Fantasy bust of the season? Matt Forte, no doubt about it. Of course, since I'm writing this entry from Chicago, this news doesn't come as a surprise to anyone. Forte's struggles have been just as frustrating to fantasy owners as they have been to Bears fans. The Bears were expecting their second-year back to turn into one of the best runners in the league. Fantasy owners were counting on the same thing. Forte was a consensus top five pick in most fantasy leagues. Those owners can't be happy now.
There are many reasons for this, of course. The Bears are throwing more - and, as a Bears fan, I contend it's still not enough. The offensive line is also putrid. Forte is getting less chances, and they're worse chances. It doesn't look he'll break out of this funk any time soon.
Besides for this week, that is. The Cleveland Browns are the vaccine that cures all.
The Browns will enter Sunday as the second worst unit in the league when it comes to defending the run. Backs are averaging 4.9 yards per carry against them, to the tune of over 170 yards per game.
You may remember that it hasn't been all bad for Forte this season. He was actually quite good against the cringe-worthy Lions in Week Four, rushing for 121 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries. The Lions are currently the 13th worst team against the run. Again, Cleveland is the second worst.
So, yeah: start Matt Forte on Sunday, and watch him (probably) run wild. At this point, he owes you.
Without question, Austin has been the waiver wire pickup of the year thus far. If you've had him during his last two games, you've probably won.
Austin broke onto the scene in Week 5 with 10 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas City. During the bye week he replaced the ever-steady Patrick Crayton as a starter, and Austin proved his worth once again. Against a shoddy Falcons pass defense, Austin put up big stats: two more touchdowns, 171 yards, six catches.
At this point, Austin has become a must-start every week.
If you drafted New Orleans wide receiver Lance Moore and still have him sitting somewhere on your bench, congratulations. You're about to be rewarded handsomely.
Moore, of course, was one of the breakout stars of fantasy football '08. In the absence of Marquis Colston, Moore burst onto the fantasy scene, catching 79 passes for nearly 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Every year a fantasy league is swung by a major waiver wire pickup, and last year was the year of Lance Moore.
This year, Moore has been hampered by injuries, and he hasn't been very productive. Through the first five weeks, he had just three catches for 39 yards and no touchdowns. But Moore was apparently feeling better after the Saints bye week in Week 5, and it showed against the Giants: Moore caught six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. Welcome back, man.
Obviously, Colston is Drew Brees'(notes) main flame, but in the Saints' seemingly unstoppable spread-the-wealth attack he should continue to net at least 6-9 targets per contest. Miami has performed marginally against the pass allowing the seventh-most 20-yard pass plays. Throw in the Fins' inflexibility up front, and Moore could be a vertical slayer on South Beach.
I know we're all knee-deep in fantasy football at the moment, but I want to take a second to thank everyone who participated in the first ever Fantasy Factor fantasy baseball league this summer. The final standings are after the jump...
Greatest fantasy quarter of all-time? Probably. By throwing five touchdown passes in the second quarter in the snow against the lifeless Titans, Brady set a new NFL record and gave fantasy owners everywhere a reason to celebrate. Brady has been a bit of a disappointment in the fantasy world thus far, so hopefully this will get him going and he'll be able to sustain this success.
Also, any quarterback looks like a strong start against Tennessee right now. My how have the mighty have fallen. Not every NFL QB is Tom Brady, of course, but seriously, that was some of the worst coverage I've ever seen on Sunday. That secondary is Grade-A terrible.
It seems like there are more terrible teams than normal this year. Bill Simmons broke it down in his column at ESPN.com today.
St. Louis (The King of Crappy); Oakland (Queen Crappy); Cleveland and Buffalo (the Duke and Duchess of Crappy); and Kansas City, Carolina, Washington, Tennessee (the Lords of Crappy).
In fantasy, whenever you can start a guy against one of these teams - and let's not forget to throw Detroit in there, either - go for it. Expect big things.
As such, you start Rashard Mendenhall this week.
Mendenhall is hot as any back in football. He has three touchdowns in his last two games and has averaged over five yards per carry in each. Throw in a Browns defense that is the league's worst when it comes to stopping the run, and it's not hard to see another big game for Mendenhall.
