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JUMbotron: Friday Huddle, Vol. 15
John U. Miller
December 17, 2010
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Darren McFadden… Mr. December?

It has a nice ring to it.  McFadden has taken over this December and could be the primary force that drives a zillion fantasy owners to league titles.  In Weeks 13 & 14 he’s put up 19 & 39 points respectively… and even more points in leagues that award bonuses for length of TDs.  He’s flat ballin’ out! 

The schedule is laid out nicely for McFadden and I’m guessing his December 2010 might be one for the ages:  Week 15 Denver at Oakland, Week 16 Indianapolis at Oakland.  It’s almost too good to be true – those defenses rank 31st and 27th against fantasy RBs, respectively.  Denver’s given up 19 rushing TDs (3 to McFadden in Week 7), the most in the NFL.  Indianapolis has allowed a league-high 9 different RBs to compile 100+ total yards from scrimmage, and Arian Foster did it twice.  My God, I’m so jealous because I don’t own McFadden.  There’s nothing better in life than a volcanic RB scorching your opponent at playoff time, leaving an ash cloud over the fantasy landscape.  Don’t be surprised if D-Mac closes with one of the best streaks ever.  Below I’ve compiled the 10 best playoff RBs over the last 4 years; it’s a quite a list and some of these names bring back happy memories.  McFadden has a shot at taking the #1 spot in my opinion.  Michael Turner is also blazing down the tracks. 

Weeks 13-16 Playoff Fantasy Points
Running Back Year Wk 13 Wk 14 Wk 15 Wk 16 Total
DeAngelo Williams 2008 33 31 15 35 114
L. Tomlinson 2007 32 29 24 17 102
Chris Johnson 2009 14 37 16 24 91
B. Westbrook 2008 37 32 7 12 88
Pierre Thomas 2008 11 23 27 16 77
Adrian Peterson 2009 7 26 17 26 76
Steven Jackson 2007 23 12 23 17 75
Ryan Grant 2007 22 22 12 17 73
Jamaal Charles 2009 12 24 23 12 71
Jamal Lewis 2007 15 26 17 13 71
Darren McFadden 2010 19 39 Den Ind ?
Michael Turner 2010 15 30 Sea NO ?

Note:  That list doesn’t include Week 17’s, but many of you remember Jamaal Charles’ 262 total yards and 2 TDs in last year’s finale at Denver = 38 fantasy points.  He was cash money in Week 17 FF title games.  I’ll also point out that even though Maurice Jones-Drew hasn’t had stellar Decembers the last three years – never more than 59 points – back in 2006 he unloaded for 90 points in Weeks 13-16 as a rookie. 

Giants WR Steve Smith is out for the year with a knee injury.  His comeback from the pectoral injury lasted about 2 ½ quarters.  It’s a shame because Smith was that steady reception-collector who posted top-20 fantasy WR numbers.  Before the pectoral injury in practice on Nov. 10 Smith was riding a 19-game streak with at least 4 receptions.  No one else has a reception-streak like that – only Roddy White is close with 4+ catches in 16 straight games.  Now that Smith is gone and Mario Manningham is iffy with a hip flexor, the Giants No. 2 WR will be Derek Hagan and the No. 3 could be Duke Calhoun.  If Hagan is unclaimed in your league and you need a new WR3 or flex – go pick him up.  Hagan knows Kevin Gilbride’s plays cold - plus he’ll fare much better working off Hakeem Nicks’ double-teams than as the de facto No. 1 guy when Nicks & Smith were out.

This story about Mike Shanahan possibly starting Rex Grossman – or at least putting him in at some point – against Dallas is picking up steam. “Wait,” you say, “How can they bench Donovan McNabb after giving him that $78 million contract?” That contract is a back-loaded farce and is probably only worth $3.5 million… Besides, I’m telling you there’s something about Grossman’s arm that mesmerizes coaches.  It’s a Cutler/George-type cannon, the kind that seems genetically engineered by Austrian men with white coats.  Grossman’s got Mike and Kyle Shanahan (offensive coordinator) under a spell just like the one he had on Lovie Smith.  Remember when Lovie intoned hypnotically over and over -- “Rex is our quarterback” -- even when the interceptions were piling up at a record pace?  I wish Mike would just come clean and speak the truth:  “Ok, ok, I made up the story about McNabb’s cardiovascular endurance and the hamstrings and stuff.  The thing is, Rex just makes these incredible throws in practice every week.  You see, I let my son Kyle install the Texans offense - and Rex played for Kyle in Houston last year. He really knows the playbook better than Donovan, front to back.  I just thought, well, Rex does have that dreamy arm combined with a Marino-like compact release… plus McNabb ranks 25th in passer rating, and all those balls he throws right into the dirt, what’s that about?  I’m just confused… (tears starting to well up) and it’s freakin’ cold here and I wish I’d held out for the damn Cowboys job.”   

