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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 13
David Dorey
December 5, 2011
 
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Cam Newton 285 4
Aaron Rodgers 401 4
Christian Ponder 381 3
Eli Manning 347 3
Dan Orlovsky 353 2
Running Backs Yards TD
Shonn Greene 114 3
Ray Rice 214 1
LeSean McCoy 133 2
Chris Johnson 157 2
Marshawn Lynch 148 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Percy Harvin 175 2
Pierre Garcon 150 2
Demaryius Thomas 144 2
Hakeem Nicks 88 2
Greg Jennings 94 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Rob Gronkowski 64 3
Jermichael Finley 87 1
Tony Gonzalez 100 0
Fred Davis 99 0
Travis Beckum 67 1
Placekickers XPT FG
David Akers 2 4
Connor Barth 1 4
Graham Gano 1 4
Ryan Longwell 3 3
Nick Folk 4 2
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Chiefs 0 7 3
Seahawks 1 2 4
Steelers 1 3 2
Ravens 1 3 1
Broncos 1 3 3

Follow me on Twitter at @DMDorey for news and research tidbits.

Bumps, Bruises and bowouts

Matt Forte - Sprained knee (Partially torn MCL initial diagnosis)
Andre Johnson - Hamstring... the other one no less
Joe McKnight - Hyper extended elbow
Peyton Hillis - Unspecified leg injury
Kevin Smith - Ankle injury - The Sequel
Laurent Robinson - Shoulder injury

Ten random observations

1. I have played fantasy football since 1990. Been intimately involved for 15 years as my vocation as well as a pleasure. I spend 365 days a year thinking about football. Analyzing, researching, projecting, reviewing, writing and such. I wrote one of the best selling books on fantasy football called Fantasy Football: The Next Level. Heck, I even beat out 220 other teams to win $13,000 and be the Fantasy Football Champion of Texas in 2007. I have some street cred.

I bring this up only as a background to my next question. Why I am such an idiot? I often chat with John Tuvey before the games start on Sunday and we laugh knowing that any changes we make to our starting rosters at the last minute are going to be wrong. Not replacing an inactive player mind you, but deciding at the last minute that Player X is suddenly a better option than Player Y even though I picked Player Y after doing all the projections and being very fresh on what I expected.

This time Player X was Brandon Gibson (4-42) and he did lead the Rams in SF. Player Y was Demaryius Thomas (4-144, 2 TD). He had no catches the previous week and suddenly I make a change laughingly because I ALWAYS SCREW MYSELF AT THE LAST MINUTE. It just kills me. I know better. I do this for a living. But I cannot leave well enough alone. The optimal team for me may be all starters and then nothing but junk that never tempts me. I have to assume my eventual death will involve a last minute changing of planes or maybe craving seafood all day and then opting for a choking steak that is on special. Whatever it is, my wife will say "but he wasn't supposed to be doing that."

Venting done for now.

2. Far as I am concerned, this is shaping up to be the year of Late Bloomers. There are a lot of players that we had all - very reasonably - assumed were never going to be good and would never have fantasy value of any real measure. Guys you have seen on waiver wires over the past year or more. Let's see here:

Beanie Wells, C. J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, Shonn Greene, Reggie Bush, Willis McGahee and Kevin Smith have all made it to my "done with these guys" list and I probably said less than kind things about them along the way. Most running backs are either good or not. They have no learning curve really. They either hit the hole and gain four yards or not. They may have wildly varying levels of talent on their offensive lines, but generally speaking, running backs are either good or bad from the start and do not "evolve". Now Wells is scoring and running even with a bad knee. Spiller had one good game but I lost a bet that it could ever happen. Lynch defies explanation and started the year as mediocre as ever before kidnapping a wish-granting leprechaun. Reggie Bush? Really? The little flop from the Saints who always gets hurt? McGahee over the hill with bad knees? Not so much. And Kevin Smith cannot stay healthy even still but man - looks better than ever for those two quarters of play each week.

At least it never happens with receivers, Other than Brandon Lloyd of course... Laurent Robinson.... why do I ever drop anyone?

