First off, yes the title is an "Arrested Development" homage. Second, references to shows like this will be common in the Blog Log Blog. It's ... who I am, which you might already know. This past week has been one of new beginnings for my life -- a new job, a 180-degree reversal of the hours I have been used to working, and now having to convince a new group of coworkers that the Jets are going to win the Super Bowl. New beginnings are tough: There's always a little bit of rockiness and some unsure footing along the way, but the general excitement is the overriding emotion. Let me share my first week at the NFL Network and NFL.com with you -- fantasy style.
Not anyone's mind, thinking or vision. It's parking. My God, the NFL Network has the narrowest parking spots I've ever seen. There's about three feet from line to line. I pulled into a spot on my first day and had to get out of the passenger side. How does Warren Sapp do it? This is where I wish I had a Maserati so I could get out of the top. (Note to NFL guru Elliot Harrison -- that was NOT me who dinged your door) Seriously, if you ever come to visit, I'm going to tell you to park on the street. Or take the bus. Or drive a Prius. Or loan me some money so I can buy the Maserati and then I'll come pick you up. But I also saw a lot of narrowness following Week 2 of the season -- as in how there are a few players whose margin for error is so narrow I might have to turn the page on them after Week 2.
Shonn Greene. If you're like me, you took him somewhere around the fourth round, thinking this is the year he comes through for the Jets. It's not happening. He looks slow and can't hit the creases like he did his rookie season. I can't tell if he can't see them or just can't get to them, but I can tell you this, he'll have a permanent slot on my bench. This is where real football and fantasy football mix. Rex Ryan has talked about getting more people involved running the football, and they have to. I have zero patience for running backs, especially those in Year 3. If you have talent, we find out right away. Greene has gone from 5.0 YPC as a rookie to 4.1 to 2.9. There are better options.
Reggie Bush. New place, same production. Six carries and one passing target against Houston. I want to say "It's early!" but it really isn't, unless you mean "It's Early ... Doucet I want to pick up, and waive Reggie Bush!" In Week 1, Bush had the backfield all to himself, in a game in which Chad Henne shredded a horrific Patriots defense. He ran for 38 yards on 11 carries. In Week 2, Ryan Mathews ran for 64 and had nine targets in the passing game for 62 yards. This is not a coincidence. Against the Texans on Sunday, Bush played second fiddle to Daniel Thomas, who was inactive the first week, and watched him top 100 yards against the Texans. I know the fantasy trend now is toward the pass-catching running back, but not when he only gets thrown to once. Nor when he's 28 and if you haven't made it by now, you're not going to. (Hey, Shonn Greene, look in the mirror!)
DeAngelo Williams. Hey, at least he got paid. With Carolina's new commitment to the passing game (seeing as how they'll be so far behind and Cam Newton looks like he can play a little bit), Williams' value has bottomed out. It's not like they got crushed against the Packers, but still, 12 carries in the first two games? And judging by Jonathan Stewart's 100-yard day catching the football (eight targets), the dreaded platoon is back, except instead of each guy averaging between 15 and 20 carries per game like the good old days (and for that I mean 2008, which I think was before Twitter) they're in low single digits. Have a seat on my bench this week. The best thing about Williams is that my mouth still waters when I say his name because I think of DeAngelo's, my favorite steak and cheese place of all time. Mmmmm ... steak.
I say this because the new cafeteria is still being built (and I'm thinking about steak). Food will also be featured prominently in this column. I ate a stale donut on the set of NFL Fantasy Live on Sunday because it was there. Someone handed it to me, what was I supposed to do? And it wasn't even chocolate. The quickest way to a happy employee is a good cafeteria. I'm the new guy, so I won't say anything -- yet. Although, if you don't feed anyone, yet make it look like you might one day, does that inspire great amounts of work by the worker bees, or less? I know if you told me food was coming I'd be okay until I passed out. Speaking of donuts, I know everyone is high on Thomas Jones now that Jamaal Charles is out for the year, but you don't suddenly become a great running back again at 33. He hasn't scored in nine of his last 11 games, and could only muster 109 yards from scrimmage in his last four games. This anemic Chiefs offense might have to wait until Canadian Thanksgiving to hit 50 points for the season.
