Deflategate is back. Like the bloodthirsty villain in a slasher flick, it just won’t die. Like the cockroach, it’s a major nuisance to most and will undoubtedly outlive us all.
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled by a 2-1 vote to knock down a lower court’s ruling from last year and to reinstate the four-game suspension Tom Brady was initially doled out in May 2015. If you think this latest chapter will mark the end of this story or cause either side to settle Deflategate after its more than 15 months of life, you are seriously mistaken.
The fight will continue, possibly with the NFL Players Association requesting a rehearing of Brady’s case before the court’s 14 eligible judges, not just three. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the mere filing of a rehearing request would automatically put Brady’s suspension on hold. That would last until either the court decides to not grant a rehearing or the rehearing is completed with another judgement in the league’s favor. Maybe that NFLPA will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to get involved, but let’s not entertain that right now.
Put simply, Brady may still not be suspended for any games in 2016. It could be business as usual for the New England Patriots and fantasy owners, and we all continue to get through this thing called life.
But let’s say Brady is suspended for the first four weeks. That would assuredly lower his average draft position, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Drafting Tom Brady at a discount, even at age 39, should be enticing to most owners. The trick is picking the right four-week replacement before Brady’s Week 5 return in one of his tastiest matchups of the season, at Cleveland.
Jimmy Garoppolo remains the in-house backup. Numbers need not apply when making a case for him; preseason results tell us nothing, and Garoppolo has rarely played during the regular season. All you need to know is Bill Belichick and the Patriots trust him. They were set to have Garoppolo be their starter last year until Brady’s suspension was negated just one week before the season opener. The only other QB on the roster is third-round rookie Jacoby Brissett. He’ll compete and has plenty of upside thanks to his athleticism and big arm. But it’s hard to imagine New England handing the keys over to a complete greenhorn. Garoppolo should be the man if Brady is indeed banned.
The Patriots’ schedule during the first month is anything but a cakewalk. They start at Arizona and then host three games versus Miami, Houston and Buffalo. Two divisional foes and two opponents that ranked among the top 10 in pass defense last season.
However, this is the Patriots we’re talking about here. You know they aren’t light on pass-catchers. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola will continue to skitter all over the field. Tight end Martellus Bennett will team up with Rob Gronkowski to create mismatches galore. Running back Dion Lewis, who caught 36 passes in seven games last season, is expected to be available in Week 1 following his ACL reconstruction in November.
Barring Brissett having an otherworldly camp display, Garoppolo should be a sufficient handcuff for Brady owners who want to spend as little as possible on a No. 2 QB. If you would rather cover those first four games with a starter in another city, there are a few decent options to choose from during the middle rounds.
Philip Rivers, after an always-daunting task in Kansas City for Week 1, gets to sling it against the Jaguars, Colts and Saints, respectively. Two of those three matchups will come at home. Derek Carr has to go on the road for three of his first four games, but those matchups against the Saints, Titans and Ravens appear friendly. Kirk Cousins will challenge the Steelers, Cowboys and Browns at home as well as the Giants’ overhauled defense. Jay Cutler of all people is worth a look versus the Eagles, Cowboys and Lions in Weeks 2-4. Plus, he’ll have a healthy Kevin White raring to go.
Tom Brady has been suspended for his role in Deflategate. Again. Like the first time this happened, he may not actually serve any time. But don’t fret if he has to take a seat. A handful of other quarterbacks can help keep your team afloat in September, and selecting Brady in Round 7 or 8 instead of Round 4 might be the bargain that nets you a championship in the end.
It’s championship week for most fantasy owners. All the hard work owners have put in culminates this week. Stars may flounder and no-names may steal the show and win you a league. Did that happen this week? Maybe, depending on who you started. Here’s a look at who may have won or lost you a fantasy league championship.
Championship week is upon us and what a year it has been. If you’ve made it this far, odds are you won’t be experimenting with your lineup. However, you still may have to make some “iffy” plays. Here’s a list of guys to contemplate all week. Good luck…
Fantasy Focus: Week 15 Hot & Not
The end of the season is approaching and some fantasy leagues may already be in championship mode. This week saw a handful of phenomenal fantasy performances that may have sealed a key playoff victory for teams who own them, while a few other players may have put a dagger into their owners’ hopes with a dud. So who ended up on the extremes of the fantasy spectrum this week? Let’s take a look.
