"Bargain like a gypsy, but pay like a gentleman." – Hungarian Proverb
Fantasy football is a cruel mistress.
Unpredictably, numerous draft day stars have already given fantasy owners the cold shoulder. Just ask the guy in your league who drafted both LaMont Jordan and Randy Moss. Yep, he's the one passed out with his head on the bar.
Given the bewildered state many winless owners are currently in, now is the time to exploit their dimwitted impatience. Dust off that polyester plaid suit and flash a greasy used car salesman smile. It's time to make a deal.
Here are my top-five early season "Stud Steals" that you can acquire for the price of an Aaron Brooks autographed picture:
5. Jake Delhomme, Car, QB
Why? Who cares if Ryan Longwell has more touchdown passes than Delhomme, once Steve Smith returns, so will his trustworthy numbers. Although on pace for 48 sacks, the effectiveness of DeAngelo Williams and Smith's eventual return to the lineup will give Delhomme enough ammo to notch his third consecutive 20 TD season.
4. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Cin, WR
Why? Sidelined the first two weeks with a pesky bruised heel, Housh is the ultimate wide receiver buy low. Remember, he was targeted 25 times in the red zone last year – the second highest among wideouts – and had 13 games of five or more receptions. The grease man in the Bengals' air attack, look for him to bounce back with a vengeance against a Pittsburgh team he torched for 12 receptions, 163 yards and two scores in two '05 contests.
3. LaMont Jordan, Oak, RB Why? Yes, the "Black Death" has spread pestilence for Raiders and fantasy fans alike, but Jordan should not be cast aside as a rotten corpse. From Weeks 13-17 – fantasy playoff time for many – the human bowling ball faces five defenses that have collectively allowed 124.6 rushing yards-per-game and 1.1 touchdowns-per-game over the first two weeks. His value will never be this low again.
2. Carnell Williams, TB, RB Why? Slowed by back spasms and a victim of situation, Cadillac is in desperate need of an oil change averaging just 2.6 yards-per-carry on a miniscule 22 carries. Once Chris Simms stops hitting opposing safeties square in the chest, Cadillac will pump the pistons. Anticipate a strong performance against a downtrodden Carolina defense this week. In his last outing against the Panthers he peeled out for 122 yards and two scores.
1. Clinton Portis, Was, RB Why? Inspector 2-2 has greatly frustrated owners with his unpredictable availability. Expected to start this Sunday against a ghastly Houston front that has allowed 127.5 yards-per-game and three touchdowns on the ground, a monumental return is likely for Portis. The petrol that makes the Al Saunders juggernaut engine run, everyone – especially Mark Brunell – will benefit from his presence. The thought of 11-13 touchdowns this year is not exaggerated bar talk.
WEEK 3 FANTASY FLAMES
Do you want to look like a pigskin prophet? Each week the Noise will dig deep for five no-so-obvious names to turn you into a gridiron guru. Here are this week's flame candidates:
Fearless Forecast: 292 YDs, 3 TDs, INT
Notes: The only thing that has been rollin' for Culpepper this season is his fantasy value off a cliff. Home to face the worst secondary in the AFC, Culpepper will emerge with top-five quarterback numbers. The Titans have yielded 277 passing-yards-per-game and three total touchdowns to start the season. The imposing size of Marty Booker and athleticism of Chris Chambers will be no match for the unpolished cornerback combo of Reynaldo Hill and Pacman Jones. This is the week Culpepper finally plays like a Madden superstar.
Fearless Forecast: 246 YDs, 2 TDs
Notes: There is no better antidote for a struggling offense than the Houston Texans. Yet to find the end-zone or 200-yards in a single contest this season, Brunell will silence his critics with a strong outing against a Texans defense that has given up a mind-blowing 714 passing yards and six touchdowns in two games. With Portis in the backfield, the defensive pressure on Brunell will decrease allowing him to make accurate downfield throws to his speed demon triple-threat-Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd, and Antwaan Randle El.
Fearless Forecast: 21 carries, 97 YDs, TD
Notes: If you're a Lewis owner, you better hope the orange Cleveland helmets revive memories of a prison jumpsuit. Historically, Lewis has sent the Browns to the kennel averaging 132.9 yards-per-game and totaling seven touchdowns in 10 career starts. With the Browns allowing a staggering 155 yards-per-game on the ground thus far and given the troubles they had stopping Rudi Johnson last week – a straight-forward pounder similar in style to Lewis – it should be a very productive week for the Baltimore bruiser.
