- Brendan Roberts, Fantasy
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Sometimes the buzz can be bad.
I'm not talking about the time my then-toddler son "wanted to pet" the big, buzzing fly -- which just happened to be a wasp -- and came back crying. Ouch! I'm talking about the buzz about sleeper options that you read on the message boards, from fantasy experts, in the local press heck, even in my column.
Fantasy football is about matchups, but it's even more about talent. I must say it every other week in my baseball columns: "Hot streaks, matchups and opportunity matter, but first and foremost, talent wins." It's the same here.
There's a buzz this week about Jeff Garcia, who has the benefit of facing the woeful Lions. Would you start Garcia and all of his five touchdowns this season over Matt Cassel, who faces the league's 20th-ranked pass defense but didn't fare well against the Dolphins way back in Week 3? I wouldn't. Shaun Hill looked pretty good (at times) against Arizona and really good against the Rams, so what about in Dallas this week? Sorry, it just doesn't matter.
Last week the buzz was to sit LaDainian Tomlinson on the road against the league's No. 1-ranked run defense (Pittsburgh). Come on, sit a healthy LT? No way. A handful of owners did, and thus missed out on a respectable 15-point game. This week, the talk will be about sitting Brian Westbrook at Baltimore. That one seems more plausible considering that B-West hasn't done much of late, but no way am I doing that. I'm not sitting a potential top-three fantasy option despite the matchup.
Talent means more. I have to say that to myself several times a season. We get so caught up in numbers, matchups and the week-to-week that we forget we're talking about, say, Brian Westbrook, Jeff Garcia or some guy named Peyton Hillis. When you're looking at players who are similarly talented, the "peripherals" mean a lot. I actually like Hillis a lot this week against Oakland. But I still have to remind myself to do the right thing, the sensible thing, and that is to put talent first in the pecking order, especially in these key run-to-the-playoff or lock-down-a-playoff-spot weeks.
There's a fantasy buzz this week about Peyton Hillis, and Warrick Dunn, and Kevin Smith, and Antonio Pittman, and Pierre Thomas and hey, don't know about you, but it wouldn't sit well with me if I sat Brian Westbrook and Maurice Jones-Drew because of their tough matchups in favor of Hillis and Dunn, and then lost. No thanks.
The buzz is good in that it helps you make pickups and decide fringe options, but when it comes to sitting reliable fantasy options because of a hyped player, the buzz, my friends, is bad.
On that note, let's get to the midweek "buzz."
Jacobs might sit | Read full blog entry
"[The New York Daily News'] Ralph Vacchiano talks about Brandon Jacobs' status for Sunday's game against Arizona. Jacobs told ESPN's "First Take" that he would probably sit the game out." -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: Gulp! The early reports were that Jacobs would be fine, so this is news to us. His owners should be looking for a replacement, and they might already have a fine one if they handcuffed Derrick Ward to him. Also, I was reading earlier this week that Jacobs' knee injury is similar to the one that cost him three games last season. I'm not a Jacobs owner (unfortunately), but I'd be concerned if I was.
Graham done for the season | Read full blog entry
Fantasy spin: The big news, of course, is that it's "Warrick Dunn time" again in Tampa Bay. I like what Dunn can do in the right matchup, and that includes this week in Detroit, but I fall short of calling him a safe start for two reasons: (1) Coach Jon Gruden seems to have taken to the idea of splitting carries in the backfield, so I don't think it's Dunn who gobbles up Graham's carries but rather a group of backups, including Herron; and (2) Even if Dunn does get more work, there's no saying his body can take it. He has been battling a back injury as it is, and he was let go by the Falcons in part because they doubted his ability to remain a full-time feature back. Folks, you're not getting a playoff savior here, but rather a 33-year-old, high-mileage back who is a good matchups option. It just so happens this is one of those favorable-matchups weeks.
