Aggressiveness is a characteristic that tends to reward fantasy
owners more times than not. In the NFL, an offensive line will sometimes
hold up long enough to give the quarterback enough time to beat
man coverage down the field and make the defense look foolish against
a fierce pass rush. More often than not, though, when a defense
brings the heat and forces the action, crisis management becomes
the name of the game for the opposing team.
In that same vein, I hope to apply that same kind of pressure
to the owners in all of my leagues by beating my opponents to
the punch in regards to personnel moves. Sometimes, reaching a
conclusion about a player too quickly is much like trying to blitz
Peyton Manning – dangerous and painful. However, coming
to a correct conclusion two weeks or two minutes quicker than
your opponents is considered foresight. Fantasy owners can be
a uneasy lot, knowing that one two-or-three-game losing streak
can wreak irreparable damage to his/her team’s chances to
make a visit to the fantasy postseason. But just as it is in the
NFL and in life, it’s hard to land the big prize by playing
scared. Thus, I will strive each week to help each of you become
a smart blitzer, so to speak.
For the customer (especially one that gets the day off from work),
"Black Friday" is a wonderful opportunity to attend to
the chore of holiday shopping. Quite often, a person can cross off
the majority of the items on their list and do so in a cost-efficient
manner as many highly sought-after gifts can be purchased at discount.
For the retailer, it represents an incredible boon to the bottom
line of the company. However, the day after Thanksgiving is a truly
dark day for the employees of said retailer. Not only are they often
required to show up in the early hours of the morning, they are
also often asked to work overtime and deal with what can be a frenzied
Many years prior to the coining of the phrase "Black Friday",
"Black Monday" was used to describe the day of the Stock
Market Crash of October 28, 1929. While the day ushered in one
of the lowest points in American history, it also set in motion
some much-needed change in regards to the oversight of the stock
market. Even though "The Great Depression" followed
shortly thereafter, the positive change that occurred because
of it has allowed the country to avoid a similar disaster.
As I was watching the events of Week 10 unfold on Sunday, it
crossed my mind as I saw/read about important fantasy player after
important fantasy player succumb to injury that Sunday represented
of a very dark day for fantasy owners. Almost splitting the two
above dates on the calendar in half, I couldn't help but referring
to this past weekend's games as fantasy football's version of
"Black Sunday". In all the years that I have played
fantasy football, I cannot recall a single week in which so many
key players all were shelved on the same day. Even though only
one player below is known to be out for the season, it is quite
possible the landscape of thousands of fantasy leagues changed
with the events of this past Sunday.
For many of us with contending teams that had one of the players
below, it almost felt like our own personal stock market crashed.
For those owners who just needed that one big break to happen
to make their late-round pick/early waiver-wire add of Ricky Williams
potentially pay off even more than it already has, Sunday represented
the type of deal a customer can sometimes find on “Black
Friday”. For those people waiting on a bid/waiver claim
to go through, well, let’s just say you probably understand
the frenzied crowd mentioned above. And it’s probably also
safe to say the bottom line of many fantasy teams was greatly
affected because of “Black Sunday”.
Because Week 10 was so devastating, let's review the players
that are feeling a bit worse physically than their fantasy owners
are emotionally right now:
Benson (Hip flexor/abductor strain) - Benson routinely sits
out practices during the middle of the week, so owners will
need to monitor his situation closely as he will likely be a
game-time decision. Of all the RBs listed here, his situation
seems to be causing the least amount of concern, but with the
Raiders next on the schedule, the Bengals may be wise to sit
him out and see if his optimistic projection of "it may take
one week to get ready, but not two" comes true. Considering
Atlanta's Jerious Norwood has missed the last four weeks due
to a similar type of injury, I'd be rather surprised if Benson
is anywhere close to 100% in either of the next two weeks. I
could easily see rookie Bernard
Scott and Brian
Leonard splitting carries at a 60-40 rate while Benson is
recovering. Because Benson owners look to have gotten off easy,
now would be a great time to put in a small bid/waiver claim
to secure Scott and chalk it up as a warning. While there are
different degrees to this injury, HC Marvin Lewis stated earlier
this week that Benson has been dealing with hip soreness for
a while. His incredible workload up to this point was bound
to catch up with him - this year or next - so if Scott is sitting
out there to be had, make sure he isn't out there this time
next week, especially if you own Benson.
Turner's sprained ankle needs at least
two weeks of rest.
Turner (High ankle sprain) - Much like Benson, it seems
to me the recovery forecast for Turner is a bit too optimistic.
