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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

The Trash Can Report - Foraging for Week 15
Dennis Leonard
December 16, 2004

Hello again and welcome back to the Trash Can Report. I got a fortune cookie at lunch Wednesday that said, “Soon, someone will make you proud.” Hopefully that someone is named Green, Gates, Wayne, or Tomlinson. At this point in the season there isn’t a whole lot of skill involved; luck is about 95% of the game. Don’t get me wrong. Some of the names below may do someone some good. In fact, I’ll (once again) be relying on a few of them. But if you’re looking for radical playoff solutions at this point in the season you’re probably hip-deep in a mess of trouble. But for those Huddlers limping into the playoffs, let’s see if we can rustle up some reinforcements for this week.

And Now For Something Completely Desperate

Patrick Ramsey – WAS: I’ve never much liked Monty Python, from which the line above was lifted. And I’ve never much liked Patrick Ramsey, either. But if your QB situation has been little more than a fruitless search for the Holy Grail, might I suggest taking a flyer on Ramsey? If that sounds crazy it’s because it is. But if you’re facing a choice that’s little more than a calculated desperation play, then I like Ramsey this week. Here’s why, which is based on his last five weeks of play:

  • He completed 106 of 172 passes in his last five games. Buried within that ultra-mediocre 61.62% completion ratio are two silver nuggets. First, he has thrown the 3rd most passes of any QB during that period. Second, he’s tied for the 5th most completions. I was very surprised by those facts;
  • He posted a decent 5:5 TD-to-INT ratio. Two interesting points about that stat: First, did you know that both Manning and Culpepper also threw exactly 5 INTs over that same period? Second, did you know that Testeverde, Vick, Brees, and Bulger also threw for only 5 TDs during the same period? All things considered, that’s not bad company to be keeping;
  • He threw for 935 yards, which is more than Brees, Testeverde, Roethlisberger, Bledsoe, Carr, or Vick threw during that time frame;
  • Those stats over last five weeks were earned against the Eagles twice, the Steelers, Bengals, and Giants. It’s no surprise that the Eagles and Steelers kicked Ramsey around like the only hacky-sack at a Wide Spread Panic show. But guess what he did against the servile Giants’ DEF? Ramsey went 19 of 22 (for an impressive 86.4% completion ratio) for 174 yards, 3 passing TDs, and no INTs. If only Ramsey were facing another pathetic DEF in Week 15… Oh, wait a minute: he is.

The Redskins’ do battle with the 49ers in Week 15. Now, my 49ers’ defense is weaker than Kevan Barlow’s grasp on subject of good press relations. Not that it’ll be too hard to convince you of the former, but let’s take a gander at some facts:

  • The 49ers are tied (with the Chiefs) for allowing the highest average points per game (28);
  • They have allowed the 7th most passing TDs (22);
  • 13th most passing yards (2,831);
  • Tied with the 3rd fewest INTs (8);
  • 6th fewest sacks (26);
  • Their two best corner backs (Plummer and Rumph), not to mention stud DT (Whitting) and LB (Peterson), are all on injured reserve; and
  • Last week they allowed Arizona’s Josh McClown to have his second best fantasy day of the year. Considering that McClown’s best game came in Week 5 – also against the 49ers – it seems to me that mediocre QBs have a lot of upside when facing a San Francisco DEF that’s about as imposing Fozzy Bear on quaaludes.

Like I said, this is a calculated though highly risky gambit. There is no freakin’ way you should bench a proven performer for Ramsey. But if you’re already flirtin’ with a hurtin’ no matter who you start at QB, but the rest of your team is solid, Ramsey should keep you playoff-competitive. For this week, anyways…

Garrison Hearst – DEN: Do NOT start Hearst this weekend. I’m recommending him solely as a speculative-upside pick. But with the free-agent RB market devoid of any meaningful upside, Hearst could have something to offer down the home stretch. First off, no one really knows how badly Bell is hurt. Second, Denver rotates RBs this year more frequently than I do laundry, so you never know who might get the nod in Denver during the coming weeks. Third, even if Hearst just splits carries with Droughns, a RBBC situation still has some value. Fourth, Denver’s offensive line has proven year in and year out that they make good RBs look great and turn great RBs into studs. I’m not sure how much Hearst has left in the tank but at this late point in the season his legs (and knees) are likely fresher than most. Given the opportunity, he’d probably do fine. And with the Chiefs, Titans, and Colts still to go Denver’s rushing schedule isn’t bad at all. If you’ve got the bench space Hearst is worth adding, at least until we see how the Week 15 carries are divvied up.

