Sunday, April 12

Marshawn Lynch gets three-game suspension

For the second year in a row, Marshawn Lynch's legal trouble may have resulted in a drop in his fantasy value. Last year, Lynch was reportedly going to be suspended for his hit-and-run accident last year, but was exonerated after it turned out the victim did not suffer serious injuries.

This year, however, Lynch was actually suspended for three games for pleading guilty to misdemeanor weapon charges.

That said, there's still a chance Lynch's suspension is reduced on appeal; Brandon Marshall's three-game suspension was reduced to one game prior to the 2008 season, and Marshall arguably had a worse criminal record than Lynch.

Lynch had over 1,300 total yards with nine touchdowns in 15 games last year and finished as the No. 15 running back; he would've been No. 21 if he missed three games. Chances are Lynch may only miss one game of the season, and considering he also missed a game last year, there's no reason why his value drop so much.

Lynch had just 251 rush attempts—almost five attempts per game less than in his first season—last year, but his yards per attempt increased by about a fifth of a yard from his rookie season to his sophomore season. You can argue that Lynch will have an increase in carries—with Terrell Owens now with the Bills, team will have to prepare for the passing attack as well as the rush, leaving more opportunities for Buffalo to surprise their opponents; but on the flip side, you can argue his carries will decrease—with Terrell Owens now with the Bills, Buffalo will be passing much more than last year.

Personally, I think Lynch's attempts per game will be more near his 2008 average (16.7 per game) than his 2007 average (21.5 per game).

In his rookie season, Lynch had just 18 receptions for 184 yards, but he had almost 30 more catches and 120 yards last year. Look for Lynch's role in the passing game to decline next year, as Terrell Owens should catch 80 balls, and there's not enough to go around for both of them.

Because of the immense upside and chance of a reduced suspension, Lynch is right around No. 15 in my running back rankings.

In the case that Lynch is out for significant time, Fred Jackson becomes a top-20 back in the games Lynch misses. In Week 17, when Lynch was out due to injury, Jackson stepped in and had 136 yards on 27 carries, more than five yards per carry. And in the previous two games, Jackson had a combined 17 carries for 74 yards, plus nine receptions for 94 yards and a total of two touchdowns. Jackson had double digit fantasy points in each of those final three weeks.

Even if Lynch is suspended just for Week One, Jackson provides a safe flex option week-in, week-out, good for fifty or sixty total yards each week. Worst case scenario, Jackson is a top-35 running back. He's a must-have handcuff for all Lynch owners and a solid No. 3 or 4 running back for all other owners.

We once hit a 74 at Augusta National. +

Keep going...

Sunday, March 1

Combine Winners and Losers

Christmas time for NFL Scouts, the 2009 NFL Combine, took place this past week as it does annually in Indianapolis. Overrated, boring, unimportant--call it what you will, this is a crucial point for NFL prospects trying to prove their worth. As always, there are winners and losers, and this year was no different.


Pat White/QB WVU: While there are still concerns about White's transition to the pros, he certainly helped his cause at the Combine this past weekend. As most scouts assumed, White ran the fastest 40 time of all quarterbacks, a very impressive 4.49. That was faster than guys like Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Britt. White reportedly threw the ball very well in his workout drills. The former WVU star has a good shot to go in the late-second to early-third round.

Andre Brown/RB NC State: While guys like Chris Wells and Knowshon Moreno failed to impress, Brown stepped up to the plate. A pretty good sized back, coming in at 6'0" 224 pounds, he ran a 4.49 40, fourth-best of all running backs. The fact that he doesn't have a lot of wear and tear can also be viewed as appealing to scouts; Brown has just under 500 carries in his college career. At this point, he should go in round three.

Darrius Heyward-Bey/WR Maryland: Probably the biggest winner of the event, Bey wowed most when he ran a blistering 40 time, a 4.3 flat. If it were up to me, I'd approach Bey with caution. He has the speed, but his route-running and hands are questionable. In theory, he could go as high as No. 7 to the Raiders--Al Davis loves burners--but a mid-to-late first round grade is more likely.

Tiquan Underwood/WR Rutgers: Another WR who flashed his speed, Underwood ran a 4.41 40. He continued to show his athleticism by posting a 41'5" vertical and 10'9" in the broad jump, and he ran a 6.62 in the three-cone shuttle. Those results were second, tied for first, and first, respectively.

Jared Cook/TE South Carolina: Scouting reports anointed him as an athletic receiving tight end, and he only fueled those reports at the Combine. Running a 4.50, extremely fast for a tight end, he also put up a 41-inch vertical and a 10'3" broad jump. Cook is making a strong case for being picked over Brandon Pettigrew.

