- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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"How are you, pahsee?"
For as long as I can remember, my Dad has called me that. I've no idea what "pahsee son" (pronounced paws-ee) means, but it brings a smile to my face every time. My Dad, Dr. Leonard L. Berry to the rest of you, had a birthday yesterday and that, too, brought a smile to my face.
He's an unbelievably accomplished man, my father. He is -- might want to sit down for this title -- Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, Distinguished Professor of Marketing and M.B. Zale Chair in Retailing and Marketing Leadership, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University. He was and remains a pioneer in customer service. After co-writing the book "Management Lessons from the Mayo Clinic," where he spent six months as a visiting scientist at Mayo Clinic, he became fascinated with patient care, health care service and how to improve it. And so he is now also a Professor of Humanities in Medicine in the College of Medicine at The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center.
The list goes on and on. Former national president of the American Marketing Association, he also won the AMA/McGraw-Hill/Irwin Distinguished Marketing Educator Award, which is the highest honor given to a marketing professor. He speaks and consults extensively, has published more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles, including multiple times in the Harvard Business Review. His book "Discovering the Soul of Service" was named one of the best 100 business books of all time. They are running out of awards to give him at Texas A&M, where he's gotten the highest honor the university gives out three times. They don't often ask college professors to be on the Board of Directors of major corporations but then again, my Dad isn't most professors. He's on the board of several major companies from whom you've probably bought a hammer, a hat or ordered an appetizer.
I can tell you right now that my father is cringing as he read those last two paragraphs, because he is really uncomfortable with any kind of attention on himself, especially anything that's perceived as boastful or bragging. Here's how shy he is about his accomplishments: I had to call my brother Jonathan and between us we had to piece together everything because even we don't know everything he has accomplished, been awarded or done. But whatever, it's my article, not my Dad's, and if I want to brag on my Dad a little, I'm gonna.
There's about three paragraphs more of stuff my Dad has accomplished and awards he has won, but if you were to ask him what he's most proud of, he'd tell you, without hesitation, that he is still married to the same woman after 44 years, that he has two sons who he raised to be good people, who are both married, and that he is a grandfather multiple times over. He would focus on anything, frankly, but himself.
I remember being in sixth grade and I had gotten in trouble in school. My entire life, I've had huge issues with authority, especially when I perceive I am not being treated fairly. It continues to this day, so it's no shock that I didn't get along with this one teacher, who always seemed to be riding me about something. I was usually bored in school and that lead to problems that were my fault, but one kid would talk out of turn and he got a warning, I'd talk out of turn, I'd get two days' detention. That sort of thing. Well, one day, I'd had enough and 12-year-old me, in front of the whole class, flat out asked my teacher why he was such a jerk. Except I didn't say jerk.
Well, off to the principal's office I go, I'm all nervous -- I wasn't the type to get in serious trouble often -- my Dad comes in, meets with the principal and teacher and eventually, I'm sent home from school with my Dad. We're driving in the car in silence for a bit. Finally, my Dad speaks.
Dad: Well, I spoke with your teacher.
Dad: And you're right. He is a jerk. (Except he didn't say jerk).
I never heard another word about it. I knew then my Dad would always have my back. I am, in many ways, my father's son. I get my work ethic, my ambition, my focus and intensity from my father, who is never satisfied. He takes after my late, great Uncle Lester and, as such, so do I. When you asked Lester how he was doing, the answer was always the same: Still climbing that mountain, Len. Still climbing that mountain.
My Dad was a great athlete, playing all-star youth baseball during high school with five future major leaguers, including Tom Seaver. He ended up playing college tennis on scholarship at the University of Denver. His love of sports translated to me, of course, and to this day my Dad does not miss a Texas A&M football or basketball game. Which he tapes. And watches again.
If they won. I mean, he's not a masochist.
My Dad has more integrity than anyone I know. And it's a trait that's very important to him. Most Texas A&M fans were very disappointed with the results of the football team last year and so many close losses. But my Dad was very upset when Mike Sherman was fired and in the way he was treated as well. "He's a good man and runs a clean program. He deserved another shot and a lot better." That's how my Dad views life.
Unfailingly honest, I wish I was able to treat everyone with as much class and respect as my father does. He is always calm, kind and is a huge proponent of "being the bigger man." Of course, my Dad doesn't have Twitter, so you know, easy for him to say. But on more than one occasion, I have seen my Dad get an opportunity to exact revenge on someone who has treated him poorly in the past and he has always refused to. Not worth it, he always says.
