DAN FOLDS POCKET ACES IN THIS WEEK'S START HIM! SIT HIM!
“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ’em.”
I doubt Kenny Rogers had fantasy football in mind when he penned those famous words for his 1978 hit “The Gambler,” but let’s pretend, for the sake of this column, that that’s exactly what he was thinking about. After all, without too much of a reach, you can draw more than a few comparisons between poker and fantasy football.
If you’ve played enough Texas Hold ’em in your lifetime, you’ve undoubtedly been dealt two aces as your hole cards. Those aces represent the most powerful starting position one can have and elicit a feeling of ultimate confidence by their owner. You don’t want to say anything, but you can’t help but think, “I’ve got this one.”
For example: Let’s say you are dealt the Ace of diamonds and the Ace of clubs to start. Then the next three cards (The Flop) are dealt in the middle of the table. You see a four of clubs, an eight of hearts and a Jack of clubs. Now you feel even better about your Aces. There’s nothing on the table that would pose a threat to your hand, so you call the highest bet at the table.
The next card (The Turn) comes: It’s another Jack – this time a diamond. Crap. If anyone at the table has Jack in their hands, then you are well behind. You don’t know for sure, but suddenly you don’t feel so good about your Aces.
Still hopeful that the next card will yield an Ace and deliver you all the riches that this particular “Pot” has to offer – you call the bet.
Then, the fifth and final card (The River) comes: It’s a ten of clubs.
You swallow hard.
You lose if anyone else at the table has any one of the following hands:
Either remaining Jack
Any two clubs
Nine and Seven of any suit
Nine and a Queen of any suit
Two Fours of any remaining suit
Two Eights of any remaining suit
Two Tens of any remaining suit
At this point you’ve already invested over half of your chips into the pot. You look around at the other four players in the hand. You’ve played it cool up to this point, so maybe you can catch them off guard with a big bet. And if not, hey, YOU’VE STILL GOT ACES! It’s the best starting hand you can have! So you do what just about all of us would do; you push your remaining chips to the middle of the table and hope for the best.
The next player to your left folds. One down – two to go.
The player to his left folds. Two down – one to go.
You look at the remaining player as confidently as you can, hoping to throw him off your scent. He looks down at his chips, and slowly pushes them all to the center of the table. It’s just you and him. What could he have?
You flip your cards over in the middle of the table for all to see. A couple of “oohs” and “ahs” follow from the peanut gallery that has already folded.
“You got a Jack?” you ask.
“Nope,” he says.
The only thing that separates you from victory now is just four little words. All you want to hear him say is, “Your Aces are good.”
“But I got these,” he says, as he flips over a nine of diamonds and a seven of spades.
Beaten on “The River” by a NINE and SEVEN OFF-SUIT!? How could this happen? Where did all of your chips go? Why was he still in the hand? You ask yourself a million questions and stare blankly while Mr. Nine-Seven-Off-Suit stacks your chips. You had Aces. You’re supposed to win that hand. How did things turn so quickly after what looked like such a promising start?
The truth of the matter is: Mr. Nine-Seven-Off-Suit played his hand better than you played yours. Yes, he got a little bit lucky, but you don’t win without a little bit of luck either, so he out-played you.
The same logic applies to fantasy football.
Back when you drafted your team in August, you probably thought you had “Aces.” You had two stud RBs, one stud WR and a good #2 to go along with a high-end QB and a solid TE, i.e., the fantasy version of "Aces."
The halfway point in the NFL season is essentially The Flop in this example, and you need to make the decision whether to muck (trade) them, or hold onto them. If your Aces were Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy or Calvin Johnson, then you know what to do.
But if you weren't as fortunate, then you probably have some decisions to make. It's good to be proactive sooner rather than later in these situations because the last thing you want to find out is that - in the end - your Aces were no good.
Here are a few Aces that maybe don’t look as good as they once did, now that you see what the board is showing. Maybe it’s time to fold ‘em, or maybe you want to hold ‘em for a little while longer.
