Tag Archives: Steelers

Truth or Fiction from NFL Week 1

Before we get into what one can potentially recognize from the 1st week of football.  I want to stress that- just like the real NFL – a week 1 win, or loss does not set up/or ruin your 2013 fantasy season.  Sure some of you may have more work to do than others, but if you follow along with what’s happening in the NFL there’s always waiver work to do, and potentially even trades to make.

The NFL has changed, preseason doesn’t help starters out the way it used to – and as a result some of your fantasy players may have let you down this week.  On the other hand some players may simply have been benefits of unique situations that temporarily inflated their value.

Sure, we’ll have weekly articles on who to grab from your waiver wire, or who to trade for/away – but really the most important part of being a fantasy owner is to evaluate your players and the NFL trends weekly – and then to put those in the proper context.

So for our 1st weekend of NFL football I’m gonna put out there some of the bigger potential fantasy stories and what I think is really going on with them.  Then using this analysis, I’ll attack my league’s waiver wire – or my week 2 starting lineup, or my trade offers (you shouldn’t do a lot of trading early in the year unless you feel like you’re getting overwhelming value).

TRUTH

1.) The Eagles Offense will be a hot spot for everyone as long as Michael Vick stays healthy.   I wrote about this a lot this preseason – and this is a very tough game to truly evaluate if the Eagles will have the league’s best offense or whether several early Washington mistakes inflated the stats.  What is undeniable though is that this offense fits their skill players perfectly.  WR Desean Jackson and TE Brent Celek can now safely be thought of as fantasy weekly starters, while QB Michael Vick and especially RB Lesean McCoy can now be thought of as fantasy MVP caliber players.

2.) QB Colin Kapernick is not a one year fantasy wonder, and the Niners will continue to open up their offense for him.  Sure, it was against the terrible Packers D – but the trend for Harbaugh to allow his QB to throw has to make fantasy owners happy.  And they should continue to do this even against better defenses.  Kap’s chemistry with WR Anquan Bolidn (208 yards!) may have been the story of the day, but I think the story of the 2013 season will be his emerging connection with TE Vernon Davis.  The Niners will not be a pass 1st team by season’s end, but it is safe to throw out the notion that their passing game will be conservative.

3.) Pittsburgh’s rushing attack, if not their whole offense looks headed for disaster.  Again, everything depends on your league size and team needs – but I would be getting out of the Steelers backfield as soon as possible.  The passing game may still provide moments and stars this season – but the running game is going to be dead in the water for most or all of 2013.  Losing their all-pro center Maurkice Pouncey for the season was the deathblow.  A final stroke that was set up for a team that lost RB Le’Veon Bell for 2 months earlier in the preseason, and a team that lost scat back RB LaRod Stephens-Howling in this one also for the season.  Starter Isaac Redmon – got all of about 9 yards before fumbling problems had him on the bench.  How bad is Pitt’s RB situation?  They brought back Jonathan Dwyer – a guy they cut only a few days before b/c he lacked dedication to the job.  Isn’t that inspiring?  If you own a Pittsburgh back in fantasy they are at their lowest value, so you either drop them for a promising player, or you wait til they have a good week and move them…if any one of them ever has that good week.

4.) New England’s offense is still very much in flux.  Paging super sleeper (for some) TE Zac Sudfeld?  Are you awake Zac? Are you alive?  Yeah, after 1 game the next move TE in the New England offense has as many receptions for as many yards as I do.  And now he seems to have hamstring problems.  RB Steven Ridley a very popular RB2 choice for fantasy – and likely a 2nd round pick in most formats – was clearly outplayed, and seemed to have quite literally fumbled away his job – with an early fumble.   Unfortunately for the Patriots when RB Shane Vereen came in and went for an all purpose day of over 150 yards – he broke his wrist and will miss the next 4 games.  Likewise WR Danny Amendola who caught 10 passes, also got hurt for the 1,000th time in his career and looks to be unavailable for week 2.   Nothing is settled for workload or targets right now, and the biggest winners this week are probably Steven Ridley owners who will get a 2nd chance on life.

FICTION

1.) RB David Wilson will lose his starting RB job any time soon.  I know I’m not his biggest fan – and fumbling, especially twice is a good way to get benched.  But when RB Andre Brown went down the reality is the Giants had a bare cupboard behind Wilson.  Now I know the big story is who the Giants will bring in this week (as we mentioned in our preseason articles) – and whomever they bring in is worth a look in fantasy on the waiver wire (depending on the talent of the guy they are bringing in)…but the reality is, whomever comes in will be competing only to take some of the workload away, not the job.  Not yet anyway.  The Giants have been very publicly supportive of Wilson after the game – b/c they know that they need Wilson’s speed in the offense.   For now and for the 1st half of the season he should be safe and is worth a buy low trade offer if you can grab him…..but, it does come with the risk that he continues to shot himself in the le…umm foot.  Sorry I confuse that saying when it comes to the G-men).

