Aces & Deuces: Week 4 Decues

Drew Brees seems to have lost his touch early this season.

Is it just me, or are defenses playing better this year than they were last?

With vast improvement thus far from New England and Green Bay – plus the surprising emergence of Seattle and Arizona’s swarming squads – fantasy matchups are getting tougher and tougher. Even teams like Tampa Bay and Atlanta, who were pretty easy to game plan against, have been shooting down fantasy studs like they are dropping bad lines at a dive bar.

While this may not make the fantasy weekend as fun as it once was, it has made predicting the Deuces each week a bit easier than the Aces.

Case in point: Last week’s five wins out of eight Deuces, including calling below average performances from Tom Brady (18.1 points) and Aaron Rodgers (10.62 points). Sure, I missed on Darren McFadden, and Shonn Greene scored one more point than I predicted, but for the season I am now boasting a 14-7 record in the Deuces column. Let’s see if that trend continues during Week 4.

QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (@ Green Bay Packers) Coming into Lambeau winless, Brees is in a must-win situation with the Saints this weekend, which could very easily lead to a sense of urgency that will blow the lid off the fantasy world. It could also lead, however, to more ill-timed turnovers, as Brees has been noticeably pressing this young season. New Orleans’ offensive line has been spotty of late, and the receivers are not getting separation downfield, leaving Brees to force throws into tight windows or sling it on the run. Clay Matthews is back to form on defense, with six sacks already this year, while the Pack’s ball-hawking secondary already has four picks. As a Saints fan, I will gladly be wrong on this one, but it doesn’t look good for Brees against a bunch of angry cheeseheads looking for redemption. Prediction: 275 yards passing + 2 TDs + 2 INTs = 15 fantasy points

RB Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins (@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers) Most people may not know it – especially since they can hardly fill their own stadium, let alone captivate a national audience – but the Bucs are quietly boasting the league’s top rushing defense this season. On the way to giving up a mere 47.3 yards per game, Tampa has held more established rushers like DeMarco Murray and Ahmad Bradshaw in check, which leaves me little hope for a younger pup like Morris. Plus, it is not like he will make up for it in the passing game, as he only has one catch on the season. Goal line carries may get him in the end zone, but he is also working in a similar situation as the Carolina backs were this time last year, ceding red zone touches to their mobile quarterback. It all adds up to a rough week for one of this season’s breakout candidates. Prediction: 42 yards rushing + 1 TD = 10.2 fantasy points

RB DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (vs. Chicago Bears) Speaking of Murray, he also looks to be in for a second straight disappointing week after last Sunday’s 11.5 point performance. Chicago has only given up one rushing touchdown this season and a sparing 15 first downs to running backs all year. At home under the big Texas lights, look for the Cowboys to try and beat Chicago in the air, even if Dez Bryant has more closely resembled a blinged-out zombie this season. Murray will catch a few passes, making him a viable option in PPR leagues, but his standard scoring will likely be down this week as it was last week against Tampa. Prediction: 72 yards rushing + 22 yards receiving = 9.4 fantasy points

Brandon Marshall hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1, and that trend will continue this weekend against a stingy Cowboys secondary.

WR Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears (@ Dallas Cowboys) Dallas’ revamped secondary continues to pay dividends, as opposing quarterbacks are posting a paltry 82.0 passer rating against the Big D. With Marshall being Chicago’s main receiving weapon, look for free agent stud Brandon Carr to shadow him all night, frustrating him with little separation and holding him out of the end zone for a third straight week. Prediction: 54 yards receiving =  5.4 fantasy points

QB Eli Manning, New York Giants (@ Philadelphia Eagles) Hakeem Nicks is out – again – and I don’t expect Ramses Barden to be roaming like a wild buffalo against Philly’s top-flight secondary this week. Eli certainly has other weapons at his disposal, and Ahmad Bradshaw is set to split carries with Andre Brown, so there will be offensive balance to keep things moving. But the Eagles are giving up less than 175 yards in the air each game, and opponents are only completing 28 percent of their third down conversions. This looks like a tough one for the younger Manning. Prediction: 206 yards passing + 2 TDs + 3 INTs = 10.24 fantasy points

TE Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers (@ New York Jets) Sure, Darelle Revis is done for the Jets, and Davis has been the best fantasy tight end in the league this season with 40.9 points. Rex Ryan, though, knows when to scheme for a playmaker, and given that Davis is the only one San Francisco has, I expect New York to throw the dogs his way. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see a second straight loss for the Niners this week, but even if they win, they’ll do it on the ground, not through the air. Prediction: 72 yards receiving = 7.2 fantasy points

Advertisements

Aces & Deuces: Week 4 Aces

Look for Aaron Rodgers to point to the scoreboard plenty of times this Sunday as he returns to form against the league’s worst defense.