S-Jax and Pace out | Read full blog entry
"Bill Coats of Around the Horns says the Rams have already ruled out Steven Jackson for their next game. This thigh bruise is a lot worse than the Rams thought in the beginning. With the Rams spiraling toward oblivion and Orlando Pace having suffered a sprained medial collateral knee ligament Sunday, the Rams are deciding whether to place the former perennial Pro Bowl tackle on injured reserve. Coach Jim Haslett told reporters he plans to talk it over with Pace." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: Just think, Marc Bulger was getting knocked around in the pocket with Orlando Pace protecting his blind side and Jackson taking the heat off the passing game. Now what? You don't start anybody in the Rams' offense against the Bears in Week 12, that's what. And that includes Antonio Pittman, in my mind.
Vikings D-linemen should be OK to play this week | Read full blog entry
"Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, meanwhile, will be at the NFL's offices in New York on Tuesday to discuss several recent hits on opposing quarterbacks. It's not clear whether Allen is in danger of suspension or if league officials will issue him a stern warning." -- Kevin Seifert
Fantasy spin: It has since been reported that league has fined Allen $25,000 for his hit on Aaron Rodgers, but will not suspend him. The appeals/suspensions for D-linemen Pat Williams and Kevin Williams will be announced early next week. Basically, no decision was made in time for this week's deadline. But it's not sounding good for the Williamses, and any loss along the Vikings' stellar defensive line will help opposing running backs. For the record, the Vikes play the Bears and Matt Forte in Week 13.
Westbrook still hurting? | Read full blog entry
"[The Philadelphia Daily News'] Les Bowen takes a long look at what's ailing the Eagles' running game. It looks like Brian Westbrook is still affected by the high ankle sprain and knee injury." -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: And here's just part of the aforementioned negative buzz regarding Westbrook. He hasn't run well, he still looks hurt, he faces an angry Baltimore defense and yet, to me, he's still Brian Westbrook, still is adept at racking up receiving yards even when he's not running the ball, and still will get 15-plus touches Sunday. Now here's me with my thumbs covering my ears and shouting "La-la-la-la-la-la-la "
Schaub still expected back this season, but | Read full blog entry
"Matt Schaub looks like he'll play again this season, but for a while the Texans weren't sure, writes John McClain." -- Paul Kuharsky
Fantasy spin: This sounds like a positive report, but it's not. When Schaub first injured his knee, it was thought to be a two- to four-week injury. Now as we head into the third week, the team is already talking about him missing another month, focusing more on Weeks 16 and 17. In other, his MCL sprain his healing slowly, and fantasy owners no longer should wait for him to return. Cut him in all but deep leagues where you start two quarterbacks (he's still owned in 67.1 percent of leagues).
Witten feeling better | Read full blog entry
"Jason Witten says his ribs are feeling better." -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: Reportedly, Witten was in a lot of pain Sunday and underwent a strong pain-killing injection before his game against the Redskins. He said he hurt a lot Monday but was reportedly feeling a little better Tuesday and said he feels more confident now that he has made it through a game. In my mind, he's safe to start again, especially this week against the Niners.
Parker is fine | Read full blog entry
"Steelers tailback Willie Parker didn't look bothered in his first game since suffering a shoulder subluxation. Parker, wearing a harness for protection and support, gained 115 yards on 25 carries in an 11-10 victory over the Chargers. He showed a nice burst and also took several tough shots in the game, but was unfazed." -- James Walker
Fantasy spin: So he's fine -- for now. But I'm still at least a little concerned that Parker has missed six of the Steelers' last 11 regular-season games, dating back to last season, because of three different injuries (broken leg, knee, shoulder). I still believe in him, but Parker owners better have a reliable No. 3 (or at the very least Mewelde Moore) on their bench.
