FANTASY FOCUS: Love, War & Football

September 29th, 2012

Is all really fair in love and war?

A rather infamous quote, yes, but does it apply the same way to fantasy football? I think it should be amended for a 21st century way of thinking. Wait, wait. I think I got it. Is it all is fair in love and war … and fantasy football? Yes. I like the sound of that.

I’m no Socrates or even Matthew Berry, for that matter, but I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about a thing or two. Ya know? Fantasy sports fall into the “thing or two” category. And I happen to think, yes, all is fair in the fantasy world, as well as love and war.

After all, love can make you do crazy things — like start a war over a player you’re infatuated with. One baseball season ago I refused to talk to one of my best friends, Mike, after he fooled me into telling him a player I loved as a sleeper with him picking in front of me. The player? The flame throwing Aroldis Chapman, who was listed as a reliever but still had starting potential in him. Two picks later Mike selected the Cuban-defector. I looked up from my screen to see that Mike was already staring at me with a shit-eating grin.

I was furious.

And since then I’ve never spoken a word before my draft. As it turned out Mike and I were a year early on Chapman, but the moral of the story is timeless: When it comes to fantasy sports there are no morals. Which brings me to this week’s story …

Meet Marc and Allison: A recently engaged couple of five-and-a-half years who spend five of the seven days in the week head over heels with each other. But on Sundays and Mondays heels are flying over heads for the battle of fantasy football supremacy.

Hyperbole aside, the college sweethearts from Poughkeepsie, New York plan to be married on August 23rd of next year. That is, of course, they can get through the football season first.

Both newcomers to the fantasy football world, Marc and Allison joined a 10-(wo)man league started by Marc’s sister and brother-in-law that encompassed the whole family. It started out with purest of intentions, as Allison recalled.

Marc and Allison, who are soon-to-be-married, have bonded (and battled) over Fantasy Football this season.

“They had been in other leagues before and thought it’d be fun to do one with the whole family because we always do Sunday dinner at his mom’s house and watch football. His mom and dad and sisters and brother-in-laws are some other members of our league,” she said.

With little prior interest in football outside of the New York Giants, Allison has since dove head-first in to the fantasy football world. A little beginner’s luck always helps to scratch the fantasy itch. Her Girls Gone Football team is 2-1 — winning her first two games, and is currently in second place with 381 points.

“Now I spend Sunday morning rearranging my team, searching roster trends and score projections, and watching Fantasy Football Today on ESPN. I also obsessively check the scores of my team and the standings all day Sunday and watch NFL red zone with Marc,” she said.

Welcome to the dark side, Allison.

Marc’s Too Much Johnson For You team currently dwells in the cellar at 1-2, ninth in the league with 340 points. His loyalty to New York sports teams will not permit him to draft any Patriots players — perhaps a reason for his early struggles. For him, it was already time to take out the big guns, as Allison retold a story from a Week 2 tiff that drew the line in the sand.

We actually got into a little fight during Week 2. I was debating starting Antonio Gates as my tight end because they said he was probable the week prior. I ended up leaving him in because I thought he was playing and then went shopping. Later when I checked again it turned out his was out and I found out Marc knew he wasn’t going to play and never said anything!

Nicely done, Marc. I can’t blame the guy though. Can you? I identify my masculinity with my wealth of sports knowledge. Pathetic, I know. If my better half — a casual football fan, at that — began kicking my butt in a fantasy football battle royale I’d just might throw some sand in her eyes as well.

Again, all is fair in love and war … and fantasy football.

But the competitive back-and-forth banter has not stopped there. Marc may find himself in the proverbial doghouse after Allison overheard him telling fellow fantasy league members — and family members — that he was the reason for her savvy waiver wire pick-ups of Andre Brown and Martellus Bennett.

You gotta respect the guy’s balls, right?

The best part of this story, however, has yet to unfold as the two lovebirds face off Week 6 for the ultimate head-to-head bragging rights. A little word of advice to you Allison: change the passwords on your computer and phone for that week!

All jokes aside, there’s a sentimental value to this tale of fantasy football feuding. While many men want to keep their significant others out of fantasy football leagues, Marc embraced Allison in this league — and, maybe, embraced losing to her in the process. A very commendable act of love, if you ask me. For a long time, for a lot of people, fantasy football proved to be a divide in relationships — with men scouring over stat sheets, injury reports and waiver wires while their better halves shoot death stares from across the room muttering things I’m not allowed to type on a family website.

To me, it doesn’t have to be that way. Fantasy footbal, like, say, oh I don’t know, pumpkin picking, is a great way for couples to bond together on Sunday afternoons before settling down to watch HBO’s Sunday Night line up (unless you have Eli Manning starting this week, then Boardwalk Empire gets sent straight to the DVR). Fantasy football, now more than ever, is not just tailored to males. It’s really not gender-biased, as Allison has proved in her first three-week waltz through the fantasy world.

And while they have silly arguments about it, Allison believes it has brought them closer.

“I think even though we joke fight about our teams and our scores, it has been fun to both be more involved with football and watching his team lose when my team wins has been really great for our relationship in the end.”

The love she has for Marc doesn’t stop from getting one last jab in however.

“I definitely think I have the better team,” she said snickering.

This means war.

START ‘EM:

  • Matt Schaub, QB, Texans – He’s on what is arguably the best team in the league facing the worst fantasy defense against quarterbacks according to Yahoo! Sports. The Titans have given up nearly 40 points to opposing QBs thus far — a whole five more points than the three next closest teams. Opposing QBs currently average over 2.5 TDs to .33 INTs against the Titans, while Schaub’s 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio is nothing to turn your nose to. Need I remind you that Lions back-up Shaun Hill did a lot of damage in a hurry against the Tennessee secondary? I suspect Schaub should have equal success finding Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels.
  • Cedric Benson, RB, Packers – I understand your reservations to start him, I do. He’s a feature back in a passing-heavy offense. But facing the 32nd-ranked New Orleans Saints defense at home is a good sign. Opposing RBs average 166.7 rushing yards, 1.7 rushing TDs and nearly 50 receiving yards against the Saints — good for an average of 36 fantasy points/week. Granted those numbers are inflated due to Jamaal Charles’ 200+ yard rushing performance last week. Also Mike McCarthy seems determined to get Benson involved in the game — after only touching the ball nine times Week 1, Benson has averaged over 20 touches per game since. He says he’s the type of player who needs to grease his wheels a bit before getting going, and McCarthy seems willing to buy some WD-40.
  • Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers — I’m a believer in Greg Schiano — and his play-to-the-clock-reads-all-zeroes attitude. I’m also a believer in Josh Freeman bouncing back after a horrible sophomore campaign. But I’m not a believer in this Redskins defense they will be facing this weekend. In the past two weeks, the Skins defense has allowed four passing touchdowns to wide receivers. The Rams and Bengals top receiving threats — Danny Amendola and A.J. Green — both hauled in 9+ receptions of over 100 yards and a score. Expect the Bucs top receiving threat to have a similar afternoon.
  • Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings — I spotlighted him last week and just loved what I saw from this guy. At 6-6 & 258 pounds, Rudolph is a huge red zone target for second-year QB Christian Ponder. And why shouldn’t he be? He’s 4-for-4 in red zone targets this year with three TDs. Also the Detroit Lions, the Vikings opponent on Sunday, has trouble handling big, pass-catching tight ends. (V. Davis Week 2: 5/73/2 & J. Cook Week 3: 4/77/1).

