Anthony Armstrong and other playoff saviors

December 8, 2010 by

He has more receiving yards than Robert Meachem (515). He averages more yards per catch than DeSean Jackson (20.1). He averages more receiving yards per game than Wes Welker (56.0). And in Week 13, only seven wide receivers (Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Mike Williams (TB), Santonio Holmes, Malcom Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald, and Brandon Lloyd) were targeted more times than he was.

The “he” in question is Washington Redskins WR Anthony Armstrong, widely available in all formats (7 percent owned in Yahoo!, 2.3 percent in ESPN) and facing an advantageous match-up in Week 14 vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Bucs have surrendered 19 touchdown passes to their opponents, including two last week to Atlanta Falcons not named Roddy White or Tony Gonzalez. (The lucky birds were RB Ovie Mughelli and WR Michael Jenkins.)

Moreover, the Bucs have only recorded 18 sacks — tied for 29th in the NFL. That’s a favorable stat for Armstrong, who is the Skins’ primary deep threat. His 20.7 yards per catch ranks behind only Pittsburgh Steelers WR Mike Wallace.

At the beginning of the season, Armstrong was a fantasy afterthought. He was an undrafted 27-year-old rookie who had never played a game in the NFL. But by statistical measures, he is arguably a top 30 receiver. He ranks 29th in receiving yards (642) and 31st in receiving yards per game (58.4).

He is also consistent: In each of his last eight games, he has exceeded 40 receiving yards. In other words, he is disaster-proof, especially when you consider how the Redskins have abandoned running the ball. Against the New York Giants in Week 13, the Skins only attempted 14 rushes in a 31-7 loss. Against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 12, the Skins only attempted 11 rushes in a 17-13 loss. It’s hard to envision Washington suddenly turning to James Davis and Keiland Williams to carry the load in Week 14.

So, why wouldn’t you start Armstrong in a flex spot? For one thing, he is a poor choice in PPR leagues. He has only 31 receptions. In addition, he has only scored two touchdowns. No one’s going to confuse him with Stevie Johnson in the red zone.

But if you’re looking for a low-risk No. 3-4 WR with the upside to hit a big play — Armstrong might be the best thing in your free agent pool. Here are three other overlooked pass catchers who can help your playoff cause:

Joel Dreessen, TE, Houston Texans (12 percent owned in Yahoo!, 3.9 percent in ESPN). All Dreessen does is produce. In four of five games since taking over for TE Owen Daniels (hamstring, knee) in Week 9, Dreessen has either scored or surpassed 60 receiving yards. While Daniels is slated to return this week when the Texans host the Baltimore Ravens, Dreessen will remain in the starting lineup. Moreover, the Ravens don’t defend tight ends well. On Sunday night, Steelers backup TE David Johnson caught three passes for 37 yards in relief of Heath Miller. In Week 12, Bucs TE Kellen Winslow had his second-best fantasy game of the season (four catches, 44 yards, one touchdown) against the Ravens. If you’re hurting for a TE, don’t hesitate to use Dreessen. In the Texans offense, he has the potential to produce a multiple-touchdown game — and there are not many free agent tight ends you can say that about.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Baltimore Ravens (23 percent owned in Yahoo!, 14.3 percent in ESPN). Did we mention the Ravens face the Texans in Week 14? The Texans, notoriously awful defending the air, surrender 287.4 passing yards per game (dead last) and have allowed 27 touchdown passes to opponents (dead last). While the Hoosh-Man is plainly behind Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason in the Ravens WR pecking order, he is far from out of the picture, having caught at least two passes in five straight games. On Sunday night, the Ravens employed many three-receiver sets, owing to the absences of TE Todd Heap (hamstring) and RB Le’Ron McClain (ankle). If those two are out of action again — and Heap will certainly be — it is a boon to Hoosh’s value. Besides, it’s never a bad bet to start a WR against the Texans, especially when that receiver has Houshmandzadeh’s career credentials.

Brandon Gibson, WR, St. Louis Rams (2 percent owned in Yahoo!, 0.3 percent in ESPN). Here are the reception numbers from Gibson’s last five games: six, three, five, eight, six. That’s a whopping 28 catches in five games, which is flat-out money in PPR formats. Better still, the Rams visit the Saints in Week 14, the same Saints squad that got torched for 249 passing yards by the generally anemic Cincinnati Bengals offense. While the Saints boast impressive season-long stats against the pass, the naked eye tells a different story. The Cowboys burned them for 313 passing yards on Thanksgiving Day. The Seahawks scorched them for 366 passing yards in Week 11. Gibson may not find paydirt, but he and the Rams offense should have an easy time moving the ball.

In RosterSlots, it’s important to remember that receptions don’t matter. In the “Receivers and TEs” slot, it’s all about yards and touchdowns. So a player like Gibson is not the best choice, enticing though his match-up may be. I’d sooner start someone like Indianapolis Colts WR Blair White. While Gibson is a safer bet for receptions, White (three scores in his last three games) is a safer bet for touchdowns. And touchdowns are what win in RosterSlots.

Missed out on Ford and Obomanu? Try this quartet

December 1, 2010 by

After their monster games in Week 12, wide receivers Jacoby Ford (four receptions, 108 yards, one score) and Ben Obomanu (five receptions, 159 yards, one score) are likely no longer available in your leagues. In their absence, which free agent receivers can help you in Week 13?

