Scramble for the Ball: Pick Me Up
by Bill Barnwell
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Do you hate your team already? Fantasy owners are reactionary by nature -- it's a control thing. If your team started off 0-2, even if they had the second-highest point total in the league each week, chances are that you're eyeing the waiver wire looking for goodies. Of course, good owners of 2-0 teams are doing the same thing. Making moves for the sake of changing a team up is almost never a good idea, but making calculated decisions based upon who's available through the non-optimal decisions of your opponents is sound, regardless of the week. I picked up Stephen Gostkowski this week in a league where I was previously starting Rob Bironas at kicker. My opponent gave up on Gostkowski because ... the Patriots score too many touchdowns. Advantage me. This isn't a move that's going to win me the league or anything, but it's likely to pick up 15 or 20 points over the course of 14 games. On the other hand, people who sprinted to their computer to grab Chris Brown enjoyed a 34-yard performance against the Colts this week.
While there's likely to be one or two obvious pickups on your league's waiver wire at the moment, let's take a look at the FFToday Power Waiver Wire for this week and examine whether the most frequently added players are likely to be good fits for your fantasy roster.
- DeShawn Wynn, GB: Wynn showed up last week in the figurative defenestration of the hope of Giants fans worldwide. After only touching the ball twice in Week 1, Wynn gained 50 yards on 10 carries and, most importantly, scored two late touchdowns in Week 2. Furthermore, the Green Bay Press-Gazette is reporting that Wynn's likely to see more carries and could replace Brandon Jackson as the team's starting running back. On the other hand, if you watched the Giants game, you saw a guy who bounced untouched through holes multiple times, and was up against a Giants defense that had been mercilessly picked apart all game, eight yards at a time. Furthermore, Vernand Morency is still lurking as the likely starter once he returns from a nagging knee complaint. Wynn's likely to see ten carries next week, and against the Chargers rush defense, don't expect a prodigious output. He's not likely to develop into a player worthy of a roster spot.
- Derek Anderson, CLE: Can he play the Bengals every week? It's amazing how a guy can go from fantasy afterthought, owned by friends and family and only the ones amongst both who love him the most, to must-have fantasy player. I think the Browns can have a good offense this year, but Anderson's not someone you'll need to have on your roster unless you're in the deepest leagues and/or a two-QB league. He's got Oakland, Baltimore, New England, and Miami coming up before the bye -- if Brady Quinn isn't starting by then, you'll be able to grab Anderson after whatever owner's signed him now has gotten sick of waiting for the 500-yard day to come.
- Shaun McDonald, DET: McDonald somehow leads the Lions in receiving (he's got 13 catches for 161 yards and one touchdown) after two weeks, despite being projected to be the fourth wideout coming into 2007. Calvin Johnson, Mike Furrey, and Roy Williams have all gotten plenty of catches, but McDonald's still somehow ahead of them all. How the heck does that happen? Well, for one, McDonald's caught 76 percent of the passes thrown to him -- that'll come down. On the other hand, Mike Martz doesn't really employ the fourth wideout in his offensive scheme. Starting with the first Greatest Show on Turf team of 1999 and looking at the Martz offenses since then, their fourth wideouts have never done much -- the Rams teams saw their fourth guy average 31 catches, 351 yards, and a couple of touchdowns each year. The Lions themselves used four- or five-wideout sets 22 percent of the time in 2006, second in the league, but they rarely threw to those extra wideouts. In addition, McDonald never showed this sort of ability when he was in the Rams offense under Martz. If he keeps putting these numbers up for two more weeks, I'll be a believer, but the evidence points to this being an aberration.
- Jeff Reed, PIT: The man who can't keep it in kicked four field goals last week against Buffalo. That's a nice haul, but it's not indicative of anything beyond some poor third down performance by Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh's schedule is pretty easy until late in the season, so if you don't have much in the way of kicking, you might want to grab Reed. Don't dump your kicker expecting to get 11 points a week out of him, though.
- Joe Jurevicius, CLE: Jurevicius is part of the rush to grab all things Browns after last week; like I mentioned with Anderson, though, Jurevicius doesn't get to play the Bengals every Sunday. He's got four very good defenses coming up, and while he could have decent games, his chances aren't that great relative to whoever you'd be cutting him for. Don't bother.
- Nick Folk, DAL: He's a kicker. See Reed, but ignore the defenses part.
- Wes Welker, NE: The Patriots have been using Welker as their matchup gizmo, where he makes linebackers without a prayer of covering him look silly (when the Patriots play the Giants in Week 17, I predict Welker catches 74 passes). Donte' Stallworth has mostly faded into oblivion, and Welker has established himself as the No. 2 guy and a player who will see more snaps than I expected when I wrote about him earlier this year. The Patriots passing attack won't be this good all year, but Welker's going to see enough balls to be a useful No. 3 guy in most leagues. I'd stash him on your roster if he's still available.
