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San Diego’s Philip Rivers is easily the class of the division. It doesn’t matter who who is throwing too. Vincent Jackson holds out and only plays four games? Ho hum. Rivers throws for 4710 yards. Antonio Gates has nine touchdowns in the first eight games and then misses six of the next eight games? Big deal. Rivers throws 30 TDs (13 INT). Rivers remains a top tier QB1.
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Kansas City got 3116 yards and 27 TDs (7 INTs) from Matt Cassel and added the 6’4″ Jonathan Baldwin to his arsenal. He should take some of the pressure Dwayne Bowe, who exploded for 1162 yards and 15 TDs last year. Bowe had just one touchdown in the last five games while averaging 55.4 yards. The Chiefs also added Rodney Hudson to help their offensive line. Cassel is a solid QB2 going into the 2011 season.
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John Elway is on board with Tim Tebow as the Broncos’ quarterback. Tebow will have his ups and downs, but should be a solid QB2 thanks to his ability to run the football. He had six rushing touchdowns last year. New coach John Fox has Kyle Orton on top of the depth chart, but he could be traded once the lockout is lifted. If he beats out Tebow, he will also be a solid QB2. I just assume at some point Tebow would get a chance to start.
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Then there is the Raiders. Jason Campbell is the starter, but he’s not much of a fantasy option. He topped 240 yards just twice.  He had one or fewer touchdown passes in ten of the 13 games he played in. I would look elsewhere for my backup fantasy quarterback.
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I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Matt Cassel underwent an appendectomy. There is talk that he may try to gut it out and play through the pain. Given the Chiefs’ ties to Bill Belichick, I caution you that it is likely just gamesmanship. The Chiefs will likely play it safe and rest Cassel this week despite facing the Chargers in a key AFC West showdown.
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Regardless if he plays, he’ll be in quite a bit of discomfort. He’d also be facing San Diego’s top-ranked pass defense (186.3  yards allowed per game). He simply cannot be in your fantasy lineup. Since the Chiefs have such a tough draw, I would not recommend using Brodie Croyle if he gets the nod.
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You likely weren’t going to use Cassel against the Chargers anyway so let’s get to the other decisions. What should you do with Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, and Tony Moeaki?
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With Cassel likely out, I expect a heavy dose of the run. The Chargers have been effective stopping the run as well, ranking fifth with just 95.3 yards per game, but Kansas City is not an ordinary team when it comes to running the ball. They lead the league with 175.2 yards per game. I like both Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones to continue putting up big numbers.

Tony Moeaki has been good enough at times, but he is not an option that I would want to roll with in the fantasy playoffs against the top-ranked pass defense with a backup quarterback. That’s just too big of a risk.
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What about Dwayne Bowe? I had him as my top-ranked receiver for the second straight week, and I’m beginning to think that was a jinx. He got shut down last week by Champ Bailey and the Broncos. Then his quarterback has surgery. Clearly he can’t be the top option anymore this week, but he still has to be in your fantasy lineup. He’s just too good to sit.
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The Chiefs were 25th in total offense, but finished just outside the top ten in rushing offense thanks to Jamaal Charles’ Chris Johnson impersonation from Week 10 on. Of course, they muddied his fantasy waters by bringing in Thomas Jones. I don’t expect the team to be much better, but there will be some viable fantasy options once again.

 

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:   Moderate
They have a couple of tough games against San Diego at home in Week 14 and in Tennessee in Week 16. Between that they get to take on the Rams in St. Louis.

 

Five Star Fantasy Options
None

 

Four Star Fantasy Options
Jamaal Charles – The way  he finished the season averaging 143.1 total yards (121 rushing) and a TD over the last eight games was fantasy gold last year. I would have had higher expectations for Charles if Thomas Jones wasn’t brought int.

 

Three Star Fantasy Options
Thomas Jones – He’s not the primary ball carrier, but Charles has just 257 career carries. There is no proof that he can carry the load for a full season. If he goes down, Jones’ becomes a legit RB2. He has value in flex leagues because he’ll likely get the ball in the red zone.

 

Dwayne Bowe – Bowe was a major disappointment last year as he quickly became entrenched in Todd Haley’s doghouse. He has the potential to breakout, but do temper your expectations until he proves he’s taking the right mental approach.

 

Two Star Fantasy Options
Matt Cassel –  With Charlie Weiss on board, I expect more out of Cassel. That depends on the protection his line gives him. He has two RBs that can catch the ball out of the backfield, as well as Bowe and Chris Chambers, who re-emerged last year. He has the potential to be a solid QB2 this year.

