You probably heard that the Raiders had the look of a team that could go winless during the league during the preseason, and the team also had the look of a Fantasy wasteland.
However, that was before Terrelle Pryor showed head coach Dennis Allen that he was not just another athlete who was trying play the role of quarterback in the NFL. He actually has become a quarterback who has impressed the scouts because of his improvement.
Most of the scouts I talked to over the last two weeks have been shocked by Pryor’s improvement. From his footwork, to his ability to read defenses to his accuracy, it’s a significant.
“Based on everything we had seen before this summer, there was no reason to think he was going to be able to do anything except throw it on the run or run with the ball,” the NFC scout said. “He didn’t look smooth with his footwork in the pocket, he didn’t read defenses and his accuracy was a problem.
“Now you see a quarterback who has improved in all of those areas, and the biggest thing is his confidence. He knows he’s doing a lot better and he’s feeding off of it. When you get in one of those situations, that’s when a guy really gets better because he wants it so much and it shows in everything he does.”
Pryor is not an elite quarterback by any stretch, but he welcomes every opportunity to prove himself and his performance against the Chargers – 18-of-23 for 221 yards with 2 TDs and no interceptions – has given him credibility he did not have before. Pryor is owned in just 40.6 percent of NFL.com Fantasy leagues, so get jump on him if you still need a quarterback.
He is now one of the best – if not the best – Fantasy quarterback alternatives during bye weeks, and is a solid plug and play if your other QB is hurt or struggling. If you don’t have an elite quarterback on your roster, Pryor is the guy to pick up or even trade for, and don’t forget about Denarius Moore at wide receiver, who had a 5-84-1 line against the Chargers. Even Rod Streater becomes viable, but Moore should be the primary option.
Foles should get start; Vick subterfuge in Philly
The Eagles liked what they saw from Nick Foles in the second half of the win over the Giants, and even though head coach Chip Kelly is making plenty of noise about Michael Vick improving and possibly playing against the Bucs in Tampa, that is not likely to happen.
Foles got the starter’s share of the reps in practice Thursday, and that’s an excellent indication that he will be under center in this game. Even if Vick continues to improve over the weekend, a pulled hamstring needs time to recover and Kelly should know enough not to risk the injury getting worse.
However, this is his rookie season as a head coach in the NFL, and he does not have a track record of handling an injured quarterback before. If Kelly wants to push it because he feels a sense of panic prior to the game, you will know it because Vick won’t be on the inactive list.
If Vick is listed as inactive 90 minutes before kickoff, you’ll know that Kelly is doing the right thing and is not going to panic.
Foles is a good Fantasy alternative for this game because he was 16-of-25 vs. the Giants for 197 yards with 2 TDs and no interceptions. The Bucs rank 15th in passing yards allowed, but the looming presence of Darrelle Revis also has to impact the Eagles’ game plan.
Revis matches up with DeSean Jackson, and the Eagles receiver boldly said that he’s faster than the cornerback and that he had a definitive advantage in speed. Revis did not rip Jackson, but it’s clear that he’s up to the challenge of staying with the receiver.
Still, you can’t take the Eagles’ best receiver out of your lineup. He’s going to make Revis pay at least once and if Revis ever leaves Jackson, look for Foles to find him. Foles has been added to just 1.2 percent of NFL.com Fantasy rosters, but he can still make things happen against the Bucs.
Cassel will get the start; Freeman next week if he understands offense.
The Vikings are being typically coy about their quarterback situation, but this is how they would like to see it work out.
Matt Cassel is once again going to get the start this week against the Carolina Panthers. They may have picked up Josh Freeman and there has been some talk about Christian Ponder coming back from his cracked rib, but that’s not going to happen this week.
The Vikings like what Cassel did against the Steelers in London in Week Four – 16-of-25 for 248 yards with 2 TDs and no interceptions – and that’s obviously a lot better than Ponder did before he got hurt.
What they would like to do is give Freeman the start in Week Seven against the Giants. If Freeman can pick up the scaled-down version of the Vikings playbook, compete against the Giants and perform fairly well, then head coach Leslie Frazier and Bill Musgrave can decide who they want to start the following week in a division game against the Bears.
While you can’t count Ponder out completely, it would seem Cassel is the best Vikings quarterback alternative for the Fantasy outlooks of the WRs, followed by Freeman and then Ponder.
Freeman has to learn the Vikings’ terminology and playbook before he can see action. While he has only been there a few days, it is definitely a struggle for him and there are no guarantees he will know enough by the middle of next week to start against the Giants.
