Halfway through a bottle of tequila the NFL season and it’s only Tuesday morning…
Your halfway “Power” Rankings:
1. GNB (7-0): Only perfect team left gets somewhat of a challenge @ SDG next week, but we’re all looking ahead to Turkey Day showdown with Detroit.
2. PIT (6-2): Wiz Khalifa’s favorite team has four in a row, capitalized by statement win vs. the NWE Pastries.
3. DET (6-2): Evil will always triumph because good is dumb. At least that’s what it looked like as the Lions shellacked Tebow’s Broncos heading into an opportune bye.
4. SFO (6-1): We all know they’re not really great, but that defense looks legit. And don’t look now, but Frank Gore has four straight 125+ rushing games. With Balmer on Thanksgiving night as the only terrifying matchup on the horizon, Niners may be a 12-14 win team when it’s all said and done.
5. NWE (5-2): I still contend that the Pats’ defense will never be a title contender this year, as evidenced by the relative ease in which Pittsburgh moved the ball on them Sunday. But still. They’re pretty good. I guess.
6. BUF (5-2): Surprising people still? Shouldn’t be. The Bills put it all together against a horrible Redskins team on Sunday.
7. NOR (5-3): Are the Saints the NFL’s Jekyl and Hyde, or are the Colts just really that horrible?
8. NYG (5-2): Quietly silencing haters despite preposterous pre-season injury trouble.
9. BAL (5-2): Offense has looked paralyzed over the last two weeks…defense not so much better.
10. CIN (5-2): Sneakily the best overall defense in the league. Now if their offensive skill position players could stop getting arrested and/or suspended…
11. PHI (3-4): If the “Dream Team” can dominate the division like they did on SNF, from here on out, they’re a problem.
12. HOU (5-3): Arian Foster is establishing himself as the most well-rounded offensive player in the AFC.
13. KAN (4-3): The Chiefs took a share of the AFC West last night with an improbable win over the mistake-prone Chargers. The sched doesn’t do them any favors though. After two relatively easy games, they’ll play five straight against teams that currently have winning records.
14. ATL (4-3): Falcons get two byes in a row (week 9 matchup @ Indy).
15. CHI (4-3): The Bears’ D is not what it used to be (ranked 28th vs. the pass…blech). And that won’t cut it considering Jay Cutler’s inconsistent protection. Matt Forte can’t do it all.
16. OAK (4-3): Can Carson save the Raiders’ sinking season? No, but a healthy Darren McFadden would sure help.
17. NYJ (4-3): For a team so “hot,” the Jets still look pretty damn awkward on offense.
18. TEN (4-3): Matchup with Colts just what the doctor ordered for floundering Titans’ offense. Next week it’s back to the grind vs. a hungry Bengals team. Oh, and is CJ2K going to show up any time soon?
19. TAM (4-3): Tampa may be the odd team out of the NFC South race again, and right now it doesn’t look like they’re in New Orleans’ class. I guess we’ll find out week 9.
20. DAL (3-4): The mouthy Ryan brother that looks like a hobo got his a$$ handed to him on SNF, but the division is still winnable, and Cowboys’ remaining sched is pretty easy.
21. SDG (4-3): How bad is Philip Rivers? He leads all QBs with 11 INTs and now has twice as many TOs (14) as TDs (7).
22. WAS (3-4): After predictable collapse can we safely say that Mike Shanahan is not the answer?
23. CLE (3-4): After 7-game stretch with zero quality wins (teams Browns have beaten are a combined 2-20), can we safely say Colt McCoy barely belongs in this league?
24. JAC (2-6): Taking nothing away from an improved D, Jags just can’t get it done with Blaine Gabbert in year one.
25. MIN (2-6): Vikes fans can kill the Andrew Luck talk-they’re too good for that pick-but Christian Ponder looks legit, and that’s a fine consolation prize.
26. CAR (2-6): Wow, the Panthers’ defense is horrible. If they were just average, and in a slightly less competitive division, Cam Newton would have this team in the playoffs.
27. DEN (2-5): No, Tebow isn’t good. And no, he doesn’t “just win.” And yes, he probably is the less crazy version of Vince Young. And no, that’s not a compliment.
28. ARI (1-6): Sometimes it’s just bad luck. During current 6-game skid, Cards have lost four games by four points or fewer, and haven’t played a team with a losing record at home since week 1 vs. the Panthers (who at the time, of course, didn’t have a losing record yet).
29. SEA (2-5): The Charlie Whitehurst-led Seattle offense has mustered 15 points over the last two weeks combined. And you thought there was no way Tarvaris Jackson could look good in comparison.
30. STL (1-6): Woot for the Rams, who picked up their first win on Sunday against a team that smashed the Colts by 55. Read on.
