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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 14
David M. Dorey
December 6, 2004
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Donovan McNabb 464 5
Peyton Manning 425 3
Carson Palmer 382 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Brian Westbrook 193 3
Larry Johnson 174 2
Clinton Portis 162 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Drew Bennett 124 3
Chad Johnson 161 2
Joe Horn 160 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Desmond Clark 58 1
Freddie Jones 46 1
L.J. Smith 42 1
Placekickers XP FG
John Kasay 2 6
David Akers 5 4
Mike Vanderjagt 6 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Buffalo 2 1 7
New England 2 3 4
Indianapolis 1 7 2

Week 13 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Derrick Blaylock (KC) - Strained neck
Marc Bulger (STL) - Shoulder injury
Ronald Curry (OAK) - Leg injury
Corey Dillon (NE) - Leg bruise
Mark Campbell (BUF) - Knee sprain
Chris Brown (TEN) - Reaggravated the reaggravated toe injury.
Kevan Barlow (SF) - Concussion

The Year of The Tight End

Evidently that was 2003, since week 13 last season had 122 receptions for 1167 yards and 12 touchdowns by the tight ends. Yesterday there were only 94 catches for 970 yards and nine touchdowns. The earlier studs were oddly absent - Antonio Gates ( 3-31), Alge Crumpler ( 1-5), Eric Johnson ( 2-15) ,Tony Gonzalez (3-32) and Randy McMichael (2-15) played as if they were actually just tight ends. We got Todd Heap (3-22) back but it did not matter. An off weeks perhaps?

Or is it that defenses have finally figured it out now? OH NO!

Rethinking the red zone

The Falcons were shutout by the Buccaneers yesterday, 27-0. And while it would be natural to assume that they never were close enough for even a field goal, that would be incorrect. They reached the Tampa Bay 20-yard line on one occasion but lost the ball on downs when Vick threw his sixth incompletion at Peerless Price.

But even that was not the only scoring opportunity. Not once but twice the Falcons reached the Tampa Bay 1-yard line with either a first or second down with goal to go. And on both occasions Vick threw a completion - to a Buccaneer defender. A one yard interception? Two of them? While this may be the year of the pass, wouldn't most teams try to run the ball from the 1-yard line? Sure, one time maybe it was to surprise the defense but try explaining that second one in the post-game press conference.

201 yes, 37 no

Brett Favre entered his 201st straight game as the Packers starting quarterback and had thrown for at least one touchdown in the last 36 consecutive games. While the Eagles were kind enough to stop trying after halftime and only settle for four field goals, they were not nice enough to allow Favre to continue with his 2nd best TD streak in NFL history. Johnny Unitas remains safe with his incredible string of 47 straight games with a score. Donovan McNabb could have been nice enough to give one of his passing touchdowns to Favre. After all, McNabb had never thrown for five scores in one game before yesterday. He had that accomplished before the second quarter ended.

Parity Schmarity

Sure, there is a log jam at the middle in the NFL (though nothing like most of my fantasy leagues). But we're only past week 13 with four games left to play and the playoff drama seems to be declining every week - not increasing.

In the AFC, each division leader (NE, PIT, IND and SD) has at least a two game lead on the second best record in the division. The best team vying for a wild card are the Jets who at 9-3 are two games better than any other divisional second place team in the AFC.

It appears the only drama in the AFC will be the final wildcard between BUF (6-6), BAL (7-5), CIN (6-6), JAX (6-6) and DEN (7-5). None of those have winning records on the road right now anyway.

In the NFC, the Eagles are 11-1. You can almost forget about all the others. Literally.

The Eagles are four games up in the NFC East with four games to play. 'yawn'.

The NFC North has GB and MIN tied at 7-5. The NFC South has the Falcons four games up as well but they just lost 0-27 to the Buccaneers so there's no yawning there. The NFC West has Seattle with a chance to get one game ahead of the Rams (6-6). But the drama leading up to the playoffs is all tinged with the fact that eventually all roads lead to Philly where opponents are not merely beaten, they have their pants yanked to their ankles, get slapped around for 60 minutes and later likely require therapy.

Week Three of the playoffs should be a great time. The two previous weeks merely have to get out of the way to get there.

