Friday, August 28, 2009

2009 NFC West Preview

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals (9-7)
Key Additions: RB Chris Wells, CB Bryant McFadden
Key Subtractions: RB Edgerrin James, RB J.J. Arrington, CB Rod Hood, DE Antonio Smith

The Cardinals boasted one of the strongest offenses in the league last year, particularly with regards to their passing game. Swapping Beanie Wells in for Edge should improve their rushing attack, but it's unclear as to how the carries will actually be split up between Wells and Tim Hightower. Anquan Boldin is still in Arizona for now, but he's been unhappy for a while. Someone needs to hook up the Panthers and Cardinals so they can swap Peppers and Muhammad for Boldin and Calais Campbell. Oh well.

Speaking of the Cardinals defense, not great. They gave up the fifth most points in football last season, and allowed a 44% third down conversion rate. That's how you end up 9-7, even if you do make it to the Super Bowl. McFadden is good, but he wasn't the reason the Steelers had such a great defense, and his addition will have a limited positive impact. Unless the aforementioned Campbell progresses considerably, I have a tough time thinking the Cardinals will roll over the NFC West again.

Projected 2009 record: 7-9

San Francisco 49ers (7-9)
Key Additions: WR Michael Crabtree, RB Glen Coffee, CB Dre' Bly
Key Subtractions: RB DeShaun Foster, WR Bryant Johnson

I used to have some faith in the 49ers. I used to think they were a year of maturity away from competing for the NFC West title. Used to. When I really look at this team, they just don't have a lot to get excited about. Shaun Hill, a popular sleeper pick in fantasy football, had at least two turnovers in three of his eight starts. Crabtree isn't even signed yet. Frank Gore and Coffee could be a nice one-two punch, but if we've learned anything from watching football, it's that one-dimensional teams without excellent defenses tend to lose a lot of games (see Rams, circa the past two years).

Bly has probably still got something in the tank, but don't expect him to be the difference here. The defense would be adequate on a strong offensive team, but for San Francisco, you're just looking at another dismal season. I don't see a way for them to take any steps forward this year, no matter how many times Coach Mike Singletary shows his wang.

Projected 2009 record: 5-11

Seattle Seahawks (4-12)
Key Additions: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, LB Aaron Curry, WR Deon Butler, DT Colin Cole
Key Subtractions: RB Maurice Morris, WR Bobby Engram, WR Koren Robinson, LB Julian Peterson, DT Rocky Bernard

Matt Hasselbeck was clipped by the injury bug and was generally ineffective when he did play. But he's got a legitimately dangerous receiver for perhaps the first time in his career, so there are reasons to be optimistic. Engram and Robinson were the beneficiaries of opportunity and still combined for less than 80 catches and 1,000 yards receiving, both of which Houshmandzadeh should surpass on his own. I only mentioned Deon Butler as a key addition because he went to Penn State. It's the very least I can do for a guy who was always good for a 40-yard catch...literally, the very least I can do.

Aaron Curry has #1 overall talent, but fell to the Seahawks at #4 in the draft because he plays linebacker, and linebackers and running backs just don't go as high as other positions. He should step in and immediately make a positive impact for this defense, which is good, because they were awful last year. They gave up the 3rd-most total yards per game, and the most passing yards per game. They ranked 25th in both points scored and points allowed. Still, part of that comes from an inept offense that should be better this season. I expect improvement all around.

Projected 2009 record: 10-6

St. Louis Rams (2-14)
Key Additions: OT Jason Smith, LB James Laurinaitis, WR Laurent Robinson
Key Subtractions: WR Torry Holt, LB Pisa Tinoisamoa

The Rams lost their top tackler in Tinoisamoa, but with a defense was 31st in points allowed, it's debatable as to whether or not a loss from that group is actually a detriment. More important will be the development of second-year player Chris Long, and whether Laurinaitis can conjure images of his father, Road Warrior Animal. I generally don't root for former Buckeyes, but there's an exception clause for the progeny of former professional wrestlers.

Steven Jackson is, and has always been, a wrecking ball, but without some support from the passing game, he'll see way too many 8- and 9-man boxes. Torry Holt may only be a shadow of his former self, but this receiving corps could ill afford to lose any talent. Then again, maybe the 2004 Randy McMichael will show up, and everything will be alright.

Probably not, though.