 

Chris Chambers – Almost as improbable as Jamaal Charles’ finish was Chambers. He had nine catches for 122 yards and a score in seven games with San Diego. He took off with the Chiefs catching 36 passes for 608 yards and 4 TDs in nine games.  His upside is limited, but he gives you good depth at WR.

 

One Star Fantasy Option
Dexter McCluster – He could be this year’s version of Percy Harvin. He’s super athletic and can do a variety of things on offense. Consistency will likely be an issue.

 

Chiefs Defense/Special Teams – The Chiefs have some nice games on their schedule such as Browns in Week 2, the Bills in Week 8, the Raiders in Week 9, the Seahawks in Week 12, and the Rams in Week 15. They had just 22 sacks and 15 INTs last year so they should probably go undrafted. You can pick them up for a spot start if they show improvement.

 

Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

Kansas City cut WR Amani Toomer, paving the way for Mark Bradley to start opposite of Dwayne Bowe.  With Matt Cassel hurting, this offense has a chance to be pretty dreadful this year.  Devard Darling is out for the year with a knee injury, and Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey got the boot.  This is a work in progress, but lower your expectations of Bowe, Cassel, and Larry Johnson.

Rookie holdouts seldom have a happy ending.  The contract typically isn’t much better than what originally offered.  The player falls way behind in learning the system, and often injures himself as he tries to rush to get up to speed.  That’s what happened with Cincinnati Tackle Andre Smith.  The first-rounder fractured his foot before the ink even dried on his contract.  He will miss a couple of weeks and could have a hard time getting on the field this season.  The Bengals did get some good news, though, when Carson Palmer returned to practice.

Fantasy Football Notes

30 August 2009

Cleveland’s Brady Quinn had a strong showing in Cleveland’s preseason win against Tennessee.  He completed 11 of 15 passes for 128 yards and a score to all but nail down the starting QB job.

Speaking of starting QB jobs, another QB battle ended when Tampa Bay named Byron Leftwich as their starting QB.  You know what you’re going to get from Leftwich, which is leadership and determination.  Fantasy numbers won’t be there, and I would downgrade Antonio Bryant.  Kellen Winslow could see more targets.  If the Bucs struggle, Leftwich’s leash will be short, allowing Rookie Josh Freeman to get his shot.  I would avoid all Tampa QBs. There’s just no fantasy value there, especially with a three-back attack.

Atlanta Falcons RB Jerious Norwood injured his knee in Saturday’s preseason game.  This is an important one to watch because he is Michael Turner’s handcuff.  He also has some value as a flex player in larger leagues.

Kansas City QB Matt Cassel injured his knee as well.  Starters rarely play in the last preseason game so you may not get a clear read on Cassel’s status for the season opener until the first regular season injury reports come out.  He did seem fine, but if he’s out for any time, Brodie Croyle would take over.  Devard Darling who was slated to be Kansas City’s #2 WR also hurt his knee.  He was becoming a nice sleeper pick.  Mark Bradley could work his way back into the mix if Darling’s injury is serious.

Cleveland RB Jerome Harrison hurt his ankle.  He was a trendy sleeper pick early on, but James Davis has left him in the dust.  Davis will push Jamal Lewis for touches, especially if he continues to be some much more effective than the vet.

Oakland’s Javon Walker and Seattle’s Deion Branch played their first preseason action, but don’t expect much from the wideouts, especially earlier in the season.

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Dwayne Bowe catch
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

I was expecting big things out of Bowe this season, but I wasn’t expecting it to be his waistline.  Thankfully Bowe, who was overweight and out of shape dropped the weight and reported to camp lighter than he played last year.  So far Bowe likes his new build.  The goodwill didn’t last long though as new Coach Todd Haley isn’t pleased with Bowe’s conditioning.  Mark Bradley and Devard Darling practiced with the first team on Monday. Bowe is easily the best weapon on the Chiefs, but it could be a long, frustrating year for Chiefs fans and Bowe owners if he continually clashes with Haley.

Bow had a solid, not spectacular, season with 86 receptions for 1022 yards and 7 TDs, which came on the heels of a 70 reception, 995 yard, 5 TD rookie season.  He finished with just two 100+ yard games and only had four 90+ yard games.  He was more of a force in PPR leagues than traditional leagues. 

This year is different though as Todd Haley brings a more offensive mindset, and it appears as if Matt Cassel will be an upgrade at QB, although it remains to be seen if he was simply a product of New England’s system or if he can flourish elsewhere.

