All posts by jordanrjackson1

NFL Week 10 Mission Briefing

For the first time in three weeks (since losing Alex Mack), the Browns were able to run the ball. Against Cincinnati’s 31st-ranked run defense, the rushing yards came pretty easy as all three of Cleveland’s back found success. Whether you had Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell, or Ben Tate on your fantasy team, you came out alright.

If you were stuck with A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, or, Lord help you, Andy Dalton, it was not such a great night, to say the least. Good news though: I can help you rebound. Read on!

As always though, we’ll start with the few of you still in your survivor pool(s). (Though if you’ve made it this far, you probably have not done so by listening to me.)

Sure Bet: The Browns’ Thursday night game against Cincinnati was quite possibly the first in a series of lopsided games this week, but the time has come when your survivor options are probably beginning to dwindle. You have probably already chosen the Patriots, Broncos, Colts, Seahawks, Packers, etc., and the choices are only going to get tougher and riskier.

This week, one good option might be the Baltimore Ravens. Unreliable up to this point, the Ravens get to play the hapless, Mettenberger-led Titans in week 10. The Titans might be the worst team in their division, and considering they play in the same division as the Jaguars and Texans, that is pretty darn sad.

If you still have them as options, you could also bet on Dallas (over Jacksonville in London), Arizona (over St. Louis at home), and Denver (over Oakland on the road). If you can do none of these, consider Green Bay to make it 11-of-12 against Jay Cutler, or the Philadelphia “Sanchise” to best Carolina at home.

Not So Fast: My upset pick for the week is the Miami Dolphins to go into Ford Field and take down the Detroit Lions.

Let’s face it, the Lions should be on a two-game losing streak. They pulled off miracle wins against New Orleans and Atlanta in consecutive weeks, but also lost to Buffalo not so long ago. You might say, “Well, they didn’t have Megatron.” To which I ask, “How did they lose to Carolina then?” Detroit’s only truly impressive win came in week three against Green Bay—a result for which I still have no explanation.

Miami, meanwhile, is hot—and I am not talking about the city; I am talking about the Phins. The Dolphins shut down and shut out a good San Diego football team last week—this on the heels of consecutive wins against Jacksonville and Chicago, and a tough, close loss to Green Bay. Miami has won four of their past five games (with the three-point loss to Green Bay being the outlier), and in that stretch have outscored their opponents 153-68.

Look for a defensive struggle in this game, as the top-ranked Lions defense meets the No. 3 Miami unit. I like Miami on the road.

On a less confident note, don’t sleep on Mike Vick and the Jets hosting Pittsburgh either.

Surprise Performer: It has been a while since I spotlighted a tight end in this section of the mission briefing, so how ’bout this: Owen Daniels is my surprise performer this week.

Daniels rebounded uncharacteristically quickly from a knee scope a few weeks ago that cost him week eight. Returning in week nine, Daniels posted six receptions for 53 yards in a bad loss to Pittsburgh, but also played on 52 of 67 snaps. Not bad for a notoriously injury-prone player coming off a knee scope at age 32!

Tennessee’s defense is bound to spend a lot of time on the field with Zach Mettenberger operating the offense; that translates to Daniels getting plenty of opportunities, especially considering Gary Kubiak’s tendency to feature tight ends. With only Crockett Gilmore behind him, Daniels has exclusive rights to that pass-catching tight-end role in the Ravens offense.

Disaster Waiting to Happen: This just in: don’t start any Bengals players!

Too late for that, but you can cut your losses by benching Michael Crabtree this week.

Crabtree has not scored since week six, and has a season-high of 82 yards, posted way back in week two. Since then, the 49ers offense has plummeted to 18th in the league, with the passing game settling in at 21st overall. The play-calling does not benefit Michael Crabtree, and he has not had more than five catches since week three.

Another poor start is any Rams running back. Arizona’s run defense is terrifyingly good. They are unrelentingly consistent, limiting opposing offenses to just over 79 rushing yards per game—good for third in the NFL. They are the only team thus far to keep DeMarco Murray under the century mark (holding him to—you guessed it—79 yards), so they should not have any trouble with Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham, Zac Stacy, or whatever tailback Jeff Fisher rustles out of the bushes.


NFL Week 9 Mission Briefing

By Jordan Jackson

I was lucky enough to have a ticket to Thursday Night Football in Charlotte. From my third-to-last-row seat in Bank of America Stadium, I settled on three conclusions: one, the best burger in Charlotte can be found right outside the stadium at The Burger Company (in case you are ever in the neighborhood); two, the Panthers are becoming the latest NFC South team to fail to defend their championship from the previous year (it has never been done); and three, the Saints, after all, are still a threat in the NFC. Watch out.

As for the other 24 teams playing this weekend, there is still much to learn. Before the games kick off, let’s go over the usual items.

Sure Bet: For the sake of variety, I am not going to go with Oakland’s opponent here. Let’s say you have already played your Seattle card in your survivor pool; who else has a lock on a ‘W’?

First off, I like the Eagles. As long as Ryan Fitzpatrick is their quarterback, the Texans will not be able to compete with the top half of the league. Andre Johnson is hardly a factor due to his age and Fitzpatrick—and Arian Foster, with his fragility—cannot and will not do it alone.

