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Ask Atlanta's Matt Ryan what's pumping through his iPod earbuds before a game and chances are he'll say Jack Johnson – seriously.
That's right. No head-banging rock anthems powered by AC-DC. No bass-thumping gangsta' rhymes lipped by Tupac. Nope, instead the NFL's most electric rookie quarterback gets amped listening to serene acoustic ditties about surfboards, hemp sweaters and wheat grass. Frankly, it's surprising Ryan plays in shoes.
Palm trees and " Banana Pancakes" are just fine with Ryan
For the "Big Chill," jamming to mellow ocean-side tunes prior to kickoff is indicative of his super cool personality.
The No. 3 overall pick in April's draft, Ryan, who played in a pro-set system under Jeff Jagodzinski at Boston College, has defied conventional fantasy wisdom. With Vince Young, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino the very rare exceptions, rookie quarterbacks traditionally have an enormous learning curve to overcome. Even the most physically gifted products normally take at least 2-3 years to blossom. However, Ryan is an unusual breed.
At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, the 23-year-old is a spectacular physical and mental specimen. His quick release, excellent footwork and plus zip on short-to-intermediate passes are sensational tools that have allowed him to dissect opponents with surgical precision. Cerebrally, Ryan's salient intelligence, uncanny awareness, tireless preparations and inspiring leadership explain why his pocket demeanor is markedly poised. Only the great ones have entered the league with a similar precociousness. Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey concurs. Per USA Today:
"He gets it. And it shows up Sundays. He knows how to study. … He's bright and fun to be around. Matt's the first quarterback I've been around who has the ability to know somebody's not going to be open faster than anyone else I've ever worked with. He just has a knack. … Every game he's gotten better. His play has earned (everyone's) respect even more. He is accurate on the move and has a great pocket presence. Matt's shown a great clock inside his head."
"The learning curve is really accelerated with him. Like all games, he's going to come in tomorrow, watch the tapes and see things that he could do better, but he's maturing beyond his years up to this point."
Fantasy owners, too, have noticed Ryan's steely resolve and statistical contributions. The rookie's ownership percentage has doubled over the past three weeks in Yahoo! Plus leagues, peeking at 77 percent entering Week 10.
Looking at his recent returns, it's understandable why owners have jumped on the bandwagon. Against formidable competition over the past four weeks (at GB, Chi, at Phi and at Oak), Ryan has posted a 63.9 completion percentage, averaging 248 yards and 1.8 passing touchdowns per game. His 20.0 fantasy points per game mark ranks 10th among QBs over that span, one spot behind Peyton Manning and ahead of goliaths Donovan McNabb, Jay Cutler and Brett Favre. More impressively, he's on pace to join esteemed company. Glance at how Ryan's pace compares to the most memorable rookie QB seasons in NFL history (minus Young) below:
Matt Ryan '08
Dan Marino '83
Peyton Manning '98
FPPG=Fantasy points per game per standard scoring (1pt/20yds, 4pts/TD)
*Marino played in only 11 games in '83 (9 starts)
*Rushing stats are not included in FPPG tallies
The Big Chill's ultra-cool disposition is the reason why his coconuts are oversized
Unless he goes on a second-half rampage, it's unlikely he'll shatter Manning's rookie TD record. But because his interceptions pace is incredibly low and helped by his unbreakable bond with Roddy White (9.6 tgt/g), he could actually finish with Marino-like fantasy totals. The Noise's 18-22 TD projection from early August is looking more and more prophetic.
Peeking at his schedule, it's possible he could remain at least a top-12 QB commodity down the stretch. Minus difficult matchups at home against Carolina (Week 12) and Tampa Bay (Week 15), Ryan's leftover foes (NO, Den, at SD, at NO, at Min and StL) have yielded a combined 256.7 passing yards and 1.4 air strikes per game to signal barkers this season.
