We had a buy/sell segment on last Sunday's Fantasy Football Live, and I probably drove my producers and colleagues crazy during our weekly conference call by not seeming to grasp the concept. The players in question were five struggling running backs – Chris Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall, Frank Gore, DeAngelo Williams and Shonn Greene. The question was whether we were buying or selling on these guys.
My answer for every one was: "It depends what the going rate is!"
They tried to work with me by saying: "Do you think they'll do better or worse than they're currently doing?" Well, of course, they'll all do better than what they were doing through three weeks, which was almost nothing.
Eventually, they just gave up and said I could explain it on air as long as it didn't take too long, and I ended up selling on Mendenhall and buying on the others. And I'd still take Mendenhall (assuming he's healthy) over Williams and Greene, but at that point, no one was going to trade him to you for less than a second-round pick, and I thought Mendenhall was worth late-second/early-third, given the Steelers offensive line problems and his inability to "create his own shot."
Williams, Gore and Greene, on the other hand, were nearly left for dead. So I would buy them at what I presumed to be their going rates. And I don't even like Gore or Greene and don't expect them to stay healthy and/or have good years. But if there was anyone you could have gotten cheap, it was them. Chris Johnson was too obvious, and in any event, no one was giving him away at much of a discount in any league in which I play.
The bottom line: when I say I don't like a player like Gore or Greene, neither of whom are on any of my six teams, that means I don't like them at their going rate, not that I don't like them at any rate. Second, even though I don't like them, it's possible I'm wrong. That possibility, combined with their declining prices made them great "buy lowest" targets last week, regardless of my personal opinions of them. In other words, sometimes, you just have to buy a guy because he's cheap, he's healthy and he's still got the job. Players you don't believe in get six points for touchdowns, too.
Of course, Gore's window to buy low closed last week, but Greene's is even wider now, and much as I detest running backs in their third seasons who despite good health have yet to break out, I think he's worth acquiring at the likely going rate.
Other Buy Lowest Players:
Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams (Cam Newton won't get all the rushing TDs), Roy Helu, Jr. (after Ryan Torain's breakout), Tony Romo (after his meltdown), Percy Harvin, Mike Williams (TB), Ben Roethlisberger, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (after Stevan Ridley's breakout), Steven Jackson (even I have a hard time with that one, but now's the time to buy), Anquan Boldin, Santonio Holmes, Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree.
Defense Wins Championships?
It's only been four games, but the two biggest Super Bowl favorites – at least as far as Vegas is concerned – are 30th and 31st in YPA allowed. The Packers played the Saints in Week 1, but afterwards drew the Panthers, the Bears and the Broncos, and have yielded 8.7 YPA, while the Pats, who have played the Dolphins, Chargers, Bills and Raiders are allowing 9.0. I'd expect the Packers number to come down significantly, but the Pats just lost arguably their best defensive player, Pro Bowl linebacker Jerod Mayo, for six weeks. Even Mark Sanchez is worth a start in New England this week.
Top-10 Overall List
Normally, I don't bother with this kind of thing because it's so obvious, but not this year. If I were in a 12-team 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 RB/WR standard scoring league going forward, here's how I'd draft:
1. Arian Foster
2. Calvin Johnson
3. Adrian Peterson
4. Darren McFadden
5. Ray Rice
6. LeSean McCoy
7. Aaron Rodgers
8. Tom Brady
9. Ryan Mathews
10. Chris Johnson
But I can imagine almost any of the top-eight players going first and also Wes Welker who I still can't bring myself to include in a non PPR, even though he's probably No. 1 overall through four weeks.
Things to Take Away from Week 4
• I just don't see how Tony Romo throws two pick-sixes up 24 points in the second half. I can't fathom it. And then up three with four minutes left, he throws a pick on first down. A couple Cowboys first downs would have ended the game, but he decides to throw a duck in Jason Witten's direction and give Detroit the ball on their 40-yard line. It's almost as if Romo had money on the Lions but we know he didn't because no point shaver would make it that obvious.
