Intentional Grounding – Grounding Your Fantasy in Sunday’s Realities (Week 1)

Title: Intentional Grounding – Grounding Your Fantasy in Sunday’s Realities (Week 1)
Date: September 12, 2011
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: With thanks to my friend Trev for the feature name, I had planned to do a weekly Monday morning fantasy wrap-up for Sunday’s games. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a heavy time commitment on a workday each Monday so, like with every other recurring ‘feature’ piece I created, it fell by the wayside quickly.

Note: Updated Sep 13 for Monday Night games.

The hope is that this will be a weekly Monday column for me throughout the football season, analyzing the prior day’s NFL games with an eye towards the fantasy implications. Over the next couple of weeks I will probably toy with the format a great deal, and I’d love to get some feedback on the format and content. As it stands, I’ll briefly run through all the games from Sunday’s slate, noting significant performances and how the result compared to the spread and over/under. I’ll then hit up any injury notes, and any recommended fantasy action by position at the end.

So far for Week 1, I’m 10-6 in my picks but lost my survivor team (Week 1!!) in the Cleveland Browns. It looks like I’ll go 2-1 in fantasy match-ups, and come out down a small amount on the gambling front. All of that is, of course, a warning that any recommendations should be analyzed through your own, hopefully more successful, interpretation. Not that 10-6 and 2-1 isn’t good, I just mean….uhh, Cleveland. C’mon Son.

 More after the jump!

Green Bay 42, New Orlenas 34
Gambling: GB -4.0, GB -220, Over 47
Fantasy: Your standard big games for two high-profile offenses. James Starks (12-57-TD) looked significantly better than Ryan Grant (9-40 ground, 1-5 air), and was more or less publically promised more touches moving forward after the game. John Kuhn (2-5-TD ground, 2-7 air) looms as a goal-line menace, though. Mark Ingram (13-40) paced the Saints on the ground but was largely ineffective, while Pierre Thomas (5-31, 4-37) and Darren Sproles (2-7, 7-75, PR TD) were heavily featured in the passing game. Sproles caught and returned his way into flex consideration moving forward with a ridiculous all-around performance. Outside of the fantasy buffet, the big news was Marques Colston‘s (6-81-FUM) injury, which could keep him sidelined for upwards of a month and should move Devery Henderson (6-100-TD) up the Week 2 rankings.

Philadelphia 31, St. Louis 13
Gambling: Ph -4.0, Phi -220, O/U 44 push
Fantasy: Mike Vick (14/32-187-2TD-FUM passing, 10-98 rushing) didn’t exactly go video gaming, but that line will suffice in any league. DeSean Jackson (6-102-TD) and Shady McCoy (15-122-TD ground, 2-15-TD air) were the beneficiaries as usual, while Jeremy Maclin (1-20) and Brent Celek (1-13) were quiet. This will be the standard for the Eagles, with better performances in the cards for Maclin. The Rams were hurt by an early Steven Jackson (2-56-TD) injury, an apparently minor Sam Bradford (17/30-188-FUM, -15 yards rushing somehow) injury, and an apparently severe Danny Amendola (5-45) injury. Lance Kendricks (1-18) disappointed (so much for the hype). If Jackson misses time, Cadillac Williams (19-91 ground, 6-49 air) filled in admirably but lacks Jackson’s upside.

Buffalo 41, Kansas City 7
Gambling: Buf +5.5, Buf +200, Over 40
Fantasy: Ryan Fitzpatrick (17/25-208-4TD), ladies and gentlemen! It could have been 5TDs if Brad Smith (0/1-INT, 3-6 rushing) hadn’t thrown a red-zone interception out of the Wildcat. Harvard spread the love around, making useful commodities out of David Nelson (4-66), Stevie Johnson (4-66-TD, why so serious?), and tight end Scott Chandler (5-63-2TD, who?), while Fred Jackson (20-112 ground, 1-5 air) kept the ground game relevant. Interesting to note that with the game in hand, it was Johnny White (8-26) and not C.J. Spiller (5-16-TD ground, 1-5 air) who got the bulk of the time-killing carries. The Chiefs, meanwhile, couldn’t get anything going at all, in any form. Jamaal Charles (10-56-FUM ground, 5-9-TD air) was criminally underused, as usual, although Thomas Jones (2-3) wasn’t at fault. Matt Cassel struggled in a big way (22/36-119-TD-INT, that’s 3.3 YPA), while the only even remotely bright spot was Dexter McCluster‘s (4-42-FUM ground, 5-25 air, 92 RET) all-around play. It looks like KC, and not the Bills, may be a team to pick on this year.