This week, in a pivotal NFC South clash with New Orleans, classify him a borderline top-10 play. Because the Saints defense has surrendered four 250-yard passers and at least one aerial score in seven of eight contests, the Big Chill should ice down his opponent vertically. Too often, the Saints have employed man-to-man coverage downfield which means Michael Jenkins' towering size and White's virility presents a mismatch for corners Mike McKenzie and Randall Gay. Keep in mind New Orleans has allowed 29 20-yard pass plays, the second-most in the NFL.
Based on his friendly upcoming schedule and cool demeanor, Ryan will soon have his owners sipping pina coladas in paradise. Maybe even alongside Jack Johnson.
Week 10 Fearless Forecast: 23-37, 258 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions
Here are this week's flames, lames and stars of video games:
Each week the Noise highlights five somewhat obscure, unobvious names who he believes are destined for flame madness or lame sadness. In honor of waiver wire hero Ron Dayne's legendary three-game dominance late in '06, the "Shocker Special" segment spotlights one player owned in less than a third of Yahoo! leagues who is poised for instant greatness. The Noise, an accountability advocate, will tally his hits and misses and post the results, whether genius or moronic, each week using the scoring system listed at the end of the lames segment.
*BNRK = Big Noise weekly position ranking
*Y!% = Percentage owned, started in Yahoo! Plus leagues
Week 10 Fantasy Flames
Hopefully the human helicopter will remain grounded in his return to the starting lineup. Rosenfels' unabashed pit-bull mentality and proneness to turnovers may seem like a recipe for disaster against Baltimore, but the Ravens are not the defensive giants everyone is making them out to be, especially vertically. The Purple and Black has surrendered an uncharacteristic 235.2 passing yards and 1.6 touchdowns per game to QBs since Week 5, equal to the 10th-most fantasy points yielded. Combine that with their staunch interior D (2.5 ypc to RBs in L5) and the summer Sage's bottom line will be firmly padded. Even Texans guard Chester Pitts is confident the key to victory is in Rosenfels' stoicism, "Sage has so much natural poise. He's real smooth out on the field. He can dissect what the problems are in a hurry. He can get us all on the same page. He's a good player – a very good player. It's (bad) for Matt to go down, but in the same breath, we should be fine, because Sage can play." With terrific weapons and given the paper-friendly matchup, 240-plus yards and multiple TDs are reachable. Remember, against two respectable defenses earlier this season (Ind, at Min), the career backup averaged 235 yards and posted a 3:2 TD:INT split. Owners with queasy stomachs may not want to risk employing him, but the payoff could be substantial.
23-36, 259 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
With Reggie Bush having an "outside shot" of suiting up for Sunday's critical tilt with Atlanta, the Deuce won't emit a face-scrounging odor. Expected to net his second straight start, the brittle back should pulverize an Atlanta 4-3 that has been battered by punishing inside rushers. Over the past four weeks, the Falcons have conceded 4.6 yards per carry and 123.3 total yards per game to plowshares. Of course the Saints are a pass-first club, but Drew Brees' unmitigated ability to stretch defenses should open up mammoth holes for McAllister to steamroll through. Also recall before New Orleans' bye-week, Deuce became an integral part of the passing attack totaling 85 yards (30 receiving) and a score on 22 touches, his best single-game fantasy performance since Week 16 of '06. Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker will steal a few touches but owners should confidently start Deuce as an RB2 in all 12-team leagues.
