Joe Ray

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Report: Browns want Derek Carr, not Johnny Manziel

derek carr

Could Derek Carr be the answer at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns? (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

While Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi were still employed by the Cleveland Browns, reports all over the place claimed that Johnny Manziel was the guy that the Browns wanted. Regardless of the truth to those reports, Manziel does not appear to be Cleveland’s guy anymore.

In an appearance on ‘The Dan Patrick Show” NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said that, out of all the quarterbacks in this draft, the Browns most covet Fresno State prospect Derek Carr. Regardless of the previous rumors surrounding Manziel, Carr is the guy that new Browns head coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan prefer at this point in time.

“The one thing about the combine is, you get there, you’re around all your contacts, a lot of different NFL people,” Jeremiah told “The Dan Patrick Show” on Wednesday. “And it had been so out there that the Browns loved Manziel under the previous regime, and I talked to enough people that firmly believe that that was a total smokescreen.”

Said Jeremiah: “Their guy is (Fresno State quarterback) Derek Carr and they’re going to take a different player with the fourth pick and they want to take Derek Carr with their second one (at No. 26). … I heard that from several different places.”

For the Browns, it would a smart move to take a quarterback later in the draft rather than in the top 10, where the Browns hold the fourth overall pick. While quarterbacks such as Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Blake Bortles all are believed to have high ceilings at the NFL level, none of them are unanimously viewed as a surefire franchise quarterback.

Singling in on Carr means the Browns have the flexibility to trade down from the fourth pick in the draft. If hyper-athletic defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is still on the board after the first three picks, Cleveland could move down in the first round and trade with a team like the Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, or Dallas Cowboys who could use a star like Clowney.

While Carr doesn’t exactly fit the mold of Robert Griffin III, the last quarterback Kyle Shanahan worked with, Carr still has above-average speed, as evidenced by his 4.69 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine this past weekend.

Carr, the younger brother of former top overall pick David Carr, was described by NFL.com analyst Nolan Nawrocki as an “athletic, tough, instinctive, strong-armed, highly competitive quarterback who will impress in workouts, interviews and on the board”. While expecting Carr to be on the board at the 26th overall pick would be a stretch, he would certainly be a good fit for the Cleveland Browns.

Regardless of which quarterback the Browns decide to select in the 2014 NFL draft, this team has gone far too long without a franchise quarterback. That needs to change sooner rather than later.

Down and Distance Contributor Joe Ray – @jpray_SK

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Top Five Best Fits in the NFL for Michael Sam

michael sam

Which NFL teams would be the best fit for Michael Sam? (Jeff Roberson/AP)

In case you happen to live under a rock, former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam made a groundbreaking public announcement Sunday on ESPN’s Outside the Lines that he is homosexual.

Sam told his Missouri teammates in August of his sexual orientation, and then went on record 48 tackles (including 19 for a loss) and 11.5 sacks en route to earning co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

In order for such success, Sam surely was the benefactor of a welcoming, nonjudgmental environment created by his Missouri teammates and coaches. That will have to be the case wherever Sam goes in the NFL.

While Sam is not as highly coveted a prospect at this time as his teammate from Missouri, Kony Ealy, Sam is sure to hear his name called at the draft because of his skill set. At 6’2″ and around 260 pounds, Sam has the required bulk to play defensive end in some 4-3 schemes like he did in college, but some teams could also use him as a rush linebacker in a 3-4 set.

In addition to schemes and defensive needs, the right NFL fit for Sam would ideally be a smaller-market team. This way, there won’t be the intense media scrutiny day in and day out that could turn Sam into a distraction. Granted, it’s a much different scenario, but how much did you NFL fans hear about Manti Te’o this season out in San Diego?

With all this in mind, here are my top five teams that I think would be a great fit for Michael Sam in the NFL.

5. Tennessee Titans

Looking for a quiet area where off-the-field issues don’t often come up? Take a look at Tennessee. Between the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, the NHL’s Nashville Predators, and the Titans, there isn’t a lot of hubbub around the state’s professional sports teams.

