Mike Tanier

Going Deep

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Panic in Packerland

Wednesday, October 13, 2010




WIDE RECEIVER
No Packers wide receiver has produced a 100-yard game this season, so you may be tempted to bench Donald Driver or Greg Jennings until Rodgers returns and the dust settles. If you have depth, make the move. If you are thinking of promoting Danny Amendola or someone like him, don't be so hasty.

The Packers are one of the most pass-oriented teams at the goal line in the NFL. Rodgers threw 15 passes inside the 10-yard line in the first five games, completing short touchdowns to Donald Driver (2), James Jones and Lee, while completing a few more passes that were a broken tackle away from becoming touchdowns. Flynn may not throw at the goal line as often as Rodgers did, but the Packers are still likely to spread the field instead of handing off in short-yardage situations.

Also, keep in mind that Finley averaged 6.5 targets per game. Eight if those targets were deep passes, according to Football Outsiders. Those deep balls are more likely to go to Jennings or Driver than, say, Andrew Quarless, who gets the start if Finley and Lee are both hurt. Speaking of which ...

TIGHT END
Finley was the first tight end taken in many leagues, and most fantasy owners who grab a stud tight end don't invest heavily in his backup. So you could be in real trouble if you are the guy who took Finley. I'm here to help.

Quarless is a rookie from Penn State who has been targeted twice this season: once for an incomplete goal line pass against the Bears, once on the incomplete 4th-and-1 pass from the one-yard line against the Redskins. You know the drill: he was the "backup tight end surprise." Quarless saw much more action with Finley and Lee hurt, catching four passes later in the Redskins loss.

Quarless was slipping past Lee on the depth chart before the injury rash, and he has the size and speed to play a Finley-like offensive role. But he's inexperienced and had a reputation as a troublemaker in college, with DUI and marijuana suspensions. He's a fantasy long shot. Look elsewhere for tight end help. Like Detroit.

Brandon Petitgrew and Tony Scheffler have combined for 71 targets this season, and chances are that one of them is available on waivers. Petitigrew was targeted three times in the red zone last week. Scheffler has five red zone targets on the year. Ben Watson has been targeted 35 times in Cleveland, though the quarterback situation there is scary: Colt McCoy makes Matt Flynn look like John Elway. I laughed off Tony Moeaki a few weeks ago, but he's catching four or five passes per week, has two touchdowns, and the Chiefs use multi-tight end sets on nearly every down. None of these guys can replace Finley, but they can ease the pain.

KICKER
Mason Crosby has scored 35 points, but he's a streak-shooter who missed two important field goals last week, and he may get fewer opportunities if the Packers offense slacks. If Jason Hanson (40 points) is still sitting on the wire, give him a look. Matt Bryant (47 points) is another busy kicker your opponents may have slept on. Nick Folk (49 points) may have slipped through the draft, but he'll be the kicker on everyone's mind (if there's such a thing as a kicker on everyone's mind) after Monday night.

DEFENSE
Clay Matthews' hamstring injury isn't serious, so don't worry: the Packers defense is still one of the two or three best in the league. In the wacky world of Packers football, there's at least one thing you can count on.


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