- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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So, on the Fantasy Focus podcast we have this segment. It's called the Miller Lite Man Up segment. I didn't make up the title. And I don't get to drink during the segment. Frankly, the whole thing is a missed opportunity.
But I like the idea of it, which is that we look at certain players who need to "man up." In other words, who needs to put up or shut up. Like, Lindsay Lohan, who keeps claiming she's cleaned up her act and then keeps going to jail. My take: Either say she's the bad girl of Hollywood and own it, or clean it up. None of this back and forth stuff. She needs to man up. And no, that's not a shot at Samantha Ronson.
Week 4 is "put up or shut up" week in the NFL. I always say, after four weeks, you have a pretty good idea of what your team is like. So, who needs to put up or shut up this week?
Michael Crabtree: Seriously, I'm up to here with the 49ers, and especially Crabtree, whom I loved. First priority of the new offensive coordinator is getting Vernon Davis involved. Crabtree is a close second.
Mel Gibson: You know what he should start doing? Sign language. Speak in nothing but sign language. Can't record that. Except on film, I guess.
The Bills' play calling: Free C.J.! Free C.J.! For the love of all that is holy and mighty, Chan Gailey, free C.J.!
Calvin Johnson: Dude, I don't care if the Lions have to hike the ball to you, let you throw it high in the air, have you run down the field and catch it; you gotta start acting like a No. 1 fantasy wide receiver or I'm starting to deal. By the way, that play I described? I think it could work.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat: Oh, ESPN is right there reporting it, no doubt, but seriously? The dancing, the pep rally, all the commotion? If you guys don't win 73 games and the title, you're failures. Period. You don't see the two-time defending champion Lakers carrying on like that. And you certainly didn't see it in the preseason two years ago, before they had won anything.
The Carolina Panthers' running backs: If you listen closely, the whimpering sound you hear is me dying a little bit every week.
My Redskins: Next four games are at Philadelphia, Green Bay, Indianapolis, at Chicago. They have a real shot at being 1-6 if they don't do something this weekend.
Matty's Pigskin Pick 'em picks
I always enjoy playing Pigskin Pick 'em, our football pick 'em game. I play both straight-up and against the spread. Last year, I was in the 95.7th percentile on ESPN.com against the spread.
This year, I have decided to publish my picks. You can find them every week on my TMR page, where there's an uncomfortable amount of me but also links to various articles, videos and podcasts and now, every week, my picks against the spread. Check it out here: Matthew Berry's home page.
A reminder for those of you just joining us or, based on some readers comments, are just complete morons who probably shouldn't be allowed to function by themselves in society, let alone use the Internet ... this year, I've decided the best way to do this is based on our rankings. Players I "love" are players I have ranked significantly higher than my colleagues. Players I "hate" are players I have ranked significantly lower than everyone else. In a few cases, my ranks are similar to everyone else's, but the overall rank for that player is higher or lower than it normally is during the season. Like Bruce Gradkowski's this week.
As always, use your brain. Just because I "love" Carson Palmer and "hate" Matt Schaub does not mean I suggest you bench the Texan for the Bengal. I've ranked Schaub ahead of Palmer this week, you see. It just means that, compared to everyone else, I am more excited about Carson this week and less enthused about Matt. So if you had a better option than Matt (say Vick) on my rankings, you could do that. Or if you were scrambling for a bye week replacement, Palmer should be serviceable.
For my thoughts on where specific players rank in comparison to one another (i.e., Do I play this guy or that guy?), look at my rankings. And do it Friday afternoon!
I write this column late on Wednesday after the rankings come out at midday. Sometimes, as more research or info comes to light, I adjust my rankings. We publish updated rankings Friday morning. And, of course, I continue to tweak and dispense nuggets on Twitter (@MatthewBerryTMR) up until kickoff.
There always will be a few more "loves" than "hates" because you're picking from a greater player pool. Many players, high and low, can exceed expectations, making them a "love" but hating the lower guys that you're unlikely to start, like Ryan Fitzpatrick, doesn't do anyone any good. Nor does loving the Chris Johnson-types you're starting regardless of matchup.
Finally, the numbers in parentheses are my ranking (as of Wednesday morning) and the average rank of the three other rankers.
