Fact, Fiction and Farce Heading into NFL Week 6
Fact: Chuck Pagano motivates his team even when his body won't allow him to coach. #ChuckStrong
Fiction: Tim Tebow can save the Jets.
Farce: Michael Vick's ball security.
There is a sampling of how this slideshow will go, only we'll get a little more in-depth as we discuss a fact, fiction or farce for 10 different teams on the following slides.
There will be tips to help with fantasy football, and trends and tidbits that will help clear up the wild picture that is this NFL season.
Arizona Cardinals: RB William Powell Is Worth a Week 6 Fantasy Start
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What, you didn't draft William Powell?
That's OK, no one should have, and his long-term fantasy value is iffy at best. But the second-year pro will produce this week. Allow me to elaborate.
The Cardinals cannot keep their running backs healthy.
Beanie Wells, as the Associated Press reports (via Yahoo! Sports), will not be eligible to return until Thanksgiving weekend, and Ryan Williams, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported, is done for the year.
That leaves William Powell to pick up the slack. Not that there is a lot of slack to pick up. The Cardinals are 31st in rushing yards per game and dead last with 2.7 yards per carry.
So why bother giving Powell a look? He will be playing the Buffalo Bills this week.
And for fantasy owners, Buffalo Bills under the opponent box translates to GOOOOAAAAL!
The Bills are 30th in rushing yards allowed, 32nd in yards allowed per rush and just generally performing terribly all across the board on defense.
Powell, who spent last year on the Cardinals' practice squad, had a strong preseason gaining 249 rushing yards at 5.9 yards per carry. What a better preparation for facing the Bills than going against second- and third-stringers in the preseason.
Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez Is Past His Prime
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In the fourth year of his second career, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is coming into his own.
Gonzalez, in his 16th NFL season, has started his Falcons career so similarly to his debut stint with the Chiefs that it doesn't make any sense.
At the tender age of 36, he is on pace for 124 receptions, 1,242 yards and 13 touchdowns. That would give him new career highs in receptions and touchdowns, and he'd be just 16 yards short of his best yardage output.
Obviously, there is no guarantee on future production, but Gonzalez isn't showing any signs of slowing down—just ask the Redskins.
He torched the 'Skins last week for a 13-catch, 123-yard and one-touchdown outing. He is going to shatter any previous production as a Falcon.
His first three seasons with the Falcons, he averaged 799 yards per season and 6.3 touchdowns.
Now compare that to his first three seasons in the league where he averaged 613 yards per season and five touchdowns.
His fourth year, 2000, he went for 1,203 yards in what has been one of his finest seasons as a professional—an especially impressive feat since it was Elvis Grbac lofting hound-dog dimes to him.
It is easy to understand the jump in production in his fourth year in the league, but it is impossible to explain now.
The point is that, at this point in Gonzalez's life, he should be getting ready for a part in Expendables 3 and not rolling off one of his best seasons in a Hall of Fame career.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Is Regressing
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On 4th-and-goal from the one with just under four minutes of game time left and his team trailing the Seahawks, 16-10, Cam Newton expertly rolled to his right and patiently waited as tight end Ben Hartsock broke wide open in the end zone.
He then let fly a pass like he was Carl Lewis throwing out the first pitch.
Hartsock was left dumbfounded with a look on his face that suggested he was thinking, "That was a clown throw, bro."
This is a toss Newton can make in his sleep, but apparently not when he is thinking too much.
It is pretty clear that this is some kind of mental block. I'm not going to sit here and say I know what it is. Cam may be struggling under increased expectations and a heightened spotlight, or maybe he just can't focus until he finds out how Breaking Bad concludes. Only he knows.
But we all know he is struggling following his Rookie of the Year campaign.
Cam's quarterback rating and completion percentage are lower than they were last year, and he is on pace to fire far fewer touchdowns. These numbers will only get worse if he can't quickly move past whatever it is that is causing him to fail in big situations like he did last week.
