Some evaluators believe Johnson has lost pep in his step. (USAT)
Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball, here's our view on 10 intriguing over/unders this week.
According to a National Football Post report, some opponents believe Andre Johnson isn't as explosive and may have lost a half-step. Coming off his finest yardage season in his standout career (1,598 yards), final rank among wide receivers 12.5 (In other words, will he be a top-12 WR?)
Dalton – UNDER. I have him as my WR8, but I don't feel overly confident about it. He's 32 years old, has past injury problems and is ignored in the red zone. Johnson somehow scored just four touchdowns last season despite a whopping 162 targets. Still, while he's never reached double-digit scores in his career, he's surpassed 1,550 receiving yards in three of the past five seasons.
Andy – UNDER. Whatever he's lost in terms of speed, Andre has apparently made up for it in guile. He caught 112 balls last year. He gained 1,598 yards. He's still 6-foot-3 and 230, and he's still going to see 150-plus targets. If this is what Andre's decline looks like, I'll take it.
Brandon – OVER, meaning not a top 12 wideout. In addition to reports that he's noticeably slower, AJ also has a problem with painted grass, as in he has just four TDs in his past 21 regular-season games. In fact, Braylon Edwards (8) had more red zone targets than Johnson (7) last season.
Over the past two weeks, the Denver Post and Broncos.com have both suggested John Fox plans to install a full-blown RBBC of unknown distribution. Percentage of workload Ronnie Hillman/Knowshon Moreno tally 49.5.
Andy – UNDER, slightly. Not that it matters. We're talking about pre-camp speculation, nothing else. And what really matters in fantasy is the workload distribution in the final weeks of the season. I'm still a Montee fan.
Brandon – UNDER. If/when Montee Ball satisfies Fox with his pass pro and knowledge of the offense, I would expect him to garner at least 60 percent of the backfield touches. As the Broncos' Round 2 draft pick, it certainly wasn't lost on them that one of Ball's strengths is that he's proven capable of handling high-volume workloads (nearly 1,000 career touches at Wisconsin).
Brad – OVER. Declarations that Ball will be a top-flight RB2 need to cease. Fox's track-record with rookies and fondness for backfield committees are tell tale signs the rookie won't be a workhorse. Nearly 36-percent of Hillman's attempts went for 1-yard or less last year, but he should generate roughly 10-12 touches per game. Toss in Moreno on third downs, and possibly more if Ball's pass pro isn't up to snuff, and it seems likely the unheralded duo nets at least half the workload.
Which sophomore slinger will take the biggest step forward in 2013: Ryan Tannehill or Brandon Weeden?
Brandon – TANNEHILL. This one is a no-brainer. Tannehill has advantages of familiarity of system (OC Mike Sherman was his coach at Texas A&M, and he gets a couple nice new receiving weapons in Mike Wallace and tight end Dustin Keller.
Brad – TANNEHILL. If this were a patriotic costume contest, Weeden would win in a landslide, but in a fantasy football battle, Tannehill takes the cake. For one of the game's better deep-ball throwers, adding Mike Wallace should greatly enhance his overall worth. His inefficiency on third-downs was laughable, but he's generally poised in the pocket, blessed with good footwork and showcases a strong arm. Tanny is in line to take the biggest step forward of any QB this year.
Scott – TANNEHILL is the clear call here. He played better as a rookie, he's surrounded by better help, and he has more experience in the offense, dating back to college days.
Victor Cruz, who just penned a six-year, $45.8 million extension with the G-Men, receiving yards this fall 1,299.5
Brad – OVER. A menace particularly against zone coverage, Cruz is one of the slickest slot receivers in the league. His hands were smothered in Crisco last year, evident by his 12 dropped passes, but he is destined attract another 130 targets with ease. Better yet, with Hakeem Nicks healthy, Rueben Randle entering his second year and Brandon Myers on roster, defenders may give him more breathing room. Bank on at least 1,300 yards.
Scott – OVER, by an eyelash. The Giants like to funnel their passing game to the wide receivers, and I'm willing to give the Three Amigos (Manning, Cruz, Nicks) a pass for a 2012 season that was full of potholes.
Dalton – OVER. The safest bet is to blindly bet the under on any WR reaching this number, but I'll say Cruz stays healthy and bounces back from last year's somewhat disappointing campaign (which means I feel the same about Eli Manning doing so). Cruz is one season removed from getting 1,536 receiving yards on 131 targets, so monstrous upside remains.
