Goal Line Stand readers noticed that I skipped the usual notes with the rankings this week to try something different.
Below is something different: One big game breakdown, seven games covered in depth, and quick hits on the rest. This column may get canceled faster a Jay Mohr show and may come back in different form (Goal Line Stand: Special Victims Unit?)I may also drive me insane. Let me know what you think.
And join me for a subscriber only chat on Season Pass Friday at 3ET.
The Big Question: Is the Colts rush defense worse than the Jags' offensive line?
On tape, the Jaguars are worse. While the Colts have been pushed around, Jacksonville's offensive line was a disaster against Buffalo. Fred Taylor is working extremely hard just to beat defenders to get back to the line of scrimmage. There are a lot of missed assignments and communication problems because of the replacement starters. Still, if Jack Del Rio is going down, he's going to do it playing Jaguar Football. Jacksonville will be running coming off the bus, and they will get Mo-Jo involved earlier in the game. I'm betting rebound game for both Jaguar backs, with Mo-Jo a solid RB2 and Fred Taylor a reasonable flex game.
David Garrard owners aren't so lucky. The vertical passing game is non-existent because he has no time in the pocket. The longest pass play against the Bills was a 15-yard screen to MJD. Getting Jerry Porter back would help, but only so much against the Colts. Indy can still rush the passer and prevent the big play. I'd sit Garrard if possible. Matt Jones, Jacksonville's best receiver, is a reasonable flex play in PPR leagues, but don't bet on big plays.
The Colts are not the same
Don't let Indy's second-half miracle against the Vikings fool you. This team is not the same and can't wait for the bye week. They can't run the stretch play because Peyton Manning isn't mobile enough to get to the edge fast enough. Their offensive line is collapsing inside, forcing Manning to get rid of the ball too fast. A man named Tom Santi is playing way too big a role.
Manning is hanging on in fantasy leagues because the Colts are throwing like crazy. We are so used to the Colts playing from ahead, we've never seen what it would be like for Manning to attempt playing catch-up. Manning is on pace for 720 attempts! His first two games had more attempts than any personal two game span since 2001. The yards, however, inefficient, will come.
I went into the season thinking Joseph Addai was the safest pick in fantasy football other than LT2 to score ten touchdowns, but that assumed the Colts offense was going to be elite. I still think they can get there, but they aren't yet.
Look for Addai to see more action in the receiving game. Jacksonville's linebackers had all sorts of problems with Fred Jackson. The Colts could line up Addai and Dominic Rhodes together like the Bills did with Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Frustrated owners still have to play Addai.
Marvin Harrison is a borderline WR2. I'd give him another week, but watch the snaps between him and Anthony Gonzalez. Gonzo had eleven targets last week compared to four for Harrison. Now that Dallas Clark is back, who loses the snaps? My guess is Gonzalez and Clark will share time, while the Colts try to get Harrison involved. The veteran still needs to prove he can create separation. I thought Clark was a borderline TE1 heading into the season, and feel the same now.2. Raiders @ Bills
The Big Question: Can the Raiders keep running?
Some message board posters thought I had Michael Bush too low, but the rankings assume that Darren McFadden will start. And it still looks like he will. While Bush would move up to a decent flex play if McFadden is out, I wouldn't go crazy. I love how Buffalo's rush defense is playing. I don't love what I saw from Bush despite the solid surface stats against Kansas City. . Bush's hope is that Oakland's line will continue to blow open huge holes for their backs. Darren McFadden showed great burst and he runs tougher than I expected, but it's not like he had to make people miss last week. He had huge lanes to run through. Despite the tough matchup and the toe problem, McFadden is a RB2 if he starts. . JaMarcus Russell doesn't seem far along in his development. I didn't see him look to a secondary receiver once. Sometimes his throws were comically early, way before the receivers were ready. Russell is turning Ronald Curry and Zach Miller into fantasy reserves. That is especially true against a strong Bills defense, which is a great play this week. . Javon Walker played behind Johnnie Lee Higgins last week. It's safe to give up on him.
The intro to the rankings included all I needed to say about Buffalo. This isn't a great week to test drive Trent Edwards as a QB1 because Oakland's secondary remains the strength of the team, and the Bills should be playing from ahead. . Marshawn Lynch should get plenty of work in this one, and is overdue to uncork a 100-yard game.3. Panthers @ Vikings
The Big Question: Will Adrian Peterson play?
My rule of thumb: If a player finishes the week prior, and practices at all during the week, he's probably going to play. This isn't full proof, but it would be a surprise if AP is out in a game the Vikings are desperate to win. Look for Brad Childress to be more cautious with his workload this week. . Gus Frerotte has an underrated arm and will help Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice be WR3 options. Neither receiver are 100% , so they are best avoided if possible. The big question with Frerotte is whether he can avoid the big mistake. He's hardly known as one of the more careful quarterbacks around.
