Category Archives: Fantasy Football

How Mike Tolbert fits with the Carolina Panthers

For National Football Authority, we break down the Carolina Panthers’ signing of ex-Chargers RB Mike Tolbert. What does the move mean for RBs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Goodson in Carolina? How does it change Cam Newton’s role? Click here to find out.

New Panthers RB Mike Tolbert, via mlive.com

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Interview with new Colts DE Cory Redding

For National Football Authority, we talk to new Colts DE Cory Redding. We find out why he chose to leave Baltimore and follow head coach Chuck Pagano to Indy, whether the Colts are switching to a 3-4 defense, what that might mean for current Colts DEs Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. Click here to read all about it.

New Colts DE Cory Redding, via carrollcountytimes.com

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Fantasy Football: 2011 Top 50

Arian Foster

Arian Foster runs onto Tier 1. Image by AJ Guel Photography via Flickr

The lockout and resulting post-lockout craziness has thrown a major kink in our fantasy football preparation, but we can finally launch our top 50 for this fall. The top 50 this year encompasses our Tiers 1 and 2. Here is the top 50 as it stands now; as always, things are subject to change as events warrant.

Tier 1A

1. RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings

2. RB Arian Foster, Texans

3. RB Ray Rice, Ravens

4. RB Chris Johnson, Titans

5. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Tier 1B

6. RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

7. RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles

8. RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers

9. WR Andre Johnson, Texans

10. QB Michael Vick, Eagles

11. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars

12. WR Roddy White, Falcons

13. WR Greg Jennings, Packers

14. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

15. QB Tom Brady, Patriots

16. RB Michael Turner, Falcons

17. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions

18. QB Philip Rivers, Chargers

Tier 2A

19. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders

20. RB Steven Jackson, Rams

21. RB Frank Gore, 49ers

22. WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants

23. RB Matt Forte, Bears

24. WR Mike Wallace, Steelers

25. QB Drew Brees, Saints

26. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts

27. RB Peyton Hillis, Browns

Tier 2B

28. RB LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers

29. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants

30. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs

31. RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers

32. WR Miles Austin, Cowboys

33. QB Peyton Manning, Colts

34. WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles

35. TE Antonio Gates, Chargers

36. WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers

Tier 2C

37. WR Dez Bryant, Cowboys

38. RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos

39. RB Jahvid Best, Lions

40. QB Tony Romo, Cowboys

41. WR Mike Williams, Buccaneers

42. WR Stevie Johnson, Bills

43. WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles

44. WR Marques Colston, Saints

45. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots

46. RB Shonn Greene, Jets

47. RB Felix Jones, Cowboys

48. RB Mike Tolbert, Chargers

49. WR Santonio Holmes, Jets

50. RB Tim Hightower, Cardinals

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Buffalo Bills 2011 Season Preview

Fred Jackson of the Buffalo Bills

Bills RB Fred Jackson. Image via Wikipedia

For National Football Authority, we previewed the Buffalo Bills. In the preview, we discuss rookie Marcel Dareus’ impact, Stevie Johnson’s fantasy value, Shawne Merriman’s return as a pass rusher, the running back battle between C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, and more. Click here to read all about it.

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Broncos feeling Foxy

Carolina Panthers Training Camp

The Denver Broncos joined the NFL hiring spree Thursday, naming ex-Panthers head coach John Fox  as their new head coach. Fox replaces Eric Studesville, the interim coach who replaced Josh McDaniels. Below are some thoughts on the hire, and we compare it to others in the NFL this offseason in this updated post.

