With the Cal/Oregon college game opening as the second highest Over/Under total ever at 84 (it dropped down to around 80 by game time), it was pretty crazy to see not one but two NFL games score more points this weekend (Cal/Oregon totaled 71, whereas Denver/Philly and Detroit/Chicago totaled 72). What made this more remarkable was that neither Jay Cutler nor Matthew Stafford got even 7.0 YPA, and the teams also combined for an atrocious 3-for-23 on third down conversions. The seven turnovers leading to short fields had something to do with high score, of course…Stafford was incredibly inaccurate during the first half, yet somehow the Lions were up 30-13 entering the break…Reggie Bush had 11 carries for 112 rushing yards (while adding 24 receiving yards on three catches) with just less than three minutes remaining in the second quarter, and his 37-yard TD run was of the highlight variety. The new system has helped, and Bush should still be considered one of the bigger injury risks moving forward, especially with how heavily Detroit is relying on him, but I can’t remember a running back looking so much better later in his career compared to earlier. Assuming you own Joique Bell, it’s hard not to call Reggie Bush a top-five fantasy back right now.
Calvin Johnson has 101 fewer catches and 1,652 fewer receiving yards this season compared to last yet just one fewer touchdown…For all of the dirty player accusations, let’s not overlook Ndamukong Suh as an absolute dominant player. It’s not quite as bad as the Jaguars taking a punter over Russell Wilson in last year’s draft, but the Rams taking Sam Bradford over Suh (which later led to them passing on RG3) is pretty bad in its own right…I like the idea of Ryan Broyles, but despite his opportunity, it’s just not clear he’s up to the task…Alshon Jeffery was fantastic and showed ability frankly I didn’t realize he possessed. If this 44-yard grab wasn’t impressive enough, his 14-yard TD catch may have been even better. I’m a Jay Cutler fan, but it’s hard not to be at least somewhat concerned by his recent YPA trend over the past four years, which has looked like this: 7.6, 7.4, 7.0 and 6.8.
Here’s the latest edition of the always terrific “Between Two Ferns,” with this one featuring Justin Bieber.
Here’s my “Rapid React” for the 49ers/Rams game.
The Texans/Seahawks game was pretty terrific, although as a 49ers fan, the result was infuriating. With less than eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Texans held a 20-6 lead yet somehow lost. Brian Cushing leaving with a concussion definitely hurt the team’s defense, but Russell Wilson also deserves plenty of credit. He took five sacks and finished with just 123 passing yards (5.3 YPA) and a 0:1 TD:INT ratio but was highly effective with his legs, gaining 77 yards on 10 carries (while never once putting himself in harm’s way)…My bad on my preseason Golden Tate hype. He’s obviously unusable right now, even in deep formats…Ben Tate once again outclassed Arian Foster when it comes to YPC (6.3 vs. 3.8), but Foster dominated all the receiving work (and the rushing work, for that matter) and certainly didn’t look bad against a tough defense. He hasn’t overwhelmed, but Foster owners have to be encouraged with his start so far…Matt Schaub is a great quarterback in “hitter’s counts,” but when asked to make a play on his own that doesn’t involve play action and/or a rollout, he too often falls short. It’s hard to blame Houston fans for booing him late in Sunday’s game, despite his team nearly always having a strong win/loss record. Up seven points inside his opponent’s territory with just 2:45 left in the game, Schaub’s pick-six was an early candidate for worst play of the 2013 season. There’s simply zero reason to throw that ball given the situation…Coming off back-to-back flawless performances and playing an early game on the road against a Texans team fired up after laying an egg the week before, it’s pretty scary the Seahawks were able to shake off the slow start and actually win in overtime. Although this absolutely ridiculous penalty by Kareem Jackson helped (to be clear, I’m not saying the call was bad because that’s the rule. I’m saying what Jackson did was stupid and unnecessary). While the Broncos have looked better, there are two clear No. 1 teams in each conference.
If you ever wondered why Russians have so many dash cams, here’s the most glaring evidence why.