31. MIA (0-7): The Dolphins are clearly tanking. But at least they can build leads to blow. Read on.
32. IND (0-8): I’m convinced the 2011 Colts are the worst team ever. Halfway to #1 overall, baby!
* Hakeem Nicks pulled a hammy on Sunday. He’s yet another in a long line of WRs and RBs to bite the dust to this injury this season, and if Andre Johnson, Peyton Hillis, Knowshon Moreno or Daniel Thomas are any indicators, this could be a multi-week injury. Victor Cruz, if he’s available (and he probably isn’t) is the obvious add, and stands to benefit the most from the injury.
* Ryan Mathews left early on MNF to a groin injury. He’s typically injury-prone, whatever that means, and he’ll likely be on the practice report this week. If he misses time, and Mike Tolbert can’t come back, Curtis Brinkley is the hot add. Keep a close eye on this situation. As Brinkley proved, there are fantasy points to be had for whoever is getting the most snaps in the San Diego backfield.
* Montario Hardesty left after just two carries with a calf injury vs. the ‘Niners. Chris Ogbonnaya took over and underwhelmed. He’s not great, but he’s should be considered as an add this week if Hillis and/or Hardesty can’t go, especially if you own one of them.
* Bad news for Ahmad Bradshaw, who left for a brief period with, what he described as, an “aggravation” of an existing foot injury. He finished the game, but remember, he’s had surgery on both feet, so keep a close eye on him this week. Danny Ware should be the sneaky add if Bradshaw misses time.
* Kevin Kolb and Beanie Wells are dealing with injuries. Kolb has turf toe, which may not force him to miss time, considering that he’s a QB (it’s a multi-week killer for RBs, as we all know) and Wells is still dealing with a balky knee that kept him out last week. It’s starting to look like the Cardinals brought him back too early, and they may shut him down for a week or two. It’s scary because he admitted after the game on Sunday that he’ll likely be dealing with the injury for the rest of 2011.
* Fred Davis has a ‘grade 1 ankle sprain’ and is in a walking boot. Walking boots can be terrifying, but ‘grade 1′ sprains are relatively easy to overcome. I suffered one playing racquetball last Thursday and no longer feel it (I’m playing again today). Don’t you hate it when chubby non-athletes compare their injuries to extremely athletic, high-risk pro sports stars? In this case it’s okay, because if my pasty ass can overcome the same injury, Davis is probably good. Expect him to show up on the practice report, but he’ll most likely play. Good thing, too. With Chris Cooley on IR and Santana Moss dealing with hand surgery, Davis is the Redskins’ most important receiver.
Guys to Keep an Eye On
* Chris Ogbonnaya, RB CLE (1% owned in Yahoo! leagues): Chris Ogbonnaya’s role in the Cleveland backfield was as insignificant as his name is hard to pronounce…then Montario Hardesty exited and that all changed, as Ogbonnaya stepped in with 11 carries vs. the ‘Niners following Hardesty’s exit. Not that he did much with them. But if you’re a Hardesty or Hillis owner in need of some featured work next week, provided one or both of them is out, look no further than this guy for very, very cheap (yeah, it’s a slow week).
* Laurent Robinson, WR DAL (2%): Robinson is technically the fourth option in the Dallas passing game. And technically his only score came on a busted coverage on SNF. But he also has burners and can catch (he almost nabbed what would have been an historically-great, Dwayne Bowe-like catch on the sideline following a deflection, but he stepped ever-so-slightly out of bounds in the process).
* Damian Williams, WR TEN (2%): A lot of folks dropped Williams after his 1 catch, five yard game last week. He exited with a head injury, but came back this week to put up double-digit PPR points vs. a hapless Colts pass defense, including a couple of highlight reel catches. Williams has the goods for stardom, but likely doesn’t have the targets, with Nate Washington and the Titans’ TEs eating up most of those. Still, in three healthy games this season as a starting WR he’s averaged close to 12 PPR fppg. That’s at least good enough to crack a roster spot on your fantasy team if you’re weak at WR.
* Brent Celek, TE PHI (11%): Celek had his best game of the season on SNF, and has now been targeted 18 times over the past two games, resulting in a combined 36 PPR fps over that span. I’d say at 11% ownership now’s the time to grab him, as Vick may have found a new favorite intermediate receiver and the Eagles get the Bears, notoriously horrid vs. TEs this year, in week 9.
* Kevin Faulk, RB NWE (1%): Who’s shocked that Faulk, a long-time Bill Belichick favorite, stepped into game action after an extended absence and immediately put up 10 PPR points? I’m not. While Faulk won’t save your fantasy squad, or put you into championship contender status by himself, he is a likely candidate for double digit fps (or close to it) each game, from here on out in PPR.