Some outlets have him as a possibility to miss only one game
while Falcons HC Mike Smith is "very confident" that he will
play again in 2009 - the latter of which is hardly a ringing
endorsement. Bear in mind while Turner's injury is being reported
as "not as serious as most high ankle sprains", but the fact
of the matter is that injuries of this nature just don't heal
all that quickly. The Falcons would be wise to rest Turner at
least two weeks and avoid an Anquan Boldin-type of situation
in which they get 5-10 decent carries and a re-aggravation of
the injury. Jason Snelling filled in well in Turner's absence
in Week 10 and is probably the best waiver-wire pickup in most
leagues this week. Norwood is a fair pickup as well, but he
might be back for Week 11 and wouldn't steal all that
many touches this week. But realistically, two coaching staffs
in Atlanta have pretty much agreed Norwood is best when used
in small doses and he's not that good of a bet to stay healthy
all that long anyway, so don’t put a high priority on him. Because
Snelling is an accomplished pass-catcher, view him as a quasi-feature
back in PPR leagues for as long as Turner is sidelined.
Brown (Ankle/foot) - Unlike Benson and Turner, there was
an awful lot of gloom and doom regarding Brown's injury, although
it appeared to me that Brown's injury happened pretty much the
same way that Turner's did. The fact that Brown was sent to
a foot specialist on Tuesday raised a few eyebrows and, sure
enough, the Dolphins placed him on IR on Wednesday even though
we still do not have an official diagnosis. In his stead, the
almost universally-owned Ricky
Williams becomes a solid RB2 with potential to perform at
a top-10 RB level, but keep in mind that a fair amount of Williams'
value came on the outside sweeps ran out of the "Wildcat", so
his numbers may not improve much even with an increased workload.
Going forward, expect Williams to receive 20+ touches for as
long as his 32-year-old body can handle it. Keep in mind that
Miami RBs are averaging 35 touches/game this season, so a realistic
split to start would see Williams averaging 22-23 touches, FB
Polite grabbing 5-6 touches and third-string RB Lex
Hilliard taking the rest of the load. I would anticipate
that Hilliard will absorb many of Polite's touches before the
end of the season, however, and he is easily worth a waiver
wire pickup in deeper leagues (if only because the likelihood
that Williams holds up without incident is slim). On a team
that wants to run the ball as much as Miami does, no RB should
be expected to carry the full load, even if just for six games.
Because Hilliard is more of a power back, a reasonable assumption
would be that he could take a few of the inside "Wildcat" carries
that Brown ran with for much of the first half of the season.
I suspect we won’t have to wait long to find out about Hilliard,
as he’ll likely see the first touches of his career Thursday
Westbrook (Concussion) - This one was just plain sad. The
Eagles took more precaution than most teams in sitting Westbrook
out two entire games (and nearly three weeks) after he received
his first concussion vs. Washington in Week 7, even resting
him one more week after he experienced a headache in the days
leading up to Week 9. Now his playing future is in doubt - season
and career. At this point, I would be rather surprised to see
him play again this season. With the $7.25 M he was due for
2010, it was already unlikely he was going to return to the
team next season anyway. When asked about Westbrook's first
concussion prior to Week 9 on "The NFL Today", CBS Sports' Boomer
Esiason suggested that NFL players should be down for a minimum
of four games following a concussion and if they suffer a second
concussion during the season, they should be placed on IR and
not allowed to play the rest of the year. I'm not sure the Westbrook
situation will be enough of a case for the league to consider
that stance, but perhaps it should. With HC Andy Reid suggesting
that football is secondary at this point for Westbrook, I have
to believe his season is over, if not his career (as an Eagle
at the very least).
As most fantasy leaguers already know, rookie LeSean
McCoy will fill in (with some help from Leonard
Weaver) and should be a more-than-serviceable fantasy
RB2 for the remainder of the season. In most PPR leagues,
McCoy has put up at least 10+ fantasy points in each of the
four games he has seen at least 11 carries (or 13 touches).
But in what should be considered a somewhat odd twist, look
for Philadelphia to balance out the offense a bit more going
forward. Because the team doesn't trust the rookie yet as
a pass blocker, it would be hard to justify a lopsided run-pass
ratio anything close to what we say from Philly in Week 10.
The Eagles are still very much a passing team, but another
55 pass-attempt day from Donovan McNabb seems highly unlikely
now. Because Philadelphia is one of the best screen teams
in the league, I would expect a steady dose of those for the
rookie to offset his shortcoming in pass protection.
