Fantasy & Reality: A few feet and a knee
And you thought you had tough decisions to make about your team!
Everyone is buzzing about Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth and 2 on the Patriots own 28, up by six points on the Colts with a smidge over two minutes to play on Sunday night. Whether the Patriots converted or not, this very play will wind up being the crossroads of the season for both franchises with repercussions felt all the way to the Fantasy Football universe.
I understand why Belichick went for it -- anyone with half a football in his or her head would realize that the Patriots would have put the game on ice with the conversion. Like a team that opts to run 30-plus times against the Colts, keeping Peyton Manning on the sideline is a good thing. Belichick trusted in his offense -- still the strong side of his team -- to pick up two yards. The play call was even a bread-and-butter play between Tom Brady and long-time security blanket Kevin Faulk . As Belichick essentially said after the game, it just didn't work out.
"I don't know how we could not get a yard on that completion," Belichick said.
Now, the Fantasy ramifications of Belichick's decision makes for some interesting discussion. If the Patriots convert that play, there are no more stats to be had for the game. That would have meant that Manning's final stat line would have been lighter by 16 yards and a touchdown, a difference of seven points in a standard-scoring league. Reggie Wayne , who caught the game-tying touchdown after the Patriots' failed conversion, would have also been 16 yards and a touchdown lighter -- also seven points. And had Joseph Addai 13-yard run been erased from history, it would have cost his Fantasy owners two points since he had 28 rush yards before his final carry. And, the Patriots DST would have carried an extra point or two since they would have held Indy to 28 points.
So if you lost your Fantasy game in Week 10 by a handful of points and your opponent had Manning, Wayne and/or Addai, you can point to the Patriots' failed conversion for part of the reason why. But that said, if you won by a handful of points in spite of your opponent having Manning, Wayne and/or Addai, you should send a fruit basket to good ol' B.B. for not punting. Now I can't honestly tell you that the Colts would have scored had Belichick ordered a punt and pinned Manning's offense back to, say, their own 30-yard line. But I'd imagine Belichick figured that if he did punt to the Colts that they'd have a pretty good shot to advance the ball 70 yards in just under two minutes. Had the punt gone down, Manning would have had a shot at over 375 yards passing, not to mention a chance at more yards for all of the Colts' receivers. And a shot at a takeaway for the Patriots' defense.
The long-term ramifications of Belichick's decision won't impact Fantasy owners much: No one's value will rise or fall because of his choice to go for it or this game in general. But you have to wonder if Belichick's call to go for it was a small no-confidence vote for his defense. He'll never admit it -- he'll tell you he had all the confidence in the world in his offense getting two yards -- but if I'm a Patriot defender and I helped put my team in position to win the game and picked off Peyton Manning twice already, I'd wonder why I didn't get the shot to finish the job.
Big football decisions go way beyond Fantasy Football.
Fantasy & Reality
Quick observations about the misconceptions (Fantasy) and truths (Reality) during the week's action.
Fantasy: The Cowboys offense is back to being great. Remember the Cowboys offense before Miles Austin shot himself into Fantasy superstardom? That's what the Cowboys looked like in Week 10 with Austin essentially a non-factor against the Packers (20 yards on four catches). I'm all for Tony Romo not forcing the ball into tight coverage, and Austin makes it easy for Romo to look elsewhere since he's not in his face like Terrell Owens was, but he's got to do a better job of getting the ball away faster and avoiding the pass rush. The Packers might have exposed Romo and the Cowboys a little bit and if they can't get back to running the football (11 carries combined for Marion Barber , Tashard Choice and Felix Jones ) there could be big problems in Big D.
Reality: There's hope for Vince Young yet. No one wants to give Young the chance to be an NFL quarterback, and that to some extent includes the run-minded Titans. But Young has shown that he can still make good, simple decisions with the ball and also put the ball in good spots. Check out the nine completions to Chris Johnson against Buffalo, something that could result in some serious padding to his stats if he continues to lean on his playmaking running back. Young also put the ball perfectly into the back corner of the end zone on a play where tight end Bo Scaife was too slow to catch it. And remember this: The Titans were aiming to become more of a passing team this season. They'll still be a running offense so long as Johnson carries them, but Young isn't the worst choice you could make for a backup quarterback down the stretch in Fantasy.
Fantasy: The Saints will blow out the Rams. Playing without three defensive starters and losing a fourth to an ACL (poor Tracy Porter ), the Saints saw the Rams hang around with them and have a chance to beat them. Against a stronger offense, New Orleans would probably be 8-1 right now after getting away from its passing game and running more than throwing, as nuts as that sounds. The Rams did a lot of things right: won the giveaway/takeaway battle, won the time of possession and established the run, but couldn't convert on third downs (five of 13) and ultimately failed to put the Saints away. Note to Saints head coach Sean Payton from me and the rest of the Fantasy world: Drew Brees passing -- wins.
