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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 15
David M. Dorey
December 13, 2004
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Brian Griese 392 3
Matt Hasselbeck 334 3
Kyle Boller 219 4
Running Backs Yards TD
T.J. Duckett 65 4
Domanick Davis 201 1
Tatum Bell 123 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Torry Holt 151 1
Michael Clayton 145 1
Cedrick Wilson 83 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Todd Heap 76 2
Christian Fauria 33 1
Jeremy Shockey 83 0
Placekickers XP FG
Rian Lindell 4 3
Matt Stover 4 3
Mike Vanderjagt 2 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Buffalo 0 8 5
San Diego 1 3 4
Carolina 0 3 7

Week 14 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Tatum Bell (DEN) - Sprained shoulder
Jeff Garcia (CLE) - Sprained knee
Jamal Lewis (BAL) - Reaggravated ankle sprain
Carson Palmer (CIN) - Sprained knee
Keenan McCardell (SD) - Hamstring strain

Because we'll forget next summer

As was pointed out last week, this "year of the tight end" has been fading away as the season progresses and defenses adjust. On Sunday, there were 30 teams playing and the tight ends accounted for 96 catches, 1008 yards and six touchdowns.

In 2003 for week 14, there were 96 catches for 956 yards and seven touchdowns. The extra 52 yards rounds out to about two yards per team better than last year at this time. With one less score.

Todd Heap led the position yesterday with two scores - his first scores of the year thanks to injury. L.J. Smith scored his fifth touchdown of the year last night but only has 299 yards receiving in 13 games. Jerame Tuman scored his second on the year but he only has 53 yards this season. Matt Schobel scored his third touchdown but he only has 162 yards this season. Christian Fauria also scored for the first time this season. There were no other touchdowns scored by tight ends on Sunday. Just the five players.

I'm going to guess... oh jeez... maybe something involving Domanick Davis?

In fantasy football, you always want to have the primary back for the NFL team since he'll get most of the running back action for his offense. Except in the case of Domanick Davis lately. The Texans lost to the Colts 23-14 yesterday but you cannot really fault Davis. You see, the Texans had 273 net yards of offense and of that, Davis totaled 211 yards. He had one of the only two touchdowns in the game (the other going on a pass to the other running back, Jonathan Wells). In fact, other than the two passes caught by Wells (in relief of Davis) it was not until the 10:05 mark in the THIRD QUARTER that a play happened which was not a run by Davis, a reception by Davis, an incompletion or a "tuck it and run" by David Carr. No completions to any tight ends or wide receivers until Bradford caught a pass at the 10:05 mark. Against the Indianapolis secondary. Just criminal, really.

Perhaps that makes the offense a tad bit predictable, but nary a Davis owner is complaining.

Ring my Bell

Reuben Droughns fumbled twice on the first offensive series by Denver, the second one being recovered by the Dolphins on the Miami 19-yard line. The next series by the offense only lasted one play - Plummer threw an interception. But the third series opened up with Tatum Bell. And more Tatum Bell. And he gained 29 yards on four carries including the seven yard touchdown run. He continued on, basically playing for two quarters before leaving with a sprained shoulder that appears to be enough to count him out for the year.

He ended with 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the 30 or so minutes that he played. For every Bell owner that had waited to see exactly that, it was a cruel final twist for that optimistic draft pick last summer when he left injured. That makes his year include 30 great minutes of play, one broken finger, a hamstring injury and a sprained shoulder.

Just think, next summer you get to decide if you want to buy the next ticket for the roller coaster ride. And he looked really, really good.... for only 30 minutes this season though ... but maybe... argh. We have seven months to ponder this one.

And the rich get richer

With three games left to go in the regular season, the playoff picture is already getting solid in most divisions and the difference between those already clinching and those still vying for a spot only gets bigger. Let's run down the divisions:

AFC

East - It's over. New England has already clinched at 12-1. The Jets (9-4) are close to clinching a wildcard and only have left SEA, NE and @STL. That should end up 11-5.

North - It's over. Pittsburgh has already clinched at 12-1. The Ravens (8-5) have a shot at a wild card and have a tough remaining schedule with @IND, @PIT and MIA.

