A day for atonement
Back when I was attending Syracuse University, there was a student stand-up comedy competition, and a guy by the name of Stephen Kanter told the following joke.
"So, I'm Jewish, but I'm thinking of becoming Catholic. Because it's the same guilt, just better food."
20 years later, I still remember that joke. Still makes me laugh. Maybe because I'm also Jewish and never got the appeal of gefilte fish (it's like fish-flavored paste, but lumpier), the joke resonated with me. Like anything else in life, there are good things and bad things about being Jewish.
But among the best -- other than getting to say things like "You know Scarlett Johansson, Bar Rafaeli, Elizabeth Banks and Mila Kunis? They play for us" -- is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.
The website JewFAQ sums it up pretty well; "The name 'Yom Kippur' means "Day of Atonement," and that pretty much explains what the holiday is. It is a day set aside to "afflict the soul," to atone for the sins of the past year. On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these books is sealed. This day is, essentially, your last appeal, your last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate your repentance and make amends."
This year, it begins at sundown on Friday. I love the idea of Yom Kippur. I don't think the idea should be limited to Jewish folks. I do this column every year, and I'll keep doing it until the concept gets adopted by the rest of the world. On one day, you apologize and atone for everything you've done wrong in the past year, and it's all washed away. Forgotten. Fresh start. One-stop shopping, and you're all set for the year. I have a ton of stuff to atone for, but I'll probably be really bad tonight just to squeeze in a few more sins before the deadline.
I asked the gang on my Facebook page and on Twitter for input, and together we came up with a fairly definitive list of who needs to "demonstrate repentance and make amends" -- to football fans, fantasy players or humanity in general.
Mike Shanahan: You know what I think? I think that if I found him standing outside a burning building, he would tell me "Help, my cat is in there!" and I would run into the flames, save his cat, come back out, covered in ash, hand him the cat and he'd say "Actually, I meant my dog. My dog's in there. That's a stray." Hell hath no fury like a fantasy owner of a Shanahan running back.
Anyone who still thinks Mike Martz is an offensive genius. As Jeremy Lundblad of ESPN Stats & Information points out, when Jay Cutler throws more than 35 passes, Chicago is 2-12. When he throws 35 or fewer times, the Bears are 17-4.
Randy Moss. I'm still bitter. And @therealJakeTB is with me.
People who steal a parking space when you've clearly been waiting for it. Or people who drive the wrong way in a parking lot to beat you to a space. Or people who sit in their cars talking on the phone instead of leaving when the lot is crowded. Basically, I have a short fuse in parking lots.
The Colts' front office. If you didn't think Curtis Painter was the answer, why did you wait until three weeks before the season to sign Kerry Collins? Don't give me lockout, you've known for a while what you have in Painter. Whatever the question, Kerry Collins is not the answer.
Anyone who isn't watching "The League" on FX, the sitcom about a group of friends in a fantasy football league. The third season premieres tonight (Thursday) at 10:30 ET. It's adult humor, so make sure the kids and/or the easily offended are not near the TV, but if you enjoy laughing and fantasy football, I highly recommend it. Hilarious show.
Hamstrings. Specifically those owned by Miles Austin, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and Rashard Mendenhall. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times, nothing good comes from hustling. Take your time. Mosey a bit, friend. Play another day.
People who call themselves "experts" in fantasy football. There's no such thing. You'll notice I never refer to myself that way; I'm an analyst. It's a game. Experts are for important things, such as saving lives, launching people into space and figuring out who wore it best at the Oscars.
Digital tattletales. Dude, when you see something I tweet, don't retweet it, copy somebody else on Twitter and try to start something. What are you, 6? If I wanted his/her Twitter handle in it, I would have put it in there. And Twitter is public, so people can see things if they want to look for them. And the same in reverse. Don't tweet stuff at me from others.
People who judge without any concept of what they are talking about. Until you've walked in their shoes
From the gang at Twitter: Frank Gore (@runks29), the guy who says his team would be good if he didn't have injuries (@sbaileyRN), any mention of Brett Favre (@internetbullies), people who complain they "coulda had" someone in the draft (Yeah, we all could have had Steve Smith.) (@bailarge), rich people fighting with richer people #lockouts (@kingsrule5), the guy I share a cube wall with who loudly talks to his wife on the phone at his desk. Every. Single. Day. (@Beevans), and people who use their Twitter followers to write the first half of their columns every week. (@HogeJ).
The people who, when you're sleeping on a plane, grab your headrest to lift themselves up, waking you in the process and paying no mind. Are you so out of shape you can't stand up without help? Are you so oblivious you can't apologize?
