PEYTON TURNS SAINTS INTO SINNERS
Matthew Stafford had himself a day on Sunday, completing 32 of his 49 passes for 352 yards and three scores, to go along with another touchdown scamper on the ground. It was also a game of firsts, as he tossed his first two first quarter touchdown passes of the season and also had his first multi-touchdown game. Typically when Stafford has a big game like this, Calvin Johnson is a major part of it. Not this time, as Seattle and their big secondary did a fantastic job taking him out of the game. After catching just three passes for 46 yards, Megatron has hauled in just six passes for 80 yards over his last two contests. Teams have been employing some serious bracket coverage in his direction, forcing the Lions to either try and beat them via the run or using other receivers. This week Titus Young stepped up in his first game as a starter in place of Nate Burleson and hauled in nine passes for 100 yards and a pair of scores. The ability of Young to continue to exploit single coverage will be a huge factor in whether or not Johnson will be able to get his season on track. After scoring 16 touchdowns last season, he has just one through seven games. Fantasy owners that used a first round pick on him are likely finding themselves staring up in the standings of their league. Now that the league has a blueprint on how to stop him, weekly domination from Megatron is no foregone conclusion.
If someone would have handed Tony Romo a gun in the first quarter of their game against the Giants there is no doubt in my mind he would have accidentally shot himself in the foot with it. His three first half interceptions spotted the Giants a 23-0 lead, but they also meant he had to keep throwing to stay in the ballgame. He finished his day completing 36-of-62 of his passes for 437 yards and a touchdown to go along with four picks. Romo’s early woes meant big games from his receivers. Jason Witten hauled in a mind-boggling 18 of his 22 targets for 167 yards, Miles Austin had nine grabs for 133 yards and Dez Bryant had five for 110. This team more often than not makes mistakes that cause them to play from behind. Because of this these guys are going to continue posting solid numbers moving forward.
The Chiefs got drubbed by the Raiders 26-16 at home and in the process managed to give Jamaal Charles just eight touches, seven in the first half. He finished the game with just 10 total yards. Needless to say, Fantasy owners were expecting much more from him facing an Oakland defense that heading into this week, was giving up an average of 18.3 points-per-game in standard scoring leagues to opposing running backs. After the game when questioned on why Charles wasn’t more involved on offense coach Romeo Crennel “didn’t know”. This tells me a few things. First, that this coaching staff is dysfunctional. How can a head coach have no idea about player usage, especially his best? After this news conference if I was Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt I would seriously be questioning how much longer this staff remains employed. I think Crennel knows this as well and will force-feed Charles as much as possible to hopefully save his job.
Remember Week 2? Peyton Manning threw three first half interceptions against the Falcons and everyone and their mother was clamoring that this guy was done. Man, that seems like light years ago now. Since that game, Manning has connected for 14 touchdowns against just one interception while throwing for 1,619 yards over his last five games. Things get even better, folks. A look at Denver’s schedule reveals that the best statistical pass defense they face moving forward belongs to Kansas City, which currently ranks 10th in the league. With a pair of fine receiving options in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker and the offense now all on the same page, I feel safe confident in saying Manning leads all quarterbacks in Fantasy scoring moving forward.
Carolina’s Steve Smith has the distinction of being the player with the most receptions (35) on the season without reaching the end zone. Last season he hauled in 79 passes for 1,394 yards and seven touchdowns while receiving 129 targets. This season he is on pace to catch 80 passes for 1,344 yards while receiving 144 targets. Minus the touchdowns we are looking at the exact same player from last year. Trust me when I say most Fantasy owners aren’t aware of this fact, making Smith a fantastic buy-low candidate. The explosive playmaking ability is still there folks. He is averaging 16.8 yards-per-reception is the third highest mark of his career and ties him for eighth in the league this season. His not reaching the end zone is more a result of bad luck than anything.
With back-to-back 100 yard rushing games, Jonathan Dwyer has proven he is more than capable of handling the starting job in Pittsburgh. The problem is Rashard Mendenhall is expected back from his Achilles injury next week to face the Giants. If asked who I thought the better back was, I would answer Mendenhall, so its no surprise to me that he would return to a starting role. What I do fear is that the strong play of Dwyer coupled with Mendenhall’s struggles to stay healthy mean this backfield turns in to a full-blown timeshare situation. As an owner of both backs I will be trying my best to unload them in anticipation of this happening. The Steelers don’t care about Fantasy owners; they are looking at the big picture. That is, keeping their guys healthy for a run at the post season.
Robert Griffin III had a monster start to his season, but I want to take a moment to speak about Andrew Luck. Through seven games he has thrown for 1,971 yards and eight touchdowns to go along with eight interceptions. The picks should be expected, as the kid is learning on the fly and still learning to read complicated NFL schemes. Cam Newton set the NFL record for passing yardage for a rookie last season with 4,051 yards. Luck is on pace to absolutely shatter that mark with 4,506 yards. That yardage total would have ranked him seventh in the league last year. After running quarterbacks like the aforementioned Newton and Michael Vick come crashing down to earth this season I am of the opinion that Luck will ultimately be the better NFL quarterback. In my mind RGIII is superior to both Newton and Vick and will continue posting solid numbers. My problem with him is he puts himself in harm’s way a little too much for my liking. I think RGIII will be a first round pick next season in Fantasy drafts. Based on the way things are going now, Luck is looking like a guy who will go anywhere between rounds six and eight. There is more value in Luck, so he will be the guy I am targeting next season.
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