October 26, 2011

Let Them Preach: Week 7

By: Christian Hardy

This Sunday was unethical for me. 

I missed my Dallas Cowboys play for the first time in years for my little brother’s birthday at Island Park in Winfield, Kansas. Could you guess what I was doing at the party? 

I was draining the battery on my Evo Shift with my Yahoo! Sportacular app, refreshing the Cowboys’ gamecast endlessly, as an addictive fan would. 

Who did I see running wild, breaking records, and breaking Twitter? Not Emmitt Smith, not Tony Dorsett; it was DeMarco Murray who had one of the most historic days in Cowboys’ history (but still not as good as my beloved Miles Austin in his first NFL start). Third round pick, former Oklahoma Sooner, and also the third-string running back before the start of this game. 

All of which happened while I was at Island Park.

That was just a needle in a haystack in comparison to the rest of the NFL in week seven, however, I missed all of the afternoon games, so I am depending on Sports Center and box scores to do four of these games. In the noon games, well, it wasn’t pretty. Probably one of the most boring/most odd/hectic line up of games in the history (nine years) of me watching NFL football. But, that’s where I come in. To evaluate and pick apart what happened on Sunday in each and every game. Let’s get the bus rollin’.

Seattle Seahawks @ Cleveland Browns
1. This was the most awful, boring, horrific game that I have ever seen. If you weren't aware, the final score was 6-3 in the Browns' favor. Obviously, in a 6-3 game, no fantasy owners gained from this matchup.

2. Who knew that missing Tavaris Jackson would hurt the Seahawks this much? Three points!? Are you serious? There is no way Charlie Whitehurst deserves this job, and he shouldn't even be in the debate for it.

3. Montario Hardesty is no Peyton Hillis, that is for certain. Hardesty went just 33 for 95 and it was absolutely terrible. I know the Seahawks have a very good run defense (best in yards per carry allowed, as I have preached), but with 33 touches, I wouldn't of been surprised if Peyton Hillis (if healthy) would of ran for 150 yards and a touchdown. Very discouraging performance from Hardesty here, and just a discouraging game overall.

Atlanta Falcons @ Detroit Lions
1. Michael Turner is the center of this offense right now. Matt Ryan is, simply, not playing good football right now. He isn't reading defenses well, and that's about all there is to it. I'm not sure if he is struggling to find open receivers, but I doubt it since he is still making smart decisions. But it seems to me like he just isn't seeing the defense as it should be seen, and that's a problem.

2. We all knew that sooner or later the Lions' weren't going to be able to just lean on Calvin Johnson to win the game for them, and that seems to be the problem. Their offense, other than Calvin Johnson, has struggled in the last two games. In the first five games of the season, all of which were wins, the Lions averaged 379.6 yards per game; in the two games following, both of which were losses, they have averaged just 286.5 yards per game. See a trend here? Their offense is falling off, and they need to get their mojo back.

 3. The Falcons are one of the most inconsistent, non-Vegas-friendly team in America. So first, they come out with a loss at Soldier Field, not too surprising, right? Then a win at home against "Dream Team" Philadelphia; most spectators think that they can win this game at home. Then they score just 13 points in a loss to Buccaneers (who have been quite streaky themselves) and then  a mere win at Seattle. After being derailed in Green Bay, the team is back on track with two straight wins, but here's the question. Can the Falcons return to "elite" status, where they were last year? It will be an ultimate test of prestige in the Superdome in week 10, and what a game that should be.

Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans
1. Arian Foster? Top three running back? He played 48 snaps (according to Pro Football Focus) for this team that was without their star wide receiver, Andre Johnson, and he touched the ball 30 times. That is, an unheard of, 62.5 percent. Does this team lean on Arian Foster?  You bet they do, and for god reason.

2. Chris Johnson learned his lesson, and he learned it the hard way: Don't hold out. He was 10 for 18 in this game, and it might of been his worst game yet. He has averaged just 2.9 yards per carry thus far in 2011, and in comparison to his previous years, that is just ridiculous. In 2010, Johnson ran for 4.3 yards per carry and in 2009 (his 2,000 yard season) he averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Do you see what I see? It isn't just this year; Johnson fell off last year,and now he is just cliff diving. This is why I wouldn't of drafted Chris Johnson in the top four picks this year.

3. 41-7. The final score of what was supposed to be a divisional "battle". This game was more one-sided (or one player with Arian Foster), than almost (Saints, 62-7) any other game. I think we know who has the edge in the division right now: The Houston Texans.

Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1. Matt Forte is...A) Extremely talented; B) The only reason Bears win football games; C) Underpaid; D) A top five NFL running back; E) All of the above? Well, if you guessed E then you were right. Forte has been dominate when he gets the touches, and in this game he just confirmed that. He touched the ball 27 times (25 carries, two receptions) and had 173 yards. Of course, it wouldn't of been complete without a touchdown to go along with all of that. Top five fantasy running back, and top five real life running back.