Questionable statuses for late games, LeBron James (gotta get it in now, might not have a NBA season), anyone discussing his or her golf game or vacation (I don't care), Internet trolls, people who drive too slowly in the left lane, people who try to convince me their religion/cause/politics is the right one, "That guy," the lack of a Chick-fil-A anywhere in Connecticut, Antonio Gates' foot, the middle seat, people who tell me on Twitter about a wrong call I've made (Trust me, when I blow a call, I'm well aware of it), most Yankees and Philly fans (many Yankees fans and Philly sports fans agree with me, incidentally), people who can't express themselves without using ALL CAPS and/or being vulgar, the guy who shows up at a draft without prep but then looks over at your sheet and steals a sleeper he's never heard of, flaky people and Rex Grossman (for what I know is coming).
And, of course, the biggest person who needs to atone is me. I was clearly wrong on Knowshon Moreno. I continue to hold out hope on Michael Vick and Antonio Gates, but that clearly might not work. For every call I got wrong so far this year and the ones that are coming (many soon after this intro!), for rehashing this column every year, for my lack of ability to turn the other cheek sometimes, for my rampant Lakers and Redskins homerism, for not speaking more clearly into the mike on the podcast, for any and all awkwardness on TV, for being egocentric, for being egocentric enough that I think it's OK that I am egocentric and that it has worked for me so far, which only makes me more ego-centric, for Beanie Wells last week (Hey, he was a game-time decision in a late game! I was thinking better safe than sorry!), for the fact that I have enough readers who don't get it that I have to do the stupid explanation for Love/Hate every week, for my thinking rookie wide receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Green would take awhile to catch on, for every time I say "oh by the way," "right" and "uh," plus all my other crutch phrases, and for failing on my promise to keep this (or any column) to fewer than 3,000 words.
Who else needs to repent? While you think on that, let's get to this week's "Love/Hate," which, as usual, comprises players I think will do better or worse than the rest of my fellow rankers do. Numbers in parentheses are my Wednesday ranks and the average rank of the other three rankers. As always, check my Friday ranks and watch "Fantasy Football Now" on Sunday for the final call on where I stand on every player.
Week 5 Players I Love
Michael Vick, QB, Eagles (my rank: 2, average rank from the other three rankers: 4): The Matthew Berry "Vick at No. 1" redemption tour continues this Sunday in Orchard Park, N.Y.; Who wants to tailgate?
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers (5, 7): Top five is my way of saying "Not a fluke, kids. Not even close." He can make all the throws, obviously they are not scared to chuck it in Carolina and -- as ESPN Stats & Info's Zach Jones points out -- only the Lions have had more passes from the shotgun than the Panthers. (Lions, 186; Panthers, 164; Bills, 145; Dolphins, 135.) Cam is obviously comfortable in the shotgun and, against the blitzing Saints, he will have enough time to throw quick slants to Steve Smith, underneath stuff to his tight ends and, of course, make the occasional run. Saints allow 17.5 points per game to opposing quarterbacks (ninth most) and, if you ignore last weekend against Blaine Gabbert, it goes up to 20 points per game.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons (8, 9): Sort of an obvious name given how bad the Packers pass defense has been this year, plus his well-known stats at home, but including him here because people think I always hate on him. I don't. A lot, sure. But not always. Packers will both score a lot and stop the run in this game, so Ryan will have to take to the air -- the way a Falcon does! (pause) Right. Bad puns on team names. Adding it to the "stuff to atone for" list. Got it.
Kevin Kolb, QB, Cardinals (12, 16): Well, we know Minnesota has to respect the run now. Ahem. A lot of talk about the pressure Jared Allen and Brian Robison will bring, but, when facing a blitz, Zach Jones once again tells us that Kolb completes 58.6 percent of his passes, has a 95.8 passer rating and has five touchdowns, so bring it on, I say, and bring your friends. Vikes CB Antoine Winfield missed practice Wednesday with a neck injury, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press is saying he will miss the game, further weakening a pass defense that gives up 17 points a game to opposing quarterbacks (tied for 11th most) and made Matt Cassel look usable last week.
Curtis Painter, QB, Colts (21, 25): OK, I'll say it. When he actually got time to throw on Monday night, I thought he looked all right. (ducking) They need to do a better job of protecting him (he was terrible when faced with pressure), but only the Bills (four) have fewer sacks this year than Kansas City's five. Given time, at home, he's a decent bye week fill-in in a deep league.