Sam could also see success on the field with the Titans. New defensive coordinator Ray Horton worked previously with the Cardinals and Browns, two teams that used a 3-4 scheme that Sam would have fit in as well. At one linebacker spot, Kamerion Wimbley seems like a good fit, but he will make $6 million in 2014 after collecting just three sacks last year, so he may not be back with the team.

The Titans will have to use this draft to load up on players that fit the new defensive scheme, and Sam could be a great fit here in every way possible.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

It seems like pass rusher has been a draft need for the Jaguars ever since they watched the bust that was Derrick Harvey. In head coach Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme, Sam could be that pass rushing presence the Jaguars have lacked for years.

The Leo position, as it’s called in their scheme, is built for defensive end-outside linebacker hybrid types like Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin. Sam certainly fits that kind of role, and likely would not cost the Jaguars one of their top two draft picks, which one desperately needs to be used on a quarterback.

On the flip side, if you want to talk about small-market football teams, the discussion just about starts and ends with the Jacksonville Jaguars. They’ve had an incredibly tough time selling tickets in recent years with a team that has made the playoffs just twice since 2000. Think drafting Johnny Football and/or professional sports’ first openly-homosexual active player might help put fans in the stands? That could definitely come into consideration for owner Shad Khan over the next three months.

3. Arizona Cardinals

When you look at Arizona’s defensive roster, there are very few holes other than at pass rusher. John Abraham had 11.5 sacks in 2013, but he will be 36 before next season starts and probably has no more than two seasons left in the league. Other than that, Matt Shaughnessy was the second in sacks among Cardinals outside linebackers with a whopping 3.0, and he’s a better fit in a 4-3 scheme listed at 6’5″ and 285 pounds. Other young contributors such as Marcus Benard, Alex Okafor, and Sam Acho have not seized a starting role.

In addition to the possibility of Michael Sam stepping straight into a starting role with Arizona, it makes sense off the field too. The media coverage in Arizona is a lot less intense than the larger markets of the NFL. And in 2013, Tyrann Mathieu had a sensational rookie year while avoiding extensive criticism for his marijuana usage while at LSU.

2. San Diego Chargers

Hey, it worked for Manti Te’o.

Perhaps it was because of an injury that kept him out the first three weeks of his rookie year, but after the whole girlfriend hoax at Notre Dame, Te’o was surprisingly quiet in putting up 61 tackles last year. For Sam, it could be a good fit playing with another NFL player who had to deal with a player that had to deal with similar scrutiny throughout the pre-draft process.

The Dwight Freeney experiment hasn’t exactly worked out for the Chargers, so they could definitely use a pass rusher. Of their 35 sacks in 2013, 10.5 of them came from defensive ends Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes. Sam has a similar build to the aging Freeney, and could provide an electrifying element as a pass-rusher for a team that desperately needs defensive help.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

One of the most stable organizations in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers would be a fantastic fit for Michael Sam. To me, Mike Tomlin seems like the kind of coach that would take no nonsense if teammates treated Sam unfairly based on his homosexuality. The Steelers organization has a long-standing history as the cream of the crop in the NFL, and they would surely help Sam find a welcoming environment in the NFL.

On the field, the Steelers could definitely use another prospect at outside linebacker for their 3-4 scheme. 2013 first-round pick Jarvis Jones recorded just one sack in fourteen appearances in his rookie year, although Jason Worilds led the team with eight sacks in a breakout season. In some respects, Sam is comparable size-wise to 29-year-old Lamarr Woodley, who dealt with a couple of injuries and ended the 2013 season on injured reserve.

The Steelers have a long history of drafting defensive prospects and letting them learn the ropes behind the veterans for a few years. This makes sense for a player like Sam, who will surely have more to deal with in his first NFL season than learning the playbook.

Down and Distance Contributor Joe Ray – @jpray_SK

Follow us on Twitter – @DownandDistance

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BREAKING: Vikings to hire Mike Zimmer as head coach

mike zimmer

Mike Zimmer, the ninth head coach in Vikings team history. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

After two interviews and much speculation, the Minnesota Vikings have completed their head coaching search. Mike Zimmer will leave his post as Bengals defensive coordinator to succeed Leslie Frazier with the Vikings.

