If you own any Patriots players, it's officially panic time.
Nearly every conceivable situation imaginable that would suggest passing the ball befell New England in Week 6, and they failed at it. They entered their game against the Chargers, who owned the worst pass defense, statistically, in the NFL. With half of their four-headed running back monster inactive, all signs pointed to plenty of passing. And they fell behind quickly, forcing their play calling to be more pass oriented.
In theory, it was exactly what we could have hoped for. In execution, it was hideous.
|There seems to be a lot of opponents dancing around Matt Cassel these days. (US Presswire)|
The receivers mostly gave a good effort (Moss didn't come up with a couple of catchable balls), as did the running backs. It's just that Cassel didn't make plays, pure and simple. And the clock is ticking on his playing time -- there's no way that the Patriots will stick with Cassel if he plays like he did Sunday night. Perhaps they'll give rookie quarterback Kevin O'Connell a look soon. As a die-hard Patriots fan and Fantasy fanatic said to me Monday morning, "How much worse could he be?"
So we're right back where we were after Week 1, feeling the ripple effects of Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard's unintentional hit on Brady's knee. Except this time, there's no optimism. Anyone with two eyes and a working television could deliver the same 'no-confidence vote' in Cassel that Fantasy owners will have this week. The bottom line is that even with talent surrounding him, Cassel can't deliver good numbers. When his best week is 259 yards, one touchdown, one fumble and two interceptions, you know you can get better. Suddenly, players like Matt Ryan, Kyle Orton, David Garrard and Gus Frerotte look better in lineups than any quarterback the Patriots have.
As such, you can dial down the expectations for the Patriots' receivers. Moss hasn't topped 30 yards in three of his last four games! Is he even a No. 2 Fantasy wide receiver? Maybe he's a No. 3?! At the very least, Wes Welker is consistently getting between 50 and 75 yards per game, which is more than you can say for Moss. And I'd like to think that with a good matchup, they'll do well. But how much can you trust a receiver when you know his quarterback can't get the job done?
Adding to the whole Patriots mess is their running back corps, a group that guarantees no amount of work to any player in any week. Laurence Maroney, the running back everyone pinned as a re-emerging talent in 2008, was inactive in Week 6 and has started to broadly talk about problems he's having (problems that might include differences with the coaching staff or his health). Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and LaMont Jordan are the other rushers involved, but none of them are really appealing since even Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels says that he goes with the flow of the game when utilizing his backs.
Long story short, the Patriots' offense is a mess. Cassel can't be trusted, and now owners must make tough decisions each week on Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and any Patriot running back whose jersey number begins with a 3. Is now a time to trade for Moss or Welker (or Maroney or Morris)? Maybe, but don't give up much, and don't expect much from them other than a weekly headache.
Here's the most depressing stat of all: The Patriots' offense has eight touchdowns through five games, as many as the Lions through four, and only the Raiders, Chiefs, Rams, Bengals and Browns (three more offensive disasters) have less.
Fantasy & Reality
Quick observations about the misconceptions (Fantasy) and truths (Reality) during the week's action.
Fantasy: Jason Campbell is a legit Fantasy starter. I just got done picking apart one quarterback who had an easy matchup, so it's only fair to do the same to another. Campbell hasn't thrown a touchdown in two games after notching six in his previous four. One big reason: Santana Moss hasn't been making many grabs (two in Week 6, zero in Week 5). Another: pass protection has gone south. But in 26 career starts, Campbell has three 250-yard-plus games and eight games with two touchdowns (one with three touchdowns). It's safe to say that he's a complete quarterback except for the routine big stats. We'd say he's good in games with a great matchup, but he had that in Week 6 and bombed.
Reality: Matt Ryan is the goods. Everyone will yap about how Ryan led the Falcons to a comeback win over the Bears thanks to one well-timed throw to the left sideline that left one second on the clock. The truth is that Ryan threw like that all game long. Between his talent (great field vision, nice accurate arm, nice deep ball throws) and the surprising talent around him (receivers Roddy White and Harry Douglas and a very, very, very underrated offensive line), we're going to see some good stuff from him sooner than later. He'll have some off games as a rookie, but all the chatter of him being Peyton Manning-esque sounded right on Sunday. He's got short-term potential as a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback.
Fantasy: Marvin Harrison is washed up. Unless you lost because of the play, you can't deny that it was good to see Harrison beat Chris McAlister on a sideline route for a long touchdown in the first quarter of the Ravens-Colts matchup. Harrison's speed is still an issue, but the mere fact that he beat a proven corner with good speed is a sign that Harrison still warrants Fantasy consideration. And, it's a telling sign that Manning and the passing offense is getting close to their lofty expectations. Here's more proof: Manning was sacked once by a fierce Baltimore defense through the first three quarters when the Colts built their lead.
