RotoExperts: Blount Can Take Starting Job, Khiry Robinson May Rise

RotoExperts is excited to announce the addition of veteran pro football writer and Fantasy analyst Steve Silverman to the team. Steve will now bring you totally unique Fantasy insights from a true NFL Insider’s perspective. Steve is a highly experienced veteran of the pro football and Fantasy writing industries. With his deep network of contacts and Fantasy acumen, Steve will not only deliver insider insights, he will tell you how they affect your Fantasy outlooks and strategies.

Steve has been writing about pro sports since the 1980s. He spent 10 years as senior editor at Pro Football Weekly and he has also written for the Wall Street Journal, ESPN The Magazine, MSNBC, and Silverman currently covers all sports – including the NFL – for CBS New York and CBS Chicago. He co-hosted Fantasy Football Weekly on the Prime Sports Cable Network in 1994 and ’95. It was the first national Fantasy Football television program. Silverman has written eight sports books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football? This book ranks the top 60 players since 1950.

Silverman has won three writing awards from the Pro Football Writers of America. He also served was a radio talk-show host and NFL expert for radio station WSCR-AM in Chicago for 13 years.

Steve’s weekly columns will feature insider reports from around the league with Fantasy spins.

Blount can gain firm grip on starting job

The Pats have a physical running back, LeGarrette Blount, who just may provide the ground game that Tom Brady needs to keep opposing defenses honest. Blount will get his chance to possibly seize a starting job with a quality work in the short term, beginning with a matchup with the Bengals in Week 5.

Blount had 64 yards against the Falcons in Week Four after rushing for 65 yards the previous week against the Buccaneers. However, it was his 47-yard TD run against the Falcons that opened Bill Belichick’s eyes and now there is word that Belichick may prefer using him over the longer term, because he views him as the most talented RB on the roster.

Blount is bringing back memories of Corey Dillon, who ran for 1,635 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2004, the best season of his career. That was his first year in New England, and he would stay for two more years before he hung up his shoulder pads.

Like Dillon, Blount had something of a bad-boy reputation. Like Dillon, Blount is an overpowering back who will punish the defense when he leads with his shoulder. But it was his big play last week that has given him a chance to become the team’s No. 1 running back, especially with Stevan Ridley now ruled out for Week 5.

Blount should get the majority of the carries over Brandon Bolden this week, and if he can consistently get to the second level of the defense, he could emerge as the team’s unquestioned No. 1 back by Week Six vs. New Orleans or Week Seven when they travel to MetLife Stadium vs. the Jets. Ridley is now is in serious danger of losing his starting job for good. Even with the injury, Belichick simply can’t trust Ridley to hold onto the ball.

Belichick never gives anything away, but sharp Fantasy players would be wise to grab hold of Blount and get ready for his ascension to the No. 1 running back spot.

You don’t have to be a star to make plays for the Saints

If you want to know how to score in the NFL, you need a team with options.

Superstars are nice and may get you Fantasy points, but if you really want a chance to win your league, find players who come from teams with offensive options.

The Saints are on a roll, and they haven’t even played their best offensive football yet. They have scored 108 points going into their Week Five game against the Bears, but the most impressive stat so far has been provided by the defense. The Saints have allowed just 55 points, and that has a lot to do with the job that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is doing since taking over a unit that was doomed by Bountygate in 2012.

But the Saints’ best offensive times are coming. You already know that Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham are every-week staples in the lineup.

With the Saints, you have many more options than just the QB and the TE. Particularly this week against the Chicago Bears, who are having a difficult time pressuring opposing quarterbacks.

One of those options is wide receiver Kenny Stills, who was targeted six times by Brees Monday night and caught four passes against the Dolphins. There’s going to be more of that against the Bears, partially because Lance Moore (wrist) remains out of the picture and also  because Stills knows how to get open.

The other reason is that Sean Payton likes Stills’ speed and may use him to go deep. All eyes will be on Graham and Marques Colston, so Stills will have an opportunity to get his points Sunday.