 

Zimmer served as defensive coordinator for the Bengals for six seasons, and filled the same role over the previous eight seasons with Dallas and Atlanta. Last season, the Bengals were fifth in defense both against the run and pass, and they were also fifth with 19.1 points allowed per game.

In Minnesota, Zimmer inherits a defense that has struggled mightily, especially against the pass, and a team still searching for their quarterback of the future given Christian Ponder’s struggles.

Luckily, the Vikings have the 8th overall pick in the upcoming draft, which would be a great spot to draft a quarterback or top defensive player.

Down and Distance Contributor Joe Ray – @jpray_SK

Follow us on Twitter – @DownandDistance

Bills WR Robert Woods ejected after throwing punch

With a 10-0 lead on the Miami Dolphins in their home finale, the Buffalo Bills were looking to put the finishing touches on a winning home finale. Unfortunately for them, a bit of disorderly conduct will now hang over the game.

Bills wide receiver Robert Woods took offense to Dolphins safety Reshad Jones, and tackled Jones outside of a pileup between the two teams. Woods threw a stiff uppercut into Jones’ helmet, and that triggered an automatic ejection from the game.

The Bills were already missing Stevie Johnson this week, as he mourned the loss of his mother who passed away prior to last week’s 27-20 victory over Jacksonville.

With Marquise Goodwin out of the game with a knee injury, the Bills are down to four active wide receivers for the fourth quarter of this game. T.J. Graham is the Bills’ top remaining receiver.

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Down and Distance Contributor Joe Ray – @jpray_SK

Under Center: Top 5 Fantasy Quarterbacks for Week 7

For many of you out there, this week marks the midway point of the fantasy football season. By now you surely have a pretty good idea of where your team(s) are headed this season. The quarterback rankings at the halfway point of the year are, frankly, pretty unexpected. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees reside at the top of the list, but behind them there are TONS of surprises.

Raise your hand if you thought Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler were better than top-20 quarterbacks. They’re both in the top 6 in standard leagues. Even though Michael Vick is slowing down, his start to the season was phenomenal. Tom Brady, Robert Griffin III, and Colin Kaepernick really have not been starting fantasy football quarterbacks thus far in the season, although there is plenty of time to turn things around.

As far as bye weeks go this week, New Orleans and Oakland are the only two teams off. Owners that spent a high draft pick on Drew Brees will have to look elsewhere this week, and anyone counting on Terrelle Pryor for occasional starts will not have him. Now on to the top five to watch this week:

Nick Foles, Philadelphia (vs. Dallas)

nick foles

(AP Photo)

Drew Brees owners, meet Nick Foles. Assuming Michael Vick is a no-go again this week Foles is your best option for a bye week fill in. In last week’s road matchup with Tampa Bay, Foles put up 296 passing yards, three touchdowns and zero turnovers. This week, he gets to go up against a Dallas secondary that, for the most part, has struggled mightily in the passing game. Foles was picked up in roughly 1 out of every 4 ESPN leagues this week as a fill-in player while Vick is hurt, so he is still widely available for additions. Ryan Tannehill (vs. Buffalo) also has a good matchup this week.

Josh Freeman, Minnesota (at NY Giants)

josh freeman

(AP Photo)

Freeman is indeed getting the nod at quarterback this week, and his first start with the Vikings comes in the Monday night spotlight against a reeling New York Giants squad. If you want to wait and see whether Freeman is worth a roster spot after this week, chances are you will have missed your chance at adding him. Not only does he have a solid matchup this week, but Freeman’s next three games after this one (vs. Green Bay, at Dallas, vs. Washington) also provide the opportunity for good fantasy points. If your team’s quarterbacking situation hasn’t turned out quite as well as you may have hoped, Freeman could help your team in the near future.

