Fantasy players have questions.
And I have answers. It's what I do.
So when Brian Bardi reached out on Twitter recently, I didn't want to ignore it. But clearly, a response in 140 characters wouldn't suffice. I needed to do a deep dive on this one. It's truly an excellent question.
- Brian Bardi (@bbardi14) September 19, 2016
Why? Why, indeed?
It didn't seem like Adrian was responding on Twitter, so I reached out to him, and in an exclusive, definitely not-made-up interview, I asked him about it.
TMR: Thanks for taking the time away from your rehab, Adrian.
AP: No problem. We can take as long as you need. This is super-important.
TMR: Then let's dig right in. Why did you purposely ruin Brian's entire fantasy season?
AP: I don't want to take all the credit. It's something the coaching staff and my teammates have been talking about since the offseason. Every day, in the weight room, during film study, OTAs, two-a-days, preseason, all the work we were putting in, it was all we talked about as a group. Nothing in football is accomplished individually. This was a total team effort.
TMR: But by Week 2, Adrian? Was there ever a consideration given to ruining Brian's fantasy season later on, maybe Week 11 or 12, during a playoff push? Or what about Week 14? First round of the playoffs is always a crowd pleaser.
AP: We looked at it from every possible angle, and there's always going to be people who second-guess choices, but big home game for us, division rival, debut of the new stadium, national prime-time game ... it just felt like the exact right moment to ruin Brian's entire fantasy season.
TMR: Take us through that exact moment.
AP: Third quarter, 3:23 to go, we're on the Packers' 38-yard line and driving, up 10-7. It's first down, and as we get to the huddle, I looked at Sam [Bradford]. "Now, you think?" Sam got the call from Norv [Turner] and gave me a thumbs-up. We were going to try and ruin Brian's fantasy season right then and there. So, off tackle up the middle, I gain 5 and then get hit by 51 [Packers linebacker Kyler Fackrell], and as soon as I went down, I knew.
TMR: You're in excruciating pain, being helped off the field by two guys, limping bad, hurt so much you can't even put any weight on your right foot and you turn to the trainer ...
AP: ... And I just said, "We did it, guys. Brian's entire fantasy season ... toast."
TMR: You're 31 years old, team has legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, the Vikings have already lost Teddy Bridgewater for the season, so even more of the team success is on your shoulders. You've had major injuries before and yet ...
AP: None of that matters. I told my family, as they were surrounding me in the hospital: "Stop your crying," I said. "This isn't about you. Or me. Stop being selfish. This is about Brian's fantasy team. We had a goal to ruin his entire fantasy season by Week 2, and that's what we did."
TMR: I'm really impressed, man. Your singular dedication is amazing here.
AP: Hey man, come on now, don't get all shy on me. You're part of this success, too.
TMR: Oh, stop.
AP: No, you said it was a good idea for Brian to draft me. He credits you, too!
TMR: You're so good about sharing the spotlight. You're right. I'm part of this.
AP: Oh yeah, you are. And not just Brian. Did you even read your Love Hate from last week? It was amazing, man. Such an incredibly awful week. Did you even get anything right? Love it! I'm just thinking about what you did to Joe.
- Joe (@jmcinerney17) September 19, 2016
TMR: Well, we operate differently, Adrian. You were focused on just ruining Brian's team. I was thinking about Brian, Joe and Tate. Don't forget Tate!
- Tate Boyce (@The_Great_Tate) September 18, 2016
AP: Haaaaaaa! You got Tate good!
TMR: Thanks, man. I was sweating that one, especially with Golden Tate. Nine targets, only two catches. ... Sometimes you get lucky.
AP: Nah man, you worked hard on that one. Some of your best work.
TMR: (really genuine) Thanks, man. (pause) Hey, can I be honest for a second?
AP: What'cha got?
TMR: (motions for AP to lean in close, whispers) I'm actually working on ruining everyone's fantasy season.
