Big Ben
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Like the AFC East this division is split between teams that have established quarterbacks and teams that are hopeful that their young quarterbacks will deliver.
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Ben Roethlisberger may be better equipped to deal with the lockout than any quarterback in the league. After all he sat out the first four games last year and stepped in with a three-touchdown performance in his season debut. Despite playing in 12 games he finished with 3200 yards and 17 TDs (5 INTs). Big Ben knows the offense and knows his players. If the lockout drags on, the veteran Steelers could actually be at an advantage. Big Ben is a solid QB1 that you should to be get at a good value.
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Joe Flacco had a solid season throwing for 3622 yard and 25 TDs (10 INTs). Unfortunately his number seem to decline at the end of the year. Last year he averaged 169.7 passing yards in Weeks 14-16 and 249 yards in the first 12 games. In 2009 he averaged 210 yards in Weeks 14-16 and 240.1 in the first 12 games. In fantasy championship week, typically week 16, he has averaged 134 yards the past two years. The Ravens added speedster Torrey Smith to help stretch the defenses. He should be a nice compliment to Anquan Boldin. Flacco remains a borderline QB1 and should put up solid numbers once again.
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Colt McCoy is back with some experience under his belt. He didn’t light the world on fire, but he didn’t crash and burn either. He completed 60.8 percent of his passes, a number that should rise as he is well-suited for the West Coast Offense the Browns run. They could have added Julio Jones, but opted to trade out of the sixth pick in the draft. They did add Greg Little in the second round, who could end up being one of the best receivers in this class.
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Finally we have the Cincinnati Bengals. Carson Palmer is as good as gone. Whether he is traded, retires, or just sits out the year is the question. Andy Dalton was taken in the second round and he has a good chance to open the season as the starter. Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are also likely to be gone, but Jerome Simpson came on at the end of the year and they added A.J. Green in the draft. With Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham, Dalton has a good chance to be a solid QB2 as a rookie.
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The fantasy playoffs rolled into Championship Week as the Steelers smoked the Panthers in another Thursday Night dud.
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Having players go in the Thursday night games gives you a little bit of an advantage. If your players do well, you can perhaps be a little more cautious with your team. If your players failed to put up good numbers, perhaps you will want to take a bigger risk, hoping to make up some ground. You also get a feel for your matchup depending on how your opponents players did. Let’s take a look at how fantasy owners will be feeling about their players.
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Quarterbacks:  Big Ben (320 yards, passing TD, 2 rushing yards, rushing TD) had a great game. If he’s your fantasy quarterback, you’re in excellent shape. If you’re going up against him, you have your work cut out. If you used Jimmy Clausen (72 yards, INT), you were likely playing in the toilet bowl.
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Running Backs: There were three possible running back choices in this one. Rashard Mendenahll (83 total yards, TD) delivered. Big Ben’s one yard touchdown would have been nice on Mendenhall stat sheet, but you can’t complain with the start he got you. James Stewart (80 total yards) was not a recommended play by most, but he had a solid showing for those forced to use him. Mike Goodson (26 total yards) is officially off the fantasy radar. Isaac Redman (45 total yards) was likely only used in 16+ team leagues.
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Wide Receivers:  Mike Wallace (104 yards, TD) had a real nice performance. 16+ points from your receiver is a great start. Hines Ward (38 yards) and Steve Smith (17 yards) were busts. David Gettis (5 yards) was a non-factor. Emmanuel Sanders (54 yards) was decent enough, but wasn’t likely in many lineups.
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Tight Ends: Heath Miller (73 yards) had a very strong performance. Odds are those who used him got much more than they anticipated. Still, it wasn’t enough to alter any remaining fantasy decision.
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Kickers:  Shaun Suisham kicked two field goals (26, 29) and had three PATs in a modest performance. John Kasay managed one short (27) field goal.
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Defenses:  Pittsburgh dominated. Plain and simple.  They only allowed three points, forced two turnovers (fumble, INT), and racked up four sacks. They be one of the highest scoring defenses this week so if you started them, you’re in good shape.
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It’s a good day for Steelers fans. First, Big Ben’s suspension was reduced by Roger Goodell from six games to four games as expected. This is great for the Steelers because he’ll be allowed to practice with the team during their bye week and be prepared when he returns to action against Cleveland.

