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JL's Observation Deck - Week 4

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Before I get started with pertinent 2012 fantasy football information, let me give my annual spiel on why you should consider changing the format of the regular season in the fantasy football league you currently play in.

Most leagues out there are still simply using the 13-week, head-to-head format in which you receive a win or loss by outscoring or getting outscored by a random opponent that happened to be scheduled up against you that given week. And while this format might create excitement among managers because of their rivalries or matchups, it truly is a flawed format.

The format that would best suit any league that incorporates a head-to-head schedule is very simple and can easily be adapted to if your commissioner is willing to take the necessary steps. Go ahead, you or your weekly opponents, earn a win/loss in that manner; but also earn a win or loss that same week by finishing in the top half or bottom half of your entire league in points scored for that week. In a 12-team league, the Top 6 teams in a given week get a win, and the bottom six teams receive a loss. That means, every team, every week will get a total of two wins or losses. You scored the third-most points in your entire league, but are beaten by your league’s top scorer? Don’t sweat it, you are still 1-1 for that week. Not only does it reward the teams that really deserve to be in the top of the standings but it creates extra excitement each week when you are shooting for that top half of your league's weekly finish. All the while, none of the head-to-head gamesmanship is lost in this format. Think about it, it is a change that I can all but guarantee will bring more fun and fairness to your fantasy league.

Stay the Course

Darren McFadden was one of the most controversial fantasy players discussed during the preseason, and four weeks into the regular season, nothing has changed. Managers who took him in the first round are likely kicking themselves as McFadden has came through with a good performance only once so far in standard leagues.

What should you do? Well, there are always two sides to the story, and in this instance, it is no different. If you are sitting at 0-4, or even 1-3 and you feel that losing another game will dig yourself into too deep of hole to recover from, I can see the temptation to try and avoid his bye week this week and get back into the standings race. I encourage you, though, to stay the course and keep McFadden as your lead back. The new schemes in Oakland have taken a little time to adjust too, but as you saw against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, it only takes one crease to make McFadden’s whole fantasy day.

McFadden’s tentative nature thus far simply has to do with the lack of comfort with the blocking schemes.  After the bye, the Raiders will show improvement up front and McFadden will become a more consistent force. Don’t bail on your first-round pick just yet.

One player I focused on during the preseason that has started off the season in a positive manner is New Orleans wide receiver Lance Moore. I had made the case that Moore was going to be an every week starter from the very beginning of the season. He has proven to be just that, and with the Saints defense the way it is, Moore will continue to average around eight targets per game. Thus far, Moore has seen 37 targets from Drew Brees in only four games, including an incredible 15 this past Sunday. Moore is the type of wide receiver that simply makes plays for his quarterback, and Brees has a lot of trust in him in key situations. Having Moore on your bench might make another wide receiver on your roster expendable in a trade if that circumstance arose. Stay the course with Moore and keep playing him in your lineup.

Another player I have heard a wide range of opinion on is Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick. Vick has never been easy to figure out but he is definitely someone that will continue to be a fantasy asset. I can understand gripes about his inconsistent play, not to mention his ‘watch and hold your breath’ type play at times; but he still remains one of the most explosive options at the position.

The Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants are not walk in the park matchups, and despite a few turnovers, Vick is doing what you asked him to do if you drafted him around his average draft position. The overall outlook on Vick, I feel, is leaning right now in a negative direction, which I simply cannot agree with. The Pittsburgh defense on the horizon shouldn’t scare you off, either. Vick is averaging 7.4 yards per attempt, which is the third-best in any season in his career, and the Eagles offense has yet to reach their full potential. Keep Vick in your lineup every single week as he remains a must-start in all formats.

Jump Ship

If you haven’t bailed yet on the Chris Johnson train, you have my permission to go ahead and do it. This might be your only chance to get some value out of the big name since he is coming off of a nice rushing yardage performance. The same can be said for Atlanta running back Michael Turner. I wrote in this piece just a week ago to pull the trigger on the trade involving Turner while his value was still high, but also mentioned that you could wait one more week as I expected him to do well against the porous Carolina defense. Turner did just that, affording all of his current owners the chance to squeeze the last ounce of value out of those tired legs. I respect what Turner has done in his career, but the shift in the offensive philosophy, his workload over the last few years and the emergence of Jacquizz Rodgers will make Turner a liability in your starting lineup if you keep him for the duration of the 2012 season.