Tom Brady, New England (at NY Jets)

tom brady

(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Obviously a lot of Brady’s value is tied to whether or not Rob Gronkowski decides to return to the field, but Brady has been struggling heavily this year to connect with his young receivers. However, the passing game has gotten better for the Patriots since their first matchup with the Jets in Week Two. Kenbrell Thompkins is becoming more dependable for Brady, and Julian Edelman returns to the forefront after Danny Amendola was injured again last week. As a fantasy owner, you should be expecting a big game sometime soon where Brady will get back to being Brady. In a game that could be a lot closer than many people expect, Brady will have to put the team on his back to carry the Patriots to victory.

Eli Manning, NY Giants (vs. Minnesota)

eli manning

(Andy Lyons/AP)

On the flip side of Freeman, Eli Manning has a chance to get his season back on course against a weak secondary in Minnesota. Manning has been absolutely horrendous to start this season, with 9 touchdowns to 15 interceptions in six games played. Minnesota gave up a big day to Carolina’s Cam Newton, who has had his own fair share of struggles in 2013. This week could be Manning’s chance to put a bad start behind him and get the Giants their first win of the season.

Philip Rivers, San Diego (at Jacksonville)

philip rivers

(Associated Press)

Let’s be realistic here – how many people expected Rivers to be a viable fantasy quarterback this season? Anyone? Guess the joke is on all of us, because by ESPN standard scoring Rivers is having a better fantasy year than every quarterback except for the elder Manning and Brees. The problem with Rivers is that he has been incredibly inconsistent in how much he is passing each weeek, and the credit for that can go mostly to new head coach Mike McCoy. In three games this season, Rivers has over 400 yards passing. In the other three games? An average of 205 yards per game. I actually think this game may be closer than many think, as Jacksonville is in full desperation looking for their first win, and they had a fairly good game against a Denver team that is much more talented than San Diego.

Follow us on Twitter – @DownandDistance

Down and Distance Columnist Joe Ray – @jpray_SK

Under Center: Top 5 Fantasy Quarterbacks for Week 6

The season is rolling right along, as we are now into week six. Peyton Manning continues to run the table as the top fantasy football player, and it’s really not a very close contest as the elder Manning is up to 20 passing touchdowns. He did throw his first interception of the year, but no one could honestly expect a perfect season from any quarterback in that regard.

Only two teams are on bye this week, and that means Matt Ryan and Ryan Tannehill will be unavailable for fantasy this week. Matt Ryan has been having a solid year, but with Roddy White’s lingering injuries and Julio Jones done for the year, his value will be much lower coming out of the bye. Tannehill hasn’t taken the world by storm this season, but he does have more fantasy points than Eli Manning, Cam Newton, and Colin Kaepernick, so there’s that. On to this week’s five quarterbacks of note:

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (at San Diego)

andrew luck

(AP Photo)

Luck is affirming his status as the worthy number one overall pick of the 2012 draft, and is thus far avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump. Luck is completing over 62% of his passes and has 7 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. The addition of Trent Richardson in the backfield has made Luck much more efficient as a quarterback, but he is not having to carry the offense as much as he did last year. For fantasy, he won’t be an elite option this year, but he is still very good. Luck will continue to be very good against a weak Chargers secondary that has been getting beat up all season. Only the Cowboys have given up more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than the Chargers.

Tony Romo, Dallas vs. Robert Griffin III, Washington

tony romo robert griffin iii

(AP Photo)

Daily double! Not really, but these guys both play for teams with very poor secondaries, meaning that we could see an aerial shootout in Dallas this week. RG3 is coming off a bye week, and Redskins fans hope that his knee has appreciated the week off. Romo is coming off a phenomenal performance against Denver where he racked up 501 pass yards and 5 touchdowns. Bountiful fantasy matchups await the members of both team’s passing games this week.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (at Baltimore)

aaron rodgers

(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

Rodgers has seemed mortal in his last few games, in which he has underwhelmed against much-improved defenses in Cincinnati and Detroit. Baltimore’s defense has been up and down; they surrendered 7 touchdowns to Peyton Manning in the first game of the season, but have shut down the likes of Brandon Weeden, Matt Schaub, EJ Manuel, and Ryan Tannehill since then. Rodgers should come out looking to get the passing game going again, and that bodes well for Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, and Jermichael Finley as well.