 

The Steelers also got good news on the injury front when what was feared to be a torn MCL turned out to be a sprained MCL meaning Leftwich could possibly play in some of the games that Big Ben misses. Dennis Dixon is still favored to start Week 1 against Atlanta.

 

Meanwhile, the Browns were not as lucky as Montario Hardesty tore his ACL according to Adam Schefter.

Thanks to bad behavior leading Big Ben to be suspended and Santonio Holmes shipped out of town, the Steelers have all sorts of questions this year. Assuming Troy Polamalu can stay healthy, the defense should be formidable once again.

 

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:  Moderate
The Steelers take on the Bengals and Jets at home in Week 14 & 15. Going by last year, they were two of the top defenses. I’m skeptical that the Bengals can play on as high a level this year. Still, neither game is a walk in the park. They then face Carolina on the road in the fantasy championship. It remains to be seen how the departure of Julius Peppers will affect the team, but John Fox usually puts out a strong defensive team.

 

Five Star Fantasy Options
None

 

Four Star Fantasy Options
Rashard Mendenhall – Mendenhall had 1369 total yards (1108 rushing) and 8 TDs (1 rushing) last year. He’ll likely be leaned on more in Big Ben’s abscence.

 

Steelers Defense/Special Teams – If Polamalu can’t stay healthy, knock them down a peg. If he can, they have some nice match-ups like Tampa Bay (Week 3), Cleveland (6), Oakland (11),a nd Buffalo in Week 12. They usually are among the league leaders in sacks and takeaways.

 

Three Star Fantasy Options
Ben Roethlisberger – Big Ben’s misdeeds got him what will likely be a four-game suspension. He’ll have to shake the rust off a little, but he should finish strong.

 

Hines Ward – So he’s 34. He’s in great shape and is clearly the #1 option in Pittsburgh. He should be a force in PPR leagues and a solid WR2 in standard leagues.

 

Mike Wallace – Wallace has exceptional speed, but is a definite step back from Santonio Holmes. He’s only entering his second year so there is still plenty to learn. He is a good option for WR depth, but I’m not sure I’d want to count on him from week to week.

 

Heath Miller – Miller consistently turns in good fantasy seasons. He is a better actual TE because of his great blocking ability, but he is anything but an extra lineman out there. He could be a nice safety blanket early on and continue to shine when Big Ben returns.

 

Two Star Fantasy Options
None

 

One Star Fantasy Options
Byron Leftwich – Leftwich should get the four early starts. I don’t expect the Steelers to rely too much on the pass with him under center.

 

Mewelde Moore & Jonathan Dwyer – Moore is an elusive back that can do some exciting things on the field, but he’s a far cry from being a reliable fantasy option. Dwyer has good size, but he’ll have to stay healthy and learn how to play at this level.

 

Antwaan Randle El, Arnez Battle & Emmanuel Sanders - Randle El is the guy to own initially out of this group. Emmanuel Sanders is a guy to keep an eye on because he has much more upside.

 

Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

 

***Update***
The Steelers lost RT Willie Colon to the year due to an Achilles injury. Rashard Mendenhall, Heath Miller, and Byron Leftwich should see a dip in their values. Big Ben, Hines Ward, and Mike Wallace should only see marginal decreases in their values.

ESPN is reporting that Big Ben will receive a four-to-six game suspension. The initial suspension appears to be six games, but will be reduced to four with good behavior.

Pittsburgh’s first four games are Atlanta, Tennessee, Tampa Bay,  and Baltimore. On paper it appears the Steelers will go 1-3 without Big Ben.

The thing that bothers me about the suspension is the fact that Roethlisberger was never charged with a crime in either case. The first accusation (Las Vegas) appears to have no merit. This was a woman who allegedly bragged about having relations with Ben and looked for a payday a year later.

