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Fantasy Intelligence Report - Week 3

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In past seasons, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and top tight end Jason Witten have had an unrivaled connection through all the good and bad that has been thrown their way (no pun intended); a "bromance" so to speak. It has ultimately helped both in their quests to be in every 12th fantasy owner’s starting lineup.

Now according to BaltimoreRavens.com, Ravens signal caller Joe Flacco and bro tight end Dennis Pitta are looking to emulate the Romo-Witten past success. Some may even believe they’re already there, as Pitta is the Ravens current leader in receptions (13) and targets (24).

"I think we laid a foundation at the end of last year that carried into the offseason and everything you do," Pitta said. "Joe and I kind of know what each other are thinking. We’re on the same page most of the time and that certainly helps."

What’s interesting is that Pitta was targeted 15 times against the Eagles, while preseason fantasy darling and sleeper, Torrey Smith, saw just five passes zip his way. Furthermore, just 54% of Pitta’s targeted passes have gone for completions thus far this season. This tells me that Flacco is really searching for his big tight end, even when he may not be open.

"I think it’s just a matter of me going through progressions and him maybe being the guy we’re trying to target, or just going through and by the time I get to his point in the progression he’s open," Flacco said.

It’s no secret that Flacco and Pitta have developed a strong relationship on and off the field, which could be contributing to the tight end’s early success. It’s certainly something fantasy owners need to be aware of, as we could indeed be looking at the 2012 version of Romo-Witten.

"Mr. Dependable. Anytime you need a play, you can rely on him," Terrell Suggs said back in January. "I’m just a Dennis Pitta fan. He’s kind of the black sheep. We’ve got a lot of personality on this team. Here you’ve got this blue collar guy, he’s not really flamboyant, he’s not really, ‘Hey, give me the ball.’ He just shows up to work, throw him the ball, he catches it, he’s happy. You tell him to block, he blocks."

Yeah, that definitely sounds like Jason Witten.

W.2.R. -- Week 2 Reactions

- The last time Chargers tight end Dante Rosario had a big bandwagon-jumping game was September 7, 2008 (Week 1), ironically at San Diego while playing for the Panthers. That game he caught seven passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. Ultimately, he finished 2008 with 18 receptions for 209 yards and never scored thereafter. I think I’ve said enough.

- CJ Spiller is quickly turning into the Adrian Peterson of the Buffalo Bills. This means that Fred Jackson will quickly turn in to the Chester Taylor of the Buffalo Bills, even when he does attempt his Peterson-like comeback. Just keep starting Spiller.

- Either Sam Bradford has a Jay Cutler-like problem with the rest of his receiving corps, or he thought he saw Jerry Rice running routes in Danny Amendola’s uniform. I have to wonder how many office computers had Amendola’s mug illuminated this week.

- I’m not going to tell you I told you so on my play-call from last week. You already know that Arian Foster and Ben Tate combined for 184 yards and three touchdowns (two for Tate). Then again, it was a fairly easy prediction considering the Jaguars defense consists of veteran castoffs who couldn‘t quite catch on with the true contenders.

- I loved the reactions of the Patriots' backers when kicker Stephen Gostkowski kicked the game-winning field goal to the sidelines instead of the goal posts. Just because Gostkowski is better than Billy Cundiff doesn’t mean he is as automatic as Justin Tucker (sorry weeping and overpaying fantasy owners).

G.T.E.M. -- Going The Extra Mile
Let’s go the extra mile, and break down a play that the Rams ran to perfection against the Redskins, nickel defense.

Single-back 3 WR -- Play-action Z Cross

It’s first down and ten. The Washington Redskins are in a 4-2-5 (4 down linemen, 2 linebackers, 5 defensive backs) Nickel Cover 2 defense.