SIT ‘EM:

  • Drew Brees, QB, Saints – Perhaps a bit drastic, but I’m not high on most of the Saints players . And I don’t care if Jimmy Graham thinks the real refs will help their no-huddle offense. The fact is Brees is showing a few signs of missing, not only offseason time, but his offense-minded head coach as well. Brees’ 2012 completion percentage of 54.7% is 11 points lower than his career percentage of 64.7%. He’s nearly thrown as many INTs as TDs (5 to 7) and his seven sacks through three games equals out to roughly 36 sacks in 16 games. What does this mean? He may very well struggle against a Packers defense that looks more like their Super Bowl self than last season’s bottom dwelling passing defense. They’re giving up 155.7 pass yd/gm, 1.7 TDs/gm, 1.3 INTs/gm — good for an average of 19.06 fantasy points according to Yahoo! Sports standard scoring leagues.
  • DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys — And it’s not just because I’m facing him this week either. The Bears, per usual, are the third best fantasy team against opposing running backs through three weeks — only allowing one rushing score between Donald Brown, Cedric Benson and Stephen Jackson. After posting 131 yards on 20 carries to start the season, Murray has stalled out, failing to eclipse the 100-yard mark or reach 20+ carries in the last two weeks. The problem? He faced two stout run-stopping defenses in the Seahawks (at Seattle) and the Buccaneers (statistically the best team against the run in the NFL).
  • Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears — Also not because I’m facing him this week. Rob Ryan’s defense — and not Rex’s — currently sits atop the NFL defensive rankings as the best unit in football. That does not sit well with twin brother Rex or Marshall, for that matter. In standard scoring Yahoo! Sports leagues, the Cowboys defense has given up a league low 13. 73 points to opposing WRs thus far. And it hasn’t been against any slouches either. Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Vincent Jackson all were held under six receptions and 60 yards without TDs against the other Ryan’s defense. And after a great start against the Colts, Marshall has done very little with his rekindled flame Jay Cutler (7 rec/95 yards/0 TDs in 2 games).

PREVIEW: 49ers (2-1) @ NY JETS (2-1)

September 28th, 2012

Do you think Rex Ryan gets a little green with envy when preparing for Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers?

Since his introduction as Jets head coach prior to the 2010 season, Ryan has envisioned his team in a certain way: defensively labeled as a hard-nosed, smash-mouth unit that creates turnovers and beats up the quarterback — and if they put a few players on their ass, no one would be complaining. Offensively, Ryan has always wanted to establish the run, or as he aptly calls it “ground & pound”, whether the opponent knows it or not while the quarterback is efficient enough to hold on to the ball, manage the game and maybe make a completion or two.

Fast forward to the 2012 season, Ryan hires Tony Sparano as his offensive coordinator to help fulfill that very vision. And while everyone publicly questioned whether his resistance in offensive strategy from the conventional shift to a passing-oriented league would work, a team from the Bay Area led by a boisterous (some may say down-right cocky) coach has already mastered it in only his second year.

Harbaugh is coaching Ryan’s wet dream team. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

Ryan has never been shy about giving credit in the week for the upcoming opponent — the Jets media relations department transcribed a page-and-a-quarter of nothing but Ryan commending everyone on the Steelers’ roster in Week 2. This week, while not as lengthy, was no different. He even went out of his way to name 49ers Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee and offered a joking apology to David Akers, in fear he may give him a Judo Chop.

“They’re the number one special teams unit in all of football last year, with the Pro Bowl kicker, obviously, and a Pro Bowl punter in Andy [Lee]. The big lefty out there, I’m drawing a blank. Akers? What’s his name? Yeah, [David] Akers. I’m trying to disrespect him. Just kidding, the guy has like a 30th degree black belt, I’m not going to mess with that guy,” he said Wednesday.

With no Darrelle Revis, let’s hope the game against Ryan’s dream team won’t turn in to a nightmare.

WHEN: Sunday, September 30, 2012 @ 1 pm EST (Can be seen on Fox or heard on ESPN Radio).

WHERE: East Rutherford, NJ / MetLife Stadium (capacity: 82,500)

SERIES HISTORY: 49ers lead 9-2-0

LAST MEETING: 49ers 24 — Jets  14 / Candlestick Park (12/07/08)

NOTABLE: New York’s two victories against San Francisco have come when the Jets defense has held the 49ers offense to 14 points or less.

HEAD COACHES:

  • JETS — Rex Ryan / Fourth Season with Jets / 34-23 (including postseason).
  • 49ERS – Jim Harbaugh / Second Season with 49ers / 16-5 (including postseason).

INJURY REPORT:

  • JETS — OUT – CB Darrelle Revis (knee). DOUBTFUL – WR Stephen Hill (hamstring). QUESTIONABLE – RB John Conner (knee), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), LB Bart Scott (toe), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring), WR Patrick Turner (hamstring) . PROBABLE – LB Nick Bellore (shoulder), CB Antonio Cromartie (shoulder), DT Mike Devito (calf), T Austin Howard (back), S LaRon Landry (heel), CB Ellis Lankster (back), C Nick Mangold (wrist), G Brandon Moore (hip), LB Calvin Pace (achilles), DT Sione Pouha (back), QB Mark Sanchez (back), G Matt Slauson (knee), S Eric Smith (hip, knee), CB Isaiah Trufant (ankle).
  • 49ERS — QUESTIONABLE – WR Ted Ginn (ankle), RB Brandon Jacobs (knee), DT Isaac Sopoaga (ankle, knee). PROBABLE – TE Vernon Davis (back), P Andy Lee (hand), LB Patrick Willis (ankle).

Rex Ryan pointed out that 49ers TE Vernon Davis is the best in the league. How will he fair this Sunday vs. Gang Green? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

KEY MATCH-UPS:

  • Rex Ryan vs. Jim Harbaugh – In my three season of doing preview articles for the Jets, never have I thought of putting coaches in the Key Match-up section. A little foolish of me. But this week, I’m very excited to see the chess match between these two similarly built teams. Sharing the same type of philosophy, it’ll be the interesting to watch the checks and re-checks these coaches make in order to fool the other. I think he’s thinking I’m going to be thinking this, so if I think of that he’ll never think I’d think of that. What?
  • Frank Gore vs. Jets’ Front 7 — The Jets defense have the 28th-ranked run defense in the league, giving up an average of 148 yards per game on the ground. Yikes. Wouldn’t surprise me to see more four-man fronts this week to stack the line of scrimmage. Kenrick Ellis, Muhammed Wilkerson and Mike DeVito all have been above average in stopping the run. The problem has been when interior linemen like Ellis and Sione Po’uha take multiple tackles leaving Bart Scott to make plays. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Scott has already tallied eight missed tackles this year. He missed nine all last season. Maybe he should put a little hot sauce on himself.
  • Vernon Davis vs. Anyone Jets put on him — Ryan stated that Davis was the best tight end in the game — this week at least. But he may not be too far off, he leads the league in touchdowns by a tight end (4). His receptions and yards aren’t that high, but when they reach the endzone the he’s Alex Smith’s top target. The Jets have made a much-noticed improvement with defending tight ends (opposing TEs average 4/31.6/.66 vs NY Jets through 3 games), but this will be their first big test. Much of that credit goes to the physical play of LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell.

