Wing Man!: Not Every Superhero needs a Sidekick

History supports what I’m saying here, not always can the dynamic of two super personalities, amazing talents, wonderfully crafted names and/or awkwardly revealing spandex outfits, fit together like Steve Young and Jerry Rice, Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson, or even a more well-known duo, Batman and Robin (and even the last two heroes might find it tougher together nowadays)… In fact, if you look at the big picture, it becomes more and more evident that not every Super-Hero needs a Sidekick. In fact, most of the big name stars produce more box office fantasy potential all by themselves in their own little uniforms (As you can easily recognize that even Batman does his best movies sans his puffy feathered bird of a sidekick).

There are a few guys I’m looking at this year where a certain sidekick is digging into the main man’s cover-value, and even a couple more stars that are getting matched up with other stars – two superheroes do not always make a friendly team: Wolverine, Punisher, Spiderman, Captain America.  You have to remember, when a team gets better, a fantasy player doesn’t always improve.

Scrappy Doo basically crushed a very good cartoon of young crime fighters. Scooby was doing a fine job begging for Scooby Snacks, being a scaredy dog, and being his pot-head friend’s best bud. All Scrappy did was come in and steal some of the spotlight, and since everyone loves a puppy, soon he was getting too much attention. Suddenly, the drop off happened and Scooby and his friends have never quite recovered.

And what about Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s pal, one of the only guys to know Supe’s identity – well, all he did was get his buddy into trouble at every turn. Did Superman ever need Jimmy? I think not.

Wolverine vs. Punisher? Spiderman fighting Captain America? It’s amazing that a couple guys looking for the same thing (in both instances) could get into such a fiasco with each other – but it happens.

These things happen in the “fantasy world” and they also happen in fantasy football. This season there are some sidekicks ready to help the team all the while stomping out some fantasy fire of their own teammates. And while most of these guys play for wins and losses instead of statistical superiority – the truth of the matter is… You and I don’t. Not in fantasy football anyway. So which gridiron heroes will have their value cut down to size by the Scrappy Doo’s, Jimmy Olsen’s, Wondergirl’s and Aqualad’s of the National Football League? Follow along closely…

Matt Cassel and Tyler Thigpen

This seems like the easiest one around. Matt Cassel found a new home with a new offensive genius taking over in Kansas City. But what about Thigpen? What about the guy that dominated down the stretch? What about Tyler Thigpen? If you look back at last season’s stats, you will see two new teammates ranked 2nd and 3rd amongst quarterbacks during last season’s second half. That’s right, you guessed it, Tyler Thigpen is number 2 and Matt Cassell was number 3. That Top 5 list looks like this… Drew Brees, Thigpen, Cassel, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers. So, while many people probably don’t even know who Tyler Thigpen is, as he was really only a super hero fantasy star to those that picked him up for a late run into the post season (yes, that was me in more than a couple instances), he was still a star. Thigpen was 3 points shy of Drew Brees during those 10 weeks, and Brees had a brilliant season. But Cassel has the job, and surely Thigpen will suffer most in this match up of free agent pick ups turned fantasy playoff super heroes of 2008 turned teammates of 2009. This season will mark the first time in history that this situation will ever have taken place. Two young quarterbacks with huge statistical seasons meet up on the same team the very next year. But it is what it is, and Matt Cassel will be crushing the fantasy relevance of his teammate, and higher rated fantasy performer of last year’s second half. The team has gotten better, but Thigpen has lost his way.

Jay Culter and Matt Forte

Both players became fantasy stars in 2008. Matt Forte did so in his rookie season for a Bears team that used him as their main weapon, finishing a win away from the playoffs. Forte was as consistent as fantasy stars get, putting up solid numbers week after week as the Bears gave him the ball early and often. Jay Cutler was Mike Shanahan’s little buddy, a coach in uniform, the son he always wanted. Jay got the green light to throw any ball he wanted any time, and while that made Cutler one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in football, it also ended Splinter’s long run as the head coach in Denver. That led to Josh McDaniels getting the reigns for the Broncos, which led to Cutler having a fit when McD wanted his former QB, which led to bagels being just another way to get cream cheese to your face, which led to Jay Cutler getting traded for 2 first round picks, a couple more picks, and a 6 pack of Chicago’s best brew. That dysfunctional set of circumstantial dominoes led to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, two rising fantasy stars, to meet up in Chicago’s backfield. Well goodness me. But whose value is effected more? Well, I would imagine that both players have a slight hit in value, but both could see their efficiency ratings moving on up. Crazy how fantasy and actual football can be so different. Matt Forte is likely to see less 8 man fronts (if any), while Cutler is likely to see more open secondaries with defenses actually paying attention to the run game in his offense. But, Forte will get less carries, less catches, and likely less touchdowns in 2009. Jay Cutler will almost surely have less yardage, fewer touchdown passes, while continuing to throw interceptions this season with the Bears. But Forte will get more yards per carry while Cutler’s QB rating will likely rise. They may make a nice duo, two young guys with their entire comic book careers in front of them, but this year both will suffer in the fantsy realm, losing the numbers from their days as single stars.

Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White

After years of lacking a #1 receiver, the Falcons finally came through with the coming of age of Roddy White. And after years of stumbling around losing seasons without another true offensive threat, Tony Gonzalez was traded to a city of bright fantasy youngsters making a name for themselves in the NFC South. But who will be the star in this receiving situation? The young up and comer or the old school TE that can stake his claim as one of the best ever? Only I have the answer you’re looking for. Both should fail to match last year’s top notch numbers. Say what you want about Dwayne Bowe’s rise to stardom or Matt Ryan being better than the Chiefs’ no-name quarterback last season, but neither piece of information will convince me that Tony G is in a better fantasy situation than he was last season. Last year, Bowe was still just the 2nd fiddle in KC’s passing game, with the attention of opposing defenses collapsing around Tony. And he may be relatively unknown, but I already showed you that Tyler Thigpen was no joke going down the stretch, so stop belittling the guy. Plus, KC threw the ball a lot last year, which is how Tony got so much fantasy love. Likewise, Roddy White was the only real threat in the passing game last season, but the Falcons ran so dang much that defenses had to bite on the play action. Matt Ryan locked onto his number one guy, and reasonably so, White was a yardage gaining machine for the Falcons. Now both top flight receivers will see differences in 2009. Tony Gonzalez will find himself in an offense that runs the ball as much as they throw which should cut down on his chances to get anywhere close to last season’s targets. Not only that but Roddy White is one of the best young receivers in the league, one that 2nd year QB Matt Ryan made a living throwing to in 2008 – so a repeat of last year’s totals should be close to impossible. And for Roddy, you know the Falcons are still going to run a ton, and a great tight end is a quarterback’s best friend, and his notoriety as a receiving threat should have defenses paying more attention to him this season – so his targets will likely fall as well. The Falcons offense should be great, even better than last season’s surprising numbers, but these two super-heroes won’t win as often in fantasy circles.

Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene

This is definitely a case similar to Scrappy Doo’s fuse lighting to the dynamite under Scooby’s career. Thomas Jones had his best season as a pro. If anyone gained value from Brett’s arm last season it was Jones. Thomas finished 5th amongst running backs in non-ppr leagues, making him one of the best fantasy values of 2008. But in comes the younger cuter puppy hero drafted by the Jets. (Actually, Shonn Greene is a beast of a kid and as far as looks go Thomas may have the girls gushing after his bulging biceps, but you get the picture). Still, already Shonn is getting rave reviews in Jets camp, and with a new coach in town there’s no real loyalty to last season’s production. If Coach Ryan learned anything from his time in Baltimore it was that the best player plays no matter if he’s getting paid like Willis McGahee or Le’Ron McClain. That might be just the ignition Greene needs to up-end the 31 year old Thomas Jones’ career. This could definitely be a case of the sidekick back-up unproven option stealing too much of the star’s light, and slowly eating into that profile he worked so hard to build. Drop Thomas in your rankings, yes, but don’t completely ignore the guy. I’ve seen him falling way too far in Fantasy Drafts, and there’s a good chance he’s still a productive piece of the Jets rushing attack.

Chris Johnson and LenDale White

Last season it was Chris Johnson eating into White’s numbers, but this season the roles may be reversed. I’ve noticed Chris Johnson getting lots of fantasy love on draft days. But LenDale is now a much slimmer and still powerful version of himself. Everyone expected Chris Johnson to continue his growing percentage of carries from last season. After starting pretty equal, he was definitely the horse the Titans tried to ride down the stretch. But this season could be a lot more even than people are ready to believe. LenDale has always had a knack for the end-zone with very athletic feet for a big powerful back. Coming into camp in the best shape of his life, running faster than ever, and apparently buying into everything more than ever before makes him a sneaky thief to Johnson’s carries. When you add the often forgotten fact that LenDale is smack dab in the midst of a contract season, he has even more to play for, a future contract and a starting gig (if the Titans don’t want to pay the man his money). So before you draft Chris Johnson with all his speed and excitement and all that man-love you have for him – remember, there’s a big bad touchdown thieving guy from USC that not only has something to prove, but money to earn in 2009. Chris should still be a nice player in 2009, he’s a great young back, but expecting even more impressive numbers in 2009 might disappoint you this season.

Three for Thursday

1. Dominic Rhodes is a guy that I was considering picking up to start, even with Joseph Addai banged up a little bit and probable to start. Now that Addai is wilting away more and more as the week moves forward, I think Rhodes might be one of the best pick ups there is, especially in a PPR league. You’re talking about a guy that is basically a guarantee to catch five balls, and he’s going up against the Lions defensive front. Sign me up for that party, please.

2. I was asked on a Radio show if I would start Brett Favre against one of the weaker defensive secondaries in the league? It’s a tough call, but you should only do it if you are feeling lucky. After two terrible weeks against terrible defenses, you’d think Brett pulls his head out of his old man Ace and has a nice week – however, he could have another crapper like he did against the Niners last week. I would definitely rather start Tyler Thigpen, and I would consider Jeff Garcia. Not as much upside with Jeff, but Garcia doesn’t do much wrong, and look at the stats, since Graham went down he’s been a solid fantasy contributor.

3. Sam Bradford is my guy for the best quarterback in college football. No doubt about it, I also think he’ll be the best pro. However, Graham Harrell’s absence from the invitee list for the Heisman Trophy Awards Show is absurd. He has the same numbers as Colts and Sam and even Tim (except for all those rushing yards, but still). Him not getting invited makes me hate the idea of this trophy- you’re telling me that the best player in college football has to play for Texas, Florida, or Oklahoma. Sweet. What a joke.

Five for Friday

I missed a couple this week, but I can only blame Comcast – those bastards!!! Here’s some help for those in need. 

For those Dynasty Gurus – watch these guys this weekend- they are all special and should find places in your early rookie draft next season. 

LeSean McCoy – Underrated and a definite NFL runner. Great power and slide and speed. He has the vision to be good from the get go. 

Beanie Wells – This one is obvious, but I expect just about 200 yards against the Illini. He’s going to be a good one and runs with some toughness you don’t normally see. 

Darrius Heyward-Bey – Special player. He might not get all the pub that Maclin and Crabtree and Dez get down there in the Big 12, and his numbers won’t match up, but this kid is a beast and fast enough to make all the plays. Get him late on draft day and reap the benefits. 

Glen Coffee – I imagine Coffee comes out, and he should. He had a huge game last week against LSU and should continue to prove himself. He’s a fast kid and has a great frame to add some size. He is just 21 and could be a very good one with his slashing style. 

Now for some guys I expect to have huge Sundays…

Brandon Marshall – he hasn’t done all that much lately – that should just get him ready for a humongous day this Sunday against Atlanta. 

Tyler Thigpen – New Orleans will score points, but I like KC to possibly pull the upset here – that means Tyler will have to be on his best behavior. 

Ronnie Brown – It seems like Ricky has been getting more looks than Ronnie lately, but Brown is the better runner and I think he has 100+ yards against the terrible Raiders this weekend. He might even throw one, hasn’t had a TD pass in a while. 

Matt Forte – he’ll do it all for the Bears against the Pack this weekend. 

Frank Gore – should be HUGE against the Rams – he’s too good to not bust out in this game against a terrible defensive front. 

Chris Johnson – after a very tough week against Chicago, this super rookie will dominate the Jags front line – I’m willing to suggest he has one of his best days as a Titan. 

Upsets of the Week… 

Cleveland will take down Buffalo I reckon, and I’m looking at the Chiefs to grab a big one at home against the overrated Saints.

Ten for Tuesday

I’ve been doing some thinking and I see a five and five scenario taking place over the last 6 weeks of fantasy football. Five guys that will impress you, or play much better than they’ve played to start the season – and five guys that are going to tumble like that egg headed dumpty fellow. Last week for trades in those leagues in which the deadline hasn’t already passed – these are what my party invites look like. In no particular order, here are my lists.

High Five

1. Tyler Thigpen: Yep, still on his bandwagon. For some reason, a really easy schedule and one more game with a bunch of yards and touchdowns wihtout interceptions keeps him high on my list. Until he has a couple bad weeks in a row, I’m riding with him. Against the Saints this week – you bet he’s starting over Brett Favre on my club.