19 carries, 74 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 18 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
The long-gain Rice is on the verge of going rogue. Last week in Cleveland, the rookie from Rutgers sent the fantasy masses diving head-first into the free agent pool, totaling 176 yards. Nestled away in the dark corner of the Ravens backfield for the first few weeks of the season, the resourceful youngster has become an indispensable part of John Harbaugh's three-pronged attack. With Willis McGahee still limited by an ankle injury and Le'Ron McClain's role reduced to goal-line plunges, Rice is the current fantasy flavor of choice in Mob Town. Sure he isn't explosive like Chris Johnson or Steve Slaton, but his versatility, plus vision, above average burst and durability fit ideally in Cam Cameron's conservative offense. Harbaugh is definitely impressed with Rice's sudden rise, "Ray has expanded himself with the things he can do and the confidence he builds in the coaching staff." Unless McGahee's ankle dramatically improves, look for the rookie to get his first NFL start against Houston. Averaging 6.0 yards per carry and 105.8 total yards per game since Week 6, Rice should inflict significant damage on a Texans defense that has yielded 143.6 total yards and 1.4 scores to backs, equal to the ninth-most fantasy points allowed, over the past five weeks. Label him a strong RB2/Flex play in 12-team and deeper leagues, especially PPR-friendly formats.
16 carries, 76 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 26 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Gage's disappearing act over the past two weeks (9 targets, 1 catch, 6 yards) has sapped the confidence of his owners. Plagued by drops, general inconsistencies, a knee injury and the Titans dynamite flash and bash running game, the once promising wideout's name has even surfaced in deep league free agent pools. Despite the severe downturn, Jeff Fisher isn't overly concerned by Gage's skimpy contributions, "We haven't done an awful lot in the passing game on the outside. Overcoming that injury is difficult, especially in the receiver position, but I'm confident he'll [Gage] make plays for us and become productive." This is the ideal week for the former collegiate quarterback to rectify his dwindling value. Because Chicago's defensive strength lies in the trenches, Kerry Collins will likely have to assume a more proactive role to set up the run and move the chains. Since Week 6 the Bears have allowed six 60-yard receivers and four scores to wideouts, equal to the fifth-most fantasy points surrendered. Gage, who has two nine-plus fantasy point efforts in five games this season, is an upside WR3 dark-horse with strong surprise potential.
5 receptions, 77 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Apparently, Denver's Karl Paymah believes Camarillo could one day be cast in future "High School Musical" sequels. After flopping five aces (11 catches for 111 yards) on the Broncos last week, the incredibly flattering Paymah thought No. 83 was "just an average Joe. Honestly, you could have had anybody out there, a high school guy. That was the weakness we chose to have in our defense. We were giving it to him." Whether in real or fake football, Camarillo continues to be disrespected. The 26-year-old, who has drawn many comparisons to Wes Welker, ironically ranks one spot behind his counterpart in fantasy points per game. More impressively, his 7.9 FPPG since Week 6 have outpaced stars Eddie Royal, Santana Moss and Laveranues Coles in standard leagues. This week, the shifty wideout should again tally stellar totals. Chad Pennington is rolling (280.4 ypg in last five) and Miami's opponent, Seattle, has allowed 30 20-yard pass plays, the most in the NFL. The horrible Hawks have also yielded the fourth-most fantasy points to receivers since Week 6. Camarillo, who has averaged a PPR-delicious 6.5 receptions and 67.4 yards per game in his past five, is a sound Week 10 No. 3 in 12-team and deeper leagues.
6 receptions, 68 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Shocker Special of the Week
McDonald, whose caught 11 passes for 133 yards and a score in his past two contests, could be a fantasy Hamburglar this week against the fading Jaguars. With Calvin Johnson expected to draw coverage from premiere corner Rashean Mathis, the slippery underneath receiver will likely become the focus of Detroit's vertical gameplan. The cloaked commodity has performed valiantly in PPR formats since Week 6, but hasn't caused a stir in standard leagues. Yes, Daunte Culpepper's vitality is a great unknown, but according to MLive.com reports Wednesday, the three-time Pro Bowl selection displayed a "cannon arm." McDonald's resourcefulness in the short-to-intermediate passing attack will yield profitable WR3 results for owners in 12-team and deeper leagues. Receivers opposite Mathis have scored four TDs over the past three weeks. Also, the Jags have surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to wideouts in their past four contests. TJ Houshmandzadeh, Terrell Owens and Santana Moss backers in dire straits for a stopgap receiver should seek out McDonald.
