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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 15
David Dorey
December 19, 2011
 
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Drew Brees 412 5
Matthew Stafford 391 4
Tom Brady 322 3
Tony Romo 249 4
Michael Vick 274p 35r 2
Running Backs Yards TD
C.J. Spiller (I am not kidding) 167 2
LeSean McCoy 97 3
Reggie Bush 209 1
Ryan Mathews 109 2
Donald Brown 163 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Calvin Johnson 214 2
Roddy White 135 2
Lance Moore 91 2
Darius Heyward-Bey 155 1
Greg Little 131 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Brent Celek 156 1
Aaron Hernandez 129 1
Jimmy Graham 70 1
Ed Dickson 36 1
Jeremy Shockey 35 1
Placekickers XPT FG
Ryan Succop 1 4
Graham Gano 2 3
Matt Bryant 5 2
Dan Carpenter 3 3
Stephen Gostkowski 5 2
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Seattle 2 4 4
Atlanta 2 5 4
Philadelphia 1 4 4
Indianapolis 1 1 2
Washington 0 3 3

Bumps, Bruises and bowouts

Steve Johnson - Groin injury
Mike Williams (SEA) - Broken ankle
Delone Carter - Forearm injury
Jordan Norwood - Concussion

Ten random observations

1. What a screwy week. The Colts win and the Packers lose. Two of the fantasy stud RB's for the week were C.J. Spiller (12-91, 9-76, 2 TD) and Donald Brown (16-161, TD). There has to be a fairness rule in place that prevents anyone from winning their league with the duo of C.J. Spiller and Donald Brown. That's just not right. In NASCAR terms, it would be like winning because a UFO came down and shined a freeze ray on all the other cars. The odds have to be about the same. Donald Brown gave a post game interview. That alone says this was a bizarre week.

2. Having predicted games for the last 15 years, I can tell you that you rarely see the sort of upsets that you saw this week. Not this late in the season. This week the Packers, Giants, Broncos, Texans and Ravens all lost despite being division leaders. At this rate, 2011 could be the year of the tie breakers to figure out who belongs in the post season and for a dominant team? Hard to see one. The Packers looked scary without Greg Jennings. This just seems like a season where the eventual Super Bowl winner could be yet another #6 seed.

3. I am leaning toward ensuring that I own a top quarterback in every league next year. I do not want to overreact to the success of the passing game this year but it is a fundamental trend that is shifting and not a one-year event. Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers have all been a goldmine for their owners while the RB's and WR's you picked probably did not perform as well. I am still not sure I could draft one earlier than the end of the first round but the second round is starting to look QB-ish to me. And this from a guy who historically took a seventh round quarterback and did fine. There are four QB's right now with more than 4350 passing yards which is twice as many as there ever has been after week 15.

I may change by next summer when I decide that the difference is not as great as I want to believe. But right now, owning a top QB has never made more sense. Never.

4. Just to make this even more enticing, consider Drew Brees who has passed for 11 300-yard games to set the all-time record in the NFL for a single season. He was tied with Rich Gannon (2002) and himself (2008) entering this week. On Sunday, Brees became the first QB to complete 80% of his passes and throwing for 400 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. Man. That's a nice game.

5. Think about it. LeSean McCoy has erased the name of Brian Westbrook from the Eagles. McCoy has been a clone of sorts in that he rushes and receives with equal talent but McCoy has scored 17 touchdowns rushing and added three more as a receiver. With two games remaining, he has 20 touchdowns on the season. Westbrook never scored more than nine rushing touchdowns and topped out at 14 touchdowns total in 2008. For all the woes of the Eagles this year, McCoy has never failed to deliver the goods every week. It has literally taken McCoy only two seasons to make people completely forget about Westbrook.

6. I think we have come full circle on tight ends. For many years, there were only two or three decent fantasy options. Now, for whatever reason, there are only three again - Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Jason Witten. You could argue Tony Gonzalez as well but he may retire in the offseason. But once yo leave that group you can just about cut the expected points in half. That is not to say that a tight end cannot have the odd big game, but that consistent scoring is going away. This week there were only seven touchdowns scored by the position from 30 teams. Jimmy Graham was near the top and Aaron Hernandez replaced Gronkowski for this one week. But in fantasy drafts next year you are going to have to decide how early a pick you want to burn on Gronk, Graham or Witten or just wait until round 6+ like the old days.