Reality: The future of Brandon Marshall stats are up in the air. Everyone was pretty much on the Marshall bandwagon after his 11-catch, 112-yard game against the Steelers last week, and he got off to an amazing start against the Redskins. But after catching four passes for an insane 129 yards with Kyle Orton under center, he mustered up just one catch for 5 yards with backup Chris Simms , who came in for Orton after the starter got his ankle banged up. Marshall might be without his starting quarterback -- the guy who has helped him accumulate solid stats this season -- when he plays a Chargers team that has put the clamps on him in four of their last five meetings.
Fantasy: The Bengals are an offensive machine. Go figure that it took defense and a punishing run game to put Cincinnati on top of the AFC North. The Bengals beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh because of their special teams, not because of Carson Palmer big arm or Chad Johnson fleet feet. Or even because of Cedric Benson skills -- he left with an injury and didn't look good when he tried to return. Amazing, isn't it, that the Bengals are doing it the way they are while other teams, including the Steelers and Ravens, are trying to be prolific through the air? It's only fitting that the Bengals are going at it differently, and it's clearly working for them.
Reality: Ladell Betts and Justin Forsett should have starting jobs. The NFL is a brutal, Lou Gehrig-for-Wally Pipp world. If you get hurt, the guy who takes your place not only has the opportunity to play, but to take your job! After how each of these running backs performed in Week 10 for the Redskins and Seahawks respectively, Betts and Forsett should get the chance to see plenty of playing time -- especially when you consider how poorly Clinton Portis and Julius Jones , respectively, played in recent weeks.
Fantasy: Brett Favre won't need to throw against the Lions. Minnesota needed Favre to push it past Detroit in Week 10, despite Adrian Peterson piling up 143 total yards and two touchdowns. In fact, it was because of Peterson (two fumbles) that Favre was needed. His completions to Sidney Rice are the types of plays we saw last season from Calvin Johnson in Detroit: Find him deep in single coverage and let him make the play. Rice wasn't much for yards after the catch, but he sure was plenty open against the Lions. But that's not really surprising, is it?
Reality: Brian Westbrook season, and career, have to be in jeopardy. As Eagles coach Andy Reid said on Sunday, "football is secondary" for Westbrook after suffering his second concussion in as many games. Westbrook already missed one game after getting knocked out against the Redskins in Week 8. After getting concussed again at San Diego on Sunday, I wouldn't want to own Westbrook without also having LeSean McCoy or an excellent backup to put in for him. I think we all have to be concerned for his health following his concussions. It's the least we should do for a guy who's brought us so much joy (and pain) in Fantasy for years and years.
Injuries impacted Fantasy running backs in Week 10. Whose injuries are the worst and which backups will be the best?
If you made it through Sunday without losing a running back, consider yourself lucky. There were plenty of injuries, large and small, that will impact a lot of people in every league. With trade deadlines coming up on us, it's better that this happened now and not a week or two down the road.
Cedric Benson left the Bengals' win at the Steelers with an abdominal strain. The official team web site says the injury isn't believed to be serious, but if you saw Benson try to play after leaving the game, you'd believe otherwise. Furthermore, it appears that the team will sign Larry Johnson to at the very least back up Benson for the rest of the season. Despite what you may or may not read out of Cincinnati in the coming days, the belief here is that LJ is too talented not to have at least a small part in the offense. Even if Benson ends up playing in Week 11, you have to figure that the Bengals will finally consider taking some of the workload off of him -- a point that proves itself with the Johnson signing. After all, at 7-2 the Bengals have to consider the possibility of playing in the postseason (they would get a bye if the season ended right now), and not having Benson for a run at the Super Bowl would hurt them. Rookie Bernard Scott , who isn't overly fast or physical even though he returned a kickoff for a touchdown on Sunday, and veteran Brian Leonard are candidates to be bumped down a notch on the depth chart upon Johnson's signing. If you own Benson, make a play for both Scott and L.J.
|5.||Larry Johnson||Free Agent|
Michael Turner also left the Falcons' game after getting nine carries for an incredible 111 yards with what the Atlanta Journal Constitution is deeming a "serious" right ankle injury. Turner was in a boot after the game. There's talk it might be a high-ankle sprain, which could sideline Turner for a few of weeks and limit him upon his return. Jason Snelling , a power rusher, is his current backup although Jerious Norwood has missed a lot of time with a hip injury and could be pressed to return by next week. If he can't go, Aaron Stecker will surely be re-signed. We might see the Falcons utilize their backs like the Texans have done with Ryan Moats and Steve Slaton (Snelling on running downs, Norwood on passing downs) if Turner misses Week 11 and beyond.
