Commentary

Best of the Blogs: History is often irrelevant

Updated: October 8, 2008, 7:04 PM ET
By Brendan Roberts | ESPN.com

You wanna know what stat bothers me? Anything that has "Going back to ..." and involves teams.

As in, this team is blank-and-blank against that team going back to 2001, or Receiver X has averaged blank-and-blank yards per game against that defense over the past five seasons.

Whatever. I've been reading or hearing that a lot lately, and the stats mean nothing to me. Today's NFL changes at record speed -- new plays, new schemes, new coaches, new players, new injuries. Examine a midrange team and you'll see it might not have half the same players it had even two years ago. So what does it matter what happened two years ago between certain teams or what a player did against a team in 2005? This ain't college football, where the rivalries are a little more ingrained. This is the NFL, fraught with parity and change.

While watching the Monday night game, I found a Gus Frerotte quote paraphrased by Mike Tirico & Co. to be very telling. When asked about something that happened last year, Frerotte chimed back with something like, "I don't even remember what I did last week, and I don't remember where I even lived last year." Bingo. That's the NFL for you. It's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and team stat splits don't matter.

I mean, you think a guy does well against a team just because of the color of that team's jersey? Considering how much the players and schemes change, the jersey color and home field are really all that remain the same. A running back, for instance, might have done well against a team over a certain time span, and he might remember that, but chances are he remembers it more because his team won, and/or the opposing team was simply bad, thus a lot of backs torched it. Rare is it for a great run defense to be consistently torched by one back and one back alone. It happens, but it's rare. And besides, numbers are all relative anyway. If your back is facing the Ravens and he puts up 100 yards, he's had a hell of a day. If he's facing the Rams and puts up a century, you might even be disappointed.

Now, I'll grant that for this season and most of last season -- if the coaches and situations are the same -- stats do matter. However, what happened in 2006 and before means bumpkus to me. Seriously. I love stat splits just as much as the next guy; I eat 'em for dinner each night during baseball season. But in that case, they can be healthy and filling. In the case of football stat splits, they have the nutritional equivalent of a fried Twinkie.

Westbrook looking unlikely for Week 6 | Read full blog entry

"It doesn't sound like running back Brian Westbrook will play against the 49ers. … Westbrook said a painkilling shot doesn't help his sore ribs as much as you might think." -- Matt Mosley

Fantasy spin: The early indication (after it was announced that he had two broken ribs) was that Westbrook would try to strap on a flak jacket and give it a go, but that's now appearing unlikely. With the Eagles having a bye in Week 7, sitting him does make sense. His owners just have to play like he has two straight bye weeks, then hope he comes back strong in Week 8 (in a favorable matchup at home versus Atlanta).

Jones avoids drug trial | Read full blog entry

"Matt Jones has avoided a trial on felony drug charges in Arkansas. He was scheduled to appear in court on Friday. According to Alex Abrams, Jones must complete a nine-month intervention program that includes 136 hours of group therapy and 30 hours of community service. He also must submit to at least 78 random drug tests." -- Paul Kuharsky

Fantasy spin: I must admit it would have bothered me to own him with that hanging over his head. Surprisingly, even though he has looked pretty good through five weeks, I don't feel much better about him having heard this news.

Benson hot on Perry's heels | Read full blog entry

"Mark Curnutte of the Cincinnati Enquirer believes the Bengals could be headed for a running back controversy involving Cedric Benson and Chris Perry. [My] take: The signing of Benson certainly raised eyebrows last week. Most importantly, it should've raised the eyebrows of Perry, who hadn't taken control of the starting job since winning it from Rudi Johnson in training camp." -- James Walker

Fantasy spin: Tandem backs are all the rage in football right now, but I don't think that's what we're talking about here. The speculation is that if things go as they have, Benson will eventually overtake Perry for the starting role, leaving Perry as the true backup. The most significant fantasy impact about that, of course, would be that Cedric Benson has value again, like it or not. He's a backup on the verge of outright taking away the starting job (i.e. not waiting for an injury), which makes him a valuable player to have on your bench right now.

Garcia likely to start for Bucs | Read full blog entry

"Nothing definitive, but if you're looking to be a trendy Bucs fan at Sunday's game against Carolina, I'd say wear your No. 7 jersey. That's how it's shaping up at the moment, anyway. Jeff Garcia will get the first-team reps in Wednesday's practice and Brian Griese will not throw because of right elbow and shoulder soreness. Griese's injury, no doubt, is a factor in all this. But it sounds a lot like the scenario where Griese replaced Garcia as the starter after the first game. Translation: Griese had been having problems with interceptions in recent weeks, and this is a convenient way to make a switch." -- Pat Yasinskas

Fantasy spin: It's news, certainly, but I don't know that it's big news to fantasy owners. They're very similar quarterbacks in terms of how they operate their offenses. Garcia might throw the ball to his receivers a bit more than Griese, but there shouldn't be a noticeable difference in the play of the options around them.

