Here are five AFC-based fantasy revelations from NFL Week 6, which open with a surprise tribute to a previously struggling tailback who was deemed worse than Bilal Powell just three days ago:
1. Shonn Greene apparently didn't like the idea of Chris Johnson being the AFC's only confounding star
I must give ESPN.com credit here: Leading into Sunday's game, the four-letter network's cadre of fantasy writers had Shonn Greene (161 rushing yards, three TD) earmarked for 13 fantasy points (standard scoring) against the Colts, even though he only had 151 total yards in his previous four games.
(For the day, Greene racked up 34 fantasy points, tops among all NFL rushers.)
On the flip side, I had Greene ranked below Indy's Vick Ballard (42 total yards) for Week 6, thinking the Colts would stack eight or nine defenders in the proverbial "box" and force Jets QB Mark Sanchez to throw his way to victory.
Instead, Greene rolled for a career-high in rushing yards and tied a personal best in touchdowns (2011). And Sanchez, well, he threw for two scores...but only 82 yards.
To clarify, I'm thrilled that Greene—one of my top preseason sleepers—emerged from the shadows to post a lights-out performance. But he also shredded a young defense that's not exactly known for shutting down opposing backs. And now, he's joined Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson in that class of enigmatic fantasy rushers who cannot be trusted every week.
Here's my advice for Johnson, Jackson or Greene owners: (Cuss word) or get off the pot!
It's that simple.
In other words, if you're thinking about trading these backs, do it right away and let their wild production swings be another owner's problem (or success story).
And if you still believe in their talents, then start 'em every single week without any dark thoughts of what may go wrong.
Bottom line: Johnson and Greene have too much explosiveness to be benched on random NFL Sundays, but they're also too sporadic to garner full value with in-season trades.
Just pick a side and move on.
2. Thank goodness this is a fantasy column and not a referendum on Dennis Allen's notion of a "prevent" defense
From a real-world standpoint, there's no plausible excuse for Carson Palmer's crucial interception in the fourth quarter, resulting in a 79-yard TD return for Falcons corner Asante Samuel.
But therein lies the beauty of pick-sixes in fantasy. You immediately get another chance to move your team downfield while piling up more gaudy stats. And that's exactly how it played out for Palmer (353 yards passing, one TD vs. Atlanta) and running back Darren McFadden (98 total yards, one TD)—Oakland's final scoring drive (after the Samuel INT) boosted Palmer and DMC's Sunday stats to Revelations-level admiration.
Denarius Moore (five catches, 104 yards, one TD) also earned a few cool points for his strong showing. As stated a few weeks ago, Moore was a ticking fantasy bomb (the good kind) just waiting to explode for standard-scoring and PPR league owners.
On a smaller scale, the same holds true for tight end Brandon Myers (five catches, 62 yards) and backup tailback Mike Goodson (96 total yards on just five touches). Throw in Darrius Heyward-Bey's silky-smooth 20-yard run in his return from a nasty Week 3 hit (and subsequent hospital stay), and this is a good time to buy low on the club's playmaking core.
Just don't bet on the Raiders defense, which apparently doesn't have their coaches' trust during crunch time.
3. Ray Rice is an efficient fantasy freak, but you already knew that
To be honest, I would not have touted Rice as a Week 6 "lock" for 115 total yards and/or two touchdowns if I had known, in advance, of the 17 total touches against the Cowboys.
Rice may be a top-three tailback asset in fantasy leagues—regardless of scoring—but even he needs 20-25 weekly touches to be an undeniable force.
On most Sundays, that is. Against Dallas, Rice ran 16 times for 63 yards and two touchdowns and then caught one ball for 43 yards. All told, he accounted for 34 percent of Baltimore's offense in a victory that likely would have been a loss—if the Cowboys had any sense of proper clock management.
So, what does this mean for Rice going forward? Yes, he's notched at least 96 total yards and/or one touchdown in all six games, but can he carry teams to fantasy titles for Weeks 14, 15 and 16?
With tough matchups against the Redskins, Broncos and Giants for that span—can you believe New York held Frank Gore to 56 pedestrian yards on Sunday?—I wouldn't say boo to a sell-high blockbuster trade involving Rice in the form of a 3-for-1 swap.
4. Brian Hartline has lost the privilege of automatically starting in standard-scoring leagues
The Rams have the NFL's most improved secondary this season thanks to the additions of Cortland Finnegan and rookie Janoris Jenkins.
But still, that's no excuse for Hartline failing to log one catch, while, ahem, performing in front of the home folks.
Remember Hartline's 253-yard, one-TD outing against the Cardinals just two weeks ago? Well, that warm memory has been vanquished by the cold, embarrassing reality of his O-fer against St. Louis (zero catches/one target).
Sure, I know all receivers are prone to the occasional clunker during a long season. But to disappear on a day when Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill (185 yards passing, two TD) only missed on eight attempts is patently absurd.
Especially when Reggie Bush (61 total yards) notched only 17 rushing yards.
Bottom line: Hartline could easily tally three more games of 100-plus yards by season's end. But that's immaterial in the sense he'll now have to sing for his fantasy supper for the foreseeable future before gaining re-entry in 12-team starting lineups.
5. I suddenly have great empathy for 12-team owners who possess the Fred Jackson/C.J. Spiller handcuff
Here's the deal, fantasy owners:
Based on Sunday's performances, both Jackson (83 total yards, one TD) and Spiller (110 total yards, one TD) now warrant weekly starting consideration in all leagues regardless of scoring rules.
And factoring in the Bills' next three games (Titans, Texans, Patriots), you'll undoubtedly regret benching either stud for that stretch—on the dangerous rationale that only one back can dominate the fantasy scene at a time.
Back in August, fantasy owners likely drafted this pairing on the premise of Jackson being the feature back and Spiller serving as one of the NFL's best backups. And when Jackson went down with a mild injury in the season opener, Spiller stepped up and amassed 364 total yards (292 rushing) and three touchdowns for Weeks 1 and 2.
But now that San Francisco is no longer part of Buffalo's remaining slate and the club has a better chance of beating quality teams when QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (153 yards passing, zero TD vs. Arizona) isn't chucking the ball 40-plus times, it makes perfect sense to ride Jackson and Spiller 30 times. Every Sunday.
By extension, it makes sense for fantasy owners to keep Jackson and Spiller intact, or even trade for the handcuff.
The only flaw in this plan: We're talking about the Bills here. We're also talking about a high-risk, high-reward quarterback (Fitzpatrick) who loves throwing to Steve Johnson (six catches, 82 yards—four straight games of double-digit targets).
It's only a matter of time before Johnson strings together another streak of weekly touchdowns.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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