- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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To be fair, he already had me.
As I've mentioned many times before, most recently in one of my favorite baseball columns I've ever written, I love the Star Wars trilogy. I was 7 years old when the original Star Wars was released and, as often is the case, what was important to you at age 7 becomes really important to you when you're older. Important and beloved.
Had all the Star Wars action figures, ate a cereal I couldn't stand for three months (a big sacrifice at age 7) just to collect enough box tops so I could get a Boba Fett action figure. I love many Star Wars quotes, of course, but Yoda's "Do, or do not. There is no try." has resonated with me for my entire life and has kept me motivated when things weren't going my way.
And so between playing with the Millennium Falcon, being scared of Darth Vader (only the greatest villain of all time!) and getting annoyed with C-3PO (even at 7 I knew he was kind of a pill), I discovered George Lucas was the man behind this amazing world.
Then, when I was 12, he did "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and, man, there was no one cooler than Indy. The sword fight/Indy shrug/gun-shot scene is among the best movie moments of all time. The snakes, the boulder, the saving Karen and then tying her back up ... the movie is nothing but amazingly fun moments and scenes.
All I know is, the wife is lucky we had twin daughters because, had they been boys, it was gonna be "Han" and "Indiana," and there wasn't going to be a discussion.
I've never met George Lucas, but I suspect if I ever did, I would simply say five words to him: "Thank you for my childhood."
As I grew older and learned how damn hard it is to make any kind of entertainment, let alone something that appeals to and touches as many people as Lucas' work did, I became even more appreciative of his accomplishment. And as a fan of both the man and his legacy, it was exciting to me when I learned he had sold his "LucasFilm" company to the Walt Disney company. Disney also owns ESPN, of course, and you know I am a company man, but this has nothing to do with either. Rather, I have an appreciation for the guts it took for George Lucas to do this.
Yes, he made billions of dollars, but I got news for you: George Lucas has made more money than he could ever possibly spend in his and many other lifetimes. This was not a money deal. He spoke about the sale here, but in essence, he did it so that future generations could enjoy Star Wars. He believes that Disney, with its theme parks and merchandising and the way it has been able to enhance without tarnishing other beloved brands such as Pixar and Marvel (and even The Muppets), is the perfect home for his galaxy far, far away to live on for generations that haven't even been born.
It is, in my opinion, an amazingly brave and selfless act. This is something that has defined his life. The amount of hard work, sacrifice and frankly, love, that Lucas has poured into this franchise is immeasurable. And now he is turning over his baby to someone else for a greater good.
It's a fairly scary proposition. He has taken great pains to make sure it's in the right hands going forward and he believes (and I agree with him) that if you're gonna choose a huge international corporation, Disney is the right bet. But still ... you never know. Someone else owns his baby now. If they want to put out an all-monkey version of the movie? They can do that.
I'd love to think that if I had created something as magical and beloved as the Star Wars franchise I'd be self-aware and selfless enough to be willing to give it up at some point. I'd like to think that but I've honestly no idea if I'd have the guts to do so.
I'm a pack rat, I'm fiercely loyal, I even get annoyed when Mrs. Roto eats food off my plate. Even in the smallest instances, I hang on tightly to things, ideas and people in my life, often well past the time I should. So that's why I am so impressed with Lucas.
And it is why, inspired by him, I will let go of a few players who were on my preseason love/hate list and have been hanging on to all this time. I give up. They're no longer my guys. I'm moving on, for a variety of reasons.
Quarterback: Philip Rivers. I thought he'd bounce back. I thought he could overcome the Norvness of it all. I thought he'd be more like the final five games of last season -- and every other year of his career -- and that he wouldn't miss Vincent Jackson that much since he'd had a huge year in 2010 without him for much of the season. I was wrong. Now droppable in 10-team leagues.
Running back: Doug Martin. "All-Preseason," I kept screaming from the mountain tops that the ESPN collective ranks were way too low on him and I personally loved him. And I still believe in his talent. But as we discussed on the podcast Wednesday morning, the Carl Nicks injury is a huge blow for Martin. Carl Nicks played every single snap at left guard for Tampa Bay this year. And as John Parolin from ESPN Stats & Information points out, Martin was much more effective when running behind him.
