Archive for October, 2009

Trumping its Counterparts

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

In the Huddle  

By Mark Sheldon 

The month of October is a very exciting time for most sports fans. The MLB playoffs are in full swing, the NHL season has commenced, the CFL is gearing up for the playoffs, the NBA tip off was last night and the NFL is in midseason. Despite the plethora of options for our viewing pleasure, I still catch myself drawn to the latter of that group.
 
You see, no matter what happens during the week, NFL Sunday always trumps its counterparts. A Rod has been huge this playoffs, but Adrian Peterson showed Sunday what a beast really is. Mike Green might be able to go end to end on the ice, but Percy Harvin knows how to take it to the house. Ricky Williams played for the Argos, but he never did this. Lebron James might have hops, but Reggie Bush knows how to jump.
 
So while the Yankees were clinching the ALCS Sunday evening, I have to admit, I was watching Beanie Wells’ breakout performance against the New York Giants. What can I say; the fantasy world is more exciting. Don’t believe me? Here’s what transpired Sunday:
 
Rashard Mendenhall is the clear cut starter in Pittsburgh. Fast Willie Parker had 1 carry, and looked rather slow on the sidelines.
 
Donald Driver continues to one up Greg Jennings in Green Bay, producing 84 yards and a TD.
 
Ladanian Tomlinson had 7 goal line carries…and didn’t score a single TD. First round bust? Yup.
 
Alex Smith came in at half and tossed 3 TD’s to Vernon Davis.
 
Marshan Lynch had 17 carries to Fred Jackson’s 5 and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a TD pass to Lee Evans for the second game in a row.
 
Matt Forte had 6 carries for 24 YDS. Ouch.
 
Drew Brees had his worst game of the season throwing 3 INT’s. He also had 3 TD’s. I wish my bad days were like that.
 
Tom Brady showed London what “football” is all about.
 
Tony Romo continued his hot/cold routine, throwing for 311 YDS and 3 TD’s.
 
The Jets rushing offense is ridiculous.
 
The Colts won 42-6 on a “bad” day from Peyton Manning, who threw for a measly 235 YDS and 3 TD’s.
 
 
Let’s dig a little deeper into the fantasy world…

 1st and Goal: 

1. Bye-bye, Larry Johnson. The anemic running back for the Kansas City Chiefs finally made some noise Sunday; unfortunately it came after the game and at the expense of his head coach, Todd Haley. Following another “elite” performance (16 CAR, 49 YDS), Johnson muttered a gay slur as he told reporters to go away. Later Sunday, he chose to voice his frustration through is Twitter account: “My father got more creditentials than most of these pro coaches.” That was followed by: “My father played for the coach from “rememeber the titans”. Our coach played golf. My father played for redskins briefley. Our coach. Nuthn.”

(Personal tangent begins – first off Larry, learn how to spell. Secondly, did your incredible father teach you how to be a pro?  Thirdly, what kind of man are you to hide behind a computer screen and bash your head coach? Quite frankly I’m sick of the whole social networking update thing. If it’s not an athlete telling me he hates his coach, it’s a friend telling me they’re “taking a shower and staying in tonight, long day.” In the sports world, I understand this brings players closer to their fans. But if Terrell Owens is watching a movie is it really worthy of an update?  It’s a 24 hour thought update, not status update. “Mark Sheldon is writing a blog.” Guess what Mark, no one cares. End of personal digression.)

In belittling his head coach, issuing a gay slur and a track record of hitting women, Johnson’s glory days are clearly well behind him. With the Chiefs on a bye week, its clear Johnson is a player you can cut loose. At the very least, Johnson’s workload will be diminished no matter what action the NFL or the Chiefs take (for now Johnson has been asked to leave the team).

2. It was a day of sweet revenge for Cedric Benson Sunday, as he torched his old club to the tune of a career high 189 YDS rushing on 37 carries…37! That my friend’s is absolutely ridiculous. In points-per-carry leagues Cedric my have singlehandedly won you your week. Benson was drafted 4th overall by the Chicago Bears in 2005 and after 3 relatively uninspiring seasons, the Bears released him in 2008 after drafting RB Matt Forte. Just because it’s fun, let’s look at the 2009 numbers for the two:

Cedric Benson – 164 CAR’s, 720 YDS, 5 TD’s, 10 REC, 66 YDS.

Matt Forte – 92 CAR’s, 318 YDS, 1 TD, 22 REC, 154 YDS.

Yikes!

3. On Sunday, the Oakland Raiders pulled quarterback JaMarcus Russell in the second quarter after committing 3 turnovers (1 fumble, 2 INT’s) in less than 30 minutes. Enticed by a big arm and explosive speed, the raiders took Russell with the 1st pick overall in the 2007 NFL draft. He has since failed to do anything explosive. That same draft, the Raiders passed up on Calvin Johnson (WR, 2nd overall) and Adrian Peterson (RB, 7th overall). If the Raiders are the laughingstock of the NFL, surely their offense is the joke.

4. Miles Austin is quietly putting together an incredible year. Starting the season as the third WR and 4th option behind Jason Witten, Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton, he played the part the first 3 games of the season catching just 5 REC for 81 YDS. However, since being put in the starting lineup 2 games ago, Austin has 16 REC and broke a Dallas Cowboys record with 421 YDS during that span. If he somehow got tossed aside during the bye week, get him in your lineup quickly as he has replaced Witten as Romo’s favourite target.

  Waiver Wire: 

Percentages listed are in ESPN/Yahoo! standard leagues and reflects how many teams own the players.

 To date, some key players who have been mentioned in this section: Rashard Mendenhall, Mario Manningham, Brent Celek, Mike Sims-Walker, Vernon Davis, Sidney Rice and Beanie Wells.

1. Michael Crabtree WR (ESPN 35.3%) San Francisco 49ers: The diva WR out of Texas Tech made his first career start this past Sunday and had a very respectable 5 REC for 56 YDS. It was an encouraging game from the rookie, who spent a lot more time on the field then most would have thought. Look for him to put up decent numbers with the help of the man below.

2. Alex Smith QB (ESPN 0.3%) San Francisco 49ers: It was halftime Sunday and the 49ers were down 21-0 to the Houston Texans. It was at this point Head Coach Mike Singletary brought in Alex Smith for the first time this season. The backup QB threw 3 TD’s and the 49ers outscored the Texans 21-3 in the second half. On Monday he was named the starting QB. With a QB friendly matchup against the Indianapolis Colts this week and with Frank Gore and Crabtree back in the mix on offense, there are weapons for Smith.

3. Jamal Charles RB (Yahoo! 24%) Kansas City Chiefs: Because of the aforementioned Tweetathon at the hands of Larry Johnson, Charles looks to be the man who gains most from LJ’s continued lapse in judgment. That being said, Sir Charles is no slouch. He is averaging 6.4 YDS per touch, has similar characteristics to that of Felix Jones and Darren Sproles and may get some time to get integrated more during the Chiefs bye week.

4. Arizona Cardinals DEF (Yahoo! 37%): For me, this is a one week plug in against a Carolina Panthers offense that just can’t seem to put it together. There are rumblings out of Carolina that QB Jake Delhomme’s job is up for grabs and the Panthers give up the most fantasy points in the league to opposing defenses. But here’s the icing on the cake: the Cardinals DEF has the 6th most sacks in the league, and average 2 turnovers a game.

  

Weekly Matchups: 

  1. Thomas Jones RB vs Miami Dolphins DEF: A very good matchup this Sunday involving the #1 ranked rushing offense and #4 ranked rushing defense. I like Jones a lot lately, mostly because of the fact he has over 600 YDS rushing on just 122 carries - good for a 4.9 YPC clip. But here’s the kicker this week, Leon Washington is out. Jones is the featured back and will take most of the workload. On top of that, TJ has scored in 4 straight games. 21 CAR, 91 YDS, 2 TD.
     
    2. David Garrard QB vs Tennesse Titans DEF: A common theme for this section so far this season has been just as much about the opponent as it has been the player. This week is not different! While the Titans are coming off a bye week (hopefully some things have changed), there is no denying the Titans are a struggling unit on defense, ranking in the bottom 3 in numerous categories. Garrard threw for 323 YDs and 3 TD’s in their first week matchup and there is no reason to believe he can’t put up similar numbers again this week. 23-33, 271, 2 TD’s.
     
    3. Jason Witten TE vs Seattle Seahawks DEF: This is more about Miles Austin’s emergence as a dominant WR than Witten’s performance so far. The Seahawks secondary is going to be dealing with Austin’s outside speed all day long, which should open up space in the flats as well as up the seam, which is where Witten’s hands are most dangerous. I also think Week 8 is a good time to break out of a season long slump. 6 REC, 88 YDS, 1 TD.
     
    4. Philip Rivers QB vs Oakland Raiders DEF: Rivers looked very, very good last weekend against the Chiefs and should continue his dominance against the divisional rival. Vincent Jackson is unstoppable, LT is showing signs of life and Darren Sproles continues to be the best outlet pass in the league. Rivers has about 4 or 5 options on every given down it seems and this week he should be able to use those to exploit the black and silver. 23-30, 311 YDS, 2 TD’s.
     
    5. Steven Jackson RB vs Detroit Lions DEF: Mark my words; Jackson gets his first TD of the season this weekend in Detroit. The Lions DEF is giving up 4.6 YPC which bodes well for Jackson, as a lack of scoring production is the only reason he is not a top 5 back this season. 21 CAR, 97 YDS, 1 TD.
     
    6. Lee Evans WR vs Houston Texans DEF: Last week Evans had his best fantasy output since Week 12 of last season. A lot of credit should go to Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is giving Terrell Owens and Evans a lot more looks down field. The Texans D has given up 9 TD’s through the air so far and Evans has 9 REC, 142 YDS and 2 TD’s in his last 2 games. 5 REC, 79 YDS, 1 TD.
     
    7. Jeremy Shockey TE vs Atlanta Falcons DEF: With so many weapons on offense, Shockey has quietly slipped into Drew Brees’ radar. His averages are good at the TE spot (4.5 REC, 50 YDS) and last week’s 105 YD effort in Miami showed Shockey still has it. While his numbers won’t be through the roof, you can assume he’ll be right around his averages again this week. 5 REC, 59 YDS, 1 TD.
     
    8. Kevin Walter WR vs Buffalo Bills DEF: The Bills secondary has been lights out the last 2 weeks, which makes this pick, seem odd. However, in each of those last 2 games (Jets, Panthers) there has been 1 and only 1 WR, so they have been able to key in. This Sunday, Andre Johnson comes to town and should be on lock down all afternoon (he is listed as questionable for this week), thus, Walter should see some space. 5 REC, 62 YDS, 1 TD.
     
    9. Matt Forte RB vs Cleveland Browns DEF: Well Mr. Forte, this is it. You have not been kind to owners this season and they are not too pleased with your efforts. This weekend is your redemption song. Please sing a nice tune against a Browns DEF that gives up 170.6 YDS rushing per game. Please? We’ve asked nicely. 22 CAR, 121 YDS, 2 TD’s.
     