Peyton Manning, Denver (vs. Jacksonville)

peyton manning

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

If you can’t get this one right…

Follow us on Twitter – @DownandDistance

Down and Distance Columnist Joe Ray – @joeray119

Under Center: Top 5 Fantasy Quarterbacks for Week 4

And so begins one of the most dreaded aspects of fantasy football: bye weeks. At quarterback, byes are much less feared than at other positions, due to the fact that you only need one starter and there are usually multiple strong options on the waiver wire week in and week out. For Week Four, only two teams are on byes, but those two teams have two very significant quarterbacks in fantasy football: Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, and Carolina’s Cam Newton. Rodgers is in the top three fantasy quarterbacks to date – as you would expect of a guy that probably cost you a second or third round pick – but he gets a week to regroup after a dreadful outing against the Bengals.

On the flip side, as I predicted last week, Newton had his biggest game of the season, going off for 28 standard fantasy points against the New York Giants. After a lackluster start to the season, Newton owners must be relieved to see their quarterback back into the fantasy top 10 at his position. Now on to this week’s five quarterbacks to watch for:

5. Michael Vick, Philadelphia (at Denver)

michael vick

(AP Photo)

Many eyes will be on what promises to be an offensive shootout at Mile High, as Chip Kelly and Michael Vick carry the Eagles into Denver to face off against Peyton Manning. The offense is going to have to do everything it can to keep the Eagles in this game. Vick seems renewed this season, at least from a fantasy perspective. Despite traveling and playing in the higher elevation this week, Vick has had a long time to prepare after a disappointing Thursday night performance against a Chiefs defense that is much better than what the Broncos have. Start Vick this week, no questions asked.

4. EJ Manuel, Buffalo (vs. Baltimore)

ej manuel

(Bill Wippert/AP)

Manuel could be described as shaky in his road debut, as he went just 19-of-42 passing in the loss to fellow rookie quarterback Geno Smith and the Jets. The Bills are banged up in the backfield as well, with CJ Spiller injured and missing a large portion of the Jets game. Spiller should be in the game against the Ravens, but Manuel will have to have a better passing game this week, and he could have it against a Ravens secondary that gave up that monster game to Peyton Manning in their only road appearance thus far. The home crowd in Buffalo will definitely be behind Manuel after that come-from-behind win against Carolina in Week 2, and that should be a boon for the young quarterback. He’s also available in more than 80% of ESPN standard leagues.

3. Robert Griffin III, Washington (at Oakland)

robert griffin iii

(AP Photo)

I’m doubling down on RG3 this week, who had his most disappointing fantasy performance of the season last week against a much-improved Detroit defense. Oakland’s secondary has not been impressive thus far, and this could be a game that Griffin can point to as a game where he turned the corner in returning to form following his offseason knee surgery. Despite passing for more than 320 yards in each game so far this season, Griffin hasn’t become the running threat he was in his rookie year. This would be a good game for Mike Shanahan to break out the read option again and see what the young quarterback can do.

2. Tony Romo, Dallas (at San Diego)

tony romo

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Romo had a great week against St. Louis as the run game helped Romo become more of a game manager, accumulating 210 passing yards and three touchdowns. On the road against San Diego, it could be a bit of a different story for the Cowboys. Miles Austin figures to still be limited this game, but Romo still has Dez Bryant and Jason Witten leading the way in what is a threatening passing attack when needed. Philip Rivers has proven capable of directing a surprising Chargers offense thus far, so Romo will have to keep pace in this one.

1. Peyton Manning, Denver (vs. Philadelphia)

peyton manning

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

You don’t need me to tell you to start Manning this week, but I will anyways. With the pace that Chip Kelly’s offense plays at, Manning and the Broncos offense could easily see something in the range of 35 minutes of possession time, and that gives them enough time to rack up the points and get some serious stats through the air. Philly’s secondary ranks just 24th in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, but Manning should knock them down a peg heading into next week.

