GRONK RETURNS TO A FULL COMPLEMENT OF TARGETS
In the majority of Fantasy leagues more than half the season is now over. It's amazing how fast the season goes by unless you're 0-7 or 1-6, then perhaps the second half of the season can't go fast enough. There are a couple of things to remember if you're out of it in a couple of your leagues. First, put in a competitive lineup week in and week out. You made a commitment to the league. It's still you're job to try and win each week even if you know you can't make the playoffs. Secondly, don't make trades that you know will upset the balance of power in the league unless you legitimately believe it will improve your team. Lastly, if you're in a keeper or dynasty league then your season isn't over. You still need to try and improve your team either with trades or waiver wire pickups. In these leagues the season is never really over.
One of the most common complaints I hear is when owners that are out of it abandon their teams, never making a waiver claim or setting a lineup. One way to stop this (or at least slow it down) in the future is to have a league where your place in the standings determines your draft order for next season. Now, I don’t mean that if you finish last you get the first pick, second to last the second pick, and so on. I mean that if you're in a league that rewards prizes (cash or otherwise), the person who finishes one spot of out of a prize position would get the first overall pick, second spot out of a prize position would get the second pick and so on. In other words, if your league awards a cash prize to the top three finishers then whoever finishes fourth would get the first pick overall, and so on. This keeps teams interested all season long. The teams that finish in the money would always get the last three picks. It's worked for several of my home leagues and it has certainly improved play. Now, on to the reactions from Week 7.
The Seahawks pass offense is looking better and better each week. Russell Wilson has been an average Fantasy QB for most of this season but in the last couple of weeks he is starting to use his legs more both in running and getting outside the pocket to make throws. This is starting to make him look like a dynamic quarterback once again. The possible return of Percy Harvin in Week 8 should only help matters. Harvin should be picked up immediately if he is still on your waiver wire. The Hawks will be playing Monday night in St. Louis and I have my doubts as to whether or not Harvin will play. That's the same Rams team that will more than likely have Kellen Clemons starting at quarterback. Somehow, I don't think the ‘Hawks will need to rush Harvin back to win this one.
Those of you wondering about how Matt Ryan would react after losing Julio Jones for the season and Roddy White for at least a game can relax a little bit. Ryan threw for three scores and 273 yards against a Tampa defense that is far from terrible. It seems the Bucs thought that if they took Tony Gonzalez away (2 rec for 30 yds) that they would stop the Falcons passing attack. Well, so much for that plan. Harry Douglas rewarded Fantasy owners who rushed to grab him with their number one waiver wire priority with 7 receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown. Keep those expectations in check, though. Now that Douglas has proven that he can handle himself, defenses will pay more attention and game plan to stop him. Another thing to keep an eye on is that the Falcons only had 18 yards rushing in the game. Steven Jackson can't come back soon enough.
Word has just come down that Doug Martin is probably out for the remainder of the season with a torn labrum. What a lousy ending to what has been a miserable season for both Tampa Bay and Martin. This was a Top-3 pick in most leagues – ouch! Mike James is the new hot guy to grab here.
How bad is your secondary when you can make Andy Dalton look like a Pro Bowler? The Bengals offense can be dynamic. When you have A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard you're going to hit some big plays, but it's the consistency, or in this case, Dalton's lack of consistency, that hurts the offense. Games like this one are few and far between.
Those worrying about when Calvin Johnson will return to Fantasy dominance can relax. He proved his knee has returned to health with nine receptions for 155 yards and two scores. I actually received several inquiries last week as to whether Johnson should be benched. I think it's safe to say I won't be getting the same questions this week.
Fantasy-wise, Ryan Tannehill had a good day. I'm assuming you're only starting him in two QB leagues or as a bye week replacement. In either case, you're going to take the three touchdown passes and run. Problem is, as an NFL quarterback he has regressed a little bit. Those scores came with only 194 yards passing and a couple of interceptions. If he is going to become a big time signal caller as some have predicted, then he had better pick up the pace. The running game in Miami has to be driving Fantasy owners to drink. Lamar Miller has been a huge disappointment this season. We knew going into the season that he wouldn't be the goal line guy, but now Daniel Thomas is getting more touches. This is not the situation Fantasy owners wanted to see themselves in.
[caption id="attachment_55082" align="alignright" width="300"] <em><strong>Rob Gronkowski was targeted 17 times in his first game back from his injuries/surgeries.</strong> Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/74703507@N02/">NH.com</a></em>[/caption]
There was the good and the bad for the Patriots this week. Rob Gronkowski returned in a big way, hauling in eight catches for 114 yards. I have to admit, I had some reservations about whether or not Gronk would see a full complement of snaps. It kept running through my mind that Bill Belichick and the Patriots guard injury news like they are nuclear launch codes. Why would they announce four days early that Gronk was cleared to play? This is what Belichick does to you.
Heading into the Patriots game you knew the Jets were going to try and run the ball down their throats with Bilal Powell. Unfortunately, Powell only had three rushing attempts, as Chris Ivory was the main ball carrier. This could be a problem for Fantasy owners going forward if the Jets continue to rotate their backs.