Here’s a quartet of extremely under-owned wideouts who could pay fantasy dividends:

Brian Robiskie, Cleveland Browns (0 percent owned in Yahoo! and ESPN). Once touted as a better prospect than Browns teammate Mohamed Massaquoi, Robiskie hauled in a career-high seven receptions (for 50 yards) in Week 12. Only six players — Jason Witten, Andre Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Derrick Mason, Wes Welker and Jason Avant — caught more balls. Can Robiskie do it again in Week 13 when the Browns visit the Miami Dolphins? I say yes: the Oakland Raiders receivers — Ford and Louis Murphy — each had strong days against the visiting Dolphins in Week 12. (Murphy caught four passes for 73 yards.) Robiskie will have extra motivation: Dolphins WR Brian Hartline, whom Robiskie overshadowed at Ohio State, has been a much better pro than Robiskie.

Jason Avant, Philadelphia Eagles (4 percent owned in Yahoo!, 1.3 percent in ESPN). Coming off his best performance of the year — eight receptions for 83 yards at the Chicago Bears — Avant is poised to have another big game Thursday night when the Eagles host the Houston Texans, who are abominable defending the pass. The Texans surrender 286.2 passing yards per game (31st) and have yielded 25 touchdown passes to their opponents (32nd). To watch the Eagles is to know: Avant is a big part of the game plan. His 41 receptions are a testament to that.

Early Doucet, Arizona Cardinals (1 percent owned in Yahoo!, 6.0 percent in ESPN). The Cardinals offense might be the last place to turn after its pathetic showing in Monday night’s 27-6 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Still, the numbers don’t lie: Doucet has snagged at least five receptions in two of his last three games. Now in his third year, Doucet has one explosive outing on his resume: last year’s 51-45 Wild Card win against the Green Bay Packers, in which he scored twice and caught six passes for 77 yards. That game didn’t help fantasy owners, but it revealed Doucet’s upside. Hosting a porous St. Louis Rams defense in Week 13, Doucet and the Cardinals could have an revival. The Rams have surrendered more than 30 points in each of the last two weeks.

David Nelson, Buffalo Bills (0 percent owned in both Yahoo! and ESPN). Quick: Who is the Bills No. 3 receiver? It’s Nelson, and the question is relevant because of the Bills’ dangerous offense. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has tossed 19 touchdown passes in nine games, eclipsing 220 passing yards in seven of them. Earlier this season, as the Bills No. 3 WR, Roscoe Parrish posted four straight games with at least four receptions and 57 receiving yards. In Week 12 vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, Nelson (six catches, 58 yards) appeared ready to assume the mantle of Parrish’s productivity. In Week 13, the Bills visit a Vikings defense that is overall strong against the pass, but has allowed 18 touchdown receptions to opponents.

Keep this quartet in mind in RosterSlots, where the Week 12 scoring leaders among receivers and TEs included several previously obscure WRs: Not only Ford and Obomanu, but also unheralded sources of fantasy points such as Bears WR Earl Bennett (3 percent owned in Yahoo!, 0.6 percent owned in ESPN) and Rams TE Billy Bajema (0 percent owned in Yahoo!, 0.2 percent in ESPN). When it comes to receiving touchdowns, there are surprises every week. The trick is guessing who they’ll be before they post their first big game.

Feeling Lucky?

November 26, 2010 by

Putting strategy aside this week and testing my luck: spinning just once per position grouping (or until I get at least two starters for RBs and WRs). Here are the results:

Spin 1 (QBs): Troy Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brett Favre

‘Niners coach Mike Singletary has been clear that Monday night’s game is make or break for Troy Smith. Fortunately for Smith and me, the game is against the Cardinals and Smith should do well. Favre may be playing in a make or break sort of game himself. Fitzpatrick’s matchup with Pittsburgh isn’t great. I definitely think I could have improved here with more spins.

Spin 2 (RBs): Donald Brown, Ray Rice, Rashard Jennings

Getting a back like Rice with one spin is pretty lucky, and Brown put up double digits last week. The matchups aren’t great, but not a bad spin.

Spin 3 (WRs and TEs): Joel Dreesen, Harry Douglas, and Donald Driver

If it was Donald Driver circa 2003 and Joel Dreesen circa last week (18 pts against the Jets), I’d be more excited.

I’ll call myself lucky for getting 2 starters in my first spins for both RBs and WR/TEs.

Spin 4 (Defenses): Texans (vs. Tennessee), Giants (vs. Jacksonville), 49ers (@ Arizona)

When are the Houston Texans not a terrible defensive option? Hopefully when they are playing the Tennessee Titans and a rookie 6th round pick making his first start. Still, this group was worth 0 points total last week.

Spin 5 (Special Teams): Giants (vs. Jacksonville), Vikings (@ Washington), Panthers (@ Cleveland)

The Giants should score some points… We’ll see.

Cleveland rocks (and other Week 12 gems)

November 24, 2010 by

Any way you slice it, it was a banner Week 11 for the Cleveland Browns defense. Sure, the Browns lost 24-20 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. But in the loss the Browns amassed four sacks, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one touchdown.

That kind of action more than offset their 24 points allowed (except in RosterSlots, where the only thing that matters for D is points allowed), propelling the under-owned Browns D (11 percent in Yahoo!, 6.0 percent in ESPN) to be the one of the highest scoring fantasy defenses in Week 11.

In Week 12, the Browns host a Carolina Panthers team that gave all sorts of fantasy gifts in their Week 11 37-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens racked up three sacks, two interceptions and two touchdowns against the Panthers.

Granted: both of the interceptions and touchdowns from the Ravens D came with fewer than six minutes remaining fourth quarter, when the Panthers, trailing 23-13 after a Ravens field goal, were forced to abandon the conservative offensive approach that had kept the game close.

