The strongest player coming out of Week 8 was unfortunately named Sandy. All of us at FFChamps hope you all came out of the historic storm as OK as possible.
Week 9 is here and there is no better way to rebound from the storm than with a little fantasy football distraction. We are past the halfway mark and there is a lot to cover. Let's begin with a few helmet to helmet hits to your fantasy football heads, reminders that you cannot forget or stray away from as you approach your playoff drive.
!First and foremost, play your studs. At FFChamps.com, we have fielded a lot of questions recently such as, "Should I play Calvin Johnson even though he is banged up and not playing well," or, "Should I stick with Steve Smith?" and, "When do I sit Matthew Stafford?" The answer is yes, yes and never. If you have a 1st or 2nd round draft pick, a perennial fantasy football stud, you made your bed and you must always start your studs, even against a tough defensive match-up. It's most likely that these players will end up close to where they were projected to be at the beginning of the season. If they don't, like Ladainian Tomlinson, who was every league's first pick and then was dismal the year following his best performance, then you are likely not going to overcome that pick enough to win your league. In Week 8, Stafford had a breakout game and Smith had a 100 yard receiving day. Yes, I am concerned about the struggling Cam Newton and anemic Carolina offense (see more on this below), and in fact, Newton is likely the reason one of my three teams will not have a good season. Newton is not a stud yet, but Smith probably is. Now, if you truly do not believe these players will turn it around, use their one big week to try to trade them for someone you believe will do better but do not put yourself in a "I can't believe" position by sitting one of your studs, unless, and only, if they are injured.
!Another reminder is to use the final weeks leading up your trading deadline to trade for players with better remaining schedules and trade away players with tough remaining match-ups. If you are looking like a lock for your playoffs, focus on Weeks 14-16 playoff schedules. Then, if you can move a player with a tough schedule, such as Larry Fitzgerald, for one with a favorable schedule and improve your starting lineup, then be bold. Before you make any trade, ask yourself if you are improving your starting fantasy football lineup. If the answer is at all unclear, do not make the move. As often referenced in this column, use FFChamps.com's strength of schedule tool, at http://www.ffchamps.com/p/resources.sos/, to help assess who has a strong rest-of-the-way schedules and match-ups.
The final heads up is to watch the weather forecasts for a team's game day and know the stadiums. Every Sunday morning, FFChamps.com posts the weather for each home team on its home page. It is essential to know if it is snowing and icy, wet and windy, and if a team plays in a dome as the winter months approach. For example, if it's an 11-degree stormy or windy day in Pittsburgh or Green Bay, you may want to play a different kicker that week than Crosby, Suisham, or whoever the opponent's kickers are. Obviously, if a player is playing in a dome, it's important to be aware of that as well. Seems obvious, but, we cannot tell you how many players have told us they sat a kicker in Detroit based on bad weather, unaware that Detroit plays in a dome. However, we strongly advise against sitting a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or any of your studs based on the weather. Only a couple seasons ago, on a snowy, wet day in Foxboro, Brady threw for 6 TDs and many players got spooked into sitting him based on the dismal forecast that day. Be aware of extreme weather. If the field is a sheet of ice, then maybe you need to make a judgment call but studs perform in all weather.
Trivia! Without looking this up, can you name the player who leads the AFC in rushing after week 8? It surprised me to see Stevan Ridley does and in my three leagues, he's the No. 3, 4, and 10th ranked fantasy football RB after Week 8, depending on the scoring system. The question is, will it last and can we trust the Patriots to stick with Ridley as the premier back the rest of the fantasy football season? You need to keep an eye on how they are using him. We know Ridley has been a fumbler in the past and in college and with Belichick you can be one fumble away from being in a running back committee or losing the opportunity to be the go-to red zone back. Shane Vereen has shown flashes of brilliance as did Brandon Bolden before getting hurt but the Patriots have run the ball in the red zone more than in the past couple of years and as of now, Ridley has immense value.
