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Run 'N' Shoot: Is Miami the Best Team in the East?

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa has been sharing his fantasy insights for Rotowire since 2007. Mark is the 2010 and 2012 Staff Picks champion (eat your heart out, Chris Liss) and won Rotowire's 14-team Staff League II in consecutive seasons. He roots for the Bills and has season tickets on the second row, press level to the Rays.

Has the difference between winning and losing in the NFL ever been so paper-thin? Probably not. Ask the Bucs, who have twice snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Or the Patriots, who have overcome some inept offensive play to eke out two wins against rookie quarterbacks. Or the Panthers, who could easily be 2-0 yet remain winless. New Bills coach Doug Marrone has endured the heartbreak of a last-second loss as well as the jubilation of a last-second victory. After just two games, every NFL team has joined the final-minute drama except a small handful (Broncos, Jaguars, Giants, and Redskins). With an incredible number of close games and fantastic finishes, the NFL has never been better.

With all of these close games, it's pretty apparent how few teams are any good. Other than the Broncos, Seahawks, 49ers, and Packers, is there any other team you trust?

Survivor has been a blast through two weeks. This past week, the Bears and Texans sure made things interesting (and, incidentally, those were the two teams I vacillated between all week - I suppose they both had it in the bag all along). Leave it to the Jaguars, though, to ruin the fun for Week 3 - they travel to Seattle. If you've already picked the Broncos, as I have, how big would the pot odds have to be for you to take someone besides the Seahawks? And if you're betting ATS, how big would the line have to be for you to take the Jaguars? The opening line is 20, and while I typically side with double-digit underdogs, taking the Jaguars re-defines "going ugly."

All four AFC West teams won in Week 2, while everybody in the NFC East lost. It sure appears nobody in the NFC East is any good. How about the AFC East - is anyone good there? Could it be that the Dolphins are the best team from these two divisions? While you're thinking about those eight teams, I'll steal the question Jeff Erickson asked me on the radio and ask - which of those eight teams is the worst? Tough call. I'd probably pick Miami over New England if they played today on a neutral field, and I'd pick the Dolphins to win the AFC East if I knew Rob Gronkowski would miss the entire season. As for the NFC East, the Giants have been terrible, but they're through two of their toughest games already. I'd take a peek at how far their Super Bowl odds have fallen. In a few weeks, 45 or 50:1 might look good - that's how quickly things can change in the NFL.

If we could do it again, wouldn't the top three for fantasy drafts be Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, and Aaron Rodgers? We see it every year, how the fantasy football industry falls in love with first-round running backs, citing the lack of depth at the position. Year after year, though, the first-round backs flame out while Rodgers puts up video-game stats. Just look at Week 2. Ray Rice got hurt. So did Reggie Bush. And Maurice Jones-Drew. And Steven Jackson. And Eddie Lacy. This is why I love auctions, as I typically spend my auction money on studs at positions besides running back. It sounds risky, but Knowshon Morenos emerge every year. Don't worry - we'll see more Morenos as the year proceeds. My short list of candidates: Montee Ball, Kendall Hunter, Jason Snelling. Get Snelling on waivers this week, folks - Jacquizz Rodgers stinks and Steven Jackson is a 1999 Honda with 196,000 miles on it.

Before the season, I decided to rank Drew Brees above Aaron Rodgers because I was confident the Saints defense would be bad but thought the Packers defense had room to improve. (They have Clay Matthews, right?) Naturally, after two weeks, the Saints are second in the NFC in scoring defense while the Packers have been a total sieve. I do expect this to reverse a bit, but this is why defenses matter in fantasy - they greatly impact the volumes of our favorite fantasy players.

Bad defenses who will stay bad (i.e. lick your chops if you own guys playing these teams): Eagles, Chargers, Redskins, Packers

Surprisingly good defenses who will stay good (i.e. time to start avoiding these defenses in fantasy): Bucs, Jets, Browns

Still bad on defense and they'll prove it soon: Saints, Raiders

I agree with the criticism being levied at Greg Schiano for the Bucs undisciplined play (and calling timeout before fielding a punt in the second half when they're trailing - what the hell is that?). But I'm okay with attempting a 47-yard field goal on fourth and three with 1:10 left up 14-13. If it were fourth and one, then sure, I'd have gone for it. But fourth and three in that situation was more like a 45% proposition. If the Bucs had gone for it and made it, then yes, it's game over. But if they don't convert, they're handing the ball to the Saints at the 30 needing just a field goal to win. Sure, that was the same situation that ensued after the field goal was missed, but making the field goal was more like an 75% proposition, not 45%. While that 75% wouldn't have ended the game, the Saints would have been forced to go 80 yards needing a touchdown with a minute left and no timeouts. I see the argument for going for it, but kicking was not an egregious error and arguably the right choice.

Does anyone want a Steelers Super Bowl ticket at 22:1? I'll sell it for 33 cents and a half-eaten bag of Doritos. Seriously, I ripped on Schiano, but what was up with Mike Tomlin in the endgame? When you're down by 10 in the waning seconds, the strategy is clear. As soon as you get into FG range, you kick, then try an onside kick, then throw a Hail Mary. It was very unlikely to affect the outcome (perhaps 1 in 100 teams in this situation will force overtime), but I'm surprised Tomlin screwed this up. (Of course, me having Pittsburgh +7 has nothing to do with my frustration here.)

As an east-coaster who had to get up at 5:30 a.m. for work on Monday morning, it was brutal to endure an hour-long lightning delay for the Sunday night game, particularly since the game totally sucked. It was interesting, though, to hear Rodney Harrison explain how he was "scared to death" the first year he returned after an ACL tear. Maybe that's what's going on between Robert Griffin III's ears, particularly early on in games.

