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Archive September 2008

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NFL Notes

If the Browns and Bengals can’t get their offenses going against each other, it’s officially going to be a long season for both. Brady Quinn must really not impress during practice, or he would’ve been in that football game Sunday…Chris Perry is about to fumble his way out of a job. Cedric Benson is horrible, but since all other backs are hurt, and Perry is injury-prone, I guess he’s worth a look in fantasy leagues. And bravo Cincy, at least the franchise no longer even hides the fact character means little to them. When is Rae Carruth due for parole?...The next time I hear someone make a joke using the name Houshmandzadeh, I’m going to defenestrate him…If you own Jamal Lewis and can get Steve Slaton for him, consider yourself lucky.

So that’s why I drafted Matt Schaub in so many leagues. Not a great sign for Houston that he got 7.7 YPA with zero sacks and turnovers yet still lost, but still, this offense should get on a roll with four upcoming home games against soft defenses. Especially once someone tells Andre Johnson the season has started…Maybe age and all that mileage has finally caught up to Fred Taylor, who has averaged just 3.6 YPC this season…I’m fully onboard the Steve Slaton hype machine.

Muhsin Muhammad has a lot more left in the tank than I expected, and his familiarity with Jake Delhomme and the Carolina offense has paid off. He’s also an exceptional blocker…Rookie quarterback and all, Roddy White is going to have another good season…Michael Turner has been about as boom-or-bust as you can get so far, with opponent the clear reason why. Part of the problem is that he offers nothing in the passing game, so tough run defenses are going to remain a problem. Still, he’s going to be just fine long-term.

This Denver defense isn’t just bad, it’s awful. The line couldn’t generate any pressure even after LT Branden Albert left an already suspect Chiefs O-line. That said, I’ll eat some crow regarding Larry Johnson, as that’s two straight big games…He may be a horrible blocker, but Tony Scheffler simply has to be targeted more than two times…Jay Cutler is on pace to throw for 5,100 yards, which would top Dan Marino’s all-time record (5,084 yards).

Of the 49ers’ NFL-high 19 sacks allowed, only three have come on third down. Mike Martz deserves plenty of the blame, but J.T. O’Sullivan often holds onto the ball far, far too long…When you consider his teammates, Drew Brees has a pretty good case as the league’s MVP right now. For someone who supposedly lacks arm strength, he sure does throw a pretty deep ball…Not sure Vernon Davis can even be treated like a top-15 fantasy tight end at this point…I for one wrote Deuce McAllister off for dead, but since Reggie Bush can’t run between the tackles and Pierre Thomas was only decent and struggled in short-yardage situations, it looks like McAllister is going to be given every opportunity to be fantasy relevant again. Don’t expect any explosiveness, but there figures to be plenty of scoring chances.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Jets and Cardinals combined for 91 points Sunday…I’m glad I avoided Thomas Jones like the plague in fantasy drafts, because if that’s all he can muster playing at home against Arizona and with the benefit of a big lead, there’s not much room for optimism…Brett Favre sure does know how to run a playaction…The Anquan Boldin hit was just brutal.

Part of the problem with choosing Aaron Rodgers over Brett Favre wasn’t just comparing the two of them, it was the real downgrade in depth. If Rodgers can’t return from this shoulder sprain, the team is in big trouble, especially with all those injuries on the defensive side…Jon Gruden, please get Earnest Graham more touches…Not sure what to make of Ryan Grant, as he wasn’t even on the injury report last week, so the hamstring issue can’t be blamed. The problem with him is that he doesn’t counter a poor YPC mark with any receptions. Still, he’s more of a buy-low than someone to panic about.

Will someone, anyone please try to explain to me why Brad Childress punted down 13 points with 2 minutes left, which just led to three straight kneel downs by Kerry Collins? He didn’t want to hurt the fragile psyche of Tarvaris Jackson? He didn’t want to win? He is an idiot?...One gets the feeling we’ll be seeing more Chris Johnson and less LenDale White as the season progresses…Adrian Peterson owners still need to have Chester Taylor for insurance, but it sure is nice to see how irrelevant he’s become.

The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for Darren McFadden. Painkilling shots before the game only delay the recovery from turf toe injuries, and he was clearly hobbled while trying to fight through it. Tough break he suffered the injury while the opportunity was there with Justin Fargas sidelined…Chris Chambers’ 33 percent catch rate is embarrassing…The Al Davis news conference was absolutely fascinating. Must-see TV to be sure. Things we learned about Davis: he’s lucid, emotional, paranoid and quite possibly the scariest human being alive, especially in HD. I fear for Chris Mortensen’s life.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Marshawn Lynch, but Fred Jackson needs to see 10 touches a game…I can fully understand the new regime going back to Marc Bulger, and the INT returned for a TD (“pick-six” needs to stop) was egregious, but Trent Green’s 7.4 YPA and two sacks taken were an improvement. I’m just saying.

I’m shocked by how well this Redskins team has been playing. The secondary has been nothing short of fantastic…If anyone should be complaining Terrell Owens, it’s Marion Barber…Jason Campbell has been one of the most pleasant surprises of 2008…Another week, another upgrade. Only health stands in the way of Santana Moss finishing as a top-10 fantasy wide receiver this season.

Kyle Orton has been a popular add this week, but I don’t buy it…No matter what he makes, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is underpaid…Forget the mistakes, Philadelphia hit a home run with the DeSean Jackson pick…Because he racks up tackles to go along with the sacks, Trent Cole is an IDP beast…David Akers remains accurate inside 40 yards, but he’s not beyond that. This is clear. If the ball is anywhere on the opponents’ 24-35 yard-line, the team should consider it four down territory.

What a sloppy, ugly game that was Monday night, although both defenses deserve credit. Especially Baltimore’s unit, which looks like the best in football. Those linebackers are out of control…Did everyone enjoy the Rashard Mendenhall era as much as I did?...Joe Flacco (pronounced multiple different ways by the crack MNF team) sure does look like a future star. I’m really surprised how good he looks so soon. This Ravens team is no joke…What was up with that overtime coin toss? The coin never flipped once!...And now, because the Steelers were my survivor pick this week, I’m off to go have a heart attack.

