|Josh McDaniels preparing for J.J. Watt ‘no matter where they line him up’||12.03.12 at 10:07 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots offense will have their hands full next Monday night with one of the best defensive lines in football, led by one of the best defensive linemen in the game.
J.J. Watt is second in the NFL with 15.5 sacks, two behind San Francisco’s Aldon Smith. Watt also has 59 tackles in 12 games for the 11-1 Texans this season. He is not only in the NFL defensive player of the year conversation, there are those who think the most dominant player on one of the best teams in the league season is worthy of NFL MVP consideration.
How good is he? So good that the Texans didn’t think twice about letting Mario Williams shuffle off to Buffalo after last season as a free agent.
Watt last season made the single-biggest play in the team’s first-ever playoff game, a 31-10 win over the Bengals, when he intercepted Andy Dalton on a pass block at the line of scrimmage just before halftime and raced in for a touchdown.
How will offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the Patriots prepare for the most devastating defensive end they’ve seen this season?
“With J.J. Watt, obviously he’s having a great year and obviously he’s a great player no matter where they line him up,” McDaniels said Monday. “The fact that they move him a little bit inside and outside, we’re going to have to have more than one guy ready to handle him and block him. It won’t just fall to the guard or to the tackle. It could be anybody at times, based on the way they play him. We have to do a great job of trying to simulate his effort, his motor and some of the things he does to disrupt people in the running game and the passing game and have to make sure we’re very mindful of taking care of the football and not letting him get his hands on balls, because he’s certainly created a lot of disruptive opportunities for them defensively by tipping the ball and batting the ball up in the air. [I’ve] got a ton of respect for him, their entire defense, certainly Coach Phillips and their defensive staff. We’re really looking forward to the challenge this week.”
Bill Belichick is known for taking away one offensive weapon from the opposition and making them win with secondary options. That mission changes somewhat this week as McDaniels will have the sizable task this week of meeting that objective, with an extra day to help his cause.
“Coach [Wade] Phillips does a great job and any defense that he’s coached has always been a big challenge for us or any other team and this one certainly is no different,” McDaniels said. “This is an aggressive team that plays physical, tough defense. I think they play fast. They play very hard up front and do a lot of really good things with their front three or four depending on whether they’re in base or in a sub-mode. Obviously they do a great job in terms of trying to take care of the running game.
“I think they’re second in the NFL. They’re top five in fewest points allowed. They’re certainly a good situational football team. Third down, red zone defense is excellent. And they’ve created turnovers and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this is going to be a big challenge for us. They have talented players at every level of their defense and they’re obviously very well coached, so we’re going to have to do a great job in preparing for them this week.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Fantasy Football: Week 11 starts, sits||11.16.12 at 9:04 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 11 starts and sits. It’s the year’s final bye week, so things will get easier going forward. Of course, the stakes only get higher, so you can replace all the busywork with playoff-chase stress. At this point, most people’s seasons are well-defined. You are either chasing a playoff spot or you are trying to hold on to one. Here’s my take on some of the tougher lineup choices for Week 11. If you are left wanting further assistance, check out our full lineup rankings at Rotobahn. I’ll be updating it over the weekend. I’ll also be hosting our usual 11 a.m. chat here at WEEI on Sunday morning. Join us if you have any last-minute lineup questions.
Tony Romo, Cowboys vs. Browns
Romo had a few bad fantasy outings early on, but he’s settled in since then and he’s averaging in excess of 20 points per game over the last three weeks. The Browns defense shouldn’t scare anybody, especially on the road. Romo’s receivers are healthy, and Felix Jones is functioning adequately as Demarco Murray’s replacement at tailback. The Dallas signal-caller should have a solid day for fantasy GMs and has upside to have a big day if things break right.
Josh Freeman, Bucs at Panthers
Overall, Freeman has been too good to sit, and though he was just decent in Week 10, he has a stronger matchup in Week 11 against Carolina. The Panthers have been a nice surprise on defense, but they have struggled some against the pass and we doubt they can shut down Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Freeman is a QB1 in 12-team leagues for this week.
