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.