Left: 47 rushes, 210 yards, 12 first downs, 2 TD, 4.5 yards per rush.
Middle: 56 rushes, 249 yards, 10 first downs, 1 TD, 4.4 yards per rush.
Right: 26 rushes, 84 yards, 1 first down, 3.2 yards per rush.
Dude. Martin goes from a low-end No. 1 running back to a low-end No. 2. Crushing blow for Nicks, for Martin owners and for the Buccaneers.
Wide Receiver: Torrey Smith. Make no mistake, I still believe in Smith's talent. Think he's a stud. I just have no faith whatsoever that the Ravens, specifically quarterback Joe Flacco, can get him the ball consistently. He will have a few huge weeks between now and the end of the season, but three straight weeks of fewer than 50 yards receiving is a disturbing trend. He had 13 targets against Houston, but then just four targets in each of the two games before that. No one loved Smith more than me in the preseason but I have to let it go. Can't trust him as a starter in a standard 10-team league.
Tight end: Jacob Tamme. I bought in to the whole "he's familiar with Peyton Manning" thing, but so far the only thing he has become familiar with is the back of Joel Dreesen's jersey as he watches Dreesen run into the end zone. Tamme is not only not a top-12 tight end, like I thought he'd be at the start of the year, he's not even the best tight end on his team.
We are halfway through the season. This is the stretch run. The fantasy trade deadline is coming up soon. You've gotta decide now who you're gonna roll with, and who you're gonna let go.
And while you think on that, we get to this week's version of players that I like more than others (the "loves") and the players I like less than others (the "hates"). As always, please don't use this as a pure start/sit. If you're wondering whom to start or sit, check my weekly rankings, updated daily throughout the week.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 9
Michael Vick, Eagles: There are some things Andy Reid and I just don't see eye-to-eye on. He doesn't like a clean-shaven look. I do. He doesn't like the Washington Redskins. I do. He doesn't believe in Michael Vick. I do. At least this week against the Saints. Giving up an average of over 21 fantasy points a game, every quarterback not named Matt Cassell has at least 18 points against them. They've even given up the sixth-most rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks. They are the first team in NFL history to give up over 400 yards in seven straight games. It's an obvious matchup, of course, but you might be gun-shy given all the "losing his job" talk. I'm the highest on him. He'll be a top five play this week.
Andrew Luck, Colts: Every week I talk about him, and every week, I'm pretty much right. They throw a ton, he's money at home (never fewer than 18 fantasy points) and check out this Next Level intel; The Dolphins send extra pass-rushers on 41.4 percent of opponents' dropbacks. That's the fifth-highest rate in the league. And what happens when teams send five or more rushers against Andrew Luck? He has a 74.2 total QBR, fifth-best among qualified quarterbacks.
Carson Palmer, Raiders: Averaging 38 pass attempts a game, Palmer has quietly had a very nice fantasy year. With at least 297 yards passing and/or two total touchdowns in every game this season but one, he's got more fantasy points than Tony Romo and Matt Schaub and just four points fewer than Cam Newton, among others. Tampa Bay is already without Aqib Talib and might be without Eric Wright as well. And those are the best corners on a team that is 31st against the pass. Palmer available in almost 40 percent of leagues, incidentally.
If you're desperate: Russell Wilson has actually been usable recently, with at least 15 points in two of the past three (the third game was against the 49ers) and the Vikings are reeling, tied for the fifth-most fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks Brandon Weeden is tied for second in the NFL in touchdowns off play-action (6) (Editor's note: This was corrected Sunday morning) and the Ravens have allowed a 68.4 completion percentage on play-action passes, seventh-worst in the league. Prior to last week's wind bowl, Weeden had two touchdowns in three straight games and Baltimore's defense ain't what it used to be, ya dig?