Chicago 30, Atlanta 12
Gambling: Chi +2.0, Chi +115, Over 40.5
Fantasy: This one shocked me, as I definitely didn’t expect Jay Cutler (22/32-312-2TD-INT) to be this good, or Matt Ryan (31/47-319-INT) to be this bad. Maybe it was Week 1 jitters, but these teams looked the exact opposite of what I expected from them this year. Michael Turner (10-100-FUM ground, 3-40 air) lead the way for the Falcons, while Roddy White (8-61) and Tony Gonzalez (5-72) did their thing. Rookie Julio Jones (5-72) impressed as well. The Bears ran mostly when the lead got big, and Matt Forte (16-68 ground, 5-90-TD) was only noticable in the pass game, while Kahlil Bell (10-24) filled in for the injured Marion Barber in the most mediocre way possible. No receivers stepped up, with Devin Hester (3-60-FUM), Johnny Knox (3-60), and the apparently-not-useless Roy Williams (4-55) sharing the workload.

Detroit 27, Tampa Bay 20
Gambling: Det +1.0, Det +105, Over 41
Fantasy: And this is why people get excited about Matthew Stafford (24/33-305-3TD-INT) playing a full season healthy. Fellow break-out candidate Josh Freeman (28/43-257-TD-INT, 4-26 rushing) couldn’t lead a non-existant running game with a 6.0 YPA, making it a relatively empty 20-point team performance in fantasy terms. LeGarrette Blount (5-15) was never given a chance to get going, and Earnest Graham (6-13 ground, 8-58 air, apparently still alive) actually had more touches. Freeman hooked up with Graham most frequently, though Mike Williams (4-50-TD) and Soldier Winslow (6-66) were fantasy relevant, and Arrelious Benn (4-27) and undrafted sophomore Preston Parker (4-44-FUM) gave us a reason to add them to the watch list. Stafford, obviously, favored Megatron (6-88-2TD), who was his usual phenomenal self, including a TD catch that was simply impossible to defend. Brandon Pettigrew (4-57) dropped an easy TD, hurting his line, and Nate Burleson (5-60) provided the last of the fantasy value. Jahvid Best (21-72 ground, 4-42 air) didn’t fall apart with 25 touches, and Jerome Harrison (8-27) didn’t do anything to demand more of a role, both of which are positive signs for Best’s owners, I suppose.

Jacksonville 16, Tennessee 14
Gambling: Depending on when you bet, this could have been Jax +2.5 all the way to Ten -1, Under 37
Fantasy: Not exactly a fantasy smorgasboard, Luke McCown (17/24-175-FUM) and Matt Hasselbeck (21/34-263-2TD-INT) succeeded in staying off the fantasy radar. Outside of Maurice Jones-Drew (24-97-TD ground) and Kenny Britt (5-136-2TD), nobody really made a case for fantasy relevance. That said, Deji Karim (14-33 ground, 3-39 air) will be worth a watch if he continues to get that many touches, while Mike Thomas (8-55) and Nate Washington (6-67) could have value as occasional flex plays, especially if you have Thomas in a PPR league. Chris Johnson (9-24 ground, 6-25 air) really could have used training camp reps, it seems.

Cincinnati 27, Cleveland 17
Gambling: Cin +6.5, Cin +230, Over 35.5, killed my survivor pool
Fantasy: It’s not very often a team can benefit from a QB going down, but the Bengals lost Andy Dalton (10/15-81-TD) and were able to turn to Bruce Gradkowski‘s (5/12-92-TD) steady hand down the stretch, and while QB Rating shows Dalton was a bit better, ESPN’s more accurate QBR liked Gradkowski. You shouldn’t be starting either of these guys, so let’s move on. CedBen (25-121-TD ground, 1-2 air) did most of his damage securing the win late, stealing the fantasy thunder from rookie AJ Green‘s (1-41-TD) go-ahead TD with the Browns still in a huddle and Jermaine Gresham‘s (6-58-TD) inaugration as a post-hype sleeper. For the Browns, calling Colt McCoy (19/40-213-2TD-INT) bad does a disservice to bad QBs, but he was under pretty constant pressure. I still believe, though you obviously have to downgrade him to a degree. The ground game couldn’t get anything going either, as Peyton Hillis (17-57 ground, 6-30 air) was kept flex-less. The TEs dominated the passing game as Ben Watson (3-45-TD) and Evan Moore (3-35-TD) got the endzone love and only Mohammed Massaquoi (3-77) was semi-useful from the receiving corps. Unrelated to fantasy, go out of your way to find a highlight of Greg Little’s block on a Josh Cribbs return…he hit the defender so hard he knocked Cribbs down as well.

