"Never sell your hen on a rainy day." – Farmer Folklore
In the instant gratification world of fantasy football, impatient owners develop foolhardy man-crushes that blindly lead them down a road of deceit and deception. Hey, I'm not ashamed to admit inanimate objects have been placed in compromising positions whenever DeAngelo Williams has been uttered in my presence. And you see what my uncontrollable infatuation got me in Week 3. Yep, negative points.
As a die-hard owner in this obsessive little game, it's imperative to remain subjective when a player storms out of the gates like a knight in shining armor. Case in point, Stephen Davis opened 2005 with four touchdowns in his first three games. Where did he finish? That's right, 26th among running backs.
Overrated like Paris Hilton's looks, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and a Kerry Collins deep-ball, here are my top-five fantasy hoodwinks you need to sell high on now before they lead you astray:
5. Michael Vick, Atl
On Monday night an emotional Saints club grounded the high-flying Falcons running game, limiting them to just 117 yards. Vick thrives in open space and the more pressure is applied, the more mistakes he makes. Also, when Vick was forced to stay in the pocket to mount a comeback through the air, he looked terribly uncomfortable. On the season, the agile quarterback has completed a lousy 47.1 percent of his passes and with better defenses likely to mimic the New Orleans game plan, Vick's prolific days on the ground could be halted in the coming weeks. Throw in his tendency for tripping over turf monsters and it spells S-E-L-L.
4. Amani Toomer, NYG
If you start this Too-mah regularly as a No. 3, you'll need fantasy chemo. The fifth-ranked wideout in performance leagues, the ancient veteran has benefited greatly from the Giants comeback brand of football. Through the first three weeks he has amassed 25 targets, 20 receptions, 207 yards and a league-high three touchdowns. Over the next few weeks, the Giants face a host of weaker offenses, which should keep games closer. This means more Tiki and less Toomer. Take a profit.
3. Darrell Jackson, Sea
Even at 90 percent healthy, D-Jax has posted surprising numbers, totaling 17 receptions, 231 yards and three touchdowns. His 13.7 fantasy points-per-week average ranks him third among receivers in performance leagues. Despite the hot start, Deion Branch will slowly chip away at Jackson's target totals and will hold his value at a mid-tiered No. 2 level. Put him on the block.
2. Fred Taylor, Jax
The fragile one is always a groin pull away from landing on the injured reserve. On pace for over 1,200 yards rushing, Taylor is the 12th best back in fantasy averaging a solid 12.3 points-per-week. The emergence of Maurice Jones-Drew and given Taylor's injury laden past points to a strong sell high situation.
1. Frank Gore, SF
Without a doubt the best draft-day bargain thus far, Gore has struck gold for the 49ers as the featured back. The second best plowshare in fantasy behind Brian Westbrook, the former "U" star has averaged a stout 140.3 total yards-per-game and racked three touchdowns. Traded straight up for Clinton Portis in a handful of Yahoo! leagues this week, his value has reached its zenith. With three fumbles lost in goal-line situations, including one that led to a critical 98-yard touchdown return versus Philly last week, Michael Robinson should figure into the mix inside the five. Couple that with Gore's history of injuries and it screams overrated.
WEEK 4 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: 257 YDs, 2 TDs, INT
Notes: D-town's version of Mr. Clean will dehorn the Rams on the road this week. Breaking out last week for 342 yards and two touchdowns versus a deplorable Packers secondary, Kitna should chuck the pigskin another 35 plus times in the Gateway City. The St. Louis defensive backs have improved greatly this season allowing a stiff 192 yards-per-game and two touchdowns. However, the lethal rapport Kitna has established with trash-talker Roy Williams will cause fits for corners Travis Fisher and Jerametrius Butler. Likely to play from behind again with the loathsome Lions secondary giving up a plethora of big plays, Kitna is a top-ten quarterback play this week.
Fearless Forecast: 281 YDs, 2 TDs, INT
Notes: With his bosom buddy Steve Smith back, the NFL's most prolific one-two pass punch from a year ago is finally at full strength. In the two games Smith was out, Delhomme averaged 183.5 yards-per-game with zero touchdowns and a pick. With Smith in the lineup last week at Tampa, he compiled 272 yards and a touchdown. Do you think Delhomme missed him? Facing a Saints defense due for a massive letdown after an emotional Monday night performance, Delhomme will go off at home in a pivotal NFC South matchup. Over the past three seasons, the Louisiana native has averaged a stout 247.3 yards-per-game and totaled five touchdowns in four contests. With his partner in crime back and Keyshawn Johnson a premiere No. 2, Delhomme will bedevil the Saints.
Fearless Forecast: 16 carries, 79 YDs, TD, 5 receptions, 37 YDs
Notes: Fantasy owners Jonesin' for a productive week from the D-town runner were richly rewarded with 125 total yards and a touchdown in Week 3. As predicted, Jones' workload has decreased substantially in Mike Martz's run-second system. Over the first three weeks, he has averaged a lowly 14.3 carries and 53.3 rushing yards-per-game. Despite the downturn in ground production, the historically stone-handed Jones has surprisingly emerged as a reputable pass-catcher out of the backfield averaging 5.3 receptions and 42.3 yards-per-game. The Rams have surrendered the tenth most fantasy points to opposing runners thus far, which points to a roaring day for this versatile Lion.
Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 56 YDs, 3 receptions, 24 YDs, TD
Notes: The rookie sensation is a matchup nightmare for a Jets linebacker unit that couldn't stop another backfield tandem, Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon, in Week 2. Eric Mangini's newly installed 4-3 defense is obviously still a work in progress considering the Jets have allowed 134 rushing yards-per-game and five touchdowns so far this season. Addai gashed the Houston Texans – a defense that also employs a 4-3 style – for 104 total yards and a touchdown back in Week 2 and should find similar success this week in the Big Apple. Dominic Rhodes has tallied a pathetic 2.6 yards-per-carry (Addai 4.7 YPC), which will eventually push Tony Dungy to use Addai exclusively. The Colts are a team in dire need of establishing the run and will turn to the rookie for more dependable production this week. Click the "activate" button.
Fearless Forecast: 6 receptions, 93 YDs, TD
Notes: The former Wolverine could be the first Browns receiver to rack 1,200 yards in a season since Webster "Sergeant" Slaughter accomplished the feat in 1989. One of the most gifted young wideout talents in the league, Edwards has barked loudly over the past two weeks totaling nine receptions, 226 yards and a touchdown. Always a threat to take it the distance, Edwards has already racked two catches of 50 or more yards. The rancid Raiders have allowed three pass plays of 30 or more yards in two blowouts and their young secondary will have issues stopping the superior athleticism of Edwards. Owned in only 63 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he might just be the best kept secret at wide receiver in fantasy football.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 77 yards, TD
Notes: The putrid Packers secondary reeks of goat cheese. On the road in San Fran last week, Brown repeatedly burned the Niners with Donte' Stallworth a late scratch, catching five passes for 106 yards. Matched against a young and inexperienced Packers DB unit that has been torched for 319 yards-per-game and five touchdowns, he will be a trustworthy No. 3 play at home on Monday night. The Green Bay defense tends to give up big plays – they have already yielded six pass plays of 30 or more yards – which should help Brown gain separation downfield. If Stallworth's hamstring continues to plague him, Brown will undoubtedly post his second consecutive 100-yard game.
Fearless Forecast: 6 receptions, 79 YDs
Notes: With Vernon Davis out for the next four weeks, Johnson will rise to the occasion. In Davis' absence in Week 3, Johnson was targeted 11 times, catching seven passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. A large target at 6-foot-3, 256-pounds, Johnson gets good release off the line of scrimmage and possesses some of the stickiest hands in the league. Remember, he caught 82 passes in 2004 and with Alex Smith averaging over eight targets per game to his tight ends, it could be a profitable string of weeks for the former Ivy Leaguer. Available in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Jeremy Shockey owners searching for a waiver wire gem could strike it rich with this 49er.
WEEK 4 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: 201 YDs, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Notes: Uh, oh. The Madden curse strikes again. Or was it the cunning actions of a wiener dog and some lemon juice? No matter what ailed Shaun Alexander's prized wheel, one thing is for certain, Hasselbeck is in store for long night in Chi-town against a Bears defense that has yielded only 198 passing yards-per-game and zero air scores this season. Seattle will try to spread the field by employing several four-receiver sets in the hopes of giving Maurice Morris adequate running lanes. However, with a depleted O-line, the Bears will find success putting pressure on Hasselbeck in pass-emphasized nickel sets. Averaging a marginal 1.2 touchdowns-per-game in 17 road contests since 2003, the normally dependable Seahawks QB will have difficulty spreading his wings in the Windy City.
Fearless Forecast: 17 carries, 64 yards
Notes: A major disappointment in Week 3 against a Browns defense he had shredded for over 130 yards-per-game in his career, it's clear Lewis' manhood is still doing backstrokes in a federal penitentiary toilet. Fresh off a bye, the inflexible Chargers front led by nose tackle Jamal Williams has electrocuted opposing land attacks limiting opponents to just 78 rushing yards-per-game. Yet to give up a touchdown in two contests, Shawne Merriman and company will give Lewis owners headaches in what will surely turn into an always exciting battle of kickers. Bet the under, but only bank on Lewis as a "flex" play in deeper leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 19 carries, 66 yards, 2 receptions, 10 yards
Notes: A ravenous grizzly Bear a year ago, Jones has suddenly turned into Yogi's docile sidekick Boo-Boo. Yet to find a pic-a-nic basket full of fantasy goodies, don't expect him to stumble across one this week against a Seattle D-line that has allowed a miniscule 58.6 rushing-yards-per-game. Cemented as the starter over Cedric Benson, Jones has averaged only 3.0 yards-per-carry this season, but continues to see around 20 attempts-per-game. Although his totals will suffer this week with Rex Grossman set to exploit a susceptible Seattle secondary, he is a great buy low candidate with Buffalo, Arizona, San Francisco and Miami on the schedule over the next four weeks.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 52 yards
Notes: On my totally bogus list back in August, Moss will continue to sour against a frenetic Jags secondary led by energetic cornerback Rashean Mathis. Through three games Moss – the second best receiver in performance leagues in '05 – has averaged a marginal 5.3 targets, 4.3 receptions and 62.7 yards-per-game with zero touchdowns. The return of Clinton Portis helped Mark Brunell immensely last week, but Al Saunders continued use of bubble screens and short pattern plays doesn't bode well for big fantasy receiver numbers. Moss has the speed to break a big one at anytime, but given the physical nature and speed of the Jags secondary, he will be hard-pressed to find separation.
Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 47 yards
Notes: Sometimes confused for a distant cousin of yours truly – Hey, speedy wheels is a genetic trait of the Evans family – don't be duped by his eight catch, 107 yard effort versus the Jets in Week 3. The beneficiary of J.P. Losman's first 300-yard – and probably his last – game of his career, lightning will not strike twice against a Minnesota secondary that has yielded only one touchdown to a wideout this season. Anticipate Evans to be heavily draped by Fred Smoot in what will amount to a deflated air effort for the Bills 28th-ranked passing offense.
Scanning media reports with a fine-toothed comb, the Noise puts his fantasy spin on various tasty tidbits.
Spin: Gas up the big-hype engine. The "greatest" thing to hit the desert since irrigation is about to arrive.
Yeah, I realize he hasn't even had a regular season snap, but rash, exaggerative owners are already placing the former Trojan on an unreachable pedestal. Heck, even our own Brandon Funston has hitched a ride on the Leinart bandwagon saying he will "be a hit right away." Sure, even Aaron Brooks could be productive in an offense with weapons like Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Edgerrin James, but Leinart is still an unrefined rookie and not yet the starter. To refresh Funston's beer-fogged memory, the best season ever by a first-year quarterback was diet guru Dan Marino's 200.9 yards-per-game, 20 TD campaign in nine starts back in 1983. If Leinart reaches those numbers in an equal amount of starts, I'll buy the first round for "The Commish."
Don't get me wrong. Leinart will be a serviceable top-20 fantasy quarterback who should average around 210 yards and a touchdown per game, but the USC love-child is not someone who will carry your team to the gridiron gold, especially with Seattle, Denver and San Diego on tap for Weeks 14, 15 and 17.
In recent Yahoo! leagues, Leinart has already commanded trade value for the likes of Darrell Jackson, Joey Galloway and Jake Delhomme. Although I like his long-term upside and his Kurt Warner-like approach to shaving, it will be a one step forward, two steps back 2006 for the youngster once banana hands is knocked out for good. Unless you're in a keeper league, see what the bandwagon pays in the event he is named the starter. At this point, set the over/under on Leinart's debut at five games.
As for Warner, his slippery thumbs continue to cause problems. With a ridiculous seven fumbles in three games, coughing up the football could be the death of his career. For the ninth ranked quarterback in fantasy the writing is on the wall. One or two more poor performances and Leinart will be thrust into the fray. Hopefully, you took out a hefty insurance policy at your draft in case the inevitable occurred.
UNLEASH THE BEAST
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Daunte Culpepper? 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?
Hi, I had two quarterbacks on my original roster: Culpepper and Brooks. Last week, I dropped Brooks and I picked up Chad Pennington. This week, I picked up Rex Grossman. I have started Culpepper the first two weeks and I am getting tired of his performance. Should I cut bait or hope he finally comes around? Thanks.
– Herman Rusli, Richmond, CA
Noise: At this point the Burger King has more fantasy value than Culpepper. Many, including myself, thought a Culpepper in aquamarine and orange would not only springboard the maligned QB back into fantasy prominence, but also vault the numbers of Chris Chambers and Ronnie Brown. So far, all three have made owners seek consultation through adult beverages.
The reason why Culpepper has struggled stems from several different issues:
1. The Dolphins offensive line has been turned into shark chum in the trenches. Culpepper hasn't helped things with his stone statue act behind the line, but his league-leading 15 sacks – on pace to surpass David Carr's record-setting 76-sack season in 2002 – is not entirely his fault. Hardly nimble after his devastating knee injury, he needs time in the pocket to make accurate throws.
2. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey's conservative play calling has squashed the Dolphins hopes of establishing a high-powered air attack. Chambers' yards-per-catch average has declined by almost two yards and he has just one catch over 20 yards. The inability to stretch the field with regularity hurts all facets of the Miami offense.
3. Finally, Culpepper has contributed to his own downfall, posting an awful 1:6 touchdown-to-turnover ratio. The overwhelming pressures defenses have applied on the pocket have socked Culpepper with a number of bewildering blows.
The bottom line: If C-Pepp can't ignite a fledgling passing game against a horrific Houston defense that has allowed 325 passing yards and seven touchdowns to opposing QBs, he will officially be dead to me. With a number of favorable matchups upcoming (at NE, at NYJ, GB) he could regain my confidence with a comeback performance. For now, plug him in your lineup for Week 4 given the anemic Texans pass rush, but consider selling high after Week 7 if he comes around.