RB Chris Johnson
If CJ2K is one of your Aces, you may be better off just setting the card on fire rather than tossing it back into the muck. What a waste he has been. It’s a pretty sad sight when you consider his fantasy owners appear to care a great deal more than he does about his performance, now that he got his contract. It’s time to accept Johnson for what he really is this year: a flex-play at best. He isn’t a match-up proof start by any means and you should sprint to the computer to trade him to anyone who believes he is.
Verdict: FOLD ‘EM!
RB Rashard Mendenhall
He’s only had two performances that justified being a start this whole season (Weeks 2 and 6 against woeful Seattle and Jacksonville, respectively) and it doesn’t appear as though things will be getting much better in the near future. Mendenhall is only recommended as a flex-play moving forward due to a porous offensive line and a much more pass-happy offense than we are accustomed to seeing from the Steelers.
Verdict: FOLD ‘EM!
RB Shonn Greene
Greene wasn’t exactly an “Ace” on draft day, but he was still a solid starting point – probably somewhere in the “ten-Jack suited” category, to keep with the poker analogy. Still, his performance has been underwhelming to date, as he amassed a mere 24 fantasy points through the first four weeks of the season. However, since his lackluster beginning, he has accumulated 20+ carries in every start and a respectable 32 points during three games. He has favorable matchups from here on out including juicy games against Buffalo twice, New England and Denver in his next four contests.
Verdict: HOLD ‘EM!
WR Roddy White
Julio Jones is coming back this week, which will only continue to cut into White’s targets. Roddy only managed to reel in 13 passes for 123 yards in the three weeks since Jones went down with a hamstring injury – something that doesn’t bode well for the remainder of his season outlook. White is still a borderline WR1, but if you can get someone in your league to believe he’s still a top-tier option, then you need to look into trading him.
Verdict: FOLD ‘EM!
WR Reggie Wayne
It’s possible that you thought Wayne was part of your “Aces” when the cards were dealt in August. Unfortunately, Wayne has somehow morphed your cards into a six-deuce off-suit at this point and it’s simply time to muck him. He belongs on your bench the rest of the way, with the possible exception of a Week 13 matchup against New England.
Verdict: FOLD ‘EM!
WR Larry Fitzgerald
An undisputed Ace. When you look at your hand and you see an Ace with the sort of cache that Fitzgerald brings to the table, it’s like having two Aces. One of the best receivers in the game now for the better part of a decade, Fitz is – and will always be – an Ace.
But you still have to play your cards (I refuse to insert a lame joke about how he plays for the ‘Cards' in this spot for everyone’s benefit. See? I really do care. … Actually, I just couldn’t think of a really good one. But still… I care). So if someone at the table with you can be bluffed (AKA: trade Fitz to them for someone like Steve Smith or Mike Wallace), then you have to do it.
Verdict: HOLD ‘EM!
QB Tony Romo
I feel like Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part II when he found out Fredo tried to kill him.
“You broke my heart, Tony! You broke my heart!”
(Except there wouldn’t be that awkward brotherly man-kiss.)
I’ve been a Romo-supporter for a while now. Not so much in real football, but in fantasy. He throws for a ton of yards; he’s got as many weapons as anyone, and his coach doesn’t trust their running game at the goal line. What’s not to love?
Well, this season: Too much.
The facts are the facts, and this season hasn’t been a great one for Romo. He hasn’t had a 20-point fantasy week since Week 2 against San Francisco (where he had 21). He’s thrown only 10 TDs against his seven INTs this season, and his 369 yards passing in the last two games combined haven’t inspired much confidence, either.
He still deserves to be started in all leagues, but you can still upgrade here. If you can get a guy like Ben Roethlisberger for him, you will probably be glad you did.
Verdict: FOLD ‘EM!
QB Philip Rivers
Quiz time: Which NFL QB has four times more turnovers than TDs since the conclusion of Week 2?
… All right, I guess I shouldn’t have put the answer before the question – after all, this isn’t Jeopardy – but yes, the answer is Philip Rivers.