The Week 3 installation of the Aces saw me swinging for the fences with some picks, but mostly resulting in sacrifice flies.

With little-known receiver Brandon Gibson on my list going up against Chicago, maybe I should have seen these results coming, but the overall tally for the week was three wins and five losses. On the season, I am carrying a 7-15 record with the Aces, but when I nail them (Arizona defense, Andre Brown), I hit them out of the park. It’s just the whiffs (Sam Bradford, Dexter McCluster) that create the biggest gusts of wind.

Luckily, some of this week’s matchups pit under-performing veterans against soft defenses, which gives me hope for an improved record as we welcome the real referees back to the game.

Aces – Week 4

QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (vs. New Orleans Saints) Being the reigning league MVP and a perennial fantasy stud should make you a no-brainer play each week, so why is Rodgers making a list reserved for players that can actually be debated? Well, a 45.6 point showing through three weeks, for starters. Rodgers has been so productive in the last few seasons that owners have grown accustomed to him blowing away the competition each week, so that when he does something pedestrian, it leads them to the ledges. His low point output thus far, however, is not a harbinger of doom, but rather a nod to the strong defenses (San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle) that have kept him running for his life. Fresh off the stirring loss resulting from Tategate, Rodgers gets to ride into Lambeau against a putrid Saints defense that is giving up one flobbity gillion yards per game and seemingly plays with eight men on the field. As a result, look for a huge bounce back game from number 12. Prediction: 356 yards passing + 26 yards rushing + 3 TDs = 28.8 fantasy points

RB Cedric Benson, Green Bay Packers (vs. New Orleans Saints) OK, so I looked up the statistics, and the Saints aren’t giving up one flobbity gillion yards per game. The actual number is 477.3 yards per game, including a league-worst 215 yards per game on the ground. So, while my initial estimation was a bit of an exaggeration, the reality is that New Orleans is absolutely rolling out the red carpet for running backs this season (they’ve also allowed six rushing touchdowns). If you’re a Cedric Benson owner, saddle up. It’s going to be a big day. Prediction: 120 yards rushing + 16 yards receiving + 1 TD = 19.6 fantasy points

WR Eric Decker, Denver Broncos (vs. Oakland Raiders) Heralded throughout the preseason as Peyton Manning’s new favorite receiver, Decker has had a pretty quiet season thus far, taking a back seat to fellow pass catcher Demaryius Thomas en route to 243 receiving yards and no touchdowns. Owners clamoring for a Decker jailbreak should be in luck this weekend, as Denver takes on a banged up Oakland secondary that is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete almost 70 percent of their passes. Something tells me Sunday is the day Decker gets off the schneid and into the end zone. Prediction: 127 yards receiving + 1 TD = 18.7 fantasy points

Oakland receiver Denarius Moore is the healthiest target in Carson Palmer’s arsenal this weekend.

WR Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders (@ Denver Broncos) Standing on the sideline opposite Decker will be Moore, who is the healthiest receiver Oakland has in its stable with Jacoby Ford on IR, tight end Brandon Myers concussed, and Darrius Heyward-Bey still recovering from last week’s ugly helmet-to-helmet smash courtesy of Pittsburgh safety Ryan Mundy. The Denver defense has come back to Earth after their Week 1 showing against the Steelers, and Oakland needs to throw the ball more to take some of the attention away from Darren McFadden. Moore is a great play this week if you had to sit Reggie Wayne or one of the Pittsburgh receivers due to byes. Prediction: 77 yards receiving + 1 TD = 13.7 fantasy points