The Texans have a very talented defense, but if the offense cannot sustain drives (which they can’t against good teams), it makes little difference. The Eagles, meanwhile, are regaining the health of their offensive linemen. Theoretically, this should give LeSean McCoy and the run game an overdue boost. More reliably, the Eagles play well on the road, and are unlikely to lose two games in a row. They should overpower Houston assertively.

I also like the 49ers to sweep the Rams. Losing Jake Long and Brian Quick for the year is just awful for the Rams. Two huge blows coming in one game. They were sorely outmatched by San Francisco at home with a healthier team. To expect things to improve on the bay this weekend with the injuries the Rams have sustained is ludicrous.

For the record, yes, I also like Seattle over Oakland.

Not So Fast: This, as usual, is a bit tougher. It does not seem like a huge upset or anything, but I am going to go with the Ravens to win in Steel City. Despite the loss to Cincinnati this past week, I still believe Baltimore is the best team in the AFC North—maybe not the most talented necessarily, but they are playing the best ball. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is difficult to trust even after their resounding victory over the Colts to the tune of 500 yards through the air. This team, after all, lost to Tampa Bay and struggled mightily with Jacksonville.

This rivalry is always hard-hitting and hotly contested. It is usually a pretty even competition too. Ben Roethlisberger’s career stats against Baltimore are not great. Terrell Suggs loves to hit him. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley has quietly been one of the year’s best defensive rookies. The Ravens D is, as always, a ferocious one. After a tough division loss against the Bengals, they will be out for blood against Pitt.

Surprise Performer: Offenses have had their ways with Oakland all season, so there is really no knowing who is going to be the one(s) to make plays against the silver and black. The Oakland game might be a great opportunity for Russell Wilson to get straightened out as a passer. Aside from the final drive, Wilson was ineffective and lousy in Carolina, and a matchup with the soft, beat-up Oakland secondary might be just what the doctor ordered. The Seahawks also seem intent on being free of their previous dependency on Marshawn Lynch.

The benefactor of all of this is Doug Baldwin. With Percy Harvin gone, the Hawks no longer have to worry about feeding him the ball. Baldwin is now the undisputed No. 1 receiver in Seattle. He has been the team’s consistent leader in yards and targets all year, but it never really translated to fantasy success until the Week 7 loss to St. Louis.

Clearly, Baldwin will have his looks, and no defense offers as much opportunity as Oakland’s. Now is the time for Doug Baldwin to break out for good.

Disaster Waiting to Happen: I’m not crazy about Demaryius Thomas this week. He is every team’s favorite Broncos receiver to attempt to shut down, and it is showing in the targets that have been recently deferred to Emmanuel Sanders—even in the red zone. Thomas can expect to see a lot of Darrelle Revis this weekend, and that, too, does not work in his favor. Revis leads a New England secondary that ranks second in the league in pass defense.

In all of the many times that Peyton Manning has battled Tom Brady, I cannot recall a time when both defenses were this good. It could be a surprisingly low-scoring affair, with lots of handoffs and field goals. If Thomas is going to have a good game, he almost has to get in the end zone. The Pats eliminate big plays, and there is no way Thomas breaks the century mark against Revis.

Happy Halloween, and happy week 9, folks!

Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanJackson1

“Waivering” Hope, Week 9

By Jordan Jackson

Monday Night Football at Jerryworld capped off a great week of football in a great way. Just as people were beginning to proclaim the Dallas Cowboys as the best team in the NFL, America’s Team got upset by none other than Native America’s Team. But before you go hastily adding Colt McCoy to your fantasy team, here are some better options off the waiver wire this week.

If Carson Palmer has not been re-added in your league yet, he needs to be immediately. The Cardinals—not the Cowboys—are the best team in the NFC, and Carson Palmer is on fire. He is not lighting up the stat sheet like Luck, Rivers, Manning, or Rodgers, but he consistently throws two touchdowns per game, and does not turn the ball over. His yardage totals are a little less consistent, but he could drop 400 in any given game. He is a very solid QB2.

The job turnover rate among NFL running backs this season is astounding—so many injuries. The season-ending knee injuries sustained by Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, for instance, have opened the door for Jonas Gray, a rookie power back who led New England in carries against the Bears, racking up 86 rushing yards in the process. Gray will henceforth be taking over the carries once intended for Ridley, making him a good flex or even RB2 play.

Meanwhile, we are waiting to see what becomes of Buccaneers one-season wonder Doug Martin. He has had injury trouble in his young career, but even when healthy, Martin has been terribly ineffective. Part of this could be due to Tampa’s woeful offensive line. Whatever the cause, Lovie Smith’s coaching regime has no use for Martin, and I am expecting him to be traded before today’s deadline. When/if this happens, Charles Sims needs to be added to your fantasy roster, as he will immediately become the Bucs’ No. 1 back coming off of short-term IR.

I’ve got a couple of rookie wide receivers for you. First, Martavis Bryant of Pittsburgh. Bryant has pretty much supplanted the awful Markus Wheaton as Pittsburgh’s starting wideout opposite Antonio Brown. In two games, he has hauled in seven passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns. With the way Pittsburgh is suddenly passing the ball, Bryant’s skill set makes him impossible to ignore for fantasy purposes.