2. Deion Branch: He can’t possibly get hurt again, can he? Alright he’s a shot in the dark, but in over 90% of Yahoo leagues, this guy is available – I’m sure it’s the same in most leagues and don’t forget, this is a guy that has really produced when he’s played over the last few years. Branch may not be a big touchdown guy, but he makes things happen and gets the ball a lot. With Matt Hasselbeck back for the remainder of the season, I like the chance Deion has of making good on some pre-season predictions some people on this site.

3. New York Jets Defense: I know it’s not “cool” to throw out a defense, but stop me when you see an offensive juggernaut remaining on the Jets schedule… New England, Tennessee, Denver (okay, but lots of mistakes), San Francisco, Buffalo, Seattle, Miami – something tells me they’re going to continue the great defensive season they’ve been putting together. Right now they are the 3rd ranked defense in fantasy, and they are owned in just over 60% of leagues. Come on folks. San Fran, Buffalo, and Seattle during the playoffs – you betcha!

4. Matt Forte: I’ve heard lots of stuff about Forte stumbling down the stretch because of all the carries he’s been getting – hogwash. Obviously those people haven’t looked at Matt’s schedule going forward. Not only has he been solid since the bye, and is the #1 PPR running back, but Matt has Green Bay (easy), St. Louis (easy), Jacksonville (easy), New Orleans (easy), and Green Bay (easy again) to play against with just Minnesota as his lone tough defense on his schedule. He also has Houston in Week 17, but most fantasy leagues are over by then. I like Matt going forward, that’s for sure.

5. Reggie Wayne: He sure hasn’t produced like a Top 3 receiver – but don’t you worry, Wayne’s remaining opponents have something in common – see if you can figure it out… Houston, San Diego, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville… (and a tough Week 17 against Tennessee, but I’m not counting that). So did you get what those teams have in common? If you selected an absolutely brutal secondary and defense altogether, you win a prize, hurry, get Wayne now before someone else sees his remaining schedule. He has 49 receptions for 700 yards and 5 touchdowns – I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with at least that much in his next 7 games…

Down in the Slumps

1. Frank Gore: I love this player and now that he’ll be getting normal running back carries with Samari Mike running the show, he’s never going to be a bad bet – however, after this great match-up against the Rams, Frank goes four straight weeks of tough defenses – Dallas, Buffalo, the Jets, and the Dolphins. He started nice, and has been a nice PPR guy, but Gore’s only rushed for one touchdown in his last 6 games.

2. Marion Barber: I think he’s one of the better running backs in the league – so I wouldn’t get rid of the guy, but if you do listen to your brain and not your heart, it might be time to move Marion. During the playoffs Marion goes heads up against Pittsburgh, the Giants, and the Ravens – good luck finding good weeks in that crap tornado.

3. Brandon Jacobs: I hope he doesn’t, because I would never want a guy to get hurt, but Jacobs is definitely a candidate to break down before the season is over. Anybody that watches him run knows the strain he goes through on a game to game basis, he makes car accidents happen. And while he is the one usually delivering the blow, he is still in a bunch of accidents. He has had his fair share of pains over the years, and while New York does a good job of limiting his touches (only 2 games over 20 carries, and just 21 and 22 respectively) he still takes a lot of body punishment. Not only that, but Baltimore, Arizona, Washington, Philadelphia, Dallas, Carolina, and Minnesota aren’t really the easy defenses one would hope to run against down the stretch. There’s not an easy match-up in that bunch.

4.T.J Houshmanzadeh: I would say Chad Johnson, but he hasn’t been too productive during the season anyway. T.J. has still been solid, but it doesn’t look good for him going forward. He had a bye last week, but that looks like his last easy go at it. Philly, Pittsburgh, Balitmore, Indianapolis, Washington, and Cleveland. The light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t come until maybe Cleveland and then KC in Week 17, but if you are depending on Housh over the next few weeks, you might not be playing that long. An no Carson Palmer most likely, not much grand about that.

5. Willis McGahee: I don’t think it’s possible to like this guy in the first place, especially after screwing owners in Week 9 with a suit up but did not play fantasy score killer – but I have to like him even less moving forward, despite his 25 carry 112 yard 2 touchdown performance in Week 10 – he plays the Giants, the Eagles, the Bengals (you get one good match-up in Week 13), then the Reskins, Steelers, and Cowboys before going to Jacksonville in Week 17. It’s not looking good for him folks.

