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Scott Pianowski

Monday Brunch: The curious case of Joseph Addai

Scott Pianowski
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Thirteen games, ten hours, and a bunch of observations. Settle in.

Joseph Addai(notes) has become one of my favorite fantasy players of the season. Is he having a great year for the Colts? Heck no. But in our make-believe game, in our numbers racket, he's absolute money and there's great lesson in here about environment, summer buzz and how NFL clubs make (and delay) their decisions.

The surface numbers don't look like much with Addai. He's averaging 3.5 yards a carry and he doesn't have a run longer than 14 yards all year. His best rushing game of the year came two weeks back at St. Louis (20 carries, 64 yards); Canton won't be calling for that tape. Donald Brown(notes) has looked far more explosive (4.6 YPC) when he's been given a chance to play.

So why is Addai a Top 12 running back in most standard formats and a Top 10 guy in PPR groups? Because the Colts keep giving him volume, the Colts keep using him around the scoring stripe (seven scores, plus a TD pass), and the Colts keep throwing him the ball (34 receptions on 41 targets).

The bottom line is that the Colts trust Addai in key spots (passing downs, scoring position), and even as they're going to hand the bulk of the responsibility to Brown some day, these changeovers don't always happen overnight. Addai was a heck of a fantasy value this summer if you were willing to swim against the current and try an unsexy option. The same angle came through in New York (with Thomas Jones(notes)) and to a lesser extent in Arizona (with Tim Hightower(notes), a sneaky flex-type guy you probably got for nothing).

Yes, Brown's injuries have played significantly into this Addai story. Yes, Brown looks far more explosive as a runner. Yes, Brown's going to be the better fantasy player very soon, maybe in 2010, maybe later this year. But here's another example of how you can win by asking "why not?" when everyone else is asking "why bother?"

The best thing that ever happened to Vince Young's(notes) career was his benching and subsequent year in limbo. It's humbled him, and those close to the Titans will tell you that he's come back with better work habits. It doesn't mean he's going to be a success in the NFL, but at least he has a chance now.

A lot of people like to take shots at Michael Turner(notes) but let's be fair about this – he's scored in seven straight games and he's got a higher YPC this year than in his breakthrough 2008 season. He also lost a 40-yard carry Sunday due to penalty. He's a rock-solid lead back, period, end of story.

Andy Reid is a fantastic coach Monday through Saturday, but in-game strategy just isn't his thing. Okay, the Eagles were jobbed on that Donovan McNabb(notes) spot, and I would have challenged that too, but the decision to kick a long field goal inside of 5 minutes when you‘re trailing by a touchdown and out of timeouts makes absolutely no sense. And can we all admit the Michael Vick(notes) experiment is a colossal waste of time?

Tony Romo's(notes) game has rallied nicely since the Miles Austin(notes) emergence, but the Cowboys are still lost when they're asked to throw the ball inside the opposing 10-yard line (sorry Jason Witten(notes) owners; this just isn‘t getting better). I'm not a big fan of Wildcatting at the goal but with the Dallas pass offense struggling in the red area, the Tashard Choice(notes) wrinkle at Philadelphia made sense.

It was fairly obvious the Pokes wanted to get Roy Williams engaged as early as possible against the Eagles, and say this for Williams, he had a solid game (5-75, 8 targets). But the issue wasn't decided until the Cowboys went back to their game-breaker, Miles Austin, who broke Philadelphia's heart with a 49-yard touchdown courtesy of a gorgeous Sluggo route. Bottom line, Austin deserves more than four looks per week.

Sometimes a quarterback throws a handful of picks and it's not his fault – the pass blocking doesn't give him a chance, the receivers bobble catchable passes, etc. But then there's Matthew Stafford's(notes) five-interception jamboree at Seattle, where the blame belongs squarely on No. 9 shoulders. It's a shame Stafford got hurt when he did in Chicago because he was starting to put things together, but he's been confused and inaccurate since he came back.

The Saints defense continues to be a fantasy gold mine (seven scores), and the hits should keep on coming against the Rams and Bucs the next two weeks,.

Julius Jones(notes) did have one nice catch-and-run off a screen but otherwise he didn't impress me against Detroit (2.3 YPC). It's time to give Justin Forsett(notes) 8-12 touches a game, Seattle.

The dogs are finally barking again, going 18-7 the last two weeks (10-2 last week). The squares weren't going to have run of the place forever.

Steve Smith will occasionally make a few big plays through his catch-and-run ability – talking a short pass in stride and beating defenses with his legs – but it's almost impossible for him to do anything on a deep route because Jake Delhomme's(notes) accuracy on the long ball is just dreadful this season. Here's one instance where a receiver tantrum might not help all that much; Smith can do damage with short and intermediate routes, but the crime of his season is that he still has the wheels to consistently beat corners deep, but there's no one who can deliver an accurate pass.

I enjoy Chris Berman and Tom Jackson doing "The Blitz" Sunday night, I really do. It's probably the only Berman thing I‘d care to watch these days. But when Tom Jackson says the Chargers should be running the ball more, he's dead wrong. This isn't 1977, TJ. They changed the pass-defense rules three decades ago. Throwing the ball is a giveaway now, it's easy money. Say so long to Rob Lytle, three yards and a cloud of dust. The Chargers are absolutely in the right as they center their offense around Philip Rivers(notes), Vincent Jackson(notes) and friends.

Aaron Rodgers(notes) continues to post juicy fantasy numbers but I can't imagine how he'll stay in one piece through the full season. Rodgers has pretty good mobility and that's a gift and a curse; the nerve to extend plays often leads to a drive-stalling and body-jolting sack. The line is a big part of the protection problem, of course, but Rodgers isn't helping the cause.

A monster game from Calvin Johnson(notes) is coming soon, I really believe that. But even when he puts up 219 yards and 2-3 scores in a game down the stretch, it's not going to make up for how he's sabotaged your season for two months.

The last time I said anything negative about Antonio Gates(notes) I got tackled by a slew of peeps. Okay, just the facts them – he's gone without a touchdown in 14 of his last 16 games and he was dropping passes all over Jersey yesterday. Make of it what you will.

Happy 40th, Sesame Street. It was a great gig until you brought Elmo along.

You can win with Larry Johnson(notes), but he's the wrong guy to have around a losing situation. We can tell a front-runner when we see one. Maybe he'll get bailed out and reprogrammed like Corey Dillon(notes) was in New England (another pass-blocking ace, by the way, but I'm less optimistic for LJ than I was for Dillon back in the day.

The game of blackjack theme continues for the Redskins offense – once they hit 17, they stick. But there were some positive signs in the loss at Atlanta; this offense might be better off with a fresh Ladell Betts(notes) as opposed to a broken-down Clinton Portis(notes) (though it will miss Portis's sublime pass blocking).

A lot of the Monday Brunch comes from my in-game comments Sunday. Click here to follow along on Twitter.

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