My dad likes to watch football in silence, so he can focus on the game. Me too. I can count on one hand the number of times I heard my dad raise his voice. I get mad plenty, but rarely scream.
When I started my old TalentedMrRoto.com website, among the things that made our users so loyal was customer service. We told all of our subscribers that if they emailed, they would get a response within 24 hours. But internally, the rule was six hours. So imagine you have an issue, you send an email expecting to hear back the next day and then you get a response within a few hours. People were thrilled. Underpromise and overdeliver. That's basic strategy from the Len Berry playbook. And it helped put the TMR site on the map.
I wanted to attend college in Texas, where I grew up. My Dad wouldn't allow it. "You need to go out of state, where you can't just come home by car when something doesn't go your way. You need to learn to be on your own. This will force you to do that."
When I was 35 and wanted to quit show business full time to pursue a career in fantasy sports, my Dad had a different reaction than a lot of parents, I suspect. "We want you to be happy, Matthew. Go for it. And if we need to support you for a while 'til you make it, we will. Because we know you'll make it."
I'm 35 years old, they've paid for my college, helped me get set up, I'm married, I have a good job, I want to quit to try to make a living at some weird online game that only a few had actually been able to make a full-time living doing? Who says go for it under that scenario? Who does that?
My Dad does that.
My Mom was on board too, frankly, but hey, this one is all about my Dad.
My brother was all bitter yesterday when I told him I was doing this for Dad's birthday. "It's not like I have a column" or anything. Which is true. What can I say, bro? Life isn't fair. But beyond that, it wouldn't matter. My Dad never played favorites. I'm sure he loved my brother's gift as much as he liked this. But if he liked mine a little bit more, hey, what's the harm in that?
I usually relate my opening story to fantasy football but this week, there is no such bridge. Because among the things my Dad taught me was to believe in yourself and what you are doing and that sometimes things don't need a reason to be, they just are.
Happy Birthday, Dad. Couldn't be more proud to be your son.
And with that, we get into it. As always, these are players I like more or less than my fellow rankers or than their usual value. For specific "this player versus that player" questions, be sure to read our positional ranks.
Quarterbacks I Love for Week 4
Robert Griffin III, Redskins: In the preseason, I talked up RG3 with a lot of stats about his rushing yards in college and the amount of times the Redskins threw under Shanahan. And I always added the following statement -- Understand this about everything you read, hear and see me say this year: I am not rational when it comes to RG3.
Every week I've been the highest on him in our weekly ranks and so, in Week 4, I once again am driving the RG3 bandwagon. But here's the thing: While I continue to not be rational about him, it's actually justified. Currently the No. 1 player overall in total fantasy points through the first three weeks, Griffin looked terrible in the first half last week. And he still finished with 24 points. I don't believe he'll play all 16 games this year -- he takes way too many hits -- but the Washington defense is so bad (as you'll see), RG3 will have to run and throw a lot to keep up. He's playing a Tampa Bay defense that is giving up 353 passing yards a game. Thought about him at No. 1 this week.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Just putting in here because I got a lot of tweets and emails after last Monday night worried about Rodgers, his offensive line and my making him the No. 1 pick. I'll say this: I'm not worried. Calm down. If he does nothing this week, fair, we can panic. But I always say you never know what you have until four weeks in. And as for my preseason rank, let's wait until the end of the season to see where all my calls -- not just No. 1 -- stand. You can't judge until then.
Matt Ryan, Falcons: Another obvious name, just threw him in here because I have him at three, also thought hard about him at No. 1 this week, and wanted to share this comparison of Ryan right now with Aaron Rodgers at this point last season.
Rodgers 2011 vs. Ryan 2012 (Through Week 3)
Joe Flacco, Ravens: In two home games this year, Flacco has 681 passing yards and five touchdowns. The Browns, without Joe Haden, are wonderfully terrible in the secondary, giving up six of the eight passing touchdowns they've allowed this year in the two games Haden has missed. Think Haden doesn't make a big difference? Get this: Opponents have completed nearly 70 percent of their passes with Haden off the field this season, compared with less than 52 percent with him on field. In fact, Haden has a league-best 24 passes defended or intercepted since the start of 2011. I expect the Ravens' no-huddle to eat them alive. Wacco for Flacco, indeed. I have him as a top-10 play this week.
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers: Without Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker, Washington can't generate a pass rush. Which means their middling secondary is hung out to dry. They've given up 10 touchdown passes this year, most in the NFL, and seven of those have come in the past two weeks. Against Sam Bradford and Andy Dalton. Yeah. It you're looking for a guy outside the top 10 to start this week, Freeman's your guy.
