- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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I got this email the other day. The author granted me permission to run it as long as I didn't use any last names, so, here it is.
I first thought about sharing this when you were soliciting fantasy-related stories for your book a while back. I ultimately decided not to send it in, I guess because I was worried that you would want to use it, when really all I wanted was to share it with someone else who would appreciate it. I'm sure you're getting a lot of stories like this, particularly today; it would be hubris to think it was unique.
My office closed early on the morning of September 11, 2001, because it was the tallest building within 20 miles of Dulles Airport. The highway heading back into DC was virtually deserted; everyone was going the other way. By the time I got back to my apartment late in the morning, it was more crowded than usual. The roads out of Washington, DC were either shut down or jammed, and the people who lived in the suburbs couldn't get home. My roommate, two of her coworkers, my then-girlfriend and a friend who worked up the street were all sitting in my living room when I arrived.
At that point in the morning, nobody knew yet what was going on. The phone lines were jammed so friends and family couldn't get through to see if we were OK and we couldn't call out. Every television station was showing the same footage over and over and offering the same analysis, but it was all speculation. This was before Twitter, before the robust and vast Internet, even before cable as we know it. Eventually, the idle speculation and the not-knowing became too much -- too sad, too exhausting -- so we turned the television off, and I dialed up the Internet looking for something -- anything -- else to do.
At the time, I was helping my girlfriend manage her office fantasy football team. The following Sunday she was going up against her boss, a verbally and emotionally abusive jerk who I knew took fantasy football very seriously. I wanted her to win badly. When I logged in, [I saw] that Patriots WR Troy Brown was available on waivers, so I snatched him up immediately and logged out pretty satisfied with myself as a boyfriend and with my girlfriend's fantasy prospects for the season.
It never occurred to me that, when daily life resumed, people would look at the fantasy football league and see that, in the midst of the greatest national tragedy of our lifetime, the only thing my girlfriend could think to do was manage her fantasy football team. She eventually returned to work to a lot of good-natured ribbing like, "Really nice, Katie," and, "I guess we're all Patriots in different ways during times like these."
What can I say? During times of heightened stress or sadness, sometimes we're just looking for a momentary diversion, and at its best, that's what fantasy football is; a diversion. Often it's a diversion from simple things, like boredom at work, or a disappointing season from your favorite real-world football team, but other times it provides a welcome diversion from things like a death in the family. On September 11, 2001, it gave me a worry-free few minutes during a time of great uncertainty and sadness, and I will always remember it as part of my personal 9/11 narrative.
For what it's worth, although it doesn't excuse the oversight or ameliorate the embarrassment I'm sure my girlfriend felt at work that week, Troy Brown went on to have the best fantasy season of his career and my girlfriend won her office league.
Thought you would enjoy.
Thanks for sharing that Brian. Here's to the best diversion there is ... and to never forgetting.
Shout out to Zach Rodgers and the gang at ESPN Stats & Information as I remind you, as always, not to use this as a pure start-sit, but rather a compilation of players I feel will exceed or fall short of their normal expectations. Consult my rankings for whom to start and sit. And we're off.
Quarterbacks I Love for Week 2
Michael Vick, Eagles: Apparently, I was just two years early! In all honesty, I don't believe Vick plays all 16 games, based on the running he was doing Monday night, making both him a sell-high candidate and Nick Foles an interesting name to stash for deeper leagues. But Vick's healthy now and gets to face a Chargers team traveling across the country on a short week after suffering a heartbreaking loss. I'm not sure that's enough time to put together and implement a good defensive game plan for Chip Kelly's offense (the Eagles ran 41 different zone read plays Monday night). In addition, last week Vick completed 13 of 14 passes on throws 10 yards or shorter (the best completion percentage in the league on such throws) for 150 yards. The Chargers? They allowed 186 yards and three scores to the Texans on throws 10 yards or less. Eagles are gonna eat them alive.
Cam Newton, Panthers: The Bills' secondary is still banged up, and Buffalo ain't Seattle. I mean, they both have gloomy weather. And they like coffee in both places. And kids wore flannel when they played music in the '90s in each city. Neither has won a Super Bowl. Now that I think about it, they might as well be the same place, except for one key difference. One of them won't stop Cam Newton on Sunday. Just in case you were worried.