X-FACTORS:

  • Mario Manningham, WR, 49ers — The Super Bowl savior can be a great slot receiver and has a favorable match-up going against Ellis Lankster. With the Jets having to bump everyone up on the defensive depth chart due to the loss of Revis, Smith should be able to target the former New York Giant with regularity — when they’re not running the ball. He’s still getting comfortable with the Niners offense, but saw his best game last week against the Minnesota Vikings (5/56). A reliable possession receiver, his numbers should continue to rise — especially against a banged up Jets secondary.
  • Kyle Wilson, CB, Jets — Speaking of the Jets’ banged-up secondary, all eyes will be on Wilson for the remainder of the season as this is his 13-game tryout to see if he can be a starting cornerback in this league. In speaking with a few trusted football minds, I can see Wilson more suited as a true corner more than a nickel cornerback. As a sideline corner for Boise State he was labeled as one of the top corner prospects in the 2010 draft. Not having to worry about cutting left and right in the middle of the field, Wilson can find solace in having the sideline close to him. Interesting stats: The Jets have zero team interceptions in games that Revis has not played. In conjunction, Smith went 249 passing attempts without throwing an interception — putting him ahead the likes of Joe Montana and Steve Young in the 49ers’ history books.

THE PICK: I have more confidence in the Jets winning this game than, say, going up to Seattle and winning there oddly enough. However, I think the 49ers are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Legitimate Super Bowl contenders should not lose back-t0-back games to teams that are lesser than them. While west coast teams are 26-68 versus east coast teams during 1 o’clock games since 2007, I don’t see the San Fran leaving with a .500 record. 49ERS 28 – JETS 13

QUINTON COPLES: Budding Rookie Ready to Blossom

September 27th, 2012

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Quinton Coples is a weed. And that’s no knock on the sixteenth overall draft pick either. Weeds, like the dandelion, sprout fast — setting up roots and, if not uprooted, continues to rapidly grow in strength and size.

Much like weeds, Coples was not welcomed to many Jets fans’ gardens — instead desiring a prettier pass-rushing plant (Melvin Ingram, Bruce Irvin, Chandler Jones). While some saw a weed drafted at the midway point of the first round, Rex Ryan saw a budding beauty — one that, he says, is finally ready to blossom.

And not a moment sooner. With a team total of three sacks — one of which was awarded to Sione Po’uha — the Jets will need sacks more than ever with the loss of Darrelle Revis. That’s where, Ryan hopes, Coples comes in.

Upon being labeled as a starter before playing an NFL snap, Coples has hardly seen the field in the early. According to ESPN New York, Coples has seen 63 pro snaps through three games — good for a 30% play rate.

That’s Joey Lawrence ‘Whoa!’ worthy.

In his Thursday press conference, Ryan acknowledged that Coples will have a larger role Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

"I’ve been spending more time with the coaches, understanding the defense and recognizing blocks and its finally paying off." - Coples (JetsInsider.com Photo).

“I believe you’re going to be seeing him a lot more,” Ryan said while adding, “I think he’ll be ready to go.”

Perhaps a bit of a blase response from the Jets head coach, but what choice does he have? This is what they drafted him for and the reason why they made him a starter from Day 1 — help the pass rush in the immediate future.

Coples impressed many during the preseason, compiling a team-high 4.5 sacks — albeit mostly against backups. As expected, the former Tar Heel is excited for the opportunity.

“I think its great that [Ryan has] built his confidence up in me, giving me more playing time.  It’s been a learning process for me, learning the different scheme in the defense, but I’m ready now and I’m ready to take further responsibility,” Coples said.

A learning curve that veteran Po’uha said Coples is farther ahead of than he was at that stage of his career.

“Whether it be Coples or Muhammad Wilkerson or Kenrick Ellis, these guys [are] light-years ahead of when I was a rookie. It took me a little while to get in, and they seemed to make the transition seamlessly and they’re doing a great job. [They’re] really mature for such young players,” Po’uha said.

Facing a 49ers’ offensive line who’s given up an average of 3.1 sacks per game — which equals out to 48 sacks on Alex Smith through 16 games, Coples is expecting to make an impact.

“I definitely think I can make an impact.  It’s definitely going to be great to give some guys a blow. I just need to get out there, and take on some of those tackles for the linebackers as well and make plays as well for myself,” he said.

An impact that Po’uha has seen first-hand in practice.

“He always had the determination and I think you can almost see it, it just becomes relevant when somebody kind of gets it – the ‘gets it’ factor.  I think Q kind of understands, ‘Okay, this is how things work, this is how I fit into the scheme of things.’ He’s always had great effort, [he’s] always had great technique, but I think it’s almost becoming more of a second nature to him and that’s where you can see the blossom take place,” he said.

Morning After Report: Sanchez ran on ‘Tone Time

September 24th, 2012

A win is a win is a win.

If you’re not happy with the Jets performance against the Miami Dolphins or, better yet, the season-ending torn ACL Darrelle Revis suffered in the third quarter — keep saying that to yourself. Because, as ugly as it was, the Jets left SunLife Stadium with a gritty, come-from-behind victory on the road against a bitter division rival.

The New York Jets 2-1 (2-0 in AFC East) are alone atop the AFC East. Add to that the New England Patriots are 1-2, below .500 for the first time in 10 years, and there are a couple things to come away smiling from this game.

For starters, the emergence of Santonio Holmes (9 receptions,  147 yards) was essential in Mark Sanchez finding a rhythm late in the game. It was Holmes first 100 yard game since November 2010. Bilal Powell showed a few glimpses of hope as a runner/receiver out of the backfield. And, once again, Jeremy Kerley provided a big play to spark the offense.

The turning point of the game, however, came on special teams when Eric Smith was called for a roughing the kicker penalty late in the first half. The penalty gave the Dolphins new life in the first half, although they were still deep in their own territory. On the first play following Smith’s penalty, Dolphins running back Reggie Bush injured his left knee and did not return for the second half. Prior to the injury, Bush was averaging 6.1 yards per carry as the catalyst to Miami’s offense.

There are big concerns surrounding the Jets ground game — both offensively and defensively. The Jets were held to 88 yards rushing while giving up 188 yards on the ground. Not quite the resurgence of the ground and pound mentality.

PASSING OFFENSE: C+

  • Sanchez was inconsistent most of the day — and the turnover in the red zone was costly — but he made completions (mainly to Holmes) when they counted. Late in the game #6 was able to spread the wealth, ending the day completing at least two passes to seven receivers.
  • I can’t imagine there’s a high level of faith in Stephen Hill right now. His case of the drops cost the team six points early. He has a great skill set, but needs to get it figured out between the ears.
  • Kudos to the offensive line for their pass protection on Sanchez this week, who was sacked only once.
  • There has been a lack of players stepping up when the opportunity rises, but Konrad Rueland doesn’t seem to fit that label. He’s been an effective H-back in the absence of John Conner and has a good rapport with Sanchez (former HS teammates). He’s also stepped up in the receiving game with the loss of Dustin Keller.