Christian Ponder, Vikings: From an NFL skill level, I just really like what I see out of Christian Ponder each week. I've mentioned him in this space before, and the addition of Jerome Simpson (off a three-week suspension) this week can only help against a Lions secondary that not only continues to struggle, but is a bit banged up as well. He's helped out by not throwing deep a lot, but get this: Only Ryan (72.0 percent) has a better completion percentage than Ponder's 70.1 percent, and Ponder has missed (under or overthrown attempts) on only 11 of his 97 attempts. That 11.3 miss percentage is the third-lowest in the league. And oh yeah no interceptions so far.
If you're desperate . He won't have Darrius Heyward-Bey in this game and Brandon Myers will possibly have to sit out as well, but Carson Palmer continues to look more and more comfortable in this new offense each week, and while it's never pretty, he hasn't had fewer than 16 fantasy points so far this season. Miami is very hard to run on, which might help explain why they've given up 668 passing yards in the past two weeks. And, gasp, Kevin Kolb has looked like a semi-professional QB. If Matthew Stafford can't go, Shaun Hill will do just fine as a replacement.
Quarterbacks I hate for Week 4
Tony Romo, Cowboys: From 23 to 12 to 5. Romo's fantasy points are heading in the wrong direction. And now he gets the Bears, who lead the NFL in sacks overall, and when rushing four or fewer defenders. Which means they still have the ability to generate a pass rush while also dropping back in coverage to pick off Romo, who now has at least one interception in four straight games (dating back to last season). And, I'll go Next Level on you to let you know Romo has thrown only one touchdown and three interceptions with at least three wide receivers on field this season. Last season? He threw 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions from such sets. Considering Chicago allows the fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs through three weeks (they've faced Andrew Luck, Rodgers and Sam Bradford so far), I don't see Tony as a top-12 guy this week.
Jay Cutler, Bears: Not like I'm real fond of the guy he's facing, either. But then again, that's only because I've seen him play.
Philip Rivers, Chargers: As the Chiefs' defense has gotten healthier, it has gotten better. Funny how that works, huh? They're still not great by any means, but at home off a nice win against New Orleans, they should be respectable against a struggling Rivers. Rivers has been good in one game -- at home against the Titans -- and everyone looks good against the Titans. Rivers is completing 80 percent of his passes inside the numbers and yet, he is averaging only 3.7 yards downfield per attempt inside the numbers, lowest of any qualified quarterback. Check-down city? That, the Chiefs can handle. More Ryan Mathews in this game and the always-tough Arrowhead crowd make Rivers a decent play, but not a top-12 guy here.
Running backs I love for Week 4
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals: The Jaguars have allowed 1.80 yards after contact per rush this season, sixth-worst in the league. More bad Jags stats: Jacksonville has allowed a league-high five touchdowns and second-worst 23 first downs on rushes inside the tackles, which, wouldn't ya know it, is where the Law Firm has recorded 197 of his 204 rushing yards.
Steven Ridley, Patriots: You're probably gun shy after last week. I get it. That's the frustration with a Patriots running back. You never know how Bill Belichick will scheme. But Ridley is their best running back, best goal-line runner (all due respect to Danny Woodhead) and well, the only thing you can count on from the Patriots is that they won't do this week what they did last week. The Bills give up 4.1 yards per carry, are top-10 in rushing yards allowed in the red zone and last week notwithstanding, when the Pats get close, Ridley is the guy they're giving it to.
Mikel Leshoure, Lions: Not. A. Fluke.
Cedric Benson, Packers: The numbers from last week don't look pretty (and honestly, when does anything associated with Benson look pretty?), but I thought he ran well. After Jamaal Charles got his groove back last week, do I really need stats to tell you how bad the Saints' run defense is? Didn't think so. But I have one anyway, just in case you said yes. A good analyst always has a spare stat. Because otherwise you gotta call Triple A (Analysts Association of America), wait for them to show up, people drive by you honking with their calculators, laughing at you. The whole thing is depressing. Anyway, the Saints are allowing 3.70 yards before contact per rush this season, second worst in the NFL. Benson is a very solid RB 2 this week.