Regardless, I am not expecting the Panthers to post tons of points in Cleveland in Week 12. So if you’re in need of a defense in Week 12, don’t hesitate to scoop up the under-owned Browns. Here are some other overlooked gems that could score big in Week 12:

Shaun Hill, QB, Detroit Lions (23 percent owned in Yahoo!, 8.8 percent in ESPN). Hill has exceeded 225 passing yards and tossed at least one touchdown pass in all six of the full games he has played. On Thanksgiving, the Lions host the New England Patriots, who surrender 289.6 passing yards per game — second worst in the NFL, ahead of only the Houston Texans (more on them later). So Hill should have a strong game, as should his under-owned WR Nate Burleson (18 percent in Yahoo!, 27.1 percent in ESPN), who has caught at least seven passes in three of his last four games.

Ben Obomanu, WR, Seattle Seahawks (0 percent owned in Yahoo!, 0 percent in ESPN). In Week 9, Obomanu caught a 36-yard touchdown pass vs. the New York Giants. Week 10, Obomanu caught four passes for 60 yards at the Arizona Cardinals, including a long of 40 yards. In Week 11, he caught five balls for 87 yards, including a 42-yard long, at the New Orleans Saints. That’s three straight weeks Obomanu has caught a pass for 36 yards or longer. In Week 12, the Seahawks host the Kansas City Chiefs, who yield 244.3 passing yards per game (ranking 25th). If Seahawks leading WR Mike Williams (sprained left foot) cannot play in Week 12 — and he left the Week 11 game in the third quarter — then Obomanu’s value could jump.

Tashard Choice, RB, Dallas Cowboys (3 percent owned in Yahoo!, 3.1 percent in ESPN). To date, Choice has merely 82 yards from scrimmage. But I have a hunch he’ll get double-digit touches on Thanksgiving when the Cowboys host the Saints. It’s a short turnaround from Sunday to Thursday, and starting Cowboys RB Felix Jones is nursing a bruised right hip. Jones’ backup, Marion Barber, has played poorly (3.2 yards per carry) and was recently in the coach’s doghouse for dress-code violations. There’s also a chance the Saints could run away with this game, which would mean major playing time for bench-warmers like Choice. Another gem to watch in this contest: Saints TE Jimmy Graham (five catches, 72 yards in Week 11), a gifted rookie whose weekly yardage has increased in each of the last four weeks.

Houston Texans D (4 percent owned in Yahoo!, 10.6 percent in ESPN). Two words for you: Rusty Smith. That’s who will start at QB for the Tennessee Titans when they visit the Texans in Week 12. Smith, a sixth-round rookie out of Florida Atlantic, went 3-for-9 for 62 yards and one interception in relief of Vince Young in Week 11. Young can’t play in Week 12 because of his thumb and his attitude. Titans QB Kerry Collins (calf) is also expected to miss the game.

While the Texans, as we mentioned, rank last in the NFL by allowing a whopping 301 passing yards per game, it’s hard to imagine how Smith will take advantage. The Texans, make no mistake, are a mediocre defense. They have also surrendered 25 touchdown passes this season, worst in the league. And the New York Jets just killed them through the air in Week 11. But the Texans are middle-of-the-road against the run (107.8 yards per game, 16th). They kept the Jets ground game in check, and they should be able to neutralize Titans RB Chris Johnson, if (with Smith at the helm) he is all the Texans have to prepare for.

Just as picking on inexperienced quarterbacks is a sound strategy for finding fantasy defenses, so is picking on unproductive offenses. So if you’re in a pinch for a defense in Week 12, don’t hesitate to roll the dice on the Texans or the Browns.

I especially endorse the Browns in RosterSlots, since their opponent is the Panthers offense. Only once this season — their Week 7 win vs. the San Francisco 49ers — have the Panthers scored more than 18 points in a game. To employ the fantasy defense that is opposing the Panthers is an unassailable strategy. And that’s especially true in RosterSlots, where points allowed is the only measure. Don’t be surprised if the Browns D tops the RosterSlots leaderboard when all is said and done in Week 12.

Week 11 Spins

November 20, 2010 by

Last week didn’t go so well, so I’m going back to my winning strategy from week 9: spinning for a super trip at WRs and TEs first and RBs second, rather than starting with QB. I’ll throw in another wrinkle and spin for Defense before QB. A defensive score in the negatives (7 teams last week, including -15 for Washington and K.C.) can really set you back, so it’s important to have good matchups there. Here goes…

Spin 1 (WRs and TEs): Dexter McCluster, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Ben Obomanu

McCluster has officially been ruled out for the third straight week and none of these guys has been doing much of anything. Passing.

Spin 2: Miles Austin, Kellen Winslow, Buster Davis

Miles Austin is always a threat for a big game and Kellen Winslow is working himself into the Bucs offensive plans more and more (12 pts last week), but that pair isn’t intriguing enough to make up for Buster Davis, who’s on the IR and has somehow lingered in the player pool. Removing him now.

Spin 3: Calvin Johnson, Aaron Hernandez, Dez Bryant

Jackpot! Johnson had a huge game last week against Buffalo and, despite only 1 catch two weeks ago against the Jets, he has 8 TDs in his last 6 games. The Cowboys D gives up the 5th most points to WRs. Johnson has had some trouble with his knee, but practiced at full strength on Friday and is listed as probable. Dez Bryant is another WR on a role, racking up 12 or more points in 3 of his last 4 games. As for Aaron Hernandez, he and fellow Patriots rookie TE Rob Gronkowski seem to be on a rotating schedule for fantasy relevance (Gronk scored 25 last week after Hernandez’s 16 the week before). This is Hernandez’s week.

Spin 4 (RBs): Danny Woodhead, Ahmad Bradshaw, Thomas Jones

Bradshaw is a solid, if not spectacular, play every week, and Woodhead and Jones both have great matchups. Neither player will get a full workload with backfield mates Green-Ellis and Charles, respectively, but there should be plenty of fantasy points to go around against the 8th (Indy) and 2nd (Arizona) most scored on defenses for RBs. I may return if I’m flush with spins, but I’ll stick for now.

