Random thoughts as we enter Week 11 of the NFL season:
- Can Mike Vick win the NFL's MVP having missed three games, most of a fourth, and not starting a fifth? He probably won't win (Philip Rivers will win if the Chargers win their division), but the Eagles look like the best team in the NFC, and if they finish with a first-round bye, Vick has to finish in the top five. To think, the Bills (and numerous other teams) could have had Vick for a half-eaten bag of Doritos this offseason. How could so many teams be so off-base on what now looks like a top-five NFL player?
- With the bye weeks in the rear-view mirror, make sure you're devoting at least half of your bench spots to upside guys. Pierre Thomas, Shonn Greene, Ryan Mathews, Vincent Jackson, and Malcolm Floyd should be owned in virtually all formats. I'd rather own high-upside backups like Jason Snelling and Michael Bush than somebody like Braylon Edwards (competing for targets on a run-first offense).
- Don't be misled by Felix Jones' performance against the Giants. The fantasy points were nice, but long TDs on screen passes aren't something you can count on every week. The Cowboys are still struggling to run the ball.
- Right now, how I feel about Dez Bryant is how I felt about Hakeem Nicks at the end of 2009. Essentially, Dallas has two number one WRs. Tony Romo should be enormous in 2011. If you're in a dynasty league and you're out of it this year, Romo is a good guy to target.
- I'm going to remember Tom Brady's performance against the Steelers for a long time, particularly when it's time to make playoff predictions. I still think the Patriots are overrated (for instance, their pass defense is third-worst in the NFL), but a team with C talent and a Hall of Fame QB can beat anyone on any given Sunday.
- I run my own law practice, www.stayinmyhome.com, but if I had a boss, I'd love it if he embarrassed me one day and gave me $40 million, guaranteed, the next. What's your secret, Donovan McNabb? (Or should I ask, what's your secret, Andy Reid? You got a division contender to trade for and now give a huge extension to a guy clearly on the downside, and you kept Vick.)
- The Panthers and Bills are battling for the top pick in the 2011 draft, as each has just one win and a tough remaining schedule. The Cardinals are just as bad, but their suckitude is masked a bit by the division in which they play.
- Bill Belichick should win Coach of the Year, in the same way Michael Jordan should have won the NBA's MVP virtually every year he played. But if you look beyond Belichick, Raheem Morris is having a Coach of the Year type of season. The Bucs are 6-3, have beaten every team with similar or inferior talent (their losses are to the Steelers, Falcons, and Saints), and may not have a Pro Bowl player on their entire team (somebody chime in if you disagree, but certainly they have no AP first team sort of guy). In my book, that's a sign of good coaching.
- I'd take the 4-5 Chargers to win their division and give you the field (5-4 Chiefs and 5-4 Raiders).
- Did you know the Saints lead the NFL in passing defense? They've allowed just six passing TDs, 166 yards/game and 6.1 YPA. Those are elite numbers. If Mike Salfino were reading this, he'd say they're an under-the-radar Super Bowl contender (hard to imagine for a team that won the title last year). Meanwhile, the Bears have an incredible 6.0 YPA and just 6 TDs versus 14 INTs. Crazy as it sounds, the Bears and Saints are the NFL's best teams against the pass right now.
- If you're the Eagles, what would it take to trade Kevin Kolb? Do you keep him since Vick is a bit injury-prone?
Jon Kitna, QB, Cowboys: Nobody benefits more from the Cowboys resurgence under Jason Garrett than Kitna. The Cowboys still can't run, and their defense is still struggling, so that combination, along with the Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten, should lend itself to some good outings for Kitna down the stretch. This week's home matchup against the Lions looks nice.
Tyler Thigpen, QB, Dolphins: If you dig through the Rotowire archives from years ago, you'll find comments from me openly wondering what the Chiefs gained at quarterback when they let Thigpen walk and signed Matt Cassel to a big contract. Thigpen wasn't terrific or anything, but he was decent enough (in his first season as a starter) that I wondered what he could do if given a chance. Now with Miami, I'll finally get to see. The Dolphins won't be able to run against the Bears, so I suspect Thigpen will throw for a score or two and earn some fantasy points with his legs.
Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: The Texans have allowed an NFL-worst 301 yards passing per game and 22 TDs. Sanchez plays the Texans this week. I'd roll with that matchup instead of Brett Favre or Joe Flacco (will the Ravens have to throw?), among others.
Jerome Harrison, RB, Eagles: I've talked about backups on elite offenses all season long, but I've been slow to put the Eagles in that category. After Monday night, it's clear the Eagles belong. With Mike Vick playing like the NFL's MVP, Jerome Harrison suddenly has a lot of upside, especially if LeSean McCoy, whose body type doesn't lend itself to durability, were to get injured.
Mike Goodson, RB, Panthers, and Keiland Williams, RB, Redskins: If a running back in the NFL is slated to be used as a feature back, even just for a game or two, you can't ignore him. Jonathan Stewart may be back this week, as may Ryan Torain and Clinton Portis, but follow our player updates this week. Goodson and Wiliams don't have good matchups (Ravens and Titans, respectively), but if they're starting, they're better options than many of the RBs who are splitting carries.
Reggie Bush, RB, Saints: Pierre Thomas is still nursing an injury, but Bush should return this week. Expect him to take over as the lead back, not in the traditional, workhorse sense, but Bush should become starter-worthy if he's healthy.
Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch is struggling, having failed to break 50 yards rushing the last three weeks, yet Forsett looks explosive behind the same offensive line. Forsett deserves more carries; we'll see if the Seahawks agree.
Mario Manningham, WR, and Kevin Boss, TE, Giants: Steve Smith's injury has opened the door for Manningham and Boss to each receive more targets, and each posted a fantasy-friendly gam last week as a result. It could be a shootout in Philadelphia this week, so Manningham and Boss are worth starting in all but shallow formats.
Austin Collie, WR, Colts: Before the season, Collie was viewed as a product of Peyton Manning's greatness, and that's still largely the case. The past few weeks, though, I get the feeling the Colts have missed Collie. If he was cut in a shallow league, I'd pick him up. I think Manning will get him involved in the offense as soon as he returns from his concussion.
Starting WRs for the Chargers: As I've been saying seemingly every week, follow the player updates this week, and make sure you start whoever is playing for the Chargers this week.
Arrelius Benn, WR, Bucs: Benn has scored two straight weeks, but he's received just three total targets over that span. I know I'm mentioning him here, but it's to ensure you don't over-emphasize his scoring streak. Benn belongs on waivers in most formats.
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals: I've discussed the Bills' deficiencies against opposing tight ends all season long. With Gresham coming off a solid game with 10 targets and a TD, I see no reason to change my strategy this week.
Ravens D/ST: The Ravens defense has been a resounding disappointment by virtually any measure so far in 2010, but a bounce-back seems likely this week against the Panthers, who probably have the NFL's worst offense. As if things weren't bad enough for Carolina, they may have to start undrafted rookie Tony Pike this week at quarterback (as Matt Moore is on IR and Jimmy Clausen has a concussion).
Chiefs D/ST: I would have expected the Chiefs to rebound this week (coming off a terrible performance against the Broncos) regardless of their opponent, but a home matchup against the Cardinals really bodes well for a bounce-back.
Dead to Me:
Jahvid Best, RB, Lions: The Bills run defense is the NFL's worst, so Best's matchup last week was as good as it gets. 17 carries for 35 yards in that matchup is a total failure. Blame it on injuries if you want, but I'm not starting Best in anything but the deepest of leagues until I see some productivity on the field. At this point, I fear that may not happen until 2011.
Rams WRs: It's been several weeks since Mark Clayton's injury, yet no Rams receiver has emerged. Now that you don't have to worry about bye weeks, I see little reason to worry about the Rams receivers in all but deep leagues. Expect the Rams to draft a receiver in the first round of the 2011 draft.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars: It feels like MSW is too good to cut, but he's certainly not good enough to start. At this point, I'd rather stash an upside guy like Jason Snelling on my bench and send MSW to waivers. If Michael Turner gets hurt, Snelling will have fantasy value - can you see a scenario where you can say the same about MSW? Even with David Garrard having a surprisingly good season, I can't.