Just in time for the most important weeks of the season, the fantasy community has to stomach yet another loss at the running back position. In fantasy news, Jonathan Stewart of the Carolina Panthers isn’t expected to play Sunday due to a sprained foot.
Stewart has been one of fantasy’s most consistent producers this year. Since Carolina’s Week 5 bye, Stewart has reached double-digit fantasy points in seven of nine games, including last week’s injury-shortened outing. He has taken on at least 20 carries in eight of his previous nine games and ran for no fewer than 60 yards in all of them. That’s why he’s tied with Adrian Peterson for the most 20-carry games (eight) and with Peterson and Doug Martin for the most games with at least 60 rushing yards (10). Simply, Stewart had become one of the safest bets at a position that has experienced tremendous upheaval in 2015.
Now he’s down. And given Stewart’s history with foot ailments, and the Panthers’ commanding lead in the chase for the NFC’s top spot, I think it’s plausible that owners will have to move on without the No. 9 RB scorer for the rest of the fantasy season. That’s a real shame because fabulous matchups versus the Giants and the Falcons awaited him.
So who is going to get those carries instead? Perhaps you should shift your fantasy focus to the Panthers’ most natural early-down back, who is someone who hasn’t played a single snap since Week 7: Cameron Artis-Payne. The fifth-round rookie out of Auburn is a stocky 5 feet 10, 220 pounds. He’s a straight-ahead runner who can dish out some punishment and has decent wheels for a man of his build; he posted a 4.53-second 40-yard dash at this year’s combine. Artis-Payne is extremely raw as a blocker, so expect him to come off the field whenever the Panthers need to pass. Rivera said Wednesday that Artis-Payne will “get his share of opportunities” this week. Exactly how many is up for debate, and he won’t be the only one taking handoffs.
According to Rivera, either Fozzy Whittaker or Mike Tolbert will be the team’s starter in New York. Just don’t put much weight into that title. Fozzy has 18 carries this season, eight of which came a few days ago versus the Falcons (he racked up 34 yards and a touchdown). Since the start of 2013, Whittaker has seen only 78 carries to go with 53 receiving targets. While he may be the Panthers’ nominal starter, he is not a workhorse-type back. He’s never handled 10 carries in any NFL game. He’s more cut out for passing-down work
That leads us from a man named Fozzy to a man who calls himself “a dancing bear.” Yes, Tolbert has enough bulk (and then some) to take on a leading role, but that is not his deal at age 30. He’s a fullback who can catch, pass block and be useful around the goal line with his 250-pound frame. He may steal a few touches in the red zone, but he’s not worth your time.
And as long as we’re talking about the Panthers’ running game, let’s not leave out quarterback Cam Newton. He runs. He scores touchdowns. He dabs. He does it all. He actually leads the Panthers in rush TDs with seven. He’ll have to pick up some of the slack as well.
As far as the running backs are concerned, I think Artis-Payne will be the biggest contributor and the player I would put into my fantasy lineup if I needed to make a choice here. But don’t be fooled; Artis-Payne probably shouldn’t be anywhere near fantasy lineups during semifinal week. Again, he is a rookie who can’t pass block and has been on the sidelines since mid-October. I doubt the Panthers have a great deal of trust in him, so how could you with a fantasy championship possibly at stake?
I guess the only good news in all of this is that the injury bug bit Stewart in a week where a few running backs who have gained legitimate fantasy value suddenly are available in many leagues: Tim Hightower, Denard Robinson, Bryce Brown, Brandon Bolden, etc. Take your chances with one of those guys if you need a J-Stew replacement. The backfield he’s leaving behind is hands-off until some we have some clarity about how Carolina will deploy its three remaining RBs. That clarity probably won’t come before Sunday.
Stay tuned to ASL for the best fantasy updates and sporting news around!