- Sammy Morris, NE: Morris split time with Laurence Maroney, getting 10 carries for 51 yards and scoring a touchdown last week. It's a confluence of two things: Primarily, the Patriots were ahead all game against the Chargers, and were running the ball a little bit more than they might normally. Secondly, Bill Belichick is clearly still not comfortable with Laurence Maroney being a full-time back. Whether that's because of his shoulder or his pass-blocking is hard to say, but Morris and Kevin Faulk are going to play bigger roles on this team than might've been anticipated before the season. There are worse last guys to have on your roster than Morris as far as playing time goes.
- Matt Schaub, HOU: Well, first and foremost, Andre Johnson's participation this week is in doubt due to a sprained PCL. If Johnson's out, the Texans passing attack becomes desultory and ironic. In addition, the Texans face several good defenses over the next few weeks (Miami, Jacksonville, San Diego, and Oakland before their Week 10 bye). Schaub's not likely to be a viable fantasy starter in anything but the largest leagues. Oh, and for those people who don't believe quarterbacks have anything to do with their sack rates? Schaub's been sacked twice in 52 dropbacks this year.
- Jeff Garcia, TB: Garcia's rise this week came from a excellent game against the Saints, where he averaged a whopping 15.2 yards per attempt and threw two scores. His next five weeks also reveal some middling defenses: St. Louis, Carolina, Indianapolis, Tennessee, and Detroit before a Week 8 trip to Jacksonville. Garcia's the most likely of the quarterbacks on this list to be successful over the next six or seven weeks. Add him to your roster.
A week without negative performances in the Loser League is depressing. More suck, please.
Quarterbacks: He may have avoided the indignity of Quick Reads, but Josh McCown couldn't avoid the cheers of the Loser League faithful. His 3 this week paced all quarterbacks. Alex Smith was right behind him at 4, while Rex Grossman and Tarvaris Jackson were the only other players in single digits. That's actually a good week for those two.
Running Backs: Not many people have him on their roster, but Justin Fargas' lone point was the worst of Week 2 at halfback. Among more commonly-owned players, Deuce McAllister made a return to his old stomping grounds with a 2, and while people have written off their big dreams for Tatum Bell, his companion with three points was Week 1's must-have, Chris Brown.
Wide Receivers: Five people paced the league with a single point: Lee Evans, Arnaz Battle, Eric Moulds, Hank Baskett, and Ronald Curry. Evans is the runner-up for Loser League MVP so far, with one point in two weeks.
Kickers: The Losingest Loser of the Week for Week 2 is Saints' kicker Olindo Mare, who balanced two extra points with a missed field goal for a smooth 0. Missing from 38 is a good way to get "washed up" talk circulating around a team that needs a scapegoat at the moment. Sebastian Janikowski is the Loser League MVP, as two points only got him up to -1 for the season. Of course, he doesn't get credit for the field goal he hit that Mike Shanahan got waved off with his geniusosity. Nate Kaeding also only had 2.
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Keep Choppin' Wood Award
The award was lost in airport luggage Week 1, but found it in time to give the Week 2 KCW Award to the Detroit Lions' medical staff. I'll pass on the lecture, but suffice to say, allowing your concussed quarterback back on the field isn't worth the win, let alone Jon Kitna's brain and future health. The fact that Kitna's praising God for the recovery excuses nothing. This was an incredibly disappointing decision and an indicator of how little the NFL's new concussion policy will affect the reality of players returning from concussions far too early.
1-2 last week, 3-3 overall
Well, that wasn't good. Big favorites didn't do well last week, as the people who said the Bears offense wasn't good enough to win by two touchdowns were right. Unfortunately, there are still some appetizing favorites this week.
Indianapolis (-6) over HOUSTON
I have no idea what Houston's going to do for offense against Indianapolis without Andre Johnson. I like Owen Daniels, but he isn't a one-man passing game. Houston beat Indianapolis in Texas last year in Week 16, but the Colts were generally struggling around that time period before they put it together come playoff time. The five other games between the two teams over the past three years saw the Colts win by nine or more points each time.
TAMPA BAY (-4) over St. Louis
This is a bet almost solely for the projection system.
WASHINGTON (-4) over New York Giants
I may bet against the Giants every week. I've seen nothing yet defensively that says they're going to play a good Redskins team close at home. Nothing. Chris Cooley may catch a pass on every down of every offensive series of every drive.
For the next few weeks, we'll also be presenting a Best Bet from the Scramble sponsor, Doc's Sports Odds. You can get a free week of winning NFL picks from Doc's Sports Handicapping Service by calling 1-866-238-6696 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org with "Free Football Outsider" in the subject line.
This week's Doc's Sports Best Bet is Indianapolis (-6) over Houston. No Andre Johnson means no chance for the Texans. Houston's value will never be greater -- thanks to a pair of blowouts over shaky opponents -- but the Colts are still the class of the division. Indianapolis is 10-3 ATS as a September road favorite and 9-1 ATS as a road favorite with revenge. We're below a key betting number and with 60 percent of Houston's pass offense on the sideline with a sprained knee, the Texans will be outmanned. Houston's weakness is its safeties and Manning will take advantage en route to a statement victory.