I opened up Yahoo! StatTracker Sunday at 12:55 p.m., as part of my normal fantasy day ritual. The window gets opened and doesn't get closed until football ends for the day, because my OCD won't let me be more than one alt-tab away from my score.
Over the course of the 1 p.m. games, the matchup between Dixon and me was back and forth. Which is not to say that we were both doing well, as my starters included Ray Rice and Greg Olsen and Doug Martin, and his included Robert Woods and Donnie Avery and Geno Smith. It was, shall we say, an uninspired matchup, but it was competitive. When the afternoon games kicked off, StatTracker said I was up almost seven points, with a reasonable chance to win.
As fate would have it, I was writing about Geno Smith later and needed to check his start percentage and, since I knew Dixon had started him, I knew where to go for that number. I pulled up Dixon's roster page, only...Smith wasn't starting. And neither was Avery. In their place were Andy Dalton and Dwayne Bowe, who had accounted for a solid 34 more points. In the five minutes between when I had originally opened StatTracker and the rosters had locked, Dixon had changed his lineup, and a close matchup that I might win turned into a blowout loss.
My initial reaction? Livid. I've never altogether trusted Dixon (despite having been in leagues with him for almost a decade now), and I was sure he had pulled some kind of fast one after seeing Dalton's huge game against Buffalo. Our commissioner, a league mate, and my brother all talked me down, and I resigned myself to hoping T.Y. Hilton had a big Monday night for me.
As fate would have it, Dixon got a big enough game out of Stephen Gostkowski that he would have beaten me regardless, Dalton or no Dalton, Bowe or no Bowe. Dixon didn't cheat, and cheating wouldn't have mattered anyway.
The moral of the story is not to overreact. Every once in a while, something crazy will happen. Maybe it is a harbinger of things to come - like Victor Cruz going for 145 yards and three touchdowns in a 2010 preseason game, then vanishing until 2011 - but sometimes it isn't - like that six-touchdown game from Matt Flynn in 2011 that foretold exactly nothing. Either way, going crazy off of a single moment is a good way to find yourself in a bad state.
My loss to Dixon brought me to 1-5 in that league. It's been a disaster of a season so far. There's a decent chance I won't sniff the playoffs. On the other hand, records of 6-7 and 6-6-1 have made the playoffs in this league in recent years. Maybe I can go 5-2 down the stretch. I still have Aaron Rodgers, I still have Josh Gordon.
That's why the waiver wire is so crucial. It's not early anymore, but it's not late either. So keep paying attention to all the add/drop pieces, including this one. This is The Ticker for Week 7. It's the same old story: Stocks I'm buying and not buying, selling and not selling. Futures market, for guys who could see a spike in value soon. Hedges, for guys who could see an increase in role based on health or other factors. Everyone outside of the "selling" categories is owned in 50 percent of fewer of Yahoo! leagues as of Sunday night.
Remember, be patient. And here we go:
Stocks I'm buying
Zac Stacy, RB, STL (38 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
When Stacy appeared in the "Hedges" section of the Week 4 Ticker, I explained that it was because there were so many question marks at running back that anyone who might break through really needed to at least have an eye kept on them. Since then, Stacy was quiet in Week 4, but had 78 and 79 rushing yards in Weeks 5 and 6, respectively. He has the top two rushing games by a Rams running back and, while he hasn't yet reached the end zone, the Rams have yet to have a single rushing touchdown, so it's not like he's fallen behind anyone. Put it this way: Daryl Richardson is averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Isaiah Pead is at 3.0; Benny Cunningham at 2.7. Stacy, meanwhile, is averaging 4.9. Sure, small sample size. But if you kept an eye on Stacy, you've enjoyed that. And now that something is working in the St. Louis backfield, they aren't going to go away from it any time soon.
Jordan Reed, TE, WAS (9 percent)
For a tight end, Reed has serious wheels. For a Redskins tight end, even moreso. After years of guys like Chris Cooley and Fred Davis offering acceptably mediocre at the position, Washington and Robert Griffin III have in Reed a tight end who at least has the potential to be a more valuable contributor. Reed, with only 56 total yards through the season's first two games, had 50 in the third and 58 in the fifth (he missed the team's Week 4 matchup against Oakland with a quad injury). This as the team's other tight ends - Davis, Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen - have been considerably less productive. Reed isn't remotely a starting option yet outside of really deep leagues, but his workload is far more likely to increase than the opposite.
Marvin Jones, WR, CIN (0 percent)
There are two kinds of situations teams with super-stud receivers find themselves in - the Broncos, Cowboys, and Falcons have found running mates for guys like Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, and Julio Jones (until last week). Meanwhile, teams like the Lions, Bears, and Bengals have put forth a lot of effort into finding well-considered seconds to their Calvin Johnson, their Brandon Marshall, their A.J. Green. The Bears might finally have gotten there, but the Lions and Bengals are still searching - basically at this point, throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. ("Kevin Ogletree? Brandon Tate? EZ Nwachukwu? WHATVER!!") While Jones is basically tied in receiving yards with four other Bengals, he is the only wide receiver or tight end other than Green to have found the end zone this year, with two scores. It's possible Jones could be the Bengals' cooked spaghetti. That's the thing that sticks against the wall, right? That's where the saying comes from? If that's not it, Jones could be the whatever-sparked-that-idiom.