Eli Manning, Giants: Lost in the seven touchdowns for by big brother (hey, if you combine touchdowns and interceptions, Eli had seven too!) was the fact that the Denver run defense played pretty well against Ray Rice and the Ravens. Given all the issues with the run game (the fact that there's even a chance we could see Brandon Jacobs in this game should tell you everything you need to know) and the fact that I expect the Broncos to light them up, Eli will be throwing, throwing, throwing in this game. There are gonna be some turnovers, but at the end of the day, Eli will have very solid QB2 numbers.
Jay Cutler, Bears: Using three-step drops and short passes, Marc Trestman's offense looked pretty good to me last week. Cutler remained upright and didn't turn the ball over against a very good defense. Case in point: Last Sunday, Cutler attempted only five passes 15 or more yards downfield (15 percent of his total). In 2012, Cutler attempted 26 percent of his passes 15 or more yards downfield (and he had just as many interceptions as touchdowns.) And unless you somehow missed The Reggie Bush Show last week, you won't be surprised to learn that the Vikings allowed 330 yards passing and two touchdowns on throws 15 yards or less downfield. Cutler's gonna dink, dunk and Marshall his way to a solid QB2 game.
If you're desperate: I had Terrelle Pryor in this section last week and was highest on him in our ranks as well, so you know I'm back for more. It won't be pretty, but the fantasy value is legit. He's started two games in the NFL and has 22 and 19 points to show for his efforts. The Jags have faced the zone read on only three plays since the start of 2012, tied for second-fewest in the league. They're also not very good. Expect Pryor to run his way to fantasy usefulness.
Quarterbacks I Hate for Week 2
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: So, about that offensive line. ... Including playoffs, Big Ben has played 142 NFL games. And in just seven of them (5 percent) did he take more sacks than he did this past Sunday (five). They can't run the ball, the Bengals are a great pass-rushing defense and the Steelers just lost their best offensive lineman for the season. Oh, by the way, Roethlisberger has averaged just 223 passing yards and one touchdown per game in his past six against the Bengals.
Andy Dalton, Bengals: It ain't like Pittsburgh is super-easy to pass on, though. Low-scoring game on Monday night.
Joe Flacco, Ravens: I said it in the preseason, I said it last week, I'm saying it again: The Browns defense is legit. Their offense, however, remains a work in progress. As a result, the Ravens won't be having to play catch-up like last week, but they also won't moving the ball in a big way. I have Flacco outside my top 15 this week.
I know, not a ton of exciting "hate" names at quarterback. What do you want from me? There's a reason I kept saying QB was crazy deep this year.
Running Backs I Love in Week 2
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks: Yep, bad first game. Yep, playing the 49ers. But whatevs, dude. Or dudette. He's your first-round pick, don't get cute, you're playing him. Just wanted to talk people off the ledge. If it makes you feel better, since the start of the 2011 season, the San Francisco 49ers have allowed five 100-yard rushing games. Marshawn Lynch has three of them.
Matt Forte, Bears: I have to ask again, did you see what Reggie Bush did to the Vikings? You already saw the Cutler note. By the way, just for giggles, Forte also got all three red zone carries last week for the Bears, and did score a touchdown.
Steven Jackson, Falcons: Home opener against his former team? If I had to bet on one running back scoring this week, Steven Jackson is where I'd put my money.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers: I know. I feel as dirty writing it and you do reading it. But against a very good Seahawks defense, Williams ran hard, getting 39 yards after contact, the second-best performance of the week. Wanting to make Newton more of a passer and less of a runner seems to be more than just preseason talk. You can run on the Bills (they allowed 62 yards after contact last week, second-most to any team's running backs) and that's exactly what DeAngelo will do.
