Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots NFL Week 17 Free Picks: You never know what the Patriots are going to do, especially after watching Wes Welker go down to a season ending knee surgery late last year in a meaningful game before the playoffs. But Bill Belichick isn’t the type of guy to second guess himself, even when a tough injury got to his squad in a similar situation, so I think he plays his guys, at least most of them, for the better part of this game. If we’ve learned anything from the coaching of the master, it’s that his young defense needed seasoning to become a solid unit – and I don’t see why they wouldn’t come out playing tough against the Dolphins this Sunday morning.
I would think that Tom might get a half game off or so, but the Patriots do a lot of things right, and they will be well coached. With Miami’s head coach in danger of being ousted – and their quarterback questions looming, the pending free agency of both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, it’s hard to expect much out of those Dolphins.
Despite being favored in all but 1 of their last 10 games, the Patriots are 7-3 ATS with wins of 29+ points against two of the best defenses in football, the Jets and Bears.
I know Brady has a ton to do with his teams’ success, and nobody knows if he’ll play or not – but either way the best team will be at home on Sunday, and giving just 3 points makes them a solid enough bet for me.
KNOW YOUR BENCH: Upside over Mediocrity
Top “SKY” Players
1. Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins
2. Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins
3. Benjarvis Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots
4. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
5. Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers
6. Shonn Greene, RB, Jets
7. Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets
8. Steve Slaton, RB, Texans
9. Javon Ringer, RB, Titans
10. Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings
I had a flashback today as I was having a discussion with a fellow fantasy fanatic regarding how fantasy football use to be. No in-depth analysis, no player projections, and certainly no NFL-Redzone. A scramble for the morning paper to get the sports section. First scanning the page for big point totals and then slowly browsing down the box-score hoping to discover your player’s name followed by my favorite two letters TD. The title League Commissioner wasn’t merely a title, it came with a list of chores, requiring a B. A in mathematics, tediously adding each TD (+6), 100 yards (+3), and don’t forget the 50 yard bonus (+1). My how times have changed.
Mediocre “Dropable” Players
1. Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars
2. Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys
3. Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals
4. Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks
5. Kevin Walter, WR, Texans
6. Jericho Cotchery, WR, Jets
7. Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins
8. Cadillac Williams, RB, Bucs
9. Darren Sproles, RB, Chargers
10. Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers
The same tools that make the life of League Commissioner more efficient today can be used to be a smarter fantasy manager. Live scoring, match-up breakdowns, depth charts, etc. Don’t just hit the “total points” tab and search for who has produced. Find who has the potential to produce.
A player’s production is often directly correlated with his involvement in the offense. The more touches a running back gets, the more targets a WR/TE gets the more likely they are to add to your point total. Pretty simple concept, however in some cases, individual talent is over-glorified when a player’s productivity is more a result of the system rather than individual excellence. Identifying these systems can help you strike gold right when the bye weeks role around. (example: any RB in the Shanahan’ Broncos era)
The technique often referred to as “Hand-cuffing”-owning a high-valued player’s backup in case of injury- is great for insurance, however only maintains your team’s production. You want to find the diamond in the ruff that adds to your team’s production. In order to do so you must eliminate the mediocrity from your bench. Many leagues these days have ample roster space for the necessary back-up, however a mistake I see too often is managers owning similar tiered talents. Players who have the same eligibility and production ceiling. These are the players that you should eliminate and replace with “Sky players”, players who aren’t necessarily producing week to week yet have a huge upside. Whether; baring injury, suspension, or an evolving talent with increasing involvement in the offense. There are a handful of these talents emerging each week and the unfortunate saying “A play away” is a reality. One that could bode well if you’re ahead of the game.
I got lost in a maze and couldn’t write “10 for Tuesday” so I’ll just give you this one piece of free fantasy advice and hope it will suffice. I do love my readers though, so it should be a nice little tidbit of information.
