Let’s face it, Tuesdays are lame during football season because Monday Night Football is in the rearview mirror and then we are days away from the next week. Fear not my loyal fantasy football audience. Tuesdays mean it is time for the Top Ten list of newsworthy fantasy football headlines to help you in your pursuit of a fantasy football championship. Or, at the very least, it will give you something to read when you want to slack off at work. So without further adieu, here are the Top Ten fantasy football headlines for October 11, 2011.
10. Mile High Club – Quarterback controversies are always frustrating for fans, players, and fantasy owners. In Denver, the drama over who the team’s quarterback is has apparently been resolved – for now. Head coach John Fox has named former first round pick and much-maligned Tim Tebow as the starter following his almost miraculous comeback against the San Diego Chargers. It is unclear whether this will be permanent or if Kyle Orton will have any more chances, but it is at least safe to say that Brady Quinn will remain the team’s third-string quarterback. Fans in Denver have been clamoring for the Tebow era to begin. Fantasy owners have been longing for it as well, especially because Tebow is so dangerous running the ball and isn’t afraid to take a hit diving into the end zone.
9. Dancing With the Steelers – After winning the coveted mirror ball on Dancing With the Stars, Hines Ward has watched Mike Wallace become the team’s primary receiver with Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown emerge as weapons. Ward’s role looked diminished in the first few weeks which translated into a sluggish start for the Steelers. Then Joe Theisman astutely said that the Steelers need to get Ward the ball more. I hate to admit it, but Theisman was right. Sure enough, Ward caught two touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s Week 5 victory. With a banged up running game, Ben Roethlisberger is relying on his arm more and more. This bodes well for Ward who could be a steal as a WR3.
8. Bye Bye, Addai – The march towards Andrew Luck is full on for the Indianapolis Colts. Without Peyton Manning, the Colts don’t look like they could beat a college team. They were going to have to rely on their running game to stay in games with Kerry Collins or Curtis Painter at quarterback. That hasn’t happened. Joseph Addai has largely been a disappointment since he was drafted several years ago, even when Manning was healthy. Now he is injured again and will likely be out several weeks with a hamstring injury. It’s not like his replacement, Donald Brown, is much better of an option. But this situation just epitomizes how underwhelming Addai has been despite all of the hype. He is nothing more than a marginal RB2-3 option when healthy.
7. Gold Rush – There is no question that the Lions and Bills are the biggest stories of the 2011 season thus far. But let’s not forget that the 49ers are now 4-1 under new coach Jim Harbaugh. San Francisco, once a perennial playoff team and Super Bowl contender, has been mired in mediocrity for years. But Harbaugh has them playing out of their minds as Alex Smith isn’t making mistakes and Frank Gore is carrying the team on his back. Gore has the ability to be an elite running back, and he now looks healthy enough to accomplish that. He rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown this past week, and now will be playing the Lions in the premiere game of Week 6 (who would have thought that?). Detroit has an aggressive pass rush, but their own aggression should allow Gore to run the ball effectively if Harbaugh can put together some creative schemes and protection plans.
6. Cruz Control – I wrote last week that Eli Manning was developing chemistry with wide receiver Victor Cruz, even with Mario Manningham returning to the lineup. This has proved to be true as Cruz caught eight passes for 161 yards and a touchdown in the Giants awful loss to Seattle in Week 5. Hakeem Nicks is a beast and requires a double-team from defenses. This means Cruz will have single coverage either on the opposite side or in the slot. He still has much to learn, but in his truncated sample he looks like a solid WR option. Brandon Jacobs’ injury will also create more passing opportunities for Manning. If Cruz is still an available free agent in your league, go get him now.
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5. Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood – It is official: Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL and is the premiere fantasy quarterback as well. No, he didn’t account for six touchdowns again, but he almost eclipsed 400 yards and led the Packers to a come-from-behind victory over Atlanta on Sunday night. He is mobile and deadly accurate with an immensely strong arm. He also has so many weapons to choose from that it is almost unfair. James Jones had the big game this week with five catches and 140 yards with a touchdown. Rodgers can make anyone look good, so owning any of the Packers’ receivers is a smart idea.
4. Reading Dwayne Bowe – There are several dynamic wide receivers that put up sexy numbers every week. It is now time to consider Dwayne Bowe one of the best wide receivers in the league as he continues to shine after his 128 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Bowe is Matt Cassel’s favorite target and he has continued his production that elevated him to prominence in 2010. The loss of Jamaal Charles has made Kansas City rely on the passing game even more. The acquisition of Steve Breaston has also given opposing defenses someone else to cover which should lead to Bowe being able to rack up the receptions and touchdown catches. He isn’t Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Greg Jennings or Larry Fitzgerald. But he is certainly within the next tier of receivers and is becoming a borderline WR1 in fantasy leagues.
3. Getting Defensive – The Detroit Lions are now 5-0 for the first time since 1956. The combination of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson is the most electric in the league. But another reason for the Lions resurrection is their team defense, and in particular, their defensive line. They have several legitimate pass rushers led by Ndamukong Suh. Detroit is a solid team defense option in fantasy leagues as they get sacks and generate turnovers. Another option for team defenses is whoever is playing the Chicago Bears. Jay Cutler is lucky he hasn’t been murdered yet as the Bears offensive line is arguably the worst in the league in terms of pass protection. Whoever gets to play Chicago is a viable option for team defense because they protect Cutler as well as a broken condom.
2. Sign a retainer with the law firm of Benjarvus Green-Ellis – How many of you used your first waiver pick-up on Stevan Ridley of the Patriots? I am sure many of you raised your hands. All signs pointed to Ridley assuming the role as the team’s primary running back. But it did not turn out that way as incumbent Benjarvus Green-Ellis had a terrific game shredding the Jets defense for 136 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Look for him to have the opportunity to remain the Patriots primary rusher as Ridley’s time to shine will have to wait. Don’t give up on Ridley because chances are he will get more opportunities down the road. Plus, Tom Brady can’t throw the ball 45 times every game.
1. Right Said Fred – Looking back at many fantasy drafts, the first round has been a big bust for running backs thus far. Arian Foster missed the first couple games and has only had one explosive game indicative of the first overall draft selection. Chris Johnson held out until right before the season started and hasn’t been CJ2K since 2009. Adrian Peterson finally busted out with three touchdowns in Week 5. Jamaal Charles sustained a season-ending injury in Week 1. Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy and Maurice Jones-Drew have been ok but not overwhelming. So in a season filled with underperforming running backs, Fred Jackson of the 4-1 Buffalo Bills has been a revelation. With 480 yards rushing and five touchdowns, he has become a #1 running back in fantasy leagues. This is furthered by his 19 receptions and 232 yards receiving. The Bills have been one of the biggest surprises of the year so far, and F-Jax looks like he is here to stay as a top fantasy running back.
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