    10. San Diego Chargers DEF vs Oakland Raiders OFF: Um, the Raiders suck. 4 sacks, 2 INT’s, 2 FF, 1 TD.
     

 Projected Player Rankings: Week 8 QB:

1. Drew Brees
2. Peyton Manning
3. Philip Rivers
4. Aaron Rodgers
5. Matt Ryan
6. Tony Romo
7. Matt Schaub
8. David Garrard
9. Kurt Warner
10. Brett Favre
11. Joe Flacco
12. Jay Cutler
13. Donovan McNabb
14. Eli Manning
15. Kyle Orton
16. Matt Hasselbeck
17. Marc Bulger
18. Alex Smith
19. Ryan Fitzpatrick
20. Mark Sanchez
 
RB:
 
1. Adrian Peterson
2. Maurice Jones-Drew
3. Matt Forte
4. Kevin Smith
5. Steven Jackson
6. Steve Slaton
7. Thomas Jones
8. Ronnie Brown
9. Ray Rice
10. Michael Turner
11. Frank Gore
12. Chris Johnson
13. DeAngelo Williams
14. Marshawn Lynch
15. LeSean McCoy
16. Ladanian Tomlinson
17. Joseph Addai
18. Knowshon Moreno
19. Ryan Grant
20. Ricky Williams
 
WR:
 
1. Larry Fitzgerald
2. Reggie Wayne
3. Calvin Johnson
4. Roddy White
5. Vincent Jackson
6. Marques Colston
7. Brandon Marshall
8. Miles Austin
9. Andre Johnson
10. Mike Sims-Walker
11. DeSean Jackson
12. Steve Smith (CAR)
13. Steve Smith (NYG)
14. Donald Driver
15. Greg Jennings
16. Sidney Rice
17. Anquan Boldin
18. Lee Evans
19. T.J. Housmandzadeh
20. Devin Hester
 
TE:
 
1. Dallas Clark
2. Tony Gonzalez
3. Antonio Gates
4. Vernon Davis
5. Jason Witten
6. Owen Daniels
7. Jeremy Shockey
8. Brent Celek
9. Greg Olsen
10. Todd Heap
11. Zach Miller
12. Visanthe Shiancoe
13. John Carlson
14. Tony Scheffler
15. Mercedes Lewis
 
DEF:
 
1. Arizona Cardinals
2. San Diego Chargers
3. Chicago Bears
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Minnesotta Vikings
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. Buffalo Bills
8. Philadelphia Eagles
9. Baltimore Ravens
10. Denver Broncos
11. Green Bay Packers
12. New York Jets
13. New York Giants
14. Houston Texans
15. Miami Dolphins

Sunday Funday

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

In the Huddle 

By Mark Sheldon 

I couldn’t help but get excited watching Tom Brady and his Patriots go to war against the Titans this past Sunday. Sorry, “war” might be a bit of an overstatement – it was more of a one shot kill. But it wasn’t the 35 points they scored in the 2nd quarter alone, nor was it the 59-point margin they won by that excited me. It wasn’t his first half stat line (24-28, 345 YDS and 5 TD’s!!) or the fact he finished with 6 TD’s in just under 3 quarters. What got me excited? The SNOW!! How awesome was that in the middle of October? Somewhere Sunday, Al Gore was eating nachos and smiling.  

That game gave me more flashbacks than a phone call from my ex-girlfriend. It was vintage 2007 Tom Brady. It was a reminder to all owners that “he’s back.” It was reassurance that he deserved a 1st round pick this summer.  It was proof that even when you think the man has lost it, he returns. What’s more uplifting is he managed to put up incredible numbers against a team he should have put up incredible numbers against…something that can’t be said for most elite players this season. Knee injury? Please! It is outlandish to suggest Brady “lost it.” The only thing he lost was respect, and on Sunday he showed why he’s the best quarterback of this decade.  

But back to the snow.  I remember some Halloween’s where the weather was chilly (Hooters outfit…locked outside my house), but never can I recall snow in Week 6! If that isn’t vintage chili weather I don’t know what is. White flurries and Sunday’s have made for some entertaining moments over the years: 

The Good

The Bad

And the Ugly…very ugly. 

This my friends is why Sunday’s are fundays. Is there a day in the week where people get this excited to sit on the couch and watch TV? I’m sure most females would say The Hills (Kristen is back!) or Grey’s Anatomy (Tom Brady can be Mcdreamy for some), but let’s be honest, NFL Sunday trumps anything.  

Let’s dig a little deeper into the fantasy world… 

1st and Goal:

1. Here’s team A’s record from last season: 13-3. Here’s team B’s record so far this season: 0-6. Team A is the 2008 Tennessee Titans. Team B is the 2009 Tennessee Titans. What has gone wrong? Well, we already touched on last Sunday’s debacle in New England, but that was just the tip of the iceberg for a season going down quicker than the Titanic. The incredible defense of last year, ranks 32nd in pass defense, 31st in total YDS and 32nd in points allowed. If you are still holding onto these guys based on last season’s dominance, don’t. Stats don’t lie. Heck, even their coach feels like a loser.

2. As giddy as the New Orleans Saints make me, Drew Brees and Marques Colston are the only worthy fantasy starters, and here’s why. It’s clear that Pierre Thomas is the man in the Saints backfield, but Mike Bell will steal goal line touches the whole season and Reggie Bush is the receiving back. Thomas will get yards and carries, but he is your between-the-20’s back. How many owners saw the score Sunday and thought Thomas had at least 3 of the 7 TD’s the Saints scored?…2 of 7?… Ok, he’s got to have 1 TD?… None?…Cue the trade proposal. Devery Henderson, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem play “musical chair’s Sunday edition”, and often the three are fighting for one chair. For now they are flex options, with Moore the breakout threat.  

3. So what do we make of Steve Smith (CAR)? As an owner of him in one of my leagues, I have been preaching patience the whole season. I understood it’s still early in the season and making drastic changes to a lineup early is a recipe for disaster. But things changed Sunday. You see, this was supposed to be his breakout. He was playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary and he was supposed to go off. Go off he did, but not on the field. Steve Smith is off the fantasy radar. His 1 catch, 4 YD performance on Sunday summed up his disappointing start to the season. I will not tell you to trade him (he’s been targeted 45 times in 5 games and has had his bye week), but I will not tell you to start him either (Jake Delhomme is just embarrassing). It took 7 weeks, but Steve Smith (NYG) is the new “Steve Smith.”

4. Fumble keeps you humble. A few backs/owners learned this past Sunday just how bad a fumble is. Matt Forte had back-to-back fumbles on the Atlanta goal line and right when owners thought he had a guaranteed TD, he fumbled…twice. Did I mention back-to-back plays…on the goal line? He’s been mediocre at best this season. Steve Slaton has given way to Chris Brown late in games because of his inability to keep the ball in his hands. In Arizona, Beanie Wells would be well on his way to stealing the workload from Tim Hightower if he could have kept the bread in the basket earlier this season. Michael Turner has 6 TD’s and 4 fumbles on the season, which is unacceptable.

5. I touched on this in Week 3, but one player’s injury is another player’s gain. Here’s the fallout from Week 6: Sammy Morris would have been in store for a big day Sunday in New England, except he got injured in the first 5 minutes. Laurence Maroney then went off to the tune of 16 CAR, 123 YDS and 1 TD. The Pats are keeping quiet on Sammy’s “knee injury,” so look for updates as the week closes. Trent Edwards went down, Ryan Fitzpatrick came in and the Bills won a game. Fitzpatrick looked a little more confident in airing the ball out, which could mean Lee Evans and Terrell Owens finally start putting up decent numbers.  LenDale White injured his knee and was carted off the field, all of which is good news for Chris Johnson owners. Antoine Winfield left the game in the first quarter and Joe Flacco almost put up 400 YDS on the Vikings pass defense. Donnie Avery left the game in the second quarter and did not return. Other than Steven Jackson, Avery is the only other Rams offensive player you want on your team. Not anymore.  

Waiver Wire: 

Percentages listed are in ESPN/Yahoo! standard leagues and reflects how many teams own the players.

1. Beanie Wells RB (57.4% ESPN) Arizona Cardinals: As I mentioned above, if it wasn’t for his butterfingers, Wells may have already been on his way to taking over Tim Hightower’s starters’ job. Coming out of the bye week, the Cardinals talked about getting Wells more involved and involved he has. Last week Wells had 12 CAR compared to 13 for Hightower. If Hightower wasn’t so useful in the Cards pass-heavy offense, this pick up would be a no brainer. 

2. Hakeem Nicks WR (11% ESPN) New York Giants: Eli Manning is making a name for every WR on his roster. Earlier this year I showcased Mario Manningham in this category and Super Mario has stayed steady. Domenik Hixon has been targeted of late, Steve Smith continues to put up huge numbers and now Nicks is getting his time. Nicks had 5 REC for 114 YDS and a TD last weekend in New Orleans and is a nice gamble as the bye weeks continue. 

3. Laurence Maroney RB (36% Yahoo!) New England Patriots: Maroney stepped in this past week for the injured Sammy Morris (see above). When Morris filled in for the injured Fred Taylor, he did well. When Maroney filled in for Morris, he did great. Remember it was only one season ago when Maroney was a consensus top 25 pick, who then decided to fall off the fantasy football map. Well, he’s back. Thanks Sammy! 

4. Jermichael Finley TE (48% Yahoo!) Green Bay Packers: Add Finley to the list of TE’s performing admirably this season. While I’m not taking anything away from the guy, this is a direct result of the Packer’s porous O-line. Aaron Rodgers has been forced to get rid of the ball quickly and Finley has benefitted greatly from it. In his last 3 games, Finley has averaged 5 REC and 79.3 YDS per game, which is great if your name is Jermichael Finley.    

Weekly Matchups:  

1. Frank Gore vs Houston Texans DEF: After sustaining his ankle injury September 20th, Gore has had 4 weeks off to get healthy. Coach Mike Singletary has said he’s starting and he becomes a no brainer against a Texans D giving up 4.9 YPC. Because the 49ers are going to continue their run-heavy ways this Sunday, he’s a safe play coming off injury. 20 CAR, 94 YDS, 1 TD.

2. Matt Schaub vs San Francisco 49ers DEF: I have yet to feature Schaub in the weekly matchups, so here’s the respect he deserves. The 49ers are giving up 234 YPG passing and Schaub has the Texans offense running through his hands, not Steve Slaton’s. Last week he threw 40 times for 394 YDS against a Bengals DEF that hadn’t given up a single big game to a WR the whole season. He has no problem stretching the field. 27-40, 286 YDS, 3 TD’s. 

3. Jason Witten vs Atlanta Falcons DEF: Witten has been very quiet so far this season, which could be worrisome. However, he is Romo’s main target, and this may be more about Tony than Jason. Coming off the bye week I like Witten’s chances of rebounding with a strong performance. As well, Atlanta gives up 42.5 percent more production to the TE than the league average. 6 REC, 64 YDS, 1 TD.

