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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

The Trash Can Report - Dumpster Diving for Week 14
Dennis Leonard
December 9, 2004

“I've seen way too many Bond movies to know you never reveal all the details of your plan, no matter how close you may think you are to winning.” – Azrael, from Kevin Smith’s film ‘Dogma’

Hello again and welcome back to the Trash Can Report. The quote above pretty much sums up my Week 13 experience. As you may know, my teams have endured more injuries this year that Fire Marshall Bill. My mistake last week, you ask? Proclaiming last week’s successful recommendation, Ronald Curry, my savior about three quarters into the Raider game. Because shortly thereafter the fantasy football Gods smote him with divine wrath and – BLAMO! – he’s lost for season. Back to the drawing board for a #3 WR… again. This week, no matter how many TDs the guys below score, I’m just keeping my mouth shut. Well, that and I’m going to quit stealing Jobu’s rum. At least you, loyal readers, can take heart in the fact that I’ll – yet again – have a personal investment in many of this week’s picks below.

Drew Bledsoe – BUF: Before you accuse me of having as much gravel in my head as Patterson Hood* has in his voice, let me point out that over the last three weeks Bledsoe and the Bills have been playing their best football this season. Moreover, I’m not recommending him as a starter. However, if you missed out on a quality back up (like Kerry Collins, who I recommend going into Week 12) then I believe Bledsoe is probably the best QB who’s likely still on waivers. Not convinced? Allow me to elaborate:

  • Over the last three games Bledsoe has had two of his best games this year: Week 13 against the Dolphins and Week 11 against the Rams;
  • During that three week span Bledsoe amassed 736 passing yards, 8 TDs, and only 4 INTs;
  • In fantasy terms he was the 7th most productive QB over the last three weeks, producing at a level just a hair below Culpepper, and at a small fraction of the cost;
  • The Bills’ DEF, McGahee, and Lee Evans have kicked their games up a notch, taking some of the pressure off Moulds and Bledsoe to do everything themselves;
  • Over the last three weeks Bledsoe’s QB rating has averaged about 102, relative to his season-to-date QB rating of 79;
  • He’s also completed 64.84% of his passes during those three weeks, which is much better than his season-to-date 58.2% completion ratio;
  • Not only is he completing a higher percentage of passes, he’s also been throwing more passes. Over the last three weeks he tossed an average of a little over 30 passes per game, relative to his season average of 27.5 passes per game;
  • Lastly, the Bills remaining passing schedule isn’t bad: the Browns (18th worst DEF against QBs), Bengals (12th worst), 49ers (13th worst), and Steelers (29th worst).

Okay, so the last four opponents aren’t exactly a stroll through a story book meadow, filled with dandelions and Care Bears. But the only real tough match up is the Steelers. However, if your fantasy season ends before Week 17, then you shouldn’t care about that any more than I care about who gets fired on the Apprentice this week. Keep in mind, I’m not recommending Bledsoe as a starter. But if your regular guy goes down, or you’re looking for a temporary replacement for a guy like Bulger, you could do a whole lot worse than Bledsoe; because he’d be all too happy to light up the likes of the Browns, Bengals, and 49ers on your behalf. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but unlike some teams, the Bills haven’t thrown in the towel yet.

* Non-football note: Do you like rock and/or roll? And I don’t mean that candy-ass, top 40 fluff, or the corporate, mass produced Clear Channel puke. I mean good, old fashioned, three-lead-guitars-and-an-electric-bass-that-makes-you-want-to-drive-faster kind of rock and roll. If so, you should check out the Drive By Truckers. Their lead singer, Patterson Hood, has a gritty voice that sounds like he coming of a rough night of drinking and three packs of unfiltered Luckys. Their lyrics artfully spin southern tales of tough times and life’s simple pleasures. But, most importantly, their electric guitar work is an impressive array of swirling, crashing, straight-away Americana. They aren’t metal, or anything like that. Think Skynard; maybe the Black Crows. In fact, check out their web site at: http://www.drivebytruckers.com. You can listen to some of their songs for free there. If you like what you hear then I highly recommend their album ‘Decoration Day.’ (And no, I don’t know the band, or get kick backs. I just dig good music).

Maurice Morris – SEA: There are only two kinds of people that should seriously look at Morris. The first are Alexander owners who wouldn’t have the depth to replace him if he went down at this oh-so crucial time in the season. The second are keeper and dynasty leaguers who have a roster spot to invest speculatively. Alexander may not return to the Seahawks next year and has publicly stated he wouldn’t mind moving to Florida. While Morris isn’t a lock to inherit Alexander’s starting gig even if he did leave, “Crazy Legs” (Morris’ team nickname) would likely get first bite at the apple. Hey, if you can afford the dead roster spot this year (maybe because you’re out of the playoff hunt already?) then you have nothing to lose and a potential starting RB to gain.