There are some teams that have tough endings to the season, and now is the time to prepare yourself for a big finish and maybe even playoff match-ups. That’s right folks, teams like New England, who started the season with the Chiefs, Jets, Dolphins, 49ers, Chargers, Broncos, and Rams – now have to play the Bills twice, teh Dolphins D, the Steelers, and Cardinals as well. Even the Jets have a tough run defense. If you are holding on to Sammy Morris hoping for solid days, I would just about try to get any value for him as soon as now, or if he has one good game. But tough schedules aren’t what I’m here to talk to you about, I’m here to give you three players that have underachieved (aka they can be had for CHEAP) that have happy go lucky match-ups for the rest of the season (or most of the season). Here goes nothing.
Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown: Alright, Ronnie has really struggled the last couple weeks, and his value might be down right as low as it’s going to get. The thing is, this Dolphin team has a runner’s dream schedule going down the line. Broncos this week, then Seahawks, Raiders, Patriots, Rams, (Bills are tough), 49ers, Chiefs, and (Jets are tough in week 17, but nobody rocks Week 17). Also, Ricky is supposed to get a few more touches, which might make him a nice waiver wire addition. Big playoff bonus for Ronnie, and maybe Ricky too, the 49ers and Chiefs during playoff time when they’ll still be trying to win games – you have to like that.
DeAngelo Williams: I love Jonathan Stewart’s game, but it looks like Williams is going to be the main man in Carolina, and he’s been playing like a former first round pick, so why shouldn’t he? That being said, look at the Panther’s schedule and get even more excited for this easy pick-up. Williams has been pretty solid and he still doesn’t hold much value. But like I said, he plays the Raiders, Lions, Falcons, and Packers coming off Week 9′s bye. That should give him plenty of solid numbers, and being that he’s in a bye this week there’s likely no better time to get him. He has two tough games left on the schedule, but also plays Denver in Week 15, and you all know what running backs do to Denver.
Colts: Nobody can argue with me here, the Colts have their lowest value in years – but there’s an answer to those slow numbers on the way. Indy has New England this week, then Pittsburgh – but they it looks like an offensive explosion after that. Houston, San Diego, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville – and Week 17 Tennessee, but the Titans are probably done playing starters before that and Week 17 rarely matters anyway. It might be a good time to grab Peyton, Wayne, Addai, and maybe even Anthony Gonzalez (I like him more than Marvin heading forward) – those guys should all have brighter fantasy dreams in the 2nd half.
Lastly, let me say this, go for the Cardinals if you can. I know they’ve all played pretty well, but if you can still get Kurt Warner or Boldin or Fitz, or if someone is trying to get them from you, laugh a sinister cackle, because the Cardinals play two tough secondary’s the rest of the way (Eagles and Giants) and after that they have favorable match-ups. Go Captain Kurt!
Lets get right to it. You know the gig, you ask questions and I answer them. For God’s sake it’s not that freaking much of a scientific experiment to get all hoogily boogily about – but it is some sound advice that just might be able to help out this weekend. Let the games begin!
Pmatty says, “I picked up Matt Cassel after Brady went down. My other QB is Carson Palmer who stunk it up in week one. Who should I start Cassel or Palmer?”
Most fantasy “experts” would tell you to start Palmer because he’s the man with the history of solid play, not just a backup with a loaded offense. But that’s not my style. I would start Cassel. I’ve always been a huge fan of Palmer, but his pre-season struggles, and his first regular season game seem too similar to me. He really looks lost, and he’s going up against a very good defense in Tennessee. Cassell is going up against the Jets – not a good defense to say the least, don’t buy the hype. I would imagine he throws a couple touchdowns and ammasses 200 yards – not a bad day for a quarterback, and I think he’ll get that pretty easily. Good pick up Pmatty – until Palmer proves he’s out of his funk, I’d go with the starting guy for the Pats.
David asks, “If I have a choice between Deion and Hackett which one do I take?”
I’d go with Hackett because he’s still a nice option when Smith gets back, and it doesn’t look like Branch will play until Week 5 – the Hawks 4th game of the season, at the earliest. That’s when I expect him back. I think Branch will be a better option down the line, but if Hackett stays healhty I think he’s a bigger touchdown threat, especially in the Panthers’ offense. Branch would get more yards because of his situation in a pass happy Hawks offense without any true receiving threat outside of him and Branch, but I like Hackett as a player – we have a saying around this house that says, “Hackett is the best receiver on the field” kind of poking fun at the fact that he’s never on the field – but no doubt, if you told me he was going to play 16 games I would love to have him on my team. As of right now I just kind of like it.
