Torrey Smith

AFC Championship Features Rematch Between Hated Foes

In game that few people expected them to be a part of, the Baltimore Ravens enter Sunday as nine-point underdogs to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.  However, the Ravens and fifth-year Quarterback Joe Flacco weren’t phased by similar circumstance last week, when they went into Denver and pulled out a double overtime victory over the Broncos.  Can they do it again?  Here are a few storylines to follow heading into Sunday’s AFC showdown:

1) Oh, You Again

The Pats and Ravens are very familiar with each other, as Sunday’s game will make it their second straight meeting in the AFC Championship game and third playoff contest in the past four years.  Although New England is virtually unbeatable at home in the playoffs, Baltimore blew them out 33-14 in 2009 and narrowly lost 20-23 after Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds.  Clearly, the Ravens aren’t afraid of heading into Foxborough.

2) Matchup to Watch: Aqib Talib vs. Torrey Smith

Plenty will be made of the chess match between QB Tom Brady and LB Ray Lewis in this game, and rightfully so.  However, a matchup that may be more intriguing will be between Pats’ corner Aqib Talif and Ravens’ wide receiver Torrey Smith.  Smith burnt New England for 126 yards and two touchdowns when the two teams met earlier this season, and hauled in another two last week with veteran corner Champ Bailey covering him.  However, Talib, who New England acquired from Tampa Bay midseason, has brought some swagger to the Patriot defense with his fiery attitude and physical style of play.  Can he contain Smith?  The answer to that may determine this game’s outcome.

3) Can Joe Flacco Win the Big One?

Flacco’s been heavily critiqued over the past several years, as many people in the sports world have begun to wonder whether or not he has what it takes to win a championship, despite the fact that he is the only quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.  After last week’s victory in Denver in which Flacco threw three touchdowns and outplayed four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, people had better start acknowledging his abilities.  However, out-dueling Tom Brady in Foxborough is never easy, even if Flacco has done it before.

Prediction:

Although Baltimore is no pushover and will give the Pats all they can handle, New England just has too many weapons on the offensive side, even with Rob Gronkowski out with a broken forearm.  With Tom Brady playing like well, Tom Brady, and their defense playing its best football of the year, New England will make enough plays to defeat Joe Flacco and the Ravens.

Score: 31-24

The NFL’s third batch of games was filled with surprises, from the Saints blowing a lead at home to fall to 0-3 to the Vikings dominating the 49ers. Sunday’s games provided plenty of fantasy football shockers as well, both good and bad:

Studs:
1) Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Just when fantasy owners think they have it all figured out, they don’t.

Following back-to-back subpar outings to start the season, many were wondering if Charles had fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in 2011. However, the former Longhorn proved all his doubters wrong Sunday, breaking out for 233 yards rushing as well as 55 yards receiving to go along with his two touchdowns. Any fantasy owners who had Charles on the bench Sunday were kicking themselves in frustration.

2) Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Smith’s performance Sunday against the New England Patriots was one to remember. He took the field less than 24 hours after he lost his brother in a fatal motorcycle accident. Smith played incredible resilience, racking up 127 receiving yards and two touchdowns in what was by far his best game of the season.

3) Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Entering the season, new Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley vowed that Pittsburgh would get back to running the football more. Through their first two games, that was certainly the case, causing Roethlisberger’s fantasy production to suffer. However, all that changed in Oakland on Sunday, when Big Ben aired it out for 384 yards and four touchdowns against the Raiders.

Duds:

1) Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Following Eli Manning’s 500-yard performance against Tampa Bay last week, Romo and the Cowboys were licking their chops when the Buccaneers came to Dallas Sunday. However, Romo flopped against what was thought to be a porous defense, throwing an interception and losing two fumbles while failing to throw a touchdown pass.

2) Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

With fellow TE Aaron Hernandez sidelined with an ankle injury, many people expected Gronkowski to have a monster game against the Ravens Sunday night. However, Gronkowski was almost invisible, catching only two passes for 21 yards and failing to get into the end zone for the first time this season.

3) Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans

Johnson solidified himself as the biggest bust in fantasy football so far this season, managing a paltry 24 yards rushing against the Lions on Sunday. Sadly, that is the most yards he has totaled this season. Considering Johnson produced such low numbers in a game where the Titans put up 44 points in an overtime victory, he cannot be considered a fantasy starter until he proves otherwise.
 

Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been on fire this year, while leading his team to a 3-0 record.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

It was another turbulent week in the world of fantasy football, with a number of key injuries and numerous breakout performances that just make you ask, “He did what?” So, let’s explore how last week’s games affect your lineup: who is truly hot and who is not.

HOT

Any Buffalo Bills offense player
If you haven’t been watching football this season and you took a look at this story, you’d probably think I was crazy, and to be honest, it feels a little bit weird seeing the Bills in this spot. But they are on fire. Buffalo is averaging 37.66 points a game, and everyone is getting touches. Harvard graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick is scorching with at least 18 points in his first three games, making him a viable starting quarterback in any league. Running back Fred Jackson is quickly establishing himself as a top-10 back with at least 11 points in every game — he has also broken the 20-point mark in the last two. Plus, wide receiver Steve Johnson and tight end Scott Chandler have both firmly announced their fantasy prowess as strong starting options. It’s not too late to get on the Bills’ bandwagon: Chandler is still available in 51 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Wes Welker, New England Patriots
 Not much to say here. When paired with Tom Brady, this guy is a monster. The former Red Raider had 217 receiving yards and two touchdowns last Sunday and is a must-play week to week.


Torrey Smith, Baltimore
Who? That’s what many will say when they look at the Week 3 scoring leaders and see this rookie at the top of the list. Smith, a second-round pick from Maryland, went off for 152 yards receiving and three touchdowns against the St. Louis Rams. He is still available in 99 percent of ESPN leagues, and while he won’t consistently post such ridiculous numbers, he should still see quite a few balls from Joe Flacco the rest of the season.

NOT

Michael Vick, Philadelphia
This guy cannot seem to stay healthy. A week after suffering a concussion against the Falcons, Vick reportedly broke his non-throwing hand Sunday against the Giants. It’s uncertain if he’ll be good to go in Week 4, disappointing news for owners who picked Vick in the top-10 of the draft. If you did, it’s probably time to pick up Fitzpatrick or Eagles’ backup Mike Kafka because Vick’s injury pattern is a troubling one.

Kenny Britt, Tennessee
The wide receiver has been a fantasy beast this year, but on Sunday, he tore ligaments in his knee and will miss significant time. For those desperately scrambling after his loss, think about picking up his teammate Nate Washington, who is available in 90 percent of leagues, or Oakland’s Denarius Moore, available in 60 percent of leagues.

Frank Gore, San Francisco
Gore continued his slow start to the season Sunday with only 42 yards on 17 carries. The running back is fighting nagging injuries and is starting to show signs of aging. Astute owners might look to pick up his backup, Kendall Hunter. 

Printed on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 as: Who's hot, who's not in fantasy football