Which notorious tight end tease has the best chance of finally delivering: Jared Cook or Jermichael Finley?
Scott – FINLEY, because you want to ride with Aaron Rodgers whenever possible. Finley's also showed more upside during the good days.
Dalton – COOK. Finley's situation remains pretty much exactly the same, whereas Cook is joining a new team/system/quarterback. The unknown factor (plus the Rams' incentive to get him involved thanks to his shiny new contract) gives him more upside at this point
Andy – FINLEY, easy. No contest. He's tied to a much more productive offense. I don't recall being teased by Cook at all last season, by the way.
With Andy Reid calling the shots, most think Charles will be in charge this season (USAT)
With personified walrus Andy Reid grunting orders from the sidelines, total touchdowns scored by Jamaal Charles this season 9.5
Dalton – OVER. He's never scored nine touchdowns let alone 10, so this may seem off base, but Charles is in his prime and clearly one of the best running backs in football. I expect Reid to utilize him better than any previous coach has, possibly resulting in 3-4 scores via the catch, so combining that with 6-7 rushing is doable.
Andy – Good number, but I'm gonna go OVER. No one is challenging Charles on the depth chart, and I expect heavy use in the passing game. There's a case to draft Jamaal second overall this season.
Brandon – UNDER. While his yardage and receptions totals should be sterling, I think he'll fall a TD or two shy of double digit touchdowns – Reid's backfields have combined for 11 TDs in three of the past four seasons
James Jones, coming off a fantasy-rich 14 scores last season, end-zone dances this year 7.5
Andy – OVER. The Packers passed for 40 touchdowns last season and 51 the year before, so there are plenty of spikes to go around. It's easy to say that Jones' TD total will drop, but it isn't gonna fall off a cliff – not while Aaron Rodgers is his quarterback.
Brandon – OVER. If you assume Aaron Rodgers gets his usual 35-40 TD passes, there's definitely room for Jones to have an eight-plus TD encore, especially with Greg Jennings completely out of the picture.
Brad – UNDER. If Jones comes anywhere close to 14 TDs again on less than 100 targets, the Noise will subject his backside to a heaping plate of Blazin' chicken from Buffalo Wild Wings. He's a respectable WR3, but given the spread-the-wealth nature of the Packers offense and probable newfound ground emphasis, roughly 60 receptions for 800 yards and seven scores feels right.
'Cuff 'em. Rank the following handcuffs in order of most valuable: Bernard Pierce, Bryce Brown and Ben Tate
Brandon – 1) Brown 2) Pierce 3) Tate
Brad – 1) Pierce (70.6-percent of his yards gained last year were after contact) 2) Brown, 3) Tate
Scott – 1) Pierce, 2) Tate, 3) Brown
Cam Newton, whose lack of accuracy some scouts/analysts continue to question, total touchdowns scored (pass/rush) this fall 27.5
Brad – OVER. After a sluggish start, Cam flipped a switch midseason totaling at least 20 fantasy points in eight of his last nine contests. His arsenal and completion rates are rather undesirable, but his invincibility on goal-line draws should push him over this number. Carolina's offensive blueprint won't change much under new OC Mike Shula. Fearless Forecast: 21 passing touchdowns, 8 rushing touchdowns.
Scott – That's a good number. I'm calling it an UNDER because I'm worried about the potential of rushing touchdowns flying the coop. Eventually every team starts to see the downside of those plunges from the centerpiece of the franchise.
Dalton – OVER. I agree Newton's accuracy could use improvement, but he's averaged 31.0 total touchdowns over his first two years in the league, and I absolutely expect him to be better in 2013. He should shatter this number.
Week delicate flower DeMarco Murray succumbs to a major lower-body injury elevating Joseph Randle into Dallas' RB captain's chair 9.5
Scott – I never know how to answer this. Sooner? Under? Call it Week 7. But it's not like Murray is the only Top 20 back we have to worry about.
Dalton – UNDER. I was fully on board with drafting Murray early last season, but I'm now fully against it. He can't stay healthy.
Andy – BAH. Ridiculous. I reject the framing of this question. DeMarco has first-round upside, and every player carries injury risk. Don't be surprised if the Cowboys pick up some veteran free agent back to challenge for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
Need more fantasy opines? Tune into 'The Fantasy Freak Show' this Friday at 8 PM ET, 5 PM PT on Yahoo! Sports Radio
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