Spin 5 (Defenses): Carolina (vs. Baltimore), Tennessee (vs. Washington), Dallas (vs. Detroit)

3 home teams, but Carolina (24/gm) and Dallas (28/gm) both give up a lot of points.

Spin 6: Green Bay (@ Minnesota),  NYG (@ Philadelphia), Indianapolis (@ New England)

3 road teams, and the matchups aren’t great – though Green Bay is 2nd in the NFL in pts allowed at 16/gm. Still, the Vikings put up 24 points the first time they played the Pack.

Spin 7: Detroit (@ Dallas), Seattle (@ New Orleans), Kansas City (vs. Arizona)

Kansas City’s defense was gashed last week, and I expect Seattle’s will be this week. Moving on.

Spin 8: Indianapolis (@ New England), Cincinnati (vs. Buffalo), NYJ (vs. Houston)

I’d like to avoid the Indy/NE game. Should be played in the mid 20s, at least. The Cincy (2-7/Buf (1-8) game is too terrible to consider.

This is getting ugly. What am I looking for here? A quick look at the schedule suggests that Baltimore, Tennessee, New Orleans, Tampa, and even Atlanta would be nice Ds. I’ve gone this far.. I might as well look for a spin with 2 from this group.

Spin 9: Baltimore (@ Carolina), Carolina (vs. Baltimore), Houston (@ NYJ)

Only one from the list and Houston’s D is awful, especially against the pass.

Spin 10: St. Louis (vs. Atlanta), Tampa Bay (vs. San Francisco), NYJ (vs. Houston)

Didn’t get two from my list, so I spun again. I guess Houston’s offensive potential (30 or more points 4 times this year) scares me, even against the Jets stout D. This is the one that got away.

Spin 11: Oakland (@ Pittsburgh), Atlanta (@ St. Louis), Indianapolis (@ New England)

Nope.

Spin 12: Cleveland (@ Jacksonville), Jacksonville (vs. Cleveland), Indianapolis (@ New England)

Seems the gods want me to take Indianapolis, despite my reluctance. If they end up shutting down my Patriots, it will doubly hurt.

Spin 13: New Orleans (vs. Seattle), NYG (@ Philadelphia), NYJ (vs. Houston)

Okay, I need to stop.

Before last week’s 36-18 win at Arizona, Seattle was averaging just 10 pts/gm on the road. Hopefully, last week was an aberration instead of a sign of things to come (can’t believe the Seahawks are in first place). I’m not wild about any team playing Michael Vick at this point, but I’ll need to put my faith in the ability of strong New York defenses to shut down equally strong opposing offenses. I still need QBs and STs.

Spin 14 (QBs): Matt Cassel, Matt Ryan, Donovan McNabb

Cassel (469 yds, 4 TDs) and Ryan (316 yds, 3 TDs) both had huge games in week 10. McNabb.. not so much. But with just 2 spins left, I gotta stick, even if the matchups aren’t great for any of these guys.

Spin 15 (STs): Oakland (@ Pittsburgh), NYG (@ Philadelphia), Washington (@ Tennessee)

Three road teams, but I could do worse – especially since my next spin is my last and I’d be locked in. Oakland does have potential on field goals and punt returns. Problem is, kicking in Pittsburgh is hard enough to cost you your job (ask Jeff Reed). Also, for some reason Tennessee seems to give up a lot of field goals (2nd most in the NFL).

Interesting fact: 18 NFL teams are without a kick or punt return this year (the Giants are one of them).

 

 

Gates, Tamme, thank you ma’am

November 17, 2010 by

Tight ends in fantasy football have become like catchers in fantasy baseball: Beyond three or four stars, you may as well plug-and-play based on match-ups, hot streaks or hunches.

Consider the leaders in receiving yards per game. Chargers TE Antonio Gates heads the pack at 82.9. The next two players are Packers TE Jermichael Finley (60.2) and Colts TE Dallas Clark (57.8). Not bad, except both Finley and Clark are out for the season.

Next is a jumbled mass of 15 TEs, all of whom average between 40 and 58 yards per game. In most formats, that translates to one or two fantasy points. Not much, in other words. Here’s the list:

Zach Miller (Raiders, 57.6 ypg), Jason Witten (57.0), Vernon Davis (57.0), Dustin Keller (52.4), Chris Cooley (51.4), Aaron Hernandez (48.4), Benjamin Watson (48.2), Brandon Pettigrew (45.8), Tony Gonzalez (44.7), Kellen Winslow (44.7), Todd Heap (44.2), Marcedes Lewis (42.1), Tony Moeaki (42.0), Anthony Fasano (40.8), Visanthe Shiancoe (40.0).

You could make the case, then, for advocating TEs like Lewis (42.1 ypg, seven touchdowns) and Keller (52.4 ypg, five touchdowns), who find enough paydirt to separate themselves from the pack of 15.

That sounds good, in principle. In practice, it’s not that easy. Lewis is feast or famine. All seven of his scores came in four games. Three times, he has caught two TD passes in one game. Last week, he was outperformed by his backup, Zach Miller (four receptions, 79 yards, one TD).

As for Keller, he has not caught a TD since Week 4. And he, too, is feast or famine. All five of his scores came in three games. Twice, he has caught two TD passes in one game.

A crucial outlier to the pack of 15 interchangeable TEs  is Colts TE Jacob Tamme. Though he averages only 27.2 ypg because of his goose eggs from Weeks 1-6, he has lit it up since replacing Clark in the starting lineup, posting 24 catches for 245 yards and two scores in Weeks 8-10.

Tamme’s recent productivity (81.66 ypg) is startling. It has allowed him, in the blink of an eye, to become the second best tight end in fantasy football. If you disagree, try acquiring Tamme in a straight up trade for Keller, Lewis or an established star like Vernon Davis. You won’t pry him loose.