2. I have come to my consensus that no Bears' pass catches is worth owning. There are guys with much more upside that can, and will, do more for your team than any Roy Williams, Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox, or Dane Sanzenbacher is going to do for you. You would be better off just searching around for a different guy to have hang around on your bench.

3. Seconds after Earnest Graham went down in this one (before I knew that it would end his season and quite possibly career), I said to myself, " Kregg Lumpkin is going to get his chance. This is his break." Well, not so much. If you want to pick somebody off of waivers this week, this is not your guy. Not even in a 20 team league, that's how bad he was. Stay AWAY!

San Diego Chargers @ New York Jets

1. Although he is not completely healthy yet (according to ESPN's Stephania Bell), the break that he took is going to help him tremendously in the long run. That particular bone in his foot has been bothersome for a over a year now, and he said the pain feels just about as good as ever after the game on Sunday. It's going to help Rivers out a ton (A TON) because he finally has that red zone target that he can throw to in the end zone instead of just pounding the ball on the ground. 

2. If someone is willing to give up a decent amount of "prospects" for Plaxico Burress then you have to jump on it. He is not going to have these type of numbers again, and it was a completely fluke game (only four catches and three were touchdowns). Sell high if you can.

3. Shonn Greene has proven me completely wrong. He can actually produce as a starting running back (even though he was technically the backup in this case) in this league. If the Jets continue to give him 20+ carries per game (which has become a trend in the last three games), then he is going to have relevance, whether any of us like it or not.

Denver Broncos @ Miami Dolphins
1. Tebow is a winner. Always has been, always will be. It was apparent as ever in this game. First, as Adam Schefter tweeted, in all of his years of coaching, one of his teams had never recovered an onside kick? Tebow did. A team has never come back from 15 points or more in under 3:00. Tebow did. All other five quarterbacks making their season debut lost on Sunday, but Tebow? He won. Tebow is a winner, and he will be a for a long time to come.

2. The Dolphins are terrible in every aspect. They can't move the ball, and if Tom Brady was the one throwing the ball in the first three quarters then I wouldn't be surprised if the Broncos put up 40 points. But then again, the Broncos probably wouldn't be 2-4 right now if they had Tom Brady on their team.

3. Champ Bailey is under rated at this point in his career. No one else talked up Champ who was going up against Brandon Marshall, but I did. What happened? Marshall went 6 for 61 and had a worse game than he did against Revis. Don't you ever underestimate a Champ.

Washington Redskins @ Carolina Panthers
1. This is bold, and I think that I might be crazy for saying this, but I think Fred Davis might be an elite fantasy tight end for the rest of the season. I told you it would sound crazy, and it probably does right now. But, he is going to have a struggling quarterback for the rest of the season, which is usually a plus for tight ends (for Davis it has been). Besides that,their entire team is banged up and Cooley was put on injured reserve! Davis is a great candidate to fill that "TE" spot on your roster, and I don't think it is crazy to say that he is a top five tight end for the rest of the season in 2011.

2. Cam Newton to Steve Smith. We have heard it 39 times during the game this year, and hundreds more times on the radio and the television. These two have something special, and as long as Smith stays in the league, it is going to stay that way. Smith is the building blocks of Cam Newton's success in the NFL thus far. Smith was seven for 143 in this game, and we're only going to see more where this came from.

3. Johnathan Stewart finally got more carries, and he didn't just let them go to waste. He found the endzone in this game (14 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown), while DeAngelo Williams averaged just 3.5 yards per carry on the ten carries that he got. I know that I can't grant Stewart fantasy points, or put him in the right situation, but if he does get in that right situation where he is a lead back on an above-par team, then he will finish top ten in the league in rushing, and I don't doubt it one bit. He has the speed, pass-catching ability, vision, and good judgement that an NFL back needs. Look for him to be in positive places somewhere in the near future.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders
1.Don't just look at the score and assume that the Chiefs dominated this game, because they didn't. They played some really bad football. Cassel completed just 50 percent of his passes to go along with his two interceptions without a touchdown. The Chiefs did what they had to do, but they still looked awful, Cassel especially.

2. The whole "feature back" thing for Jackie Battle didn't quite workout. He got 15-20 carries like I expected from him (16), but his counterparts (McCluster and Thomas Jones) had a combined 19 carries and to make it all worse, LeRon McClain vultured a touchdown and then Javier Arenas stole a touchdown. Just an upsetting game for me, as a Battle believer and owner.

