Bestowing midseason fantasy football kudos, jeers
Faster than a speeding bullet, we've arrived at the halfway point of the NFL regular season.
And you know what that means — it's time to heap praise upon the players who have thrilled fantasy owners and blast those who need to WAKE UP down the stretch.
Not much of a contest here. Some fantasy pundits were worried that the Saints losing head coach Sean Payton to a yearlong suspension would have negative effects on Drew Brees. And while the team has skidded to an ugly 2-5 start, Brees has thrilled his owners with multiple TDs every week and 300-yard passing days in five of seven weeks.
The owner of the most passing yards in a season is on pace for 48 total TDs and 5,280 yards through the air.
One could argue that this would be Robert Griffin III (ranked 16th in the preseason by me, now sixth in fantasy ppg). But I'm going with Peyton Manning. I had him 14th in August, but the Broncos' QB has 14 TDs and is averaging 323.8 passing yards per game the last five. He's third in points per game.
Plenty of you were thrilled to get Cam Newton on draft day, but he's completely derailed many fantasy seasons thus far with just 8 total TDs and 11 turnovers. Newton is on pace for only 6 rushing scores after 14 in 2011.
Two rookies — Cleveland's Trent Richardson and Tampa Bay's Doug Martin — are going to share this award. Martin has more total points, but Richardson has been much more consistent, scoring in five of eight games. But Martin has been the No. 1 fantasy back over the last three weeks, averaging 155.7 yards from scrimmage with 3 TDs.
Lots of candidates here, from LeSean McCoy (ranked third in preseason, 10th now) to Matt Forte (fourth, 16th) to Chris Johnson (ninth, 23rd). But my "winner" is going to be Darren McFadden (fifth, 22nd). The new scheme implemented in Oakland does not fit with McFadden's talents and he's suffered badly, averaging 3.3 yards per carry after a 5.3 average over the 2010-11 seasons. But it's a good "buy-low" opportunity, because Oakland's schedule is very soft down the stretch.
Going from San Diego to Tampa Bay certainly didn't hurt Vincent Jackson (23rd, second) at all. Jackson is on pace for a 1,431-yard, 11-TD season. The guess here is he'll end up around 1,250 yards and 8-9 TDs.
Megatron has become the Megabust. Many a bar bet would have been won for anybody who proclaimed, "Calvin Johnson will have just 1 touchdown after Week 8." A consensus first-round fantasy pick, Johnson is in 25th place right now behind the likes of Mike Williams, Torrey Smith and Andre Roberts.
With just 4 total TDs over the past two seasons, I didn't even put Pittsburgh's Heath Miller in my TE rankings (which went to No. 21). But he's taken advantage of the Steelers' need to throw with 6 TDs among his 35 catches.
Easy one here. San Diego's Antonio Gates (3rd, 14th) has almost all of his production in one game. At this point, his owners would gladly take just 4-5 more TDs down the stretch.
Starting Michael Vick (17 points) over Matthew Stafford (42) nearly cost me in the regular league, but I squeaked out an 88-87 victory to improve to 4-4. I wasn't as fortunate in the auction league, however as the decision to start the Jets defense (minus 1) over Oakland (5) cost me in a 50-45 loss. That team is 2-6 but still alive thanks to a decent number of total points.
BAD, BAD, BAD!
Taking too many chances in the good bets has killed me of late, so I'll set my sights on more sure things to try and help you guys out a bit more.
•Raiders QB Carson Palmer and WR Denarius Moore vs. Tampa Bay. Moore has scored in three straight games, and the Bucs can be had through the air.
•Ravens QB Joe Flacco and WR Anquan Boldin at Cleveland. The Browns have allowed 15 passing TDs and that includes a goose egg put up last week by Philip Rivers in awful conditions.
•Bears QB Jay Cutler at Tennessee. Owners of Drew Brees and Tom Brady looking for a one-week replacement should consider Cutler. He's good for 225-250 yards and 2 TDs against a Titans team allowing 32 points per game.
•Panthers QB Cam Newton at Washington. For one week at least, Newton gets his mojo back.
•Browns RB Trent Richardson vs. Baltimore. If we consider Dallas' DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones to be one running back, the Ravens have allowed a whopping 141 yards to feature backs on the ground the last three games.
•Dolphins RB Reggie Bush at Indianapolis. Giving you one more shot, Reggie. One more.
•Broncos RB Willis McGahee at Cincinnati. The Bengals are tied for second with 9 rushing scores allowed.
•Lions defense at Jacksonville. No team has scored fewer points than Jacksonville.
•Falcons defense vs. Dallas. Atlanta will feast on the turnover-prone Cowboys.
•Titans RB Chris Johnson and WRs Kenny Britt and Nate Washington at Bears. Full disclosure here: I selfishly hope Britt somehow finds the end zone but the odds are slim against the best defense in the league.
•Bengals QB Andy Dalton vs. Denver. Over the last six quarters — and four of them coming against the highflying Saints — the Broncos have given up just 2 touchdowns. This unit is playing about as well as anybody in the league.
•Bucs QB Josh Freeman at Oakland. Despite Freeman's recent hot streak, I just can't trust him on a long trip West playing in front of Raider Nation.
•Bills RB C.J. Spiller at Houston. The Texans are the only team that has not allowed a rushing score.
•Jaguars RB Rashad Jennings vs. Detroit. The Lions may have found something last week and should carry it over against woeful Jacksonville. Figure Jennings gets 7-9 points.
•Steelers defense at New York Giants. Only New England gives up fewer points to fantasy defenses than New York.
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