Roundtable - Week 15
Posted 12/11 by Staff, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Welcome to the Week 14 edition of the 2008 Footballguys Roundtable. Feel free to eavesdrop as various staff members share their views on a range of topics in discussion format. This week, they touch on the following:
- Denver RBs
- Dallas RBs
- Seneca Wallace to Deion Branch
Peyton Hillis will miss the rest of the season, as he becomes the fifth Denver RB to land on IR this year.
For leagues that allow waiver wire transactions during the playoffs, are Selvin Young or Tatum Bell worth picking up?
Is Denver even going to run the ball anymore, or just air it out to Marshall, Royal, Scheffler, and Stokley?
JASON WOOD: Any team has to at least have the THREAT of a running game in place to keep defenses honest. As good as Jay Cutler and his receiving options may be, if defenses believe they can't or won't run the ball, it's going to be disastrous in the final three weeks. The fact that someone like Peyton Hillis could step in and contribute shows you that Denver's running system still has some value regardless of who is lined up in the backfield. While most will be betting on Selvin Young, I expect Tatum Bell to be, pardon the pun, the Bell Cow over the final three weeks. Bell knows the system, had a modicum of success in it, and has incentive to produce as some RB-starved team will happily give him another shot in 2009 if Bell can produce over the final few weeks.
JEFF PASQUINO: I think Jason is partially right here. I'm expecting the Broncos to have about a 2:1 pass to run ratio the rest of the year, which means about 20 designed run plays each week. Realistically Denver has to win one of the next two games to secure a playoff spot, but they do have a shot at the #3 seed if they keep playing well.
Young and Bell will split time in the backfield, but it will be back to a committee approach. Shanahan may work in a few new faces (P.J. Pope and/or Cory Boyd) to see if they can provide a spark, since it is unlikely that either Young or Bell can be "the guy" in January. Cutler and Eddie Royal will also get a few carries, but they need to keep both of them healthy. They're not a long term answer.
So yes, Bell is the best option here, but he has limited upside as Shanahan will employ a committee until he sees someone with bigger potential. Don't be surprised for Boyd or Pope to be getting major playing time by Week 17.
CHRIS SMITH: No Broncos' running back will see the bulk of the work for the rest of the season. It is RBBC time once again in Denver. As a result, in any given week, Tatum Bell or Selvin Young, perhaps both or perhaps neither will have decent fantasy value. I do expect the Broncos to air it out down the stretch... I would expect at least the 2-1 ratio already mentioned if not greater towards the pass. The Broncos are officially a passing team from this point on.
MARC LEVIN: I agree that Denver's run game is a secondary part of this offense (Jeff's 2:1 ratio sounds about right). Moreover, the pass to the half/full back has been phased out. Bell and Young will split a limited number of carries. Their best use is in TD leagues, where Bell is probably the better bet since Young's injury history makes him an unlikely candidate for carries inside the 5.
In short, a split backfield on a team that has not run well and probably won't run a lot the rest of the year is not where you should be looking for fantasy playoff success.
With Marion Barber nursing both a dislocated toe and a strained calf last week, Tashard Choice got his first NFL start and gained 166 yards from scrimmage. And he looked great doing it.
Even if Barber comes back this week, has Choice earned a bigger role in the offense? Will he get the role Felix Jones had at the beginning of this year, getting perhaps 7-10 touches a game from here on out? Or maybe even more than that given that Barber may not be 100 percent?
MARC LEVIN: Choice will certainly see an increased role in the offense over what he had BEFORE the Barber injury - but that is only because there are only a few games left in the regular season and the Cowboys will not risk a re-injury to Barber right before the playoffs. A fantasy squad with Choice that is lucky enough to survive week 15 should be hoping the Cowboys clinch their spot this week and play Choice a LOT in the 2nd half of their week 16 game.
Looking ahead to 2009, how will the Cowboys use all three of their talented RBs? Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice are all too talented to keep on the bench, but there are only so many balls to go around. Are we looking at a potential three-way RBBC, perhaps similar to the way that the Giants have used Jacobs, Ward, and Bradshaw at times this season?
JASON WOOD: I think we tend to make too much of depth at a position like RB. In 2009, assuming everyone is healthy, Barber is the main guy and Jones and Choice battle in camp for the secondary role.
