Le’Veon Bell
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The No Fun League can from time to time show a little willingness to soften their iron fist ruling. Pittsburgh Steelers running back caught a break having his suspension for missing drug test reduced from four games to three games. This is huge for Bell owners (and future bell owners), but it doesn’t do much to change my running back rankings. In my opinion Bell remains in the second tier of running backs with the likes of Ezekiel Elliot, Eddie Lacy, Lamar Miller and Doug Martin. The main takeaway from this is that the NFL actually cut someone a break. Now, if only they would show some leniency to Tom Brady.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Fantasy Football, NFL | Tagged: Fantasy Football, Le’Veon Bell, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers |


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While the AFC East running back landscape is a mess, the AFC North is a goldmine.
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Ray Rice is a force, both running and catching the football. He regressed some last year, but still managed 1776 total yards (1220 rushing, 556 receiving) and six touchdowns (five rushing, one receiving). Willis McGahee is up in the air, but it makes sense for him to return to Baltimore next year. Rice is a top five to eight fantasy running back depending on your format.
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Rashard Mendenhall followed up his 1108 yard, seven touchdown season with an even more impressive 1273 yard, 11 touchdown season. Mendy is a clear RB1 and a top eight to ten fantasy running back depending on your format. I actually like him a little better than Ray Rice in non-PPR leagues. He may make some bonehead comments, but he is a fantasy force with little competition for carries.
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Cedric Benson is a free agent, but is likely to return to Cincinnati. He is a workhorse back that should crack the 1000 yard mark again. Benson is a solid RB2 that also shouldn’t receive much competition for carries. If he does part via free agency, all bets are off in Cincinnati.
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Peyton Hillis‘ impressive season landed him on the cover of Madden 12. Obviously there is a curse that supposedly goes with it, but after the way he ran roughshod on the Ravens last year, he may be able to stand up to the curse. He slowed towards the end of the year, and the Browns have already stated that they want to reduce his carries. Montario Hardesty should be in the mix for carries, but Hillis has earned the feature role. Hillis is a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2.
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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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Rashard Mendenhall can run the football like few other people in the world. He’s fast and powerful. As good as he is on the field, he has proven he can be even more foolish off it.
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If you were a gambler, you would probably guess that Big Ben would be the player to embarrass the Steelers organization during the offseason. After all, he has played the part the past two years.
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Well Mendenhall is carrying the torch this year by tweeting “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…” Well, that side is responsible for the death of thousands of Americans.
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He went on to say ”We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.” Wow.
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Ask the New Yorkers that were covered in ash if it could happen. I didn’t see it fall with my own eyes, but the television footage was quite compelling.
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There are a few things you just don’t talk about. Any Hitler comparison or jokes just don’t work. Trying to say the Holocaust didn’t happen or downplaying 9/11 doesn’t work.
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I thought Adrian Peterson was off-base when he called the NFL modern-day slavery. Mendenhall was right there with him supporting Peterson’s claim. As bad as that was, this is worse.
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9/11 was the most tragic terrorist attack in our nation’s history. The mastermind was finally caught. While I think some people went above and beyond in their celebration, I can’t tell friends and families of those lost on the fateful day how to grieve or get closure.
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I would like take this time to thank the men and women of our military and the friends and families that support our soliders. God Bless America.


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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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Rashard Mendenhall owners got a bit of bad news when Pittsburgh Coach Mike Tomlin named Isaac Redman as the short-yardage back. While it isn’t an ideal situation, I wouldn’t write off Mendenhall as a legitimate WR1.

 

In fact, some of the other RBs that have similar ADPs like DeAngelo Williams, Pierre Thomas, LeSean McCoy, Beanie Wells and Shonn Greene could also find themselves yielding the goal line touches as well.

 

Mendenhall had 1108 yards on 242 carries for a solid 4.6 yards per carry. He also added 25 catches for 261 yards and a score. I believe it’s that versatility that will keep him on the field inside the five. Maybe he loses a few one-yard plunges from Redman, but it shouldn’t be enough to drastically sway your opinion about Mendenhall.

 

It’s not like Mendenhall struggled inside the five last year as six of his rushing touchdowns came from four or fewer yards, with the seventh coming from seven yards out. His lone TD reception was from eight yards out. That’s eight TDs inside the ten yard line in the 13 games he started.

 

Redman may have the size (6’0″, 230 lbs), but he’ll have to prove he can handle the punishment around the goal line. You may want to lower your expectations for Mendenhall, but this news doesn’t budge him out of the #9 ranking I give him (click to see my 2010 RB rankings).

 

Also check out:
Week 1 QB Rankings
Week 1 RB Rankings
Week 1 WR Rankings
Week 1 TE Rankings
Week 1 K Rankings
Week 1 DEF Rankings
Week 1 IDP Rankings

 

Image courtesy of Icon SMI

 

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.

As if things weren’t going to be hard enough for the Steelers, they lost starting right tackle Willie Colon for the year due to an Achilles injury. The Steelers offensive line has given them problems the past few years, and this certainly doesn’t help.

 

Rashard Mendenhall still has a lot of promise at RB, but you have to like his chances of continuing his success a little less following this injury. Big Ben has shown the ability to produce even when the offensive line fails him so I wouldn’t be as worried when he returns. Byron Leftwich does not share Big Ben’s mobility, and the passing game could suffer while Roethlisberger serves his suspension. Another player that could lose some value is TE Heath Miller, who could be asked to stay in more frequently on passing plays for extra protection.

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.


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