Reggie Bush, Lions: Well, duh.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins: You heard me. I'm back in. I'm standing by my man. I'm like the Tammy Wynette of fantasy. And people say I just don't have the hip references anymore to bring in the young kids. When I went back and watched this game, I mostly liked what I saw out of Miller the few times he had a chance to run. I blame last week's performance on a poor line getting crushed by an underrated Browns defense. Last week, the Dolphins gained 0.2 yards per rush before contact, by far the lowest in the league. (For context, no other team averaged less than a yard before contact in the opening week.) And while I do have my concerns about their line play this season, it's worth noting that in Week 1, the Colts allowed more than 4 yards per rush before contact. Miller is a high-end flex this week with RB2 upside. [Editor's note: We apologize for the previous erroneous attribution to Lorreta Lynn].
Eddie Lacy, Packers: Last chance to buy low.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars: Chad Henne helps open up the offense, the Chiefs' defense is a lot better than you think, and honestly, I still believe. It's Oakland. If not now, when? If not him, who? If not lunch, how about dinner?
Running Backs I Hate in Week 2
C.J. Spiller, Bills: "What?!? Berry, you jerk. You said he'd have a monster year, you ranked him top three and now you're flip-flopping? You ..." Hold on, Internet tough guy. I still believe. He'll be a top-five fantasy back before all is said and done and you're starting him this week, OK? Don't get cute. But I list him because I have him outside my top 10. The Panthers' defense is for reals, you guys. Not only did they hold the Seahawks to 2.7 yards per carry but, over the past five regular-season games, no team has allowed fewer rushing yards (57 per game) and rushing touchdowns (one in five games) than, yes, your Carolina Panthers. I wouldn't be thinking of using Spiller in a cap game or in Eliminator this week.
Broncos running backs: There's no clarity here and I get the sense that Peyton Manning is just gonna chuck it so much, he's gonna make Matthew Stafford look like a handoff machine. Until further notice, I am not starting a Broncos running back.
Bengals running backs: Look, I know the Law Firm got a touchdown last week but whatever, that was ugly. Against the Steelers, I don't think either BenJarvus Green-Ellis or Giovani Bernard is anything other than a low-end flex play, and I'd look elsewhere if possible.
Steelers running backs: Hahahaha. I said "Steelers running backs." There's no such thing, silly.
Colts running backs: Another sneaky good defense? The Dolphins. They shut down Trent Richardson last week and it wasn't a fluke. Add to that the time share in the Colts backfield and that neither Vick Ballard nor Ahmad Bradshaw got a red zone carry in Week 1, and I'm not loving this running game.
Wide Receivers I Love in Week 2
Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins, Patriots: Mickey Gilley once declared, via song, that "The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time." Well, kids, it's last call for Tom Brady. Tom? Meet the girls.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles: See Vick, Michael. You know whom he's throwing all those short passes and bubble screens to?
Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers: I know, I don't like Ben this week. But he can have a very bad game and these two can still put up decent numbers. Which, given the state of the Steelers run game, is exactly what I expect to happen. Brown a solid WR2 and Sanders a nice flex option this week.
Eric Decker, Broncos: Pure gut call here. Peyton Manning's made a career out of keeping multiple receivers happy, and after last week, I'm assuming Peyton wants to make sure Decker keeps his head up and will do everything possible to get Decker in the end zone.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars: Since 2012, Shorts has caught 46 percent of his targets with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback compared to 56 percent with Chad Henne under center. Chad Henne gets the start on Sunday. Against Oakland.
If you're desperate: Brian Hartline is not a fluke and Mike Wallace will draw coverage wherever they go. Often in the game last week, Tannehill was looking for Hartline first. ... A bit of foreshadowing for "hate" coming up, but with Joe Haden all up in Torrey Smith's business, I like Marlon Brown this week. ... I said before the season that I preferred Andre Roberts to Michael Floyd and this week is no exception. Arizona is gonna keep throwing it. ... Last week, all eight of Doug Baldwin's targets came with him in the slot (he finished with 7 catches for 91 yards). In Week 1, the 49ers allowed eight catches for 130 yards and a touchdown to Packers slot receivers.
Wide Receivers I Hate in Week 2
Anquan Boldin, 49ers: You're starting him after last week, of course, but against the physical corners of Seattle, temper expectations this week. And in fact, after he "struggles" some this week, make a buy-low offer on him. Overall, I'm a believer.
Torrey Smith, Ravens: Insert wide receiver facing Joe Haden here.