Over his last three starts, Blaine Gabbert has a 0:6 TD:INT ratio, taking 13 sacks over that span. I know I’ll get a hard time for saying so, but I really think he’s just not that good…What’s more likely, the Broncos going 16-0 or the Jaguars going 0-16? I’ll give it 50/50 odds. Both happening is also very much in play…Maurice Jones-Drew is pretty much unstartable until further notice…Cecil Shorts has a whopping 52 targets over four games, a season’s pace of 208, which would have led all receivers in the NFL last season. Shorts has zero touchdowns despite this, and while the atrocious quarterback play has obviously been part of the problem, Shorts dropped two catchable balls in the end zone Sunday. It’s unclear what Justin Blackmon’s impending return means, as the talented malcontent saw 48 targets over his final four games last year. In fact, Blackmon’s 132 targets were the 15th most in the NFL, just one spot behind Dez Bryant and more than Julio Jones, and Blackmon was a rookie. Even on a team that will be underdogs in every game the rest of the season, both Shorts and Blackmon may still be fantasy relevant, as despite a poor QB throwing to them, with such a poor defense and running game, playing from behind should result in continued high targets to the team’s clear top two options in the passing attack.
Midway through the third quarter, Jacksonville had just 10 more total yards (70) than they had penalty yards…After attempting 627 passes as a rookie, Andrew Luck is on pace to throw the ball 512 times this season, as the Colts’ massively improved defense (they have allowed a 2:6 TD:INT ratio while recording 13 sacks over four games) is going to be a drain on his fantasy value, especially since his efficiency hasn’t taken a major leap (7.2 YPA)…Speaking of efficiency (or lack thereof), Trent Richardson ran for 60 yards on 20 carries against a Jacksonville defense that has allowed 5.2 YPC and a league-high nine carries of 20+ yards (next worst are the Bills with six). To reiterate, Richardson ran for 60 yards with Ahmad Bradshaw inactive in a 37-3 win over a team that might go winless this season.
Despite such a disastrous start for the rest of the Giants, Victor Cruz is actually on pace to finish with 104 catches, 1,700 yards and 16 touchdowns. It’s obviously been a small sample, but only five WRs have ever reached 1,700 yards. Make sure your fellow fantasy owners value him as a top-tier receiver. Cruz now has an insane nine touchdown catches of 60 yards or more over his short career…Over his last 15 games, Hakeem Nicks has 51 catches for 685 receiving yards and two touchdowns…The Chiefs have somehow allowed the highest YPC (5.4) in the NFL while also allowing the fewest YPA (5.8). Thankfully for them, the latter is far more important (to emphasize this point, KC has allowed an NFL-low 10.2 points-per-game). The Chiefs have also recorded an NFL-high 18 sacks. Moreover, no team has defended tight ends better than Kansas City, whom they’ve yielded zero touchdowns and a total of 100 yards against over the first four games of the season…Jamaal Charles still has the best YPC among all running backs in NFL history, but his fantasy value has relied mostly on his receiving ability so far this season. After averaging just 4.1 YPC (to call this a career low would be an understatement, as his previous low was 5.3), Charles is still somehow on pace to finish with 2,100 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns despite being on track to get fewer carries than last year, when he was coming off ACL surgery. In other words,thanks to his extreme involvement in the passing game (JC is on pace to get 92 receptions) and the likely regression of his YPC, Charles should be regarded as a top-three fantasy commodity right now (he’s seen 35 targets this year, whereas Dwayne Bowe has been given 24).
Song of the Week: Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know?”
