Tuesday, October 5, 2010

NFL Homage: Week 4

Peter King, long-time Sports Illustrated writer, has a column titled Monday Morning Quarterback or MMQB. This is speculative hearsay as I have never read it. But that is the rumor. Similarly, Gregg Easterbrook, short-time ESPN.com author, has a column titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback or TMQ. This is factual, as I have seen the links to it, but have never read it. Supposedly TMQ is an homage to MMQB where, in both, the author summarizes the goings-on of the previous NFL week of games. Well, in the Sports Pinata, each week I will be writing a post about the previous slab of games, call it an homage to an homage as I am copying the idea, but as I have never read either man's work, don't know if I will be copying ideas. Let's hope not. On to week four.

And then there was one. This has, by now, been beaten to death by surprised analysts and other broadcasters during slow points, but the Kansas City Chiefs, the Sports Pinata's sleeper pick, are the last unbeaten team in the NFL. The gloating will continue each week until they collapse and get passed by the Chargers as the Broncos made famous just two years ago.

Speaking of the Broncos, Kyle Orton already has over 1,400 yards passing. Some quick math tells us he is on pace to absolutely shatter Dan Marino's season yardage record of 5,084. No one expects this pace to keep up, especially with a receiving core made up of mostly slot receivers and people passed on by other franchises. And yet, what a fun story it is. Their top offensive threat was supposed to be second year back Knowshon Moreno, but he's missed most of the season because of injury. He has just 39 carries. Who knows how long Orton can keep this pace up but another fun wrinkle is to bring this up to any Bears fans you know.

The other big quarterback story line after week four is, yet again, in Philadelphia. Michael Vick got hurt mid-game, screwing over fantasy owners all over the country. There is nothing worse than your starting fantasy quarterback getting hurt in the middle of a game and not returning. It's impossible to recover from. Of course, this was also the situation that allowed Vick to get the job in the first place, when Kolb got hurt mid-game of week one. Now the question is, first, is Vick healthy enough to play? He has already been deemed out for week five, but is considered 'day-to-day' after that. And what if Kolb plays really well? It seems unlikely based on what he has shown thus far, but he had high expectations coming into the season. What if Andy Reid is dealt the same QB conundrum in week six, but in reverse? Wouldn't that be something? It will all depend on how well Kevin Kolb plays in this second chance he was given.

The Eagles are also a part of the biggest NFL story going right now: the lack of any clear favorite in the NFC. The Eagles are tied for first place in their division at 2-2 with both the Giants and Redskins. No team looks good out west. The Bears still share a division lead with the Packers and have a head-to-head victory to hang their hats on. The two best NFC teams might be the Falcons and Saints except neither one is showing it. The Saints have yet to play an impressive game all season.

It appears as though the Jets, Ravens and Steelers have somewhat separated themselves from the pack in the AFC as title contenders. All three have strong defenses and capable offenses. Then there are the offensive powerhouses with questions in New England and Houston. Non-believers in the Chiefs will point to those five teams as the cream of the crop in the conference, and perhaps the top five in the whole league as well. Which NFC team is a sure thing right now? I don't see one. If only Ryan Grant didn't get hurt...

Speaking of Brandon Jackson and fantasy flops, here is this week's lineup of 'stars who sucked.'

Quarterback - Jay Cutler. It wasn't even that he got hurt and missed the second half. Because that also happened to Vick and are we even sure Cutler was physically hurt or did he just hurt his pride? The numbers were purely awful. He threw for 42 yards and 1 interception. He also fumbled 3 times and was sacked 9 times. Nine. In one half of play. I watched that whole game and a lot of the sacks were Cutler's fault too. He was not comfortable at any point in that game. Now quarterbacks are routinely the highest scoring fantasy players. People win weeks and bank much of their scoring on quarterback performance. Well, Cutler actually scored negative points in week four. For anyone that would be terrible. For a quarterback, that is the epitome of a star who sucked.

Running Back - Chris Johnson and Ray Rice. Running back is turning into as flaky a position as wide receiver. Each week there are star players turning out bad performances. Both Johnson and Rice have made the lineup before. For Rice, this is three straight weeks of underwhelming. For Johnson perhaps it was a case of his team getting caught in a shoot out with the Broncos. Although, a ton of points weren't scored and Vince Young did not throw for a lot of yards. So let's just chalk this up to a down week. For Rice though, fantasy owners should be worried. He was pronounced healthy prior to the game yet only carried the ball eight times for 20 yards. Another week or two of this type of production and Ray Rice will firmly be placed on the yearly bust list.

Wide Receiver - Randy Moss and Marques Colston. Moss is a no-brainer here. He was held without a catch for the first time since 2006. Maybe the defense was taking him away, leading to Brady's first half struggles. Or maybe he just didn't bring his best effort this week. Marques Colston, on the other hand, seems to be reflecting a theme in the Saints' offense. They have yet to put a tremendous, 2009-level offensive game together. Colston ended with three fantasy points and the Saints have scored 25 points or less every game this season. The lack of a running game is really hurting them. Who would have thought the loss of Reggie Bush, not their feature back, could wreck this much havoc? Then, of course, Pierre Thomas also goes down and we realize how well New Orleans actually ran the ball last season and how they can't seem to this time around.

Tight End - Tony Gonzalez. My thoughts on fantasy tight ends are well documented. There are only two or three reliable ones. That's it. After that, the rest are crap shoots week to week. You never know if they'll show up. The truth is in the numbers this week. Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finely, Dustin Keller, Chris Cooley, and Brent Celek, five of the top ten tight ends in the league, all ended with fewer than 40 yards receiving in week four yet all caught a touchdown, saving their putrid week. Keller actually caught two touchdowns. Now you can argue touchdowns are a result of being a good redzone target. Tony Gonzalez ended with more receiving yards than any of these other guys, 41, but didn't catch that touchdown. Or, you can argue that touchdowns are very random and Gonzo got the short straw this week. Either way, I sure wish I owned Antonio Gates.

D/ST - Bengals. The Ravens finally get off the list after forcing a turnover for once. The Bengals, on the other hand, are welcomed to the 'stars who sucked' lineup. If they were going to be as good a defense as they were last year, the time to prove it would be against the in-state 'rival' Browns. Instead, they give up a handful of points, only record one sack and one turnover netting roughly 3 fantasy points. If they cannot be relied upon to produce against the Browns, it might be a good time to give up on this team for fantasy purposes. And probably for real-life purposes as well.

Kicker - Mason Crosby. The top owned kicker for the week on a powerful offensive team is going against a winless opponent. Guess what? The Packers score a good amount. Guess what though? Mason Crosby doesn't. Four extra points after four touchdowns does not help a fantasy kicker. It sure is hard to predict which kickers will score well each week. I sense a theme.

With bye weeks under way and continuing in week five, it is all the more important to get stars in there that you can trust to have a good outing. Yet as we've discovered, it is much easier said than done. Anyone who tells you fantasy football is not 75% luck is either a liar or delusional.

This has been week four's NFL homage to an homage.

(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)

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