Follow us on Twitter – @DownandDistance

Down and Distance Columnist Joe Ray – @joeray119

Over the Middle: Top 5 Fantasy WRs for Week Three

Here we go Fantasy Football fans, week three is upon us and we all want to know who the studs are this week.  Julio Jones balled out Sunday, can he do it again this week?  Julian Edelman had thirteen grabs; will he get into the end zone this week?  Anquan Boldin had a big week one, but he disappeared against the Legion of Boom. Who are the must plays this week, I’ll give you my five.

DeSean Jackson, Eagles- vs. Chiefs

desean jacksom

(Philly.com)

Last week this guy torched the field to the tune of nearly two-hundred yards.  While I don’t expect that a second week in a row, I could see one-hundred and a touchdown. Nobody has been able to figure this offense out yet and Kansas City is no different.  With no other true receiving threat Jackson continues to get the major targets and Michael Vick’s confidence.

Calvin Johnson, Lions- @ Redskins

calvin johnson

(AP Photo)

After a slow week one, Calvin Johnson showed up early and often in week two.  Washington got scorched by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, can’t see that changing against a pass happy offense in Detroit.  Throw it deep, throw it short doesn’t really matter once the ball is in Megatron’s hands.  This guy scores from anywhere on the field, with a possible shootout on the horizon Johnson could score more than once on Sunday.

Julian Edelman, Patriots- vs. Buccaneers

julian edelman

(AP Photo)

This guy is starting to build something with quarterback Tom Brady.  After getting chewed out by the signal caller, it seems they may be getting on the same page.  Rob Gronkowski coming back should cause a little more confusion for safeties and linebackers, so Edelman should be free to roam the short and intermediate routes.  PPR leagues are loving this guy, while the standard league dwellers were left a little less satisfied.  Fret not guys and gals, he proved week one the end zone is not a stranger to him. Red Zone targets are his bread and butter and should get them even with The Gronk coming back.

Eddie Royal, Chargers- @ Titans

eddie royal

(Philly.com)

I thought about putting this guy on the list last week, however I did not.  Will not make that mistake again, with a less than savory secondary in Tennessee Royal could be prime for another multi-score day.  Proving to be Philip Rivers favorite target, Royal has captivated the eyes of all fantasy owners.  If you were lucky enough to grab Royal through the waiver wire, he is a must play and could be a top five wide out in week 3.

Tavon Austin, Rams- @ Cowboys

tavon austin

(Jeff Roberson/AP)

Austin led the Rams in targets last week and is developing a good thing with young quarterback Sam Bradford.  PPR leagues will definitely want to play Tavon as standard leagues may be a bit more wary.  Let me put your mind at ease, Dallas hasn’t played great defense and I could easily see this game becoming a “who scores last” type of game.  St. Louis fell behind early last week and could do so again in week three.  No true run game has caused Bradford to throw a lot more than would be liked, but fantasy owners of Tavon Austin love it.  Ten catches, eighty yards, and two scores put Austin on my top five lists.

By: Ryan Alexander- Sports-Kings Contributor

Under Center: Top 5 Fantasy Quarterbacks for Week 3

While the rest of the season could see a lot of regression in some quarterbacks, there are a lot of guys standing out in fantasy football through two weeks. People that were considered washed-up, like Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, Sam Bradford, and Alex Smith are all top-12 quarterbacks thus far. Who could have seen that coming? At the same time, Matt Schaub is on pace to throw for over 5,000 yards on over 740 attempts. I don’t anticipate these guys keeping up at the stellar paces they have started out on, but Schaub, Rivers, and Smith are all available in at least 43% of ESPN standard leagues. Of these three, the one I would most like to own is Alex Smith. I actually think we could see more from him as the season goes on and he gets more acclimated to Andy Reid’s offense. You know he’s going to be relatively mistake-free, which will offset the low yardage totals.

