Foolish Thoughts: Wherefore art thou Patriots?

These Patriots are clearly not the same team that we expected to see back on the field with Brady’s return.

When New England traded Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders, it proved one thing: Bill Belichick will do anything for a first round draft pick. Draft picks are like crack to him. Belichick cannot refuse. If you gave him enough first round picks, he’d probably give away Tom Brady and his own kidney. Maybe two kidneys.

While that 2011 pick looks delicious right now, the Patriots defense does not. Belichick couldn’t have planned on losing Jerod Mayo in the first game of the season, but he certainly knew that the defense would suffer without Mike Vrabel, traded to Kansas City, and Richard Seymour. The new blood on defense hasn’t found their rhythm yet this season, and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez capitalized on their failings in Week 2.

Belichick seems to have an uncanny ability to find spare parts and plug them in as exact clones of the starters he has in place — *cough* Julian Edelman *cough* — but the team as a whole can’t get back to 2007 form.

Tom Brady hasn’t been getting the same zip on his passes, and the Jets’ Darrelle Revis was an absolute stud against Randy Moss, much like he was against Andre Johnson in Week 1. It might be time to sit your stud wide receiver when he faces the Jets.

Should you abandon your Patriots? No, of course not. As long as they aren’t playing the Jets defense, the Patriots offense should still create fantasy stars.

But if you drafted the New England defense with the expectation that they would enjoy a healthy dose of turnovers once Brady forced opponents into a throwing match, you might need to look for a second option.

Speaking of teams playing out of character
In the midst of the Titans-Texans score-a-thon, it was obvious to everyone watching that Chris Johnson is the Titan’s offense. The Titans rode the wave of that undefeated streak last year off the play of their excellent defense, which has lost the ability to generate a pass rush without Albert Haynesworth and exposed some holes in the secondary.

Maybe Kerry Collins is the problem. Maybe his time has come, or maybe I just give Vince Young too much credit. Without a doubt, the Titans are going to need some creativity on offense.

Maybe they can just direct snap to Chris Johnson and call it a day. My fantasy team would be completely cool with that. Completely.

One rib shy of the rack
Matt Hasselbeck took a big hit that knocked him out of his game this week, but it looks like he’ll be okay. It was just a broken rib, and it’s not like he has a history of injury or anything… Oh, wait, this could be a problem.

Discharged
The Chargers defense lost Shawne Merriman again at the end of yesterday’s game against the Ravens to a groin strain, but the bigger blow was the loss of Jamal Williams this week. Without him in the middle of the defense, the Chargers might run into some trouble.

Are things coming together in a perfect storm for Philip Rivers owners? He just might have to carry the Chargers for a few weeks.

The Wildcat comes to special teams
Maybe that’s why they list Sage Rosenfels as the third quarterback, eh? Sneaky Brad Childress…

Have you seen the Green Bay bomber?
Greg Jennings, where did you go? He checked out of the Bengals game Casper-style, but I don’t think Aaron Rodgers will let that happen again if the Packers want to keep that offense on the right track.

Breaking ankles
With this week’s sprained ankle for Brian Westbrook and last week’s sprained ankle for L.T., we could be looking at a season of Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy pretty soon. Waiver wire accordingly.

At the closing Bell
Mike Bell may have lost his hold on the running back job in New Orleans by spraining his own MCL Sunday. It was too good to be true, but we’ll have to wait until the final diagnosis to see if Bell was just a two-week waiver wire savior.

Pierre Thomas owners certainly wouldn’t mind Bell being removed from the competition.

Even after two weeks of play, we’re still not quite sure who some of these teams are. Are the Jags the worst team in football? Are the 49ers really going to smashmouth their way to an NFC West title? Is Cadillac Williams a member of the undead, come back to own the running game in Tampa Bay? I guess we’ll see.

As always, the comments are yours.

Guest Post: Three RBBCs to Target in Fantasy Football Drafts

This second guest post comes to us all the way across the pond from Ross Mooring of Never Kick a Gift Horse in the Teeth. This article is a follow up to his first guest post on three RBBCs to avoid in your drafts this season.

It’s now time to look at the running-back-by-committees (RBBC) that fantasy owners should try to monopolize in drafts this year. In most cases, fantasy players should study RBBC situations and draft only the favorites to receive the most carries when the time is right, but some teams possess running backs who collectively are undervalued or that, when drafted together, increase the value and reliability of those players.

Dallas Cowboys

A fit (well, fitter) Marion Barber is a surefire fantasy workhorse. One of the toughest running backs in the game, Barber is not only a threat on the goal line but also receiving out of the backfield. He will get every yard available.

