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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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Also check out:

 

There aren’t many RBBC that work as well for fantasy owners as they do for the actual NFL team, but the Panthers 1-2 punch of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are the exception.

 

In 2008 they combined for 2351 yards and 28 TDs (D-Will 1515, 18 & J-Stew 836, 10). Last year they combined for 2250 yards & 17 TDs (J-Stew 1133, 10 & D-Will 1117, 7).  DeAngelo Williams has the better combined numbers of the two seasons, but which one do you prefer for 2010?

 

Currently D-Will seems to be the favorite with a ADP of 13 compared to 30 for J-Stew. ESPN has a narrower gap with Williams ranked 15 and Stewart ranked 17. I tend to think the opposite in this scenario and actually favor Jonathan Stewart.

 

Williams had more carries per game, but that number should be more even in 2010 after Stewart exploded for 440 yards and 3 TDs (plus 30 receiving yards and a receiving TD) in the final three games against the Vikings, Giants, and Saints.

Stewart is a bigger back (5’10″, 235) than Williams (5’9″, 217) and better suited for smash-mouth football, which is what the Panthers figure to employ with an inexperience QB (Matt Moore) and minimal weapons in the passing game. Plus, even if they split the carries evenly in the early part of games, Stewart is the better option to close out games.

 

Stewart has been bothered by injuries in his first two seasons, but was still able to play every game. He has nearly 2000 yards and 20 TDs in two seasons despite those injuries. Can you imagine how good he’ll be now that he’s healthy?

 

That’s not to say I don’t think D-Will can be successful. He is an elusive back that can score any time he touches the ball. He is as capable as any RB in the league of turning in a monster performance. I just think he’ll have less opportunities to do his thing in 2010.

 

Predictions:
J-Stew:  1500 total yards, 12 TDs
D-Will:  1300 total yards, 8 TDs

 

Which Carolina RB do you prefer?

 

Images courtesy of Icon SMI

 

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The Panthers once again were led by the 1-2 punch of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. They both ran for over 1100 yards, with 5.0+ yards per carry, and a combined 17 TDs. Perhaps with Steve Smith can return to form with Matt Moore under center for a full year (assuming he holds off Jimmy Clausen all year).

 

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:  Moderate
There don’t appear to be any cupcakes on the schedule for the Panthers as they face the Falcons and Cardinals at home and the Steelers on the road. Weather should be fine for the first to games. Week 16 in Pittsburgh could be a different story, but the running game should be fine. Steve Smith is good enough to play in bad weather. You shouldn’t be relying on Matt Moore in a fantasy Super Bowl.

 

Five Star Fantasy Players
DeAngelo Williams & Jonathan Stewart –  This duo has put up two monster seasons. There is no reason to believe they can’t do it again in 2010. They actually keep each other fresh. If one were to miss a significant amount of time, you could be looking at top five production.

 

Steve Smith – Smith failed to reach 1000 yards for the first time since 2004, but should bounce back. In weeks 13-16 with Moore at the helm Smith averaged  94.5 yards with 3 TDs.

 

Four Star Fantasy Options
None

 

Three Star Fantasy Options
None

 

Two Star Fantasy Options
Panthers Defense/Special Teams – The Panthers will miss Peppers, but they’ll still have some spot starts (Bucs twice, Rams, Browns).

 

One Star Fantasy Options
Matt Moore – If the Panthers struggle you could see Clausen get some work. I wouldn’t want Moore as a backup fantasy QB at this point, especially without many options in the passing game.

 

Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

DeAngelo Williams
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

DeAngelo Williams was by far the biggest surprise in fantasy circles last year with a mammoth 1636 total yard (1515 rushing, 121 receiving), 20 TD (18 rushing, 2 receiving) performance.  He had 1101 rushing yards 16 TDs in the last nine games, including two four TD outburst.  That’s an average of 122.3 yards and 1.78 TDs.  Those are LT numbers, and I’m not talking about 2008 LT.  You would think someone with a monster year like that would be taken in the first few picks of the following year’s fantasy drafts.  The problem is Williams is in a time share with Jonathan Stewart.  There was plenty for both to feed last year, but it’s hard to imagine that they can both be as productive this year.  I think Williams will have monster games because he is so explosive and can score from anywhere on the field.  I just don’t think he’ll be as consistent, and I certainly don’t expect him to reach paydirt nearly as often. 

