Before I start discussing players and match-ups, let’s just put the topic of replacement officials to rest here. Yes, as a fan of the game, it’s a disaster. The refs are obviously overwhelmed when they are on the field and are missing calls that should be made and sometimes even making calls that they shouldn’t. But while there are probably more botched calls this season than in years past, it’s very difficult to blame the faux zebras that are legitimately trying their best. None of them are going out there with the intent to favor one team over another and they are not letting their personal feelings dictate when the yellow flags are being thrown. They are simply over-matched. They are coming from low-level college football, high school leagues and, in some cases, semi-pro leagues. The NFL moves at a much faster pace – much faster – and these guys are trying their darndest to keep pace. It has been a failure of epic proportions so far, but these poor guys in the stripes are not the ones to blame here.
A fair amount of blame can go to the NFL for not being a little more proactive – if there are seven officials on the field under normal circumstances, then maybe they should have added a few to help make the tough calls. I don’t know if that’s actually allowed according to NFL rules, but with so much going up to the booth these days, I’m sure a few extra sets of eyes down on the field couldn’t hurt.
But for me, a substantial amount of blame should go to both the players and their coaches. From the moment the season began with replacement officials, NFL players have been pushing the envelope as much as possible to see just how much they can get away with now. They know the officials are struggling and so in return, the players are out there playing a dirtier game. I don’t mean that as malicious, but that they know exactly what they are doing and they know when they are violating the rules.
Cornerbacks and receivers have gone beyond simple hand-checking, linemen are running around with handfuls of jerseys, and there’s been more illegal contact all over the field than there ever should be. The players know exactly what they are doing and their coaches know as well. What happened to sportsmanship? What happened to fair play? I know that these guys aren’t boy scouts, but if they’re going to bitch and complain about the officiating, then they need to look in the mirror first and look at what type of game they are playing. I’m sure we’ll hear the classic, “well they’re all doing it so we have to do the same in order to compete,” but that’s a load of crap. Play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. Live within the rules. Perhaps I’m naïve in thinking that there could be some sort of an honor code, but if we want to the problem fixed, we need to start at the ground and work our way up.
And as far as fantasy owners go, stop your whining and complaining as well. The calls are not going against your players more than the others and you are not getting screwed more than the rest. Calls are being botched all over the place and everyone in your league is equally affected. If you think you are being hurt the most, then you need to get yourself over to a therapist’s couch and lose the delusions of grandeur. Like it or not, we are all in the same boat. I’ve lost picks in suicide pools and I’ve lost fantasy games when perhaps I shouldn’t have. But on the flip side, I also had Golden Tate active in three leagues and won all my games thanks to that final touchdown. It all evens out in the end, so stop your crying.
Now let’s talk some fantasy football…
Word on the street is that Matthew Stafford is dealing with a hip problem and not a hamstring issue. Either way, he probably won’t practice until Friday, at the earliest, but is expected to play on Sunday. How good of a play he is might be a different story. I’m not saying give up on him and I’m certainly not saying to grab Shaun Hill, but Minnesota has a decent pass rush, Stafford’s mobility might be an issue and you might want to think about using your back-up this week.
Both Robert Griffin III and Josh Freeman could post some big-time numbers this Sunday and should probably be active in all formats. Tampa Bay’s pass defense ranks dead last in the NFL, giving up an average of 353 passing yards per game and has allowed four passing touchdowns. Ranked just ahead of them at number 31? Yup, that’s right – Washington. The Skins pass D allows an average of 337 yards per game through the air and has allowed a whopping 10 passing touchdowns.
Sleeper of the Week: Kevin Kolb
Bust of the Week: Cam Newton
Last week’s waiver hero Andre Brown has done just enough to ruin yet another running back situation in the NFL. Coach Tom Coughlin said that Brown has played his way into a larger role with the offense and that means shared carries with returning incumbent Ahmad Bradshaw. That might work well in the real football world, but in fantasy, we now have another committee backfield and neither becomes a strong play this week.
Reggie Bush is still dealing with a swollen knee and it looks like he’ll be out this week against the Cardinals. That makes Daniel Thomas this week’s number one waiver pick-up as he’ll get the nod and the bulk of the work.
For those thinking Tashard Choice was the key pick-up this week, remember that Fred Jackson has been back at practice and is expected to get the start this week. Choice might get a little bit of work in there, but he’s not as talented or versatile as C.J. Spiller was and will therefore not be in line for similar work.
With a match-up against the Texans, it does not appear that this is the week to hope for a Chris Johnson rebound. I’m not counting him out for the year, but Houston is allowing an average of just 67.7 rushing yards per game and hasn’t allowed a single rushing touchdown this year.
In – Mikel Leshoure Out – KevinSmith ‘nuff said.
Sleeper of the Week: Cedric Benson
Bust of the Week: Jamaal Charles
While A.J. Green remains the number one target in Cincinnati, keep an eye on Andrew Hawkins. He’s been absolutely dynamic these past two weeks and could be even better with a favorable match-up against Jacksonville. So far this season, he’s been targeted 16 times and made 12 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns. What’s most impressive is that 130 of those yards have come after the catch which ranks him third in the NFL behind Percy Harvin and running back Darren Sproles.
While Randy Moss has proven to be a help to the 49ers passing attack, drawing coverage away from the others and helping to spread out the field, he has been a relative bust this year and was even held out for the majority of the second half during Week3 even though the Niners were behind and passing a lot more often. Could this be the week he breaks out with Darelle Revis done for the season or will he merely be used as a decoy again? Alex Smith looks for him in the red zone often enough, so perhaps this is the week he shines.
Maybe you’re all smart enough to realize that if I say to start RG3 and Freeman this week that it means to use their receivers as well, but in case you’re not, then Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and even Leonard Hankerson should be in there. Check on Pierre Garcon’s health, but it looks like he’ll miss another one.
Danny Amendola is a beast in PPR leagues and continues to lead the league in Target Percentage with a mark of 35.8. He could, however, find it a little slow-going this week with a tough match-up against the Seahawks. He’ll still get the targets, but the receptions might be a different story.
Sleeper of the Week: Anquan Boldin
Bust of the Week: Brandon Marshall
Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta has turned into quite the pick-up this season as Joey Flacco leans on him an awful lot. At some point, defenses should start keying in on him, but with a match-up against a porous Browns defense. So far this season, Pitta has been targeted 31 times with 18 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Even better is that he has six red zone targets which makes up 54.5-percent of the red zone targets for the whole team.
While so much focus was put on Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, people seemed to forget about Vernon Davis. The Niners tight end has been a beast this season with 13 catches for 164 yards and a league-leading four touchdown grabs.
Greg Olsen has been the most targeted receiver on the Panthers this season and should continue to see a ton of looks this week as Cam Newton is going to have troubles downfield with the Falcons secondary. Olsen may not be doing much endzone-dancing, but he’ll definitely be worth a look in PPR leagues.
Sleeper of the Week: Marcedes Lewis
Bust of the Week: Anthony Fasano
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For questions, thoughts or comments you can find him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or you can email him at email@example.com.
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