Kind of alarming, right? He’s supposed to be a top-five QB, but he just hasn’t played like it this season. He’s thrown for his customary four-bajillion yards; his completion percentage and yards-per-attempt are right in-line with his career averages – so what gives, Phil?
Well, my advice is to do your best not to overreact to a few bad games, because he still has a very favorable schedule coming up (save for Green Bay this weekend) and should bounce back at some point. Still, he only has seven touchdowns on the season and has been making poor throws for nearly a full half of the season. So, what do you do?
Verdict: Well, that’s why they’re your cards, and you are free to play them as you choose. Just make sure you do something with your Aces, because you really don’t want to lose to Mr. Nine-Seven-Off-Suit.
Now before we move from Week 9’s HOLD ‘EM! FOLD ‘EM, and onto Week 9’s START HIM! SIT HIM! it’s time to look back at Week 8’s START HIM! SIT HIM! and see how much I can confuse everyone!
QB Matt Hasselbeck – Projected * 277 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT (17 Points)
Actual * 224 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT (12 Points)
The most frustrating part of fantasy is that the stats are all that matter, even though they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. The truth is: Matt Hasselbeck played a great game. He completed 70% of his passes for 224 yards, one TD and didn’t turn the ball over on Sunday. Unfortunately, he mustered only a mediocre 12 fantasy points, which is why it brings me great pain that I have to grade this as… actually, ya know what? This is a win. 12 points isn’t spectacular, but it still ranked him in the top-12 for the week. Whatever. It’s my party and I can slightly bend the rules if I have to.
Pierre Thomas – Projected * 88 yards, 2 TD (20 Points)
Actual * 23 yards rushing, 11 yards receiving, 1 TD (9 Points)
Yes, I had Mark Ingram listed here originally, but I wrote the column on Tuesday and when it became clear that he wasn’t going to play, I tried to submit an amendment to that projection that said to simply slide Ingram’s projection over to Thomas since they would likely have a similar role. Well, unfortunately for the Saints that similar role was pass-blocking as they threw the ball all over St. Louis trying to stage an ill-fated comeback against THE RAMS. The game didn’t go exactly as planned, but still, Thomas’s nine points were good enough to be a top-15 play last week, which is good enough to give me the win. I’m starting off a sneaky (albeit somewhat shady) 2-0.
Jabar Gaffney – Projected * 93 yards, 1 TD (15 Points)
Actual * 40 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
Not much to say here, really. Gaffney turned in his worst performance of the season, despite having his biggest role in the offense. It’s almost as inexplicable as the Redskins getting SHUT OUT by a very mediocre Bills’ pass-defense. Kudos to John Beck, as he was able to pull off the impossible: making ‘Skins’ fans long for the play of Rex Grossman.
TE Heath Miller – Projected * 43 yards, 1 TD (10 Points)
Actual * 85 yards, 0 TD (8 Points)
Miller was terrific Sunday against the Pats. No, he didn’t score the TD, but his 85 yards and eight fantasy points ranked him number-seven overall for the week. Solid performance by Miller, but I would hesitate to put him in your lineups moving forward.
Panthers Defense – Projected * 17 Points allowed, 4 sacks, 3 turnovers (13 Points)
Actual * 24 Points allowed, 4 sacks, 1 Turnover (5 Points)
Poor performance by Carolina as they failed to generate multiple turnovers for the seventh time in eight contests. I can’t see any reason to start them moving forward, unless you subscribe to the, “Start Anyone the Colts Are Playing!” philosophy – in which case, Week 12 is on your agenda.
QB Tim Tebow – Projected * 137 yards passing, 43 yards rushing, 1 TD, 2 INT (9 Points)
Actual * 172 yards passing, 63 yards rushing, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 Fumble (12 Points)
Hasselbeck and Tebow ended up with the same 12 fantasy points last week, so obviously I have to be a man and grade this as a loss, right?
Wrong! Remember what the tiebreaker was with Hasselbeck? “He played well.” If that’s the bar we have set, then Tebow is downgraded here because people with vocabularies that far exceed mine have run out of words to describe how bad Tebow was Sunday.