South - It's over. Indianapolis has already clinched at 10-3. Jacksonville (7-6) still has wildcard hopes and has left @GB, HOU and @OAK.

West - It's not over technically, but the Chargers (10-3) only need to beat one of @CLE, @IND and KC to take the division. Denver (8-5) still has wildcard hopes and has left @KC, @TEN and IND.

Most likely, we're looking at first round byes for NE and PIT, then IND and SD winning their divisions. The two wildcards will go to NYJ and then either BAL, JAX or DEN.

NFC

East - It's over. Philadelphia (12-1) needs one more win to lock homefield throughout. No other East team is going to likely reach .500.

South - It's over. Atlanta only needs to win one more to lock the other homefield up, with the exception of the final trip to Philly. No other team in the South is even .500 right now.

North - The Packers (8-5) lead the Vikings (7-6) and this division will likely produce a wildcard for the team that does not win the division.

West - Seattle (7-6) and St. Louis (6-7) are still battling for the division title (if you can call it that).

Most likely, it'll be Philly and Atlanta with first round byes and then GB/MIN and SEA/STL contributing the other divisional winner. The wild cards are still wide open, at least mathematically, to many teams because the final NFC wild card might even end up 8-8.

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Kyle Boller 253 4 QB Michael Vick 176 0
RB T.J. Duckett 65 4 RB Jamal Lewis 32 0
RB Tatum Bell 117 2 RB Duce Staley 81 0
WR Joey Galloway 78 2 WR Isaac Bruce 27 0
WR Eric Parker 118 1 WR Hines Ward 38 0
WR David Patten 107 1 WR Eric Moulds 38 0
PK Rian Lindell 3 FG 4 XP PK Jeff Wilkins

1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 148

Huddle Fantasy Points = 26

Sunday's Couch Commentary

CHI 3, JAX 22 Chad Hutchinson finally got into the groove as a starting Chicago quarterback. He had 212 passing yards with no scores, one interception, one fumble and five sacks that included one safety. Starting WR's Terrell (23 yards - check) and Wade (14 yards - check). Thomas Jones only gained 26 yards on 13 rushes - check. Yep, all there. The Jaguars finally produced a boring win and for the first time this season they won a game that was already decided well before the final minute. Finally, Leftwich ended a game just taking a knee - not finding a receiver standing in the end zone to win the game.
IND 23, HOU 14 As noted above, this was just one more step into eventually making every play by the Texans contain Domanick Davis. He was almost the entire first half of offense this week and by week 17 should progress into replacing David Carr as quarterback so he can just get the ball faster and closer to the line of scrimmage. It could add an extra blocker for him that way. Peyton Manning only had 298 yards and two scores in the game (yes, all four quarters were included). It was easily his worst game in the last ten weeks and forced him into only being the #4 fantasy quarterback for the week. Manning had both his scores during the first two drives of the game - evidently he wants some drama for the ESPN game next Sunday when he can set the TD record with two touchdowns. The Colts have clinched the AFC South while the Texans now need to win out to even reach their first .500 season.
NO 27, DAL 13

The Cowboys jumped out to a 10-0 lead and Julius Jones was running well - he had a touchdown and 59 yards in the first half. But the Saints would not go away and were helped by the interception and lost fumble by Testaverde whose image in Dallas is helped only by the fact it is really hard to chant anything with "Testaverde" in it. Against the pillow soft Saints secondary he only completed 14 of 35 passes for 160 yards and no scores. Just when Dallas had won two games and were thinking playoffs, that little dream flew out the hole in Texas Stadium on Sunday. The Saints had McAllister scoring twice, Stallworth gaining 113 yards and Joe Horn catching a 31-yard "icing on the cake" touchdown. Relying on the Saints offense each week is like accepting the last car on the airport rental lot. Instead of the usual Chevette that smells like an ethnic grocery store, they got the new Taurus with a working radio. When HC Jim Haslett was asked after the game to explain the team's performance, he showed tremendous honesty - "If you figure it out, you tell me," he said. "I've been trying to figure this out for two years."