JEFF PASQUINO: Much of how a running back gets used in the course of a game depends on their running styles. For the Giants, they like to employ a big bruising, punishing runner inside with Jacobs early, then start to transition to Derrick Ward, who is more slight but better in open spaces and is a better receiver, then close with the one-cut speedster in Ahmad Bradshaw. That's their gameplan when all three are healthy, and defenses struggle to prepare to all three different running styles.
Dallas' early success this year was when Marion Barber was their bigger, harder-hitting rusher and complimented by Felix Jones. There's a reason that Barber is called "The Barbarian" - few backs hit harder and he never shies away from contact. Felix Jones gave the Cowboys a different option out of the backfield, as the rookie has a much higher gear and does better in open space. Getting him the ball as either a receiver or even returning kicks was part of their weekly gameplan and gave defenses another dimension to worry about.
So that brings us to Tashard Choice. Choice is much closer to Barber's style than Felix Jones, so he makes for the best option to be the "Derrick Ward" type for Dallas. In fact he's so close to Barber that he would have been the drop-in replacement for Barber if he was to miss time even when Felix Jones was healthy, just like Ward would step in for Jacobs. So next season Choice's upside is a Derrick Ward role and to be the #2 option behind Barber should he miss time, but Felix Jones will get 5-10 touches on a weekly basis to keep defenses worried about his speed.
CHRIS SMITH: We are definitely looking at a possible three-way beast at running back in 2009. Why not? What do the Cowboys have to lose by keeping Marion Barber fresh and spelling him with Choice throughout the game? I believe Felix Jones will continue in the role he had before his injury this season as that is his strength...I envision Choice possibly stealing 20% of the carries away from Barber throughout next year. Enough to keep Barber fresher and hopefully healthy for Cowboys' fans but proving to be yet another frustrating running back mess for fantasy owners. It's going to be interesting to watch this unfold next season as I believe Choice is a very talented player.
If I had to wager a prediction for next season barring injury, I'd say that Marion Barber should get around 240 carries, Felix Jones should get about 80 carries, and Tashard Choice will get 60-70 carries.
MARC LEVIN: Jason's on the money. We value RB depth way too much. If the Cowboys were a split backfield team like Carolina or Miami, this would be worth discussion. As it stands, the team clearly wants to run one back a lot - and that back is Barber.
Seneca Wallace to Deion Branch
Both of these guys played well last week and are available in a lot of leagues. Any value here?
MAURILE TREMBLAY: I think so. Over the past four weeks, Branch has averaged just fewer than eight targets per game. He's caught at least four passes in three of those four games, and added two touchdowns last week against the Patriots with Seneca Wallace at QB.
Wallace meanwhile has an 8-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and has outplayed Matt Hasselbeck this season. If Wallace starts the rest of the year, he and Branch could develop a chemistry that will pay off big during the fantasy playoffs. The Seahawks play the Rams and the Jets in their next two games. Over the last four games, the Jets have given up over 200 yards a game to the WR position of opposing teams.
JASON WOOD: I think you're onto something, Maurile. The real question is, if you're playing in those weeks you probably made your playoffs. And, if you made your playoffs you probably don't need to reach on Wallace or Branch. But every year there are those Volek-to-Bennett matchups that allow some 6 seed to beat the juggernaut 1 seed because they have nothing to lose.
CHASE STUART: Seneca Wallace has a bad reputation, but I don't know why. He's an average passer and a decent runner, which means he can have big games against bad defenses. In his four starts in 2006, he scored at least 18 fantasy points in every game despite facing a difficult slate of defenses. He had another 18 fantasy points in his one game in 2007, and has put up good fantasy numbers again in '08. I'd feel pretty confident starting him, especially against the Rams and Jets. The Rams are just terrible and the Jets pass defense has been awful the last few weeks.
Branch might be the prime beneficiary of Wallace's success. I'm not a big believer in the other receivers on Seattle, and if I had no other option, I wouldn't be scared to start Branch this week. He's finally healthy and is probably the most talented receiver on the Seahawks. There's no reason he can't get 60 yards and maybe find the end zone against either the Jets or the Rams.
