Every Friday during the NFL season we review the Yahoo! weekly position ranks. When an expert breaks from the herd, they're asked to show their work. We try to focus on names near the start/sit line in public leagues, or on acts of complete lunacy. Let's play the feud…
To quote poet laureate Channing Crowder(notes), when it comes to Miles Austin’s projected value this week Funston is “a little Stevie Wonder and Anne Frank.” Or maybe Hellen Keller? It’s obvious, except to the obtuse, any Cowboy not named Dez Bryant(notes) is a major gamble this week against the Giants.
A 38-year-old quarterback with a penchant for turnovers and sacks facing one of the league’s fiercest pass rushes is a recipe for offensive disaster. Unless the Cowboys’ shaky offensive line suddenly stabilizes, Jon Kitna(notes) simply won’t have enough time to deliver passes downfield to Austin, a situation which played out last week at Lambeau. In that contest, the former Kardashian handler attracted only six targets, catching just two passes for 16 yards. The woeful effort marked the fourth time this season he finished under four points in a game in standard leagues, a string of forgettable performances which includes a 3-catch, 38-yard tally Week 7 against New York. On the season, the Giants have allowed just four WRs to reach the 70-yard mark.
There’s no questioning Austin’s talent. When in a nontoxic situation he’s arguably an elite fantasy target. However, the extreme duress Kitna will be under combined with the veteran passer’s infatuation with Bryant (19 targets in past two) indicates the Capital of Texas will levy another burdensome tax.
Miles Austin - Funston WR rank 16, Yahoo! composite rank 25
Dez Bryant has been the top producer at the WR position for Dallas since QB Jon Kitna took over for the injured Tony Romo(notes). But it’s not as if Kitna has favored Bryant. Austin and Bryant both have 26 targets in the past three weeks, tied for 15th in the league. That’s a healthy amount of looks, and I’d expect more of the same on Sunday as Dallas should be playing from behind for most of the afternoon – in Week 7 against the Giants, Romo and Kitna combined for 40 pass attempts. The No. 16 fantasy receiver in a given week typically finishes in the neighborhood of 11 fantasy points. Given the probability that Austin will see double-digit targets, and the likelihood that Bryant will draw more of the Giants’ attention after scoring twice in the last meeting, I still like Austin’s potential to produce 11 fantasy points, be it 110 yards or 50 yards and a TD.
This rank is really a reflection of the fact that several reliable tight ends have outstanding match-ups in Week 10, and Witten does not. Brandon Pettigrew(notes) is facing Buffalo, the defense that's allowed the most fantasy points to TEs this season. Marcedes Lewis(notes) is matched up with the second most user-friendly defense (Houston), Chris Cooley(notes) gets the fourth (Philadelphia), Kellen Winslow(notes) gets the fifth (Carolina), Dustin Keller(notes) gets the sixth (Cleveland), and … well, it just goes on like that. I understand that Witten delivered a useful line against the Giants back in Week 7, when New York's defense broke Tony Romo. But the Giants are at home, they've allowed just two TDs to tight ends this season, and I'd say there's a non-trivial chance that Dallas will be absolutely obliterated in this game. This could very well be the ugliest moment in a season that's already horrific. I'm not bullish on any of the Cowboys' skill players, Witten included.
There's a lot to like about Detroit's passing game in 2010, but I've got trust issues whenever the Paper Lions try to run the ball. Best is averaging a paltry 3.2 yards per carry and he hasn't busted into the end zone since Week 2. Best is also dealing with a nagging toe injury, which might explain why his production has fallen into the toilet. Sure, volume is your friend with Best (he's had 17 or more touches in five straight games), but what is he really doing with them? He hasn't topped 100 total yards since Week 2. Come back and see me when you're healthy.
Collins may have roamed with prehistoric reptiles during the Jurassic Period, but, at 37, he can still be an effective passer when pressed into action. Week 7 versus Philadelphia, for instance, he tossed 276 yards and three touchdowns, good for the sixth-best line that week.
When protected adequately, the geriatric QB can still deliver a quality deep ball, a skill which meshes perfectly with the talents of Randy Moss(notes) and Nate Washington(notes). He, unlike teammate Young, also isn’t afraid to incorporate the tight end into the offensive flow. Because Miami has been wildly erratic in pass defense – passers have tallied 7.4 yards per attempt against it – crusty Kerry could wade in the Fountain of Youth.
Yes, Moss is still adjusting to yet another system, but his size and streaking ability will be a handful for Vontae Davis(notes). Keep in mind the well-traveled receiver historically has excelled in his first game after changing uniforms.
If Young, who returned to partial practice on Thursday, is named the starter, slide him into Collins’ spot. Whoever chucks passes for the Titans on South Beach will likely bask in the fantasy glory.
It may not seem like I'm too far off the consensus here, but I'm the only Yahoo! analyst who ranks Ocho as an approved starter in 12-team, two-receiver formats — and I might very well be the only expert who's actually starting him somewhere in my fantasy portfolio. Let's set aside the fact that I tend to favor diva receivers when they're coming off tantrum weeks, and instead focus on the match-up ahead with the Colts: This sets up as another week where the Bengals fall behind and are forced to throw their way back into the game (even though they'd no doubt prefer to run Cedric Benson(notes) 45 times against Indy). In all likelihood, we're looking at another high-volume passing day from Carson Palmer(notes), as in the New England and Atlanta match-ups. Those were enormous games for Ocho — he totaled 22 catches, 267 yards and two TDs — and I'm not ruling out the possibility that he'll binge again. He was a double-team victim last week against Pittsburgh, which led to another big week for T.O., but he was still targeted seven times. He'll get his opportunities; don't overreact to a bad game against an elite defense.
Even in the best of situations, Knowshon Moreno is no more than a borderline fantasy play. He heads a Denver rushing “attack” that is averaging 67.3 rushing yards per game, more than eight yards worse than any other team in the league. It takes Moreno a lot of carries to work up respectable yardage totals because he has no big-gain upside – just two rushes of 20-plus yards in 323 career rushing attempts. And his TD potential is being squandered by Josh McDaniels’ need to validate using a first round pick on Tim Tebow(notes), who has goal-line TD runs in two of the past three games. When you take into account all that I have just mentioned and add in the fact that Kansas City has not allowed a RB to reach 90 rushing yards this season (including Arian Foster(notes), Frank Gore(notes), Darren McFadden(notes), Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) and Peyton Hillis(notes)), there’s no way I’d feel comfortable ranking him as an RB2 this week, as my colleagues have done.
I've been Brown's biggest critic among the Y! staff the last two years - I'm a noted Joseph Addai(notes) sympathizer. But Brown has the Indianapolis backfield just about to himself with Addai and Mike Hart(notes) injured, and Cincinnati's front seven can be had against the run (4.4 YPC allowed). More importantly, Peyton Manning(notes) has no ego when it comes to the shape of the Indy offense; if he sees defensive fronts that are over-compensating against the pass, he'll gladly check to the ground attack.
Brown picked up 18 touches last week in Philadelphia and managed 97 total yards out of them; not Hall of Fame numbers, but it's a start. He'll build on that production this week.
Kellen Winslow – Pianow TE rank NR, Yahoo! composite rank 11
Josh Freeman(notes) has thrown 20 career touchdown passes since joining the Bucs, but just one of them went to Winslow. It was over a year ago. I need a show of faith before K2 gets anywhere near my starting lineup, even in the Year of the Broken Tight End. And don't tell me Winslow is tearing up the league between the 20s – he's managed four catches for 36 yards the last two weeks (meanwhile, Freeman parceled out 431 yards elsewhere). Aim higher.
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