QB Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Detroit Lions) Fresh off the performance of the week in knocking the San Francisco Harbaughs off their pedestal, Ponder looks in control of a quietly explosive offense in Minnesota. Take a look at all of Ponder’s weapons: He can use the dominant rushing of Adrian Peterson to open up play-action opportunities down the field to newly reinstated receiver Jerome Simpson, and he can look for up-and-coming tight end Kyle Rudolph in the red zone. Oh, there’s also a little guy named Percy Harvin, who with 318.9 total yards is accounting for nearly one-third of the team’s offensive output. This all adds up to plenty of opportunities against a Detroit secondary that is still trying to gel without safety Louis Delmas in the lineup. Look for another impressive performance from the Vikings’ signal caller this Sunday. Prediction: 270 yards passing + 32 yards rushing + 2 TDs = 22 fantasy points

RB Ben Tate, Houston Texans (vs. Tennessee Titans) Yes, Tate is the understudy to the league’s sixth leading rusher, but Tennessee’s defense is about as effective as the peg people on a foosball table. Once Houston opens up a big lead, look for Tate to rack up plenty of garbage time yardage as he eats up the clock and allows Arian Foster to take a catnap. Prediction: 65 yards rushing + 1 TD = 12.5 fantasy points

D/ST Kansas City Chiefs (vs. San Diego Chargers) Linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali absolutely feasted on New Orleans’ suspect offensive line last weekend, and look for a repeat performance this go ’round. Even if top offensive tackle Jared Gaither is back on the field for the Chargers, he won’t be fresh enough after missing the start of the season to hold off KC’s pass rush, and Philip Rivers has already thrown four picks and taken six sacks this season. Look for those numbers to increase at Arrowhead. Prediction: Points Allowed 7-13 + 3 sacks + 2 INTs = 11 fantasy points

Bye Week Hell has arrived. What are your options?

Can Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts quiet your bye week worries?

We’ve reached the point of the NFL season I like to refer to as Bye Week Hell. It’s that tricky stretch of the year where you need to worry not only about which of your players have been injured, incarcerated, or otherwise incapacitated, but also who are enjoying their week-long, union-negotiated siesta.

Ideally, you’ve already accounted for the doldrums of Bye Week Hell by stocking your bench with talented backups or by using the waiver wire. But, in the event that your team has been wracked with injury (Buffalo running backs) or inconsistency (Chris Johnson, for whom the word inconsistent is too much of a compliment at this point), you may still be looking for some answers as we head into Week 4 and you look to replace any starters on the Indianapolis Colts or Pittsburgh Steelers.

With this in mind, here are some fantasy starters who will be on vacation this weekend, and who you can have punch the clock and, hopefully, the scoreboard in their place at the last minute. Just be wise in who you drop to acquire these players, as they usually amount to little more than a one week rental.

 

Starter: WR Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

Replacement: WR Brandon Stokley, Denver Broncos (vs. Oakland Raiders) Why not replace a Colt who is still kicking with a former Colt with some gas in the tank? After seeing his draft stock plummet due to a combination of increasing age and a rookie quarterback, Reggie Wayne is looking like one of the surprise bargains of this young season. He currently leads the league in targets, and has rewarded owners with almost 300 yards receiving and a touchdown over three weeks. His presence this week may be difficult to replace, but Stokley is up for the challenge. Reunited with his former Indy field general in Denver, the veteran slot receiver is one of Peyton Manning’s safety nets when pressure is high, and a generous matchup against Oakland this week bodes well for him as a plug-and-play option. He did leave last week’s game with an injury, but I have not seen any word on his status yet for this week, so keep your eyes open before adding him.

Jerome Simpson returns this week after serving a three game suspension.

 

Starter: WR Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers

Replacement: WR Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Detroit Lions) While he has not been officially activated after serving a three game suspension for enjoying the wacky tabacky, Simpson is a great play this week against a suspect Detroit defense. He brings a Wallace-like field-stretching skill set to a Minnesota offense that is on the rise, and his three catches for 43 yards in a brief preseason showing bode well for his future in the Twin Cities.

 

Starter: WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

Replacement: WR Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Cincinnati Bengals) Besides boasting one of the more amusing names in the game, Shorts has found the end zone twice this season, both on big plays near the end of the game. As a result, he is more of a home run threat than a consistent performer, but against a weak Bengals defense that is ranked 22nd against the pass he is worth a flyer.