Losman's name being mentioned again in western New York | Read full blog entry
"Buffalo is trucking in the wrong direction with four consecutive losses. In those games, Edwards has thrown three touchdowns and eight interceptions. His passer rating in that span is 52.6. He has fumbled three times, losing two. He has been sacked nine times. Thankfully for Bills fans, they'll visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. What a perfect time for Edwards to rediscover himself. Or for J.P. Losman to ease his way back into the offense. Edwards will be a fine quarterback, but he's in a crisis period and clearly needs to regroup. His teammates don't have the luxury of allowing him to work through his problems on the game field." -- Tim Graham
Fantasy spin: Graham reassures that Edwards is the quarterback of the future, but he does make an interesting point here that Edwards might well be pulled from the game in favor of Losman if he struggles early. That means if the Chiefs take an early lead, it would be Losman who would get the "come-from-behind yards." By all accounts, Edwards is the unquestioned starter in Buffalo, but his leash is a lot shorter. Keep that in mind before you blindly put him in there against the Chiefs (who should get some key defensive starters back this week, by the way), because I wouldn't start him. Oh, and I might as well address Lee Evans, who didn't record a single catch Monday against Cleveland. The breakdown shows Edwards is "dinking and dunking" his way down the field these days, and completed only four passes to wide receivers. Unfortunately, we can't predict that'll change anytime soon, making Evans look suddenly average. I'm not even sure I'd start him this week in two-starting-receiver leagues.
Hester to lose kick-return role? | Read full blog entry
Fantasy spin: Yup, it's come to this. Manning actually replaced Hester in Week 11 and provided a fourth-quarter spark. Apparently the team likes that he just gets the ball and goes, unlike Hester, who tends to dance around and change directions more. Whether it's because of injuries or just a down year, Hester is no longer the game-changing return man, at least when it comes to kickoffs, that he once was. Those of you in return-yardage leagues who rely on him for his kick-return yards should watch this situation closely.
Pacman looking to be reinstated | Read full blog entry
"Cowboys cornerback Adam 'Pacman' Jones has returned to North Texas, and he's hoping NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will lift his suspension now that he's completed league-mandated alcohol counseling. The last time we heard from Goodell on this topic, he wasn't really in a forgiving mood. He'd just suspended Pacman indefinitely following his infamous bathroom brawl with his own security guard. Goodell said Jones' suspension would be reviewed after four games -- and that fourth game just occurred. The league has issued a statement saying that nothing " -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: I'm sorry, I had to cut that one off. I hit my tolerability word count regarding Pacman Jones, and I care to hear no more. It's news, of course, but even if he is reinstated, does he really make a big difference to that defense? Uh, no.
McNabb will continue to start | Read full blog entry
"After two consecutive weeks of poor play at the quarterback position, someone had the nerve to ask [coach Andy] Reid whether he'd thought about replacing Donovan McNabb with Kevin Kolb. If you've followed Reid over the years, you know how loyal he is to No. 5. Asked if he'd thought about the switch, Reid said, 'No. That's not what I'm doing right now. Donovan will continue to be the quarterback. He'll continue to fire and get whatever is wrong straightened out and get it right.'" -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: Allllll righty then. But McNabb doesn't have to remain your quarterback. He's a fringe option right now, and here's where that Baltimore defense will make a difference in your start 'em/sit 'em analysis.
Bills' D takes another hit | Read full blog entry
Fantasy spin: I've been saying it the past several weeks, most recently just two weeks ago: The Bills do not have an upper-tier defense. I'd have shouted that through your computer speakers if ESPN would allow it. They might have started the season looking that way, but I think it was more the matchups than anything else. Then the injuries arrived -- Angelo Crowell before the season, John DiGiorgio, Terrence McGee, Aaron Schobel, and now Whitner (again) and the only truly healthy DB they had left in Greer. They're in trouble, and I think the Chiefs will take advantage this week.
Duckett deserving of fantasy consideration? | Read full blog entry
"Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer sizes up T.J. Duckett's role as the Seahawks' short-yardage back." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: As in, Duckett has all of 113 rushing yards and 2.6 yards per carry this season (and that includes a 19-carry, 79-yard day against the Rams in Week 3), and yet has six of the team's eight rushing touchdowns. Now that's a touchdown vulture. After reading Farnsworth's story, I must say I'm a bit sold on Duckett as a flex option. Coach Mike Holmgren is very pleased with Duckett in that short-yardage role, and I could see him averaging a touchdown per game now that Seahawks should be more efficient with Matt Hasselbeck having returned. The only question would be whether six points is enough for your flex play. In most leagues, I'd say yes.