Baltimore 35, Pittsburgh 7
Gambling: Bal -1.5, Bal -125, Over 36
Fantasy: WHAT? Really? I sincerely hope Big Ben (22/41-280-TD-3INT-2FUM) never has another game like this, or my season(s) could be sunk. Joe Flacco (17/29-224-3TD) put on a clinic on the other side, and the Ravens didn’t take their foot off the gas until very late, clearly trying to send a message. Rashard Mendenhall (12-45-FUM) was likewise shutdown, and only Hines Ward (5-67, at 959 receptions for his career) and Mike Wallace (8-107) put up useful lines. Every Raven but Lee Evans (0-0) had a good time, lead by Anquan Boldin (4-74-TD on a great Flacco pass) and sophomore tight end Ed Dickson (5-59-TD). Ricky Williams got clock-killing work only (12-63) so Ray Rice (19-107-TD ground, 4-42-TD air) owners should fret in the least. Waka Flacco Flame, indeed.

Houston 34, Indianapolis 7
Gambling: Hou -9, Hou -425, Under 43.5
Fantasy: I feel bad for anyone who bet the over, as Kerry Collins (16/31-197-TD-2FUM) really put the screws to you. That was just an all-time bad performance, a 2.3 on ESPN’s QBR scale. Whether it was his fault or the line’s fault, every Colt save for Reggie Wayne (7-106-TD) was held in check, to the point they’re not even worth mentioning. Okay, it’s worth noting in a blow-out loss that Delone Carter (7-25) almost matched Joseph Addai (8-39 ground, 2-13 air) for touches. There’s a reason Yahoo’s Roto Arcade rated Houston #1 on it’s Juggernaut Index, as they provided robust stat lines at every position, even without Arian Foster. Ben Tate (24-116-TD-FUM) made a case for a role even when Foster returns, while Derrick Ward (11-39-TD) was, well, there, and Steve Slaton (2-12 ground, 1-6 air), uhh, didn’t fumble. Andre Johnson (7-95-TD) remains a top-5 receiver, and Jacoby Jones (3-43) may need to be dusted off with news of a Kevin Walter (1-14) injury.

Washington 28, NY Giants 14
Gambling: Was +3, Was +130, Over 38
Fantasy: Rex Grossman (21/34-305-2TD) back in our lives can’t be a bad thing. He spread the ball around well but still managed to be sacked 4 times by a Giants line missing Justin Tuck and Osi-U. Tim Hightower (25-72-TD ground, 3-25 air) wasn’t as lucky, though nobody else got more than a touch, so his role seems secure for now. Fantasy Fred Davis (5-105) is back in our lives, too, while Chris Cooley (2-21) works his way back to 100%. Santana Moss (6-76) had his usual solid performance, but Jabar Gafffney (3-54-TD) got the glory. On the other side, Eli Manning (18/32-268-INT) looked like the Eli I know and loathe, rendering everyone but Hakeem Nicks (7-122) irrelevant. Ahmad Bradhsaw (13-44-TD) would have been useless except for his score, and he didn’t bust a run greater than 7 yards all day. If/When the D gets healthy the Giants should still be decent, but until then they may be an exploitable pass defense (if you don’t get deducted for sacks, which the Giants system could produce with me as a pass-rushing end, it seems).

San Diego 24, Minnesota 17
Gambling: Min +8.5, SD -400, Under 41.5
Fantasy: 39 yards, Donovan McNabb (7/15-39-TD-INT, 3-32 rushing), really? Nobody could have predicted anything close to that for McNabb, and it’s a minor miracle the Vikings stayed in the game. Adrian Peterson (16-98 ground, 2-6 air) did his best, but it was Percy Harvin (4-15 ground, 2-7 air, KR TD) who was the biggest help, starting the game off with a 103-yard run-back. Yes, the Chargers will apparently be hurt by special teams play even under the new kick-off rules. Philip Rivers (33/48-335-2TD-2INT) wasn’t at his best and got a bit unlucky, and was also seen yelling at Norv Turner after one drive stalled. Clearly a frustrating first half for him. Ryan Mathews (12-45 ground, 3-73 air) and Mike Tolbert (12-35-TD ground, 9-58-2TD air) were far more useful in the pass game than the rushing attack, taking a lot of the action away from V-Jax (2-31) and any receiver not named Antonio Gates (8-74, still a boss). I expect more from everyone involved next week, save for Fat Tolbert.