All of which begs the question: If you don’t own Gates or Tamme, does it really matter which of the 15 interchangeable tight ends starts for your team?

The short answer is: No, it doesn’t matter. In fact, in Week 10, four of the 15 tight ends were outscored by their own teammates: Miller outscored Lewis for the Jaguars; for the 49ers, Delanie Walker (four catches, 80 yards) outdid starter Vernon Davis (four catches, 79 yards); for the Patriots, Rob Gronkowski (five catches, 72 yards, three TDs) outdid Aaron Hernandez (goose egg); and for the Redskins, Fred Davis (one catch, 71 yards) outdid Chris Cooley (three catches, 23 yards).

That was just the tip of the TE chaos iceberg. There were also four terrific performances from TEs who rank below the interchangeable 15 in terms of receiving yards per game. Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham (33.0 yards per game) busted loose for nine receptions, 85 yards and one score. Giants TE Kevin Boss (37.0 ypg) caught five passes for 81 yards and one score, capitalizing on the absence of WR Steve Smith (pectoral). Bears TE Greg Olsen (31.3 ypg) caught three passes for 31 yards and one score — his second straight week with a touchdown. And Steelers TE Heath Miller (33.7 ypg) caught five passes for 60 yards against the Patriots.

All of which makes the task of predicting TE performance a daunting one. Still, here are two under-owned TEs I’m recommending for Week 11:

1. Gresham (23 percent owned in Yahoo!, 10.1 percent in ESPN) vs. Buffalo. When in doubt about TEs, select the guy who is opposing the Bills. Especially when that guy is coming off a nine-catch week. The Bills have allowed 18 touchdown receptions to their opponents (ranking 28th). Also: It was the Bills against whom Lewis scored twice in Week 5 and Keller scored twice in Week 4. The Bills also gave up two TDs to Ravens TE Todd Heap in Week 7. Furthermore, Gresham takes the majority of TE snaps for the Bengals. You don’t have to worry about a Fred Davis, a Delanie Walker, a Rob Gronkowski or a Zach Miller poaching his workload.

2. Boss (11 percent owned in Yahoo!, 10.3 percent in ESPN) at Philadelphia. Boss has scored in two straight weeks. He faces an Eagles D that gave up a long reception to Fred Davis on Monday night and yielded a two-TD game to Tony Gonzalez in Week 6. With Giants WR Steve Smith (partially torn pectoral muscle) expected to miss another game and WR Ramses Barden (ankle) on injured reserve, Boss should see extra targets. A repeat of last week’s fine line would not be surprising.

If you spin for Gresham or Boss in RosterSlots, consider yourself lucky. Surprising TEs often end up on the leaderboard. Last week, Gronkowski (25 points) ranked second among all WRs and TEs in scoring; Dolphins TE Anthony Fasano (16 points) ranked eighth. By contrast, Cowboys TE Jason Witten (one reception, seven yards) scored zero points.

The lesson here is that a brand name TE is not always the best one for a one-week performance. Don’t waste your spins searching for Gates or Tamme. Find a viable TE with a favorable match-up, and move on.

Week 10 Spins

November 12, 2010 by

Last week I got stuck. I blew through 4 spins trying to find a defensive trip that didn’t include Houston, Dallas, or Oakland (I had a hunch about KC that proved to be not much of anything), and I was left with whatever the fates had in store for me at Special Teams – with no chance to recant. Now, you might argue that Special Teams is pretty much a crap shoot anyway. In fact, fewer than 10% of all spins are used on Special Teams (which of course makes up 20% of your roster). However, it might surprise you that the top scoring ST has outscored the 20th ranked ST by a rate greater than any other position, except defense:

  • QB: 127 – 89 (1.4 to 1)
  • RB   127-87 (1.4 to 1)
  • WR: 117-78 (1.5 to 1)
  • D: 90-35 (2.6 to 1)
  • ST: 88-53 (1.7 to 1)

Now, the overall points are lower, so most likely the cost of a bad ST won’t hurt you as bad as the cost of a bad QB, for example. Still, I got lucky.

I could have gotten Seattle, Buffalo, and Dallas (0 points each), or even New England and Detroit (1 pt each). Instead, in one spin, I got Baltimore, Oakland, and Arizona. I felt fortunate at the time, but I didn’t know how fortunate. Baltimore (14 pts) kicked 4 field goals, and both Oakland (17 pts) and Arizona (12 pts) returned kicks for a touchdown. 43 points from one spin. 3 of the 4 highest scoring teams at the position for the week.

Not only did my Special Teams come up big last week, but my strategy to go for WR first paid off (37 pts from a position grouping that averaged 24 pts among teams in the top 20) and most importantly, my quarterbacks dominated (20+ pts each from Stafford, Eli, and Sanchez – Sanchez being the guy I was most worried about).

But why let success get in the way of charting a new course. This week, I’m employing a new strategy that will keep me from getting stuck: I’ll start by spinning for each position once, rank each position, and then work in reverse ranking order to ensure that I address my weakest positions first. Starting now…

Spin 1 (QBs): Colt McCoy, Jon Kitna, Carson Palmer

Spin 2 (RBs): Justin Forsett, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Steven Jackson

Spin 3 (WRs): Steve Smith (NYG), Kevin Boss, Dante Rosario

Spin 4 (Defenses): Kansas City (@ Denver), Jacksonville (vs. Houston), San Francisco (vs. St. Louis)

Spin 5 (Special Teams): Houston (@ Jacksonville), Cincinnati (@ Indianapolis), Minnesota (@ Chicago)

Ranking from strongest to weakest: Special Teams, Defense, Receiver, Running Back, Quarterback. I dislike all the matchups at QB and RB (even Steven Jackson managed just 2.9 yards per carry his last game and he’s dinged up). At WR, I like the Giants receivers against the awful Dallas secondary, but it looks unlikely that Smith will play. The Giants offensive coordinator uttered “huge loss” when referring to the leg injury that forced Smith to leave practice this week.