Reality: Adrian Peterson's fumbles cost him a monster game. The bad news was that two fumbles in Lions territory (one deep) hurt Peterson's Fantasy owners even though the first-round running back rebounded with a 100-yard game in Week 6. The good news is that Peterson is a dedicated player who will work on that aspect of his game this week in practice. The better news is that he's averaging over 4.4 yards per carry in all but the game at New Orleans on Monday night. The best news is that he plays a Bears defense in Week 7 that he ran over for 302 yards and five touchdowns in two games last season.
Fantasy: Warrick Dunn is an old third-down back who would be lucky to get 40 yards per game. Geez, that was the quietest 115 yards I've ever seen a running back rush for in a game. I suppose that's the byproduct of your team whitewashing the Panthers. I also suppose that it's the byproduct of having a power back block for you, as Earnest Graham did when the Bucs found themselves shorthanded at fullback. While it's incredible that Graham willingly gave up his stats to block for Dunn, I don't believe Fantasy owners get points for nice blocking. This move may have opened the door for Dunn to earn more playing time, giving him some value, but at the cost of Graham losing some value. At least he scored a touchdown.
Reality: The Eagles' offense can be potent without Brian Westbrook. It helps that they played against the 49ers, but the Philadelphia offense was sparkling with star tailback Brian Westbrook sitting out with rib fractures. Donovan McNabb didn't need to shoulder the entire load, getting help from Correll Buckhalter, who totaled 178 yards and a score in a solid impersonation of Westbrook. Really, Buckhalter filling in for Westbrook right down to the versatility was what made the Eagles run smoothly. That, and a defense that really stepped up against the pass after some bad weeks.
Tony Romo's pinkie is broken. Now what?
Romo's Fantasy owners have a tough four weeks ahead of them after the Cowboys quarterback broke his pinkie in Week 6 at Arizona. Not only must owners live with the reality that Romo is on the shelf until Week 11, but finding a replacement who can produce anywhere close to what Romo's been delivering (three straight games with three passing touchdowns) is impossible.
So let's pick up the pieces, starting with the guy replacing Romo, Brad Johnson. The 17-year veteran was a candidate to be replaced this preseason, but the club couldn't find anyone good enough to take his spot. That's going to turn out to be a good thing because Johnson has been in Dallas for a couple of years and has a solid knowledge of coordinator Jason Garrett's offense. Johnson had an uneventful preseason (310 yards, one touchdown, one interception) but completed 65 percent of his passes (26-of-40) for a 7.8 yards per attempt average.
Johnson has an above-average arm and a good football mind. Mobility is a huge issue for him, but the Dallas offensive line has kept Romo clean for much of the season and is one of the best in the league. Then again, Romo is mobile. There's no doubt that running the Cowboys' offense will be simple for Johnson, but running an offense and posting good stats in it are two different things, right Matt Cassel? If you're not sold on a 40-year-old quarterback to be your quick-fix starter, other quarterbacks who might be on your waiver wire to consider for Week 7 and beyond include Trent Edwards, Jake Delhomme and Chad Pennington (Why these guys? Keep reading).
What about the rest of the big players in Dallas? There is going to be a dropoff in stats, but it's not going to be as bad as you might think. In fact, this injury might very well be a blessing in disguise for the Cowboys, who until halfway through the second half Sunday were plodding and unable to put up the numbers we're accustomed to seeing from them. Johnson's arrival to the huddle will force Garrett to get the Cowboys' running game back on track -- Marion Barber has averaged an awful 3.23 yards per carry in his last three games. It will also mean a safer style of offense with fewer deep passes. That will suit tight end Jason Witten just fine, but it might mean that Terrell Owens' season-long drought of 100-yard games will likely continue.
Barber, Witten and Owens are still quality starters for owners to lean on. If Felix Jones is healthy, his number should be called more often than before. And Miles Austin certainly deserves a long look, not only because he's routinely been a part of the Cowboys' offense of late, but because he and Johnson worked together during the preseason. Johnson connected on several deep passes with Austin, so he probably has a good idea of his play. Every little bit helps.
The Art of the Fantasy Deal
Week 7 is about the time when trades begin to unfold across Fantasy leagues. By now, every owner has a record and a good idea what direction his or her team is going. The teams at the top look to solidify their roster with quality depth, the teams on their tail bail out on depth for the best possible lineup, the teams behind them make a last-ditch effort to get back into the playoff hunt, and the teams at the bottom of the standings start making plans to do other things on Sunday afternoons. Figuring out which team you are is where you start.