After a largely successful nine-year tenure in Carolina that ended poorly, Fox gets an immediate chance of redemption in Denver. He’s completely different than offensive-minded coaches Josh McDaniels and Mike Shanahan that have led the Broncos in the recent past. Fox is a nuts-and-bolts coach who plays conservatively on offense, depending on a running game, and aggressively on defense. That defensive emphasis will serve the Broncos well, because their inability to get anything done defensively doomed both McDaniels and Shanahan. With Elvis Dumervil returning in 2011, Fox will have a top-end pass rusher, but Dumervil has been a 3-4 player, and Fox has stuck with the 4-3 most of his career. If the Broncos change their system, it will slow down progress, but the front seven is so bereft of impact players that rebuilding is necessary either way. Fox’s other big decision right off the bat will be what to do at quarterback. Kyle Orton is a Fox type of QB, but the past Broncos’ regime invested so much in Tim Tebow that he needs to get a shot to play. However, Fox’s tendency in Carolina was to eschew young players in favor of more reliable veterans, even if they were less talented. That decision at quarterback will only impede Tebow’s development. And that’s the place where Fox’s tenure could break down. He’s a solid coach, but he must be more about development in Denver to rebuild a mediocre roster. Inexperienced Broncos exec John Elway and GM Brian Xanders will have to encourage and/or strong-arm Fox into playing young guys. If he doesn’t, it’s hard to see Denver climbing from its decline.

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Fantasy Football: 2011 Playoffs research

In case you’re participating in a postseason fantasy league, here’s a quick summary of the primary scorers on all 12 playoff teams. We’ve omitted players who are on injured reserve or are no longer on their teams.

And if you’re looking to play postseason fantasy football, here’s a great way to do so. We play this way in our office every year and love it.

AFC

 

New England (1st seed)

QB: Tom Brady (36 passing TD, 1 rushing TD)

RB: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (13 rushing TD), Danny Woodhead (5 rushing TD, 1 receiving TD)

WR: Wes Welker (7 receiving TD), Deion Branch (5 receiving TD), Brandon Tate (3 receiving TD, 2 return TD)

TE: Aaron Hernandez (6 receiving TD), Rob Gronkowski (10 receiving TD)

PK: Shayne Graham (71 points)

Defense: 6 TD

 

Pittsburgh (2nd seed)

QB: Ben Roethlisberger (17 pass TD, 3 rush TD), Charlie Batch (3 pass TD)

RB: Rashard Mendenhall (13 rush TD), Isaac Redman (2 receiving TD)

WR: Mike Wallace (10 receiving TD), Hines Ward (5 receiving TD), Emmanuel Sanders (2 receiving TD), Antwaan Randle El (2 pass TD)

TE: Heath Miller (2 receiving TD)

PK: Shaun Suisham (61 points)

Defense: 3 TD

 

Indianapolis (3rd seed)

QB: Peyton Manning (33 pass TD, 1 rush TD)

RB: Donald Brown (4 rush TD), Joseph Addai (4 rush TD), Mike Hart (1 rush TD), Dominic Rhodes

WR: Reggie Wayne (6 receiving TD), Pierre Garcon (6 receiving TD), Blair White (5 receiving TD)

TE: Jacob Tamme (4 receiving TD)

PK: Adam Vinatieri (129 points)

Defense: 4 TD

 

Kansas City (4th seed)

QB: Matt Cassel (27 pass TD)

RB: Jamaal Charles (5 rush TD, 3 receiving TD), Thomas Jones (6 rush TD)

WR: Dwayne Bowe (15 receiving TD), Dexter McCluster (1 receiving TD, 1 return TD)

TE: Tony Moeaki (3 receiving TD), Leonard Pope (2 receiving TD)

PK: Ryan Succop (102 points)

Defense: 3 TD

 

Baltimore (5th seed)

QB: Joe Flacco (25 pass TD, 1 rush TD)

RB: Ray Rice (5 rush TD, 4 receiving TD), Willis McGahee (5 rush TD)

WR: Anquan Boldin (10 receiving TD), Derrick Mason (9 receiving TD), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (6 receiving TD)

TE: Todd Heap (7 receiving TD), Ed Dickson (2 receiving TD)

PK: Billy Cundiff (117 points)

Defense: 3 TD

 

N.Y. Jets (6th seed)

QB: Mark Sanchez (17 pass TD, 3 rush TD)

RB: LaDainian Tomlinson (5 rush TD), Shonn Greene (1 rush TD)

WR: Braylon Edwards (7 receiving TD), Santonio Holmes (6 receiving TD), Jerricho Cotchery (2 receiving TD), Brad Smith (1 pass TD, 1 rush TD, 2 return TD)

TE: Dustin Keller (5 receiving TD)