Andy Dalton, Bengals at Chiefs
Dalton can start for you this week against a Chiefs team that, while not without defensive talent, can be had on most weeks. Dalton is using his alternative weapons and not relying solely on stud receiver A.J. Green, and that makes him a reasonable starting option in 12-team leagues. He is Rotobahn’s 13th-ranked QB for Week 11.
Joe Flacco, Ravens at Pittsburgh
Flacco is a viable option as a starter in 12-team leagues, but we’d prefer to avoid him in Week 11. The Steelers are always a tough matchup at home and they will be loaded for bear knowing that their offense is limited without starting QB Ben Roethlisberger. Flacco was great last week in a great matchup, but we’d avoid him in this bad one if you have a better option on your roster.
Jason Campbell, Bears at 49ers
Don’t get cute. The Bears backup is an upgrade over what Chicago has had in the past behind starter Jay Cutler, but you don’t want to use him here. Not against the 49ers on the road. Avoid.
|Fantasy Football: Week 7 starts, sits||10.19.12 at 10:53 am ET|
Welcome to Rotobahn’s Week 7 starts and sits. There are plenty of quality options on a bye this week, so feel free to go to Rotobahn and use our full lineup rankings. They can be helpful if you don’t see your key lineup choices highlighted here. As usual, we’ve done our best to avoid the obvious choices and to talk about players that are on the fringe of lineups in 12-team leagues. Good luck to all in Week 7!
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers at Bengals
He’s a matchup play for a lot of owners since he was a such a steal in the mid- to late rounds on draft day. This is a week to play him for sure. The Steelers will need to throw it a bunch to make up for their banged-up backfield.
Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Steelers
The Steelers are still banged up on defense and we expect the Bengals to throw it early and often. Stud receiver A.J. Green is in the zone right now, so starting his QB is pretty good business. Dalton is a solid play in any format.
Joe Flacco, Ravens at Texans
He’s struggled a bit lately but we like him here. With so many injuries on defense, the offense will be asked to do more. We expect more no-huddle and more shots downfield. The Texans are not as tough on defense as they were a few weeks ago with the loss of Brian Cushing and some struggles in the secondary.
John Skelton, Cardinals at Vikings
He’s the guy and he may be playable at some point, but we’d avoid him here. Minnesota is playing pretty well defensively and Skelton may lack mobility due to a recent ankle injury. You should be able to land a better option on a typical waiver wire.
Mark Sanchez, Jets at Patriots
Sanchez has had his moments, but we don’t expect to see many this week. In fact, it would not shock us if we saw more Tim Tebow than we have seen so far. Even if he is your backup, check our rankings for other alternatives. For example, Matt Hasselbeck is a stronger play and is largely available. There are a lot of really good plays at QB in Week 7. Just avoid the really bad ones like Sanchez and Skelton.
|Fantasy Football: Week 5 starts, sits||10.12.12 at 11:29 am ET|
Welcome to Rotobahn’s Week 6 starts and sits. There are plenty of quality options on the bye this week, so feel free to go to Rotobahn.com and use our full lineup rankings if we don’t highlight your key lineup choices here. As usual, we’ve done our best to avoid the obvious choices and to talk about players that are on the fringe of lineups in 12-team leagues. Good luck to all in Week 6!
Andrew Luck, Colts at Jets
He should be able to find the holes in the Jets defense. He’s also a good bet to pick up points with his feet against New York’s slow linebackers. Luck has a solid fantasy floor in Week 6.
Andy Dalton, Bengals at Browns
The Browns get top CB Joe Haden back, but we like Dalton enough to play him as a bye week replacement. The key is that he has been using all his weapons, so if they take A.J. Green away, guys like TE Jermaine Gresham and WR Andrew Hawkins can make big plays. Dalton is our 13th ranked QB in Week 6.
Christian Ponder, Vikings at Redskins
If you have bye issues at QB, Ponder can help. The Minnesota passer has been steady all season long. He should post high-end QB2 numbers in Week 6. Start him with confidence.