4. Joseph Addai vs St. Louis Rams DEF: Obviously a great matchup for Manning, Wayne and Clark, but I like Addai this week against the Rams. Yes Donald Brown continues to get in the way, but Addai will benefit from an early lead and Peyton has been throwing the ball his way a plenty (17 REC) in the last two games. 15 CAR, 66 YDS, 5 REC, 34 YDS, 1 TD 

5. Cadillac Williams vs New England Patriots DEF: Yes, you should play all offensive weapons for the Patriots this weekend in London. But as for their opponent, don’t sleep on Carnell, who can put up big numbers if the Bucs can stay in the game for a quarter or two. That’s all! If they can establish a run game against a Pats D giving up 4.7 YPC a game, Williams could be in for a very productive game. 17 CAR, 74 YDS, 4 REC, 27 YDS, 1 TD 

6. DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart vs Buffalo Bills DEF: While I think the Bills DEF is worthy of a start this week, these two are a must start against the Bills, who give on average 5.3 YPC. That’s horrendous. Last week Williams had the week I thought he would, but Stewart showcased his skills as well, rushing for 110 YDS on 17 CAR. The Panthers dominant run game from last season has began to sparkle once again. Williams – 22 CAR, 111 YDS, 1 TD. Stewart – 16 CAR, 78 YDS, 1 TD. 

7. Jay Cutler vs Cincinnati Bengals DEF: Fresh off his contract extension, Cutler is looking to take advantage of a Bengals DEF that got worked last week against the Texans. The secondary wasn’t dominant and DE Antwan Odom is gone for the year. That means Cutler will be able to stand in the pocket, waiting for Johnny Knox or Devin Hester to get open deep. 21-35, 274 YDS, 2 TD’s 

8. Roddy White vs Dallas Cowboys DEF: Replacing Brandon Marshall, White has been the most productive WR over his last 3 weeks. His totals are silly good (16 REC, 290 YDS, 3 TD’s) and are a sign of things to come. As well, sophomore Matt Ryan shows no signs of slowing down. 6 REC, 110, YDS 1 TD. 

9. Larry Johnson vs San Diego Chargers DEF: Even while the Chiefs ground game continues to falter, they continue to hand the ball off to LJ. He’s put up a paltry 2.7 YPC this season but the Chiefs show no signs of limiting his touches as he has averaged over 20+ carries (18, 21 and 23) in the last 3 games. 22 CAR, 71 YDS, 1 TD. 

10. Donald Driver vs Cleveland Browns DEF: First off, the Browns are horrible. Secondly, Driver has slowly put together one of the most consistent seasons at the WR position. I have been preaching Greg Jennings over Driver the whole year, but not longer. Driver has 25 REC and 395 YDS receiving already and looks like Rodger’s best option. Don’t count Jennings out; just don’t kid yourself on Driver’s production thus far. 6 REC, 68 YDS, 1 TD  

Projected Player Rankings: Week 6 QB: 

  1. Peyton Manning
  2. Aaron Rodgers
  3. Tom Brady
  4. Drew Brees
  5. Philip Rivers
  6. Matt Schaub
  7. Matt Ryan
  8. Jay Cutler
  9. Ben Roethlisberger
  10. Eli Manning
  11. Kurt Warner
  12. Donovan McNabb
  13. Tony Romo
  14. Brett Favre
  15. Matt Cassel
  16. Carson Palmer
  17. Chad Henne
  18. Shaun Hill
  19. Jason Campbell
  20. Ryan Fitzpatrick

 RB: 

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. DeAngelo Williams
  3. Thomas Jones
  4. Ronnie Brown
  5. Michael Turner
  6. Cedric Benson
  7. Steven Jackson
  8. Frank Gore
  9. Ryan Grant
  10. Brian Westbrook
  11. LaDainian Tomlinson
  12. Joseph Addai
  13. Steve Slaton
  14. Matt Forte
  15. Rashard Mendenhall
  16. Laurence Maroney
  17. Clinton Portis
  18. Marshawn Lynch
  19. Marion Barber
  20. Pierre Thomas

 WR: 

  1. Randy Moss
  2. Andre Johnson
  3. Larry Fitzgerald
  4. Reggie Wayne
  5. Marques Colston
  6. Roddy White
  7. Steve Smith (NYG)
  8. Vincent Jackson
  9. Wes Welker
  10. Chad Ochocinco
  11. Dwayne Bowe
  12. Hines Ward
  13. Donald Driver
  14. Anquan Boldin
  15. DeSean Jackson
  16. Greg Jennings
  17. Steve Smith (CAR)
  18. Devin Hester
  19. Lee Evans
  20. Miles Austin

 TE: 

  1. Dallas Clark
  2. Antonio Gates
  3. Tony Gonzalez
  4. Jason Witten
  5. Visanthe Shiancoe
  6. Heath Miller
  7. Chris Cooley
  8. Owen Daniels
  9. Vernon Davis
  10. Greg Olsen
  11. Brent Celek
  12. Kellen Winslow
  13. Jeremy Shockey
  14. Jermichael Finley
  15. Dustin Keller

 DEF: 

  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Philadelphia Eagles
  3. New England Patriots
  4. New York Jets
  5. New York Giants
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers
  7. Indianapolis Colts
  8. Minnesota Vikings
  9. New Orleans Saints
  10. Buffalo Bills
  11. Carolina Panthers
  12. Chicago Bears
  13. San Francisco 49ers 
  14. Atlanta Falcons
  15. Cincinnati Bengals 

When Fantasy Meets Reality

Monday, October 19th, 2009

By Josh Gold-Smith

If the last column preached patience, let’s say this one recommends…curiosity.

Sure, it’s still very early in the fantasy hockey season, but after a couple of weeks, we’re starting to get a sense of some firm line combinations, defensive pairings and goaltending situations. Nothing is written in stone but now’s the time to start believing (although if you’re a Journey fan, I guess you never stopped). There are still mirages out there, but things are becoming more clear with each passing game and there are players you can now start to trust in fantasy (and real life). Let’s delve into this deeper with the week’s fantasy headlines.

Highway to the Ranger Zone

I’ll spare you another music video, but let’s just say this: The New York Rangers have been an offensive goldmine under John Tortorella in the first two weeks. As a team, the Red, White and Blue now lead the NHL in goals scored (32 in 8 games) and goals-for-average (4.0). It’s still early but there are a handful of fantasy-worthy players on this team. Brandon Dubinsky is not one of them, unless you’re in a 14-team league or deeper. He started last season with a bang before fizzling out (13 G, 28 A in 82 contests) and sure enough, he’s doing it again with 3 goals and 5 assists through 8 games. Before you jump on board, keep a few things in mind: a) last season’s aforementioned flameout, b) the fact that only one of his 8 points has come on the powerplay and c) the depth at the center position in fantasy this year. If he has anything going for him, it’s that he’s played 82 games in each of the past two seasons, but he’ll be more of a beneficiary of his linemates than a consistent goal-scorer or powerplay specialist.

Vaclav/Vinny Prospal (69% owned in ESPN leagues) has busted out of the gate with 3 goals and 8 assists, including 2 G and 3 A on the powerplay. The 34-year old Czech winger has shown he’s capable of near-point-per-game numbers in the past, with 79 and 80-point seasons to his credit. He’s riding a 7-game point streak and has been held off the scoresheet in just one game (the season opener) thus far. Prospal is more likely to maintain this pace than Dubinsky, because more than half of his points have come in even-strength situations playing opposite Marian Gaborik. Ales Kotalik (52% owned on Yahoo and a mere 20% rostered in ESPN leagues) has been a tantalizing talent for much of his career, but hasn’t been consistent enough in recent years to warrant fantasy consideration. He has 3 goals and 4 helpers so far, with six of those seven points coming by way of the man advantage. That’s worth noting, as is the fact that he’s playing his even strength time on the fourth (and now third) line. As long as he continues to get PP time, he’ll be worth a speculative look in deep formats and a short-term add in shallow leagues.

Your window to grab defenseman Michael Del Zotto is closing, as the 19-year old wunderkind is owned in 66% of Yahoo leagues and 54% of ESPN groups. The New York Post reports that he’ll suit up tonight against the San Jose Sharks for his ninth game of the season, meaning his entry-level contract will officially kick in and he’ll remain with the club for the year. That’s great news if you own him, and a good enough reason to take a flyer if you don’t. Del Zotto is tied for the league lead in points by a defenseman with 8 (3 G, 5 A), and while he can’t keep up this pace, he’ll continue to be fantasy worthy in almost every format. The Rangers’ powerplay is explosive (thanks to the addition of a temporarily healthy Gaborik) and he’s notched six of his eight points there.

There Can Only Be One

Or in the case of several teams’ goaltending creases, two. Not simultaneously, of course. That would just be ridiculous. But it’s fitting that the team chosen there was the Nashville Predators. The Preds have gone back and forth between Dan Ellis (2-1-1, 2.79, .903) and Pekka Rinne (0-3, 3.45, .894) so much this season that you’d think they’d lobby for the two-simultaneous-goaltenders-in-one-crease rule — if not for the less than inspiring play by both netminders. They’ll continue to split time, with Ellis looking like the one who’ll emerge with an edge in starts.

In Chicago, Cristobal Huet’s future (and present) has been well documented. He’s looked average early on (2-2-1, 3.25, .844), allowing three goals on five shots in Monday’s overtime win over Calgary. Antti Niemi has been spectacular when called upon, sporting a 3-0-0 record, 1.73 GAA and .912 SV % in three appearances. The problem is, Huet is on the books for $16.875 million over the next three seasons and he’s not going anywhere (except maybe to the AHL, as some have suggested). Huet has been given the last two starts, but monitor this one closely.

Down in St. Petersburg, Mike Smith (0-2-2, 4.08, .864) “is our guy”, according to head coach Rick Tocchet. This despite Antero Niittymaki’s 2-1-0, 2.70 and .913 in relief. The coaching staff is showing their faith in Smith in quote form, but as far as playing time goes, Niittymaki (17% owned in Yahoo, 37% on ESPN) is still getting a shot to win the job. He was given the nod on Saturday night against the Penguins and wasn’t as sharp as his previous outings, yielding four goals on 33 shots. That being said, it was against the offensively gifted Stanley Cup champions. It’s telling that Smith would watch from the bench in such an important early season contest. Neither he nor Niittymaki has won the job outright, but keep an eye on it because that could change with a few strong performances.

In the nation’s capital (err, the other nation’s capital), Jose Theodore has been dealing with back spasms, which is just what the doctor ordered for Semyon Varlamov. Thedore left Thursday’s contest before the start of the second period, allowing Varlamov (69% owned on Yahoo) to step in, make 15 saves on 15 shots and preserve a 4-1 victory over the dangerous San Jose Sharks. He was given the start on Saturday night, stopping 22 of 24 shots en route to a shooutout win over Nashville. Theodore’s injury status is day-to-day, so he will likely return to the crease when he returns to full health. In the meantime, all Varlamov can do is continue to succeed when called upon, and if Theodore’s back issues dog him going forward, Varlamov will be a great source of wins and provide solid numbers in the other relevant fantasy categories.