AP: (laughs, high-fives me) I knew it!
TMR: Yeah, I've been trying to keep it under wraps, but Hunter is on to me.
Why do the Giants hate Rashad Jennings
- Josh Goodson (@joshwgoodson) September 18, 2016
- Hunter Willard (@HunterWillard) September 18, 2016
AP: So you're not working alone?
TMR: Oh no, not at all. Lots of coordination with Ben McAdoo, Rashad, frankly, the entire Giants organization to make sure we were on the same page regarding Rashad's fantasy owners. We agreed, win the game, lose the game, whatever happens doesn't really matter, right? Whatever. The only way this works is if I "love" him and then they make sure he struggles.
AP: Jennings leaving with the hand injury was a stroke of genius.
TMR: (sheepishly proud) Well ... that one actually was all me. Looked like they were driving, so I texted the trainer during the game. Pull him now. He might score. Just make up a hand injury or something, he can play next week, he just needs to be out NOW!
AP: Well done. Almost makes up for Will.
AP: Don't play dumb with me. You know what I am talking about. What happened with Will?
- will (@wfallon) September 18, 2016
AP: You wanna explain that one? Dez had 10, Snead had 11. Seriously, Berry? What the hell happened?
TMR: Look ... I don't know, man. I feel bad, you know? I watch all the film, I crunch all the numbers, I talk to everyone I can and then I make a call. I really thought I had Will screwed there but, you know, you can't predict the future. You do your best, play the odds, put yourself in the best position you can, and sometimes it just doesn't work out like it should.
But it's a new week. Gonna do my best.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 3
Matt Ryan, Falcons: Ah, 2012. The Curiosity rover landed on Mars, Linsanity was sweeping the nation and the first Avengers movie was released. It was also the last time Matt Ryan did not reach 300 yards (passing and rushing combined) against the Saints. Ryan is traditionally a hot starter -- he's the only QB to be top five at the position after the first month in three of the past four seasons -- and this game features two bottom-10 pass defenses (the Saints are allowing opponents to complete better than 70 percent of their passes this season), so I expect plenty of scoring. It won't last, but for this month at least -- and certainly Sunday -- Ryan (available in 36 percent of ESPN leagues) is an easy top-10 play.
Philip Rivers, Chargers: What are you doing Sunday? Yes, you. Are you free? Would you like to play in the secondary for the Indianapolis Colts? Because there might be an opportunity. Only one team in the NFL has allowed opponents to complete a higher percentage of passes this season than the Colts. I mean, Trevor Siemian went 22-for-33 for 266 yards against them and would have had a huge day if the Broncos' defense would have stopped scoring. Rivers will have a clean pocket and a bunch of talented pass-catchers to choose from. At some point, not having Keenan Allen will hurt this offense, but not Sunday.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals: This seems obvious to me, but after a quick glance at the ranks, only Field Yates and I have Palmer as a top-five play this week. He has recorded at least 265 passing yards and multiple touchdowns in nine of his past 13 games, and only Ben Roethlisberger has more passing touchdowns this season. The Bills can fire as many offensive coordinators as they want, but they still need to stop people, and you saw how Ryan Fitzpatrick (Ryan Fitzpatrick!) carved up Buffalo's defense. Palmer should continue where he left off on Sunday.
