continued from... What I Think I Think - AFC
New York Giants
Issues along the offensive line and a dead last finish in rushing in 2011 have me concerned about whoever is getting carries in that backfield. (Even with Andre Brown's monster performance Thursday. Sell now!) This just makes it easier to justify 40-plus tosses for Eli Manning on a weekly basis which is their best approach anyway. Eli and Victor Cruz (in PPR) are top-7 at their respective positions. Hakeem Nicks' larger frame pounding on a bad foot that isn't getting better this year really worries me. I'd sell high. Martellus Bennett looks great, he's usable, and the Giants D is one of the biggest conundrums of the early season. I think they get better, but who knows with that leaky secondary.
Their Jekyll and Hyde first two weeks leads me to think their a home-strong team. Despite the lingering frustration of his hamstring issues, Miles Austin is the only pass-catcher I trust in Big D. I'm selling Bryant, Witten, and Ogletree if I can. Especially if they have good games Sunday which I anticipate. Seattle has a great run D and the best home-field advantage in the league, so I'm not over-reacting to DeMarco Murray's poor performance last week. He's the key to their success.
Let's just get it out of the way, RGIII is for real. His two rushing TDs at St. Louis was a performance I was hesitant to predict. His upside is boundless. But, I'm selling high and I'll tell you why. It has nothing to do with an anticipated regression of production. (Cover your eyes RGIII owners, in fact, just skip to the next paragraph) He reminds me of Michael Vick. A lot. He takes a multitude of hits each week, and just plays kind of reckless. He does a lot of diving for yardage, and tumbling through the traffic on the sidelines. I don't think he plays 16 games. Alfred Morris looks great and I think it's his job as long as he's healthy. He has showed nice patience, and the ability to find the hole and get through it. Fred Davis is useless, the defense too, and I love Pierre Garcon as a player, but he's already hurt and my concerns about Griffin filter over here. I'm selling after his next big game.
Vick (see RGIII above). The turnovers are troublesome on top of it. His numbers look okay so far, and the team is 2-0, but his play has been bordering on terrible. Sell now. This is about to turn. That said, I still loveLeSean McCoy and if I can get him for any sort of discount (Reggie Bush and Roddy White??), I'm pulling the trigger faster than I could unsnap a bra by my sophomore year of college. The receivers here are frustrating with their fragility, but I think DeSean Jackson is on his way to a great season. I'm cooler on Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. Love the D.
Green Bay Packers
I tweeted this last week, but I'll repeat it here. I would bet a billion dollars Aaron Rodgers is not the top fantasy QB this season. After his slow start this probably isn't a unique position, but still, I'm worried. He isn't comfortable behind that offensive line, and the unit hasn't been "right" since left tackle Chad Clifton was off the job of protecting the blind side. Rodgers missed a ton of open receivers last Thursday. Cedric Benson looks significantly better than I anticipated, but he won't score much. This team gets too many long touchdowns. I still have hope for Jordy Nelson, and I think he gets going this Monday. I'm worried about Greg Jennings health, Randall Cobb will be up-and-down, and same goes for Jermichael Finley. This defense may be back though. The pass rush, and coverage looks reminiscent of the Super Bowl team through two weeks.
Calvin Johnson has already dealt with a foot injury, and now has an ankle issue. Like all his predecessors, he'll eventually succumb to the Madden Curse. Until then, he'll be great, but I would sell-high after he scores twice this weekend. Matthew Stafford is off to a so-so start, and I think he'll end up with a so-so year. Their schedule is the big reason. After cushy dates with the Titans and Vikings at home, the Lions will face; the Eagles, Bears (twice), Seahawks, Packers (twice), Texans, Cardinals, and Falcons. That's a "who's who" of the NFC so far this season. My buddy Jay concocted a plan, which I stole, to grab and stash Jahvid Best. He fits this offense very well should he get cleared to return in Week 7. I don't like anyone else on this squad, besides their kicker, Jason Hanson, and Drops McGillah, aka Brandon Pettigrew, to an extent.
Another one of my tweets last week addressed Jay Cutler, and I can't believe it took me this long to notice it. Watching that Packers game I realized he never, ever, audibles. What defines great quarterbacks these days? Isn't it the ability to manipulate the defense and the matchups? Peyton Manning did this for years, Eli does it now, Brady, Rodgers, even Matt Ryan is constantly making adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Cutler just runs the play. I don't think; A.) he's football smart, or, B.) he puts in the time in the film room. The Bears will struggle against talented defenses and creative defensive coordinators. Cutler and Brandon Marshall will pad their numbers when they play the bottom-half teams, but I'd sit both when they play; the Cowboys, Texans, 49ers, Seahawks, Packers, and Cardinals. Matt Forte is a stud, and a buy-low candidate right now. Michael Bush is a solid flex all year. The defense/sp. teams unit is solid. Alshon Jeffery has a lot to learn still.