Marcus Robinson – MIN: When I saw Robinson hit waivers last week in my local I thought little of it. However, when I learned my boy Ronald Curry was lost for the season I was forced to find yet another replacement #3 WR. (Seriously, #3 WRs last about as long on my teams as drummers do for Spinal Tap). After some research, here’s what I think: Robinson has more upside going forward than most folks think. Going 6 of 6 for 90 yards and a TD last week is recent evidence of what Robinson is capable of during the fantasy playoffs. But there is more than that. For example:

  • Despite some early season injuries Robinson is still the team’s second-leading pass target with 72 footballs his way;
  • He has 7 TDs, which ties him with Holt for the 6th most receiving TDs to date – only eight WRs have caught more;
  • He’s averaging a decent 14.2 yards per catch;
  • His reception ratio is a little low, but at 56.9% you could do worse;
  • The Vikings score mostly through the air. More specifically, 30 of their 36 TDs on regular offense (i.e., over 83%) were pass plays; only the Colts have thrown more passing TDs this season. Last week’s game versus the Bears further illustrates that this trend is current, as 7 of the Vikings 10 red zone plays were passes.
  • This week’s opponents – the Seahawks – are getting killed through the air right now. Despite a strong early season the Seahawks’ DEF have still allowed the NFL’s 5th most receptions (260). Most recently they allowed 43 points and over 400 total yards to the freakin’ Cowboys;
  • Next week’s opponent – the Lions – shouldn’t put up much more of a fight either, as they have the 3rd worst DEF against receivers; and
  • Despite Moss being back, Culpepper is spreading the ball around very evenly. Last week he threw 5 passes to two players and 6 passes to four players. So it’s not like Moss is the only one getting looks.

The two big detractors from Robinson’s sex appeal were: (1) his early-season injuries; and (2) not having Moss around in Week’s 7 through 11 to draw defenders away. Are either of those an issue right now? Nope. Robinson isn’t a lock to produce big every week because Burleson, Wiggins, and Moss are always a threat to steal scores. But Robinson has a far better chance to put up far better numbers than most of the desiccated corpses you’ll find on waivers right now. And since my waiver claim went through for him this morning, I’m personally invested in Robinson as my new #3 WR. Course, with my luck that probably means he’ll be eaten by a pack of rabid wolverines at half time.

Chris Cooley – WAS: This guy was on my watch list last week and I’m officially impressed. His yardage stats stink. But he’s been thrown to 20 times in the last four games, which isn’t bad for a rookie TE. Plus, he’s scored three times in the last four weeks and scored a total of 5 times this year. Seeing as how the Skins have only scored 14 passing TDs all season, it’s amazing to note that Cooley has accounted for over 1/3 of them. If you are in a TD-only, or TD-heavy league, or you are just looking to add some depth in a TE-mandatory league, Cooley is definitely worth a look. However, I do not recommend him as a WR/TE flex. He just doesn’t get enough yardage to be useful those weeks he doesn’t score.

Jason Hanson – DET: I was a little surprised to see that Hanson has been the third best fantasy kicker over the last three weeks. During that time he went 4 of 4 on extra points and 8 of 9 on field goals. If you are in need of a kicker at this point in the season go with the hot hand. The only kicker who has attempted more field goals over the last three weeks is Josh Scobee, with 11. Scobee, however, missed three of those 11, none of which were 50 or more yard attempts. So, given a choice between the two, I’d rather have Hanson because I think he is more accurate.

Prior Picks That Bear Repeating

Maurice Hicks – SF: “ It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of crappy running backs.” – Dennis Leonard, ‘A Tale of Two Maurices’

Okay, I should probably give some credit to Charles Dickens, as most of that quote is from his opening line in ‘A Tale Of Two Cities.’ Still, how likely was it that anyone recommended two scrub RB’s named Maurice in the same week?

I’ve been pumping this guy for weeks *just* in case something bad happened to Barlow. Well, wadda ya know? Both Barlow and Rattay are out this week. That means two things: (1) more carries for Hicks; and (2) even more carries for Hicks. There are a few other things to like about Hicks, too. He’s sporting a proud 4.6 yards per carry, a sweet 13.7 yards per reception, and has done some good work returning kicks for the team that just happens to be allowing the most points in the NFL. Moreover, I expect the 49ers to run him a lot this week in a feeble attempt to control the game clock versus the Cardinals. That, and Dorsey hasn’t been able to hit the broad side of barn this year. Speaking of the Cardinals, they don’t exactly have the best run-stop DEF, either. While they are tied for allowing the 5th fewest rushing TDs (8), they have also allowed the 3rd most rushing yards to date: 1,678.