Others receiving votes: OK, OK, I promise. If Kirk Cousins doesn't produce this weekend, I'll shut up, but the recipe continues to be there for fantasy success: inconsistent run game, poor defense, up-tempo pace of play. Cousins needs to hit some open receivers (last week could have been a huge day had he done that) and the Giants have improved their defense, so there's risk there, but certainly upside. I like him as a top-15 play this week. ... Very quietly, Ryan Tannehill is third in rushing among QBs and is actually a top-10 QB so far, based mostly on Week 2. With a banged-up running game and a Browns team that has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in 10 of its past 11 games coming to town, he's worthy of streaming consideration. ... If you've started a QB against the Raiders this season, you've been happy. This week, Marcus Mariota gets his turn.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 3
Matthew Stafford, Lions: Look, I'm not bailing on Jim Bob and the Cooters, but I do think expectations need to be held in check this week. Ultimately, I stand by Stafford as a top-10 QB this season when all is said and done, but he's a QB2 for me this week at Lambeau. He has traditionally struggled in Green Bay, averaging just 231.3 passing yards in his past four games versus the Packers, and 26.6 percent of those yards and 42.9 percent of his passing scores in those games went to Calvin Johnson. I'm expecting Sam Shields to play in this game, so if he doesn't, that would boost Stafford, but I'm concerned the loss of Ameer Abdullah hurts them here. Without a consistent run game, the Lions might be a little more predictable, which takes play-action and deep shots away from them. I'm not seeing a top-10 day from him here.
Andy Dalton, Bengals: Insert QB playing Denver here. The Red Rifle does not like to be under pressure (he completed just 39.2 percent of his passes from 2013-15 when under pressure, with just six of his 199 pressured pass attempts resulting in a score). Denver already has eight sacks this season after leading the NFL in the category last season. This has the feeling of a low-scoring battle. In general, I am on board with the idea of Dalton as a legit fantasy starter, but on Sunday, he's not a top-15 play for me.
Running backs I love in Week 3
Melvin Gordon, Chargers: Two first names, always a crowd-pleaser. So is this fun fact: The Colts have allowed 391 yards and five touchdowns to running backs this season. With Danny Woodhead out for the season, Dexter McCluster still finding his "Hello, My Name Is ..." sticker and Kenneth Farrow unlikely to be used much, this is the Melvin Gordon show. The Chargers seem to have solved the offensive line issues from last year, as they are sixth-best in the NFL in yards before contact this season, and now get to feature Gordon as a legit No. 1 play this weekend. If you listen closely, you can hear all of his owners from last year banging their heads against a wall until it bleeds. Field, is that you?
Mark Ingram, Saints: At least he's healthy! It has been a disappointing two weeks for Ingram owners, and I am one. The usage hasn't been there, the passing-down work hasn't been there, and he has yet to score a touchdown. OK, OK, calm down Coby Fleener owners, I know. We've got nothing to complain about. Still, I like this one as a week for Ingram to break out of his "slump." Since the beginning of last season, Ingram is fourth in yards after contact per carry. Meanwhile, the Falcons are giving up the most such yards so far this season. They allowed 112 RB catches last season (most in the NFL) and so far this season, they've given up the second-most receptions to running backs, the fifth-most yards to running backs and two touchdowns. The Saints know they can't stop the Falcons, but they can delay them a bit by trying to control the clock. Expect a nice amount of Ingram in this one and I say he gets into the end zone.
Isaiah Crowell, Browns: A funny thing happened while everyone was traveling on the Duke Johnson Jr. hype train: Crowell became a workhorse back. He's averaging 5.6 yards per carry during his past seven games (101 carries for 566 yards, and even without last week's 85-yard TD run he's still averaging almost five yards a carry). We know Hue Jackson wants to run the ball and I believe he doesn't want Cody Kessler to throw it. Even if the Dolphins load the box, Crowell might touch the ball 30 times on Sunday. Legit top-15 play this week.
Frank Gore, Colts: It's not just the Chargers who have a good matchup here. No defense has allowed more rushing yards before first contact on a per-carry basis since the beginning of last season than the San Diego Chargers. Gore should get plenty of work here, as during his past 16 games (Week 3 last year through Week 2 this year) only four running backs have more carries than Gore (Peterson, Doug Martin, Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley). He'll get a big workload against a run defense coughing up 5.1 yards per carry so far this year, so the Chargers should make Gore look like he is 45 again. Wait, what?