So, working backwards…

Spin 6 (QBs): Shaun Hill, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning

Brady and Manning are no brainers in this format, even against strong Steeler and Bengal defenses that both allow just 12.75 points to opposing QBs. As for Shaun Hill (filling in for Matthew Stafford again): in 5 starts this year, Hill has 24 pts or more 3 times and Buffalo’s defense allows the 4th most points to opposing QBs.

Spin 7 (RBs): Chester Taylor, Justin Forsett, LaRod Stephens-Howlin

If you are really looking for help in a deeper traditional league, you can find good stuff being written about Taylor and Stephens-Howlin. Taylor seems to be becoming more a part of Chicago’s offense, picking up double-digit carries and a TD last week. But he managed just 13 yards on those carries and Matt Forte is still the man. Stephens-Howlin returned a kick for a TD last week and might see some additional carries if Beanie Wells doesn’t play, but he’s best case 2nd on the depth chart behind Tim Hightower. Not for me.

Spin 8: Peyton Hillis, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marshawn Lynch

It’s hard not to get excited about Hillis after what I saw him do to New England last week, but this week he’s up against a Jets defense that is stingiest in the league for opposing RBs, allowing just 8 pts a game. Still with MJD in the mix and 3 likely starters (Lynch is a little dinged, but has a great matchup at Arizona), hard to not like this spin.

Spin 9 (WRs and TEs): Eddie Royal, Nate Washington, Brandon LaFell

Nate Washington had his first game over 44 yards since week 1 last week, as he broke out with 117 yards and a TD. Still, hard to know how Moss’ presence will affect his role in Tennessee, and he’s hardly been consistent. Same goes for LaFell and Royal.

Spin 10: Johnny Knox, Mike Sims-Walker, Golden Tate

Mike Sims-Walker should have a big game against Houston, just as he did before his team’s bye against Dallas (8 catches, 153 yards, and a TD). Tate has done nothing, and is actually expected to be out. The Chicago passing attack has been too inconsistent to trust Knox.

Spin 11: Steve Breaston, Hakeem Nicks, Sammie Stroughter

Nicks is a stud and should clean up against Dallas (see Mike Sims-Walker above), and I like Steve Breaston’s chances against a Seattle defense that gives up the 7th most points to opposing WRs. Breaston has suited up 5 times this year and has scored double-digits 3 times. He’s also scored in 3 straight games against Seattle. Just wish I knew who Sammie Stroughter was. Oh yeah, he had negative 2 points in week 9.

Spin 12 (Defenses): Philadelphia (at Washington), Tennessee (at Miami), Jets (at Cleveland)

Three road teams, but I like the matchups. The opposing offenses rank 23rd, 28th, and 25th in scoring respectively, and the Jets and Tennesse both rank in the top 10 defensively.

I’m going to stick with my original Special Teams spin. I’ve got Cincinatti kicking in a dome (which you know I like), Houston putting up lots of points vs. Jacksonville, and the Vikings should be able to manage some FGs and a Harvin kick return, even in windy Chicago.

Now, what to do with my extra 4 spins… What do you think? Should these be worth something in the game? Some of you have already commented on this, but I’m always interested in more.

It’s Spiller time

November 10, 2010 by

I’m not going to bench Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco.

Yes, he has only four catches for 49 yards and no scores in his last two games. Yes, he’s facing an Indianapolis Colts D ranking seventh against the pass. Yes, all the action lately is going to his teammate, Terrell Owens.

It doesn’t matter.

In his last four seasons, Ochocinco has eight games with multiple scores. Even in a down year like this one, Ochocinco has two games with double-digit receptions (Week 1 at New England, Week 7 at Atlanta).

His talent is there. And I believe the opportunity will be there in Week 10, especially now that Ochocinco has voiced his frustrations. The Murphy’s Law of fantasy football is at work. The week you bench Ochocinco for his poor numbers will be the week he explodes for 150 yards and two scores.

“Play your studs” is a fantasy cliche for a reason. Ochocinco may have disappointed you so far. But he still boasts 40 receptions for 473 yards and two scores after eight games. Once he gets hot, he will be on track for his typical season of 85 catches, 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns. The guy is a closer. Remember: he caught one touchdown pass in each of his final four contests last season.

Whether you’re talking about Ochocinco or anyone else, the talent + opportunity = fantasy success formula is no secret. But it’s easy to overlook that formula when the player in question has poor statistics. A case in point is Buffalo Bills RB C.J. Spiller, who went as high as Round 4 in many fantasy drafts.

And this was for his sheer talent. The ninth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Spiller was a game-breaker in college. He has already showcased his speed in the pros, returning a kickoff 95 yards for a score in Week3 at the Patriots and streaking to the pylon on a touchdown reception in the same game.

Never mind that the Bills already had RBs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, gifted and productive players in their own right. In many fantasy circles, the thought was that Spiller’s breakaway speed and first-round pedigree would make him the best fantasy bet of the three.

But outside of Week 3, the fantasy numbers have not been there for Spiller (unless your league rewards return yardage). Not once has Spiller exceeded 50 yards from scrimmage in a single game. The trading of Lynch to the Seattle Seahawks helped Jackson’s numbers, but did little for Spiller’s.

All that is about to change.