To a lesser extent, I also like the Colts’ Donte Moncrief. Leading up to Week 8, Moncrief’s sparse use had increased proportionately to the decreasing usage of Hakeem Nicks, then, with Reggie Wayne out with an elbow injury against Pittsburgh, Moncrief finally assumed a starring role. In that role, Moncrief exploded for 7-113-1. After a performance like that, he is bound to factor into the Colts’ prolific passing game even when Wayne returns.

At tight end, you can do no better than a couple shot-in-the-dark bye-week replacements.

First is Tim Wright, who finally got a full serving of targets against Chicago this past Sunday. This came on the heels of a big, fat goose egg against New York in Week 7, so it goes without saying that Wright’s production is unpredictable—or, as they say in Fantasyland, “boom or bust.” Wright has drawn an intriguing amount of red-zone targets since being added to the offensive gameplan a few weeks ago, but he is still way behind Rob Gronkowski in most situations. It is also notable that Tim Wright’s best game came in garbage time against Chicago. Like I said, boom or bust.

Heath Miller is another boom-or-bust bye-week replacement at tight end. Miller has mostly been a bust this whole season, but has had two “booms” at totally unpredictable intervals: against Tampa Bay and then last week against Indianapolis. Analyze that. Miller’s status transcends “boom-or-bust”; Miller is an “add-and-pray.”

Kicker streamer of the week: Shayne Graham of New Orleans. He has had three big games in a row and it appears that the Saints offense is finally starting to click. That’s enough for me.

Your defense streamer is the Washington Redskins. Washington’s next game is against Minnesota. Minnesota managed only 13 points on offense against Tampa Bay! Tampa Bay cannot do anything right! The Redskins are coming off of arguably their finest defensive performance of the season. Allowing only 17 points to DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, and the Cowboys offense is a spectacular feat, indeed.

I’ve got to give a shoutout to Bashaud Breeland for his shutdown performance against Bryant. That was truly amazing to watch, as Breeland had Bryant on an island for most of the night, and more than held his own against the all pro. Another guy deserving of mention is inside ‘backer Keenan Robinson, not because he almost broke Tony Romo, but because he has been a sideline-to-sideline beast in recent weeks. If these guys play half as well against Minnesota as they did versus Dallas, they will be a great fantasy D for Week 9.

Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanJackson1.

NFL Week 8 Mission Briefing

By Jordan Jackson

MVP Race: Andrew Luck, DeMarco Murray, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt.  Am I forgetting someone?

Ah, yes! The quarterback for the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning. You know, the guy who came after Tebow.

As he races by the all-time touchdown mark set by Brett Favre—a mark they said would never be surpassed when Dan Marino set it in 1984—Manning continues to not only survive past his athletic prime, but thrive; he continues to school men 10 and 15 years younger than he.

Before Thursday’s game, I would have said Philip Rivers was the frontrunner in the 2014 MVP race. Even if Manning did not straight-up pass him, Rivers’ two good-not-great performances in a row set him back a little.

Moving on to the rest of Week 8:

Sure Bet: This is a bad week for survivor pools. The number of lopsided matchups is few. After looking at the odds and over the schedule several times, the best I can come up with for a “sure bet” is the Cleveland Browns in Oakland. I know I choose Oakland’s opponent almost every week (hey, it’s worked so far, hasn’t it?), but there simply are not better options. Seriously, what are the chances that Cleveland allows Jacksonville and Oakland their first wins in consecutive weeks? Pretty low, I would say.

I understand, however, if you are not comfortable putting your survival hopes in the Browns after their atrocious outing a week ago. Maybe you would prefer the Texans in Tennessee, or the Patriots at home against the Bears. We don’t know what to expect from Zach Mettenberger, or when/if the Bears will show up, but otherwise the Texans and Pats are probably pretty safe bets.

Not So Fast: I am not bold enough to choose the Bears in their aforementioned matchup, but I will take Zach Mettenberger and the Titans to win in the rookie QB’s first career start. They are playing the Texans, who are riding a three-game losing streak, in which their turnover-proneness has reared its ugly head. The Texans seem to looooove fumbling the ball, and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s inability to win close games is all the more apparent in recent weeks. The Texans simply aren’t good enough to have a game-manager as their quarterback; they need a hero with a square chin, not Grizzly Adams with a bearded one.

Whereas I struggled to uncover a “sure bet,” upsets abound this week.

I like the Panthers to hand the defending champs their third-straight loss. Carolina’s defense is eventually going to get it together, and Seattle is clearly fallible on not only offense and defense, but perhaps more so than either, special teams, as proved by Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Johnny Hekker.

I also like Jacksonville to win a second game in a row. They host Miami. I like Pittsburgh at home against the Colts. And, finally, if it can even be considered a true “upset,” the Ravens to win in Cincinnati.

Surprise Performer: Larry Fitzgerald has come a long way from the glory days of 2008 and 2009, in which he could be a shoo-in for a score every week. In 2014, the future Hall of Famer has found the end zone only once and been largely underwhelming most weeks, including last week against Oakland’s porous secondary, against whom Fitzgerald recorded only 21 receiving yards.

The thing is, Arizona had little need for Fitzgerald’s pass-catching abilities as Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor found a lot of success via the ground. That won’t happen this week against Philadelphia, as the Eagles look to get their starting middle linebacker, Mychal Kendrick, back on the field. This game could be a shootout, which would greatly benefit Fitzgerald and his fantasy owners. Carson Palmer (as opposed to Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas), seems to be more inclined to getting Fitzgerald involved. I like Fitz to finally put a good game together this weekend

Disaster Waiting to Happen: My “disaster” comes from the same game and team as my surprise performer, and that is Andre Ellington. I expect the Cards/Eagles game to be a shootout, and for the return of Mychal Kendricks to give the Eagles run defense a boost. But, hey, you knew that already.