PK: Nick Folk (127 points)

Defense: 3 TD

  

NFC

 

Atlanta (1st seed)

QB: Matt Ryan (28 pass TD)

RB: Michael Turner (12 rush TD), Jason Snelling (2 rush TD, 1 receiving TD)

WR: Roddy White (15 receiving TD), Michael Jenkins (6 receiving TD), Harry Douglas (4 receiving TD)

TE: Tony Gonzalez (5 receiving TD)

PK: Matt Bryant 128 points

Defense: 3 TD

 

Chicago (2nd seed)

QB: Jay Cutler (23 pass TD, 1 rush TD)

RB: Matt Forte (6 rush TD, 3 receiving TD), Chester Taylor (3 rush TD)

WR: Johnny Knox (5 receiving TD), Earl Bennett (3 receiving TD), Devin Hester (4 receiving TD, 3 return TD),

TE: Greg Olsen (5 receiving TD)

PK: Robbie Gould (110 points)

Defense: 1 TD

 

Philadelphia (3rd seed)

QB: Michael Vick (21 pass TD, 9 rush TD), Kevin Kolb (7 pass TD)

RB: LeSean McCoy (7 rush TD, 2 receiving TD), Jerome Harrison (1 rush TD)

WR: DeSean Jackson (6 receiving TD, 1 rush TD, 1 return TD), Jeremy Maclin (10 receiving TD), Jason Avant (1 receiving TD),

TE: Brent Celek (4 receiving TD)

PK: David Akers (143 points)

Defense: 2 TD

 

Seattle (4th seed)

QB: Matt Hasselbeck (12 pass TD, 3 rush TD), Charlie Whitehurst (2 pass TD, 1 rush TD)

RB: Marshawn Lynch (6 rush TD), Justin Forsett (2 rush TD), Leon Washington (1 rush TD, 3 return TD)

WR: Mike Williams (2 receiving TD), Ben Obamanu (4 receiving TD), Deon Butler (4 receiving TD)

TE: John Carlson (1 receiving TD)

PK: Olindo Mare (106 points)

Defense: 3 TD

 

New Orleans (5th seed)

QB: Drew Brees (33 pass TD)

RB: Julius Jones, Reggie Bush (1 receiving TD), Ladell Betts (2 rush TD)
NOTE: Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory both went on IR this week, knocking them out for the playoffs.

WR: Marques Colston (7 receiving TD), Lance Moore (8 receiving TD), Robert Meachem (5 receiving TD), Devery Henderson (1 receiving TD)

TE: Jeremy Shockey (3 receiving TD), Jimmy Graham (5 receiving TD)

PK: Garrett Hartley (100 points)

Defense: 2 TD

 

Green Bay (6th seed)

QB: Aaron Rodgers (28 pass TD, 4 rush TD)

RB: Brandon Jackson (3 rush TD, 1 receiving TD), John Kuhn (4 rush TD, 2 receiving TD

WR: Greg Jennings (12 receiving TD), James Jones (5 receiving TD), Jordy Nelson (2 receiving TD), Donald Driver (4 receiving TD)

TE: Andrew Quarless (1 receiving TD), Donald Lee (3 receiving TD)

PK: Mason Crosby (112 points)

Defense: 4 TD

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Fantasy Football Applaud or a Fraud Week 16

Each week, we sort through the box scores to determine what fantasy football performances we should applaud, and which are merely frauds. As always, we’ll give more details about what each verdict means as we break it down. Now that we’re at the end of the seasons, we’re only noting players who have a chance of starting in a Week 17 championship game or who emerged out of nowhere in Week 16.