Tom Brady's struggles on Thursday night are Exhibit "A" for why top-shelf quarterbacks need better supporting casts. As a fan of a team that's been looking for an elite QB for many years, it's a travesty for anyone to have that guy but not surround him with talent. Carolina, I'm looking at you. Pittsburgh, you, too. Even Robert Griffin III has reason to gripe, I think. Santana Moss was old two years ago. Josh Morgan is a poor man's Julian Edelman (not a compliment), yet Leonard Hankerson isn't good enough to unseat him. The Colts do it right in this respect - they always spent early picks on offensive skill players when Peyton Manning was in town, and they've done the same with Andrew Luck. If Peyton's teams have taught us anything over the years, it's that you only need to be good on one side of the ball - offense - to have a playoff team.

Tip: If you're trying to get DirecTV on the phone on Sunday for any type of customer service, and you can't get past the automated messages, keep saying "cancel service." It's amazing how much faster "cancel service" gets someone on the phone willing to help.

Tip #2: If you lose your satellite signal on an NFL Sunday, as I (any many other Tampa residents did while Bucs/Saints was delayed due to lightning), watch the games online on directv.com. It's not ideal, but it's better than angrily staring at a blank TV screen.

After poor showings in Week 1, Mike Wallace, James Jones, and Eric Decker all rebounded nicely in Week 2. Part of this is the normal, week-to-week variance we see from NFL receivers, but I'm convinced a lot of their solid Week 2 output is because they struggled so badly in Week 1. In Wallace's case, the squeaky wheel got the grease, but for Jones and Decker, it's a combination of their QBs being willing to throw to the open guy and being good enough to ensure nobody goes too long without eating. For Jones and Decker, it's kind of like how parents make sure all of their kids get an equal amount of time on the Xbox.

With so many top tight ends exploding in Week 1, it was easy to ignore Charles Clay's five catches for 54 yards on six targets. After 109 yards and a goal-line touchdown on the ground in Week 2, though, it's time to pay closer attention. The Dolphins don't like Lamar Miller inside the 10 (incredibly, he has yet to log a goal line carry in 2012 or 2013) and Daniel Thomas has been terrible everywhere on the field. If Clay can pick up 3-4 rushing touchdowns over the course of the season, he can become an every-week starter at tight end in standard formats. I'd rather have Clay than Kyle Rudolph.

Mario Williams had 4.5 sacks and while sacks can be overrated, it was the best I've seen him look in a Bills uniform. 11 QB pressures will do that. For a Bills fan, though, nothing has been better than realizing EJ Manuel looks like he could be a franchise quarterback. The Bills have kept the reins on so far - lots of short passes, nothing too fancy (think Russell Wilson the first half of 2012) - but anyone fearing the Bills quarterback situation would harm the fantasy values of Stevie Johnson or C.J. Spiller was wrong. If anything, Manuel is an upgrade. Even Robert Woods is becoming relevant.

I don't want to stream fantasy defenses; I want to stream against Carson Palmer. Seriously, how did the Cards win a game when Palmer threw a pick-six, Calvin Johnson scored twice, and the Cardinals leading receiver was Andre Ellington with 42 yards?

I've never really cared if fantasy leagues are PPR or not - I'll play any format. But watching Julian Edelman rack up 13 catches even as the entire Patriots team had just nine first downs has me changing my tune. Fantasy football is great, but rewarding any player when his team struggles so badly is a bit silly.

Marshawn Lynch runs the ball as if he gets paid a bonus each time he delivers a blow to a defender at the end of a run. In an age where so many players are willing to tiptoe out of bounds, it's fun to watch.

It's beyond idiotic to have no punt returner on the field for a punt, but it's particularly foolish when your opponent is kicking from its own end. Yes, I'm looking at you, Rex Ryan. Punt blocks don't happen because of the 11-man rush, they happen because some blocker screwed up. By not having a returner, you give up 10-15 yards when the ball bounces - usually forward on punts. I dared Chris Liss on Twitter to name a time in the history of the NFL that any team blocked a punt with an 11-man rush and he couldn't think of one, saying only "it's because nobody does it." Right, and giving up 10-15 yards of field position is why.
I'm sure Brandon Jacobs was happy to be back in the league and playing again, much less scoring a touchdown. But his celebration was a tad excessive for a one-yard touchdown, no? He needs to be careful to avoid a taunting penalty, too - it would take him at least 15 carries to make up for the lost yardage from that one penalty. Seriously, I'm targeting David Wilson wherever I can in trades. With Eli Manning turning it over like crazy in a pass-heavy attack, I expect the Giants to be extra-committed to the run this week. Carolina isn't the best matchup, but C.J. Spiller showed the Panthers can be run against, and Wilson has a similar style.

Even in a 60/40 or 70/30 timeshare, Spiller could still help my cash on my rushing yards bet. The attrition rate among running backs is just crazy.
When Olympic relay runners drop the baton in a race, do they use two hands to hold the baton in the next race? Of course not. Let David Wilson play, Tom Coughlin - the two-hand thing is absurd.

Whenever someone like Eddie Royal explodes onto the fantasy scene out of nowhere (five TDs in two games after just five TDs in the past four seasons combined), some perspective is necessary. I see Royal as a WR3, and I'd rank like this: Mike Wallace > Eddie Royal > Cecil Shorts.

Submit any start/sit or lineup questions to me on Twitter - @MarkStopa using the hashtag #stopalawfirm. During the year, I'll randomly choose five Rotowire subscribers who follow me and submit questions with that hashtag and pay for one year of their Rotowire subscription.