There’s going to have to be a breakthrough moment for the coaches to feel confident that Freeman will understand the system, and our sources say it’s no better than 40 percent that Freeman will be on top of the situation to get the nod vs. the Giants.
Cassel’s presence means a lot to Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson. Jennings has caught just 14-252-2 through the first four games, but both of his TD receptions came with Cassel under center in the Week Four game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Simpson had a huge game vs. Pittsburgh as well. He caught seven passes for 124 yards, including a 51-yarder.
Ponder can’t get the ball downfield while Freeman has limited understanding of the playbook. If the Vikings make the right decision and keep Cassel in the lineup, Jennings, Simpson and maybe even tight end Kyle Rudolph become legitimate Fantasy alternatives.
When the Falcons return from their bye week, Harry Douglas becomes the primary wide receiver in the lineup. Julio Jones (foot) is out for the year and Roddy White (hamstring) just can’t stay healthy, so the Falcons are going to alter their passing game. In addition to Douglas and tight end Tony Gonzalez, look for backup tight end Levine Toilolo to see more action. Drew Davis and Kevin Cone could figure in, but that’s not as likely as using the two-TE set. Douglas has rarely been a dependable Fantasy weapon in the past because of drops and inconsistent pattern running, but now he will rise to No. 1 receiver and he will take advantage of that opportunity.
Stevie Johnson has been absent most of the week from the Bills’ practices as he has been in California following the death of a family member. He’s also got a sore lower back that impacted him in the Week Five loss vs. the Browns. While we fully expect Johnson to be back in uniform vs. the Bengals, his back issues will prevent him from doing much of anything against the Bengals.
The Packers are rapidly falling in love with Eddie Lacy, who is coming off a 99-yard performance against the Lions. They are going to make him their primary running option against the Ravens and after getting 23 carries last week, he should get at least 20 vs. Baltimore, even though the Ravens have the sixth-best rushing defense in the league.
Steelers rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton gets the stitches out of his finger on Monday, and if there’s no additional problems, look for him to start in Week Seven vs. Baltimore. Stash him if you need WR help.
Remember the scouting reports last spring that branded Geno Smith as selfish and not ready to play quarterback in the NFL? Those reports were not wrong. However, Smith has worked hard to fix his deficiencies as a passer and has looked in the mirror and decided to grow up. That’s why he is making the most of his opportunity. That makes Smith a legitimate bye-week performer when your starting quarterback is in a bye week. Not many believe in Smith, because he was added in just 2.5 percent of NFL.com leagues, but he is improving.
Love Him, Hate Him in Week Six
Brandon Weeden is back in the starting lineup for the Cleveland Browns. That may sound like a bad thing, but it is not. He completed back-to-back throws of 47 and 37 yards last week in the fourth quarter to receivers Greg Little and Josh Gordon, and that’s what he needed to get his confidence going in the come-from-behind win over the Bills. Head coach Rob Chudzinski has been building Weeden’s confidence all week, and he’s going to make the Lions’ defense pay. This will be a high-scoring game, and Weeden is going to get his. LOVE HIM
Cam Newton is still a walking, talking quarterback right now. He remains in the Panthers’ lineup, but the clock is ticking. He fell apart against the Cardinals in Week Five after the Panthers were coming off a blowout win over the Giants and a bye week. He couldn’t sustain success because he makes too many mistakes. The Panthers can’t depend on him and it’s probably going to cost both him and head coach Ron Rivera their jobs, and will drive you crazy as a Fantasy player. HATE HIM
Tight end Sean McGrath is primed and pumped for the Chiefs’ rivalry game with the Raiders. With Anthony Fasano remaining out, look for McGrath to get in the endzone at least once again the Raiders. McGrath, with his full beard, looks like he should be pinch-hitting for the Boston Red Sox. Instead, he’s getting open for the Chiefs. LOVE HIM.
Tight end Antonio Gates has caught 32 passes and is on pace for a 1,400-yard season. However, don’t expect much this week against the physical Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have the sixth-best passing defense, giving up just 201.4 yards per game. They are also going to come after Gates hard early in the game, figuring that a couple of good shots will take him off of his game. HATE HIM
BONUS LOVE: If you want an IDP standout, take a long, hard look at Kansas City middle linebacker Derrick Johnson vs. the Raiders. In 15 games vs. the Raiders, he has 102 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries.