It's easy to overlook Drew Brees, even though he's the best quarterback in football: Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers are this year's breakout stars. Brett Favre and Kurt Warner are the old heroes reliving their glory days. Tony Romo makes the cover of US Weekly.
All Brees does is put up ridiculous numbers - no matter who the Saints are missing at receiver. Sunday's performance against the 49ers was vintage Brees. San Francisco came into the game with one of the top pass defenses in the NFL. Brees filleted them, with 363 yards on a relatively modest 35 attempts. In the process, Brees made Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, and Robert Meachem look like Pro Bowlers.
Brees is supposed to have a weak arm, but the Saints are stretching the field better than ever before in the Sean Payton era. This is an offense built on setting up explosive plays. Sean Payton helps set Brees apart in fantasy leagues because they stay aggressive on offense, no matter the score. The ruthlessness is reminiscent of the '07 Patriots. They can be up three scores and will still throw haymakers. They go for it on fourth down at the goal line up 19 points. A poor running game and a worse defense will have this effect on the playcalling.
Brees has thrown for the sixth-most yards through four games in the history of the NFL and the schedule doesn't get any harder. Just think what he'll be able to do once Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey get healthy.
The quarter pole is a good time to take stock with your team, your league, and where the 2008 season stands after it's first month. Slow starts have become trends after four games. (I'm talking to you Ryan Grant, Vernon Davis, and Chad Ocho Cinco). Breakout players that keep getting it done are here to stay. (Nice to have you aboard, Chris Johnson and Philip Rivers.)
Assess your team and find what weaknesses are here to stay. Then make a deal.Season Saver
Matt Schaub needed a big game to get the press off his back, and he came through with one of the best games of his career: 307 yards and three scores against Jacksonville. The Texans have issues, but their passing game should be solid. Andre Johnson made some disturbingly lazy-looking plays again, but I'd still buy low on him.Fun with on pace stats: Will come back to Earth division
The stats below are projected out for 16 games
1. Larry Johnson: 1,660 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 48 receiving yards: Not a bad time to sell high.
2. Michael Turner: 1,668 rushing yards, 20 touchdowns, 45 receiving yards: See Larry Johnson
3. Philip Rivers: 4,096 yards, 40 touchdowns, 16 interceptions: Undeniably a QB1 now, but 30 scores is a better target.
4. Santana Moss: 108 receptions, 1,684 yards, 12 touchdowns: Can't keep this up, but can be a top-ten WR.
5. Muhsin Muhammad: 88 catches, 1,148 receiving yards, four touchdowns: Only plays the Falcons twice.
6. Hank Baskett: 52 catches, 828 yards, four touchdowns: Will recede into the bench.
Turner has three catches in four games, hurting his margin for error.Fun with On Pace Stats: Can keep it up division
1. Frank Gore: 1,476 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 60 receptions, 624 receiving yards: Early favorite for total yards championship.
2. Chris Johnson: 1,348 rushing yards, eight touchdowns, 40 receptions, 260 receiving yards: If he stays healthy, he's a RB2 at worst.
3. Matt Forte: 1,388 rushing yards, eight touchdowns, 72 catches, 588 receiving yards: Getting the ball a lot.
4. Reggie Bush: 732 rushing yards, 3.5 yards-per-carry, 12 touchdowns, 124 receptions, 1,028 receiving yards: He's a WR1 in PPR leagues with 50 rushing yards-per-game thrown in.
5. Jay Cutler: 5,100 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, 16 interceptions: The yardage will go down, but not as much as you think.
6. Drew Brees: 5,372 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 9.07 YPA: Okay, won't hit 5,000 yards. But he can still be the top-ranked quarterback this season.
7. J.T. O' Sullivan: 3,848 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, 12 interceptions: Lots of yards and not enough scores. Sounds like a Martz quarterback!
8. Jason Campbell: 3,512 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 0 interceptions: He'll start throwing interceptions, of course, but the other numbers are sustainable.
9. Antonio Gates: 60 catches, 820 yards, 12 touchdowns: Even when he's not 100%, he's pretty awesome
10. Matt Jones: 84 catches, 976 yards, four touchdowns: Quietly a steady WR3.
11. Tony Scheffler: 48 catches, 776 yards, eight touchdowns: Every week starter.
Denver has the 30th-ranked defense in the league, just ahead of St. Louis and Detroit. They will make teams like Kansas City look better than they really are. This is going to keep Jay Cutler throwing like crazy and should prevent any more survivor pool contestants from picking Denver.Fun with On Pace Stats: What the . division
1. LenDale White: 644 rushing yards, 20 touchdowns, 2.7 yards-per-carry, 0 receiving yards: Top-20 status proof that fantasy is unfair.
