These two know how to please fantasy owners (USAT)
The Chiefs have already matched last year’s win total through two weeks this season, becoming just the seventh team to do so since the merger. Alex Smith is 22-5-1 over his last 28 games as a starter. He’s definitely been his usual “game manager” self, almost never throwing downfield, but he's produced a 4:0 TD:INT ratio nevertheless. My first instincts this summer were to go heavy on Kansas City’s “Over,” and while I have a reason I didn’t do so (the juice got out of control), I have no excuse for not picking them to make the playoffs, which I clearly should have. It’s been just two games, but even a limited Smith is a major upgrade at QB, and this defense has the makings to be legit…Smith led the Chiefs in rushing Sunday, while Jamaal Charles had twice as many receptions as any other KC player. Charles has been targeted a third of the amount of times he was all of last season (48) over the first two games of this year. Tony Romo received a pain-killing injection in his ribs before the game, so while they may not be broken, it’s clear he’s playing through a moderately severe injury.
Dez Bryant was a beast Sunday, hauling in nine catches for 141 yards (10.9 YPT) with a touchdown while being mostly covered by Brandon Flowers, who graded as Pro Football Focus’s No. 7 corner last season while holding opposing passers to a 65.6 QB rating. Bryant had a bad drop in the fourth quarter and an even worse offensive PI call against him early in the second quarter that negated a big play, so his game could’ve been even bigger. There’s no reason not to still consider him fantasy’s No. 2 wide receiver…With 3:58 left in the fourth quarter, Jason Garrett inexplicably had his team attempt a 53-yard field goal down 17-13 on 4th-and-10. While I appreciated this as someone who picked Dallas ATS, this decision was beyond dumbfounding. Did I mention this 53-yard attempt was outdoors and on the road? But what made Garrett’s decision (process) so poor was the fact even after Bailey (improbably) made the FG, the outcome still hurt his team’s chances of winning. The next time the Dallas offense touched the ball, they were at their own four-yard line with 16 seconds left. I was going crazy about this at the time, but here's some further evidence with actual numbers by people smarter than me suggesting just how awful this decision was.
In case you missed my Rapid React to the Pats/Jets game, here it is.
It was nice to see my guy Chris Givens lead the Rams with 105 receiving yards, but I was surprised to see his eight targets get overshadowed by Austin Pettis (11) and Tavon Austin (12), both of whom combined for three touchdowns. I must say I didn’t foresee the rookie who’s 5-8, 176 lbs dominating goal-line targets…One week after going for 141 receiving yards and two scores, Jared Cook pulled down just one of six targets for 10 yards against an Atlanta defense that struggled badly against tight ends last season…Julio Jones was a widely viewed top-six fantasy WR entering the year with a healthy Roddy White as a teammate, so it should come as no surprise he’s gone off playing next to a badly hobbled White (Jones is on pace to finish with 144 catches for 2,064 yards and 16 touchdowns)…Sam Bradford’s career YPA has gone like this, respectively: 6.0, 6.2, 6.7 and 7.0. His completion percentage has also increased each of the past three seasons, and he’s taken zero sacks over the first two games of this season while averaging 325.5 passing yards. It’s obviously a small sample, and 7.0 YPA is still a problem in today’s NFL, but at least Bradford is exhibiting encouraging signs.
As someone who had a three-team, six-point teaser with the Bears, Ravens and Packers, I was pretty fired up for Chicago's improbable comeback. In a game that featured three defensive/special teams touchdowns (two by the underdog Vikings), in order for the Bears to win (and more importantly my teaser), they had to hold Minnesota to a field goal on 3rd-and-4 from the Chicago 14-yard line with 3:23 left in the fourth quarter. Down six, the Bears then needed a touchdown drive, which resulted in a fairly miraculous 16-yard TD pass to Martellus Bennett with just 10 seconds left, giving the team a 31-30 victory, bringing me great joy in an otherwise miserable week (I own Eddie Lacy and Reggie Bush in many fantasy leagues. I also root for the San Francisco 49ers)…It resulted in a modest 71 yards, but Matt Forte secured all 11 of his targets…Jay Cutler’s interception in the end zone late in the second quarter was his first pick in the red zone since 2010 (97 attempts)…I still like Cordarrelle Patterson long-term, but he’s unownable in non-keeper leagues right now…During 10 career games outdoors, Christian Ponder has produced just eight touchdowns with 11 turnovers and a 5.9 YPA mark.
