So I just picked up Fifa 12 the other day, you know, for the other football, and I’m getting really into the online “Head-to-Head Seasons” (hit me up on twitter if you have Fifa and wanna play some time @jbgilpin) where you are matched up against a comparable team and a comparable opponent. I don’t really have a favorite soccer team (I just love Fifa, it’s my favorite sports game), but I hate playing with a team that is a money-grubbing juggernaut, so I usually play with Arsenal, which I know spends a lot of money as well, but they’re no Barcelona, Real Madrid (if you like soccer and know their line-ups, it really makes you wonder if their payrolls are a big factor in Spain’s economic crisis) or Man U.
But every time I play, I get matched up almost exclusively with those teams. It’s so frustrating playing against people using them…
…On to American Football and the best fantasy sport in the land, and it’s pretty much the same deal with any team that owns Aaron Rodgers. It’s just unfair what he’s doing right now. He came pretty close to topping Michael Vick’s ridiculous “video game” performance on Monday Night against the Redskins last year, but I think it’s pretty safe to say Rodgers is the best QB in the league right now, both for fantasy and in real life.
For us mere mortals that don’t have Rodgers on any team, we’re now entering the grind of the bye weeks (well when Rodgers has his, owners will be scrambling as well) where key matchups and sleepers are going to be called upon to fill your studs’ shoes.
Last week didn’t go so hot for my picks, but I am going to use the excuse wagon a lot here. At least Eric Decker proved me right with a huge game, Michael Jenkins had the ultimate 1 yard 1 catch game with that catch being a TD that gave you 6 points, and Reggie Bush didn’t do much, but at least had 65 yards and 2 catches. Peyton Hillis and Javhid Best both had slow games, but man, was I wrong on Steve Smith… He and Newton sure gashed the Bears all afternoon. Owen Daniels and Dwayne Bowe also had pretty nice games if you stuck with them.
What really grinds my goat (I don’t think I got that phrase right at all) was Jeremy Shockey’s TD that was called back on a pass interference that they wouldn’t have even been called a foul in the WNBA. Just watch. And watch Charles Tillman’s body language as soon as Shockey catches it. He’s like, “man, I wish I had better cleats…” But do not fret! Apparently if you’re at home and you fall down, it’s a penalty on the away team. That would have given Shockey a 63-yard, 1 TD game, and then of course Greg Olsen gets the ultimate garbage TD with 4 seconds left with the Panthers down 11. So yea, I guess I was wrong on Shockey outperforming Olsen. Eesh. Andre Caldwell had an awful game as well, with the preposterous Bills’ pick-6 bouncing off his hands and catching a ball on the 3-yard line but unable to score.
With a new week comes the hope of keeping your winning ways going or turning around your slumping team (I’m more in the latter grouping with my teams), along with a new week for me to get some better calls out there. So here’s some guys I like to step up this week as bye-week fill-ins or solid subs, and some guys to think about benching (along with their % start figures on ESPN & Yahoo, respectively). With bye weeks claiming numerous big-name players, don’t take my benchable guys too seriously if you don’t have legit back-ups.
Isaac Redman (20.3%, 30%) It’s looking more and more like Rashard Mendenhall is going to miss Sunday’s game against the Titans, and with Mewelde Moore also out, it’s going to be all Redman. The Steelers O-line is still atrocious dealing with injury after injury, but somehow Redman is averaging 4.9 yards a carry despite that. Big Ben is beat up, and Pittsburgh is going to persist getting their ground game going. I like at least 60 yards and a score, and that’s pretty conservative at that.
Stevan Ridley (9.8%, 27%) Danny Woodhead is Danny Wood-ankle right now, and BJGE isn’t putting up nearly the numbers that rookie Steven Ridley is lately. And on Sunday, the Patriots get the Jets, who don’t have your typical run-stopping defense that we’ve seen the past few years. I see the Patriots getting up early and Mark Sanchez only marginally bouncing back after looking like a high school QB against the Ravens, giving Ridley a lot of touches to build his rookie numbers and take over an even larger share of New England’s backfield.
Preston Parker (1.7%, 10%) Parker has pretty much come out of nowhere to become a pretty reliable slot guy for the Bucs, and this Sunday against 49ers with the NFL’s best run-D, I expect a lot of 3-man WR sets and a lot more work for Parker. He’s gotten 4 catches or more in 3 of the first 4 games, and will also have a shot on kick-off returns if you’re in a return yardage league. I think another 5-catch, 60 yard affair with the optimism of a second week in a row with a TD is pretty realistic.
