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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

The Trash Can Report - Pan Handling for Week 11
Dennis Leonard
November 17, 2004

Hello again and welcome back to the Trash Can Report. It’s been a short week for me. I was out of town starting last Thursday night and didn’t get back until late Monday. I didn’t have access to a computer and only got to watch the 49er/Panther game, so my article this week isn’t its usual cornucopia of salvage material. Needless to say, this week’s edition of the Trash Can Report isn’t as beefy as usual. However, with the bye weeks over hopefully you don’t need as much help going into Week 11. Still, there is value and upside to be had going forward. So you can fully expect business as usual beginning next week. Let’s dispense with the excuses and just get down to business.

Kyle Boller – BAL : Is it me or is Boller playing the best ball of his career right now? No, that isn’t saying a whole lot. But still, over the last three games I like what I’ve seen.

  • Week 8 versus the Eagles: 24 of 38 (63.2% completion ratio) for 223 yards, 1 passing TD, 1 INT, no fumbles;
  • Week 9 versus the Browns: 17 of 30 (56.7% completion ratio) for 142 yards, no TDs, no INTs, 1 fumble;
  • Week 10 versus the Jets: 19 of 33 (57.6% completion ratio) for 213 yards, 2 TDs, no INTs, no fumbles.

So Boller posted his only two 200+ yard games of the season in those last three games. Furthermore, he threw 60% of his passing TDs this season in those last three games (3). And he’s only had two turnovers during that period. I’ll grant you those stats aren’t spectacular but they did come against the likes of the robust Eagles and Jets’ defenses.

This week the Ravens play against a beleaguered Dallas team that got whipped last week like a tired mule. While Boller will not put up McNabb-like stats he should do enough to be a top 15 QB in Week 11. I picked him up as a potential replacement to Harrington this week as my other options are simply repulsive. His receivers are playing well right now and the offense isn’t just about Jamal Lewis anymore. Take a look at the passing stats: Boller has thrown 30 or more passes in each of his last three games, which isn’t something he has done since Week 1. In fact, he hasn’t even thrown 20 or more passes since Week 1. If Baltimore is in the midst of finding its passing game that means Boller’s value is quietly on the rise. If you’re like me and your back is firmly bolted against the wall when it comes to your QB give Boller a look. Hopefully the upside continues to develop. With the Bengals, Giants, Colts, and Dolphins still to go, Boller could play just good enough against those questionable defenses to eek you out some serviceable production. At the very least, if you lack QB depth, he is worth a one-week investment to see if the increased passing attack continues.

Travis Minor – MIA: Minor is my kind of trash: a largely available RB whose value is increasing. He is only owned in 22% of CBS Sportsline leagues, down from 77% back in Week 1. Minor doesn’t deserve starting consideration for most teams. But he can provide useful depth for those making a playoff run because once the playoffs begin the season basically resets. And your spiffy regular-season record or garish point total won’t amount to a lung full of phlegm if one of your RBs go down and you’ve got no one to fill that gaping void in your line up. While Minor won’t carry you on his back, assuming your other positions are solid he is good enough to stop some bleeding and for your team to remain competitive. Heck, depending on how things unfold with Sammy Morris and the Dolphins’ new interim head coach, Jim Bates, Minor’s value could be in for a radical change (one way or the other) coming out of their Week 10 bye. Here are the relevant stats:

  • Minor has seen a modest though exponential increase in carries in the last three games: three carries in Week 7; four carries in Week 8; and eleven carries in Week 9;
  • He has a better than expected 6.1 yards per carry;
  • He had a nice little 13 yard TD run back in Week 7, so he is capable of finding the end zone;

De’Shaun Foster – CAR: No, I haven’t been dipping into Grandma’s “glaucoma medicine.” But if you’ve been reading my column for the last couple of weeks it’s probably no shock that I’m something of an over-planner. (Seriously, immediately after I filed my 2003 tax return I worked up a quick Excel spreadsheet forecasting my 2004 tax refund/liability). So it shouldn’t be that surprising that I’m planning for next year’s fantasy season already.

