September 22, 2008
Sundays are all about collecting stories and stats, angles and observations. Mondays are about clearing the notebook. Here are some themes and images that had my attention during Week 3 of the elegant violence.
Time for an emergency roundtable on Randy Moss. What's your angle here? Buy, sell, hold?
I didn't necessarily target Moss in August but he fell to me in a handful of leagues, more than ever before. I tried not to overreact to the Tom Brady bombshell as it related to No. 81, but I've seen every Matt Cassel snap the last two weeks and the tape isn't telling a pretty picture. Enough is enough, I'm ready for action.
A week ago I didn't feel too bad about Moss shares; I saw a bailout coming. I expected he would toast the Miami secondary a few times (the Dolphins were a sieve in Arizona and leaky against the Jets), and I could use that as my sell angle. Wait a week, then make my move.
The big problem with Moss's Week 3 wasn't so much what happened (four catches, 25 yards), but rather, how it happened. Almost all of Cassel's attempts (and completions) were dinks and dunks, and on the few occasions the Pats tried to make a downfield connection, bad things happened. Protection was an issue, Cassel struggled with pocket awareness, accuracy came and went. Even with a well-placed bye week on the way, I don't see how anyone can expect the Patriots to re-emerge in Week 5 as an aerial circus; when you post a 4.2 YPA against Miami, red flags fall from the sky. Moss's pedigree no longer matters to me as I evaluate the player; it's time to accept the current situation and be realistic with expectations.
Patience will be preached by a lot of fantasy sources, but let's not forget the framework of a fantasy football season - we're not talking about fantasy baseball where three weeks is just a drop in the bucket. The fantasy football regular season will be 30 percent complete in 13-game leagues before the Patriots see the field again. If you're 2-1 or 3-0 with Moss, I can see the angle of waiting this out or selling at a different time, but 1-2 and 0-3 teams need to put more urgency into their plan.
I hit the campaign trail with gusto late Sunday, making it clear that Moss was in play and priced to move. New England owners and past Moss sympathizers were the first guys I looked to, and I wound up making a couple of trades.
In a Massachusetts-based league, I got a lucky nibble around 6 p.m. eastern - a Greg Jennings offer that I quickly accepted. Bailout. Dinner tasted a lot better after that.
I knew the selling could be choppier in the industry circles and I had to be prepared to accept less (I shopped Moss to some Fantasy Football Live peeps the previous two weeks and got little serious interest). Eventually I found myself steered to Chris Liss, a longtime friend and colleague who isn't afraid to take chances or buy on a struggling player. A swap of the Moss's - his Santana for my Randy - stood on the table for about a day before I decided to roll the dice and make the plunge. Heck, it gives me something to write about, right?
Selling low never feels great, and I know this deal will be panned by some of you, but I'm not afraid to take chances either. You want to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs. How are you handling the Randy Moss problem these days? Where would you rank him the rest of the way? Is there any hope for Matt Cassel? How do we fix the mess that is the New England passing game?
Enough on Moss, let's see what the other 29 teams offered us Sunday:
• Jeremy Shockey's hernia (he's out 3-6 weeks) is obviously a major hit to the Saints passing game, albeit I'll still expect Drew Brees and Sean Payton to pitch the pig effectively against San Francisco next week, and probably against Minnesota the following week, too. Some overreacted to the Marques Colston effect last week at Denver - you know how that played out. Brees can get it done even when the club is shorthanded.
• A slow linebacking group really gets exposed when you put it in pass coverage, and that's what we've seen in Denver the past two Sundays. Darren Sproles ran past these guys like they were standing still, and Reggie Bush was dynamic as a receiver yesterday. The Chiefs probably don't have the personnel to exploit this in Week 4, but the Bucs and Jaguars are bad matchups for Denver after that. Mind you, Cutler Nation doesn't mind one bit.