Andy Dalton (2.2%, 6%) More a gut call than anything else, I think Dalton has his best game as a pro against the Jaguars this Sunday. Cedric Benson’s appeal is still pending, so he’ll still be anchoring a mediocre run game that I think Jacksonville will be able to minimize. Even with the league’s worst offense, their run-D is still 12th in the league, holding up against teams with leads trying to run it down their throat. I don’t expect this game to be any sort of shootout, but I think Dalton will get more than a couple red zone opportunities and will be playing extra-confident after upsetting the Bills last week. I think a 220-yard 3 TD game could be waiting for those risk takers who play him this week.
Brandon Pettigrew (40.3%, 41%) Pettigrew is actually still on the wire in some leagues, and gets a saucy matchup against the Bears and their cover-2 on Monday Night. Playing at home in the dome, I think Pettigrew gets look after look running routes underneath Calvin Johnson against the league’s worst defense against the TE. If he’s still out there in your league and you have your TE on bye, he’s a no-brainer. I think Pettigrew could outperform all other TEs this week as he’s coming off two high volume games as well.
Son of a Bench
LeGarrette Blount (88.5%, 77%) I don’t have much analysis beyond the match up… With the Bucs heading to San Francisco they get the league’s beat run defense while playing on the road. We’ve also seen the Bucs get away from Blount and the run game early, like we did in week 1 against the Lions. As mentioned above, I think the Bucs get into a lot of 3-WR sets and use Earnest Graham frequently in a lot of third-down packages even when it’s not third down. I think it’s a tough day for Blount and I’d start both Redman and Ridley over him on Sunday.
Darren Sproles (69.8%,71%) It’s definitely hard to bench Sproles, especially in PPR-formats, but I see him getting a lot less work against the Panthers on Sunday. The Panthers run defense is horrendous… and Sproles will be exactly the non-benefactor. The Bears offensive line, who couldn’t open a hole to save their lives before last Sunday, ripped the Panthers’ front 7 a new one (or seven new ones – or maybe more), giving Matt Forte huge holes right up the middle. I see a lot of work for Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas between the tackles to help balance the Saints’ attack, and a lot less work for Sproles in the short passing game.
Steve Johnson (85.1%, 92%) This is another gut call more than anything else, but I think Nnamdi Asomugha really clamps down this week and shuts down Johnson when they’re lined up across from each other. I still see Donald Jones and David Nelson having pretty nice games, but I think the Eagle’s passing D finally steps up this week, along with the run-D. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Johnson doesn’t find the endzone this week and has his worst game of the season.
Matt Schaub (65.3%, 63%) I’m pretty surprised Schaub is still being started in this many leagues… Andre Johnson, arguably the second best receiver in the league (yea, Calvin Johnson has to be the unanimous best right now), is going to be out for some time, giving Schaub a very limited set of weapons. Of course, Arian Foster might score on a screen pass, but otherwise I think it’ll be all Foster and the ground game against Oakland. I wouldn’t be surprised if Schaub has only one or no touchdowns, and would play Andy Dalton over him for this week.
DeAngelo Williams (69%, 32%) I know he’s not quite started in the majority of Yahoo leagues and a lot of ESPN leagues must be dead leagues, but I think a lot of owners are going to see Williams’ 10 carry, 82-yard performance against the Bears last week and think Williams is finally out of the coffin. However, this is not the week to start him. Prior to how the Panthers used to play offense, they are using shotgun formations at an abhorrent rate, really constricting their run game. While Carolina is also utilizing RB screens and check downs more frequently, Jonathan Stewart has shown he might actually be the better receiver in the backfield, limiting Williams’ role even more. Almost assuredly down in this game, look for Cam Newton to have yet another 300-yard passing game and another dud for DeAngelo.
If you have any last second decisions, shoot me some comments, or tweet me @jbgilpin. If you’re of the legal drinking age (have to say that due to our legal dept.), join me on Monday Nights for the brand new Twitter “Gruden ‘that guy’ drinking game” (#GrudenThatGuyDrinkingGame) for the ultimate party game that’s primed to sweep the nation. Good luck to everyone in week 5!