Projected 2009 record: 4-12

Thursday, August 27, 2009

2009 NFC South Preview

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Key Additions: TE Tony Gonzalez, LB Mike Peterson, DT Peria Jerry
Key Subtractions: LB Keith Brooking, CB Domonique Foxworth

What a story the Falcons were last year. Despite being under the shadow of Michael Vick, they found a way to succeed. Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Michael Turner became one of the best QB-WR-RB tandems in football, and they went to the playoffs. Now they've added ultra-professional Tony Gonzalez, giving Ryan another weapon, particularly in the red zone.

Brooking was a key cog to this defense, but Peterson should be able to help fill that gap. The most important position on the team is probably defensive end, where Jamaal Anderson has to prove he was worth the 8th overall pick in 2007. He's had just two sacks in his two years in the NFL, and if the Falcons are going to take another step forward, they'll need Anderson to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The talent is there, though, so I like his chances.

Projected 2009 record: 11-5

Carolina Panthers (12-4)
Key Additions: DE Everette Brown
Key Subtractions: KR/PR Mark Jones, CB Ken Lucas

The Panthers have become a classic Pittsburgh Steelers team, with a strong, punishing defense and a power running attack. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are perhaps the best 1-2 punch in football, and if they kick off 2009 like they finished 2008, good luck to anyone trying to stop them. The defense returns just about everyone, and the Panthers drafted Brown as a potential successor when Peppers inevitably leaves after this season. Never has a player been so frequently talked about as leaving a team and consistently returning. You have to think this season, barring a Super Bowl run, will be Peppers' last in the tobacco state.

I was surprised, though, that the Panthers didn't try to do something about their receivers in the offseason. Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad combined for 2,344 yards receiving, and the next highest total was from tight end Dante Rosario with 209. Dwayne Jarrett is going to need to take a considerable step forward to keep the "Bust" sign from flashing. Of course, how strong do your receivers need to be when you average 4.8 yards per carry?

Projected 2009 record: 11-5

New Orleans Saints (8-8)
Key Additions: CB Malcolm Jenkins, CB Jabari Greer, S Darren Sharper
Key Subtractions: RB Deuce McAllister, CB Jason David

Not surprisingly, very few changes were made to the offensive juggernaut that is the New Orleans Saints. McAllister was allowed to depart, but really he was gone by mid-season last year anyways. Word is that Sean Payton loves running back Pierre Thomas, and Reggie Bush will still get reps as the tailback. Between Bush, Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, and Lance Moore, Brees has one of the better receiving corps in football, and he's shown he knows just how to exploit that. Whether that will translate to victories is anyone's guess.

I put Jason David as a key subtraction, but it's also a form of addition by subtraction. David led the team with five interceptions, but got beat week after week for huge plays and touchdowns. He had become a liability, and they let him just last week after another poor performance in the preseason. Darren Sharper should stabilize the secondary, and keep the Saints out of at least a couple of the shootouts they always seem to get into.

Projected 2009 record: 9-7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
Key Additions: TE Kellen Winslow Jr., RB Derrick Ward, QB Josh Freeman, QB Byron Leftwich
Key Subtractions: QB Jeff Garcia, RB Warrick Dunn, LB Cato June, LB Derrick Brooks

It's the end of an era in Tampa Bay, with Derrick Brooks' tenure in Tampa ending relatively unceremoniously (by the way, if you want to call in to your local sports radio station and say something, you'll generally get positive feedback if you say your team should sign Brooks). No one was really added to replace Brooks, so Tampa Bay is looking at youngster Quincy Black to fill in the hole left by Brooks.

The departure that will probably have the greatest impact on the Buccaneers' season, though is Jeff Garcia's. The quarterback job will fall to Luke McCown, Freeman, or Leftwich, none of whom should get you excited. I like the additions of Ward and Winslow, but it's a shame that Garcia is gone, because he actually would've been a pretty good fit for those new players. This is likely going to be a tough year for the Bucs, so I say throw Freeman in there and let's see what he can do.

Projected 2009 record: 4-12

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

2009 NFC North Preview

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears (9-7)
Key Additions: QB Jay Cutler, LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, OT Orlando Pace
Key Subtractions: QB Kyle Orton, S Mike Brown

The Bears were the talk of the NFL when they traded Orton and a pair of first-round picks for Cutler, and rightly so. Cutler is a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback who should help what's been an anemic passing game for years. Unfortunately, he won't have nearly the receiving corps he had in Denver. Greg Olsen is a developing talent at tight end and Devin Hester has big play ability, but there isn't a legitimate #1 or, really a #2 that you'd be happy about having. Second-year player Matt Forte should again be a beast.