Mark Sanchez, with Rex Ryan, overcame some early inefficiencies on offense for a win in Miami on Sunday. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

RUSHING OFFENSE: F

  • Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano should be embarrassed by their rushing performance thus far. The offensive line has yet to show their push off the line of scrimmage. Shonn Greene’s style is not suited to be a feature back in this league — and that’s becoming more and more clear every week he starts. Powell has shown promise, but hasn’t been able to (or have an opportunity) put together a complete performance. And Joe McKnight, in my eyes, is vastly under utilized in this offense.
  • I enjoy watching Sparano’s intricate running blocking schemes with the motion and pulling linemen. It generates modest-to-good gains, but I have to think it wears out the offensive line throughout the course of the game.
  • Goal line offense and short situations have been a huge problem for this team in the early going. Greene got stuffed twice from the 1-yard line before settling for a field goal. That has to be a bruise to Ryan’s tough guy ego.

PASSING DEFENSE: B-

  • Jets’ Defense WITH Revis: Opposing QB’s have 54% completion %. Jets’ Defense WITHOUT Revis: Opposing QB’s have 65.5% completion %. Jets’ Defense WITH Revis: 23 INTs. Jets’ Defense WITHOUT Revis: 0 INTs << ‘Nuff said.
  • After Revis’ injury, Ryan Tannehill targeted Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster consistently — this will be a huge challenge to the depth of the Jets’ secondary.
  • The Jets pass rush is there, they are getting the pressure. They just have yet to sack the quarterback or hit one with consistency. That’s a direct effect of Aaron Maybin and Quinton Coples — two speed guys who the team is depending on to get in the backfield quickly.
  • Once again, the Jets’ defense was the catalyst for a Jets victory. Half of the team’s 81 points scored this season have come from the offense. The rest? Thirty-four from the defense and seven from special teams.

RUSHING DEFENSE: D

  • 188 total rushing yards allowed by this Ryan-led defense. They should be thankful that Bush left the game at the half with a knee injury, otherwise it could’ve been a lot worse.
  • The interior rush defense has been pitiful this season, getting no push off the line of scrimmage. And when they were able to bunch up the middle, Dolphins running backs just bounced it outside for a couple big gains.
  • A tip of the cap is in order for David Harris & Muhammed Wilkerson — they both tallied nine tackles in the box for the Jets.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A

  • Kerley, when he can hold on to the ball, is quickly becoming one of the best punt return men in the league. He, along with Rob Malone, is a huge positional weapon for this team.
  • Nick Folk has had a perfect start to the season, reassuring the team made the right choice at the kicker position.
  • Impressed with Isaiah Trufant’s skills as a gunner. He always seems to be the first guy down on punts to down the ball or make the tackle.

COACHING: C+

  • I’m still not thrilled with the team’s use of juggling Tim Tebow and Sanchez. Tebow’s loss of five yards in the red zone on second down forced Sanchez’s hand on the interception. It’s irresponsible to ask a quarterback to come in following a big loss and throw a touchdown pass. Not to mention it makes it incredibly obvious to the defense that Sanchez is going to to pass towards the end zone. He was set up for failure.
  • I have yet to see a good ground game called by Sparano either. I know a lot of that falls on the execution of the players, but I’m still left scratching my head at why they refuse to use McKnight as an all purpose back in this offense.

Jets pull out ugly OT win in Miami 23-20, Revis hurt

September 23rd, 2012

MIAMI, FL – Kermit the Frog said it best; it ain’t easy being green.  Struggling on offense for the majority of the afternoon, the Jets and Mark Sanchez certainly didn’t ease their way to a victory over the AFC East rival Miami Dolphins, on Sunday, but they’ll take it.

Santonio Holmes, who anticipated a big day for the Jets receivers against a young Dolphins’ secondary earlier this week, had a 38-yard catch-and-run that set-up the win.

Nick Folk’s 33-yard attempt was — at first — blocked by Miami’s special teams unit, but it was ruled Dolphin’s first-year head coach Joe Philbin had called a timeout prior to the snap — a futile attempt to ice the kicker. Folk’s second attempt at the 33-yard field goal sealed the deal in overtime for the Jets, who won on the road at SunLife Stadium 23-20 — their first time visiting the Dolphins since they ended Gang Green’s playoff hopes in Week 17 with a 19-17 victory.

For the second week in a row, Sanchez (21-45, 306 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) and the offense were inconsistent for major parts of this game. The offense lost out on two easy scores that could haven been easily converted. When it came time to deliver, however, they were able to make the most of their opportunities.

Mark Sanchez (left) found Santonio Holmes, who's play backed up his talk, early and often in the 23-20 OT victory. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Trailing 17-13 with a little over five minutes to play in the game, Sanchez started off the final drive of regulation with an 18-yard strike to receiver Santonio Holmes (9 rec, 147 yards). After connecting with running back Bilal Powell and Holmes for two more plays of 10+ yards, a rarity in last week’s passing debacle, Sanchez found Jeremy Kerley with a seven-yard score to take the 20-17 lead with just over three minutes to play in regulation.

Dolphins’ rookie Ryan Tannehill (16-36, 196 yards, 1 INT) was able to drive his team down the field in that time — largely due to Darrelle Revis not returning to the field due to a knee injury — which set up Dan Carpenter’s 41-yard field goal to tie with 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Kyle Wilson, Revis’ replacement in the game was called for a critical 19-yard 3rd&10 pass interference call.

In overtime Carpenter was not as fortunate.

Following a thwarted Jets drive to mid-field, the Dolphins marched their way to the Jets 30 yard line highlighted by a long 41-yard completion to Brian Hartline. Carpenter, who already had missed a 47-yarder to start the fourth quarter, pushed the game-winning 48-yarder left — putting the Jets offense in a great position to score from mid-field.

The Jets (2-1) will now play host to the San Francisco 49ers (2-1) not knowing the status of their best player, Revis. He left the game after his left knee buckled on a non-contact play in the third quarter and did not return. The disheartening news for Jets fans comes on the heels of Revis missing Week 2 with a concussion.

In his first game back following the concussion, Revis was effective — recording five tackles and recovering a fumble. The fumble recovery early in the third quarter came one defensive play after LaRon Landry’s 18-yard interception return for a touchdown that tied the game at 10 just 44 seconds into the second half.

The Dolphins were pinned at their own 6 early when Tannehill rolled out and threw toward Anthony Fasano along the sideline. Landry stepped in front of the intended receiver to make the interception and dashed to the end zone for a 10-all tie.

Tim Tebow, in his return to SunLife Stadium — the birthplace of Tebowmania, did quite have the type of game he’s had in previous trips to the stadium, but his contribution helped put some points on the board.

He took a short snap from punt formation on fourth-and-3 at the Jets 30 and ran 5 yards for a first down, jump-starting a 16-play drive that ended with a 3-pointer.

Tebow was the intended receiver on a third-down pass that fell incomplete — hitting him in the face, and he still has yet to throw a pass this season.

FRIDAY FANTASY FOCUS: Be the best loser you can be

September 22nd, 2012

Now isn’t that the most inspirational title you’ve seen in a while?

It’ll get better. I hope. Or else the next 939 words will be all for naught. Just like your fantasy football team will be if you can’t be held accountable for your (trans)actions in your league.

