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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 14
David Dorey
December 13, 2010
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Michael Vick 270P 16R 2P1R
Tom Brady 369 2
Jason Campbell 324 2
Alex Smith 255 3
Peyton Manning 319 2
Running Backs Yards TD
Darren McFadden 209 3
Michael Turner 124 3
Tim Hightower 150 2
Chris Johnson 179 1
Ryan Torain 182 0
Wide Receivers Yards TD
DeSean Jackson 210 1
Pierre Garcon 93 2
Deion Branch 151 1
Malcom Floyd 51 2
Marques Colston 46 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Jason Witten 69 2
Bo Scaife 20 2
Vernon Davis 70 1
Marcedes Lewis 57 1
Kellen Winslow 52 1
Placekickers XP FG
Jay Feely 4 5
Jeff Reed 4 4
Adam Vinatieri 3 3
Shayne Graham 4 3
David Akers 3 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Steelers 2 3 3
Cardinals 1 1 6
Saints 1 3 3
49ers 1 1 5
Patriots 1 2 4

Bumps, bruises and bow outs

Aaron Rodgers (GB) - Concussion
Deon Butler (SEA) - Broken leg
Lee Evans (BUF) - Ankle injury
Graham Gano (WAS) - Ribs injury
Chris Ivory (NO) - Hamstring injury
Beanie Wells (ARI) - Tummy ache

The good, the bad and the west

With three games left to play, the NFL playoff picture is already coming into more focus and while teams have not been determined yet outside of the Patriots who have now clinched, we can make some pretty good assumptions about what is going to happen in January:

NE and PIT get byes

JAC or IND wins the AFC South
KC or SD wins the AFC West

Wildcards for BAL and NYJ

In the NFC

ATL and PHI or NYG gets a bye

CHI or GB wins the NFC North
STL or SEA wins the NFC West

Wildcards for NO and PHI or NYG

In the end, the conference championships look almost certain to go through New England and Atlanta. Outside of those two teams there doesn't seem to be any dominant teams out there.

ten random observations

1. This is a bad week to be on the special teams for the Redskins. On their first possession, they reached the TB 16-yard line where Graham Gano doinked it off the left upright. Missing a 34-yarder is bad but not as bad as missing a 24-yarder wide left which he did in the second quarter. He later was successful on a 25 yarder before the half.

With 16 seconds left to play in the game, Donovan McNabb hit Santana Moss with a six yard touchdown pass on fourth and six to make the score 16-17. And the extra point try was then snapped too high, slipped through the holder's hands and was recovered by the giggling Buccaneers. Close really does not count in the NFL. Chances are good the Skins will be kicker shopping this week.

2. CB Nolan Carroll of the Dolphins was covering a punt when he went down with a knee injury after being blocked by Sal Alosi. The problem is that Alosi does not play special teams (until now), he is the strength and conditioning coach for the Jets who stuck out his knee as Carroll ran past and tripped him up. Apparently he did not take into account the endless number of cameras around the field. Then again, the way the Jets offense was playing perhaps none of them realized the game was televised.

3. I'll grant you - any runner for a team as high scoring as the Packers is probably going to be worth owning. But those waiver wire miners that held onto James Starks in some cases all season long were rewarded (sort of) when he gained 73 yards on 18 carries against the 49ers in week 13. Playing in Detroit seemed like a sure thing but the loss of Aaron Rodgers and the solid play of the Lions defense left Starks with only eight yards on six carries. Better hope Aaron Rodgers gets better if you want to use him again... actually that's true for any GB player.

4. It is December. And it is never too early to realize that not only do you want to carry two kickers on your team now for both an option each week and security in case one gets injured. But it is also worth owning at least one kicker that plays in a dome or for a southern team. Weather is a factor for teams not led by Tom Brady and that could end up biting you in a fantasy league playoff when wind and rain depress scores.

5. It is getting hard to downgrade Deion Branch in any way. He not only has scored four times in the last three weeks, he had a team high 151 yards on eight catches in the horrible weather in Chicago. He's doing what Randy Moss used to do. He's also flirting with a top ten ranking next season if this continues. At 31 years of age, he still has a couple of seasons left to play.