!As FFChamps constantly drills home, we love players from great offenses. The Patriots, Packers and Saints are no brainers but Tampa is suddenly on the next great offense radar. Doug Martin is explosive, Josh Freeman, a major FFChamps.com sleeper pre-draft, has thrown for three touchdowns in each of his last three games and 328, 420, 263 yards respectively in those games. The team plays a decent schedule the rest of the way including the Saints struggling pass defense in playoff Week 15. Vincent Jackson has 5 TD's on the season and Mike Williams has been a surprisingly great WR 3 or even WR 2 for someone who was forgotten in most fantasy football drafts this year. I am going long on the Bucs.
The flip side of the Bucs is the Chargers who are playing terrible football again this season. It should lead to the long overdue firing of Norv Turner, the second worst and most overrated head coach in years, right below Jack Pardee. Philip Rivers, once a fantasy stud, had fewer yards than Brandon Weeden and more picks than Mark Sanchez last week. Rivers does not have any stud WRs other than his once stud, now very solid but one level down, TE Antonio Gates. Last week in this column I referenced the possible return of second year deep threat Vincent Brown after Week 9, but, word out of San Diego this week was that it is unlikely to happen. While Rivers may have a flashy game or two left in him, I do not believe you can win your league with him as your QB, especially with three tough defenses, the Steelers, Panthers and Jets, coming up in Weeks 14-16.
Like I did in one of my leagues, I'm sure some of you drafted Newton too early (with hindsight). He is not tradable at this point and unless you were smart enough to do what my 11 year old son did and draft Peyton Manning as your back up, you are stuck with him. As hard as it may be to swallow, I believe you need to ride it out. Since he can run his horrible passing performance to date has been slightly lifted up by his 300 rushing yards and 3 rushing TDs. As we have continued to note, he has one of the more favorable schedules down the stretch, vs. Washington's awful pass defense this week and San Diego and Oakland Weeks 15 and 16. In fact, our FFChamps.com Strength of Schedule tool has 7 of his final 8 match-ups as favorable, the most of any QB. Clearly, if he struggles against the Redskins this week, the cause for concern will be rubber-stamped. We have seen this with running QB's before, with Michael Vick being a first round fantasy football pick last season and not living up to the hype. Here is hoping Smith picks up where he left off last week and Newton can turn it around.
!Each week I list five players I'd love to have. Last week these were Josh Gordon, Randall Cobb, Percy Harvin, Calvin Johnson and Alfred Morris. Cobb and Harvin looked great in Week 8; Gordon and Morris had quieter weeks vs. tough opponents and I believe both bounce back this week. Megatron had an OK game but sub-par by his standards. Most concerning was a couple drops that you just don't see him normally miss, including a late TD. However, we still want him if he can stay healthy. This week's five players I'd love to have: Roddy White, who has not seen the rock the past couple of weeks for the Falcons. If you can use his recent performances to get him in a trade, I would. Roddy will be there over and over when it counts. Ditto to Tony Gonzalez; Sleeper alert! I like the Dolphins WRs the rest of the way, and especially in playoff semifinals and Super Bowl Weeks 15, 16, when they play the Jaguars and the Bills at home. Look for Hartline and the oft targeted Davone Bess to do well and be strong WR 3's, especially in point per reception formats. Lastly, as said above, if you can pick up Calvin Johnson cheap right now, you have to take that chance. I am biased since I traded for him before Week 8 but he can be the difference in winning it all.
Each week I listed five players I am worried about. They were Steve Smith, Steven Jackson, Jermichael Finely, Desean Jackson and the rest of the Eagles wide receivers, and Malcolm Floyd. I'm hoping with Carolina's remaining schedule referenced earlier and his 100 yard game last week, Smith can make a run and work his way off the worried list. The other four did nothing last week to remove themselves from this list. This week's five players I am worried about: Philip Rivers, who may have a great statistical game or two but is not up to the task this year; LeGarrette Blount, who by failing to score from the 1 yard line despite being given three kicks at the can, has dropped even deeper behind rookie sensation Doug the "Muscle Hamster" Martin; Not officially concerned here yet but for the first time this season, Michael Turner did not lead the Falcons in rushing but rather, Jacquizz Rodgers did. Just calling your attention to it for now as it bears watching; Greg Jennings, who is now out another three weeks at least and may be a 2012 fantasy football washout, especially with the strong play of Randall Cobb and James Jones; and, ditto to Rashad Mendenhall, who is really banged up while Jonathan Dwyer continues to look good.
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