2.) The Seattle Offense will under perform vs expectations this year.  Right now, file this under fiction.  People will look at Kapernick, Luck, and Rg3’s (who got most of his in garbage time) stat sheets for week 1 and be ready to dump on Mr Wilson.  Personally, and this is no slight to Russell Wilson, but I think his fantasy ceiling is naturally the lowest of those 4 anyway – and this game did nothing to change that opinion.  And it shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion that Wilson can still very easily be a top 8-10 fantasy QB.  Likewise, owners have to be upset with RB Marshawn Lynch’s 40 something yard effort.  It’s gonna be ok – and believe me you will be able to start them in road games, even on the east coast.  The problem in this one, (aside from opening week rustiness) was the Carolina front 7.  Carolina’s front 7 are very talented and they play the run game especially well – in boxing “styles make fights”- and in this one the Panthers just matched up very well with the things Seattle likes to do.  There will be much bigger fantasy days ahead for the Seahawks.

3.) It’s panic time on RB CJ Spiller, WR Dez Bryant, and WR Calvin Johnson.   I lumped these guys together – 3,2, and 3 would be their week 1 point totals in most leagues, and I really added Johnson to highlight the absurdity of worrying about these 1st and 2nd round fantasy picks.  These guys had bad weeks due to schemes and due to circumstance – no one wants this to happen, but it does.  There are some guys like maybe WR Mike Wallace and WR Kenny Britt that you can start looking for the red flag, but even on them – after one week it’s not time to raise it.

And so these are just a few of the Week 1 fallouts – whether you won or lost in your week 1 matchups, just like the real guys it’s on to week 2 and planning for that.  We’ll have some waiver articles up soon for you to help with that plan.

:by Mike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What we learned from Preseason 2013

As the real games get ready to kickoff and your fantasy drafts are completed, it’s easy to quickly close the book on yet another preseason.  To fantasy owners the consternation shifts from hoping that 12th round “sleeper” pick is really available in the 12th round to which WR or RB is best for my flex play?

We’ll have plenty of articles (and a few podcasts) here during the season about who to start or who to add in your leagues.  Understand,  however that before we get there we need to have a grasp of some of the preseason.   The “next man up” from your league’s waiver wire, or from your own team’s bench (if you drafted well)  is formed in the preseason.  So here’s a review of what went down this last month or so….

Things we Know

1.) The Eagles will move the football.  I don’t know how many wins they’ll get, or how many games QB Michael Vick will be healthy for, but overall you have to think they’ll be plenty of productive Eagles in fantasy football this year.  Guys like Vick,  RB LeSean McCoy, and WR Desean Jackson may seem like obvious plays, but as the season goes on and the roles of Chip Kelly’s offense become more defined you may see players like TE Brent Celek, WR Jason Avant, and RB Chris Polk (potential goaline work) emerge as weekly plays. The truth is no one puts their whole playbook on display in the preseason – but the Eagles philosophy was clear in each of their games.  I’m attaching the nickname “pace and space” to it, and I think there will be several Eagles who can help out your fantasy team this season.

2.) The Raiders OL is going to cap fantasy production.  Sure they have some guys hurt who could return during the season, but right now they are selecting their QB because he can run – not so much run as a weapon – but run from the unblocked pass rush.  It is possible that QB Terrell Pryor has some useful fantasy weeks as he breaks off some long runs in garbage time of games the Raiders are behind, but good luck predicting when those will happen.  The guy is throwing jump passes whenever I see him – this is not a successful NFL formula.  Guys like WR Denarius Moore, WR Rod Streater, and WR Bryce  Butler (a rookie with a very nice preseason) could all be weekly teases as well.  The weak offensive line is going to make most of the Raiders struggle this season – and I would advocate looking to deal them after they have big fantasy weeks to owners with short term memories.

Particularly valuable in this regard would be RB Darren McFadden.  I love McFadden and early in the preaseaon was very happy to take a shot on him as a RB2 with stud potential.   But that has changed, and the more I see from Oakland – the OL, the jump pass QB,  the coach not revealing the jump pass QB is officially his week 1 starter for “competitive advantage”…it screams trouble.  So if McFadden has a good game here and there, or hopefully 2 in a row – it might be good to find an owner in your league who still believes in him.  They’ll be one, there always is – and then maybe you can work out a deal for a more consistent player.