Here’s why:

  • The Lions — whom the Bills face in Week 10 — yield 127.9 rushing yards per game (27th) and 4.7 yards per carry (29th).
  • The Lions have surrendered nine rushing touchdowns to their opponents. Only the Broncos and Jaguars have surrendered more.
  • In the Lions’ last three games, backup RBs such as Shonn Greene, Keiland Williams and Brandon Jacobs have excelled. This bodes well for Spiller, who remains the backup to Jackson.
  • With Bills WR Roscoe Parrish (fractured left wrist) out for the season, Spiller will take over punt returns. Without Parrish, the Bills should also deploy fewer three-wideout sets. Spiller and Jackson are likely to get more opportunities in the passing game. And that’s because the receivers behind Parrish on the depth chart (David Nelson and Donald Jones) are untested rookies.

Despite all of this, most Week 10 projections for Spiller are pessimistic. ESPN ranks him No. 41 among RBs and has him down for two total points. Yahoo! is more optimistic, projecting Spiller for 7.69 points (ranking him No. 27 among RBs).

I’m much more upbeat about Spiller. Pencil him in for 50 yards on 11 carries, 44 yards on four receptions, and one score. And don’t hesitate to grab him if he’s available in your league. He is owned in only 61.2 percent of ESPN leagues and 48 percent of Yahoo! games.

In RosterSlots, keep Spiller in mind when you’re spinning. Last week, several backup RBs cracked the leaderboard, including Colts RB Javarris James, Ravens RB Willis McGahee, Bears RB Chester Taylor and Patriots RB Danny Woodhead. Count on it: Spiller will be there in Week 10.

Week 9 Spins

November 5, 2010 by

My week 8 lineup failed to crack the top 20… again.

Matt Hasselbeck had a lot to do with that. Hasselbeck (4pts) – who was part of an 8 spin trade I made along with Peyton Manning (18pts) and Drew Brees (14pts) – was ineffective and banged up against the suddenly-firing-on-all-cylinders Oakland Raiders. Manning and Brees didn’t exactly light it up either – 37 points total for 8 spins. I think 8 spins needs to get you more on the order of 50 or 60 points.

Chad Ochocinco also failed to meet expectations, and is becoming a bit inconsistent to be a solid play anywhere – especially with Carson Palmer regressing against Miami last week (156yds, 2TDs, 1INT), completing just 45% of his passes, after what one hoped was a sign of things to come the week before against Atlanta (412, 3, 0).

Anyway, on to better things. Week 9.

Since I started last week by making a trade, I’ll rule that out this week. For another twist, I decided to start at a position other than QBs. It occurs to me that WR and TEs are the deepest player pool in the game, and if I can get some studs there, I set myself up to make up points on teams that use more of their spins on QBs and RBs and perhaps get stuck with low impact players at WR . Let’s see.

Spin 1 (WRs and TEs): Hines Ward, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Ben Watson

I sort of like these guys (especially Watson against his old team, and one that gives up the 7th most points to TEs), but not the impact trip I was looking for.

Spin 2: Chansi Stuckey, Calvin Johnson, David Gettis

Definitely tempted by CJ’s 28 pts last week, but against the Jets D? With a lackluster grouping (Gettis tanked last week, after his breakout in week 7), I’ll spin again.

Spin 3: Hakeem Nicks, Greg Lewis, Donald Driver

Driver has been pronounced out (and has been removed from the player pool), so this is a non-starter. I do wonder if Greg Lewis will be worked in a bit with Moss departed, and of course Nicks is a stud (he’s scored 22 pts or more 3 times this season).

Spin 4: DeSean Jackson, Santonio Holmes, Reggie Wayne

Just what I was looking for: three solid plays with some real upside potential. In the two games started and finished by Michael Vick (back this week after a rib injury), Jackson has combined for 288 yards and 2 TDs. Wayne could go off at anytime with Peyton Manning tossing balls, and, though Holmes hasn’t been totally worked back into the flow in NY since returning in week 5, I see some points getting scored in the Jets v. Lions game.

Spin 5 (RBs): Michael Turner, LeSean McCoy, Felix Jones

I could get picky and press my luck with Felix Jones against a Packers defense that gives up just 12 points a game to running backs, but Turner and McCoy are studs and Tampa and Indy both give up 20+ a game to opposing backs. I’m thrilled to get this trip in one spin. Looking good to pick up some decent QBs.

Spin 6 (QBs): Colt McCoy, Joe Flacco, and Ryan Fitzpatrick

This is actually the kind of trip I would have been happy with had I been down to 4 or 5 spins at this point, as planned. But, even though Fitzpatrick’s been hot (averaging 24 pts a start), he’s up against Chicago’s D, which allows a league low 9 pts a game to QBs. And, even though the Patriots give up a lot of points to QBs (3rd most at 21 pts), Colt McCoy is Colt McCoy and he plays for the Browns. Joe Flacco against the Fins is just sort of blah. I think I can do better.

Spin 7: Colt McCoy, Joe Flacco, and Jason Campbell

How about that? McCoy and Flacco again? This time with Jason Campbell. Passing again, though its’ worth noting that Campbell has been leading a Raiders offense that has become a juggernaut (scoring 33 or more points in 3 out their last 4 games). Still, head coach Tom Cable says Bruce Gradkowski is his starter when he is ready to return.

Spin 8: Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez, Brett Favre

After a week 4 win at Buffalo, Mark Sanchez was averaging 19 points a game and had thrown 8 TDs to 0 INTs in his last three contests – looked like he was on his way to breaking out. Since then he has 1 TD and has averaged 8 pts in 3 games. Also not touching Favre, especially sans Moss.

Spin 9: Josh Freeman, Brett Favre, Michael Vick

I’m glad Freeman came back up, cause he deserves some ink. At just 22 years of age, he has been consistent (scoring less than 14 pts just once), if not spectacular (no more than 23 points). He’s also winning. Paired with Vick, I’m tempted, but I’ve made my feelings clear on Favre’s chances of success, and with it being Vick’s first game back, it’s not too hard to pass.