Others receiving votes: The "passing-down back" on a pass-first team (11th in passing yards this season), Shane Vereen is also eighth this season in red zone snaps and gets a Skins team that has allowed 48 points to running backs in just two games this season. He also has 20 carries, his most since 2012. Some of that was due to Rashad Jennings leaving early, but still. He's a significant part of an offense that is running a lot of plays. ... I don't love anyone going against the Broncos, but almost 40 percent of fantasy points scored by running backs against Denver since the start of 2015 have come via the reception. Coming off a big game, Giovani Bernard should be useful here in a flex sort of way. ... It's gonna be all Charles Sims on Sunday, and the Rams don't scare me at all. I'm not saying Sims will outscore Gurley here, but I will say if he manages to do it, it shouldn't be a huge shock. The whole Bucs offense will bounce back here, and Tampa has an underrated run defense, too. ... It's only a matter of time before Tevin Coleman overtakes Freeman in this backfield, and Sunday against the Saints, he takes another step toward that.
Running backs I hate in Week 3
Ryan Mathews, Eagles: So yeah, Mathews was on my "hate" list last week and when people weren't reminding me of it on social media -- for future reference, I am aware when I've made a bad call; save yourself the energy -- they were celebrating his two touchdowns. And no doubt while his owners were happy, they actually should have been freaking out. Look closer. Yes, he handled all six touches inside the opponent's 10-yard line in Week 1, but in Week 2 ... look what happened:
• First quarter, first-and-goal at the Bears' 9: Darren Sproles gets the carry, gains 2 yards and then Mathews gets the next carry. They don't punch it in and settle for a field goal.
• Second quarter, second-and-6 at the Bears' 10: Kenjon Barner gets the call.
• Third quarter, after a pass to Nelson Agholor gets them to the Bears' 6, it's second-and-2 ... and Barner gets the call again. He doesn't convert, so Mathews gets the ball and gets into the end zone for his first touchdown.
• Fourth quarter, first- and-goal at the Bears' 2: Mathews gets the call, but loses 4 yards. Following an incomplete pass and a 4-yard run by Sproles, the Eagles decide to go for it on fourth down and Sproles is stopped shy of the goal line ... but hold the phone. The Bears were offside, so the Eagles get another chance from the 1-yard line. Mathews gets the rock this time and punches it in for his second score.
Mathews ends the night with nine carries for 32 yards, 30 of which came on one carry. Sproles out-touched him 14-10 and actually got more red zone carries.
If I am a Mathews owner, I am thanking goodness I got bailed out Monday night with the scores and I am very nervous about Sproles. We've discussed this on the pod before (and I've mentioned it in this column), that Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported how Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, formerly of the Chargers, wants to use Sproles in a way similar to how they used Woodhead. We will see if Sproles is as successful as Woodhead, but Monday night seemed to indicate that, at any rate, Sproles will get some red zone looks and Mathews is in more of a time-share than you realize. I've written a novel here, so I'll just finish with the fact that the Steelers have a really good run defense. No thanks. Mathews is not a top-20 play for me.
Jeremy Hill, Bengals: I'm on record as saying this should be a "Gio game" (see running backs I love) and I'm so not feeling Hill here. There's always a chance he falls into the end zone. I mean, Indy did have two RB scores against Denver last week, but ultimately, the Broncos rank third in terms of fewest yards allowed before first contact per carry since 2015, among many other very good stats about how they rock, making Hill a touchdown-dependent flex play this week. There are better options out there.
Jerick McKinnon, Vikings: Many people rushed to their waiver wire to grab McKinnon, and while I have no issue with that per se -- there's certainly some upside there -- the truth is the Vikings have a subpar offensive line and just lost left tackle Matt Kalil. Whatever you think of Kalil's skill, the Vikings don't have anyone they think is better than he is, so that should tell you something. Peterson struggled to get something going behind that line and now McKinnon heads to Carolina where he'll receive a 65-35 split (or so) with Matt Asiata. And Asiata should get the red zone work. I'd like to see McKinnon be productive first before I automatically put him in the lineup.