One for Wednesday

Alright, I may be stretching the whole “sleeper” idea here – but what about this Tyler Thigpen guy? I’ll tell you what, I’m picking him up. It might be all for not, but with Daunte Culpepper signed and off somewhere else (Detroit) and Brodie Croyle on the IR, it’s not like Damon Huard is coming in to jack Thigpen’s spot, especially with the way Tyler has been trowing the ball. He has two pretty good receiving options in Dwayne Bowe (stud) and Tony Gonzalez (hall of famer) – plus Jamal Charles is very fast and Larry Johnson could come back to take some pressure off the young signal caller. Plus, and this is the real kicker, the kid has a great schedule going forward. He plays in a very bad defensive division to start with, but how about these remaining games?

Chargers, Saints, Bills (tough one), Raiders, Broncos, Chargers, Dolphins (tough one), and Bengals…

He plays the Broncos in the first week of the fantasy playoffs and the Saints and Raiders going in. He’s not a great start against tough defenses, but the kid has done pretty well against some solid D’s coming in. Against the Titans (in limited action), Jets, and Buccaneers he accounted for 5 touchdwons, 0 interceptions, 63 rushing yards, and that touchdown catch everyone has seen. Not only that but he’s been over 50% completions in each of the last two weeks. 

Tyler is no sure thing, he’s young and unproven. But he has put up good enough numbers and has good enough receiving options for me to grab him and see what happens – especially against those defenses.

Ask Papa Weimer: Week 3

Questions and Answers – let the evil genius do his dirty work!!!

Billiam from Southy writes, “Do you really think the Patriots have a chance to win the Super Bowl without Tom in attendance? I just can’t see the Colts doing much without Peyton, the Cowboys doing anything without Romo, and even the Steelers doing work against Pittsburgh – how can the Pats still have a chance?”

Well Billiam (Bill and Williams meshing in one is pure brilliance), I have a feeling Pats do indeed have a chance, and there is one reason why – Bill Belichick. The real Evil Genius has his work cut out for him, no doubt about that, but he can still game plan for anything, this is just considered an extreme challenge. I couldn’t think about a tougher way to win a Super Bowl, or a more awkward pre-season to lose your league MVP – but yes, I still like the Pats chances just about as much as anyone else in the AFC. It’s funny, there were a few seconds there where Cassel looked like he was getting cut, Gutierrez was easily outplaying him, and Matt was really struggling. When you add that to the fact that Cassel looked terrible in his only action last year, it seemed his time in New England was just about over. Then Matt Gutie was cut, Tom was hurt, and here Matt is, the team’s success unpredictably in his hands. I love it. Not as many points- not as many chances on the field -but I still like the Pats to win 11 or 12 and be a tough out in the playoffs.

Douglas from the O asks, “Do you think Jonathan Stewart has officially become the #1 guy in Carolina? I may be a little biased, having taken some classes with Jon last season, but he looks like the better runner and it seems like Carolina is going to him with the game on the line. Can I start him this week?”

You may be biased, but you hit this one right in the O. Except I wouldn’t start him this week, not against Minnesota. I also wouldn’t say he is the “official #1” – in fact, he’s the “official #2” – but very similar to Maurice Jones Drew the last couple years in Jacksonville, the #2 is a better option that the #1 and it seems like hardheadedness and veteran favortism are the only reasons the “backups” aren’t getting more looks. I can see why both Fred Taylor and DeAngelo are starting, don’t get me wrong, but I also see a lot of value and some dynamic ability from these back-ups. Hold on to your former classmate, I think his time will come, and he’ll be one hell of a start.

Rollie from Anchorage says, “How do you like you some Steve Smith this weekend? Would you start him over Eddie Royal and Dwayne Bowe?”

Rollie, you bet. I love me some Steve Smith, and while Eddie Royal looks like a great option, and Bowe doesn’t look like a bad ride either, Steve is probably pretty amped to help his team considering they went 2-0 without him, and he’s the best player in this bunch. As much as anyone, (besides maybe my nephew), I like Eddie Royal – but Steve Smith is what Royal can only hope to become. He’s a less polished version of Smith right now, and while he does play against New Orleans, it’s not like Minnesota’s secondary is solid either. Bowe goes up against the Falcons, a secondary that is also poor, but he has Tyler Thigpen throwing him the ball – could be decent for Dwayne, but he doesn’t have Jake Delhomme or Jay Cutler throwing him the ball, right? Go with Steve Rollie!