Le’Veon Bell wasn’t overly impressive, getting 3.6 YPC, but he immediately became Pittsburgh’s workhorse, getting 20 touches and scoring two touchdowns (marking the team’s first rushing score by a running back since Week 15 of the 2012 season). Despite the Steelers being a total disaster, if Bell can stay healthy, he’d be a top-15 fantasy back from here on out…Antonio Brown securing 12 of 13 targets is impressive, although that resulting in just 88 yards wasn’t. Still, his fantasy prospects are quite clearly on the upswing…Adrian Peterson’s TD runs were impressive, and I want to take nothing away from them, but Pittsburgh’s tackling Sunday was nothing short of embarrassing. This team gave up three 50+ yard plays right away and is apparently allergic to forcing turnovers. Pittsburgh lost on a neutral field to a Minnesota team that hadn’t won this year (although they have had leads in the second half during all four of their games) that was starting Matt Cassel at quarterback…Blair Walsh is now a perfect 12-for-12 on field goal attempts from 50+ yards during his career…Greg Jennings, really?...The Steelers have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season yet the second-most to running backs…Pittsburgh has recorded the fewest sacks in football and is the only team in the NFL without a takeaway in 2013, including not recovering a fumble they forced from Matt Cassel on third down late in the first half, which was actually picked up for a first down by Minnesota (this happened with 2:20 left in the second quarter. If it occurred 20 seconds later, the ball couldn’t be advanced, thus resulting in fourth down. Sometimes, when it rains it pours)…I’d still consider Mike Tomlin a top-five coach, but he’s certainly making me question it with his recent in-game decisions, including two head scratchers Sunday. The first came when he called for a run play at the end of the first half with 39 seconds left from his own 20, (either pass or kneel), which was bad enough, but it became extra perplexing when the play resulted in an 11-yard gain, and he elected not to call a timeout afterward (what was the point then?). The second blunder was far worse, as Tomlin didn’t call a timeout before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, which cost his team around five seconds, which proved costly at the end of the game (this might seem inconsequential, but what if it was the difference between Pittsburgh running a play versus spiking it on first down at the six yard-line with 30 seconds left? The decision very well might have cost Pittsburgh a chance at overtime). It’s pretty inexcusable.
Doug Martin: 27 carries for 45 rushing yards. Oof. The sophomore back is getting just 3.4 YPC this season and just as worrisome, he has only seven catches for 35 yards. The Bucs have no doubt struggled in run blocking and have faced a tough schedule so far, so especially with Tampa Bay now on bye, there might be an opportunity to buy Martin right now…Mike Glennon actually looked halfway decent early on, but he ultimately didn’t provide an upgrade at QB. Of course, Tampa Bay is thinking long-term with him at this point, but fantasy owners can’t feel great about Vincent Jackson’s prospects, as the wideout secured just two of 11 targets for 27 yards. Hopefully VJax emerges from the team’s bye closer to 100 percent…Rashard Mendenhall gained just 21 yards on 12 carries and got 13 receiving yards on four targets while losing a fumble. He’s not even worth a bench spot at this point…Larry Fitzgerald saw zero targets in the first half of Sunday’s game, although a late TD salvaged his fantasy day.
Jason Whitlock said this on PTI last week, talking about Robinson Cano: “The guy plays second base. If you go through the lineup, that’s about the eighth or ninth most valuable position on a baseball team. Spend the money on a position that actually matters.” I’m speechless…Game Mix didn’t switch to the bigger boxes during the later games this week (showing four games in an eight-game setup), which was beyond annoying…Can someone explain to me why every league doesn’t use “yardage against” as a stat for fantasy defenses? I’ve used it in my home league forever, and it makes the position more important (they aren’t ignored until the second to last round like most leagues), creating more strategy and also better reflecting real life value. I don’t see the downside to it.
Torrey Smith has secured just 50.0 percent of the passes thrown his way this season, yet he’s on pace to finish with 1,740 receiving yards anyway. It was nice to see him finally reach the end zone Sunday too. Now able to run a much more diverse route tree and in line to finish with by far the most targets in his career, Smith is in store for a monstrous 2013…Joe Flacco had the same amount of sacks and interceptions (nine) as the Ravens had combined rushing attempts. Obviously, Baltimore’s coaching staff needs to be questioned calling just two run plays in the second half, but it’s clear Ray Rice was far from 100 percent, and Bernard Pierce got banged up as well…C.J. Spiller has been one of fantasy’s biggest disappointments so far, and it’s not even entirely tied to Fred Jackson being used far more than anticipated. Spiller seemingly hobbles off the field with some sort of lower leg injury every game and has seen his YPC fall from 6.0 last season to 3.5 this year. And where have all his catches gone? He’s been one of my biggest misses so far in 2013…Robert Woods has quietly racked up 18 targets over the last two games and nearly had a second score Sunday. He’s on the radar…I criticized Mike Tomlin quite a bit earlier, but another top tier coach deserves the same, as for some inexplicable reason John Harbaugh decided to attempt a field goal down six points at Buffalo’s six-yard line on 4th-and-five with 4:04 left to play. Pretty terrible.
Headlines of the Week: Ethics Professor Groped Sleeping Woman Sat Next To Him On Flight...Real-Life ‘Blue Man’ Dies After Heart Attack...How Many More Must Die For Qatar’s World Cup?...Explorer Follows ‘Yellow Brick Road’ to Sunken Pirate Treasure...Italy Implements ‘Don’t Kill Your Girlfriend’ Classes in School...Career Woman Must Make 300 Sandwiches to Earn Marriage...Doctors Grow Nose on Man’s Forehead.
