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Prepare Thyself: Week Two

September 12, 2008 | By Andy Goldstein | comment on this post

In many ways, Week One felt like a blur. It was over way too quickly, and if you own Tom Brady or Marques Colston, you need this column more than ever. As always, I’ll delve past the easy calls and find the sneaky starts. I’ll also commit prognosticator’s suicide and try to tell you which starters may not be worth a nod. This is more dangerous than letting Tatum Bell bring your luggage up to your room! Or, umm, something like that. Also, I’ve added in a bonus “Look at the Rookie Running Backs” section. Dynasty league owners should find that especially illuminating.

Sneaky Starts

Eli Manning (@ Rams) – While I (ahem, correctly) pointed out that Manning wasn’t a good fantasy quarterback just because of last year’s playoff run, and that starting him against the Redskins would make you a sad fantasy owner, I am completely on the bandwagon this week. Mainly, the Ram pass defense is, well, historically bad. It’s hard to impress upon you, dear readers, just how bad, but maybe this shaky cam video can help. Now, you’ll see Hank Baskett do a little stop and go. You’ll also see the Rams choose not to cover him past the “stop” portion. So when the pass is thrown, the Rams have two players covering no one, and one player trying to cover two Eagles. Even Manning can take advantage of this pass defense.

J.T. O’Sullivan (@ Seahawks) – I guess because of the Mike Martz factor, people were expecting 300 yards and two touchdowns from O’Sullivan? He ‘disappointed’ by those standards, but his stat line did hold some positive numbers. He completed 70 per cent of his attempts, he tied with Ben Roethlisberger for the fifth-highest yards-per-attempt for the week, and he finished ahead of Roethlisberger, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers in yardage. I know he had turnover issues, but the foundation was there for O’Sullivan to turn into a fantasy worthy player at some point. He just so happens to get the Seahawk pass defense this week, which allowed the Bills to get two passing scores (one came on a special teams trick play, but whatever). The Martz era might truly begin this week.

Edgerrin James (vs. Dolphins) – Despite my constant screams of “STOP RUNNING THE BALL ARIZONA, I HATE YOU!” and other things which can’t be printed here, Ken Wisenhunt tends to prefer a somewhat more grind-it-out style, especially early in games. James managed 100 yards last week and the Dolphin rush defense will be tested much more than last week against the Jets. Sadly for James owners, the goal line touchdowns will continue to go to Tim Hightower, but the yardage numbers should remain attractive.

Maurice Jones-Drew (vs. Bills) – Okay, so Jones-Drew’s first week went about as poorly as could be, but in a strange way, I can spin it into a positive. First, Fred Taylor somehow managed a worse stat line, so maybe we have a wisp of evidence in Jones-Drew’s favour. Also, the Jaguars lost guards — Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams. This is great news for the multi-purpose back! Basically, Taylor will continue to struggle, but Jones-Drew should see even more receptions with the Jaguars opening up the playbook. Okay, it’s sort of a long shot, but MoJo (will that nickname ever stick?) owners may need a confidence boost.

Mark Clayton (@ Texans) – With quarterback Joe Flacco taking over for the Ravens, I have some optimism about Clayton making good on the potential he flashed a couple seasons ago. He was targeted five times, and importantly, a couple times downfield. Those looks didn’t result in catches, but if they continue to throw to Clayton deep, he will capitalize. The Texans stopped literally one pass out of Roethlisberger’s hand last week, so Clayton could be in store for a start-worthy performance.

On Second Thought

Carson Palmer (vs. Titans) – This edict goes for pretty much the entire Bengal offense. If nothing else, fantasy owners that have legitimate reserves should give Cincy some time to come around. It’s sort of a “prove yourself” situation. If Palmer has a good game, great, put him in next week. Until then, you have to avoid the crushing performance like last week. Also, the Titan defense accounted for two interceptions and seven sacks last week against Jacksonville. They are a force and it’s not worth it to risk starting Palmer just yet.

Reggie Bush (@ Reskins) – Look, there’s not much I can say to make you bench Bush after last week’s performance. I get that. Unfortunately, I’ll have to do a Hurricane Ike impersonation and rain on your parade. It’s somewhat baffling to hear how many seem to think Bush had a “breakout” game. In actuality, it was just further evidence that he is a fine weapon, but not a good running back. He averaged 3.6 yards per carry, which is actually slightly under his career average. He also got fewer carries than supposed backup Pierre Thomas (Thomas also did better per carry). Yes, the receiving stats are great, but they can’t come consistently. Teams can do a better job gameplanning to contain Bush’s receiving numbers which leads to an inordinate number of worthless games. He will look studly one week, and then nonexistent the next. It’s been his modus operandi since he first entered the NFL.