I want to take a minute to applaud Jon Kitna for what he’s done this year.  When Tony Romo went down in Week 7 his fantasy owners were sent scurrying to waiver wires, afraid that their season was over.  Some picked up Sam Bradford, some grabbed Chad Henne, but the QB pickins’ are always slim in 12-team leagues.  Many just went to their backup, which might have been McNabb or Garrard, but your season has likely been a rollercoaster using one of them each week.   The right thing for Romo-owners to do was claim Jon Kitna and plug him in.  Did you?  He’s been nothing short of terrific. 

Quarterback Fantasy Points
Quarterback **Games Pass Yds / Gm Rush Yds / Gm Total TDs FP/gm
Michael Vick 9 279 54 24 31.6
Aaron Rodgers 12.5 263 25 27 24.9
Peyton Manning 13 310 0 26 23.4
Drew Brees 13 297 0 28 23.4
Philip Rivers 14 296 4 29 23.4
Tom Brady 13 261 1 30 22.6
Tony Romo 5.75 279 7 11 22.3
Jon Kitna 7.75 251 17 14 21.7
R. Fitzpatrick 11 230 21 21 21.3
Kyle Orton 13 281 8 20 20.9
B. Roethlisberger 9 260 14 14 20.8
Eli Manning 13 244 4 24 19.9

**Games:  Philip Rivers’ Thursday night game is included.  I broke down all the QB’s actual playing time to compute those averages more accurately.  In other words, even though Michael Vick has “played” 10 games – he only played about a half in two of those contests, so technically he’s completed 9 games’ worth of action.  Same with Kitna, who came in for Romo in the 2nd quarter in Week 7.  Kitna hasn’t played 8 games, he’s played 7 ¾ games… at least for this column’s purpose.

So anyway, Kitna is right up there with most of the big boys.  Congrats to Romo-owners who not only picked him up, but had the nerve to start him every week.  I equate those two with M. Night Shyamalan movies – Romo is The Sixth Sense and Kitna is Unbreakable.  Everyone loves the flash and intensity of The Sixth Sense.  But c’mon, the ending is such a letdown once you’ve seen it – Romo flops in December, his INTs go way up, and fantasy owners become dead people in the fantasy playoffs.  You’re much better off with Unbreakable Kitna – more subtle but just as kinetic, possibly even more satisfying if you really sit down and watch.  Tremendously underrated for years now.

Note to self:  Draft Jimmy Graham next year, even if Jeremy Shockey is still around (Don’t wait either, snap up Graham in the 11th or 12th to make sure he’s mine).  He’s a beast.  Graham has basically only played in 7 games (Weeks 7-14) and caught 19 passes for 275 yards and 1 TD, and his snaps are limited because Sean Payton rotates like 54 different formations per game.  Graham’s also had 2 TDs negated by penalties.  He’s a 6-6” man-child who goes over you, through you, or around you.  His hands are glue-coated and the Saints knew this last August.  Aside from a couple missed blocks, Graham’s had a great rookie year.  “The only thing holding Jimmy back is me,” said Payton, who doesn’t hand out an “A” until you score perfect 100’s in practice.  2011 is Graham’s year.

JUMbotron 2011 Fantasy Mock PPR Draft, Rounds 1-2:
(This is how I think a typical draft could begin next summer)

1.1 Arian Foster – He’s earned it, #1 in rushing yards, total yards, TDs, and a league-leading 31 attempts inside the 10-yard line so far.  Here’s the rub, though.  If Gary Kubiak is fired (and he should be, no playoffs in 5 years) would a new regime still use Foster as an ultra-back or bring in a 3rd-down specialist?  Would they ditch the zone-blocking scheme?
 
1.2 Adrian Peterson – Peterson should sort of nestle into the #2 spot based on his resume with four straight 10+ TD seasons and tons of yards.   But he’ll come with a little risk too.  Who the hell will their quarterback be?  Will they hire another mercenary like Donovan McNabb?

1.3 Maurice Jones-Drew – He won my respect forever with this midseason surge.  I think by now it’s clear his knee cartilage was hung up in August based on his slow start – but he kept fighting every week.  Then after that Week 9 bye he really got rolling with 6 straight 100-yard games.