Furthermore, we saw last week that Ellington has a touchdown vulture over his head in Stepfan Taylor. Ellington claims that he voluntarily exited the game against Oakland in red-zone situations because he felt Taylor “deserved” the reps. I don’t buy it. Even if there is some truth to that, Taylor was great in the red zone, and it might establish a longstanding trend, much to the chagrin of Ellington’s fantasy owners.

Best of luck in all your football endeavors, and enjoy the games.

Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanJackson1

“Waivering” Hope, Week 8

By Jordan Jackson

This edition of “Waivering” Hope is going to feature some familiar names, as most of the following players have been featured on the series before but somehow have still not been picked up in most fantasy leagues.

Beginning, as usual, with the quarterbacks, the usual names still float around the top of the free agent list: Eli Manning and Joe Flacco, notably. Then there is Mike Glennon. I really like Glennon because of his immediate schedule: Minnesota, Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington, Chicago, Cincinnati—six weeks in which you can expect reasonably good fantasy numbers from the Bucs QB—especially since they will often be playing from behind (that is, passing).

At running back, again, I advise you to pick up Jerick McKinnon of the Vikings. He dropped 100 rushing yards on a top-five run defense this past Sunday in Buffalo, and has firmly overtaken Matt Asiata as Minnesota’s No. 1 tailback.

Also keep an eye on the Bills’ running back situation. In a matter of minutes, the Bills lost Fred Jackson for up to four weeks with a groin injury, and C.J. Spiller with a broken clavicle on Sunday.

The third back in the rotation was Anthony Dixon, a bruiser of 49ers fame, who said in light of the injuries that he will now be in the “workhorse” role in Buffalo. That might be a little bit hasty. Though he has been a weekly scratch so far this season, it is possible that Bryce Brown could get early-down work with Dixon in more of a big-back role a la LeGarrette Blount in Pittsburgh. Wait for clarity on the situation before you add either.

Before you wonder why I haven’t said anything about Tre Mason, the Rams have a brutal schedule coming up, Mason is in a three-way committee, and, if I know Jeff Fisher, Mason’s almost game-losing fumble might cost him some carries going forward. It’s too soon, and the schedule is too tough. He is a trendy add, but I say stay away for now.

Add Odell Beckham right now. Don’t make me tell you again. Right now, Beckham is touchdown-dependent, as he still has a hard-time getting open between the 20s, but he has been Eli Manning’s favorite red-zone target for the past three weeks with Victor Cruz lost to injury and Larry Donnell suddenly declining. He has three touchdowns in three weeks to show for it, and a better touchdown celebration than Victor Cruz.

Keep an eye on Doug Baldwin and Steve Johnson. I am not sold on either yet. At first glance, one would expect Baldwin’s looks to go up after the trade of Percy Harvin, but the fact is that Harvin was only playing on something like 60 percent of snaps anyway, with Baldwin (and Jermaine Kearse) firmly ahead of him on the depth chart. I attribute Baldwin’s suddenly stellar performance against the Rams on Sunday not to the Harvin trade, but to the fact that, for once, Seattle was playing from behind, forcing Russell Wilson to throw rather than rely on the ground game. I don’t expect Seattle to be playing from behind all that much going forward, so I am still hesitant to add Baldwin.

As for Steve Johnson, he has scored in three of four weeks, but had not really done much in terms of yardage until Sunday night against Denver—in garbage time. The scores are promising, yes, but as long as San Francisco is still competitive in their games, Johnson will be behind Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis in the passing game. It is unusual for the 49ers to get beat so drastically so early (as they did in Denver), so to expect similar performances from Johnson in the future would be foolish. Hold off on adding him for now, too.

Finally, I have another great strategy at kicker. See, no one wants to carry two kickers, so a lot of really good kickers get released when their bye weeks come around. Case in point: Cody Parkey. His bye is behind him now, and he is still a top-ten fantasy kicker. Playing behind a good offense, Parkey is an awesome add. Snatch him up while/if you can.

Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @jordanrjackson1

NFL Week 7 Mission Briefing

By Jordan Jackson

For the second time in five days, an upset bid in the NFL was denied by a blocked field-goal attempt in the waning seconds of the contest. The ends of the Jaguars/Titans and Jets/Patriots games were strikingly similar, but in the end, the favored team won in both instances.

If you chose New England in your survivor pool this week (which I would have certainly said was a sure bet), you’re safe—by the skin of your teeth.

Sure Bet: If you’ve yet to make your selection, I suggest going with the Cardinals over the Raiders.

Both of these teams came to life on offense this past week, but Oakland proved that, even on good days, they are still prone to committing crucial errors. Judging by their performance against the Chargers last week, it appears that Oakland has put the worst days of this season behind them, but they are still perhaps the worst team in the NFL.

Carson Palmer is back for the Redbirds, and with him comes a very timely wake-up slap for the Arizona offense. Palmer showed no ill effects from the nerve injury that cost him three games, as he lit up the Washington secondary in Week 6, and Oakland allows the highest completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks in the NFL. This one should be a cakewalk for AZ.

