Gotta ask: What's all the fuss over the Randy Moss trade?
From a fantasy standpoint, if you have Moss, you keep him. If you don't, you wish you did.
Actually, the big news this week was the one with the little headline: Bills ship Marshawn Lynch to Seattle. From a schedule standpoint, there couldn't be a more lopsided deal. A former star who faced the fifth-toughest collection of run defenses in the first four games goes to a team that will encounter the second-easiest schedule for the next four weeks.
What makes Lynch such a great fantasy acquisition is this: 1) He's bound to come relatively cheap; and 2) the Seahawks figured to run the ball a whole lot better moving forward than they have so far this season.
Seattle faced the third-toughest set of run defenses in the first month. Going to the other extreme -- the second-easiest -- made Justin Forsett look awfully good …
Until the Lynch trade.
Today, I will use the schedule to identify players who should vastly improve in the second quarter of the season (going from tough to soft opposing defenses), and, conversely, overrated guys whose upcoming games point to a fall from grace.
Steal him/deal him
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks. If you don't think the ex-Bill has anything left, consider this: He cost Seattle only slightly less (a fourth-round pick and change) than the Vikings paid for a superstar talent like Randy Moss (a third-rounder and change). If you trust relative prices, you can trust that Lynch will be able to take advantage of three run defenses I rate 22nd or worse (Cardinals, Raiders, Giants) after getting acclimated during the bye week and then taking a warm up lap next Sunday against the Bears.
Brandon Jackson, Packers. It's interesting to note the Packers had been considered the front-runner to get Lynch until the Seahawks swooped in and made the deal. That's got to tell you something about their confidence in Jackson. Now get this: Green Bay faced the second-easiest collection of run defenses in the first four weeks, which should produce bigger numbers for Ryan Grant's replacement. The Packers now will see the Vikings (No. 3), Jets (No. 2) and Cowboys (No. 5) in the next five weeks before their bye.
Deal him (for Lynch if you can).
Ray Rice, Ravens. The guy's been hurt, he's underperformed, and Willis McGahee looked pretty darn good last week. Rice's fantasy owners can't be crowing about their first-round pick right now. Alas, things are looking up for the little guy and the Ravens' run game in general. They've faced far and away the toughest group of run defenses in the first month, a collection that turns creampuff-like after a meeting with a tough Denver unit this week.
Darren McFadden, Raiders. He's finally living up to the hype he brought to the NFL from Arkansas. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury shrinks his value a bit just when it got high enough to get a nice price in exchange. That value, however, isn't going anywhere but further down, so this remains a good time to weigh your options. The Raiders don't face a below-average run defense in the next month after enjoying the seventh-easiest slate to run against to date.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs. The Chiefs have been a huge surprise so far, and the schedule indicates another entertaining month lies ahead. Winning? Perhaps. High-scoring? Definitely. Five teams that have done little right defensively so far (Colts, Texans, Jaguars, Bills, Raiders) await. Heck, it makes pretty much any Chief look good, but starting at the top of the talent chart seems wise.
Chad Henne, Dolphins. Take the Chiefs' upcoming schedule and flip it over. Packers, Steelers, Bengals, Ravens. Yikes. Not that the Dolphins have had it easy so far. But if you're looking for Henne to turn things around because "it all eventually evens out," you don't understand NFL scheduling.
Johnny Knox, Bears. I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: The best time to deal for a guy is immediately following a poor performance on national television. Knox, like most Bears, was a no-show in Sunday's drubbing at New York. The Giants were the third consecutive quality pass defense the Bears encountered. Next up: Four units rated 18th or worse. No wonder Jay Cutler is upright again.
Kevin Walter, Texans. Did someone mention the Giants' pass defense? Lo and behold, it'll be on display this week in Houston. That warrants a "Sit Him" for the usually dependable Walter. But soon it'll be the Chargers, Jets and Ravens. The schedule, one of the league's softest to pass against so far, turns into a Texas twister, effective immediately.
Play him/sit him
Eli Manning, Giants. Remember what I said about nationally televised games? Even in winning, Manning was a fantasy disappointment Sunday night, so the knee-jerk reaction would be to bench him. Alas, only the Jaguars are worse at stopping the pass than the Texans, so it's get-even time for baby Manning.
Kyle Orton, Broncos. If you waited to draft your quarterback, it's possible you have both Manning and Orton and the weekly tough decision. Actually, it's been a bit of a no-brainer so far, given how well Orton has performed. But Sunday in Baltimore against the league's best pass defense? Uh, these aren't exactly the Jaguars.
Sit him (in favor of Manning if you have that option).
Mike Thomas, Jaguars. Ah, the Jaguars. They can give up points with the best of them. And as last week indicated, they're learning how to counter pretty well themselves. You won't see this one on national television, but the Jaguars-Bills matchup Sunday could be the most fun of all the games. It certainly figures to be a passing circus.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets. Actually, LT could just as easily have secured a spot in the "Deal Him" bunch. The Jets won't be running the ball a whole lot against their near-future competition. That starts Sunday when Randy Moss brings his new friends -- the league's third-best run defense -- to New York.
Steve Johnson, Bills. Please don't laugh if you're up against the vaunted Ryan Fitzpatrick-Steve Johnson hookup this week. They've "hooked up" for touchdowns each of the past two weeks. Can you say that about your high-priced duo? Johnson has played his way into a leading role in Buffalo. That's not saying a lot, but it's good enough to warrant serious consideration with the defenseless Jaguars coming to town.
Jason Witten, Cowboys. Depth at the tight end position has gotten so great this season, no one's fantasy job can be considered safe anymore. Witten has had a nightmarish season so far, and now there's talk about getting someone else -- Felix Jones -- more involved in the multifaceted Cowboys offense. Being that this week's opponent (Titans) has been the league's stingiest against tight ends this season, maybe it's not a bad idea.