3. The Giants don’t currently have a NFL quality backup RB on their roster.  This is one to watch, because of the injury to RB Andre Brown.  Brown who’ll be out at least 8 weeks, was going to play a key part in absorbing touches this year that the Giants didn’t want starter RB David Wilson to carry.  I think the Giants feel Wilson is good for about 15-20 touches a week – he won’t be a grinder and they need to keep him fresh all season.  The current next men up on the Giants are RB’s Da’rel Scott and Michael Cox – a very inexperienced duo.  Personally I like Cox, but I just can’t see the Giants making him a part of the plan – as a playoff contender they’ll want a steadier option.

So, it’s very likely that your league’s 1st waiver feeding frenzy will be for whomever the Giants sign in Week 2 at RB.  In the NFL, if you sign a guy after week 1 the contract you give them no longer becomes guaranteed for the year.  This makes it easier for teams to take chances on veteran players: The Giants could bring in RB Michael Turner or RB Willis McGahee – or lesser talent guys that have experience in their system like RB Tim Hightower or Brandon Jacobs.

As for whether it’ll be worth it for you to get caught up in this frenzy – well it depends on who the Giants sign.  I mean we’ll be talking about a part time job, for only part time – but if it’s a more talented player it could be an indication that Brown’s injury history (he broke the same leg last season) has worried the Giants  enough that his replacement could stick with the team even after Brown returns.

4.) Youth should be served at WR – this rookie class wasn’t very top heavy with super elite talent.  What it did have however was useful NFL depth WR’s for 2013, which makes them useful border fantasy starters.  DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills, Quinton Patton, Robert Woods, Marcus Wheaton, Kenbrell Thompkins , and Cordarrelle Patterson  are the ones I like best.  All of them are worth monitoring to some degree b/c many of them can be found on your average league’s waiver wire.

The noticeable absence of WR Tavon Austin and WR Keenan Allen may raise some eyebrows here….but it’s likely Austin was drafted in your league, and if you did it you likely don’t want to hear me rail against him again.   Allen is a mix of bad situation and brittle body – he may produce in 2013, but it’s likely that you’ll have to put up with a lot of bad weeks of having him rostered – as opposed to being able to add a guy from the above group as solid depth.

What we don’t know

1.) The Denver running game.  If you were hoping the preseason was going to sort this one out, it may have just made things a lot worse.  Oddly enough I think the guy best suited to the gig is RB Knowshon Moreno, but the Broncos seemed to have passed on him awhile ago.  The current “starter” Ronnie Hillman I don’t think is a full time RB, and rookie Montee Ball is a guy of average talent.

To make things completely insane the latest reports out of Denver is that they may rotate these guys in and out series-by-series.   Fantasy owners if you’re looking for one trend to root against with all your might, root against this one – because if this works and becomes a NFL strategy, fantasy football will become impossible.

2.) The Steelers running game Le’veon Bell was drafted so he could be the bellcow 25 carry guy.  He got hurt in camp, then he got hurt 4 plays into his 1st preseason game.  So the Steelers went out and made a semi-surprise Jonathan Dwyer cut (he was their leading rusher last year), and instead went out and picked up Felix Jones (Jones had been cut from Philly).

Jones was a hot name for a few minutes, until it looked like the Steelers had settled on slightly banged up RB Isaac Redman to be atop their depth chart.   It’s a little bit of a mess at this point. Head coach Mike Tomlin has said that they don’t plan on using a running back committee (yay for the oldschool!) and the starter will get 25-30 carries.

But it’s far from clear that Redman is worth a fantasy investment.  For one thing, his injury history is bad- even currently he’s got a pinched nerve.  Then there are the reports that Le’veon Bell is trying to come back in week 2 or 3, which would certainly pose a threat to Redman’s job.  And the capper to these concerns is that the Pittsburgh offensive line has looked terrible in preseason.  Not quite Raiders terrible mind you, but not all that much above it.

I think for now you have to hold whatever cards you have in this game.  If you drafted Bell, you should still feel ok with that- albeit discouraged by injury. If you own Redman start him while you can, and trade him if Bell overtakes him to the Bell owner.  If Redman is on the waiver he’s worth an add based on potential.  Felix Jones is worth an add only if the end of your bench is very weak, and becomes a cut if Bell comes back and he hasn’t surpassed Redman on the depth chart.