Alex Smith, 49ers vs. Giants
Smith is capable of having a big game against a good defense, but this game could be a defensive struggle and there are better options out there this week. If you need to play Smith, go for it, but we’d at least check out some other options. Check out our lineup rankings at Rotobahn.com if you need any more ideas.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins vs. Rams
I like the Dolphins rookie, but this is a rough matchup, so consider other options before playing Tannehill on a less-than-average week for him. The Rams have been playing some very solid defense in 2012.
|Fantasy Football: Week 4 starts, sits||09.28.12 at 10:48 am ET|
Welcome to Rotobahn’s Week 4 starts and sits. As always, we’ve tried to avoid the obvious choices and have focused on players that represent tougher lineup choices. We’ll be releasing full lineup rankings at Rotobahn.com Friday and Saturday, so check us out this weekend if you need a little help. Good luck to all in Week 4.
Andy Dalton, Bengals at Jaguars
Dalton is rolling right now, and that should continue against a very beatable Jacksonville defense. He’s using A.J. Green as he should, but he’s also spreading the ball around to all his other targets and keeping the opposition honest. Dalton can help you in all formats this week.
Matt Schaub, Texans vs. Titans
It’s a good matchup, and the only risk we see with Schaub this week is that Houston wins too easily and goes to the ground game for most of the second half. He’s a pretty safe play in all formats if you need a QB.
Christian Ponder, Vikings at Lions
Ponder has looked very good so far and he gets WR Jerome Simpson back from suspension this week, which gives him one more quality weapon to go with Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph. The Lions have been shaky so far on defense, so this one should go well for Ponder.
Alex Smith, 49ers at Jets
There will be the inclination to write off the Jets defense without Darrelle Revis, but New York can still defend the pass better than a lot of teams. San Francisco is a conservative outfit and the Jets might not be able to score much at all in this one. Alex Smith may be doing a whole lot of handing off in Week 4. We see a score to Vernon Davis and a whole lot of ground and pound. You can do better.
Jay Cutler, Bears at Cowboys
The Bears need to show me they can protect Cutler before I can trust them against a team like the Cowboys, who shows up with a stud pass-rusher and two very solid cornerbacks. We like Cutler, but we don’t trust his support system in this one.
|Fantasy Football Week 3 starts, sits||09.21.12 at 12:05 pm ET|
Welcome to the Week 3 starts and sits. We’ve highlighted some options that we like and some that we don’t like for the upcoming weekend’s games. If you need deeper analysis, join us at Rotobahn.com and check out our comprehensive lineup rankings. If you want information on late-breaking injury information on game day, follow us on Twitter. Just use the link on our home page. Good luck to all this week!
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers at Raiders
There was a time when you wouldn’t put Big Ben on a start/sit list, but he’s a fringe QB1 these days. This is a week to play him in any format. The Raiders haven’t stopped much, and the Steelers are fully loaded when it comes to the passing game.
Peyton Manning, Broncos vs. Texans
Yet another guy I’ve never had to put in this kind of column. We aren’t scared off Manning because of last week. He’ll be back home in Denver, so the noise will not be an issue. He’s a solid play if you don’t have an elite option.
Andy Dalton, Bengals at Redskins
He’s got a solid crew at receiver with stud A.J. Green leading the way. He’s also got a nice foundational ground game led by ex-Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The Redskins defense has been giving up numbers so far and we expect a high-scoring game overall, so Dalton has a good chance to be throwing for four quarters.
Matt Cassell, Chiefs at Saints
We have no confidence in Cassel in most situations, but on the road in the dome in New Orleans is certainly not a place we want to play him. You can do better in all formats.
Jake Locker, Titans vs. Lions
Locker needs to prove to me that he can hit a moving target. Heck, he needs to prove to me that he can hit a stationary one. Locker’s been the most inaccurate QB we have seen in the league this year. No way do we play him until he gets straightened out. Getting stud receiver Kenny Britt back should help, but the Titans are not giving Britt a full complement of reps at this point, so leave Locker on the bench in all formats.