1.4 Michael Vick – The Madden numbers will prevail and someone in your draft is going to pounce.  Vick is averaging about as many fantasy points as Mark Sanchez and Jason Campbell combined.  And that’s the lure of Vick in 2011 drafts… You get a top-shelf QB in a pass-wacky offense, plus it’s almost like adding a ½ RB into your pick.

1.5 Ray Rice – This is a PPR draft otherwise he could (should) fall several spots.  He’s only had 4 TDs in his last 20 games.  Since 2009 Willis McGahee has 22 carries inside the 6-yard line, Ray Rice only has 15.  However, McGahee’s $6 million salary will be an issue and he could be released.

1.6 Chris Johnson – Since 2009 Johnson has 32 carries inside the 6-yard line to Ray Rice’s 15.  However, this year’s on-and-off routine soured fantasy owners.  Johnson is still ranked around #7 right now.  With any kind of consistent reception totals (like last year) he’d be around #4 or #5.  Will Jeff Fisher be back?  A new offensive coordinator and quarterback is possible too, since Mike Heimerdinger is sick and Vince Young is a dork. 

1.7 Andre Johnson – Fantasy football is undergoing a tectonic shift in theory from Stud RB to Stud WR, based on the steady performances of guys like AJ.  He’s become a Marvin Harrison-type lock for 1,500 yards and a big handful of TDs.  Whoever the coach is, AJ and Matt Schaub will enter their 5th year together and by now they’ve developed a telepathic connection.

1.8 Roddy White – Again, these big-time WRs are more reliable than most of the Tier 2 RBs.  Why take Steven Jackson here when you can get more 100-yard games and TDs from Roddy?  Plus when the weather gets rough the odds are that Atlanta is indoors at home, New Orleans, or at least visiting comfortably in Tampa Bay or Carolina.
 
1.9 Aaron Rodgers – This concussion thing will be long forgotten by next summer and all we’ll remember is that Rodgers was putting up top-3 QB numbers for the third straight year. Note that Green Bay will be injecting young blood into the offensive line next year but then again, when has Rodgers really had a cohesive, reliable group up front anyway? 

1.10 Darren McFadden – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  “Darren McFadden is the No. 2 fantasy RB in points per game.  Say that to yourself out loud.”  He’s the real deal and remember, Michael Bush is an unrestricted free agent.  McFadden also has a great offensive line with new young talent in OTs Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell.  They need to address the center position but otherwise it’s all good.

1.11 Calvin Johnson – Every offseason the Lions are always the sleeper darling to rise from the ashes and go 8-8 or 9-7.  “Matthew Stafford will lead them…”  Screw that, I want the Lions to stay at 2-14 or 3-13, with Stafford’s busted shoulder constantly giving way to Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton.  Why?  Because Megatron’s caught 30 TDs since 2008, more than anyone in the league.  Don’t change a thing!  (Note:  For JUMbotron column purposes that Week 1 catch will always be considered a TD.)

1.12 Michael Turner – In non-PPR he’s a top-6 pick but alas, the lack of receptions are noticeable and frankly, astounding…  In 40 games as a Falcon Turner only has 23 catches for 161 yards.  Just imagine how potent this offense would be if Falcons OC Mike Mularkey didn’t telegraph pass plays and mixed Turner into the screen game on 1st downs?  It would give defenses twice as much to worry about. 

2.1 Drew Brees – As I mentioned on Tuesday Drew Brees is the #1 touchdown maker at the QB position with 2.18 scores per game since 2008.  If the NFL holds true to its normal schedule rotation in 2011, the Saints will play the AFC South for 4 interconference games – that’s a bunch more indoor/decent weather outings for Brees. 

2.2 LeSean McCoy – He has 70 catches and has an outside shot at breaking Brian Westbrook’s franchise RB record of 90 receptions.  McCoy’s carries are sporadic at 14 per game, but with Michael Vick under center they are “quality” carries. Andy Reid loves the counter-trap where he overloads 2 TEs on the right, and McCoy takes his first step to the right, but bounces left – with one TE pulling left to crash down.  The linebackers are frozen, waiting to see if Vick keeps it or not.  McCoy follows the big TE into the left lane and it’s over.    

2.3 Frank Gore – The broken hip doesn’t seem to be career-threatening (no surgery, just rest) so by the summer we’ll all be looking at Gore as a RB1 again.  However, Tier 1 is probably no longer his place, as he’s crossed 1,600 career touches. And again, who’s his coach, his quarterback?
 
