The Thursday Night Football Game was another exercise in how to look like two Pop Warner teams playing in prime time on a short week's preparation. Alex Smith played safer football than a playbook full of kneel downs, but managed to do enough to pull out a win. Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy were both dinged up by the nasty Chiefs defense, but finished strong to put together solid fantasy returns. DeSean Jackson had a down game, as Brandon Flowers and Co. kept him from taking the top off of their secondary. As we wrap the early Sunday games, here's my take on the fantasy fallout...
Jonathan Franklin- A favorite of mine coming out of UCLA, his lackluster preseason in Green Bay was riddled with protection issues and poor production. Injuries to Eddie Lacy, and now James Starks, open the door for the elusive Franklin, who in the very least can get you a few weeks of work while Lacy recovers from a concussion. Unfortunately, the costly late fumble by Franklin that resulted in a Bengal TD only keeps this door cracked...a little.
Brandon Bolden- Bolden was the starter on paper, and actually the more effective RB between he and Ridley this week. He did blow a pass protection assignment and stopped short on a deep pass from Brady that would have been a sure TD. However, from a pure running standpoint, Bolden looked more explosive than Ridley. Even if this equates to a running back carousel in the most Belichickian sense (Blount got his share of close out touches too), Bolden will hold some value until Vereen returns late in the year.
Bilal Powell- We liked Powell in our rankings more than others in week 3, because the Bills can be had on the ground. With Chris Ivory sustaining a hamstring injury, it's a full workload for Powell, who tallied over 100 yards for the first time this season. If you need RB help, you could do worse.
DeAndre Hopkins- We've been advocating you pick him up the last few weeks, and if he's still out there, he's a pickup with a nice window to exploit. Andre Johnson left the game in the 3rd quarter after sustaining a leg injury, and if he's ruled out next week, Hopkins will be the default #1 target. Hopkins finished the decidedly defense heavy matchup with 6 catches for 60 yards. Expect those numbers to increase.
Zach Miller- Sure he scored twice against the lowly Jag Rags, but two red zone targets in an offense that is sporadic in the red zone, as far as consistent targets from QB Russell Wilson, is a good sign. Miller has always battled injuries, and looks to be healthy finally. You could do worse, especially if you stream TEs.
Brian Hoyer- Yes, THAT Brian Hoyer. While he was less than perfect (throwing 3 interceptions) he did throw for over 300 yards and tossed 3 TDs. One of those TDs was to everyone's returning bench stud, Josh Gordon, and 2 to young buck TE, Jordan Cameron (Cameron also caught a 3rd TD from punter Spencer Lanning on a fake FG. Pretty sneaky, Chud!). "But what about Brandon Weeden, isn't he returning next week?" Not so fast. This Brown's front office didn't draft Weeden, and heck, they traded Trent M.F. Richardson, so nothing is set in stone. While he's a stop gap option until the Browns draft a QB in 2014, he's good enough to hold off the early onset dementia of Brandon Weeden. A win is a win, and Hoyer was good for your fantasy team today. Stream on, stream away, Color Me Badd.
The following players are good buy low/trade candidates based on their week 3 production, and expected upticks going forward.
The Giant Offense- In David Wilson's defense, he had a TD (and a sweet Ric Flair TD celebration) negated by an offensive penalty. That aside, the Giant OL ran into the buzz saw that is the Carolina Panther front seven. I still don't advise using Eli Manning in any matchup going forward, but I expect better days for Wilson, Nicks and especially Victor Cruz. Put in trade offers across the board after this price softening beat down.
Goal Line Vultures- Train Jumping Bum Daniel Thomas, Mike Tolbert, and even Kendall Hunter stole red zone glory from workhorse backs this week. What does that mean exactly? Not much, just fluky opportunities made good. It might help soften trade talks if you're in the market for Miller, Williams or Gore, so make an attempt to grab them on the cheap from a scared owner.
