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Fantasy Football: Lions, Pats and Bolts, oh my!

By Cory J. Bonini

A few situations around the NFL have caught my attention as items I wanted to address heading into Week 5 action.

The Hernandez Effect

One of them is the return to practice by New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle). While it isn't definite that he'll play this week, my belief is Hernandez will have a limited role.

PPR machine Wes Welker was practically nonexistent when Hernandez was on the field, but that isn't a recipe for season-long success for the Pats. They have to get both players involved in the game plan.

Hernandez's return, though, likely means a dip in production for Welker. New England extended Hernandez, who often plays in the slot where Welker typically is, and didn't lock up the smallish receiver, which may be something to read into. Sell now to capitalize on Welker's strong two-week run.

It's a Lion Shame

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Post-bye resurgence?

The Detroit Lions are on a bye week and will look to spark their offense with the extra prep time. This O needs to open it up on first down and not be so balanced. I know, that sounds counterintuitive, but this system isn't built for first-down success between the tackles.

One reason they haven't been as dynamic is their commitment to running the ball. Typically, a balanced offense with a viable rushing attack will keep defenses off-guard. They're not potent enough early in the game and continually leave Matthew Stafford to drop back in what defenses know are a clear passing situations.

Of Mikel Leshoure's 39 rushing attempts, more than half of them have come in the first half, resulting in an average of 2.8 yards per carry. In attempts 1-10 to begin games, Leshoure has averaged 2.2 per pop on 20 totes. In other words, Stafford isn't being put in a great position to succeed on second and third downs.

Another major reason is defensive coverage. Of 296 offensive snaps, only five plays have seen defenses using man coverage ... you know, the kind Calvin Johnson usually destroys. Even when he is shaded by a safety, Detroit's umpteen weapons find their way open. That simply isn't happening right now, and it hasn't helped that Brandon Pettigrew has left a few through his normally sure hands.

Detroit comes out of their bye to face a brutally tough three-game stretch as far as opposing defenses are concerned. Their Week 6 opponent is the Philadelphia Eagles, followed by the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks. Life gets a little more bearable starting in Week 9 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, then the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers' susceptible pass D's on the docket.

Unfortunately, Stafford's value is about as low as it can get. You can try to market him now, hoping someone will take a chance on Stafford based on name value.

Time to Bolt?

San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates sees consistent double-teams since defenses really don't have much to worry about on the outside. San Diego's running game has been mediocre between the 20s and is missing a home run threat in the offense.

Owners in point-per-reception leagues should give Gates the benefit of the doubt for a few more games before his Week 7 bye. Conceivably his rib injury could still be secretly hampering him, but I no longer hold high hopes for a veteran whose quality production will probably be sporadic.


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