Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
24 Sep 2008
by Ben Riley and Vince Verhei
Ah, capitalism. For more than 250 years, you've done a pretty good job helping to make the United States of America the most wealthy, powerful nation in the world. But what the hell is happening lately? First you let Matt Millen keep his job for seven years, and now you need $700 billion in taxpayer money to keep Wall Street afloat? You do realize that "Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly" is agenda item No. 4 in the Communist Manifesto, right?
But this is a column about Martz, not Marx, so we at Scramble Headquarters are here to take your mind off the federal bailout with some helpful advice about fantasy football players you should consider dumping (or acquiring) before Treasury Secretary Paulson nationalizes the NFL. What follows is our list of BUY/SELL recommendations, including a helpful "failing financial institution equivalent" guide for each player.
Investment: J.T. O'Sullivan
PFP Projected Rank: Not listed
Current Rank: 11th
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: Wachovia Bank, a forgotten nonentity that may unexpectedly become far more powerful than anyone imagined.
Outlook: Two weeks ago, the surprising O'Sullivan managed to put up 321 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks ... on the road ... and while taking eight (!) sacks. He followed that up with another 20-point fantasy performance, albeit against the lowly Lions, and suddenly the Niners are appearing in the upper half of our VOA tables. The schedule is somewhat of a mixed bag -- it's fun to throw against the Saints and the Patriots, less so against the Eagles and Giants -- but at this point, it's pretty clear that owning a quarterback who plays in a Mike Martz-led offense is always going to produce.
Investment: Steve Slaton
PFP Projected Rank: Not listed
Current Rank: 38th
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: None. There are no small, up-and-coming banks.
Outlook: It took all of three weeks for the Texans to figure out that Ahman Green and a grab-bag of running backs named Chris weren't going to get the job done. (Incidentally, the Texans also have two centers named Chris: Myers and White.) Slaton torched the stout Titans run defense for 116 yards on 18 carries, although 43 came on a single run. Head coach Gary KUBIAK (whoops, the caps lock accidentally kicked in there) has already named Slaton the starter, and given the uncertainty at quarterback, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Texans lean on the running game in the weeks ahead. One cautionary note: The Texans have effectively already had their bye, so if Slaton tires and his production starts to fall off around Week 9 or so, don't be afraid to deal him.
Investment: Bernard Berrian
PFP Projected Rank: 18th
Current Rank: 57th
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: BNP Paribas. Hard to evaluate due to complicated foreign accounting practices.
Outlook: It says something about Bernard Berrian's career that Gus Frerotte may legitimately be considered the best quarterback he's ever played with. After two weeks of near invisibility, Berrian woke up in Week 3 with three catches for 79 yards. You shouldn't expect Berrian to light the world on fire, but for the right price -- say, a No. 4 running back such as Le'Ron McLain or T.J. Duckett -- Berrian could surprise owners with steady, 60- to 80-yards per game production with the occasional touchdown.
Investment: Steven Jackson
PFP Projected Rank: 4th
Current Rank: 24th
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: J.P. Morgan Chase. Strong as ever, it will weather the storm.
Outlook: What was the best fantasy season ever for a player on a truly terrible team? The answer may be Gerald Riggs, who in 1985 collect 1,986 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns for an Atlanta team that finished 4-12. Can Jackson top that feat? The winless Rams seem ready to do their part. Jackson is currently on pace for 1,557 total yards, but hasn't scored yet. Jackson has one edge going for him: He has almost as many yards receiving (133) as he does rushing (159). That means when the Rams are behind -- and they WILL be behind -- Jackson will still be available to collect fantasy points. His versatility makes him a solid bet, and he's bound to start finding the end zone eventually, even on a woeful team like St. Louis. While he's unlikely to surpass Riggs' numbers, a buy on Jackson looks like a low-risk gamble with a potential for high reward.
Investment: Santana Moss
PFP Projected Rank: 34th
Current Rank: 2nd
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: Barclays PLC. Suddenly a player again.
Outlook: The Redskins got off to a very slow start this season, dropping the opener to the Giants 16-7 in a game where it seemed they were lucky to be that close. They've come around though, scoring 29 points against New Orleans and 24 against Arizona in a pair of wins. The schedule for Washington is pretty erratic, with the very good teams of the NFC East, the very bad teams of the NFC West, and the giant question mark that is the AFC North. That should all balance out when we're looking at Moss' numbers at the end of the season -- and those numbers should be great. Moss has emerged as Jason Campbell's favorite target, leading the team in receptions, yards, yards per catch and touchdowns. He's averaging 92.0 yards per game, very close to his career-high, and has scored in every game so far. The Washington offense became explosive far earlier than anticipated, and that improvement should last.
