by Hal Bent, BostonSportPage.com
This is more like it. Another week with my teams going a collective 4-1 this week, and my Survival League pick won as well. As I stated before, I just cannot write a Fantasy Sport/Fantasy Football column without the little caveat that I first needed to be actually winning, rather than just saying "I used to manually track Fantasy Baseball League stats in 1988 with my buddies" as my disclaimer to be qualified to write it. So here goes the quick recap and thoughts on week two while looking forward to Sunday:
The early rounds of the draft are where teams land the stars, and --although sometimes it is dumb luck--you have to hit a home run in those first three rounds of the draft to have that consistent, big-point superstar. Yes, Mike Shanahan running backs are always available as are the usual sleepers who fall through the cracks on draft day. Being aggressive in the late rounds and early in the season on the waiver wire are critical for success, but without a trio of superstars as the backbone of the team, your chances of winning are much lower.
Fortunately, I had a big "Do Not Draft" on Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, passing over him when he was available in the first two rounds of the drafts. I missed out on drafting New England wide receiver Wes Welker as he was snapped up early as well. These are two examples of superstars who have done next to nothing so far in the first two weeks. If you have these two, you have to decide whether to work a trade or keep the players. If you don't have either one, an early-season slump is a great time to work a trade and pick-up a superstar on the cheap.
Welker's role is going to increase quickly. With tight end Aaron Hernandez out for a month, his production and playing time is going to jump significantly. The early season experimenting on offense so far in New England has limited Welker's role, but that is going to change. Without Hernandez (now sitting out for a month on one of my team's roster) Welker will pick up a lot of that slack as New England deals with how to replace the TE/WR hybrid. Welker had lost time due to the team prepping the offense to avoid the mistakes in the Super Bowl last year. The Giants dared New England to run the ball and throw outside the numbers. The team could do neither. This year, they have forced the ball outside to WR Brandon Lloyd (instead of going deep down the sidelines with him) and experimented with preparing for life without Welker. Week three will be the return to form for Welker.
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson is a bit of enigma. Riding on the past successes of huge seasons, this year Johnson has been saddled behind an offensive line that has not given him a single hole to run through so far this season. He has 21 rushing yards on 19 carries over two games. That's former Patriots running back Harold Shaw kind of numbers, which is why he was found a few years back in Rhode Island playing semi-pro football. If I had taken Johnson with a first or second round pick, that is not the comparison I want to be hearing. Johnson needs his team to commit to him and get creative opening some holes. Playing Detroit (good, not great defense) should help him get into a groove, but with week four's match-up against Houston's swarming 3-4 defense just waiting to eat him up like they've destroyed running backs since Wade Phillips got there, it is not looking good for #21. I would play Johnson this week, sit him in week four, and then ride him out the rest of the way. He will get his numbers, but not until something changes in the game planning and offensive line.
One of my top picks who has under-performed is Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. No touchdowns and five receptions for 69 yards over two games. That's a typical first half for Fitzgerald! Despite going against Philly's tough pass defense this week, there is hope he improves, but no real evidence that it is coming. Fitzgerald was targeted by New England's improving defense and was double-teamed constantly. Arizona, trying to straighten out the quarterback position, should get their only consistent threat, Fitzgerald, up and running and productive very soon. If only to get him in the offense, they need to run specific plays to get him going early because otherwise it is hard for them to move the ball without him. If Fitzgerald cannot get involved in the offense, it is getting close to thinking about other options on the bench to play instead of him.
I got lucky in one league last week with a good match-up covering up some bad luck and a poor decision I made at running back in week two. I have two running backs and three receivers with a tight end and no flex position in this league, and I had Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson starting with Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush and New England Patriots running back Steven Ridley riding the pine. In week one, I had Peterson sitting and Bush starting, and Peterson put up two touchdowns. I reversed for week two and watched Reggie Bush put up huge numbers on my bench. Also, I kept Ridley sitting while Forte went out and got injured (again!). I over-reacted after week one with Bush. One thing I hate doing is over-reacting and making a bad decision and I did exactly that in this situation. Peterson is still not all the way back, despite a week one where he found the end zone. That balanced out in week two. Reggie Bush is the Dolphins entire offense, and I let one week where he put up good numbers but by random chance did not score a touchdown color myself and make a rookie mistake.
With Forte out, I have Ridley, Bush, and Peterson to choose from on Sunday. Bush, playing the Jets, should get 100 yards on the ground and catch a few passes. He is a definite start. Ridley and the Patriots play Baltimore's tough defense, but Adrian Peterson and the Vikings go against the San Francisco 49ers and arguably the best defense in the NFL. The question is, do the Patriots plan to run Ridley despite a tough match-up? I say, all signs point to yes, and this is the better match-up for me.
One final note, my one loss? Blame Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. I went into Monday night knowing that if Jones, my one remaining player, could duplicate his week one numbers (6 receptions, 108 yards, 2 touchdowns) I'd win. Instead, I got 4 receptions and 14 yards, no touchdowns. In truth, I had Tony Romo return to earth and lose 15 points compared to week one, I had Larry Fitzgerald doing nothing, and Aaron Hernandez out injured. That is a lot to overcome. That said, I still had a shot going into Monday night. Hard to be upset about losing only one of five match-ups, other than the caveat that I do have to deal all week with the team owner who beat me, as I am married to her! (Maybe, I should just console myself by saying that I taught her well.)
As always, good luck this week to all (unless you're matched up against me!)
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