3.Rob Gronkowski has 13 receiving touchdowns to tie with Antonio Gates (2004) and Vernon Davis (2009) for the most in NFL history for a tight end. Thing is he has four games left to play and is averaging more than one per week. He even has a rushing score this year since they ruled one of his catches this week as a backwards pass and therefore a run or he would already have the NFL record. You want an advantage this year? Gronkowski has been huge and this week his three touchdowns compared favorably to the five others scored BY EVERY OTHER TIGHT END COMBINED IN THE NFL THIS WEEK. Tight end stats are really down this week and in recent games and yet Gronkowski is money. He is going to spawn more clones in the future and change the way defenses defend the pass because you cannot stick a small safety on a huge tight end or he scores 13 times in 12 games plus rushes in one because it was a backwards pass.

4. Speaking of history, Cam Newton has scored 13 rushing touchdowns and owns the NFL record for quarterbacks in a single season even though it is only his first one ever and, oh yes, there are still four more games to play. He will be the first time you ever spent a first round pick on second-year quarterback. And if you don't, someone else probably will. Newton has been a huge benefit to fantasy owners because not only did they get a guy who scores like the #1 QB, but they could also trade away who ever it was they originally drafted as a starter but did not need.

5. Fred Davis just led the Redskins with six catches for 99 yards and he is the top receiver overall for the Skins as well. But he was just hit with a four game suspension and if they start this week, which is highly likely, it means no more Davis for the rest of the season and right when you needed him for the playoffs. Good luck on finding a replacement with tight end stats declining around the league anyway.

6. Can there be any argument that the NFC comes down to the Saints losing in Green Bay for the championship? The 49ers may get the first round bye but not having an offense is going to haunt them when they face other teams that really do. The NFC East is all about implosion and overall - the Packers are just far better than any NFC team. 16-0 is not only likely but should be a slam dunk. And when they get 16-0, it will also be their 22nd straight win that will be another NFL record since the Pats own the current streak of 23. The AFC? You'd need one of those Dungeons and Dragons 100-sided dice to see who might win it all there. It may come down to the final tie breaker of "Teams that passed on Tim Tebow in the draft".

7. Have to like the progress that Andre Roberts has made in his second season with the Cardinals. He comes off a best effort of 111 yards on six catches against the Cowboys and three of the four previous games posted 50+ yards. He may not be Anquan Boldin but he is making a move up as a starter across from Larry Fitzgerald and hits his third year in 2012.

8. C.J. Spiller had one of those 1 in 100 plays when he rushed for a touchdown and right when he was about to cross the goal line, the ball was knocked out of his hands and while he dove to recover it, the referees ruled it was a touchback which is the most painful touchback of them all. But replay showed he had enough control before sliding out of bounds to be awarded with the 35-yard score. Actually, I take that back. The worse touchback is when the player spikes the ball before scoring and it goes out of bounds in the end zone. That whole DeSean Jackson thing. Spiller got really lucky.

9. Have to give props to Chris Johnson after running for 153 yards and two scores in Buffalo. He logged 190 yards on 23 runs the previous week versus the Buccaneers and yet only posted 13 yards on 12 runs against the Falcons. He did gain 130 yards on 27 runs and one score in Carolina so three monster games with one bomb means he's somewhat back to form. Next three games are NO, @IND and JAC. So against the visiting Saints, will it be 20 yards or 140 yards because Johnson only does extremes anymore.

10. With four games left to play, there are four teams sporting losing streaks of five or more games and by this point in the season, have to expect the white flag is already out. The Bills (5), Colts (12), Chargers (6) and Buccaneers (6) have nothing to play for and may end up with changes in coaches and players for 2012. Looking for a defense for the week? Find one that plays of of the losing streak teams.