LJ still (obviously) part of Chiefs' plans | Read full blog entry
"In his first game after sitting the last four games because he was punished by both the Chiefs and the league for off-field issues, Larry Johnson had 19 carries for 67 yards. Johnson was expected to have fewer carries because the Chiefs' offense changed while he was out. Because quarterback Tyler Thigpen is doing so well, Kansas City uses a spread offense, and the running game isn't as vital. But with Johnson getting 19 carries, the Chiefs showed him and the rest of the league that Johnson is still in their plans." -- Bill Williamson
Fantasy spin: I had a hunch Johnson would do something in the second half. Hey, he's still healthy, he's a workhorse back with fresh legs, he's now highly motivated, Tyler Thigpen's emergence opens his running lanes a bit. Up your expectations of LJ from here on out.
Saints RB shuffle | Read full blog entry
"The Saints signed Mike Bell on Tuesday as they placed running back Aaron Stecker on the injured reserve list. Reggie Bush still hasn't played since knee surgery, and there's a possibility veteran Deuce McAllister could be suspended soon for reportedly testing positive for a banned substance in a water pill. That could leave the Saints with Pierre Thomas and Bell as they try to stay in the playoff race. If you look at Bell's numbers from 2006, you might get excited. But get back to reality here. Bell might be able to contribute a bit, but there are reasons why he had only six carries last year, why he couldn't make Houston's roster this preseason and why he was still available in late November. He's a very ordinary runner and he'll be joining a team that doesn't really run the ball." -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: I'm guessing Mr. Yasinskas is a closet fantasy writer because I couldn't have said it better myself! For the record, I still think Bush returns this week and quiets the Deuce and Pierre Thomas talk.
Yes, Walter has been that good | Read full blog entry
"Quiz NFL fans on who's leading the AFC in receiving touchdowns, and I am guessing plenty might name Antonio Gates. But Walter? Yup, he's right there too with six touchdown catches. Walter is also doing a good job getting downfield. He certainly benefits from the coverage defenses dedicate to Andre Johnson. At least in part because of that he's got twice as many touchdown catches as the Texans' star receiver and a better yards-per-catch average (14.4 to 13.5). Again, he wouldn't be among the first guys people think of when asked about pass plays of 25 yards or more, but he ranks second in the conference." -- Paul Kuharsky
Fantasy spin: I've been a doubter all year, wondering when his bubble will burst, but Walter has a lot of that Wes Welker-like overachiever in him, and Welker is one of my favorite NFL and fantasy players. I'm sure if we watched Walter more -- I honestly don't catch many Texans game -- we'd come to like this guy more. As it is, he's gone from free-agent wire to helping a fantasy team to the playoffs, and I'd bet his owner is not giving him up.
Where hast thou gone, Patrick? | Read full blog entry
"Wide receiver Roy E. Williams has replaced Patrick Crayton in the Cowboys' starting lineup. But now it appears that the pride of Monmouth University, Miles Austin, has moved past Crayton as the team's third receiver. Following Sunday's win over the Redskins, quarterback Tony Romo stopped to tell me how much Austin has meant to the offense. The receiver had two huge catches on third down, and he had a 16-yard gain called back because of a penalty in the second half. 'He's an every-down receiver,' Romo told me. 'He's really a good player and I'm looking for him when the game's on the line.' Unfortunately, Miles Austin will be out 2 to 4 weeks with a knee injury." -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: When you see his name in the box score next to names such as Owens, Witten and R.Williams, you're not impressed. But when you see him play, you are. Austin is a nice little player. Check that, he's not little. He's 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, plays physically and will catch passes over the middle. Unfortunately, this is another case of the buzz making a player look better than he is. Of course, he's hurt now, but even when healthy, Austin is fourth (or even fifth, if you count Marion Barber) in the pecking order for targets in Dallas, and he has just two catches in his past three games. If anything, our interest is piqued for future seasons. The real question here is what in the world is Crayton doing on a roster in 39 percent of ESPN standard leagues?
