NFL Week 6 Fantasy Mailbag

The Arizona Cardinals are playing like a Madden team on Easy Mode right now. If you started a whole lineup of Cardinals players last weekend, I have a feeling you would have done pretty well…

QB – Carson Palmer: 11/14, 161 pass yards, 3 TD

RB – Chris Johnson: 103 yards

RB – Andre Ellington: 63 yards, 1 TD

WR – Larry Fitzgerald: 5 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD

WR – John Brown: 4 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD

TE – Darren Fells: 2 catches, 25 yards, 1 TD

Flex – David Johnson: 3 carries, 6 yards, 2 TD

DEF – 2 Forced Fumbles, 4 INT, 1 Sack

K – Chandler Catanzaro – 6/6 PAT

I don’t know if the Cardinals will sustain these video game numbers all season, but I don’t see it slowing down this weekend in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have the worst pass defense in the league at this point, so Carson Palmer owners should be pumped. St. Louis boasted the only viable defense Arizona faced and beat them at home, however…

Quick Hits

  • Tonight the Atlanta Falcons take their 5-0 record to the Super Dome, and hope to stay undefeated with the help of Devonta Freeman. In Freeman’s last 3 games, he’s averaging 179.6 yards from scrimmage per game (539 total). He’s also leading the league in touchdowns with 8, 7 over those last 3 games, all on the ground. Freeman faces a Saints defense that is allowing the 3rd most rush yards in the league.

Freeman Week 6

  • In the last 3 weeks, Browns TE Gary Barnidge has recorded 20 receptions for 319 yards and 3 touchdowns. His pass catching total in that time is HALF of his entire career total, and he’s 30. Barnidge’s production has attributed to his quarterback’s incredible run as well. Josh McCown is averaging 384 yards and 2 touchdowns over his last 3 games, but now runs into a buzz saw with Denver coming to town. The Broncos pass defense is tops in the league with the kind of pass rushers that always seem to bring McCown back to Earth. Barnidge will be his best option to survive as the Broncos allowed 60+ receiving yards to Eric Ebron, Travis Kelce and Clive Walford.

Barnidge Week 6

  • The #TomBradyRevengeTour heads to where it all started this weekend. I imagine the Colts had this game circled on their calendar in the preseason, expected it to be Brady’s first game after a 4-game suspension, and would try to settle whatever score they had over a football they thought wasn’t inflated enough…In reality, the Colts are dealing with Wyatt Earp on his rampage in Tombstone. They’ve only won when their franchise quarterback has sat out and Brady is throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions coming in with fully inflated footballs. Brady is also throwing to two matchup nightmares in Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Edelman is averaging 99.75 yards per game, 8.5 catches, and has 3 touchdowns as well. 

Mail Time!

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I start with Duke Johnson Jr, especially in PPR. Denver is very good against the run, yes, but they are susceptible to pass catching backs. Isaiah Crowell got his numbers last week against Baltimore, but Johnson had as many touches and was the feature back down the stretch. I expect Cleveland to be trailing and throwing. The Duke is their man in that scenario.

Next I lean toward Ronnie Hillman, partially because Ameer Abdullah is in the winless Jim Caldwell’s doghouse for fumble issues. Hillman goes against a horrendous Browns run-defense that is allowing 5 yards per carry. If neither Hillman or CJ Anderson can get it going against Cleveland, I would then recommend looking elsewhere.

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When the Chargers are trailing, Danny Woodhead is getting a majority of the workload from Melvin Gordon. I know you’re fully aware of what the Packers are capable of scoring-wise, so you should expect Woodhead to get plenty of work. I don’t trust Abdullah’s usage at this point in the season like I do Theo Riddick’s.

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As I pointed out earlier, the McCown thing has been fun but he’s in for a rude awakening this weekend. While the Falcons defense is improved, the only decent quarterback they’ve faced is Eli Manning (that was a struggle for me to type). Drew Brees has thrown 335+ yards in 3 of his 4 games and seems to have figured something out with Willie Snead and Ben Watson downfield. Go with the proven player in a better matchup this weekend, Breesus. If McCown can match his production from the past 3 weeks against Denver, then I’ll start to believe in his hype.