Jacksonville wideout Mike Sims-Walker was making a claim for waiver wire pickup of the year. After going catch-less in Week 1, Sims-Walker exploded: he went for 278 yards and three touchdowns the next three games.
Last week, he was a late scratch against the Seahawks. Fantasy owners everywhere were caught off guard. Apparently, so was the rest of the Jacksonville offense. The Jags got blown out 41-0. Why didn't Sims-Walker play?
Sims-Walker reportedly missed bed check this past Friday night due to "a late-night rendezvous with a lady friend," the Florida Times-Union reports. As a result, he was deactivated for Week 5's loss to the Seahawks.
Sims-Walker is back from exile this week, and he looks like a strong start. After all, the Jags are going up against the Rams, and anyone who goes up against the Rams looks like a strong start. So - barring another unforeseen late-night rendezvous - it looks like Sims-Walker should be the starting lineup, both for the Jags and your fantasy team.
Dallas' Miles Austin actually put up better numbers - Austin finished with 10 catches, 250 yards, and two touchdowns - but White gets the nod because people actually, you know, start him in fantasy football.
Watching Matt Ryan and White tear up the San Francisco defense was a thing of beauty if you own them in fantasy. Let's just hope it doesn't happen next week against the Bears.
White started off this season slow, so it's good to see him finally break out. The first three games this year he only had 119 yards receiving and one touchdown. Against the 49ers alone he went for 210 yards and two touchdowns. This could be the start of something big for White and the Atlanta offense.
I know a thing or two about disappointing wide receivers. My fantasy team is rolling this year (the league's lone 4-0 team, thank you very much), but my receivers haven't been much help. After a stellar Week 1, Roy Williams has been garbage. "Garbage" is probably too nice of a word to describe my other starting receiver, Denver's Eddie Royal.
Two more underachieving wideouts made news this week when Braylon Edwards got traded and Michael Crabtree finally decided to accept lots of money and go to work.
What can we expect from them fantasy wise? Probably not much.
But let's remember why in-season deals are so infrequent in the NFL - it's very tricky to head to a new club and learn a new scheme, especially on offense. Roy Williams was liberated from Detroit 12 months ago and turned into a monstrous flop for the Cowboys. For all the fantasy hope that Edwards will be reinvigorated by a different city and a winning club, we also have to consider that chemistry with Mark Sanchez won't happen overnight.
Word. And even if Braylon and Sanchez do develop chemistry in a timely fashion, Edward will probably just, you know, drop the passes.
Crabtree's case is even more dire. Rookie receivers struggle in the NFL about 95 percent of the time. Crabtree was a great prospect, but he's missed oh so much time this season. Even a super prospect like Calvin Johnson wasn't great as a rookie, and that was with an entire training camp, preseason, ect.
Crabtree and Edwards could get back on track next season, just don't expect too much from them in 2009.
If Garrard's big day would have happened in the first three weeks, it likely would have gone unnoticed in the fantasy world. Unless you're in a 20-team league or something, you probably aren't starting David Garrard as your fantasy quarterback. But with bye weeks forcing fantasy owners to go to their benches this week, some owners may have been lucky enough to have Garrard in the starting lineup this week.
Garrard had his way against a depleted Titans secondary on Sunday, finishing with 323 yards and three touchdowns. He won't do it every week, but he doesn't need to. If you started Garrard this week, it's a win, win. Your starter will be back soon, and your backup put up a huge effort in his place.
Journalists love athletes like Tashard Choice. The pun possibilities are just off the charts. 'Easy Choice', 'Healthy Choice', 'The Choice is Yours', ect. These jokes write themselves! With the Cowboys heading into Sunday without Felix Jones, and with a banged up Marion Barber, fantasy owners should love Choice, too. Dallas coach Wade Phillips reiterated today that Choice will see more carries than normal.
The second year running back has looked good in limited action. As a rookie, Choice averaged over five yards per carry, but only had 92 attempts. Last week against Carolina, he had a season-high 18 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown. Expect more of the same this week when the Cowboys head to Denver.
We're talking about a third-string running back who has been patiently waiting for an opportunity. This is it. Choice sounds like he's ready to make the most of it.
"If you only get three or four carries, every opportunity you get, you have to try to make the best of it, so you have to make big plays,'' Choice said.
He'll be getting the ball a lot more than three or four times on Sunday, I can assure you of that.