I’m begnning to think the Panthers aren’t good at winning close games. As someone who picked Carolina as a sneaky team to enter this year’s playoff picture, I realized backing Ron Rivera was dicey, but it’s become even more disconcerting to know the guy hasn’t learned from past mistakes. For a strong takedown on his cowardice end-game Sunday, check out the bottom of this article from Bill Barnwell …C.J. Spiller hasn’t lived up to expectations, but totaling 129 yards on 20 touches against one of the best front sevens in football isn’t exactly disappointing. I want to call Spiller a buy-low opportunity, as I don’t expect a 32-year-old Fred Jackson to continue to share so many touches, but Buffalo’s upcoming schedule looks awfully tough: @NYJ, Bal, @Cle, Cin, @Mia, @N.O., KC, @Pit, NYJ. Spiller is talented enough to still be plenty valuable, but that looks like a tough task to live up to his preseason hype (in which I fully admit to buying into to)…What a finish to this game, as Buffalo fans can’t help themselves but not be intrigued by E.J. Manuel, who tossed a game-winning TD pass to Stevie Johnson with two seconds left...Sacks are often an overrated stat, but it’s hard not to be impressed by Mario Williams recording 4.5 on Sunday, even against a shaky Carolina offensive line. He dealt with some off-the-field issues last year and looks healthier than he’s been in a while, so maybe that contract won’t look so bad after all.
The same can be said for this one by “Chipotle.” Man I love them. I had an $80 steak in Las Vegas recently that wasn’t as good as their carnitas.
The Ravens were held scoreless over the first 39+ minutes at home against the Browns. Cleveland has a solid enough defense, but that’s still not exactly encouraging. Torrey Smith has disappointed fantasy owners early on, but seven catches for 85 yards against Joe Haden certainly isn’t the end of the world, even if it took 13 targets. Better things surely lie ahead for Smith…The Ray Rice injury looked bad, but apparently he’s going to be OK. This is obvious, but if Rice were to go down, Bernard Pierce would immediately be a top-10 fantasy asset…Jordan Cameron is the real deal. He should be treated as an obvious TE1 moving forward, even if it’s becoming clearer Brandon Weeden isn’t going to make “the leap” (and will be missing some time in the short-term)…At some point, I’m going to run out of excuses for Trent Richardson. I still have hope (his 13 broken tackles are the second most among all RBs in football through two weeks), but this is a running back who’s rushed for 60 yards in just 41% of his games during his career, and he’s been given the chance to be a workhorse from the get-go. Again, I lean more toward “he’s a buy-low” than “he’s a bust,” but TRich needs to show something soon, and his schedule doesn’t exactly look favorable.
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Robert Griffin has been a lot better for his fantasy owners than he has for Washington. He hasn’t ran at all and accuracy (mostly blamed on poor mechanics) has been a major issue, but he got 8.0 YPA with a 65.0 completion percentage and a 3:1 TD:INT ratio Sunday, so even if it came against a prevent defense while down big for the second week in a row (Washington has been outscored 50-7 during the first half this season), it counts all the same in fantasy leagues. RG3 should also improve as the year goes along, and if the early indications of Washington’s defense being such a mess prove real, it should result in big numbers from Griffin regardless of how much he returns to last year’s form. Put differently, Griffin hasn’t run at all this year and has looked beyond shaky with his accuracy, yet he’s on pace to throw for 5,192 yards and 40 touchdowns (he had 3,200 passing yards and 20 touchdowns last year) despite being just nine months removed from major knee surgery…This is getting old by now, so it’ll be the last time I say it; Pierre Garcon should be treated as a top-15 (at minimum) fantasy WR as long as he’s healthy...With 10:13 left in the third quarter, Mike Shanahan inexplicably decided to attempt a 50-yard FG down 24-0 (from a kicker who had never attempted a FG during his career) on fourth-and-six. Two minutes later, they were down 31-0.