Donte Stallworth – NO: Ugh. I think I’m going to have to wash my hands after typing this guy’s name. I bashed Stallworth unabatedly earlier this year; and deservedly so. But you can’t deny the following: over the last four weeks he’s gone 20 of 35 in the passing game for a 57.14% reception ratio. That’s a tad better than his 52.6% season-to-date reception ratio. He’s also accumulated 299 receiving yards, 26 rushing yards, and 2 TDs in those last four games.

Personally, I think this guy is more unstable than a uranium particle that’s been bombarded by neutrons. (Translation: think nuclear error). But over the last four weeks he’s outperformed Mason, Owens, Lelie, Rod Smith, Clayton, Andre Johnson, and Bruce. But buyers beware: in Weeks 1, and 3 through 10, this guy was black death for WR production. Apparently Stallworth waited until our fantasy playoffs to flash some upside. Go figure.

Jerry Rice – SEA: I picked up Rice after his big Week 13 game: 145 yards and a score. While D-Jack is the main man in Seattle, Rice is clearly the #2. If you like Stallworth’s stats but don’t trust him or the Saints offense, then Rice offers similar production in a Seahawk’s passing game that is *finally* beginning to deliver on some of its preseason promises with consistency. Rice has gone 18 of 27 over the last four games. So he gets fewer opportunities than Stallworth but he does more with what he gets, as demonstrated by his much higher 66.66% reception ratio over that period. He also amassed 307 receiving yards and 2 TDs, which isn’t too bad. Then again, this week’s game versus the Jets isn’t all that great. The Jets are like the 8th best DEF at limiting WR production. So if you have a better option I’d advise you to use it this week. (Though I’m still debating starting him in my Huddle league, for what it’s worth). However, looking forward, Week 16 versus Arizona should be a cake walk for Rice and the Seahawks’ passing game. After all, Ken Dorsey just went 18 for 34 for 191 yards, 3 TDs, and no INTs in Week 14. Thus, Rice also worth adding if you anticipate needing a quality #3 WR the week after next.

Todd Heap – BAL: Did his owner give up on him yet? In TE-mandatory leagues, probably not. But in WR/TE flex leagues, maybe so. Heap was a huge part of the Ravens’ passing game last year and doesn’t appear to be any less so now that he is back. He was thrown to 10 times last week, catching 5 balls for 76 yards and 2 TDs. That made Heap Boller’s #1 pass target in Week 14. (For some perspective, the second highest pass target last week was thrown to only 7 times). Furthermore, Heap was Boller’s #1 pass target the last time he played a whole game this year (way back in Week 1) when he was thrown to 15 times. (No. That’s not a typo). I wish Heap had more of a track record to go by this year but I don’t think it really matters. In TE-mandatory leagues he is a “must start.” For those who can start him as a #3 WR/TE flex, he has “heaps” of upside. (Sorry, that was cheesy).

Rian Lindell – BUF: If you needed a kicker and saw Vanderjagt on waivers, you’d be all over him like a pitbull on a pork chop. Well, over the last four weeks Lindell has put up Vanderjagt-like numbers but he comes at virtually no cost. And that’s saying a lot because over the last four weeks Vanderjagt has been fantasy’s most productive kicker. Guess who was the 2nd most productive? Well, you’re half right, as Lindell tied with Stover for the 2nd most productive kicker during that span. But chances are Lindell is available, whereas Stover and Vandy are not.

Over the last four weeks Lindell tied Vanderjagt with the most extra points attempted (19), except Lindell hit all his. Furthermore, Lindell made 7 of his 8 field goal attempts. (For the record, Vanderjagt went 8 of 8 on his field goals over his last four games). Lindell has profited handsomely from the Bills’ surging offense. With games against the Bengals and 49ers during the next two weeks I don’t see the point-fest dying down any time soon for the Bills. So, at the very least, expect the extra points to keep streaming in like blue chip royalty payments. Over the next two weeks he looks to be very dependable source of points. However, he doesn’t attempt many long field goals; he’s attempted only one all season. So he apparently lacks monster, multiple-field goal potential.