MBIII has shockingly been falling to the beginning of the third round in 12-team drafts, mainly because of the presence of Felix Jones. This fall makes Barber an absolute steal given his propensity to carry the rock into the end zone on a weekly basis.

Jones still represents draft value at the very end of the sixth round, but here’s the clincher: the two of them offer different skill sets, don’t mutually deplete fantasy value very much and will be given enough touches to produce fantasy points.

Barber cannot carry the ball 25 times per game without breaking down while Jones is a threat in space, not in short-yardage situations. Take both with glee, and if you smell an injury, Tashard Choice won’t be waiver-wire fodder for long.

Indianapolis Colts

I’m making a joke, right? The Colts’ backfield, the very same backfield that struggled immensely in 2008, is one of the top three to target in 2009? Yes, it is!

Last year, not only did Joseph Addai have injury problems, but so did three of his offensive linemen and Peyton Manning. All have returned to good health this season. One must remember that Indianapolis is an offensive machine — always has been, always will be. At least while Manning is around…

Between Addai and rookie Donald Brown, we either have one back who will produce RB1 stat lines or two backs who will post RB2 and RB3 numbers. At the very worst, drafting both guarantees you will have insurance against an Addai injury.

You can wait on taking a second back through the first three or even four rounds — yes, Addai has been falling that far (ADP: 5.08!) — and secure the most undervalued RBBC in all of football in the sixth or seventh round.

Just make sure you don’t get arrested for robbery at the end of the year.

San Diego Chargers

The word on the grapevine is that last year was an offensive hiccup for San Diego, not in terms of total output but in the fact that the Chargers succeeded by passing the football and not running it.

With an improved defense (Shawne Merriman single-handedly improves this unit), why not control the game by slowing it down on the ground and letting Philip Rivers air it out with play action when necessary?

With LaDainian Tomlinson hitting the big 3-0 and Darren Sproles not yet a seasoned pro, one could be forgiven for doubting them, but L.T. is a once-in-a-decade back. A single season of wear and tear is not going to bring him down. A pick in the latter half of the first round — anywhere after that is a steal — represents value.

The kicker is that Sproles, who is playing under a franchise tag, is not going until late in the eighth round. If you’re in the right draft slot, take them both and sleep well knowing you have guaranteed yourself some big production at running back.

And one more bonus RBBC…

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Editor’s Note: Tampa Bay was originally the third team to target until recent news revealed the 2-2-1 split they plan to use with Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams. Take these words as you will now that we know this committee will be very divided...

Tampa Bay is one of a couple of backfields that will be drafted late, mainly because of the lack of standout names but also because the statistical ceiling isn’t quite as sexy as it is elsewhere.

Make no mistake, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham will consistently notch points for fantasy owners in 2009 — the former with the bulk of the carries and the latter with the bulk of the touchdowns.

The advantage of this RBBC is that Tampa Bay does not have much of a passing game to hang its hat on. Antonio Bryant is unpredictable and potentially unreliable, and the same could be said of Kellen Winslow and his health issues. On top of that, the quarterback situation is confusing, and there seems to be little reason for Raheem Morris to do anything but lean on the run.

Ward has been drafted right at the end of the fourth round (steal), and Graham has seen his number called as late as the end of the tenth round (bigger steal!).

Do you agree or disagree with Ross on these RBBCs to target? As always, the comments are yours. Read more of Ross’ writing at Never Kick a Gift Horse in the Teeth.

Week 13 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

A lot of the action already went down on Thursday, but there are still a few sneaky starts and player concerns this week. Here are a few players that might help or hurt you in staking your claim for a playoff spot on this fine Sunday.

Hot Hands

Chad Pennington, QB Dolphins vs. Rams — It’s sort of a no-brainer that even a noodle arm can go big against the Rams. As long as Davone Bess can fill the gap left by Greg Camarillo, I think Pennington could be in for a modest but respectable fantasy performance in St. Louis.

Ronnie Brown, RB Dolphins vs. Rams – Of course, Pennington’s main competition for points will be this man right here. Hopefully, Brown shares the love and doesn’t gobble up all the touchdown runs and touchdown passes. One can only hope. Maybe he’ll even share with Ricky Williams. Ricky loves to pass, especially in circles and while listening to Dave Matthews Band.

Lee Evans, WR Bills vs. 49ers — Barring a perfect storm, this week could be your best chance to get something out of Lee Evans before he gets snowed in for the rest of the season. Trent Edwards found his game last week, and hopefully, Evans can expose the 49ers’ secondary just as Terrell Owens did last week.