Aaron Rodgers somehow made the fantasy owners of James Jones (11 catches for 178 yards and just missing a TD that turned into a touchback when he reached for the pylon), Randall Cobb (9-128-1), Jordy Nelson (3-66-2) and Jermichael Finley (6-65-1) all happy. That’s a pretty tough feat to accomplish, especially with the team’s running back also posting a monstrous game (168 yards and a touchdown)...I’m ready to totally write off a once-promising Fred Davis, who is healthy and has seen six targets over the first two games compared to nine from rookie TE Jordan Reed. Davis is droppable in all formats…As someone who’s heavily invested in Eddie Lacy, it was brutal to see him leave via a concussion on his first carry of Sunday’s game, thanks to an illegal hit by Brandon Meriweather, who later left via his own concussion after making yet another helmet-to-helmet hit. It’s beyond frustrating since Lacy would have posted a monster game had he not got hurt, and his status remains unclear moving forward. One thing is quite clear, however, and that is James Starks emerging as Green Bay’s clear RB2. Let’s put it this way, if Lacy were put on the IR (this looks very unlikely, but I want to make a hypothetical here), I’d place 100% of my FAAB on Starks (who became the first GB running back to rush for 100 yards in the team’s last 45 games).
With one minute to go in the fourth quarter on 3rd-and-1 after an incompletion, Solomon Wilcots said “Kenny Britt has to make that catch” on a play in which the WR literally had to jump as high as he could to get one finger nail on the ball (don’t get me wrong, I’m done with Britt as a fantasy option and am no stranger to making mistakes myself. I talked about betting on the Steelers to win the NFC North during last week’s column, but Wilcots remained steadfast even after watching the replays)…It was impossible not to be impressed by DeAndre Hopkins, who saw the same amount of targets as Andre Johnson (13), and if the latter’s concussion is serious (it doesn’t appear to be), the rookie’s fantasy value deserves a serious boost. This catch is no joke. Hopkins will be a major factor at some point regardless of Johnson's health.
J.J. Watt had two sacks and two passes defensed. Ho-Hum…Chris Johnson totaled 1,465 in 2011 and 1,473 last year, so it’s amusing CJ?K is now again (rightfully?) considered such a disappointment early on. I absolutely blame it on his schedule, but the problem is his next five games come against the Jets, Chiefs, Seahawks, 49ers, and Rams, so many of his fantasy owners won’t even make the playoffs once he starts padding his stats (and consider he already has 50 rushing attempts)…Ben Tate again dominated the per-play stats versus Arian Foster on Sunday (10.3 YPC vs. 4.2), but even as someone who was down on Foster this year, I’ll admit he looked much better this week. Foster’s two-point conversion run was highly impressive, and while I maintain Tate is the far superior option with the ball in his hands (he leads all backs by a wide margin with a 6.4 YPC mark after contact this season), Foster remains the priority when it comes to pass protection, catching ability and in the eyes of the coaching staff as the RB who’s done it before...This sequence in which Randy Bullock attempts four field goals is pretty amazing.
It might have been impossible to live up to the hype, but the Mayweather/Alvarez fight was a solid 7.5 or 8 out of 10, as neither fighter backed down (and the undercard between Garcia and Matthysse was pretty fantastic), so anyone who purchased it wasn’t left disappointed. Mayweather is one of the five best athletes alive and probably the best boxer of my generation (and oh boy, what more is there to say about Judge C.J. Ross, who ruled this fight a draw and also had Bradley over Pacquiao? Let’s just say she should never be within 100 miles of another important prize fight during her career).
It’s not surprising to see the squeaky wheel get the grease, as Mike Wallace saw a team-high 11 targets, resulting in 115 yards and a touchdown (and nearly a second). I’m still not sure what to make of him moving forward, but this was obviously encouraging…Seeing a whopping 12 targets, owners of T.Y. Hilton have to be happy, especially with Darrius Heyward-Bey suffering an injury. Moreover, Coby Fleener, who looked awful all preseason, has shown signs of life. The Indy passing attack remains fluid…The Dolphins had zero penalties Sunday, as the teams remarkably combined for just 13 penalty yards…Lamar Miller got 4.9 YPC and scored a touchdown, but he still saw fewer than 15 carries and lost a goal-line score to Charles Clay, which came during the “tight end’s” first rushing attempt of his career. Miller is a pretty shaky FLEX option right now.