Buffalo wide receiver Steve Johnson is a guy I feel has been lucky to score as many fantasy points as he has thus far in the season. It is still early of course, but I am starting to get concerned about his ability to consistently separate from defenders.

Johnson has only caught 15 of his 36 targets, which equates to a below-average 41.7 percent. In fact, out of all wideouts or tight ends who have been targeted more than 25 times, Johnson has been the very worst when it comes to converting targets into receptions. It will be hard to just outright send Johnson to your bench, but he does carry value just with his name alone. Just realize his yards-per-reception has decreased and he is averaging less than 50 yards per contest.

Hopefully you were not counting on Justin Blackmon or Greg Little as an every week starter heading into the season. If so, there have been plenty of opportunities through the waiver wire to acquire a replacement. If you are waiting on Little to take the next step, or hoping still for Blackmon to breakout, I beg you not to hold your breath. I am definitely not going out on a limb here saying that neither of these two players will become contributors anytime soon. Rather just reminding you once more, both have their own issues to go along with the fact that Brandon Weeden and Blaine Gabbert are the men who are responsible for getting them the football, respectively.

Quick Hits

I was not one of those people who were very high on Leonard Hankerson’s prospects coming into the NFL. I heard a lot about his potential and didn’t quite see the necessary quickness or suddenness I believe it takes to become a successful receiver in the major leagues. With that said, he has become a much more polished version of himself and he is really starting to emerge in Washington. I don’t usually give out much dynasty league advice, but will go ahead and acknowledge the fact that Pierre Garcon and Hankerson will be the main targets for Robert Griffin III for years to come.

Brian Hartline stole headlines for the Miami Dolphins, as he set records this past Sunday against a very good Arizona defense. Quietly though, Davone Bess has re-emerged in his very effective role for Ryan Tannehill and the passing attack. Bess was targeted 12 times this past week, and hasn’t been targeted less than six times in any games this season. The Dolphins won’t be mistaken for the Green Bay Packers anytime soon, but you can be sure that when teams lineup against Miami they will be putting Hartline in their sights much sooner than they will Bess. Bess should continue his productive pace, one that will get him 80 catches and about 1,200 yards.

The New York Jets. Not in the Top 20 in rushing yards per game. Santonio Holmes likely done for the season. Getting shutout by San Francisco and being one Dan Carpenter kick away from being 1-3. It is not rocket science, folks, whether or not you think Tim Tebow is of the caliber of a starting NFL quarterback, it is time for him to take over in New York. The blueprint for this team winning does not include Mark Sanchez throwing the rock. Maybe Tebow can’t pull off what he did a year ago in Denver, but I know one thing for sure … Sanchez has no chance of leading this team to the playoffs in 2012.

Gutsy performance from Matt Forte Monday night. He wasn’t given enough credit for playing on what was obviously an ankle still in the process of healing. Forte got up slow on almost every play, but fought through it and made some impressive runs. It’s a great sign for all of his fantasy owners that he was willing to show up and give it his all despite not being anywhere near 100 percent.

Just a quick shout out to the new member of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Ring of Honor, Fred Taylor, one of the most underrated and underappreciated players in NFL history. In his prime, his talent rivaled any player that has ever played the position. If you are reading this, you’re very likely thinking I have just completely lost my mind. Rather, I would encourage you to do whatever it takes to acquire the film of the 1999 playoff game in which the Jaguars sent Dan Marino into retirement with a crushing defeat. Taylor made plays in that game that no other runner in the league could have made at that time. Oh, and if you find that film, please contact me @JLanfranca on twitter.

Feel free to ask me any lineup decisions or trade questions you might have. I always enjoy assisting fantasy managers out there that find themselves in predicaments. Have a great week and enjoy the heart of football season.