Trading in Fantasy Football is rarely easy because everyone wants the sweetheart deal. It never happens -- the only time you'll see Andre Johnson traded for Tim Hightower is if it's in some sort of keeper league. But that doesn't mean that the process of getting a deal done has to be as long and annoying as a Brett Favre retirement press conference.
The primary idea to remember when you make an offer is this: Does the trade make sense for both teams? Offering an owner Drew Brees when he already has Tony Romo is silly. So when you go out looking for puzzle pieces for your team, make sure the pieces you're willing to give up fit the other owner's team too.
The second idea is to be fair. Offering six players that average five points per week for one player that averages 30 points per week is ludicrous. I've made my fair share of three-for-one and four-for-one trades in my day, but the general rule is that if you're trying to get one player, your offer shouldn't exceed two players. By following that rule, you're forced to offer two good players for one great player. That usually makes for fair swaps.
Also, nothing makes the trading process easier and faster than offering fair deals right off the bat. Starting with an offer of Selvin Young for Brian Westbrook and then trying to find a happy medium via negotiation is a waste of time. You're not Donald Trump, and this isn't a multi-million dollar business takeover we're talking about. Be fair from the jump and your trades will go down quicker.
Now, let's focus on you. Every Fantasy owner wants the best players, but building a team of first- and second-round studs is pretty much impossible. So, a good Fantasy owner will study the upcoming NFL schedule and find second-rate talent with first-rate matchups. This gives owners a couple of players to target from unsuspecting competitors who might not value the matchups and otherwise give up on a guy.
Here are some teams with a solid schedule from Week 7 to Week 13 (rest of the regular Fantasy season) that you can pick and choose players from.
|TEAM||Week 7||Week 8||Week 9||Week 10||Week 11||Week 12||Week 13|
• For those of you who have been reading along and following my take on LaDainian Tomlinson's play, buckle up for a surprise: From his second carry against the Patriots in Week 6, I thought he looked better. He's still not all the way back to being the rusher we've come to lean on in Fantasy, but he was quicker off the handoff and showed some nice burst. His offensive line stepped up and helped, too. Tomlinson remained defensive after the game about his injured toe, but his play certainly speaks for itself: 74 rushing yards and 44 receiving yards, all while aimed to be bottled up by the Patriots.
• We were really impressed with the feedback from everyone regarding last week's item on Joseph Addai and whether or not you should bench him with his matchup against Baltimore. As it turns out, you were right to say sit him and right to say start him.
If not for the hamstring injury, Addai would have run all over the Ravens after the Colts built a big first-half lead. Of course, Addai did get hurt early on and missed the majority of the game, so sitting him was the right move. Not that we could have predicted a hamstring injury.
• By the way, Peyton Manning did have a second procedure on his knee this offseason. But I think it's safe to say he's recovered from it.
• Dan Orlovsky: Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
• Oh wait, I have Calvin Johnson on like three of my teams. Booooohoooooo!
• And Roy Williams in my keeper league. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!
• The Bears beat the Falcons if they kick off normally after their touchdown with 11 seconds left. No doubt about it. Nice heady play by Harry Douglas to pick up the squib and forward the ball 10 yards, setting up Ryan's heroics.
• Ryan might be next year's Aaron Rodgers. Remember this when you draft in the middle rounds next summer.
Or, just read about it next summer.
• Useless note of the weekend: The last time the Rams and Lions each had halftime leads in the same week was Week 1 of last season. They were both leading at the half this Sunday.
• Oakland looks worse without Lane Kiffin, if there is a worse. These players know that the season is lost and they're looking the part ... much unlike the Lions, who played well but got their hearts stomped on by the Vikings in Minnesota. Again. This was the 11th straight home win in the series for the Vikes. I feel for Rod Marinelli in a big way.
• Get well, K2.
• This Tuesday might wind up being an interesting day because it's the NFL's annual trading deadline. A lot of big names are flying around right now, from Tony Gonzalez to Michael Bush to Roy Williams to Shaun McDonald (OK, they're not all big). Unlike baseball and basketball, a football player can't jump from one team to another and expect to be an instant impact player (kickers and punters are the exception). But, with a couple of weeks of learning a new playbook, a player could begin to pay dividends and begin posting big stats. Chris Chambers was one such player last year, and he was helped along by rejoining Norv Turner's offense in San Diego. Take a look at his stats from the second half of last year -- that's about the best you can hope for from a player traded at midseason.
If there are moves on Tuesday, you know we'll have all the angles covered.
Do you have a question for Dave? Send your thoughts to DMFantasyFootball@cbs.com and we'll post the best responses. Be sure to put Attn: Fantasy & Reality in the subject field. Include your full name, hometown and state.