Jason Smith/OT Baylor: Athletic enough to play left tackle, he also showed strength by repping 225 pounds 33 times. The fact that Andre Smith's Combine weekend was a total debacle helped Smith as well. He has a legitimate shot to go No. 1 overall.

Vontae Davis/CB Illinois: It's not so much that he did spectacular, rather, his stock was helped by others doing worse. Don't get me wrong, Davis ran a respectable 40 time (4.49) but his main competitor to be the first corner off the board, Malcolm Jenkins out of OSU, only ran a 4.55 and could be drafted as a safety.


Chris Wells and Knowshown Moreno/RB: Both fell into similar trouble: poor 40 times. Wells ran a 4.59, and even though he is a big back, he was expected to run in the 4.4's. Moreno wasn't expected to run as fast, but turned in a pretty poor time (4.6 flat). They will still be first-round picks, but better times at their Pro Days would be a big help.

Brandon Pettigrew/TE Oklahoma St: He isn't going to be a huge receiving threat, but a 4.85 40 always hurts for the No. 1 tight end on the board. As mentioned earlier, Jared Cook quickly closed the gap between him.

Andre Smith/OT Alabama: Arguably the biggest loser, Smith did not even workout, which usually isn't a big deal for a top prospect--provided you tell someone that you're not going to workout and plan to leave. Oops. Smith disappeared Saturday and his whereabouts were unknown for awhile. Smith went home to train with his personal trainer, saying that he was not prepared for the Combine. He had nearly two months to prepare; this certainly doesn't help his work ethic and maturity issues. From a possible top pick, he's more likely to go in the mid-first round.

Larry English/DE Northern Illinois: His stock was on the rise before the Combine, but he struggled at Indy. Projected to be a 3-4 OLB, he ran a very slow 4.90. That won't cut it at OLB. He also weighed in at 6'2" 255 and only did 24 reps on the bench press, making him a little small and a little weak to stay as a 4-3 DE. English fits the mold of a tweener.

Clint Sintim/OLB Virginia: I was a big fan of Sintim coming into the Combine. I loved his pass rushing ability (20 total sacks his junior and senior year), and I still do, but a 4.8 40 time isn't going to help his cause. His stock just dipped a round or two.

Malcolm Jenkins/CB Ohio St.: As I said previously, Jenkins was banking on having to run well at the Combine in order to keep his stock up. Unfourtunately for him, that didn't happen. Jenkins ran a 4.55. Some say he is a potential candidate to play safety in the NFL because of this questionable speed. If that proves to be the case, Jenkins could fall to the late-first round.

Keep going...

Tuesday, February 17

Fred Taylor Released, Let the Maurice Jones-Drew Lovefest Begin

For the first time in his 11 year career, long-time Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor will not be playing for the Jaguars next season due to something other than an injury. After reportedly offering to take a pay cut in order to stay with his long time employers, the 33-year-old Taylor, who was due to make six-million dollars in base salary in 2009, was released Monday and is now a free agent. The news shouldn't come as a surprise in this time of economic recession, which has displayed fairly transparently that sub-par things simply can not survive no matter how cheap or local they are.
However, Taylor has said that he is not at all ready to retire as the Jacksonville organization asked of him, but is "excited" to enter free agency for the first time in his NFL career.
Taylor did have 654 total yards on 159 touches last season and could very conceivably be brought in to help out a team looking for veteran leadership in a backfield that already has an established starting tailback. And a good team doctor.
This news more probably will have a greater impact on the team Taylor is leaving, the Jacksonville Jaguars, which now seems to be fully committed to the small, quick, powerful, and very hyphenated 23-year-old Maurice Jones-Drew. Which basically gives every fantasy football playing human daydream fodder for the rest of the off season.
Now being in a position to shoulder the full load of backfield touches, Jones-Drew, who had 1,389 yards and 14 touchdowns on 259 rushes and receptions in his third NFL season in 2008, will most likely be the sexiest player on 2009 draft boards.
Make sure to watch the Jaguars for any moves they make to bring in a cheaper option at backup RB and the 32,723 coming probations of MoJo's career yards per carry rate over some number defined as a full Jacksonville running back workload.

Keep going...

Friday, January 30

Super Bowl XLIII Preview: Has It Reached Midnight for Cinderella?

Apparently, only one of us believes so.

And it's not whom you may think.