Another decent option is Seattle. The Seahawks visit the Edward Jones Dome to take on the Rams in Week 7. St. Louis has flashed promise with Austin Davis at quarterback, but against a truly formidable defense (San Francisco), the Rams’ inexperience showed. Things aren’t going to get easier against the Legion of Boom—even if they have looked more like the Legion of Bum recently.

Not So Fast: This, as always, is a tough one, but I’m going to take the Giants to upset the NFL’s hottest team, the Dallas Cowboys.

The way to beat Dallas is simply to stop the run; get DeMarco Murray off the field, wear out the defense, and make Tony Romo beat you through the air. So it’s a tall order, but it is one that the G-Men can accomplish.

The Cowboys have won the past five games on the strength of their offensive line. Until now, the unit has stayed completely healthy; now, right tackle Doug Free is set to miss a few weeks, and left tackle Tyron Smith will be playing on a suspect ankle. The absence of Free, especially, will play into Dallas’ ability to run the ball effectively, as he is one of the best run-blocking tackles in football.

Yes, New York got shutout in embarrassing fashion this past Sunday night. Yes, they lost their No. 1 wideout for the season. But remember: After the Patriots got stomped on primetime by Kansas City, they responded to resounding effect by slaughtering a hot Cincinnati team the very next week. The Giants, too, are capable of such a turnaround.

Surprise Performer: All this week, I listened to the “experts” on ESPN and NFL Network announce that it was time to drop C.J. Spiller from fantasy rosters. Spiller, in most leagues, turned in negative points last week against New England, rushing for 19 yards and losing a fumble on only six carries. It was the latest in a series of worsening fantasy performances. So if Spiller turns in a good performance this week, it will unquestionably be a surprise.

The reason I like Spiller this week is solely because of his opponent: the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are currently ranking 19th against the run, but they have had that statistic aided by facing toothless ground games like Detroit and Atlanta. Against teams with decent backs, the Vikings have routinely been gashed. Think back to the New England and Green Bay games in particular.

If Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway returns to the lineup this week, Spiller’s chances of “surprising” anyone decrease a bit, but, even in the timeshare he occupies with Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon, Spiller will get big-play opportunities against Minnesota’s susceptible defense. Look for him to break a big one. He ain’t dead yet, folks.

Disaster Waiting to Happen: Last week, I bet against the 49ers defense and I was totally RIGHT… for one quarter. After the first quarter, San Francisco’s defense shut down St. Louis for the remainder of the game. This week, I am justly rolling with the Niners.

Everybody is just assuming that this will be the week that Peyton Manning breaks Brett Favre’s career touchdown passes record. Hello? Have you people considered Manning’s opponent? This ain’t the Raiders or the Jets. This is San Francisco. If there is a team in the league that can hold Manning under three touchdowns it is the 49ers.

San Francisco is second in the league in total defense, and second in defending the pass. They have allowed fewer than three touchdown passes in every game this season. Therefore, the Denver receiving corps is my “Disaster Waiting to Happen.” You cannot possibly sit Demaryius Thomas or Julius Thomas, I know, but if you can replace Emmanuel Sanders, I suggest you do it. Wes Welker should not even be a consideration this week.

I also think the Colts offense is in for a letdown this week. That is, I like Cincinnati’s ravaged defense to finally bounce back to its former formidable self. You cannot sit Andrew Luck, but bench his receivers if you can afford to do so.

Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanJackson1.

“Waivering” Hope, Week 7

By Jordan Jackson

It’s that time of the season—if you’re going to turn your season around, something must be done now. Ideally, you are not in win-now mode already, but if you are, the waiver wire is plentiful this week. Let’s look at QBs first. Two names jump out at me, but both come with caveats.

First is Joe Flacco. Flacco popped off in Week 6 with his five touchdowns, but he has literally zigzagged from good game to bad game this whole season. It is a disconcerting trend if you are thinking about picking him up, but Flacco has Atlanta next week. Atlanta’s pass defense this season is a poor work of fiction. Flacco might be too inconsistent to be a long-term pickup, but as a streamer or bye-week replacement, he looks like a favorable add for this week’s matchup with Atlanta’s 29th-ranked pass defense.

The other guy who caught my eye was Carson Palmer in his triumphant return from a nerve injury that, still, nobody understands. Palmer tossed two TDs with 250 yards and no picks against Washington’s air-landing zone of a secondary. He brought Larry Fitzgerald back into the fantasy picture, too. Palmer’s proneness to injury is a concern, obviously, but the bigger suspicion arises from the fact that he has only played two games this season. Palmer played well in both, but it is a small sample size to risk dropping a productive player for. Don’t make any rash decisions when adding Palmer; he has yet to prove anything.

Surprise! Jerick McKinnon (making his second “Waivering” Hope appearance) is now Minnesota’s starting running back. He didn’t have a great game against Detroit, but he did out-snap presumed starter Matt Asiata 48-15, and had 17 touches to Asiata’s three. Though he plays for a fairly stagnant offense, McKinnon, being the new No. 1 back, is a must-add.

I also like Browns backup Isaiah Crowell. Crowell has passed rookie Terrance West on the depth chart (West was a healthy scratch against Pittsburgh), and assumed COP duties behind Ben Tate. Crowell does have a pair of red flags though: fumbles (two on Sunday, one lost), and the loss of dominant run-blocker Alex Mack at center. The reason I still like him as an add is because Ben Tate is so likely to get injured again, which would thrust Crowell into Cleveland’s lead back role. Only if you have an immediate opening do you add Crowell.

