Evan’s Hot Seat: Matt Ryan

matt-ryan

After 3 weeks of NFL action, there is not a quarterback in football playing the position better than Matt Ryan.  While most of the focus in the early season has been on poor officiating and teams that are underperforming, Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to a 3-0 record and looks poised to join the elite group of quarterbacks in the league.  At 27 years old,with 5 years of experience under his belt and a solid group of weapons to work with, Matt Ryan might finally be in a position to put together an MVP season in Atlanta.  After 3 weeks, Ryan leads the league in passing TDs, completion percentage, and quarterback rating.  He still has 6 division games to play against the NFC South- a division that is having a ton of trouble stopping the pass- meaning as great as Ryan’s production has been thus far, the best still may be yet to come.

 

So who benefits most from Ryan putting it all together this year?  It is tough to pinpoint one player because one of the things Ryan has done in the young season is to do an excellent job of spreading the ball around, however, there are some trends that look like they might be here to stay which will effect these guys.  Also, who suffers from Ryan being so effective in the passing game?  Here are the answers:

 

Matt Ryan is playing well enough for both Jones and White to be elite receivers

Julio Jones and Roddy White:

 

Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Julio Jones have all been targeted at least 23 times in the first 3 games which is keeping the defense guessing.  While Gonzalez has seen a lot of action in the early going, the numbers point to the idea that he may begin to fade in importance in the offense.   Ryan has seen his completion percentage jump to 72%, from a previous career high of 62.5%, by leading the league in completion percentage on throws of 10+ yards (a stat in which he has never even cracked the top 10 in his career).    While Gonzalez used to be a threat down the field in his young days, Roddy White and Julio Jones offer a better option for Ryan when he continues to make deep and intermediate throws.  Both White and Jones came into the season with high expectations from fantasy owners.  The way Ryan is running the offense and making decisions when throwing the football reinforce the fact that White and Jones deserved the expectations.  They may have a below average game on a rare occasion, those games should be few and far between while Matt Ryan continues to play at a high level.

 

Michael Turner

While Ryan’s play will boost the value and production of Ryan’s pass catchers, it has an adverse effect on his running game.  While their passing numbers are superb, the Falcons running backs have been abysmal to start the season, rushing for only 3.3 yards per carry through the first 3 weeks.  Part of the problem may be that Michael Turner’s workload and age have finally started to take a toll on him (listen to any 2 Guys Fantasy podcast to hear more about Turner’s imminent decline), but the larger issue may be that Ryan is becoming too efficient throwing the ball.  Unlike in years past when the Falcons would look to pound the ball with the run when they were not throwing, in 2012 Ryan is using the screen pass to move the chains when he is not throwing to one of his receivers.  Since he has never been a threat whatsoever in the passing game, Turner suffers most from the change in philosophy.  Fantasy owners should expect to see poor results from Turner as the year wears on, while more versatile backs like Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers see more of the field.

 

Matt Ryan and the Falcons have seemed poised to take the next step for several years now.  After winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2008, Matt Ryan seemed destined to do great things for a franchise that is still seeking its first Super Bowl title.  His past few years have been good, but 2012 looks like it will be the year where we say Matt Ryan finally started putting everything together.

Week 4 Game Picks

Frank picks against the spread for Week 4.
49ers(-4) over Jets
Playing without Revis will hurt the Jets defense but the 49ers defense will harass Mark Sanchez into enough mistakes for a victory.
Buccaneers(-3) over Redskins
This time Schiano's team will be in victory formation.
Packers over Saints(+7.5)
Saints will play desperate, but the Packers will play better.
Cowboys(-3.5) over Bears
In the battle of mistake prone QBs, Romo makes the fewest bad plays for a Cowboys victory.
Last Week: 3 - 1 (4 - 0 vs spread)
2012 Season: 6 - 6 (8 - 4 vs spread)

2 Guys – Week 4: 2 Guys 2 Watch

MichaelCrabtree

Evan’s Week 4 Spotlight

The Guy I Like: Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars

It might sound crazy but Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert and his group of receivers should find some success this week against a Bengals team that has felt comfortable finding itself in shootouts in the early season. While other receivers have bigger names (i.e. Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon), the guy with the biggest big play potential is Cecil Shorts. Shorts caught an amazing 80-yarder to win last week’s game over the Colts, a play which had to build confidence in both his quarterback and his coaching staff. While Maurice Jones-Drew continues to shine and draw more defenders close to the line of scrimmage, look for Shorts and his 30+ yards per catch average to get more deep looks this Sunday. Although he will not catch a lot of balls this week, Shorts should get down the field on a couple of occasions for a couple big plays. These plays should be more than enough to make him worthy of starting this week for your team.