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Carson Palmer 382 3 QB Brett Favre 131 0
RB Larry Johnson 193 3 RB Deuce McAllister 22 0
RB Travis Minor 96 1 RB Tiki Barber 38 0
WR Drew Bennett 124 3 WR Keenan McCardell 15 0
WR Ronald Curry 141 2 WR Isaac Bruce 18 0
WR Antonio Bryant 115 2 WR Randy Moss 31 0
PK John Kasay 6 FG 2 XP PK Jason Elam

2 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 194

Huddle Fantasy Points = 17

Sunday's Couch Commentary

BUF 42, MIA 32 The Dolphins managed a 24-21 lead at halftime but was held scoreless until the one second half touchdown run by Travis Minor that made the game look close until the Bills returned the last minute interception for the final score. A.J. Feeley had a big day - 303 passing yards with three touchdowns but the five interceptions doomed the effort. Drew Bledsoe threw for four touchdowns against the Miami secondary and has eight scores in the last three weeks. He only had eight scores in the first half of the season. The Dolphins have now allowed eight defensive/special teams touchdowns against them. Patrick Surtain summed it up nicely after the game with what should be the Miami motto: "I think we're cursed. Every week - it's unbelievable".
TEN 24, IND 51 Peyton Manning fell off his career best pace by only throwing three touchdowns (he had been averaging 3.73 TD's per game). With four more scores to tie Dan Marino's record 48 scores on the season, he may actually need two more games... except he faces the NFL worst secondary in Houston this week so it could happen by the second quarter. This was a wildly entertaining game because the Titans were the first team to admit that they had no freaking chance to keep up with the Colt's offense in a traditional game and they attempted three onsides kicks - in a row. Manning threw one interception into the endzone and Pollard dropped an easy score or Manning would have ended up above his 3.72 average. Chris Brown played and gained 109 yards on only 19 carries before leaving in the third quarter because he reaggravated his toe injury. If it looks like he is stepping higher these days it's likely because the defenses are focusing on stomping on his foot and then tackling him. Drew Bennett's monster 124 yard, three score game would mean more if it came against a team that doesn't produces receivers like that every week. Sometimes by halftime.
ARZ 12, DET 26 Now that Denny Green has drawn a line through every quarterback name on his roster, the Cardinals can look ahead to the offseason for a passer that can actually throw completions to players wearing a Cardinal's jersey. The Lions walked away with four interceptions while Kevin Jones ran wild for 196 yards and one score which included a 74 yard run. The Lions won the game because of Jones and Tai Streets catching a touchdown. No one knew he was actually a Detroit receiver until that play. The Cardinals lost because Larry Croom actually is just a practice squad guy thrust into a starting role and Denny Green is using the old Minnesota offense without Moss or Culpepper. Or Bennett. Or Cris Carter. Or players that that anyone actually has on a fantasy team other than Boldin which has been noticed by secondaries when they game plan.
NE 42, CLE 15 Evidently if Butch Davis was going to leave anyway, you cannot fault him for his sense of timing. Facing the reigning world champion Patriots with Luke McCown as quarterback probably did not look very attractive even as far back as last Monday. The Patriots opened the game with a kick return for a score and added a fumble return for another touchdown in the third quarter. Other than that it was mostly Corey Dillon running for two scores until he got bored and then Kevin Faulk even scored. Antonio Bryant turned in a big game with 115 yards and two scores and is starting to appreciate the benefits of playing for a offense that operates in "trash time" almost 45 minutes per game. The Browns get to go to Buffalo this week for more of the same while the Patriots will be hosting the Bengals. I wonder if Corey Dillon will be able to "get up" for the game? Chances are very, very good he realizes who the next opponent is. So do they.
MIN 14, CHI 24 A prime candidate for the weekly "HUH?!?" award would be this game where Daunte Culpepper (279 yards, 2 TD's, 3 INT's) was out dueled, of course, by Chad Hutchinson ( 213 yards, 3 TD's, 0 INT). Randy Moss was bested by Desmond Clark's 58 yards and one touchdown but in fairness, Clark was probably overdue since he had never scored this season nor had more than one catch during any of the last five games. Somehow the Bears are now only two games back of the NFC North lead at 5-7 and both MIN and GB lost this week. The Bears now have to spend the week weighing the question we all knew last summer would come up this season - do they start Chad Hutchinson or Jeff George this week in Jacksonville? Just makes a person shudder.