Stocks I'm not buying
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, PIT (50 percent)
I honestly didn't realize this until I started writing this Sanders blurb, but did you realize that "dead cat bounce" is actually a stock-inspired term? I never knew what it came from, but apparently there's no sordid, Schrödinger-style story about a cat; it's just the idea that anything (even stocks) will bounce up briefly if it falls from far enough, even a dead cat. What a weird guy to have come up with that. Anyway, Sanders was highly drafted this year, under the thinking he was going to soak up some of the looks that Mike Wallace had last year. His ownership gradually dropped this season as he got middling yards and no scores, but he bounced back with a 55-yard touchdown Sunday that gave him an actually productive day. I'm calling fluke. I'm calling dead cat.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, NYG (24 percent)
Inasmuch as any running back with a starting gig has to be owned, sure, go ahead and grab Brandon Jacobs. It probably can't hurt. But if you use him thinking his 22-carry, 106-yard, two-touchdown Thursday against the Bears is anything other than a mirage helped by a surprisingly porous Chicago run defense, you're in for sadness. Listen, I could probably have a decent rushing day against the Bears, and I'm slow and scared of large men knocking me down. Despite the fact that the Giants have bad defenses in the offing (Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Oakland in the next four weeks, sandwiched around a bye), I'm only using Jacobs if I'm super desperate.
T.J. Graham, WR, BUF (0 percent)
Despite the fact that fill-in quarterback Thaddeus Lewis actually had a good day Sunday against a strong Bengals defense, no receiver on the team really went off, with no one catching more than four passes or targeted more than six times. Scott Chandler and Marquise Goodwin both scored touchdowns but, with No. 1 guy Stevie Johnson sidelined and rookie standout Robert Woods blanketed, Lewis had to spread the ball out. Graham led the team with 74 yards - 23 more than the second-most - including a 47-uard completion. That said, Johnson will be back soon enough, Woods will be freed up, and running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are only going to get healthier. Graham doesn't need to be on any radars yet.
Stocks I'm selling
Le'Veon Bell, RB, PIT (82 percent)
If there were a "Stocks I was never really buying to begin with" category, Bell would go there. It's not an indictment of his talent - his two touchdowns in Week 4 were reasonably real - but an indictment of the situation he is in. And, okay, a little bit his talent. He's fine, but he's nothing special at this point. And with the porous offensive line the Steelers have been running out there, nothing short of special is going to be able to have a big time. Bell followed up his two touchdowns in his debut with no scores and a 23-yard drop in production despite an equal number of rushes. His day will come, but maybe not in 2013.
Ben Tate, RB, HOU (63 percent)
Tate scored his first touchdown of the season Sunday, so there's that. On the other hand, it was an utter junk-time score, and he managed only 1.2 yards per carry against a St. Louis run defense that is, without being too mean, amazingly freaking bad. After a stellar 2011 season as Arian Foster's backup - four different hundred-yard games, four touchdowns, an excellent handcuff job - Tate was pretty abysmal last year, when he was healthy enough to even be that, and he hasn't done much this year either. If you are a Foster owner who has Tate behind him, you pretty much have to stick with the handcuff, but otherwise, I wouldn't bother with him. If there's an owner out there who thinks his score Sunday is a harbinger of good tidings, make friends with that owner and then rip them off in a trade.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, MIN (57 percent)
This chart shows Rudolph's game-by-game scoring over the past two seasons:
There is a place in fantasy for such unpredictable production. Unfortunately for Rudolph, that place just isn't "2013." In a season where running backs were basically the entire first round, and only two or three of them have lived up to that; in a season with Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones hurt and Tom Brady below his standards and all that, fantasy owners can't afford to have a starter with such enormous variance built into his game. Sure, Dez Bryant might only score two points some week. But Rudolph will score 0, 1, 2 in some games, and with so many more question marks this year than in many recent ones, that just can't happen.
Stocks I'm not selling
This probably isn't necessary to say, but I'm saying it anyway. After consecutive 100-yard games, and three combined touchdowns, in Weeks 2 and 3, Megatron scuffled through the Bears game in Week 4 (though he did score again) before missing Week 5 and being a veritable non-factor in Week 6. That is rough, and will hurt his season-end numbers, but at this moment he's still on pace for almost 900 yards and 11 touchdowns, and that's including nearly two full games of nothingness in that projection. Assuming he's healthy - and you've got to think he will be, soon, if not yet - Johnson is still Johnson. Or Calvin. I really don't understand those Sean Combs commercials, guys. Is it a Calvin & Hobbes thing? Or is it just "Wait, we got Johnson and Combs for a commercial, it doesn't have to make sense"?
