Week 2 – Featured Pickup

Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams, 1.5% owned

Rams wide-out Danny Amendola could be poised for double-digit receptions.

The second year wide-out from Texas Tech has a bit of a perfect storm brewing for his production this week.  First and foremost, the Rams are taking on the Oakland Raiders this Sunday, the same opponent that was only able to force four incompletions on Vince Young– a quarterback not widely applauded for his accuracy.  Secondly, Amendola’s teammate, Mark Clayton is coming off a huge debut in a Rams uniform, having torched the Cardinals for 10 catches and 119 yards.  This is my favorite stat to highlight, because as everyone knows, Oakland’s secondary features an all-universe corner in Nnamdi Asomugha.  Clayton’s strong debut almost certainly locks up pregame planning duty, as the Raiders will be intent on making sure he doesn’t repeat his double-digit catch performance.  Between Clayton and St. Louis’ actual number one receiver, Laurent Robinson, Amendola should be far enough away from the Asomugha spotlight to get some serious looks coming across the middle of the field.  Lastly, it would appear based on Sam Bradford’s 55 pass-attempt game last week, the St. Louis coaching staff is content on letting Bradford learn by doing, which bodes well for all receivers on the field.  If you happen to be in a league that rewards return-men for special teams scores, all the better, as it would appear Amendola has locked up the return job for the Rams.  Given the fact that Nnamdi’s assignments rarely see the ball come their way, Amendola should be the constant beneficiary of being covered by “the other guys”, and could be on the verge of a double-digit reception game of his own.

Projected stat line:  10 receptions, 98 yards

Honorable Mentions

Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns, D/ST, 4.3% owned

Matt Moore, QB, Carolina Panthers, 1.8% owned

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Week 1 – Tuesday Recap – Keep Riding, Cut Ties, Save a Seat?

Playing the Wire had a good start to the season with all four picks going for at least 6 points in standard scoring leagues, including one receiver that eclipsed the 100-yard mark while being owned in less than 1% of leagues.  While it’s exciting to get off to such a quick start, it’s worth noting that this is not at all the expected success of this blog.  Setting the constraint to target players owned in under 10% of leagues on NFL.com, it is more realistic to expect the picks going one or two out of four as far as scoring 6 or more points, but I will continue to try to provide quality insight and analysis and see if we can keep finding players that are widely available and have the ability to help your team.

Featured Pickup - Derek Anderson, QB - 22/41, 297 yards, 1 TD, 1 FL

Derek Anderson remains a complete mystery to me.  For Playing the Wire purposes, Anderson did exactly what was needed.  He outperformed Joe Flacco as expected, but looked uninspiring while doing so.  The Cardinals quarterback tallied up almost 300 yards, but prior to the fourth quarter our Featured Pickup was looking grim.  Fitzgerald drew double-digit targets but only came up with three catches.  On the plus side, Fitzgerald’s constant attention seemed to open things up for Steve Breaston and Anderson was able to do some damage.  In short, there aren’t many secondaries as bad as the St. Louis Rams, and Anderson just never looked comfortable in the game.  He might be worth a look if you have a poor matchup, but most of the elite secondaries are matched up against quarterbacks that looked great in Week 1 (Carson Palmer vs Baltimore Ravens, Tom Brady vs New York Jets).  With Michael Vick probably being available on waivers, I’d suggest looking elsewhere if you are nervous about your Week 2 matchup.

Keep riding, cut ties, save a seat?  Cut ties.

Honorable Mention – Brandon Lloyd, WR - 5 rec, 117 yards

Brandon Lloyd almost capped off his 100-yard day with a TD in the 4th quarter.

Brandon Lloyd was my favorite receiver on the Broncos heading into the regular season, and he did nothing to hurt his stock in Week 1.  Lloyd is a fast receiver with hands that have routinely gotten him into ESPN’s top 10 plays of the week.  On a Bronco depth chart abundant with middle-of-the road receivers, including Jabar Gaffney at the one spot, Lloyd could be in for a repeat performance against the Seahawks in Week 2.

Keep riding, cut ties, save a seat?  Keep riding.

Honorable Mention – Deon Butler, WR - 1 rec, 13 yards, 1 TD

The Deon Butler selection was very similar to the Brandon Lloyd pick.  The Seahawks are another team with a cache of middle-ground receivers.  The big difference here, is that Orton seems to be far more reliable than the aged Matt Hasselbeck.  Throw in the fact that former first-round pick Mike Williams is starting to make positive strides, and Butler might be starting to get pushed out of the picture.  Between Deion Branch, Mike Williams, and Golden Tate, Butler is becoming too much of a dice-roll with Hasselbeck playing so inconsistently.  Deon saved the pick from being a complete disaster, by cashing in his one reception for six-points, but I don’t think he’ll be targeted in the red-zone often enough to warrant a roster spot.

Keep riding, cut ties, save a seat?  Cut ties.

Positional Matchup Trends – Short Passing Game vs. Cincinnati Bengals

While last weeks article had the New England strategy vs the Cincinnati Bengals pegged, fantasy-wise we barely missed the mark.  Much like New England’s running-backs, it would appear that the tight-ends have found themselves carousel type situation.  Wes Welker’s speedy recovery proved to be too much for the Bengals. With Wes absolutely torching Cinci in the redzone and on third-and-shorts, he left little need for the other key positions to be exploited.  On the plus side, we were able to see the strength of realizing positional matchup trends.  Staying current on the information that past game dynamics provide will prove to be an excellent asset in decision making, especially when we look at teams with more consistency in their offensive lineups.

(Highlighted player) Rob Gronkowski, TE – 1 rec, 1 yard, 1 TD

As previously stated, Gronkowski was on and off of the field much like the New England tailbacks.  While on the field, he split duties in the two tight-end sets, switching between throwing blocks and running short routes over the middle.  As expected, he was targeted in the red-zone and saved us from a complete bust by cashing in on his opportunity.  Wes Welker’s big day didn’t really leave much opportunity for Gronkowski, but it was good to see him getting looks for six.  While the final stat-line was a little underwhelming, he does appear to be a favorite target for Brady in the red-zone.  If you have the space, Gronkowski could be a decent bye-week replacement.

Keep riding, cut ties, save a seat?  Save a seat.

Aaron Hernandez, TE – 1 rec, 45 yards

It’s worth noting, for making the case of positional matchup trend analysis, that the tight-end that was rotating in and out of Gronkowski’s position was able to come up with one big catch over the middle and make good for 45 yards.

Kevin Faulk, RB – 4 rec, 47 yards

Kevin Faulk, the under-appreciated Derek Fischer of the NFL, was the beneficiary of being on the field for most of the checkdown passes against the Bengals.  Last week’s article had pegged Sammy Morris for the job, but Kevin Faulk continues to be reliable and diverse coming out of the backfield.

Wes Welker, WR – 8 rec, 64 yards, 2 TDs

Welker proved to be too much vs the Bengal's leaky short-pass defense.

The holy-grail of this matchup, Welker picked up right where he left off.  He was never targeted further than 15 yards down the field.  The Bengals corners did well taking away Randy Moss as expected, but again at the sacrifice of letting a skilled slot receiver single-handedly destroy them.  While Welker is a player you’re most likely going to start week after week, keep your eyes open for similar players that will be opposing the Bengals as the year moves on.  Unless Cincinnati fixes the leak, as a fantasy owner you must exploit it.

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Blog Schedule

A brief writeup on the blog schedule, on Tuesday I’ll be putting up a recap of last weeks players that were highlighted.  There are plenty of articles that highlight who you should be targeting off of waivers once they go through, so I’m going to leave those write-ups to the experts.  After most everybody’s waivers clear, I will be looking at the owned percentages and will try to get out my Featured Pickup on Thursday and following that I’ll have some kind of trend analysis out by Saturday morning.  Good luck, and if there’s anything you’d like to see, feel free to comment.

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Week 1 – Examining Positional Matchup Trends

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots, 4.2% owned

Tom Brady and rookie TE Rob Gronkowski connected for multiple touchdowns in the preseason.

As an avid Cincinnati fan displaced in Kansas City, I want nothing more than to miss on this one. During the 2009 season the Bengal’s defense was an absolute disaster for opposing teams. Wideouts were smothered by the tandem of Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph, but there was a common denominator in the teams that found ways to score points against the Who Dey nation: the short passing game. Lucky for New England, they have the personnel to devastate the short passing game should they choose to exploit it. What does this mean for a fantasy owner? Well take a look at the three positions that are generally highlighted in the short passing game.

Running back — In Cincinnati’s worst (outside of the New York Jets massacre) defensive showing last year, Houston crushed the Bengals with short screen passes to Steve Slaton. Slaton posted 6 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown. However, because of the revolving door situation at running back, trying to pick a surefire sleeper would be more of a crapshoot. I’d tend to lean toward Sammy Morris since he seems to have a knack for catching balls out of the backfield, but you obviously don’t want to pin your hopes on a player that might not even step on the field.