3.) The Patriots passing game.  There are some things we do know about this situation QB Tom Brady will be fine.  Maybe, maybe, not super elite in fantasy – but right in that top 5 conversation.  And to do it he’ll get WR Danny Amendola and TE Rob Gronkowski (when he returns from injury) plenty of looks.

Beyond that though, there’s some pretty interesting scenarios.  Most popular is the 2 TE “Patriot Way” idea with rookie TE Zac Sudfeld.  Sudfeld is a large target at 6’7, but they seem to want to use him as the “move” TE to replace Aaron Hernandez.   And this is the plan for him I think from week 1, even without Gronkowski there – which is a little odd to me.   Sudfeld is slower than Hernandez,  and hasn’t demonstrated that he has the same hands (a fumble in preseason temporarily got him benched) – so I wonder if this “move TE” thing is a fit or if it’s a force b/c they’ll have nowhere else to put him when Gronkowski returns.   Sudfeld’s got a lot of hype in fantasy leagues right now, and I think he’ll be a productive player – but you really can’t say whether you’re going to get a guy who’s borderline top 5 at the position (like Hernandez) or borderline top 12 – making him a fringe ffl starter.

Ironically, the rookie Sudfeld might get more looks because of all the rookies at WR vying for time on the outside.   WR Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, and Kenbrell Thompkins were all brought in this offseason to contend for playing time.   Right now the winner of the preseason appears to be undrafted FA  Thompkins.  Thompkins targets remain to be determined – Brady has had players on the outside before like Deion Branch, and David Givens who were much better actual football players than fantasy producers, and it’s unknown if any of these rookies can get in-sync enough to be Brady’s 1st read – with all the plays undoubtedly that will be scripted for Amendola, Gronk, and Sudfeld.

Another wildcard is RB Shane Vereen who could take over a good portion of the Pats’ short passing game on screens and passes to the flat.  Vereen is a very talented player and probably worth a flex play in your fantasy lineup.

So there are  a lot of mouths to feed, and several Patriots could be fantasy factors in 2013, being patient and taking chances on a few of them despite week to week inconsistencies may be the best strategy.

 

:by Mike

 

2013 Preseason Week 2: Pittsburgh at Washington

Pittsburgh

You can’t be encouraged by virtually anything the Steelers showed on offense in this game.  Their OL looked terrible – guys like C Maurkice Pouncey, and G David DeCastro who are well thought of players – looked lost and gave up tons of pressure all of the 1st half.

RB Le’veon Bell ran the 1st 4 plays of this game.  He seemed to be a little slow, but he was finishing his short runs by at least moving the pile.  Then he developed a foot injury (to go with his recovery from a minor knee injury) and had to leave the game.  Bell has to be frustrating dynasty owners, who have now seen so little of him after probably drafting him high, and frustrating re-drafters who are trying gauge his value as a 5th-7th round back.   All I can say is cross your fingers and hope we get to see him in at least one more preseason game before you draft – b/c this guy is quickly becoming a “buyer beware” type of player.   He had average talent and was drafted into a fantastic situation, but if he’s not healthy enough to win the starting RB job in his rookie season his value takes a huge hit even for future seasons.

2 offensive  players who did look like they were ready for the season were WR Emmanuel Sanders & Marcus Wheaton. Sanders made some great catches in traffic and appears ready for his contract year break out season.   He has had health issues in the past, but barring injury he’s a great WR 3 or 4 for your fantasy team this season.  Rookie Marcus Wheaton hauled down a 57 yard TD, on a route that was basically just a speed on a fly patter – when he beat a 3rd string CB. Wheaton’s value is higher in a dynasty league right now – but he will get his chances this season as well working out of the Wr3 role.

I don’t often do this, and even players in IDP leagues won’t necessarily benefit from this guy this season…but S Shamarko Thomas is a man crush of mine.  He seems to be a combo of Ryan Clark (who’s already on the Steelers) and Bob Sanders (who was a game changer).   The Redskins who had a great need at safety this season ignored Thomas in the draft instead taking TE Jordan Reed (more on him below), and Shamarko repaid them in this one by making several bone crushing hits including causing a fumble.  If you play IDP in a dynasty format this guy should be a 1st round pick – he has to wait his turn behind the vets in Pittsburgh but he is going to be a major player in this league.