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Really aren’t making this easy, are ya?

Hillman is your best option against a bad Cleveland run defense. Already said why I don’t like Abdullah. Golden Tate could burn the Bears secondary, which has improved in coverage recently, but I don’t like Stafford against their pass rush. And Pierre Garcon has a one-way ticket to Revis Island.

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QB: Is Blake Bortles available? He’s probably better than all four in a spot start going up against Houston. Out of the 4 though, at least McCown done something worth writing home about in recent weeks. Tyrod looks doubtful this week, so I would prioritize McCown (1) then Mariota (2).

WR: Already mentioned why I don’t like Pierre this week, and really it’s now or never for Jordan Matthews. In their first meeting, Matthews had 8 catches, 105 yards and 1 TD against Philly. I don’t know if he’ll get the same numbers, but the gameplan is there…as opposed to Garcon vs. a stellar Jets pass D.

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(1) – Breesus.

(2) – Sammy Watkins says he’s planning to return, and I believe him. I would also go with him over Martavis. Shaky quarterback situation, but at least he’s the #1 pass option. Both he and Bryant are taking on tough pass defenses, and Bryant has to work his way into a WR group with Antonio Brown and Michael Vick’s new favorite target, Darius Heyward-Bey.

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Alshon Jeffery is FINALLY getting work in practice, which is encouraging to me. If he plays, he’s a must-start with the way Jay Cutler is playing as of late…If he doesn’t go, Rueben Randle (if healthy) is your next best option. Stevie Johnson becomes even less valuable with Antonio Gates back (and Philip Rivers’ obsession with Gates). And Torrey Smith is currently stuck in the worst offensive dumpster fire in the league.

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Not a great passing matchup for either quarterback at all. I see both quarterbacks having to make more plays with their feet than their arms, but I also see Russell Wilson benefitting more from Marshawn Lynch returning for play-action. That, plus the defensive backs that Cam will be throwing against, gives Cam the slight edge.

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There really isn’t a team in the league who doesn’t have viable fantasy options. I mentioned San Francisco being a dumpster fire, but they do have Carlos Hyde finding life again against a tough Giants defense.

Bad teams also always adjust their identity as the season continues, which allows the emergence of diamonds in the rough. As the Jaguars went on their slow death march a year ago, they committed to running the ball and Denard Robinson became a consistent 100 yard rusher for at least a month. And as team’s with bad defenses consistently have to play from behind, there’s always a wide receiver benefitting from the “catchup” mentality with garbage time targets and yardage.

Players individually are a different story. I gave up on Jonathan Stewart after 3 weeks of no production, and I don’t blame other owners for doing the same with CJ Anderson. When a top half draft pick doesn’t give you much return after the first quarter, you either try to flip him, or relegate him to your bench and wait for him to turn it around.

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RB: Crowell’s game against Denver is way less effective than the Duke’s. That alone has me leaning toward Miller, and I like your thinking. New play-calling and a new attitude can’t hurt Lamar Miller’s usage.

WR/T: I am no longer a James Jones hater like I was for the first 3 weeks of the season. His 5 touchdowns with Rodgers tossing them makes him WR2 value for anyone. Then I go with Tyler Eifert against a Buffalo defense that his given up too much against tight ends this season…If your league gives points for returning yards, Jarvis Landry shoots the top of your group.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

NFL Week 2 Fantasy Mailbag

Week 1 is in the books, and we’re off and running! 

Tyler Lockett return TD

The return of the NFL to your Sundays, and big return touchdowns from Tyler Lockett (SEA), Jarvis Landry (MIA) and Tavon Austin (STL), had everyone buzzing after the weekend. Top receivers like T.Y. Hilton (IND) and DeSean Jackson (WSH) had Fantasy managers all over the waiver wire for suitable replacements. If you had Peyton Manning, have you already tried handcuffing him in a trade for someone who you feel confident about throwing further than 10 yards?…I did. 