The second incident sounds shady. I don’t know why a millionaire would be hanging out in a college bar. The underage part, in terms of drinking,  is not a concern for me. It’s the bar’s responsibility to verify her age. The rest of the night is a bit of he said, she said. If he did in fact rape her, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Not only should he not play in the NFL again, he should be behind bars.

However, if she was looking for a payday or was embarrassed that she had a one-night stand in a bar, he certainly shouldn’t have been slapped with a four-game suspension. I know the NFL wants to protect its image, but is this really the image you want to portray? It’s basically become a dictatorship. In America, we believe in innocent before proven guilty. Someone who has not been charged with a crime should not be suspended. If he gets a guilty charge, even in a civil case, then have at ‘er.

Big Ben
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Big Ben finds himself in the news for the wrong reasons.  I’m not going to weigh in on his situation because I don’t have the information and don’t want to jump to conclusions.  Obviously his situation has a strong bearing on his fantasy value.  If he is suspended or incarcerated he will obviously need to be reevaluated.  I am assuming that he will not miss time to suspension or incarceration then I expect him to a low end fantasy starter.  He has some great weapons in Santonio Holmes, who I expect to blow up this year, Hines Ward, and Heath Miller.  Limas Sweed is a decent breakout
candidate.  Big Ben showed in the Super Bowl that he can win a game if he needs to, but this team’s identity is still their Defense and with Rashard Mendenhall healthy, along with Willie Parker, the Steelers will be more run-heavy in 2009.

The Steelers have a sweet schedule featuring Cleveland twice, Cincinnati twice, Detroit, Denver, and Kansas City.  They do have to face Tennessee, San Diego, Minnesota, and Baltimore twice so don’t expect Big Ben’s Sack totals to drop drastically.  I like Pittsburgh’s first two matchups (Cleveland & Green Bay) in the fantasy playoffs, but hate that they have to face  Baltimore in the fantasy championship game.

If Ben’s situation hangs over his head this Summer it will affect his draft position.  Right now he’ll probably be taken in the 7th-9th round.  If he stays healthy and eligible I think he’ll have somewhere around 3300 yards and 20 TDs.

The Champs are in good shape.  They are fine with Big Ben at QB, but Byron Leftwich will likely test the free agent waters in search of a place to start.  Detroit may be a good fit as a stopgap before Matthew Stafford is ready to take over.  Charlie Batch is also a free agent, but he’ll likely return as the backup as the Steelers groom Dennis Dixon to take over that role.  The Steelers should have a glut of RBs next year with Willie Parker, a healthy Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore, and Gary Russell.  Hines Ward and Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes will be back to lead the wideouts.  Nate Washington is a free agent and will likely move on for a chance to start.  Limas Sweed will be given the opportunity the opportunity to win that 3rd receiver slot.  Heath Miller was very impressive at TE down the stretch.  He and Matt Spaeth form a solid TE team.  The team needs to improve in the trenches.  Tackles Marvel Smith, Max Starks, and Willie Colon  and Guards Chris Kemoeatu and Trai Essex all are free agents.  They won’t be able to lock them all up so expect changes on that line.  That may not be a bad thing as they allowed 49 last year, which was good for 29th in the league.
 
On Defense they are working to lock up Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison.  CB Bryant McFadden is the only key free agent so the Steelers will make it a priority to get a deal done with him.  No major changes necessary for this team.  They can simply make a few tweaks and will still have a championship caliber club.

KFFL Free Agent Tracker:

Pos Player Name FA Status Previous Team Current Team
QB Charlie Batch UFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
QB Byron Leftwich UFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
RB Justin Vincent Re-signed Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers
FB Carey Davis RFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
WR Nate Washington UFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
TE Jon Dekker RFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
TE Sean McHugh RFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
TE Dezmond Sherrod Re-signed Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers
OG Chris Kemoeatu RFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
OT Willie Colon RFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
OT Trai Essex RFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
OT Marvel Smith UFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
OT Max Starks UFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
C Doug Legursky Re-signed Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers
DL Orpheus Roye UFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
LB Keyaron Fox UFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
LB Andre Frazier UFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
CB Roy Lewis Re-signed Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers
CB Bryant McFadden UFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
SS Ryan Mundy Re-signed Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh Steelers
FS Anthony Madison RFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
FS Anthony Smith RFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent
ST Jared Retkofsky UFA Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent

Quarterbacks
Kurt Warner
- 31of 43 for 377 yards, 3 TDs, INT
Ben Roethlisberger - 21 of 30 for 256 yards, TD, INT

Running Backs
Gary Russell
- 2 carries for -3 yards, TD
Willie Parker - 19 carries for 53 yards, 1 catch for -2 yards
Edgerrin James - 9 carries for 33 yards, 4 catches for 28 yards

Wide Receivers
Larry Fitzgerald
- 7 catches for 127 yards, 2 TDs
Santonio Holmes - 9 catches for 131 yards, TD
Anquan Boldin - 8 catches for 84 yards
Steve Breaston - 6 catches for 71 yards
Hines Ward – 2 catches for 43 yards

Tight Ends
Ben Patrick
- 1 catch for 1 yard, TD
Heath Miller - 5 catches for 57 yards

Super Bowl Observations

2 February 2009

super-bowl-2009

It was a great game.  That is for sure.  Here are some things I took away from the game.

1.  This is the most important one to me.  The last play was WAY too close for them not to go the the review.  It was a big play that helped decide the SUPER BOWL.  I’m not saying it should have been overturned, but at least take the time to review one of the biggest plays in the biggest game of the year.

2.  Larry Fitzgerald is darn good.  He was easily the best player on the field in my eyes.  He’s such a gift to watch.  His attitude makes him even more amazing.  I’d say he’s one of the NFL’s Top 10 players.

3.  Denny Green gets a lot of crap, but his thumbprint is on the NFC Champion.

4.  The first Super Bowl Big Ben was pretty much along for the ride.  He won this one. 

5.  Santonio Holmes was a difference maker.  I’m still impressed with Pittsburgh for having the courage to take a stand when he got in trouble earlier in the year and the decency to give him another chance.

6.  The Edge looked like he still has life in his legs.  If he can swallow his pride and be willing to share the load, he has another year in him.

7.  Hines Ward is TOUGH.  It’s amazing a player as tough as he is can smile so brightly.  Pretty refreshing.

8.  Arizona’s D actually looked better than Pittsburgh’s.

9.  Pittsburgh sure knows how to hire Coaches. 

10.  If Heath Miller was in a more TE-friendly Offense he’d be a star.

11.  Philip Rivers may feel a little inadequate as Big Ben has two rings and Eli has one.

12.  The Super Bowl Pick ‘em Contest was won by a Londoner.  OK, so he’s from Rochester, NY, but he lives in London.  Nice job King.

llchamp1

super-bowl-2009

Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger have each guided their teams to Super Bowl titles.  They are both looking to add more hardware.  In my first Super Bowl position comparison I matchup these two signal callers.

Big Ben took a step back in 2008 (2007:  32 TDs, 11 INt, 2008:  17 TDs, 15 INTs).  Besides his 15 INTs he lost two fumbles in ’08.  He’s tightened up his turnovers in the playoffs, but the Cardinals have been pretty effective creating them.  If Big Ben turns it over, the Cards could be tough to beat. 

Kurt Warner enjoyed another fabulous season (4583 yards, 30 TDs, 14 INTs, 67.1% completion percentage).  When he’s on, he’s really tough to stop.  In my estimation Warner was the front runner for the MVP up until the Giants game.  He and his teammates have recovered from their end of year funk at just the right time.  If his line can keep him off his back, he could enjoy Super Bowl success.

Edge:  Arizona

However, if backups come into play I favor Pittsburgh.  Not only does Byron Leftwich the edge in experience, he acually got some work in this year thanks to the pounding Big Ben took.  Leftwich completed 21 of 36 passes (58.3%) for 303 yards and 2 TDs.  Meanwhile, Matt Leinart has completed 15 of 29 passes (51.7%) for 4 yards, a TD and a INT.  If it comes down to the backup QB, I like Pittsburgh’s situation better.

Stay tuned for more Super Bowl position comparisons.


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