal with Peyton Manning?

After catching just one ball for 13 yards in Week 12, Hines Ward has been held to fewer than 30 yards receiving in five of his past six games. He’s averaging just 43.6 yards per game this season, his lowest mark since 2000. At age 34, Ward is entering the decline phase, and he’s quickly become an unreliable option in fantasy leagues…What a physical game that was Sunday night. Love the Ravens/Steelers rivalry.

Tom Brady has posted a 15:0 TD:INT ratio over the past five games, as no player in football is hotter (he’s also playing well). Over the previous four contests, he’s completed a remarkable 73.4 percent of his passes while getting 9.7 YPA. With a 27:4 TD:INT ratio and a 109.5 QB rating, Brady is right in the middle of the MVP race. His numbers are especially impressive when you consider the lackluster weapons on offense he has to work with…I decided to make the Jets my “best bet” for Week 14, as I fully expect them to rebound in a big way after getting so embarrassed Monday night.

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Bet on It

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 7-9, bringing my season record to 87-85-4. I won my best bet, so I’m 8-4 there. Onto the Week 13 picks:

Texans +8.5 at EAGLES

Jaguars +3 at TITANS

REDSKINS +7.5 at Giants

BROWNS +4.5 at Dolphins

Bears -3.5 at LIONS

Broncos +8.5 at CHIEFS

49ers +9.5 at PACKERS (Best Bet)

BILLS +6 at Vikings

Saints -7 at BENGALS

RAIDERS +13 at Chargers

Falcons -3 at BUCCANEERS

PANTHERS +6 at Seahawks

Cowboys +5 at COLTS

Rams -3.5 at CARDINALS

STEELERS +3 at Ravens

Jets +3.5 at PATRIOTS

Comments: I’m buying low on the Packers, who might be the best team in football, and I’m selling high on the 49ers, who have to travel coming off a short week.

The Scoop

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Thanksgiving speed round: What an embarrassing game by Alphonso Smith. Remember, not only did Josh McDaniels trade away Peyton Hillis, but he also dealt a 2010 first round pick to move up in round two in 2009 to select Smith…Tom Brady has an 11:0 TD:INT ratio over the past four games, and he hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 6. Simply amazing when you consider New England’s receiving corps…Normally I’m a big Bill Belichick fan, but how could he not go for it on 4th and 1 at the two-yard line?…Miles Austin has totaled seven catches over the past three games, yet he’s scored four touchdowns over that span…After racking up 274 receiving yards over Weeks 8-10, Dez Bryant has just eight yards over the past two games. Jon Kitna simply needs to get his playmakers involved more…New Orleans guard Carl Nicks has been the NFL’s most devastating run blocker this season…Think Terrell Owens still considers Darrelle Revis an “average” corner?…It was cool seeing James Brown get so genuinely emotional over the Chris Henry pregame story.

How does Green Bay not challenge that Tony Gonzalez “catch” on 4th down? Aaron Rodgers has gotten a ton of criticism for his record in close games, but Mike McCarthy is likely the bigger culprit. Rodgers sure plays like a “winner”…The Falcons have played just one road game since Week 6, so it should be interesting to see how they fare with three straight upcoming games away from home…Since his rookie season, Matt Ryan has thrown 41 touchdowns over 25 games despite a 6.6 YPA mark. Not sure what to make of it, but those two are incredibly disproportionate.

Teams with Randy Moss this season are 4-7. Those same teams without him on their roster are 14-7…Rusty Smith posted a 26.7 QB rating against one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history last week. Kerry Collins can’t return soon enough…Houston plays Tennessee again this year in Week 15. Can’t wait to see Andre Johnson vs. Cortland Finnegan round two.

Keiland Williams was given just three carries and gained only five yards against the Vikings last week, as newcomer James Davis received twice as many rushing attempts. Williams should remain active as a receiver, but he’s down to 3.8 YPC on the year, and Sunday illustrated just how unpredictable a Mike Shanahan backfield can be. No Washington RB is reliable right now…Sunday marked the first time Brett Favre didn’t commit a turnover in a game this season.