Croyle to start the "remainder of the year" | Read full blog entry

"The Chiefs' decision to make Brodie Croyle the starting quarterback for the rest of the season is the right thing to do. It became clear Sunday in a 34-0 loss at Carolina that Croyle is Herman Edwards' only choice at quarterback when the 1-4 Chiefs return from their bye Oct. 19 against visiting Tennessee." -- Bill Williamson

Fantasy spin: I was about to throw out an "ugh," but then again, could it be any worse than it is right now? Croyle still has growing pains to suffer through, but at least we'll get some stability at the Chiefs' quarterback position. However, fantasy owners, you don't want Croyle. But I'd wait a few games to see how the offense is operating and whom he's throwing to, then I'd react to that accordingly.

Terence Newman may miss Week 6 | Read full blog entry

"Terence Newman now has another injury, an abdominal strain." -- Matt Mosley

Fantasy spin: The Dallas Morning News report said that Newman, who missed the season opener and Week 5, is still battling his groin injury and now has an abdominal strain. He underwent an MRI on both injuries earlier this week. The Cowboys say they held him out as a precaution Sunday, but it doesn't sound as though he'll be well enough to play in Week 6 either. The Cowboys do have depth in their defensive backfield, but with Roy Williams already out, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals' passing game definitely look a little better.

Nelson to miss again? | Read full blog entry

"If the Jaguars are going to slow down Jay Cutler and the Broncos' high-powered offense Sunday, they sure could use safety Reggie Nelson back in the lineup. Nelson has been out with a bruised knee for two games -- that's a broad description that can cover a lot of injuries and doesn't help us formulate much of a timetable. Without him or cornerback Drayton Florence (groin), Jacksonville had to dip too deep into its reserves against Pittsburgh, and William James was victimized by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Jaguars have some versatile players such as Brian Williams, but few teams are deep enough to play well minus a starting safety and corner. That's especially the case for the Jaguars because of their inconsistent pass rush." -- Paul Kuharsky

Fantasy spin: As I said while updating Ben Roethlisberger's status all day Sunday in our inactives blog, the impression that Jacksonville has a stout defense really isn't accurate, at least when the Jaguars are so banged up. Big Ben, even with a bum shoulder, torched that secondary, and I definitely see Jay Cutler & Co. doing the same thing this week. Don't start this unit, and don't be afraid to start someone against this unit.

No update on Edwards | Read full blog entry

"Buffalo News reporter provides the no-update update on quarterback Trent Edwards and his concussion." -- Tim Graham

Fantasy spin: There's "no update," but the paper does note Edwards was able to report for work Tuesday morning (although he didn't practice). He was chatting with family and friends after Sunday's game, and team sources said the concussion doesn't seem severe or unusual. That's a good sign for him playing after his Week 6 bye, although, of course, we never know for sure with head injuries.

Four backs for one spot? | Read full blog entry

"There is a push in Denver to make Michael Pittman the primary running back. Pittman gained some tough yardage in the Broncos' win over Tampa Bay on Sunday. Is he ready to be the primary back? I'm not so sure. I think, for the time being, Denver needs to keep up its recent trend of giving Pittman, Selvin Young and Andre Hall all carries. If one of the three is hotter than the rest, stick with him. All three players give the team different elements. … The team expects rookie Ryan Torain to return as soon as Nov. 2 against Miami when the team returns from the bye. Torain, who broke his elbow in early August, may return to practice next week. The team is very high on him." -- Bill Williamson

Fantasy spin: I was asked about Torain a few times in my Tuesday chat this week, and my question in return would be: How much will he play? He's a rookie, and though he's highly touted, the Broncos seem just fine with rotating backs. Three is already too many to rotate, and now you're adding a fourth back? Plus, Torain is a power back who could be a nice short-yardage runner, but Pittman fills that role, and he has arguably been the most effective Broncos rusher. Of all the things Mike Shanahan has done to us over the years, it did seem he usually picked one guy -- we just never knew who would be that guy. Now we don't even have that. What a mess.

Vikes' loss of Henderson a serious blow | Read full blog entry

"Let's not mince words: Minnesota [lost] one of its most indispensable players Monday when it placed middle linebacker E.J. Henderson on injured reserve. Henderson doesn't have the kind of national profile [teammates] Adrian Peterson and Antoine Winfield have, but he's every bit as important to the team. The season-ending nature of his left foot injury is one of the most devastating bits of roster news the Vikings could have suffered." -- Kevin Seifert

Fantasy spin: And that vaunted Vikes run defense, um, not so vaunted now. I don't think the Vikes just plug in someone and replace Henderson so easily. Yeah, I, like many of you, have the Vikes' defense circled as a team I don't want my running back to face, and the unit does rank third in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. But the loss of a key player tends to mean more than most people realize; just imagine the Bears' defense without Brian Urlacher or the Ravens without Ray Lewis. The Vikes' run D should still remain strong, but it won't be a unit I fear anymore.