I am in two keeper leagues; each provides a single injured reserve slot and players on IR at the end of the season are eligible to be kept next year. I also noticed that Foster was on waivers in both leagues. Assuming your facts are similar, and you’ve got an IR spot that’s just collecting dust, Foster makes for a nice long-term speculative investment. (I can’t be the only one that thinks Stephen Davis might be done). Furthermore, Foster “only” suffered a broken collar bone so I expect him to be good to go next year. If he had shredded his knee I wouldn’t waste my time because those injuries typically take longer to recover from. But considering how scarce good running backs are once all the keepers have been named Foster is worth a shot in the dark. Also, I’m noticing that some Stephen Davis owners are dumping him since he was placed on IR. If you like Davis more than Foster this strategy works equally as well for him. And if you need the IR spot later on in the season for one of your regulars you can always just release Foster to make room with no skin off your nose.

Maurice Hicks – SF : Hicks is fresh off the practice squad. And I like this RB so much that I’ve got a claim in for him in my Huddle league. Here’s why:

  • Hicks ran the ball 8 times for 46 yards last week (5.8 ypc, FYI), plus he was targeted three times in the passing game (caught 1 ball for 12 yards);
  • He returns kick offs, if you get points for that. And since he plays for my poor, poor 49ers, you know he’ll be busy in that department because the 49ers DEF has allowed the most points to date with 261;
  • He is the likely back up to Barlow. (While Terry Jackson is technically the #2 RB on the depth chart his involvement on regular offense has been insignificant); and
  • Coach Erickson stated earlier this week that Hicks will get more looks on regular offense when Barlow gets tired and could stay in the game *if* he provides a spark. I don’t know if that statement was made to motivate Barlow or what, but if true Hicks should get some more touches in regular offense.

I know it isn’t much, but there are three kinds of people that could be interested in Hicks: (1) Barlow owners who want to handcuff; (2) those who get points in the return game who might be willing to couple those points with whatever Hicks brings on regular offense; and (3) those who are willing to invest a speculative roster spot in a RB who has an outside chance to see significantly more playing time in the event that Barlow gets injured or the 49ers, whose season is basically over, just want to see more of Hicks.

Eddie Kennison – KC : Kennison was on my watch list last week and its time to give him every-week starting consideration. Here is why:

  • Since Week 6 he has been thrown to 6, 6, 7, 8, and 8 times a game, respectively. Do you see the trend?;
  • He has come up with at least 50 yards receiving in each of those games;
  • He is averaging 16.4 yards per catch;
  • He scored last week;
  • He has put together back to back 100 yard games;
  • He has a nice little 66% reception ratio on the season; and
  • The only player getting more looks in KC’s passing game right now is Gonzo.

Kennison’s season to date stats are impaired because he missed Weeks 3 and 4. But don’t let his deceptively low bottom line numbers dissuade you from sliding Eddie K in as a #2 or #3 WR. The match up this week may not look favorable ( New England) but remember that the Pats lost a ton of starting talent in their secondary. With most of the defensive attention paid to KC’s running game, and a spectacular offensive line, Trent Green should have ample time to find his receivers this week in what could be a high scoring game. Kennison will get his, mark my words.

Jerramy Stevens – SEA : Stevens only makes sense in a TE-mandatory league. Even then he’s probably only good for depth. However, he gets enough looks to be somewhat useful: he’s been thrown to 6, 7, 2, 5, 6, and 5 times since Week 5, respectively. He also sports a good-enough 59.5% reception ratio. The real reason why there might be some upside to Stevens is that *if* Koren Robinson gets suspended this week – and there is a chance he does – Stevens’ role in the passing game could increase. But I’m NOT recommending Stevens as a WR/TE flex-type of player.