Darren Sproles, RB, Saints (11, 18): What am I missing here? Have my fellow rankers seen the scoring leaders? You know, the list where Sproles is the 10th-highest-scoring fantasy running back? And it's not as if it's all from one crazy game. He has been remarkably consistent, with games of 13, 11, 14 and 12 fantasy points. Last week, the 11th-highest-scoring running back scored 14 points. That's the area we are in this year, and Sproles leads New Orleans in receptions and is second in total yards, targets and total touches. Against the Panthers (fourth-most points allowed to opposing running backs), Sproles is a very safe start.
Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers (21, 24): Fun facts about Redman: Averaging 4.9 yards per carry this year. Has a gimpy quarterback the team need to keep upright, which can be accomplished by running the ball. Likely to get a start with Rashard Mendenhall banged up. (If Mendenhall starts, disregard this). Faces the Titans, who are a good defense but have given up 511 total yards and three touchdowns to opposing running backs in four weeks. Is available in 85 percent of leagues.
Mark Ingram, RB, Saints (17, 24): Fun with numbers: 13, 14, 11, 19. Those are Ingram's touches the past four weeks. The week with 11, he scored a touchdown. Carolina's run defense is still as bad as it was when I talked about it in the Sproles paragraph.
Dexter McCluster, WR/RB, Chiefs (32, 33): Bit of a gut call here, but, in a bye week, I kind of like him on the road at Indy. There's obvious big-play potential; only six teams have allowed more runs of 10-plus yards than Indy, and the Colts are also top 10 in rushes of 20-plus yards allowed. Averaging 5.9 yards per carry, he's gotten double-digit touches in the two games since Jamaal Charles went down, and, on the turf in Indy, I kinda like his chances to break one.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles (8, 11): A defensive gem, this game will not be.
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons (14, 17): As seen in things I need to atone for! (Tied for ninth-most targets in the NFL and has a pretty good matchup.)
David Nelson, WR, Bills (26, 39): One bad week, but ultimately still believe in him, especially out of the slot to the middle of the field, where the Eagles are really vulnerable.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts (28, 33): Mentioned this on "Fantasy Football Now" this past weekend and again on Twitter before the "Monday Night Football" game, but since Curtis Painter took over as the Colts' QB, Reggie Wayne has gotten 23.1 percent of the targets compared with Garcon's 30.8 percent. Now, he still has bricks for hands and his big Monday night score was the result of blown coverage and poor tackling, but still. At home, against the Chiefs? In a bye week, you could do worse and probably have. Good motto to remember at closing time.
Titus Young, WR, Lions (39, 50): For deeper leagues or teams decimated by injuries and bye weeks, Young has gotten more and more involved in one of the best offenses in football. In the past three weeks combined, he has 12 receptions for 181 yards on 20 targets. I'm guessing the Bears will send a million guys to try to cover Calvin Johnson, so Young should see some single coverage he can exploit. And aren't we all looking for single coverage we can exploit?
Owen Daniels, TE, Texans (1, 6): The cries of agony were from Andre Johnson's owners. The muted and respectful squeals of joy were from Owen Daniels' owners.
Dallas Clark, TE, Colts (9, 13): The problem with Clark, other than the obvious, is that he's been staying in to block more. But, as I mentioned in the Painter bit, that won't be as necessary against KC, which also happens to give up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. And if Clark doesn't start producing, I'm gonna hit something. So there's that.
Tennessee Titans D/ST (3, 3): We're all on the Titans' D this week, going against that porous Steelers line that helps allow the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing D/ST. Tennessee is available in almost 75 percent of leagues, is the seventh-highest-scoring defense in fantasy and is averaging more than 11 points a game the past three weeks. What are you waiting for?
New York Giants D/ST (4, 3): Happiness is Tarvaris Jackson traveling east to face your defense. Available in 46 percent of leagues. I like the Titans and the Giants better than the highly drafted defenses of the Steelers or Jets this weekend.
Week 5 Players I Hate
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans (14, 10): I asked Zach Jones from ESPN Stats & Info to look up Schaub's career numbers without Andre Johnson. In three games last season (when Arian Foster was there), Schaub averaged 251.7 yards and had just four touchdowns in three games. In 2007, Johnson missed six games and Schaub was even worse, with just 217 passing yards per game and two touchdowns total, along with seven interceptions. That's a lot of math to tell you that, without Andre Johnson and with a healthy Arian Foster, I don't see Schaub putting up top-10 numbers the way the other rankers suggest.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears (19, 17): What happens when the most sacked quarterback since 2009 meets Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch? Not actually sure. I just know that you never want to cross the streams and that I don't want Cutler anywhere near my team.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers (20, 16): According to the New York Life Protection Index, Big Ben has been sacked, hurried and knocked down 54 times in four games. That's a lot, kids. He's hurt; Mendenhall is banged up; the line is a mess; and the Titans have the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL. I have Jay Cutler ranked ahead of him. What does that tell you?