Chicago's defense wasn't as awesome last year as it's been in the past, but it was still solid. Brown was a useful player in the secondary, but the team makes their hay with a dominant front seven. Perhaps if the offense can keep the defense out of bad situations and help with overall field position, the new Monsters of the Midway can get back to being one of the more prolific defenses around. Of course, since I drafted them in my fantasy football league, another year of disappointment is probably in order.

Projected 2009 record: 7-9

Detroit Lions (0-16)
Key Additions: QB Matthew Stafford, RB Maurice Morris, LB Larry Foote, LB Julian Peterson, DB Phillip Buchanon, DB Anthony Henry, S Marquand Manuel, TE Brandon Pettigrew
Key Subtractions: QB Jon Kitna, WR Shaun McDonald, LB Paris Lenon, DB Leigh Bodden, DT Cory Redding

If any team needed an overhaul, it was the record-breakingly bad Detroit Lions, and boy did they get it. Stafford comes into a not horrible situation, though, with talented youngsters Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith already established. Morris will be a reliable backup to Smith, and Pettigrew should be a solid producer over time. Depending on quarterback play (Stafford or Daunte Culpepper), the offense could actually be halfway decent.

Personally, I like everyone they acquired on defense. Julian Peterson is still a contributor, Larry Foote has a pair of Super Bowl rings, and Buchanon and Henry will step in and start immediately. I know it sounds ridiculous, but Detroit looks like a .500 team. They're still the Lions, though, so they'll have some psychological barriers to overcome, but I like the direction they're heading.

Projected 2009 record: 5-11

Green Bay Packers (6-10)
Key Additions: DT B.J. Raji, LB Clay Matthews
Key Subtractions: none

The Packers are an interesting team to look at, because they're fairly young on both sides of the ball, and made virtually no changes to their roster outside of the draft. Raji and Matthews should provide depth in their front seven, with Raji developing eventually into the big body in the middle of their 3-4 defense. But neither rookie is being leaned on heavily this season, which means we're going to see mostly the same team we saw last year.

Aaron Rodgers has (or at least by now should have) made people forget about the Brett Favre saga (even with Favre donning purple and yellow this season), because he's blossomed into a legitimate star. Don't be surprised if he leads the NFL in passer rating this season. Ryan Grant needs to get more consistent and make sure he can stay on the field all season if he wants to be the man in Green Bay. Greg Jennings is a stud. And I mean that in every way you're thinking.

Projected 2009 record: 10-6

Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Key Additions: QB Brett Favre, QB Sage Rosenfels, WR Percy Harvin
Key Subtractions: S Darren Sharper

The Vikings were one of the most talked-about teams this offseason, largely due to Favre's hemming and hawing about whether or not he wanted to return to football or stay retired. Inevitably, the deadline for Favre had passed and he had declared he wouldn't be playing, and then two weeks later he was signing his new contract with Minnesota. I'm not even sure this is a good thing for the Vikings, though. Rosenfels seemed to be a pretty good fit for the Vikings, a guy who can manage a game and make the occasional big play. Favre puts the whole offense on red alert, in both a good and bad way. They'll have more big plays, but also more turnovers.

Harvin might be the key to the whole season, though. If he can be productive as a rookie and give opposing defenses someone to watch out for besides Adrian Peterson, the whole offense could open up. If not, the Vikings will still be a wide receiver away from having a meaningful receiving corps. And if you can't get the ball downfield, the only All Day we'll be talking about is how there were 9 in the box against Peterson, all day.

Projected 2009 record: 8-8

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2009 NFC East Preview

I know you wish we would do an NFL preview radio show as we have in the past, but we're trying to focus our efforts into the blog right now. We do have a radio show in the works, though; it's an old gimmick with a new flavor, and we're looking forward to releasing it when the time is right.

For now, please enjoy our team-by-team breakdown of the NFC, starting with perhaps the most unpredictable division.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys (2008 Record: 9-7)
Key Additions: LB Keith Brooking, DE Igor Olshansky
Key Subtractions: WR Terrell Owens, CB Adam Jones, S Roy Williams

The loss of Owens is going to have a huge impact on this team. The question, though, is whether it's a positive or negative impact. My instinct is to say a negative impact, but who really knows? There's no question that, as the one true team sport, football demands a level of trust in your teammates, and Owens isn't exactly a model citizen.