7. What to think about retread running backs? Historically, most backs are either good or not. They do not "develop" or "learn the ropes" so much. They either run well or they do not. But Reggie Bush has been on fire in Miami. He comes off a career best 203 yards on 25 carries in Buffalo. He topped 100 rush yards in the two most recent games as well. He has rushed in six touchdowns over the last seven games and had one receiving score as well. Marshawn Lynch - same deal. He only rushed for 42 yards in Chicago but scored twice. That gives him 12 total touchdowns this year and five 100+ yard games in the last seven weeks. We're going to have a new wave of rookie runners next year but now these old veterans are turning it on like never before they were sent to another team. Fred Jackson was a stud this year and he was 31-years old. It just all smacks of committee backfields and changing dynamics as seasons evolve.

8. Cam Newton is going to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year - hands down. But the reality is that he has not thrown a 300 yard game since week four and four of his last six matchups produced 220 passing yards or less. He's going to be highly drafted next season and after scoring 13 rushing touchdowns - why not? But what worries me is that quarterbacks with rushing scores never seem to do it twice in a row. Consider Michael Vick. He had three seasons with 6 or more rushing touchdowns but never had more than two rushing scores in the following season. Last year he had nine and this year he just scored his first. Daunte Culpepper rushed in ten scores in 2002 but then only managed four in the next year. Randall Cunningham never had more than six. Kordell Stewart ran in 11 touchdowns in 1997 - the next year he only had two. Steve McNair had eight twice, but only scored four or zero times the next year. Vince Young scored seven as a rookie but never more than three in any successive year.

The idea here is that QB rushing scores are unsustainable the next year at least historically. And if true that means Newton is getting drafted way too early in 2012.

9. Have to wonder if the Bears are destined for an Extreme Makeover on offense. Caleb Hanie has thrown three interceptions in three of his four starts and that alone is too much to overcome. Add in his last three games only had 133 yards or less and it is even worse. The loss of Matt Forte merely made it all officially over for a team that still has a very good defense but cannot move the ball for the want of two players. How Mike Martz was ever going to be a fit there eluded me and how much does Lovie Smith wish he had a beefy offensive line and a stable of backs to run the ball? Not only can I never accept the Bears as anything besides a rushing/big defense team, it appears that success has eluded them trying to be something they have never been. Can Martz last another year?

10. If you listened to the Chargers-Ravens game, you were treated to a pregame speech of accolades for the Ravens who were considered by one announcer as "the best team in the NFL" with a great defense and Joe Flacco who has apparently taken a big step forward this year and yet only his coaches see it. Sort of a secret step. Maybe he is saving himself for the Superbowl. I predicted the Ravens would lose the game and it was not because the Chargers are finally getting it together (they are, too little and too late). It is that the Ravens are bad on the road. Now can a team be the best in the league when it has a 7-0 home record and now a 3-4 road record? They better hope for homefield advantage. They'll beat the Browns this week but the week 17 matchup in Cincy is no slam dunk.

Sunday Snippets

JAC 14, ATL 41 Jags beat Bucs 41-14 and then turn around and get beaten 41-14, thereby restoring world to proper order. As always, Maurice Jones-Drew somehow managed to gain 112 yards and a score on 17 carries while getting almost zero support from the rest of their offense. The Falcons all had big games just in time for fantasy playoffs. Matt Ryan (224, 3 TD), Roddy White (10-135, 2 TD) and Julio Jones (5-85, TD) were all good starts. The win props the Falcons up to 9-5 to make them in line for the first wild card ticket.
DAL 31, TB 15

The Bucs put up no real fight in this game which explains their eight game losing streak. Mike Williams never had a catch and LeGarrette Blount only gained 21 yards on nine runs. Tony Romo had a big game with 249 yards and three touchdowns via the pass and then rushed in a score as well. Felix Jones (22-108) ran like everyone else does against the Bucs and touchdowns were what saved Miles Austin (5-53), Laurent Robinson (3-29) and Dez Bryant (4-40). The Cowboys looked great as they always do against really bad teams. Thanks to the upset loss to the Redskins by the Giants, the 8-6 Cowboys are alone atop the AFC East with PHI and NYG left to play. The Bucs are only 4-10.