Brady O asks, “Which of these trades would you accept? I’m the guy with Chad Johnson and Ricky Williams. Chad and Ricky for Calvin Johnson and Matt Ryan – Chad and Ricky for Cotchery and Vernon Davis – Chad and Ricky for Brandon Marshall and Felix Jones – Chad and Ricky for Slaton and Santonio Holmes.”
People are really running from Chad Johnson right now, and while I can see why, I don’t know if it’s the best move. You are not getting great value for one of the better receivers in the game, but I guess you are getting more of a sure thing because you’re trading a guy that has a relatively serious ailment and could opt for season ending surgery at any point – so I guess that makes sense. Anyway, it looks here like you are trying to pair Chad with Ricky in hopes of improving you receivers. The only one I wouldn’t do is Holmes and Slaton. I’m not the biggest fan of Holmes game, but he’ll be solid. If you want more of a health bonus, that’s not the worst deal. My favorite trade is Brandon Marshall and Felix Jones. I really dig Brandon’s game, even though he’s obviously a bit of a bonehead. Jay Cutler is the real deal, and with Eddie Royal’s quicks on the opposite side, he should get less coverage tilted his way this year. As a bonus I also see Jones with some value, especially if Superman Barber gets hurt. But my favorite receiver in this bunch, including Chad, would be Calvin Johnson, so if Ricky is just a throwaway to you, my advice would be to take Calvin. I think this kid could grab 90 passes for 1500+ yards this season. He’s legit. Good luck!
Gary says, “I was a bit of an idiot in my dynasty league this summer, didn’t pay much attention and got busy with work and life. In week 1 I started Steve Smith (Carolina) and in my other league Brandon Marshall. Ouch. Anyway, I was already on thin ice with the league, and now one of them wants to boot me. Should I step aside? I don’t want to, but they think I’m throwing my games to try and get the #1 pick, as if anybody would do that from week 1. Advice?”
Just tell them what you told me, but also add that if you do it again you will step aside and they can find a new owner. It sucks to be in dynasty leagues with people that don’t get on the site or pay attention to goings on around the NFL because the rest of the people in the league signed up for exactly that. It’s not that hard to get on the league site for 10 minutes a week, set your lineup, and read your team news just incase one of your players decides to smoke some weed before Week 2′s piss test. You owe that to the rest of the owners in your league. On the other hand, I can’t believe that a group of owners actually thinks you are trying to lose all your games from the start of the season. Do they think you just like donating cash to the cause or what? Don’t fight with them about it though, because that just seems to cause more problems – tell them you’ll quit if it happens again, and just play man. And win. Nothing is better than beating a bunch of people that suspect you of trying to lose your games.
I’ve got three more tidbits for you valued readers… Who else would give you this kind of love?
Chris Perry… Ravens – Ravens… Chris Perry: Poor guy. Chris Perry gets his first start in the NFL after being injured for what has seemed like his entire pro existence, and who does he get to try and stay healthy against? Oh, just the Baltimore Ravens. Hopefully he can catch the ball, because running it didn’t really pan out for opposing offenses last season. How many yards per rush do you think the Ravens gave up last year? 4? 3? Nope, try 2.8. Yes sir, 2.8 whole freaking yards. That’s the lowest in the league. Many would think that the Vikings were the best run defense last season because of all the hype that goes with their monstrous defensive line, and they did allow the least amount of total rushing yards, but no matter how hard opposing offenses tried, the Ravens wouldn’t budge. They were the only defense to keep opposing rushers under 3 yards per carry in ’07. I’m guessing Perry doesn’t look like a million bucks his first time out. You have to go back to 2000 to find a defense that bettered the Ravens in ’07, and what do you know, that was the Ravens.