Wide receivers I love in Week 3
Alshon Jeffery, Bears: Just in case you were worried about Brian Hoyer, don't be. First, I'm not convinced Hoyer is a downgrade from the current version of Jay Cutler, and whether it was last season with DeAndre Hopkins or a few games with Josh Gordon, Hoyer has been good enough to get elite wideouts the ball consistently. Against a Dallas secondary that doesn't scare me at all, Jeffery is an easy top-10 play.
Travis Benjamin, Chargers: I think the main point I am trying to make this week is that I don't think very highly of any facet of the Colts' defense. Benjamin has caught 13 of 14 targets this season, Antonio Gates is banged up and Rivers will definitely be working to get Benjamin and that speed in open space on the turf. Yummy ... which, now that I actually typed it out, comes across as much creepier than when I was saying it in my head.
Willie Snead, Saints: I'm going to keep saying it every week until folks believe me. Not a fluke. You already know that no team has given up more passing touchdowns than the Atlanta Falcons, but I liked this stat from my friend Matt Harmon: The Falcons have given up seven catches for 125 yards and a TD to the left slot and 10 for 100 yards and a score to the right slot. They've played only two games. Snead is an easy top-20 play for me this week.
Jarvis Landry, Dolphins: I don't think Miami can run the ball and after listening to some quotes from Adam Gase, he doesn't seem too sure of it either. The Browns don't have anyone in the slot who can guard Landry, who will be another safe bet for double-digit targets.
Sterling Shepard, Giants: He has run 73 routes, same as Odell Beckham Jr. Eli Manning is completing 91.7 percent of his passes to Shepard this young season, while just 64.5 percent to all other Giants wideouts. With Josh Norman expected to shadow Beckham for most of the game, Eli will take some shots but he'll also be looking elsewhere. Last year against Norman and the Panthers, Manning completed 23 passes for 169 yards and three TDs to non-Beckham pass-catchers. Now, some of that was Shane Vereen and Will Tye, but still. Shepard will get his looks and is a WR3 with upside in this one.
Other receiving votes: Back home where he got 11 targets in the opener, Tajae Sharpe will get a lot of looks against a Raiders team that already has given up 808 passing yards and seven TDs, including a league-high five TDs on passes thrown shorter than 15 yards this season. (Sharpe has caught nine of his 11 targets less than 15 yards downfield). ... Fantasy zombie Mike Wallace's resurgence tour should continue unabated in Jacksonville on Sunday, as the Ravens will struggle to run here, leaving Wallace and Dennis Pitta as the only ways to move the ball. And move the ball they shall against a Jags team that already has coughed up six passing scores in two games. ... Gut call here, but Victor Cruz always seems to hurt the Redskins. I feel like he gets loose for one here. ... I'm all-in on San Diego this week, so what's one more? Gimme some more Tyrell Williams, please.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 3
Sammy Watkins, Bills: Man, I hope I am wrong about this one. Certainly Rex Ryan and new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn have made getting Watkins the ball a priority, so I suspect they feed him here. How successful that is against Patrick Peterson remains to be seen. I own him in a 16-team league, so maybe I can "reverse jinx" him into putting up productive numbers while he's on my "hate" list. But given the matchup and struggles so far, it's hard to have him as a top-20 guy with confidence. Watkins is more of a risk/reward flex for me this week.
John Brown, Cardinals: I loved him in the preseason and he is still a talented player. But until he gets 100 percent right and we see something on the field, he can't be started in any league. Brown has played just 61 snaps so far this season (92nd among wide receivers) and hasn't had a catch longer than 21 yards in his past seven games. And while I am hanging onto him in the 14-team league I won him in, I have no issue if you feel like dropping him for someone else in a shallower ESPN standard league.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos: With seven or fewer fantasy points in five of his past seven games, it's hard to get excited about Sanders on the road, in a run-first offense, with inconsistent quarterback play, in what should be a low-scoring game. He' s a WR4 until we see something.