MLB Awards

NL MVP – Albert Pujols: A no-brainer. Of the four main awards given out, this one is the clearest call. His BA (.357) and OBP (.462) trailed only Chipper Jones, but Pujols had nearly 100 more at-bats and his .653 slugging percentage led the league by a wide margin. He also led the NL in adjusted OPS+, runs created and sported a ridiculous 54:104 K:BB ratio. He’s also the game’s best fielding first baseman and major league baseball’s best base runner. Ryan Howard’s 48 homers and 146 RBI can’t be completely ignored; his .320/.439/.589 line with RISP may have been somewhat of a fluke and unsustainable, but it also means he was more valuable this year than his .881 OPS indicates. Still, even Lance Berkman was a better hitter in 2008, so he’s my choice for runner-up. Pujols clearly deserves the hardware.

AL MVP – Kevin Youkilis: Carlos Quentin or Milton Bradley would have taken this award, but both simply missed too many games this season. Like in 2006, there really isn’t anyone who jumps out here. Dustin Pedroia has been a nice player and all, but the guy’s OPS ranks 22nd just in the AL, and that number drops to .827 when he doesn’t have Fenway park helping him out. If you want to rate defensive importance highly, then Joe Mauer is the better pick. Or even Grady Sizemore.

NL Cy Young – Tim Lincecum: Johan Santana, Dan Haren and Cole Hamels are all excellent candidates, but the nod goes to The Freak. Lincecum walked the seventh most batters in the NL this season while also throwing the most wild pitches, but that’s far less hurtful when he combats it with an MLB-leading 265 strikeouts. In fact, his 10.51 K/9 IP mark was a full one punchout better than the second best mark. He also did an excellent job of limiting home runs, and although AT&T Park worked in his favor, he was pitching in front of a terrible defensive team. His FIP is 2.67; no other starter in the NL has one lower than 3.00. CC Sabathia has been the better pitcher since joining the NL, but this is a league given award, so there’s no way he was as valuable while throwing 100 fewer innings. As for Brandon Webb, it would be an absolute joke if he won, as he wasn’t even the best pitcher on his own team. In fact, Ricky Nolasco was a superior pitcher this year.

AL Cy Young – Roy Halladay: Narrowly, and I mean narrowly edging out Cliff Lee, who had a fantastic season as well. Halladay’s 1.053 WHIP and 5.28:1 K:BB ratio led all of baseball in 2008, and although Lee had a slightly better ERA (2.54 to 2.78), Halladay pitched 22.2 more innings, which is fairly substantial. Halladay did have the benefit of a good defense behind him, but pitching in the AL East is a much tougher task than the AL Central. In fact, he faced the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Rays a combined 16 times. Lee faced the Giants and Padres (once each) as often as he did the Yankees and Red Sox this season. As for Francisco Rodriguez, all hope for the future of society is lost if he finishes in the top-10.

NL ROY – Geovany Soto: Jair Jurrjens and Hiroki Kuroda had solid seasons on the mound, but this one came down to Soto and Joey Votto. In the end, Soto gets the nod because he put up similar numbers while playing catcher.

AL ROY – Evan Longoria: Alexei Ramirez was a worthy candidate, but Longoria takes home the trophy thanks to 60 extra-base hits in 448 at-bats. Honorable mention goes to Joey Devine, whose 0.59 ERA is the lowest in the history of major league baseball (minimum 40 innings). Good thing the Braves got three months of Mark Kotsay for him.

NFL Notes

Not sure if I’ve ever seen an uglier display of quarterback play than Tyler Thigpen on Sunday. Imagine Dwayne Bowe with even an average QB throwing to him…The Falcons’ rushing attack is legit, as Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood complement each other perfectly. Turner is a beast between the tackles, and he’s not opposed to carrying multiple defenders into the end zone. Norwood, meanwhile, is a solid receiver and literally every single one of his carries come outside the tackles…If I’m facing Atlanta, I’m doubling John Abraham…I’ve been known to be stubborn, but I’m now trying to aggressively sell Larry Johnson more than ever. He put up nice numbers Sunday, but most of those yards came on one play. Because of his horrible blocking skills, he’s a complete afterthought in the passing game.

The saga in Oakland has become positively soap opera worthy. And to think, Javon Walker actually offered to give all that money back, and the Raiders declined…Since Nnamdi Asomugha is by far the best cover corner in the NFL, why is he relegated to one side of the field? They can’t scheme around making sure he’s guarding the opponents’ best receiver?...There hasn’t been a better fourth quarter team than Buffalo this season.

With the hardest part of their schedule behind them, Chris Perry could be quite valuable from here on out. Of course, he’s also pretty likely to get hurt, so rostering Kenny Watson is also a must…I like Brandon Jacobs as much as the next guy, but it’s entirely possible he’s the third best running back on his own team. Derrick Ward is making it impossible not to keep him heavily involved. Jacobs isn’t looking like much of an RB2 right now…It’s pretty obvious what the problem with Chad Johnson is – he’s hurt. I wouldn’t buy-low here, especially with Chris Henry returning soon.

Ronnie Brown – wow. When I called him a buy-low last week, this is exactly what I expected. OK maybe not five touchdowns. Four, but not five. That formation may not be sustainable, but if Bill Belichick can’t make any adjustments throughout four quarters, maybe it’s going to be effective for a while…Something tells me Matt Cassel isn’t going to be New England’s quarterback over the course of this season. He made David Carr look like a downfield threat with that performance Sunday.

Welcome to fantasy relevance, Steve Slaton. Especially considering opponent, that was impressive. I still believe in Houston’s offense (told you I was stubborn), so there’s nice upside here…If anyone’s worried about Andre Johnson, go happily take him off their hands…LenDale White might finish the season with 20 touchdowns and a 3.0 YPC mark…I took Matt Schaub and/or Jay Cutler in every single one of my (far too many) leagues this year, so please Schaub, get your head out of your ass.