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets (30, 20): Greene likes to play smashmouth football; too bad he's no good at it. According to ESPN Stats & Info's Paul Carr, Greene is averaging 2.2 yards per carry up the middle, which accounts for 26 of his 51 carries. Meanwhile, the Pats were able to limit the San Diego Chargers' backs to 2.9 yards up the middle in their only home game this season. In their three other games, the Chargers have averaged 4.4 yards up the middle, twice Greene's average. You do the math.
James Starks (25, 18) and Ryan Grant (28, 31), RBs, Packers: It's actually a great matchup. The Falcons are top 10 in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs, and the Packers' offense is so explosive that at least one of these running backs will have a good game. I just have no idea who it will be. That's as honest as I can be. Starks was the better runner the first two games, Grant clearly better in Week 3. Starks was fine but nothing special as the lone back in Week 4, and Grant has returned to practice. Will they split carries? Will one be more effective than the other? Will Aaron Rodgers and/or John Kuhn vulture any more rushing touchdowns? I don't know. I could tell you I like Starks better, but that's a complete and total guess. So I'm putting them in my "hate" list because I just don't know how to interpret this situation accurately right now. And I'm sure one of them will go off (again, great matchup) and some of you will point to this as my "hating" them, but it's only because there's no clarity here. If some comes, I'll update my ranks Friday.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers (25, 15): Another one that could easily blow up in my face. Good matchup, great offense, he's been hot lately. But I have him outside my top 20 because there are so many weapons in Green Bay. For all the scoring the Packers did last week, Jermichael Finley wasn't involved, and I expect that to change this week against the Falcons. Nelson has had two good games. You didn't care about his lack of looks in Week 2 because he caught one pass for 84 yards and a score, but you can't count on something like that. So he's had two games when he's been a big part of the offense and two games when he hasn't. With both running backs healthy, along with Greg Jennings and Finley (not to mention Randall Cobb, James Jones and Donald Driver), I just have a hard time making him a must-start, given the other options available. He's a flex play.
Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans (37, 27): Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me every single season
Deion Branch, WR, Patriots (40, 34): Seems to have disappeared, and the Jets' secondary is nothing to sneeze at. Or even hack cough at. And coughing up a hairball is entirely out of the question.
Jared Cook, TE, Titans (20, 13): As much as I like his skills, his touchdown in Week 4 -- on an 80-yard pass play with a lot of broken/missed tackles -- was a fluke and he has yet to have more than two receptions in any game. It's not a terrible matchup and James Harrison being out helps, of course, but until he's a more consistent part of the offense, I have a hard time starting him over the deep pool of other available tight ends.
Arizona Cardinals D/ST (21, 15): I don't care that it's the Vikings. This is a defense anyone can throw on. Anyone. Even you.
And that's all we have this week, kids. Wish I had a clever way to end this, but I don't. So I'll atone for that, too.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- cut someone off in traffic this morning. He's adding it to the list. Berry is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend
Fantasy Football Week 5
Arian Foster's Week 4 performance and Week 5 matchup have once again made him an elite running back option.
Fantasy Football Tools
• Harris: Hard Count
• IDP Rankings for Week 5
• Berry: Love/Hate for Week 5
• Daube: Trendspotting
• Carpenter: Gridiron Challenge preview
• Cockcroft: Consistency ratings
• Harris: Top Week 5 free agents
• Harris: Instant Impression of Week 4
Bell Injury Blog
• Eric Karabell's Top 100 flex rankings
• Football Outsiders: Top matchups
• Week 5 sneaky pickups
• Dolphins O unaffected by Henne injury
• Saints WRs not as valuable as you think
• Ranks reaction: Losing faith in Steelers
• 2011 ranks update: Arian back in top 10
• Pass Plays: Pick up Hasselbeck
Fantasy Focus Video
Fantasy Focus Podcast
• Monday 11 a.m. ET: AJ Mass
• Tuesday 3 p.m. ET: Stephania Bell
• Wednesday 11 a.m. ET: Tristan Cockcroft
• Wednesday 3 p.m. ET: Eric Karabell
• Thursday 11 a.m. ET: Christopher Harris
• Friday 11 a.m. ET: Stephania Bell
• Friday 12 p.m. ET: Matthew Berry
• Friday 3 p.m. ET: KC Joyner