It’s been just four games, and he’s sure to regress some, but it’s hard not to consider Jordan Cameron the clear No. 2 fantasy tight end right now. During his touchdown catch, he lined out wide and simply beat an overwhelmed corner for the score like he was Calvin Johnson or Dez Bryant. Cameron has four touchdowns over two games since Brian Hoyer took over at quarterback…Not only did Cleveland pull off the upset, they did so despite Billy Cundiff missing two field goals in the first half…Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis combined for 16 carries, and their longest run of the day went for six yards. Still, the rookie was active as a receiver and played far more snaps, which is a good sign moving forward…There are only a few true shutdown corners in the league these days, but those matchups are especially bad for Andy Dalton, who looks lost without A.J. Green as a crutch.
Animal Antics: 10-inch Pacu, Testicle-Eating Fish, Caught in Passaic, New Jersey...Whisker Shrimp Fight is Broken up by a Frog...Elephant cleans its forehead with a broom...Jaguar Attacks Crocodile...Oh man, this is brutal. Here’s a bunny recently freed not lasting long in nature...Baboon Gets Handsy During Reporter’s Live Telecast and Looks Proud of it.
Concussions are obviously serious and more important than my fantasy team, but it sure seems like any time a player I own suffers one this season, it happens immediately, resulting in a goose egg. First there was Eddie Lacy and Jermichael Finley, and the latest example is Stephen Hill, who was knocked out during the second play of Sunday’s game. Get well soon, Stephen…Speaking of hoping to get well soon, tough break for Jake Locker. The Jets entered having allowed just three TD passes over their first three games, but somehow Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four scores Sunday, including a 77-yard strike to Nate Washington that was aided by a ref…Geno Smith completed 67.6 percent of his passes and got 8.5 YPA, but ball security remains a major issue for the rookie QB. He’s committed 11 turnovers over four games, although to be fair, he’s had some bad luck, as Smith has lost all three of his fumbles, including his own version of the butt-fumble…Getting just 3.3 YPC and being removed at the goal line is bad enough, but Chris Johnson is suddenly being totally ignored as a receiver (a theme among many top backs this season). He’s somehow caught just four balls for 12 yards over four games. Might want to get him in space a bit more.
Police Blotter: Utah Woman Pleads Guilty in “Telepathic Rape” Case...Man Attempts to Pay Water Bill With Crack Cocaine...Man Charged After Barking and Hissing at Police Dog at a DUI Checkpoint...Tubby O.J. Simpson is Caught Stealing Cookies From Prison Cafeteria.
Philip Rivers was fantastic yet again, setting an NFL-record for highest completion percentage (83.3) while throwing for 400+ yards in a game (in which he took just one sack). Over his last nine contests, he’s posted a 19:2 TD:INT ratio. Not only has San Diego suffered a bunch of injuries to its receiving corps, but Vincent Brown has done anything but break out, making Rivers’ resurgence all the more surprising. I see no reason why he shouldn’t be treated as a top-10 fantasy quarterback moving forward…Antonio Gates caught all 10 of his targets and went off for 136 yards and a TD. He simply looks like a different player this year…Dez Bryant looks unstoppable at times, especially at the goal line, so it was odd to see him targeted just one more time than rookie Terrance Williams…Tony Romo’s YPA should bounce back, but it’s hardly mattered so far anyway, as he has eight touchdown passes over four games…With 2:32 left in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys jumped offside on 3rd-and-two, giving the Chargers a first down. That’s pretty awful…After Richard Marshall recovered a crucial Terrance Williams fumble in the end zone, he nearly took a step outside of it before kneeling. Considering the score (30-21) and time (2:42 left in the 4th quarter), a safety there would have actually been better for Dallas than a touchdown.