The Guy I Do Not Like: Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins

New Buccaneers head coach, Greg Schiano, has caused quite a stir over his first few NFL games. Schiano has made it quite clear that his defenders will play as hard as they can until the final whistle, blitzing both Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo when the two signal callers were in victory formation trying to run out the game clock. The other thing Schiano’s defenders have proven they will do in 2012 is stop the run. The Bucs are giving up a measly 2.3 yards per carry over the first 3 weeks of the season. Week 4 sees the Washington Redskins come to Tampa with a rookie running back, Alfred Morris, handling a heavy load of the carries while his fellow running back suffer from nagging injuries. Morris has been good over his first few games, averaging 4.3 yards a carry and scoring 3 TDs against subpar rushing defenses. Tampa presents a new challenge to the rookie and I do not think he will be up to the task. Expect 15-18 carries for Morris although he should not eclipse 50 yards rushing. Since Morris has yet to prove that he can be a reliable receiver out of the backfield he is not a good play this week and it is time to look at other options on your bench to insert in your starting line up.

Frank’s Week 4 Spotlight

The Guy I Like: Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers

Darrelle Revis is out for the year, which of course makes the Jets defense more vulnerable in the secondary. But, I don’t like Crabtree this week simply because he is going against a weakened Jets defense. I believe Crabtree is finally playing like the first round pick that the Niners drafted in 2009. This week Crabtree makes some big plays down the field and finds the end zone as well. I’m thinking 90 yards and a touchdown for his final tally.

The Guy I Don’t Like: Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants

Ahmad Bradshaw has vowed to return to the Giants line up on Sunday night and the Giants seemed obliged to honor his request by naming him the starter for Sunday night. But don’t be lulled into the trap. Andre Brown has passed the eye test as the best back in the Giants backfield and he will still figure into Big Blue’s game plan on Sunday night. My advice is to avoid Bradshaw this week especially with the variable of uncertainty that Andre Brown has thrown into the mix. If you are desperate and do play him don’t expect any more than 35 yards rushing and 25 receiving with no touchdowns.

Intercepted! – 2 Guys talk about Bad Refs (again), injuries and fantasy sleepers for Week 4

NFL: Preseason-Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys

Heading into Week 4 the fantasy landscape has been turned upside down.

2 Guys talk about how bad referees have marred the game and also discuss why some elite fantasy QBs are struggling early on.

Also Evan reveals some intriguing injury replacements and players on waivers that could provide value heading into Week 4.

Lastly, Frank makes a special announcement at the beginning of the podcast.