Flashback to “Waivering” Hope, Week 6:

Odell Beckham intrigues me as a sleeper… it might be too late for you to reach him next time he hits waivers.”

I did not forecast the fate of Victor Cruz, whose career may be in jeopardy, but you can’t say I didn’t tell you to add Beckham last week, regardless of my reasoning. He will be claimed quickly when waivers are processed this week, so you have probably missed your chance if you didn’t snatch him up a week ago.

If you miss out on Beckham, be careful—don’t be fooled by Andre Holmes or Brandon LaFell. Holmes went nuts in Week 6 against San Diego with 121 yards and a pair of TDs, but as long as he suits up for the silver and black, I am skeptical. The Raiders seem to have new life under interim coach Tony Sparano, but I need to see consistency from Holmes before I can condone rostering him. As for LaFell, who also turned in a mesmerizing, two-touchdown fantasy performance in Week 6, he plays in a more reliable offense than Holmes, but Tom Brady spreads the wealth too much for my liking; Julian Edelman and Gronk are still his favorite targets. Any touchdowns LaFell scores this season (and there will be more, certainly) will be fluky; he isn’t reliable.

I am a little bit higher on Malcom Floyd of the Chargers. Floyd, too, has the fantasy disadvantage of playing in an offense with an assorted weaponry, but if Eddie Royal misses any time with a rib injury, Floyd’s targets will rise, and he will be more likely to reproduce his impressive 5-103-1 statline from Sunday’s bout with Oakland.

Floyd would not be the only beneficiary from an Eddie Royal absence, as Ladarius Green saw increased playing time after Royal’s departure in Week 6. Even more so than with Floyd, Green is only worth adding if Royal misses time, which is yet to be determined.

In Jacksonville, where, yes, there is still a professional football team, tight end Clay Harbor is emerging as one of young quarterback Blake Bortles’ favorite targets. In the past three games, Harbor has played almost every snap, and been targeted 16 times (catching 14) with one touchdown. That’s more than Tim Wright can say.

After scoring for the second consecutive week, Wright will, again, be a trendy add this week, but the fact remains: he plays fewer than 20 snaps per game, and actually had only one target on Sunday. Add at your own risk; I would pass on him.

As he has been for the past three weeks, my kicker pick-up/streamer is Chandler Catanzaro. The guy is a stud, and he doesn’t miss. With Carson Palmer back, the Arizona offense will only get better, providing CC with even more scoring opportunities. He deserves to be owned over a lot of more popular kicking options.

My defense streamers for week 7 are the Cleveland Browns (at Jacksonville), and the Chicago Bears (hosting Miami). Basically, any defense playing a team from Florida is a safe add/start.

Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanJackson1.

NFL Week 6 Mission Briefing

By Jordan Jackson

Just when it looked like we would have to bear witness to another terrible Thursday night massacre, Ryan Fitz-magic rallied the Texans and made a game out if it.

Actually, Fitzpatrick had very little to do with Houston’s comeback. That can be attributed to J.J. Watt and Arian Foster.

Regardless, it was finally a good opening to the week of football—a close game to start a week that I fear will feature a lot of uncompetitive games.

Sure Bet: I anticipate a lot of lopsided wins this weekend, so be prudent with your survivor pick. I think your safest bet is the Packers visiting Miami. Miami has had two weeks to get that defense ready for Aaron Rodgers, but Green Bay’s most recent game was a Thursday nighter in week 5, giving the Packers extended preparation time as well. I cannot think of any way that Miami could possibly pull the upset this weekend with Rodgers having a 10-day study period.

If you already played your Packers card in week 2 or 5, you have plenty of other options, and interestingly, they are mostly away teams. I like Denver, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New England, San Diego, and San Francisco all to win easily on the road. If away games scare you, go with Arizona at home against Washington. That’s the best you can do.

If you are targeting Oakland on a weekly basis, you’ve got the red-hot Chargers coming to town this weekend. Oakland’s week-5 victory over the Bolts knocked me out of my pool a season ago, so I’m a little wary, but I think San Diego is a pretty safe bet this time ’round.

Not So Fast: Notice I said nothing above about picking against the Jaguars. Like Oakland, they are weekly targets in survivor pools, but I would suggest avoiding that strategy this week, because Jacksonville’s first victory is just around the corner

Though he is no Austin Davis, rookie QB Blake Bortles has made Jacksonville a much better team than they were with Chad Henne under center. It is only a matter of time until he puts together his first ‘W’.

Their opponent, Tennessee, is terrible. You don’t need me to tell you that. With Jake Locker most likely out again this weekend, I have to pick the Jags in Nashville as my upset pick. Even if Locker does take the field, I still like Jacksonville.

Surprise Performer: If you still have Markus Wheaton on your team, I applaud your patience.

Antonio Brown dominates targets in Pittsburgh’s offense. Wheaton is the starter opposite Brown, but has not eclipsed 100 yards or single-digit targets in any game this season. Worse yet, Wheaton has not scored. However, Wheaton’s best game to date came against Cleveland in week 1, in which he caught six passes for 97 yards, including the clutch reception that lined up the Steelers for the game-winning field goal.

