Chris Wesseling

The Morning After

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It's Not Easy Being Green

Monday, October 10, 2011


The title comes, of course, from Joe Raposo’s classic lament for Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street. With apologies to Kermit, it’s Ray Charles’ fabulous version that best captures the complex duality of self knowledge. It’s hard to blame Kermit, though. If Charles ever tackled Rubber Ducky, Ernie would have to find a new gig, too.

On a football level, the title works for a Jets defense that has now surrendered 30 points in three consecutive games and at least 24 in four of five contests. From a fantasy perspective, though, the story of the day is an Eagles defense that has emerged as a dream matchup for running backs. The Iggles entered Week 5 bending over backwards for a league-high 29.5 fantasy points to opposing backs. Cadillac Williams and Steven Jackson both finished in the top-15 in Week 1; Michael Turner was fantasy’s No. 7 back in Week 2; Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs became the second pair of backs to reach the top-15 in Week 3; and the duo of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter both reached 100 yards against the Eagles in Week 4, effectively ending San Francisco’s ground attack slump.


Firing Sean McDermott and transitioning long-time offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive boss was the NFL's most head-scratching move of the offseason. After five games, it now seems indefensible. As Evan Silva pointed out in last week's typically excellent Matchups column, DL coach Jim Washburn's Wide-9 scheme sacrifices gap control for up-field pass rush, leaving Philly's small and slow linebackers exposed against the run. It's a systematic failure rooted in scheme as much as talent disparity. With top run defenders Antonio Dixon and Trent Cole out, the stage was set for one of the league's hottest running backs to run roughshod over a capitulatory front seven.  

 

Comprising 59.2 percent of Buffalo's offense, Fred Jackson joined Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas as the only backs in franchise history with 100 rushing yards (111) and 80 receiving yards (85) in the same game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Jackson grinded out 59 of his 111 rushing yards after first contact. Against a soft underbelly, Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 21-of-24 passes traveling less than 10 yards, allowing Jackson to exploit coverage-deficient linebackers and poor tackling at the back end to become the first Bills back since Larry Centers in 2001 with five or more receptions in three straight games. 
 
The difference in F-Jax between this season and last is playmaking ability. He's averaged three plays of 10+ yards per week, including five that led to a trio of touchdowns against the Eagles. After five weeks, Jackson leads all running backs in fantasy points (101), is tied for the rushing touchdown lead (5), ranks third in yards per carry (5.3), second in rushing yards (480), and second in yards from scrimmage (712). If he keeps it up, the NFL's most underrated player will earn a lucrative contract extension on the way to a starting Pro Bowl nod in the AFC. 

Game Balls

Adrian Peterson, Vikings -  It’s become trendy the past few weeks to suggest that Darren McFadden, Ray Rice, or LeSean McCoy has taken over as the NFL’s best back. As NFL Films guru Greg Cosell stated a couple of weeks back, though, it’s not even close. It’s an open-and-shut case, and the answer remains Peterson.

It only took coordinator Bill Musgrave five weeks to figure out how to use his best offensive player. There’s no telling when Musgrave will figure how to take the bubble wrap off of Percy Harvin. Behind two instances of Peterson on Peterson crime, Adrian trucked rookie Patrick to become the first back with three touchdowns in the opening quarter since 1999.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers - The folks at Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner Blog named Max Starks one of the five most valuable players of Week 5. Big Ben’s new blindside protector walked in off the street and immediately plugged the hole in the offensive dyke. Roethlisberger was sacked just once against one of the league’s premier defenses over the first month of the season. Playing through a sprained left foot, Big Ben patiently accepted what the Titans’ Cover-2 defense allowed with short passes over the middle before his fifth touchdown of the day went for 40 yards to Mike “60 Minutes” Wallace. If you can find an owner looking to sell, it's still a good idea to pounce on Roethlisberger as an underappreciated QB1 in Pittsburgh's spread offense.

Aaron Rodgers, Packers - The early-season MVP shredded the Falcons secondary once again, this time for 396 and two touchdowns (both of which came in the second half, along with 299 yards). In three Georgia Dome games over the past two seasons, Rodgers has lit up Atlanta’s defense for 1,106 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.  Despite opening the game without his starting right tackle and losing his starting left tackle, Rodgers remains fantasy’s No. 1 QB, edging out Cam Newton and Tom Brady. He’s currently on pace for 5,507 yards and 45 touchdowns.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs - As atrocious as Kansas City looked early on, it’s time to give Bowe credit as one of the top receivers in the NFL. While the rest of the offense invites derision, Bowe has earned the awe and respect of the typically stoic Chiefs beat writers. After a juggling end-zone catch that rivaled Victor Cruz’s one-handed beauty, Bowe ended the day as fantasy’s No. 6 receiver.

Steve Smith, Panthers - As Pat Daugherty suggested Sunday night, mixing it up with Steve Smith is up there with charging the mound on Nolan Ryan in the sports pantheon of biting off more than one man can chew. Much like the rest of the league’s corners, Jabari Green couldn’t contain Smith down the field. Roman Harper answerd with a cheap shot, Malcolm Jenkins ended up with Smith’s fist in his facemask, and DC Gregg Williams resorted to bracket coverage the rest of the way. Third only to Wes Welker and Calvin Johnson in fantasy points, Smith is on pace for 1,950 yards in a revitalized offense.

Jimmy Graham, Saints - With another eight receptions for 129 yards, the “Graham Reaper” becomes the first tight end in Saints history with three consecutive games over the century mark. Firmly entrenched as Drew Brees’ go-to receiver, Graham bypassed Rob Gronkowski to take over as fantasy’s No. 1 tight end. On pace for a 102/1,587/10 line, Graham has already racked up 130 more yards than the next closest tight end.  


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Email :Chris Wesseling



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