|Patriots Potential Playoff Opponents: Cincinnati Bengals||12.29.11 at 3:03 pm ET|
With the Patriots attempting to secure a No. 1 seed in the upcoming playoffs for a second straight season with a win against the Bills Sunday, it’s time to start sizing up their possible postseason opponents. This is the fourth in a weeklong series of features on the rest of the AFC playoff teams. Today, we look at the Cincinnati Bengals:
The skinny: No one expected the Bengals to do what they’ve done this year, namely post their third winning season in the last 21. But the Bengals did something before, during and after the lockout they rarely do — they cleaned house with personnel, keeping a young core on defense and building around rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie receiver A.J. Green. They fired Bob Bratkowski — the wildly unpopular offensive coordinator. They let Terrell Owens go off and focus on reality TV and Twitter, and of course, traded Chad Ochocinco to New England, remaking the image of the franchise. They had the incredibly good fortune of a bitter and disenfranchised Carson Palmer holding out, forcing them to go with Dalton at quarterback to start preseason. They had even better fortune when Oakland’s Jason Campbell broke his collarbone 48 hours before the trading deadline, creating a market for Palmer. Owner Mike Brown and his daughter Katie Blackburn finally made the smart football move and traded Palmer for a first and second-round pick. Even if the team needed a 2-for-1 ticket promotion to sell out their final game this Sunday with the season on the line again the Ravens, the worm finally appears to be turning for a Bengals team that is built around young talent. This is a young team that has already exceeded expectations and is playing with house money, even if they house is half full.
Offense: Much has been made of the success — and rightfully so — of Dalton leading the Bengals to a winning record in his first NFL season, and doing it with a group of talented but still young skill players around him. Dalton injured his throwing hand in the opener and it was Bruce Gradkowski throwing the game-winner to Green against the Browns. But Dalton served notice against the Bills he was no ordinary rookie, helping the Bengals erase a 17-3 halftime deficit and leading them to a 23-20 win on a last-second field goal. But just as important to Cincinnati’s success has been the hiring of Jay Gruden as the offensive coordinator, replacing Bratkowski. Gruden — the younger brother of Jon Gruden — came from the UFL’s Florida Tuskers, where he was the head coach. Jay Gruden brought in a West Coast philosophy that has been the perfect fit for Dalton, targeting tight end Jermaine Gresham much more than Palmer did. The throws underneath to Gresham, along with the power running game of Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott, has opened the outside for superstar-in-the-making A.J. Green. The rookie first-round pick (fourth overall) out of Georgia has proven to be a one-man wrecking crew, often beating double teams and coming down with acrobatic catches. Dalton is the first rookie since the merger to throw for 20 touchdowns and win at least eight games. With 63 catches, 1,031 yards and seven touchdowns, Green is having best rookie season for a wide receiver since Randy Moss in 1998. Of course, Green doesn’t even have the most acrobatic catch on the team this season. That distinction belongs to Jerome Simpson, who somersaulted an stunned Darryl Washington and nailed the landing in the end zone for a perfect touchdown. The Bengals weakness offensively comes in the red zone, where they convert TDs just 47 percent of the time, which puts them at 24th in the NFL.
Defense: While the Patriots earned the reputation as a no-name defense early on this season, the Bengals have done likewise but have had even better results. They spent the middle part of the season ranked No. 1 in the NFL in overall defense, led by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. They have slipped to sixth but still possess a formidable front seven and their base 4-3 defense, while not nearly as well known as the Giants, is as capable as any in the NFL of generating pressure on the quarterback by themselves. It starts with Domata Peko and Geno Atkins in the middle. They feature Frostee Rucker and Robert Geathers on the edge. They back that up with Michael Johnson, Jonathan Fanene and Carlos Dunlap. That is quality depth on the D-Line. Zimmer loves to mix it up in terms of bring extra pressure and will often send the safety or corner in from deep coverage to add to pressure up the middle. This is where things could get dicey for the Patriots, if the Bengals have sort of success getting Brady off his spot in the pocket. The Bengals have done a remarkable job of replacing the losses of corners Jonathan Joseph (free agency to Texans) and Leon Hall (Achilles tendon Nov. 13). Stepping up has been none other than Adam “Pacman” Jones. In addition to helping former Patriot Brandon Tate on kick and punt returns, Jones has shown why he was taken in the first round by the Titans in 2005.
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