6. DeAngelo Williams is a free agent in 2011 and it's looking like he has played his last for the Panthers. Not only does Jonathan Stewart play well enough to assume the primary role, but Mike Goodson has scored in each of the last three games and has a bit of lightning to Stewart's thunder. Williams may be franchised but only to see what they can get for him in a trade.

7. One of the beautiful things about owning Maurice Jones-Drew has been that he always gets everything there is for the Jaguars. But that is changing and Rashad Jennings is becoming a weekly feature for the offense. Jennings had a season best 109 yards and one score against the Raiders on Sunday but he had ten runs for 44 yards and a score in Tennessee and seven rushes for 53 yards and a score in New York the week before that. Jones-Drew has logged 100+ yards in all of those games but Jennings is getting his share. Sounds like the handcuff next year and maybe one worth stealing.

8. For years I have been a proponent of drafting wide receivers early and even a quarterback and not just mindlessly following the "RB-RB" mind set. But this year has been tough if you did not have a top running back for those consistent points. Granted there were and always will be running back flops in the first and second round but the shrinking pool of consistent running backs suggests to me maybe I better get one or two while I still can. The game is changing to more and more passing and yet that only makes those true work horse backs even more scarce and desirable. I am going to spend time in the offseason thinking a lot about this.

9. The 49ers were floating aimlessly down the river through week five when they still had no wins on the season. But they have won five of the last eight games and switching back to Alex Smith resulted in three touchdowns and 255 yards this week in a blowout win over the Seahawks. He went straight back to making Vernon Davis (5-70, TD) a stud tight end again. And with a final schedule of @SD, @STL and ARI there could still be two more wins. If that happens they'll be 7-9 and Mike Singletary is still safe? The NFC West does not contain any teams with a winning record. Both the Rams and Seahawks lost and are 6-7 and the 49ers are 5-8 and not out of it by any means. The Rams final schedule is KC, SF and @SEA. The Seahawks have ATL, @TB, STL and the 49ers get @SD, @STL and ARI. While the Rams are probably going to win in it, the 49ers could be a surprise team and win a division with a 7-9 record.

10. I have great fears that the party is over. That the ridiculous passing numbers posted by Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd were a product of Josh McDaniels calling plays and now that a RB coach is running the show that Knowshon Moreno is the only player to see better stats. The Broncos were punchless in Arizona and Kyle Orton only completed 19 of 41 passed for 166 yards and three interceptions. In perhaps the best weather of any team against one of the worst defenses. It's like Jabar Gaffney (3-48), Eddie Royal (4-46) and Brandon Lloyd (3-32) are all turned back into pumpkins. And Lloyds draft stock next summer may be plunging back to pre-2010 levels.

Huddle Player of the Week

Darren McFadden - After only two weeks when McFadden totaled only 2 rushing yards against the Dolphins and three weeks from when he had 26 total yards in Pittsburgh, the McFadden owners got another major gift this season when the Raiders went to Jacksonville. He opened the game with a 67 yard touchdown catch and run and then added two more touchdowns on runs of 51 and 36 yards. He ended with 123 yards on 16 carries and 86 yards on three receptions. 209 total yards and three touchdowns catapulted many teams into their playoffs this week.

Salute!

Drama 101 - Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Line-up Yards TDs Tragedy Line-up Yards TDs
QB Kerry Collins 244 3 QB Aaron Rodgers 71 0
RB Rashad Jennings 109 1 RB Jamaal Charles 49 0
RB Ryan Torain 182 0 RB Cedric Benson 45 0
WR Ruvell Martin 73 1 WR Dwayne Bowe 7 0
WR Arrelious Benn 139 0 WR Greg Jennings 52 0
WR Deon Butler 68 1 WR Terrell Owens 22 0
PK Jay Feely 4 XP 4 FG 1 TD PK Ryan Succop Goose egg