The 12-7 Arizona Cardinals are seven-point dogs to the 14-4 Pittsburgh Steelers, owners of the No. 1-ranked defense on the year. After two weeks of wait, the teams are 48 hours away from kickoff in Tampa Bay.

Vegas bookies are predicting a final score of 27-20 in favor of the Steelers, based on the spread and over/under. We like the—well, just read on to see our picks.

Jump To...
Zach Fein
Tosten Burks
Gage Arnold
Alex Kozora

Zach Fein

For Arizona, the key will be to maintain a quick-strike offense. On their first possession, Arizona must play as if they are in a two-minute offense, throwing quick, 10-yard passes (with runs mixed in). The Cardinals must set an up-tempo pace. This will make the Steelers unable to put pressure on Warner, knowing that he’d get the ball off before a blitzer arrives.

They know that the Steelers cannot compete with them on the offensive side of the ball, and Arizona must hope for a shootout—that is their only chance of competing in this game. If it turns into an old-school, time-of-possession battle that is the Steelers’ specialty, Arizona can say goodbye to their Super Bowl chances.

Kurt Warner was the best quarterback when facing the blitz all year (a passer rating of 103.8 on 197 attempts)—if the Steelers go to their blitz-happy ways, Warner will destroy them. Instead, Pittsburgh must drop back into coverage more often than not and be aware of when to and from where to blitz.

One way to take care of this is to let Troy Polamalu take care of the short, middle routes and checkdowns. This way, Polamalu will be near the line on each and every play, so his distance to Warner will not be as much as if he were in his normal position. When he is rushing the passer, Pittsburgh can single-cover Larry Fitzgerald and put another man in the middle or in position to cover the running back.

In this defensive formation, Warner will not have time to throw to Fitzgerald, who is single-covered, and must throw to Anquan Boldin in the middle or Tim Hightower or Edgerrin James in the flat, and each of them will be covered by the man taking over for Polamalu. Using Polamalu as bait for Warner to throw to the flat could provide Pittsburgh with key stops, especially if the Cardinals are faced with third-and-short.

But in my opinion, it won't be enough. Arizona should control the tempo of the game and make the score go into the 30s. The Steelers will not be able to stop Larry Fitzgerald, who will once again gain over 100 yards receiving.

In the end, the final scoreboard will read 31-27, Arizona.

Tosten Burks

To start, let me establish that I don't really have a connection to either team in this game.I have a great uncle who farms alfalfa in Yuma. That's the closest I am to either franchise. I'll be cheering for the 7-0 box and Danica Patrick GoDaddy commercials.

But also the Arizona Cardinals. I like offense. I like underdogs. I like Edgerrin James's mini-comeback mini-story. And hey, Yuma's dry heat is pretty nice on winter nights.

And there's the reason I'm picking Arizona. Because I'm rooting for them. And I don't want to be bummed when the team I like wins because I picked against them on a fantasy football blog. That's just perplexing, paradoxical poop.

I like the Cards, and am going to be cheering for the cards, so I'm picking the Cards. I have no idea what affect Larry Fitzgerald's match up against the Pittsburgh secondary will have on the outcome or an estimate as to the impact of Ben Roethlisberger's injury situation, or how much of a factor Arizona being an underdog yet again will be. But I like Arizona.

For Yuma. Cards win.

Gage Arnold

As the Super Bowl is upon us again this year, let's recap to see how we reached this point. The Steelers faced the top-ranked schedule, and they rose to the challenge and gave NFL fans something to root for—another typical Steelers team: strong defense, smart signal caller, and finally a heavy dose of the running game. That has essentially led the Men of Steel to their route so far.

I really see the Steelers' defense being the MVP of this game. If their top ranked unit can step up in the crunch time and do what they have basically done all year, then I think the Steelers sit completely in the driver's seat. If the defense gets out to a fast start then expect a heavy dose of Willie Parker mixed in with a few Ben Roethlisberger play-action passes across the middle. So essentially, the defense decides the Steelers fate.

Now, as we backtrack, I have to tell you that the NFC West was completely horrid. I mean, Arizona winning with the division with a three-game lead at 9-7? That record along proves how, eh, stunningly awful these teams in their conference were. But this year proved to be the resurgence of Kurt Warner. The "old man" came out firing and finished as a top-five quarterback. Anquan Boldin, as well as Larry Fitzgerald, stepped up their games even more and showed they were the best receiver tandem in the league.

The Cards' defense was not too terribly bad either. They ranked in the middle of the pack in total defense, but many studs stepped up, like rookie Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, Darnell Dockett, and Karlos Dansby. The key here lies in the Cardinals passing game: If they are in fact able to control the airways and score quickly, then I see a huge upset in the making in Tampa on Sunday. If this does happen I would expect to see a heavy dose of Edgerrin James as well. Offense is the key here, folks.