In a game that had the highest Week 2 Over/Under (54.5) since 1978, the Eagles/Chargers easily went over while totaling 63 points…Norv Turner obviously has a ton of faults as a head coach and should never be given another job in that capacity, but he’s generally viewed as QB-friendly regardless, which makes Philip Rivers’ early season play all the more surprising (not to mention SD losing Danario Alexander in the preseason and Malcom Floyd in Week 2). Rivers’ improved play actually goes back to the end of last year, as he’s posted a 15:1 TD:INT ratio over his past six games. I’m not quite sure what to make of it, but he’s certainly back on the fantasy map, especially with what appears to be an extremely favorable upcoming schedule…Antonio Gates has the most drops (three) among tight ends and lost a fumble at the goal line Sunday, but he also leads all TEs with six broken tackles, so maybe the 33-year-old, who looked like he was playing with ankle weights last season, might not be done after all…Ryan Mathews impresses at times, but he lost a fumble inside the 10 on Sunday and is completely removed from the game during all passing situations as well as at the goal line. Ultimately, it’s not a recipe for much fantasy success, even if San Diego’s new looking high-powered offense is for real…Glad to hear Malcom Floyd is going to be OK. That looked potentially really bad…I like to remain open-minded to all possibilities, but let’s just say I highly doubt I’ll be the winning bid on Eddie Royal in any of my leagues this week.
Seriously, how good has the final season of “Breaking Bad” been? I’d love to hear an argument for a better single episode than its last. “The Wire” may be the best TV show ever, but “Breaking Bad” is now my favorite of all time.
LeSean McCoy leads the NFL in broken tackles in rushing attempts, which is especially impressive considering he was given just 11 carries Sunday. And those in PPR formats have to love seeing him get six targets, securing five for 114 receiving yards…After the Eagles came out like gangbusters during the first half of Week 1, their following four quarters saw them score a much more modest 17 points, but any fears of the Chip Kelly offense already being figured out were quelled after Philly dropped 20 points in the second half against the Chargers. I would love to see the numbers Michael Vick would put up if he somehow stayed healthy…DeSean Jackson looks like the fastest player in football right now, and it’s not particularly close. He finished with 193 receiving yards and a score Sunday despite having another 38-yard TD catch negated by an illegal formation penalty that didn’t affect the play. DJax is an ideal fit for this offense and should be treated as a top-10 fantasy wide receiver as long as he and Vick are upright.
As a Reggie Bush owner, I hope he doesn’t return until he’s close to 100 percent. Of course, that’s mainly because I also have Joique Bell. Among Kevin Jones, Kevin Smith and Jahvid Best (I had the enjoyable experiences of owning all of them), it’s almost as if Detroit can’t keep its running backs healthy. Still, it appears Bush avoided a major injury this time…With a hobbled Larry Fitzgerald, it was quite disappointing to see Michael Floyd put up such a pedestrian line (three catches, 22 yards). The same could be said about Andre Roberts (three, 36)…With 1:59 left in the fourth quarter, Arizona went for a two-point conversion up 25-21, which was just mind-boggling. The counter to this is that it forces Detroit to make an extra point if they score a touchdown, but you tell me what’s more likely: a team missing an EP, or a team scoring a TD in the final 1:30? In the latter scenario, the Cardinals would be down three points instead of two, which is kind of important…You don’t need me to tell you Calvin Johnson is really good, but he scored twice as many touchdowns in one quarter Sunday as he had in his previous six games combined.
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Of course it must’ve been miserable for those at the Saints/Bucs game, but it was kind of nice to have one lead right into Sunday Night Football, not to mention a competitive one. Remember all the positive reports from camp about Mark Ingram, saying this is the first time he’s entered the year 100% physically? He’s averaged 1.8 YPC over the first two games, failing to secure a single reception. Maybe Pierre Thomas can’t handle 250+ touches, but it continues to amaze why New Orleans won’t at least see if he can…Tampa Bay had some awful miscommunication issues in its defensive backfield, leading to Jimmy Graham being wide open far too often. Might want to put a body on him…A 73-yard TD pass to Vincent Jackson was nullified thanks to an illegal formation penalty, but at home against a New Orleans secondary that allowed an NFL-high 8.1 YPA last season, it’s pretty alarming Josh Freeman was only able to complete nine passes Sunday (5.7 YPA). He now has a 4:13 TD:turnover ratio over his past five games…An interesting play occurred with 22 seconds left in the first half, as during a Saints field goal attempt from the two-yard line, the Bucs jumped offsides on fourth down, making it half the distance to the goal. That extra one yard was enough for Sean Payton to then go for it, which resulted in Ingram getting stuffed…If this pick-six by Mason Foster wasn’t the play of Week 2, it was certainly up there.