Week 4 Power Rankings

Houston Texans v New Orleans Saints
Frank ranks all 32 teams heading into Week 4.
RankTeamRecordComment
1Texans3 - 0Handled their business in Denver. Foster continues his MVP candidacy as well.
2Falcons3 - 0Michael Turner had a rough off of the field (DUI) but seems to be getting his groove back in the Falcons running game.
3Cardinals3 - 0Beat downs of the Patriots and Eagles prove they are legit. Ryan Williams has potential to be a star also.
4Ravens2 - 1Tough week having to play on Sunday night and then again on Thursday night after an emotional win.
549ers2 - 1Looked a little sloppy on the road but still one of the NFC's best.
6Giants2 - 1Eli Manning didn't wait till the fourth quarter against the Panthers.
7Packers1 - 2Horrendous call aside, the offense has been out of sync in the early going.
8Patriots1 - 2Patriots put up 30 point on a good Ravens defense. Unfortunately they gave up 31.
9Eagles2 - 1Turnovers are going to be the death knell for this team.
10Bengals2 - 1Andy Dalton looks like he picked up where he left off last year.
11Bears2 - 1Bears have sputtered on offense but they are finding ways to win games.
12Cowboys2 - 1Sloppy play against the Bucs almost cost them a victory. Romo needs to be more careful with the football.
13Steelers1 - 2Big Ben was awesome but the defense left a lot to be desired.
14Jets2 - 1Avoided a catastrophic loss on South Beach, but defense will suffer from the loss of Revis.
15Chargers2 - 1Looked uninspired against the Falcons which is not really a surprise when you consider the Chargers M.O.
16Vikings2 - 1Christian Ponder is growing up faster than people anticipated.
17Broncos1 - 2Broncos haven't found their offensive rhythm just yet.
18Bills2 - 1Loss of Spiller hurts but Jackson could be back this week.
19Seahawks2 - 1Win was a fluke but defensive effort was not.
20Panthers1 - 2Panthers defense couldn't cover a phone book on Thursday night.
21Redskins1 - 2Robert Griffin III is starting to look more like a rookie each passing game.
22Buccaneers1 - 2Bucs need to start winning games instead of focusing on rushing the victory formation.
23Lions1 - 24th down call aside, the Lions shouldn't be allowing 44 points to the Titans.
24Chiefs1 - 2They have a legitimate chance in the AFC West.
25Titans1 - 2Jake Locker showed some of the promise expected of a former first round pick.
26Jaguars1 - 2Gabbert's number haven't been great but he hasn't been turning the ball over either.
27Raiders1 - 2McFadden bounced back in a big way against the Steelers defense.
28Rams1 - 2Growing pains still ahead for Fisher's team.
29Dolphins1 - 2The defense played well but they cant afford multiple missed field goals with their lack of offensive fire power.
30Saints0 - 3You'd think Sean Payton was the defensive coordinator.
31Colts1 - 2Luck is getting better but the Colts aren't that good.
32Browns0 - 3Tough spot for the Browns heading to Baltimore on Thursday night.

Charles in Charge – 5 Things About Week 3 in Fantasy Football

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New York Giants
  • Jamaal Charles is back
    • Don’t expect 233 yards every week, but Jamaal Charles proved he is back from knee injury suffered last season. It looks like Charles is ready to take on the full workload like he did in 2010. If you took a chance on Charles early in the draft you are being rewarded.
  • Negative Rushing
    • With C.J. Spiller and Reggie Bush going down with injuries the fantasy RB landscape got shaken up. With Bush and Spiller both potentially missing time it’s not too early look at other options. For Miami, Daniel Thomas might be listed as the #2 back but I’d take a run at Lamar Miller if he’s on waivers. He has some of the same skills as Reggie Bush and is ready to make impact if given the opportunity. The Bills situation is a bit murkier. If Spiller is out for any length of time it’s likely Fred Jackson will be back to pick up the slack. Tashard Choice is also another option at the Bills disposal but I don’t think it would be a wise decision to pick up Choice at this point.
  • They Might be Giants
    • After Thursday night’s great performance both Andre Brown and Ramses Barden have solidified their status as fantasy contributors. Barden is certainly worth picking up, as Nicks continues to deal with a surgically repaired foot, he will continue to get opportunities. Brown has value also but it becomes less clear what his role will be when Bradshaw returns. If Bradshaw misses the next game or two Brown is a strong play. However, a combination of Bradshaw and Brown splitting carries could become the dreaded running back by committee approach. Stay tuned.
  • Curious Case of Chris Johnson
    • Chris Johnson had another disappointing game on Sunday. At this point his lack of production is beyond frustrating to fantasy owners. However, there is little that can be done other than benching Johnson at this point. Dropping him would be a mistake simply because he could make someone’s team stronger later in the season and that could come back to haunt you. You can’t trade him because he is a dog right now. I think the best bet is continue to play Johnson for a few more games before benching him if he keeps up his putrid performances.
  • Torrey Smith poised for big year
    • Kudos to Torrey Smith after playing such a great game following his brother’s tragic death. But lets not write Smith’s great performance off simply as an emotional high. Smith has elite speed and has showed improved route running early this season. With Anquan Boldin aging a bit and Flacco looking to air it out a bit more guess who’s going to get more targets?