The Jaguars have the fewest three-and-outs in the NFL this year…The Giants were the only team not to score on an opening drive this season until kicking a field goal last week…What a TD run by David Garrard.

Fred Jackson totaled 123 yards against a Pittsburgh defense that entered having allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs in the NFL. His 65-yard TD reception was impressive, as was his 4.9 YPC mark against a Steelers’ front seven that has allowed a league-low 3.0 YPC. The return of C.J. Spiller could take away some touches, but Jackson is clearly Buffalo’s workhorse, and with the emergence of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Steve Johnson, it’s no longer an untenable situation. Over the last three games, Jackson has totaled 462 yards with five touchdowns. He should be treated as a top-12 fantasy back moving forward…Stevie Johnson had five drops Sunday, and none was bigger than his last one. The Bills are far better than their 2-9 record indicates…Kyle Williams has been a beast in IDP leagues, and not only did he record 10 tackles with two sacks last week, he also induced a whopping four holding calls as well…Solomon Wilcots actually questioned the Bills’ decision to try to get closer with the ball at Pittsburgh’s 40-yard line with 36 seconds left down three points in the fourth quarter, as if a 57-yard field goal in Buffalo was a gimme (not to mention a touchdown would have won the game). Wilcots is TERRIBLE.

Target any and all fantasy defenses facing the Browns when Jake Delhomme is starting. He’s a pick-six waiting to happen…Jonathan Stewart gained 98 yards on 12 carries during his return to action last week, as he’s fully recovered from his concussion. Mike Goodson remains in the picture, leading the team with 14 rushing attempts and also with eight receptions and 81 receiving yards against the Browns. Goodson’s impressive performance has earned him touches going forward, but coach John Fox usually sides with veterans, and a healthy Stewart should regain the starting job soon enough. The backfield should remain a timeshare, with Goodson dominating third down work, but Stewart should get the majority of the carries including at the goal line, making him a flex option in fantasy leagues…The Panthers had the ball at their own 5-yard line with no timeouts and less than one minute left and yet were in position to win until John Kasay shanked a 42-yard field goal as time expired…Peyton Hillis is on pace to finish with 1,919 total yards and 19 touchdowns this season despite not starting until Week 3. He might go down as the single best waiver wire pickup in the history of fantasy football.

Matt Cassel continued to impress in Week 12, throwing four touchdowns with zero interceptions in Seattle. He has now tossed 10 TDs without getting picked over the past three games (while getting 8.2 YPA), and he hasn’t been sacked in either of the past two. If you date back further, Cassel has posted a remarkable 21:2 TD:INT ratio since Week 3. He benefits from a strong Chiefs rushing attack, but Kansas City is no longer one-dimensional on offense, and Cassel is suddenly a borderline QB1 in fantasy leagues. Meanwhile, Dwayne Bowe has recorded 13 touchdowns over the past seven games, and there’s certainly an argument he’s the No. 1 fantasy wide receiver. Charlie Weis had flaws as a head coach at Notre Dame, but he’s a terrific offensive coordinator and deserves a ton of credit…With Mike Williams sidelined with a foot injury, Ben Obomanu stepped in and recorded five catches for 159 yards and a score against Kansas City last week. The former seventh-rounder has scored a touchdown in three of the past four games and has averaged 102.0 receiving yards over the past three contests. Obomanu has impressed when given the opportunity during his third year in the league, something that could continue with Williams’ foot injury possibly keeping him out a while. Playing in Seattle’s offense is hardly ideal, but the Seahawks have a favorable schedule from here on out…Seriously, how sick is Jamaal Charles?

