Adam Levitan

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Ridley's Riddle

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When it comes to running back usage, Bill Belichick can be nearly as devilish as Mike Shanahan.

I say nearly because Belichick actually has some rhyme and reason to his madness. He gameplans for each week and plugs in his assets (players) as he sees fit. That can lead to some inconsistency, as Stevan Ridley owners are realizing right now.

In Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, Ridley played on just 26-of-82 snaps. Danny Woodhead saw 51 snaps. Does that mean Woodhead is a better player? Obviously not. Do the Patriots think he’s better at catching the ball, operating out of the no-huddle and protecting the quarterback? Yes.

The Ravens’ front seven isn’t as dominant as it once was, but Belichick clearly had something in mind other than a power running game. They went no-huddle, up-tempo and decided not to simply pound away into the Ravens’ strength. That meant Ridley took a backseat to Woodhead.

Owners simply looking at the box score may take this as a lack of confidence in Ridley or a “changing of the guard.” Don’t do that. Ridley will be pushing for the lion’s share of snaps and touches more often than not this year, setting up a buy low window right now.

We’re not done with Patriots and usage notes. Rob Gronkowski had just two catches for 21 yards on a mere three targets. Why? The Pats respected the Ravens’ pass rush enough to keep Gronk in as a blocker and felt they had better matchups with the wideouts. Again, it’s a unique situation and not worth panicking over.

Reggie Bush has dodged a major bullet. He hurt his left knee on Sunday, the same one that he injured twice previously. However, all testing has come back clean and now he’s saying it’s “just a bruise.” Bush has a legit chance to play against the Cardinals Sunday, leaving Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller as mere desperation handcuffs. If I could only roster one, it would be the less talented Thomas because the Dolphins’ coaches don’t trust Miller’s knowledge of the playbook or pass protection.

Ryan Grant finally got off the street Tuesday as he signed on with the Redskins. Mike Shanahan has done stranger things before, but don’t take Grant as a serious threat to Alfred Morris. He’s just insurance as Roy Helu (turf toe) and Evan Royster (knee) rehab. Grant can certainly protect Robert Griffin III on third downs, something the Redskins sorely need right now.

Jordan Cameron’s role is expected to grow after a breakout Week 3 showing. … The Jets signed RB Jonathan Grimes off the Texans’ practice squad. The tea leaves say the Jets are about fed up with Shonn Greene’s ineptness. … Jonathan Dwyer played just eight snaps in Week 3 and Rashard Mendenhall (knee) is expected back after the bye. … Coach Jim Schwartz said he intended for Kevin Smith to be the third-down back last week, but Mikel Leshoure was doing so well in that spot so he stuck with it. Smith is a third-stringer right now.

Kenny Britt’s ankle is looking good. He’s on the verge of an explosion. … Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring) is not expected to play Thursday night. … Julian Edelman (hand) is uncertain for Week 4. We’ll know more after Wednesday’s practice. … There’s no timetable on a return for Darrius Heyward-Bey (concussion). … John Skelton (ankle) said he’s still two weeks away. … James Jones is reportedly dealing with a foot injury, but the Packers are saying he’ll be OK for now.

It sounds like the Lions plan on having Jahvid Best (concussions) back when he’s eligible a month from now. He’d be the passing complement to bruiser Mikel Lesoure. … Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) is guaranteeing he’ll play against the Eagles Sunday night. Expect some kind of timeshare with Andre Brown. … Matt Forte (ankle) is expected to miss one more week. … Peyton Hillis (ankle) was in a walking boot Monday. Shaun Draughn would complement Jamaal Charles if Hillis can’t go Week 4. … The Cardinals have not updated Beanie Wells (toe) status, but he doesn’t play well through injury. Add Ryan Williams if you can. … Willis McGahee (ribs) is listed as day to day. Lance Ball projects as the starter if he sits Week 4.
Adding a different D/ST each week based on matchups is a fine strategy. Here are three units that might be on waivers to consider for streaming purposes:

* For more waiver thoughts at all positions, check out Chris Wesseling’s latest here.

1. CARDINALS vs. Dolphins - At this point, the Cardinals D/ST should simply be owned in a lot of formats. Their front seven is beastly and Patrick Peterson is coming into his own. Ryan Tannehill has one touchdown and four picks through three games.

2. BENGALS at Jaguars - If not for a fluky, game-winning slant against the Colts last week we’d be talking about another miserable week for Blaine Gabbert. Without that play, he would have thrown for 75 yards a week after throwing for 53. The guy is a mess.

3.  BRONCOS vs. Raiders - Now 1-2, the Broncos will be starved and desperate at home in this one. Carson Palmer has thrown 18 interceptions in 13 games as a Raider.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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