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The New Truths

There are two types of owners – those that live in the past and those who adapt to an ever-changing fantasy football landscape. The second, more prepared owner will always have an edge as he understands ‘The New Truths’ every season brings. Here’s a list of some of ‘The New Truths’ that the 2010 fantasy football season has brought us.

Jay Cutler is a Top 5 Fantasy Quarterback

Cutler was one of the biggest villains of last season because he threw 26 interceptions and had several games where he had five interceptions. Because of this, fantasy owners are still harboring a grudge against him. Grudge or no grudge, it doesn’t change the fact that Cutler has outplayed Tom Brady, Tony Romo and Matt Schaub. And even more impressive is the fact that Cutler’s stats have been nearly identical to Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.

And it’s not like Cutler’s schedule has been a cakewalk. He’s played the tough defenses of the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers and still has thrown for nearly 900 yards and six touchdowns. The marriage between Cutler and Mike Martz has been a success and Cutler’s only thrown two interceptions, though he came close to having a lot more in the Green Bay game.

Now is the perfect and, perhaps only, time to trade for Cutler. Coming off an underwhelming performance against the Packers on national television last Monday night, this is the best price owners are going to get for Cutler. Going forward, the Bears won’t be playing a good defense for a long time, playing the likes of the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills to name a few.

Many owners won’t be able to shake the memories of the 26 interceptions Cutler threw last year but it’s a new year with new truths and one of the biggest ones is that Cutler is on his way to a great season. For owners who have already been burned by busts like Kevin Kolb and Brett Favre, Cutler will be the salvation for desperate owners in search of a new quarterback.

The Kansas City Defense Has Become a Terrible Matchup for Running Backs

It used to be that when owners saw that their running backs were playing Kansas City’s defense, a huge score was almost guaranteed, no matter how good or bad their running back’s season was going. Unfortunately, things have changed dramatically and the Chiefs are ranked sixth in the league in run defense, giving up a paltry 75 yards a game rushing.

The Chiefs held the overrated ‘Chosen One’ Ryan Mathews to only 78 yards rushing, no touchdowns and a fumble. After upsetting the Chargers, the Chiefs then bottled up waiver wire wonder Peyton Hillis to only 35 yards rushing and one touchdown. Hillis was able to run wild all over the Baltimore Ravens last week … but somehow not the Chiefs defense. Finally, even though Frank Gore had over 100 receiving yards against the Chiefs last weekend, he was only able to get 43 rushing yards and zero touchdowns.

Over the course of three games, the Chiefs’ run defense has allowed a stingy 156 yards from lead running backs and only one touchdown. Those are some pretty astonishing numbers. We’re talking about a turnaround of epic proportions here. Owners need to keep this in mind when they’re setting their weekly lineups and when their making trades for running backs, looking at the schedule and incorrectly thinking that a Kansas City matchup is going to be a fantasy bonanza. It may have been a bonanza last year but things have changed for now. Only time will tell if the Chiefs’ run defense can sustain their underrated and overlooked momentum.

Hell has Frozen Over, Money is Growing on Trees, Cows are Flying … and somehow the Raiders have become a Fantasy Goldmine

No other team in the NFL is more of a poster boy for ‘The New Truths’ than the Oakland Raiders. For years, owners have viewed the Raiders as a fantasy wasteland. The vast majority of owners have a deeply rooted bias against Raiders’ fantasy players, which has been building for many years. Admittedly, it’s understandable that owners would have a tough time outgrowing this way of thinking.

For those courageous owners who are willing to break with the old fantasy orthodox though, there is a treasure trove of fantasy goodness waiting for owners who look for Raiders in trades and on the waiver wire.

Let’s start at the top and look at Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who has an unbelievably sexy matchup with the Houston Texans this Sunday. The Texans have the worst pass defense in the NFL, giving up an unbelievable average of 368 yards a game. I don’t know if there’s a better sleeper or bye week replacement out there that’s better than Gradkowski, who looked more than serviceable while passing for 255 yards and a score last weekend.

Keep in mind that Houston’s ‘poopy’ secondary has allowed more than 400 yards passing in two of the three games they played. Am I saying that Gradkowski’s going to pass for more than 400 yards? Probably not, but the fact that he’s still available on most waiver wires speaks to how little faith owners have in the Raiders.

We’re talking about a Raiders team ranked 10th in overall offense and fourth in rushing. Now that I’ve brought up the Raiders rushing attack, let’s talk about Darren McFadden, the second-most surprising running back of the season to Arian Foster.

McFadden currently ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards. He’s somehow ran for more yards than three out of the four top running backs drafted with the exception being Adrian Peterson. Yes, believe it or not, McFadden has ran for more yards than Chris Johnson, and both Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice aren’t even close to him.

The fact is that the vast majority of owners didn’t draft McFadden as a starting running back. We’re talking about a guy, who was drafted around the 10th round. That means that odds are he’s sitting on a lot of teams’ benches as owners are leery of taking a chance and starting him. Similar to Cutler, now is the time for owners to make a trade for McFadden.

After the Houston shootout, the values of Raiders players are going to skyrocket and you won’t be getting a deal anymore for McFadden from scared owners, still thinking about McFadden’s past disappointments and not his current triumphs. McFadden and Gradkowski aren’t the only Raiders to target though as both their receivers have shown a lot of promise, especially waiver wire wonder and early candidate for the “Out of Nowhere Steve Smith Award” Louis Murphy.

In the last two games, Murphy has more than 200 receiving yards and a touchdown. It’s no coincidence that Murphy’s numbers have gone dramatically up since Gradkowski took over; both of them played well together last year. Similar to McFadden’s situation, Murphy’s value will take a huge bump upwards after the Houston game because he’ll have played three great games in a row. Murphy has the upside to be a No. 2 Receiver going forward and maybe more.

If owners don’t pounce on these underrated Raider players now, they might not have a chance to for the rest of the season. The price will be too high. Make the trade now or regret it later.

Fantasy Bonanzas for Teams Playing these Formerly Elite Defenses

While the Chiefs have tightened up their defense, several other teams that have had great defenses in the past have fallen on hard times, much to the delight of fantasy owners everywhere. The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts are both prime examples of defenses that were once elite but now are ranked in the bottom half of the league.

The Patriots gave an early preview of how putrid their passing defense was going to be when they got manhandled by rookie Sam Bradford and the lowly Rams in the preseason. Since then they have become one of the worst secondaries in the league, ranked 25th and giving up more than 260 passing yards a game. We’re talking about a secondary that was ranked 12th in 2009 and was nearly in the top 10 in 2008 when they were ranked 11th. If you see the Patriots on your schedule, don’t get scared, this isn’t 2009. It’s 2010 and a lot has changed.

Speaking of ‘poopy’ defenses, the Colts are almost as bad as the Patriots. Part of this is because Peyton Manning and the Colts offense has been as efficient as ever, forcing teams to pass nonstop and quickly abandon the run. Similar to the Patriots, this is a defense that a couple years ago was ranked sixth in passing defense. The Colts’ defense was so good that it played a key role in the Colts’ Super Bowl season, the one crucial component missing from past Colts teams.

Now the Colts are ranked 20th in league, allowing more thna  235 passing yards a game. They just got torched by Kyle Orton for nearly 500 passing yards and if you think their pass defense is bad, their run defense is even worse, ranked 28th in the league. The biggest fantasy moment of the season thus far has been Arian Foster’s 200-yard thrashing of the Colts’ run defense.

When owners are making trades and trying to decide what kind of matchups their players will have down the road, these are the kind of defenses they should be looking for. Players like Cutler, ‘Mr. Buy Low’ Jones-Drew and the rejuvenated Raiders all play these teams in the fantasy playoffs (Week 14-16) and this only makes their value as trade bait even better.

Conclusion

Fantasy football is a fast-moving sport where expectations and results change on a weekly basis. Owners have the opportunity to take advantage of the new unheralded stars over owners, who are still basing their decisions on last year’s results. Owners who face the future will find themselves in the playoffs and striving for a title.

Good Hunting!

Ed Bonfanti

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