You know who I’m talking about. If not, you need not look any further than the closest mirror. There’s one (if you’re lucky) in every league. The type that’ll be the first guy (or gal) to tell anyone within earshot that you drafted C.J. Spiller — or worse, that they anticipated the lump of coal’s, Andre Brown, metamorphosis in to a fantasy diamond. The same type that conveniently forgets to mention they shell out eight bucks a month for ESPN’s Insider fantasy access until they curse Eric Karabell for telling them to play a deep sleeper that didn’t pan out.

Riiigghtt. Not cool, brother.

Be your own man. Own up to your mistakes. If you were dumb enough to enter a draft not knowing Clinton Portis was no longer playing in the league and took him — like someone I know did — you haven’t earned the right to applaud or be appalled by your moves. Forget fantasy football — that’s some good advice to live life by. But before I dive into Tony Robbins mode, let’s keep it light with the fantasy talk.

I bring this up because I have this friend, let’s call him Zack Rubenfeld. I’ll start off by saying he is a good friend and, at that, a good guy as well. But with that off my chest, he has not been the best loser he can be. This article is for you, Zack.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2012, 11:44 PM:

“Trade help?”

It started off harmless enough. That was a text I received from Zack, attached with a picture of his team and the other manager’s team he was hoping to trade with. His team desperately needed a running back after losing Fred Jackson and CJ2k registering four yards against the Patriots. And he had a depth at wide receiver, so after some deliberation I sent back this text.

SEPTEMBER 13, 9:17 AM:

“Kinda ballsy but how you feel about giving up [Dwayne] Bowe/[Tony] Gonzalez for [LeSean] McCoy/[Brandon] LaFell.”

“Lafell is cam’s number 2 and you’d get a legit #1 rb”

“I also like Spiller and Hunter for smaller moves. Spiller might cost you more now, but Hunter is def dangerous despite limited carries”

My bro-ish verbiage aside, I was quite proud of myself. I thought that trade would help both teams — a Bowe/Gonzalez severance package for Shady seemed adequate — but mostly get Zack a legitimate threat at running back. I tried to sell him a little more onSpiller, but Zack insisted he wouldn’t be worth much down the road. His reply. (If you haven’t noticed, I am the guy who told everyone within ear shot that I drafted C.J. Spiller. ;) )

SEPTEMBER 13, 2012, 2:52 PM:

“I feel like Spiller won’t be as valuable in a month”

SEPTEMBER 13, 2012, 3:16 PM:

“Just hit him up about the bowe/gonz trade. That was genius of you”

“Hopefully he’s dumb enough to give up McCoy”

SEPTEMBER 13, 2012, 3:33 PM:

“Drop lions D for chiefs D this week?”

Don’t pay attention to the ego-swelling compliment, like I did. It’s not the focus here. His last text is what’s important. This is the apex of the story. I, like anyone who even slightly pays attention to football, hated both plays for starting defense. Lions D? Are you smoking 2C-I? And, as we know now, the Chiefs defense is among the league’s worst. So I reply with two plays that, on paper at the time, seemed like safe plays.

SEPTEMBER 13, 2012, 3:34 PM:

“I like Oakland’s D vs. MIA or MIN vs Luck & Indy.”

“I was looking at Oakland..Sleeper D. But I should get ride of Lions eh? I own Alex Smith too haha.”

“Yah Oakland vs rookie QB I like”. (insert Yoda voice).

“I like that.”

End of conversation. Sunday comes and I’m just about to dive in to some supremely spicy hummus and homemade cajun potato chips and watch the Jets game when a tweet from our dear friend Zack pops up on my iPhone that read:

Mentioned by @ZackAttack_: @Wesley_Sykes hey remember that time  you suggested the raiders D was a viable option. #neveragain #negativefive #rage

Can you believe this guy? I help him out with getting a consensus top-3 fantasy player and what do I get in return?  Not a public pat on the back. But I suggest a defense he already had his eye on and I get a swift electronic kick in the crotch.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a guy like Mike Westhoff (above) providing motivational speeches for your fantasy week? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Wouldn't it be great to have a guy like Mike Westhoff (above) providing motivational speeches for your fantasy team? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Riiigghtt. Not cool, brother.

1) Anything I write in this column format, or when I’m speaking casually to you, it is not me telling you to do anything. I’m simply sharing my thoughts on who I think will perform. Never will I tell someone what to do or who to play. This is your fantasy team. Bottom line is, you’re your own bottom line. Simple as that. 2) HE PREVIOUSLY AGREED THAT THE RAIDERS WERE SLEEPER D!

My point is this: be your own general manager. Everyone takes advice from everyone, but only you hold the keys to your own success. If you decide to pull the trigger on a trade that a friend suggested, go for it. At the end of the day you made the decision not me. If you feel iffy about something you hear from someone else. Don’t do it. No one is forcing your hand. Unless your wife is your co-manger. If that’s the case, you have no choice. Take her advice.

There. I feel better. Thanks for listening. More importantly, thank you Zack for being a good sport.

START ‘EM:

  • Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: Ride the Red Rocket to a win this week. Yeah, I said it. The Washington Redskins are the worst Yahoo! Sports fantasy defense vs. QBs through two weeks giving up an average of 34.73 points per week. The Skins did have to face Drew Brees (24 comp /339 yards/3 TDs) at the Superdome, but that doesn’t explain simple Sam Bradford (26 comp /310 yards /3 TDs) going off. Losing Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker on the line doesn’t help their cause either.
  • Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins: The Jets have had all types of troubles with all-purpose backs like Bush. Last five all-purpose back’s numbers vs Rex Ryan since 2001: Spiller – 162 yds/1 TD, McCoy – 102 yds/3 TDs, Bradshaw – 54 yds/2 TDs, Rice – 102 tot yds/ 1 TD, McFadden – 171 yds/2 TDs. Expect a healthy dose of Bush, as he’s turned into the team’s top playmaker.
  • Stevie Johnson, WR, Bills: The Cleveland Browns have given up the fourth most fantasy points to WRs in Yahoo! Sports leagues. With top corner Joe Haden still serving his suspension, the Browns continue to shake up their defensive backfield. Averaging seven targets a game from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, expect Johnson to have plenty of opportunities to unveil a couple questionable touchdown celebrations this week.
  • Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings: This is for deep leagues only. Call it my coma pick of the week. I realize he’s going up against the dreaded San Fran defense. But hear me out. Rudolph is Christian Ponder’s second favorite target after Percy Harvin (8 rec/ 102 yards / 1 TD / 12 targets). Meanwhile the 49ers have given up a touchdown to a tight end in both games this season. We know no one can run on Patrick Willis & co., but maybe you can strike some gold with Rudolph.

SIT ‘EM:

  • Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: Did you see how that Falcons defense made Peyton Manning look like he missed a year due to neck surgery? I sure did. The combination of Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel is quickly climbing the charts as one of the most feared tandems in the league. They have a pretty turnover-to-touchdown ratio of 2:1 vs. QBs. Rivers is going to have to sling the rock to stay in the game against the high octane Falcon offense. There’ll be plenty more turnover chances for the Dirty Birds this week.
  • Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: Someone needs to tell RunDMC he should lace up his shell toes. Zero touchdowns is not a good start if you want to be considered an elite fantasy back. This week isn’t a good week to start, as he faces the Steelers — a stout team against the run, averaging 10.95 points to fantasy RBs in Yahoo! Sports leagues.
  • Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: If Calvin Johnson is Megatron, does that make the Madden cover Optimus Prime? Eehh. The jury is still out as he has put up numbers (7 rpg/ 102.5 ypg), but it hasn’t come as easy as it did for Johnson in 2011. No touchdowns through two games. I’m not just referring to Johnson. The Titans defense has yet to give up a touchdown to a wide receiver this season. And they faced Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and Robert Meachem. It won’t come any easier for Johnson this week either.