I’m actually considering avoiding the whole Chris Brown/Antowain Smith Monday night GTD and just starting Hicks, assuming he’ll still perform return duties. Sound crazy? With all the injuries flying around this year, these are crazy times we live in. And that, ironically, was sort of Dickens’ point in the opening line of ‘A Tale Of Two Cities.’ Besides, I seriously doubt you’re going to find a better starting RB on waivers at this point in the season.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh – CIN: I’ve recommended this guy before with mixed results. However, there is no denying that over the last two weeks he’s had his best two games of the season. Here’s what’s to like:

  • He is clearly the Bengals’ #2 WR, as he’s gone 46 of 77 for an adequate 59.7% reception ratio;
  • He’s only scored three times, but each of those scores came in the last two weeks;
  • Both he and Chad Johnson were thrown to 11 times last week, each catching 10 passes. That could be a nice little sign that Palmer is spreading the ball around enough for both WRs to be productive;
  • He does punt returns, if you get points for that;
  • He’s averaging a good-enough 14.2 yards per catch; and
  • Palmer is just playing better ball right now. For instance, his completion percentage during the last two weeks was 80.6% and 75.9%, respectively. That’s a whole heck of a lot better than Palmer’s season average-to-date of merely 60%. And that accuracy is making the Bengals’ WRs more productive.

Here’s the deal: at this point in the season I’m looking for the players with the most upside who could help me in the playoffs. (Who isn’t?) Over the last three weeks (which included a stinker against the Steelers three weeks ago) Houshmandzadeh was the 8th most productive WR in my Huddle league. In fact, during that span he outperformed Stokely, Holt, Bennett, Chambers, Wayne, Owens, Mason, and Bruce, to name a few. When that kind of upside is laying around on waivers going into the playoffs, you pounce on it like Tiger on crystal meth. In fact, I’ve added T.J. as my #4 WR in my local. Sure, upcoming tilts with the Patriots and Bills aren’t that advantageous. However, he could have quite a bit of success against the Giants and Eagles in Weeks 16 and 17. Hopefully the earth won’t open up and swallow him whole before I get to use him.

Dennis Northcutt – CLE: with all the attention being paid to Antonio Bryant after last week’s mind-blowing performance, it’s easy to forget about what Northcutt has done the last two weeks: 5 receptions for 93 yards last week and 5 receptions for 87 yards the week before. That’s pretty solid. And he returns punts, too. The only thing missing are some TDs, because Northcutt hasn’t scored this season. However, while I do not subscribe to the theory that he is “due,” I do feel that having Luke McCown under center is good for Northcutt.

McCown went 20 of 34 last week for 277 yards, 2 INTS, and 2 TDs. It was his first ever start as a rookie… and against the Patriots, no less. And what did Northcutt see? 12 of those 34 passes thrown his way, or more than 1/3, plus one in the red zone. Those stats smack of opportunity to me. While I’d certainly rather have Bryant on my roster, if you get beat to him just remember that Northcutt isn’t that much of a step down.

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense?

  This Week Last Week
CHI 41 40
MIA 22 25
WAS 21 23
ARI 19 11
SF 18 16
BAL 18 20
DET 16 18
BUF 13 13
OAK 9 N/A
ATL 8 N/A
STL 7 8

A lot you seem to like my analysis of team defenses, which is based on exploiting weak offenses. I’ve updated the Offensive Crap-O-Meter for Week 13’s stats and here’s how they look:

Okay, a little movement. Most importantly, Chicago and Miami appear in 6 of my 7 seven categories. Arizona appears in 5. Washington, Detroit, San Francisco, and Baltimore appear in 4. The remaining teams, Buffalo, Oakland, Atlanta, and St. Louis, only appear in three of my categories.

And who do these teams play in the coming weeks, you ask? Here ya go. The teams in bold form the basis of this week’s recommendations. However, this being the Trash Can Report, I won’t recommend any of the top 15 DEFs. Moreover, neither San Francisco nor the Giants’ DEF belong in anyone’s active line up. And this is only a tool; it’s not meant to replace your judgment. So if starting the Raiders’ DEF against the Falcons sounds like a bad idea (it does to me, FYI) then don’t do it just because the match up is listed in this exhibit.