While watching Cam's pass bounce halfway to its intended target on that fourth-down play, I was reminded of baseball players like Rick Ankiel or Chuck Knoblauch, who all of a sudden forgot how to throw the ball and never saw that ability return.
This is a dangerous time for Cam. He will either rise above what is plaguing him, or he will get so lost in his own head that he will have no idea how to get out.
Dallas Cowboys: Big D's Offense Has to Carry the Defense
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After a season where the defense handed out fourth-quarter points like Halloween candy, the common perception was that if this unit could clean up the sloppy and choke-filled play this team would make a playoff run.
Wrong. This defense isn't going to cough up many fourth-quarter leads this year because the offense can't get those leads in the first place.
At 16.2, Dallas is 30th in the league in points per game. This is its worst per game average since 2002 when Dallas was utilizing the feared quarterback combo of Chad Hutchinson and Quincy Carter.
Things are so bad for Dallas that Tony Romo's 10 turnovers is a larger number than their seven offensive touchdowns.
This is not to pin all the problems on Romo. This is a complete failure.
Jason Witten has forgotten how to catch, Dez Bryant just runs random routes after the snap and all of that only matters when the offensive line gives Romo enough time to get off a pass.
And there is no relief being given by the rush offense. The Cowboys are 28th in yards per carry and 29th in rushing yards per game.
It is clearly the defense, which Football Outsiders has ranked 13th in their DVOA rankings, that is doing all of the carrying this year.
Houston Texans Won't Miss a Beat Without Brian Cushing
Last year, the Texans succeeded despite a violent rash of star-stripping injuries. Now, hopeful Texans fans are leaning on that like a crutch as they try to dismiss the impact of Brian Cushing's absence.
However, when the Texans announced that Cushing was done for the year, their Super Bowl hopes took an insurmountable hit.
Don't get me wrong, this is still a playoff team, but Cushing's nose for the ball and excellent athleticism is something the Texans cannot replace.
Cushing excels in both the run and pass games. The Texans will now have to sacrifice proficiency in one of those areas.
The likely replacement is Tim Dobbins. If you aren't familiar with him, don't worry, you'll notice him in a hurry. He'll be the guy endlessly chasing running backs and tight ends who he just allowed easy grabs to.
Dobbins is decent against the run, but he is too slow to cover.
The fact that he can handle his own against the rush will be helpful, though, as the Texans are vulnerable up the middle to the run.
Shaun Cody has done a decent job in the middle of the defensive line, but he isn't going to command extra blockers, which makes it hard for linebackers to get a clean look on running backs.
Kansas City Chiefs: KC Fans Were Wrong to Cheer When Matt Cassel Was Injured
Eric Winston is right and wrong at the same time.
The small chorus of cheers that was heard when Matt Cassel was leveled into a motionless pile on the turf and forced to leave the game was sickening, but the most disturbing part was that those fans were willing to stoop to cheering an injury knowing full well that would result in Brady Quinn actually playing NFL football.
Look, I would never cheer an injured player. It is in poor taste. But I would also never lecture the fans about what they cheer for.
Fans pay good money to go to games and support their teams. They have the right to embarrass themselves by cheering for whatever they like—that's on them. And may I remind Mr. Winston that while he is not a gladiator, he is making a fantastic living in the profession of his choice, largely because his game is so violent.
So just deal with it, and let the cheers roll in one ear and out the other, and perhaps save some of that energy for helping keep your quarterback upright in the first place.
But onto Mr. Quinn. Chiefs fans realize they are excited to see a quarterback who has not made a start since 2009, right?
That season, he played in 10 games for the Browns and compiled a QB rating of 67.2. And here is the kicker, that was while he was playing for the same coach and offensive coordinator he has now: Romeo Crennel and Brian Daboll.
Those two are not tied to Cassel's success; they inherited him, they have watched him struggle and they have still done everything they can to keep Quinn on the bench.
These guys know what Quinn is capable of, and they obviously are not eager to see him display it again. I have no idea why any fan would be.