 

Starter: QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Replacement: QB Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. San Diego Chargers)Ideally, Roethlisberger is not your only starting quarterback and you aren’t relying on him throwing four touchdowns every week. But, if anyone can come close to a decent performance in a replacement role this weekend, it is Cassel. Riding high with confidence after knocking off the Saints on the road last week, the former backup Patriot-turned high paid, overrated starter is buoyed by a strong running game and huge targets in Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin, who can overpower a San Diego team still reeling from a head-on collision with the Atlanta Falcons freight train last week. He’s likely available in deep leagues in a pinch, but if you have to go this route don’t expect him to carry your team.

Monday Meltdown: Fantasy players rebound against New Orleans, Tennessee, Washington

Jamaal Charles and the Kansas City Chiefs, like most other teams, have pushed their way with ease through the New Orleans Saints defense.

After an underwhelming first two weeks of the season that resulted in just over 10 total fantasy points in standard scoring leagues, Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles went nuclear on Sunday at New Orleans. On the fast carpet of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Charles racked up 233 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries against the Saints, a team that is now proving to be the worst defense in the league.

While this development may result in frustration, cursing, and a run on razor blades at French Quarter hardware stores, it means fantasy gold for owners whose players have the privilege of facing the Saints every Sunday. With teams converting almost 40% of their third down opportunities against New Orleans, the defense is exhausted early on. Pressure from the front four that makes the quarterback scurry out of the pocket – but rarely results in a sack – brings broken plays that leave gaping holes in the secondary. It all adds up to teams piling on the yardage and, more importantly, the points.

(The negative side effect to this poor defense, besides losing, is that it also means Drew Brees is on the field less. When fantasy owners have to worry about Brees, you know a team is in trouble.)

Suffice to say, if you are having one of those “Should I sit him or start him?” moments and you see New Orleans as the opponent, start him.

New Orleans isn’t the only pushover opponent in the fantasy world right now, though. Tennessee made Detroit’s offense look otherworldly under the direction of backup Shaun Hill yesterday, and a previously floundering Cincinnati offense made Washington look like a fat kid in dodgeball. The ‘Skins, Titans, and Saints are the three worst defenses in the league right now, which means owners of anyone on the Packers, Texans, and Buccaneers in Week 4 should be licking their chops.

Other thoughts from yesterday…

Injuries keep hitting the RBs. With Reggie Bush, Willis McGahee, and C.J. Spiller all getting dinged up Sunday, it shows just how endangered the running back position is in the fantasy ecosystem. While Bush’s injury does not appear to be serious, Spiller may miss at least Week 4 with a separated shoulder. Keep an eye on his status throughout the week, and don’t be afraid to look at the Waiver Watch below for someone to take his spot. Same goes for McGahee.

Revis injury has fantasy effects. Speaking of injuries, with the news that New York Jets shutdown corner Darelle Revis will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, the Jets just became a lot easier of a fantasy matchup. Before, if your stud wide receiver was going for a weekend on Revis Island, it meant time to sit him. With half of the field back in play, owners should no longer fear their players going up against New York.

Coming-out party for Ponder. What a massive day for Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder. While he didn’t pile up the yards, he did throw two touchdowns and run in a third, displaying the elusiveness and athleticism that was on display during his college years at Florida State. Oh, and did I mention that he did this all against the 49ers defense, who allegedly was the best in the league? Give Ponder another year or two, and he will be talked about with the league’s elite.

Torrey Smith is an inspiration. Playing less than 24 hours after his younger brother died in a motorcycle accident, Smith somehow suited up and brought in two touchdowns and 127 yards in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house, and Smith truly has been humbled by the outpouring of support he has received in the wake of this tragedy. It’s hard not to root for him, no matter your allegiances.

Rodgers is no lock tonight. Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you are counting on Aaron Rodgers to drop a 30-burger on Seattle to lead your team to victory tonight, it just isn’t going to happen. Seattle is playing Top 5 defense, and Rodgers leads an inconsistent attack into the notoriously hostile CentruyLink Field, one of the loudest venues in the league. Fifteen to 20 points is a more reasonable estimate for the discount double checker. Fear not, though: Rodgers will certainly rebound next week against the aforementioned Saints sieve.

Waiver Watch

My honest hope is that you will not read to the end of this post to find this player’s name so that I can have him on all of my teams.

As the season wears on and players’ roles become more defined, it proves more and more difficult to find those hidden gems dwelling in anonymity on the waiver wire. I’ll do my best here to give you a couple names each week, but we’re getting to the point where we have to depend on injuries and obscure backups to emerge. But that’s what makes it fun, right?