Pushing The Vanek Button

After scoring a pair of goals (his second and third of the campaign in just four games) and leading the Buffalo Sabres to a 6-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings last Tuesday night, Thomas Vanek appeared to be off to the start fantasy experts figured we’d see if he stayed healthy in ’09-’10. Then suddenly, head coach Lindy Ruff announced the possibility that the two-time 40-goal scorer could miss “weeks” with an undisclosed upper-body injury. The next day, this story appeared and coaxed his fantasy owners off the proverbial ledge. So…either he has some sort of Claire Bennett-esque healing ability or the medical staff got a tad carried away with their prognosis, but regardless, it’s good news if you own the 25-year old Austrian sniper. It looks like he may be set to return for Wednesday night’s game in Florida against the Panthers, but the Sabres may be cautious with their prized left-winger. He’s missed the last two contests but Buffalo has jumped out to a 4-1-1 record early on, so they can afford to be patient with him. If he misses any more time, Clarke MacArthur (4% in Yahoo formats, 2% on ESPN) is worth a very speculative gander in deep leagues. He has registered a goal in each of the last three games and has four points (2 PPP) in those three contests for six (4-2) overall.

As Dennis Miller once said, that’s the news and I am out of here. Coming up next week, a full column of waiver wire adds and drops! Since I’ve incorporated it into the columns up to this point, I figured we’d give it the full piece it deserves next time, so watch for that at week’s end. In the meantime, thanks for reading.

The Numbers Game

Friday, October 16th, 2009

In the Huddle 

By Mark Sheldon 

Well we are coming up to the 1/3 mark of the season this Sunday, and owners are starting to see how their lineups are shaping up. While it’s “still early,” that saying does not sit well with owners below the .500 mark. The next 4 weeks (finishing off the bye weeks) are vital in your run at the playoffs, so pay attention! This is where you sell high, buy low, wake up very early Monday morning to pick up free agents and convince friends that they need Steve Slaton.

Peyton Manning is the early season MVP, Patrick Willis is an IDP stud and DeAngelo Williams is our first bust (yea I said it!) of the season.

It is clear that the Browns, Raiders and Panthers have more holes in their run defense than Dick Jauron has in his head. I was at the Bills-Browns game last Sunday and it was like watching paint dry. That was awful – very well could be the worst professional sports game ever played. If it wasn’t for Tara and Kristy, I would have left at half.

Adrian Peterson will post numbers the whole season. He looks dominating this year and besides Jones-Drew, they are the only top-tier RB’s who have come through for owners. Start him every week, regardless of his match up – just like Lance Bass coming out of the closet, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

While many owners are prone to getting caught up in the “what have you done for me lately” talk when assessing their rosters, don’t forget that there’s always the “what happens from here out.” How many people were scared to draft Brandon Marshall 2 months ago? How many people would like to trade for him now? The truth is you never know what’s going to happen. Fantasy football is as much a crapshoot as the “guess how many jelly beans” game. So take a chance on things, the biggest gamble can be the biggest payoff – unless you’re the Buffalo Bills and your name is Terrell Owens.

Do your research, and if you can’t, just read the blog weekly, I’m sure you’ll win your league!!

Let’s dig a little deeper into the fantasy world…

  1st and Goal: 

1. Hits and misses from last week – HITS: Donovan McNabb (16-21, 264 YDS, 3 TD’s), Ben Roethlisberger (23-30, 277 YDS, 3 TD’s, 1 INT), Ronnie Brown (21 CAR-74 YDS, 3 REC-14 YDS, 2 TD’s) Tony Romo (20-34, 351 YDS, 2 TD’s). MISSES: Glen Coffee (12 CAR-45 YDS, 4 REC-21 YDS, 1 TD), DeSean Jackson (1 REC-1 YD), Dustin Keller (0 REC-0 YDS). The last two, embarrassing.

2. Buffalo Bills fans have now drawn a penis on the front lawn of CB Leodis McKelvin’s house, broke into S Donte Whitner’s house to steal $400k in jewellery and this past Sunday stole a 1,000 pound Thurman Thomas statue from outside the stadium. What a lovely city.

3.While I believe DeAngelo Williams is in store for a big week against the football inept Buccaneers, his performance up to this point has been far from “big.” Do what you can to sell this guy now, and if you’re in a keeper league, look to land an RB with upside for the future (think Knowshon Moreno, Beanie Wells, Rashard Mendenhall) and a good WR.

4. From villain to hero, Brandon Marshall has certainly given fantasy owners a whirlwind to begin this season. The cocky WR made headlines earlier this season for the wrong reasons, but has since turned things around to the tune of 17 REC, 222 YDS and 4 TD’s over the last 3 weeks – making him the top WR over that time period.

5. The 09 season is clearly the year of the “platoon.” The key here, get the backup. If you own Joseph Addai, get Donald Brown. If you have Marshawn Lynch, grab Fred Jackson. If you own Marion Barber, get Tashard Choice/Felix Jones. While they take up a roster spot, they are your best friend when an injury occurs. On the flipside, sell high on “hot” players to get a featured back. The one thing about this season – if you can somehow get 2 featured backs on your squad, you’re laughing.

  Waiver Wire: 

Percentages listed are in ESPN/Yahoo! standard leagues and reflects how many teams own the players.

1. Jake Delhomme QB (Yahoo! 23%) Carolina Panthers: this my friends, is a one week plug-in. Until Jake the Snake can get his slither back, the only time you play him is when you are up against the Buccaneers secondary. Week in and week out I preach the match up and this week is no different. The Bucs have given up 237.8 passing yards and 2.4 touchdowns per game to QBs this season. If Jake and Steve Smith can regain their chemistry, this could be a breakout game for both.

2. Sammy Morris RB (ESPN 38%) New England Patriots: as news broke late last week about the severity of Fred Taylor’s injury, I couldn’t get Sammy into this section. If he is available in your league, he is a great RB2/flex option in the coming weeks. Because it’s bye season, he’s a nice player to fallback on. He put up a respectable 17 CAR and 68 YDS last week against a good Broncos DEF.

3. Denis Northcutt WR (ESPN 0.2%) Detroit Lions: yes I’m fishing, but this lure just might catch a big fish come Sunday. With Calvin Johnson going down in back to back games and questionable heading into Sunday, Northcutt (who caught 5 REC for 70 YDS last week vs the Steelers) looks like a decent fill-in for deep leagues.

4.   Jacksonville Jaguars DEF (Yahoo! 16%): For obvious reasons – St. Louis is the opponent this week.

  

Weekly Matchups: 

  

1. Rashard Mendenhall vs Detroit Lions DEF: While Willie Parker is set to return to the sidelines…that’s where he’ll spend most of his time Sunday. Mendenhall amassed 44 CAR, 242 YDS and 3 TD’s on the ground in his absence and is a must start vs the Lions. 22 CAR 121 YDS 2 TD’s.

2. Steve Smith vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers DEF: This is it for Steve Smith. If the stud WR can’t breakout of his early seasons struggle, this year might be a write-off come Week 7. He’s got the Bucs secondary, and that’s easier to score on than Kate Hudson these days. 6 REC, 110 YDS, 1 TD.

3. Matt Hasselbeck vs Arizona Cardinals DEF: Coming off his rib injury last week, Matty boy tossed a cool 4 TD’s in a blowout win over the Jags. He’s sure to be caught in a high-scoring affair (think A-ROD with Madonna) this weekend with the Cards. 23/31, 278 YDS, 2 TD’s.

4. Knowshon Moreno vs San Diego Chargers DEF: The Chargers give up 4.6 YPC, an astronomical number, and Kyle Orton is actually playing like Jay Cutler. Because of Orton’s new-found ability to get Marshall/Royal the ball, things should open up nicely in the box. 23 CAR, 101 YDS, 1 TD.

5. Santanna Moss vs Kansas City Chiefs DEF: See Miles Austin (10 REC, 250 YDS) from last week and lick your chops. 8 REC, 112 YDS, 1 TD.

6. Michael Turner vs Chicago Bears DEF: This has more to do with the fact Roddy White finally showed up last week and Tony Gonzalez will force Chicago’s tough LB’s to shadow him. Turner had 3 TD’s last weekend, and you have to like his chances this week. 21 CAR, 88 YDS, 2 TD’s.

7. Matt Forte vs Atlanta Falcons DEF: Forte and Turner are looking for redemption after a slow start and while they face-off against each other this week, I like Forte putting up very similar numbers. The Falcons DEF is giving up 4.9 YDS per carry, and coming off their bye, the schemes will be favoured towards Forte. 23 CAR 104 YDS, 1 TD.

8. Marshawn Lynch vs New York Jets DEF: Beast Mode will be in trouble this week against a J-E-T-S DEF that is looking to redeem itself after Monday night. Lynch should be the more who gets more carries than Jackson, but the platoon is going to give owners headaches. 16 CAR, 74 YDS, 1 TD.

9. Philadelphia Eagles DEF vs Oakland Raiders OFF: Well, the Raiders offense is just that, offensive. If the offense is the joke, JaMarcus Russell is the punch line. They don’t do anything. The Philly D has 13 sacks and 10 INT’s in just 4 games. 3 Sacks, 2 INT’s, 1 FF, 1 TD.

10. Ahmad Bradshaw RB vs New Orleans Saints DEF: This is a nice play in your flex position this week, as Bradshaw went wild last week (11 REC, 110 YDS, 2 TD’s). He won’t put up huge numbers, but with Brandon Jacobs slow start to the season, he could very well begin to steal some carries off the jacked RB. 14 CAR, 88 YDS, 1 TD.