3. The Raiders want to make Darrius Heyward-Bey a part of this offense, and they have made that loud and clear for fantasy owners to hear. With 80 yards or more in four straight games, you have to believe in this guy (not to toot my own horn, but I believed in him after week one). DHB had three more catches than any other pass catcher with five receptions and he led the team in targets, to go along with nearly half of the teams receiving yardage. If Heyward-Bey is not owned then you need to get him on your squad, but I would imagine that he is owned in most places.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Arizona Cardinals
1. After this game, I didn't think that the Steelers had a chance in this division despite the win. But then I saw the Ravens play on Monday Night and boy did that upset me (more later). Their offensive line looks bad, they can't run the ball, and Ben is barely getting rid of the ball on time; that's just on offense. I know a lot of  these things are a product of injuries, but a team has to overcome those injuries if they are going to win football games.

2. Even if stats say that the Cardinals aren't one of the worst in the NFL in pass defense, they are in the bottom five in my books. Ben Roethlisberger torched them for 361 yards and three touchdowns without forcing a single turnover. That's bad defense, I don't care what statistics say.

3. Early Doucet, although Kolb is struggling and he is the second option on this team, is a great pickup that no one is really talking about much. Kolb continues to look for him and he has put up nine fantasy points in the past two games, and he has been the top slot guy for the Cardinals. If he keeps this up then he is a good flex option each and every week. 

St.Louis Rams @ Dallas Cowboys
1. I could sit here and talk about DeMarco Murray all day. I watched the game film, and after watching it, I realized that I have never seen the offensive line block like they did for Murray on Sunday against the Rams. Not only that, but Murray has great vision and speed so he can find the hole and cut to it quick. Once he gets through that hole, he is physical and can break tackles too. Great fantasy pikcup, but unless he does something close to this again, I'm not sure he is ever going to get more carries than Felix Jones (when healthy).

2. Brandon Lloyd is clearly ready to play for the St.Louis Rams and already knows the system well. AJ Feeley didn't hit him (who would of thought) but he was the most used pass catcher in this offense. Despite the lackluster play from Feeley, Lloyd still caught six passes on twelve targets (which was six more targets than anyone else). I'm very excited to see what Lloyd and Bradford can do when Bradford returns from injury

3. Jason Witten is probably the most dependable target in the planet, but, I already knew that, so, let's move along.

Green Bay Packers  @ Minnesota Vikings
1. Greg Jennings is one of the safest wide receiver plays in terms of consistency, and who isn't consistent with the best quarterback in the NFL throwing you the ball. He has 100+ yards in three of his last five games and he has three touchdowns in those games. Sounds like a safe play to me.

2. If Rodgers wasn't the favorite for NFL Most Valuable Player then he sure is after a  perfect 158.3 quarterback rating against the Vikings. 

3. I sitll don't want to be ANY part of either Packers' running backs; but, if I have to choose one with a gun to my head, I would choose James Starks. He looks better (as I have said all year), even against a stronger, more physical run defense. Feel free to drop Ryan Grant. 

Indianapolis Colts @ New Orleans Saints
1. I know it was the Saints against arguably the worst team in the NFL, but 62 to..seven!? Seriously? Imagine being Peyton Manning, sitting on the sideline watching the team that beat you in the Super Bowl destroy you again while you are sitting on the sideline just waiting. Imagine how he must feel. The Colts, without a doubt in my mind, are the worst team in the NFL right now, and I'm not sure if that is going to change this year.

2. Let's change winds and head in the direction of the Saints. I know they were playing the Colts, but sixty-two points! Drew Brees and the Saints have been remarkably, but quietly, very good this year. In fact, I think the Saints could give the Packers their first loss in the Super Dome. That isn't that point though. The point is that this team is somewhat flying under the radar, and I'm not sure they will be noticed until it comes times for the playoffs.

3.Jimmy Graham is easily the best tight end in football right now. He is dominating every team, whether it be Graham himself, or just how good Brees has been. In terms of fantasy value, if I were in a redraft today I think Graham would go in the third round. He is that good. And if you disagree just look at his numbers compared to #2. Rob Gronkowski is number two and he is 27 points (!) behind Jimmy Graham., or over two points per week difference., and Graham is doing this on a consistent basis, unlike Gronkowski.

Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars
1. ESPN picks only the best games for their Monday Night Football selection; the best ones that will bore you to sleep. Only 351 yards of total offense, from both sides of the football. It was ugly.

2. Jason Hill was, in fact, a sleeper this week. He ran the most pass routes of all the receivers (Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas) beating out Mike Sims-Walker by one route, and he also was second in snaps (for wide receivers) behind only Mike Sims-Walker (56) who had thirteen more than Hill (43). 

3. MJD, similar to the Falcons' situation, is the majority of the offense right now. Against one of the best run defenses in the league (Ravens), Maurice Jones-Drew ran the ball 30 times for 105 yards., which was more than half of the total offense. Look for a lot of Mo-Jo Drew in the future. 

Thanks for reading. I will be back tomorrow with my rankings and Zach will have his Injury Report for us. Until then, you can catch me on Twitter for any trade questions or lineup advice, or, for longer questions, you can hit up my email.

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