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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Commentary From the Edge
Kevin Ratterree
December 21, 2004

And then it came crashing down.  The city of Philadelphia shuddered at 4:08 EST when the news broke Monday that Owens needed surgery.  The dream season and the Superbowl to come were yanked out from under the long suffering Philadelphia faithful.  This is a cruel game sometimes.  

Worse yet, in the big picture the Superbowl will actually occur in the AFC Championship game.  Once again we are denied.  I guess that's why they invented alcohol at Superbowl parties.

Since we are wallowing in misery let's talk about a subject fresh on the minds of so many as we get into Fantasy Championship week.  I am talking of the dreaded Stud Dud syndrome.  You know, the guy you drafted who kicked ash for you all year to get you to the playoffs, then tanks when it matters the most.  Peyton Manning almost single handedly took many owners to the playoffs.  Then owners faced with a tough week 15 match-up with the dreaded Ravens defense.  What do you do?  The old golden rule which I generally agree with is ALWAYS start your studs. 

If you started Manning last Sunday, and your opponent started his fresh waiver wire wonder Billy Volek chances are you are feeling extreme hatred for the Oakland defense, Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy, Drew Bennett, Volek himself, The Huddle, the always start your studs theory, and your life in general.

I understand how you feel.  I have been victim of this syndrome countless times.  I am rarely out of the top 3 in points in any of my leagues, yet I am usually blasted out before the Championship game.  Something must be going wrong along the way.  I feel your pain.

Avoiding the minefield of Stud Duds is a tricky business.  And it doesn't matter what you do, or who you listen to.  The Stud Dud can happen at any time to any player.  Chad Johnson, who had put together as solid a run of fantasy points as any receiver over the last 6 weeks took a huge dive against Buffalo.  He looked rock solid, even against the tough defenses the Bengals had faced recently.  No reason to bench him.  Right?  Chad Johnson:  10 yards receiving.  Chad Johnson owners:  Drinking heavily.

Reuben Droughns no doubt helped many a fantasy player patch a hole at running back to lift them to a playoff spot.  But in the end the dreaded RBBC reared its ugly head when it mattered most.  Against that tantalizing Kansas City defense no less.  Now the Rat says it's Bell in week 16.  Reuben, thanks for coming.  Ouch.

Of course the Stud Dud of the day was Terrell Owens.  The injury Stud Dud is easier to take because the resulting playoff loss it totally off you.  You don't need an excuse why you didn't win your league, it is already built in and installed.  But it sure must hurt if you had Drew Bennett sitting on your bench.  Double ouch.

Things just keep getting more morbid in the NFC.  It truly is the modern dark comedy.  The Eagles who before kick-off Sunday appeared to have the world by the tail were blasted by cruel fate when T.O. limped off the field and into the tunnel.  What followed was a decidedly different brand of football considering the team barely fended off the clueless Cowboys to clinch home field.  The Eagles might make it to the Superbowl without Owens, but they won't have a prayer of winning it, and it won't be the game we've all been waiting for. 

And even more Owens deserved it and the city of Philadelphia deserved it, and we deserved it.  I think I'm going to cry.  Well, on the inside anyway.

While Philadelphia may have been tempted to rest some starters in the coming weeks, I think the T.O. injury will force Andy Reid to use the last 2 regular season games to re-tool the offense for life without the main cog.  Westbrook, and those other guys the Eagles have will be forced to pick up the slack.  Just a hunch on my part.  Please do not go out and pick up Chad Pinkston from waivers and start him.  Did I really need to say that?  Probably not.

It was a very happy Sunday for me because I miraculously targeted and drafted Drew Bennett and Muhsin Muhammad this season.  Brilliant or lucky?  A little of both.  Without the loss of Steve Smith for the season Muhammad most surely would have not exploded the way he has.  And without the arrival of Billy Volek?  Drew Bennett would have probably finished the season with 3 touchdowns total instead of scoring 3 every game. 

When I drafted those late rounders I envisioned them as bench depth with lots of upside rather than a wrecking crew capable of single handedly leading my team to a league Championship game.  Do I ride them again this week and leave my other two top 10 wide receivers on the bench?  I benched Chad Johnson last week in favor of Bennett.  Crucial decision.  Always play your studs?

Team depth is to strive for.  But to every solution there is a problem. 

The battle for the 6th playoff spot in the NFC is a bizarro world where teams we forgot long ago have suddenly been thrust into contention against their will.  And teams that looked like contenders early on are clinging to hope like fungus on a shower curtain.  

After week 4 the Buffalo Bills were at the head of the Misery Index, and I was praying Bledsoe would just go ahead and retire so I didn't have to watch the slaughter any more.  But with a defense behind him, a running game, and an offensive line that gives him time Bledsoe resembles the quarterback that took his team to a Superbowl.  And suddenly the Bills are the team nobody wants to face in the first round of the playoffs.  The Bills have to be the comeback team of the year.  Horns off to the Bills.