5 receptions, 62 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Week 10 Fantasy Lames
Eli's "Aww shucks!," "Leave it to Beaver" facial expressions are once again on display. The most overrated quarterback in fantasy has not eclipsed 200 passing yards in a contest in four straight weeks and has notched a marginal 6:4 TD:INT split over that stretch. His 16.3 FPPG average since Week 6 ranks No. 22 among signal callers, one slot behind Matt Cassel and ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick. This week against the Eagles relentless pressure defense, anticipate another gloomy effort from junior Manning. Although Eli has only been sacked nine times this season, Jim Johnson will attempt to assault the pocket with a barrage of well-disguised blitzes. Manning is very aware of the daunting challenges he'll face, "They are talented … a lot of pressure, a lot of blitzes. They do a great job getting to the quarterback, so we have to get the ball out quickly and know our reads, our protections, those things. But we also have to just protect the ball, whether you are throwing it or there are the linebackers getting into the backfield, just have two hands on the ball and know you can't afford turnovers against this good team." Last season in two contests against Philly, Eli averaged an unexciting 177 yards per game and tallied a 2:1 TD:INT split. Anticipate similar results this week.
20-34, 198 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions
Forte may not hail from London, but this week, he'll take on the appearance of Paddington Bear, Marmite included. The super-rookie has been a model of consistency, scoring at least 11 fantasy points in seven of eight contests. But unless Obi One-Eight is miraculously healed by Master Yoda, the Bears will be forced to lean on un-sexy Rexy against arguably the best defense in the NFL. Ron Turner will likely install a conservative gameplan to curtail Grossman's mistakes. A run-heavy strategy would obviously aide Forte's fantasy potential, but the Titans, led by man-eater Albert Haynesworth, are immovable in the trenches and will stack the box against Grossman. Tennessee has allowed only one RB score and yielded just 3.7 yards per carry to rushers since Week 6, equal to the eighth-fewest fantasy points conceded. Filling in for Orton two-plus quarters last week, Grossman refused to look at Forte in the flat, instead opting to chuck wildly inaccurate passes downfield. If the undersized slinger doesn't utilize Forte's tender hands, it will not only stunt the rookie's fantasy production, but also the Bears offense as a whole. Keep him active in all 12-team and deeper leagues, but those in very shallow formats with friendlier options (e.g. DeAngelo Williams, Tim Hightower and Thomas Jones) should roll with the better matchup play.
20 carries, 72 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 11 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Loyal Torainians faithfully believe their savior can walk on water, heal the sick and turn historically red states blue in presidential elections. But in his starting debut the youngster will squash their optimism. The frenzy for the unproven rookie has reached hysterical proportions. Owners are sacrificing life and limb to acquire a back with moderate upside. Look, Denver's offensive line is not nearly the inflexible wall it once was in the heyday of Davis, Anderson, Portis, Gary and Droughns. The Broncos rush offense ranks 18th in the NFL. Sure, Torain's brawny build and adequate burst are ideal talents for Shanny's zone-blocking scheme, but he's not the next big thing. Remember, Lucifer's treachery is legendary. Its plausible Selvin Young and fullback Peyton Hillis, who Jay Cutler thinks he's a "pretty versatile" back who "we must find a way" to get the ball, could steal a number of touches. Yes, Torain is jazzed about showcasing his wares and the Browns, who have allowed 5.3 yards per carry and 165.8 total yards per game to backs since Week 6, are pliable upfront, but expectations need to be tempered. Denver has produced one 100-yard rusher in their past 19 games and if Cutler struggles, that streak will likely extend to 20. Absolutely Flex Torain in 12-team leagues, but anticipate ordinary returns at the Dawg Pound.
