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Published, 9/27/13

 

With Gronk returning soon, what’s the outlook for the Patriots’ offense?

Well, it’s certainly more positive than it’s been so far this season. Gronk may not be back this week, but we have advocated Brady as someone to go out and trade for, because it’s a perfect buy-low opportunity. Consider this: Brady didn’t play well himself last week, as he admitted in his post-game press conference after the win over the Bucs, but he still managed to complete 25/36 passes for 225 yards and 2 TDs. He should have had 3 TDs, but he missed an easy throw to Aaron Dobson and was later picked off on the same series. However, the performance was acceptable for fantasy, and Brady’s only going to get better as he gets more time with his young receivers. And then, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola will be back in time as well.

 

This is also a good time to discuss the Pats’ running game. The Patriots haven’t been able to consistently sustain a ground performance with any one back since Shane Vereen went down in Week One, but their backs had a strong showing against the Bucs’ great run defense last week, gaining 151 rushing yards on 28 carries, with 6/57 receiving. It was a very interesting distribution of snaps for the backs – Stevan Ridley played 26, Brandon Bolden played 25, and LeGarrette Blount played 23. While Bolden had the big day in the “Vereen role” and Blount was the “closer” with a big lead late, we’re still encouraged enough for Ridley. The Boston Globe noted that Ridley was phenomenal in pass pro last week, and the guess is that coach Bill Belichick was content with running Blount against his former team late because the game was out of reach. As disappointing as Ridley has been, we still love the way he plays and think he’ll ultimately be fine. He and Bolden have a lot more fantasy upside than Blount.

 

What’s the fantasy impact of Josh Freeman’s benching?

In terms of the Bucs’ passing game, it may not affect much. We can’t really argue with the move, because Freeman has been so awful, and Mike Glennon’s a great fit for what OC Mike Sullivan wants to do. However, Glennon’s raw, and we don’t know what his tendencies will be. Will he chuck it downfield no matter what? Or will he overreact to pressure and dump it off quite a bit? This move is potentially good news for the entire Buc offense, but we do want to see Glennon in action first. But here’s the positive for Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams (once they get healthy, of course): Freeman has completed 45.7% of his 94 pass attempts so far this year. It’s hard for Glennon to not be better than that… right? It’s also potential good news for Doug Martin’s PPR value, as Glennon did look a little skittish under pressure when in college at North Carolina State. Martin, who already figures to get a ton of carries, could get some cheap receiving yardage, to boot. Right now, he’s second to LeSean McCoy in rushing in the NFL, and there’s no reason to think his carry-heavy workload will change. Expect to see a lot of boxes stacked against Martin, but it’s not like he wasn’t seeing those already.

 

Is it time to stop panicking about the San Francisco offense?

We don’t think it was ever time to start, but Thursday night’s blowout of the Rams is a good indicator that selling away Colin Kaepernick and company after two bad weeks was not the way to go. The 49ers returned to their kind of game and ran the ball down the Rams’ throats, and Frank Gore is back to being the high-end #2 RB that he was being drafted as. The offensive line has cleaned up some of it’s early-season errors. And Kaepernick, despite a lack of weapons outside of Anquan Boldin (as Vernon Davis isn’t yet totally healthy), has now put up very good fantasy numbers in two of his four games. Do we think the Niners need more weapons on the perimeter? Sure. But the upside is and was way too good to give up on.

 

Is it time to go out and pick up Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree?

Harvin tweeted earlier in the month to “keep an eye” on a Week Seven return, but the Seahawks haven’t put a timetable on his return from preseason hip surgery. Week Seven is the earliest that Harvin can come of the PUP list. HC Pete Carroll updated Harvin’s status a little bit on Wednesday, as the team sent him back to New York to continue his rehab, so it doesn’t sound like his return is imminent. Meanwhile, it also doesn’t appear that Crabtree is anywhere close to returning. 49er OC Greg Roman said that Crabtree also doesn’t have a timetable for a return from his Achilles tendon surgery, and “that’d be gravy” if Crabtree plays this season. The earliest Crabtree could return is Week Eleven, but that also sounds like it might be a stretch. It looks like Harvin has the best chance of helping fantasy teams this season but a Week Seven return looks like it will be a bit of a stretch. It looks like a return around Thanksgiving is a more realistic timeframe for Harvin right now. Of course, we’ll stay on the lookout for any updates on both players’ rehab and any information about a possible return date. If you have a deep bench or an IR spot, it could certainly be worth stashing Harvin and Crabtree at this point because they could help your teams during the fantasy playoffs. However, just don’t expect them to return or make significant contributions, because for anything you get out of them, as Roman said, “that’d be gravy.”