Week 4 Players I Love
Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins (11, 15): A Henne for your thoughts! Yeah, OK. Not an ideal joke, but it's a bye week. We're a little more tolerant these days and if you need a Romo replacement this week, I like Henne against a very young Patriots secondary. It just seems like New England's secondary is still a little hesitant, which means there could be some nice yards after catches here as well. You know Miami is gonna have to throw to keep up with New England's offense, Henne's coming off a 300-yard game and, after facing the much feared trio of Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Pats are sixth in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks.
Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Raiders (15, 16): Nineteen fantasy points. That's the lowest total to which the Texans have held an opposing quarterback this year. The game is in Oakland, which should also help, as does the emergence of a legit run game for the Raiders and having both Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey be respectable in the pass game to complement Zach Miller. I'm actually high on the entire Raiders passing offense this week, as you'll soon see. (Something to look forward to!) Gradkowski is also mobile (helpful when dealing with Mario Williams), so I could see 30 yards or so in rushing from him here as well.
Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals (16, 16): You know that Joan Jett song "I hate myself for loving you?" Welcome to me and Carson Palmer this week. I'm usually not a fan and the Browns played better in their one home game this year than they have in their two road contests, but I don't think Cleveland has enough to keep up with T.Ocho, plus Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham, as they need to focus on stopping Cedric Benson. Palmer has 23 touchdown passes against Cleveland (the most of any opponent) ... if you're looking for a stat that sounds impressive but really has no bearing on anything since they happen to play this team twice a year, and that includes that crazy six-touchdown, 51-45 game in 2007. Regardless, Joe Flacco got his groove back against these guys and Palmer should be the next "Stella."
Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets (17, 14): I actually thought I was gonna be high on Sanchez, but apparently not. As you can see, there's a lot of guys I like in this mid-tier this week. Anyways, Sanchez will move up in Friday's update. You know about the two straight games with three touchdowns for Sanchez, and the Bills have struggled. Game is in Buffalo (last two have been on the road and Sanchez isn't Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, Buffalo's past two opponents). That said, good stat from ESPN Stats & Information: When Sanchez throws longer than 10 yards, he's been 10 of 20, averages 13.5 yards an attempt and has a passer rating of 135.4. He's thrown three of his touchdowns this way. The Bills have the second-worst pass defense rating against passes of 10-plus yards. I think 240 and two scores for Sanchez.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets (8, 15): You know all that stuff I just wrote about Buffalo's pass defense? The Bills ain't all that against the run. In fact, they're a better pass defense than run defense. The Bills are allowing more than 140 rushing yards a game (to the Dolphins, Packers and Patriots, mind you) and LT will get a nice chunk of that.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins (13, 19): Brown loves Monday Night Football. In three career games, he averages 106.7 rushing yards. He's had two rushing scores in the past two MNF games, he's averaging better than 5 yards a carry and you know you'll see him in some Wildcat (Pats have given up 162 yards and five scores to the Dolphins' Wildcat on just 23 plays since 2008. Thanks, ESPN S&A!). Seriously ... Carson Palmer, Ronnie Brown? It's Bizarro TMR week.
John Kuhn, RB, Packers (26, 36): I actually think Brandon Jackson will be all right here as well, but if I'm picking a Packers running back, it's the one who is averaging almost 5 yards a carry and is most likely to get the goal-line carries. Plus, he has a last name that can be used as a verb. "You've been Kuhned!" is the kind of thing you can text your opponent on Sunday afternoon.
Joseph Addai (15, 21) and Donald Brown (33, 42), RBs, Colts: Now, Brown missed practice Wednesday with a hamstring, so if this continues throughout the week, upgrade Addai even more and you're not playing Brown, obviously. But my thinking is super simple. The Colts get up big and this is not a "Belichick let's embarrass them" type team. Once they have a comfortable lead (say, five minutes into the game), they'll run a lot. And be successful at it.
Chris Ivory, RB, Saints (40, 51): More a gut call than anything, but despite his being terrible last week, Sean Payton came out at his press conference and said he has a lot of confidence in Ivory, that he will get about seven to 10 carries a game and that the Saints expect big things from him. Since Payton isn't Eric Mangini, I'll take what he says at face value. When you're this far down the rankings, eight or nine carries on the turf against the Panthers is worth something.