Shaven, no Bush: Reggie hasn’t had a stellar start to his young career, but the Bucs really seem to cut him down to size. In two contests against the Bucs in ’07, Reggie rushed 23 times for 81 yards, 9 catches for 56 yards, zero touchdowns and 4 fumbles. In ’06, during his rookie year, Reggie had 20 carries for 18 yards, 15 grabs for 85 yards, and no scores. In one game he had 11 carries for -5 yards with a long of 3. I like Reggie. I think he’ll be a good player in this league, and he’ll figure out how to hit a hole during his third season. But, he won’t do it on opening day – don’t put all your eggs in this Bush.
Racking up the Yards: I know I talked about McFadden, Selvin Young, Thomas Jones, and the Ricky Williams/Ronnie Brown duo headed into this weekend’s games – but I found some more stuff that I just had to share. Only 3 teams gave up more rushing yards than the Jets. Only two teams gave up more rushing yards than the Broncos. Only one team gave up more on the ground than Oakland. And nobody allowed more rushing yards than the Dolphins. Lucky for you fan of the ground game, the Dolphins take on the Jets while the Raiders host the Broncos on Monday Night. This is what I call a tournament. The seedings would look like this… 4 @ 1 and 3 @ 2. I hope the winner gets to go to the Super Bowl – but that probably won’t happen. It’s a good week to own this group of fantasy backs.
Get back here at the end of the work week to read Five for Friday…
I’ve decided to throw out some fantasy advice, free of charge. Every single week I’m going to put some good stuff out for you to mull over in your fantasy minds. The articles will be entitled, “Ten for Tuesday” “One for Wednesday” “Three for Thursday” and “Five for Friday”. Each article will dive into as many fantasy observations as the title insists – 10 on tuesday, 1 on wednesday, and so in and so forth. The observations could, can, and will be anything that crosses my mind as important information. My goal is to sift through the irrelative fantasy junk and give you a few important tidbits prior to Sunday’s roster deadlines – 19 tidbits in fact. Since it is Tuesday, I’m on the books for 10 – good luck.
1. Sitting AP in Week 1: Adrian Peterson goes up against a pretty tough Green Bay Packers defense, and while that won’t be reason to sit him (as you certainly drafted him with your first round pick), the fact that his starting pro-bowl offensive tackle is out with a 4-game suspension might give you a couple second thoughts if you have a couple running backs with better match-ups as your 3rd options (Thomas Jones against the Dolphins, Mike Turner against the Lions for example) you might want to take that shot. I know that most of you won’t, and I’m going to have a hard time doing it in the league I have AP in, but it’s something to consider. Remember there is no player too good for a bad week – and it’s not looking sunny for AP in Green Bay.
2. Running Men in Miami: It’s going to be a run fest in Miami this weekend when Brett Favre and the Jets come to the beach. A lot of people think Brett is going to bring instant passing totals to Jet games, but considering that both the Dolphins and Jets have terrible run-defenses, I can’t see either quarterback putting up much more than 200 yards through the air. Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Ricky Williams, and Ronnie Brown will all get their chances to shine, and 300+ yards rushing between the four of them won’t surprise me.
3. Welcome to the Barber Shop: Marion Barber is going to beast defenses all season long, and I don’t think he’ll waste time – he’s starting in Week 1. Sure, the Browns added Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, but I still think Barber will rush for over 100 yards with a couple scores in Cleveland. We’ll see right away how much those huge off-season purchases do – will they change the entire defense? I doubt it, this unit in Cleveland is still sub-par.
4. Mr. Warner’s Neighborhood: It’s official, Kurt Warner has busted Matt Leinart’s bubble by plucking the starting job right out from under him. We heard all along that Warner and Leinart were on even playing ground, but nobody believed it until Kurt was named the starter. Now he goes up against a 49ers defense that he torched for 484 yards last time out. I’m not thinking he’s going for 484 again, but over 300 yards is very likely – so feel free to start him over guys you picked in the first 8 rounds of the draft – it’s not time to pretend you have a better starting option than the former MVP.
