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Scouting Notebook: Titanic effort

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

Got questions this week on Twitter @MichaelSalfino from panicked Chris Johnson owners, who are not fans of Matt Hasselbeck(notes), I guarantee it. I think they will be soon enough, though. Hasselbeck has looked good and that will ultimately be a positive to Johnson, who like all backs needs volume and thus QBs who can convert some third and longs. Johnson especially needs it because there are those 70-yard jaunts out there if the Titans roll the dice with him enough. Sunday's 100-plus-yard day with a 25-yard run is a small step in the right direction.

Of course, 80-yard touchdowns from tight ends get our attention. Jared Cook(notes) profiles as a hybrid at 6-foot-5, 248 pounds with good speed. The Titans plan on using him as a third wideout and we want our tight ends to be standing in the slot far away from blocking assignments on key passing downs. There is significant upside here with Kenny Britt(notes) out.

The Titans also gives us a pretext to grade our first Football by the Numbers defensive power rankings. They, the Jaguars, Bengals and Cowboys were the top teams in shutting down fantasy skill players. And three of their their Week 4 opponents – the Saints, Lions and Bills – all had below par days. The Browns are always bad and were again against top-rated Tennessee, and did nothing when you subtract the sheer passing volume of Colt McCoy(notes).

I'm glad Sean Payton kept his sense of humor by giving Jed Collins(notes) a TD plunge. You know that Mark Ingram(notes) owners were ROTFLMAO. Again, Drew Brees(notes) and Jimmy Graham(notes) are the only Saints you can start with confidence. Darren Sproles(notes) is a good flex play, but he's so small that he won't withstand the volume you need from him to be a more projectable option.

Buffalo is a nice story, but producing against the league's three worst defenses (Oakland, New England, Kansas City, says our rankings) doesn't get you gold stars here. Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) is not a top 12 fantasy QB.

And note the Bills defense was ranked 29th and look what that did for Andy Dalton(notes) (298 passing yards and two scores including one rushing), Cedric Benson(notes) (104 yards) and A.J. Green(notes) (128 receiving yards). Expect a reversal of fortune next week for Cincy against the much more stout Jaguars.

I like the Lions. I respect Matthew Stafford's(notes) ability. And Calvin Johnson(notes) is amazing. But Stafford and Johnson owners were fortunate to come out of Sunday with serious points. The Lions looked shot before Tony Romo(notes) opened both barn doors. And how do we judge Stafford? Is he Daunte Culpepper(notes) who just gets to chuck 'em up to a freak receiver who he stares down from the snap, regardless of whether there is triple coverage? If something happens to Johnson, all bets are off for Stafford. And if something happens to Stafford, run and grab his backup because a lot of Stafford's points are nothing special from him.

If Rashard Mendenhall(notes) was a horse, his owners would send him to the glue factory without a second thought. Maybe it will get better, but I do not think so, especially with Ben Roethlisberger(notes) heading to the MRI booth.

Here is your "sell high" opportunity, Arian Foster(notes) owners. Do you have the guts to cash out? If Andre Johnson(notes) is out for a while, the running dynamic in Houston can change irrespective of his re-injury risk.

Dwayne Bowe(notes) is a top 10 receiver, which is the only nice thing I can say about the Chiefs. But that's one more nice thing than I can say about the Vikings.

The standard formula is one point for every 15 yards from scrimmage. So we should have had had about three more TDs for that 955 yards in Philly vs. 'Frisco game. The Eagles cannot stop the run, so discount Frank Gore's(notes) huge day.

Julio Jones(notes) is a beast and is in a good setup on a team that can't play pass defense and that seems to understand that you need to throw to win. Roddy White(notes) on the other side guarantees single coverage most snaps, too.

Victor Cruz(notes) really gave the game away; he didn't "give himself up." Who heard of that rule unless you're inside the final minute or someone is sliding feet first? That and the ref in Oakland picking up a flag on the pass interference on the Patriots saying the players feet were tangled (they were, after the interference) were just crazy calls. Why can't all calls be subject to review at the replay official's discretion instead of carving out an exemption for "judgment" calls? Either that, or let's live with all ref mistakes.

Hakeem Nicks(notes) plays like he's 6-foot-5 even though he barely cracks 6-foot. He's a mini-Megatron.

Aaron Rodgers(notes) is a fantasy football machine.

Ryan Matthews isn't going to be elite until he shrugs off Mike Tolbert(notes) at the goal line, and I can't see that happening near term.

Brandon Marshall(notes) is incredibly overrated. His TD/catch ratio has always been disappointing and now it's a disaster – four TDs in 108 grabs.

I still don't think Matt Forte(notes) is a good runner, but I like him as a back because he definitely is an elite receiver and does run okay some days.

Cam Newton(notes) is a rock star, it's clear. People misunderstood last week when I said the Week 3 dropped him to top 10 from top 5. That's rest-of-year, 50th percentile projection in a very rough, back-of-the-napkin way. I wasn't saying he couldn't be top 5 after last week. I was saying that his forecast dipped slightly. But it's soaring again. Get him in your lineup, pronto. Remember, trades are not illegal in fantasy football and the play when you have two great commodities is to move the one with the greatest perceived value.

Michael Salfino writes and edits the SNYWhyGuys blog that projects player and team performance for New Yorkers. He's also a quantative sports analyst whose writing regularly appears in the Wall Street Journal.

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