JETS DEFENSE: Can’t Beat Around Bush

September 20th, 2012

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Wasn’t Reggie Bush labeled a bust after a few lack luster years in New Orleans? Unlike the helpless defenders he faced in college, the former number two overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft couldn’t shake the critic’s labels early in his career.

He’s too injury-prone. He’s not big enough to be an every down back. He’s not the Gale Sayers/Barry Sanders type everyone expected.

After five up-and-down seasons with the Saints — the ups including a Super Bowl ring in 2009 and tying the team’s single-game record for touchdowns (4) while the downs consisted of not finishing a regular season since 2006 — Bush found new life with the Miami Dolphins. Now, in his second year since taking his talents to South Beach, Bush appears to have blossomed into the every down all-purpose back that everyone hoped he’d be coming out of the University of Southern Cal.

“Clearly, Reggie Bush is, everybody knows, he is a special player.  (He) has great speed, that’s the first thing that jumps out at you.  He’s shifty, he runs with a little bit more power than people give him credit for,” Ryan said on Wednesday.

It's going to take a team effort to bring down Reggie Bush, who's been one of the top running backs of 2012. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Bush is coming off the top rushing performance of the season thus far with a 197 total yard-2 touchdown effort in a convincing home win against the Oakland Raiders. He showed off his aforementioned quiet power on his first touchdown run of the day — breaking multiple tackles where the Raider defenders had a legitimate shot at making a play. But, as Dolphins’ head coach Joe Philbin noted, Bush can also still turn on the burners.

“The second [touchdown], the 65 yard run, I don’t believe he got touched if I’m not mistaken.”

Wrapping up dynamic players has been a problem through the first two weeks for Ryan’s defense — particularly against running backs. A problem that, Ryan says, is hard to correct on a week-by-week basis.

“Outside of once a week, you’re not really in pads. So you don’t have the chance to take guys to the ground. We practice. We have a few things that we do [in regards of tackling better]. It’s hard to simulate on the practice field. You work your techniques and hope for the best,” he said.

Dating back to last season, the Jets struggles against “scat” backs have been well documented with poor tackling as the highlight. C.J. Spiller put up the second-highest rushing total against the Jets in the Ryan era. Many of those yards, as Ryan stated, came after Spiller had broken tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. In 2011 Ray Rice (130 total yds, 1 TD), Darren McFadden (171 yards, 2 TDs), LeSean McCoy (102 yards, 3 TDs) and Ahmad Bradshaw (54 yards, 2 TDs) all proved to be too much for the Jets rush defense to handle — an area of defense where Ryan prides himself on.

Only their Week 1 game versus Spiller and the Bills resulted in a win. The rest? All losses where the lowest point total for the opposing team was 29 (vs NYG) and the lowest scoring differential was 10 (vs OAK).

A big reason for their issues stems from personnel mismatches. With the only exceptions going to newly acquired Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry, who have coverage concerns of their own, the Jets have no one who could match up and cover these all-purpose backs. Linebackers are either too big or lack in coverage speed. Cornerbacks have the speed to keep up with them, but not the muscle to bring them down.

Aaron Maybin, the team’s designated pass rusher and fastest front seven player, agreed that Bush will be the focal point of their attention come Sunday.

“He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball. There aren’t too many players that fit that description walking around in the NFL. When you see that at the running back position, it changes the way a defense has to defend against those teams. He’s definitely a guy that in your game plan. You definitely know where he is when he comes on the field,” Maybin said.

When it comes to the field of SunLife Stadium, Bush has felt right at home. In his last five home games, Bush has eclipsed 100 rushing yards three times — averaging 109 total yards, 1.2 touchdowns and 5.1 yards per touch in that time.  Numbers that he is not ready to take credit for by himself.

“It wasn’t just me. It was the offensive line. It was the receivers. Everybody contributed,” he said in a conference call to the New York Media on Wednesday.

It’ll take a team effort to stop Bush this weekend, as the only bust he’s now focused on is the bronze type in Canton.

REVIS UPDATE: Cleared for Contact/Unclear for Sunday

September 20th, 2012

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Darrelle Revis has been cleared for contact by the Jets medical staff on Thursday morning. That’s great news for the Jets, who sorely missed their mildly concussed All-Pro cornerback in last week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I think you feel good when you have the best player on the field out there [for your team],” Rex Ryan said. “There’s only one Darrelle Revis. I know I feel great about it. It’s hard not to smile when he’s out there.”

Revis will be a full participant in today’s practice for the first time in 10 days. His status against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday is still up in the air, but Ryan is holding out hope he will play.

Darrelle Revis is inching closer to getting back on the field. Rex Ryan said he's been cleared for contact on Thursday. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

“I don’t want to say anything that I’m not sure of, so I’m going to lean on the doctors on that one. Hopefully he plays. I guess we’ll see,” he said.

Revis, who was taken out of the game following a blow to the back of the head from teammate Bart Scott’s knee in the Jets Week 1 48-28 victory over the Buffalo Bills, was held out of all contact drills last week before being ruled out on Friday for the game against Pittsburgh.

It’s presumed that he has cleared all the medical tests that the NFL now requires for any player nursing a concussion.

Again, no word on his status regarding Sunday, but Ryan acknowledged the importance of having two different game plans if Revis is unable to go.

“You have to be ready, one way or the other,” he said. “Having a special player like Darrelle, we ask him to do a lot of different things. A lot of times we put him 1-on-1 with a team’s best receiver. Roll coverage away from him. He’s just that kind of guy. So sometimes you will have different type of game plans.”

Should Revis not be able to go, the secondary will be thinner than last week. Ellis Lankster, who assumed the nickel back duties last week with Revis out, is out of Thursday’s practice with a lower back injury. According to Ryan, he hurt himself in practice on Wednesday.

Rex said he feels comfortable, if Revis is not ready by Sunday, with Kyle Wilson filling in once again.

“I thought Kyle did well in Revis’ absence. That doesn’t surprise me, he’s been doing that. Even as a rookie he carried himself like a Pro. He understands how offenses are trying to attack him now. He’s got that down. He’s always had a great physical skill set, now he’s just playing with more confidence,” he said.

Morning After Report: Where the Jets didn’t Muster up at Heinz Field

September 17th, 2012

Well, as it turns out, LaMarr Woodley was right when he claimed on Twitter that his Pittsburgh Steelers would not be 0-2 following their match-up with the New York Jets on Sunday.

The Jets started out hot — right where the left off after their 20-point drumming against the Buffalo Bills — with two great drives offensively and defensively holding Ben Roethlisberger to field goals in their first few possessions. But after posting 10 points in their first two drives, that efficiently effective offense turned stagnant and stale — sputtering on drive after drive due to costly drops, untimely penalties and the defense’s inability to get off the field on third downs.

