Week 10 Recap: Pumpkin Head
Minutes of exhaustive research revealed to me that Andy Dalton has the highest fantasy points versus real world talent ratio in the NFL. In my opinion, a distinction so dubious deserves a high honor, so I invented one. From now until the end of time, the player who outperforms his real world talent the most in the realm of fantasy will be crowned Pumpkin Head for an entire week. (The name of this award has nothing to do with the color of Dalton’s hair. Honest.) At the end of each recap I will name the weekly winner. But before we get to that, let’s cover the happenings of Week 10.
Vikings 34, Redskins 27
While this turned out to be a much better game than anybody had imagined, we didn’t learn a ton on the fantasy front. Aside from John Carlson, who I will address below, things pretty much went according to the way fantasy owners had planned it.
Buy: Robert Griffin III had a second consecutive good game, marking his third in the last four weeks. He seems very ready to be a plug-and-play quarterback with top-five upside.
Sell: John Carlson as anything more than a desperation streaming tight end. He had some decent seasons in Seattle, but that was four years ago. The Vikings just don’t use their tight end enough to make him a viable weekly play.
Hold: Christian Ponder? Yes, Christian Ponder. He has averaged nearly 17.5 fantasy points per game in his last four starts. A lot of this is due to rushing for an unsustainable four touchdowns, but he has also looked surprisingly not-worst-quarterback-in-the-NFLish. Minnesota has a bad matchup in Seattle next week, but follow it up with games against the Packers and Bears. With six teams total on bye in Weeks 12 and 13, he could end up a reasonable deep league streaming option. (If this isn’t history’s most lukewarm endorsement of a player, I don’t know what is.)
Seahawks 33, Falcons 10
A lot of folks were worried about the Seahawks after some less than dominating performances over the last several weeks. Most alarming was the ease with which the Rams and Buccaneers ran the ball on the vaunted Seattle defense. But as the new saying goes, there is nothing like a matchup with the Falcons to cure all that ails you.
Atlanta is on one of the most disappointing runs in recent memory for a team considered not just a playoff contender, but that was among the preseason favorites to go to the Superbowl (at 12/1, Vegas pegged them with the fifth-best odds in the league). The misery was especially pointed for fantasy owners this week, as the Dirty Birds produced literally zero fantasy worthy plays.
The good news for Atlanta is that Roddy White made his return. He wasn’t exactly productive, but appeared healthy and ready to go. He has Revis Island to look forward to next week, but things get a bit easier thereafter.
And now the bad news: Tony Gonzalez played the game out with a hurt toe. As of this writing there isn’t much news on the injury, but the ageless wonder was quoted as saying they will need to run some tests. Toe injuries have derailed many a season, and as good and Gonzo still is, near-40-year-old players don’t heal as fast as the youngsters.
Buy: Russell Wilson as a QB1 from here on out.
Sell: If you haven’t done it yet, now is the time to bail on Steven Jackson. Between his age, health, and the Falcons’ offensive line, it isn’t going to happen this year (and probably not ever). I am not saying you have to drop him, but you shouldn’t be starting Jackson in any 10- or 12-team league.
Bonus Sell: Even with Roddy White back, Matt Ryan is no longer a top-10 option. While his metrics look solid (he is eighth in the NFL in Net Expected Points (NEP) per attempt), the offensive line, run game, and depleted receiving corps have conspired against him. Unable to carry the team on his back, Ryan is nothing more than a QB2.
Hold: Over the last six games Golden Tate has fielded 42 targets, 28 receptions, 399 yards, and four touchdowns, averaging 10.7 fantasy points per contest. That is low-end WR2 production. But Percy Harvin will supposedly return for Week 11, so I would suggest being careful with how highly you project Tate going forward.
Bonus Hold: Harry Douglas led the team in targets with eight and will be the beneficiary of Darrell Revis shadowing Roddy White this coming week. For perhaps this one last game, Douglas has WR3 appeal in PPR leagues.
Lions 21, Bears 19
Aside from Jay Cutler spraining his ankle and apparently reinjuring his groin, nothing too exciting fantasy-wise happened in this game. Hopefully Cutler owners hung on to Josh McCown, especially considering he came in late in the fourth quarter, leading the Bears to a touchdown. If not, keep a close eye on practice reports this week.
Buy: Both offenses, regardless of opponent, and, in the case of the Bears, starting quarterback.
