Thomas Casale
The Fire Sale - Week 11

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I’m off for one week and everything changes. The Jacksonville Jaguars won a game, the St. Louis Rams destroyed Indianapolis, Wade Phillips is coaching again (although he’s 0-2 so that hasn’t changed) and Aaron Rodgers isn’t quarterbacking the Green Bay Packers anymore. Man, a lot sure can change in two weeks.

Luckily, one thing has remained the same. When I last left you I pointed out how Monte Kiffin was rewriting the history books. Well, two weeks later he continues to put his name in the history books. It was just two weeks ago when I told you that Kiffin’s defense set a Dallas Cowboys’ franchise record for yards allowed in a game when they gave up 623 to Detroit. It only took Kiffin two weeks to get his name in the record books again. Sunday against New Orleans, Kiffin’s defense allowed 626 yards. So a record that has stood since 1991, Kiffin’s defense broke twice in three weeks.

Having his name in the Cowboys’ record books isn’t enough for Kiffin, though. Earlier in the year he set an NFL record for allowing four quarterbacks to throw for 400 yards against his defense (
Drew Brees came eight yards short of adding to that record). On Sunday night, the Saints recorded 40 first downs against Dallas, once again putting Kiffin’s name in the record books.

As a Dallas fan of more than 30 years I would like to thank Jerry Jones for hiring this record-setting coach. In just 10 weeks, Kiffin has set two franchise and two NFL records for defensive futility. Like I said, it’s nice to know that while some things change, some things remain the same. Kiffin is currently the worst football coach on the planet. Well, at least since his son was fired.

Now on with “The Fire Sale” …

Going Up

Case Keenum, QB, Houston – Keenum had a tougher time against the blitzing Arizona defense on Sunday but he still threw three touchdown passes. In three starts, Keenum has now thrown for 822 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions.

This guy is like me when I played all-time quarterback in backyard football games. I would just chuck the ball down the field on fly routes. Talk about the exact opposite of
Matt Schaub . Schaub was the king of throwing to 12 different tight ends and checking down to running backs.

It’s still way too early to know if Keenum is a long-term answer for the Texans or if defenses will catch up to him, but fantasy owners don’t really care about that stuff. If you play in redraft leagues you live in the now, and, at the moment, Keenum is putting up strong fantasy numbers.

The best thing about Keenum is he gets the ball to his playmakers, and when a quarterback does that there’s always a chance good things will happen. When you throw fades to the third-team tight end like Schaub used to do near the goal line,
Andre Johnson can’t make amazing catches like he did on Sunday when he’s covered like a blanket.

I liked Keenum in college and had him as a sleeper in this column, and while I think he has the intangibles to be successful, he could also be out of the league in two years. Either way, fantasy football is about stats and right now Keenum is putting up the stats, so ride the hot hand.

Andre Brown, RB, New York Giants – “The Fire Sale’s” all-time favorite player made his return on Sunday. Brown, of course, is the player I loved coming out of college, disappeared for five years, only to return and have fantasy relevance.

Now, I wanted to mention Brown for a couple of reasons. I obviously know Brown as well as anyone since I’ve been writing about him since his college days at North Carolina State. I fully expected him to come in and knock out those humps
Peyton Hillis and Brandon Jacobs . Anyone who thought the Giants were going to run a committee with Brown and those two tomato cans were either fooling themselves or doesn’t know much about football.

Even I was surprised though to see Brown get 30 carries in his first game back. While that’s great news for Brown owners going forward, don’t forget what I’ve always said about him dating back to his days at North Carolina State. Brown is one of the most talented running backs I’ve seen. I’ve always said that about him. However, he’s also one of the most injury-prone players in the history of football. In college Brown would flash elite skills, only to get seriously injured. That’s the thing about Brown, too, he doesn’t just get minor injuries, he gets his money’s worth. Brown gets serious injuries.

Brown had first-round talent when he was at North Carolina State State and I’m sure you see some of those skills years later with the Giants even after all of his injuries. His problem has always been staying on the field. So while I like him getting the touches for fantasy purposes, history suggests it’s only a matter of time before Brown gets hurt again. I hope it doesn’t happen.

Out of all the guys I’ve ever written about, Brown is the one I’ll always remember. Every time I see him run a defender over I smile and cringe at the same time. I just pray he doesn’t limp off the field. If you held onto Brown this long, you’ll reap the rewards. Hillis and Jacobs aren’t much of a threat to his fantasy value as long as Brown is healthy.

Aaron Dobson, WR, New England – I would have mentioned Dobson last week if I had a column, but with the Patriots on a bye I think it’s still timely to talk about him.

I’ve always been a big believer that players are more productive when they’re put in the right situations. Earlier in the year Dobson was forced to be one of
Tom Brady ’s top two receivers because of the injuries to Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola . Now with those two back in the lineup, Dobson doesn’t have as much pressure on him.

Against Pittsburgh, Dobson was able to line up on the outside and beat single coverage. This is where Dobson can be dangerous. Quarterbacks like Brady are so good because they anticipate where single coverage is going to come before the ball is snapped. Now with defenses so focused on taking away Gronkowski and Amendola, not to mention
Shane Vereen when he returns, Dobson will see plenty of single coverage for the rest of the year. Now the young receiver won’t have to think so much. Instead, Dobson can just use his physical skills to beat a team’s second or third corner.

I like Dobson for the rest of the season. He’s also one of the top free agent recommendations of
Advanced Sports Logic’s The Machine . I don’t think he’ll see nine targets every week like he did against Pittsburgh but he’ll have opportunities to maximize his targets and be a big-play receiver in the Patriots’ offense. I see him doing for New England what Terrance Williams has done for the Cowboys.

Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis – How many times in the last two days have you heard, “Austin had his coming out party?” Don’t you hate the media sometimes?

In my last Fire Sale, two weeks ago, I finally felt like I waited long enough and had Austin coming down. I pointed out that despite being a big Austin fan while he was in college, so far in the NFL he reminded me of
Ted Ginn Jr. So now let’s review the things I’ve said this year and what has happened immediately after:

-- After sticking with
Tom Brady all year I couldn’t take it anymore. I had Andy Dalton on my bench who scored 46 points, so I finally decided to bench Brady. What happened? Brady scored 46 points the week I benched him and started Dalton.

-- Despite being a staunch believer that no teams will ever go 0-16, I finally broke down and said the Jacksonville Jaguars were so bad they would not win a game this year. What happened? Jacksonville won its next game.

-- Even though I thought Austin was the most over-drafted player this summer, I thought he would make a huge impact on special teams for St. Louis. So, finally after eight weeks of doing nothing, I decided to blast him. What happened? Two games later Austin scored on plays of 98, 81 and 57 yards.

It kind of makes you wonder if the fantasy football gods are just waiting for me to say something, doesn’t it? Obviously, owners will be running to the waiver wire to add Austin this week because he had his “coming out party,” but you should be weary. Sometimes there are games you have to just erase because they are so out of the ordinary. Austin was only targeted three times on Sunday. He scored on both of his receptions.
Kellen Clemens completed just nine passes but they went for 247 yards. He also had a quarterback rating of 140.6. Does that sound like the norm or the exception going forward?

Austin was dropped in a lot of leagues, and if you can get him for the right price he may be worth adding. Just don’t overpay because he was dropped for a reason, and, remember, Clemens is still the Rams’ quarterback and Brian Schottenheimer is still the offensive coordinator. It’s not likely that Austin is going to take his two catches a game for scores every week.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago – I predicted this summer that by December Jeffery and
Brandon Marshall would be one of the most feared receiving tandems in the NFL. I was way off. It took a month.



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