By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com
Mike Vick was a hero in the fourth quarter in San Diego in Week 5, but let’s be honest — he was handcuffing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense.
As soon as the veteran went down with a concuss — I mean, dirt in his eye (and later a hamstring injury), Landry Jones again showed America what it looks like when a traditional quarterback with eyes downfield can do with the Steelers’ skilled guys. The results? 8-for-12, 168 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 149.3. Steelers 25, Cardinals 13.
But don’t go scrambling to grab Jones just yet. Ben Roethlisberger might be back this week, and a week of film on Jones will aid an opponent, likely limiting his numbers even if he does play, assuming Vick still hasn’t found the Visine.
There is, however, a Steeler you should keep your eyes on.
Martavis Bryant, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers (owned in 80.2 percent of ESPN leagues)
It took six weeks for Bryant to take the field. Six long, emotionally testing weeks for you fantasy owners who selected him in your draft.
There were times when you sat and stared at your computer screen as if you were staring into the hopeless abyss, yearning for a commissioner who would grant you one more bench slot. How dare he make you consider parting ways with Martavis in favor of that week’s hot addition? What a cold-hearted commish.
Not all fantasy owners were as tough as you, though. Many of them cut ties with Bryant after hearing about his four-game suspension, and when he sat out in Week 5 too, they were patting themselves on the back.
These owners are also the same fools who cut Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy because of injury issues. Yes, they’re out there, and they’re making the mistakes of which you will take advantage on your mid-season push to the top of the standings. I reference Foster and McCoy because two owners in the same league of mine did that. Seriously.
This means Bryant, who exploded for 137 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions (good for 25 points in a standard scoring league) is still available in nearly one-fifth of leagues! That’s preposterous! Do you best Tim Misny impression and make them pay.
Philadelphia Eagles defense/special teams (owned in 48.9 percent of ESPN leagues)
The Eagles’ defense is en fuego in the past month! Except for a hideous outing against Washington, the Eagles’ D/ST has scored at least 13 points in three of its past four games.
I wanted to write in the start/sit column for Week 6 to bench Eli Manning, because although everyone had him as a great matchup against the Eagles, I knew better than to put my team’s hopes on Manning and his inner Eli. Plus, the Eagles’ defense has flown under the radar (no pun intended) for much of the season, despite strong showings against New York and New Orleans. I can see why this was overlooked, but the matchup wasn’t nearly as pretty to me as others, and we all eventually saw why.
The Eagles forced Manning to throw two interceptions (including on for a touchdown), sacked him three times, and harassed him all night. They scored 20 points. That is what I call productivity.
Their matchup in Week 7 is not as friendly, as they face the multitalented Cam Newton and undefeated Carolina Panthers. But long term, this is a unit you should stash on your roster because of games like Monday night.
Surprise! New section, as the deadline approaches.
Jimmy Graham, tight end, Seattle Seahawks
Trade Graham for Gary Barnidge. You heard it here first, folks.
Graham carries big-name value, and wasn’t much of a factor in the Seahawks’ offense before Sunday’s heartbreaking loss to the Panthers. He posted a 14-point game in the loss, his third double-digit performance in six games. It’s hard to predict from week to week whether Graham will be worth much, and it’s even more difficult to say if the Seahawks are going to get out of the funk in which they’re currently mired.
Swap him based on name and a spike in value based on his most-recent game. You might be able to catch the right unassuming owner at the perfect time, in need of a tight end and happening to have a stockpile of running backs or wide receivers. If someone offers you Barnidge PLUS another asset, take it. Barnidge has scored at least one touchdown in four consecutive games now, even in losing efforts. Do it. Do it now.
Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver Broncos
The narrative has already picked up this week: What is wrong with Peyton Manning? Is this the end?
In a word, yes.
But don’t let your fellow owners know that yet.
Put Manning on your trading block. Tell your competitors that he’s leading a 6-0 team. Don’t tell them that the Broncos are winning largely despite Manning. And for the love of all things American, do not, absolutely do not show them the highlight of Barkevious Mingo intercepting a Manning pass for his only worthwhile moment in a Browns uniform. Don’t even bring up mangos, or mango-flavored items. Change your smoothie order this week — your fantasy future is at stake.
Trade Manning based on name, on legacy, and on the deceptive 6-0 record. Reap the rewards. Pray your competitor doesn’t look at the game film. And don’t tell them Emmanuel Sanders was in too much pain to finish the game Sunday.
Mike Evans, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Point to rookie season film. Show your adversaries how the guy is practically oozing with talent and potential.
And burn his 2015 stat sheet.
He’s scored 17 fantasy points this season. He’s topped 100 yards once. He’s only caught more than three passes in a game once. He has one advantageous matchup before facing the Falcons, and then three consecutive NFC East opponents (New York Giants, Dallas, Philadelphia).
A shredder works well on fantasy print-outs, too.
Melvin Gordon, running back, San Diego Chargers (owned in 94.4 percent of ESPN leagues)
With his doughnut on Sunday, Gordon became the first first-round selection to fail to reach double-digits in fantasy points in his first six games since Cedric Benson plodded his way directly into the teeth of opposing defenses from Weeks 1 through 8 in 2005, according to ESPN’s Tristan H. Cockcroft.
Philip Rivers also became the first quarterback to pass for 500-plus yards, go without an interception, and still lose a game. If that doesn’t make things clear about the state of the Chargers’ running game, I can no longer help you. Gordon is your fantasy ball and chain, and as Anthony Hamilton once sang, trade your ball and chain in for a ticket, on a one way trip into the free-agent pool. Or something like that.
Follow Nick Shook on Twitter @TheNickShook or contact him at email@example.com