With the questions that surround Bowe I would prefer to have Bowe as a WR2.  I would look to draft him in the late third or early fourth round.  I’m predicting 90 receptions for 1100 yards and 7 TDs.

Matt Cassell Chiefs
Image from KCChiefs.com

Maybe Matt Cassel was a product of the New England system last year.  To do what he did under those circumstances showed moxie, especially when you consider how long it’s been since he was a starting Quarterback.  Fortunately for Cassel, he will be operating another pass-friendly system.  Losing Tony Gonzalez is a blow, but Dwayne Bowe is one of the best young WRs in the game.  Mark Bradley showed signs last year and Bobby Engram was brought in to work the slot.  If Larry Johnson can return to some form of his old self, he’ll take some of the pressure off of Cassel.

He could have a rough go of it from the beginning facing Baltimore, Oakland, Philly, NY Giants, Dallas, Washington, San Diego, Jacksonville, Oakland again, Pittsburgh, and San Diego again.  Don’t give up on him though as he faces Denver in Week 13 and has a soft fantasy playoff schedule of Buffalo, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.  After that tough start, Cassel could be a Buy Low candidate.  Clearly he’s a backup fantasy QB this year unless he proves otherwise.  I would expect him to be drafted somewhere in the 9th-12th round.  I’m expecting 3400 yards and 18 TDs from Cassel in 2009.

Kerry Collins re-signed with the Titans.  It was a two-year deal.  He was a solid leader for the Titans, but offers little in terms of fantasy value.  This is good news for WR Justin Gage and TE Bo Scaife, with whom Kerry had a good rapport last year.  Re-signing Chris Simms is now up in the air.  Vince Young will have to wait for a second shot.

Jon Kitna was traded to Dallas to be Tony Romo’s backup.  This is an upgrade for the Cowboys, and Kitna’s day were clearly done in Detroit.  This is a Win-Win.  Little fantasy value out of Kitna, but Jason Witten, T.O., and Roy Williams have a little more security if Romo goes down again.

Finally, New England sent Matt Cassel to the Chiefs for a second round pick.  He should win the starting job in K.C. meaning Tyler Thigpen is out.  Cassel should remain on fantasy radars with Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe as primary weapons.  Meanwhile, New England is letting everyone know the newlywed Tom Brady will be ready to roll.  Matt Gutierrez, who actually looked better than Cassel in the preseason, will likely move into the backup role for New England.

There were some unusual heroes on Sunday.  There always are.  Let’s take a look at them and see if they are worthy of your fantasy rosters.

QBs
Matt Cassel – Sure, he’s no Tom Brady, but he does have a lot of weapons to work with.  He knew enough to hook up with Randy Moss for a score.  Went 13 for 18 for 152 yards and a TD, which is a lot better than he showed in the preseason.  He may not be a fantasy starter, but you’ve got to put him on your bench.
Ruling:  Get ‘em.

RBs
Sammy Morris – He had as many carries as Maroney (10), but he outrushed him (53 to 51), scored a TD, and caught 5 passes for 34 yards.  The Pats are going to have to rely on the run more this year without Brady, plus Morris looked good last year before he got hurt.
Ruling:  Get ‘em.
Chris Johnson – 15 carries for 93 yards rushing and 3 catches for 34 yards and a score.  LenDale did get the one-yard plunge, but Johnson certainly was plenty involved, especially for a close game against a tough D.
Ruling:  Get ‘em.
Le’Ron McClain – Perhaps the biggest surprise of all.  19 carries for 86 yards and 2 catches for 24.  They were facing Cincy though, and McGahee should be back soon.
Ruling:  Don’t Sweat ‘em.

WRs
Hank Baskett - 2 catches for 102 yards, including a 90 yard score.  Nice stat line, but I don’t see it repeating very often.  DeSean Jackson, L.J. Smith, and Greg Lewis were bigger focal points for the Eagles.
Ruling:  Don’t Sweat ‘em.

TE
Anthony Fasano – He scored a TD, which is a start.  He had 84 yards, which is solid.  What makes me very interested is the fact he caught 8 passes.  He could be a big part of the Dolphin Offense.  Snatch him up.
Ruling:  Get ‘em
Dante Rosario – When Steve Smith returns he probably won’t factor in as much, but it’s hard to ignore a Tight End that catches 7 passes for 96 yards and a score.  He’s worth giving a shot
Ruling:  Get ‘em

There you have it.  I hope I provided you some good info while you make your fantasy team waiver wire adjustments. 


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