WR Jacoby Jones, Baltimore Ravens Jones has developed into a legitimate third receiver in Baltimore’s uptempo scheme, using his speed to stretch the field. While he has only been targeted nine times by Lord Flacco, he has caught seven of those for 153 yards, making for a whopping 21.9 YPC average. He isn’t consistent yet, but he can be useful as a bye week plug-and-play add.

WR Ramses Barden, New York Giants Here’s my candidate for most waiver wire adds this week. After stepping up in Hakeem Nicks’ absence Thursday night, Barden is on most fantasy players’ radar now. Don’t get too excited, though: Nicks is indicating he will play this weekend, which relegates Barden to insurance policy status yet again.

RB Lance Ball, Denver Broncos For some reason, Knowshon Moreno was a healthy scratch from yesterday’s game against Houston, and when McGahee went down with an injury, Ball received the bulk of the work out of the backfield. While Moreno will likely be back in action if McGahee is out this week, Denver still needs to move the ball on the ground to take some of the pressure off Peyton Manning, making Ball an intriguing play this week against a weak Oakland defense.

TE Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings Really, Rudolph should never have been on your league’s waiver wire to begin with. But, if he is still there, snatch him up. He won’t remain anonymous after hauling in two touchdowns against San Francisco, as that tends to draw some attention. He’s also second on the Vikings with 18 targets so far this season, meaning he is going to get the ball.

Check back later this week for more suggestions as we embark on this season’s first bye week.

Public Service Announcement: Smokin’ Jay Cutler taking the Internet by storm

Found at smokinjaycutler.tumblr.com, Smokin’ Jay Cutler is amusing for even those who could care less about football.

If you’re anything like me, you take a sick sort of pleasure in watching Jay Cutler play. The notoriously streaky Chicago Bears quarterback can in one moment be brilliant, eluding the pass rush and firing a strike down the middle of the field in traffic, and in the next be throwing a tantrum equal to those of my 18-month-old daughter.

It’s this petulant attitude that has garnered the ire of a new website, Smokin’ Jay Cutler. A compilation of photos “dedicated to the most apathetic looking athlete in the history of sports,” the premise behind the Tumblr site is simple: find a picture of Cutler looking lackadaisical, or otherwise foolish, and Photoshop a cigarette in his mouth to make him look even more nonchalant.

Updated almost every day now, it is truly worth a bookmark, especially for owners who get burned by Cutler’s seemingly unending parade of interceptions. The best part of this site, though, is that it is entertaining even if you don’t like football. My personal favorite, a nod to our old grade school photos, can be found here.

Enjoy!

Aces & Deuces: Week 3 Deuces

Peyton Manning and other top tier quarterbacks are facing their fair share of headaches this weekend.

Nostradamus took Week 2 off, being replaced by someone scratching a lottery ticket and winning the $2 prize.

Following up on a 5-1 Week 1 Deuces showing was difficult, but I still came out a hair above .500, with four out of seven guesses coming up roses. Thanks to some stellar defensive play, big names like DeSean Jackson (11.4 points), Maurice Jones-Drew (12.7 points) and Calvin Johnson (9.4 points) were held in check last week, leading to frustration for fantasy owners. However, looking at some of these matchups in advance and having the guts to sit these players is what will lead you to the top of your league’s standings, so stick with me for this week’s players to avoid.

Deuces – Week 3

RB Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (vs. Houston Texans) While opposing defenses have been scheming against and, in the case of Atlanta, feasting on Peyton Manning’s healthy servings of ducks, McGahee has quietly shown there is plenty of tread left on his 30-year-old tires. But against a Texans rushing defense that is allowing a mere 72 yards per game rushing, don’t lean on the veteran this weekend. Prediction: 47 yards rushing + 12 yards receiving = 5.9 fantasy points

Darren McFadden’s turnaround is going to have to wait another week.