CLE 7, BUF 37 Okay - here is a definite "WOW" game. In the first quarter, the Browns intercepted Bledsoe and had the ball at the BUF 39-yard line but lost 11 yards and punted. The Bills muffed the punt and the Browns got it on the BUF 18 yard line. McCown threw an interception but a penalty negated that gave them the ball on the 7-yard line. He threw a touchdown to Northcutt. This ends anything positive for the Browns. They totaled - TOTALED MIND YOU - 29 rushing yards and 67 passing yards and with eight sacks for 79 yards lost, it means that Cleveland produced a total of only 17 yards on 46 plays. It was the 5th fewest yards allowed in NFL history. Jeff Garcia came in and lasted for one play before spraining his knee. Until the final drive that ended the game, the Browns only had TWO net yards in the game. WOW. Butch Davis again gets the "Great Timing" award for 2005. WOW. Just WOW.
NYG 14, BAL 37 The Eli Manning transition is not going so well. He only had completed four of 18 passes for 27 yards and two interceptions when Warner entered the second drive in the fourth quarter and produced 127 yards and a touchdown drive in the final six minutes of the game. That's not a nice QB comparison for Monday morning game film review. The Ravens started Jamal Lewis just to tweak fantasy owners because Lewis only gained 32 yards on eight carries before re-aggravating his ankle in a game he had no need to play. Kyle Boller threw for four touchdowns on Sunday though he only had seven scores from the previous 12 games and Todd Heap had two scores just in time to reward fantasy owners that drafted him and were playing their final game of the season before the fantasy playoffs begin without them because they wasted a high pick on a tight end that never played.
OAK 10, ATL 35 With Ronald Curry healthy, Kerry Collins threw over 300 yards in each of the last three games and had nine touchdowns in that time. With Curry gone, this week saw Collins only manage 166 yards, no scores and one interception. Jerry Porter only had 33 yards and that was second only to rookie John Stone's 62 total yards thanks to a 55 yard reception. Oakland had the first and last scores in the game but gave up 35 points between the neat little bookends. T.J. Duckett set the Atlanta record with four rushing touchdowns which doubles his season total. Vick only had 145 passing yards and 32 rushing yards but never had a turnover. It was a very boring game that allowed the Falcons to clinch the AFC South and give them the false impression that they can compete with the Eagles in the playoffs.
SEA 27, MIN 23 The last two weeks have met or exceeded all expectations of the Seattle offense this season and mainly because after the first 11 weeks no one had any expectations any more. The game looked great with a 21-20 lead by Seattle by halftime but there were only three field goals in the entire second half. About the only thing to learn here is that Randy Moss the wideout is back and Randy Moss the quarterback may never be seen again. He threw an interception to kill the winning drive that was so bad that the secondary had to fight amongst themselves to secure the ball. Both teams looked sharp and then folded for the last 30 minutes. The Vikings just folded a little quicker. The miracle is that both teams have a shot at post season play.
CIN 28, NE 35 The Corey Dillon revenge game never really happened - he had 88 yards and one score but that's low side for him. To the Bengals credit, they trailed 21-7 in the second quarter at the toughest venue in the NFL and never quit, Houshnotagaindeh had 145 yards on 12 catches while Chad Johnson had a touchdown and the Bengals played the entire game as good but - eh - not quite good enough. Carson left in the third quarter with a sprained knee but already had 202 yards and two scores. The biggest difference maker in the game was the interception returned for a score - otherwise they both played fairly evenly. The difference of good and not quite good enough is 12-1 and 6-7 on the season.