Tom Brady's carpet sample
Okay, not like I hung out with Gisele and helped her with swatches ("I like the dark brown, it hides stains better. Oh, I'd love a drink while your husband's at the game!"). This is my boss, and his name is Tom Brady. Yes, the NFL Network is deadly serious. I was in his office the other day and he was desperate to pull a staple out of a carpet sample he was looking at for the outside hallway. I watched him struggle for about 45 seconds before he yanked it out. Focus like that has to be rewarded. Speaking of focus ...
If he's available, pick up A.J. Green. If he's on your bench, start him. If he's available in a trade, go get him. If you meet him on the street, take him out to dinner. It's taken him two weeks to establish a rapport with Andy Dalton. Fourteen targets on Sunday. Seriously. Fourteen. Not even Megatron gets that from Matthew Stafford. I don't get that much attention from my wife, and she legally has to be there when I get home because of the ankle bracelet.
Chris Johnson's focus is on the field, but you might have to wait until we get out of September for normal C.J. production. He's only been back with the team following the lockout for about three weeks. You can't be up to speed in that short amount of time. If you have him, you'll have to be patient, suck it up, and start him until he rewards you, which he will, likely around the century mark this week against Denver. If you don't have him, you can prey on the owner fed up with him after two weeks who's 0-2.
It seems like Mike Shanahan is bent on a RB-by-committee approach again following Roy Helu's big day Sunday in relief of Tim Hightower, who nearly had 100 yards in the first half. Not remotely. Shanahan said Hightower lost some zip due to the emotion of facing his old team (and likely his 15 first-half carries had something to do with it as well). Shanahan wants to run the ball more, and he did it 43 times Sunday. This does not mean it's Denver re-visited. Hightower should still be your No. 1 guy. If you don't believe me, you should have seen Michael Fabiano ask Rich Eisen in the green room Sunday morning if he wanted to trade Hightower and Eisen responded "I have him in four leagues, and the fact that you're asking me for him tells me I should keep him."
Appearances can be deceiving
Before I go into the makeup chair for NFL Fantasy Live, I'm a big pasty white mess. Then I see myself on TV and I think "Can I get the makeup artists to move in with me so everywhere I go I have a contoured face and a tan?" But then I see myself when I get back home and I feel much more Peter Parker-esque (now that would be okay if I could still have the web-shooters, which I actually remember having as a kid but they were bulky and only shot out little balls. Boy the toys now are so much better than in 1979). So I'm not what I'm made up to be -- at least on TV.
Also not who they appear (and I keep hearing Dennis Green saying "They are who we thought they were!" in my head as I type) -- the Ravens' defense. They're not the snarling monsters of years past. If you can throw downfield, you can make plays against them. They're still awesome in the front seven, but the back end can't contain anyone. They need guys to get healthy and make plays and they don't have that in the passing game. If Matt Hasselbeck can sear you without a big day from Chris Johnson, you're vulnerable. They have the Rams, Jets (who know they have to go downfield) and the Texans coming up. That's two sits for me out of three.
Not who he appears to be is Tony Romo. Classy? (Covering up for Dez Bryant's wrong route vs. the Jets) Yes. Tougher? Yes. Still a fantasy stud? Yes. Should you play him? No. Not because of his injuries, but the rest of his team is falling apart. Miles Austin could be out until Week 5. Dez Bryant was a DNP against SF. Felix Jones has cracked ribs. Not even he can withstand those losses. Is he who we think he is? No. But should you start him? No. Because Drew Pearson and Alvin Harper won't be stepping in at WR, and it'll be hard to find another reality show winner to save the day -- unless you want The Bachelor.
The Bills aren't what we thought. They're better. Not only that, every week you must start Ryan Fitzpatrick unless you have either Vick/Brady/Brees/Rivers/Rodgers/Stafford. I know, I was a Fitzpatrick doubter, but I'm a convert. It's nearly been a full 16 games for him under Chan Gailey and you can't argue with the results. Every week, you must start Fred Jackson, who just keeps making plays despite the fact Bills coaches of all regimes discount him. Every week, you must start Stevie Johnson, who is Weapon A for Fitzmagic. Buffalo is going to keep throwing the football, putting up points and scaring teams all season long. The sum is greater than its individual parts, but for fantasy that's OK.
This column is dedicated to the most successful head football coach of the last six years: Eric Taylor. Three 5A Texas title game appearances, with two wins, each with a different school. Clear eyes, full hearts, and one Emmy.