Tight ends I love in Week 3
Delanie Walker, Titans: A fairly obvious name, but I am the only one who has him as a top-two tight end and it wouldn't surprise me to see him finish the week as the No. 1 tight end. He's a strong cash-game consideration for those who play daily. Since the beginning of last season, TEs are averaging 2.04 fantasy points per catch versus Oakland, most in the NFL. The Raiders can't seem to stop anyone these days -- think about what Jacob Tamme just did to them -- and Walker is a much more central person to his team's offense than Tamme is. As the Titans' strong running game continues to open up things in the passing game, Walker continues to be an elite tight end.
Dennis Pitta, Ravens: Joe Flacco's best friend on the team is finally healthy and Joe is looking his way. Like, a lot. Talking with our scouts, the feeling is that the Jaguars will either play man under/Cover 2 and/or Cover 3, or they will just blitz and hope that their corners can hold up. Either way, the Jags like to keep the short passing game in the front of them, and this should bode well for Pitta on crossing routes and underneath stuff, especially because the Ravens will struggle to establish the run in a consistent manner. Pitta is a top-10 play for me.
Dwayne Allen, Colts: Following the Donte Moncrief injury, the Colts are thin in the passing game, so they will definitely use more two-tight-end sets. Allen is always a threat to score and he's a nice red zone target against a Chargers team that already has given up almost 200 yards and a score to opposing tight ends this season.
Others receiving votes: Tamme has received 21.9 percent of Matt Ryan's targets this season (for comparison, Rob Gronkowski was targeted on 20.9 percent of passes in games he played last season) and you know, it's New Orleans. ... Said it once, will keep saying it. You can't teach 6-foot-7 -- and you can't guard it. The Eagles don't have anyone in their pass defense taller than 6-foot-2 and most are 5-foot-11, so I like Jesse James this week. ... Everything I wrote above about Allen also means more Jack Doyle in a nice matchup. Doyle is a better player than you think. ... As of this writing, there was talk that Gates might have to miss the game. If he does, Hunter Henry would become an interesting TE2 with upside given the matchup with the Colts.
Tight end I hate in Week 3
Gary Barnidge, Browns: Now with Kessler at quarterback and so few receiving options (the injury to Corey Coleman adding to it), I can see the case for Barnidge. But so far, he has been asked to block on 46.7 percent of his snaps this season (up a decent amount from last season), I have no confidence in Kessler as a QB and this is a tough matchup against the Dolphins, despite what you saw last week, as Miami is strong against the tight end in general.
Defenses I love in Week 3
Texans D/ST: Already leading the league with nine sacks and now they get a rookie on a short week? Yeah, that'll work.
Dolphins D/ST: At home against a third-string rookie QB who many people at the draft felt was a reach by Cleveland? The Dolphins are this week's top streaming option.
Others receiving votes: Very quietly, the Buccaneers are allowing the fewest yards per carry since the beginning of last season (3.40). The only way to attack Tampa is through the air and I don't think the Rams can do that. ... At home against a conservative QB, the Bengals may not get a ton of turnover opportunities, but I also don't see the Broncos coming in and blowing them away.
Defenses I hate in Week 3
Eagles D/ST: The Steelers are a top-five offense and top-five in preventing sacks since the beginning of last season. Philly's two-game streak of scoring double-digit fantasy points ends this week.
Jets D/ST: They are facing a ball-control, conservative offense (Alex Smith has turned the ball over just nine times since the beginning of last season) and this game is in Kansas City, where a heavy running game and short passing by the Chiefs will limit the Jets' opportunities for fantasy points.
Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, wishes every injured player a speedy recovery and lots of time off social media. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a paid spokesman for DraftKings.com and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app.