Arizona 28, Carolina 21
Gambling: Arz -6.5, Arz -310, Over 37
Fantasy: Cam Newton (24/37-422-2TD-INT, 8-18-TD rushing) was your story of the day without question, getting it done with his arm much more than his legs. Not a single person can say they saw this record-setting performance coming, not even The Great Matt Rego. Newton rendered the run game unimportant, as DeAngelo Williams (12-30, 1-6) and Jonathan Stewart (7-26, 2-14) both struggled. Steve Smith (8-178-2TD) was the big winner. He’s a fantasy starter until proven otherwise, but I’d be more cautious with Brandon LaFell (4-70) moving forward. All that action, and they lost. Kevin Kolb (18/27-309-2TD-FUM) did just enough for the win, but barely edged Luke McCown in QBR (44-43), not a promising start to his Cardinals career despite the 300+ yards. Beanie Wells (18-90-TD, 4-12) didn’t give anyone a stroke (…yet), and he was joined in relevance by Early Doucet (3-105-TD). Larry Fitzgerald (3-62) was doubled for most of the game, but Chris Gamble should be commended for his strong coverage as well. I’d expect he and Kolb to get on the same page within the next few weeks, so don’t panic.

San Francisco 33, Seattle 17
Gambling: SF -5.5, SF -245, Over 37.5
Fantasy: How mad was I when Tarvaris Jackson (21/37-197-2TD-INT-2FUM, 4-13 rushing) and Alex Smith (15/20-124, 7-22-TD rushing) took part in a game that beat the teased Over mark of 43.5? Very. But I suppose I should blame Ted Ginn (KR TD, PR TD) and only Ted Ginn. I actually like Smith compared to most, but this is a low-yield offense lead by Frank Gore (22-59, 3-19) most days. Vernon Davis (5-47) is a great safety blanket to have, but I’d hope Smith can work in Michael Crabtree (1-4) more as (if?) he gets healthy. For the ‘Hawks, Beast Mode (13-33, 2-14) faced stacked boxes for a lot of the day (“Who you tellin?”), forcing Jackson to pass way more than is ideal. Doug Baldwin (4-83-TD) was the biggest and lone beneficiary. When Seattle plays, nobody wins.

NY Jets 27, Dallas 24
Gambling: Dal +5.5, NYJ -250, Over 40.5
Fantasy: Let’s get this out of the way first – Darelle Revis is the man. Antonio Cromartie is good, but Revis is this defense. Dez Bryant (3-71-TD) was a problem until Revis switched on to him, at which point Miles Austin (5-90-TD) went from a non-entity to a problem in his own right. You can’t ask Revis to cover Jason Witten (6-110) too, but if you asked, he’d do just fine. Tony Romo (23/36-342-2TD-INT-FUM) actually had a decent day despite Revis’ presence, but was fooled by a scheme-trap where he read blitz and the Jets dropped into Cover-5, leading to a Revis INT and Jets game-winning FG. Felix Jones (17-44-TD-FUM, 3-22) was barely a rumor, as the Jets run-D looked in mid-season form. The Jets offense, however, struggled until it mattered in the 4th quarter. Mark Sanchez (26/44-335-2TD-INT-FUM) had to pass more than you’d expect but found Plaxico Burress (4-72-TD) for a 26yard TD early in the 4th. The Jets then blocked a punt for a TD, though nobody’s getting fantasy love for that one. Shonn Greene (10-26, 1-7) and LDT (5-16, 6-73) split the workload out of the backfield, while Santonio Holmes (6-70) and Dustin Keller (5-61-TD, completely uncovered on the TD) chipped in as well.