Todd Peterson – SF : Here is an unusual kicker factoid: Todd Peterson has been the 5th most productive kicker on an average per-game basis over the last 5 weeks. During that time he’s gone 9 or 9 on extra points and 9 of 10 on field goals. Interestingly, he is one of the few kickers who has attempted more field goals than extra points. And he has some leg strength as well, because he hit the only 50+ yard field goal he attempted. While it isn’t worth your time looking into Peterson if your regular kicker is performing well he might be worth a look if you’re looking to replace a guy like John Kasay. Furthermore, the Giants offense is stinking lately and that has really cut in to our boy Steve Christie’s productivity. I don’t blame Christie one bit for his recent drop of in production but there is no room for sentimental values in fantasy football. If you’re regular guy just isn’t cutting the mustard and no one else looks good then Peterson may be just what the doctor ordered.

Buccaneers DEF : Our systematic Dolphin abuse is going to have to get put on hold for a week. No, we’re not being investigated by PETA. It’s just that the Seahawks get to take their turn in Week 11 and Seattle’s once hoity-toity DEF is still probably to high-profile to grace this rag. Forced to locate another favorable match up to exploit I give to you the Mighty Bucs. (Who are just barely within the clutches of the Trash Can Report). The Bucs play the 49ers this week and the 49ers aren’t playing well at all. Rattay has turned the ball over 11 times in the 6 games he has played. And the 49ers are in the bottom half of the league in both points and yards per game. That’s reason enough. But aside from their brush with the Chiefs a few weeks ago the Bucs DEF has been playing much better lately, relative to their performance early in the season. And with Carolina on tilt in Week 12, the Bucs DEF could be useful two weeks in a row.

Indianapolis DEF : "I'm not crazy (institutionalized!) You're the one that's crazy (institutionalized!)” - Suicidal Tendencies

Over the last two weeks the Colts have scored the 6th most fantasy points for all defenses in my Huddle league. Bizarre. During that time they allowed an average of 21 points per game, registered 3 INTs, 2 fumbles recovered, 7 sacks, and 1 defensive TD. Eh, not spectacular. But considering their last two opponents – the Vikings and the Texans – are decent offensive teams I was impressed because conventional wisdom this year suggested that the Colts have one of, if not the, worst defense in the NFL. Apparently someone forgot to remind the Colts of that in Weeks 9 and 10.

Further consider that Week 11’s opponent – the Bears – don’t have an offense. Here are the relevant stats:

  • Worst average yards per game: 249;
  • 2nd worst passing yards per game: 134.8;
  • Fewest first downs per game: 14.6;
  • Tied for 2nd most punts: 65;
  • Fewest passing TDs: 4;
  • 5th fewest points scored per game: 17.2;
  • 2nd most sacks allowed: 33;
  • 5th most turnovers on offense: 19; and
  • Giving up the 8th most yards due to offensive penalties.

Maybe I am the one that's crazy. But between the Colts' improved defensive play and the Bears' inept offense I think this is a sane play in Week 11. Plus, the Colts' DEF is almost certainly on waivers.

Prior Picks That Bear Repeating

Billy Volek – TEN : Way back when the Trash Can Report was little more than some off the cuff ramblings in the Pro Football Forum I recommended Volek going into Week 4. He delivered. In fact, during his only four starts this year Volek has posted some serviceable stats: 1012 passing yards, 6 passing TDs, 5 INTs, and 1 fumble lost. When you consider that he’s only had one bad game (Week 7 versus the Vikings where he only posted 190 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, and 1 fumble) he’s done pretty well, otherwise. Excluding that one bad game he threw for an average of 274 yards, 2 TDs, slightly less than 1 INT per game, and no fumbles. That’s not bad. AND McNair is no longer a sure thing to start every week, so Volek makes for a nice little speculative upside investment.