Yes, Antonio Bryant is a must-add in every format…Brian Griese attempted 67 passes on the road in Chicago and wasn’t sacked once?! That’s pretty remarkable on numerous levels…I loved the up and coming Brandon Lloyd back in his days in San Francisco, but I’d be surprised if Sunday’s game was a sign of big things to come. Edgerrin James’ longest run this year is 16 yards, making him the only back in the top 10 in rushing who doesn't have a carry of at least 20 yards. Free Tim Hightower!...Santana Moss sure looks like a top-15 fantasy receiver to me…Down seven points with 2:33 left in the fourth quarter and at midfield Sunday, Ken Whisenhunt elected to punt on fourth-and-four, which was ridiculous to the point of offensive. Shockingly, they never got the ball back. What a joke.

After one week, Gus Frerotte was an upgrade, but it took a big defensive play to really turn that game around…Jonathan Stewart is going to score a lot of touchdowns this season…Bryant McKinnie can’t return soon enough…Steve Smith hasn’t been of much help over the first 23 percent of the fantasy regular season, but he’s going to make a major impact from here on out.

The Broncos’ major problems on defense is great news for Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall owners…Considering the receiving corps, Drew Brees and Sean Payton deserve an awful lot of credit…Let me reiterate, if Ryan Torain is somehow available in your league, change that…Reggie Bush still struggles as a runner, but he sure can be effective as a receiver, making him much more valuable fantasywise than I expected…I haven’t purchased a jersey in probably 10 years, but Cutler is really making me think about changing that.

Despite Sunday’s disappearing act, I still want Bryant Johnson on my fantasy team…If Frank Gore can stay healthy, 2,200 scrimmage yards isn’t out of the question…Was that a Rudi Johnson sighting? And he looked good too. Kevin Smith owners beware…Year in and year out, Roy Williams continues to disappoint…I see absolutely no reason why J.T. O’Sullivan shouldn’t be treated like a top-10 fantasy QB right now…The Lions are 1-10 over their last 11 games, and Matt Millen is 31-84 since he took over as team president in 2001.

The Rams have now been outscored by a total of 116-29 in three games this year and are on pace to give up 619 points this season. The NFL record for points allowed in a season is 533 by the 1981 Baltimore Colts…I don’t want to bag on St. Louis too much, since they did help keep me alive in my survivor pool this week…Not sure Trent Green is the answer, but Marc Bulger was simply playing himself out of a job…Julius Jones owners: sell.

The Eagles blitzed about 85 percent of the time against Pittsburgh and have really impressed so far. That team shouldn’t be overlooked…Willie Parker’s injury is pretty rough after his hot start to the year, but it will be interesting to see what Rashard Mendenhall can do. He hasn’t received a single carry over the last two games yet is now the starter in Pittsburgh…I’m not sure if Ben Roethlisberger is extremely tough or a wuss, but he sure does get nicked up a lot.

Counting the preseason, the Browns are now 0-7. What a soft team. I’m ready to see what Brady Quinn can do. Stash him in fantasy leagues…Luckily, I wasn’t even about to let last year’s aberration by Jamal Lewis fool me…So is it safe to say John Harbaugh has been a massive upgrade from that preening schmo Brian Billick?..I’m still not worried about Braylon Edwards.

The Colts have given up 598 yards on the ground so far this season, which is an even worse pace than their record setting 2006 team, which of course means they must be Super Bowl favorites…Peyton Manning has thrown multiple interceptions in consecutive games for the first time since October of 2002…The Jaguars had the ball 26:01 in the second half. The Colts had it 3:59. Now that’s dominating time of possession…Anyone frustrated by Joseph Addai’s start to the season, remember, he has home matchups against Cincinnati and Detroit Weeks 14 and 15.

Will someone please explain to me how Tony Romo was not drafted? No team found him worthy of the 224 picks?...Felix Jones, who looks closer to 40 than he does 20, is pretty explosive. He’s a perfect complement to Marion Barber and gives Dallas yet another edge as the best team in football…As crucial as Terrell Owens is to the Cowboys offense, I’m not so sure Jason Witten isn’t equally as important…For those counting at home, Barber is on pace to score 27 touchdowns this season…Greg Jennings is very, very good.

Part of the reason I picked San Diego as a wild card and not the division winner was that I expected the defense to regress and LaDainian Tomlinson to decline. What I didn’t count on, however, was Philip Rivers to be one of the five best players in the league. The guy has, quite simply, transformed into a superstar. He’s unequivocally a top-five fantasy QB…This San Diego team is very, very dangerous…The Jets are not…Chris Chambers is on pace to finish with 32 receptions and 21 touchdowns this season…Tomlinson’s toe injury didn’t appear to be much of a bother Monday, and he’ll be plenty valuable getting a bunch of scoring opportunities in that offense, but this is someone who’s a shell of his former self. The burst is gone. Over his last 36 carries against soft defenses, he’s averaged 2.6 YPC. Darren Sproles, meanwhile, is a touchdown waiting to happen. This isn’t Reggie Bush, as Sproles is much stronger and can run between the tackles. He’s a major weapon.

Kudos to the Emmy’s for rightfully awarding “Mad Men” as TV’s best current show…The new season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” premiered last week, and let me just say, it’s highly recommended…I find myself oddly hooked on HBO’s “True Blood.”…And now, I’m off to go listen to the new “TV on the Radio.”

NFL Notes

This Titans defense is no joke. Cortland Finnegan is one of the league’s better players few know about…The Bengals have faced a seriously difficult early season schedule, but that can’t completely excuse such a disastrous line by Carson Palmer (49%, 4.5 YPA, 0:3 TD:INT ratio). Things will get better, but with two of the three upcoming games @NYG and @Dallas, it may not be for a while…Feel free to cut ties with Alge Crumpler, as there are plenty of more intriguing TE2 options.