Slot receiver — Speedy slot receivers seem to give the Bengals DBs an average amount of trouble. With Wes Welker lining up as slot in most packages, there is little to discuss in a sleeper blog as Welker is owned in 99.9% of leagues. If you happen to be in the 0.01%…you know what to do.

Tight end — And so we finally reach the money position. Among the teams that faced the Bengals in the regular season last year, the tight end position led the team in receptions 10 times. This stat shows a definite leak in the Bengals defense, and when teams chose to exploit it, it resulted in stat lines such as Zach Miller in Week 11: 5 catches, 65 yards, and 1 touchdown. While this line was not spectacular, it was pretty average lining up against the Cincinnati defense. Cut from the same cloth as Owen Daniels, Zach Miller, Heath Miller, and the other tight ends that proved to be problem for the Bengals, is rookie tight-end Rob Gronkowski. He’s already steadily risen to almost 5% owned given his touchdown littered preseason, but prior to Week 1 may be the best chance to grab him as he could easy post 50-60 yards and multiple touchdowns. Although Alge Crumpler tops Gronkowski on the depth chart, I expect to see his chemistry with Tom Brady continue to heat up out of the gate in Week 1. If you have a roster spot available, don’t risk having to go through waivers if he puts up a big game this weekend.

While rolling the dice on a rookie TE that doesn’t even top his own depth chart may not yield wins on weekly basis, becoming conscious of positional matchup trends will improve your total scores and assist you in making those tough gameday lineup decisions.

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Week 1 – Featured Pickup

Derek Anderson, QB, Arizona Cardinals, 2.8% owned

Fitzgerald is ready to abuse the Rams defensive backs if Anderson can deliver the ball.

Two names come to mind when I look at Derek Anderson this week:  Ronald Bartell and Bradley Fletcher.  These guys are going to have their hands full with Fitzgerald duty.  Sure Anquan Boldin is gone, and yes, this is THE Derek Anderson, the quarterback who somehow managed to win a game by throwing only TWO completions vs. the Bills last year…but there is a great stat-line brewing here, and nobody seems brave enough to say it.  Ken Wisenhunt went with his gut and stayed with Kurt Warner over Matt Leinart, and it resulted in some prolific numbers out of the desert duo of Fitz and Warner.  This time he was so set on Anderson that he straight up cut Leinart.  But why even bother delving that deep into this Week 1 option?  Fitzgerald is nasty, and he has proven over his career in Arizona that St. Louis can not stop him.  So if you’re like myself, and drafted Joe Flacco to commandeer your fantasy team, do yourself a favor:  steer clear of Revis Island and join the currently < 1% of NFL.com owners (which probably consist of Derek, Ken, and Fitz)  and start this former Pro-bowl and now Cardinal quarterback.

Projected stat line:  250 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception.

Honorable Mentions

Deon Butler, WR, Seattle Seahawks, 0.3% owned

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Denver Broncos, 0.2% owned

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Preface

The game is simple.  If you’ve ever played fantasy football, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself in a difficult spot setting your lineup just before game-day.  Of the ten years I’ve been playing fantasy football in multiple leagues, I’ve seen one team take their fantasy championship with the entire team they drafted.  Draft preparation is arguably the single most important determining factor in your fantasy team’s strength, but surprisingly few people would agree that team management is a close second.  One of the most frustrating feelings in fantasy football is to watch your first-round pick go down with a serious injury in week 1, and that feeling is seemingly always followed by watching your biggest sleeper pick just continue to hit the snooze button on his talent week in and week out.  Many fantasy owners would choose to just give up, and add another story to the fantasy nightmare pile.  Enter this crudely edited wordpress blog.  The purpose of my blog is to help find talent where many fantasy owners refuse to search– that second or third page of the waiver wire.  There’s no reason to limit your sleeper pool to whatever Michael Fabiano has hand-picked for you in one of his fifteen articles he’s required to post a week.  This blog isn’t about finding you a 30 point player in a pinch, but it will aim to at least provide you 10 points or more from a player owned in less than 10% of leagues.  It will also take into account that player’s upcoming schedule so (hopefully) you can jump on the bandwagon right before the push, and know when to cut ties and trade hot or abandon all together.  Each week I will select three 10-point players, and provide a recap of how they did the following week.  And without further ado…

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