2.4 Jamaal Charles – He’s proved 2009 was no fluke.  Over the last 20 games Jamaal Charles has rushed for 2,042 yards.  Only Chris Johnson has more (2,052) in that span.  The next closest guy is Maurice Jones-Drew (1,809).  Charles is sharing the football!  Hopefully Thomas Jones will be totally out of gas next year.  I’m betting he will be.

2.5 Steven Jackson – Jackson is actually 4th in rushing yards over the last 20 games (see above) with 1,713, more than Adrian Peterson’s 1,615 or Ray Rice’s 1,575.  Next year Jackson will still only be 28 years old, but c’mon, his body is a wreck and he’s approaching 2,500 career touches.

2.6 Hakeem Nicks – If not for that weird “compartment leg syndrome” Nicks was going to finish as a top-3 fantasy WR.  He had 9 TDs in his first 8 games, plus a 48-yard TD negated by a penalty.  I won’t forget this when 2011 drafts roll around.  I bet most of you won’t forget either.

2.7 Peyton Manning – It’s the most unsexy pick in fantasy football, year after year, but it’s the safest.  2010 will be his 11th straight top-6 fantasy QB finish. 

2.8 Rashard Mendenhall – He’s quiet but steady.  The 12th best fantasy RB in 2009, probably around the 12th again this year.  If your league is full of RB-hoarders he could go in the late first round.

2.9 Tom Brady – Last summer he often slipped to the mid-late 3rd round, but we’ve been re-awakened to his greatness.  His two stud rookie TEs will be a year wiser, and you know Belichick will get Brady a free-agent toy like WR Braylon Edwards or Vincent Jackson.

2.10 Peyton Hillis – It’s a shame but you know Hillis will get passed down to the second round.  I’ve learned to love Hillis and he won’t get past the turn if I’m at #11 or #12.  He fires me up, this guy.  He’s downright evil.  Watching Hillis run makes me air-guitar Ozzy Osbourne tunes or daydream about knocking off a liquor store.

2.11 Dwayne Bowe – 13 TDs in a 7-game stretch, did that really happen?  Yes, it did – and every 2010 Bowe-owner will remember the wicked adrenaline rush he provided. They won’t let him slide past the 2nd round.

2.12 Greg Jennings – He had a torrid streak of his own with 8 TDs and 4 100-yard games in a 7-game stretch.  Weeks 15 & 16 might be rough if Aaron Rodgers isn’t cleared.  If Matt Flynn plays this week at New England I would bench Jennings in 8- and 10-team leagues.  In 12-team leagues you probably have no choice but to start him.

Philip Rivers, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson, Knowshon Moreno, Tony Romo, Marques Colston, Wes Welker (in PPR leagues), several of these guys could hover around the 2nd round in many drafts.  Terrell Owens will plummet despite his big numbers this season.  Don’t count out rookie RB Mark Ingram (Alabama) being drafted by Miami or Seattle and becoming the lead dog.  That could possibly vault him into the late 2nd round, though rookie Ryan Mathews might have scarred us mentally after his bust-o-rama.

One final thought about 2011.  What if free-agent RBs Ahmad Bradshaw or DeAngelo Williams go to New Orleans or New England?

The Chicago Bears can clinch the NFC North with a win at Minnesota if Green Bay loses at New England.  Both things are probably going to happen, given that Aaron Rodgers is likely out of that game, and Joe Webb is in the other game.  Assuming the Bears take the North this early, don’t worry about them resting players in Week 16 (vs. NYJ) or Week 17 (at GB).  They would be going into Week 16 at 10-4, locked into a battle with Philly or NYG for the #2 seed and that crucial bye.  Philly/NYG play each other this week so one of them is going to be 10-4. 

Chad Ochocinco says his left foot is “totally jacked up” and he needed X-rays Thursday morning.  He tweeted a pic here.  Earlier in the season he tweeted about a cracked rib, swollen ankle, and a right hand “that won’t close” but the Bengals made him delete those.  I guess now it really doesn’t matter who knows.  I also think it’s pretty obvious he’s been hurt for most of the season.  Chad’s on pace for 978 yards and his only two 100-yard games were in those crazy come-from-behind passing rodeos against New England and Atlanta. 