Quick Hits 

  • If you haven’t traded Peyton yet, because you couldn’t or you want to hold out hope, picking up Marcus Mariota certainly seemed like the sexy move after his NFL debut with the Titans. Mariota became the first rookie to post a perfect passer rating (158.3) and the second to throw 4 touchdowns in his debut. Fran Tarkenton was the first in 1961, but Mariota accomplished the feat in just the first half…I wouldn’t expect the the same dominance against the likes of Joe Haden and the Browns defense this week, but Super Mariota is worth having on your bench. 

  • Hard not to feel good about the offense that takes on that Buccaneers defense after you saw what a rookie quarterback and Bishop Sankey did to them. At home, Drew Brees, Brandin Cooks, and maybe even Brandon Coleman will eat the Tampa secondary alive. Mark Ingram owners should also be excited for the matchup after seeing his usage in the passing game last week. CJ Spiller is set to return, but Ingram shouldn’t lose too many snaps after leading all running backs in receiving yards with 98 on 8 catches. 
  • It’s scary to think Julio Jones is getting better, right? The Falcons WR, who ran a 4.3 40-yard dash on a broken foot in his draft combine, proved Monday Night how essential he is to the new Atlanta offense with 9 catches on 11 targets for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jones would have been closer to 200 yards had two of his big plays not been called back on holding calls. Expect another big week out of him against the Giants after they allowed the 2nd most pass yards in their season opener. 

Mail Time

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I know Donte Moncrief became a favorite pickup for many after Hilton went down in Week 1, and I get it. Moncrief has all the measurables, the speed, and the quarterback that make him viable as Hilton’s replacement. However, I don’t love him against the Jets and Darrelle Revis. In two games against Revis, Hilton recorded just 4 catches for 60 yards. That doesn’t spark much excitement from me for Moncrief…While the Rams defensive line is indeed terrifying, their secondary allowed the 3rd most catches to wide receivers last week and that bodes well for Washington’s new #1 WR Pierre Garcon. During his string of starts in 2013, Kirk Cousins targeted Garcon an averaged of 12.2 times over 5 games. Moncrief still has to share balls with Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Rashad Jennings made things murkier after throwing his quarterback under the bus, while also losing touches to Andrew Williams and Shane Vereen. I like Tevin Coleman most longterm, as he separated himself as the more reliable back from Devonta Freeman. For Week 2, Garcon is your best option.

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To answer your first question, go Matt Ryan for sure. I know the Bears secondary looks very tempting, but the Giants look even worse with their unit. If the Tony Romo was able to shred them without Dez Bryant, imagine what Ryan will do with both Jones and Roddy White healthy….

Your first option at running back should be Latavius Murray. The Ravens defense got worse against the run losing Terrell Suggs, and Murray was used like an every-down back and useful in PPR catching 7 passes against a better Bengals D….Sankey looked great last week, but when has he proven that he can be consistent on the pro level? CJ Anderson is banged up and Ronnie Hillman certainly emerged as a threat to take touches away. Joique Bell also didn’t do anything to quiet the Ameer Abdullah fan club…Only because the matchup isn’t great for Anderson do I recommend Sankey over him, but it’s very begrudgingly. The Browns may be harshing his mellow very quickly.

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See my previous answer about the latter 2 and just go with TJ Yeldon. The Jaguars offensive line graded out in the Top 3 for run blocking last week and Alfred Morris burned the Dolphins defense for 125 yards.

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One can assume LeGarrette Blount is going to get feature back duties this weekend returning from suspension, but when could you ever assume anything with Bill Belichick running backs? Blount also comes back against a scary Buffalo front 7…Danny Woodhead, on the other hand, took more than half of the Chargers snaps last weekend, scored 2 touchdowns, and was the second most targeted player for Philip Rivers. Rookie Melvin Gordon may get more work in his second start, but I trust Woodhead’s opportunities over Blount’s…especially in the red zone.

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The most reliable player in this scenario is CJ Anderson, and that’s scary. With talks that both Todd Gurley and Tre Mason being ready to go this weekend makes Benny Cunningham a lot less valuable. I would recommend Lockett if you got return points for him, but he still needs to grow in the Seattle passing attack with Doug Baldwin and Jermain Kearse well ahead of him.

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After taking more snaps than Joique Bell and proving he’s a much better home run threat, Ameer Abdullah made a lot of people right about him. He also has a better matchup going against the Vikings than Woodhead does against the Bengals. I would like to see Abdullah pickup where Carlos Hyde left off last Monday Night.

