In the first non-kickoff extravaganza of the Thursday night schedule, we’re treated to a game between a team with no offensive stars, and another team that’s been stripped of nearly its entire roster through the cold hand of injuries and something about an alleged murder. Oh, happy day.
Never fear, friends, because there’s fantasy bargains to be had tonight on some potential booming from guys who don’t do much of that. A digging we will go…
1. You knew this was coming: So you spent a third-round pick on Danny Amendola (ADP = 42.7). You did that because you’re a breed of person who sees risk, and greets it with a warm embrace. You believe (correctly, to an extent) that no fantasy football championship has been won by a team solely constructed with conservative thinking. So you said to yourself “self, Amendola will get hurt, and he will miss a handful of games, but when he’s healthy he’ll be super awesome and be an even better Wes Welker than the actual Wes Welker”.
All of that is correct, and we saw it even within just one game last week. Like Welker, Amendola received bushels full of targets from Brady, with 14 balls thrown in his direction (this was good), and he then turned that into 104 yards on 10 catches because he’s a PPR god. But sticking to true Amendola form, he pulled up with a groin injury (this was not good), and now he could be out until Week 4.
There’s nothing even a little bit enjoyable or surprising about any of this. It’s the crappy, gut punch side of risk embracing, and every Amendola owner should have immediately deployed their Julian Edelman parachute with a waiver claim this week. Even with Amendola in the game for most of New England’s Week 1 win over Buffalo, Edelman still scored twice while hauling in a 35-yard catch, the Pats’ longest completion of the day (he had 79 yards overall).
2.Will we get Belichick’ed? With Shane Vereen now sadly gone from our lives for the next eight weeks, the seemingly safe assumption is that Stevan Ridley has dodged the fumble plague gripping the NFL by default, and for the foreseeable future he’ll wear a cowbell of some kind while getting fed footballs (they’re high in protein). Yes, that sure does seem like a logical, guaranteed, absolutely no way it won’t happen assumption given what’s behind Ridely, especially tonight with Brandon Bolden likely also out, leaving LeGarrette Blount and Leon Washington to provide depth.
But please recall that Belichick is one slippery running back snake with his backfield dealings. Last year even with Ridley and Vereen healthy he plucked Bolden from a bus stop, and he posted 137 yards against the Bills in Week 4. Blount doesn’t have nearly the speed to begin that sort of assault tonight, but he was the power, and he could easily vulture a touchdown. I realize that in the NFL 2010 is basically 18 years ago, with all the scheme and roster changes and whatnot. But please recall that during those faraway times, Blount posted 1,007 rushing yards at a pace of 5.0 per carry. That sounds sort of meh until you also recall he didn’t start until Week 7 that year, receiving only six carries in the five games prior.
So Blount smells like the sort of scrap heap guy our boy Billy will experiment with, and taunt us with, and siphon away Ridley’s fantasy points with.
3. Kellen Winslow will continue to matter: Since we already started skipping down the golden path of memory lane with its equal doses of happy times and broken dreams, let me also take you even further back to a time when Kellen Winslow a) had fully functioning knees and b) wasn’t testing the limits of his body on a motorcycle. Close your eyes for a minute, and when you open them you’ll be in 2007, when we strongly craved depression in our popular music. It was also a time when Winslow had 1,106 receiving yards.
For some perspective on that season, over the past three years only four tight ends have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. Talent has never been Winslow’s hurdle, and instead not breaking has been the far greater challenge as his screaming knees bring him to his, um, knees. Suddenly in Week 1 Winslow resurfaced, mostly because there was no one else available to catch balls with Santonio Holmes playing but limited. Holmes’ healing has continued and he should have a larger role tonight, but now Jeremy Kerley is out, giving Winslow another chance to be Geno Smith’s best buddy when he caves to his tuck and run instincts. He’s a favorable play again tonight after the Patriots defense ranked 29th against tight ends last year, giving up an average of 64.8 receiving yards per game to the position.
