- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It’s only been three weeks, but the numbers suggest Tom Brady’s fantasy value is receding faster than his hairline.

Last week against a typically terrible Raiders team, Brady threw for 234 yards and one touchdown, the third straight game in which he failed to reach 250 yards while throwing for a sole short score (his TDs have come from 6, 9 and 6 yards). In the league in which Brady is my starter, those numbers total 18 points — last among the 20 rostered quarterbacks.

Those are Alex Smith numbers. Well, they were Alex Smith numbers. Everyone’s Favorite Game Manager entered Week 3 ranked 35th in passing before throwing three touchdowns in the Chiefs’ win over the Dolphins — the same Dolphins that shut out Brady and the Patriots in the second half of the season opener.

This is the second straight season in which Brady has loafed out of the gate. Last year, with Rob Gronkowski sidelined, Aaron Hernandez in jail and Wes Welker in Denver, a slow start was understandable. But things were supposed to be different this year. Gronkowski is back, and while he’s not 100 percent, he has caught 67 percent of Brady’s touchdowns; Julian Edelman is still gobbling up receptions; and even Danny Amendola has managed to stay healthy for three straight games.

Brady isn’t the only big-name quarterback struggling this season. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford are off to slow starts, too. But each has had at least one good game.

You can’t always count on touchdowns, either, but a guy like Stafford (who also has just three TDs on the season) can make up for it with lots of yards. Brady’s stunningly pedestrian start has produced just 632 total passing yards. Kirk Cousins, who didn’t see the field until replacing an injured Robert Griffin III early in Week 2, has thrown for 677.

But everyone loves touchdowns, so back to putting Brady’s sudden aversion to throwing them in perspective. This is only the fourth time since 2006 that Brady has gone at least three weeks without having a multi-touchdown game (he did it once last year while throwing nine TDs in the first eight games; he threw 16 in the next eight). Fantasy afterthoughts Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jake Locker each have thrown more touchdowns in the opening three weeks.

Brady’s touchdown total was equalled in a single game last week by Austin Davis. That’s right, the third-string quarterback of the Rams — the NFL’s most offensively deficient team — needed less than four quarters to throw as many touchdowns as Brady has in three games against three bad teams (Brady sandwiched a 149-yard, 1 TD performance against the Vikings in-between the loss to the Dolphins and a close win over the Raiders).

I’ve written glowingly in the past about Brady and his ability to adapt and thrive throughout his career. But time makes fools of us all, and it appears Brady’s time as a fantasy star is over.

Week 3 Lineup Crime: After watching Brandon Marshall catch three scores on my bench in Week 2, I was excited to get him back in my lineup. He tweaked his bad ankle early against the Jets and finished with one catch for 6 yards. Zero points. I lost 96-95. I erred in another league by benching Michael Crabtree and Terrance West, but my opponent was the bigger offender in sitting Cousins and DeSean Jackson.

Week 4 Lineup Time: With six teams on bye and many fantasy owners needing some helpful advice, I’ll try to do a better job than last week. Coming off a 427-yard, 3-TD game, Cousins has a great matchup against the Giants on Thursday night. I also like Victor Cruz against a secondary he has terrorized in the past. Eddie Lacy and Matt Forte finally get to face lesser defenses in the Packers-Bears game. Steve Smith has revitalized his career with the Ravens, and I expect him to make good on his promise to make the Panthers pay for letting him go. Donald Brown is not the long-term answer for the Chargers, but there’s no one else to steal carries and it’s the Jaguars. The Lions’ Golden Tate against the Jets and the Cowboys’ Terrance Williams against the Saints are two excellent fill-ins at wide receiver.

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