Bernard Berrian, WR Vikings vs. Bears — If Berrian was going to heat up again down the stretch, this game would be the part where the water starts to steam. As long as Gus Frerotte would like to hold up his end of the bargain, I’m sure that Berrian would love to put a hurting on his former team.

Dustin Keller, TE Jets vs. Broncos — Since is 100+ yard game in Week 10, Keller’s seen at least six targets in every game. I like that streak and his chances against a QB-friendly Broncos defense that may occasionally shut down one of Brett Favre’s wide receivers throughout the day.

Baltimore Ravens D/ST vs. Bengals — Ryan Fitzpatrick sees this coming, and there is nothing he can do about it.

Bubble Boys

David Garrard, QB Jaguars vs. Texans — When Garrard matched up against Houston earlier this season, he blew up the Texans’ defense with a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown in his second-best fantasy performance of the season. Can I have a repeat?

Matt Cassel, QB Patriots vs. Steelers — Hot streak or brown streak, the Steelers are the kind of defense that makes the cookie crumble. I always wanted to call Cassel a cookie. Done.

Larry Johnson, RB Chiefs vs. Raiders — He was a complete bust last time he faced the Raiders. Can you trust him this time around? The offense is better, but is L.J.? The matchup is too good to sit him, but I definitely have my concerns going into this week.

Ted Ginn Jr., WR Dolphins vs. Rams — How much did Camarillo distract defenses and allow Ginn to get open for the big play? We’ll see on Sunday, but Ginn’s still worth a chance to prove his worth.

Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST vs. Texans – Just questionable enough not to start against a Texans team looking to get back the Jags for what they did to them in Week 4. It’s likely that both teams could look like they forgot to play defense.

Cold Shoulders

Jason Campbell, QB Redskins vs. Giants — Campbell’s already having dizzy spells and hot flashes thinking about the first matchup with the Giants this season. The past few weeks haven’t been impressive enough for us to overlook that day either. You’ll have to take the good with the bad this week with Campbell and hope for at least one good touchdown pass.

Reggie Bush, RB Saints vs. Buccaneers — Even if Bush returns, this matchup is one of those where you’d probably be better off seeing what Bush can do before you rely on him to win a game for you. Only play Bush if he starts and if you have no more reliable options. Bush might spent more time on the sidelines than in the game.

Willie Parker, RB Steelers vs. Patriots — The Pats can stop the run, and Parker is in no shape to amaze us this week.

Steve Smith, WR Panthers vs. Packers – After a huge game last week, Smith is due for a cooling off against a top-rated pass defense. The Packers defense is bound to look for retribution after what the Saints did to them, and Delhomme could struggle.

Dwayne Bowe, WR Chiefs vs. Raiders — Nnamdi Asomugha would like to give you a heads up that Bowe won’t be open all day. Thanks for your understanding.

Chris Cooley, TE Redskins vs. Giants – Cooley, just like the rest of the Redskins, didn’t have a good showing when he faced the Giants in the season opener. If Campbell can’t make it happen, Cooley can’t either. He’s likely to have more blocking duties than usual this week.

San Diego Chargers D/ST vs. Falcons — On paper, this game looked like a slaughter at the beginning of the season. Now, I think you should move away from the Chargers D/ST. Chargers defense without Shawne Merriman is more dangerous than you would expect.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 8: Deconstructing the Colts, 49ers

Foolish Thoughts is the weekly column of Jacob Sloan, Fantasy Football Fools’ editor-in-chief, that recaps significant news, notes and performances from the weekend of fantasy football and what it all means for fantasy owners. Foolish Thoughts goes live on Tuesdays at FantasyFootballFools.com and is now available with half the fat.

Peyton Manning has lost that loving feeling.

After watching his performance Monday night, it’s obvious that the Colts aren’t really out of the woods just yet. They lost games that they needed to win early in the season, and now they are going to have to bring it in, get back in sync and play aggressively in the second half of the season to get into the playoffs.

But that means, as a fantasy owner, you just found that loving feeling for Peyton Manning.

If the Colts are looking to charge into the playoffs, we know Manning will be playing significant time in the soft matchups they have in Week 14 and Week 15 against the Bengals and the Lions and the potential wild card battle in Week 16 against the Jaguars. For once, the Colts should not leave owners hanging in the final games of the season.