Huddle Fantasy Points = 133

Huddle Fantasy Points = 17

Sunday Snippet

IND 30, TEN 28 Manning showed he hasn't been the problem with 319 yards and two scores that both went to Pierre Garcon (6-93) while Reggie Wayne (4-106) had a big role as well. Donald Brown (15-38) was not that effective but Edgerrin's little brother Javarris gained 49 yards on 17 carries and scored once. The Titans were right there for the whole game with Kerry Collins passing for 244 yards and three scores. Chris Johnson ran for one score on his 22 carries for 111 yards and he was the leading receiver with eight catches for 68 yards while Bo Scaife (4-20, 2 TD) and Craig Stevens (3-20, TD) had all the receiving scores come from the tight end position. The win keeps the Colts within one game of the Jaguars.
CLE 6, BUF 13 This was one of the cold weather games that had low scoring and made almost no sense. Somehow the worst defense in the league held Peyton Hillis (21-108, 4-10) to no touchdowns while Jake Delhomme could only produce 86 passing yards and one interception. The Browns fumbled five times and lost two. The Bills won with Ryan Fitzpatrick passing for only 142 yards and one score but no receivers had more than 45 yards in the game for either team. Fred Jackson rushed for 112 yards on 29 carries while C.J. Spiller siphoned off eight runs for 33 yards. This entire game was a fantasy wasteland and that is a shame.
ATL 31, CAR 10 Michael Turner took over this game with 28 carries for 112 yards and three touchdowns but Matt Ryan (227, TD) still had some work to do. Roddy White did not score but turned in eight catches for 79 yards while Tony Gonzalez had the touchdown on his four catches for 28 yards. Jimmy Clausen (107, int) still makes no positive difference but Jonathan Stewart gained 133 yards on 18 carries while Mike Goodson scored once on his nine runs for 70 yards. This was every bit the expected stomping and the Falcons rise to 11-2 on the season while the Panthers still secure the worst record in the league.
GB 3, DET 7 Here is another game that should have featured some fireworks and fantasy points but instead we get 10 total points? Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion which apparently sucked all of the offense out of this game for both sides. Matt Flynn only threw for 177 yards and one interception and the Packers settled for 31 yards on 15 carries from combining three running backs. The Lions fared better with Drew Stanton who only passed for 117 yards but had one touchdown to Will Heller. Calvin Johnson was held to one catch for 44 yards which was a disaster for those needing points to make their playoffs. This was a major disappointment and the weather was no factor in this point drought. The loss drops the Packers to 8-5 but still just one game behind the Bears. The Packers future all depends on Rodgers bouncing back quickly from his concussion.
CIN 7, PIT 23 This game was fun mostly to just watch the fights. The only PIT touchdowns came on two interceptions that were returned for a score. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 258 yards and no score while Hines Ward (8-115) and Mike Wallace (5-78) took up most of the completions. Rashard Mendenhall only gained 66 yards on 18 carries which was far better than Cedric Benson fared when he only gained 19 yards on eight runs. Carson Palmer passed for 178 yards and three touchdowns (only one was for the Bengals though). Terrell Owens only had one catch for 22 yards in the game while Chad Ochocinco turned in a more respectable 71 yards on six catches. The win keeps the 10-3 Steelers ahead of the 8-4 Ravens.
TB 17, WAS 16 Ryan Torain bounced back from his hamstring injury with a vengeance when he rushed for 158 yards on 18 carries in the first half but then was limited to only six runs for 14 runs in the second half. Donovan McNabb threw for 228 yards and two scores and Santana Moss (7-82, TD) enjoyed the injury depleted secondary of the Buccaneers. Josh Freeman went to work in the second half and ended with 266 yards and one score to Kellen Winslow (2-52) for the game winner. Arrelious Benn had his best game so far with 122 yards on four catches. The Buccaneers won this low-scoring snoozefest because they kicked three field goals and made a two point conversion while Graham Gano missed two field goals and the Redskins had a high snap on the extra point try that should have tied the game on the Skins last possession.
STL 13, NO 30 Pretty standard game with the Saints cruising to a home win thanks to Drew Brees passing for 221 yards and three scores that went to Lance Moore (5-70, TD) and Marques Colston (5-46, 2 TD). The worst scenario happened for Chris Ivory owners when he rushed for 47 yards on seven carries but then had his hamstring tighten up and give way to Pierre Thomas who rushed for 39 yards on 12 runs. Throw in Reggie Bush (9-39) and there's a three-way going on in the backfield that no fantasy owners wanted to see. Sam Bradford passed for 231 yards but rushed in the only score for the Rams. Steve Jackson ran for 96 yards and added 38 yards on four catches for a decent showing. The win keeps the Saints within one game of the Falcons for the NFC South lead.