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The one person benefiting from Peyton Manning’s short pass strategy is Emmanuelle Sanders. Especially in PPR, he’s a must play. Second, I trust John Brown against the Bears secondary. Larry Fitzgerald will get most of the attention leaving not much to take on Brown’s speed downfield.

In regards to James Jones, he caught 4 passes and scored 2 touchdowns last week against Alan F’ing Ball (who wanted know part of covering inside the end zone) and a struggling Kyle Fuller. There’s a reason Jones was available for the Packers to pick him up before the season started, and I don’t think his skills are suddenly back to 2012 quality. Rodgers makes him a better player, but Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery are younger…and possibly more viable.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

Fantasy Cheat Sheet 2015: Quarterbacks

If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to start preparing for your upcoming Fantasy Football Draft. 

Whether you’re playing in Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS, or some other website, you don’t necessarily want to base your picks off of their pre-draft rankings. That’s why I write up a CHEAT SHEET with players I prefer, based on their production last season, their team’s recent acquisitions, schemes/sytems, and injuries. 

Here are my Top-20 quarterbacks and where I would prioritize drafting them round-by-round. 

1. Andrew Luck, IND

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts

2014: 40 TD/ 16 INT, 4,761 yards

Throws the ball A LOT. Just added Andre Johnson and a legit running back in Frank Gore to keep defensive backs honest. 5 Good WRs, 2 decent TEs…Yeah. The Beard’s ceiling has been raised.

Pick: Late 1st, Early 2nd round

2. Aaron Rodgers, GB

Rodgers

2014: 38 TD / 5 INT, 4,381 yards

Doesn’t turn it over often and plays better down the stretch. Rodgers is missing his #1 receiver, but could make someone else into a star very quickly. Also scary in the red zone on the ground.

Pick: Late 1st, Early 2nd

3. Drew Brees, NO

Buffalo Bills v New Orleans Saints

2014: 33 TD / 17 INT, 4,952 yards

Brees can be great or he can kill you. If Brandin Cooks stays healthy, he’ll bounce back and tear it up. May not throw as many TDs but he’ll pick up plenty of yardage and completions. Led the league in both last year.

Pick: 3rd or 4th round

4. Tony Romo, DAL

Sports Day

2014: 34 TD / 9 INT, 3,705 yards

Expect Romo to throw it more with DeMarco Murray gone. Cowboys have the best offensive line in the league and give him plenty of time to find an open man, and has sure hands in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

Pick 4th Round

5. Peyton Manning, DEN

P Manning

2014: 39 TD / 15, 4,761 yards

I don’t believe Manning would have come back if he wasn’t healthy. He will still throw a ton. Plus Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are great after the catch.

Pick: 4th Round

6. Russell Wilson, SEA

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks

2014: 20 TD/7 INT, 3,475 yards

Doesn’t get a ton of passing points but makes up for it with rushing yards and TDs on the ground. Also just added Jimmy Graham, so passing points should go up.

Pick 4th Round

7. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT

Roethlisberger

2014: 32 TD / 9 INT, 4,952 yards

Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell definitely help Ben get his points. He’ll throw 5 TDs one day, but none another. 

Pick 5th Round

8. Matt Ryan, ATL

Ryan

2014: 28 TD / 14 INT, 4,694 yards

New coach and OC, super young RBs, and healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White…Matty Ice is going to let it fly. 

Pick: 5th Round

9. Eli Manning, NYG

New York Giants

2014: 30 TD / 14 INT, 4,410 yards

Eli doesn’t have an excuse not to produce big time in year two of Odell Beckham Jr and having a healthy Victror Cruz back. Rashad Jennings provides solid relief in the run game when he isn’t sidelined, and Tom Brady could tell Manning how good Shane Vereen is on passing downs. 

Pick 6th Round

10. Tom Brady, NE

AP PATRIOTS RAVENS FOOTBALL S FBN USA MD

2014: 33 TD / 9 INT, 4,109 yards

This obviously can change if his suspension goes away, but Brady can be your first pick after most of the Top 10 go. Next couple QBs can bridge you to after he returns and he’ll be a boss when he does.

