by Bill Hudson
Three constants in each NFL season affect even the most casual Fantasy Football player:
- The consensus no. 1 overall pick in your fantasy draft will never be the best fantasy player at the end of the year
- An NFL team with tons of fantasy stars will see stud production out of only two or three of those players (I'm looking at you, New Orleans Saints over the last three years).
- The injury bug will crush most of your league by week six.
(Rummages around for league schedule)
Hmmm. Week six.
The injury list is starting to fill out quickly, with WR Julio Jones (ATL), RB David Wilson (NYG), TE Owen Daniels (HOU) and QB Michael Vick (PHI) out for at least this week. Week six byes only include Jones' Falcons squad and the (resurgent?) Oakland Raiders. But the dreaded bye week slam down is coming, with 18 teams on bye over the next four weeks. Free agent acquisitions won't win you the league if you have a suspect squad from draft day, but not making the right move after injury can certainly lose it for you.
Many fans of the New York Giants and QB Eli Manning owners would like to chalk up his recent stretch of putrid play to an injury, but Manning insists that, not only is he healthy, but he's playing O.K. The aforementioned injury to David Wilson and terrible line play on both sides of the ball are certainly factors, but the afterglow of two Super Bowl victories is not lasting in the Meadowlands. We'll start at the QB position to look for a short-term replacement for Vick and possibly a longer-term fix for the debacle under center in New York.
GRAB 'EM AND START 'EM
The Chargers have put up point totals of 28, 30, 17, 30 and 17. Not terrible, but far less than San Diego fans are used to. This has left QB Philip Rivers available in more than 15 percent of fantasy leagues, which is mind boggling after recent performances. Three 400-yard games and a completion rate greater than 75 percent completion rate makes for a top-tier QB. If he's there, grab him first.
After that, we get into backups and second tier guys. QB Geno Smith (NYJ) has earned the right to be on your team, even if to backup your primo ace. He's winning games, but he's also producing middle-to-good fantasy numbers. In a pinch, he will keep you competitive when it comes points. He's also available in 7/8ths of leagues, since he is the leader of the Jets and not a team expected to win.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick is still out there in more than a third of leagues surveyed, mostly because anyone who had him as a backup to a star quickly cut him to make room for a better player. The San Francisco schedule is starting to loosen up a bit, and Colin can throw it all over the yard, plus occasionally scramble into the end zone. A long-term fix for sure, and hosting the Cardinals this week looks to be the last tough matchup for the Niners offense until they face Seattle in December.
Others to watch for: Andy Dalton (CIN), Terrelle Pryor (OAK), Carson Palmer (ARI), Josh Freeman (MIN) - wait two weeks on Freeman, since others in Minnesota have to be deemed terrible by RB Adrian Peterson first before he gets a chance at the job.
Other deep-cut grabs away from the QB position:
Owen Daniels' broken leg sits him down for 4-6 weeks, so his replacement should see plenty of touches. That man is TE Garrett Graham. Pick him up and get slightly better-than-average output for four solid weeks. WR Jerome Simpson (MIN) will see a rotating cast at QB, but he's an athletic leaper who tends to bail out bad QBs when targeted at least on that Vikings squad. WR Jerricho Cotchery (PIT) finally put up a solid game before the bye, and he has a favorable matchup this week against the Jets. WR Terrence Williams (DAL) was a revelation in Tony Romo's 500-yard explosion against Denver last week, and he is still available in more than 60 percent of leagues. RB Da'Rel Scott (NYG) will get all of the carries Thursday in Chicago, which has never been a pass-friendly place to play. David Wilson's injury is likely to keep him out for at least two weeks.
Indianapolis DEF. Playing in San Diego against a white-hot QB Philip Rivers, this Monday night matchup will let the whole country see that the Colts' secondary is terrible. And since the Indy offense can score quickly, expect the Chargers to get plenty of chances to let Rivers play video-game level football with WR Vincent Jackson and RB Danny Woodhead.
RB Ben Tate (HOU). Houston's offense needs a breakout game from its backs, since QB Matt Schaub will be forbidden from throwing a football if a defender is in the same zip code for the next week or two. But don't expect the usually-dependable Tate to have a big game. RB Arian Foster is back in his alpha-dog role, so Tate will have a minimal impact (8 carries, 40 yards, 3 catches for 25 yards). He's a last-resort start against the Rams.
Everybody in Jacksonville. Facing the Broncos is no fun as is, but add in the woeful product the Jaguars are putting out and the QB Chad Henne project at the helm, and there's no way to predict what these guys will do. We do know there will be at least 35 minutes of garbage time. If Henne and WR Cecil Shorts get something working during that time and can score, consider those points pennies from Heaven.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Detroit Lions' offense against the Cleveland Browns' DEF. The Browns have been a Top 10 defense this season (!), and are riding a three-game winning streak since ridding themselves of a solid running back (RB Trent Richardson, IND) last month. RB Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, meanwhile, have combined for 450 yards on the ground and over 400 receiving yards to lead the Lions to the top of the NFC North. Since the other side of the ball should be totally dominated by the Lions, this is the matchup that will not only decide the real-life game, but will shape at least two of the matchups in your fantasy league. WR Calvin Johnson and QB Matthew Stafford are due to pop, and Johnson's knee has improved after a week of much-needed rest and rehabilitation.
BLOWN CALL OF LAST WEEK
This could have been a tie for six different statements I made, but the winner is certainly this one:
"RB Bilal Powell (NYJ): Despite not matching his surprising week three output last week against the Titans, Powell was a bright spot, with a second straight game of 100-plus yards from scrimmage on only 17 touches. QB Geno Smith will rely on Powell more over the next two weeks, starting with Monday night's matchup with Atlanta."
Powell amassed a whopping 38 yards rushing on 12 carries, paired with one lone catch for 9 yards. Geno, meanwhile, relied on everybody else to beat the Falcons on the road on national TV. The word of the day: Harrrrumph!
TE Rob Gronkowski (NE) will make his season debut against the Saints in Foxboro. That game promises to be a shootout in cool October weather. If Gronk is up to the task, he could set career highs in that game. Also, start everybody from both sides, much like last week's Cowboys / Broncos matchup.
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay has the chance to be the worst game of the year, with backups and never-shoulda-played dudes running around against aggressive defenses. Other than RB LeSean McCoy (PHI), everyone in this matchup is an emergency-only start to me.
Good luck, and good scoring.