MIA 30, BUF 23 The beauty of this game is that it had no real meaning between two teams spiraling downward and yet they both played hard and posted nice points. Imagine a game where Reggie Bush rushes for 203 yards and one score and C.J. Spiller gained 167 total yards and two touchdowns. Not Madden Football with your son - actual NFL football. The only two notable wideouts in the game were Brandon Marshall (3-84, TD) and Steve Johnson (5-82) which were the only wideouts that someone would possible give a fantasy start. Even Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 316 yards and two scores. Everyone you could hope would do something in this game actually did. Now both teams are 5-9 and are of course of no consequence in the AFC East again this year.
SEA 38, CHI 14

Upset. This game just goes to show you how much better SEA is even if we cannot figure exactly why and how the Bears have just imploded since losing both Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. Those fantasy teams using Marion Barber watched Kahlil Bell score once and have 108 total yards compared to only 33 yards for Barber. The Bears threw four interceptions and allowed two defensive touchdowns. The Seahawks did not do that much really other than watch the Bears fall apart. Marshawn Lynch only gained 42 yards on 21 runs and yet he scored twice. Apparently a Mike Martz offense without any real talent is just a turnover machine. Now both teams are 7-7 on the season and not going to the playoffs. But Seattle is feeling better about itself.

CAR 28, HOU 13 Upset. Texans are going to the playoffs and were favored to win this home game but the Panthers came to play. The Texans had a classic letdown after securing the division. Arian Foster eventually ended up with a standard 167 total yards and one score but no other Texan did much on offense. Cam Newton passed for two scored and allowed DeAngelo Williams (15-61) and fullback Richie Brockel to score a touchdown. Steve Smith (5-82, TD) . At least Foster came through when you needed him. The Texans still have the division wrapped up of course but may fall a game back of the Patriots and possibly the Steelers for a round one bye.
TEN 13, IND 27

And... you... are... it.

Upset. I mean come on. If it had to happen, at home against a divisional opponent was most likely. And the Colts had been scoring better with Dan Orlovsky (82 yds, TD) but he did almost nothing in the game. Somehow Donald Brown - the guy who everyone expects to be released in the offseason - turned 16 carries into 161 yards and an 80-yard touchdown. But that was at the end of the game. The Colts returned an interception for a score as well. The Titans just never got into gear. Matt Hasselbeck played long enough to throw two interceptions and gave way to Jake Locker who posted the only touchdown. Chris Johnson had eight catches for 54 yards to salvage his fantasy value but only managed 55 yards on 15 carries. It had to happen I guess, but like the death of relatives we try to ignore it best we can. At least the Colts still have the #1 pick in the draft.

NO 42, MIN 20 The expected beatdown. This was the week to be a Drew Brees owner with his 412 yards and five touchdowns. It was hard to find a Saint player that did not pay off - Marques Colston (8-91), Lance Moore (5-91, 2 TD), Darren Sproles (112, TD) Jimmy Graham (7-70, TD), Pierre Thomas (85, TD) and even Chris Ivory (74). For the Vikings, Toby Gerhard scored twice as a receiver but that was about it. Adrian Peterson ran for 60 yards on ten carries, Percy Harvin has been too good for a little too long now because defenses are shutting him down. The win makes the 11-3 Saints remain in the hunt for the #2 seed with the 49ers who play on Monday. The Vikes are still just 2-12 and now that the Colts won, maybe they can get in on the #1 draft pick sweepstakes.
WAS 23, NYG 10

Upset. Just when the Giants had a comfortable spot they blew it. Eli Manning passed for 257 yards and three interceptions and Hakeem Nicks (5-73) dropped two perfect passes that would have been touchdowns. There wasn't a lot going on offensively on either side. Roy Helu (23-53) had to watch the fullback Darrell Young score as Mike Shanahan's way of saying "and a Merry Screw You" to the fantasy owners. Santana Moss (2-40) scored and Jabbar Gaffney (6-85) was the leader but no one had a big game here. And the Giants fall to 7-7 and once again trail the Cowboys. The Skins rise to 5-9 just hoping to avoid Danny Snyder's wrath in the offseason.