2. Joseph Addai: 757 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns, 139 receiving yards: Will different Colts team come out of bye?
3. Kyle Orton: 3,064 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 16 interceptions: Neckbeard, QB2?
4. David Garrard: 3,132 passing yards, eight touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 332 rushing yards: He's better than this.
5. Brandon Marshall: 154 receptions, 1,990 yards, 15 touchdowns: Maybe that reception record is within reach.
6. Chris Chambers: 32 catches, 784 yards, 16 touchdowns: Yeah, this probably isn't sustainable.
7. Isaac Bruce: 44 catches, 904 receiving yards, eight touchdowns: Suddenly, he's Lee Evans?
J.T. O' Sullivan has been sacked 19 times this season, seven more times than anyone in the league. He's fumbled four times. It's not all his offensive line's fault. O'Sullivan often waits too long for the play to develop and gets hammered. All the pounding made him a little jumpy Sunday against the Saints, and he started throwing the ball to spots instead of to receivers. His accuracy and timing were off. Two red zone interceptions ensued. He's still a great fantasy asset, but opposing defensive coordinators will be watching this Saints tape. Up next: New England.
Meanwhile, Kurt Warner turned the ball over seven times against the Jets, and still had an awesome day for fantasy owners. God bless the Cardinals and fantasy football.
Fun with On Pace Stats: Cause for concern division
1. Chris Perry: 832 yards, 2.9 yards-per-carry, eight touchdowns, 104 receiving yards: Fear the Fitzpatrick.
2. Chad Johnson: 44 catches, 464 yards, four touchdowns: Fear the Fitzpatrick.
3. Ryan Grant: 744 rushing yards, 3.4 yards-per-carry, -16 receiving yards: See below.
4. Derek Anderson: 2,172 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, 24 interceptions: One unimpressive win doesn't end the march towards Quinn.
5. Carson Palmer, Marc Bulger, Vince Young, Aaron Rodgers, Jeff Garcia, Tarvaris Jackson: But you knew this already.
6. Donald Driver: 64 catches, 696 receiving yards: Life with Matt Flynn would be ugly.
7. Torry Holt: 60 catches, 748 receiving yards, four touchdowns: Where's the separation?
Some Panic is Acceptable
1. My worst fears about the Browns offense were realized Sunday. A win may calm the locals, but their passing game looked worse than ever. The Browns were afraid to dial up vertical plays. They ran on third-and-long. Derek Anderson's decision-making was suspect. The running game carried the day, but 138 yards and a 5.75 YPA won't remind anyone of 2007.
2. I had an argument with a fellow Rotoworld writer this offseason. I said the Bengals' backup quarterback situation was among the worst in the league. He had some faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick. I've lost a lot of these arguments over the years, but my side looks pretty good after Sunday.
The most basic tasks of the passing game were difficult for Fitzpatrick to complete. Handoffs were muffed, open receivers were missed by ten yards. Chad Ocho Cinco owners have ever right to be apoplectic after Sunday, despite his touchdown. Carson Palmer's elbow threatens to torpedo the season for all Bengals.
3. The weaknesses of Ryan Grant's game from last season are showing up in spades. He relied on big plays rather than consistent chunks, but the big plays aren't coming this season. He doesn't catch passes, which hurts his margin for error. If the Packers had better options behind him, it would be time for Grant to start losing carries. Fantasy owners can look to bench him, especially if Aaron Rodgers is out.
1. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart evenly split the carries once again in Carolina. Four games is a trend and Stewart probably isn't taking over anytime soon. Williams actually has 16 more touches on the season, but Stewart has all four of the team's rushing scores. That makes Stewart a solid, if risky, RB2.
2. Chris Johnson had twenty touches to only eleven for LenDale White. This was relatively predictable to see coming considering the matchup, but it's another sign that the Titans coaching staff will lean heavily on Johnson when they need to.
3. Darren McFadden started, but Michael Bush finished with 21 touches to only nine for McFadden. Bush's seven catches were an especially good sign. McFadden continues to recover slowly from his toe injury.
4. The Jaguars' rushing problems hit a new low Sunday. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor combined for only 57 yards against a previously soft Texans defense. Jack Del Rio responded by calling fewer rushing plays down the stretch, which is a concern. Too bad they can't play the Colts every week.
5. Deuce McAllister looked capable, if not explosive, during twenty carries for the Saints. Pierre Thomas will probably have big days this season, but I can't fault owners for using his roster spot to pick up McAllister.