I heart JStew
We need a better nickname for Stewart. We also need John Fox to stop splitting the carries between him and DeAngelo Williams. A couple more games like last week will do the trick. The Bears simply could not get Stewart down with one tackler. He absorbs hits as well as any player in the NFL. Safety Kevin Payne bounced off him. Brian Urlacher wrapped him up, and then ended up on the turf empty-handed as Stewart slipped away. Lance Briggs got run over. A nasty offensive line including Jordan Gross, Ryan Kalil, and Jeff Otah will help Stewart. This is John Fox's dream team. I'm convinced Stewart will be a top-five fantasy back for a good chunk of his career. Perhaps starting late this year.
Carolina is one of the teams I've seen two full games of. Jake Delhomme looks erratically effective, as usual. The Vikings pass defense isn't great, but let's see Delhomme put together two solid halves in a row before starting him in fantasy leagues. . Delhomme won't waste time forcing the ball to Steve Smith. He's not afraid to lock onto one target, evidenced by his blind trust of Muhsin Muhammad the last two weeks. . D.J. Hackett and Muhammad are WR4s at best with Smith back. . Donte Rosario still has fantasy value as a TE2 despite the quiet second act. He could be effective this week over the middle against a Cover 2 defense.
The rookie running back is evolving into a prototypical RB2. But will defenses catch up if Kyle Orton can't throw down the field? Orton has attempted eight deep passes in two games, completing two. His arm strength and accuracy are question marks, and some of his tries in the second half against Carolina weren't even close. Orton is completing 60% of his passes, but only getting 6 YPA, a combination that is hard to do. This is the ultimate dink and dunk offense, and Forte faces his toughest test to date against a solid Bucs defense that will be crowding the box.
Forte is the only good fantasy option on the Bears. Greg Olsen owners should remain patient, but it's been an ugly road so far. You should be able to find a better TE1 option.
All off-season, the worry was that Jon Gruden would give Warrick Dunn just enough touches to diminish Earnest Graham's value. So far, half true. Dunn has only four fewer touches than Graham through two games, which is a problem. But Graham is still getting it done, averaging a silly 8.48 yards-per-touch average. This is the toughest defense Tampa has faced by a mile, but Graham remains a low-end RB2. I love the Bears defense, but a power running back can have success against their lightweight front.
When Brian Griese took over, visions of 2004 danced in my head. That's when Griese was a top-ten fantasy quarterback during his 10 game run as a starter for Jon Gruden. Griese got off to an ugly start last week, and he's not an option against the Bears. . I may be the only one, but I'm not giving up on Antonio Bryant as a future WR3 because of two quiet weeks. Joey Galloway's injury should set Bryant up to do what he does best - go deep. The question is whether Griese can get him the ball. Against a Cover Two team that rarely gives up big plays, rest the Bucs WRs if possible.5. Dolphins @ Patriots
The Big Question: Will Matt Cassel start going deep?
This game begs for it. Miami gave up big plays to the Cardinals, and their rush defense has a lot of size. Laurence Maroney and LaMont Jordan haven't practiced early in the week, so there is also a question of depth in the Patriots backfield. Look for the Patriots to build Cassel's confidence heading into their bye week. Wes Welker should see a lot of targets and is a WR2 for this matchup. Cassel should also send more than three targets Randy Moss' way. . It's safe to expect a four-way Patriots committee at running back this season, which limits the value of all of them. But if Maroney and Jordan are out, we get clarity for once. As a starter, Sammy Morris becomes a solid RB2/flex play with a good chance to score.
Squish the Fish
It's rare to advise owners to bench an entire team. But that's the right play with the Dolphins this week. Ronnie Brown traditionally gives the Patriots fits, but New England will stack the box against him and force Chad Pennington to throw outside. Both Brown and Ricky Williams have looked ordinary thus far, largely because of an offensive line that is worse at run blocking than last season under Hudson Houck. . Ted Ginn is in a three-way tie for sixth on the team in receptions. Trying to guess which Dolphin wideout may step up this week isn't worth it.6. Bengals @ Giants
The Big Question: Are the Bengals as we knew them dead?
This is the most advantageous matchup the Bengals offense has enjoyed thus far, which shows how brutal their schedule has been. Jittery Carson Palmer owners, myself included, should be hoping for modest improvement. There won't be 50 MPH winds, but the Bengals offensive line must show they can stop anyone. This unit is talented, but they aren't getting it done. . I look at my rankings as setting odds. Vegas isn't always going to win every week, but they will over time if they set the right number. For T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson, the number should still be very high. These two players did not forget how to play football. They need some help from their teammates, but there is every reason to believe they will put up big numbers eventually. You don't want them on your bench for that day. . If nothing else, Chris Perry is getting the ball a ton. He lacks explosion when he gets a big hole and isn't a natural straight ahead runner. For the third straight week, he faces a tough matchup. That makes him a flex play, not a RB2.
With Jonathan Joseph likely out at cornerback, the Bengals secondary is thin. That's good news for Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress, who should be in all lineups. The Bengals probably wish they had Deltha O'Neal this week. Cincy's defense has actually shown some life this season, so don't assume this is a huge plus matchup for Big Blue. ... Brandon Jacobs remains an every week play. The touchdowns should come. He's worth a lot less, however, in PPR leagues.8. Chiefs @ Falcons
The Big Question: Has Herm Edwards lost his mind?
