Week 8: PPR Watch
For too long PPR leagues have been fantasy football second-class citizens. PPR is an after thought, a quick mention at the end of the column, as though it were unworthy of sound research and a singular focus. Well no more, brother. PPR honors the role players of the NFL, the first down makers, the guy that goes over the middle, and even occasionally, the wise running back that catches a pass for negative yardage. PPR is here and our time is now.
Sure Thing - Boldin has been anything but a sure thing over the past 2 seasons, disappearing with disheartening regularity. Even worse, Baltimore's offense looked horrendous in week 7. So here's what I see in Boldin: On the season, he has 27 catches for 394 yards, and 2 touchdowns. In the last 2 games, he's had 12 of those catches (or 44%), 172 of those yards (or 43%), and 1 of those 2 touchdowns (50%). Or in other words, Baltimore is working pretty hard to do a better job of getting Boldin involved, and his numbers are coming up as a result. Now the Ravens get to come home after a painful loss, and the offense will have a chance to bounce back against a terrible Cardinals defense that's giving up the third most fantasy points a game to wide receivers. Talk about a soft landing. Yes, Ray Rice is going to get a ton of carries, but Boldin should end up with double digit targets and some of his best numbers of the season.
Confident - With all the talk about TEs this year, the ceiling for most is still pretty low. Guys like Olson, Pettigrew, Daniels, and Gresham are all in the top 10 in receptions, but while they'll get you 5 catches a week, on days they don't score you're still lucky to pass double digits. Few and far between are the TEs that are making plays downfield and racking up the yardage. For that reason alone, Davis is someone to covet. The 2008 second rounder is 4th amongst all TEs in yards per game, and has a higher per catch average than anyone at the position with more than 20 receptions. He was a sleeper earlier in the year, but at this point he's a must fantasy start. With Cooley on IR, and Santana Moss gone for 5-7 weeks, Davis becomes the #1 option in the Washington passing game. He may draw a little more attention because of it, but I wouldn't be scared off by a match-up with Buffalo.
Confident - Call this a semi-conditional confident, but so long as Hines Ward misses week 8, Antonio Brown becomes a must start against the Patriots. New England has given up more fantasy points per game to WRs than any team in the NFL -- including the Colts AFTER New Orleans put two games worth of points on them. The Pats are much better against the run, and Pittsburgh will need to throw to move the ball. After catching 7 passes for 102 yards, Brown moved into the top 20 in receiver targets with 48. That's only 2 fewer than Mike Wallace and that's WITH Hines Ward playing. There were chemistry and route running issues earlier in the year that held back Brown's production, but at this point he's a permanent fixture in the Steelers' offense, and with Wallace requiring extra attention, Brown is going to find himself open a lot. Start him.
Caution - Let's start with the things we can reasonably say we 'know' about the Denver offense. They are going to run the ball. Tebow is going to run the ball. Tebow isn't going to throw a ton (27 attempts against Miami). Tebow's probably not going to throw for a particularly high completion percentage (Only 13 completions against Miami). The last part we can't say for sure, but none of these factors bode well for Decker going forward. In the last 2 games, he's had just 4 catches for 13 yards, and anyone who hoped that Lloyd's trip to St. Louis would clear the way for Decker to become an every week WR3, has to be disappointed with his week 7 performance fresh off the bye. For an unproven player, he's just about used up the credibility he was building with those two TD performances. Detroit has held opposing receivers to just 4 touchdowns in the first 7 games. I'll be leaving Decker on the bench.
Caution - Owners who drafted Moreno (and had to watch his role all but disappear behind Willis McGahee) are justifiably excited at the chance to see him in the starting role. Or is he? At the point McGahee left the game, Lance Ball had 6 carries to Moreno's 5. Considering the fact that Ball didn't have a carry prior to McGahee leaving, it seems like a clear indicator that John Fox wants no part of Moreno as a feature back. It's too bad too, because Moreno has proven to be a competent receiver and has decent value in PPR leagues if he's getting 20+ touches. He may still get that many against the Lions, but unless we hear more during the week, the only thing we know for sure is that Denver is a pretty poor offensive team (and Detroit's only allowed 2 touchdowns to running backs all year). It's a low ceiling for Moreno; I hope you have better options.