Sunday Snippets

PHI 14, SEA 31 This makes it official - the Eagles are done and beyond any in-season repair as the greatest team that never was. While they started out with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and even added - 'gasp' - Steve Smith, the best they had last Thursday was Riley Cooper. Vince Young turned into an interception machine (4) while Tarvaris Jackson was smart enough to almost do nothing and threw just 16 passes. Marshawn Lynch (22-148, 2 TD) either screams "random drug test" or "university study" because he's not been himself for two months now and that has been a really great thing. The Eagles drop to 4-8 on a two game losing streak while the Seahawks rise to 5-7 with dreams of a meaningless .500 season.
TEN 23, BUF 17 This was a freaky game in that Chris Johnson (23-153, 2 TD) acts like he has been a stud all year instead of a dud until recently. Suddenly he is a really good thing again. Better yet, C.J. Spiller (14-83, TD) had a game that made him actually look like a real NFL running back with stats and even a touchdown. Yeah - C.J. Spiller. Imagine that someone - anyone - would actually say "man I am so glad I started Spiller". The Titans are 7-5 and very much in the hunt for the postseason while the Bills have lost their last five games and at 5-7 can watch it all unravel except for C.J. "Oh sure, now you are going to play?" Spiller.
KC 10, CHI 3 Wow. This game answers what would happen if there were no star players in a game. Matt Forte injured his knee and apparently took the ball with him to the sideline. The only touchdown in the game was the always improbable Hail Mary throw at the end of the first half that was caught by Dexter McCluster with six defenders and four other Chiefs around him. Caleb Hanie (133 yds) did not score but had three interceptions, There was nearly no fantasy or entertainment value in this game. The Chiefs rise to 5-7 which is only two games back in the AFC West and the Bears flop to 7-5 on a two game losing streak and yes, apparently the team was never anything more than Matt Forte and Jay Cutler.
ATL 10, HOU 17 As we marveled over Arian Foster and Andre Johnson in past games, what we missed was a bad ass defense coming together and that is even without Mario Williams playing. Johnson is gone again with his other hamstring apparently attacking his leg. Michael Turner only gained 44 yards on 14 carries and Matt Ryan (267, TD) tossed two interceptions. But the rookie T.J. Yates (188, TD) had no interceptions though he did lose one fumble. Arian Foster (31-111, TD) took over with Andre Johnson out and that is going to be an every game event if Johnson remains out. The win gives the Texans a 9-3 record for a four-way tie for the best record in the AFC. The Falcons drop to 7-5 which is still at least wild card alive.
OAK 14, MIA 34 The Fins are as good in the second half of the season as they were bad in the first half. And they are going it without any stars. Reggie Bush (22-100, TD) is another Marshawn Lynch-like player that maybe should not have been written off. The Miami defense was outstanding through the first three quarters and held the Raiders scoreless. Michael Bush (10-18) would have had it easier running through a Walmart on Black Friday. The Raiders had been great on the road but the Fins defense at home is just awesome lately. The loss that the Raiders are now tied with the Broncos for the AFC West lead at 7-5 and the Fins are just 4-8 but still throwing punches.
CIN 7, PIT 35 These are the Steelers that most expected last summer but they've only shown up here and there. The Bengals finally looked like the old Bengals if only for one week but even though Andy Dalton only passed for 135 yards and one score, the one TD went to A.J. Green (6-87) who still maintains value in a blowout rout. The Steeler defense won this and Rashard Mendenhall (16-60) ran in two scores and Mike Wallace (3-38) caught two touchdowns. This was the sweep of the Bengals with an exclamation point that dropped them to 7-5 while the Steelers are 9-3 and tied with the Ravens for the division lead and the AFC #1 seed along with three other teams.
CAR 38, TB 19 There was a brief, beautiful moment where Cam Newton was the leading passer, rusher and receiver in the game. Newton passed (204, TD) and ran (14-54, 3 TD) and even caught a 27 yard pass on a trick play. Somehow Johathan Stewart (14-80, TD) was able to score without Newton stopping him. The Bucs were without Josh Freeman and yet Mike Williams still turned in 93 yards on five catches but that was about all that happened. LeGarrette Blount was the big fantasy heartbreaker who faced the #32 defense against running backs and yet only gained 19 yards on 11 rushes because the Panthers just were not very scared about Josh Johnson as quarterback. The win is the second in a row for the Panthers who are 4-8 like the Buccaneers but getting better unlike the Bucs.
