| Sunday Salutes
Week 16 Bumps, Bruises and Bow-outs
Short but significant
QB Matt Hasselbeck - Shoulder strain
WR Joe Horn - Shoulder sprain
WR Terrell Owens - Broken collarbone
WR Darrell Jackson - Sprained ankle
Happy Holiday wishes!
This week 17 edition of the Tunnel Vision has traditionally
been the last one of the season, but I may continue it through
the playoffs this season as I did last year after being goaded
by some nice emails. Before many of you head out to the off-season,
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for reading
along this season and hopefully you enjoyed the Tunnel Vision
this year. Hope you and yours have a great holiday season
and if you do not check back until next year, have a wonderful
I want to be a part of it, you lose, you lose
Billy Cundiff had never kicked more than three field goals
in any game this season except when he played against the
Giants. Cundiff kicked four field goals on Sunday and upped
his 2003 total to 11 field goals when playing the G-Men. Add
in three extra points and he's averaging 18 points a game
which is five more than the Giants have actually scored in
any game during the last six weeks.
You got to want it... you do want it right?
In week 16 there is everything on the line for those teams
vying for the playoffs and jockeying to be a better seed.
So what happens? Of the current division leaders, Indianapolis,
Kansas City, Philadelphia and Cincinnati (though they were
tied) all lost. To make it more incredible, both the Colts
and Eagles lost at home.
To make it completely unbelievable, the Eagles had won their
last five games at home while the 49ers were a perfect 0-7
in road games. Apparently all they needed was to not use Garrison
Hearst and lose Terrell Owens in the first half. Don't bother
rereading, it will make no more sense.
Week 18 and beyond
The playoffs contenders became a little more clear yesterday,
though by no means completely decided.
Both New England and Kansas City have clinched divisions
and first round byes.
Both Indianapolis and Tennessee are going, but Indy must
beat Houston to take the division.
Denver has clinched a wildcard.
The only AFC question left is if Baltimore or Cincinnati
wins the AFC North and advances. The loser stays home in January.
If Baltimore beats Pittsburgh, the Ravens advance. If they
lose and the Bengals beat the Browns, then they take the division.
In the NFC, the Rams have clinched the NFC West and a first
round bye. Both the Eagles and Cowboys have clinched, but
Philly needs to beat the Redskins to take the NFC East. If
they lose and the Cowboys beat the Saints, then Dallas takes
Carolina has taken the NFC South division.
The NFC North waits to see if Green Bay wins on Monday night
since the Vikings are now one game ahead. The loser battles
Seattle for the last wildcard.
Jamal Lewis entered the day still needing 253 yards to hit
the magic 2000 mark for rushing yards in a season. At the
end of the first half, Lewis only had 41 yards on 14 carries.
He only had eight more carries in the game which included
runs for 24, 45 and 72 yards. He ended with a total of 205
yards and two touchdowns leaving him only 48 yards short of
the 2000 yard mark.
The idea that he can gain at least 48 yards rushing is not
exactly unthinkable, since he has not ran for less than 68
yards this season in any game. The Ravens will be hosting
the Steelers on Sunday and that is the one team that has always
been problematic for Lewis. In his previous three games against
Pittsburgh, he gained 69, 86 and 34 yards.
The Saints pulled off a play for the ages when their last
snap during regulation time against the Jaguars came from
their own 25-yard line. With only six seconds left, Aaron
Brooks threw a pass to Donte' Stallworth who ran all the way
to the other sideline before pitching the ball to Michael
Lewis who pitched it to Deuce McAllister who ran and then
lateralled to Jerome Pathon who ran the final 21 yards for
a touchdown. It was actually the second time I had seen that
exact same play, the other time being about 30 years ago when
the sidelines consisted of holly bushes or oak trees and it
was actually me who pitched the ball back to a kid we called
stinky for reasons better left unsaid.
Almost every team has that sort of play in their arsenal.
Almost every time it ends up around midfield with a forward
lateral or fumble out of bounds. This one time it worked.
The score became 19-20 with only the extra point left to
tie. As we all know, John Carney somehow pulled it wide right,
adding to the surreal nature of the end of the game. Many
parallels have been drawn to "The Big Play" that
occurred between the University of California and Stanford
in 1982 that ended crashing through the Stanford band for
the winning score. When someone brings that up, ask him who
the quarterback was for Stanford in that fabled game. It was
a kid who ended up in Denver the next season, wore #7 I believe.
Drama 101 - Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry
| Comedy Lineup
|| Tragedy Lineup
|| 4 FG, 1 XP
Huddle Fantasy Points = 140
Huddle Fantasy Points = 18
"I want to kiss you"
During the fantasy championships that happened most commonly
in week 16 of the season, those owners who drafted running
backs early last season were richly rewarded in a week that
saw 15 runners gain over 100 total yards and seven that had
over 150 yards. There were eight different runners with either
two or three touchdowns scored last week compared to only
three receivers that managed the multiple score trick.