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 9
Philip Rivers, Chargers: Do I even have to give a reason? Rivers' average pass has traveled 7.3 yards downfield this season, tied for fourth lowest in the NFL. He's dinking and dunking his way to mediocrity, as he now has single-digit fantasy games in back-to-back games and three of his past five. That's way too many clunkers for someone who is still rostered in so many leagues. As the SWAN, Zach Jones, points out, Rivers is completing less than 25 percent of his passes when hit or under duress, which is second-worst in the NFL and the worst rate of his career. Don't see that line improving any. I don't care if he somehow has a decent game Thursday night and you're reading this on a Friday. Not only is he still droppable in 10-team leagues, if he's out there in your league, and you have a spare roster spot, pick him up just so you can have the joy of dropping him as well. You'd be surprised at how good it feels.
Andy Dalton, Bengals: An interception in seven straight games now, Dalton faces an underrated Broncos defense that has held Tom Brady to 223 yards and Drew Brees to 213 yards, both of those results accounting for their season lows so far.
Running backs I love in Week 9
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks: Remember when the Vikings had a good run defense? That D is traveling to Seattle after getting gashed by Doug Martin and LaRod Stephens-Howling. I have Lynch as a top-five play this week and frankly, I'm probably too low on him.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Just putting him in here in case you were worried about the Seahawks D. It's Adrian Peterson. Don't get cute.
Rashad Jennings, Jaguars: Two straight weeks of over 100 total yards, I like the fact that he is a three-down back and a good pass-catcher, so even when this game gets out of hand (which it will), Jennings will remain in the game and be a strong top-20 play against a Lions defense that gives up 4.4 yards per carry (only six teams are worse).
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers: A bit of a gut call here, as Stewart has done nothing this year and the Redskins aren't that great a matchup (12th-fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs; why run when you can pass all over them?) but Stewart is involved in the pass game -- seven receptions last two weeks against very good defenses -- and Carolina is committed to getting Stewart the ball. Washington has allowed three scores to opposing running backs the past two weeks.
If you're desperate: Bad matchup, and we don't know the health of Rashard Mendenhall, but I'll just say if the quad injury isn't anything, I legitimately like Jonathan Dwyer from a skills standpoint With Mikel Leshoure missing practice on Wednesday, Joique Bell becomes a potential top 20 back or so versus the Jaguars if LeShoure misses the game. ... You know you can run on Indy and with Daniel Thomas getting almost as many carries (plus the goal line work) as Reggie Bush, I could see Thomas getting 10-12 carries against a Colts team that is 27th versus the run You know Houston has a great matchup, so with Ben Tate banged up, I could see Justin Forsett have some second-half junk-time production.
Running backs I hate in Week 9
Michael Turner, Falcons: Another week, another game with under 70 yards rushing, his third straight. The Cowboys haven't allowed a 100 yard rusher since week 2, when Marshawn Lynch did it. If you think he scores, great. I don't, making him a flex play this week.
Alex Green, Packers: Proof that sometimes you need more than just a lot of work.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals: Again, the Broncos' defense is better than folks realize, giving up just four rushing touchdowns all year and, after a promising start, the Law Firm has been more like a paralegal. Single-digit fantasy points in five straight, he hasn't scored since Week 3 and I don't believe he gets more than 80 yards rushing in this one.
Felix Jones, Cowboys: But only because I've seen him play. Don't be fooled by thinking this is a great matchup. Atlanta has struggled because it allows the most yards after contact per rush this season. Meanwhile, Felix Jones ranks 44th out of 45 qualified running backs with 1.1 yards after contact per rush.
Wide receivers I love in Week 9
Eric Decker, Broncos: According to Football Outsiders, there is only one team in the NFL worse against the "No. 2" wide receiver than the Bengals. Dude has five scores in his past four games and the last game he did not score in was against the Texans in Week 3, but he caught eight receptions for 136 yards. And if you don't want to start him, don't talk to me. And don't tweet Jesse James about it. Trust me here.
Jeremy Maclin, Eagles: Since coming back at full strength in Week 5 against the Steelers, Maclin leads the Eagles in targets, receptions, receiving touchdowns and yards. You may have heard they have a good matchup this week.
Denarious Moore, Raiders: See Palmer, Carson. And then come back here to realize this is Palmer's favorite target with four scores in five games. A big play receiver who is not afraid to go get the ball in traffic, I said on the podcast this week that I'd rather have him the rest of the year than Larry Fitzgerald. He's legit, kids.