Projected Player Rankings: Week 6 QB: 

  1. Aaron Rodgers
  2. Tom Brady
  3. Drew Brees
  4. Donovan McNabb 
  5. Kurt Warner
  6. Ben Roethlisberger
  7. Matt Hasselback
  8. Matt Schaub
  9. Matt Ryan
  10. Philip Rivers
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Eli Manning
  13. Joe Flacco
  14. Carson Palmer
  15. Jake Delhomme
  16. Brett Favre
  17. Kyle Orton
  18. David Garrard
  19. Mark Sanchez
  20. Jason Campbell

 RB: 

  1. Maurice Jones-Drew
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. Michael Turner
  4. Matt Forte
  5. Cedric Benson
  6. DeAngelo Williams
  7. Rashard Mendenhall
  8. Ryan Grant
  9. Knowshon Moreno
  10. Steven Jackson
  11. Brandon Jacobs
  12. Chris Johnson
  13. Brian Westbrook
  14. Pierre Thomas
  15. Thomas Jones
  16. Kevin Smith
  17. Steve Slaton
  18. Ladanian Tomlinson
  19. Ray Rice
  20. Marshawn Lynch

  WR: 

  1. Randy Moss
  2. Larry Fitzgerald
  3. Roddy White
  4. Steve Smith (CAR)
  5. Brandon Marshall
  6. Steve Smith (NYG)
  7. Andre Johnson
  8. Greg Jennings
  9. Chad Ochocinco
  10. Vincent Jackson
  11. Anquan Boldin
  12. Santana Moss
  13. TJ Housmandzadeh
  14. Marques Colston
  15. Wes Welker
  16. Mike Sims-Walker
  17. DeSean Jackson
  18. Hines Ward
  19. Nate Burleson
  20. Donald Driver

 TE: 

  1. Antonio Gates
  2. Tony Gonzalez
  3. Greg Olsen
  4. Chris Cooley
  5. Owen Daniels
  6. Brent Celek
  7. Kellen Winslow
  8. Heath Miller
  9. Todd Heap
  10. Jermichael Finley
  11. John Carlson
  12. Visanthe Shiancoe
  13. Jeremy Shockey
  14. Dustin Keller
  15. Benjamin Watson

  DEF: 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers
  3. Green Bay Packers
  4. New York Jets
  5. Washington Redskins
  6. New England Patriots
  7. Denver Broncos
  8. Minnesota Vikings
  9. Baltimore Ravens
  10. New York Giants
  11. Atlanta Falcons
  12. New Orleans Saints
  13. Cincinnati Bengals
  14. Jacksonville Jaguars
  15. Carolina Panthers

By Josh Gold-Smith

The longest fantasy hockey week of the (regular) season is in the books, and there’s much to discuss. Countless players have seen promotions and demotions. Many jobs have been won and lost. The tough part, of course, is deciphering which of the trends will be long-term and how many of the opening week’s highs and lows are just mirages. But, of course, that’s why you’re here.

What can you learn from just a handful of games? Nothing and everything. Should you project an entire season based on this handful? Absolutely not. Ryan Malone has four goals in four games. Will he score 82? Go ahead and add the streaky Lightning winger, just don’t give up the farm doing so. As tempting as it is, you can’t afford to get carried away with your transactions early on. We have a LONG road ahead. For every breakout player worth adding, there are two players using smoke and mirrors. I have three simple ‘S’ words for you: small sample size.

With that in mind, here are four key as-of-yet-undiscussed developments that came out of our first head-to-head ‘week’ of fantasy hockey.

Can Two Predators Share?

You’ll recall that after Pekka Rinne’s remarkable run in the second half of last season, he was given a top ten projection at the position heading into this one. That was based on the fact that the Calder Trophy runner-up was a top ten fantasy goaltender in ’08-’09 despite less than a full season of starting duty. Well, Dan Ellis and head coach Barry Trotz decided it would be a real riot to derail that train. Ellis played the 2009 pre-season like a man possessed, posting 3 W, a 1.61 GAA and a .944 SV% in four games. Apparently, that small sample size (say it with me, people) was enough for Trotz to employ the dreaded goaltender-by-committee timeshare (you may now shudder). Rinne didn’t make his first start of the year until Saturday night’s outing against the Buffalo Sabres, but he was terrific in a losing effort. According to the Nashville Tennessean, he will start tonight and Thursday, while Ellis will be between the pipes on Wednesday and Saturday. The Predators are one of the league’s top defensive teams, so whoever this split ends up favouring will be the beneficiary of pure fantasy gold. Stay tuned…

Left Foot, Right Foot

The news out of Vancouver yesterday was not good for Daniel Sedin owners. The typically durable Swedish forward — and noted Henrik Sedin lookalike — will now be on the shelf for at least a month with a broken right foot. Tough break (sorry, I know) for a guy who averaged over 30 goals/season over the last three years. Mikael Samuelsson is worth an add in 10 and 12-team leagues, posting 4 PPP and 5 points overall. Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows also get bumps in value and have already kicked off their seasons with some consistency. Burrows notched a powerplay goal last night and now has 3 goals and an assist through five games. He’s playing on the top line with the healthy Sedin twin and Steve Bernier (for now). Kesler, who has rewarded owners with 2 goals and 3 assists (two points of which have come with the man advantage), will continue to see time on the PP even if he doesn’t skate on the top even-strength line. Mason Raymond-Kesler-Samuelsson could be a very productive second line if it sticks, but if Kesler keeps this up, he could be promoted to top-line duty very soon.

Things to Do in Denver When You’re Alive

Now, remember, it has only been five games. What’s the mantra? Small…sample…size. That being said, no one expected Colorado’s Milan Hejduk-Paul Stastny-Wojtek Wolski line to be this effective. In fact, no one expected the Avalanche powerplay to be this effective, as their PP unit currently ranks third with a 33% (6-for-18) rate of success. Hejduk is universally owned but Stastny has seen powerplay time and picked up 2 points there for a total of 5 (1 G, 4 A). Wolski has been a bit of a revelation early on, with 4 goals and 2 assists and two of those points coming via special teams. Even defenseman Kyle Quincey (highly touted in my first column, you’ll remember) has gotten in on the odd-man fun, with 6 points (1-5) and 4 PPP through the first five games. He’s only owned in 43% of Yahoo leagues and 31% in ESPN pools, so go out and snap him now if you’re thin on the back end.

May Day? May Day?

Sure, the Buffalo Sabres are sitting nice and pretty at 2-0-1, but they’ve scored just four goals in the first three games with the top line contributing just one (courtesy of Thomas Vanek). It’s too early to hit the panic button — or the Rick Jeanneret button for that matter — but the Sabres’ perenially potent top line (Vanek-Derek Roy-Jason Pominville) has been virtually non-existent scoring-wise in their first three games. Mike Grier, Clarke MacArthur and Tim Connolly tallied in the opening week while Roy and Pominville remain goal-starved as we head into Week 2 of the fantasy campaign. Does this mean you should shop them or drop them? No. Does it mean you should look to acquire them at a bargain price? Yes. The lesson here (as I’ve been milking for about the last 880 words), is patience. Roy has two assists, both coming on the powerplay. Pominville has absolutely nothing, but it will come. The One-Man Town has averaged 71 points per season and 21 PPP/season over his last three. The danger with early numbers like this (a big fat zero in Pominville’s case) is that owners tend to drop a player far too early. Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that girl. Hang on or buy low while the getting is good.

Look for waiver wire adds and drops, the ever-popular rising and falling (I mean it this time) and more players to buy low and sell high, coming next week. Until then, thanks for reading.

All in the Family

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

In the Huddle  

By Mark Sheldon 

I remember the moment quite vividly. It was my first draft of the 09 season, I had the 2nd pick and I knew AP was going 1st overall. My buddy with the 1st pick is a huge Raiders fan (insert 1 of 1,000,000 Raiders chirps here) and even I knew he wasn’t pulling an Al Davis. I wasn’t getting another pick until the low-20’s and I knew I had to take an RB. So, I threw 4 names together – Michael Turner, Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew and DeAngelo Williams – and went for a walk. When I circled the block, I had made my decision: Michael Turner.

(Disclaimer: that pool rewards carries)

If it wasn’t for the alcohol, this pick would have kept me up the past 4 Saturday night’s. I realized my mistake instantly, and began packaging him in deals. No takers. I now had a first pick I didn’t want. I felt like my mom when my older brother was born. So this week I “adopted,” and picked up Rashard Mendenhall off waivers. My family is now ok. Mendenhall made up for his sibling’s past mistakes and all was forgiven atop the family tree. Just like a family, a fantasy team has its ups and downs. For every first round bust…there is a 10th round steal, a Week 2 waiver pickup and a Sunday out of nowhere (see San Francisco Defense last week). No team is perfect. This, my friends, is why your team needs to be a family, this is why we have balance in the fantasy world!

The truth is, I can get away with drafting Turner, the way you can get away with drafting Forte, Williams and Steve Slaton. There are other players that fill the family out. Remember, for every Roger Clemens and Vince Carter there was a Randy and a Chris.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the fantasy world…

 1st and Goal:  

1. What is up with the Tennessee Titans? An early season favourite in the AFC, the Titans are now 0-4 and face a must win this Sunday against Jesus and the Indianapolis Colts. Ok, Peyton is not Jesus, but the guy is turning every “Hail Mary” into a TD. He’s making Pierre Garcon look awesome, Reggie Wayne look like the best WR in the league, keeping Joseph Addai relevant, Donald Brown a possible keeper in years to come and Dallas Clark the top TE. Get as many Colts on your squad as possible.

2. The Cleveland Browns traded Braylon Edwards this week to the New York Jets. In other news, when you though it wasn’t possible, the Browns actually got worse! Get rid of as many Browns on your squad as possible.

3. While the rest of the football world wants to congratulate Brett Favre for his impressive Monday nighter, I could care less. Grandpa is turning 40 tomorrow and has already “retired” twice. Tough life. When you act like such a clown off the field, you get no props from this guy. He is not the person carrying this team, AP is. Look for his numbers to drop over the course of the season; this is a perfect time for a trade-high scenario.

4. On the trade low scale, we have Steve Slaton. Get as much for this guy as possible, which right now, is about 40 cents to the dollar. I thought I felt bad about Turner; Slaton owners are surely mailing death threats to his house. He has 192 rushing YDS this season! 192!! I know the Texans say they’re committed to the running game, but Tony Romo also said he was committed to Jessica Simpson. Some things aren’t meant to be.

5.How happy is Eli Manning that Plaxico pulled a Cheedar Bob? Ecstatic! At what point do we start addressing the Giant’s Steve Smith as “Steve Smith” and the Panther’s Steve Smith as “the other Steve Smith?” I think it happens Monday, depending on what Steve Smith (CAR) can do coming off the bye. Confused? Of course you are, but so was the panel that gave Obama the Nobel Peace Prize.

  Waiver Wire: 

Percentages listed are in ESPN/Yahoo! standard leagues and reflects how many teams own the players.

1. Kenny Britt WR (Yahoo! 21%) Tennessee Titans: the only first round pick Rutgers has EVER produced, the rookie is continuing his solid production this season. He’s eclipsed the 80-yard mark twice in his first 4 games and is averaging 4.3 REC on the season. On top of that, the Titans are sure to be playing from behind this week against the Colts, which mean more targets his way.

2. Sidney Rice WR (ESPN 6 %) Minnesota Vikings: the kid has now had back-to-back weeks with TD’s and has a respectable 172 YDS receiving. On top of that is an extremely favourable matchup this week with the Rams, who are awful. Why can’t life always be this easy?

3. Vernon Davis TE (ESPN 41 %) San Francisco 49ers: a problem child from a year ago, Davis is putting up nice numbers since his scolding at the hands of Mike Singletary. He has 3 TD’s in his last 2 games, and Shaun Hill is looking his way a lot more. So far this year, Vernon is a winner.