SEA 21, SF 40 Wow. This makes up for some of those point-deprived matchups this week. Alex Smith had his triumphant return when he passed for 255 yards and three touchdowns and Brian Westbrook only gained 23 yards on nine runs but added a team high six catches for 87 yards and a score. Josh Morgan (3-82) and Vernon Davis (5-70) also caught touchdowns. Matt Hasselbeck passed for 285 yards and two scores but had four interceptions. Ruvell Martin (4-73) and Deon Butler (5-68) both scored though Butler suffered what looked like a catastrophic injury to his leg. The loss drops the Seahawks to only 6-7 where they are still tied with the Rams for the division lead. The 49ers are only one game back at 5-8. The NFC West may be the only division to be won by a team with a losing record.
DEN 13, ARI 43 Wow. How do you do this? Seriously. The Cardinals? Starting John Skelton at quarterback? Unlike the Cowboys and Vikings who responded well to the HC firing, the Broncos got even worse and they were already "fire the HC" bad. Jay Feely kicked five field goals, four extra points and even rushed in a touchdown for only the fourth time for a kicker since the merger in 1970. Skelton only passed for 146 yards but had no turnovers while Tim Hightower ran 18 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns and yet Beanie Wells only managed 16 yards on six runs before he got sick to his stomach from watching himself on the Jumbotron. Larry Fitzgerald still had 72 yards on six catches even with Skelton at the helm. The Broncos rushed for 81 yards on 19 carries by Knowshon Moreno and he scored the only Broncos touchdown. Kyle Orton passed for only 166 yards AGAINST THE CARDINALS and had three interceptions and no touchdowns AGAINST THE CARDINALS. Pitiful.
NE 36, CHI 7 Okay, so the Patriots are back to being the team to beat in the NFL. They had been on a furious scoring binge but that was supposed to end against the Bears aggressive defense in Chicago during a blizzard with gale force wins. All that meant was that Brady would pass for 369 yards and two scores with Deion Branch (8-151, TD) and Wes Welker (8-115) had no problem in the brutal weather and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (21-87) coupled with Danny Woodhead (7-21, TD) for plenty of rushing offense. The Bears were at home and in their supposed element but Jay Cutler only came up with 152 passing yards and two interceptions while Matt Forte gained 25 yards on nine carries. This was a scary game because so far we have seen nothing that is slowing down the Patriots. Not a great defense, not the weather. Nothing. It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that the AFC Championship will be held in New England. And Vegas won't be flipping a coin to say who will be favored.
MIA 10, NYJ 6 Rounding out the huge disappointments are the Jets who played in the rain and could not score an actual touchdown at home in a game they needed to win. Mark Sanchez only passed for 216 yards and one interception with Jerricho Cotchery (5-69) dropping several passes and Santonio Holmes (2-57) dropping a sure touchdown. The Jets could only rush for 66 yards on 27 carries and Sanchez had a personal best of four fumbles though he lost only one. The Fins won despite Chad Henne passing for only 55 yards but one score that went to Brandon Marshall (2-16). The Dolphins were not much better rushing with only 89 yards on 26 carries. The Jets now fall to 9-4 and two games back of the Patriots. The Dolphins now have the coolest claim to fame. They are tied with the best road record in the NFL (6-1) and the worst home record in the league (1-5). How do you do that?
KC 0, SD 31 In the AFC West where the laws of nature never apply, the Chiefs still lead the division and yet were stomped by the Chargers who were dominated by the Raiders last week who were... oh never mind. Brodie Croyle is now 0-10 as a starter which is pretty amazing that he still has a backup gig. The Chiefs only managed to gain 16 yards on 19 plays in the second half. Croyle ended with 40 passing yards for what has to be a season record. Jamaal Charles only gained 40 yards since he was only given 10 carries and the entirety of the Chiefs could have just saved a lot of money and reduced their carbon footprint by just staying in Kansas City. The Chargers won with Philip Rivers passing for 226 yards and two scores even without Antonio Gates playing, Malcom Floyd brought in both touchdowns on his four catches for 51 yards. Another blow to the fantasy world was the even split between Ryan Mathews (16-65, TD) and Mike Tolbert (16-66, TD) and even Darren Sproles gained 104 total yards. The Chiefs are now one game ahead of the Chargers in the AFC West.
PHI 30, DAL 27 An excellent game to end the day. The Cowboys played it tough with Jon Kitna passing for 242 yards and two scores to Jason Witten (7-69) but the wide receivers had almost no role for the offense. Felix Jones scored once on his 13 rushes for 41 yards. Michael Vick passed for 270 yards and two scores and rushed for one touchdown. LeSean McCoy came alive in the second half and ended with 149 yards on 16 runs while the passing game was dominated by DeSean Jackson who rolled up 210 yards and one score on just four catches thanks in part to a 91-yard touchdown catch and run. The Eagles pulled out the win and rise to 9-4 while waiting to see what happens when the Giants play the Vikings on Monday night.