It’s officially becoming silly what Peyton Manning and the Broncos are doing. Denver is now 15-0 over its last 15 regular season games and will be getting arguably the league’s second-best defensive player back in a few of weeks. When looking at Manning’s video game stats, remember also that Denver has dropped 14 balls this season, which is the second most in the NFL. The Broncos will reportedly be 28-point favorites when they face the Jaguars in two weeks, which will be an NFL record…The 5-9, 185 lb Wes Welker leads all of football with three targets inside the five-yard line this season…Something wasn’t quite right with LeSean McCoy, who had “the wind knocked out of him.” He lost a goal-line score to Chris Polk and was in and out of the lineup all second half. Let’s chalk it up to Denver’s thin air…Have to love Knowshon Moreno celebrating his TD by playing some Rock-Paper-Scissors…Down 21-13 late in the second quarter while facing quite possibly the best offense in NFL history and with a shaky defense, I’m not sure what possessed Chip Kelly to punt on 4th-and-6 from Denver’s 37-yard line. Of course, it resulted in a touchback. It was also funny to see Philly attempt (and miss) a field goal down 36 points in the fourth quarter. I thought Kelly was an aggressive coach in college?
It’s a good thing Washington won Sunday, because it would’ve been especially brutal to start 0-4 while having scored three defensive touchdowns so far…Logan Paulsen’s lost fumble was the classic it’s not worth fighting for one or two extra yards when you expose yourself to so many defenders swiping at the ball type. Most of the time it’s just best to go down…It sounds like Alfred Morris avoided a serious injury, and the team’s bye week comes at a perfect time. If Morris were badly hurt, I would have recommended spending the majority of your FAAB on Roy Helu, who did this Sunday. Washington has allowed an NFL-high 9.2 YPA this season, yet its 15 sacks are the second most in football. That’s a rare combination…That was such a Darren McFadden thing to do…I’m on board for two prime time night games in Week 5, but as someone who lives on the West Coast, I can’t imagine a sporting event starting at 11:35 pm…After rushing for 815 yards and seven scores last year, Robert Griffin is on pace to run for 288 yards and zero touchdowns this season. He’s also on track to throw for 1,608 more yards this year compared to last.
In honor of the “Breaking Bad” series finale, here are my top-15 favorite TV dramas of all time: 1) Breaking Bad 2) The Wire 3) Deadwood 4) The Sopranos 5) Homeland 6) Mad Men 7) The Shield 8) Game of Thrones 9) Lost 10) Carnivale 11) Twin Peaks 12) Six Feet Under 13) Friday Night Lights 14) Dexter 15) In Treatment
Apparently, Tony Gonzalez isn’t done. What a performance. It was funny to see New England double and triple team him during the final drive, as he apparently got their attention…Kenbrell Thompkins has somehow secured just 38.5 percent of his targets with a Hall of Fame quarterback throwing to him, yet is still on pace to record 1,028 yards and 12 touchdowns. His looks will decline once Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola return, but the rookie’s efficiency should improve as the year goes along as well. Thompkins is a top-25 fantasy wide receiver likely not being treated as such right now…Crazy that the ruling on a Julio Jones catch stood purely because the replay system wasn’t working…During 3rd or 4th-and-1 situations in his career, Tom Brady has converted 70 of 73 rushing attempts for first downs during his career, so it was surprising to see the botched snap Sunday night…While losing Vince Wilfork for the season certainly hurts, this Patriots defense is legit, as they’ve allowed a 4:5 TD:INT ratio to opposing quarterbacks and have absolutely shut down opponents’ No. 1 wide receivers. Can’t wait for Week 12, when Denver comes to Foxborough for Sunday Night Football.
Longread of the Week: “The Killing Machines.”
Bonus Longread of the Week: (again in honor of “Breaking Bad”) "Merchants of Meth: How Big Pharma Keeps The Cooks In Business.”
Drew Brees put on a clinic Monday night, making it look easy while tying his own record, throwing for 300+ yards in nine consecutive games. His current 8.6 YPA mark is actually a career high. Through the quarter mark of the 2013 season, Brees is on pace to throw for 5,736 yards and 40 touchdowns…Lamar Miller looked good and certainly far superior to Daniel Thomas, but no one should be surprised by that. It continues to remain up to Miami’s coaches to agree for him to be an every week fantasy option…Ryan Tannehill has definitely shown promise this year, but he “leads” the NFL with six fumbles and 18 sacks…The Dolphins are the only team in football yet to allow a touchdown to a wide receiver this season, although they have ceded an NFL-high six scores to tight ends…Jimmy Graham was targeted just four times and yet somehow finished with 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Now that’s efficient.