Pick 6th Round or a few after you pick your first QB

11. Phillip Rivers, SD

NFL: New York Giants at San Diego Chargers

2014: 31 TD / 18 INT, 4,286 yards

First half of last year, was Top 3 among QBS. Rivers just got paid too, which should motivate him to earn his keep. He also gets Danny Woodhead back to throw to and Keenan Allen should be better as well.

Pick 7th Round and beyond

12. Matthew Stafford, DET

Stafford

2014: 22 TD / 12 INT, 4,247 yards

This really depends on how healthy Calvin Johnson is. Megatron at his best is devastating and would make Stafford an awesome backup or even starter. Golden Tate proved to help him out too in Johnson’s absence. Theo Riddick and Joique Bell are proven to be solid pass catchers out of the backfield too.

Pick 7th Round

13. Jay Cutler, CHI

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears

2014: 28 TD / 18 INT, 3,812 yards

Jay is poised for a bounce back year and not just because #CuttyDoesIt. Former Peyton Manning OC Adam Gase has emphasized utilizing Cutler’s strengths throwing on the run and play-action. He’ll be missing Kevin White for at least the first half of the season, but finally has a true slot receiver in Eddie Royal. Also expect Martellus Bennett to be big when spread out, like Julius Thomas in past years. 

Pick 8th Round and beyond

14. Ryan Tannehill, MIA

Ryan Tannehill

2014: 27 TD / 12 INT, 4,045 yards

Gets better every year. Added proven veteran receivers, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings, who can also play in uptempo offenses. Jarvis Landry will be Tannehill’s best weapon to stretch the field though.

Pick 8th Round and beyond

15. Cam Newton, CAR

Newton

2014: 18 TD / 12 INT, 3,127 yards

Newton is sliding in most drafts after losing Kelvin Benjamin for the season to injury. Rookie Devin Funchess isn’t as depended on as advertised with veterans like Jericho Cotchery and Ted Gin Jr. in the mix, but can put up Benjamin-like production. Ability to run for TDs makes up for lack of passing points too. 

Pick 8th Round

16. Joe Flacco, BAL

Flacco

2014: 27 TD / 12 INT, 3,986 yards

Lost Torrey Smith and his replacement, Breshad Perriman, is questionable. Flacco will be throwing a lot though with Marc Trestman as OC. Could be either really good or really meh.

Pick 9th round and beyond

17. Teddy Bridgewater, MIN

Bridgewater

2014: 14 TD / 12 INT 2,919 yards

The Vikings are a run heavy team, without question. Teddy has looked excellent in preseason though, and he has Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson to throw to. The training wheels are off in year two and you can expect Kyle Rudolph to provide a nice security blanket in the Norv Turner system

Pick 10th Round and beyond

18. Andy Dalton, CIN

Dalton

2014: 19 TD / 17 INT, 3,398 yards

Dalton’s last season was thrown off with AJ Green getting injured. The Bengals added Denarius Moore to go with Marvin Jones and Sanu. Don’t bank on him but he’s a nice backup with nice options.

Pick 11th Round and beyond

Colin Kaepernick, SF

Kaepernick

2014: 19 TD / 10 INT, 2,369 yards

The 49ers could potentially be the worst team in the NFL, but Kaepernick can still take over a game in desperate times. He still has Anquan Boldin, plus Torrey Smith and Reggie Bush who are both helpful in the passing. Kaepernick does run better than anyone on the team too. The defense will be awful so he’ll have to score plenty to stay in games.

Pick 11th Round and beyond

20. Derek Carr, OAK

Carr

2014: 21 TD / 12 INT, 3,270 yards

Carr showed flashes of the quarterback the Raiders need him to be last season. Drafting Amari Cooper helps along with a receiving group that also includes Michael Crabtree, Kenbrell Thompkins and Andre Holmes

Pick 12th Round and beyond

Do your rankings look different? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter

Also…

Running Backs Cheat Sheet

Wide Receivers Cheat Sheet 

Tight Ends Cheat Sheet

Defenses & Kickers Cheat Sheet