Tim Tebow

Quarterbacks

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers – Freeman has emerged as a fantasy starter this year, and if you hadn’t noticed, Sunday’s five-TD performance against the Seahawks should have turned your head. He’s a top-10 fantasy quarterback both this year and next. Verdict: Applaud

Carson Palmer, Bengals – Palmer has had a solid fantasy season even though his on-field performance has been awful. But Sunday against the Chargers, he was truly good, throwing for 269 yards and four touchdowns while completing 16-of-21 passes. The fact that he put up such good numbers without Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens was surprising, but the truth is that the Bengals are on their way to another late-season rush that means nothing. So if you want to ride Palmer next week against Baltimore, go ahead. Verdict: Applaud

Stephen McGee, Cowboys – McGee was pressed into action when Jon Kitna was injured on Christmas night, and he performed fairly well with 111 yards on 11-of-17 passing and one touchdown without an interception. If Kitna misses Week 17, McGee qualifies as a desperation play in two-QB or incredibly deep leagues because of Dallas’ strong receiving corps. We could see a two-TD game out of him as a starter. Verdict: Applaud

Tim Tebow, Broncos – In his first home start, Tebow ran for a touchdown (his fifth of the season) and threw for one. But the surprising stat was that he was able to shred the Texans’ admittedly sorry pass defense for 308 yards. Because of his rushing threat, Tebow is a startable fantasy player right now. His value is pinned to getting that rushing touchdown, but if you’re desperate, Tebow the Hero is an option. Verdict: Applaud

Running backs

Marion Barber, Cowboys – Barber had missed three games before returning on Christmas with a 58-yard game that included a touchdown. Barber still falls behind Felix Jones on the carries list in Dallas, but Marion the Barbarian is more likely to find the end zone than Jones. His return makes Tashard Choice irrelevant in fantasy terms, but that doesn’t mean we can trust Barber as a starter against the Eagles next week. Verdict: A fraud

Correll Buckhalter, Broncos – Filling in for Knowshon Moreno, Buckhalter had both a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown. If Moreno is out next week, Buckhalter becomes a flex option, albeit one with some risk. Verdict: Applaud

Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets – Both Greene and Tomlinson scored touchdowns against the Bears. It was Greene’s second touchdown of the season (first since Week 5) and Tomlinson’s first rushing TD since Week 6. We noted a few weeks ago that Tomlinson has really been slowing down, and with the Jets clinching a playoff spot this week, you’d have to figure he gets a break next week vs. the Bills. Greene, meanwhile, had 70 rushing yards against the Bears and could be coming on. We’d much rather play Greene than Tomlinson next week, but it could be that the Jets give Joe McKnight a look to protect both guys. Avoid both next week. Verdict: A fraud for both

Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai, Colts – The Colts brought Rhodes back off the UFL scrap heap two weeks ago, and this week Addai returned from a shoulder injury that had sidelined him for more than a month. Those two returns have made Donald Brown irrelevant for fantasy owners, and while Addai scored a touchdown against the Raiders, Rhodes was the leading rusher with 98 yards on 17 carries. It’s impossible to tell how this will play out next week, which means you can’t start any of them. But Rhodes is worth a claim if he’s available in your league, because he could qualify as a desperation play. Verdict: A fraud for Addai, Applaud for Rhodes

Wide receivers

Kenny Britt, Titans – Britt was having a huge season until a Week 8 injury sidelined him for nearly five games. But since his return, Britt has had four catches in every game, and he followed up Week 15’s 128-yard performance with a four-catch, 89-yard game with a touchdown against the Chiefs. Despite the Titans’ lethargic play, Britt is a must-start guy right now. Verdict: Applaud

Michael Crabtree, 49ers - Crabtree has had a disappointing season, garnering more than 61 receiving yards in just one game before his 122-yard performance against the Rams Sunday. Crabtree has talent, but the Smiths (Troy and Alex) at quarterback aren’t great, and so relying on him in any given week is just too much of a crapshoot. Verdict: A fraud

Johnny Knox, Bears - Knox has emerged as the Bears’ No. 1 receiver this year, and he’s nearly over the 1,000-yard mark on the season. More importantly for fantasy owners, Knox scored two long touchdowns against the Jets, giving him five on the season. Four of those five have come in the last five games, which means Knox has reached must-start status next week against Green Bay. And don’t worry about weather – Jay Cutler has thrown well in bad weather against the Vikings and Jets the last couple of weeks. Verdict: Applaud

Jordy Nelson, Packers - Nelson rode an 80-yard touchdown catch to a big day against the Giants. But you can’t rely on him to repeat his 124-yard performance, because he clearly falls behind Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and James Jones in the pecking order. Verdict: A fraud