Not only has Wheaton enjoyed success against Cleveland before, but, as opposed to the opener in Pittsburgh, when the Steelers meet the Browns for the second time this weekend, Cleveland could be without shutdown corner Joe Haden. Haden obviously would have been matched up against Brown, but in his potential absence, rookie Justin Gilbert will be assigned the suicide mission of attempting to cover Brown, while Wheaton will get his looks against either Buster Skrine or Pierre Desir. Either one is a favorable matchup.

Brown will still be the dominant receiver, but I think Wheaton will finally find the end zone and/or break the century mark in this game.

Disaster Waiting to Happen: This week’s disaster is the 49ers defense. Coming off a one-sack performance against one of the worst offensive lines in football (the Chiefs), San Francisco now heads home to host Missouri’s other team, the Rams. And folks, these ain’t your older brother’s Rams. Quietly, rookie sensation (yes, I went there) Austin Davis has led the Rams to eighth in the NFL in yards per game, and sixth in points per game. Davis, individually, has put up 702 yards and six touchdowns in the past two games.

The key factor here will be turnovers. Though the Rams put up great numbers in yards and points, they also have a tendency to turn the ball over. and differ on the Rams’ turnover differential—one says -2, the other -3—but regardless, eliminating the turnover would immediately make the Rams an offense to be reckoned with—something nobody expected even before Sam Bradford went down with a torn ACL.

If San Francisco’s defense doesn’t get turnovers in this game, its fantasy performance will be very disappointing, because, believe it or not, St. Louis is going to put up some impressive offensive numbers.

“Waivering” Hope, Week 6

With only two teams heading into their bye in week 6, and relatively few injuries occurring recently, the decision to drop or add a player this week will probably be a tough one. Hopefully you are not among the unfortunate few who jumped the gun and cut Tom Brady or the Panthers defense. If you do make a move this week, use discretion, be patient, and look for some of these names:

I am officially impressed with Austin Davis. He has thrown three touchdowns in two consecutive games now, exceeding 300 passing yards in both. As much as I like Davis, I like Brian Hoyer more because of scheduling. While Davis has San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City, Arizona, Denver, and San Diego on the immediate horizon (sheesh, poor guy), Hoyer has a take-it-or-leave-it matchup with Pittsburgh in week 6, followed by Jacksonville, Oakland, and Tampa Bay. Hoyer has found the end zone in every game this season and is responsible for only one turnover so far. His comeback victory over Tennessee on Sunday proves that he can flat-out sling it when needed. With Cleveland likely to be playing from behind more times than not this season, Hoyer will probably be asked to air it out often.

Montee Ball is going to miss some significant time with a groin injury he suffered on Sunday. The next man up is Ronnie Hillman, who actually looked decent once he entered the fold against Arizona. Though Denver is not involving the run game the way they did in 2013, feature backs are hard to come by these days, and Hillman is going to get plenty of opportunities with Ball out.

To a lesser extent, I like Branden Oliver. Who doesn’t? This kid made a resounding entrance into Fantasyland on Sunday, popping off for 182 combined yards and a pair of touchdowns, one through the air, one on the ground. He is a fantastic short-term option with San Diego headed to Oakland next week, but the fact is that San Diego prefers to put the ball in the air, and in two weeks, Ryan Mathews will return to the San Diego offense, relegating Oliver to change-of-pace duties at best. Donald Brown, meanwhile, is no longer a fantasy factor even if he does gain clearance in the concussion protocol. Oliver has won the starting tailback job until Mathews’ return.

With the way the Giants’ offense has been playing lately, I have to say that rookie wideout Odell Beckham intrigues me as a sleeper. Despite good numbers including a touchdown in his first game as a pro, Beckham is probably no higher than the fourth option in Eli Manning’s receiving Rolodex, but this team has been passing the ball extremely well recently. Victor Cruz and Larry Donnell got a lot of attention from Atlanta’s defense on Sunday, and that will probably continue throughout the season, giving Beckham (and Rueben Randle) favorable matchups. He may be a risky add right now, but if he has another productive day in week 6 against Philly’s suspect secondary, it might be too late for you to reach him next time he hits waivers.

With the quarterback changes in Tampa and Jacksonville, Louis Murphy and Allen Robinson have emerged in their respective passing games. Murphy has nine catches on 18 targets filling in for Mike Evans, while Robinson has a comparable 10 catches on 18 targets of his own, filling in for Cecil Shorts. The two have only one touchdown between them, but the targets are the telling stat. Both offenses are on the rise, and Murphy and Robinson could benefit greatly.

The tight end section of Waiverland is a wasteland, but you might be able to squeeze some production out of the Ravens’ Owen Daniels before he inevitably gets injured. Daniels was targeted seven times on a down offensive day for Baltimore, and came away with five grabs for 70 yards.

Don’t be fooled by Tim Wright for New England. He is not Aaron Hernandez’s replacement yet. Though he recorded five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown, Wright played on only 19 snaps (out of 84) Sunday night against Cincinnati. That scares me, considering many of those snaps also came in garbage time. This performance gets the “fluke” stamp.