DeAngelo has a very difficult road in the fantasy football playoffs. He faces New England, Minnesota, and the Giants.  If he gets off to good start this year, you may want to consider moving him.  I’d wait until after Week 9 if possible as he plays Arizona in Week 8 and New Orleans in Week 9.  I just wouldn’t want my top two pick facing that brutal playoff schedule.  It’s hard to estimate his production because he came out of nowhere, but my gut says he has 1300 total yards and 9 TDs.

The Panthers are coming off a very successful season that ended in disappointment.  The good news is they do not have a lot of key free agents.  Tops on the list is Julius Peppers.  Replacing his 14.5 Sacks is going to be very difficult so that is obviously a focal point. 

One thing that needn’t be addressed is their running game.  DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were the best 1-2 punch in the game last year.  They combined for over 2300 yards and 28 TDs.  Steve Smith is still one of the best wideouts in the game.  Jake Delhomme wasn’t particularly effective during the season, and how can you forget the five INTs he tossed against Arizona?  The window is open for Carolina to do great things.  I’m not sure Jake Delhomme has what it takes to get it done.  I’m not sure Matt Moore is the QB of the future so that could be addressed via the draft.  Muhsin Muhammad had a solid year for Carolina, but he’s no spring chicken.  D.J. Hackett didn’t live up to expectations last year.  The WR position will likely be addressed in free agency of the draft.  All in all, the Panthers are in pretty good shape.

KFFL Free Agent Tracker:

Pos Player Name FA Status Previous Team Current Team
QB Brett Basanez Signed Carolina Panthers Chicago Bears
WR Dominique Thompson UFA Carolina Panthers Free Agent
TE Jeff King RFA Carolina Panthers Free Agent
PK John Kasay UFA Carolina Panthers Free Agent
OT Frank Omiyale UFA Carolina Panthers Free Agent
DL Julius Peppers UFA Carolina Panthers Free Agent
LB James Anderson RFA Carolina Panthers Free Agent
LB Jason Kyle UFA Carolina Panthers Free Agent
CB Chris Gamble UFA Carolina Panthers Free Agent

Time for another edition of Fantasy Football Out on a Limb.  I scour the rosters to select a player who I feel will outperform a higher profile player in that given week.  I base my decisions on matchups, how the players are trending, and the ever-important hunch.  To mix things up I’ll occasionally do some two on one matchups or even pit RB or WR duos against each other.  Sometimes I’ll spot a player some points. 
Scoring
6 points for rushing or receiving TD
4 points for a passing TD
0.1 points per yard for rushing or receiving
0.05 points per passing yard. 

Last Week
J.T. O’Sullivan
(20.65) over Derek Anderson (10.45) WHICH I WON
Maurice Jones-Drew (22.6) over Ryan Grant (5.4 )WHICH I WON
Larry Johnson (18.1) over Darren McFadden (4.8) WHICH I WON
Santonio Holmes (3.2) beat Bryant Johnson (2.5)  WHICH I LOST
Laveranues Coles (13.5) beat Amani Toomer (6.4) WHICH I LOST
Super Stetch:  
Chris Perry (15.3) beat Darren Sproles (7.7) WHICH I LOST 

Regular Picks:  3-2
Super Stretch Picks:  0-1
Overall:  3-3
Breakdown: QB: 1-0, RB 2-1, WR: 0-2

 

 

Season Record
Regular Picks:  9-6
Super Stretch Picks:  1-2
Overall:  10-8
Breakdown: QB: 3-0, RB: 5-3, WR: 2-5

Quarterback
  
Carson Palmer over Donovan McNabb
Palmer had been awful before showing a glimpse of his old self last week vs. the G-Men.  Now he gets to face Cleveland at home.  That should be the remedy he needs.  McNabb gets to go on the road to Chicago without his top weapon, Brian Westbrook.  Life will be much more difficult for Mr. McNabb.