Investment: JaMarcus Russell
PFP Projected Rank: Not listed
Current Rank: 14th
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: Citibank. Physically massive, but its fundamentals are not as strong as expected.
Outlook: Don't look now, but Russell is starting to put up numbers like a real NFL quarterback -- not a very good one, but a real one. He's currently the 14th-ranked quarterback in all of fantasy football, and it's not just because he played the Chiefs. In fact, he was wretched against Kansas City (35.3 completion percentage! 3.2 yards per attempt!), but much better against Denver and Buffalo, putting up two touchdowns against each of those foes. The Raiders are a complete mess, but they still nearly beat a decent Buffalo team on the road, and they still get to play softies like Atlanta, Miami, and Kansas City again. Most importantly, Russell can probably had for nothing right now, absolutely nothing. Is Russell going to be the MVP of your championship team? Absolutely not. Is he a decent backup who could supplement an otherwise strong roster? Yes, and you should buy him while you can.
Investment: Kurt Warner
PFP Projected Rank: Not listed
Current Rank: 6th
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: Morgan Stanley. The name may be prestigious, but the foundation is wobbly.
Outlook: Through three games, Warner has thrown for a nice, round 750 yards and six touchdowns, which averages out to -- wait for it -- 250 yards and two touchdowns per game. The Cardinals are 2-1 and he has two great targets in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, so what's the problem? The schedule, of course. Although Warner should do well against the Jets next week, he'll then face tough contests at home against Buffalo and Dallas before going on the road to play Carolina. Not only will those defenses bring his numbers down, there is a very real threat that Warner will suffer a serious injury over that period -- the Cardinals are already contemplating shuffling up their offensive line due to poor play from right guard Deuce Lutui. Between Warner and Edge James, the Cardinals have built a dominant fantasy team for 2001, so find an owner who still listens to Jimmy Eat World and see if you can trade Warner for Ben Roethlisberger or Carson Palmer on the cheap.
Investment: Earnest Graham
PFP Projected Rank: 8th
Current Rank: 20th
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: Bear Stearns. Once lumbering and powerful, now humbled and meek.
Outlook: Unfortunately, Graham may have destroyed his trade value this week after putting up a true Loser League MVP-like performance against the Bears: 12 rushes for 16 yards. But even before that flaccid performance, it was already clear that Graham is going to be splitting carries with the seemingly ageless Warrick Dunn. Add to that the fact that more than half of Graham's 223 yards this year came on two carries for 46 and 68 yards, and the Corey Dillon Boom-or-Bust Alarm Bell should be going off in your head. See if you can package him with a No. 3 wide receiver to get an upgrade at running back such as Steve Slaton or Chris Perry.
Investment: Antonio Gates
PFP Projected Rank: 1st
Current Rank: 4th
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: Merrill Lynch, a prestige bulge-bracket firm that's lost some of its luster.
Outlook: On the surface, all seems well. Gates has 147 yards receiving and two touchdowns, which translates to fantasy games of 11, six, and eight points thus far. Normally you'd love this sort of production from your tight end, but there are reasons for concern. First, Gates is on pace for 784 yards this season, which is a good 200 to 300 yards below his normal wide-receiver-level production. Second, the turf toe injury is clearly still bothering him and he isn't getting separation from defenders. As a result, he remains a good red zone target, but he's been virtually nonexistent in between the 20s. Find the person in your league who owns John Carlson or Tony Scheffler and see if you can swing a deal that packages one of those guys with a No. 3 running back or wide receiver.
Investment: Michael Turner
PFP Projected Rank: 40th
Current Rank: 1st
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: Lloyds TSB. Big but over-leveraged.
Outlook: While Turner will almost certainly finish the season as a reasonable fantasy starter, and well ahead of his projected return, he will not be the top rusher in all of fantasy football. Why not? Because he won't be playing two-thirds of his games against Kansas City against Detroit, the two worst teams in the league in terms of rushing yards allowed per game. No, they'll be playing teams like Minnesota, Chicago, and Philadelphia, three of the stingiest run defenses in football. While the schedule won't be that tough week in and week out, it will be rougher than it has been so far, which means Turner's value is at its peak. Sell this stock and sell it quickly.
Investment: Randy Moss
PFP Projected Rank: 1st
Current Rank: 23rd
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: AIG. If it fails, will it cause the next Great Depression?