He completed only 18 of his 39 throws for a measly 172 yards, one TD and one INT despite being down by more than three touchdowns nearly the entire game; thus facing the stat-compilers dream: the Prevent Defense.
Yes, I realize that their 12 points count just the same at the end of the day, but I’ll proudly look in the mirror knowing that I wasn’t the only person in America to grade Tebow’s “performance” out as a win on Sunday. He may be labeled a “winner” for his whole career, but he deserves every conceivable loss for that abomination of football from last weekend.
And for everyone in the media who wants to wrap their arms around him and tell him that it isn’t his fault like Robin Williams did to Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting: This one was his fault. So allow me to stamp him with his final L from last week and steal the W for myself.
RB Montario Hardesty – Projected * 41 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
Actual * 6 yards, 0 TD (0 Points)
Similar to Mark Ingram, it became obvious that Hillis wasn’t going to play last week as time went on. I had already submitted the column, so I just slid his stats to every Browns’ RB combined. Chris Ogbonnaya (yes, THAT Chris Ogbonnaya) was actually the leading rusher for the Browns, as he mustered 37 yards on 11 carries. No reason to waste any more time here, as this clearly goes as a win.
WR Pierre Garcon – Projected * 46 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
Actual * 66 yards, 0 TD (6 Points)
Garcon’s six points place him outside the top-30 WRs from last week and help move my record for the week to a very respectable 6-2 start. That’s terrific news for me, because we are about to enter my least favorite part of the column: Tight End Roulette.
TE Greg Olsen – Projected * 38 yards, 0 TD (3 Points)
Actual * 73 yards, 1 TD (13 Points)
Olsen’s 13 points were third best among fantasy TEs last week, which handed me a pretty definitive loss. Cam Newton’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Olsen was so beautiful that I’m almost positive that I saw rainbows and hearts shoot out from behind it. Even though it sunk my prediction, it’s pretty hard to get upset about football perfection.
Eagles’ Defense – Projected * 31 Points allowed, 3 sacks, 1 Turnover (4 Points)
Actual * 7 Points allowed, 4 Sacks, 1 Turnover (11 Points)
No way to really sugarcoat this one. The Eagles’ Defense looked terrific and Tony Romo broke my heart. It can be tough predicting which Philly team will actually show up on any given Sunday, but there is no denying which one showed up last Sunday. Stellar performance by them, and another perfectly mediocre 6-4 week for me.
On to Week 9!
QB Kevin Kolb – Projected * 284 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT (17 Points)
This basically came down to Matt Cassel or Kevin Kolb for me. I realize those are ugly words when you are talking about a starting QB in fantasy, but in a week where Cam Newton and Matt Stafford are on byes, someone out there is going to have the Cassel/Kolb debate, so here are my thoughts:
Kolb just faced Pittsburgh and Baltimore in back-to-back weeks and is probably licking his chops at the prospect of facing the decimated St. Louis secondary this coming week.
Cassel has a very favorable matchup against the (insert derogatory term here) Miami Dolphins. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cassel this week against Miami, but I just can’t help but think they are going to run the ball if they get up big. I would start either guy if I was in a pinch, but in my mind Kolb is the pick by a small margin.
QB Jay Cutler – Projected * 237 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT (9 Points)
If you ask even a casual fan what they know about Jay Cutler, they will probably say something along the lines of, “He gets hit a lot” and/or “He throws a lot of interceptions.” Well, guess which team he plays this week? The Philadelphia Eagles.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Wide-9” in describing the new Eagles’ technique for getting after the passer to the point where it makes you physically ill, but the basic premise is they use the defensive ends to generate a pass rush, which should cause the QB to make bad decisions. If you look at the fine print in the dictionary under “Wide-9” I’m nearly positive it would also say, “Gives Jay Cutler Night-Terrors.”