Sell: Martellus Bennett as the breakout candidate some thought he would be. It isn’t that Bennett isn’t playing well, it is that Alshon Jeffery has stepped up to be a top-20 wide receiver. There simply are not enough targets to go around. Bennett is nothing more than a high-floor, low-end TE1.
Hold: Joique Bell has been mostly quiet lately. Despite that, he is perhaps the most valuable handcuff in the NFL. It doesn’t hurt that you can play him at flex in a pinch.
Eagles 27, Packers 13
Before you get too excited about Nick Foles’ stat line, go watch the highlights of the two long touchdowns to DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper; both were badly under thrown and into double coverage. Regardless of the fact that the Jackson touchdown should have been intercepted, this sort of big play potential is part of what makes Foles very appealing down the stretch (a super soft schedule doesn’t hurt either). That said, it is hard to get too comfortable with a guy who was inches away from having a pretty poor day.
With Aaron Rodgers already on the sideline, the last thing Green Bay needed was an injury to Seneca Wallace. At least, that's what we thought. It turns out that Scott Tolzien may not be much of a downgrade and could, perhaps, be a better option than the hapless veteran backup, Wallace. At the very least, Tolzien seemed willing to sling it when necessary, which should bode well for those who rely on various Packers’ skill players. With a week of taking first team reps, hopefully Tolzien holds his own in the absence of Rodgers.
Buy: Riley Cooper and Nick Foles have a connection that is getting really hard to ignore. Cooper is up to six touchdowns on 20 receptions in the last five games and has the eighth-highest NEP/target in the NFL among the 71 receivers with 40 or more targets. I have a hard time calling Cooper anything more than a high-risk, high-reward, low-end WR3, but this is the time of year to gamble. If you've got a team that is up against it and need to put up a big number, Cooper has Washington next week in a game where Philly will need to score a bunch to win.
Sell: The idea there is a direct replacement for Jermichael Finley in Green Bay. Andrew Quarless is not the answer and Brandon Bostick doesn’t play enough snaps to matter. This is shaking out to be a situation to avoid.
Hold: Eddie Lacy had a disappointing performance considering the matchup, but the Eagles defense was committed to stopping the run against an Aaron Rodgers-less offense. If you own Lacy, I certainly wouldn’t be losing much sleep moving forward.
Jaguars 29, Titans 27
There isn’t much to love on either of these teams, so I will do a special, comprehensive Buy/Sell/Hold that touches on every fantasy-worthy player for each squad. Well, OK, it is more of a Sell/Hold/Hold/Hold/Hold/Sell. If you don’t see somebody listed here, they are not worth a roster spot in a standard 10-team league (Shonn Greene is the only unmentioned guy worth rostering in a 12 teamer).
Sell: I feel like I am on an island with this one, but I am still selling Chris Johnson. If you want to read a full length reason why, check out what I wrote a few weeks back. But to add to it, I want to talk about his schedule for a moment. The main reason folks are touting him in the second half is due to this perception of a pillowy soft slate of opponents. That assertion is simply not true. Indianapolis, who they face twice, allows the third-fewest points to running backs. Oakland ranks 15th and the Cardinals fifth. With Johnson laying an egg against the Jags brutally bad run D, it is hard for me to get excited about him in a string of more difficult matchups.
Hold: Maurice Jones-Drew. Despite a pretty embarrassing two yards per carry on Sunday, MJD showed he still has a little wiggle left in his game on a six-yard touchdown scamper. He may not put 20 points on the board anytime soon (or ever again), but he is involved enough in the passing game to get 15 or more touches a week, which makes him a low-end RB2/flex play.
Hold: Cecil Shorts. He has gone more than a month without topping eight points. And now with Justin Blackmon missing, Shorts will have to deal with Patrick Peterson, Joe Haden, and the super stingy Houston pass D (twice) the next four games. It will be hard for him to be anything more than a low end WR3 over that stretch.
Hold: Mike Brown is in line to see some nice run through the end of the season. It's improbable that Jacksonville finds themselves up big in another game, so the Jags will end up needing to throw more often than not. With Blackmon out for the year, somebody other than Shorts has to catch those passes. Brown will get the first shot to be that guy and could end up with WR4 value.
Hold: Kendall Wright is reeling in balls like a WR2. The problem is that none of them are of the touchdown variety, making him a WR3. There are worse weekly starts, but it seems unlikely he will breakout in this offense.