  Week 14 Week 15
CHI at JAX HOU
MIA at DEN NE
WAS KC at OAK
ARI SF STL
SF at ARI WAS
BAL CLE at IND
DET at GB MIN
BUF CLE at CIN
OAK at ATL TEN
ATL OAK CAR
STL at CAR at ARI

Jaguars’ DEF: I realize the Vikings’ DEF versus the Bears last week didn’t pan out that well. Still, this cow is going to have to kick me more than once before I quit trying to milk it. I’m backing this call up and playing the Jags’ DEF in my Huddle league this week.

I’m just not sold on the idea that Hutchinson has made much of a difference for the Bears in one game. Their primary strength has been with the running game. Lucky for me the Jaguars’ DEF is pretty good against the run. The Jags have allowed the 11th fewest rushing yards per game (107.2) and the 3rd fewest rushing TDs this season (6). Not bad. Granted, the Jags DEF has the 4th fewest takeaways in NFL (14) and the 5th fewest sacks (24), but the Bears should make things easy for them. Because the Bears have allowed the most sacks to date (48) and coughed up the 2nd most giveaways in the NFL (29).

Cardinals’ DEF: They are playing in Arizona. Rattay and Barlow are both out. Even when they were in last week the 49ers still only scored 6 points on the flaccid Rams. Nuff said. I’m backing this pick up with action and I’m playing the Cards’ DEF in my local this week.

Panthers’ DEF: I love this pick for two reasons. First, the Panthers’ DEF has come on strong over the last four weeks. During that span they were the 7th best team DEF in my Huddle league, accruing 10 INTs, 5 fumbles recovered, 11 sacks, and 1 defensive TD. Moreover, they’ve limited their last four opponents to an average of 18 points per game, which is a little better than their 21.4 average points per game over the season to date. Toss in the fact that the Panthers are tied for the 2nd fewest passing TDs to date (11) and I like the momentum this team has been building, despite the horrible rash of injuries they’ve suffered.

Second, this week’s opponent – the Rams – will be without Bulger, Jackson is questionable, and Faulk is still healing up as well, though he’s probable. Starting under center will be the venerable Chris Chandler. By accounts of people I trust Chandler is apparently a stand up guy. Still, one good shot and he’ll shatter as if he’d been dipped in liquid nitrogen and tossed off the Empire State Building. Remember that video game Punch Out from the mid-80’s? Chandler *is* Glass Joe.

Packers’ DEF: The Lions are just low lying fruit. I like this pick the least of four I’m making this week, though. Partly because you just don’t know which Packers’ team is going to show up in Week 14. The one that got smoked by the Eagles last week, or the one that killed the Rams the week before? I expect the Packers mediocre DEF to bounce back this week against a very vulnerable opponent. But that’s just a hunch. The stats for both teams are uninspired, so it could go either way.

Guys I Thought About Recommending But Opted Not To

Carson Palmer – CIN: I bear no shortage of ill-will towards Palmer. He didn’t do me any favors early in the year in replacement of Brad Johnson. (My QB woes this year are legendary). And he burned the Trash Can Report the one week I did pick him to have a decent game. All I can say is that something has changed. Over the last three games he’s thrown for 798 yards, 9 TDs, and 5 INTs. That made him the 4th best fantasy QB over the last three weeks. But with upcoming games versus the Patriots, Bills, Giants, and Eagles, I just can’t recommend relying on him during your playoffs. If he does okay over the next two weeks, maybe I’ll recommend him versus the Giants in Week 16.

Kerry Collins – OAK: if he’s available, great. But show him the bench this week. The loss of Curry, coupled with facing the Falcons’ DEF means you should avoid using him this week, if you can.

Billy Volek – TEN: I’ve recommended him three times this year already, so by now you’ve either paid attention or you haven’t. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’ve got McNair on your roster and are playoff bound, you’d better have either Volek or another badass #2 QB on your roster.

Larry Johnson – KC: I recommended him going into Week 10. I hope you got him then, because he’s probably gone now.

Travis Minor – MIA: I recommended adding Minor a few weeks back and – cha-ching – he paid off last week. But you’d have to be really, really, really desperate to throw him into the chipper-shredder run defenses he’s facing in the next two weeks: the Broncos (4th toughest) and then the Partiots (3rd toughest).

Tatum Bell – DEN: I’m not sold… yet.

Antonio Bryant – CLE: everyone else is recommending this guy. I just didn’t want to think I missed his impressive performance last week.

Doug Gabriel – OAK: Obvious.

John Kasay – CAR: one more good game and I’ll believe. Until then he’s just another guy who burned me in the draft.