RB Lance Ball – Projected * 62 yards, 1 TD (12 Points)
I’m not going to try to back this up with too many stats, because it’s mostly a gut feeling. Still, Ball ran for 63 yards on just six carries in the blowout loss to the Lions this past weekend and turned some heads. With Willis McGahee slated to miss this week’s game, Ball should see a fair amount of work against Oakland. Also, if you know anything about Denver’s backfield game, it should be that Coach John Fox hates everyone on his team who lines up behind the offensive line: the quarterbacks, the running backs and probably even the fullback. If Ball can do anything with his carries early in this one, he should see the bulk of the work the rest of the way.
RB Rashard Mendenhall – Projected * 43 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
So you’ve got pocket-Aces, and you’re heads-up with only one other player. Imagine if that player looked at you and said, “I know you have Aces, but I’ve got a Queen-high flush.”
That’s basically what the Steelers-Ravens’ rivalry has come to on the ground. The Steelers have Rashard Mendenhall, and the Ravens don’t care. They’ve stopped him before and they know they can do it again. He’s rushed 30 times for 90 yards in his last two games combined against them and hasn’t scored in either game.
I’m being dead serious when I say I would rather start Lance Ball this week than Mendenhall. Feel free to tell me I’m an idiot on this one, but the numbers don’t lie.
WR Denarius Moore – Projected * 78 yards, 1 TD (13 Points)
I’m going under two assumptions with this pick:
- Champ Bailey will be covering Darrius Heyward-Bey.
- Carson Palmer will actually throw the ball in the general direction of his teammates this weekend.
If both of those assumptions prove correct, then I feel pretty good about this pick. If either or both of them aren’t correct, then feel free to tune in next week for my excuse as to why it didn’t pan out.
WR Stevie Johnson – 37 yards, 0 TD (3 Points)
Guess where Stevie Johnson goes this weekend? That’s right – he goes to every #1 receiver’s least favorite destination: Revis Island.
Just to give you at least one stat to back it up: Do you know how passer rating is calculated in the NFL? Well, I don’t and I’m assuming you don’t either, but if you do, then you are one of about ten people in the whole world who know how it works. However, one thing I do know is a perfect passer rating is 158.3.
Why is that relevant? Well, opposing QBs have a 2.9 passer rating when throwing at the receiver Darrelle Revis is covering this season. I’m no math major, but I don’t think that’s good. Good luck this week, Stevie!
TE Brent Celek – Projection * I just think he’ll score (6+ Points)
Tight End Roulette Time!
Celek has scored in each of his last two games and has accumulated 25 fantasy points in that time. The Bears have allowed a whopping six TDs to TEs this season. It’s nearly impossible to predict who will score week-to-week in this game, but I still feel pretty good about this pick.
Heath Miller – Projection * I just don’t think he’ll score (Sub-6 Points)
Thanks for the win last week, Heath! Now get back on the bench.
We are entering Week 9 of the NFL season and do you know how many fantasy points the Ravens have allowed to opposing TEs? The answer is 15. That’s less than two per week. The lesson, as always – start no one against this defense unless you absolutely, positively have to.
Raiders Defense – Projected * 13 Points, 5 Sacks, 3 Turnovers (14 Points)
Things to know while pondering whether or not you should start the Raiders’ Defense this week:
- They play Tim Tebow and the Broncos
- The Broncos have allowed 13 sacks in the two games Tebow has started
- Tebow fumbled three times last week (losing one) and threw an INT
- The game is played in Oakland
- The Raiders have had two full weeks to prepare for this game after a bye
- This is going to be ugly
The forecast calls for pain and a high probability of a Raiders’ defensive player Tebowing in the end zone at least once in this one.
Bears Defense – Projected * 27 Points, 3 Sacks, 1 Turnover (5 Points)
Philly is back.
They have outscored their last two opponents 54-20 and look like the team we all thought they might be in August. They have a long way to go to reach the lofty goals they set for themselves in the late summer, but they have been playing well lately. Chicago’s defense has been playing solid football of late, and they are coming off of a bye, but this prediction has more to do with the weapons the Eagles have than it does with the Bears’ defense.
Good luck to everyone this week, and that goes double for anyone still holding out hope for their Aces to hold up against Mr. Nine-Seven-Off-Suit.
START HIM! SIT HIM! Season Record: 45-35
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