New England 38, Miami 24
Gambling: NE -6.5, NE -330, Over 45.5
Fantasy: Tom Brady (32/48-528-4TD-INT) is an absolute monster…and a handsome monster at that. What a performance, the 5th highest passing yards total in NFL history. Everyone on the Patriots benefited, including Wes Welker (8-160-2TD, ridiculous 99-yard TD), Aaron Hernandez (7-103-TD), Deion Branch (7-93), and Rob Gronkowski (6-86-TD). Those two tight ends are both phenomenal. Rest assured this isn’t a New Orleans style offense – Brady will spread the ball around, yes, but everyone should have week-to-week value, unless your last name is OchoCinco (1-14). Danny Woodhead (14-69, 1-6) outpaced BJGE (7-34-TD) for touches but the Law Firm got the goal-line work. For the Dolphins, Chad Henne (30/49-416-2TD-INT, 7-59-TD rushing) was actually quite good, and had a beautiful TD on a QB Draw play to boot. Like Brady, he spread the ball around, helping out owners of Brandon Marshall (7-139), Davone Bess (5-92), Anthony Fasano (5-82, unbelievable 1st quarter catch), and Reggie Bush (11-38, 9-56-TD), who of course was only useful in the passing game.

Oakland 23, Denver 20
Gambling: Oak +3, Oak +145, Over 40.5
Fantasy: It was a very empty game for fantasy purposes, with 1 of the game’s 4 TDs coming in the return game (Eric Decker with a 90-yd PR TD, plus 3-53 receiving), and one coming on a rush by universally un-started Jason Campbell (13/22-105-TD, 6-2-TD rushing), while Campbell’s passing TD went to a fullback. Run-DMC (22-150, 1-6) had a huge game but was kept off the scoreboard, while Knowshon Moreno (8-22-FUM, 2-35) continued to disappoint. Brandon Lloyd (6-89) was the only receiver for either team worth owning. Man, am I glad I cut bait in the 1st and went to sleep.

Gambling Notes
*12 games went Over, 3 Under, and 1 push
*Home teams went 8-8 ATS
*Home teams went 10-6 overall
*Favorites went 8-8 ATS
*Favorites went 10-6 overall
*Home-‘Dogs went 2-2 ATS and overall
*ESPN’s AccuScore program went 10-6 overall but just 7-9 ATS, while its TeamRanking feature went 11-5 overall and 8-8 ATS
*I went 10-6 ATS, a successful first week

Injuries
Maruqes Colston (upwards of a month), Kevin Walter (8+ weeks), and Danny Amendola (8+ weeks) had the most serious injuries, while we await status updates on Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson (hopefully you’re not waiting for word on Andy Dalton). Man, bad day for the Rams. The Chiefs lost safety Eric Berry for the year, which will have an enormous impact on a defense that looked awful on Sunday. The Panthers also lost Jon Beason for the year, and the Chargers lost #1-ranked fantasy kicker Nate Kaeding on the season’s opening kick-off.

Fantasy Pick-Ups
(Under 50% Yahoo ownership)
QB – Cam Newton is obviously worth a speculative add, but I wouldn’t be starting him just yet. Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t look quite as much like a 1-year fluke as he may have before this week. Play the match-ups with Rex Grossman if you dare.
RB – Ben Tate is a must-own for any Arian Foster owner, and a lottery ticket for anyone else. Cadillac is worth a test-drive (get it?) in the event Jackson’s injury is a long one. Dexter McCluster is an interesting “watch” item for another week. He’s at 60% ownership, so he doesn’t fit the 50% note above, but if Darren Sproles is available for you, by all means get on board.
WR – Randall Cobb and Ted Ginn will be on the radar for any league that counts return yards, but I’m not sure how consistent they’re production will be – I generally don’t chase special teams TDs. Devery Henderson should be owned almost everywhere as a speculative add until we see how Drew Brees will distribute Colston’s touches. I have Early Doucet and Doug Baldwin in the watch category for now, but some will no doubt jump on Doucet as a post-hype sleeper, especially if he’s declared the official #2 over Andre Roberts any time this week. Jacoby Jones, while we’ve been here before, should see more targets with Walter out.
TE – The position is too fickle to really make one-week judgments, but Ed Dickson looks to be for real. I can’t recommend Scott Chandler, but Fantasy Fred Davis and Benjamin Watson are both worth a watch in deeper or 2-TE leagues.

Alright, that’s it for this week. Please give me some feedback, in comments or privately, about the format and content for this weekly column. I want this to be a first-stop on Mondays for fantasy owners and those who missed Sunday’s games.

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