Outlook: The negatives for Moss go beyond quarterback injury. Matt Cassell is not simply worse than Tom Brady, he is different. Specifically, he tends to forgo deep passes for shorter, (theoretically) higher-percentage targets. The Patriots still have an easy schedule (nobody told the Dolphins), and Cassell will be handing off in a lot of games where Brady would have been dropping back. And then there is Moss himself, who plainly and obviously quit playing football while imprisoned on bad Raiders teams before being rejuvenated in New England last season. Now, as Cassell and the Pats struggle, the old, ugly Randy is rearing his head; our own Bill Moore noted that Moss was quitting on plays during last weekend's loss to Miami. Moss is currently averaging 54.3 yards per game; he averaged 53.7 in his Raider years. Find a patsy in your league, remind him that Moss is fourth all-time in touchdowns, and sell. Quickly.
Investment: Jon Kitna
PFP Projected Rank: 26th
Current Rank: 11th
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: Washington Mutual. Failure is inevitable.
Outlook: Honestly, there aren't many quarterbacks who look like easy picks to sell right now. The guys who are doing really well -- Cutler, Rodgers, Brees, McNabb, Romo -- will likely be good all year long. So when you're looking for a quarterback to sell, look for a guy who may get benched at any second. Kitna's been moderately successful (from a fantasy standpoint) this season, thanks to a few big plays by Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. But the Lions are 0-3, and the figure on the right side of that ledger looks to be getting bigger and bigger, and at some point you're going to see Dan Orlovsky's name in a headline, with quotes about "looking for a spark" or "trying to make things happen." Before it reaches that point, remind the owners of your league that the Lions will be throwing a million passes a week, that Williams and Johnson can make defensive backs look silly at any given time, and that whoever the Lions have passing the ball is bound to pick up a point or two. Then try not to giggle as you sell him. (This was all written before Matt Millen was fired. That move makes Kitna an even less attractive option.)
Investment: Tom Brady
PFP Projected Rank: 1st
Current Rank: 38th and dropping
Failing Financial Institution Equivalent: Freddie Mac (to Pats fans) or Fannie Mae (everyone else). Perhaps one day the mortgage industry will reconstitute itself, but until then: The party is over.
Outlook: Sadly, there is no such thing as a $700 billion bailout for fantasy footballers.
|Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.|
You're Lane Kiffin. Your boss wants to fire you, and everyone on earth knows this, but he won't because of some goofy sense of pride and/or desire to save $4 million in contractual obligations (this, from someone who overpaid for Javon Walker by about $25 million). Regardless, you're still young and you'd probably like to get another coaching gig down the road. So here you are in Buffalo, with a 1-1 record, leading the undefeated Bills by two points at the two-minute warning. So how do you let the Bills run four plays, then kick the winning field goal as time expires, while you still have two timeouts in your pocket? At the 1:11 mark, on first down, Marshawn Lynch gained 5 yards to the Oakland 19. No timeout. On second down, with 28 seconds to go, Lynch lost a yard. No timeout -- until BUFFALO called one with three seconds left. True, if Oakland had used their timeouts, the Bills still would have had third down to milk the clock one last time, but Oakland would have gotten the ball back with about 30 seconds to go and the chance to at least try for a miracle. Instead, Rian Lindell kicked the game-winner as Kiffin looked on. It was almost like he wanted to be fired. Oh, wait.
We know you've missed them, but Loser League updates are finally up on the Web site.
QB: When he closes his eyes, Ben Roethlisberger still sees midnight green, and he begins to softly weep. Big Ben's totals against the Eagles: no touchdowns, two fumbles, an interception, dozens of hits and a big fat 0.
RB: You may have heard that Brian Griese threw 67 passes against the Bears. That means that Tampa Bay abandoned the running game, and that means Earnest Graham was left with just 12 carries for 16 yards. And a 0.
WR: You know how Matt Millen invested draft pick after draft pick on wide receiver after wide receiver all those years? Well, this past Sunday, Roy Williams caught two passes for 18 yards (that's a 1), Shaun McDonald caught two passes for 13 yards (also a 1), and yet neither was the biggest loser on their own team -- that honor goes to Mike Furrey, who caught two passes for 8 yards (that's a 0) on his way to being the week's biggest loser. This is all hysterical to those of us who don't live in Michigan.
K: You've got to hand it to the Chiefs. Not content to merely suck on offense and defense, they suck on special teams as well. Nick Novak went 2-for-2 on extra points but missed his only field goal, leaving him with a 0.
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