As for my predictions from last week, I nailed the top two guys, which was pretty easy to see before the week even started. Michael Vick and the Eagles’ offense did a number on the Chargers’ weak secondary, and their play was not the reason for the loss. Washington’s secondary seems like one that fantasy owners will be able to exploit all year long, and Aaron Rodgers ripped them apart for 480 yards passing and 4 scores last week. On to this week’s top five:

5. Peyton Manning, Denver (vs. Oakland)

peyton manning

(AP Photo)

No way, Peyton Manning is going to have a good fantasy week? Incredible! You know the elder Manning brother will give you consistent fantasy scoring week in and week out. Peyton is third in the league with 769 yards passing so far, with 9 touchdowns and no interceptions. Against Oakland, I think we should expect more of the same from Peyton Manning. My only concern is with how quickly the Broncos will ease off the gas pedal and start running the ball and eating up the clock. 20 points seems to be the weekly expectation with Manning, and that sounds about right for this game.

4. Matt Schaub, Houston (at Baltimore)

matt schaub

(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Schaub is quietly second in the league in pass attempts and eighth in passing yardage, along with a 6/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. So much for Houston being one of the most run-dependent teams in the league. Before Arian Foster came around, actually, Schaub had a couple seasons where his passing carried the Texans, with 2009’s 4,770 yards on 585 attempts being the high point of his career. The talent is there with Schaub, but this team is best when the run game is working and Schaub can set up play-action strikes. I would have him higher against a Baltimore defense that struggled mightily against Peyton Manning and manhandled Brandon Weeden, but the possibility of Andre Johnson missing the game with a concussion makes him a slightly worse play.

3. Alex Smith, Kansas City (at Philadelphia)

alex smith

(Matthew Hinton/Associated Press)

As flashy as the blur offense of Chip Kelly is, it leaves Philadelphia’s defense on the field very often during games. For that reason, Alex Smith has the potential to have a special week statistically to keep the Chiefs in this game. With a hobbled Robert Griffin III and Philip Rivers as their first two opponents, the Eagles rank a disappointing 27th in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, which is poor given the level of their competition. Smith should be as sound a bet as any for 20 points from the quarterback position this week, so don’t feel worried putting him in your starting lineup for the Thursday night game.

2. Cam Newton, Carolina (vs. NY Giants)

cam newton

(AP Photo)

As Cam has demonstrated through his first two seasons in the league, he’s good for a few games every year where he just goes off for ridiculous fantasy totals. Coming off a disappointing last-second loss to Buffalo on the road, Newton should return home with the resolve to prove the doubters wrong and get the Panthers their first win of the season. The Giants secondary has surrendered good fantasy points to Tony Romo and Peyton Manning so far this year, so the opportunity is there for Newton to do some damage. With only 9 carries for 53 yards and no scores on the ground thus far, expect Newton to get the job done running the ball as well.

1. Matthew Stafford, Detroit (at Washington)

matthew stafford

(AP File Photo)

This pick is almost too easy. While he will probably see limited playing time, Reggie Bush won’t be as much of a factor for the Lions after suffering a knee injury last week. Joique Bell is still a very good player as evidenced in the first two weeks, but Stafford will have all day throwing to Calvin Johnson this week. After being very carefully monitored the first two weeks, Ryan Broyles could be a factor for the first time in the 2013 season. This defense of the Redskins has been picked apart by the Eagles and Packers in consecutive weeks to start the year, and this matchup with Stafford and the Lions should be no different.

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Down and Distance Columnist Joe Ray – @joeray119

Watch: 49ers fan punches Seahawks fan in stands

Nothing like some good old rivalry in the Wild Wild NFC West, huh? The Seattle Seahawks took home a huge home victory over rival San Francisco 29-3 on Sunday night. Apparently, some 49ers fans were irked by the team’s performance.

After Colin Kaepernick threw an interception, the 12th Man erupted with cheers and boisterous fans. Unfortunately, one 49ers fan could only take so much of the Seahawks’ home crowd. One fan caught a video of a 49ers fan in a Patrick Willis jersey loading up and punching the Seahawks fan in a Sidney Rice jersey right next to him. Take a look at the fan footage, courtesy of YouTube user nickletech.

Between these guys and the Seahulk, there sure are some crazy fans on both sides of this rivalry. The two teams will face off at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on December 8th.

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Down and Distance Columnist Joe Ray – @joeray119

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