No doubt about it, I got the Bills wrong this year – they look much better than I anticipated. It all starts with Trent Edwards, who looks like one of the NFL’s most improved players thus far…Of all the RB2s stashed on fantasy owners’ benches, it seems Fred Jackson is flying under the radar. He’s a big part of the team’s third down packages and would get the bulk of the work if Marshawn Lynch were to get injured…I’m not ready to give up on Jacksonville’s season, but the writing was on the wall for a disappointing 2008. Especially with all these injuries, they currently look like the worst team in their division…Matt Jones may yet become a useful NFL player after all…Fred Taylor is still a prime candidate to break down, but right now, Maurice Jones-Drew is almost unusable in fantasy leagues. He was previously able to get by on limited touches because he was so productive on a per play basis, but with a ravaged line on a declining team, he’s basically Tim Hightower.

I drafted Darren McFadden (often too high) in a bunch of leagues not because I didn’t like Justin Fargas as a RB, but because I doubted his ability to stay healthy and loved Tom Cable’s system. Anyone who saw Fargas’ injury Sunday won’t be expecting him back anytime soon. Of course, McFadden left with an injury of his own, and it was quite disappointing seeing him get caught from behind by a safety…Put a fork in Larry Johnson, he’s done. Meet the new Shaun Alexander, circa 2007. If you can get a Chris Johnson or Jonathan Stewart for LJ, consider yourself extremely lucky. Hell, at this point, Darren Sproles has more upside.

Peyton Manning’s knee injury is of definite concern – it takes him forever to get it loose and often prevents them from running their patented stretch plays on the ground. Still, let’s not write off the Colts just yet…I’m beginning to think Bernard Berrian may look a little overpaid at season’s end…Not having Dallas Clark in the lineup helped his stats Sunday, but Anthony Gonzalez looks like the far superior receiver than the current version of Marvin Harrison.

Well, that didn’t take long for Jonathan Stewart to gain more fantasy value than DeAngelo Williams. That’s a legit Bears’ front seven Stewart carved up Sunday…Jason McKie is quickly becoming Matt Forte owners’ worst nightmare…How about Greg Olsen losing a fumble on both of his two receptions? That’s not too good…Can’t wait to see what Carolina looks like with Steve Smith back in the lineup.

Jon Kitna can remain an effective fantasy QB either way, but those interceptions Sunday were brutal. It doesn’t matter that the OC changed, Detroit will have a similar philosophy because of the personnel. And that’s not good news for Kevin Smith owners…Greg Jennings is simply one of the best deep threats in the game. And in deeper leagues, rostering James Jones right now wouldn’t be a bad idea…If that’s the best Ryan Grant can do under his current condition, might as well rest him a week or two to get that hamstring healthy…The system helps for sure, but make no mistake, Aaron Rodgers is the real deal. Consider him a top-8 fantasy QB moving forward.

This Rams team is bad. Very, very bad. As in, the team has yet to run a single play in the red zone this season! Any Torry Holt owners should use this week’s miracle (lucky) 45-yard TD catch and shop him around like crazy. St. Louis is a must-start for opposing fantasy defenses…Brandon Jacobs is more likely to stay healthy if he’s continued to be used this way, and more touchdowns are sure to follow…Because of his activity in the passing game, Steven Jackson maintains fantasy value. However, it’s pretty limited surrounded by these teammates.

Who was that wearing #17 for Washington Sunday, and what did you do with Jason Campbell?...When healthy, Santana Moss is a very good wide receiver. He could be in store for a big bounce back year…The Giants are the only team in the NFL that doesn’t have a tight end with a catch this season…Whoever made the when to and when not to go for a two-point conversion chart is an idiot. And Jim Zorn got in line with the rest of the followers and mistakenly used it Sunday.

I understand they were playing from behind, but Mike Smith really abandoned the run prematurely Sunday…Roddy White owners, be patient. Good things are to come…If I own Earnest Graham, I might actually try selling high this week. He’s had back-to-back nice games, but both have been predicated by one huge gain, something that can’t be counted on. They’ve also come against soft defenses. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Graham as a player, but if Jon Gruden continues to give Warrick Dunn 45 percent of the carries, there’s just no way he can be a consistent RB2…Something tells me this Brian Griese era is not going to end well.

What a day for J.T. O’Sullivan. It’s hard not to commit a single turnover while taking eight sacks. Mike Martz’s magic has officially returned. A 9.9 YPA mark after two games suggests more TD passes to come. Right now, I’d much rather JTO than Matt Hasselbeck for fantasy purposes. I might even prefer him to Carson Palmer…Run, don’t walk to pick up Bryant Johnson if he’s somehow available on your waiver wire…Patrick Willis’ 86-yard interception return for a TD was a thing of beauty…Julius Jones is someone to be shopped this week. Sell.

Looks like the Jets better not start printing those playoff tickets, after all. I’d still take the Pats and you can have the AFC East field…I’m so over you Larry Maroney. So very over you…So maybe Wes Welker can retain some value after all…Where are you, David Harris?

And on the eighth day, God created Jay Cutler…Philip Rivers sure looks like a top-10 fantasy QB to me…Got to give Mike Shanahan credit for having the guts to go for two there. Love it when a coach goes against the grain for once. In a game that featured 942 total yards of offense, the move made plenty of sense…Don’t worry San Diego, the Chargers will be just fine. They’ll make the playoffs…If I had the option to own any Bronco running back, Ryan Torain would be my first choice…I’m really trying hard not to say I told you so about LaDainian Tomlinson, but let’s just say I’d use my No. 1 waiver priority to acquire Darren Sproles this week.

Tim Hightower’s YPC is a bit misleading since so many of his carries come in short-yardage situations, but he’s the back to own in Arizona…Boy Ted Ginn sure has disappeared since the real bullets started to fly…I’d target Ronnie Brown as a buy-low guy right now…Ugh, my Miami ahead of Buffalo prediction looks horrible, but I’m feeling “pretty, pretty good” about my Cardinals as NFC West champs pick…Kurt Warner has 25 touchdown passes over his last 10 games. If the big three can somehow remain healthy, this offense is an absolute force, and because they finally have sound coaching, it’s a team with potential.