 

What happened to the Ram offense that everyone was expecting to show up this year?

The Rams brought back the “Greatest Show on Turf” team to be honored on Thursday night, but OC Brian Schottenheimer and QB Sam Bradford trotted out “A Very Terrible Show on Turf” against the 49ers. The Ram offense started out just fine, but the offense gradually deteriorated after Bradford missed an easy corner-pattern throw to a wide-open Austin Pettis for a touchdown in the first quarter. The ineptitude of the Ram offense culminated in a series of QB kneels at the end of the game while trailing by more than three touchdowns. Bradford ended up completing just 46% of his (19/41), taking five sacks, and losing two turnovers. We can’t pin all the blame on Bradford, as starting RB Daryl Richardson struggled running between the tackles and was overpowered by LB NaVorro Bowman several times in pass protection. Richardson and Benny Cunningham combined for 22 yards, and we still have no clue why Isaiah Pead was inactive after being healthy all week. This offensive line also hasn’t improved much even with the Jake Long signing, evidenced by the sacks and lack of running room. The Rams went out and spent a lot of money on TE Jared Cook and moved up into the top 10 of the draft to pick WR Tavon Austin. Schottenheimer has yet to creatively use the multi-dimensional Austin this season, and he finally got Cook a little bit more involved last night after a huge Week One. However, Schottenheimer has got Austin Pettis very involved, so the Rams have that going for them, I guess. Bradford certainly hasn’t looked like a former #1 pick or a franchise quarterback, and Bradford and the entire Ram offense was best summed up in this GIF of Bradford looking like a kindergartner studying advanced trigonometry. This was supposed to be the breakout year for Bradford and this Ram offense, but it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen right now.

 

Can Joique Bell be a reliable fantasy option even if Reggie Bush is healthy?

We try not to put too much stock into positive off-season stories about strong workouts and commitment to improving. After all, players get paid to be at their best, which certainly includes the off-season. However, it was hard not to ignore seemingly everyone in the Lion organization talking up Bell coming into this season and while we definitely liked him as a sleeper, we didn’t expect him to be so productive right away. Some may be wondering how to treat him going forward. Sure, he was good last week against a very beatable Redskin defense with Bush out, but we think there’s more to come. Before last week, RB Mikel Leshoure was a healthy scratch in the first two games, so any chance of him being the goal-line and short-yardage back went out the window. That’s a role we expect Bell to play no matter what going forward. In an offense that looks like they’ll be in a position to score a lot of points, that’s clearly a boost to Bell’s value. If we take out his Week Three performance (20/63/1 on the ground, 4/69, 5 target), Bell still has 13/56/2 on the ground and 10/108 on 14 targets. In addition to the short-yardage/goal-line role, Bell is definitely in the mix as a receiver and with WR Nate Burleson out indefinitely after breaking his arm, Bell’s role in the passing game has probably been even more solidified. So what we have is a versatile player who can contribute as a receiver and as a runner who should get plenty of chances to score. That sounds like someone who’s pretty hard to leave on the bench, so even if Bush is healthy, Bell looks like he’ll be worth playing going forward.

 

Is Danny Woodhead the best fantasy back in San Diego? Have things really gotten that bad for Ryan Mathews?

Quick! Which Chargers is 21st among all RBs with 33.6 FP through three games? No, it’s not Ronnie Brown. The answer is Danny Woodhead, and he’s outscored Ryan Mathews 33.6-27.9 in PPR formats this season. This isn’t exactly a surprising development, as all indications were in the preseason that the Chargers would be a RBBC. Woodhead has just 14 carries for 58 yards (4.1 YPC) compared to 45/164 (3.6) for Mathews. So, while Mathews is getting more carries, he’s not doing much with them, as we’ve seen the vision that’s helped him so much in the past go to waste, as he’s been running his head down a lot just trying to get whatever yards he can. Mathews has shown to be a solid receiver in the past, but he’s not even getting those chances this season. He’s caught all 3 of his targets for 25 yards and has scored, but that pales in comparison to the 17/108 Woodhead has racked up on 20 targets. In this quick passing offense, Woodhead should continue to have an important and active role as a receiver. The bottom line is that Woodhead is being used in a variety of ways, whether it be in the slot or out of the backfield and the team seems to trust him more, especially on third down. Mathews might have more talent, but Woodhead is getting more opportunities and has looked like the better player so far. Perhaps the most telling stat is the snap count over the last two games, as Woodhead has played 68 snaps compared to 46 for Mathews. If you haven’t already, it’s time to adjust expectations for this backfield, especially since Woodhead could prove to be a very good safety valve for QB Philip Rivers if the pass protection becomes an issue.

 

 

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