Welcome to The Lowdown for Week 2. This is my little corner of the fantasy football universe — feel free to pull up a chair and stay a while!
You know how to tell if you’re too old? It’s not when you fail to learn new things but when you look at something you’ve understood your entire life and can no longer make any sense of it. For example, I’ve never been able to understand either women or liberals– and liberal women are best avoided under all circumstances. The fact that Lena Dunham is popular and somehow an inspiration to other women is confounding to me; confounding, but not worrisome, since I’ve never understood her type to begin with.
But football– now there’s something I’ve always understood. One of my earliest NFL memories was in 1973, and I remember yelling at the TV because the Dolphins were losing to the Jets at halftime and Shula wasn’t running Larry Csonka enough. I was eight at the time.
So I know that at age 50 I’ve hit the wall because I witnessed an NFL game and had no earthly clue as to what was going on; I’m speaking of the Giants-Cowboys game Sunday night. It used to be that if you were nursing a three-point lead inside your opponent’s 5-yard line with under two minutes to play, you ran the ball three straight times. If you scored a TD on any attempt, no problem– because you’d be up by two scores; if you failed to score a TD, you’d burn all but about 30 seconds and then kick a FG. Really simple.
But for some reason, Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and Rashad Jennings all conspired to convince me that I’ve grown too old to comment on football. First, you had Manning snapping the ball with over 10 seconds left on the play clock; then Jennings claims he was told not to score a TD on his first two carries; then a pass play was called on third down– and inexplicably, Manning decided to throw the ball away (stopping the clock for the Cowboys) rather than take a sack. Coughlin tried to take the blame (he didn’t have to try all that hard), but even in accepting the blame, his explanation sounded like gibberish.
As I write this, I’m watching the Broncos-Chiefs game. Score tied, 24-24 with 00:40 left. KC has the ball on its own 20. What’s the call? You’re at home, so you take a knee, right? Apparently not. Andy Reid saw fit to run the ball with Jamaal Charles, who promptly fumbled the ball, which was scooped up and returned for a TD by the Broncos. Is it just me or are coaches making this game a lot harder than it should be?
I’m convinced I’m no longer relevant, since I can’t make sense of what’s going on around me. Someone put a bib on me and make sure the chicken soup has been properly cooled. I don’t want to burn the roof of my mouth as I watch the Honeymooners.
One week of football is in the books, which means that this is my favorite time of the fantasy year. Why? Because this is when all the rookie fantasy owners make panic-inspired roster moves, and none of them any good. For example, in several of my leagues I was able to pick up Jeremy Maclin on waivers, because his owners drafted him thinking he was still playing in Philadelphia. Same thing with Greg Olsen, Chandler Jones and Steve Smith, Sr. Of course, you have the flip side of the panic game as well… guys picking up Marcel Reece and Rashad Greene. Really, fellow “experts”? That’s what your sage advice leads us to?
Here’s a rule of thumb I employ: never make a panic move prior to Week 4. Take three games to figure out how players are shaking out compared to their preseason projections. Everyone has off weeks– especially some veterans who may not have played as much in the preseason games and need to work the rust off. It’s OK to take a calculated risk on guys like Dion Lewis and Marcus Mariota, since their circumstances became clearer under game conditions, but cutting a Maclin because he didn’t post 7-120-2 is sheer madness.
Interesting Players for Week 2
Not necessarily the players in line for the biggest games this week, but rather some players that caught my interest and upon whom I shall cast my gaze …
Matt Ryan, QB – Atlanta (at New York Giants): Don’t let the score of last week’s Giants-Cowboys contest fool you; the Giants defense was horrible. The secondary was so abused it ought to have been in a shelter, while the front seven generated less pressure than my prostate. Ryan should have no trouble finding open receivers this week, and the only way he avoids 300 yards and two TDs is if the Falcons get so far ahead that they decide to run out the clock starting in the second quarter.
Justin Forsett, RB – Baltimore (at Oakland): The Ravens aerial attack looked pathetic last week, and until they find a legit receiver to line up opposite Steve Smith, there won’t be too may passing yards being recorded next to Joe Flacco‘s name. Enter Justin Forsett. I expect the Ravens to commit more heavily to the run game this week, which means more totes for Forsett. He only had 14 carries last week against the Broncos, which is not a winning formula for that team. Expect 18-22 carries for Forsett this week, as well as 100 yards and a TD.
Shane Vereen, RB – New York Giants (vs. Atlanta): The Giants need to figure out who else is going to catch the ball besides Odell Beckham Jr. I thought it might be Larry Donnell, but as last week confirmed, the Giants have no real pass-catching TE on their roster (when Daniel Fells outplays you, you really ought to consider retirement or Harakiri).
With Rueben Randle a non-factor and Victor Cruz nothing more than a rumor at this point, you figure that Vereen is someone who should see a lot more targets this week. After all, the Giants didn’t sign a pass-catching back in free agency to have him block, did they? Right? Anyone? Bueller?
The Giants should be behind early in this game, so I expect less Rashad Jennings and more Vereen. Expect Vereen to put up 12-15 PPR points this week on the strength of checkdowns and flares.
John Brown, WR – Arizona (at Chicago): True, it was the now-forgotten Larry Fitzgerald that was the Cardinals’ leading receiver (6-87-0) against the Saints; however, I still think Brown is the receiver to own on that team. Brown is simply more explosive and primed for big plays. The Bears are still shaky on defense, and what little talent they have will likely be focused on Fitzgerald. Regardless, I don’t think there’s anyone on the Bears that can cover Brown, so I expect a 5-90-1 type of day from Brown.
Kendall Wright, WR – Tennessee (at Cleveland): During the preseason, I watched a few Tennessee drives with Mariota at the helm… not so much to see how he performed, but more to see who he trusted. You know what I saw? I saw a QB who immediately formed an on-field bond with his best WR, Kendall Wright. I liked that. When Mariota needs a big play or starts to move the pocket, he always seems to look for Wright (watch this next Titans game and you’ll see what I mean). Compare this to someone like E.J. Manuel, who last season looked for any receiver other than Sammy Watkins.
So, while I don’t expect Wright to put up monster numbers, I do expect him to put up a big play or two. Much like John Brown, I think he’ll get 5-6 catches, 100 yards and a score against a doormat Browns team.
Vernon Davis, TE – San Francisco (at Pittsburgh): The 49ers looked like an old-school smashmouth offense against the Vikings on Monday night. RB Carlos Hyde looked like a beast, and Colin Kaepernick looked pretty good as well. The Niners offense will not be flinging the ball around, but I do expect a lot of high-percentage passes, which should mean plenty of targets for the TEs. Davis is still a tremendous physical talent– he just needs to re-establish a good rapport with his quarterback. While Davis’ 3-47-0 was mediocre last week, I saw a little bit of rhythm start to re-emerge between Davis and Kaepernick. Against the Steelers, who apparently have removed covering the opposing TE as a defensive strategy, Davis becomes a sneaky good start this week.