How weird was Ben Roethlisberger’s postgame interview Sunday night?...This Cleveland team isn’t making the playoffs or anything, but they have had quite a rough schedule so far. Expect another subpar offensive performance in Week 3, and then go target Braylon Edwards in trade talks…Like last year before the season-ending injury, Willie Parker is getting worked awfully hard…I loved Romeo Crennel’s mind-blowing choice to kick a field goal down seven with three minutes left because he gave me a win ATS, but it had to be one of the most illogical decisions ever made.

The Broncos/Chargers matchup was quite good, but the Cowboys/Eagles Monday nighter qualifies as early season favorite for barnburner of the year. As someone who picked Dallas in his survivor pool this week, I was sweating bullets…Jason Witten is an animal. He won’t let a little separated shoulder get in the way of playing football…Did anyone even notice Tony Kornheiser made a possibly insensitive comment until he apologized for it?...First Brian Westbrook willingly kneeled down at the 1-yard line last year, and now DeSean Jackson nullifies a would be 61-yard TD by prematurely celebrating. The Eagles have officially become fantasy football’s most aggravating team…That said, Philadelphia is legit. Donovan McNabb looks simply terrific. The one more year removed from knee surgery has made a huge difference…Marion Barber might score a few touchdowns this season…And now, I’m off to go pay Bruce Bochy a visit.

RotoWire Podcasts

The first one in the post-XM era is up. We'll have them three days a week - the next one being on Thursday for this week with ESPN's Jonah Keri and one more on Friday with Yahoo! Sports' Brad Evans.

The Thursday segment will essentially be a verbal version of the "Beating the Book" column - though Jonah won't always agree with me - and the Friday one will be a look at the fantasy matchups for Week 3.

Todays was the fallout from Sunday's games with RotoWire's Dalton Del Don.

One good thing about the podcasts is that they're not behind our pay firewall, so they can be emailed to anyone.

Feedback is welcome, and also for Friday, if you have any questions you'd like answered, feel free to post here, and we'll get to a couple.

NFL Notes

For anyone hoping the postseason Eli Manning from last year would show up for 2008, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Inconsistent is his middle name…If Brandon Jacobs somehow stays healthy, he’ll easily finish as a top-10 fantasy back. Maybe top-5. His hands are a joke, though…Jason Campbell is not the answer at quarterback in Washington…A healthy Plaxico Burress who can actually practice this season is a scary thought. I wish I invested more in him during drafts this summer.

Carson Palmer wasn’t sacked over his last 89 pass attempts last year. He was sacked on his first two attempts during Week 1…He can’t be counted on to stay healthy, but I still like Chris Perry. Feel free to see if an owner is panicking after a poor game against a tough Baltimore D…If Ray Rice can only muster 2.9 YPC at home against Cincinnati while playing with a lead, his upside is far lower than I expected. I’d never heard of Le’Ron McClain before Sunday.

After round 1, I’d sure rather have Ronnie Brown than I would Ricky Williams. Go buy Brown while his value is still low…It appears Brett Favre’s still got it. What a great fourth down touchdown heave. New York actually benefited from Mike Nugent’s injury…Of all the random tight end explosions this week (Dante Rosario, Randy McMichael, Robert Royal), I like Anthony Fasano the most moving forward. With Tom Brady going down, the New York Bretts may just win this division after all.

Matt Cassell, whom my friend once repeatedly beat while foot racing on the streets of USC in the middle of the night back in our college days, is now the starting quarterback for a team that’s won 20 consecutive regular season games. Brady going down for the season 20 minutes into the year is pretty crazy…If you own Wes Welker and can get Lee Evans for him, do it…Brodie Croyle’s injury makes the Chiefs slightly better…Laurence Maroney owners have to be killing themselves right now. New England may have to run more with Brady out of the lineup, but it appears Sammy Morris is going to be a big part of that once again, including at the goal line. Ugh.

Steve Slaton is clearly the runner to own in Houston’s backfield…You can’t really be more efficient than Ben Roethlisberger was Sunday…Santonio Holmes will be fine…The best news regarding Willie Parker’s big day and future fantasy prospects? Rashard Mendenhall hasn’t impressed at all…Despite Week 1’s ugly performance, I still believe in the Texans having a good football team this year. Mario Williams is unblockable.

This Titans team is physical. Hopefully the concussed Albert Haynesworth won’t have to miss any time…I’m not sure how Kerry Collins will play as the starter, but it’s tough imagining him not being an upgrade over Vince Young. He’s a sneaky fantasy play Week 2 against the Bengals…Having drafted Chris Johnson in numerous leagues, I’m able to sleep much better at night. He looks like a top-20 fantasy back at minimum.

I can guarantee Matt Ryan won’t have a better game the rest of the year than he did during his first ever start, but he does look like a keeper…Maybe the same jersey and number clouds my judgment, but Kevin Smith reminds me a lot of Kevin Jones in his prime, and I mean that as a compliment…This Falcons O-line sure did improve in a hurry. Of course, playing Detroit will make a lot of teams look good…If Calvin Johnson isn’t a consensus second round pick in fantasy leagues next year, it’s because he’ll be going in round one…It wasn’t San Diego – Michael Turner is the real deal. What a combination of size, cutting ability and speed. He should be viewed as a top-10 fantasy back.

The fake field goal the Bills ran Sunday was the coolest play of the day. Hands down…Nate Burleson dropped a wide open pass in the end zone that I would have caught 10 times out of 10. The very next play he makes a diving catch for a score with a defender all over him – one I wouldn’t be able to make if given 100 tries. Too bad he’s now done for the year. Getting targeted so often in that offense, he was going to put up big numbers. Might as well pick up Courtney Taylor…With Maurice Morris hurt and nice upcoming matchups, if I own Julius Jones, I’m shopping him like crazy with those selling points. Dude’s a terrible running back…This year, Lee Evans might just be what I thought he’d be last year.