Moreover, the losses of Darrelle Revis and Dustin Keller limited both sides of the Jets ball. On defense, the corners continually played off the speedy receivers — allowing the underneath pass in return for not giving up the big play. Offensively, Mark Sanchez grossly missed his safety valve tight end — after completing only three passes in over two hours of real time throughout the game.

Now 1-1, with the rest of their rivals in the AFC East, the Jets have a classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Are they the beast of a team that dominated Buffalo in all three facets of the game? Or are they merely mortal against the likes of bigger foes in the NFL?

While it’s only the start of Week 3, those are viable questions at this point. We can only go by what we’ve been able to see thus far, which should leave Jets fans scratching their heads to which New York team will show up in Miami on Sunday.

Will the real New York Jets please stand up?

PASSING OFFENSE: D

  • Sanchez & co. started off strong — passing out of singleback and jumbo sets effectively and quickly. They were quick to the ball, Sanchez was decisive and delivered strikes going 4/5 for 75 yards — finding three different receivers on their lone touchdown drive. After that? He completed three passes to two tight ends until their final drive of the game — where it was too late to do anything.
  • The problem with the receivers? The Steelers press coverage off the line of scrimmage following their first score. After a historic introduction, Stephen Hill was virtually non-existant with zero receptions, one costly drop and two total targets on the day. Rex Ryan preached that his young core would have to overcome Pittsburgh’s press and they didn’t respond. Instead their frustration led them to play for the pass interference calls.
  • You aren’t going to win many games by going 4-15 on third downs. Getting back to the offense’s reliance on drawing penalties, a third of their first downs (5) came via the penalty — that’s relying far too heavily on a veteran defense to make mistakes.
  • Missed opportunities: Up 7-6 on their second drive of the day, take a look at this sequence. On 1st&10 from PIT 24, Sanchez ran a bootleg play action which fools Steelers defense. Sanchez rolled to left and had Santonio Holmes open over the middle of the endzone, who shook Ike Taylor on a nice double move. Instead of planting his feet and delivering a strike, Sanchez — who had time — threw on the run and put the ball behind Tone that would’ve been an easy 6 points. Two plays later, Sanchez accurately read blitz and audibled to his hot route. Steelers sent six on a 3rd&5 from PIT 19. Sanchez fired to tight end Jeff Cumberland, who must’ve not realized the blitz or audible, as the ball hit him square in the back. Two chances to extend drive/score and, instead, resulted in three points.

Antonio Cromartie's lack of press coverage was just one of the reasons the Jets faltered in Pittsburgh. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

RUSHING OFFENSE: C

  • Losing Shonn Greene to the head injury following a solid 9-yard gain really changed the feel of this game. Greene is by no means flashy, but he did the dirty work to keep offense moving early and wore out the defense on those scoring drives. The problem is he hurt himself in the process — an all too common sight for Jets fans.
  • While Powell provided a nice change of pace to the ground game, the offensive line lost the push they had on their first two drives.
  • Ryan had stated that these two defenses are very similar. One of the weaknesses on the Jets defense is their aging linebackers’ inability to cover shifty, pass-catching running backs. The Jets have two backs that fit this description. I would’ve like to have seen Powell and, dare I say, Joe McKnight see some more action in the passing game. Both have the skill set to make a cut and take off. Jets running backs had no receptions in the game.

PASSING DEFENSE: D

  • All too often I saw corners Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson playing 5-6 yards off the Steelers receivers, allowing Big Ben to take what was given to him — and, at times, find the open man deep down the field. The “Bugatti Boys” — the Steelers receivers new nickname for their speed — were allowed a free release off the line of scrimmage giving their engines a chance to get revved up. Especially with Cromartie, who’s long arms and physicality could have been utilized to disrupt the timing of their routes. Or at the very least put a little fear in them on the next play.
  • I was really impressed with Garrett McIntyre filling in for the injured Bryan Thomas. He played with a tenacity on the field that was evident — coming up with a sack and huge tackle for loss late in the game.
  • I was, however, not impressed with the pass rush as whole. The team abandoned the blitzes later in the game as Roethlisberger burned them blitz after blitz. The pressure was there against a weak Steelers offensive line, but arm tackles and grabbing at the shoulders won’t bring down the burly Steelers QB — again, too many missed opportunities.
  • Although he was costly at times, I don’t mind the play by LaRon Landry. That’s what the Jets brought him in to do — to be their intimidating force on the back end. He just needs to focus his rage.
  • THIRD DOWN DILEMMA! It has been a thorn in the side of this defense dating back to last season. Allowing the Steelers to convert over 50% of this third downs. They cannot allow teams to sustain drives at that rate or they’ll have trouble beating anyone.

RUSHING DEFENSE: C

  • It wasn’t nearly as bad as the 169 yards they allowed to C.J. Spiller last week. The Jets run defense is tailored to stop the bruising running style of the Steelers. The problem, however, was the same they had in stopping Spiller — missed tackles. Ryan and Landry can talk about being the best defense in the league all they want, but if they can’t wrap and take down then all the talk is fruitless.
  • Sione Po’uha had no push off the line from what I saw. The back still seems to be a concern at this point in time. He continually lost the individual battle against Maurkice Pouncey.
  • I was, however, very impressed with Mo Wilkerson. He continually set the edge and closed off the gap on the outside. He’s setting himself up to be one of the premier edge run stoppers in the league.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-

  • After his best professional game last week, Jeremy Kerley might have had one of his worst games against the Steelers. His bobbled punt not only took the ball away from the Jets but completely sucked the air out of this team. He wasn’t going to be able to make a play on the return with good coverage. Ryan won a challenge — gaining momentum — and had great field position in line for his team that was still in striking distance of a win. Mike Westhoff conceded field position on following punt return, pulling Kerley up in coverage. On ensuing drive, Sanchez had words with Kerley, who appeared to have run the wrong route.
  • Rob Malone continues to be a positional weapon for Westhoff. He had two punts inside 20 — one of which was a touchback after Isaiah Trufant grabbed the ball instead of tipping it out of the end zone.
  • McKnight also is a positional weapon, averaging 28 yards on four returns. His explosiveness stil needs to be utilized on offense, I believe.

COACHING: D

  • Where was Tebow? They seemed to give up on the Wildcat after one negative play. In on only three plays late in the game, he appeared to have provided a bit of a spark to the stagnant Jets offense in the second half. After a 6-yard loss to Greene in the Wildcat package, they gave up on him, forcing Sanchez to come in clean up his mess. That’s not good for either player. Give Tebow a chance to right his wrong. Don’t force Sanchez to come in a situation where he is forced to make a play.
  • I commend Ryan for his challenge calls. The first proved to be a huge momentum swing — which ultimately swung back to the Steelers following Kerley’s blunder. The second came on Pittsburgh’s demoralizing 10+ minute drive that iced the game. His defense fatigued and hoping to strike gold on either the fumble or downed knee by Isaac Redman, Ryan threw the flag and was ultimately fruitless.

Friday Fantasy Focus

September 15th, 2012

Wait. Wait. Friday’s Fantasy Focus? On a Saturday? How lazy are you, Wes? Waiting to the last minute will get you no where.

There may be a point somewhere in there — I haven’t quite found it yet — but I think there is one. Maybe. Look, I have four (okay four and a half) years of college experience specializing in procrastination and I turned out alright. Right?