Sidney Rice, Seahawks: Over the Seahawks' past five regular-season games, Doug Baldwin (22) and Golden Tate (20) have both been targeted more than Sidney Rice (15). Rice has not caught a touchdown during that span and last week got just three targets.
Roddy White, Falcons: Hard to trust him after last week. And, you know, him tweeting at us that "as far as fantasy, if I don't participate in practice, than don't start me, it's a red flag."
Any Titans wide receiver: What a hot mess. Someone might have a good game; good luck figuring out who.
Tight Ends I Love in Week 2
Jared Cook, Rams: Oh sure, he's a sleeper for me for three years, I finally jump off the wagon, then he explodes. You're welcome, America. So anyway, about Jared Cook, not only did he lead all Week 1 tight ends in receiving yards, he also received the Rams' only targets more than 20 yards downfield (his deep catch would've turned into a touchdown if not for Tyrann Mathieu punching the ball out from behind). Last week, the Falcons allowed 114 yards on passes at least 20 yards downfield, most in the league. I said I wanted to see it before I believed it. I've seen it and I believe.
Brandon Myers, Giants: Denver has traditionally struggled versus the tight end -- think what Ravens tight ends would have done last week if any of them could catch -- and Friend of the Podcast Brandon Myers is playing for a team that will struggle to run the ball in this game, and will probably be down.
Jordan Cameron, Browns: You know this guy was making the love list for a second straight week (six if you count the preseason love). Not only will he lead the Browns in targets again, you saw what Julius Thomas did to Baltimore last week, correct?
Owen Daniels, Texans: Off to a hot start, last year Daniels had 115 total yards and a score against Tennessee. Titans allowed the fourth-most receptions and yards to opposing tight ends in 2012.
If you're desperate: Dallas Clark sure got a lot of targets last week, and there's a chance that this week he hangs on to a couple of them. ... Maybe Kellen Winslow really is a fantasy zombie. You know the Jets are gonna have to throw to someone Thursday night. ... Ryan Tannehill looked for Charles Clay a lot last Sunday.
Week 2 Tight Ends I Hate
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings: It's just dependent on whether you think he scores. If you think his odds are good of doing so, you should start him. Anything's possible, but I don't love his chances. And if he doesn't score, he's not worth it. Don't like touchdown-dependent tight ends and Rudolph is the king of them.
Brandon Pettigrew, Lions: The short passing game that used to be Pettigrew's bread and butter is still there, it's just going to Reggie Bush now. Pettigrew caught only two of four targets last week and fumbled one of them. Meanwhile, rookie tight end Joseph Fauria caught all three of his targets, including a red-zone touchdown. Bleah.
Defenses I Love in Week 2
Cincinnati Bengals: See Roethlisberger, Ben. After a disappointing week one, Cincy's gets back on track with a big game Monday night.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Since 2010, Pittsburgh's defense averages 14.8 fantasy points when playing Cincinnati. The Steelers have held the Bengals to 13.7 points per game during that stretch, while Pittsburgh has intercepted Andy Dalton at least once in every game. Expect more of the same Monday night.
Philadelphia Eagles: That wasn't just Redskins ineptitude last Monday night, that was a much improved Philly defense. Now they get the human turnover Philip Rivers, traveling cross country on a short week after a heartbreaking loss. I thought Rivers looked better in the first half last week, but not that much better. By the way, since 2012, Rivers has also been sacked 51 times, second-most in the league.
If you're desperate: Andrew Luck has been known to get sacked and turn the ball over some and the Dolphins defense, again, is much better than you think. ... The Lions defensive line is legit and Carson Palmer ain't the most mobile cat around, you dig?
Defenses I Hate in Week 2
New York Jets: I know, the Patriots are all sorts of banged up. But in the Jets' past four games against the Patriots, they've allowed at least 29 points and 381 yards in each of them. Not worth the risk.
Green Bay Packers: I believe the second half-offense the Redskins displayed Monday is much closer to what we see Week 2 than what we saw in the first half of that game. High-scoring showdown here, don't get cute.
And that's Love/Hate for Week 2. Good luck and consider this: There's virtually no chance you face a guy who's throwing seven touchdowns again this week.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- formally apologizes for the Zach Sudfeld thing. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. You may have also heard: He's written a book.