New York Giants: The Giants' Elite Pass Rush
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The amazing pass rush that has propelled the New York Giants to winning two of the past five Super Bowls is still off polishing their rings and trying to get airtime with Strahan on his new gig as co-host of Live! With Kelly and Michael.
The Giants, who finished last season third in the NFL in sacks, are 27th in sacks and 22nd in sack percentage this season.
Part of the reason the Giants have had so much success with this pass rush is that they generate it almost exclusively with their defensive line and they don't have to commit to sending blitzers.
The defensive line is not holding up their end of the bargain in that regard. This defense has just eight sacks this season and only 5.5 of those have come from the defensive line.
The struggles are not lost on the Giants themselves.
ESPN's Johnette Howard passed along this quote from Justin Tuck when asked if was concerned about the lack of pass rush.This quote came after the team was held without a sack against the Browns last Sunday. "Yes, I am. Guys are figuring us out. So we've got to do some different things."
This is terrible news for the Giants. It's not like these guys are going to develop new pass rush moves all of a sudden. The "different things" are going to have to come via the blitz, and at that point, the Giants lose the main quality that has made them so special.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Big Ben Is a Legit MVP Candidate
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Despite his offensive teammates' best efforts to derail the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger led his team to a Week 5 win over the Eagles.
Antonio Brown made a nice defensive play on the ball when he should have been catching a touchdown, Jerricho Cotchery was tackled by the field a step before the end zone and Maurkice Pouncey sent two shotgun snaps like he was trying to hit the punter.
Yet, there was Big Ben steady, consistent and endlessly scrambling behind a part-time offensive line. On the final drive, Roethlisberger hit four of his five passes for 50 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.
Of course, this is nothing new for the nine-year pro. He now has 25 career game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Roethlisberger is on track for 4,496 yards, 36 touchdowns and four interceptions, and he is doing all of this while his offense is a train wreck around him.
Yes, he has talented receivers, but they are not the most reliable lot. Rashard Mendenhall sparked some life into the running game last week and he should help going forward, but this team is still 31st in yards per carry.
Roethlisberger is playing the best football of his career, and he is playing as well as any QB in the league.
Seattle Seahawks: Bruce Irvin Was a Reach at No. 15
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I wish I could say this was an "I told you so" moment, but it's not. I was rolling around laughing when this pick was announced.
Well, Bruce Irvin has a message for me.
I was a reach at 15 though! Haaa loving proving y'all wrong it's only the beginning!— Bruce Irvin (@BIrvin_WVU11) October 8, 2012
I would tell Mr. Irvin that he might want to reserve some gloating until after he has tallied more than 4.5 career sacks, but he had a little save at the end by keeping the pressure on himself by pointing toward the future.
And there is no denying his start has been impressive. Irvin boosted his sack total by ringing up two sacks in just 20 snaps against the Carolina Panthers.
In that stat is a huge part of the reason why I felt this pick was a waste. He is a part-time player. Irvin is fairly useless on a football field unless he can just be let loose to go get the passer.
I just didn't realize he would be this good at his part-time job. His 4.5 sacks has him tied for 12th most in the NFL, and this guy can change a game in the blink of an eye with just his pressure.
He was most definitely not a reach at No. 15.
Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin Should Play This Week
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How is this even a possibility? Why would the Redskins mortgage their future to acquire a talented quarterback and then not do everything possible to ensure he will be around for that future?
Griffin sustained a concussion in Week 5, and while it was described as mild, it sounded and looked like anything but.
Redskins beat reporter Grant Paulsen highlights that with this tweet:
Mike Shanahan: Robert Griffin had a mild concussion. He didn't know the score of the game or the quarter, so he wasn't permitted to return.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) October 7, 2012
I'd still sit him this week. This is not the point of his career to take any risks.
With each passing concussion, players are more susceptible to further concussions. Griffin is now dealing with one just five weeks into his season. It is the only thing we've seen from him that even hints that it will keep him from a spectacular career.
Give him some extra time to heal his brain! It is well worth it in the long run.
Hit me with fantasy questions, or to remind me of botched predictions.