21 carries, 84 rushing yards, 0 touchdowns
Not even Bruce Wayne in Caped Crusader form could muster quality fantasy production versus Steely McBeam. Mike Tomlin's stringent defensive philosophy is very territorial. As the hardnosed coach told the Steelers official website this week, "give us a blade of grass to defend and we will defend it." The Colts' vaunted aerial arsenal is starting to recapture its energy, but has appeared enigmatic at times this season, especially on the road. In fact in his past two road contests (at GB and at Ten), Wayne has totaled only five receptions for 53 yards. Look for defensive genius Dick LeBeau to dial up pressure on Manning to push him to make questionable decisions. Yes, Wayne is unbenchable, but because the Steelers have allowed the fewest 20-yard pass plays in the league and the third-fewest fantasy points to wideouts this season, he very easily could accumulate porous numbers in his third straight road effort.
5 receptions, 56 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
If the Bald Bull of Carolina wants to post marquee numbers, he better sucker-punch Nnamdi Asomugha. With DeAngelo Hall no longer under the control of Al Davis' prune hands, the Panthers will likely center their aerial efforts on his replacement, Chris Johnson. Add that to Oakland's soft run defense and it appears Smith could play more of a deceptive role. According to Football Outsiders, No. 1 receivers have compiled a -3.5 DVOA against Asomugha, which means very few quarterbacks have attempted to look the corner's direction. Similar to Wayne, Smith is not bench material. Coming into Week 10, he's averaging 117 yards per game in his past three contests. But Asomugha is a very physical corner who has enough foot quickness and athleticism to hogtie one of the game's most explosive receivers.
4 receptions, 48 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
QBs: 15+ fantasy points
WEEK 9 FLAMES RESULTS
W: Marc Bulger = 17 Points
WEEK 9 LAMES RESULTS
QBs: 15+ fantasy points
QBs: 15+ fantasy points
WEEK 9 FLAMES RESULTS
W: Marc Bulger = 17 Points
WEEK 9 FLAMES RESULTS
W: Marc Bulger = 17 Points
WEEK 9 LAMES RESULTS
WEEK 9 LAMES RESULTS
SILENCE THE NOISE CHALLENGE
Each week one lucky aspiring fantasy prognosticator is chosen to go toe-to-toe against the Noise. If you want to be a guest "expert" submit your flames, lames (QB, 2 RB, 2 WR/TE) and shocker special (any position) along with a valid email address here no later than midnight central time on Tuesdays. Oh, and please, no long dissertations to justify your picks. All that's required are your player selections and projections. Winners earn a league spot to compete against yours truly next season. Good luck!
Week 10 contestant: Bob from Chicago, Ill.
Matt Ryan, Atl (vs. NO): 327 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception
Jamaal Charles, KC (at SD): 18 carries, 121 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 39 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Leon Washington, NYJ (vs. StL): 8 carries, 73 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 61 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Michael Jenkins, Atl (vs. NO): 5 receptions, 97 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Nate Washington, Pit (vs. Ind): 3 receptions, 102 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Roscoe Parrish, Buf (at NE): 3 receptions, 66 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Eli Manning, NYG (at Phi): 211 passing yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception
Ronnie Brown, Mia (vs. Sea): 23 carries, 77 rushing yards, 1 passing yard, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception, 1 fumble lost
Steve Slaton, Hou (vs. Bal): 14 carries, 46 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 35 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Lee Evans, Buf (at NE): 2 receptions, 55 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Donald Driver, GB (at Min): 3 receptions, 46 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 9 Results: JJ from Louisville, Ky.
Flames: 2-4, 33.3% (W - Derek Anderson, Eddie Royal; L - Joseph Addai, Fred Taylor, Kevin Walter, James Hardy (SS))
Lames: 3-2, 60% (W - Kyle Orton, Steven Jackson, Santana Moss; L - Chris Johnson, Calvin Johnson)
Noisers YTD - Flames: 29-25, 53.7%; Lames: 24-20, 54.5%; Shocker Special: 6-3, 66.7%
Challenge Winners: (Brian from Dallas, Noah from Kansas City, Bill from Indonesia, Zhen from Shanghai, Elliot from Fremont, Calif.)
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