Even if Nick Foles hadn't suffered a concussion yesterday, the odds of him starting this week were almost zero if Michael Vick was anywhere near ready to go. Foles was terrible yesterday. He was 11-29 for 80 yards. Let those numbers sink in a bit. Keep in mind also, that this was against a Dallas secondary that was destroyed by just about every passing offense they had faced. The Eagles rushing offense wasn't any better, as LeSean McCoy had only 55 yards on the ground. He certainly didn't take any pressure off of Foles.
The Cowboys offense was also far from a thing of beauty. As a matter of fact, this game in general had to be extremely disappointing for Fantasy owners. The score was 3-0 at halftime - not exactly what we expected. Miles Austin has become the invisible man in the Cowboys passing offense. Sure, he has a bad hammy, but this is now back-to-back weeks in which he didn't have a reception. There is little doubt that Terrance Williams has passed him on the depth chart and should be picked up immediately if still on the waiver wire, but now there is a chance that Cole Beasley is also ahead of him. The bottom line is that in 10 team leagues, Austin could be waiver wire fodder. In deeper leagues he should stay on the bench for now. Joseph Randle looked okay as a replacement for the injured DeMarco Murray. With teams looking to slow down Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, the Cowboys should find running room. But still, in standard leagues you're hoping for six to eight points from Randle. It certainly didn't help any that Phillip Tanner stole the goal line carry.
Jay Cutler was another of the walking wounded from Sunday. He didn't return to the game after suffering a groin injury. Cutler is having a MRI on Monday which will let us know the severity of the injury and how long he will be out for. Josh McCown was impressive, going 14-20 and 204 yards and a score. I'm not sure if this tells you more about him or how bad the ‘Skins secondary is. Before you go out and grab McCown, remember that Chicago has a bye this week.
Sam Bradford is out for the year in St. Louis after suffering a torn ACL. Aside from two QB leagues, this really shouldn't change any Fantasy prospects. One thing it does change, however, is that with Clemons now likely to be the starting quarterback for the immediate future, about the only player on that offense I would start on my Fantasy team is Zac Stacy. Now that we’ve got a season-plus to give us perspective, we can better answer this question – just how big a mistake did the Rams make in passing up Robert Griffin III to keep Bradford in the 2012 draft?
I must not get fooled by Ryan Mathews. I must not get fooled by Ryan Mathews. I must not get fooled by Ryan Mathews. I feel like I should say this myself over and over again, but this is back to back weeks now that he has rushed for over 100 yards, and he even had a rushing touchdown this week. I don't want to get pulled in to trusting him again. It's getting harder and harder to resist, though. Phillip Rivers is looking great again, which is certainly helping the running game.
Jake Locker came back in a big way versus the 49ers. Granted he had to throw the ball 40-plus times, as the Titans fell behind early and often, but still, with 326 yards passing this is back to back games in which he has looked good. He's unlikely to ever become a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback, but he is starting to crack the Top 20. Chris Johnson is what he is at this point. He will only have Fantasy relevance if he hits the big play. Yesterday he did just that with a 66-yd TD reception; but more often than not he won't hit it big.
Remember earlier this season when many a Fantasy owner was upset with Frank Gore? Well, that is ancient history now. Gore looks like he has found the Fountain of Youth. He had 104 total yards versus the Titans with two more touchdowns. He is a Top 10 back in Fantasy, bordering on Top 5.
Our hopes and prayers go out to Jermichael Finley. He suffered a neck injury that required a stay in the ICU. He has movements in all of his extremities. Hopefully, this is all just precautionary and he will be back to full health soon. As for the Packers offense, Jarrett Boykin proved he has the trust of Aaron Rodgers, as he caught eight balls for 103 yards and a touchdown. It's probably too late to grab him, but if he is somehow still available on your waiver wire, go out and grab him. With all of the injuries to the Packers passing game, look for Eddie Lacy to still be a big part of what the Packers do. If Finley were to be out long term, Andrew Quarless would be next man up.
If you had Ben Tate as a handcuff to Arian Foster, I really hope you didn't release him. Foster suffered a hamstring injury which forced him to miss most of the game. A bigger question may be whether it really matters who is running with Case Keenum at the helm or Matt Schaub. Fantasy owners don't have to make a decision anytime soon, though, as Houston is on bye this week.
Ray Rice is really nothing more than a flex play for me right now. He doesn't have any burst of speed whatsoever.
Why was Ronnie Hillman carrying the ball near the goal line in a crucial situation last night? I guess it really doesn't matter now, but after that fumble, he may not see the field again until Thanksgiving. Knowshon Moreno's role as a Top 10 Fantasy back is chiseled in stone. Watching the game last night, there seemed to be quite a few passes from Peyton Manning that fluttered. Was he hurt? Is the wear and tear of the season catching up to him? Perhaps the long week just caught up with him. Either way, this is a situation worth watching.
It's looking more and more like the Cleveland Browns may have known what they were doing when they dealt Trent Richardson. Donald Brown looks like the better back right now in the Indy offense.
Reggie Wayne is next on the casualty list, as he is gone for the season with a torn ACL. T.Y. Hilton will now become a starter. He was only being used in three receiver sets but now will more than likely line up opposite Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Teams on bye for Week 8 are Chicago, Tennessee, Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore, and Houston.
As always feel free to follow me on Twitter and ask any questions you like, @georgekurtz.
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