Sell: The fact I felt it necessary to give this game 445 words. What is wrong with me?
Rams 38, Colts 8
Which is worse: The Colts offensive line, Pep Hamilton’s play calling, the Bubonic Plague, or going to your wife’s cousin’s baby shower?
Tavon Austin has finally arrived! And will now promptly lay an egg the rest of the season. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is highly unlikely the rookie first-round pick will score 25 fantasy points on two touches again anytime soon. Considering his targets (2.8 per game over the last five contests) and quarterback, I find it hard to believe this is anything more than a great game by a player with great potential in the middle of a not so great rookie season.
Buy: T.Y. Hilton as a borderline WR1 for the rest of the season (ROS).
Sell: Trent Richardson. I am very bullish in keeper/dynasty leagues, but as long as the Colts can’t figure out what to do with him, and as long as he looks tentative before contact (which seems so backwards to me, but I digress), there is no chance he should be in your lineup in 2013. I can’t see starting him in any 10- or 12-team league unless you are desperate.
Hold: Zac Stacy had an average game (bad for him) against a very underrated run defense. He is still a high-end RB2.
Giants 24, Raiders 20
The Giants have a running game, and thy name is Andre Brown. The long awaited return was no disappointment, as Brown posted 119 yards on 31 touches with a touchdown to boot. He may not be flashy, but good things happen almost every time he touches the ball. A NEP darling, we like Brown as an RB2 ROS.
Buy: I love Andre Brown in the same way dogs love butts (except without all the sniffing).
Sell: The Giant’s passing game. Aside of the aforementioned Brown, Victor Cruz is the only guy worth starting in New York (and his stock is falling). You should be doing everything in your power to avoid the rest of the receiving corps.
Hold: Terrelle Pryor and Denarius Moore. Pryor is hurt and has not thrown it well in a month. Even with the injury affecting their current standing, these are guys you can stash on your bench while you wait for Pryor’s knee to come around. If and when that happens, your squad could get a very nice late season boost.
Steelers 23, Bills 10
If you are a fan of either of these teams, I want you to know that I feel for you. Not enough to talk at length about this game, mind you, but you do have my sympathies.
Buy: Le’Veon Bell. His yards per carry may not sparkle, but he has 97 touches in six games, an average of over 16 per game. Mix in four touchdowns and an offense that needs to run the ball to take pressure off the quarterback and you have yourself an ascending and reliable RB2.
Sell: Jerricho Cotchery. If you're a numberFire reader, I assume you know better. But if not, this is your friendly reminder to leave him out of your lineup.
Hold: Last week C.J. Spiller aggravated owners by having a huge game on their bench. This week he infuriated owners by scoring four points in their lineup. Do I believe he is as healthy as coach Doug Marrone says? No, I do not. Do I believe he will have more games like this? Yes, I do. Do I believe he will also have several 20-plus point games? Yup. So what should you do? Wait until after the bye (I’m not starting him against the Jets next week), then stick Spiller in your lineup and close your eyes. Pretty great advice, huh?
Ravens 20, Bengals 17
Before the game-tying 51-yard Hail Mary, nearly the entire Bengals offense was set to disappoint. That fortuitous catch by A.J. Green changed the fortunes of many this Sunday, leading to more than one “You have to be kidding me” tweets, texts, and drunken utterances at your local sports bar. Here is to hoping you were on the good side of this one.
The Ravens’ offense stinks worse than Tony Siragusa two hours after eating a breakfast burrito.
Buy: Giovani Bernard as a top-12 running back in PPR leagues, and a top-20 back in standard scoring ones. He is eighth in NEP/attempt and ninth in NEP/target among the 41 qualifying running backs. This kid is special and is showing it week in and week out.
Sell: I am going to sound a bit like a broken record to loyal recap readers, but Ray Rice is not going to help your fantasy team this season. He looks terrible, is getting no help from his line, and has to deal with a badly struggling quarterback. I know the algorithms are still hopeful for Rice (which could change after this week), but looking at his metrics (he is 42nd out of 45 in NEP/attempt) and watching him on film makes it clear to me that he isn’t even a flex consideration in 10- or 12-team leagues.
Hold: Bengals’ offense. At this point, it is what it is. Andy Dalton is never going to be the answer, but usually does just enough to keep A.J. Green elite and a few others interesting. With a better passer, this team could be a bounty of fantasy goodness.