Sunday's Couch Commentary

The bad weather really depressed a lot of scores and three games ended with less than 20 points. But there were ten teams with 30+ points and some big performances to help fantasy teams go deeper into the playoffs. But if you had players on those 12 teams that had less than 14 points score chances are you were disappointed. The day started with the collapse of the Metrodome in Minnesota and ended with the collapse of the Chiefs in San Diego.

The best and highest scoring game happened where we never thought to look:

OAK 31, JAC 38

This was expected to have a lot of rushing in it and that did not disappoint. What we did not count on were two passing scores and 324 yards by the Raiders. Or three passing touchdowns by David Garrard. Or 497 offensive yards by the Raiders and 393 yards and five touchdowns by the Jaguars.

At the half, the Raiders led 17-7 thanks to a 67-yard catch and run by Darren McFadden who only had nine carries for 29 yards. Louis Murphy scored on his only catch in the game and for the Jaguars, Marcedes Lewis had the scoring reception. An expected win by the Jaguars seemed to be slipping away for yet another surprise upset by the Raiders.

And that's when it started to get good.

The first series in the second half had the Jaguars use five plays to cover 57 yards and score on a 48-yard catch by Jason Hill. That brought the score to 17-14 with only three minutes gone in the third quarter.

But the Raiders got the ball on their own 22-yard line and after a 29-yard completion to Zach Miller, Darren McFadden broke off a 51-yard touchdown run off of right tackle for a 24-14 lead.

Both teams had short series and punted when the Jaguars took over on their own 18-yard line. After two runs by Maurice Jones-Drew gained eight yards, third down and two had Rashad Jennings scamper around left end for 74 yards and a score to bring the score to 24-21 with seven minutes left in the third quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Jacoby Ford coughed up the ball and the Jaguars recovered on the OAK 22-yard line. Five plays later, Mike Sims-Walker caught a ten-yard touchdown pass for a 28-24 lead in the game.

The third quarter ended with both teams having short series and punting.

The fourth quarter opened with the Jaguars reaching the Oakland 1-yard line and settling for a field goal and the 31-24 lead.

On the next series the Raiders had Jason Campbell get knocked temporarily out of the game and Kyle Boller came in. After two passes and one scramble, they reached the JAC 31-yard line where Boller was intercepted with 7:49 left in the game.

But the Jaguars could not get a first down and punted with 5:33 left to play.

Starting on their own 17-yard line, Jason Campbell mixed short completions and one run for five yards by McFadden to reach the JAC 36-yard line with 2:03 left to play. On the next play, McFadden went up the middle the whole way for a touchdown and a 31-31 tie.

But on the kickoff, Deji Karim returned it to the OAK 30-yard line. With 1:41 left to play, Maurice Jones-Drew runs right up the middle on the first play for the score and the eventual 38-31 win when the Raiders run out of time on the JAC 39-yard line.

Darren McFadden ended with 209 total yards and three touchdowns. Jones-Drew owners got 120 total yards and one score. A game that most would expect to be about rushing and a lower score ended up with nine touchdowns scored. It was a week of many lopsided wins and far too many low scoring games.

Hopefully you won your games this week and are advancing into the playoffs. If not - be a good sport and congratulate the winning teams and remember as painful as losing is - the better part of competition is camaraderie, fun and mutual respect. In the end only one team can win and it isn't always the product of best research and skilled management. But it should always be fun.

If you meet your opponent in the hallway, congratulate him on a good game and wish him luck.

And then try to avoid sticking your knee out and tripping him when he goes past. Unless there are no cameras.

Now get back to work...

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