RB Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers) McFadden owners are understandably antsy after the workhorse back has given them only 15.9 fantasy points over the first two weeks of the season. With a matchup against a Pittsburgh defense that keeps getting older, but still plays like they’re kids in Pop Warner, the pot at the end of Sunday’s rainbow will be filled with something far less desirable than gold, as the pot in this case more closely resembles a toilet. Prediction: 77 yards rushing + 13 yards receiving = 9 fantasy points

RB Shonn Greene, New York Jets (@ Miami Dolphins) Let’s be honest, here: You shouldn’t be relying on Greene as a fantasy commodity, anyway. That goes double for this week, where he is taking his paltry 3.1 yards per carry to the mattress against a Miami defense that has held far better rushers (the aforementioned DMC, Arian Foster) to just more than 50 yards per game. Miami actually has a fighting chance in this game. Prediction: 32 yards rushing = 3.2 fantasy points

WR Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ Dallas Cowboys) Give Cowboys owner Jerry Jones credit: While he is normally running his mouth and filming commercials for sodas no one will drink, he saw a huge flaw in his defense at the corner position and wrote large checks that his players are actually earning. Rookie Morris Claiborne and free agent acquisition Brandon Carr now anchor a secondary that ranks third in the league and hasn’t given up a pass play of more than 40 yards. They’ll take Vincent Jackson away this weekend and make Josh Freeman work underneath for his scoring opportunities. Prediction: 79 yards receiving = 7.9 fantasy points

Jermichael Finley owners have been making a similar face when watching him play this season.

TE Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers (@ Seattle Seahawks) The tight end with a case of the dropsies was surprisingly dropped in one of my leagues this week, but I understand the reasoning. With all of the other receiving weapons to feed, Aaron Rodgers is likely to lose trust in a still-young player who can’t seem to get a grip. Against a stingy Seattle defense, I think the whole Green Bay roster is a tricky start, which means Finley gets to ride the pine. Prediction: 11 yards receiving + 1 TD = 7.1 fantasy points

Top Flight QBs On the heels of three disappointing performances from Peyton Manning (3 INTs, 10.54 fantasy points), Tom Brady (1 INT, 15.54 fantasy points) and Aaron Rodgers (1 INT, 11.16 fantasy points), owners are desperate for a bounce back from the old reliables this week. However, with the two of those three facing top-10 defenses (Manning and Rodgers), and one losing a security blanket tight end (Brady), the outlook for this week is bleak. I am not saying you should definitely sit them if you have them, but if you have a backup quarterback with a cakewalk defensive opponent (Matt Cassel, perhaps), it is worth thinking about. Predictions: Manning – 200 yards passing + 2 INTs + 1 TD = 8 fantasy points; Brady – 273 yards passing + 2 TDs = 18.92 fantasy points; Rodgers – 240 yards passing + 9 yards rushing + 1 INT + 1 passing TD + 1 rushing TD = 18.5 fantasy points

Aces & Deuces: Week 3 Aces

Adrian Peterson is up to the challenge against a stout San Francisco defense this weekend.

Week 2 brought only marginal improvement over my Week 1 Aces picks, but those few who delivered did so in a big way.

On the heels of tremendous fantasy performances by Dwayne Bowe (22.2 points), Danny Amendola (20 points), and Reggie Bush (31.7 points), I “improved” my overall Aces picks to a record of 4-10 for the first two weeks of the season. Carolina wide receiver Brandon LaFell was one more New Orleans missed tackle away from helping me out in the win column, but Green Bay’s James Jones (-0.1 points) and Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Dwyer (4 points) might as well have been one-ply toilet paper in one of those commercials where they pour a bunch of blue liquid onto it. Ugly.

If this were baseball, I’d take a .400 batting average. Unfortunately, football does not afford the luxury of such mediocrity, so let’s see where this week’s picks take us.

But I am not looking to make easy picks to pad my stats, here. I will try and find some little-used players that can help give you an edge in your league. Here’s to wishing the both of us the best of luck this weekend.

Aces – Week 3

RB Andre Brown, New York Giants (@ Carolina Panthers) Surprise, surprise. Ahmad “Glassjaw” Bradshaw is hurt again, paving the way for a backup running back to lead you to fantasy glory. But instead of 2012 first round pick David Wilson being the next man up, the Giants are turning to Brown, the back who led them against Tampa Bay last week with 90 total yards and a touchdown (plus a two-point conversion, to boot). Against Carolina’s soft run defense (28th in the league, allowing 146.5 yards per game), look for the Giants to feed Brown early and often. Eli Manning will be without wide receiver Hakeen Nicks this week, and even with an extra serving of Victor Cruz’s salsa, I still expect Brown to be the best runner on the field tonight. Prediction: 115 yards rushing + 22 yards receiving + 1 TD = 19.7 fantasy points