5. Earnest goes to New Orleans: Earnest went a lot of places in the 80s and 90s, but I never saw him throwing beads around the streets in New Orleans – this is a new Earnest and you can bet on him doing work against the Saints. I’m sure New Orleans will be better against the run this season, but they still won’t be good. Graham has a nice offensive line and while he’s gone under the radar a bit in the pre-season, he’s still a great option this week.
6. In Orton I Trust: Kyle Orton will outscore half of these quarterbacks in Week 1 – ready, Brett Favre, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, David Garrard, Derrick Anderson, Trent Edwards, Jeff Garcia, and Drew Brees. He’ll have a good game against a Colts secondary that is beginning to look very suspect. Think I’m crazy? You just wait and see.
7. 100% of the time, almost Every Time: If LaDainian Tomlinson doesn’t score a touchdown in Week 1 of the regular season it will be just the second time in his career. That’s right, this scoring machine has visited the end-zone on opening day every single year but once. Can you say consistency? You bet. He has had ups and downs in yardage during week 1, but a running back (or any position) that scores is a guy you want to start. Craziness…
8. 4 INTS for Brady?: Last time Tom Brady played the Chiefs he tossed 4 interceptions in a 16-26 loss. That’s half as many picks as he threw all of last year. That was 2005, sure, but it certainly wasn’t vintage Brady. This week a banged up and likely to be rusty Tom goes up against the Chiefs for the first time since they bruised his ego with all those picks. Will he toss the same number in touchdowns? I’m not sold. Expect a few blunders from the million dollar man – but he’ll figure it out late and pull the Pats out with a win. Just don’t expect that huge vintage 2007 Brady performance.
9. Poor Man’s Reggie Bush?: Don’t buy that crappy scouting tip – Chris Johnson is a smart man’s Reggie Bush. This is why, the Titans didn’t have to spend 50 million bucks or a #2 overall pick on Chris, and he’s going to be better than Reggie. He’s faster and less afriad of contact. He hits the hole with a mission and can catch the ball too. Oh, and he’s faster. His game speed is just as fast as the 4.2 track speed insists. His pro career starts this week against a good Jaguars defense, but he’ll make someone look silly – just don’t miss out, you’ll surely miss a highlight.
10. Selvin Young VS Darren McFadden: Lets put it this way, the yards battle will go to Selvin while the fantasy point title will end in McFadden’s favor. Those that were expecting McFadden to stumble in his rookie campaign can either jump on his bandwagon or be exposed later in the season – he can really run. The Broncos still don’t have an apt defensive line, and that doesn’t bode well for them. What is nice is the fact that Oakland doesn’t have a run-defense either, and this battle of first year starting backs should be fun to watch. Young is a sophomore, but with the starter’s keys in his hands it will be fun to see what he does with them. I like both these guys as starting options in Week 1 with McFadden getting the nod because of his knack for finding the end-zone.
Here it is, one more question and answer section from you guys to me – there were three pretty solid email questions that I thought would be good to share – these are them.
David-Bill-Bob from America writes, “What do you think of Ted Ginn as a possible receiver option this season? What about Robert Meachem, James Hardy, Devin Hester, and Sidney Rice? Can you rate that foursome?”
Oh yes, lots of upside here. Not very much sure-thing here, but who loves to play a game you’re sure to win? Not me – I’m all about the upside. Forget the Bobby Engrams and the Derrick Masons, I’ll wait longer and dance with the young-guns. I think Ted Ginn could be a great player in the Dolphins passing attack, but I doubt he’ll score many touchdowns. The thing that’s good about his situation is that Pennington throws short a lot and Ted is fast enough to get some separation early. As for the rest of the guys, Devin Hester is my favorite – he’s a touchdown waiting to happen, and even if he gets 60 catches this season, he’ll probably take 10 of them to the house. Robert Meachem could be the best of the bunch, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the kid coming out of college. He looked solid in the pre-season, and what a weapon he could be if Drew Brees finds a liking for throwing to him against single coverage. Sidney Rice is a nice sleeper – it’s said that T-Jackson is more accurate than ever, and with Berrian opposite Rice, Sindney should get lots of single coverage. I don’t know if the Vikes will throw enough to make Rice a solid start week in and week out, but the kid can go up and get the ball, which might be good for 6-9 scores as defenses will focus on the run. James Hardy was my favorite receiver in the draft and I think he has a bright future, but he’s just a rookie and the speed of the game might hamper him early. Keep an eye on him though, when he figures it out he’ll be a threat. I’d rank them like this… Ginn Jr. – Devin Hester – Robert Meachem – Sidney Rice – James Hardy.