Rookie Running Back Analysis

Darren McFadden – Nine carries, 46 yards (5.1 YPC) 0 TD, one reception, 11 receiving yards: And apparently an injury in there as well? Despite the efficient numbers, I remain somewhat cool to what he brings to the table. Don’t get me wrong, he’s certainly got some talent, he just doesn’t strike me as the game breaking type. That could change, but I will say the jury is still out here. We need to see 15 carries from him.
Trending – No Change

Jonathan Stewart – Ten carries, 53 yards (5.3 YPC) 0 TDs, 0 receptions: Stewart played well, but as I suspected, Coach John Fox relied more heavily on DeAngelo Williams (18 carries, 86 yards). Still, Stewart was better in the yard per carry area, which is worth noting. I still believe Williams will see at least 60 per cent of the total carries this season, but Stewart’s play did encourage me as to his dynasty value.
Trending – Flat in redraft, slightly up in dynasty

Felix Jones – Nine carries, 62 yards (6.9 YPC), one TD, 0 receptions: Obviously, the injury to Marion Barber opened the door for Jones and his impact was definitely impressive. Where he was non-existent in the preseason, he ran with authority on Sunday. We’ll see how Barber comes back, but Jones is looking like something of a steal now.
Trending – Up

Rashard Mendenhall: Ten carries, 28 yards (2.8 YPC) 0 TD, 0 receptions: I will admit I didn’t see much of this game aside from the Fast Willie Parker highlights. I assume Mendenhall was running the short yardage plays (although he only got one first down, so maybe not?), but even then, the stats were kind of bland. Mendenhall’s long-term value is up in the air, but it’s clear FWP will get the carries while healthy.
Trending – Down

Chris Johnson – 15 carries, 93 yards (6.2 YPC) one TD (receiving), three receptions, 34 receiving yards: As suspected, Johnson brings a spark to the Titan offense that no other player does (including a healthy and sane Vince Young). LenDale White was unimpressive and Johnson took full advantage. The only negative was the injury suffered, which was reportedly just a cramp. Still, you don’t want him to turn into a Chris “Injured by Halftime” Brown type guy.
Trending – Up, up, and away.

Matt Forte – 23 carries, 123 yards (5.3 YPC), one TD, three receptions, 18 yards: Well, clearly I should have trusted my initial thoughts on Forte. His lackluster preseason scared me off in one league and I’m kind of kicking myself now. He looked really strong as everyone surely saw. I do think the Colt run defense will be terrible this year, but Forte will get a ton of carries. I doubt I can add much to what everyone knows here.
Trending – Up…very up

Ray Rice – 22 carries, 64 yards (2.9 YPC) 0 TD, three receptions, 19 receiving yards (one lost fumble): Well then. That went pretty crappy. The complete lack of efficiency is trouble. Also, the yards-per-reception didn’t improve much from the preseason which may mean he can’t capitalize in open spaces. Obviously, one game is a small sample size (I should say that about every player here), but clearly, Rice’s value is down and the Ravens will have to rush Willis McGahee back.
Trending – Down

Kevin Smith – 16 carries, 48 yards (3.0 YPC), one TD, four receptions, 32 receiving yards: This was a disappointing game overall from Smith. The touchdown is nice and all, but might he be more of a sell-high player because of it? The YPC is bad and 16 carries against a Falcon rush defense that was 26th in rush yards and 20th in yards per carry last season should result in better stats. Colour me worried. Four receptions is the lone bright spot since Jon Kitna likes to dump it off.
Trending – Down

Steve Slaton – 13 carries, 43 yards (3.3 YPC), 0 TD, three receptions, six receiving yards: Eh, I don’t know how many people were expecting much, but Slaton definitely didn’t impress. Still, the Steeler defense is usually stout, so maybe we should refrain from passing judgment just yet.
Trending – Flat (I’ll be nice, here)

Jamaal Charles – Five carries, 28 yards (5.6 YPC), 0 TD, two receptions, six receiving yards: I’d just like to point out Charles ran better than Larry Johnson (again, small sample size) and dynasty leaguers should probably take notice now. Charles is the heir and LJ could be out, Shaun Alexander style, sooner than many expect. Just food for thought.
Trending – Up

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