GB 17, PHI 47 This game was 47-3 at one point and any notion that the Packers could hang with the Eagles was gone by the time that Brian Westbrook scored his third touchdown during the second quarter. Terrell Owens now is the only Eagle WR that has gone over 1000 yards during the tenure of HC Andy Reid and in retrospect, perhaps Owens was a bit smarter to end up with McNabb rather than Kyle Boller this year. McNabb comes off his first five touchdown game and the record for passing yards in a game in franchise history. The Packers made the game appear as if there were actually two teams playing by scoring two meaningless touchdowns thrown by Craig Nall late in the fourth quarter but rest assured - this was not a game. It was reason enough to make the Packers wonder why they should bother trying to get to the playoffs when eventually they would have to revisit Philly again in the best case scenario. It would not be a "McArthur" moment of return. It would be more like the jittery ghost of Custer wondering where they indians were going to attack from next.
ATL 0, TB 27 'The Atlanta quarterback will now be playing in a jersey with the name "Buccaneers" across the shoulders instead of "Vick" since he finally knows definitively who his Daddy is. Sure, he was the leading rusher in the game for Atlanta with 81 yards on eight runs but he only managed to throw 13 of 27 for 115 yards and two interceptions - both from the TB one-yard line. The leading receiver for the Falcons was Dez White with 37 yards on three catches. Evidently when Crumpler (1 catch, 5 yards) is taken out of the equation, Vick is not very good with the math of passing. The Buccaneers defense played like the Bucs of old and now that the new kid is kicking, the team is even making field goals as well. Tampa Bay is still back four games of the Falcons in the NFC South so there's little hope of catching them. The fun part about the Falcons is that they win games when the score is close but when the offense fails - it fails in a spectacular fashion.
SF 6, STL 16 The lowest scoring game of week 13 used to be the highest scoring game on Sunday back when these two teams were good. Now that Bulger is out of the lineup, Chris Chandler remembered that Torry Holt was pretty good last year and actually pelted him with successful passes at a rate of about 5:1 to what Bruce received. Maybe with Bulger out the Rams can return to the scheme we all expected this season (sans the actual winning thing in most games). Steven Jackson finally got his turn at being the man and gained 119 yards on 26 carries but never ran more than 13 yards on any carry. The 49ers were somehow in the game in spite of gaining only 184 yards in the game and 52 yards came on one pass play to Brandon Lloyd. Otherwise - only 132 yards gained in the entire game. The 49ers have finally figured out how to appear competitive this season. Since they cannot hope to keep pace with their opponents, they are better off taking out the opposing quarterback and forcing them to play without anyone behind center as well.
HOU 7, NYJ 29 The Texans quickly erased any sense of improvement after beating the Titans last week when they de-volved into the core of what they are. Domanick Davis running not well enough but scoring once and Andre Johnson providing the only decent receiver for David Carr who aside from Johnson (7-125) only managed five completions for 32 yards in the entire game. Chad Pennington returned to play finally and threw scores to both Curtis Martin and Anthony Becht on the off chance that anyone would ever start a Jet WR anymore. Against the worst secondary in the league, Santana Moss had one catch for five yards proving he is the NFL version of Russian Roulette. You know once out of every six times he is going to go off but the odds are definitely stacked in favor of just a "click" every week. Curtis Martin scored twice in the game and gained 134 yards on 23 carries. Maybe the Jets are not "Division title good" but hey - they are certainly "wild card good". Houston returns home to replace all the visitor score bulbs in the scoreboard because Indy is coming to town.