CIN 20, STL 13 This game was way too boring considering it involved the Rams defense. Andy Dalton (179 yds) never scored while Cedric Benson (22-76) and Bernard Scott (7-20) both scored touchdowns. A.J. Green (6-115) was the only decent receiver in the entire game. Kellen Clemens (229, TD) took the start with minor success. Steven Jackson was the leading rusher (18-71) and receiver (9-72). The game was short of points and the Bengals rise to 8-6 and remain in the hunt for a wildcard. The Rams are 2-12 and the Colts win means that the Rams and Vikings are not limited to the #2 and #3 picks in the draft if the Colts win one more.
DET 28, OAK 27

Definite GOTW contender and one that went down to the final 43 seconds when the Lions scored to take the final lead. Carson Palmer (367, TD) had a very good game thanks mostly to Darrius Heyward-Bey (8-155, TD) but not much from any other receiver. Michael Bush turned in 139 total yards. But Matt Stafford passed for 391 yards and four touchdowns and somehow the Raiders allowed Calvin Johnson to take over the game with is nine catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns including the final game winner. Nate Burleson (7-81, TD) was better than usual but Kevin Smith was held to only 46 total yards as a major downer to those needing some playoff help. The win keeps the 9-5 Lions in the running for a wildcard and the 7-7 remain a game behind the Broncos. The Lions are now the first team in NFL history to record four 13+ point comebacks in one season.

CLE 17, ARI 20 OT GOTW contender as an overtime game but too point starved for my taste and should have never been a problem for the Cards. They beat division leaders Cowboys and 49ers and now they can barely take down the Cleveland Browns who relied on Seneca Wallace? Really? Peyton Hillis rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and the rookie Greg Little posted five catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. The Cardinals went with John Skelton (313, TD) but no players had a big game. Beanie Wells only gained 51 yards on 15 runs but scored once. This was a boring game that was stupid close but the Cards pulled it out in overtime.
NE 41, Tebow 23

Great game for almost the first half but the Broncos lost three fumbles that killed their chances. Tom Brady (320, 2 TD) was solid as always and relied on Aaron Hernandez (9-129, TD) and no one else had more than 53 yards. Chad Ochocinco shocked the world with a touchdown on his only catch. Tim Tebow passed for 194 yards and rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Willis McGahee was effective with 70 yards on seven runs but left the game injured for much of it. Lance Ball (11-64, TD) was better than expected. DeMaryius Thomas (7-116) continues his nice upward trend. The win keeps the Pats in the think of the #1 seed race and the Broncos fall to 8-6 and yet still are a game ahead of the Raiders in the AFC West.

NYJ 19, PHI 45 The Eagles just poured it on the entire game and showed the Jets how "not there yet" they really are. Mark Sanchez (150, 2 TD) had two interceptions and was sacked four times including one that appeared to send him back to his early childhood and back. Shonn Greene was held to 73 yards on 18 carries and while both Plaxico Burress (1-9) and Santonio Holmes (4-40) scored, they had no yardage to show for it. Michael Vick passed for a score and rushed for one as well. LeSean McCoy ran 18 times for 102 yards and three touchdowns in his quest to take over all Eagles rushing records. The wideouts were held in check but Brent Celek (5-156, TD) has a monster game to keep the chains moving. The win gives the 6-8 Eagles at least a mathematical chance at the postseason and the Jets drop to 8-6 with wild card possibilities still existing as well.
BAL 14, SD 34

The Chargers put the whoop on the Ravens who were never really in this game. Philip Rivers passed for 270 yards and one score to Malcom Floyd (5-96) while Vincent Jackson (3-84) had a decent showing. Ryan Mathews (26-90, 2 TD) did the most damage and even Mike Tolbert had a touchdown. Joe Flacco (226, 2 TD) had two interceptions and was successful mostly late in the game when it was already over. Ray Rice combined for 112 total yards and had nine receptions. Torrey Smith (6-77, TD) ended well only because of a trash time gift. Now the 7-7 Chargers are tied with the Raiders and one game behind the Broncos for the division. The Ravens drop to 10-4 and have to hope the Steelers lose on Monday night.

Huddle Player of the Week

Calvin Johnson - This could have been Drew Brees just as easily but Johnson delivered the good in fantasy play off time that could be a game winner. He had 14 targets with nine catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns including a 51-yard catch and run. Of course several owners like me did not withstand his 29 yards the previous week against the Vikings. Megatron broke his five week string of sub-90 yards in a big way and sent many teams straight into the league championship.