If You're Desperate Ben Tate has done well in limited opportunity and if ever there was a shot at junk time, it's this week at home against the Titans. I've been a big Ryan Williams fan for a while now based on both what I've seen and the indisputable fact that he isn't Beanie Wells. Bad matchup with the Dolphins, but he will get the majority of work and there's something to be said for that. After this week, I like him a lot as a No. 2 RB the rest of the way. If Willis McGahee can't go (I'm expecting him to play), Lance Ball should get the majority of work and would have a nice matchup with the Raiders. It's not a matter of "if," but "when" Bilal Powell takes over for Shonn Greene. More for long-term than this week but I like him to be a flex play soon. Finally, I keep mentioning Jacquizz Rodgers, so one more week won't hurt. He will finish the year with the most fantasy points among Falcons running backs.
Running backs I hate for Week 4
Steven Jackson, Rams: Three straight weeks of under 60 yards rushing, no touchdowns, still a little banged up, playing Seattle. Just because it's simple doesn't mean it's not true. Not a top-20 back this week.
Alfred Morris, Redskins: Allowing the fewest rushing yards by opponent in the NFL and the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, the Bucs' run defense is legit as long as Gerald McCoy is healthy. Which he is. With the Bucs allowing teams just 2.3 yards per rush, Morris isn't a special enough running back to start no matter what. His appeal is volume, and in a game where the Redskins' defense won't stop Tampa, they won't be able to grind it out with the Bucs. Morris is no better than a flex this week, especially with a banged-up Washington O-line.
Shonn Greene, Jets: Insert (bad) running back facing San Francisco here. Enjoy it, Shonn, your days as a starter are numbered.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants: This is more about my being impressed with Andre Brown than anything else. Did you know Brown has 12 of the 17 rushing first downs and two of the three 20-plus yard runs by Giants running backs this year? He's a tough tackle: Five rushes for 27 yards (5.4 yards per rush) when hit in the backfield, while other Giants running backs (including Bradshaw) have eight rushes for 0 yards when hit in the backfield. Despite what both Tom Coughlin and Bradshaw say, I'm not convinced Brown isn't on the field a lot, starter designation or no. Look at the Tampa Bay game. Brown was the better runner. This is a time share at the moment and so far, Brown has been the better running back. Bradshaw's just a flex to me (and not much higher than Brown) until we see him healthy and how the work splits up.
Chris Johnson, Titans: Let me tell you something, all you complainers. The people who drafted Johnson in the first round would kill for Aaron Rodgers right now. Averaging half a yard before contact. Half. A. Yard.
Mark Ingram, Saints: Sigh. Welcome to Dumpsville, Population: You.
Wide receivers I love for Week 4
Brandon Lloyd, Patriots: Leads New England in targets, had his first 100-yard game last week, the big breakout is coming soon, you can feel it.
Victor Cruz, Giants: So the Eagles' defense rushes four or fewer defenders on 79.6 percent of drop backs, that's fifth highest in the league. And when defenses have used a four-man rush this season, Eli Manning has been looking Victor Cruz's way, with 23 targets in three games (7.7 per game). With Hakeem Nicks still not 100 percent, I expect Cruz to get the love this week in a game where Eli will have to throw.
Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers: I feel so dirty putting him here. One of my least favorite NFL players against my favorite NFL team? Ugh. I'm taking a shower as I write this. Ick. But that's what Washington's excuse for defense has done to me. Last in the NFL in touchdown passes allowed, in yards per pass attempt, in 25-yard pass plays allowed and second to last in passing yards per game and 30-yard pass plays. Jackson, meanwhile, is averaging 20.4 yards per catch (10 for 204), third highest in NFL (minimum 10 receptions).
Torrey Smith, Ravens: See Flacco, Joe, wacco for.
Santonio Holmes, Jets: Did the hate go too far? No doubt. Another guy I'm not a huge fan of as a NFL player, but he's been productive, no doubt. I have him firmly in flex range this week, highest among my ranking brethren. His targets have risen each week this season, from 8 in Week 1 to 10 in Week 2 and then 14 last week against the Dolphins. Nine for a buck 47 last week, he's the best option the Jets have in this one and remember, junk time still counts. Not expecting miracles here but if you would normally start him as a flex or No. 3 wideout, I wouldn't shy away just because it's the Niners.
If you're desperate Andrew Hawkins is fast, son. Country fast. The Jags have the third-worst yards after catch percentage allowed. With Pierre Garcon still banged up, Leonard Hankerson should get some love against that bad Bucs pass D. I understand why you might be losing faith, but I continue to believe in Randall Cobb. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings use Jerome Simpson now that he's back. Even if you don't start him, he's a sneaky pickup.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 4
Dez Bryant, Cowboys: Nov. 14, 2010. On that day, against the Giants, Dez Bryant had 104 yards on three receptions. It remains the only game of his 30 in the NFL that Bryant has had 100 yards receiving. That blew my mind. Only one 100-yard game in his career. So it becomes a matter of if you think he scores here. You already know I'm down on Romo in this game and consider this: Last season Romo targeted Bryant 13 times in the red zone, the most of any Cowboys receiver. This year? He has yet to do so, targeting Kevin Ogletree and Miles Austin on six of his nine attempts. I have Bryant outside my top 20 this week.