The two middle linebackers are primarily responsible for shooting the gaps and stopping the run, or following the tight end and running back if it’s a pass. The nickel back will line up in the slot as if he’s covering the slot receiver, but will essentially cover the right side flat zone. The right cornerback (26) is in man coverage all the way because of the nickel back covering the flat zone. Free safety Madieu Williams (top left) is responsible for spying the running back on the left side of the formation due to the absence of a left outside linebacker. The strong safety (blue "X") has deep middle coverage, because of the free safety Williams moving in to cover the run.

For the Rams all four routes make this play work to perfection. The play-action fake to running back Daryl Richardson draws the linebackers and nickel back in a few steps, opening up the middle intermediate part of the field. The bottom receiver’s primary job (black route) is to just push the left cornerback up the field to allow running room after the catch. The slot receiver Brandon Gibson (blue route) will run a deep slant to the other side of the field, hopefully drawing the deep safety over. Meanwhile, Richardson will come off the fake from quarterback Sam Bradford and run a flat route, which forces the nickel back to stay at home and not follow Gibson down the field, which forces the deep safety to start moving to his left.

The hot read is to Danny Amendola, who is motioning down the right side of the offensive formation (red route) before the snap. Amendola controls his own destiny, as he has to time a slanted drag route to cross behind Gibson, so that the deep safety does indeed overreact and move completely to his left. He runs it to perfection, and Bradford finds him for an easy 56 yard catch and run.

Now, there are two reasons why I broke down this play. The first is because it shows how critical Amendola is to the Rams’ offensive success. The second is because the Redskins lack discipline in their secondary, and have struggled on defense to stop opposing offenses through the air (tied for 30th at 313.5 yards allowed per game). Furthermore, they seem to pride themselves on stopping the run (91.5 yards allowed per game), and are often overaggressive towards the line of scrimmage in their movements post snap.

In other words, it may not be a bad idea to start Bengal wide receivers AJ Green and Andrew Hawkins this week. And don’t be surprised if Hawkins turns out to be the top fantasy scorer at receiver in this game period.

W.3.F.H.S -- Week 2 F.I.R. Hot Sheet

The hot sheet is simple. Each player listed on the hot sheet is either rated hot (red) or cold (blue) for the week. For this week I’ve also provided a played (green) rating for players who already played.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0Amihgyu0x20LdGNLcVNMdVhpQUlKZTh0dHQ0QVAwRGc&output=html

S.O.G. -- Speaking Out Gracefully

Any current or former high school football player who has hit an opposing player hard can probably give you a story or two about how they were rewarded for that hit. Heck, you could probably even find former NFL players who will tell you very parallel stories. For Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate, however, the story about his biggest clean hit he put on someone won’t have red roses, colorful stickers, or even the red carpet for football players involved.

Instead, he’s getting a slap on the wrist fine from the commissioner’s office for his fantastic de-cleating blow to Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee. Yeah, that’s right, the "football" player is being fined once again for making a "football" play. Go figure.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters after the game. "I'm sure they will (fine him). We saw the same thing you saw. That's certainly something we know or expect penalties and fines about."

Some advice for Golden Tate: The next time you do decide to actually play football, make sure it’s not against the Dallas Cowgirls. Jerry likes keeping his top women upright, and his fans filling his large coin and greenback purse. Of course, Roger Goodell likes to keep his hands in Jones’ pockets, which ultimately means that Jerry will always get what he wants.

To be quite honest though, between the flag pulling mentality that is polluting the NFL front office and the referees that look about as silly as interns trying to run a Fortune 500 company, I think it’s time fans make a statement. My proposal: boycott attending (in person) some of the upcoming NFL games. That way Roger can watch the Red Zone Channel and feel the same rage fans and teams have been holding inside (with a few exceptions) since he has taken over as commissioner.

Oh, and one more thing. To all those Redskins' fans who sent Josh Morgan death threats this past week because of a play that didn’t even decide the outcome of the game (kicker still would’ve had to kick the field goal from 47 yards) --- take off your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle underpants and put some Irish Spring soap in your mouth.

Thanks for reading!

Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for Fantasysharks.com and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). E-mail him your thoughts ehuber@fantasysharks.com