Jones (Bruised chest/cracked rib?) - Much like Benson and
Turner, it appears optimism on Monday turned quickly into reality
on Tuesday. After HC Jim Mora suggested Jones' injury wasn't
"real serious" on Monday, he expressed on Tuesday he is unlikely
to play in Week 11. When a player is ruled out so early during
a given week, it doesn't usually speak well to play the following
week either. To be fair, Jones hasn't rushed the ball particularly
well since Week 3 (the injuries along the o-line has had something
to do with that) so his grasp on the full-time job was loosening
anyway. The fact that Justin
Forsett got his chance for a significant increase in carries
the same week that Seattle got LT Sean Locklear back probably
doesn't help Jones' fantasy stock either. Forsett is a pretty
fair talent that has been tagged a third-down back for most
of his career due to his size. He's a good receiver out of the
backfield, so he could muster up some value in PPR leagues this
week vs. Minnesota before possibly having another big game vs.
St. Louis in Week 12. If he shows well and Jones is out 2-3
weeks, Forsett may force a timeshare or steal the starting job
outright, so don’t be afraid to pursue him. Louis
Rankin - a favorite of Mora's - should also not be discounted.
It's certainly not out of the realm of possibility that he will
see goal-line carries and he could easily have a reasonable
amount of value for the rest of the season.
If I’m ranking the “new starters” for the rest
of the season in PPR or non-PPR, I’d probably go Williams,
McCoy, Forsett, Snelling and Scott (although I believe there is
very little difference going forward fantasy-wise between Forsett
I wouldn't be doing my job if I also didn't touch on the other
non-RB injuries on a Sunday that likely altered the landscape
of your fantasy league.
Polamalu (PCL strain) - Even though he was unable to return
after suffering his injury in Week 10's loss to the Bengals,
the good news for the Steelers' top defensive playmaker is that
he did not re-aggravate the same MCL sprain injury that sidelined
him that cost him four full games earlier in the season. With
the Chiefs next on the schedule, expect Pittsburgh to sit him
out (and for the defense to suffer a bit) and get him closer
to 100% as the Steelers would like to have him in decent shape
when they travel to Baltimore in Week 12.
Smith (CAR) (Bruised ribs) - The Panthers' mighty mite probably
would have enjoyed a full week to recover, but he will likely
suit up and wear a flak jacket for Thursday's battle of 4-5
teams against the Dolphins. The upside is that if he can make
it out of the Miami game no worse for wear, he will have an
additional three days to heal up in preparation for Week 12.
Even though Jake Delhomme deserves almost all of the blame for
the down year Smith is having, the 30-year-old WR has started
to produce more like a fantasy WR1 over the last four weeks,
even if his yardage totals haven't been eye-popping. Over the
last three games, Smith has scored all three of his TDs and,
assuming he can stand the pain he'll likely experience on Thursday,
he should be a handful for the Dolphins' big rookie CBs, both
of which probably haven't had to guard a player like Smith yet
in their pro career.
History Lesson: The Broncos would be
wise to keep Kyle Orton on the sidelines this weekend.
Orton (Ankle) - Who knew that 1) Orton could throw a deep
ball and 2) that the Broncos offense would fall completely off
the grid once he sprained his ankle? Unlike last year's right
ankle injury, Week 10's ankle injury was on his left side. Despite
suffering what is being reported as torn ligaments, it appears
he's a go for Week 11 vs. San Diego, but it's hard to forget
just how much his play fell off for Chicago after he went down
in 2008, mostly because he rushed himself back. Chris
Simms looked absolutely dreadful when he was called upon
vs. Washington in Week 10, so there is reason for worry here,
particularly for Brandon Marshall owners. While some are saying
Simms was understandably rusty, I find it inexcusable for a
veteran QB to come off the sideline and not show any ability
to move his team, which speaks to a lack of preparation on his
part (in my opinion). As stated before, Orton should play this
week but if he were to go down for any length of time, it may
be bad news for the rest of the offense and their fantasy prospects.
- Jordan Gross (Broken ankle) - The loss of Gross is just another
reason to trade DeAngelo
Williams if you still can (playoff schedule, presence of
Stewart, Jake Delhomme are among other reasons to deal him).
LG Travelle Wharton has experience at LT, but Gross' departure
represents a considerable downgrade to the left side of the
Panthers' offensive line. It should be noted that 124 of Williams'
168 carries and five of his seven rushing TDs this season have
come either up the middle or to the left.