Cooley thriving in West Coast offense | Read full blog entry

"Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd: 'Cooley excels at finding soft spots in underneath zones and sitting down in them to provide quarterback Jason Campbell a big target. He's also very effective out of these groupings on screen passes. The West Coast offense has allowed Cooley to move around within the structure of the passing game and make a lot more plays.'" -- Matt Mosley

Fantasy spin: We should have seen this coming. In fact, a lot of you probably did. Just think: a versatile tight end who can line up all over the field and has good hands in a West Coast offense that involves a lot of short passes. That's made for Cooley, right? Admittedly, I didn't end up with Cooley in any of my leagues, for some reason, but I regret that now. And here's what I like the most about Cooley: The tougher the matchup the Skins have, the better Cooley will be. The Eagles blitzed Jason Campbell repeatedly last week, and that's Chris Cooley time. He caught eight balls for 109 yards and a touchdown. Seems to me the only defenses that slow him down are the ones who have physical linebackers and safeties who sit back and play the pass. There aren't many teams (Pittsburgh? Dallas? Baltimore?) that fit that description on Washington's schedule, and fantasy owners must know going forward that the tougher the matchup, the more valuable Cooley will be.

Brown picking up where he left off pre-injury | Read full blog entry

"Don't be fooled into thinking Ronnie Brown's stats are 'Wildcat-[formation] driven. Brown's recent play merely is a reminder of how great he is. Many forget Brown was the NFL's leader in yards from scrimmage when he suffered his knee injury in Week 7. Take away that partial game and he has rushed for more than 100 yards in six of his past eight games. Scouting the past two seasons and removing the time Brown missed, ESPN researchers Jonathan Costa and Puneet Nanda compiled some staggering numbers. The stats show that when Brown's healthy, he's as productive as fantasy football superstars such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Adrian Peterson, Marion Barber and Clinton Portis. For those with a minimum 10 games, Brown leads all running backs in touchdowns per game at .91, a fraction ahead of Tomlinson. Brown is second to Westbrook in yards from scrimmage at 121.9 yards per game. Brown ranks seventh with 80.7 rushing yards per game and third with 41.2 receiving yards per game. Westbrook and Peterson are the only others who rank among the top seven backs in both categories. Brown also ranks seventh in yards per carry at 5.0 and third in yards per catch at 9.8." -- Tim Graham

Fantasy spin: Forgive the mass of information there, but these numbers are indeed impressive. It very much appears he has picked up where he left off last season. Should he be considered an elite back again? I'm not ready to put him there yet, but he's at least close to it.

Deuce restrained Monday | Read full blog entry

"I wouldn't read too much into the fact that running back Deuce McAllister got only six carries, a week after getting 20. McAllister did get the call, and produced, in some short-yardage situations. The Saints came in knowing they probably weren't going to run a lot against a Minnesota defensive front that doesn't give up very much." -- Pat Yasinskas

Fantasy spin: Oh, I'm reading … As I said in last week's "Best of the Blogs" column, I feel Deuce is overrated as a product of the offense rather than a product for the offense.

White says shoulder led to limited workload | Read full blog entry

"LenDale White said his limited carries against the Ravens were because of his shoulder injury, according to Terry McCormick." -- Paul Kuharsky

Fantasy spin: This is from the player, not coach Jeff Fisher, who said it was more about the flow of the game than anything else. But that shoulder problem is still something White owners must track, especially if he gets only three carries again next week.

For those of you who still believe in the Seattle D ... | Read full blog entry

"Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seattle defense faces a long list of talented running backs." -- Mike Sando

Fantasy spin: As Farnsworth notes, in their next games, the Seahawks face eight of the league's top 20 rushers, plus a couple of other talented backs. And this from a defense that allowed Brandon Jacobs to average 9.1 yards per carry last week in New York. Many fantasy pundits, including us, were high on the Seahawks' D/ST coming into this season, but it's time to give up on it. It doesn't help that the offense has been ineffective and repeatedly puts the D in bad field position.