Further down the line, the Saints just may find a place for backup running back Khiry Robinson. He continues to play impressive football whenever he gets the opportunity. He made the team in training camp by rushing for 229 yards and catching 11 passes. He has 75 yards in two games on 16 carries, and that 4.7 average has impressed offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.

Robinson is way down the depth chart, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to play. He made the team as an undrafted free agent out of West Texas A&M, so he’s already accomplished a lot. He’s got the agility and moves to make tacklers miss, and he has a chance to shock when he’s given an opportunity.

So far, he’s been getting his opportunities in garbage time, but that does not mean he’s going to remain in that position much longer. The Saints coaching staff is getting ready to give him a chance in real-game opportunities the next few weeks.

McCoy, Whisenhunt working wonders with Rivers

The numbers don’t always tell the story on Philip Rivers, because more often than not, he’s going to build a good statistical year.

But the 2013 season is not the usual year for Rivers, who has been on top of his game throughout the season and was at his best in the Chargers’ Week Four victory over the Cowboys when he threw for 401 yards by completing 35-of-42 passes with three TDs and an interception.

Last year, Rivers completed 338-of-527 passes for 3.606 yards with 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions as the Chargers finished with a 7-9 record, and that was the final piece of evidence needed to fire Norv Turner.

Rivers is a man reborn under new head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Throw in quarterback coach (whisperer) Frank Reich, who is helping keep Rivers happy this season.

When Rivers is happy, he is special, and these numbers are special: 105-of-142 for 1,199 yards with 11 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. If it weren’t for Peyton Manning blowing everybody away, it might be Rivers who would be getting the headlines and leading off all the highlight shows.

Rivers is one of the most hot-tempered and emotional quarterbacks in the game, but this year he has been wearing a smile and playing his best game. Whisenhunt and Reich are making sure he is happy because they are giving Rivers the plays and the options they need to be successful.

Under the Turner regime, the Chargers would not always have the second and third options available that Rivers needed to make the right decision.

We hear that the coaches are going over all play calls with Rivers against each opponent and letting him know – and backing it up with videotape – what he will see on every play call. Turner & Co. certainly attempted to do that, but when Rivers asked questions or raised issues, they were never answered completely.

Whisenhunt, perhaps the most thoughtful offensive mind that the Chargers have had in decades, not only answers Rivers’ questions, he takes them two and three steps forward.

Rivers always wants to be prepared when he takes the field, and he feels better about knowing what opponents are going to throw at him than he ever has in his career.

Rivers is a Fantasy stud right now, and most importantly he is a happy Fantasy stud. He hasn’t been in that position in several years, so he is a must-play until further notice and so are tight ends Antonio Gates (25 catches) and Eddie Royal (5 touchdowns). It’s time to start believing what you see with Rivers and expecting more quality Fantasy outings going forward.

What has happened to Colin Kaepernick this year?

By the end of last season, he was the most dynamic quarterback in the game. His blurring speed and passing accuracy brought the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl and lifted Kaepernick to Fantasy icon status. Many expected him to be one of the game’s dominant players this year.

However, Kaepernick appears to be looking over his shoulder this year and there’s a degree of timidity to his game. He is averaging 200.2 passing yards per game and he has just 5 TDs to go with his 4 interceptions.

What gives? Take a look at the snarling and stomping Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines. Harbaugh is one of the game’s great frontrunners.

Play well for him and he’s your best friend. Harbaugh will praise his players to the hilt under those circumstances.

But when things don’t go well for the 49ers, he makes life miserable for his players. That includes Kaepernick. Harbaugh will question and second-guess his quarterback, and put even more pressure on him.

Harbaugh, of course, wants to win badly. But he hates losing even more. When he looks at the standings and sees Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks in first place and undefeated in the NFC West, Harbaugh is seething. When that happens, he makes everyone around him miserable.

Our sources have told us that Harbaugh has always been that way, but that his 49er players didn’t know it until this year because he was so successful in his first two years in San Francisco. Now, the other part of Harbaugh’s personality is coming out, and that’s not necessarily a good thing for Kaepernick and the Niners.