Washington

QB Kirk Cousins led the injured cast of Redskins from this one.   He left after being tackled awkwardly trying to get out of bonds and has a sprain of his right foot.  The MRI is to come with the dreaded “lisfranc” being a concern.   I’m not that concerned.  For 1 thing Lisfranc injuries are rare, but we focus on them like it’s the only type of mid foot pain one can have.  There are stats out there that suggest  x-rays can pick up 85% of lisc franc injuries, so on top of a rare injury there’s only a 15% chance that you’ll find one by the time you get to the MRI stage.

And for the 2nd thing:  Kirk Cousins is a backup QB people.  Sure there’s an outside chance he starts a game or 2 a season – even the 1st week (although RG3 was seen in good spirits joking with Shanahan and Dr James Andrews during the game), but for ffl in 2013 and probably beyond he has no real fantasy relevance.  Cousins may give the Redskins chances to win games in a pinch, but you’ll have better QB’s on your fantasy roster should any of your QB’s go down.

WR’s Aldrick Robinson and Leonard Hankerson also suffered minor leg injuries in this one.  Both of these guys are deeper WR 4 or 5’s for your 2013 season.

TE Jordan Reed made his debut in this one.  He’s a “move TE” that people like to compare to Aaron Hernandez (or at least they did before that murder thing) – he caught one short pass, dropped another, and ran such a terrible route on one that he caused a Rex Grossman interception b/c he was nowhere in the right area.  He’s a project player at best (and they could’ve had Shamarko!!)

RB’s Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison made their NFL debuts in this one.   Jamison ran well, but against the absolute last stringers in “give up” time.  Thompson an intriguing speedback,  ran the ball twice got blasted by Shamarko Thomas and fumbled the ball.  He also had a minor shoulder injury that he recovered enough from to check back into the game.  These 2 are competing for 1 spot behind RB Roy Helu – and Helu cemented his role on the team by ripping off a 30 yard TD on his only carry.

:by Mike

Preseason Week 1: New York Giants at Pittsburgh

New York Giants

WR Victor Cruz had the highlight in this one with his 57 yard TD from Eli.  From a real life perspective I’ve always maintained a bunch of WR’s could do what Victor does in this offense.  I get a lot of flack for that…but I stand by it, he’s a good WR – but it’s more about him being in the right place with the right QB and gameplan to get him open.  In fantasy however, he is the player to own from this team – ranking higher for fantasy purposes at his position than even QB Eli Manning.  Re-drafters shouldn’t pay a 2nd round pick for him, but anything below that might give you fantastic return on value.

WR Rebuen Randle and RB David Wilson who are both thought to be the “next man up” at their positions and possible fantasy sleepers did nothing in this one to impress.  While you may get value on Randle in a league or two – the David Wilson hype train is in full swing right now.  But I’m not hopping on the “fantasy sleeper” bus for this guy.  1st because his ADP is around the 5th or 6th rd in redraft leagues and that would seem to be about right for his situation (not a sleeper if the adp value isn’t there). And 2ndly I’m not sure Wilson gets many redzone looks (he got 1 redzone carry from the 5 in this one and got stoned for no gain).

RB Andre Brown is actually the guy I like here, especially as a value play.  If he can take the redzone looks from Wilson in any kind of split backfield he will be well worth spending a fantasy roster spot on. The two things we have to learn about him though are 1.) how much will the Giants commit to the running game this year?  It’s not the old Big Blue – they are a passing team these days.  I think Brown’s bigger body style and potentially punishing style is a strange fit for them.   2.) He did fumble in this game, and that normally gets you sent down the depth chart with Head Coach Tom Coughlin.  Fortunately for Brown he has the rest of the preseason to make up for it, and his competition Mr Wilson has been known to cough up more than a few fumbles himself.

Pittsburgh

Here’s how you know it’s preseason: RB  LaRod Stephens Howling worked with the 1st team and led the team in rushing with 7 carries for 40 yards.  He’s not seriously in the Steelers plans at a full time RB, but with rookie RB Le’von Bell shelved due to a minor injury, LaRod made the best of it.

RB Jonathan Dwyer and RB Issac Redman did not make the best of it – they looked old and slow – which is surprising given they’re both under 30.  Only one of these guys will be worth owning in ffl for 2013 and that will be as a handcuff or deep bench player.

Rookie WR Marcus Wheaton saw limited work  (1 rush for 10 yards, 1 catch for 8 yards), but he already looks like the next Steelers WR to come out of nowhere.  For re-drafters he’s not worth much-maybe a very late round flier, but keep your eyes on him during the season for waivers.  For dynasty players if you haven’t drafted yet grab him….if you have drafted see if you can pry him away from an owner on the cheap.