CAR 32, NO 21 If you just consider the last four games, the Panthers are winning games just like last season (though the boxscore names have changed significantly). But since the NFL stipulates that the entire season must be considered in the standings, the 5-7 record of the Panthers is still four games behind the Falcons. Delhomme continues to face secondaries that are so bad that they do not check the newspapers to notice that Muhsin Muhammad (1-179, 1 TD) is attempting to make this season total more production than his previous eight years had. Nick Goings gained 122 rushing yards and a score plus was the second leading receiver (6- 46). The good news for the Saints is that they are already at home so there's no long plane ride home for HC Jim Haslett who spends most his time lately sitting in his office saying "Don't answer that phone. Just let it ring, okay? I'm not here". His team just allowed an opposing quarterback with a cast on his broken right thumb to throw for 294 yards and a score. John Kasay set the team record with six field goals. When Deuce McAllister can only get seven carries for 22 yards after gaining 183 yards in Carolina last year, the writing is on the wall. And the phone will be ringing. "I SAID DON'T ANSWER THAT!"
DEN 17, SD 20 The Broncos officially passed the AFC West baton to the Chargers on Sunday and it was promptly grabbed by LaDainian Tomlinson who gained 12 yards with it. Tomlinson ended with 130 total yards and two touchdowns and while Brees was nothing special on Sunday, he did not have to be. Unfortunately, Jake Plummer did not have that luxury but only threw 16 of 40 for 278 yards and four touchdowns interceptions. The Chargers have won their last five games and are two up on Denver for the division lead. It is now almost inescapable. The Chargers are going to the playoffs. And the Broncos will likely have to chase the final AFC wildcard with BAL and JAX who both also lost yesterday as well. All you Tatum Bell owners can now rejoice! He gained 31 yards on only seven carries and scored his first NFL touchdown! What? You what? When? ... yeah... me too. To the waiver wire!
KC 34, OAK 27 Oddly enough, this was almost the exact same game played by both offenses other than the Raiders having absolutely no running game. Both Green and Collins threw for 340 yards and three scores. Eddie Kennison gained 149 yards and one score thanks to the 70-yard "well if you will not tackle me then" pass reception and he was matched by Ronald Curry who had 141 yards and two scores for the Raiders. Of course given that they Raiders are not supposed to have 141 yard, two TD receivers due to the laws of natural order, he ended up hurting his knee pretty badly. Derrick Blaylock only gained 37 yards on 12 carries before also getting injured but in his place all you Larry Johnson owners can rejoice! He had 174 total yards and two scores! What? You what? When?...yeah... me too. To the waiver wire!
NYG 7, WAS 31 Almost exactly like week 13 last season, Clinton Portis gained 162 total yards and two scores (he had 176 yards and two scores last year). Never mind the previous 12 weeks, this was vintage Portis slashing and scoring. The reality is that he's only about 100 rushing yards and three touchdowns behind where he was at this point last season. The Redskins had never scored more than 18 points in any game this season but they almost doubled that previous season-high when the Giants came to town and allowed Washington to stop a three game losing streak. In keeping with the team theme - no WR's allowed this week - Ramsey threw three scores and yet not one went to a wideout. The Giants ended with only 151 yards of offense in the game and finally Tiki Barber was dragged down to the level of the rest of the offense when he ended with only 38 rushing yards and no receptions. The Redskins have to play the Eagles this week so the good tidings will be temporary but the Giants have to go play in Baltimore this week so Coughlin's sour demeanor should remain unchanged.
PIT 17, JAX 16 This was very nearly the Game of The Week but it only had 33 total points. The Steelers and Jaguars both have specialized in squeaking out wins but we now know that Pittsburgh is just a little better at it. Ben "I've won 10" Roethlisberger got back on track and his 221 yards and two scores were the only reason that the Steelers won. It was a great game and at least Troy Edwards saved his best game of the year when he faced his ex-employer. Hines Ward excited all his fantasy owners when he had 65 yards and a touchdown in the first series but only managed 15 more yards in the rest of the game. But hey - that one series was vintage Ward. Hope you taped it. The Steelers are now four games ahead of the Ravens in the AFC North but still have to win to get that treasured week off to start the playoffs.