Get Roddy White back in the lineup.

Don’t waste any time to do it, because he’s healthy again and ready to get back to a key role in the offense. If you needed an indicator, it was his time on the field against New England on Monday night. White participated in 74 of the 75 Falcons’ offensive plays.

Prior to that, a sprained ankle had limited him to perhaps 60 percent of the Falcons’ offensive snaps. White hasn’t caught more than three passes in any game, but that’s going to change against the Jets. He’s healthy again and he wants the ball.

If White can start contributing again, he can lift the Falcons back to being a playoff contender. If they don’t act quickly, they will sink into the abyss. Julio Jones is dominating the numbers with 33 catches for a league-best 481 yards and 2 TDs, but they need White to start making the plays he has made for the last six years. White has caught 83 or more passes six straight years, so his track record indicates he must get the ball again.

We hear that White wants the ball and the Falcons are going to accommodate him.

Silverman Surfing

After his four-game suspension, Justin Blackmon returns to the Jaguars. He needs to show head coach Gus Bradley something immediately and don’t be surprised if he gets in the end zone against the Rams.

Alshon Jeffery’s role with the Bears is only getting bigger. He cut the fat from his body after his rookie year and he simply won’t drop it. He caught five passes against the Lions, and he should do just as well if not better this week against the Saints.

Rashad Jennings of the Raiders looks like a decent option because of injuries to Darren McFadden (hamstring) and Marcel Reese (knee). The Chargers are tough to run against, but Oakland needs something on the ground and Jennings is going to get his opportunity there.

Dolphins tight end Charles Clay is now a must-play following his six-catch performance against New Orleans, which gives him 20 for the season. Clay got a taste of the end zone vs. the Saints, and there’s more to come.

Niners running back Kendall Hunter is already a viable factor, but he becomes vital if Frank Gore gets hurt or Jim Harbaugh wants to lighten the load. Gore’s physicality is a symbol of how the Niners want to play, but out-toughing everyone leads to injuries.

We hear that Rivers loves wide receiver Keenan Allen and that he’s going to become a bigger part of the Chargers offense. Allen has worked hard since the start of training camp, but his five catches vs. the Cowboys got the attention of the San Diego coaching staff.

Love him, Hate him in Week Five

I doubt the Dallas Cowboys are going to get the best of the Denver Broncos this week at Cowboys Stadium, but there’s no doubt that Tony Romo is going to light up the Denver defense. Much of it has to do with the Broncos building huge leads early in the game, but the Broncos have given up more passing yards than all but the Eagles and Vikings. Romo could put 350 yards and 3 TDs on the board. LOVE HIM.

After three straight victories to open the season, the Dolphins defense got exposed in their Monday night loss at New Orleans. The Ravens are next up for the Dolphins, and it’s not going to get any better. Joe Flacco is embarrassed after throwing five interceptions, and he’s going to come out firing. Nobody is going to benefit more than Torrey Smith, who had a career-best 166 receiving yards last week. Smith will light up Miami’s secondary, which is giving up nearly 300 yards per game. LOVE HIM

The Houston Texans have plenty of problems on the offensive end, but their pass defense is the best in the league through the first four weeks. They have given up 141 passing yards per game. There’s no way they can stay at that level, but their coverage has been excellent. San Francisco wide receiver Anquan Boldin has caught 24 passes for 372 yards and 2 TDs, but the Texans’ secondary will shut him down. HATE HIM.

Reggie Bush (18-139-1) of the Lions is coming off one of the best rushing games of his career vs. the Bears in Week Four. Now he has to go to Green Bay, and the Lions have not won in Wisconsin since 1991. The Packers, coming off a bye, and a Week Three loss to Cincinnati, will shut down Bush. He does not play well in October, as his career splits say that his 3.80 yards per carry is the worst of any month of the season. He will get hammered early by the Packers defense and shut down early. HATE HIM.