I’m as big a fan of “Seinfeld” as anyone, but these new Microsoft ads featuring Jerry and Bill Gates simply have to go.

Drew Brees easily looks like the No. 1 fantasy QB to own…Nice to see Pierre Thomas so heavily involved right out of the gate. Anyone who drafted Deuce McAllister was crazy…Reggie Bush can be a force in the passing game, and it’s possible Sean Payton utilizes him more effectively this year, but he still can’t run (3.6 YPC). Just make him a situational back and get it over with…Remember Marques Colston owners, he got off to a slow start last season too…If Jon Gruden continues to give Warrick Dunn similar touches to Earnest Graham, my TB last place prediction will look positively prophetic.

DeSean Jackson is awfully exciting, but see if someone is willing to treat him like a true WR2 right now…Be afraid Torry Holt owners. Be very afraid…Fun fact: The Eagles have the heaviest offensive line in the NFL…The angle the safety took while attempting to tackle Hank Baskett during his 90-yard TD catch was an embarrassment.

This Dallas team looks pretty unbeatable. Expect some through the roof point spreads to follow…Chalk Braylon Edwards down has someone who does need some preseason action, apparently…What exactly, was Romeo Crennel thinking kicking a field goal down 21 points with 10 minutes left playing an offense like Dallas? The answer? He wasn’t…If Jason Witten remains healthy, he’s going to be a monster. He’s definitely the No. 1 fantasy tight end…My boy Marion Barber proved both me right (he should be considered at minimum the No. 2 fantasy player overall) and his naysayers right (his physical style could lead to injuries). Still, like the Barbarian isn’t going to play through a little cartilage damage to the ribs? Please. Dude could score 30 touchdowns this season.

Chris Chambers’ Week 1 was his career personified – catching just one of his six targets yet being productive with it (44-yard TD)…DeAngelo Williams and the Panthers’ offensive line sure do look improved this season…My favorite part of Dante Rosario’s huge Week 1? When Fox listed him as “Rosario Dawson” on their UPS Leaderboard…Sell LaDainian Tomlinson before it’s too late.

Over the second half of Sunday’s game, the Cardinals ran 45 plays compared to 15 by the 49ers. San Francisco completed just one pass in Arizona territory during that time. They committed five turnovers to the Cardinals’ zero. Ladies and gentlemen, the Mike Martz era!...Actually, the Cardinals were painstakingly conservative. It makes sense trying to limit Kurt Warner’s turnovers, but I didn’t appreciate it much as a Larry Fitzgerald holder…There’s a legitimate chance Frank Gore leads SF in receptions this year…As for JTO, he actually gave reason for optimism, completing 70 percent of his passes for a 9.8 YPA. Good thing the team picked Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers.

You know when in “Fight Club” they choose whom they’d most want to fight in the world? Well, for me that would be Bruce Bochy (Sabean, you’re next). Even though I’d kick Bochy’s ass, it’d still be less harmful than what he’s doing to Tim Lincecum’s arm.

With a rusty Peyton Manning and no Jeff Saturday, the Colts sure looked sluggish. Still, I wouldn’t hit the panic button just yet. I’d rather be in Indy’s situation than I would New England’s…Over his last two games, Marvin Harrison has been responsible for two touchdowns – by Indy’s opponents…Looks like Matt Forte can play. I’d still consider Chicago an excellent matchup for opposing defenses, however…Joseph Addai left the game “banged up?” You’re kidding me. Next thing you’ll tell me is that water is wet and the sun will rise tomorrow. I would be crass and call him some form of a woman, but that would be a horrible insult to females everywhere.

Tarvaris Jackson can look good on some plays, and he’s the fastest QB in the league, but this passing game is worrisome. If it doesn’t improve, the team will once again be left out of the playoffs, let alone any lofty Super Bowl aspirations…My one complaint about the Packers/Vikings game was that the refs didn’t call enough penalties…Mark Brad Childress down as yet another head coach who is clueless as when (not) to go for the two-point conversion…Adrian Peterson is an absolute freak. Would love to see his numbers if he could somehow stay healthy all year.

Jay Cutler is officially rivaling Tim Lincecum as my main man-crush. Like I said before the season, there isn’t a player in football I’d rather own if starting a franchise right now. Glad I drafted him in so many leagues this year, because I refuse to take a QB before round 5. He’ll be a second/third round pick next year…R.I.P. Javon Walker…JaMarcus Russell was actually pretty solid, but it’s safe to say DeAngelo Hall can’t hold Nnamdi Asomugha’s jock…It’s also safe to say ESPN hit a new low with their announcing crew Monday, who made the old three stooges (Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, Paul Maguire) broadcast team look competent, something I never thought I’d say. Mike Ditka: “It doesn’t matter where he was drafted. Look at this Chris Johnson kid. He was taken in the fourth round.” Truly atrocious.

Jaguars are Done

A friend of mine sent this to me - thought it was pretty funny:


Pre-Game Coin Toss Makes Jacksonville Jaguars Realize Randomness Of Life

Fantasy Football Live on Yahoo! Sports

This was easily the best NFL pre-game show on the air last year, though that was before I came aboard. Here's a link to the one we did this morning. Definitely worth checking out instead of the standard network fare.

AFC South Preview

1. Indianapolis Colts

Last year Peyton Manning threw 14 interceptions; eight of them came against the Chargers, who ended up knocking Indy out of the playoffs. Manning enters 2008 surrounded by questions regarding his health, something unfamiliar with the signal caller. It’s still unclear just how serious the knee issue will be this season, but it’s clearly the most important aspect of the team’s season. With Jake Scott gone and Jeff Saturday injured, rookie Mike Pollak will become an integral part of the offense, playing a position of significant importance. Saturday’s injury could be devastating. With Anthony Gonzalez developing and the return of Marvin Harrison, there are plenty of weapons in the passing game, even if Harrison shows expected signs of decline. If Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders remain healthy, the defense will be very tough to score on.