4. Mike Bush RB (Yahoo! 44 %) Oakland Raiders: this has more to do with the fact that Darren McFadden is out 4 weeks and JaMarcus Russell has a QB rating of 42.4 (that is Kanye West embarrassing), but look for Bush to showcase his skills in the coming weeks and if he can average his 4.0 YPC, the guy could put up decent numbers during your bye weeks.

  Weekly Matchups: 

  1. Tony Romo QB vs Chiefs DEF: while I am not a fan of his fantasy production and he is more overrated than the fantasy hockey blog, this matchup cries unfair. The Chiefs are bad, and while Arrowhead is a tough place to play, it’s not the 90’s and there is no Marcus Allen. The Chiefs allow 251 passing YDS per game, look for that trend to continue. 21/32, 271 YDS, 2 TD’s.
  2. Adrian Peterson RB vs Rams DEF: I have yet to feature AP in the “weekly matchups” category for the obvious reason that it’s a cop-out.  Week in and week out he performs. I don’t need to post any numbers here, you should know. All I will say is three words; St. Louis Rams. 24 CAR, 144 YDS, 2 TD’s.
  3. Donovan McNabb QB vs Buccaneers DEF: for similar reasons to AP, McNabb is playing a defense that is beyond penetrable. The Bucs have given up 2+ TD’s to every single starting QB they have faced this season. Back with him this week will be Brian Westbrook, so the dump pass is in full effect. 26/40 290 YDS 2 TD’s.
  4. Ben Roethlisberger QB vs Lions DEF: Ok, I’m copping out this week with the last 3 picks, but it’s just too easy! Like cheating off of my buddy Keegan in grade 10 science class easy (we once had 70 identical answers on a final exam, impressive). Quick hits – Lions D has given up 12 passing TD’s, they allow the 2nd most fantasy points to QB’s and Big Ben has 2 TD’s in three straight games. 22/30, 285 YDS, 2 TD’s.
  5. Baltimore DEF vs Bengals: giving up a paltry 2.6 YPC, the Ravens will shut down Cedric Benson and make Carson Palmer throw the pigskin. The biggest problem? The Bengals might not even see the ball. The Ravens O is just as much a player in this game, which will given Palmer little time and force him to make decisions that will backfire. 3 Sacks, 2 INT’s.
  6. Glen Coffee RB vs Falcons DEF: despite only gaining 3.1 YPC, it is no secret that the 49ers run the ball into the ground. On top of that, the Falcons DEF gives up 4.7 YPC. Because Coffee is looking at 20+ carries again this week (if the Falcons DEF didn’t fix things on their bye week) he could be in for a productive day. 24 CAR, 102 YDS, 1TD.
  7. Tim Hightower RB vs Texans DEF: this is easy. While I think Beanie Wells slowly steals carries from Hightower from here on out, this should be a good day for Tim. The Texans D is Alex Rios bad and the Cards will be firing on all cylinders. The fact that the Texans give up 5.5 YPC is icing on the cake. 14 CAR, 66 YDS, 6 REC 71 YDS, 1 TD
  8. Ronnie Brown RB vs Jets DEF: owners might be hesitant starting Brown this week, but I think (proceed with caution!) he can put up decent numbers against a very strong Jets D. The Wildcat gives teams fits and because the Jets defend the pass so well, look for rookie Chad Henne to hand the ball off as much as possible. The Dolphins should take advantage of the Jets giving up 4.2 YPC as much as possible. 18 CAR, 77 YDS, 1 TD.
  9. Dustin Keller TE vs Dolphins DEF: the Dolphins have allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to TE’s so far this season and after Mark Sanchez took a beating in the pocket last week against the Saints, look for him to get some quick throws Keller’s way. 6 REC, 68 YDS, 1 TD
  10. DeSean Jackson WR vs Buccaneers DEF: the addition of Westbrook and McNabb makes the dangerous Jackson even more of a deep threat against a Bucs D that has given up a league high 6 passing plays of over 40 yards. Unless Usain Bolt is playing in the Bucs secondary, Jackson will be keeping the trend going. 7 REC, 98 YDS, 1 TD

 Projected Player Rankings: Week 5 

QB:

  1. Peyton Manning
  2. Matt Schaub
  3. Donovan McNabb
  4. Kurt Warner
  5. Ben Roethlisberger
  6. Tom Brady
  7. Joe Flacco
  8. Tony Romo
  9. Brett Favre
  10. David Garrard
  11. Matt Ryan
  12. Matt Hasselbeck
  13. Carson Palmer
  14. Eli Manning
  15. Matt Cassel
  16. Kyle Orton
  17. Shaun Hill
  18. Trent Edwards
  19. Derek Anderson
  20. Mark Sanchez

RB:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. Maurice Jones-Drew
  3. Brandon Jacobs
  4. DeAngelo Williams
  5. Chris Johnson
  6. Michael Turner
  7. Rashard Mendenhall
  8. Brian Westbrook
  9. Glen Coffee
  10. Marion Barber
  11. Steve Slaton
  12. Clinton Portis
  13. Knowshon Moreno
  14. Steven Jackson
  15. Ronnie Brown
  16. Jerome Harrison
  17. Tim Hightower
  18. Ray Rice
  19. Marshawn Lynch
  20. Fred Jackson

WR:

  1. Reggie Wayne
  2. Larry Fitzgerald
  3. Andre Johnson
  4. Randy Moss
  5. Anquan Boldin
  6. Calvin Johnson
  7. DeSean Jackson
  8. Roddy White
  9. Steve Smith (CAR)
  10. Steve Smith (NYG)
  11. Santonio Holmes
  12. Mike Sims-Walker
  13. Hines Ward
  14. Chad Ochocinco
  15. Brandon Marshall
  16. TJ Housmandzadeh
  17. Derrick Mason
  18. Terrell Owens
  19. Wes Welker
  20. Nate Burleson

TE:

  1. Dallas Clark
  2. Jason Witten
  3. Tony Gonzalez
  4. Chris Cooley
  5. Brent Celek
  6. Vernon Davis
  7. Dustin Keller
  8. Owen Daniels
  9. John Carlson
  10. Heath Miller
  11. Visanthe Shiancoe
  12. Todd Heap
  13. Mercedes Lewis
  14. Kellen Winslow
  15. Benjamin Watson

DEF:

  1. New York Giants
  2. Minnesota Vikings
  3. Philadelphia Eagles
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers
  5. Baltimore Ravens
  6. Dallas Cowboys
  7. New York Jets
  8. Denver Broncos
  9. San Francisco 49ers
  10. Buffalo Bills
  11. Indianapolis Colts
  12. Miami Dolphins
  13. Washington Redskins
  14. Carolina Panthers
  15. New England Patriots

By Josh Gold-Smith

When Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland inked right-winger Johan Franzen to an 11-year contract extension back in April, he certainly didn’t see this coming.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the 29-year old forward suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in last night’s win over the Chicago Blackhawks, during which he netted the eventual game-winner in the second period. He is expected to miss a minimum of four months, which means he won’t return to the lineup until mid-February at the earliest.

If you own Franzen in any fantasy format, there is no way to spin this. It’s the second major injury of the season’s opening ‘week’ (and the second reason for me to pre-empt my upcoming weekly column…watch for it every Monday).

It’s a gigantic blow to the Detroit Red Wings. They lose a 6’3, 220 lb. top-line winger who was a key component of both their dynamic first power-play unit and penalty killing groups. You can’t replace a player who contributes in each of those areas so effectively. As in Montreal with the loss of Andrei Markov, the injury to Franzen leaves a gaping hole in those oh-so crucial slots. So who can plug the hole and fill your RW spot in his absence? Let’s get some answers, shall we?

Dustin Byfuglien, RW, Chicago Blackhawks (28% owned in Yahoo leagues, 13% of ESPN leagues)

His chances of becoming a household name aren’t exactly a lock (it’s pronounced BUF-lin, for those scoring at home), but this multi-voweled forward/defenseman is definitely worth adding in 10 and even 12-team leagues. He scored a goal in the season opener while skating as a left winger on the top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. After that, the first line was changed to Patrick Sharp-Toews-Kris Versteeg and Byfuglien was put on the second line with Kane and Dave Bolland. Regardless of whether it’s the first or second line, Bfyuglien is going to see plenty of time with either Kane or Toews and he’ll produce on the power play. He now has 3 points (including 2 PPP) through the first three games. Expect more.

Radim Vrbata, RW, Phoenix Coyotes (20% owned on Yahoo, 50% on ESPN)

Before you say, “I wouldn’t touch a Coyote with a 10-foot Sherwood!”, think again. Vrbata is just one year removed from a fine 27-goal, 29-assist season with Phoenix and he has 3 goals and an assist in this season’s first three games. One of the goals was an empty-netter, sure, but two of those points came on the power play. The 28-year old Vrbata is a skilled forward who has seen time on the top line with Shane Doan and Matthew Lombardi. His hot start should keep him there and he’ll continue to be an important cog in the Coyotes’ man advantage units. They won’t be an offensive force, but Vrbata will get his fair share of chances. He’s worth an add in 12-team leagues and a speculative look in more shallow formats.

Michael Ryder, RW, Boston Bruins (61% owned on Yahoo, 100% on ESPN?)

ESPN.com users’ love for Ryder aside, he is still out there in Yahoo leagues and should be available in shallow formats on other sites as well. The departure of Phil Kessel left a rather large hole on the wing and between Michael Ryder and Marco Sturm, someone has to fill it. Sturm was bumped up to the top line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic to play his off-wing (LW), but Ryder gets a pretty solid consolation prize as a right-winger. He’s now being teamed with David Krejci at even strength and is seeing a good chunk of powerplay minutes. He tallied a goal and an assist in Boston’s 7-2 whipping of Carolina (in only 12:47 of ice time because of the blowout), and both points came on the PP. The opportunity is there for Ryder. Take a look while you can (and if you still can in non-ESPN leagues).

So how will the Red Wings replace Franzen, you ask? That remains to be seen, but the logical move for Detroit is…

Daniel Cleary, RW, Detroit Red Wings (37% owned on Yahoo, 18% on ESPN)

Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk need a new dance partner, and Cleary makes the most sense. The 30-year old Newfoundlander has a goal and an assist through three games playing with Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi. He gets a big boost jumping up to join the Holmstrom-Datsyuk combo on the first line and should provide some of the grit and occasional offensive spark that Franzen so adeptly brought on a regular basis. He’ll see added time on the powerplay as he’s done thus far (his assist came with the man advantage). He scored 20 goals in back-to-back seasons in ’06-’07 and ’07-’08, so the talent is there.

That gives you a few options in the wake of Franzen’s injury. Come back here on Monday as we’ll make some sense of the opening fantasy week, examine some of the key issues going forward and look at some rising and falling players. Thanks for reading and see you next time.

One and Done: Markov Fantasy Fallout

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

By Josh Gold-Smith

That sound you heard echoing across North America in the third period of the Montreal Canadiens’ 4-3 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs was a sudden, collective gasp by Andrei Markov’s fantasy owners.