• Terrell Owens wasn't involved much in the passing game Sunday night, but he impressed me as a football player for the entire evening. His blocking was excellent - this Felix Jones touchdown run was perfectly executed by the entire offense, in truth - and he also turned in perhaps my favorite play of the weekend, a 65-yard run-and-tackle after Tony Romo's end-zone interception, making up chunks of ground even after he was pancaked by a blocker and fell far behind the play. Say what you want about Owens's personality and moods, but when he's engaged between the lines, this is a dynamite football player who can beat you so many ways.
• The Cardinals put Tim Hightower in the circle of trust very quickly, giving him third-down and goal-line assignments right out of the box. He's shown good recognition and technique with his blitz pickup, and that helps you stay on the field. Maybe he turns into a poor man's Marion Barber in a few years?
• I can't help but feel happy for Atlanta fans, who can feel good about their team again, a year removed from the Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino nightmare. Sure, the wins came over doormats, but there are some exciting playmakers on this offense, guys you can rally behind. (The way Petrino bailed on his team in the middle of the 2008 season - his final act was a "Dear John" letter in lieu of a team meeting - stands as the most gutless thing I've seen in a lifetime of watching and writing about football.)
• Tony Romo is going to make a loose throw now and again, but it's really a thing of beauty to watch him operate in the pocket. He's outstanding at keeping his downfield focus when the protection breaks down and he's forced to move, and he's comfortable playing with bodies around him (Romo's basketball background comes in handy here, a keen understanding of spacing). He'll make some long connections on plays where a lesser quarterback would have taken a sack or accepted an incomplete pass; the game-clinching touchdown to Miles Austin last night shows this perfectly.
• Maurice Jones-Drew owners, it's safe to come in from the ledge. MJD got going early and often in Indianapolis, in part because the line showed up to work, and in part because the Colts are especially vulnerable against the run with Bob Sanders out of the mix (plus the Cover 2's aim will never be run-stopping first).
• Marvin Harrison made a couple of plays Sunday and got into the end zone, but I'd sell him while the selling's good. Jacksonville was single-covering him at times with a nickel corner, which tells you what they think of his remaining skills. He's a fantasy No. 3 or 4 in my book for the rest of the year, even in Peyton Manning's offense.
• I knew Steve Slaton could make plays on the perimeter, but he impressed me with his power on some inside runs, and his healthy line at Tennessee certainly buys fantasy cred. With the bye week out of the way and Ahman Green nowhere close to healthy, this is a story with legs.
• LenDale White is going to plod and stumble and fall forward to 13-15 touchdowns, just accept it. Those six-pointers add up. And I hope you're getting a good look at Chris Johnson every week because he might be one of the ten most exciting skill players in the game right now. They're both safe fantasy starts even in a platoon because of the way Tennessee is built; a strong defensive team with a scaled-back passing game. Both of these guys look safe to see 15-20 touches every week.
• Antonio Bryant's big game reminds us that in fantasy, it's sometimes more important to ask "Why not?" instead of "Why?"
• I'm not sure what to make of this Julius Jones resurgence.
On one hand he's looked decisive and quick to the hole, but the opponents have
helped a lot, too; the 49ers missed a bunch of tackles two weeks ago and the
Rams were sloppy with their gap discipline yesterday.
• Buffalo's win wasn't as lucky as it initially seems; the Bills had 25 first downs to Oakland's 10, and held a 131-yard edge in total yards. I don't know how high the ceiling goes for Trent Edwards but he's impressed me in every start this year.
• Chad Johnson looks like a receiver who's not anywhere close to healthy, simple as that. Keep in mind Chris Henry's re-signing was tied to Johnson's shoulder issue, and he's also coming off ankle surgery.
• Eli Manning always looks the same on the field, ahead or behind, on a roll or struggling, and that's one of his greatest attributes. To succeed playing in that media hotbed, you better have a short memory and a thick skin, be comfortable with who you are. He's that type of guy.