Tim from Floresville, Texas writes, “The people in my league think I am crazy for trading Chad Johnson for Bernard Berrian. What do you think?? I only picked up Chad to trade him, his inconsistencies and the fact that Cinci has the 2nd toughest schedule against the pass this season made me trade him away.”
Tim, I think BB is a good receiver, but he’s not Chad Johnson. I fully understand taking Chad so you can trade him later, but I still don’t think you got the best value you could have by grabbing BB in a trade for him. If all you wanted was BB, you could have just drafted him instead of Chad. You likely would have gotten a better RB where you got Chad, and you still could have got BB later. You say Berrian didn’t have anyone throwing him the ball last year, but in reality, Tarvaris Jackson isn’t even as prolific through the air as Rex Grossman is. I like Jackson’s upside, but even if Chad has a down year and Berrian plays really well, I thikn the best you can hope for here is a push. Even against tough passing defenses, the Bengals still ahve Carson Palmer and TJ Housmandzadeh to help take the pressure off Chad. Maybe the Bengals just crash and tumble, and maybe Chad is hurt and out longer than expected – and maybe Jackson shows maturity and tosses 20 touchdowns. I don’t know, but that just seems like a lot of maybes to hope for. I have BB in a few leagues, and I would definitely trade him straight up for Chad in every one of them. But no, I don’t think you’re crazy, I think you’re courageous. There’s nothing better in fantasy football than making a trade that everyone thinks you are stupid for and coming out on top because of it. That means you were right and everyone else was wrong. That’s the best. You definitely did your research, and I’m rooting for you. Also, Chad isn’t consistent, that’s true. Over the last couple seasons, he’ll help you win 3 or 4 weeks and kill you for the other 10. With a lot of single coverage, because of Peterson, BB could end up being a lot more consistent that Chad. Good luck!
T.J. in Alabama says, “Papa, you have any sweet predictions this season? Last year you told me that Randy was going to blow up and Larry Fitz was going to lead the league – both had huge years for me and I’m back for more. Any secret advice?”
Like Chef once said, “You’ve got to find the clitoris.” That might not help in this particular situation, but it does allow older men (like myself) to pleasure younger women, which in turn gives hope to mankind. Alright, alright, I was planning on a little, “This is how I see it” article next week, but here’s a little preview, T.J., you impatient bastard!
Larry Johnson will be a Top 5 running back this year, making him an absolute steal at the end of Round 1 where he’s getting drafted.
Drew Brees will throw more touchdown passes (I’m thinking 36) than any other quarterback in the NFL this season. That’s right, while I’m not a huge fan of Jeremiah Shocker, he will take that much pressure off of Drew because of the constant attention opposing defenses will have to pay him. I don’t think Shockey’s touchdown totals will improve all that much (he’s bound to drop as many TDs as he catches – so probably 6-7 scores for him) but Reggie Bush, Colston, and Meachem will all set their season high touchdown marks this year. Brees as well.
Ricky Williams will have more fantasy points than Edgerrin James – this is no knock on James, because Ricky will outscore three of the following high-round picks… LenDale White, Earnest Graham, Ronnie Brown, Julius Jones, and Willie Parker.
Adrian Peterson extreemists are right, there will be at least one back that outscores LaDainian Tomlinson this season, but they are also wrong, because it won’t be AP – Marion Barber will lead all running backs in fantasy points this season.
And last but not least, Randy Moss won’t come close to his record touchdown catches of last year, but Wes Welker will score more fantasy points this year than he did last year – both are still great options to have.
Keep the questions coming, and stay tuned, I’ll be here all season! (hopefully the ticker keeps tickin’)