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East Coast Offense: Buying Lowest

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.


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
GIANTS Seahawks 65.10% 412.5 80.49
PATRIOTS Jets 10.00% 385 79.38
Saints PANTHERS 8.70% 267.5 72.79
TEXANS Raiders 4.80% 230 69.70
LIONS Bears 2.30% 230 69.70
STEELERS Titans 1.80% 175 63.64
Chargers Broncos 1.60% 190 65.52
Packers FALCONS 1.30% 235 70.15

Home Team in CAPS
* according to
** average of the two moneylines

The Giants and Patriots stand out as the only teams over 73 percent, and the Pats have such a small percentage of the field on them, they're the easy call according to the Vegas math. My problem is I have a hard time getting their crushing loss to the Jets in the AFC Playoffs last year out of my mind. (The game was far more lopsided than the 28-21 score). Moreover, the Jets have just lost two in a row and are a bit desperate.

If we leave aside the Pats, then we're left with the Saints in Carolina against a team that gave Green Bay all it could handle, the Texans without Andre Johnson or the Packers in Atlanta. Are those teams better picks than the Giants when we do the math?

Let's use our hypothetical 100-person pool for 10 units each. If the Giants lose, there are 35 people left, and your 10 units of equity skyrocket to 28.6. If the Saints lose, for example, there are 91 people left, and your equity would merely be 11. The ratio of 28.6 to 11 is 2.6, i.e, your stake would be nearly three times as big should New Orleans win and the Giants lose rather than vice-versa.

But the Giants are 80.5/19.5 favorites while the Saints are just 73/27. The ratio of 27 to 19.5 is 1.38. Still, it's obvious that having a 38 percent greater chance of losing is worth the risk for a 160 percent greater payout.

So the Giants are out. If we're not going to use the Giants, and I have a bad feeling about the Pats, it's got to be the Saints, Packers or Texans. I don't trust the Texans without their best player, and so for me it's between the Saints and Packers. Let's say Packers for now. They crushed Atlanta in the dome during the playoffs, and the Falcons have done nothing so far to suggest they can stop Aaron Rodgers and that offense. The biggest issue is that Green Bay hasn't stopped anyone, either, and Atlanta is better built to shoot it out this year. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind when the full article comes out Thursday night.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Chris_Liss