2. Houston Texans (wild card)

Watch out, this team could be dangerous. Defense is still a huge question mark, but Mario Williams could lead the league in sacks this season, and a dominant end can be felt everywhere. Amobi Okoye could also break out, while DeMeco Ryans is a force at linebacker. Fred Bennett allowed the fewest YPA of any corner in football last season. Bottom line, it remains to be seen how the unit will perform as a whole, but there are some nice pieces in place, especially if Dunta Robinson can return to old form midway through the season. On offense, it’s imperative Matt Schaub stays healthy. Sage Rosenfels is a solid backup, but he’s nowhere near the QB Schaub is. With Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels as targets, this passing game could light up the scoreboard. The fact they don’t have a brand name running back means little.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville is a solid football team, but the defense overachieved last year. On a per play basis, they were average, but when it came to the red zone, they did a tremendous job of holding opponents to field goals and not touchdowns. Kind of like a hitter who raked with RISP one season, that type of performance is likely unsustainable, which means the Jags will be giving up more points this year, especially since Marcus Stroud is gone, and John Henderson is aging and a big injury risk. However, it’s possible their draft picks will help nullify that. Adding Jerry Porter probably won’t help much, but David Garrard is an elite talent. Still, his 0.9 interception percentage last year was the lowest in NFL history, so more turnovers are inevitable.

4. Tennessee Titans

If defense and running the football leads to winning, the Titans will certainly finish higher than this fourth place projection. The defense is strong, especially if Albert Haynesworth can stay healthy and motivated. Cortland Finnegan sounds more like an Irish Pub than it does a cornerback, but he’s legit. The offensive line is also a strength, and Chris Johnson adds an explosive element previously missing. It says here Johnson has a much better year than LenDale White. Unfortunately, the passing game is completely inept, with no wide receivers and Vince Young at quarterback. Young could show improvement with Norm Chow now gone, but he’s a better fantasy QB than one in real life. It’s a big problem.

AFC North Preview

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

The division is filled with solid yet flawed teams. The Steelers are least flawed. The offensive line was already a weakness, and that was before Alan Faneca departed. The defensive line is also aging, so in the trenches, this team isn’t what it used to be, and that’s a major area of concern. The drafting of Rashard Mendenhall improves the running game, especially in short-yardage situations. Santonio Holmes is long on talent, and he’s a future superstar. Ben Roethlisberger takes too many sacks, but he’s the key difference maker in the division. He’s a top-5 player in football playing the most important position on the field.

2. Cleveland Browns

The Browns were the surprise team of 2007, and the requisite hype has followed that into this season. Cleveland’s schedule gets much tougher, including more games under the lights than the defending Super Bowl champs. Never has this team played with such expectations. The additions of Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers to the D-line could prove huge, but the secondary remains a huge problem. The offensive line is a big strength, as are Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards. Derek Anderson is the key, and the fact his YPA dropped from 8.2 to 6.2 over the second half of last season is some concern, but it was his first year as a starter, and the weather also played a role. Brady Quinn could be an adequate replacement if need be, but he’s more of a check down guy at this stage of his career, whereas Anderson attacks downfield like no other.

3. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have stars at quarterback and wide receiver, but that’s about it. The defense remains a big problem, although adding Antwan Odom and Keith Rivers could help. The offensive line makes Palmer’s job much tougher, as it’s not a strong unit. If all three wide receivers can stay healthy and out of prison, the passing game won’t be easy to defend, especially with Ben Utecht now in the fold. Still, this team is soft and can’t play on the road. Of all the divisions in the NFL, this one would surprise me least if my predicted order was reversed at season’s end.

4. Baltimore Ravens

This defense could return to elite status, as the line is awfully strong and the secondary tough with a healthy Chris McAlister and the addition of Fabian Washington. The offense, however, is a problem, starting with the line, which is unproven and lost Jonathan Ogden to retirement. Rookie Ray Rice adds a much-needed new dimension to the backfield, and he looks like the future at the position for Baltimore. Todd Heap is perpetually banged up, and unfortunately, Mark Clayton looks like the new Michael Clayton. The team better hope Troy Smith makes it back on the field as soon as possible, because Joe Flacco certainly isn’t ready.

AFC East Preview

1. New England Patriots

After rewriting the record books in 2007, the Patriots actually enter the year with something to prove, as the Super Bowl loss to the Giants no doubt still lingers in their minds. There’s not much to say here; this team is very good and has few weaknesses, despite going through the preseason as if they were destined to finish last. The offense is more likely to play like it did during the second half of last season than the first, but that’s still plenty good. Tom Brady’s current health status is questionable, but it’s doubtful that situation turns into a long-term problem. Randy Moss needs to avoid leg injuries, and Laurence Maroney needs to learn how to block, but New England enters 2008 as the heavy favorite to win it all.

2. New York Jets

During the offseason, the Jets added Brett Favre, Alan Faneca, Damien Woody and Kris Jenkins, so the expectations are sky high. While many of the additions look good on paper, the NFL’s not as easily transferable as other sports, and it’s extremely important to tie players together with scheme, so it remains to be seen how they fit in. Favre, most likely, will be an upgrade, and Jerricho Cotchery could explode as a result. If Thomas Jones gets another 300 carries, the team will likely have a below average ground game, but there should be more room to run in 2008. David Harris might be the best player few people talk about.

3. Miami Dolphins

Yes, they were 1-15 last year, but six of those losses were by three points, so they weren’t some historical doormat. With an entire new coaching regime, things are looking up, but there will need to be patience. Chad Pennington has his shortcomings, but there’s no doubt he’s an upgrade over John Beck. Chad Henne is the future. The O-line should also get better with the additions of Jake Long and Justin Smiley. Ted Ginn gives the offense an explosive element, while Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams form a terrific duo in the backfield. Miami isn’t headed to the playoffs, but they are likely to remain competitive in most of their games this season.