Spin 10: Charlie Whitehurst, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Moore

Okay, now I’m getting anxious. Down to 6 spins with 3 positions left to fill. These three QBs scored a grand total of 9 points last week (Whitehurst hasn’t thrown an NFL pass in his 5 year career).

Spin 11: Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Mark Sanchez

A pretty solid group. Stafford returned from injury with 32 points last week, though not sure how he’ll fare against a Jets defense that allowed just 6 pts to Aaron Rodgers last week. Sanchez is not great, but the other QB in NY should put up 20+ points against a bad Seattle secondary (28th in yards passing D). I think I’ve gotta stick here with only 5 spins left.

Spin 12 (Defense):  Cincinnati (vs. Pittsburgh), Miami (@ Baltimore), Dallas (@ Green Bay)

I really dislike that Cowboys defense. They are giving up 27 points a game, and Green Bay can score (22 pts a game), contrary to what happened last week against the Jets (9 pts).

Spin 13: New York Jets  (@ Detroit), Oakland (vs. Kansas City), Atlanta (vs. Tampa Bay)

This group would have been great last week (45 points), but not wild about this week’s matchups for New York and Oakland.

Spin 14: Indianapolis (@ Philadelphia), Green Bay (vs. Dallas), Houston (vs. San Diego)

I think these will all be high scoring games. Kind of wish I stuck with my last spin. Spinning again, which locks me in at one spin each for D and ST.

Spin 15: New York Giants (@ Seattle), Atlanta (vs. Tampa Bay), Tampa Bay(@ Atlanta)

I feel fortunate here. Not bad at all. The Tampa/Atlanta game should be played in the low 20s, and though Seattle usually fares better at home (43 pts in 4 road games, 80 pts in 3 home games), I can’t see them scoring a lot of points with Charlie Whitehurst at the helm against the potent Giants pass rush.

Spin 16 (Special Teams): Baltimore (vs. Miami), Oakland (vs. Kansas City), Arizona (@ Minnesota)

I like the ability of all these teams to put some field goals on the board. Oakland has made more field goals than any other team, Arizona is playing in a dome, and Baltimore… okay, I have no reason for liking Baltimore.

Go okewik!

Unleash your Lions

November 3, 2010 by

Is there a chance the Detroit Lions will defeat the visiting New York Jets on Sunday?

Before you say no, consider that Las Vegas has installed the Jets as merely a four-point favorite. Consider, too, how the Lions have fared in their last four games:

Oct. 3: L 26-28 at Green Bay Packers

Oct. 10: W 44-6 vs. St. Louis Rams

Oct. 17: L 20-28 at New York Giants

Oct. 31: W 37-25 vs. Washington Redskins

A few thoughts on these games:

1. All four Lions’ opponents boast records of .500 or better.

2. In each contest, the Lions scored at least 20 points.

3. The Lions won their two home games, scoring 81 points. When you combine that output with the 32 points the Lions posted in their only other home contest — a Week 2 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles — you have a team that averages more than 37 points per game at home.

Is the Jets defense prepared for this juggernaut?

I bring this up because I’ve noticed a trend toward benching Lions this week. Yahoo!’s Brad Evans, in his pickups of the week column, advised a pickup of Lions QB Matthew Stafford but admonished that this week’s matchup against the Jets was “unfavorable.” Likewise, Mike Gilbert of RotoExperts.com advised a pickup of Lions RB Kevin Smith but was wary of this week’s matchup.

The thing is, the Lions have scored plenty of points against good defenses. The Packers and Rams both yield fewer than 18 points per game, ranking fourth and sixth respectively in points allowed. The Lions scored 26 at Green Bay and 44 vs. the Rams.

Also, the Jets are not the dominant defense they are widely perceived to be. While they surrender a paltry 15.7 points per game, ranking second, they have allowed 218.6 passing yards per game, ranking 18th. They have also allowed 10 touchdown receptions (14th) and have intercepted only five passes (24th). They have sacked opposing quarterbacks merely 15 times (15th).

None of this is to suggest the Jets have a porous defense. It’s only to point out that the Jets have hardly shut down the pass. You should not bench your Lions against this team, especially when they are playing in Detroit.

I’ll give the Worldwide Leader its due: They project Stafford to throw for 246 yards, two touchdown passes and one interception this week. That seems right to me. While starting Lions WR Calvin Johnson is a no brainer, I’d also suggest using WR Nate Burleson and TE Brandon Pettigrew as bye-week fill-ins. Count on RB Jahvid Best for his usual five receptions and 80 yards from scrimmage, and don’t be surprised if Smith poaches goal-line carries.

And here’s the sneaky play: Grab the Lions defense (11 percent owned in Yahoo!, 6.7 percent in ESPN). The Jets offense is coming off a game in which it was shut out at home — after having a bye week to prepare in Week 8. The Lions defense is coming off a game in which it recorded seven sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and one touchdown — also after having a bye week to prepare. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh (four solo tackles, two sacks, one fumble recovery, one touchdown in Week 8) makes the Lions D a worthwhile investment all by himself.

Mind you, in RosterSlots, the performance of a team defense is different than it is in conventional fantasy formats. The only stat that matters in RosterSlots is points allowed. In Week 8, the Packers D generated 25 points by shutting out the Jets. The Raiders D generated 25 points by limiting the Seahawks to a field goal. The Jets D, which only gave up nine points to the Packers, generated 20 points. The Lions D, for all of Suh’s havoc, was worthless in RosterSlots, because the Redskins still put 25 points on the board.

Nevertheless, I’d suggest using the Lions D in RosterSlots in Week 9, if you’re lucky enough to spin for it. I see a struggling offense (Jets) clashing with a rising defense (Lions). And I see the Lions pulling off an upset.