JEFF PASQUINO: I've always liked Seneca, and I do think he gets a bum rap because Holmgren always was trying to make him into a WR or a returner or something other than a QB. He's a viable quarterback with good speed and athleticism - nothing wrong with that at all.
What's been missing in Seattle has been viable receivers. Bobby Engram is a nice possession guy, but he can't get open without someone else on the other side of him to keep defenses honest. Last year that was Burleson, and both he and Engram had great seasons last year. That's what Branch is able to do for that offense now, but it isn't Engram as the second receiver now but rather the rookie TE John Carlson. Both of them are strong pickups this week and could be a nice asset to any team that is looking for December production.
CHRIS SMITH: I would not want to rely on any Seahawks receiver in my playoff stretch. There is no much risk to really want to run with any of the Hawks in my starting lineup. If I was desperate for somebody, I would take TE John Carlson but in my opinion it is just as likely he fizzles out then puts up fantasy numbers which is risky in the playoffs.
Seneca Wallace on the other hand is interesting. He could be a valuable plug in guy down the stretch with his ability to move around in the pocket. He won't put up elite numbers but if you need a serviceable player that can tread water for your team, you could certainly do worse than Wallace.
MARC LEVIN: There could be some good value here, especially since the Seahawks play St. Louis this week and then the Jets in Seattle next week (the Jets stuff the run, causing teams to pass, and Seattle is a much better team at home against east coast teams), and then close out against an Arizona team that may have nothing to play for in week 17.
No other Seattle WR stepped into the limelight like Branch. And the only other Seattle player worth a fantasy start is John Carlson. As a WR3 with upside, it may be worth playing Branch against some of these matchups.
Wallace? Well, if Wallace is your man in the fantasy playoffs, I hope the rest of your team is very strong.
Whom would you start this week?
Matt Schaub against Tennessee, or Tony Romo against the Giants?
JASON WOOD: Romo is one of the league's best QBs and is coming off a stinging INT-laden game. He'll bounce back against a divisional opponent this week, for sure. I'd love to hear why anyone thinks Schaub would be a better play this week?
JEFF PASQUINO: Schaub is red hot, coming off a 414-yard game last week, and the Giants are tough to throw against. If Dallas is smart enough to try and mimic the Philadelphia recipe and run the ball on the Giants, which they very well could to show that Barber is a tough running back after Jerry Jones shot his mouth off, the Cowboys may not throw very much at all. Choice and Barber could run it 40+ times.
That said, I'll take Tony Romo here. I don't like Schaub against Tennessee, a team that's actually underrated despite the best record in the NFL - how is this possible? Romo won't have it easy against the Giants, but I do think he'll hook up with Jason Witten frequently as the Giants are not a good team against tight ends.
CHRIS SMITH: The easy pick here is Tony Romo as the Titans simply do not give up much in the way of passing yardage. Both matchups are difficult but I expect Romo to have a better week and finish with at least 250 yards and a touchdown pass or two.
MARC LEVIN: Romo. This is an easy one. The fantasy playoffs are not a time to get cute. You should go with the players who got you there. Anyone who would consider starting Schaub over Romo this week is way over-thinking things.
MAURILE TREMBLAY: I don't think this one is as easy as everyone else does. In the seven full games Schaub has played this season, he has averaged 23.3 fantasy points per game (FBG scoring) while Romo has averaged 22.85 fantasy points per game this season. And Schaub played a lot better than Romo last week, for whatever that's worth. I'd still go with Romo, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if Schaub has the better week.
Shaun Hill at Miami, or Donovan McNabb against Cleveland?
JASON WOOD: Seriously? McNabb in a landslide. Again, why are we even debating these two?
JEFF PASQUINO: I'll take McNabb here, although Hill won't be that bad. McNabb will use DeSean Jackson and Westbrook to blow Cleveland away in a must win for the Eagles.
CHRIS SMITH: I have to agree with Jason here. McNabb has to get the nod over Shaun Hill. The 49ers have had some marginal success passing the ball on the road but there is little upside to selecting Hill while McNabb could put up 300+ yards and 3 touchdowns this week.
MARC LEVIN: McNabb by a mile.