Wes Welker, WR, Patriots (10, 14): In six career games versus the Dolphins, his former team, Welker has 47 receptions, 647 yards and two scores. Oh and this is fun: He's tied for fourth in the NFL in red zone targets this year.
Chad Ochocinco (14, 16) and Terrell Owens (32, 30), WRs, Bengals: Sigh. T.Ocho. Add two more names, or one kicky nickname, to the "Hate myself for loving you" list. Also on that list? Most reality television, Kylie Minogue and the Pop Tart I'm currently eating. But if I love Palmer, it stands to reason these two benefit.
Austin Collie, WR, Colts (21, 10): Putting him here just because I got a lot of questions about my rank of 21 on him. It was a mistake; I actually have him at 11 this week and hit the wrong number when I sent it in. It'll be fixed Friday.
Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers (12, 23): Among wide receivers, he leads the NFL in red zone targets. Two straight weeks of at least 95 yards and a touchdown, Floyd should have no problem with the Cardinals secondary. Keep in mind that in two road games this year, the Cardinals have given up 344 yards and three touchdowns to opposing wide receivers.
Louis Murphy, WR, Raiders (24, 30): Stop me if you've heard this one before. A priest, a rabbi and Louis Murphy walk into the Texans' 32nd-ranked pass defense ...
Lee Evans, WR, Bills (29, 41): Seriously, this is one good pop tart. Adding Evans to the list, I am assuming Darrelle Revis does not play. If he does, even on one leg, this is off. But unlike Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick seemed to at least acknowledge Evans is alive, and in a game I expect the Jets to be up big in, I could see Evans getting deep for one. For what it's worth, Evans averages over 16 yards a catch against the Jets over his career, and he and Fitzy (I call him Fitzy) hooked up for a 37-yard TD last season against Jets in a comeback win.
Dustin Keller, TE, Jets (4, 6): Keller makes his second straight appearance on the love list, and this time it's not as much of a stretch. The Jets are treating him like the Colts use Dallas Clark. They are lining him up all over the field, putting him motion, etc., to get him the best matchups. The Bills have given up back-to-back 100-yard days to opposing tight ends, and there's not a hotter player than Keller in the NFL right now. And by hot, of course, I mean good-looking.
John Carlson, TE, Seahawks (10, 13): Leads Seattle in targets, receiving yards and receptions and is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns. OK, it's one, but still. Hasselbeck looks for him and, against the Rams, he'll find him.
Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots (11, 11): You know how they've been lining up three guys all together and Welker steps back out of that for a bubble screen? I bet the Dolphins bite on that play, go after Welker, and Hernandez gets deep for one.
Kevin Boss, TE, Giants (15, 17): For those in deeper leagues, with the Bears' Cover 2 playing back and the pressure Eli will face from Julius Peppers, I expect him to look to the middle of the field a lot, which should mean a decent day for Boss, who had 88 yards last week.
San Diego Chargers D/ST (7, 11): Scored 18 points the last time they were at home, the Cardinals are second in the NFL in turnovers with 10 and are allowing an average of two sacks a game.
Week 4 Players I Hate
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans (9, 5): I still have him in the top 10, so you are most likely starting him, but I'd temper expectations. Schaub has been a disappointment this year, with single-digit fantasy points in two of his first three games. On the road against Oakland, you figure to see a lot of Arian Foster, especially with Andre Johnson nicked up. Plus, check this out: He's played Oakland each of the past two seasons, and in those two games he has one, count 'em, just one touchdown pass, two interceptions and averaged less than 240 yards passing.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (14, 17): I'm highest on him, as always, but even I wouldn't start him this week at Pittsburgh unless I had no other choice. I've put him here on this list because I normally have Flacco in the top 10 and he'll most likely drop further when I update on Friday. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Flacco's passing numbers against the Steelers are worse than they are against any other team. They've managed to sack Flacco on 12 percent of his dropbacks, compared to just 5 percent for the rest of the league. Hard to throw from your back. Grandma taught me that.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens (19, 16): Banged up, on the road, against Pittsburgh, missed practice Wednesday and not getting goal-line carries. Probably have to start him, but don't feel good about it, and you may not even get the opportunity. Have a backup plan and make sure to check the inactives Sunday. At least it's an early game.