My final verdict: I am going to side with the Pittsburgh Steelers to take home the Super Bowl this season in a 28-13 score. I think the Cardinals will remain in this game early, but I think that the Steelers are just too strong of a defensive unit to be beaten, and I feel that they will control the passing game and force Arizona to win it on the ground, which they have proven they struggle doing. Expect a good game, though, and it should remain fairly even throughout with Pittsburgh taking a long drive for a score in the final minutes to solidify themselves as champions.

Alex Kozora (the Steelers fan)

The gameplans for both teams shouldn't change drastically. Both teams have to treat this like any other game to the best of their abilities—your gameplan and style of play is what got you to this point. Having said that, those of us watching the Super Bowl can expect two totally different gameplans.

Arizona's pass offense is the staple of the team. That won't be any different here. Create as many mismatches as possible, and take what the defense gives you. The Steelers' cornerbacks usually play with a cushion; a lot of slants and crossing routes is the best counter. However, they can't stray from the running game. Balance is key, they can't become one-dimensional against a team like the Steelers. Stay committed; for Arizona, they're not expecting Edge to gain 150 yards. That's just plain unrealistic against the best run defense in the league. The key is to run the ball 25-30 times and make the defense respect the running game, forcing them to cheat up from time to time. When that happens, you can then stretch the field with your all-stars like Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin.

While it was just about attempts for the Cardinals' rushing attack, it's a different case for the Steelers. They want to run the ball a lot, but they also want success. The running game sets up the pass, unlike Arizona, which is the other way around. Willie Parker has to be successful in order for Pittsburgh to win. In regards to the passing game, the key is protecting Ben. Nothings changed in that department. Give him time, and he'll make plays. Granted, that's easier said than done....

Putting my Steelers bias aside the best I can, I'm going with the underdog, Arizona. They've shown a commitment to the running game in the postseason. Thirty-seven percent of the Cardinals' first downs have come from the running game in the postseason, comparing that to just a 24 percent clip in the regular season. Their attempts and yards have gone up too, from 21 carries and 74 yards per game to 33 carries and 111 yards per game in the postseason. I can't see the Steelers being able to slow down that Cardinals' offense; blitzing helps, but the best counter for a blitzing defense is a QB with a quick release. Arizona has that in Kurt Warner. Just look at what a quarterback with a similar throwing style did against the Steelers in the regular season.

One other tidbit of information to leave you with: Pittsburgh has struggled against quality teams that run a 4-3. All of their losses have been handed down by 4-3 teams (the Eagles, Giants, Colts, and Titans). Yeah, you guessed it, 'Zona runs the 4-3.

Keep going...

Wednesday, January 28

We're Still Alive

Yello. I'm just checking in to let you all four of you who would somehow be hitting up the domain of a fantasy football blog in late January know that we weren't sniped down by Bristol undercover cops or anything like that. I still have a pulse. And so do Alex and that Stat Guy. Not sure about Gage though. I don't know if he ever had one. But anyway, we haven't been neglecting this place. I swear. Just click through. I'm working on a diddy about all the coaching changes. That's taken forever because it took like 14 lunar cycles for Tampa Bay to decide that they didn't want to retain John Gruden, and that after around 1,893,247 naps since the end of the regular season, Al Davis still hasn't found any living being who wants to coach for him. [Editor's note: Tom Cable was just hired as head coach of the Raiders.] When all the sideline situations clear up, I assure you I'll drop a big analysis piece on all the changes. Also, Zach's calculator broke or something, so that's been a slight hold up for him and his normal slew of stuff. And I would guess that A-Koz has been busy planning a funeral for Joseph Addai or some crap. Nobody has any guesses as to Mr. Arnold's situation, although he said something about working two jobs (wouldn'tcha know, this site isn't a real profession) and taking intensive classes right now or some crap. Lucky for you, there's also a super secret site something coming soon. It's gonna be so cool. And new. And secret. And super. Smell ya later. (Really.)
Keep going...