What's wrong with Delhomme? | Read full blog entry
"I've seen most of Jake Delhomme's games live since he came to the Panthers and I caught the last two on tape, and it's very tough to figure out why he's struggling so badly. I've seen him make bad plays before or even have a bad game and bounce back in the next. But I've never seen him have two horrible games like these back to back. After the Oakland game, I thought maybe it was just a fluke. But after the Detroit game, I'm wondering about Delhomme's health and if his elbow or thumb is causing problems. The Panthers say he's healthy, but you still have to wonder if he keeps playing like that." -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: Do you start Delhomme this week in Atlanta? Tough call, huh? I don't feel strongly either way, but I'd lean toward saying yes, if you normally do (which I do, on a team in which I drafted Carson Palmer as my No. 1). The Falcons have the 22nd-ranked pass defense (they also have the 22nd-ranked run defense), and I think Jake & Co. will move the ball well. Slumping or not, Delhomme just has too many weapons -- namely, one Mr. Steve Smith -- to just cast him away in an important real-life game like this. If you don't normally start him, I think you leave him on the bench. But if he's been your guy, he should remain your guy.
Raiders' Bush to become fullback? | Read full blog entry
"[Raiders coach Tom] Cable wants backup running back Michael Bush to be open to playing fullback. Bush has not been overly thrilled about the idea, but it may be his best chance of getting on the field. Bush has gotten few opportunities as a tailback." -- Bill Williamson
Fantasy spin: It sounds as if Bush has been resisting it, which makes sense. If it happens, Bush's value would stay about the same. He might get a few more touches per game on swing passes and inside handoffs, but the focus would still be on Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden. There's nothing to see here.
Skins offense easier to figure out? | Read full blog entry
"There's a theory making its way around the NFC that Redskins coach Jim Zorn's West Coast offense is much easier to defend the second time around. Ryan O'Halloran does a really nice job covering the Redskins for the Washington Times, and he pointed to some disturbing numbers this morning: 'In the past five games, the Redskins are 2-3 and averaging 30 fewer yards and seven fewer points [than the first five games]. The most telling statistics: eight turnovers and 18 sacks allowed.'" -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: In this case, you can't really blame the matchups. Two of the three losses were the Rams and the Cowboys (whom the team scored 26 points against and beat in Week 4 in Dallas), and the two wins were against Detroit and Cleveland. Speaking of "the buzz," the talk this week is the Seahawks and their poor pass defense will heal what ails Jason Campbell and the passing game. But is anybody with me in thinking it's not the matchups but Campbell and the offense itself, and a trip to potentially rainy and chilly Seattle won't cure what ails the offense? I like Portis there, sure, and I think Santana Moss' return to full health will help the offense, but I'm not about to predict big things for Campbell this week.
Peterson headed for big day? | Read full blog entry
"The Jaguars rank 20th in run defense, hardly the sort of presence they expected to have this year against the ground game. In seven of 10 games this season they have given up at least 103 rushing yards. Two out of three AFC South opponents so far have not been able to get a handle on Minnesota's Adrian Peterson -- he ran for 160 yards against Indianapolis and 139 yards against Houston, and while the Titans held Peterson to 80 yards, he scored two touchdowns in Tennessee." -- Paul Kuharsky
Fantasy spin: A "tough matchup in Jacksonville" hardly. Look for Peterson to have a field day on this surprisingly punchless defense.
Rackers no longer a long-distance kicker | Read full blog entry
"Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers has found his range. He found it where most kickers find it: inside 50 yards. Rackers, the NFC's special-teams player of the week, has made 13 consecutive field goals for the Cardinals. He has made 90 percent of field goal tries this season (18 of 20), easily his best percentage since being named to the Pro Bowl after the 2005 season. Distance is the difference for Rackers. He has attempted one field goal of 50 yards or longer this season. He attempted nine 50-plus field goals last season, missing six. Rackers has enjoyed one huge season from 50 yards or longer, making 6 of 7 during his breakout 2005 season. He has made 13 of 31 kicks from that distance for the remainder of his NFL career." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: Hey, as long as the Cardinals' offense is rolling and Rackers is hitting a high percentage of his kicks, I'm happy. He has made up for his lack of range by simply hitting more field goals.
Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.