Andre Roberts, Cardinals – Roberts, a rookie out of The Citadel, had just 15 catches on the season before his five-catch, 122-yard breakout against the Cowboys that included a 74-yard touchdown. But somehow, Roberts went off while Larry Fitzgerald had just one catch and Steve Breaston and Early Doucet had none. That has all the looks of a one-week fluke that fantasy owners should ignore. Verdict: A fraud

Jerome Simpson, Bengals - With Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco out, Simpson broke out with a six-catch, 124-yard day against the Chargers that included two touchdowns. Don’t be surprised if Simpson and Jordan Shipley are featured again next week as the Bengals figure out whether they can move on from the diva receivas in 2011. Verdict: Applaud

Tight ends

Jared Cook, Titans - Cook, the Titans’ No. 2 tight end, had 96 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs. The Titans seem to want to get a better look at Cook and Craig Stevens right now, but Bo Scaife is healthy, which means you can’t rely on any of the Tennessee tight ends. Verdict: A fraud

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Fantasy Football Applaud or a Fraud Week 15

Each week, we sort through the box scores to determine what fantasy football performances we should applaud, and which are merely frauds. As always, we’ll give more details about what each verdict means as we break it down.

Rex Grossman of the Redskins

Quarterbacks

 

Matt Flynn, Packers - Flynn’s value only comes if Aaron Rodgers is out again, but Flynn performed well at New England Sunday night, with three TD passes and 251 passing yards, with just one interception. Given Flynn’s top-flight targets, he’s an acceptable emergency option for fantasy owners. If you own Rodgers, feel free to claim Flynn as insurance. Verdict: Applaud

Rex Grossman, Redskins – Grossman had a couple of bad Rex plays – two interceptions and a fumble – but he put up major numbers with 322 passing yards and four touchdowns against the Cowboys. While some of those numbers were a result of a frenetic comeback attempt, Grossman is capable of putting up big numbers, and Redskins coaches have a vested interest in making him look good. So if you’re in a league without penalty points for turnovers, Grossman is a factor as a fill-in for an injured quarterback or a quarterback who sits after his team has clinched. Verdict: Applaud

Drew Stanton, Lions – Stanton threw for a season-high 252 yards against the Buccaneers with a touchdown, but he could lose his job to Shaun Hill next week. He’s not worth a claim. Verdict: A fraud

Tim Tebow, Broncos - Tebow’s first game as a starter featured his best-case scenario – a 40-yard touchdown run and 138 yards passing with a touchdown. Unfortunately, so much of Tebow’s value relies on running touchdowns that he’s not reliable for fantasy owners. You can’t put him in your lineup. Verdict: A fraud

Running backs

Cedric Benson, Bengals - Benson ran for 150 yards and a touchdown against the Browns, putting up the kind of game that made him valuable for fantasy owners in 2009. Unfortunately, those games have been too few and far between for Benson this year. Don’t get carried away and put Benson in your lineup over more reliable options. Verdict: A fraud

Maurice Morris, Lions – Morris had his best game of the season, running for 109 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He’s done a decent job producing, and he seems to be getting more looks than Jahvid Best at this point. If you need an emergency running back, Morris is worth a look in flex positions. Verdict: Applaud

Wide receivers

Anthony Armstrong and Santana Moss, Redskins - With Rex Grossman’s explosion, Armstrong had a 100-yard day, and Moss caught two TD passes against the Cowboys. While those numbers are inflated by the game situation, Grossman’s arrival has given both players a bit more value. Moss can be a No. 3 receiver, and Armstrong can be a flex. Verdict: Applaud

Vincent Jackson, Chargers – He’s back. Jackson had three touchdown catches Thursday night against the 49ers, which is a sign that he’s both healthy and in the offense enough to be an every-week starter for the two fantasy football weeks that remain. Put him in your lineup if you had stashed him on your roster. Verdict: Applaud

Jimmy Graham of the Saints

Tight ends

 

Ed Dickson, Ravens - Dickson, who has been filling in for the injured Todd Heap, had 33 receiving yards and a touchdown for the Ravens against the Saints. But with Heap nearing a return, Dickson isn’t a fantasy factor. Verdict: A fraud