Salute!

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

Comedy Yards TDs Tragedy Yards TDs
QB John Skelton 313 1 QB Eli Manning 257 0
RB C.J. Spiller 167 2 RB Adrian Peterson 60 0
RB Donald Brown 163 1 RB LeGarrette Blount 21 0
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 155 1 WR DeSean Jackson 28 0
WR Greg Little 131 1 WR Victor Cruz 44 0
WR Andre Roberts 60 1 WR Jordy Nelson 29 0
TE Anthony Fasano 28 1 TE Tony Gonzalez 14 0
PK Ryan Succop 1 XP 4 FG PK Mason Crosby 2 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 133

Huddle Fantasy Points = 27

Sunday's Couch Commentary

What a weekend - the Packers lost and the Colts won. The top teams mostly played flat and Tim Tebow did not, I repeat did not, engineer a comeback victory in the final five minutes. Losing records were beating winning records and nine road teams won. The six home winners included three upsets. Who wants it anymore? Can there be any dominant team that you just know cannot be beaten? Apparently no...

Packers 14, Chiefs 19

I know - I prefer high scoring games with tons of fantasy relevant stats. But this game did offer a lot of fantasy relevant information, maybe just not exactly what was expected.

We all knew that the undefeated Packers could win in Kansas City who recently fired their head coach. So it was a little surprising that the Chiefs took a three point lead when they could not punch it it from the GB 1-yard line with three plays on their very first series. The Packers responded by missing a 54-yard field goal.

The next series saw the Chiefs led by Kyle Orton end up kicking a 32-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead. How cute.

The Chiefs then drove to the GB 3-yard line and was denied on fourth-and-one instead of taking the field goal. Could have been 9-0.

Three punts later and it was halftime. A scoreless half time by the most powerful offense in the NFL.

The Packers finally scored on their second series in the third quarter when Aaron Rodgers found Donald Driver for the 2-yard touchdown and a 7-6 lead. FInally.

But the Chiefs marched down and kicked another field goal for a 9-7 lead. When the fourth quarter started, the Packers were on the KC 39-yard line and Rodgers threw an incomplete on fourth-and-eight instead of trying a 56-yard field goal.

And yet - once again the Chiefs scored a 20-yard field goal for a 12-7 lead with 11:31 left to play. After the Packers had to punt next, the Chiefs passed their way to the GB 1-yard line where Jackie Battle ran in a touchdown for a 19-7 lead with only 4:57 left. It was then that suddenly this was no lazy win in the making for the Packers.

Finally, Rodgers drove 80 yards in 11 plays and scored an 8-yard touchdown himself on third down for a 14-19 deficit with 2:12 left to play.

But the onside kick was not recovered. It made it through the first line and Jordy Nelson came really close to stopping it before it went out of bounds but the Chiefs took over with 2:03 left to play and the Packers burned through their three times outs. Only the Chiefs ran for two first downs and then took three knees to kill the Perfect Packers.

Was it the loss of Greg Jennings? Just a flat performance that fit in with the other upsets of the day? All we know is that many fantasy teams made it to their playoffs with a pile of Packers on their squad. And Aaron Rodgers (235, TD), Jordy Nelson (2-29), James Jones (2-17) all killed their owners for maybe the first time. The Chiefs had no stars and the only player wit more than 50 yards was Leonard Pope.

And so it is - the very best team can have a bad game at the most inopportune time. A lot of you got knocked out of your playoffs this weekend but congrats on making it that far and make sure to congratulate your opponent. And some of you just made it to the league Championship which this year means you got lucky AND you managed your team well because I know of no team that made it through the season unscathed by injury or failed expectations. This was a tough year of much change - and change that never stopped. On our radio show, it seemed every other caller had Laurent Robinson on their team. That's working the waiver wire.

The year is winding down now and many of us are left with suddenly no team to tend, no waiver wire to plunder, no starting questions to ponder. For those of you thinking now is the time to rededicate yourself to your vocation, or grab the To Do list and head to Home Depot or finally get around to visiting the in-laws, I have only two words for you.

Playoff Contests.

No need for going cold turkey...

Now get back to work...


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