Prior Picks That Bear Repeating

T.J. Houshmandzadeh – CIN: last week I recommend adding him for depth going into the playoffs because his upside looks so good going into the playoffs. He responded by delivering his third strong performance in a row. Considering that two of those games were against the vaunted Ravens and Patriots’ defenses I’m taking a leap of faith and starting him against the Bills in Week 15 as my #3 WR. Basically, I’m upgrading my recommendation of the best WR whose name you can’t pronounce. (It’s Push-mahn-ZAH-dun, by the way. And the T.J. stands for Touraj). If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to take the wrapper of this guy.

Jason Whitten – DAL: Whitten really cooled off since his last big performance back in Week 10 versus the Eagles. What’s that you say? Dallas plays against the Eagles again next week? Well I’ll be. Also worth notation: Whitten was thrown to 11 times last week. He hasn’t seen double-digit receiving opportunities since – again – back in Week 10 versus the Eagles.

This is just me speculating here, but I think Whitten’s recent decline in productivity resulted from a combination of Julius Jones exploding on to the scene and the short-lived Drew Henson experiment. However, Henson is back on the bench where he belongs and Jones only got 23 carries last week, relative to the 30, 33, and 30 he’d received in the prior three weeks. (Remember: he broke his shoulder blade earlier this season). I suspect that opposing DEFs are starting to key in on Jones. Well, if they do that Vinny is just going to come back to Whitten, like he did last week. Furthermore, the Eagles will, in all likelihood, get an early lead on the Cowboys. It is quite possible that Dallas will be forced to pass more trying to keep up in second half, which would benefit Whitten greatly. My only real cause for concern is that Whitten only caught 4 of the 11 passes thrown to him last week. Hopefully it’s just a bump in the road because I’m likely going to be forced to start him this week in my Huddle league.

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense

  This Week Last Week Change
CHI 42 41 +1
MIA 25 22 +3
WAS 23 21 +2
DET 20 16 +4
CLE 16 n/a  
BAL 15 18 -3
SF 14 18 -4
NYG 11 n/a  
ARI 9 19 -10

We’ve made some hay playing the match ups when it comes to team defenses. By measuring and assigning points to the worst seven teams within the seven criteria I think are most relevant (fewest points on regular offense/special teams, fewest yards, fewest first downs, most punts, most giveaways, most sacks given up to opposing DEFs, and most penalty yards forfeited) we’ve been able to identify and quantify match ups ripe for exploiting. I’ve updated the Offensive Crap-O-Meter to include Week 14’s stats and tracked the changes. Remember, the higher the score the worse the offense and, thus, the greater the opportunity likely presented to an opposing DEF.

Well, well. The Bears, Dolphins, Lions, and Redskins got worse. The Ravens, Niners, and Cardinals got better. And the Browns and Giants are back to being ranked, as both once again rank in at least three of the seven criteria considered.

Another way to look at this is how many categories each team appears in. The more categories they appear in, the more confidence you have the team sucks.

  • Surprise! Chicago wallows in all 7 categories;
  • Miami appears in 6;
  • Washington and Cleveland – 5;
  • Detroit and San Francisco – 4; and
  • Baltimore, New York Giants, and Arizona – 3.
  Week 15
CHI HOU
MIA NE
WAS at SF
CLE SD
ARI STL
SF WAS
BAL at IND
DET MIN
NYG PIT

And here are the teams facing these ineffective offenses in Week 15, with my recommendations in bold:

Houston’s DEF: They’re playing the Bears. What more do you need? I realize the Texans are in the bottom third, as fantasy DEFs go, but the Bears have a way of making bad DEFs look good. Hey, if you’ve got better options then explore them. But if you’re merely deciding between what flavor of crap you’ll starting at DEF this week, Houston has some upside. And you know they’re on waivers. Granted, Houston has the worst secondary in the NFL. Luckily the Bears can’t pass, so it may not matter. (Don’t bother looking up the Texan’s defensive sack, INT, fumble, or points allowed stats for the year. You’re better off not knowing).

San Diego’s DEF: I really, really like this match up. The Browns lost in a chaotic miasma of despair and humiliation last week that also cost them Garcia for the rest of the season. In four quarters of play the Browns only mustered 77 passing yards and 29 rushing. Furthermore, Cleveland’s offense has gained the 6th fewest yards, 3rd fewest first downs, punted the 6th most times, coughed up the 6th most turnovers, and allowed the 7th most sacks. Those stats had me checking the waiver wire quicker than Speedy Gonzalez after a double espresso.

