Archive for the ‘Chain Links’ Category

I was about to begin this Monday as I do every other Monday: with a reflection back on the Sunday that was, followed by injury updates and an assessment of the impact of those injuries, and then more reflection, more analysis, and more wondering about what it all means. Even though every Monday there’s still one game left in any given week, with the majority of the games completed and the Sunday hangover slowly subsiding, it always feels like the beginning of a new cycle.

And we’ll do all of that, and do it in abundance. But right now let’s pause for a different kind of reflection, because after what Torrey Smith did last night, everything else seems so very inconsequential.

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A healthy Ryan Mathews is quick, can identify holes with ease and hit them hard even easier, and he has high-end breakaway speed. A healthy Ryan Mathews averaged 4.9 yards per carry last year and showed his burst with nine runs of 20 yards or more, all in just his second season. A healthy Ryan Mathews could quickly place himself among the league’s elite running backs.

But a healthy Ryan Mathews feels almost like a piece of imaginary folklore at this point. Although this latest injury — a broken collarbone — is the product of a random event and yet another sprinkling of bad luck for a player who’s already been doused with the whole bag of crappy luck, it won’t linger and hold back his performance when he returns, which will likely be this weekend since he’s been cleared for contact and mercifully escaped practice without any problem.

As ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell wrote shortly after Mathews broke his collarbone in early August, there’s a clear and obvious difference between a bone break and a muscle issue in that once the bone heals, the risk of re-aggravation is minimal. Since Mathews owners need a little bit of encouragement before they deploy their walking piece of glass this Sunday against Atlanta, those words are welcome.

These words, however, aren’t, because they sound far too familiar.

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If you own Marques Colston, you’ve been disappointed, the kind of disappointment¬†which induces instant panic and fear. Loathing too. Lots of loathing.

But as a Colston owner who’s searching for answers while quickly feeling lost and cold, you want an explanation, dammit. Or an excuse will also suffice. By the standards of the average NFL receiver, Colston actually hasn’t been that awful. The problem, of course, is that Colston isn’t an average NFL receiver, and with an ADP that placed him near the end of the fourth round in most leagues, he wasn’t drafted like one either.

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You play to win the game.

Herm Edwards’ press conference tirade has been rightfully mocked in the years since the former Jets coach leaked his in-depth coaching philosophy.

Maybe he was on to something. On Monday Sean let his feelings be known on Bucs’ coach Greg Schiano’s decision to rush the passer on the last play of Sunday’s game against the Giants.

Since then pundits, analysts and bloggers have weighed in – was it the right thing to do? Never did I think I’d find myself agreeing with Mike Ditka, Eric Mangini and Ron Jaworski, but here I am.

Down by a score a Manning fumble was the last chance for Tampa Bay to salvage anything from a game they let slip away in the second half. While I don’t agree with the Bucs’ decision cut Giants Center David Bass with three men – that’s an injury waiting to happen -¬† I find it difficult to lambaste the rookie coach for doing anything he can to win games in a league that demands it.

Recall last year’s Monday night game between the Chiefs and Chargers. Phillip Rivers had led San Diego down the field and was a kneel down away from setting up a game winning Field Goal attempt. And then this happened:

For Schiano, the play has worked before:

“We’ve caused a fumble four times in the last five years with that play, and it’s something that we practice,” Schiano said. “To me, it’s a clean, hard, tough, finish-the-game play. Some people disagree with that, but that’s what makes the world go round. Everybody has opinions. But I don’t have any remorse or regret. There was no sneak attack. We were down, ready to go and that’s how we do it all the time.”

Those four fumbles occurred during Schiano’s college coaching days at Rutgers, with the last one happening on September 10th of last year against North Carolina.

It’s a different game in college, only in the sense that every single player involved has everything to prove on every snap as talent evaluators determine whether or not they’re worthy of playing in the best league in the world. But the same can also be said for the NFL. A bad snap in week three can result in someone losing their job. An egregious decision to put yourself before the team – ahem, Josh Morgan – can lead to the same thing.

Schiano has opened his team to retaliation from teams across the league, but for an organization that was thoroughly embarrassing under Raheem Morris last year, a change in mentality – i.e, not giving up – can only be a good thing. The majority of fans agree, as an ESPN SportsNation poll indicated 55% of fans supported the call.

Respecting your opponent is an ethos that has been lost in the current game, no disagreement there. But if I’m a Bucs’ fan I love the message this sends both to the team and the league – we aren’t quitting for nobody.
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If you woke up hoping for good news on the Aaron Hernandez front, just go back to bed. Do it now, and fantasize about a better fantasy.