When teammates talk about a young quarterback, they will often say how impressed they are with the kid's command of the huddle. Joe Flacco's poise, Chad Henne's presence, yada yada yada. We didn't hear any of those quotes coming out of Kansas City last week.
It became clear early in the offseason that Herm wanted Tyler Thigpen to get some action this season, but why does it have to be so early? To watch Thigpen play against the Raiders is to appreciate just how difficult it is to be a quarterback in the NFL. Passes weren't close his receivers. Occasionally it was tough to figure out who the intended receiver was. Thigpen vs. Russell was the single worst quarterbacking display I've ever seen. Imagine what Tony Gonzalez and Brian Waters are thinking in the huddle. Probably about their dinner plans.
This should be the matchup where Larry Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, and Gonzo get off. L.J.'s whining certainly won't hurt his chances of getting 20 touches. But the Falcons defense has looked surprisingly average thus far, and Thigpen casts a dirty cloud of the whole team. L.J. is a borderline RB2, and Bowe is a much better option if you start three receivers.
Somewhere in the middle
The Falcons running game isn't as good as it looked in Week 1, and it's not as bad as it looked in Week 2. The truth is somewhere in the middle, but my guess is it's closer to the disaster at Tampa. This is a rare game where the Falcons will be favored, though, and hopefully playing from ahead. Use Michael Turner as a RB2.Quick Snaps
Texans @ Titans: I expected Houston to be one of the most improved offenses this season; one game doesn't change that. Unfortunately they play another top-five defense this week. Matt Schaub is a borderline QB1 at best, and it's a lot to ask of Steve Slaton in his first start. He will likely split carries against a great defense, which adds up to flex play status. . It's uncertain if Justin Gage will play; avoid all Titans receivers until we see consistency. . Chris Johnson gets tougher to sit by the week. He's moving up to 15th in our running back rankings for this matchup, and that's in non-PPR leagues. LenDale White is still a reasonable flex play with touchdowns in back-to-back games.
Cardinals @ Redskins: Was Washington's consistent offensive attack last week a product of growth or the Saints' defensive struggles? Wait until after this game before using anyone but Santana Moss and Clinton Portis. . Tim Hightower isn't only playing during garbage time. The rookie had six touches in the first half in Week 2 versus eight for Edgerrin James. If that continues, James becomes an even worse flex option.
Saints @ Broncos:Two weeks of an equal three-headed monster is a trend. Selvin Young owners now only have a flex option, and a boom-or-bust one at that. It's a three-way rotation and the Broncos are a pass-first team. Eight of Michael Pittman's 14 rushes this season have come inside the five-yard line. He's first in the league in that category. That's another trend. (And yes, he's going on the Friday night rankings update. But not high enough to consider playing him). . The Saints will have to throw a lot to stay in this game, but don't consider any wideout except David Patten as a WR3.
Lions @ 49ersEveryone in the pool for the 49ers! We talked about this game on the Fix this week, so I'll leave it below.
Seahawks @ Rams: This is a crucial game for fantasy assets on both teams. Matt Hasselbeck can't get off against the Rams, it's not happening for a while. And if Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson can't improve against a surprisingly shaky Seattle defense, they are in trouble. Stick with Jackson as a must start. It takes more than two weeks to erase years of production. Hasselbeck is a borderline QB1, while Bulger should be benched. . Koren Robinson will rotate with other receivers, so he's ranked like a reserve. Despite all the injuries, Courtney Taylor still can't seem to get Matt Hasselbeck's attention. Or hold on to a pass. Taylor did get open for a possible score last week, but Hasselbeck overthrew him. He needs to make a big impact in this one before Deion Branch and Bobby Engram return or we'd drop him.
Browns @ Ravens Some predictions about what people will be saying Monday morning after this game.
1. The Brady Quinn watch has officially begun.
2. Jamal Lewis is back to being the Jamal Lewis we saw in Baltimore.
3. John Harbaugh is driving owners batty with a three-headed monster in the backfield.
All of the Browns except Anderson will be good buy low candidates after this one. The receivers will bounce back, but I don't want to buy low on a quarterback with job security issues.
Steelers @ Eagles
The Eagles cornerbacks are very aggressive, so look for Santonio Holmes try to exploit them deep with some double moves. . Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder injury is not at all a concern. He's playing terrific football and getting plenty of velocity on his throws. . Coaches speak with playing time, not midweek "We want to get him more involved" chatter. Willie Parker is an every week fantasy play until Mike Tomlin shows confidence in Rashard Mendenhall. . Pittsburgh is a lot easier to attack through the air than the are on the ground. That means DeSean Jackson should remain in most lineups. With Reggie Brown possible getting some snaps off the bench, I'd stay away from the other Eagles wideouts.
The remaining night games will be covered in the blog in written and video form! Phew. Let me know what you think of the new format. See everyone on Fantasy Fix Live on Sunday at 11ET.