Not only did Jacoby Ford have an impressive 101-yard kickoff return TD to open the game last week, he also recorded the first receiving touchdown of his career. He’s topped 100 yards receiving in two of the past three games and had to deal with a tough Steelers’ defense in Pittsburgh during the one game in between. Especially with Bruce Gradkowski likely out for the season with a shoulder injury, Ford isn’t in an ideal situation, but it’s worth noting he’s been targeted 18 times over the past two weeks. Al Davis drafted him for his speed (his 4.28 forty time was the fastest at this year’s combine and nearly matched Chris Johnson’s all-time record), but it’s clear Ford is much more than just a speedster. He looks like a special player capable of helping fantasy teams down the stretch even as a rookie, and those who own him in dynasty leagues have to be salivating at his future prospects…Sunday marked the first time Chad Henne threw multiple touchdowns in a game since Week 6, and it’s clear Nnamdi Asomugha returned from his injury too soon.

Over Jay Cutler’s first nine completions against the Eagles, four were touchdowns…Down 31-16 with less than five minutes remaining, not only did Andy Reid make the questionable decision to kick a field goal, he followed that up by not attempting an onside kick. Reid continues to baffle when it comes to in game management.

Targeted just four times for the second straight game, Anquan Boldin watched as 36-year-old teammate Derrick Mason got 13 looks last week. Boldin hasn’t topped 50 yards receiving since Week 7, averaging just 3.25 catches per game and scoring only once over that span. While a Week 14 matchup against an awful Houston secondary is tasty, the Ravens face the Steelers and Saints in two of their next three games, which are two of the NFL’s best pass defenses, so his slump may not come to an end soon…If Josh Freeman can’t get a comeback win, he’ll at least get you a backdoor cover.

Danario Alexander had 95 receiving yards last week during his return to the lineup, continuing to flash impressive ability. Alexander put up those numbers while playing only 20 snaps, which reveals a high ceiling if he were to become a full-time player but also a low floor if the snaps remain limited, as it’s awfully tough to be consistent that way. The latest knee operation was his fifth, so there’s no guarantee he’ll stay healthy or be able to play a full complement of snaps anytime soon, but the skills are clearly there. If his health cooperates, Alexander could be the Rams’ No. 1 wide receiver for years to come, which means a lot of potential since the team’s rookie quarterback has posted an 11:1 TD:INT ratio over the last six games…While Peyton Hillis may end up being the greatest fantasy add ever, Brandon Lloyd could easily go down as the best WR free agent pickup in the history of fantasy football the very same year – he’s on pace to finish this season with 84 catches, 1,632 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

Vincent Jackson lasted just a few plays during his return to the field before leaving Sunday’s game with a calf injury, which apparently stemmed from overcompensating for a groin injury he suffered the week prior in practice. He’s going to miss at least the next two weeks with the ailment, which makes him unreliable in fantasy leagues and highlights the risks involved with players who come back midseason. With Jackson and Patrick Crayton out, and Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd still banged up, Legedu Naanee, who is finally back to 100 percent, becomes a sneaky option in fantasy leagues. He’s a sleeper to be a difference maker as one of the main options in such a high powered passing attack down the stretch…In deep leagues, I’d take a flier on Mike Hart, who has been far more productive than Donald Brown this season…Most are down on the Colts, but it’s worth noting their last three losses have come @Phi, @NE and against a Chargers team that might be the best in football (although admittedly, their shaky 23-17 home win over the Bengals sandwiched in between might be the most embarrassing over that span), so don’t count them out just yet. Expect Indy to bounce back in a big way this week against Dallas.

The NFC West has been outscored by 247 points collectively this season. That’s not good…On a neutral field, I’d take any team in the league over the Cardinals…In the Yahoo! Friends & Family league, I’ve scored the most points despite drafting Beanie Wells in round 2, Ryan Grant in round 3, Michael Bush in round 4 and Kevin Kolb in round 6. I say this not to brag, but to vent, since Frank Gore was my first round pick. My reaction when finding out Gore’s hip was broken was borderline psychotic, and I can only wonder what my poor wife must have thought. She’d be better off married to a drunk who kicks the dog upside the head than me when an important fantasy player of mine goes down. I seriously need therapy. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to beat those chumps without starting any of my first seven round picks.

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