I am a little perplexed at the offseason moves, though. Lose T.O., add two new starters to your front seven on defense? The Cowboys must be expecting a lot out of guys like Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton, and Martellus Bennett. It could work out, if the defense really improves, and if Tony Romo can be a star quarterback without his star wide receiver. Certainly Jason Witten and Roy Williams aren't slouches, and Marion Barber is surprisingly effective out of the backfield for a big running back. Still, Owens was their most dangerous receiver, and without replacing him, the pressure on everyone else is substantial.

Projected 2009 record: 6-10

New York Giants (12-4)
Key Additions: LB Michael Boley, WR Hakeem Nicks
Key Subtractions: RB Derrick Ward, WR Plaxico Burress, WR Amani Toomer, S James Butler,

Plaxico Burress may have shot himself in the leg, but his absence crippled an otherwise solid passing attack. The Giants drafted Hakeem Nicks in the first round, but the more logical replacements for Burress' production are Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith. No, the other Steve Smith. Eli Manning should thank his stars that Brandon Jacobs is back, and appears healthy.

Perhaps the most important "acquisition" will be the return of Osi Umenyiora, the Giants' premier defensive end. He and Justin Tuck are the bookends of one of the strongest defensive lines of the past decade. They're so good, they make an average secondary look exceptional. Unfortunately, the Giants will be relying on their defense more than previously, and I expect that, eventually, those corners will get exposed. Eventually like, this year.

Projected 2009 record: 8-8

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1) Key Additions: QB Michael Vick, WR Jeremy Maclin, RB LeSean McCoy
Key Subtractions: S Brian Dawkins, RB Correll Buckhalter

Regardless of personnel, there were two things you could count on from the Eagles for the past decade: they were going to throw the ball a lot, and they were going to blitz all the time. The passing of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson (rest in peace) obviously leaves a void in the hearts of veteran Eagles, but I have faith that we'll see the same aggressive play from Philly defenders this season as we've always seen. Dawkins' departure leaves a big hole in the middle of the defense, though, and it's up to second-year player Quintin Demps to fill it. Good luck, kid.

Offensively, the team looks even better than last year. DeSean Jackson is a year older and should be just as explosive. Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook remain the focal points of the offense, but Vick and McCoy give the Eagles more weapons. Anybody want to bet against the Eagles having the most plays of 50+ yards this season? They could be an awesome team to watch. Plus there's always the chance someone from PETA goes ape and jumps Vick coming out of the tunnel. So, multiple reasons to watch Eagles games this year.

Projected 2009 record: 12-4

Washington Redskins (8-8) Key Additions: DL Albert Haynesworth, LB Brian Orakpo
Key Subtractions: DB Shawn Springs, DE/LB Jason Taylor

The Redskins return their offense virtually 100% intact, which could be good, could be bad. Jason Campbell is in the last year of his contract, so he's playing for a contract. Santana Moss and Chris Cooley are two of the more consistent receivers in the conference, but someone else has to step up to take some heat off of them. I'm looking at you, second-year receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, and second-year tight end Fred Davis.

Haynesworth signed a $6 billion contract, so Washington fans are expecting a lot out of him. The secondary will suffer without Springs available to play all positions, but between Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall, there's at least plenty of talent at cornerback. The 'Skins were 6th in the NFL in points allowed, but 28th in sacks. Increased pressure on opposing quarterbacks could turn Washington into a powerhouse defense. Hopefully Haynesworth's wallet doesn't weigh him down.

Projected 2009 record: 9-7

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How To Rate A Movie

I opened a Netflix account a few months ago, and have been enjoying the movie-watching opportunities it's offered. I generally don't see many movies, so this has been my opportunity to catch up on all those "have to see" films.

Facebook offers a feature whereby your Netflix ratings (which Netflix uses to determine what kind of movies you might like and suggests them) are posted on Facebook for all to see. So when I gave the second Fantastic Four movie two stars, my friends saw that I didn't think much of the movie. Likewise, when I ranked High Fidelity as a five-star movie, Facebook automatically relayed that information.

As my ratings have become public, I've started to give them a little more thought, and the most recent movie I've watched has given me some trouble: Taken. It's by no means an intellectual movie, and it doesn't have that big twist that's been seemingly mandatory ever since The Usual Suspects came out. But I found it very entertaining, and also thought it had a satisfying ending.

So the dilemma is this: Do I rate the movie with regards to how impressive it is, how thoughtful the script is, and how powerful it is? Or do I rate it simply with how happy I was to have watched it afterward?

I choose the latter. For me, the ultimate test of a work is not (and never has been) whether the piece showed expertise or inspiration, but whether or not I enjoyed it. I gave The Rock five stars a couple months ago, and unknowingly used this exact logic.