Running Backs
 
Jamal Lewis over Michael Turner
Jamal Lewis should have a big day against the Bengals in what figures to be a slugfest.  Michael Turner will return to Earth as he faces a team with an actual Defense in Carolina. 

 
Jonathan Stewart over Darren McFadden
I’ll let these two rookie RBs battle it out.  I’m taking J-Stew and his matchup against Atlanta even though he’ll have to share with DeAngelo Williams.  McFadden has to face the Chargers, who aren’t as tough defensively as in recent years, but will probably score in bunches to take the ball out of Run DMC’s hands.

Wide Receivers
 
Robert Meachem over Santonio Holmes
I’ll pick on Holmes again even though he got me last week.  This time I’m coming with Robert Meachem.  The Saints are losing guys like flies as Shockey joined Colston on the sidelines.  Drew Brees is going to throw the ball.  Meachem will likely be one of his top targets.  I don’t see Holmes finding the cure to what ails him this week when he faces Baltimore. 

     
Isaac Bruce over Hines Ward
I do another oldies matchup.  This time I’m taking Isaac Bruce, the new San Francisco treat, to take out Hines Ward.  For starters Bruce gets to face New Orleans, which is a much easier task than Ward facing the Ravens.  Not only do they have a better secondary than the Saints, they also will bring much more heat.  If Big Ben is hit like he was vs. Philly, he may have another early exit.

SUPER STRETCH
  
Kerry Collins over Jason Campbell
Kerry has a plush matchup vs. Minnesota.  If there line can hold up to the Vikings’ Pass Rush, he should be able to do some nice things.  Campbell has played well of late, but I get the feeling while facing Dallas he’s going to look more like he did in Week 1.

Carolina Panthers Preview

1 September 2008

It seems like every year Carolina is somebody’s pick to surprise everybody and do it all. I think, for once, that isn’t the case.

Offensively there are some concerns.  Jake Delhomme is coming off an elbow injury that cost him all but three games last year.  Those three games he was terrific, but a major injury like this could linger.  He’ll be without Steve Smith for a couple of games for breaking Ken Lucas’ nose for him.  As long as Delhomme stays healthy Smith should put together a strong season.  Joining him is D.J. Hackett (from Seattle) and Muhsin Muhammad.  He played well in Carolina, so maybe he’ll have a decent year.  On the ground they will employ both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.  Personally, I’m afraid of DeAngelo holding up.

On Defense the Panthers have several big name players such as Julius Peppers and Jon Beason, who is an absolute beast.  He tallied 140 tackles.  They were middle of the road on yardage allowed total, yardage allowed – passing, and yardage allowed – rushing.  They will need to get to the QB more as they ranked 31 in the league with 23 Sacks.  That’s just not going to cut it.

The team as a whole won’t cut it either.  There are too many holes to expect a major turnaround this year.  We’ll have to wait and see their approach.  I don’t see the playoffs on the future for Carolina.  I see around six or seven wins.

Fantasy-wise the Panters have some playmakers.  Jake Delholmme is an adequate backup, although he could end up being one of the top sleeper picks at QB.  Both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngleo WIlliams figure to get carries.  I like Stewart better, but that’s because I feel he’s more likely to get the red zone touches.  Steve Smith is worthy of a #1 to #3 WR depending on league size.  He’ll miss a couple of games for breaking Ken Lucas’ nose, but fantasy owners are more worried about their last few weeks.  You can take a chance on Muhsin and Hackett in larger leagues.

We’ve done the Big Dog RBs, Second Tier RBs, Third Tier RBs, and Fourth Tier RBs, now it’s time to look at the next wave of RBs.  We’re getting your bench RBs and Bye Week plays.  You can use these guys for trades or simply use them as insurance policies in case of injury.

Selvin Young – Usually a Denver RB is as good as gold.  I just can’t quite trust any of them this year.  Selvin had 960 total yards last year, but only 1 TD.  Michael Pittman and Ryan Torain could steal touches from Young.