MIA 17, DEN 20 This was a much closer game than expected. Reuben Droughns excelled only with fumbling and after two fumbles in one drive, he gave way to Clinton Portis Tatum Bell who slashed the Miami defense for 123 yards on 17 carries and two very important touchdowns. Like a the biggest firework that ends the show, he looked great - awe-inspiring even - and then fizzled out and came crashing back to the injury list with a shoulder sprain. Droughns went back in and ended with 62 yards on 18 carries - about half what Bell had done. Jake Plummer is completely regaining the old Cardinal form and threw for two interceptions. The Dolphins didn't do much really other than go +2 in turnover differential and just miss out on a chance to remain one game ahead of the 49ers. Now they are tied again for being the worst team in the NFL. They face New England this week. This would have been an upset in previous seasons but not this year where the bad never catch a break.
NYJ 6, PIT 17 A predictably boring game that only produced two touchdowns (both Steeler) and yet five interceptions by the attending quarterbacks. The Steelers rise to 12-1 for the first time in franchise history while Roethlisberger extends the record-breaking winning streak at 11 games even though he only threw 9 of 19 for 144 yards and two interceptions while Bettis had to throw the lone passing score. This was defense all the way and while both Bettis and Martin exceeded the 13,000 yard mark, neither had runs longer than 13 yards. Chad Pennington had three interceptions after only having four in the last nine games. The Steelers are playing like the Patriots - always just good enough only with a lot less points needed to win.
TB 24, SD 31 This was a great game - almost the Game of the Week. Keenan McCardell had his chance for some revenge against his old team but only had 30 yards on three catches by the end of the first half. Mike Clayton took one step closer to offensive rookie of the year with nine catches for 145 yards and a score but he'll likely lose that to the Heisman Factor (quarterback from the most winning team always wins). This was just a treat to watch - Griese led all QB's with 392 yards and three scores while Brees 220 yards and two scores combined with Tomlinson's 150 yards and one score was enough to cement the win thanks to Donnie Edwards returning a Griese interception for a touchdown in the 4th quarter. Griese hit a total of ten different receivers including himself (-4 yards) and twelve if you can count Quentin Jammer and Donnie Edwards. Just a solid, fun game that featured tit-for-tat touchdowns but Tampa Bay missed their final turn.
STL 7, CAR 20 Like a retro game from last year, Holt had 151 yards and one score and the Panthers recorded six interceptions (hint - they figured out Holt was getting all the throws). There were 21 total points scored in the first quarter, then only two Kasay field goals in the second quarter followed by zero points by either team in the entire second half. The Panthers rise to 6-7 which actually means something in the NFC while the Rams fall to 6-7 which actually still means something in the NFC. But life without Bulger is only worthwhile if you own Holt. And pretty much only for the first quarter.
DET 13, GB 16 This was a matchup that had fantasy teams with Packers salivating as they could end the season strong for the final playoff push or in some leagues, start out red hot using players that had scored 38 points in Detroit back in week six. Gotcha. Brett Favre only threw for 188 yards and one score to Donald Driver. Ahman? 96 yards and no score. Javon? 26 yards. Ends up the only decent Packer player was Longwell with ten points. Kevin Jones only had five yards on two carries in the first meeting but ended with 156 yards and a score on Sunday. Joey Harrington completed 5 of 22 for 47 yards and his only saving grace is that Mike McMahon has previously proven to be worse. The Packers needed Ryan Longwell to kick three field goals in the driving 23 MPH wind in order to win. What a fantasy downer.
PHI 17, WAS 14 This was the late game and it featured the explosive Eagle offense so plenty of fantasy hopes were pinned on this game.... 'sigh'... McNabb had 260 yards and one score and one interception against Ramsey who threw almost the exact same numbers less the touchdown. Clinton Portis had two touchdowns and Todd Pinkston was the best PHI receiver with 99 yards though he showed a less than dedicated effort when a pass was in traffic. Terrell Owens only had 46 yards and no score but probably had the hit of the game when he was pushed out of bounds and obliterated a cheerleader and then a second guy who also fell on the cheerleader. In previous years, this would have been an upset and the Redskins were clearly the pumped up team but not this year. The Eagles will be driving to every playoff game until the Superbowl.