4. Buffalo Bills

The Bills weren’t bad last year, but they were probably a little bit worse than their record indicated. It’s possible Trent Edwards is the answer at quarterback, but he hasn’t shown many signs of that being the case thus far. Even if he demonstrates improvement during year two as starter, he’ll remain inconsistent. Marshawn Lynch is good, but Jason Peters might be more important to the franchise, and his holdout appears to be long lasting, which is a significant blow. Lee Evans has the skills of an elite wide receiver, but his numbers fail to reveal that more often than not.

AFC West Preview

1. Denver Broncos

The Broncos were soft against the run last year, but that’s the area on defense you’d prefer to be weak against. Champ Bailey figures to rebound after a disappointing 2007 campaign, and Dre Bly isn’t a bad No. 2 corner. The linebackers should improve, and Elvis Dumervil looks like a potential dominant end. With a relatively easy looking schedule, the defense could become a strength. If I had the No. 1 pick in starting a franchise right now, I’d be hard pressed to pass on Jay Cutler, who is going to explode in his third year and now healthy after his diabetes was treated. Football is more than the quarterback position, but the Broncos have a major advantage here, and Brandon Marshall is an elite weapon as well. Rookie Eddie Royal will also contribute, as will Tony Scheffler. The offensive line isn’t what it once was, but it’s still a plus, especially after adding left tackle Ryan Clady through the draft. It doesn’t matter that Denver doesn’t have a name brand running back; the team will almost assuredly average better than 4.5 YPC and finish among the league-leaders. Playing in Colorado’s thin air is also an advantage that can’t be underestimated.

2. San Diego Chargers (wild card)

This might be the only preview where the Chargers aren’t finishing first in the division, but there’s no doubting the team enters with plenty of talent. The health of Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates are concerns. Shawne Merriman and Nick Hardwick are also hurt. San Diego has a very good offensive line (although Marcus McNeill took a huge step back last year) with Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson out wide, so there’s no shortage of depth. Still, Rivers will need to play like he did in the playoffs for the team to dominate, as he was merely a league average starter throughout the regular season, and the rest of the division figures to be improved this time around. This is admittedly anecdotal, but teams often struggle the year after losing in the Conference Championship.

3. Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are moving in the right direction, but the decision to draft JaMarcus Russell over Calvin Johnson last year could prove crushing. The defense could be sneaky good, as DeAngelo Hall was added to play alongside Nnamdi Asomugha, the NFL’s best cover corner. Additionally, the signing of Gibril Wilson helped two-fold, as he’s a big upgrade from Stewart Schweigert, and it also allowed Michael Huff to move to free safety, which will better utilize his skills. The strong secondary will allow the team to allocate more resources toward stopping the run, an area the Raiders struggled mightily in last year. The offensive line, and in particular the run blocking, is a major strength. Robert Gallery has finally found a home at left guard, and while new left tackle Kwame Harris can run block, it could get ugly in pass protection. Oakland will be a run-heavy team that’s likely successful, but Russell is going to struggle, especially with a very thin receiving group.

4. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs were smart to admit where the franchise stood and went into full-blown rebuild mode this offseason, focusing on getting younger through the draft. The additions of Glenn Dorsey and Branden Albert should pay dividends down the road, but this team is quite a ways from contention, mainly because they still lack a franchise quarterback. Brodie Croyle’s wife may be hot, but that appears to be about all he’s got going for him. Dwayne Bowe will be a star once the team does decide to upgrade under center, and any fantasy owner who drafted Larry Johnson this year will end up disappointed.

NFC South Preview

1. New Orleans Saints

After an 0-4 start last year, the Saints were a pretty good football team. However, the defense is a problem. The additions of Jonathan Vilma and Sedrick Ellis could make a major impact, and the offense should be a plus. One serious concern is that the team may once again be at the mercy of New Orleans’ weather, which is even worse when you consider one of their “home” games will be played in London. It’s amazing how few times Drew Brees gets sacked with all those pass attempts, and it’s safe to expect last year’s 6.8 YPA to jump at least a half a yard. Jeremy Shockey’s presence certainly won’t hurt. Absolutely nothing should be expected of Deuce McAllister, and it’d be a mild surprise if Pierre Thomas doesn’t finish with more yards and touchdowns than the disappointing Reggie Bush. But the Saints will win with their passing attack.

2. Carolina Panthers (wild card)

The Panthers were one of only two teams last year to start four different quarterbacks, and since they were painfully slow to realize David Carr is a lemon, the team was doomed as a result. There’s no guarantee Jake Delhomme stays healthy or returns to form coming off major elbow surgery and now 33 years old, but all signs point to a full recovery. It’s simple – when he and Steve Smith are on the same field together, the offense is tough. Of course, Smith will miss the first two games of the season after rearranging Ken Lucas’ face, but that incident supposedly brought the team together like never before. Seriously. D.J. Hackett probably won’t make a huge difference, but the return of Muhsin Muhammad should help the running game. Speaking of which, Carolina’s ground game should take huge strides, as rookie Jonathan Stewart is a massive upgrade over the departed DeShaun Foster, and his addition has also led to a vastly improved DeAngelo Williams. Rookie Jeff Otah’s presence can’t hurt either. Expect a monstrous bounce back from Julius Peppers, making the defense a force.

3. Atlanta Falcons

Out with the old, and in with the new. One more year removed from the Michael Vick debacle, the Falcons now have their franchise quarterback, left tackle, running back and coach. Of course, there’s going to be growing pains, especially since they will be starting a rookie QB from the get go. Still, there’s reason for optimism here, and Mike Smith is a gigantic upgrade over that fraud Bobby Petrino. Roddy White is a star who will demand opposing defenses attention, while the Michael Turner/Jerious Norwood combo should be pretty productive.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The fact every single division winner in the NFC South has finished in last place the following year is irrelevant, as stats like that certainly aren’t useful predictive measures. Still, it’s quite possible the trend continues, as Tampa Bay enters 2008 with plenty of question marks. The defense is solid, no doubt, but the offense could be a major problem, with its two best players ages 36 and 38. Expect plenty of regression from Jeff Garcia this season.

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