Contender or Pretender?
Let me start by saying that many so called experts out there seemed surprised by the 2-0 start from the likes of the Texans, Redskins, Packers, Lions and 49ers. And although some of these teams might not be for real, some of them are. The best way to detect whether a team is a contender or pretender is to ask yourself if the play of their defense can sustain its early season success. My rankings of these 5 defenses are as follows:
1. Packers – Most improved unit in the league, front seven is becoming a force.
2. Redskins – Highly regarded secondary is starting to play as big as their names.
3. 49ers –
Patrick Willis and
Nate Clements have changed their D’s identity.
4. Texans – Shouldn’t feel bad for letting
Steve Smith go off, he is unstoppable.
5. Lions – The defensive line is strong but definitely the pretender of the group.
Nobody should be surprised the Steelers are 2-0, their offensive balance will lead them back to the playoffs. One of the only teams in the league who can actually line up in the I-Formation, and just pound the rock; but also has the ability to drop
Ben Roethlisberger back in Shotgun and beat you with the pass. No team has a more effective play-action passing game either.
Running Back Situations
One very unpredictable aspect of a football season is how a coach will handle his running back’s workload. Some coaches follow trends that can be detected in their past and other coaches seem to adapt to their given situations. One running back that fantasy teams should not be concerned about at all is the one in the New England backfield.
Laurence Maroney is clearly running with more authority with every week that goes by. He looked very explosive in his 15 carries, averaging over 5 yards per carry. Even though
Sammy Morris might play every third possession, which looks to be the case as of now, don’t panic if you have Maroney as your second running back. The Patriots brought out a gameplan they use a couple times a year where they virtually pass the ball the entire first half until they get a comfortable lead. The Pats used the same tactic against
Kevin Williams and the Minnesota Vikings last season, using 5 wide receiver sets early and often in the game. Maroney has also gotten his share of carries inside the 10 yard line, but has yet to convert a touchdown, a trend I do not see continuing. Plus the Patriots play the Bills, Bengals and Browns in the next three weeks, giving him a chance to carry the ball more against these weak run defenses.
Marshawn Lynch has seemed to have gained full trust from the Bills coaching staff to carry the load from here on out. On film he might not look to have the explosiveness and quickness of the top backs, but he is an elusive runner who has great balance. His value will rise as the season continues and as the Bills offense starts to gel.
I absolutely hate when analysts say the stat of so and so team wins when this player gets X amount of carries. The reason
Deuce McAllister and
Reggie Bush have not been successful thus far is because the Saints are losing games. Teams cannot run the ball if they consistently fall behind in games. Maybe if their defense didn’t give up long passes, the offense could run the ball and get into a rhythm. The Saints have already given up 5 pass plays of over forty yards in just two games.
is undoubtedly the best referee in the NFL at explaining what actually happened during penalized plays. He might have taken it to another level though during the Chargers and Patriots game when he waived off a holding penalty saying, “There was no penalty on the play, the defender was just overpowered.”
No quarterback has yet to reach 100 yards passing vs
Champ Bailey and the Denver Broncos pass defense.
Marion Barber III once again clearly outplayed
Julius Jones this past Sunday. Jones carried the ball 15 times for 32 yards, while Barber toted it 14 times for 89 yards and 2 scores. Are they running behind a different offensive line or something? Wade Phillips is slowly but surely making the right decision on which running back is truly the featured back in his offense.
New Eagles punt returner
Reno Mahe was just called back during the past week, signing with Philly strictly not to muff punts. He was said to be busing tables at a restaurant. I wonder what he told his manager, maybe it was something like “Hey sorry I can’t work here anymore, I found a job that paid a little better.”
I wonder how many fantasy managers were affected by
Jason Campbell’s overthrow of a wide open
Santana Moss in the 4th quarter Monday Night? Moss ran a perfect route, completely throwing the cornerback off balance, which created plenty of space for an easy touchdown. Probably thousands of manager’s in fantasy leagues around the nation either celebrated or agonized over that play as soon as it happened. Two of those managers were in my fantasy league.
Wes Welker will easily surpass 100 receptions this season. When
Tom Brady goes into the spread offense, Welker is a perfect fit to run the underneath routes that Brady is so great at throwing.
Steve Smith added two plays to his total number of plays that I deem plays that no other player in the NFL can make. His first and third touchdown catches were worth the price of admission by themselves. My bold prediction is simple, Steve Smith will shatter records in 2007.