When the only slightly lesser half of the Patriots tight end behemoth injured his ankle during Sunday’s upset loss to the Cardinals, we originally heard that no bones had snapped, and no muscles had folded. That was splendid, but those who wept tears of joy over that news likely also don’t know what President Obama’s last name is, because naiveness.

Then we learned that he’d be out for up to six weeks, which sounded awful, yet logical. But lo, hope was restored once more by the next giver of optimism, ESPN’s James Walker, who wrote that Hernandez will be out until at least October, which is only a two-game absence. So now we’ve made the next successive step, and found a timeline that falls a little more in the middle.

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As we recover from the standard Monday morning hangover after consuming 14 hours of football yesterday and prepare for what should be a highly entertaining MNF game tonight, there’s a typical early-season occurrence that’s taking place throughout the land of fantasy, although this year it seems to be creeping up on us a little earlier.

Remember those running backs that we drafted so highly a month ago? They’re dying. Figuratively, of course, although I suppose it’s true that every day and every hour we’re all dying and decaying a little bit.

Consider for a moment the rubble that’s accumulated so far. Fred Jackson and Matt Forte suffered the first major injuries at the position, and will be out for likely a month apiece. It would be easy for me to write glowingly about the beast otherwise known as C.J. Spiller and his 10 yards per carry over his first two games, and the need to slide him in for Jackson owners, or likewise with Michael Bush for Forte owners. But handcuffing isn’t always automatic, because the world isn’t always fair. Other owners see who you have, and snap up those backups and time sharers in the later rounds.

Of course there’s also Ryan Mathews, who was still drafted early even though we knew he’d miss the first two games. And, well, he’s missed the first two games. Then there’s the guys who are healthy but may as well have been stricken by a leg debilitating plague due to their inconsistencies or just their generally high level of suck. Chris Johnson with his 21 rushing yards through two games is the union leader of the latter category, while the likes of Jamaal Charles and Darren McFadden are also high-ranking committee members.

All of this serves as a reminder to grab as many RB lottery tickets as possible. Today, that ticket’s name is Mikel Leshoure.

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Every year it seems that running backs enjoy taunting us, and killing our hopes and dreams. At least they get it out of the way early. So yeah, thanks for that, Jamaal Charles of 2011, and now Matt Forte of 2012.

Each August it’s impossible to read any fantasy draft analysis or preview column without being told that running backs are the scariest dudes in the entire fantasy kingdom. They can be your savior, accumulating both rushing and receiving yards while helping you skip along merrily to a championship. But more than any other position there’s a dice roll that accompanies every RB selection.

Week 1 brought us the Fred Jackson injury and three week absence. And now I give you Forte, who left last night’s game that ended in a Bears loss to the Packers with an ankle injury that’s now been given one of the most dreaded injury labels this side of an ACL tear. He reportedly has a high ankle sprain, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

You handcuffed Michael Bush to him, right? RIGHT?

While further, more detailed information should follow since the exact severity of Forte’s injury is uncertain, generally high ankle sprains can keep a running back out for anywhere between three to five weeks. Since we’re now through two weeks of the Bears’ schedule, if the worst case scenario of that timeline becomes reality Forte may not play another game until the halfway point of the season in Week 8. And that’s only the halfway point of the season in reality, which we care very little about.

Most fantasy leagues start the playoffs in Week 14, and if you’re without a running back whom you spent a second-round pick on for an extended period and he’s only available to you for six games prior to the playoffs, that’s potentially crushing. So again, hopefully you were able to handcuff Bush, who started nine games while filling in for the injured Darren McFadden in Oakland last year, and he had seven touchdowns and 818 rushing yards over that stretch for an average of 90.9 yards per game.

In fact, the situation that McFadden owners who handcuffed Bush last year faced is similar to the pain Forte owners may be about to endure. Bush can pound it in short yardage situations and accumulate touchdowns, but he doesn’t have nearly the same breakaway speed as McFadden or Forte. He had good but not spectacular yardage totals last year, with his first three starts in McFadden’s absence (120.7 yards per game) a high peak next to the very average outputs of the next six games by comparison (63 yards per game).

Bush will be good, and he may even flirt with great briefly. But the reason he has never been a full-time, featured back is the same season why he likely won’t have a sustained run of elite fantasy performances. The power is there in abundance in his legs, but speed isn’t.

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