Was it the Lions, or was it Orton? | Read full blog entry

"The question didn't take too long to surface. After all, there had to be a reason why Kyle Orton was standing at the postgame interview podium Sunday after throwing for 334 yards in one game. Three hundred thirty-four yards. One game. Kyle Orton. 'You must like playing against Detroit, huh?' Ah, there it is. This was Ford Field, and Orton's Chicago Bears had just stomped the Lions, 34-7. That explains it. Kyle Orton's career game had come against the NFC North's junior varsity team. Statistically, it's true: In three career starts against the Lions, Orton has a 105.5 passer rating. Against the rest of the NFL, it's 60.7. Many middling quarterbacks share similar numbers." -- Kevin Seifert

Fantasy spin: To be fair, Seifert does go on and say Orton has been good beyond the Lions matchup, and he does have a point. After two subpar performances against pass defenses currently ranked in the top five (Indy, Carolina), he has had three great games, two of them versus the Bucs and Eagles, not exactly slouch defenses. And by all accounts, the Bears have opened up their offense … Look, I'm still not sold on Orton, but I would definitely add him to my team if he were available. Consider this: From Week 6 to 13, the only pass defense on the Bears' schedule that scares me is Tennessee in Week 10 (and that game is in Chicago). They also play Atlanta (Week 6), Minnesota (7), Detroit again (9), Green Bay (11), St. Louis (12) and Miami (13). That, my friends, is a very quarterback-favorable schedule.

Now they tell us! | Read full blog entry

"With Tennessee at 5-0, Alge Crumpler's contribution on the stat sheet hasn't been what most would have expected. He caught the game-winning touchdown in Baltimore on Sunday, but it was just the veteran tight end's seventh catch in five games. We can't complain about his production considering the undefeated record. And it would make sense that he's a less necessary safety-valve option for Kerry Collins than he would have been for Vince Young. 'Really it's what I envisioned,' offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said. 'Sunday we tried to get him the ball on a deep crosser and Kerry threw it into the ground, he just missed him, he was wide open. Out of all the things we've been doing, Alge should probably have two more catches where he was wide open where he should have been the first progression.' Jeff Fisher has said that the coverages the Titans have been seeing simply dictate more throws outside. With an eighth defender in the box, the middle is more crowded, and the better matchups are on the perimeter with receivers. 'Kerry is making quicker decisions and getting rid of it. But [Crumpler's] numbers will come. He's a very unselfish player, he's blocking very well, he's a big part of our offense,' Fisher said." -- Paul Kuharsky

Fantasy spin: What's most damning about Crumpler's lack of catches is that the Titans player with the most catches is also a tight end, Bo Scaife. Touchdown last week or not, you now have another reason to give up on Crumpler.

KGB no longer dominant | Read full blog entry

"On Wednesday, Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette casts a critical eye toward one of the team's top veterans -- defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who hasn't produced so much as a quarterback pressure since Sept. 14 at Detroit. Overall, Gbaja-Biamila has a half-sack to his credit and isn't a viable option as a situational pass rusher. Gbaja-Biamila has been dealing with knee and ankle injuries, but last week the Packers removed him from their injury report. Defensive ends coach Carl Hairston said: 'He's not as explosive as he used to be. It's going to take a little time and repetitions to get that back.' Gbaja-Biamila is 32, however, and Demovsky questions whether he is simply done as a feared pass rusher. If so, it appears unlikely the Packers would bring him back next season; already, they're paying him a base salary of $6.15 for 2008 that was guaranteed when he was a part of the roster on opening weekend." -- Kevin Seifert

Fantasy spin: He looks the same, but he doesn't play the same -- that's the silent killer. What's more concerning to me is his lack of help to the overall defense. When KGB is on, his pressure makes the entire secondary and pass defense better. With the team already banged up, and KGB not playing like himself, this defense looks mediocre, at best. In fact, I'm about to drop this group in one of my leagues.

Quinn talk resumes after bye week | Read full blog entry

"If this were a heavyweight title fight, Derek Anderson would be significantly behind on all of the judges' scorecards. And from this point on, Anderson needs to win every round that's left in the 2008 season. The grand prize is the starting quarterback job for the Cleveland Browns. The opponents are himself, NFL defenses, and who many fans in Northeast Ohio believe is a shiny knight waiting in the wings in backup and former first-round pick Brady Quinn." -- James Walker

Fantasy spin: No real surprise here, more of a reminder that Anderson's next start could be his last. His fantasy owners need to know that an NFL quarterback only gets so much time to struggle.

Brady (finally) undergoes knee surgery | Read full blog entry

"The Boston Globe's Mike Reiss reports quarterback Tom Brady underwent surgery Monday to fix his injured left knee." -- Tim Graham

Fantasy spin: The Globe noted it's not uncommon for teams to allow a damaged MCL to heal a bit before having surgery, thus Brady goes under the knife 29 days after suffering his knee injury. Not many details are being reported, of course, but no abnormalities were expected to be found, making this a typical 6-9 month recovery. That still puts him anywhere from an April to a July return, so he should be OK as long as he has no setbacks.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy. He has been covering fantasy sports as an editor and writer for more than eight years and was awarded the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2006 from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Roberts can be read in both the fantasy baseball and football areas at ESPN.com.

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