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders (16, 8): I still have him as a starter but not as a top-10 play like the rest of my co-rankers. As bad as the Texans are against the pass, they're pretty good against the run. The second-best run defense in the NFL has yet to allow any running back to get more than 55 rushing yards against them. Now, that's partially because teams are throwing it all over on them and McFadden is part of the passing game, which is why I have him at 16. But I don't think he has a monster, top-10 day here.
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals (23, 19): I actually thought he looked terrific in his first game back last week. But that was at home, against Oakland, not on the road at San Diego. Where he will still be splitting time with Tim Hightower. And with both Early Doucet and Steve Breaston hurt, the anemic Arizona passing game is, uh, anemic-er. Meaning I think they need more Hightower in there to keep passing game alive and the defense honest. San Diego has allowed only one rushing touchdown this year and that was in Week 1, before Shawne Merriman came back. He's a flex play to me, not an automatic starter as my other rankers suggest.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills (34, 28): I realize he's getting most of the work these days, but it's most of the work for the Bills. Against the Jets. Kinda like being the fastest kid at fat camp. How much value does it actually have? C.J. Spiller showed reports of his death were premature last week and Fred Jackson is still there, so in a game I expect the Bills to be down in, I don't see Lynch as viable option this week in standard leagues.
Fred Taylor, RB, Patriots (51, 39): This is my present to you. I've pimped him all along and all he does is start games but fail to finish them. By putting him here, where I don't think he plays and even if he does, won't finish, I am guaranteeing that he goes off. On Monday night, where, if you're counting on him and he's out, you have no other options. No thanks.
Maurice Morris, RB, Lions (NR, 41): Maybe it's unfair to be picking on Maurice Morris, but if Jahvid Best doesn't play, I'd still rather have Kevin Smith than Morris, who can't escape the fact that he is Maurice Morris.
Lance Moore, WR, Saints (40, 35): Could he do it again? Sure. And the Rams could win again. But they don't get to play my Redskins (sigh) every week. And Drew Brees spreads it like butter on toast, which makes sense if you don't focus on it too long. Too many weapons on the Saints that until I see it on a consistent basis, I'd have trouble starting him. That said, other than Colston, he's the Saints 'WR I like the most. I just don't trust it.
Denver Broncos wide receivers: Same thing as above. Oh, I know one of them will go off. I just don't have any idea who it will be week to week. And anyone who says they do is lying. Remember the Patriots pre Randy Moss Wes Welker. Tom Brady would spread it around, looking for the best match-ups and going with the hot guy every week. With no dominant wideout, different guys will get it every week and it's hard to trust any of them. If I had to pick a guy, Eddie Royal is right up there in terms of targets and I like Thomas the most long-term due to his potential but at the moment, it's really just dart throwing, making all of them high risk high reward plays.
Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans (46, 36): In case anyone is thinking of getting cute, I expect Nmamdi to be on Jacoby if Johnson doesn't go (when they play the Texans, Nnmadi plays Andre, as you heard on the podcast this morning). And if Andre goes, then he's a third option at best in a game where I'm not crazy about Schaub to begin with.
Brent Celek, TE, Eagles (12, 9): On our podcast Wednesday you heard my Fantasy Football Now co-analyst Tim Hasselbeck describe an interview he heard with Celek about 30 minutes after the announcement that Vick was to remain the starter. He described Celek as sounding like someone had shot his dog. Fantasy owners of Celek feel the same way. Vick just doesn't look for him. Partially because he's not even out there. They've been leaving Celek in to block a lot more and he's just not getting as many looks as before. Currently third on Philly in targets (and just two more this year than Jason Avant!), he's now facing a Redskins defense that is tied for eighth-fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends. He's a talent but I don't think he's a starter this week in 10-team leagues.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jaguars (18, 13): Not against the Colts, who have allowed tight ends only 28 yards receiving yards. Not per game. All year. In total. 28 yards.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- really hopes he won't need to man up after this week's picks. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend
Matthew Berry calls out several players and teams that need to man up in Week 4 as he presents his weekly list of players he loves and hates for Week 4 of the fantasy football season.