East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
The Colts might be 9-0, but they own one-point home wins over the Bills and Titans. The Bears might be 8-1, but they barely beat Arizona thanks to some very fortunate bounces, and they were blown out at home by the Dolphins. The Texans swept the Jaguars, the Titans lost on a blocked field goal to the Ravens last week, the Browns won in Atlanta and the Raiders went down to the wire with the Broncos. There are no locks in the NFL, and this isn't surprising. When you consider that even the players you've never heard of are better athletes than you've ever known in your life, why should it be so surprising that one group of them plays better than another on a given Sunday? This isn't your sixth grade PE class, where one group of kids who were terrible at sports would have no chance against the ones who were good. This is a group of elite athletes in one billion dollar organization dedicated to winning versus another. Sure, you know Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are better than Andrew Walter and Matt Leinart, but why should it be shocking if Walter, (who would drop your jaw if you watched him play flag football in the park), suddenly clicks with his receivers and throws for 300 yards? Of course, his line would have to block for him, but those guys are 300-pound men who spend half their time in the weight room. Would it be such a shock for them to "get it" one game and protect their quarterback?
This why you should take the points more often than not, why you shouldn't overplay matchups when setting your fantasy lineups (no way Travis Henry can run on that Ravens' front, right?) and you should never dismiss any team's skill position battles - even the Raiders and Texans running games merit tracking.
Around the League
Let's get caught up quickly on the major developments of the last few days:
Carson Palmer threw for 440 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions, Chad Johnson went for 260 and two, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught seven passes for 88 yards before leaving with a concussion. Rudi Johnson, who was benched for the first series of the game for being late to a team meeting, averaged 4.7 yards per carry against a stout defense and found the end zone. Even better, the team's defense has played so poorly that Palmer et. al. are likely to be involved in more shootouts going forward. While Palmer isn't likely to be 100 percent recovered from his knee injury all year, an 80 percent version with those weapons and that defense should helm a top-five passing attack the rest of the way. And Rudi Johnson will benefit as well, perhaps not with more overall carries, but more red-zone and goal-line ones.
Just when you thought it was safe to consider Joseph Addai the Indy feature back, Dom Rhodes receives a 50 percent share of the workload against the Bills. And just when you thought Mike Bell would be the starter in Denver when Tatum Bell's turf toe acted up, Damian Nash takes Mike Bell's place on the active roster. I guess that "one-cut-and-go" talk only goes so far with Mike Shanahan. Or for that matter Gary Kubiak who's "one-cut-and-go" back Wali Lundy was outproduced by Sam Gado this week. In New England, it's impossible to say whether Corey Dillon or Laurence Maroney will have the better game, and in New York, Kevan Barlow apparently gets the nod when the track is muddy, so check the weather before deciding whether to use Leon Washington. Finally, just when Maurice Morris was settling in as a productive option, Shaun Alexander is set to return from his broken foot - only the foot isn't 100 percent yet, and it's unclear whether Alexander would resume the full load should he play in Week 11.
What worse, the team might decide to shut him down for the year since they'll likely be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention by the time he retuns. Ladell Betts, who has played well, will start, and T.J. Duckett has a good chance to see some goal-line work, assuming there's a market for such employment in the D.C. area with second-year quarterback Jason Campbell taking over for Mark Brunell this week. Actually, we'd be suprised if Campbell were significantly worse than the limited Brunell, and remember, like Tony Romo, he's not a rookie, so the learning curve might not be as steep as it has been for say, Matt Leinart or Vince Young.
While most of you don't use tackles in your fantasy leagues, Pace's absence should have a negative effect on the entire Rams' offense, particularly on the passing game as Marc Bulger's blind side will be far more vulnerable, and he'll have less time to connect with Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Kevin Curtis down the field. Moreover, Pace won't be there to open up holes on the left side for Steven Jackson, and if the passing game is less effective, teams will devote more resources to stopping the run. Still, the Rams porous defense will ensure that the team continues to throw a lot - only they'll likely do so less effectively, and Bulger stands a better chance of getting sacked and injured.
Below the Radar
Looking at the Yahoo! numbers from Saturday, it turns out that the Jerious Norwoods (4.1 percent) and Michael Turners (5.8 percent) were still not owned in most of your leagues, though they should be - these are the kind of reserves who can win you a title if things (or, more specifically, particular players) break a certain way. Last week's recommendations: DeAngelo Williams, Matt Jones, Santonio Holmes, and Cedric Benson.
Here are a few more:
With Clinton Portis out perhaps for the rest of the season, Betts, who has averaged 4.5 yards per carry this year, should see the bulk of the work going forward. Betts has also been effective out of the backfield, with 30 receptions in part-time work. T.J. Duckett is likely to vulture some of the goal-line looks, but Betts can still be a productive yards-from-scrimmage option going forward.
While this might sound obvious, Romo is still available in more than half the yahoo leagues. Romo has put together three strong starts in a row, and should have had an even bigger game two weeks ago had Terrell Owens not dropped a perfectly thrown bomb that would have resulted in a long touchdown. Romo's mobile, he's got receivers who are effective in the red zone and down the field, and he's got one of the better receiving tight ends in the game. As a result, he's averaging 8.8 yards per passing attempt - nearly a full yard per play better than Peyton Manning.
Gado's a long shot to be reliable, but he outproduced Wali Lundy on Sunday, rushing for 67 yards on 17 carries. It's not as if Lundy has more than a tenuous hold on the starting job, and Gado had a few big games last year in Green Bay a year ago, so it wouldn't be surprising if he were effective down the stretch. For now, Lundy's probably still the starter, but in deep leagues, where any running back with a pulse has value, Gado is worth a flyer.
Clayton's had 15 catches for 198 yards and a score his last two games, and the Ravens are looking further down the field now that Brian Billick has taken over the play-calling from the departed Jim Fassel. We're not sold on the Ravens' passing game just yet, but Clayton's a polished second-year wideout getting more looks down the field, i.e., he's at the point in his development where young receivers often break out.
Beating the Book
We went 13-3 against the spread last week and are now 80-56-8 on the season. We picked the 49ers here last week, and they covered easily. We're now 5-4-1 in this forum.
Bears -7 at Jets
Seven strikes us as a lot for Chicago to be laying on the road. Sure, they beat the Giants by 18, but they were down for most of the first half, and they got one of their touchdowns on a 108-yard field goal return. Moreover, the Giants played without half their starting defense, including their two best defensive players, and lost their best cover corner and starting left tackle during the game. The Bears have struggled on the road at times, barely beating the Vikings and requiring a miracle to beat the Cardinals. This should be a tough road game against a Jets team with a smart quarterback and an improving offensive line. Back the Jets who keep it close.
Bears 20 - 19
For the rest of this week's slate, check out Beating the Book
Surviving Week 11
Last week, the Colts barely got by on the scoreboard, though that game didn't seem like it was in much doubt - even if Rian Lindell had made the go-ahead field goal with six minutes left, I'd still have given the Colts a 75 percent chance to win that game. Our second choice, the Pats, lost to the Jets, though in our Survivor Column we moved the Panthers, who struggled, but pulled away late, up to No. 2.
This week, we'd take the Chiefs at home and coming off a loss against the Raiders. Kansas City is very tough at Arrowhead, and at 5-4, they're hungry and desperate for a win. If you've used them already, we'd take the Eagles at home against the Titans.
The full Survivor column comes out on Thursday night.
Article first appeared 11/15/06