Ronnie Brown has a right ankle sprain of his own; X-rays have confirmed that he doesn't have a break. Brown was on crutches after the Dolphins' win over the Buccaneers and cannot possibly be considered likely to contribute this Thursday against the Panthers. Naturally, that puts Ricky Williams into a 20-touch position against the Panthers, who have allowed a rushing touchdown in every game this season. Backing him up is Lex Hilliard , who would see a few touches but probably little else even with Brown unlikely to play. If there's a positive, Brown told the Miami Herald after the game that he didn't think his injury is "too bad."
We've touched on Brian Westbrook already, but you can be sure that the Eagles will take very good care of him after his second concussion in as many games. They were very methodical with him after his first concussion. LeSean McCoy will obviously take over, but don't expect him to be alone in the backfield. The Eagles are enamored with fullback Leonard Weaver , who is so versatile he can not only be a lead blocker but run with the ball and catch it too. He has a much better shot of finding playing time than the Eagles' third-string rusher, Eldra Buckley .
We also mentioned how Justin Forsett should find more playing time for the Seahawks in the coming weeks. He's a good player with some decent speed and size who might see 15 touches per week. Even with the Vikings next on the Seahawks' slate, Forsett is pretty good if you are running-back needy.
• Enough of this junk from Fantasy owners bemoaning Maurice Jones-Drew kneeldown at the Jets 1 to run the game clock and give the Jaguars the chance to win on a kick instead of darting into the end zone for a touchdown. Here's an example of an e-mail we got from a user (name withheld to protect the not-so-innocent):
[Jones-Drew] cost me a playoff spot, and more importantly, why would you put pressure on a kicker to win a game? With less than a minute, why not let the defense win the game and make the Jets go length of the field?
Here's one from Twitter:
MJD what a bum ... Who's dumber, MJD or Belichick?
What if MJD was playing against someone who owned him in a high stakes league? Does that make him the modern day Shoeless Joe?
These statements, and more like them, from people who more than likely drafted Jones-Drew with a first-round pick, enjoyed him for the first nine weeks of the season and also got 20 Fantasy points from him in a standard-scoring league on Sunday! Twenty points isn't enough for you? You just needed to have 26?! I've got news for you -- if you have Jones-Drew getting you 20 points and you still can't win, then your Fantasy team has problems beyond Jones-Drew taking a knee.
I almost want to ask Jones-Drew to withdraw his apology to Fantasy owners. There is hardly a running back as safe and productive in the NFL as Jones-Drew. Let's not get on his case for doing what he was asked to do by his coaches, please? The NFL doesn't revolve around Fantasy Football. It's the other way around.
• All that said, taking the knee trailing by one point was ridiculous. But that's not on Jones-Drew -- that's on Jack Del Rio for reportedly telling Jones-Drew to take the knee. His plan worked, but just imagine how much hot water he'd be in if Josh Scobee had missed the field goal.
Instead, Belichick is the one under the microscope.
• Jay Cutler arm is the least of the Bears' worries. Chicago's defense is getting old, its offensive line can't run block for a squirrel much less Matt Forte , its receiving corps outside of Greg Olsen has been overachieving all season, its play calling has remained mostly predictable and it has no high draft picks in 2010. Good luck with that, Lovie Smith.
• I am very nervous about a Carolina Panthers offensive line featuring former seventh-round pick Mackenzy Bernadeau at left guard.
• If Reggie Bush played like this every week (98 total yards, two touchdowns) he'd be a Fantasy behemoth. That's the running back everybody hoped they'd see when he came out of USC years ago.
• Congrats on the upcoming child, L.T. Congrats on L.T.'s Week 10 performance, L.T.'s Fantasy owners. Now trade him while you can still get something good for him.
• You might have heard about the "wager" I made with Senior Fantasy Writer Eric Mack on our Friday Fantasy Football Playbook Podcast.
As usual, Emack (his nickname) was scoffing at one of my remarks, this time that Dallas Clark wouldn't come up big against the Patriots. He pointed out that I liked Dwayne Bowe and Marshawn Lynch more for an e-mailer's starting lineup (we answer your e-mails on the Podcast). So I bet Eric that Bowe or Lynch -- separately, not combined -- would do better than Clark. Emack took Clark over Bowe and Lynch.
The wager? The loser has to eat a cricket.
Fast forward to Sunday -- Bowe: 91 yards. Clark: 65 yards. Winner winner chicken dinner.
We make a conscious effort to make our Podcasts more informational than entertaining -- Fantasy Football is important to a lot of people and we don't want to waste everyone's time on topics unrelated to Fantasy Football. But we're indulging this one time, and it should be really hilarious.
Tune in to Monday's Podcast to hear a man not only eat his words, but an insect as well.