I've spent most my life enjoying "lame" music, watching "nerdy" movies, and just generally being a "geek" or "dork." I like what I like, and after 29 years of life, maybe it's time to fully embrace that. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to listen to some Michael McDonald, watch a couple Harry Potter movies, and see if that Magic: The Gathering game has come out for the Xbox Live Arcade yet (it apparently has).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stephen Strasburg Still Without Contract

Stephen Strasburg, the pitching phenom from San Diego State, remains unsigned with just a few days left until the deadline. This was expected. The Nationals did not want a long negotiation to drive the price up but we are now entering crunch time. It is in Strasburg’s best interest to sign and it is in the National’s best interest to sign Strasburg. The X-Factor is agent Scott Boras.

Why Should Strasburg Sign? Strasburg is a flamethrower. And flamethrowers burn out. It’s in the definition, somewhere towards the back I think. He could go back to school or play independent ball. This is where I tend to get lost in the math. How could it make more financial sense to not sign that first contract and get the clock ticking so that you can hit free agency for the real pay day? Mark Prior was huge coming out of school and still got around a $10 million contract. Is Strasburg viewed as being five times as valuable as Prior was then? Nope. And at the time Prior was praised because his delivery would not lead to arm problems. Wrong, but it led to how he was valued at the time. I have not heard the same sentiment about Strasburg. He will probably be offered around $15-$20 million, doubling up Prior, and he should take it.

Why the Should the Nationals Sign Strasburg? Because he is supposed to be the best? The Nationals knew what Strasburg/Boras would be looking for in terms of a contract when they drafted him. It would have been by no means the first time that the best player in the draft would be passed over for a more affordable option. But they took him so they should probably finish it. Generally speaking, the Nationals don’t give their fans a whole lot to come out to the park to see. The Dmitri Young Renaissance in 2007 was nice, but Strasburg could be an even bigger deal in DC (hard to imagine). Speaking of Young, he was given a 2 year $10M extension for his work in 2007 so the Nats aren’t that tight on money.

What is Boras up to? Boras is trying to get Strasburg the most money he can. This is what Strasburg is paying Boras to do, so that checks out. The problem is that I don’t see how Strasburg is going to make more money in next year’s draft. So he should sign now. Obviously the Nationals want to sign him but know that Strasburg does too. However, if Strasburg were not to sign and re-enter the draft, that scenario would help Boras in his negotiations with future top rated college and high school prospects. The team will know that Boras is willing to let his client go unsigned. He may do that if he feels the memory of Philadelphia’s selection of JD Drew is fading. JD Drew signed a contract with the Dodgers (opting out two years into it) and the Red Sox that were both worth more than $10M per season. He would have been able to get one more of those if he had a year earlier. Once again, we see that skipping a year does not pay.

What should the Nationals do once if they Sign Strasburg? They probably shouldn’t let him pitch this year, at least for the big league team. However, next year if he looks good in spring training, I’d bring him up. I’m just never sure how many bullets a guy that throws that hard has, so they might as well be shot at the big league level. It will also boost attendance significantly when he does pitch. Now all the Nats need to do is get the first pick again and draft/sign Bryce Harper, a likely Scott Boras client…