Jimmy Graham, Saints – Graham had two TD catches against the Ravens, giving him three scores on the season. Graham has had at least three catches in five of six games, and he’s the tight end you want from the Saints right now, not Jeremy Shockey. Verdict: Applaud

Jason Witten, Cowboys - Witten had a monster game against the Redskins with 10 catches for 140 yards and a score. After a so-so first three quarters of the season, no fantasy tight end is putting up better numbers than Witten down the stretch. He needs to be in your lineup every week. Verdict: Applaud

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Fantasy Football Applaud or a Fraud Week 14

Each week, we sort through the box scores to determine what fantasy football performances we should applaud, and which are merely frauds. As always, we’ll give more details about what each verdict means as we break it down.

Quarterbacks

Jason Campbell of the Raiders, via espn.com

 

Jason Campbell, Raiders – Campbell threw for 324 yards with two touchdowns against the Jaguars, but his numbers were inflated by a long Darren McFadden run on a screen pass and by the Jaguars’ porous pass defense. Even with these numbers, you shouldn’t trust Campbell as a top 20 quarterback. Verdict: A fraud

Kerry Collins, Titans – Collins threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts, but that performance should be taken with several grains of salt. The Colts’ secondary has been decimated by injuries, and on a short week we probably saw them at even less than their best. You can’t rely on Collins to produce anywhere near these numbers, even in a plum matchup. Verdict: A fraud

Matt Flynn, Packers - Filling in for an injured Aaron Rodgers, Flynn threw for 177 yards on 15 completions. But he threw a pick and failed to find the end zone. Despite Green Bay’s terrific group of targets, Flynn just isn’t experienced enough to make it into anyone’s fantasy lineup – even if they just lost Rodgers. Verdict: A fraud

Alex Smith, 49ers - Smith returned to the starting lineup and threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns in a rout of the Seahawks. Who knows if Smith can keep this up, but he does have talent and a pretty good group of receivers. If you’re desperate for a quarterback, Smith isn’t a terrible option. Verdict: Applaud

Running backs

Tim Hightower, Cardinals - Hightower ran for 148 yards and two scores against the Broncos, cementing the fact that he, and not Beanie Wells, is Arizona’s top runner. That makes Hightower a flex option in most leagues. Verdict: Applaud

Mike Tolbert of the Chargers, via espn.com

 

Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert, Chargers - After being a fantasy non-factor for a month, Mathews returned to action and had 16 carries for 65 yards and a score against the Chiefs. Tolbert, meanwhile, got 16 carries of his own and took them for 66 yards and a score. Tolbert, who has scored 10 touchdowns and has reached the end zone in all but four games this season, remains startable in all leagues. Mathews, meanwhile, is a flex option with a lot of upside. Verdict: Applaud for both

LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets - Tomlinson averaged just 2.6 yards per carry against the Dolphins, running for 49 yards on 19 carries. Tomlinson has now run for less than 60 yards in eight straight games and had two catches or fewer in three straight games. The 31-year-old is losing steam as the season goes on, and he’s no longer an automatic starter for fantasy teams. Verdict: A fraud

Ryan Torain, Redskins – Torain started off as a house afire, breaking the 100-yard barrier in the first half en route to a 172-yard rushing day. Torain has been productive this year when healthy, and this performance indicates that Torain is once again in good condition. He’s worth a look as a flex play and as a top-25 back next week. Verdict: Applaud

Wide receivers

Pierre Garcon, via espn.com

 

Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers - While fellow rookie Mike Williams has been the Bucs’ go-to receiver, Benn has become the biggest down-field threat. He delivered a 64-yard reception against the Redskins, and that keyed his four-catch, 122-yard day. Benn is a high-risk, high-reward play for fantasy owners, bu even if you’re desperate, the risk is too high to put Benn in your lineup. Claim him if you wish, but don’t get carried away and start him. Verdict: A fraud