NYJ 34, WAS 19 The Skins got a good game from Roy Helu (23-100, TD, 4-42 rcv) and even Fred Davis (6-99) though Davis is going to miss four games now since he was suspended for violating the drug policy. Don't bother worrying about his backup. Seriously. The Jets had a standard game except Mark Sanchez (165, TD) had no turnovers which always helps and Shonn Greene shocked many fantasy owners when he rumbled for 88 yards on 22 runs and scored three touchdowns. Green only had two other scores this year and only six touchdowns over this three year career so three touchdowns in one game is what we call an "outlier" in the projecting game. Maybe more accurately "one hell of a freaking outlier". It was a big and needed win that should result in Mrs. Ryan getting a nice foot rub tonight. At 7-5 the Jets remain in contention at least for a wild card while the 4-8 Redskins are just twiddling thumbs waiting to relax and catch all the bowl games on TV in January.
DEN 35, MIN 32 This would be the GOTW but the Broncos were there last week and maybe qualify every week so why bother? Besides, nothing happened here that was not previously ordained and prophesied. The beauty was that so many fantasy points were scored before the final drive for the winning score by the Broncos that happened in an improbable way and blah blah blah. Tim Tebow completed 10 of 15 for 202 yards and two scores and that's Colt McCoy / Tarvaris Jackson territory. Tebow only rushed four times for 13 yards and did not score on the ground which makes him sort of suck for those who are starting him. Christian Ponder (381, 3 TD) came up big despite his three turnovers and Percy Harvin (8-156, 2 TD) enjoyed his career best game. Now the Broncos are tied for first place in the AFC West with the Raiders with a five game winning streak that has simply been Tebow-rific. The Vikings are 2-10 but at least they still generate fantasy points and that was without Adrian Peterson. Something that makes you go "hmmmm" - with Jay Cutler already out, Matt Forte gets hurt the game before the Bears go to Denver. Hmmmmm...
IND 24, NE 31 What a disappointment. But only for those that bet with the 20.5 point line that held very true through the third quarter before the Pats started subbing in beer cart vendors and season ticket holders and the Colts scored 21 unanswered questions in the fourth quarter. Wes Welker (11-110) and Rob Gronkowski (5-64, 2 TD) checked off their boxes on Belichick's clipboard. Tom Brady 289 yards and two scores - check. But then as they were packing up the equipment boxes Dan Orlovsky passed for 353 yards and two scores to Pierre Garcon (9-150) and Donald Brown ran in one score. All meaningless to the win, significant to the bettors and just a footnote in the worst season ever for the Colts. The Pats are 9-3 and tied for the #1 seed with three other teams.
BAL 24, CLE 10 Nothing unexpected here though at halftime it looked like a real game. Basically nothing happened outside of Ray Rice (29-204, TD) and Joe Flacco (10/23 158 yds) was even less effective than expected. The Browns lost Peyton Hillis to some unnamed leg injury but this game really only existed for Rice owners to get a nice big game. The win keeps the 9-3 Ravens in the thick of the #1 seed race while the Browns drop to 4-8 and may still have a game or two left for you Chris Ogbonnaya owners.
DAL 13, ARI 19 OT GOTW contender but minimal points makes it less appealing. The Cowboys recent streak ended with DeMarco Murray only gaining 38 yards on 12 runs and the Cowboys were unable to punch the ball in again. Also this was a bad game for the rookie kicker Dan Bailey to miss his first two field goals since either of them would have prevented overtime and gave Dallas the win. More infamously, Bailey made his 49-yarder at the end of the game for the win but HC Jason Garrett called a timeout negating the score and apparently icing his own kicker as the second attempt was just short. Andre Roberts (6-111) had a career game but it all came down to the overtime jaunt that LaRod Stephens-Howling took through most of the Dallas defense on his game winning 52-yard touchdown catch. The loss drops the Cowboys to 7-5 which still leads the NFC East which incurred losses by every team in the division this week. The Cardinals are just 5-7 but happy enough to slap the Cowboys around.
STL 0, SF 26 The 49ers surprised no one by shutting out the Bradford-less Rams who not only had Brandon Lloyd with one catch for 34 yards, but Steven Jackson only gained 19 yards on 11 runs. Sadly Frank Gore was limited to 73 yards on 21 runs while somehow Alex Smith passed for 274 yards and two touchdowns that included Michael Crabtree (4-96, TD). The win makes the 10-2 49ers as the winner of the NFC West with four games left to play and they are one game ahead of the Saints for the NFC #2 seed. This game was a shut out but not even a fun kind of shut out. By now we just feel sorry for the 2-10 Rams.
DET 17, NO 31 No shock here with the Saints winning easily. Drew Brees (342, 3 TD) had his standard game and Robert Meachem (3-119, TD) was the wideout of the week. The Lions started well but Kevin Smith blew another tire and left with 80 yards and a touchdown, He would have been more like 155 yards and two scores if he stayed and merely did what Maurice Morris did in his place. Calvin Johnson (6-69) never found the endzone and Matt Stafford (408 yds) threw just one score. This had decent fantasy points for the normal suspects but no monster games for either side. The Saints are now 9-3 which is great because it means that neither the 49ers or the Saints can afford to coast with a #2 seed and a bye up in the air until the end. The Lions drop to 7-4 but are still in the hunt for a wildcard.