Jeremy Maclin, Eagles: We know the Giants will bring pressure here; The Giants have blitzed a defensive back against Michael Vick on over 41 percent of his drop backs the past three seasons, compared to 17.1 percent of the time against every other opponent. Doe Mr. Vick enjoy this? No, Mr. Vick does not. The only qualified quarterback with a worse completion percentage while being hit or under duress than Vick's 22.2 percent is Brandon Weeden (17.6 percent). Vick's 3.6 yards per attempt under duress ranks 27th in the league.
In addition to Maclin just getting over injury, I think the pressure on Vick effects Maclin more because Vick ranks 31st out of 32 (only Blaine Gabbert is worse) with a 53.3 completion percentage on downfield throws fewer than 10 yards, 30th with a 3.9 yards per attempt average, and has overthrown or underthrown 10 passes of 10 yards or fewer downfield (tied for 10th-most in NFL).
Marques Colston, Saints: Truth time. I have Colston on my 16-team "War Room" league and he's killing me. He is on this list entirely to try to reverse-jinx myself (copyright: Sports Guy) and get him to go off, which he is due to do any day now. He's fourth on the team in targets. Fourth! The Packers, meanwhile, have very quietly had the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL through three weeks. And that includes a, ahem, 24-yard Hail Mary TD last week which you may have heard something about.
Tight ends I love in Week 4
Dennis Pitta, Ravens: See Smith, Torrey. Pitta leads the Ravens in targets.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings: The only Viking with multiple end zone targets, Rudolph is a perfect 4-for-4 in the red zone this season. He's 6-foot-6, he has three scores in his past two games and oh yeah, the Lions have given up the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Owen Daniels, Texans: So, I mentioned the Lions being second-worst against the tight end above. You know who is worst? That's right class, the Titans. And it's not close. Opposing quarterbacks have completed a league high 80 percent of their passes when targeting tight ends against the Titans. Want more? They've allowed 28 receptions by tight ends for 288 yards, five touchdowns and 17 first downs, all league highs. And then you look at Daniels, tied for sixth among tight end targets, and you smile.
If you're desperate If Brandon Myers plays, I like him. The only player in the NFL to have caught all of his double-digit targets, he's 15-for-15 on the year and his average target distance is 9.3 yards. Apparently, Fred Davis is not dead after all. Nice to see him back and I may have mentioned this once or twice, but Washington's gonna have to throw here.
Tight ends I hate in Week 4
Jermichael Finley, Packers: He has scored a touchdown in 13 of his 51 career games. And he has only three 100-yard games. He has yet to top 60 yards in a game this year, single-digit fantasy points in his past two, he's already got a couple of drops this year (a recurring problem) and the Saints have allowed the fewest points to opposing tight ends so far this season, and that includes games against Fred Davis and Greg Olsen, both of whom are decent. Oh, and then there's this: I just don't like him.
Jacob Tamme, Broncos: Here are the positives: He had 10 targets last week and has the third most of the Broncos for the season. Here's the bad news: It hasn't helped. Just three for 31 last week, he has a total of four fantasy points over the past two weeks. This is a great matchup for Denver, but with guys like Brandon Stokley and Joel Dreessen getting in the mix along with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, it's hard to trust Tamme as a starter in a 10-team league.
Defense/special teams I love in Week 4
Arizona Cardinals D/ST: How are they still available in 30 percent of leagues? The second-highest scoring defense in fantasy, they've done it against Michael Vick and Tom Brady the past two weeks. And now they get Ryan Tannehill and, at best, a banged-up Reggie Bush? What am I missing? You watch these guys play and you become a believer. An attacking defensive front (tied for second in sacks) and Patrick Peterson is as good a corner as there is in the NFL these days. These guys are very legit. Great matchup.
Dallas Cowboys D/ST: Ah, Jay Cutler. A fantasy defense's best friend. Bet they get more targets than Dez Bryant.
If you're desperate St. Louis Rams D/ST. Not exactly expecting Seahawks-Rams to be a shootout and the game is in St. Louis.