* Curtis Brinkley, RB SDG (4%): I’ve never heard of Brinkley. Didn’t stop him from scoring a TD last night. Dude has 12 career carries, so if neither Mathews or Tolbert can go next week vs. the Packers (who you might want to avoid anyway) I doubt he’ll be truly “featured.” That said, he’s a nice handcuff for Mathews owners if Tolbert is still struggling late this week. I’m not sure I’m ready to put a claim in on him though.
* Javon Ringer, RB TEN (9%): I’m actually shocked Ringer’s ownership is this low. But it speaks to the messy RB situation in Tennessee. The Titans simply paid Chris Johnson too much to bench him entirely for a former fifth-round pick (who looked like a career backup coming out of college), but for the second time this year Ringer flat outplayed CJ2K. I’m still faithful that Johnson will break of a few 100 yard games between now and the end of the season, and if you can get him really cheaply, you should try. That said, in deep leagues, Ringer might be a nice add if the inconceivable happens (Johnson is actually benched, which it looked like was happening at times over the past two games).
Guys You Can Go Ahead and Drop
* Robert Meachem, WR NOR: Meach has now gone four straight with under 10 PPR fps. This is especially bad considering the competition (CAR, TAM, IND and STL). I’d normally advise this as a buy-low time for elite players who are under-performing (hint: Chris Johnson…you can probably get him for a poorly-sung song right now). But Meachem sucks and his targets are unpredictable. It’s Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston and Lance Moore in the Saints’ passing game, in that order, and there just isn’t room for guys like Meachem to consistently get looks. Just like the Saints’ backfield (except for Sproles), you might want to avoid the clusterf*ck going on with the Saints’ WRs (minus Colston and maybe Moore).
* Bernard Scott, RB CIN: Okay, Cedric Benson owners, you got your one week of relevance out of Scott. Now go ahead and dump him. Marvin Lewis is one of the only coaches left who would prefer to use one back at a time (judging by the 22 carries he gave Scott on Sunday, and the nearly 20 a game he’s given Benson to this point). Scott will slide back into relative obscurity this week as Benson steps back into a featured role. Just watch.
My Fantasy World Accumulative Record (three pay leagues): 12-12
I finally cracked .500 as an accumulative record, but in doing so I’ve made the sad realization (as have many in my TFN league) that there’s no beating Pandamonium. He’s stacked with Calvin Johnson, Ray Rice, Darren Sproles, Michael Vick and Ahmad Bradshaw. His bench is relatively weak, making him theoretically beatable during byes, but in reality it’s going to take some extraordinarily bad luck (including injuries to several of his key players) for anyone to beat him in the playoffs. That said, I’m now shooting for second or third place, and I needed to beef up my RB/WR game to do that. So, I’m sad to say, I traded Cam Newton, the sole reason I’ve been on this current five-game win streak, in order to improve my depth and add some more top-end talent at key positions. I shipped Newton and Reggie Wayne to KCCB for Frank Gore and Jeremy Maclin. Pending league approval, this trade will go down this week and I think will most likely be that final major move I do in this league. My backup QB is Josh Freeman, so I’ll lose about 10 fppg at the QB position. But I’ll gain that all back with Gore, who is at least a 10 fppg upgrade over my current worst RB (Knowshon Moreno). Then the 4-6 fppg I expect Maclin to outscore Wayne by for the rest of the year is just gravy. In my estimation, at worst (like if Freeman continues on his current sub-par pace) I’ll break even. At best, Freeman will get back to close to his 2010 numbers and I’ll have the deepest RB core in the league heading into the most crucial point of the season.
In my League of Idiots I’ve now lost two in a row, and am dealing with some pretty concerning foot injuries to two of my top three RBs (Darren McFadden and Ahmad Bradshaw). Luckily I’m deep, and as I’ve mentioned before, everyone makes the playoffs. Also, I’m still in second place in points, and am heading into the final stretch of the season, where I’ll play two of the worst teams in the league. I’m 4-4 right now, but should be no worse than 7-5 heading into the playoffs, and am shooting for a top-4 seed so I can earn a bye.
In the big money league I won again, improving to 3-5. I’m still plugging away, but had to trade some RB depth (Jackie Battle) for an average WR (David Nelson) in order to field a roster this week, thanks to the league’s obscure rules about the exact number of players you can carry. It’ll still be miraculous if I sniff the playoffs, but with only four teams in the field, I actually have more time to get the ship righted (six remaining games, vs the four I have left in the League of Idiots and the five I have left in the TFN league). If I can win five of the remaining six I have a legit shot, but that’s still highly improbable. I’m not at death’s door yet, but I’m close. Luckily, for the rest of the year I face only two teams with winning records.