Week 9 1st and 10: Thoughts from the Fantasy Football Champs

Contributed by: Andrew Miller
Last Updated: Nov 01, 2012 12:46 PM

Calvin Johnson Each week in 1st and 10, I empty out the drawer of my fantasy mind, with 10 thoughts to consider as your season progresses.

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. I wanted to 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 never.

If you have a 1st round 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 is 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, Matthew Stafford had a breakout game and Steve 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.

Cam is not a stud yet, but Steve 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 position of a “I can’t believe” moment 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 rest of the way schedules, and trade away players with tough rest of the way match-ups.

If you are looking like a lock for your playoffs, focus on the Week’s 14-16 playoff schedules, and if, and only if, you can make a move of a player with a very hard 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 you 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 is 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 is 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 Time! 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 he is, in my three leagues, the No. 3, No. 4, and No. 10 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 just 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 by 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 past couple of years and as of now, Ridley is 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 five TDs on the season, and Mike Williams has been a surprisingly great WR3 or even WR2 for someone forgotten about in most fantasy football drafts this year. I am going long with the Bucs.

The flip side of the Tampa Bucs is the Chargers, who are playing terrible football again this season, which should finally 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 reference the possible return of second-year deep threat Vincent Brown after Week 9, but, word out of San Diego this week was that 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 quarterback, especially with three tough defenses, the Steelers, Panthers, and Jets, to face in Weeks 14-16.

I am sure, like I did in one of my leagues, some of you drafted Cam Newton (in hindsight) too early. He is not trade-able at this point, and unless you were smart enough to do what my 11-year-old son did, and draft Peyton Manning as your backup, you are stuck with him.

As hard as it may be to swallow, I believe you need to ride it out. Since he does 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 seven of his final eight 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 quarterbacks before, with Michael Vick being a first round fantasy football pick last season and not living up to the hype, and now Cam. Here is hoping Steve Smith picks up where he left off last week and Cam 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 were 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 are Roddy White, who has not seen the rock the past couple of weeks for the Falcons. If you can use his recent performances to go 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’ wide receivers 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 often-targeted Davone Bess to do well and be strong WR3’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 as I traded for him before Week 8 but, he can be the difference maker to winning it all.

Each week I list five players I am worried about; last week these were Steve Smith, Steven Jackson, Jermichael Finely, DeSean Jackson and all Eagles’ wide receivers and, Malcom Floyd. I am hoping with Carolina’s rest of the season 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 and remain on it. This week’s five players I am worried about are Philip Rivers, who may have a great statistical game or two but is not up to the task of delivering you the league trophy this year.

LeGarrette Blount, who by failing to score form the 1 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. For now just calling your attention to 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 Rashard Mendenhall, who is really banged up while Jonathan Dwyer continues to look good.

Tweet us your questions @ffchamps or Visit www.ffchamps.com for around the clock rankings, strategy, and one on one advice, all the way through your Fantasy Football Championship.

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