*If* Volek plays this week the match up versus the Jaguars is good but not great. The Jags are average at allowing passing yards: 1,974. However, they’ve only registered 4 INTs this year (tied for 2nd fewest) and are tied with the least number of sacks in the NFL at 14. With Chris Brown ailing and the Jaguars’ defensive strength centered on stopping the run the Titans may actually have neat little opportunity for a successful passing game this week, especially with Drew Bennett producing and Shad Meir healthy again.

At this point in the week it is unknown whether McNair will start. However, he has been injured and reinjured this season so even if McNair does play in Week 11 Volek still makes for decent investment because of the inherent risk of McNair getting hurt yet again. So whether you’re hurting at QB, own McNair, or just have an extra roster spot for a speculative upside investment Volek makes some sense. Because when/if he plays you basically have a 75% chance that he’ll turn in a better game than the rest of the QB-debris floating around on the waiver wire.

Derrick Blaylock – KC : Duh… even against the Pats.

Nate Burleson – MIN : I told you Burleson was worth a roster spot. Going into Week 9 I specifically said, “If he [Burleson] is available he makes for a great pick up as long as Moss is out.” In Week 9 Burleson produced as a punt returner. In Week 10 Burleson produced on regular offense.

But I was wrong.

Burleson makes a good play even if Moss does start. Why, you ask? Because Burleson climbed over Marcus Robinson as the Vikings #2 WR. (Go check the WR depth chart at www.vikings.com if you don’t believe me). Thus, I’m elevating my recommendation of Burleson to an every week starter. The fact that he was thrown to 18 times (and caught 11 of those passes) last week should prove that he and Culpepper have established a rapport over the last few weeks.

Dennis Northcutt – CLE : he is still far and away Garcia’s favorite receiver: 56 passes thrown his way, which is 19 more than the next highest target. I wish his reception ratio was better than 50%, though. Eh, at least he returns punts, if you get points for that. He’s done well for us before but has been quiet lately. Call it a hunch, but I think Northcutt rebounds this week because Davis still looks gimpy and Bryant hasn’t stepped up. And since the Jets are better at stopping the run than they are the pass I think the Browns’ passing game is in for a decent day.

Jermaine Wiggins – MIN : I love this guy in any league. He went 6 of 7 last week and Culpepper has been favoring two targets lately: Burleson and Wiggins. Wiggins still has a ridiculous 85.4% reception ratio; the “Garbage Man” simply catches most almost anything flung his way. In TE-mandatory leagues he is a “must start.” But as a WR/TE flex he still makes for a solid #3 or #4 guy. Excluding Week 1 where Wiggins didn’t play much (and the weeks he was out with a hand injury) he has been thrown to an average of 6.5 times per game. During that time he’s had no less than 5 passes per game thrown his way and he scored three times. Wiggins is a low-risk play that will contribute something every week, but has the upside to turn in games like last week’s, where he hauled in 94 yards and a score.

Guys I Thought About Covering But Opted Not To.

Antowain Smith – TEN : I pled with you back in Weeks 6 and 7 to acquire Antowain Smith. While he has yet to start it is clear Chris Brown won’t be 100% any time soon. If Smith is still on waivers grab him, even if you aren’t a Chris Brown owner. All I can say is, as a Brown owner, I sleep better Saturday nights knowing Smith is on my roster.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh – CIN : I was all over this guy earlier in the season because he was getting just as many looks as Chad Johnson, had a better reception ratio, and was active in the return game. Then T.J. vanished for a while. He’s more actively lately getting 9, 3, and 11 passes thrown his way over the last three weeks. But I’m just not ready to get back on the band wagon yet. If he gets thrown to 10 or more times this week we’ll take a closer look.

Clarence Moore – BAL : call me a skeptic, but I want to see more of Moore before I hop on board.

Ricky Proehl – CAR : targeted 13 times last week, three times in the red zone. Hmmm. I’m still waiting to hear more about Delhomme’s hand injury, but if Proehl continues to step up well need to inspect him further.

Well, that’s it for this week. The dumpster may not be as full as it usually is but hopefully there is a morsel or two for you scavengers out there. Good luck in Week 11 and Game on!