The Green Bay Passing Game- Sure, they put up enough overall points, but the stout Bengal defense made it tough on Aaron Rodgers & Co., posting pedestrian numbers across the board for fantasy owners. It might have cost you a win this week, but all of their skill players will bounce back. If you're not a Packer fantasy investor? Make a reasonable offer to grab Rodgers, Cobb, and Nelson, as they don't often have buy low windows.
The Bizarro Indy vs SF Game- Yes, Great Swami, you saw this coming. Nobody did. This was supposed to be a get right game for Kaepernick & Friends after a drubbing at the hands of the Seahawks in week 2. Unfortunately, the Colts took an accelerated "Defense" course, and gave the Niner OL and Kaepernick fits all day in a surprising upset. The bright side? You should be able to get Kaepernick for pennies on the dollar, and brighter days are ahead....just ask Cam Newton.
Donnie Avery- Forget the numbers, (7/141), this was your classic check down bonanza from the baby armed Smith, as well as pathetic tackling from the undisciplined Eagle defense. Avery is the annual fantasy tease, he blows up one game, then goes into witness protection like Henry Hill for the rest of the season. Just scroll past his name on the waiver wire.
The Patriot Rookie WRs- I've been preaching this since the preseason. Forget Thompkins' two TDs, or that Aaron Dobson looked better and more productive this week. It's a sketchy proposition to expect anything other than desperation flex production from any of the young wide receivers in NE. Once Gronk returns (potentially week 4 vs ATL), things could change, but I expect when he's ready, he'll be the focus, along with Edelman and the run game. As for Edelman, he was held in check by the combo platter of Revis along with some safety help. His shelf life could expire quickly once a healthy Amendola returns with Gronk.
Robert Meachem- We've heard this song and dance before. Meachem was a big play, boom or bust fantasy reach back during his first tour of duty with New Orleans, and I don't expect that to change now. Don't waste a waiver wire penny.
A Note on Cam Newton- Hopefully you took our advice and bought low on Cam Newton. While his defensive line was turning Eli Manning into delicious carne asada, the man they call Superman tossed three TDs and ran for a 4th. If you were ballsy, he just might have saved your head to head matchup. Won't always be cake and ice cream, but a confident Cam Newton is good for your fantasy team.
To say that these arent your father's Pittsburgh Steelers would be both an understatement and a disservice to the situation at hand. The Steelers have been snakebit by injuries the last two years, and losing Pouncey at center, might be the worst of the lot. The Steelers have become one dimensional again, with the running game basically non existant at this point. When Bell returns, will that change? You know I'm not a Bell fan, but for the Steelers sake, they'd better be right. Bell is still a decent buy low moonshot from a frustrated owner. Easy enough to drop if he disappoints or reinjures himself. Antonio Brown? How about the squeaky wheel theory? Worked for Mike Wallace in Miami, and now the uber-stubborn Todd Haley fed his defacto WR1 with more targets than he could handle. I'd be hard pressed to imagine Brown duplicating his 9/196/2TD effort anytime soon, so I'd SELL HIGH as quickly as I could. Remember those Green Bay WRs? Get em' while the window is still open. The bright spot in this arrangement, Roethlisberger has no choice but to throw, and his numbers held up, especially in daily formats (406 yds/2TDs). If you stream QBs, his matchups will get better going forward.
These aren't your Ditka's Bears either, my friends. He's managed to make Jay Cutler look pretty darn zen these days, and despite Jay's quiet stat line (he's still a QB2 anyway), Matt Forte continues to be a PPR top 3 RB, and found the end zone once again this week. Brandon Marshall has a quiet game of (5/52), so I'd make an offer to another owner on a slight discount. He'll keep being fed going forward. Alshon Jeffery had a fluky 7/51 game, that might be his ceiling this season, he's still just a stash and hope. Martellus Bennett could have saved his fantasy night by snaring a red zone target for a TD, but that was not meant to be for the Black Unicorn on this fateful night. Instead, the mythical creature trotted into the mist of the Jelly Bean Forest, and was not to be seen until the following Sunday.
Stay tuned on Tuesday for my MNF Game Wrap-up. Cheers.