Huddle Player of the Week

Percy Harvin - He no longer has migraines though was saddled with some unnamed illness last week. He still played and richly rewarded the owners with five runs for 19 yards and eight catches for 156 yards and two scores coming from a rookie Quarterback and without Adrian Peterson there to distract the defense. Harvin is a play maker that could be forming a nice relationship with Christian Ponder. And for this week, he put a smile on the face of all who started him.

Salute!

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

Comedy Free Agents Yards TDs Tragedy Drafts Yards TDs
QB Christian Ponder 381 3 QB Ben Roethlisberger 176 2
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling 88 1 RB Matt Forte 12 0
RB Dexter McCluster 107 1 RB LeGarrette Blount 19 0
WR Demaryius Thomas 144 2 WR Brandon Lloyd 34 0
WR Donald Driver 34 2 WR Steve Smith 32 0
WR Kyle Williams 91 1 WR Anquan Boldin 32 0
TE Travis Beckum 67 1 TE Jason Witten 47 0
PK David Akers 2 XP 4 FG PK Mike Nugent 1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 145

Huddle Fantasy Points = 35

Sunday's Couch Commentary

We had many more big beats this week with eight games ending with a 14+ point winning margin. The Broncos won on the final drive yet again and the Cowboys lost it in OT after icing their own kicker. The Bears were beaten on a Hail Mary pass and nothing more thanks to losing all offensive punch when Matt Forte left. This is the time for good teams to make their move and the pretenders to fall back.

The Game-O-The-Week was the highest scoring tilt and came down to the final drive and yet - we all knew what must happen.

Packers 38, Giants 35

This was a competitive game throughout and at halftime it was 21-17 in favor of the Packers thanks in part to a 38-yard interception return for a score by Clay Matthews. In the third quarter, the Packers took a 28-17 lead with a score to Greg Jennings but the Giants came back and scored with a pass to Hakeem Nicks for a 28-24 game entering the fourth quarter. This is all about the perfect season now and the Giants can ill afford a loss as well.

The Giants ended a drive with a 50-yard field goal for a 28-27 deficit with 10:58 left to play. After both teams punted, the Packers went on an eight play, 57 yard drive that ended with Aaron Rodgers passing to Donald Driver for his second touchdown in the game. That gave the Pack a 35-27 lead with only 3:46 left to play.

But starting on their own 31-yard line, the Giants marched down the field. By the two minute warning, they had reached the Packers 17-yard line. At 1:16 left, they were on the GB 2-yard line where two incomplete passes were followed by a two-yard strike for a score to Nicks for his second score in the game as well. The two point conversion was good when D.J. Ware just ran it over left tackle instead of any fancy passing play. The teams were tied 35-35.

And yet... there was still 58 seconds left for Aaron Rodgers the golden boy. All the Giants had to do to reach overtime (where home teams do better) was to keep Rodgers from reaching field goal range for 58 seconds and the Packers started on their own 20-yard line. First down was a 24-yard completion to Jermichael Finley who went out of bounds. Then it was a 27 yard completion to Jordy Nelson to reach the NY-29 yard line with 44 seconds left to play. So yeah, it took Rodgers just 14 seconds and two plays. After an incomplete, he hit Greg Jennings with a 12 yard gain to the 18 yard line and left the clock bleed to three seconds. Mason Crosby shows up and we all go home 12-0. Done deal.

This was a better week with a lot more big performances by players - six wideouts had two scores. All the top quarterbacks had big games. And yet there were enough big performances by surprise players to make the results interesting this week. Tim Tebow is still winning games and thanking "My Lord Jesus Christ" while his opponents are just left saying "Jesus Christ, really?" The Bears are suddenly looking like a race car smoldering on the side of the road. The Texans lose parts too but apparently have more than one engine.

Overall a great week heading towards the fantasy playoffs that may start as early as this week in some leagues and by week 15 in almost all the rest are going. Hope you are playing in your league postseason and best of luck to those who do.

Oh yes, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WATCH THOSE LAST MINUTE CHANGES TO YOUR LINEUPS!

Whew. It never gets less painful.

Now get back to work...


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