There were only nine receivers over 100 yards and none over
124 yards on Sunday, unlike nine different runners that exceeded
that yardage mark. Think anyone will remember that come draft
time next season?
Those runners made many fantasy champions yesterday so happy
that they probably wanted to kiss them in a manly, butt-slapping,
"touchdown!" headbutting sort of way.
This is unlike the apparent desire of Joe Namath who was
being interviewed by Suzy Kolber during the NE-NYJ game on
Saturday. As Suzy tried to discuss the Jets and the game at
hand, Broadway Joe mentioned that he wanted to kiss her enough
times that the interview was cut short. The Jets organization
has not commented on the situation. I can only imagine what
Joe's version of fantasy football entails.
James Stewart + Charlie Batch = win
In week 16, James Stewart gained 164 yards on 37 carries
to help the Detroit Lions defeat the New York Jets by a score
of 10-7. Of course that was week 16 of the 2000 season - the
last time that the Lions have won a road game before embarking
on a new NFL record 24 consecutive losses. Eventually someone
will fall prey to the visiting Lions, but only in the sense
that we all believe football will last forever.
Until that fateful day that some team has to be "it"
for losing to the Lions, the Jets remain with the "it"
title as the last team that the Lions actually could beat.
With the 54th pick of the NFL draft...
Anquan Boldin was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with
their 54th pick last April, after they had already taken WR
Bryant Johnson (1.17) and DE Calvin Pace (1.18). Boldin has
since been selected for the Pro Bowl and has already passed
Terry Glenn for the all-time rookie reception record with
96 (Glenn had a mere 90). There is still one more game against
the Vikings left to play. Boldin already has 1350 yards for
the season with eight touchdowns.
Wonder if the Redskins (2.12 Taylor Jacobs) or the Patriots
(2.13 Bethel Johnson) want to rethink their draft strategy?
Sunday's Couch Commentary
20, MIN 45
of the big scoring offenses did not disappoint, and the
lack of defenses only added to the wonderful fantasy bonanza
we all knew was there. Trent Green decided to cool off
when he faced a bad secondary and Priest Holmes was quiet
all until the second half when he ripped off three touchdown
runs to tie the Emmitt record of 25 in a season. What
are the odds that Chicago sees Holmes at the goal line
this weekend? Pretty good. Since Michael Bennett owners
had seen their long awaited draft pick start to pay off,
the Vikings started him, let him take a few runs and then
allowed Onterrio Smith to gain 146 yards and three touchdowns.
You've been Ticed.
|NE 21, NYJ 16
||Since fantasy championships
were on the line, Pennington decided to turn in the worst
game of his career by throwing for no touchdowns and five
interceptions. Antowain Smith turned in 121 yards on only
18 carries because you picked up Faulk a few weeks back
and David Givens scored twice because no one was starting
him. Saturday was not that kind to many fantasy owners.
3, DAL 19
G-men scored on their first drive thanks to a long pass
interference, but otherwise mostly used a gameplan of
Tiki-Tiki-Tiki-punt. The Dallas defense was initially
at a loss who to cover since there were no apparent receivers
but recovered and shut down the Giants offensive machine
with about as much ease as changing the channel which
most viewers did when they realized this was going to
be a game with no touchdowns after the first quarter.
|DET 14, CAR 20
||We'll get 'em next season...
Part III. Before you make the incorrect assumption that
the Lions were competitive in this game, realize their
touchdowns were a fumble return and a punt return in the
fourth quarter. To show balance, the Lions ended with
exactly 53 yards rushing and 53 yards passing. Matt Millen
might call Morton names, but he would be better served
by realizing that Morton was there the last time the Lions
won on the road.
20, BUF 3
try to keep in the wildcard race - AKA Keep Wannstedt
Employed - by reminding the Bills that they are not going
to have a winning record this season. Ricky gained 111
yards but needed 29 runs to get there while Jay Fiedler
threw for only 46 yards. Travis Henry ran like a guy with
a broken leg and Bledsoe may want to investigate how much
it costs to take out a full page ad thanking the Bills
for the ride.
|CIN 10, STL 27
||The Bengals helped ease
fantasy owners fears about starting the wrong guy by having
Dillon and Rudi combine for 67 yards rushing. Faulk cruised
for 121 yards and a score while Torry Holt had 124 yards
and a score without Isaac Bruce there to catch Bulger's
attention. Now that the Rams are safely at home through
the Championship game it makes playoffs pools a little
easier while Kitna's three interceptions does not help
his anti-Palmer plans.
35, CLE 0
Lewis has gained 500 rushing yards in only two games against
the Browns this season. If he played against them every
week, that would equate to 8000 rushing yards a season.