Julio Jones arrived in Atlanta in 2011. In 2010 - with Roddy White (check), Tony Gonzalez (check), and basically no one else in the passing game - Ryan threw for 3,705 yards with 28 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. That's his best single-year INT number, and only four behind his career high in touchdowns. Jones is a heck of a luxury to have, and Ryan and the Falcons are worse off without him, but it's not necessarily time to pack it in and go home (at least, from a fantasy perspective; they aren't making the playoffs). If White and Steven Jackson get healthy and Gonzalez remains Gonzalez, there's no reason to think Ryan still can't be a perfectly fine QB1.
Russell Wilson, QB, SEA (95 percent)
Gun to your head, if you had to guess how many times Russell Wilson has passed for more than 300 yards in the regular season in his career, what would you guess? It's probably silly for me to ask non-rhetorical questions here, since this will have been written for more than 12 hours by the time you read it. Anyway, I would have guessed three or four, easy. The answer is one, and it came in the season-opener against Carolina, a game in which his Seahawks scored only 12 points. Wilson has a 100-plus passer rating in two of his six games so far, with four games of less than two passing touchdowns and no rushing scores yet. Those numbers are identical to his first six games a year ago. In the Seahawks' last eight games of 2012, Wilson topped 100 seven times, threw for 16 touchdowns, and rushed for four others, which was the kind of performance fantasy owners expected when they drafted him this year. Hold tight on Wilson. His numbers will get there.
Lance Moore, WR, NO (29 percent)
Okay, so I don't know how much longer Moore is going to be out with his hand injury, and neither do you. He might be back after their bye this week; he might not. The thing is, despite the fact that they've had a fairly prolific offense through six games, the Saints simply have not had a reliable pass-catcher after the other-worldly Jimmy Graham. Marques Colston has been quiet, Kenny Stills has potential, and Robert Meacham is back, but the numbers just haven't been there. Moore is coming off a thousand-yard season with six scores; if he can equal that rate of production when he gets back, it will get some defenses off Graham's back and add another fantasy weapon. Like I said, I don't know when he'll return, but keep your ears out.
Mario Manningham, WR, SF (1 percent)
Michael Crabtree has been the marquee "hurt 49er receiver who can save the offense" guy this season, but Manningham is due back sooner. San Francisco - and Colin Kaepernick - desperately need a third option to throw to after Anquan Boldin and the inconsistent Vernon Davis, and, while he's not a superstar, Manningham would immediately become the next-most-skilled receiver San Francisco has (not that that is difficult). His return, which should come in the next game or so, could carry with it real fantasy viability.
Kevin Cone, WR, ATL (0 percent)
As I said above, Julio Jones' injury doesn't mean Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense is done, but it does mean they have to be more creative. While Harry Douglas has been the "next man up" for the Falcons for five years now, he's never blown anyone away. Cone, meanwhile is the next "next man up," having been with Atlanta for three years and just catching his first career pass last Monday. (Interestingly, his ESPN.com Game Log for 2012 lists him with zero targets per game last year, totaling...one target for the season. I wonder where his phantom target came from.) Cone is a super long shot, but someone needs to step up for Atlanta.
Daniel Thomas, RB, MIA (13 percent)
I was down on Thomas in the debut of The Ticker, pointing out that Miller was definitely the guy. While Miller is still probably the guy, he's been so unimpressive through five games that it wouldn't be a total shock to see Thomas start to see his touches increase again; it was only a year ago that he was considered a starting option. At some point, it becomes "put up or shut up" time for Miller; otherwise, he could find himself platooning.
Jarrett Boykin, WR, GB (1 percent)
This is the obvious name this week; odds are, claims are already in on Boykin, and if you aren't among them, this can be your wake-up call. Randall Cobb is out for several weeks; James Jones might play this week, but also might not. A new receiver could ask for way worse than Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley at his sides and Aaron Rodgers chucking the ball at him. It's possible that Nelson and Finley (and if-healthy Jones) will be the primary beneficiaries in Cobb's absence, but there's no sense in letting Boykin dangle out there. He's worth an add in almost any league.
Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, NE (0 percent)
This is a rare situation - I'm suggesting a guy who is currently healthy as a Hedge for a guy who is currently injured. But that's where we are. I feel like we've been assuming Rob Gronkowski is just about to make his 2013 debut for months now, only to be disappointed come Friday or Saturday each time. I'm sure he'll be back soon enough, but with his injury history, there's no way of knowing how long he'll be there. Meanwhile, Hoomanawanui has shown familiarity with the Patriots' offensive scheme as a blocker, and he's caught 13 passes in his two seasons in New England. Most of that came when the Patriots had two tight ends and decent pass-catchers elsewhere on the offense. With Tom Brady growing increasingly frustrated with his rookie corps, and Gronkowski and Danny Amendola pretty much always health question marks, this might be the year for Hoomanawanui to take steps forward.