Friday, August 7, 2009

2009 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet - TE

Other cheat sheets:
QB | WR | RB | TE
  1. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers - The difference between Gates and Witten is minuscule, but I'm giving the edge to Gates. He's got a better history of scoring touchdowns, and I worry about how defenses may be able to clamp down on Witten with Terrell Owens out of the picture in Dallas.
  2. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys - Witten has been Tony Romo's favorite target (and good buddy) pretty much since Romo started playing quarterback for the Cowboys. Roy Williams replaces Terrell Owens as the #1 receiver on the team, which could mean more double-teams for Witten. We'll find out soon if Witten actually deserves the accolades he's been getting in fantasy circles.
  3. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons - Gonzalez moves to a much more impressive offensive team, and he was far and away the #1 fantasy tight end last year. He's got a little more wear on his tires than you'd like, but he's been the model of consistency. You can take him with confidence.
  4. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts - Clark set career highs in receptions and yards last season, although his touchdown catches dropped from 11 to 6. That can be partly attributed to a weak running game, which should be stronger this season. I expect Clark to once again be a prime red zone target for Peyton Manning.
  5. Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins - Lost in the weakness of the Redskins' wide receivers is the fact that Cooley has developed into one of the most consistently productive tight ends in football. He only notched one touchdown last season, but had at least six in every other season of his career. There's no reason to think he won't get back there.
  6. Kellen Winslow Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Winslow seemed on the path to greatness after consecutive 80+ catch seasons, but he got hurt and faltered last year. He allegedly has an attitude problem, but come on, everybody in football has a little bit of an attitude problem. Winslow's at least got the talent to be #1 on this list.
  7. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans - Oftentimes, the sexy TE pick in the preseason ends up disappointing (remember Boo Williams?). Daniels is an example of one who didn't disappoint. He's in a fairly high-powered offense, and while he hasn't been much of a red zone threat, he's a productive tight end, which means he's always just a play away.
  8. Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears - There are about fifty rankings that changed when Jay Cutler got traded to Chicago, not the least of which was a bump for Greg Olsen. I'm not certain it's warranted, as Cutler should be able to do more with his wide receivers than Kyle Orton did. Still, talent is talent.
  9. Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders - Miller was far and away the best receiver on the Raiders last year. The problem, of course, is that we're talking about the Raiders, so nobody was great, and there's no reason to think they'll be much better this year. But a repeat performance seems reasonable.
  10. John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks - The addition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh is expected to be almost as important to Seattle as Cutler's addition is to Chicago. Housh should open things up for other receivers, and Carlson figures to benefit as much as anyone.
  11. Dustin Keller, New York Jets - Keller was a productive rookie last season, but any projected improvements based on experience are mitigated by the quarterback situation in New York. The loss of Laveranues Coles without any replacement doesn't help, either.
  12. Bo Scaife, Tennessee Titans - Scaife has improved in three consecutive seasons, but still can't seem to plant himself in the end zone (his career high is 2 TDs). He'll split time with Alge Crumpler as well, but I can see a breakout happening for Scaife this season, specifically in the scoring department.
  13. Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans Saints - There was never a player who made more off of one play than Shockey did when he ran over that guy on the Texans. He hasn't matched his reception or yardage totals from his rookie season, and has never played all 16 games. But with the Saints' passing attack, he'll be good enough to take a flier on late.
  14. Tony Scheffler, Denver Broncos - Scheffler was by no means a powerhouse last year, but he was solid, and fairly consistent when he was healthy. Unfortunately, his health itself was inconsistent. Whenever he plays, though, he should be good for at least 50 yards.
  15. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers - Lots of people, including myself, thought Heath Miller would flourish in Pittsburgh, with their reputation for hard yards and conservative passing. But the Steelers are much more of a downfield team than their reputation would suggest, and Miller has just been okay. He's a big body, well-suited for red zone offense, so he's a decent roll of the dice from week to week.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