- Marc Colombo (Ankle) - The Cowboys' RT reportedly also suffered
a fractured fibula in addition to torn ligaments in his right
ankle, but is out for the next six weeks due to the ankle surgery
and not the leg injury, which is supposed to heal on its own.
An injury liability in his four seasons with the Bears, Colombo
had logged 57 consecutive regular-season starts for Dallas before
Week 10. The team likes highly athletic backup Doug Free, who
has yet to make a start in his career, as a strong pass protector.
With that said, it’s not unrealistic to expect some growing
pains here and a slight dropoff in the Cowboys' running game.
Tying it all together, there are some lessons to be learned
for future seasons. For one, just about every time I have heavily
invested in a single player in multiple leagues, I have gotten
burned. Many years ago, that player was Ed McCaffrey after his
100-catch season. This year, it was Ronnie Brown. While I don’t
regret following my heart on Brown, it is always a wise move to
“diversify your portfolio” during the season. I am
fortunate, however, to have a pretty decent option on each of
my teams behind Brown, which leads me to my next point.
My loyal readers may remember that I said a few weeks ago how
I am willing to deal depth away at the trading deadline to shore
up any holes in my starting lineup. Weekends like the most recent
one show the biggest flaw in taking that approach, however, I
also recall stating that I make sure I have some viable alternatives
in case one of my front-liners goes down. Those alternatives may
be the player's most likely handcuff or another starter that has
been riding my bench for most of the season. The road to a fantasy
title is rarely ever a smooth one and, often, winning the championship
comes down to the owner who perseveres and finds a way to keep
his/her team in contention, up until the time when that one waiver-wire
gem absolutely explodes down the stretch and becomes a fantasy
football legend (and it seems like they emerge every year)..
Allow me to end this Blitz with some random
The Cleveland Browns' performance on MNF this past week was one
of the worst displays of offense I have seen in all my years of
watching and covering football. Sure, when Braylon Edwards and
Kellen Winslow are traded away in the same calendar year and there
is little proven depth behind them, there are bound to be significant
bumps in the road. However, Cleveland's biggest problems right
now don't revolve a lack of talent, rather a complete lack of
offensive imagination and execution. Most play-callers nowadays
understand the easiest way to create some semblance of offensive
momentum is to find a few plays that suit their personnel the
best and to build off of those core plays.
OC Brian Daboll appears completely unprepared for his current
role, as the Browns' answer to just about every third-and-forever
situation they face is running Josh Cribbs out of the "Wildcat"
or asking a WR to break a tackle or two and take one of 10 called
screen passes past the first-down marker. There was no attempt
to stretch the field until late in the game and when Cleveland
did take a few shots, QB Brady Quinn threw just about every pass
about 5-10 yards out of bounds. It's ironic that RB Jamal Lewis
called out his coach earlier in the week for practicing too long;
after what I saw on Monday and considering the Browns have scored
just five offensive TDs over their last 15 games, one would think
this team doesn't even bother to practice.
On a more positive note, I strongly recommend deep leaguers consider
Texans rookie TE James Casey. With Owen Daniels racing off to
the start he did, Casey was strictly limited to special teams.
Then, just as Daniels went down and it appeared Casey’s
time might be coming, he opted for surgery to repair damaged cartilage
in his knee - an injury he had played with for about a month prior
to the surgery. Because a knee scope of this nature does not require
a lot of recovery time, the rookie needed only a few days before
he was working out again. He reportedly spent 3-4 hours a day
rehabbing the knee over the Texans' bye week and appears ready
to see his first significant playing time Monday night vs. the
Titans. It appears HC Gary Kubiak may be willing to see what he
"He can bring a lot," Kubiak told the AP. "Obviously,
he can do some things for us offensively, so he'll become a big
part of what we're doing over the course of the next seven weeks."
Yes, that could easily be typical coach-speak, but considering
he's in a strong passing offense that loves its TEs and is the
only receiving TE left on the roster, I think he is definitely
worth an add. Even though I considered Brandon Pettigrew was the
best all-around TE in the 2009 draft, I thought Casey was the
best receiving TE of the bunch. As a fantasy owner, all I care
about is his value as a receiver. When you consider that Daniels
went 34-352-5 over 14 games in his rookie year in 2006 under Kubiak
and that Daniels entered the league with a similar skill set as
Casey, it's not a stretch to suggest the rookie could emerge as
a second-half stud. As usual, I'm not endorsing an automatic ascension
into your fantasy team's starting lineup, but if you have the
room on your roster to make a speculative add with the bye weeks
over and could use a high-upside option at TE, Casey should be
e-mail me with any questions/comments.