Both of Denver’s first two games were closer than the final score indicated (the Giants were within one point with less than 30 seconds left in the third quarter), but it’s still tough not to be overly impressed. Whereas Peyton Manning’s nine TD passes tied for the most over any two-game stretch in NFL history, Eli Manning is the first QB since 2005 to throw seven interceptions in his first two games of the year. Moreover, Eli has thrown more interceptions than any quarterback since entering the league, but that has a lot to do with him being so durable, of course. With the Giants’ setup this year – no running game, a leaky defense, terrific wide receivers – Manning is in store for a monstrous fantasy season…Nice to see Eric Decker quickly back involved in Denver’s offense, as he easily led the team with 13 targets.
The Giants are the first team in NFL history to commit 10 turnovers over the first two games of the season…I’m on board with calling David Wilson an intriguing buy-low candidate (he had the most impressive two-yard run of Week 2, that’s for sure), but if he’s going to continue to be removed during passing downs and at the goal line, his ceiling is limited, especially running behind an offensive line that struggles to run block. Again, I fully respect Wilson’s talent, which is bordering on special, but his upcoming schedule isn’t exactly favorable either…Not only did Montee Ball lose a fumble Sunday, he’s averaged 1.0 YPC after contact this season, which is the worst mark among all running backs in football. It’s obviously a small sample and early, but Bell has somehow managed just 2.0 YPC while playing for a team that has scored 45.0 points-per-game (the next highest is 33.0). Meanwhile, Ronnie Hillman has become an afterthought (one touch in Week 2). Knowshon Moreno will likely get hurt, but he’s by far the team’s best option in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield, and he’s even getting 5.5 YPC. I’d consider him a top-12 fantasy RB for Week 3’s matchup at home against the Raiders.
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Through two weeks, the Raiders lead the NFL in total rushing and YPC. On defense, they are also tied for the most sacks in the league. This obviously has something to do with their opponents, but it’s also safe to say these are unexpected outcomes…I hope I’m wrong, but the injury to Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t look very good (what a tackle by Charles Woodson on a play that saved a touchdown, although I’m not positive it was legal)…It’s hilarious Chad Henne finished with a 92.1 QB Rating with that performance and pretty much disqualifies that stat as meaningful. He was, um, not good. This Jacksonville team has clearly separated itself as the worst in football, and it’s no surprise they are 20-point underdogs in Week 3 in Seattle, regardless of who lines up under center.
As a 49ers fan, I entered Sunday night’s game with no expectations of winning, and after remaining mostly calm throughout the first half, I found myself enraged by the end, leaving with emotional despair as if SF had just lost a playoff game. Part of it was just how awful the team looked (it was easily Colin Kaepernick’s worst game of his career), but it also had to do with all the injuries. This Seahawks team is NOT losing a home game this season. I’d easily give even odds on that…I expected more from Golden Tate so far, but no one has emerged as a clear No. 1 option ahead of him, so I’ll suggest patience…The 49ers rushing attack has looked alarmingly bad in the early going, but SF’s defense held a potent Seattle offense to just 4.1 yards-per-play in Seattle, so that unit played much better than the 29 points allowed indicates…Down 12-0 at the Seahawks’ four yard line, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Jim Harbaugh’s decision to kick a field goal. It ultimately wouldn’t have mattered, but let’s just say it didn’t look any better after the ensuing Seahawks drive (that started with better field position, of course)…Here’s my (admittedly biased) comparison for the current 49ers vs. Seahawks dynamic.
Longread of the Week: Married to a Doll: Why One Man Advocates Synthetic Love.
The Steelers allowed an NFL-low 6.0 YPA and the third fewest YPC (3.7) last season, ceding just 19.6 PPG. They didn’t create many turnovers, but that’s often fluky, so I expected regression in that area in 2013, especially after adding impressive rookies Jarvis Jones and Shamarko Thomas, and what if Troy Polamalu ever stayed healthy? I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I wanted to note this again before pointing out that while they have remained solid when it comes to yardage allowed through two games this year, Pittsburgh has forced zero turnovers while recording a miniscule one sack. Ugly stuff, and that unit actually looks promising compared to the team’s offense, as the Steelers have ran for fewer yards than Alex Smith this season. In fact, Pittsburgh hasn’t had a running back rush for more than 56 yards in any of its last 10 games...It’s hard to feel fully confident starting Giovani Bernard right now, since he’s totaled 14 touches over the first two games, but any time the Bengals give BenJarvus Green-Ellis the ball instead of the much more explosive rookie it’s a gift to opposing defenses.
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