Game-O-The-Week

If week 13 signaled anything, it was the return of some vintage NFL just in time for the holidays. Portis is a great runner again. The Bucs and the Panthers defenses are awesome. Tight ends don't matter. The Cardinals and 49ers are horrible on the road. But there is still plenty to remind you that this is 2004 and not the same old thing. The Chargers have a great team. The Steelers are unstoppable. Curtis Martin was a great draft pick but Holmes and now Bulger owners are no longer smiling. The top four running backs for the week were Brian Westbrook, Larry Johnson, Clinton Portis and Kevin Jones.

A nice blending of the old and new showed up in the Game of the Week. It was a close race with several contenders but in the end, it had to be one of the biggest upsets on Sunday.

Cincinnati 27, Baltimore 26

The Bengals were coming off their 58-48 win over the Browns the previous week while the Ravens had been humbled 3-24 in New England. The Ravens had already beaten the Bengals 23-9 in Cincinnati earlier this season and now the Patriots loss would certainly have them fired up to beat a team that had not won in Baltimore during this decade. They had not beaten a Ravens team that had a winning record in Baltimore since 1990. And while Jamal Lewis would miss the game, he would be capably replaced by Chester Taylor ( 164 yards, 1 TD) and Todd Heap was back!

What's to worry?

The game started out a boring defensive affair with the Ravens only leading 6-3 at halftime. Pretty standard stuff. The Ravens offense was sluggish as is common in games you know later on that they could score at will and win. The Ravens defense was sterling as always so the luxury of waiting was afforded.

In the third quarter, the expected happened. The first series for Baltimore had Chester Taylor score a touchdown for a very safe 13-3 lead. Later on, Ed Reed intercepted a pass and after returning it for 24 yards he fumbled but this was the Bengals at the Ravens. That meant that Chris McAlister would scoop it up and run the other 64 yards for a touchdown and a very safe 20-3 lead. One offensive touchdown, one defensive touchdown. A 17 point lead over the Bengals who had only managed a field goal in the first three quarters.

What's to worry? Especially now?

The Bengals went three and out to finish up the third quarter and punted the ball but B. J. Sams muffed the punt and the Bengals recovered it. They suddenly had the ball on the BAL 19-yard line. On first down, Palmer throws for six yards to T.J. Houshmynameistoolongdeh and on second down, Chad Johnson catches a 12 yard touchdown! Suddenly the Bengals are only trailing 10-20. That's like one more muffed punt touchdown and a lucky field goal from tying!

The Ravens then make the tactical error in allowing Kyle Boller to pass and they go three and out. The punt gives the ball back to Cincinnati at the CIN 24-yard line. On first down, Palmer hits Houshmynameneverendsdeh for 32 yards to the BAL 44-yard line. Then Rudi runs for five yards. A pass to Reggie Kelly for 11 yards gets a first down on the BAL 28-yard line where HoushIhatethisnamedeh gains 16 yards to the Ravens 12-yard line. On first down, Chad Johnson catches ANOTHER touchdown! The score is suddenly 17-20 with 10:44 left to play. The Ravens are going to have to start trying again.

No problem. Chester Taylor gains 47 yards on first down to reach the CIN 26-yard line but three more plays produce only six yards because they only allow Taylor to have one carry (5 yards). Stover boots the field goal with 8:39 left to play and now the Ravens lead 23-17.

But the Bengals just won't go away. They won't recall who they are playing and where they are playing. Starting out on their own 32-yard line, Palmer throws for 24 yards to Houshcoverthisguyforoncedeh to reach the BAL 44-yard line but on the next play, Palmer loses ten yards on an intentional grounding call. On second and 20 from his own 46-yard line, Palmer decides to throw for exactly 20 yards to Houshheislikeavirusnowdeh and after two rushing plays (one being Palmer running for his life), on first and goal from the BAL 9-yard line with 5:30 left to play, Palmer surprisingly throws a scoring pass to Houshhemustbeinvisibleorsomethingdeh. The Bengals lead 24-23!

The Ravens get the kickoff and bring it out to the BAL 46-yard line because B. J. Sams does good things when he holds on to the ball. Boller works the team down the field, chewing up the clock mainly with handing the ball off and with fourth down and 17 on the CIN 27-yard line (holding call - it happens), Stover kicks a 45 yard field goal to retake the lead 26-24 with only 1:44 left to play.

The Bengals start out on their own 34-yard line with 1:37 left to play. On first down - Palmer is sacked for an eight yard loss. On second and 18, he has only 1:13 left on the game clock and about 40 yards or more from a possible field goal attempt. So he throws for 32 yards to HoushthegreatestreceiverinthehistoryoftheNFLdeh. At the BAL 42-yard line, Palmer spikes the ball to stop the clock.

He then throws to Matt Schobel for 11 yards to the BAL 42-yard line. He spikes the ball to kill the clock at 50 seconds left to play. On the next play, he throws for 22 yards to Chad "Not T.J. but now less covered" Johnson to the BAL 9-yard line with only 33 seconds left. Johnson runs once and the Ravens are called for 12 men on the field due to the defensive coordinator slapping the back of every backup secondary player and telling them to go in and cover that HoushRAVENKILLERdeh guy. Palmer squats down to position the ball and as time expires, Shayne Graham splits the upright for a 27-26 Bengals win!

Yes, Virginia, there is a Houshsantaclausdeh and he just handed the Ravens their first such loss in 14 years.

You just gotta believe.

Now get back to work...