2009 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet - RB

Other cheat sheets:
QB | WR | RB | TE
  1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings - I've closed the gap between #1 and #2, but I've still got Peterson at the top. The advantage of Peterson is that we've seen him be productive with the full-time starter job now, and he was still fantastic. Favre would've probably helped Peterson's production, but either way, he's my #1.
  2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars - Jones-Drew could be the best player in fantasy football when the year comes to a close. By the end of last year, he was already looking like a surefire top 5 pick this season, and that was with the assumption that he still wasn't going to get full-time carries. With Fred Taylor ring-hunting in New England, MJD looks like a good bet to explode.
  3. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons - What I like about Turner is what we all used to like about Rudi Johnson. He doesn't have bad games, he scores a lot, gets a lot of yards. Turner seems a lot faster than Johnson was, though, and he's on a team that seems headed in the right direction.
  4. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers - I read somewhere that a 60/40 time share with Jonathan Stewart will hurt Williams' ability to produce this year. Last year, while Williams was destroying defenses, the ratio was 273/184, or 59.7/40.3. You'll have to excuse me if I don't think Stewart's presence will cause that much damage.
  5. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers - Tomlinson is in the most precarious position he's seen in nearly a decade. His production has slipped a little in the past couple of years, and his backup (Darren Sproles) was slapped with a franchise tag. News flash: You don't pay a true backup running back $7 million. Sproles will cut into Tomlinson's playing time. How much will depend on Tomlinson.
  6. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears - The part of Forte's game that is most impressive is his ability to produce as a receiver. While swapping out Kyle Orton for Jay Cutler will likely result in more of a downfield passing attack, stretching the field should give Forte more room to run. I expect a marginal decline in receiving yards, but a pleasant uptick in his ground attack.
  7. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams - Jackson has frustrated owners for several years now, with amazing production but inconsistent health. If he can stay on the field all season, both he and the Rams could see a revival. If not, he'll just be another running back who under-produced.
  8. Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants - Jacobs makes opposing defenses cringe when he comes barreling out of the backfield. He's as big as a defensive end, but he's got surprising speed as well. He'll pile up touchdowns and get solid yardage, and just generally make you happy you drafted him.
  9. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers - Gore was a solid if unspectacular option at running back. But in 2007, he was all spectacle. Between the two seasons, he's shown he can be both reliable and explosive. I like that combination.
  10. Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles - He's never been the model of consistency, and he's getting older now. People say, "He didn't get that many carries early on." True, but he still walked around and lived his life, and he practiced as much as his oft-injured body would allow. He's got enough miles and enough unpredictability that he'll never end up on my team.
  11. Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys - Barber technically played in 15 games last year, but in the last five games he was too banged up to factor into the offense. He's a touchdown hawk, and a punishing runner. Barber is also a nice contributor in the passing game, giving him another way to grab you a few bonus points.
  12. Steve Slaton, Houston Texans - Slaton was a late season surprise, posting six games of 100+ combined rushing/receiving yards in the second half. He figures to be the featured back from week one this year, which at least gives him the opportunity to excel. He also works well in the passing game, catching at least four passes in five different games.
  13. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans - Johnson was explosive in a time share with LenDale White last season, reaching 160 total yards in three different games. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry, a number that figures to drop a bit this year as he gets more consistent carries. Even so, he'll likely be a great producer, and he's got top 5 upside.
  14. Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins - Portis started the season on fire, including five straight weeks of 120+ rushing yards. His second half was a different story, though, averaging 68 yards per game and scoring just two TDs. He's also invisible in the passing game. Portis is a reliable starter without any legitimate competition behind him, so draft him like he's Deuce McAllister of yore.
  15. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints - Speaking of Deuce, here's the guy replacing him. Thomas only got substantial carries in seven games last year, and he averaged over 5 yards a carry in those games. He also scored nine touchdowns in those games. While the Saints continue to be a pass-happy squad, Thomas is the featured back in the most potent offense in the NFL. I'm buying.
  16. Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions - It's been years since a Lion has been a big time fantasy factor at running back, but Kevin Smith (not that Kevin Smith) looks like he's changing all that. Once he got consistent carries last season, he was productive. While Detroit is still a ways off from being an offense you want to invest in, Smith will fall backwards into a thousand yards, and could be quite a bit better.
  17. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers - The big time surprise from 2007 was less explosive but still solid in 2008. You wish he were a bigger part of such a potent passing attack, but consistent, solid rushing yards have their value as well. He's not an exciting pick, but he could be good value if he sniffs the end zone a little more ("sniffs" is the metaphor there, not "end zone").
  18. Thomas Jones, New York Jets - Who has two thumbs and was in the top five in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns last season? This guy. You're right not to expect the same kind of production this year, with the Jets' passing game in a sad state, but you'd be wrong to avoid Jones altogether. It's obvious he can produce.
  19. Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins - Brown wasn't particularly good in 2008, outside of a couple of games, but he was coming off of a knee injury that may have made him tentative. After getting through all 16 games last season, Brown should be more confident, leading to more productivity.