Rudi Johnson/Kenny Watson – Early indications are that Rudi is back.  He’s in terrific shape and is hitting the holes hard.  Problem is Kenny Watson easily outplayed him last year.  I think this is going to be a true RBBC with them splittiing carries fairly equally (barring injury).  Kenny Watson had over 1000 total yards and 7 TDs.  Rudi had 600 and 4.  You would think Rudi would be the short yardage back, but Watson will probably get plenty of work in the redzone because of his pass-catching ability. 

Jonathan Stewart – Since DeAngelo Williams hasn’t lived up to the hype, I see the Oregon rookie stealing the show down in Carolina.  He’s a bruiser at 5’11″, 230 Lbs with good speed.  He ran for 1722 yards for the Ducks last year, and should have a solid rookie showing.

Matt Forté - Things looked real good for the Tulane rookie before Kevin Jones inked a deal with Da Bears.  That said, I’m not sure KJ is healthy enough (or will remain healthy) to keep Forte from being a decent fantasy play.  He ran for 2127 yards and 23 TDs in his Senior season.  He’s also capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. 

Kevin Smith – Another rookie that could make waves this year is Detroit’s Kevin Smith.  He doesn’t have great speed, but he tore it up for UCF last year racking up 2567 yards and 29 TDs.  If the Pro game isn’t too fast for him, he could be a steady contributor.

Previous Previews
Quarterbacks

The Sporting News has a sweet Live Mock Fantasy Football Draft that I’ve been using for the last few years to get ready for the season.  They offer 10 & 12 Team Drafts that go 15 rounds.  I use it as a gauge to see where certain people are picked.  As the season approaches, these Mock Drafts become better because everyone is more up-to-speed on the players and you get a full draft.  When there isn’t a full draft, there is an Autopick in place.  They go by Sporting News rankings.  It’s not ideal, but it’s acceptable.  Another cool feature is the chat board which allows you to discuss players with other fantasy football fanatics.  Unfortunately I wasn’t in a very chatty room so I didn’t gain much fantasy insight this time around.  Oh well, there’s always next time.

For my first mock I got the 9th pick.  The Big Dog RBs (as well as Brady, Moss, and Lynch) were off the board.  I opted to go for Larry Johnson.  With my second pick I opted to go with the 2 RB system and grabbed Clinton Portis.  I thought about Larry Fitzgerald, but chose to go with 2 RBs here with thoughts of grabbing 2 WRs in the next Snake swing.  When my pick got to me I was surprised to see Torry Holt still hanging around.  Naturally, I grabbed him.  The other WRs available were Jennings, Harrison, Boldin, and Roy Williams so I eschewed the 2 WR thought and went with Carson Palmer.  I again let the WRs slide (as Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers were the ilk of WRs available) and took Darren McFadden with my 5th pick.  Dwayne Bowe was still available when the Snake swung to me so I grabbed him.  I took old man Hines Ward with my 7th pick to round out my starting WR corps.  In the 8th round, I opted to take another rookie RB in Jonathan Stewart.  With my 9th pick I added WR depth with Vincent Jackson, hoping he’ll meet the high expectations that were put on him last year.  I finished off with a TE.  I debated between Alge Crumpler and Vernon Davis, but was afraid one is washed up and the other is too injury-prone so I went with Chicago’s Greg Olsen.  In Round 11 I decided to go Defense and chose Pittsburgh.  In Round 12 I decided to add RB depth by choosing Deuce McAllister.  In the 13th round I went with D.J. Hackett.  I was a big fan of his heading into last year, and think he should do fine in Carolina.  I took a flier on the Giants’ Steve Smith in the 14th.  I finished the draft by taking a Kicker.  Much to my delight Adam Vinatieri was available.  I snatched him up quickly.

One suggestion I have is to stick with the picks until the end.  Often people duck out early to get to their next draft (because they are rather addictive), but that defeats the purpose of the mock draft.  Anyone can pick the first several rounds.  Where you want to practice is the middle to late rounds.  That’s where fantasy football championships are won.  So head on over to the Sporting News and sign up for a Mock Draft right away.  My team name is Lester’s Legends.  If you see me, say hi.


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