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by John Hansen, Publisher

Published, 10/20/11 

Here are some observations from Week Six. As usual, my comments are geared toward fantasy, and I’m trying not to be repetitive by talking about the same players every week.
Saint RB Mark Ingram is getting better every week, and he also looks pretty natural catching the ball out of the backfield when he gets those opportunities. The move he made on his TD run showed that he can make unblocked defenders miss, which is great because he really is more of a volume back than an elusive back. The problem is that he’s not getting volume because they are enamored with Darren Sproles. It’s hard to argue with that, however, because Sproles consistently beats defenders to the outside and turns it up the field for good yardage.
The Redskins usually do a good job getting TE Fred Davis open by scheme and design, so with him being the guy now with Chris Cooley out again, I would view Davis a nice fantasy starter. He’s not a stud, but he’s just a notch below and he seems more important to his offense right now than most TEs in the league.
Brown QB Colt McCoy is playing too fast and he will always have passing limitations because of his below-average arm, but he can be an effective QB if he has a running game. The problem is the Browns have not run the ball well all year, so he’s doing way too much. But while he may be playing fast and is taking off and running too often, he’s very elusive in the pocket and is pretty hard to sack.
As you likely saw over the weekend, Steeler RB Rashard Mendenhall looked very good. He looked amazingly fresh and showed very good speed to the outside on his TD run and his long run. He has been bouncing too many runs this year because the OL has not given him any creases, but otherwise he’s the same rock solid and talented back this year he’s been in previous years. The offensive line seems to be coming together the last two weeks, so he could be back in business.
Lion TE Brandon Pettigrew is clearly the #2 option in their passing game, and they are now designing plays specifically for him, especially in the red zone. Since they are incredibly one-dimensional on offense, that means he’s in a position to put up big numbers every week. He’s the short receiver for the team, and QB Mathew Stafford gets the ball out of his hands quickly.
49er RB Frank Gore is obviously getting is done and is busting off long runs, which is something he typically does when he gets carries. But the 49er running game is even better shape this year with rookie Kendall Hunter, who is settling into a really nice complementary role. Hunter has better speed to the outside than Gore, and his ability to create is working really well with Gore right now, so expect Hunter to get 6-8 carries most weeks going forward. Hunter can also help keep Gore fresh, so things are really looking up in this backfield.
Jet RB Shonn Greene is a back who needs his OL to create some room for him. He doesn’t need a huge crease, but he needs some help at the point of attack because he’s not special. But the Jet OL continues to give him very little help. But once again, it’s very clear that Greene is their guy. It will be interesting to see how much more they can take, though, because a guy like Joe McKnight can at least create on his own, and they do need a creator in their backfield. 
Dolphin QB Matt Moore has a decent arm and some mobility, but he’s obviously very inexperienced and is not a comfortable player. He plays very fast and has little poise. He’s been a backup for a reason.
Buc RB Earnest Graham really has a better skill set than LeGarrette Blount. Graham has the ability to make people miss and avoid defenders, and he’s clearly a much better receiver, so it will be interesting to see if he continues to get more opportunities when Blount is back. That would hurt Blount considerably because the best thing about him for fantasy is that he’s the guy. He needs to get volume to get it done.
Buc QB Josh Freeman was a little better this past weekend, but he’s still missing some things. His biggest problem this year is that he’s been inaccurate.
Buc WR Mike Williams is getting a ton of targets lately, but his problem this year seems to be that he’s not running great routes. He’s also not very explosive, so his upside is minimal right now. 
The Bears last week put a major emphasis on pass protection, and QB Jay Cutler looked very comfortable. When he’s actually able to plant his feet before he throws, he’s still an elite passer, and even though the Bears went max-pro, they still had viable receivers for Cutler to throw to. The Bear passing game is still a scary proposition against very good defenses with good pass rushers, but it looks like they have figured their issues out, so Cutler should be solid most weeks. He’s played exceptionally well the last two weeks.  
It will be interesting to see what happens with Seahawk WR Doug Baldwin as the season progresses. Veteran Sidney Rice is a nice player, but he doesn’t have great movement to him and is mainly a good downfield and red zone threat. Baldwin makes a living closer to the line of scrimmage, and he’s got some juice to him. He’s a quicker athlete than the two big guys on the outside (Rice and Mike Williams), so he could continue to get a lot of targets going forward.
Brown RB Montario Hardesty is a solid sustaining runner, but he’s more laterally effective than a comparable player in New York’s Shonn Greene, and he has more upside as a receiver.
Redskin QB John Beck is a better decision-maker than Rex Grossman, but like Grossman he’s very erratic and misses a lot of throws. I think they have a better chance to sustain drives with Beck, but you can be sure the Redskins will do everything they can to try to run the ball.
Panther QB Cam Newton continues to play well an all the positives with him mentioned here in previous weeks remain. This week’s observation is that he has a compact delivery for a guy with such a big frame and a big arm. That’s great for him because he can obviously move away from pressure, but unlike some other bigger QBs, it doesn’t take him forever to reset. 