• Calvin Johnson has eight TDs in four games. Let's project him for 19 with upside for 25 if he stays healthy. (Incidentally, this is the only year of his career I have no shares in him).
• The Steelers might right the ship at some point, but their current level of play is probably 7-9. Rashard Mendenhall (if healthy) will have value due to volume, but give me LeGarrette Blount or Ahmad Bradshaw over him without a second thought.
• Jay Cutler owes me an apology for his fantasy line on Sunday.
• Now that Jamaal Charles is out (and Thomas Jones/Dexter McCluster are not viable replacements), Dwayne Bowe is a top-12 receiver, and Steve Breaston is a useful No. 3.
• A.J. Green is a top-20 receiver. Jermaine Gresham is a top-12 TE, though admittedly I don't know the difference between No. 7 and No. 15.
• Matt Hasselbeck looks like a poor man's Kurt Warner – former Pro Bowl QB who looked dead, but revived his career in another city. Not sure whether he can keep it up with Nate Washington and Jared Cook as his top-two targets.
• Colt McCoy spread the ball around so much Sunday, no one had more than 57 receiving yards even though he threw for 350. That's got to be a record. I guess Greg Little is still the player I'd target, but I don't have much confidence in that.
• Why were people seriously arguing Tim Hightower was for real this preseason? Between his years of mediocrity in Arizona, to Mike Shanahan's penchant for changing his mind about running backs to the depth on the Washington roster, the odds that Hightower was a major difference maker were exceedingly slim from the start.
• Alex Smith might not be very good, but he sure has a lot of good targets, especially when Braylon Edwards gets back.
• I doubt there's a good reason why Maurice Jones-Drew got just 11 carries, despite averaging 7.6 per Sunday. I get that the Jaguars were playing from behind, but Blaine Gabbert averaged 4.7 YPA, and that's not including the three sacks or the pick.
• Beanie Wells looked great, but keep in mind the Giants were missing Justin Tuck, who's a huge key to their run defense.
• At 3-1, the Giants have to be considered the NFC East favorite right now, especially with Philly 1-3 and losing head to head in Philly to them. Unless, you think Washington's defense is for real – which it could be.
• Victor Cruz probably isn't going away. He's becoming the much-needed third option in the receiving corps and even played ahead of Mario Manningham in two-receiver sets during the fourth quarter.
Things to Look for in Week 5
• Tom Brady against the Jets pass defense
• Eagles-Bills shoot it out in Buffalo
• Drew Brees against Carolina's No. 32 YPA defense, and Cam Newton forced to keep pace
• Unstoppable Packers pass offense in Atlanta where the Falcons typically play far better (though GB crushed them in the playoffs there last year).
Beating the Book
Titans +4.5 at Steelers
Based on how these teams have played so far this year, this line makes no sense. The Steelers are 2-2 after barely beating Indy and handling Seattle at home, while the Titans are 3-1, including an easy win over the otherwise unbeaten Ravens. At most Tennessee should be getting three, which makes me think this is a trap, since everyone's going to be on the Titans this week. Still, sometimes you have to do the obvious. Back the Titans who win outright.
Titans 23 – 20
Last week we won with the Bengals to go 3-1 in this forum, 6-10 on the week and 31-31-2 overall. We were 10-7 in this forum last season and 40-27 over the four years of the column (we skipped Week 17 in 2007). From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 against the spread (53%, not including ties). The full article comes out Wednesday night.
Surviving Week 5
I wound up using Tampa over Green Bay last week in the full article, and I won't deny the Monday Night game was pure torture. From Raheem Morris burning a challenge and timeout that cost the Bucs a field goal at the end of the first half, to the two fluke big play TDs from Pierre Garcon to Tampa trailing for the vast majority of the game. But the Bucs were better than the Colts by a large enough margin to overcome those things, so I stand by the pick (especially given the relative payout compared to the Packers). The Green Bay game was the opposite – the favorite got the bounces, and it's easy to see what happens in that case. But the bounces can go either way – and you just need to have a team that can withstand as many bad ones as possible.
Let's take a look at this week's games:
|Team||Opponent||% Picked*||Vegas ML**||Vegas Odds|