Torrey gets the glory – 10 Things About Week 3 in the NFL

Torrey-Smith_full_600

Here goes the run down for Week 3:

  • Torrey Smith Shines
    • Playing in the aftermath of his younger brother’s death not even 24 hours earlier, Torrey Smith had a performance for the ages, scoring twice with over 120 yards receiving. At one of the most trying times in a person’s life Smith rose to the occasion and helped the Ravens eek out a victory against the Pats. In a moment bigger than football it was nice to see the Ravens come together and support Smith during this tragedy.
  • Full Deck of Cards
    • The Cardinals are for real. Sure, it’s only 3 games in but after dominating both the Patriots and Eagles in back to back weeks it’s clear that the NFC West has more than the 49ers as a contender. What will be interesting to see is if Kevin Kolb remains the starter even after Skelton gets healthy enough to return.
  • Viking Quest
    • The Vikings proved Sunday that there are no gimmes in the NFL. While their upset of the 49ers probably upset a lot of survivor pools across the country, it also proved that the level of competition from week to week in the NFL is too high to pencil in a win for any team. I don’t think the Vikings will be a playoff team, but it looks like Christian Ponder might be ready to start delivering on his first round draft selection.
  • Falcons soar against Chargers
    • Atlanta is really impressing me this season. Matt Ryan’s maturation into an elite QB continues as he commands the Falcons powerful offense. Tony Gonzalez looks like he’s found the fountain of youth again, and the defense appears to be more capable of making plays, especially in the secondary. With the struggles of the Bucs, Panthers, and Saints the Falcons could be the only team to come of out the NFC South.
  • Texans tame Broncos
    • The Texans eliminated any doubt that Peyton Manning had any hex on them, dating back to his days with the Colts, by dominating the Broncos for most of the game. The Broncos made it close at the end, but it was all cosmetic as Arian Foster rushed for over 100 yards again and Matt Schaub tossed four touchdowns. So far the high expectations have not stopped the Texans from delivering early this season.
  • Giants beat down Panthers
    • After losing their first game of the season to the Cowboys, the Giants have rebounding with two straight victories. It seems that the Giants would have been at a disadvantage without Nicks and Bradshaw, but Andre Brown and Ramses Barden stepped up to fill the void. Eli Manning was stellar again and he didn’t have to wait to the fourth quarter to make his magic happen in this one. If the Giants can beat the Eagles this Sunday they’ll be back on top of the NFC East at the quarter mark of the season.
  • Titans win shoot out
    • In a game that had as many improbable things happen (onside kick, hail mary)
      the Titans were able to survive and get their first win of the season. Jake Locker looked much better than he had previously but he still needs to improve his accuracy for the Titans to move the ball consistently. Chris Johnson’s poor performance is still baffling however, and he will need to improve his production to keep the pressure off of Locker.
  • Jets win ugly
    • In a game that likely would have summoned Tim Tebow’s name onto all the New York tabloid’s back pages had it ended in a loss, the Jets pulled out a victory from the jaws of defeat against the Dolphins. The biggest blow coming out of this game was the fact Darrelle Revis will likely miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury. The Jets have a good defense without Revis but they are no longer elite without the best corner back in football.
  • Bear Crawl
    • So the Bears won by 17 over the Rams and everyone is happy, right? Not so much. The wind blowing from the Windy City has a stench of annoyance mixed with frustration over the Bears stagnant offense. Jay Cutler avoided a turnover meltdown but he was largely unimpressive and rekindled the thought that he may not be the guy to take the Bears to promised land.
  • Too many Chiefs, not enough Saints
    • In what could only be described as an epic meltdown the Saints blew an 18 point lead at home, allowed over 230 yards rushing to Jamaal Charles, and fell to 0 – 3 in the process. We knew the Saints would miss Sean Payton from an offensive stand point but the defense is atrocious and looks like one of the worst units in the league. Amazing that just five years ago Steve Spagnoulo was the hottest coordinator in the game after leading the Giants to an improbable Super Bowl win over the Patriots. Now in 2012 after having been fired as the Rams head coach (2009-2011), it looks like his tenure in the Big Easy is going to be anything but that.