Don’t discredit me for saying this, but kicker might actually be the position I am most excited about this week as far as waivers are concerned. Why? Because I have a theory, and a strategy. Listen closely: the Detroit Lions cannot buy a kicker. First, Nate Freese missed 4-of-7 kicks before Alex Henery was signed to replace him; since then, Henery has been even worse, hitting only one field goal on five attempts, and getting waived on Monday. How fortuitous that Denver cut the best kicker in the NFL last week! Denver chose to stick with the cheaper option of Brandon McManus and let the NFL’s record-holder for longest field goal, Matt Prater, hit free agency. The Lions will work out Prater today.

Matt Prater in a dome? That is just scary. Hey, why not pick up Matt Prater just in case he ends up in Honolulu blue this week? If he doesn’t, just pick up Arizona’s Chandler Catanzaro or Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter.

Arizona’s offense should get a boost from Carson Palmer (most likely) returning in week 6, and Dan Carpenter—what can you say about the guy? Carpenter got cut from Miami, turned away by three different teams, and has now settled in Buffalo as one of the NFL’s most reliable kickers. Despite laser beams, he almost single-handedly won Buffalo’s bout with the Lions on Sunday (with some help from Alex Henery, too, as discussed above). I don’t know how much Buffalo’s offense will improve with E.J. Manuel on the bench and Kyle Orton under center, but Carpenter’s huge leg and clutch composure compensate for Buffalo’s offensive ineptitude to some degree.

NFL Week 5 Mission Briefing

By Jordan Jackson

Another Thursday night game, another beatdown. Maybe that should just become my new sign-on.

I’m sure CBS is just elated by the quality of Thursday night games in its first season televising the matches. In three games, the Bucs/Falcons, ‘Skins/Giants, and Pack/Vikings games, respectively, have set the records for largest, third-largest, and second-largest margins of victory in the eight-year history of Thursday Night Football. Next week, we might get the fourth-largest as Houston tries their deceptive 3-1 record against the NFL’s best offense: the Colts. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First things first…

Sure Bet: You would be safe taking either team from Pennsylvania in your survivor pool this week.

The Steelers, coming off an embarrassing home loss to “one of the worst NFL teams,” will be out for blood as they pay a visit to another one of the worst NFL teams—the Jacksonville Jaguars. I am still having a hard time making sense out of Pittsburgh losing to Tampa Bay, but I highly doubt the Steelers would be caught with their pants down twice in a row. There is no way of knowing if and when Blake Bortles is going to begin to demonstrate why he was the top quarterback chosen in the draft; it could be this weekend, but for now, I feel pretty safe betting against him.

As for Pennsylvania’s other team, the Eagles play host to the St. Louis Rams, whose own rookie starter, Austin Davis, has quietly been the NFL’s most accurate passer through four weeks. Unfortunately, Davis has also made a few back-breaking mistakes. The Eagles’ defense is very opportunistic, and they will probably make a few plays at Davis’ expense this weekend en route to a rebound win.

Not So Fast: Maybe Atlanta? Maybe Arizona? What the hell—they say go big or go home. I’m going big: I’m going to take the poor ol’ pitiful Washington Redskins to upset the defending champs, and I cannot think of a single damn reason why. Maybe there’ll be something in the air. Or on the field, like last time these two teams met at FedEx. Remember? If you don’t, I am sure RGIII and Chris Clemons do. The terrible turf at FedEx caused them both serious knee injuries in the 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoffs.

Maybe, just maybe, something crazy and/or supernatural will occur on Monday night. Something in the wind, or in the crowd will just cause things to go Washington’s way.

Probably not, but maybe. Just think how smart I’ll look if it does.

Surprise Performer: Had you asked me yesterday, I would have said Jerick McKinnon. I’m glad you didn’t ask me yesterday. Today, I am not so sure.

I think I am going to go with Panthers QB Cam Newton.

Normally, we would simply expect Newton to put up big numbers, but this season Superman is noticeably hobbled by a bum ankle, and the Panthers coaching staff has held his playmaking potential accordingly in check to prevent further damage to their franchise quarterback. After two humiliating losses in a row though, Ron Rivera said on Tuesday that the team wants to “unleash” Cam, but that they must do it in the right way.

With the defense stumbling without Greg Hardy and Thomas Davis, and the running game on the rocks (Darrin Reaves is the Panthers’ starting tailback this week, folks), the time is now. The Panthers are out of other options to depend on. If the Panthers are going to make a serious attempt to defend their NFC South title from a season ago, they will have to do it on the strength of Cam Newton.

Newton has not been a fantasy disappointment so far; I think he gets back to his old ways this weekend against Chicago’s 23rd-ranked defense.

Disaster Waiting to Happen: Le’Veon Bell against Jacksonville.

The Jaguars are real bad against the run, yes, but they are even worse against the pass. They have been scored on a lot—mostly through the air. What’s more is that Le’Veon Bell doesn’t score. Despite being one of fantasy’s best performers through four weeks, Bell has only found the end zone once this year, and it was in week one.

A large part of this is due to Mike Tomlin’s preference for LeGarrette Blount in goal-line situations. I am certain that Bell will still gain plenty of yards in Jacksonville this weekend, but I don’t see him scoring. Furthermore, there is a chance that Pittsburgh’s starters get pulled for garbage time this weekend, meaning Bell could get less than a full game’s workload. It doesn’t smell right.

I know it is next-to-impossible to sit Le’Veon Bell on your fantasy team, but if and when he turns in a bad Week 5 performance, you heard it here first.

Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanJackson1.