When it comes to fantasy football the “never late is better” attitude takes a back seat to the “better late than never” approach. Seriously, corny Drake references aside, procrastination is sometimes the best way to go in taking down a victory. And there’s no better time to focus on procrastination than Week 2.

Take the Darrelle Revis situation for example. The Jets waited as long as they could regarding his “mild” concussion before making a decision for two reasons: 1. Holding out hope that the fog surrounding his head would clear and 2. providing a week’s worth of frustration to those fantasy owners who drafted Antonio Brown. Will he or won’t he get an all expenses paid trip to Revis Island? Of course, as we all know now, Revis won’t play — with Brown drawing coverage against cornerback Kyle Wilson.

Translation: Start Brown this week.

Not having Revis in the game opens up the passing offense for the Big Ben and the Steelers, moving Brown from your bench to your starting wideout. Additionally, Emmanuel Sanders gets bumped up to a solid play for your third WR slot or flex position — who will mostly draw Isaiah Trufant or Ellis Lankster (who?) from the Jets. That’s assuming, though, that you didn’t play Randall Cobb in your flex spot, like I did, on Thursday. See what I get for taking a pro-active approach to my fantasy line-up?

Foolish.

Exactly the reason why I like to avoid Thursday games all together. In fact, if I can, I try to avoid 1 o’clock games as well. Again my knack for procrastination kicking in to high gear. I can’t explain why, but it always seems the team with more late games always seem to be a winner. Personally, I — a master procrastinator — feel more comfortable going into the Sunday night/Monday night games being down with a few players to go.

And after last week’s debauchery in Friday’s Fantasy Focus — which I posted early! — I made some ridiculous calls (starting Titus Young and Jared Cook — ouch). Stevie Johnson proved to be effective on Revis Island, scoring a touchdown and hauling in five receptions. And Peyton Manning? Let’s just say I won’t be doubting him for the rest of the season. He surgically picked apart the Steelers defense like the doctor who surgically repaired the four-time MVP’s neck.

The lone bright spot? My call on C.J. Spiller, who totaled the second-highest rushing yards against a Rex Ryan-led Jets defense and the best performance from a running back last week. And like my fourth runner up performance in the eighth grade free throw knock-out contest, no one can take that away from me.

But without further adieu, let’s put a stop to delaying the inevitable and get right in to Week 2’s Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em.

THE REVIS EFFECT: No Darrelle Revis means nickel corner Kyle Wilson must step up in covering Antonio Brown. Feast or Famine for the Bugatti Boys? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

START ‘EM:

  • Alex Smith, QB, 49ers – Who would’ve thought I’d lead off Alex Smith — yes, that Alex Smith — as a guy to start this week. Hey, the guy was a former number one overall pick. Draft status aside, I can see Smith having a a field day against a lacking Lions defense — Louis Delmas and Chris Houston are nursing injuries — and playing under the lights in front of a crazed Bay Area crowd in their home opener will only help. On the road against Green Bay, Smith spread the ball around to six different receivers — something that we didn’t see a lot of in 2011. Factoid: The Lions defense allowed the 7th fewest fantasy points to QBs last week, according to Yahoo! Sports. Don’t let this throw you off, as they were facing a stagnant Rams offense … led by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer (I know Jets fans are smiling at that one).
  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals — Here’s a guy who was able to find 10 TDs in 2011 and 13 TDs in 2010 in a passing-oriented Patriots offense. This year? Ninety-one rushing yards and a touchdown against a stout Ravens defense. Not too shabby, if you ask me. He should look to build on is performance last week against the Cleveland Browns as he continues to put the foot injury that caused him to miss three preseason games in his review. According to Yahoo! Sports, the Law Firm is the 11th best fantasy back this week over guys like Marshawn Lynch, Maurice Jones-Drew and CJ0K (see what I did there?). FACTOID: In his eight seasons as head coach, Marvin Lewis has never failed to produce a running back who didn’t put out 1,100 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Now that’s consistency folks.
  • Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Steelers — I mentioned him earlier and I like the potential mismatch he brings in this game. Not having Revis this week has a serious ripple effect in the Jets secondary. Wilson moves out of the nickel, where he would have covered Sanders, and on Brown (who is also a solid play this week). That means Trufant or Lankster must step up in the All-Pro’s absence. FACTOID: These aren’t your parents’ Steelers. The Steelers used three wide receivers on 52-of-71 offensive snaps in Week 1. Out of the 71 plays, only 25 were designed runs. Sanders tied for the team lead with eight targets, hauling in four catches for 55 yards.
  • Coby Fleener, TE, Colts — I mentioned him last week as an “in a pinch” play and, in a pinch, he provided some production (6 receptions — 3 for first downs & 82 yards). Andrew Luck loves his collegiate safety valve and this week won’t be any different against a Vikings defense who allowed Marcedes Lewis average 10 yards per reception and a touchdown last week. Dustin Keller owners take notice. FACTOID: In Yahoo! Sports leagues, Fleener has been added by over 5,000 teams in the past two days — truly paying homage to procrastination. Available in most leagues, don’t be the last to jump the bandwagon.

SIT ‘EM:

  • Michael Vick, QB, Eagles – This, to me, is a near no-brainer. Bad offensive line. Bad game against a bad team last week. Facing bad ass defense this week. Vick through FOUR interceptions last week in a game that should’ve been an easy Week 1 victory. Instead the Eagles were forced to play from behind and put the fate of the game on Vick’s left shoulder — which turned out be a bad idea. Add in to the mix that receiver Jeremy Maclin is iffy for Sunday and it’s a recipe for some pine in Week 2. FACTOID: Last week the Ravens defense gave up the third fewest fantasy points to a quarterback in Yahoo! Sports leagues, while Vick was the 70th ranked player following his disappointing Week 1 performance.
  • Stephen Jackson, RB, Rams — It wasn’t that long ago where I would have done almost anything to have him on my team — real or fantasy. But now? Eehh. I don’t know what it is about him, but he just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s the injuries. Maybe it’s the fact he was overworked for a couple of years. Maybe it has to do with Schottenheimer misusing his ground game all too often (see Greene, Shonn). Take your pick, but don’t take Jackson as your starter this week. FACTOID: Jackson averaged only 2.5 YPC last week which is problematic because he averaged 2.6 against the Redskins last year.
  • Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens — This is the Rodgers-Cromartie/Asomugha effect here. But more than that, it is his hit-or-miss style of play that would scare me the most as a fantasy owner. Smith has huge upside and can offer the big play at any moment. Against an aggressive Eagles defensive front, Joe Flacco may not have the time to stretch the field to Smith. FACTOID: Eagles have allowed the fourth fewest fantasy points to wide receivers last week. But I dare you to name the receivers on the Cleveland Browns.
  • Fred Davis, TE, Redskins — Only four targets last week from Robert Griffin III. The reason? Mike Shanahan was running a college-style offense with his rookie QB. The Redskins focused a lot on bubble screens and option-fakes to the outside to speedy receivers like Pierre Garcon. Not a bad play if you’re in a pinch, but there are definitely other options available that could be more productive this week. FACTOID: Rams did allow the third most fantasy sports on Yahoo! Sports leagues last week, but that was against Brandon Pettigrew — a reception machine.