Cowboyz1 wrote a nice testimonial about Brett Favre on the Forums, commemorating his 297-consecutive start streak and all the wonderful things he’s done in the NFL.  I think it’s important to remember Favre for what he is – a warrior – and not let the sexting scandal define his legacy.  Whatever you think about the Jenn Sterger stuff, to me it was never our business anyway.  We never should have seen Favre’s lil’ buddy.  It was just a clumsy, failed shakedown attempt (Jenn, you’re supposed to threaten to go public with the photos, then ask for money).  That whole “We won’t sue if the NFL punishes him” thing was a load of hooey, too.  So anyway, I’m going to miss Favre on the football field.  I’m also feeling very old right now because I remember grabbing him on waivers in my league in 1992.  Back then we phoned in add/drops to the commissioner – no one had cell phones yet, though my friend Scott’s parents had a car-phone in their Nissan 300ZX – who wrote the transaction on a poster board taped next to a cork dart board on his basement wall.  I needed a new backup for Warren Moon because Browning Nagle was stinkin’ up the joint.

In addition to the 297 streak, here’s a short list of Brett Favre’s career passing numbers:

Brett Favre
Passing Yds 1st All-Time  
71,775 2nd - Marino 61,361 3rd - Manning 54,156
Passing TDs 1st All-Time  
507 2nd - Marino 420 3rd - Manning 392
Pass Completions 1st All-Time  
6,295 2nd - Marino 4,967 3rd - Manning 4,610
Pass Attempts 1st All-Time  
10,162 2nd - Marino 8,358 3rd - Elway 7,250
Interceptions 1st All-Time  
335 2nd - G. Blanda 277 3rd - J. Hadl 268
Sacks 1st All-Time  
524 2nd - Elway 516 3rd - D. Krieg 494
Passer Rating 20th All-Time  
86 1st - A. Rodgers 97.6 2nd - P. Rivers 97.2

JUMbo Flex Gem of the Week:  Jaguars RB Rashad Jennings at Indianapolis.  Jennings is one of the bright young talents in the league and he’s got fresh legs right now, which makes him very dangerous.  Over the last three games he has 22 carries for 206 yards and 3 TDs.  He almost had another one vs. Oakland but got stopped at the 3-inch line.  This Indianapolis game is a dream matchup for Jennings and Maurice Jones-Drew.  Not only do the Colts constantly get victimized by the run, they allow both opponent’s RBs to get off.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead, Felix Choice/Tashard Choice, both duos each had 90+ total yards against them.  The 6’1 235-lb Jennings is being compared to ex-Jag legend Fred Taylor.  “That's a huge compliment,” Jennings said. “I looked up to Freddy T and he was a huge talent, and still is. I trained with him and learned a lot from him.”

JUMbo Week 15 Team Defense 1:  Chicago Bears at University of Minnesota.  The Bears are going to be freakin’ p---d off after that beating at home vs. New England.  Over the years Lovie Smith always seems to light a fire under his defense after a bad game.  Last season after a 45-10 embarrassment at Cincinnati, the Bears beat Cleveland 30-6 and only allowed 9 first downs all day.  In 2008 they got walloped by Green Bay 37-3 then went to St. Louis and crushed them 27-3 the very next week, sacking Trent Green 5 times and picking him off 4 times.  The Vikings are a complete mess with Joe Webb or Patrick Ramsey quarterbacking.  This Monday night game was moved out of the 65,000-seat, artificial noise-piped Metrodome to University of Minnesota’s 50,000-seat outdoor field.  I have the Bears D/ST ranked No. 1 in Week 15.

JUMbo Week 15 Team Defense 2:  Miami Dolphins at home vs. Buffalo.  The Dolphins’ playoff hopes are still flickering at 7-6.  They are #2 in sacks (18) over the last 6 games, second only to Pittsburgh (19).  One of my favorite Huddlers, ts, pointed out on the Forums that Miami generated a grand total of 131 yards on offense and still beat the Jets 10-6.  That means their defense has heart, folks.  They held the Jets to 6-of-21 on 3rd downs.  Buffalo has been getting by on guts and grit, but I think they’re going to collapse at Miami.  WR Lee Evans is out.  The offensive line has been ravaged by injuries to G Cordaro Howard, G Eric Wood, C Geoff Hangartner, and G Kriag Urbik – forcing them to shift players all around.  This week Buffalo will deploy their 14th different combination of 5 guys on the O-line.

CheerleadersDallas, San Diego, Miami, Carolina, Houston… and of course I can’t leave out my precious Marlana of Tampa Bay.  In the spirit of basketball season here’s a Phoenix Suns Dancer.

Good luck this week!

JUM

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