Viking QB Christian Ponder seemed to handle his first real NFL action pretty well. He moved very well in the pocket, yet he kept his downfield focus, which is a good sign. His arm is far from a gun, but it’s pretty solid and is better than a guy like Andy Dalton. He was also more accurate than Donovan McNabb, who has been inaccurate even on his completions this year. Ponder will be a week-to-week guy because he’s a rookie, but the offense overall will be better off with him because he can extend plays with his legs better than McNabb and he’s more accurate. His accuracy may be a nice boost for Percy Harvin, and with a good running game, he should enjoy success on play-action.
At this point, it’s crystal clear why Packer RB James Starks is maddening for fantasy: He’s a volume guy and he’ll never get volume on this passing team with Ryan Grant also in the mix. Starks will never run away from people, so he needs 18-20 touches to consistently produce good yardage totals, but he’s never going to get that many touches here.
Cowboy RB DeMarco Murray is mainly a straight-line guy with little elusiveness, but I do think he has some power to him and can be a sustaining guy for their offense. He also can get to the outside as a runner and receiver and pick up nice yardage. If they can consistently get him the ball on swing passes, he can gain big chunks of yardage on those plays.
Ram QB Sam Bradford threw the ball pretty well last week, but there are a ton of incompletions in this offense, mainly due to his receivers dropping passes. But if they can get rolling with veterans Brandon Lloyd and Mark Clayton, with Danario Alexander being worked into the mix as a deep threat, and if rookie Greg Salas can give them some production from the slot, this passing game could really come on strong in the second half of the season. Bradford is clearly a very good player and I believe he’s already one of the 10 best QBs in the league (he’s probably #10).
The Raven OL had some problems with the Texan blitz last week, but QB Joe Flacco did a great job several times moving in the pocket and making throws. That’s good to know because this week he faces a Jag defense that can’t rush the passer, so Flacco should be very effective this week.
I loved Raven rookie WR Torrey Smith last week, and he did have that 50-yard catch and solid yardage totals, but he just missed a couple of other plays, including a pass to him in the endzone. He’s doing more now that just running in a straight line past defenders, and Flacco seems to like throwing it to him. Come to think of it, Flacco seems to like throwing to anyone who can gain separation deep. I think Smith could be a really nice player and might go down as the second best receiver from this draft class after A.J. Green.
It’s interesting to note that the Texans without Andre Johnson are using RB Arian Foster a lot more in the passing game, with backup Ben Tate getting meaningful carries. That could continue again this week against the Titans, who are pretty strong on defense. It is pretty clear that this offense is very compressed without Johnson, however.
Missed it by THAT much:
As usually, I don’t proclaim to have caught every play that was almost a TD or notable, but I’ll usually catch most of them. Here’s what I saw this past week.
·         Giant TE Jake Ballard just missed a TD on a catch and run he was tackled inside the 1.
·         Pass to Panther TE Greg Olsen running to the endzone, incomplete.
·         Long pass to Ram WR Danario Alexander was incomplete, though his hands. It could have been a long TD. Later, a pass Alexander in the endzone was picked off.
·         Lion TE Brandon Pettigrew slipped on pass in the endzone, and he might have scored. Later he had another pass in the endzone, incomplete.
·         Pass to Giant WR Mario Manningham in the endzone, he was held up, probably would have had the TD. Manningham later had a TD on the field reversed.
·         Pass to Giant WR Hakeem Nicks in the endzone, incomplete. Later, he had another pass in the endzone and he missed it by 2 yards or so; it would have been 35-yard score
·         Pass to Giant WR Victor Cruz in the endzone, no go
·         Pass to Steeler WR Hines Ward in the endzone, no go.
·         Pass to Steeler WR Antonio Brown in the endzone, too high.
·         On a throw to Roddy White in the endzone he was interfered with.
·         Bill QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was off on a pass to WR David Nelson that could have been a TD.
·         49er WR Michael Crabtree just missed a pass in front of the endzone and almost scored; it was incomplete pass.
·         Pass to Colt WR Pierre Garcon in the endzone, but there was pass interference.
·         Deep ball to Falcon WR Harry Douglas running toward endzone was incomplete.
·         Falcon RB Michael Turner dropped a would-be TD pass, as he probably could have turned up field and scored.
·         Pass to Redskin WR Jabar Gaffney running to endzone, but incomplete.
·         Cowboy RB DeMarco Murray dropped a screen pass he might have turned and scored on
·         Pass to Saint TE Jimmy Graham in the endzone, too high. Later on, QB Drew Brees’ game-ending INT in the endzone was intended for Graham.
·         Dolphin WR Brandon Marshall failed to haul in a catchable pass in the endzone.
·         Texan RB Ben Tate fumbled while fighting to get into the endzone, and fumbled into the endzone, but it was recovered by a Texan for TD.
·         Deep ball to Emmanuel Sanders running into the endzone, but the pass was overthrown.
·         Pass to Packer WR Greg Jennings in the endzone, but it was a little long
·         One of Rex Grossman’s picks was a deeper throw down the seam to TE Fred Davis running to the endzone
·         Pass to Eagle TE Brent Celek in the endzone, no go. This was after he already scored.
·         Pass to Eagle WR Jeremy Maclin in the endzone, no go.
·         Panther QB Cam Newton had a pass intended for WR Steve Smith that was tipped or it would have been a TD.
·         Pass to Raven WR Torry Smith in the endzone from about 25 yards out, incomplete. There were some other big play opportunities for him in the game as well.
·         Eagle RB Dion Lewis had 1 red zone rush. His 8-yard TD run was reversed by instant replay and ruled down at the 1-yard line.
·         Pass to Bengal WR A.J. Green in endzone, but pass interference.
·         Jaguar TE Marcedes Lewis almost scored, but his knee was down around the goal line.
Brown WR Greg Little had a sure TD, but he slipped and fell with the endzone right in front of him. TE Alex Smith of all people scored on the next play. Little also had a deeper pass thrown to him right in front of the endzone later in the game, but it was covered well.

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