Pierre Garcon, Colts – Garcon has had a pretty disappointing year, so Thursday’s six-catch, 93-yard performance that came with two touchdowns was a nice reward for fantasy owners who have stuck with him. But Garcon has quietly gotten on a roll before this week, notching at least five catches in five straight games, and he now has three touchdowns in the last two games. With Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez gone for the year and Austin Collie still sidelined by a concussion, Garcon has become a primary target behind Reggie Wayne for the Colts. He’s finally a solid fantasy starter – just as the season comes to an end. But if you’re in the playoffs, sticking with Garcon will end up rewarding you. Verdict: Applaud

Malcom Floyd, Chargers – Like most of San Diego’s receiving corps, Floyd has battled injuries this season. But he is now healthy, and his two-TD day against the Chiefs shows that he remains a key part of San Diego’s prolific passing game. Even with Vincent Jackson back, Floyd is worth consideration as a top-30 receiver. Verdict: Applaud

Ruvell Martin, Seahawks – With Mike Williams and Ben Obamanu out, Martin, the ex-Packer, led Seattle with four catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. But it would be foolish to expect Martin to replicate this performance going forward. He’s not even worth a claim. Verdict: A fraud

Tight ends

Bo Scaife, Titans – Scaife caught two touchdowns against the Colts on Thursday night, but they came in a game in which he had just 20 total receiving yards. Fantasy owners simply can’t rely on touchdowns every week, and Scaife isn’t getting enough catches or yards to merit being in a lineup regularly. Verdict: A fraud

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Patriots/Bears thoughts

Each week, we focus on one game and share our thoughts on it, both from an on-field perspective and a fantasy football perspective. This week, we tuned into the snow spectacular between the Patriots and the Bears.

Deion Branch celebrates in the snow for the Patriots, via espn.com

The Patriots jumped out to a 33-0 halftime lead in bad weather en route to a 36-7 victory. With the win, the Pats clinched a playoff spot, and coupled with the Jets’ loss, New England now is firmly in the driver’s seat in the AFC East. The Bears fell to 9-4, but with the Packers’ loss in Detroit and Aaron Rodgers’ injury, Chicago still has a great chance to make the playoffs.

On-field thoughts
*Wes Welker, who had eight catches for 115 yards, is the perfect receiver for bad weather and snow games. He is so effective in short spaces that high winds don’t affect his targets, and when he gets rolling he’s tough to tackle on a slippery track. If you wonder why the Pats have been so effective in the snow, Welker is a prime reason.
*While Welker had a great game, Tom Brady’s was even better. Brady starred with 369 passing yards, including an impressive down-field throw to Deion Branch at the end of the first half that went for a 59-yard touchdown. Brady is great in bad weather, which makes the Pats even more dangerous if they lock away home-field advantage in the AFC.
*BenJarvus Green-Ellis was equally tough to bring down on the bad track. He has developed into a physical runner who may not break a lot of big runs but who keeps the chains moving regularly. He’s a weapon the Pats haven’t had in the running game since Corey Dillon’s early days as a Pat.
*Devin McCourty, the Pats’ first-round pick, has emerged into a play-making corner. His forced fumble against Johnny Knox in the second quarter broke the game open, because Gary Guyton picked it up and returned it for a touchdown. McCourty has six interceptions this season and is a prime contender for defensive rookie of the year.
*DE Eric Moore, whom the Patriots added after the UFL season this week, had a sack, another tackle for a loss, and a forced fumble. Moore had a terrific training camp for the Panthers this season but lost out to several young players and draft picks. He could be an incredible late-season find for the Pats.
*We haven’t focused much on the Bears in this post, and that’s because they looked awful in the bad weather. While the Patriots rose to the occasion, the Bears fell flat. Jay Cutler threw two interceptions, and the Bears lost two more fumbles. Meanwhile, when Chicago had chances to make plays on defense, balls bounced off defenders’ hands. For the Bears to truly contend against the league’s best teams, the defense will have to make some of those plays.

Fantasy Football perspective
*We’ve said it before, but Green-Ellis should be starting for your team every week. Branch, who has scored three straight weeks and who had 151 receiving yards in this game, joins Welker as a regular starter as well.
*None of the Bears had a good fantasy game, but Cutler is still a weekly starter in most leagues, as is Matt Forte. Johnny Knox is worth starting many weeks as well.

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