The stalwart defenseman (whom you may recall was ranked in the top ten just yesterday by yours truly) collided with goaltender Carey Price while killing a Toronto powerplay and had to be helped off the ice. Markov later underwent surgery to repair a lacerated tendon in his ankle and is now expected to miss up to four months.

Obviously, this is a crushing blow to your fantasy squad if you were unfortunate enough to have drafted him. No need to remind you that Markov finished second in points among defenseman with 64 last season (Mike Green led the league with 73). Losing a number-one fantasy defenseman on the opening night of the season wasn’t exactly what you had in mind, but in the aftermath, you certainly have options:

Jaroslav Spacek: Owned in 67% of Yahoo leagues and just 29% on ESPN, the Czech veteran finished the opener with 24:42 of ice time, leading the team in that category. Spacek is an offensive-minded defenseman who recorded 45 points for the Buffalo Sabres one season ago (matching the career-high set in ’02-’03 while with the Columbus Blue Jackets). It’s certainly worth noting that 22 of those 45 came on the powerplay. Spacek has a track record of success with the man-advantage (22 PPP the year before as well) and is expected to assume Markov’s role in his absence. Sure, he’s 35 years old and no longer in a contract year (signed by Montreal in their shopping spree of an off-season) but the alternatives are few for Canadiens’ head coach Jacques Martin.

Roman Hamrlik (14% owned in Yahoo, 5%, ESPN): Another 35-year old Czech defenseman also gets a bump in fantasy value with additional powerplay time. Hamrlik sat out the season opener due to illness but is expected to return for Saturday night’s game in Buffalo. The veteran tallied 33 points last season (with Markov in the picture), so it’s entirely conceiveable that he could excel in a larger role. Hamrlik saw very little time on the PP last season, registering just three assists on the man advantage. However, he put up 18 PPP in ’06-’07 and 16 PPP the season before that, each with the Calgary Flames. If Spacek isn’t available, Hamrlik is worth a look in deeper leagues.

Expect a mid-January return for Markov.

We’ll delve deeper into league-wide defensemen worth adding in next week’s column, but for now, Spacek and Hamrlik are expected to fill Markov’s skates on Montreal’s back end.

Until then, best of luck picking up the pieces.

A Cause for Concern

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

In the Huddle

By Mark Sheldon

Sunday’s are no longer what they used to be. What happened to the days of the featured back, the guaranteed starts and the “for sure” TD’s? I felt like crying Sunday afternoon watching my “guarantees” continue to falter and underachieve, all the while thinking to myself, “is there really a Vernon Wells in the NFL?” I don’t understand how Matt Forte and Steve Slaton can enter Week 4 with as many TD’s as Marshawn Lynch, 0.  Steve Smith (NYG) is playing better than Steve Smith (CAR). Heck, these days, I don’t know whether to start Terrell Owens or Helen Keller.

Speaking of TO, this seems to be the calm before the storm in Buffalo. While I commend Owens for the way he handled Sunday’s post game conference, I think he’s just trying to give the perception things are OK. I am a firm believer of actions speaking louder than words, and right now, TO does not look happy. I would love for him to succeed in Buffalo – I’m a Bills fan – and I think he can. Trent Edwards has to understand that he has one of the BEST receivers of all-time. I don’t care about who he fights with, how many push-ups he can do in his driveway or how bad his reality show is, he gets it done on the field. If he’s used properly, he’s incredible. Besides looking like an idiot Sunday evening with his sunglasses on, Dick Jauron isn’t getting things done. Marshawn Lynch is back now, you have one of the best RB combos and WR combos in the league, use them! This is why most Bills fans drink.

I can’t figure out what’s more embarrassing – Allen Iverson getting Antonio Daniels twice or Sunday night when Felix Jones broke Charles Godfrey’s ankles.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the fantasy world…

1st and Goal:

1. Steve Smith (NYG), Brent Celek, Nate Burleson and Tim Hightower are 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th in the league in receptions.  That’s just silly. Meanwhile, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall are giving owners fits at the receiving position and Slaton, Forte, Michael Turner and DeAngelo Williams are on their way to ‘first round bust” status. This week is the ¼ mark of the season, and offenses will learn to use these players more. If not, you’ll probably lose your league.

2. Matt Forte is 99 rushing yards away from being the biggest bust of this season. If he does not put up 100 YDS on the ground this week vs the Detroit Lions, he is a major letdown for fantasy owners. 4 weeks ago this guy was a consensus top 5 pick, now I’d be happy to land Julius Jones straight up. Would you believe me if I said there are 28 RB’s with more rushing YDS this season?  Didn’t think so.

3. It’s time to wake up and smell the Coffee! While I was 4 weeks off, I warned you last week that Frank Gore goes down more often than an Italian soccer player. But unlike an Italian soccer player, he doesn’t get right back up. The guy is an accident waiting to happen. He’s currently taking endorsement offers from War-Amps. Personally, I think he’d be a great spokesman. Glen Coffee makes his first pro start this Sunday for the 49ers.

4. Do the Cleveland Browns have anyone on their roster worthy of starting on a fantasy team? No.

5. Joe Flacco is awesome. First off, his name reminds me of a character from Goodfellas. Secondly, his fantasy numbers are earning him the early season “steal of the draft” award.  And thirdly, he’s leading the best team in the NFL in just his 2nd season in the league. I think I have a man crush.

Waiver Wire:

Percentages listed are in ESPN/Yahoo! standard leagues and reflects how many teams own the players.

  1. Tashard Choice RB (Yahoo! 37%) – Just like Felix Jones last week, if Marion Barber sits, Choice will put up numbers. With Jones out to injury and Barber still nursing his, Choice is set to see lots of touches in Week 4. The guy has 100 YDS on 22 CAR this season. With the bye weeks starting, he’s a great pickup.
  2. Glen Coffee RB (ESPN 29.5%) – I don’t have to say anything other than get him in your lineup this week. If he is available, get him. This is like your crush in grade 11 asking for a lift to school, you just do it. Even if you’re nervous, don’t be the guy who says no. They always live with regrets.
  3. Mike Sims-Walker WR (ESPN 7%) – Has had outstanding back to back games (6 REC and 80 YDS) and Jones-Drew is beginning his takeover. He looks really nice opposite Tory Holt and can be a nice fill-in in deeper leagues. The Jags will continue to play from behind, which means Sims-Walker will see plenty of looks.
  4. Donnie Avery WR (Yahoo! 54%) – It’s funny how one can go from fantasy bust to waiver wire pickup in just 3 weeks, but that’s what happens when you play for the Rams. Laurent Robinson broke his leg and will be missed for the remainder of the season. This leaves the door wide open for Avery to regain his form from last season where dude put up 674 YDS in his rookie season.

 

 Weekly Matchups:

  1. Terrell Owens vs Dolphins DEF: This has to be the week right? I mean, IT HAS TO! Everyone knows he has to see the ball more. Plus, Alex Van Pelt has had an extra week to add more plays to the playbook. Lee Evans always has a huge catch against the Dolphins and if it happens again, the secondary will be on their toes the whole day. 7 REC, 98 YDS, 1TD.
  2. Brandon Jacobs vs Chiefs DEF: The Giants will get out to an early lead, run the clock down and go home with a W. This bodes well for Jacobs, who should see a good chunk of carries as they kill the clock in the 2nd half. 21 CAR, 110 YDS, 1 TD.
  3. Matt Forte vs Detroit Lions DEF: Yes, I think his output has been garbage, but the Lions are like the youngest kid in the family, you pick on them. It’s in Chicago, they will be up and just like Terrell Owens, he HAS to perform. The Lions are giving up 4.5 YPC and Forte has been getting it done with his hands, averaging close to 4 REC a game. 24 CAR, 122 YDS, 3 REC 34 YDS, 2 TD’s.
  4. Chad Ocho Cinco vs Browns DEF: Last time Ocho Cinco (I still feel like an idiot typing his name) scored in Cleveland, he had beer thrown on him. Look for Chad to make a little more noise this week…on the field. The Browns are currently inept at life and the Bengals have had 13 pass plays of 20+ YDS in just 3 games. With Cedric Benson beginning to get more attention in the box, things are opening up nicely for the 2-1 Bengals. 6 REC, 82 YDS.
  5. Darren McFadden vs Texans DEF: I know McFadden hasn’t had a stellar week yet this season, but all signs are a go this week against the Pop Warner Texans. Houston has let up a league high 6.4 YPC. They have also allowed three rushing plays of 40+ yards. Stats don’t lie. 18 CAR 96 YDS.
  6. Jason Witten vs Broncos DEF: Last week was the type of game fantasy owners were banking on this season from Witten; 9 throws, 9 catches. On the season, Witten has caught 19 of the 23 passes thrown his way. With a Broncos D that has been impregnable to say the least, Tony Romo will be dumping off to Witten very frequently. Catches add up real quick. 8 REC, 88 YDS, 1 TD.
  7. Jason Campbell vs Buccaneers DEF: He can do it with his feet and his proving he can do it through the air. He also happens to be going against a secondary that is embarrassingly bad. Giving up 245 YDS passing per game, the Bucs have also given up 7 TD’s through the air in just 3 games. The Redskins have a deep threat in Santana Moss and the rest of the team has played poorly so far this season. Look again for Campbell to air it out in hopes of giving Jim Zorn a mediocre 2-2 record going into next week. 22/38, 248 YDS, 32 rush YDS, 2 TD’s.
  8. Giants DEF vs Chiefs: Yes the Giants give up 6.1 YPC, but no one runs on them because they’re always in the lead. That number is inflated. Not to mention, Larry Johnson is going against them this week. They have 5 INT’s already and give up a paltry 124 passing yards per game. 3 Sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 TD
  9. Jay Cutler vs Lions DEF: Once upon a time the Lions had 2 wins in their last 27 games. Unfortunately for Lions fans (do you even admit you’re a fan at this point?) that time is the present. Not convinced they’re bad? The Lions give up 279 YDS passing a game and have allowed 10 TD passes so far this season. Ouch. 22/30, 280 YDS, 1 TD
  10. Randy Moss vs Ravens DEF: If Wes Welker plays this week, expect Moss to put up the type of numbers he did last week, even without Welker. No team has really been able to run on the ravens this year, and that’s fine with Tom Brady. Brady will use his arm to keep the Pats in the game as long as possible and that could mean a lot of looks to Moss. 8 REC, 119 YDS, 1 TD.