Panthers 10, 49ers 9
An interesting game to watch, this was as uninteresting of a fantasy game as you will ever find. But being the analyst that I am, I will give it a go.
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Oh, sorry, I fell asleep on my keyboard.
Buy: One of those old school Mattel handheld electronic football games. Odds are it will be more fantasy relevant than this game.
Hold: Both quarterbacks. This was an extremely physical game with two great defenses. Write off the stat lines and move on.
Cardinals 27, Texans 24
Case Keenum is a great story. So is The Little Mermaid, and she isn’t a great fantasy player either. I am well aware of how good his numbers have been, but in fantasy we deal in what is most likely to happen. So, is it more likely that Keenum flames out or that he becomes the first quarterback in memory to go from undrafted practice squad player to fantasy relevant? I think we know the answer.
At this point I don’t think there is any question that Rashard Mendenhall has nude photos of coach Bruce Arians. But considering that Mendenhall is still getting 15 touches per game, I am left to wonder what sort of act he caught Arians doing in said pictures.
Buy: As much as I am not in Camp Keenum, Andre Johnson has benefitted hugely from the gunslinging, second-year quarterback. He is a high-end WR1 ROS.
Sell: Case Keenum as a full-blown fantasy starter. Maybe this is more obvious to people than I think, but when I Googled his name, one of the top results was an article on a major site that states Keenum is becoming a legitimate QB1. To be fair, his upcoming schedule is favorable.
Hold: Andre Ellington touched the ball only 13 times. He is a somewhat dicey flex play as his usage seems to be a bit up in the air, but has the ability to have huge games even with the limited use. Don’t get discouraged; he may end up getting more and more action as the season wears on.
Broncos 28, Chargers 20
The next time somebody blames poor quarterback play on a lack of weapons, tell them to look at Philip Rivers. He is having an outstanding year (both in real life and pretend pigskin) despite having an aged tight end, a rookie number one receiver, a sub-par ground game and a patchwork (which is putting it generously) offensive line. No quarterback in the NFL has done more with less; the anti-Dalton, if you will. To me, Rivers is the runner up in the AFC offensive player of the year race.
Buy: All the usual suspects on both offenses. There is a lot to like.
Hold: Keenan Allen had his worst game since Week 3. Don’t let it affect your opinion of the stud rookie. He is a top-15 play ROS.
Saints 49, Cowboys 17
With Dallas, there really isn’t much to say. This was a lost game for them that doesn’t really have much in the way of impact on their fantasy projections. Don’t overreact to one outing against a team that played out of their minds at home coming off an embarrassing loss. These things happen.
Just as it is hard to look too much into this game for the Cowboys, the Saints were so dominant it is difficult to glean much from their individual performances. I’ll do my best to hit the high points.
Mark Ingram destroyed the Cowboys defense. Of course, they were without two of their three starting linebackers and DeMarcus Ware was limping all over the field. I should also point out that Dallas has been gouged by opposing running backs all year. All of that said, Ingram looked great. He was quick, decisive, powerful, and ran with emotion. Ingram should be added in all leagues, but as we all know, New Orleans spreads the ball around to the point of annoyance. The biggest impact Ingram’s game is likely to have is a negative one on poor Pierre Thomas.
Marques Colston picked up the slack for a limited Jimmy Graham by posting the type of game we have been waiting seemingly forever for. As with Ingram/Thomas, it is nearly impossible to predict when or if this will happen again, but if you are a Colston owner this should give you reason to keep running him out there as a WR3 with WR1 upside.
Buy: Darren Sproles hasn’t been a big part of the Saints game plan for several weeks now. That appeared to change as he touched the ball more times than in any contest since Week 2. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the Saints found such great success after getting him more involved.
Sell: Any notion that Dallas won’t bounce back against the Giants in Week 12 following their bye.
Hold: Kenny Stills should be owned in all leagues, but only started if you feel the need to gamble. He doesn’t see enough targets to be reliable in any way, but there are worse upside plays out there. I would, for example, rather take a shot with Stills than play Anquan Boldin.
It was a very close race with Riley Cooper and John Carlson both getting votes, but the very first Pumpkin Head is none other than Mark Ingram. Anytime a player can score nearly four times more points than his career average, he deserves some sort of award. I’m glad I could oblige.