Thursday night games are always painful for your brain, because as humans we still haven’t learned how to control time. See, if you make a difficult decision regarding your WR3 tonight and decide to go with Kenbrell Thompkins over, say, T.Y. Hilton, and that call flops, there’s no turning back those hands of time. That’s always true I suppose, but the difference is that on Sunday around noon the entire football universe is at your fingertips, with 13 games teed up. Right now on Thursday if you get roasted on a lineup decision, that’s already one roster spot burned well before Sunday, and your opponent may still have nine to work with.
We seek to minimize mental anguish around here, mostly because it’s not healthy. So every Thursday we’ll run through a list of conveniently categorized sit/start decisions. Sort of like this…
No-brainers: Ummm Tom Brady, you’ve probably heard of him. I get that we’re all terrified about the many busted bodies he won’t be throwing to, and that fear is very real. But realistically, you spent a third-round pick on Brady, and you then surely waited a long, long time to take a QB2 (if you took one at all). So unless you somehow have either an exceptional backup or a backup with an appealing matchup (example: on the Twitters I just saw someone mention that they’re benching Brady in favor of Michael Vick — whose Eagles have a pretty sweet mathcup against San Diego), you’re rolling with Brady. There’s obvious reason for decreased expectations and some unBrady-like numbers, but remember, this is a quarterback who won a Super Bowl when 56 of his completions were caught by David Givens, and 44 more were caught by David Patton. Sure, he’s thrown to Randy Moss, but Brady has also dealt with a lot of average, and squeezed delicious lemonade out of those lemons.
Even with the Belichick ire he drew with his fumbling, you’re also thinking for a whole two seconds about starting Steven Ridley. Again, unless we get Belichik’ed, he’s set for a sizable increase in carries. Julian Edelman should be started in all leagues too, though unbelievably he’s still not owned in all leagues, even after clearing waivers Tuesday (Edelman is out there in 33 percent of ESPN leagues). Not only will he suck back Amendola’s targets, but he’s set for an even larger role with Zach Sudfeld likely limited, and Aaron Dobson out (URGENT UPDATE: it looked like Dobson would be out, but to our great joy he’s active, and he’s also a great last-minute add with his deep ballin’). A double-digit target game wouldn’t be remotely surprising.
Tweeners: You’re starting Kenbrell Thompkins, but you’re doing it with decreased expectations since he’ll be followed by Antonio Cromartie for most of the night. He’s a WR3 on this particular evening, but with a WR2 ceiling simply because of volume, and the many balls likely to be directed at him due to the Patriots’ various broken bodies.
Flex/sleepers: You’re noticing a lack of Jets listed thus far, mostly because I like you, kind reader. Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory have only low-end flex value against a Patriots run defense that held C.J. Spiller to only 2.4 yards per carry last week, and gave up just 3.9 per carry last year. Holmes is still mending, and his matchup improves only slightly this week as he goes from Darrelle Revis to Aquib Talib. Both he and Stephen Hill will offer little until Geno Smith stretches the field a little more consistently. Though he had two passes for 20 yards or more, Smith’s completions went an average of only 10.6 yards in Week 1. Conversely, that’s why Winslow holds value as a sleeper play for you crazy tight end streamers, especially with the Patriots’ aforementioned weakness defending tight ends. Also filed under reaching: with Sudfeld limited and Rob Gronkowski still out, Michael Hoomanawanui could receive maybe a half dozen targets, giving him value in leagues that are especially deep and unhealthy.
Stay away: This is only being considered if you’re in a two-quarterback league, but Smith is a far too terrifying play against the Patriots, despite the promise and quick grasp of fundamentals he showed in his Week 1 debut. Last year against three rookie quarterbacks (two of which were named Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck, and they’re pretty good), the multiple and ever-changing looks from the Patriots defense led to a combined passer rating of only 75.0.