Projected Player Rankings: Week 4

QB:

1. Peyton Manning

2. Jay Cutler

3. Drew Brees

4. Aaron Rodgers

5. Matt Schaub

6. Tom Brady

7. Philip Rivers

8. Eli Manning

9. Joe Flacco

10. Tony Romo

11. Jason Campbell

12. Carson Palmer

13. Ben Roethlisberger

14. Shaun Hill

15. Mark Sanchez

16. David Garrard

17. Brett Favre

18. Trent Edwards

19. Kerry Collins

20. Kyle Orton

RB:

1. Adrian Peterson

2. Chris Johnson

3. Matt Forte

4. Maurice Jones-Drew

5. Brandon Jacobs

6. Cedric Benson

7. Steven Jackson

8. Steve Slaton

9. Ronnie Brown

10. Glen Coffee

11. Pierre Thomas

12. Julius Jones

13. Darren Mcfadden

14. Clinton Portis

15. Ryan Grant

16. Willis McGahee

17. Tashard Choice

18. Knowshon Moreno

19. Darren Sproles

20. Joseph Addai

WR:

1. Randy Moss

2. Reggie Wayne

3. Andre Johnson

4. Calvin Johnson

5. Vincent Jackson

6. Greg Jennings

7. Chad Ocho Cinco

8. Santonio Holmes

9. Terrell Owens

10. Marques Colston

11. Steve Smith (NYG)

12. Santana Moss

13. Devin Hester

14. Jerricho Cotchery

15. Hines Ward

16. Kevin Walter

17. Mario Manningham

18. Brandon Marshall

19. Donald Driver

20. Nate Burleson

TE:

1. Jason Witten

2. Dallas Clark

3. Antonio Gates

4. Greg Olsen

5. Chris Cooley

6. Owen Daniels

7. Dustin Keller

8. Vernon Davis

9. John Carlson

10. Jeremy Shockey

11. Kellen Winslow

12. Heath Miller

13. Visanthe Shiancoe

14. Zach Miller

15. Todd Heap

DEF:

1. New York Giants

2. Chicago Bears

3. Cincinnati Bengals

4. Minnesota Vikings

5. Washington Redskins

6. San Francisco 49ers

7. Baltimore Ravens

8. Pittsburgh Steelers

9. Green Bay Packers

10. Tennessee Titans

11. Denver Broncos

12. Buffalo Bills

13. New York Jets

14. San Diego Chargers

15. New Orleans Saints

The Puck Drops Here

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

That’s right, the wait is finally over. It’s time for another season of fantasy hockey and I’m thrilled to be your guide as we begin the 2009-10 season. I’m Josh Gold-Smith and I’ll be your hockey blogger/columnist for The Fantasy Show here on the web. You’re probably wondering why I’m occupying this prime piece of interweb real estate, and I’m so glad you asked! Prior to joining THE FAN, my work appeared on ESPN.com, CBC Sports.ca and a handful of other sites you’ve definitely never heard of. So what can you expect going forward? I’ll post a weekly fantasy hockey column throughout the season, along with quick hits when big news breaks. Expect a little fantasy hoops content later this fall as well.

Head-to-head hockey matchups and rotisserie leagues begin play tonight (along with, well, the real thing), so let’s not waste any more time talking about me. Let’s start by looking at my rankings by position for the balance of the upcoming season, based on projected production across the board in G, A, +/-, PIM and PPP (and W, GAA, SV% and SO for goalies). Ideally, you’ll have one player from each list of skaters and potentially two from the goaltending list except in deeper leagues.

CENTERS:

1. Evgeni Malkin

2. Pavel Datsyuk

3. Ryan Getzlaf

4. Sidney Crosby

5. Jeff Carter

6. Marc Savard

7. Eric Staal

8. Joe Thornton

9. Nicklas Backstrom

10. Henrik Zetterberg

Carter and Savard are both coming off mammoth seasons in ’08-’09, but Carter’s year was an abberation as his previous high in four full seasons with the Flyers was 55 points, and Savard loses a 36-goal scorer (Kessel) in favour of Michael Ryder on the top line. Thornton’s value gets a bump as he now has two bonafide threats on the wings thanks to the arrival of Dany Heatley and the progression of Devin Setoguchi. He should match the 96-point campaign he delivered two years ago.

LEFT WINGERS:

1. Alexander Ovechkin

2. Zach Parise

3. Ilya Kovalchuk

4. Daniel Sedin

5. Mike Cammalleri

6. Dany Heatley

7. Rick Nash

8. Scott Hartnell

9. Thomas Vanek

10. Simon Gagne

Another Pennsylvania-based team (the Flyers) shows that it’s possible to go two-deep in the top 10 of a position (Malkin and Crosby in the center rankings above are the other pair). Hartnell is a poor man’s Jarome Iginla, possessing a terrific blend of offensive talent and toughness. He’ll give you respectable G and A numbers while racking up close to 150 PIM. The demise of Parise will not be nearly as dramatic as others are predicting in Jacques Lemaire’s system. This kid can flat out score, and he’ll give you 40 PPP and 40 A along the way with a +/- typical of most Devils. Vanek is fully healthy again and that dangerous Pominville-Roy-Vanek line is set to light many a lamp in ’09-’10.

RIGHT WINGERS:

1. Corey Perry

2. Alexander Semin

3. Jarome Iginla

4. Patrick Kane

5. Shane Doan

6. Devin Setoguchi

7. Jamie Langenbrunner

8. Martin Havlat

9. Johan Franzen

10. David Backes

Both Perry and Iginla’s values resemble Hartnell’s because both are offensive powerhouses with toughness who will yield high PIM totals. Kane is set to improve on last year’s fine effort and is still just 20 years old (21 in November). Setoguchi and Havlat move up; the former because of Heatley’s arrival and the latter because of Minnesota’s change in philosophy. Martin St. Louis comes up just short of making the top ten, showing real signs at the end of last season and during the pre-season that he, Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier are going to click on all cylinders.

DEFENSEMEN:

1. Mike Green

2. Zdeno Chara

3. Dan Boyle

4. Nicklas Lidstrom

5. Sheldon Souray

6. Chris Pronger

7. Dion Phaneuf

8. Dennis Wideman

9. Shea Weber

10. Andrei Markov

For the first time in eons, Rob Blake fails to crack a list of this sort. He’s the new captain of the Sharks, which is nice, but fantasy is about numbers and the most concerning one here is 40 (his age come December 10th).  No surprises at the top here, but Pronger gets an upgrade over last year. He’ll tally more G, A and PPP on a loaded Flyers squad. Phaneuf has more value in real life than fantasy and he’s being drafted too high despite the arrival of Jay Bouwmeester in Calgary.

GOALTENDERS:

1. Roberto Luongo

2. Steve Mason

3. Niklas Backstrom

4. Evgeni Nabokov

5. Martin Brodeur

6. Tim Thomas

7. Cam Ward

8. Henrik Lundqvist

9. Pekka Rinne

10. Nikolai Khabibulin

The netminders were far and away the toughest ten to rank.  Mason will get a full season under his belt and should shoulder the load. If Luongo can stay healthy, he’s at the top of the heap based on consistency in every fantasy category. The ageless Brodeur can thank the fountain of youth and Jacques Lemaire’s return for his spot, while Thomas and Ward signed big contracts (goodbye, motivation). Khabibulin will exceed the expectations here despite his age, based on last year’s steady numbers in all four departments and the Oilers’ unheralded but effective defensive corps.

With trade winds and free agent contracts flying around in the off-season, not to mention coaching changes and positional battles being won and lost, the fantasy values of many players fluctuated and many players have been affected. Let’s examine the values of some who are on the rise and some on the decline heading into 2009-10:

RISING:

Semyon Varlamov, G, Washington Capitals

The youngster showed he was ready for primetime, stepping into the spotlight in the playoffs last season and showing flashes of what could very well be realized in this campaign. He should emerge as the clear starter by December, as he clearly has more upside than Jose Theodore and is the future in the crease for the supremely talented Capitals.

Michael Ryder, RW, Boston Bruins

Ryder put up 27 goals and 26 assists as a second-liner, but Phil Kessel’s departure means the former gets bumped up to the top line. He’ll skate alongside playmaker extraordinaire Marc Savard and should improve upon last year’s totals for 60+ points and 24 PPP (17 in ’08-’09).

Mikko Koivu, C, Minnesota Wild

The younger Koivu has now surpassed his brother Saku as the more fantasy-relevant of the Koivus, posting 20 G, 47 A and 26 PPP last season. These numbers will all increase now that Jacques Lemaire is gone and Todd Richards plans to implement a more up-tempo, freewheeling offensive attack.

Brad Richards, C, Dallas Stars

Remember when Richards was a viable top-10 center in fantasy? Those days are gone but the P.E.I. native claims to be fully healthy again after limping through just 56 games last season. He was largely overlooked in drafts and could provide close to 65 points and 25+ PPP if he plays alongside talented winger and 36-goal scorer Loui Eriksson.

Alex Burrows, LW/C, Vancouver Canucks

Word out of Vancouver is that Burrows will skate on the top line and center the Sedin twins to begin the season, which is great news for those who snagged him in the middle rounds of their drafts (those such as myself…ahem). Burrows is going to give you 150 PIM and should see a major boost in assists while getting some time on the powerplay, something he didn’t get last season (0 PPP). If he sticks with the Sedins, expect big things out of the gritty forward.

Kyle Quincey, D, Colorado Avalanche

Here’s a guy who has been all but ignored in shallow leagues and taken too late in deeper league drafts. Quincey is a great pick-up or late-round steal despite questionable defensive partners in Denver. He should see time in the top pairing now that Tom Preissing will be out for 4-6 weeks.

FALLING:

Patrick Elias, C, New Jersey Devils (and all relevant Devils, for fantasy purposes)

It doesn’t help that the once-elite Elias is just two weeks removed from groin surgery (a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone), and the return of Lemaire in the Swamp spells declining offensive output for all Devils who matter in fantasy. In Elias’ case, sell high while you can still get value for him. Center is a very deep position this year.

Todd White, C, Atlanta Thrashers

The arrival of Nik Antropov in Atlanta means White’s off-the-charts ’08-’09 (22 G, 51 A, 34 PPP) will not be seen again. White gets downgraded to the second line, which means he won’t get the benefit of playing with sniper Ilya Kovalchuck – the main factor for his offensive outburst one season ago.

Ryan Smyth, LW, Los Angeles Kings

Once a lock for 25-35 goals per season, Smyth is now 33 years old and his best days are clearly behind him. Making matters worse, he now moves to Los Angeles, where he is no longer looking at first-line duty. If you’re not cracking the top three on the Kings, there’s something wrong. He’s had a strong pre-season with six points in four games but he will have to perform a miracle to exceed last season’s 59-point effort in Colorado.

Niklas Backstrom, G, Minnesota Wild

He’ll still be a top-five fantasy goaltender (as seen above), and if you chose him in drafts like I did, well done. But be wary of coach Richards’ new system in the Twin Cities. A more wide-open style of play typically leads to a tougher year for goaltenders and while Backstrom has been a model of consistency, there’s a chance his stock could fall with defensemen joining the rush. For the same reason Mikko Koivu gets a closer look, Backstrom slips a couple of spots.

So that’s what you can look forward to (or cringe about) in 2009-10. Next time we’ll make some sense of the opening week and look at players you should comb the wire for or monitor as the season rolls on.  There’s much more analysis coming your way, but until then, remember…it’s all about balance and consistency in fantasy hockey.

FOLLOW
SN 590
Facebook Twitter RSS Alerts