By the looks of the second half on Sunday, that is not
an unrealistic expectation. The most troubling aspect
of Jamal's big season is that one team in every league
would have never drafted him since they did back in 2001.
|SD 24, PIT 40
||Yeah, the Chargers lost
another game, only had Tomlinson do anything and the Steelers
won. But now Bettis is only 14 yards away from surpassing
Jim Brown to rank sixth overall in NFL history in rushing
yards (12,312+ yards). I sort of hope the Ravens hold
him to 13 yards in the game next week. Bettis was good
in his day, but was he really Jim Brown good? It makes
it all more ironic that Jim Brown played for Cleveland
who still provides huge rushing efforts (by the other
10, SEA 28
see - Koren had only 16 yards on three catches and Jackson
got banged up and never had a single reception. But Alexander
had 135 yards and the Cards lost 28-10. Boldin had 122
yards and caught the only Arizona touchdown in the game.
This about sums up the Cardinals season.
This week was a tremendous slate of great games with big
finishes, made more breathtaking by the fantasy implications
that every game held. If you recall, there has been a relative
dry spell of close games lately so the season is winding down
with my first five-way tie. The weekend was that good.
Atlanta 30, Tampa Bay 28 - The Bucs fell behind 27-7
at the half to the No-Coach Falcons but battled back with
three fourth quarter touchdowns. With only 27 seconds left
to play, they missed on the 2 point conversion pass just to
disappoint everyone who was thinking the Bucs could pull it
off. On the plus side, being so far behind allowed Brad Johnson
to throw for 364 yards and four touchdowns.
Game #1 decided at the last play - Doh!
New Orleans 19, Jacksonville 20 - Only the Saints
could have perhaps the greatest last second play this season
only to miss an extra point and lose. Carney had not missed
an extra point since 1999. That was over 130 consecutive good
extra points. If Carney had made it and the Saints ended up
winning, then it would have to be the GOTW. Wide right will
get you every time. It was the first time in NFL history that
one team had scored a touchdown on the final play and yet
lost by one point with a missed field goal. Small consolation
with that sort of record. Head Coach Jack Del Rio spent most
of the postgame interview trying not to giggle.
Game #2 decided at the end - whew!
Tennessee 27, Houston 24 - After falling behind 24-20,
it came down to a fourth and ten pass from the Houston 23-yard
line that Bennett caught in the endzone. The game was spiced
up with a 95 yard interception return for a touchdown by Houston
that was followed up by a 61 yard fumble return for a score
by Tennessee. Despite conflicting reports during the week,
Steve McFootinjury played and threw for two scores.
This was game #3 decided on virtually the last play. Whew!
Washington 24, Chicago 27 - Tim Hasselbeck faced one
of the better secondaries in the NFL and still managed to
throw for two touchdowns to Lavernues Coles who had finally
gone public with his foot injury that had prevented him from
ever catching another touchdown this season. Anthony Thomas
completed 141 yards worth of the circles that all rushers
have been running around the Redskin's defense. In the end,
Paul Edinger was able to kick a field goal with five seconds
left to win the game. From 45 yards out in windy conditions.
It cleared the crossbar by about a foot.
This was game #4 decided at the end. Wow!
San Francisco 31, Philadelphia 28 - This is exactly
how the season should wind down. The Eagles had won five at
home and the 49ers had never won on the road. Eagles needed
to win to stay in the bye week lead and San Francisco had
nothing to lose. Hearst was out and then Terrell Owens broke
his shoulder. The Eagles get a free touchdown on yet another
Westbrook punt return but Kevan Barlow stomps Philly for 154
yards and two touchdowns making McNabb score on a pass to
Pinkston to tie up the game. In overtime from his own 21-yard
line with Westbrook and Staley available, McNabb tries a throw
over the middle to Freddie Mitchell that is batted up, intercepted
and returned to the Philadelphia 4-yard line where the 49ers
take the win with a field goal.
This was game #5 decided on the first play of overtime -
DOH! Whew! Wow!
It was fantasy championship weekend and the NFL provided
a multitude of great games and performances to make it a memorable
one. Records and hearts were broken, tough field goals made
and extra points missed.
All those coveted running backs we drafted last summer paid
off well if in fact they played at all. Eleven teams scored
27 or more points and yet there were two teams that managed
only three points and the Browns were shutout. Just like many
fantasy leagues, sure things like KC, IND and PHI ended up
as surprises and in the end, it's all NFL football and the
game we love.
Hopefully you won a championship this whacky year and avoided
the injury minefield. If you didn't, I hope you still found
fun and entertainment for the experience. The thrill, frustration,
challenge and occasional dose of humility is quite addictive
as I discovered a short 13 years ago. Now that the season
ends for most, there is that hollow feeling that can be filled
with but one thing.
Now get back to work...