MAURILE TREMBLAY: Again, I don't think this is a slam dunk. Shaun Hill has scored over 23 fantasy points in three of his last four games, while McNabb has scored fewer than 17 fantasy points in three of his last four. And Cleveland's pass defense is better than Miami's. I'd still go with McNabb, but I think it's a lot closer than everyone else does.
Pierre Thomas against Chicago, or Willie Parker at Baltimore?
JASON WOOD: I'm going with Pierre Thomas. I just don't trust Parker, particularly against the Ravens. And I suspect Tampa Bay's porous rush defense on Monday Night was no fluke, and won't be fixed in a matter of days.
JEFF PASQUINO: Beware Pierre. The Saints need inside rushing against Chicago, and the Bears can be beaten on the ground. Thomas will be the goal line back as well but he does offer some PPR value. He's a good RB2/ flex player. I can't start any RB with confidence against the Ravens.
CHRIS SMITH: The Ravens run defense is stout! I am hesitant to start anybody against that squad in Baltimore and that means by default, Pierre Thomas gets the nod this week. The good news for Thomas owners is that the Bears defense actually hasn't been very good against the run and Thomas could approach a 100-yard game if the Saints get out to an early lead. I wouldn't be shocked to see Parker finish with fewer than 40 rushing yards against the Ravens.
MARC LEVIN: Tight call here, but I go with Willie. One thing Chicago does well defensively is stop the run, and Reggie Bush will be stealing enough looks to prevent Thomas from having a week like last week. Thomas looked great last week, but the N.O. OL is not going to be blowing open holes up the middle like that against the Bears. In a defensive minded, ball control contest like this is likely to be, Parker will have a lot of hard earned yards. We don't care if it takes 30-ish rushes for him to get his 100 yards - just that he gets them. Parker will still be running the ball in the fourth quarter. The Saints will be in a contest where their D is not what keeps them in it. I see the Saints throwing at a 3:1 ratio by the fourth quarter - which means Bush is in the game and not Thomas.
On the flip side, Parker has an AWFUL history running against the Ravens. This game could see more Moore and less Parker. It really is a tough choice for the owners of these two players.
Assuming Frank Gore is out, DeShaun Foster at Miami, or Larry Johnson at San Diego?
JASON WOOD: Has Larry Johnson's star fallen that fast? If you won't start LJ over Foster, he shouldn't be on your roster anymore.
JEFF PASQUINO: Foster is washed up. I'd take LJ against a bad rushing defense and feel quite good about it.
CHRIS SMITH: I know Johnson has been terrible but he is still an easy pick to start this week over Foster. Don't over-think it. Go with Johnson.
MARC LEVIN: I agree with Jason - if you have Larry Johnson matched up against San Diego, you play him.
Kevin Walter against Tennessee, or Hines Ward at Baltimore?
JASON WOOD: Kevin Walter was my best pick this year, I targeted him in nearly every league and it's paid off beautifully. No reason I jump off the Walter ship now.
JEFF PASQUINO: Baltimore and Hines Ward will not mix well. The Ravens are out for blood against the Steelers. Kevin Walter is still very underrated.
CHRIS SMITH: The Ravens defense is a nasty piece of business this season and especially so at home. I would definitely start Walter over Ward this week.
MARC LEVIN: Walter is actually a stud this year. Hines, not as much. PPR or non-PPR you go with Walter.
Greg Olsen against New Orleans, or Antonio Gates at Kansas City?
JASON WOOD: WOW...another mighty titan has fallen on hard times. Gates hasn't been studly, but Rivers is putting up big numbers and I still think Gates has the much higher week-to-week upside.
JEFF PASQUINO: Gates is not a great start right now, and Olsen has been productive lately. Gates with a goose egg last week makes him a shaky start. Olsen has had five targets the past two weeks and he scored last week. This is a close decision only because Gates is Gates, but I have a hard time trusting him right now.
CHRIS SMITH: I actually like both these players this week. I would choose Gates however if both were on my roster. The Chargers passing attack is simply better than the Bears attack so Gates should have more chances to put up points.
MARC LEVIN: It seems crazy to contemplate benching Gates, but he pulled a zero last week. This is based on feeling more than anything else, but I think Gates will bounce back in a big way this week.
That will do it for this week. Enjoy the games this weekend, and we'll see you back here next Thursday!