Fearless Forecast: 17 carries, 72 YDs, TD
Notes: Outside of describing his ex-coach as a dictator, Barlow has made few headlines this year. Although no concrete reports have surfaced, rumors are swirling the former Niner could start over Derrick Blaylock as soon as this week. After tallying six attempts and 20 rushing yards more than Blaylock in Week 2, the speculation is obvious. With Chad Pennington in store for a nice afternoon matched against two rookie cornerbacks, Barlow could find holes fit for a 747. Slated to face a Bills D-line that has yielded 127.5 rushing yards-per-game, he could be a terrific one-week wonder for owners singing the bye-week blues.
Fearless Forecast: 7 receptions, 76 YDs, TD
Notes: Product of the Terrell Owens school of arrogance, Williams is finally flashing the skills that made him a top-ten pick in 2004. With eight looks, seven receptions and 57 yards more than Ernest Wilford through two games, it's a safe assumption that Williams has become air option No. 2 in Jacksonville. With quarterback eater Dwight Freeney likely out with a leg injury and given Byron Leftwich's previous success against Indy – he has a 5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in five career starts – Williams is an outstanding No. 3 wide receiver play this week. If his drops issues and overbearing attitude are a thing of the past, this will be his breakout year.
Fearless Forecast: 6 receptions, 70 YDs, TD
Notes: In the past 10 years only two rookie receivers have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. Jennings could be the third. In Week 2, the youngster cemented his role as the clear-cut No. 2 in cheese land, catching six passes for 67 yards and a touchdown on team-high 12 targets. His excellent separation speed and slick routes should help him find pay-dirt again this week. Outside of lockdown corner Dre Bly, the Lions have serious concerns in their secondary. Chicago burner Bernard Berrian converted on a 41-yard bomb with ample attention paid to Muhsin Muhammad and the same scenario could play out in D-Town for Jennings given Donald Driver's influence. Available in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues, confide in him as a No. 3 wide receiver in 12-team leagues this week.
Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 48 YDs, TD
Notes: Mike Ditka can't wipe-off that ear-to-ear grin. The Bears have finally rediscovered the tight end. On pace to become the first Chicago tight end to exceed 500 receiving yards in a season since Emory Moorehead did it in 1983, Clark has quickly become one of Grossman's primary targets. An ideal between the numbers option for a relatively immature quarterback, at 6-foot-4, Clark is Sears Tower big with baby soft hands. The Vikings limited Chris Cooley to just one catch in Week 1, but with field-stretchers Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad, he should again find open spaces in the middle of the field and net 5-8 targets. Antonio Gates owners looking for a one-week rental should chase Clark.
WEEK 3 FANTASY LAMES
Worried about your awful matchups this week? The Noise lists five players that should be relegated to clipboard duty for your fantasy team. Here are this week's lame candidates:
Fearless Forecast: 232 YDs, TD, 2 INTs
Notes: Although sexy Rexy may have temporarily reversed the Florida QB curse, this week he'll look like Danny Wuerffel. Returning to the Metrodome for the first time since he ruptured an ACL there in September of '04, the NFL's top-rated passer will be plundered by a Vikings secondary that has given up a stingy 172 passing yards-per-game and zero touchdowns thus far. Trust Grossman only if you're a Drew Bledsoe owner in search of a serviceable one-shot play.
Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 64 YDs, FL
Notes: Taco Tatum will send you straight to the porcelain throne this week. Averaging a pathetic 39.2 yards-per-game in 13 career road clashes, Bell is a Mr. Hyde away from the Mile High City. The Patriots front has been stiff against the rush thus far, limiting opposing backs to just 3.1 yards-per-carry. Add in Jake Plummer's woeful start and goal-line vulture Mike Bell's presence and you have a potentially disastrous situation that could unfold if you keep Taco active. Start him only as a flex option in 12-team and deeper leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 19 carries, 62 YDs, 3 REC, 21 YDs
Notes: Anchored by run-stopper Shaun Rogers, the voracious Lions defensive line will devour Green this week. Through two games, Detroit has limited the third (Seattle) and eighth (Chicago) best ground teams from 2005 to 91 and 89 rushing yards respectively. In his last three trips to Ford Field, Green has managed just 68.3 rushing yards-per-game. Due to the struggles of the D-town pass defense, look for Favre to chuck the pigskin a minimum of 40 times, making Green a forgettable fantasy option.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 52 YDs
Notes: The overwhelming emotion in 'Nawlins will make you reach for a Kleenex and so will Horn's performance. In his last four tilts versus Atlanta, Horn has hit a sour note averaging a mediocre 4.7 receptions, 57.8 yards and .25 touchdowns per game. The Falcons have yet to yield a touchdown through the air and given Horn's playing style, he is not one to accumulate big yardage totals the way Joey Galloway did in Week 2. Blowhard corner DeAngelo Hall should silence the Saints No. 1 and force Sean Payton to rely heavily on the speed and hands of Reggie Bush in the passing attack.
Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 49 YDs
Notes: This week, the fleet-footed Viking will have difficulties running away from a ravenous group of Bears. Through two weeks, the black n' blue Bears defense has yet to give up a passing touchdown and are ranked ninth in fewest fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Williamson has emerged as the go-to-guy for Brad Johnson totaling 16 targets, 10 receptions and 170 yards, but without a reputable tag-team partner the pressure to produce squarely rests on his young shoulders. The Bears have suspect speed in their secondary, but their physical, combative play at the line will keep Williamson off his game.
Scanning media reports with a fine-toothed comb, the Noise puts his fantasy spin on various tasty tidbits.
The winds of change are blowing in Carolina. After first-string running back DeShaun Foster was out-rushed 47 yards by rookie dynamo DeAngelo Williams in a 16-13 loss at Minnesota, a running back controversy was born. Panthers head coach John Fox commented, "Foster is still our starting tailback … They had the same number of carries. That may not always be true, either. We try to spread the wealth as far as guys running the ball, and I don't look for that to change."
Spin: Tears of joy tickled off my cheeks as I watched D-Will rip the Vikings for 98 total yards and a touch last Sunday. On the verge of permanently wrestling away the starting job from the delicate Foster, the meat in my fantasy man-which is about to become one of the most highly sought after fantasy backs around. As I've preached since April, "Napoleon" is the best all-around rookie back in the league, even over Reggie Bush. Although diminutive in size, his surprising strength, durability and versatility are tailored perfectly for John Fox's smash-mouth offense. Once Steve Smith is given a clear bill of health, the fledgling Carolina air attack will prosper, opening holes for Williams to develop into a consistent No. 3 fantasy back in 12-team leagues with 13-17 touches per game.
For now, expect a 50/50 time-share to be implemented in Charlotte, similar to the Laurence Maroney/Corey Dillon situation in New England. However, with Foster averaging a paltry 2.9 yards-per-carry, the former Memphis star will soon takeaway a lion's share of the reps. Shop the fragile Foster now while he still has some value.
UNLEASH THE BEAST
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Willis McGahee? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?
I like to see that you're just like the rest of the analysts when it comes to the Hawks. What's funny is you claim to "know football" but why would you write stuff so ridiculous then? Granted (Shaun) Alexander will probably not match his TD total from last year – that's why it's a record, it's tough to do. I just hate that you and the others think our O-line was totally dependent on having Hutch. He was a great player, don't get me wrong, but do you just not even care that he was playing next to Walter Jones? Not to mention Robbie Tobeck on the other side of him. I just think it's the most idiotic thing I've ever heard that our O-line's success apparently was totally dependent on having Hutch. Oh, and your statement about it being comical that Alexander reach 25 TDs is up there too. I expect you to eat some serious crow on that one. Well, that's just my two cents – Go Hawks!
Tommy, Seattle, WA
Noise:Tommy, I think that third espresso completely dissolved your ability to reasonably judge my football IQ. Have you seen how poorly the Seahawks have played in the trenches? Come on man, you can't tell me Alexander's 3.1 yards-per-carry average doesn't raise a caution flag.
Sure, Hutchinson is just one guy, but he is arguably one of the best run blockers in the league over the past couple of seasons. Why else would Minnesota shell out an outlandish $49 million for his services? With Chester Taylor averaging 100.5 rushing yards through two games, I'd say that's money well spent. Oh, and to clarify, not once did I say that the Seattle line was "totally dependent" on Hutch.
As my colleague – and owner of a Steve Largent cardboard poster from a potato chip box, really – Brandon Funston said earlier this week, this is an offensive line "clearly out of sync." Talented, yet unrefined, I'm confident in a couple of weeks this group will gel and reach their full potential. But with the Giants and Bears upcoming, it probably won't happen until Week 6 at St. Louis. That's great news if you're looking for a discounted price on one of the elite runners in fantasy.
Adding to Funston's observation this week that Alexander was dancing behind blockers rather than aggressively attacking the line, the reigning MVP has been slowed by a sore foot he tweaked Week 1 in Detroit. The injury has been a bit of a bugaboo, forcing him to miss practice on Wednesday, but is not expected to force him out of the lineup.
I do agree that disgruntled Alexander followers are overreacting, but my prediction that he will tally less than 25 touchdowns is far from comical. The influence of Deion Branch should greatly aid "The Great", but the current lack of O-line chemistry and the nagging foot issue points to 2004 season totals, not 2005. That is no "ridiculous" statement.
- Mark Brunell