On the flip side, the Chargers’ DEF is actually pretty solid. The downside is that they have allowed the 3rd most passing yards and accumulated the 4th fewest sacks (24). Some notable sources of upside include: the 4th most interceptions (13); 7th most total takeaways (27); they’ve allowed the fewest rushing yards per game (77.5); and the 3rd fewest field goals (15). Moreover, the Chargers’ DEF had its best game of the season against a formidable Buccaneers’ offense last week, which suggests the Bolts’ DEF is in high gear right now. Simply stated, my salivary glands are working over time in consideration of what the Chargers could do against the block-headed Charlie Browns.

St. Louis’ DEF: You might be playing with fire here. The Cardinals put up some points against a weak 49er DEF last week and St. Louis’ pass DEF isn’t exactly the model of fortitude. (They’ve allowed the 18th most production to QBs this year). However, just remember this: the Rams’ DEF kicked the holiday stuffing out of the 49ers just two weeks ago. And the 49ers and Cardinals looked pretty comparable in their battle for the bottom on the NFL last week. So there’s a good chance the Rams will have some defensive success against the Cards similar to what they did against the 49ers two weeks ago. I know it’s not a lot to pin your fantasy hopes on. But if you’re in a large league and the pickings are slim, you could do worse than the Rams this week.

Vikings’ DEF: I expect the otherwise inept Vikings’ DEF to put in a blue-collar performance against the Lions; something similar to what the Packers’ DEF did last week. The Vikes will contribute something useful but the upside is limited, especially since Winfield (CB) looks like he won’t play. However, there is some speculation that Harrington may not play this week, either. No, he hasn’t been playing great, but Mike McMahon shouldn’t scare anyone. Chew on this stat before you spit on the Vikings DEF: Harrington only threw 1 INT in his last three games, which included 72 passes. McMahon threw 1 INT in just 15 throws back in half a game in Week 12. If McMahon plays this is a pretty good call. If Harrington plays it is still serviceable.

Guys I Thought About Recommending But Opted Not To

Billy Volek – TEN: In the event that you’ve only recently regained your vision, suffer from memory loss, or just awoke from a coma, I’d like to point out that I think highly of Volek as a QB. He’s only had one bad game all year and faces the beatable secondaries of the Raiders and Lions in Weeks 15 and 17, respectively. He makes for a great QB-by-committee for a fantasy playoff team lacking a stud signal caller. Moreover, it’s looking more and more like McNair will sit out the rest of the season. The only reason I won’t *officially* recommend him this week is because he’s appeared here in the TCR like four times this year. There should probably be a limit on how often I go back to the same well. Besides, Volek likely moved up and out of the Trash Can after Monday night’s performance, anyways.

Washington’s DEF: I almost recommend this DEF. Honestly, I love them this week versus the Niners. In fact, my claim for them in my local got processed this morning because some team who didn’t even make it into the playoffs dropped them for the Bills (who only recently became available) for reasons unknown to me. However, the Skins are a top 12 DEF in both my leagues, so they are off limits to the Trash Can Report. But for what it’s worth, I’m playin’ ‘em this week against the 49ers.

Colts’ DEF: while this is an interesting match up versus the Ravens it shouldn’t surprise you that the Colts also have a top 12 fantasy DEF. Ah well, at least the TCR flogged that pony a couple of times before they escaped our mired corral. Furthermore, I had the foresight to grab them two weeks ago as a back up option just in case nothing better came around on waivers. I honestly don’t think the Ravens are as scary an offense as most perceive. Boller had some good games, but he’s had more bad. Heap is back, but Lewis is still limited. While the Ravens’ DEF always keeps them in games the Ravens’ offense actually accumulates very few yards (6th fewest yards, 4th fewest first downs, and 5th most punts). Besides, the Colts have the most fumble recoveries and the 5th most INTs this season. So I’m not afraid to start them if I have to.

Steelers’ DEF: There’s no freakin’ WAY the Steelers would be caught dead here at the Trash Can Report; they’re simply top-shelf. I just had to mention that their game versus the Giants this week will be worth watching just to see the guys from Pittsburg drive Eli into the ground like a tent stake.

Okay, well that’s about it for this week. I hope there is name or two here that might help some of you. Lord knows my playoff fate is riding shotgun with a couple of these cats. And, as always, if you have any suggestions for next week feel free to shoot me an email. Take care, good luck, and game on!