Randall Cobb, Packers: Insert weekly gushing about Randall Cobb here.
If you're desperate: Very quietly, Sidney Rice has two scores in the past three weeks, at least six points in three of the last four and again, the only bad game was against San Francisco. Going against his former team and that struggling defense, I like his chances to score here. Brandon LaFell has 19 fantasy points in his past two games and a great matchup with Washington this week. Cecil Shorts has 21 targets the past two weeks (Editor's note: This was corrected Sunday morning), back-to-back 11 point games and a matchup against the Lions where the Jags will need to put up points. Death, taxes and start your receivers against the Titans. The three things in life you can count on, so Earl Bennett could be a play this week.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 9
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: Fair warning, the last time he was on the hate list he had his best game of the year, so maybe this will help jump start him again. But no confidence in Arizona's ability to get him the ball consistently or effectively against the Packers. Single-digit fantasy points in all of his road games this season, including a two-point game and a zero-point game, Fitzgerald is just a flex play this week.
Torrey Smith, Ravens: See Smith, Torrey, letting go. Sigh.
Santana Moss, Redskins: The scoring has been nice, but it comes to an end this week as he continues to not play as many snaps as you'd like and he's facing a Panthers team that actually allows the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts.
Titans wide receivers: No confidence at all in knowing which one of the three will be good this week, especially against the Bears.
Tight ends I love in Week 9
Brent Celek, Eagles: All-in on Philly this week. Sorry, Eagles fans.
Greg Olsen, Panthers: I know, he's struggled recently, but Olsen has caught 74.4 percent of his targets (sixth-best among tight ends). The Redskins' defense has allowed 75 targets and seven touchdowns to tight ends this season, tied for most in the league.
If you're desperate: Jermaine Gresham now has at least 60 yards and/or a score in three of his past five, and Denver allows the third most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. I continue to like what I see of out of Logan Paulsen, who got six targets last week and should be in line for more work as Robert Griffin III finds Moss and Leonard Hankerson to be well covered. With Coby Fleener out with an injury, Dwayne Allen's value gets a boost in a game where Luck is going to have throw quite a bit.
Tight ends I hate in Week 9
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings: The promise of getting Rudolph more involved in the passing game between the 20s has yet to come to fruition, and maybe they start this week, since the other way ain't working. But I'd have a hard time starting him in a 10-team league on the road at Seattle, who gives up the fourth-fewest average points in the red zone.
Jermichael Finley, Packers: So many reasons to not like Finley based on production and usage, but now I'll add one more reason: The Cardinals allow the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Defenses I love in Week 9
San Diego Chargers D/ST: As little as I believe in Phllip Rivers, I believe even less in Matt Cassel. Kansas City allows the most fantasy points to opposing defenses, and the Chargers' D has a 20-point game against the Chiefs already this year. At least seven points the past two weeks, KC is traveling on a short week, and the Bolts are available in over half of ESPN leagues.
Denver Broncos D/ST: Impressive performance against the Saints, they now get a Bengals offense that has 12 giveaways in just the past five games.
If you're desperate: The Oakland Raiders D/ST has been surprisingly solid recently, with at least seven points in every game since their bye week. The loss of Carl Nicks to the Bucs is huge, as I mentioned. I have no idea what Ravens offense will show up in this game, but the Cleveland Browns D/ST averages almost 10 points a game at home this year, and they should be solid versus Baltimore.
Defenses I hate in Week 9
Minnesota Vikings D/ST: You might be tempted, given they are playing the struggling Seahawks, but then you remember from earlier in the column that LaRod Stephens-Howling ran all over them. Marshawn Lynch is significantly better than LaRod Stephens-Howling. The Seattle passing game is, er, passable, and I don't see a lot of fantasy goodness here. This is a defense that is reeling.
Philadelphia Eagles D/ST: Shootout city on Monday Night Football.
That's all I have this week. Good luck in Week 9, and may the Force be with you. What? I told you, I'm a company man.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- has until 2015 to get his kids up to speed on "Star Wars," and is looking forward to it. 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.