On the Titans’ side of things, LenDale White has proven himself week after week as a legitimate starter simply because he gets so many touchdowns. If he’s a lock for two touchdowns every week, the big boy may be the better starter than Chris Johnson.

For now, they’re both retaining every-week starter status.

Now, let’s jump back to Sunday’s significant performances…

So Mike Singletary may be good for the 49ers, but he’s no good for fantasy football owners.

The Monday morning announcement of Shaun Hill as the starting QB in San Francisco is only the beginning.

Singletary left the door open for J.T. O’Sullivan to regain his starting role, so now we’re left wondering how long Shaun Hill will keep the job and whether the 49ers receivers (Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan and Bryant Johnson) are worth keeping if the offense is going to fizzle to game management.

Coach Singletary should be apologizing to us, not the press.

Despite the quotes from both sides, I have to believe Martz still likes JTO as his guy. I think it’s safe to let him go from your rosters for now, but you might want him back in a few weeks. Call it luck o’ the Irish.

Singletary is going to bench players that don’t show it on the field, and the 49ers receivers will be erratic. Josh Morgan dropped a pass early in the game that got him sent to the bench — leaving the fantasy owners who were looking forward to the JTO to Josh Morgan connection a little saddened.

Doesn’t Singletary read my waiver wire column?

Singletary also sent Vernon Davis to the showers after a dumb penalty, but both claim that things will be okay. Davis even blogged about it.

Regardless of how much they love each other, you still shouldn’t have Davis on your roster. But it could be intriguing to see if Shaun Hill brings the tight ends into the game more often.

Is it just me or is Seattle’s best receiver pushing 300 pounds?

Foolish one-offs…

  • Jeff Garcia is not going to keep his starting job as long as he makes Brad Johnson look like the better quarterback. If you believe in the hot significant other theory, it’s only a matter of time…
  • I still don’t trust the Dallas defense, despite their more aggressive play in Week 8, and they lost another corner. Eli Manning might have open season against two rookies in Week 9.
  • Did you notice that the Lions scored in the first quarter for the first time this season? Me either. Small victories, very small victories.
  • Santana Moss bounced back, but his next two weeks (Steelers, bye) should be another lull.
  • Same goes for Donnie Avery. Obviously, Marc Bulger really likes a guy that takes almost every pass 30+ yards. You should, too — even if his name is Donnie, which I thought I wouldn’t hear again after New Kids on the Block got off my TV.
  • Speaking of the “New Kids,” I understand they had the brand name recognition, but it’s a tad ridiculous to go by a name including both “new” and “kids” when you’re all pushing 40 and not, by any means, new.
  • Drew Brees would throw the ball in a hurricane and still hit every receiver for a three-touchdown day.
  • Chargers – Shawne Merriman pass rush = Lions secondary. Well, it’s not quite that bad yet, but the Chargers are letting everyone pass on them. Start your QBs accordingly.
  • Welcome back, L.T. Now go on a bye and get even more healthy so Rivers stops passing the ball.
  • Giants-Steelers was a grinder, and Big Ben got ground. His line can run block, but their pass blocking is not what it was last year.
  • Big Ben and Peyton Manning should talk.
  • Remember when I said David Garrard might come out of the bye a little pass-happy? The bye week did him good.
  • Matt Schaub to Kevin Walter is the new Tom Brady to Wes Welker. Difference: Kevin Walter gets the TD passes.
  • Despite his lack of production, Chad Johnson is getting a fair share of targets with Fitzpatrick under center. He could still have a big game this season with Palmer out…yeah, I’m just saying.
  • Willis McGahee is the stud we thought he was. Goodbye, LeRon McClain.
  • Dynasty and deep leaguers, keep an eye on Demetrius Williams.
  • Maybe firing Lane Kiffin wasn’t the right way to go, Oakland. Just maybe.
  • Larry Fitzgerald is the yardage to Anquan Boldin’s touchdowns. It’s a match made in heaven.
  • Is Westbrook healthy this week? Is he back? Is he okay? Are you sure?
  • I think Matt Ryan only throws the ball to another receiver when he confuses them with Roddy White.
  • Leon Washington just keeps popping up to keep Thomas Jones from having bigger days. Imagine if he wasn’t around.
  • Who predicted Tyler Thigpen would have a better passing day than Brett Favre? Not I.
  • Where does Ted Ginn Jr. come from getting 175 yards this week? That never happens, but suddenly, he’s in the game plans. Dynasty and deep leaguers, are you still there?
  • I am convinced that Trent Edwards had an out-of-body experience…in Chad Pennington’s body.
  • Wait, that last one sounded dirty. Scratch that.