Evan’s Hot Seat: Matthew Stafford

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions

In his first full season as a starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards.  The only other players in NFL history to accomplish that feat are Dan Marino, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees- pretty good company.  Stafford obviously has tremendous ability but trying to decipher what makes him successful becomes a little more complicated.  Since Stafford has been so injury prone throughout his career, we have a lot fewer games to evaluate when dealing with Stafford, unlike last week’s hot seat participant Drew Brees, and we need to also take into account the maturation process that Stafford continues to go through.  With that disclaimer in place, let’s get into Stafford the quarterback.

 

As I mentioned previously, Matthew Stafford had an incredible 2011 season.  He threw for more than 5,000 yards and 41 TDs.  One of the reasons he threw for so many yards is that Stafford led the league in passing attempts.  Despite the fact that Stafford threw the ball so frequently, the Lions still were able to finishing in the top 10 in the league in rushing.  Combining these two elements of their offensive attack made the Lions such a scary opponent in 2011 and continue to make them scary in 2012- as long as Stafford stays healthy.

 

So who benefits most from Stafford running the Lions offense?  The answer in 2012 might not be what it was in 2011.

 

The stats show that Brandon Pettigrew is going to continue to become a larger part of the Lions offense.

The Detroit Lions Tight Ends-

Before we mention a tight end we should make it clear that the person who will always be the number one option in Detroit is Calvin Johnson.  Johnson possesses talent that few other receivers in the league do and the number of opportunities to catch the ball his quarterback gives him makes him so dangerous.  In 2011, 24% of all of Stafford’s passes went to Johnson (while 24% of his 2012 throws have been headed the same way).  What often gets overlooked is the fact that over 30% of his other throws in 2011 also went to other receivers- 203 throws to be exact.  This stat no doubt led many fantasy pundits to predict a breakout season for Titus Young due to the amount of opportunity Stafford offered his receivers.  What has happened early though in the 2012 season is that Stafford has looked more frequently to his tight ends.  Although stats can be misleading this early in the season I do not feel this particular one is- Stafford has looked the way of his tight ends 35% of the time while only 22% of his throws have gone to receivers not named Johnson.    The NFL is a copycat league and the success Tom Brady is having throwing to his tight ends is no doubt influencing young quarterbacks like Stafford.  What does this mean for your fantasy team.  It might be time to trade for Brandon Pettigrew.

 

The Lions running backs

You never know exactly who the Lions running back will be, but the fact that Stafford is so explosive as a passer makes whoever finds himself in the backfield is a solid fantasy option.  As I mentioned before, the Lions finished in the top 10 in the league in rushing in 2011.  Although the numbers are not as great after 2 games in 2012, you have to take into account the fact that one of those games was played against one of the best rushing defenses we have seen in years- the San Francisco 49ers.  Kevin Smith is the guy right now but it will pay to keep an eye over the next couple years to see if the Lions can find a feature back to bring into the mix.  And yes, that back could be Mikel Leshoure who is due back from injury shortly although he has an uphill climb to get there.

 

At only 24, Matthew Stafford is beyond his years as a quarterback.  He runs a high-powered offense that can only improve as he becomes more seasoned.  At some point in the near future there will be a changing of the guard on the Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees move aside.  Stafford looks like a lock to take one of the available spots.

Week 3 NFL Game Picks

Frank picks against the spread for Week 3.
Jets(-3) over Dolphins
Mark Sanchez plays well enough to keep the Tebow chants at bay for another week.
Redskins over Bengals(+3.5)
Griffin out duels Dalton to give the Skins a victory in their home opener.
Cardinals(+4) over Eagles
Cardinals defense will feast on the Eagles mistakes.
Texans(-1.5) over Broncos
Texans have early chance to take control in the AFC.
Last Week: 2 - 2 (2 - 2 vs spread)
2012 Season: 3 - 5 (4 -4 vs spread)