  20. Larry Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs are looking at a new QB, new coach, and their first season in over a decade without Tony Gonzalez. In a situation like that, you have to think that they'd like to be able to rely on the ground game. If Johnson can avoid the injury bug, this is a great opportunity for him to bounce back in a big way.
  21. Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts - Addai was one of the bigger disappointments last season, due both to injury and unspectacular play. Fantasy football owners have always liked what Addai can bring to the table, but the Colts drafted Donald Brown in the first round, so he'll clearly play. Addai could muscle Brown into a minimal role, but more likely is a time share that hurts both players' values.
  22. Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints - Bush was fairly productive last season before getting hurt in week 7, specifically in the passing game. He had four 60+ receiving yard games and three receiving touchdowns. In the Saints' offense, Bush translates to a 30-40% share of the RB play plus a third wide receiver. The sum is a pretty productive RB2.
  23. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers - I've heard a lot of talk about the Panthers' running backs and how one will take carries away from the other. But people forget that neither back really got going until they both did. There's little doubt in my mind that both will be productive this season. The only person likely to suffer is Muhsin Muhammad.
  24. Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo Bills - Lynch is suspended for the first four games of this season for a hit-and-run he perpetrated last year and a gun charge in February. He isn't a stud, and doesn't appear to have that makeup in him. But adding Terrell Owens to an offense does tend to open up the running game, so Lynch could be lining up for the best 12 games of his career.
  25. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders - You think I like this? I hate recommending any Raiders player at any point. But the reality is that McFadden is four healthy months from being the next big thing. If he can get consistent carries and stay off the shelf, I absolutely believe that he can become a legitimate starting running back.
  26. Willie Parker, Pittsburgh Steelers - There's no doubt that the Steelers will be looking to get Rashard Mendenhall involved in the offense, probably to a fairly large extent. But Parker's the man now, and he's shown what he can do with sufficient opportunity.
  27. Derrick Ward, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Ward was phenomenal working alongside (and occasionally in place of) Brandon Jacobs. While Tampa still likes Carnell Williams, they didn't bring Ward in to let him ride the pine. He'll get his shots, and should be solid.
  28. LenDale White, Tennessee Titans - I am not at all crazy about White. He managed a couple of great games, but also laid several eggs (4 games with under 15 total yards). Still, he's got a big body that he's able to plant in the end zone with some consistency, so he's got value.
  29. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos - Mike Shanahan is out of town, which means that this year is the best chance for a single productive running back out of Denver since Terrell Davis. Moreno probably has the best chance at being that guy, but he's no sure thing. The upside is there, though, which makes him worthwhile as an early backup RB.
  30. Willie Parker, Pittsburgh Steelers - Parker's days were numbered the moment the Steelers drafted Rashard Mendenhall in 2008. Fast Willie had a few good games, but even after Mendenhall went out for the season, Parker didn't seem to have the same pep in his step. He's a candidate to bounce back, but he's also a candidate to vanish altogether.
  31. Chris Wells, Arizona Cardinals - "Beanie" Wells had a nice career at Ohio State, and the Cardinals acquired him as their replacement for Edgerrin James. He'll split time with Tim Hightower, who may steal goal line carries. It's one of those situations that pretty much demand that you draft both guys, and I hate those situations.
  32. Jamal Lewis, Cleveland Browns - Lewis notched his seventh career 1,000 yard season, but scored only four touchdowns. Part of that can be attributed to the Browns' anemic passing game, but there aren't many reasons to think it'll be any better this year. If you draft Lewis, you're sort of investing in Brady Quinn turning around the passing attack, as well.
  33. Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals - By the end of the season, Benson was looking more and more like a normal running back. He averaged 100 yards a game in those games in which he received 20 or more carries, which suggest he could be solid. There's no one of considerable quality behind him, so he'll be given the chance to succeed.
  34. Julius Jones, Seattle Seahawks - Jones is the starter in Seattle, but that's really all there is to be excited about with him. He averaged just 46 yards per game last year, and this year T.J. Duckett figures to again vulture goal-line carries. Houshmandzadeh's impact on this offense won't be that profound.
  35. Darren Sproles, San Diego Chargers - As I said, no way the Chargers are paying a return guy $7 million this year. Sproles is going to get some legitimate playing time, and if something happens to LT, Sproles immediately becomes a top 20 running back, at least. A vital handcuff for Tomlinson owners.
  36. Le'Ron McClain and Willis McGahee, Baltimore Ravens - I'm putting these guys together because you simply cannot draft them seperately. That means that these guys really only make sense if you've got a wrap-around pick in a snake draft. Otherwise, you're making a foolish move, as it's a true 40/40 chance on who starts (with Ray Rice accounting for the other 20 percent).
  37. Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts - Brown was a first-round pick for the Colts, so you know they like him. There's a chance he ends up in a full timeshare with Addai, which means Brown isn't too bad as a bye week replacement. And of course, if Addai goes down, Brown is the inevitable beneficiary. Another important handcuff.
  38. Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers - Mendenhall just seems like a Steelers running back. Strong, hard-nosed, and after losing the year due to injury against Baltimore, he's got sufficient disdain for the Ravens. Parker should start the season as the #1, but I get the feeling that any slip-up and the Steelers will go with Mendenhall.
  39. Tim Hightower, Arizona Cardinals - While he's not likely to get many yards, he's a threat for a touchdown every week. He also had 34 catches last year, and being a productive receiver will get you in the game when you're a Cardinal. Don't get too attached, though. Wells is the future in Arizona.
  40. Ricky Williams, Miami Dolphins - Williams has made Ronnie Brown owners crazy over the past couple of years, with retirements and returns. He's not young, and it's obvious that Brown is more talented, but Williams could steal just enough carries to be a nuisance. That's also the number of carries to make him worth stashing on your bench.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...