The excitement over the "return" of Adrian Peterson got too hot, too fast. The touchdowns he scored in Week 1 overshadowed his part-time workload. When this team is 3-7 coming out of their bye, he'll be put on a "pitch count" as they look ahead to 2013. Beyond his health issues, from Week 12-16 Minnesota plays; at Chicago, at Green Bay, home vs. Chicago, at St. Louis, at Houston. That's rough. I really like Percy Harvin, but he's not a red zone guy and his ceiling is limited in standard formats. The lack of big weapons (outside of Kyle Rudolph) also hurts Christian Ponder's upside in fantasy.
We'll know more about this team if they can win at San Diego on Sunday. I think they're a top-4 team in the NFL this season. Matt Ryan has weapons galore, Michael Turner is a shell of his old self, and this offense should score as many points and produce as many solid fantasy starters as any in the league. Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and Ryan are all no-brainer starts. If Turner keeps regressing I could envision Jason Snelling getting some significant run this season. He's an interesting grab and stash if you have a very large bench, or at least a waiver guy to keep an eye on. The DUI Turner was charged with a week ago won't help his standing with the organization either.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs passing attack has a long way to go. As does Josh Freeman. They put up nice numbers at the Giants last week, and I could see them doing that on occasion with favorable matchups. In general, however, this is a run-based attack. Their offensive line has been underperforming, but I expect them to improve throughout the year, and Doug Martin continues to be a personal favorite of mine. He just runs so hard, and showed some wiggle on his spin-move TD last week. After Sunday's game at Dallas, there isn't a matchup I'd consider benching him until Week 10 when Tampa hosts the Chargers. If he disappoints in Big D, buy low.
New Orleans Saints
For those who were wondering if Sean Payton's absence was going to affect this team, it only took two weeks to get your answer. The Saints are going to lose more games than they are accustomed to in the Drew Brees era. Their schedule looks tough. Luckily, being behind isn't necessarily a bad thing for fantasy purposes. For this reason, I anticipate Brees to end the season with 20-plus interceptions, but also lead the lead in fantasy points at the position. Jimmy Graham will come close to repeating his off-the-charts 2011, and I like Darren Sproles to get more involved as the interim coaches get more experience calling games. Marques Colston's injury issues concern me, but you can't get equal value now. You'll just have to wait that one out.
Cam Newton has a little Cutler in him. I noticed this watching the game against the Giants on Thursday. He never checks out of his play. Those playaction throws off the spread option Carolina kept running over and over again were costing him valuable seconds of protection against an incredibly fast an athletic rush, and getting him killed, over and over again. But he just kept running it. Good quarterbacks would have audibled to quick slants, or bubble screens, or the like. He has some serious learning and growth to do. He'll still score 10-plus rushing TDs, but 4,000 yards and over 20 passing TDs might be a stetch this year. Brandon LaFell looks better, but Steve Smith is the only comfortable start outside of Cam.
San Francisco 49ers
Without a doubt, the best team in the league at this moment. Their defense is suffocating, and their power running game is rivaled only by the Texans. From a fantasy perspective, however, there's nothing too exciting going on here. Vernon Davis is on pace for a solid year. Alex Smith has developed into a fine bye-week replacement. Michael Crabtree could even be useful in PPR formats. The most appealing player, though, presents an interesting case. Frank Gore, is playing phenomenal ball. But I think the organization will want to rest him in the second half of the regular season in preparation for a Super Bowl run. Their games in January and February are going to be much more important than the ones they play in late November and December when they've already clinched a spot in the tourney. I would sell Gore right around Week 7.
The defense/sp. teams unit is the only thing getting me excited fantasy-wise in the desert. They are vastly underrated (though gaining respect each week), and owning them gets you the employ of Patrick Peterson. Honestly, if I was a part of the Cardinals coaching staff, I'd be spending long hours trying to work him into the offensive game plan. He had one carry for 17 yards out of the Wild Cat formation at New England last week, while the team's two "top" running backs have averaged 2.1 yards-per-carry through two outings. This team is starved for weapons. Larry Fitzgerald is off to a slow start, but he's too talented to hold down much longer. Look for a big game this Sunday, even against the Eagles very good secondary.
I made the mistake of getting emotionally connected to Russell Wilson this preseason. The rushing yards and overall competence clouded my reason. He'll be a very solid professional quarterback, but his opportunities to score fantasy points will be few in 2012. This is a running team. And Marshawn Lynch, should he be able to stay on the field, looks primed for another top-10 season. Sidney Rice should get better as the year progresses, but much like Wilson, his ceiling is capped by the offensive approach. Not much else here. Moving on.
St. Louis Rams
Danny Amendola set the PPR world on fire in Week 2. He placed himself among the weekly scoring leaders in one half. The chemistry he displayed with Sam Bradford during the quarterback's rookie season seems to be right back in place. I like him in all formats moving forward. Bradford is a decent 2-QB league option himself, and I like Steven Jackson as an RB2 as well. This team has already taken big steps towards respectability in short order under the direction of Jeff Fisher.
Check out my evaluation of the big guys up front on Rotowire's Offensive Line Grid
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Please comment and list your early season assessments. Best of luck this week!