At least one Fantasy owner in every league felt the crunch when Tom Brady went down with his knee injury in Week 1. Those owners have since scrambled to make alternate plans, likely adding Matt Cassel to their rosters.
But what about the Fantasy owners of Randy Moss, the Patriots' Pro Bowl receiver who set the NFL single-season record for receiving touchdowns a year ago? With Brady out, can Moss be counted on to be a reliable Fantasy receiver with Cassel, literally a career backup quarterback, throwing him the ball?
|History suggests Randy Moss should continue to produce, just not at last year's pace. (US Presswire)|
"We know the show must go on," Moss said on a conference call with the media Wednesday. "We know now that with (Brady) being gone for the season, a lot of players are going to have to step it up a notch and go the extra level knowing that we had a guy like Tom and we're going to miss him. That means everybody else is going to have to give it a little bit more."
But you might not expect this: Despite Cassel and Moss being in the same locker room since April of 2007, Moss says that he doesn't know what to expect from his new signal-caller. When CBSSports.com asked Moss on Wednesday for a description of Cassel's strengths as a quarterback, the wideout couldn't deliver.
"I don't really know. I'm used to working with Tom," Moss said. "I can't really answer your question, to pinpoint it, to be exact. Really, the only performance that I've seen has been in the preseason, and in each week in the preseason we were coming back looking at the things we did right and the things we did wrong and we still left a lot of offense out there on the field.
"Matt Cassel has a great upside, and it's up to us as far as his teammates and coaching staff to keep him upbeat and to keep everything positive because there are times during games where there are negative plays and teams do step up and make that run. ... I don't think Cassel needs to do anything or we need to do anything, everyone needs to just do their job."
Moss added that the Patriots' game plan shouldn't change: "I don't know if this offense can be conservative," he said -- and that the notion of people believing that Brady's injury will cost New England a chance to be competitive this season will bring added motivation after last year's perfect season-gone-bad.
"The New England Patriots have won this division over the last couple of years, so I think the New England Patriots are still the team to beat," Moss said. "We did have a big loss in Tom Brady, but we still have 10 other guys to go out there and make it happen. Tom was a big, big component to executing and making our offense move, but now with him gone, we have to find other ways to make that offense move. We're still the team to beat in this division, and we'll see what happens."
While no one can be sure what will happen with Cassel under center, it's worth looking back at Moss' career and seeing what did happen when he played without a quality quarterback.
Three passers -- Randall Cunningham, Daunte Culpepper and Brady -- all helped Moss morph into a nearly unstoppable force through the air. But without them, his career stats show a receiver who hasn't exactly been a Fantasy MVP.
Here's how he did over his career solely in games that those three quarterbacks started, not including Week 1 of this season:
|Randy Moss: Career with three-best QBs|
|107 games||584 rec.||9,003 yards||96 TDs|
|Average||5.4 rec.||84.1 yards||0.9 TDs|
Brad Johnson, Jeff George, Todd Bouman, Spergon Wynn, Gus Frerotte, Kerry Collins, Marques Tuiasosopo, Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter have all also had the chance to start a game and work in an offense with Moss. We think it's safe to call these guys "backup quarterbacks," much like Cassel is now. By comparison, Moss' cumulative stats in the 47 games he played with these guys under center aren't pretty, and they paint a picture of what we could see from Moss for the rest of this season.
|Randy Moss: Career with backup QBs|
|47 games||190 rec.||3,190 yards||28 TDs|
|Average||4 rec.||67.8 yards||0.6 TDs|
With this information comes a very important caveat: Not all quarterbacks, starter or otherwise, are created equal. And, not all teams are created equal. Anyone who's been around football for a few years knows that the numbers Moss had with Wynn versus the numbers he had with, say, Collins, won't average out equally. While we don't know exactly what kind of quarterback Cassel will turn out to be, we do know that he's at least capable enough to throw for 150 yards at a moment's notice, as he did in Week 1.
Furthermore, we can assume that the culture in the locker rooms in Minnesota and New England and the culture of the Oakland locker room are vastly different. If you recall, Moss was a malcontent for most of his entire stay with the Raiders thanks to a lame-duck coach in his first year and arguably the worst offensive scheme ever put into NFL playbooks his second year. Moss' career-worst numbers came in Oakland, especially that second season, and he proved that it wasn't his game that was the problem, because he rebounded with some of his best numbers a year later with the Patriots.
Assuming Moss remains motivated, pretty much a sure thing considering the culture in New England, one might suggest tossing his Oakland numbers out from this entire exercise. By doing so, you eliminate 28 games, but you get an idea of what a 'motivated' Moss does without his primary passer. Also, the Minnesota offense is more like what the New England offense is than the awful Oakland offense Moss had to deal with.
|Randy Moss: Minnesota with backup QBs|
|19 games||88 rec.||1,632 yards||17 TDs|
|Average||4.6 rec.||85.8 yards||0.9 TDs|
Interestingly enough, his Minnesota numbers with backups were a smidge better on average compared to how he did with his big-three quarterbacks. That's likely because the sample size of the big-three quarterbacks was practically 10 times as much. But the fact that they were close hints that Moss' 2008 season isn't a lost cause.
Simply put, don't expect Moss to be a freak and score multiple touchdowns in a game like he did eight times in last year's regular season. Don't even pencil him in for over 100 yards per game, like he did six times in '07. We know you can't bench him, but time will tell whether or not Moss can be a stud or a dud, and it will hinge on Cassel, who has yet to distinguish himself as being a capable quarterback, or even worthy of being mentioned alongside the nine guys Moss played with in Minnesota and Oakland.
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