RB/WR Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs (@New Orleans Saints) Another week, another receiver playing against the Saints on the Aces list. New Orleans has been eaten alive by speedy receivers lining up in the slot or in the backfield over the first two weeks (Pierre Garcon in Week 1, Brandon LaFell in Week 2), but few will see McCluster as someone to worry about. On the contrary, I feel he poses a threat to the Saints’ poor tackling secondary simply due to his speed and elusiveness, and the fact that Bowe will draw extra coverage after last week’s breakout session. McCluster may not get in the end zone, but he will consistently catch passes and move the sticks on Sunday, making him especially valuable in PPR leagues. Prediction: 116 yards receiving + 12 yards rushing = 12.8 fantasy points

RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (vs. San Francisco 49ers) I know what you’re thinking: “No one can run against the Niners, they have an intimidating front line and play smashmouth, old school football, yadda yadda yadda.” Fine, I will give you that San Francisco is giving up less than 65 yards on the ground per game, but they have also faced two pass-heavy offenses who aren’t exactly burning it up in the elite running back category (my apologies to Cedric Benson and Kevin Smith’s moms). There is no way I am sitting AP just because he has a difficult matchup, and when he sniffs the goal line, he is going in. Prediction: 94 yards rushing + 2 TDs = 21.4 fantasy points

Andrew Hawkins has breathed some much-needed life into Cincinnati’s offense in the early weeks of the season.

WR Andrew Hawkins, Cincinnati Bengals (@ Washington Redskins) An undrafted free agent out of Toledo better known for coming in second place on a football reality show, Hawkins has added a Percy Harvin-like dimension to the Bengals’ offense that has given opponents fits over the first two weeks of the season. Look for more of the same this week as he lines up all over the field against Washington, whose injury-ridden defense was strafed in its first two games against similar players in Darren Sproles and Amendola. Prediction: 87 yards receiving + 1 TD = 14.7 fantasy points

QB Sam Bradford and WR Brandon Gibson, St. Louis Rams (@ Chicago Bears) Bradford has quietly put together an efficient two games to start the season, amassing 508 yards and four touchdowns while giving Rams fans some confidence as the team hung around late against Detroit in Week 1 and upset Washington in Week 2. While on the surface this matchup against Chicago looks difficult, the vaunted Bears defense of yore is no longer, as they currently rank 22nd in the league against the pass. Chicago will aim to take Amendola away from Bradford, especially in the red zone, leaving Gibson – he of 104 yards and two touchdowns on the season – free to roam. These two are both sneaky plays in deep leagues this week. Predictions: Bradford – 285 yards passing + 2 TDs = 19.4 fantasy points; Gibson – 85 yards receiving + 1 TD = 14.5 fantasy points

RB Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints (vs. Kansas City Chiefs) Widely regarded as the least-worthy fantasy option in the crowded New Orleans backfield, Thomas showed last week why the Saints should cut their losses with Mark Ingram and make it a two-man show between PT and Sproles. Thomas accrued massive amounts of yards after contact in last week’s contest on his way to 143 yards from scrimmage and a new nickname, “The Yac.” Sure, Ingram vultured a touchdown after Thomas carried the entire Carolina D to the goal line, but Thomas will surely be the go-to guy again out of the backfield and in the screen game this week against a poor Chiefs defense, and I expect him to receive his due and get to dream up an end zone celebration on the fly. Prediciton: 96 yards rushing + 32 yards receiving + 1 TD = 18.8 fantasy points

D/ST Arizona Cardinals (vs. Philadelphia Eagles) After holding Seattle in check in Week 1, fake football pundits were intrigued by Arizona, but certainly not impressed. But when you hold Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to a handful of field goals, it’s time to get excited. Going up against the league’s top offensive unit isn’t exactly a matchup to relish, but I am intrigued simply because of the opportunities for big plays that Arizona will be presented with. Michael Vick has been throwing interceptions (6), LeSean McCoy has been fumbling (2), and return man Patrick Peterson is always a threat to run the ball back. In the battle of the birds, the Cards will certainly give up some points, but will make up for it with an aggressive front that will pressure Vick and force some turnovers. Prediction: 1 Points Allowed 14-20 + 2 INTs + 3 sacks + 1 fumble recovery + 1 TD = 16 fantasy points