Game-O-The-Week

It was a week of several blowouts as expected but punctuated with the Colts almost struggling, Seattle playing a full 60 minutes, Miami still trying hard and the best of the NFL - NE, PIT and PHI - all winning their games by close margins. This is the first time in the history of the NFL that there are three 12-1 teams. Considering the matchups this week - NE@MIA, PIT@NYG and DAL@PHI, we're likely going to have three 13-1 teams this time next week.

There were no 40 point games last week and eight teams scored no more than one offensive touchdown. The Game of The Week was nearly SD-TB but since we are in the more whimsical holiday season, the GOTW goes to the game that no one ever saw coming. And even fewer likely watched. We're heading to Phoenix now.

Entering the game with a 1-11 record, the only newsworthy item from the Bay Area is that HC Dennis Erickson was predictably rumored as soon to be fired which was later refuted by the owners which was later compounded by the report that Erickson is being considered as the new headcoach for Ole Miss. Chances are when Erickson asks how much the top job at Ole Miss goes for and is told the amount, he'll ask them "can I write you a check now?"

Now then, I ask you - can it get any stranger for the 49ers this season? It's strange enough to have all these 12-1 teams like Philadelphia but to witness the once-proud 49ers reduced to a 1-11 team has been bizarre. But not quite weird enough for me or you.

You see, back in week five, the Cardinals came to the Bay Area and by the fourth quarter they were ahead 28-14 with only eight minutes left to play. The 49ers took the next series 80 yards and scored a touchdown. They they held the Cardinals to three and out and on their final series, they scored a touchdown which included a two point conversion to tie. The Cardinals did nothing in the last minute and went into overtime where the 49ers won the toss and then drove from their own 39-yard line to kick the winning 32-yard field goal. 31-28. Oddly surprising from a team usually devoid of offense.

This Sunday the 49ers went into the fourth quarter with a 28-10 lead but the Cardinals scored with 12:01 left to play to make the score 28-17. Could it be happening? The Cardinals doing right back to the 49ers what happened to them? Wouldn't that be weird?

The 49ers took over on their own 36-yard line and chewed up almost four minutes on 11 plays that happened mainly because of a running into the punter penalty on the Cardinals at the ARZ 49-yard line. No matter, they punted and the Cardinals took over on their own 20-yard line on the touchback.

The Cardinals then traded punts with the 49ers and got the ball back with only 4:18 left to play in a game they trailed 28-17. Driving from their own 44-yard line, Josh McCown drove the team downfield until there was only 2:47 left to play when Emmitt Smith rushed in a touchdown to make the score 28-23. The Cardinals went for a two point conversion and made it when McCown ran it in. The score was now only 28-25 and oddly resembling the first game. The Cardinals were only a field goal from tying the game just like the 49ers had done to them.

The 49ers took over on their own 20-yard line and an offensive holding call made it first and 20 from the SF 10-yard line. Then Maurice Hicks lost two yards. Then an incompletion. On third and 22 from their own eight yard line, they took the safe route and ran Terry Jackson up the middle for 11 yards until he lost a fumble and the Cardinals took over on the SF 20-yard line with 2:16 left to play. It was happening. It was pay back time.

Emmitt ran for 11 yards to the 9-yard line. Then Emmitt lost two yards. Then McCown ran for seven. Finally on third down, McCown finally threw a pass that was incomplete. They kicked the 22-yard field goal to knot the score at 28-28 with only 54 seconds left to play. Since the 49ers did nothing on their final series, it went into overtime. Again.

The 49ers won the coin flip and reached the ARZ 37-yard line before deciding to punt. The Cardinals went three downs and lost six yards before punting to midfield where the 49ers only needed five plays to reach the ARI 13-yard line where on first down they kicked the winning field goal. Again. 31-28 in overtime. Again. The 49ers are now 2-0 against Arizona and 0-11 against the rest of the world.

Oh yes, it is pretty strange to see that the 49ers can win only two games this season and both against the same team. But that's not all that weird.

And yes, they won both games by the exact same score in overtime - 31-28. Very weird, but not quite weird enough.

Because you see the 49ers finally won a road game. They are a terrible road team, obviously, and yet it ends up that their final win in 2003 actually came on the road. It means that their last three wins have taken 16 games to accomplish. And so I checked what that final win was to see how it compared to this lucky 31-28 ownership that they hold over the Cardinals. Exactly what was their last win?

(cue theme from The Twilight Zone)

...in that middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition...

Imagine - the 49ers only have three wins in their last sixteen games and each one is exactly the same as the one before. Evidently good things really do come in threes. Or is that celebrity deaths?

Now get back to work...