Thursday, January 15

Ed Werder's Wrong Again: T.O.'s Going Nowhere

Terrell Owens is staying in Dallas. ESPN's Ed Werder reported that the Dallas Cowboys would have discussions about whether to drop star receiver T.O. "The big one [Owens] didn't get discussed yet, but I'm sure it will and real hard," said his source, after the Cowboys released Adam "Pacman" Jones. But Drew Rosenhaus, Owens' agent, refuted the speculation in a radio interview. "It's not going to happen. The reason why they got rid of Pacman is because Pacman has terrible off-the-field problems, and the guy just simply can't play anymore. He's just not that good. "Terrell's never had off-the-field problems, and he's been one of the greatest players ever. ... He's not going anywhere." T.O. has had more off-the-field problems than Rosenhaus claims, but he's right about one thing: T.O. is staying in Dallas. Werder's report is wrong on more than one account. As well as reporting that T.O. may be dropped, he said that the reason would be to easier sign star linebacker Demarcus Ware:
But Jerry Jones just last year invested a $12 million signing bonus in Owens, which means there would be salary-cap fallout. In fact, Jerry Jones has suggested that there might be enough damage that the team would find it difficult to sign NFL sack leader DeMarcus Ware to a new contract.
The Dallas Morning News then pointed out that should T.O. be dropped, he would count $680,000 more against the Cowboys' salary cap than if he were kept and paid his 2009 salary of $8.99 million. Fantasy owners, don't panic. ESPN was wrong.

Keep going...

Monday, January 12

Jacking ESPN's Material: 2009 Predictions by Alex Kozora

I'm not gonna sit here and lie to you. Not all that Matthew Berry is associated with is bad. Take Anne Hatheway. Or this blog. Or Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. Or the prediction survey that he and the rest of Bristol's resident loser table fantasy guys put out for the new year. The thing that I'm thieving and in which plugging my own answers. Arrest me. Now, with less Tosten, Zach, and Gage. Saving the best for last. Your name: Alex Kozora But you wish to be referred to as: Alex (how orginal) You're a shameless, unabashed fan of: Pinching pennies But we shouldn't hold it against you because: Better to be fiscally tight than loose. Your fondest sports wish for 2009 is: That Chidi Iwuoma signs with a team. Why will this happen/not happen? No one has shown much interest in him yet... Who is your biggest sleeper pick for 2009? Haven't given it much thought yet, but I'll go with Josh Morgan. How high would you reach for that sleeper in a draft? 8th round. Which player are you buying into but is most likely to disappoint you? Matt Hasselbeck. Good value, but injuries are a concern. Which player are you not buying into but is most likely to disappoint everyone else? Darren Sproles Who will be the best rookie to emerge in 2009? All depends on where they go, but Shonne Green really impressed me this year. Who will be... ... the first player drafted in fantasy football leagues? Adrian Peterson ... the player everyone will wish they had drafted? Earnest Graham ... the first player drafted in the NFL draft? Andre Smith ... the first rookie drafted in fantasy football leagues? Chris "Beanie" Wells. Mad Gabs 1. In 2009, the Wildcat will not work for any team until it is used even less sparingly. 2. There is no way I will bail on LT. 3. Maurice Jones-Drew will be this year's Joseph Addai. 4. Brett Favre will be talked about on Sportscenter so much, ESPN will change its name to the Favre Network. 5. If Kerry Collins keeps the starting gig, then Justin Gage doesn't look so bad. 6. There will be still be multiple players who get drafted ahead of Clinton Portis. 7. ... but only 1 player who scores more points among running backs. 8. Matthew Berry will continue to be the "creepy uncle" at family reunions. 9. This is the year that I finally cut down on fantasy football leagues. 10. 2009 will forever be remembered as the year the Packers' trading Favre and starting Rodgers was a great move. The Name Game Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? Manning Michael Turner or LaDainian Tomlinson? LT Randy Moss or Calvin Johnson? Moss Antonio Bryant or Marques Colston? Tougher than it seems, but I'll go Colston. Little more proven. Brandon Jacobs or Marion Barber? Jacobs DeAngelo Williams or Clinton Portis? Portis Playing with Numbers Adrian Peterson's yards and touchdowns: 1,950 (total); 15 TDs Drew Brees's yards and touchdowns: 4,500; 30 Tom Brady's yards and touchdowns: 4,100; 26 Kurt Warner's starts: 14 Braylon Edwards's yards, touchdowns, and drops: 1,229; 8; 10 Chad Ocho Cinco's yards and touchdowns: 825; 8 (Think Greg Jennings from '07) Chad Ocho Cinco's ridiculous statements: Only Chuck Norris can count that high. Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace What question do you wish you had been asked on this survey? How high will I rank Joseph Addai this year? And the answer is? Low. What question are you glad you weren't asked? Thoughts on Big Ben? Sucker! Now you have to answer. No clue. That's why I'm glad I wasn't asked.
Keep going...