The Arizona Cardinals can "win" their division with 2 'zona wins and 2 losses by both the Rams and Seahawks.  Judging the matchups of the 3 teams, the Cardinals have a real shot at it.  The Rams look unlikely to win either of their last two games against superior opponents.  The Cardinals need to beat Seattle on the road and a seemingly disinterested Tampa team at home, and they will probably be the unlikely Champion of the division nobody wants.  I guess how crappy your house looks depends on what neighborhood you live in.  The NFC West is the ghetto of the NFL. 

A special thanks to Ed Reed for giving ESPN a reason to yank the "open mike" off Ray Ray, and spare us from an up close and personal experience I think we've have all grown tired of.

The only thing more annoying than listening to 'I Think' and 'Watch This' announce a game once a week is listening to them announce games on back to back nights.

In rare moments of extreme boredom or carelessness I will turn my radio dial to ESPN to see what Dan Patrick has to say.  But it's always the same.  Do I know I will be bored out of my skull when I listen to the Dan Patrick show?  Yes.  Do I do it anyway out of some sick morbid curiosity.  Yes.  Do I feel good about myself afterwards? No.  Do I understand why asking yourself questions and then answering them is all the rage in talk radio?  Hell no.

MISERY INDEX

10) PANTHERS:  At around midnight last Saturday night, the Panthers seemed to be condition critical for the playoff spot they had been striving for.  Fresh off a loss to Vick the miracle diver and the Falcons they looked dead in the water.  Never underestimate the ineptitude of the NFC.  All the teams poised to move into Carolina's 6 seed spent Sunday tucking their tails between their legs and peeing on the carpet.  When the smoke cleared on Monday the Panthers found themselves right where they were before the NFL weekend started.  It's like a giant cruise missile just whizzed right past their heads.  Unreal.  John Fox, you must be living right.  You are definitely in the right conference.  I still say watch this team.

9) CARDINALS:  Despite Denny Green throwing a monkey wrench in the engine this team is still mathematically in contention for the division nobody wants to win.  Fans will be holding their breath to see if Coach yanks McCown at halftime of a 7-7 game in Seattle next week.  If there is a method to Coach Green's madness and he gets this team to a Conference Championship game in the next few years while Bill Bidwell is still the owner, he is God.  Until then he is just another coach in the league that makes me scratch my head. 

8) BRONCOS:  Denver had looked mighty suspicious lately and the train wreck in Kansas City confirms it.  Pretenders.  Let me just say this.  I liked Jake Plummer as a young player.  I felt sorry for Jake Plummer stuck in Arizona all those years.  I don't blame Jake for flipping the bird to that guy in the stands talking about his mama.  But let me be among the first to say that Shenanigan's commitment to Plummer will be his undoing in Denver, because Jake Plummer will never lead a team to the promised land.  And that includes your fantasy team.  As for his current bad run.  I'm afraid it's the beard.  Things are going wrong since you grew the hedge Jake.  Why can't you see that?  If one of Jakes friends or family would just buy Jake a Norelco for Christmas he may feel compelled to use it, and Denver can still make the playoffs. 

7) COWBOYS:  Not only took themselves and their coach's enormous ego down this season, now they have taken down the whole conference with one rare tackle.

6) RAMS:  Mike Martz discovered that a one dimensional offense really sucks when you have a quarterback that really sucks trying to run it.  This team has turned out even worse than I told you they were going to be back in week 2.  Rams fans will be happy to tank the rest of the season if it gets Martz thrown out on his smug ash.  

5) SEAHAWKS:  At 7-7 they are the cream of the NFC West crop.  Wow. Let that sink in.  But never fear there is still a good chance they will blow this. Now they find themselves in a must win game to fend off the charge of the .......(gulp)...Arizona Cardinals???!!!  A popular dark horse Superbowl contender just 4 short months ago, this team has underachieved at a level rarely seen in modern sports.  Note to the Seattle brass.  Keep Shaun Alexander.  Sick the poachers on the Walrus.

4) BUCCANEERS:  While it looked like Tampa's season was over early this season, little did they know the pack would slide back to them like a huge iceball of mammoth dung. With the opportunity to get to the playoffs despite their pathetic season, they could not figure out a way to outscore the equally dysfunctional Saints.  Not a huge surprise but not exactly the character you expect from a team 2 years removed from a Championship.  Stunned Bucs fans are thinking Chuckie's facial contortions just aren't so cute when the season ends turns out to be a horror movie.

3) RICKY WILLIAMS:  Ricky said he did not know why he should apologize to the Dolphins or their fans.  It seems the weedmeister takes no responsibility for the Dolphins worst season in decades.  I'm guessing Ricky never received any parental guidance in the area of "do unto others" or that foolishness about how to avoid selfish disregard for others.  Apparently the weed also affects ones fashion sense.  Ricky's beard is a doozy.  Kind of Uncle Remus. Or with that overbite maybe a younger version of Grady from Sanford and Son.  If Ricky keeps huffing the weed, he will be Grady in 20 years.

2) LIONS:  Coach Steve by this time realizes just how big a wall he is up against.  This is a team that rips out the hearts of its fans, and coaches, and people who appreciate fine football everywhere.  The missed extra point at the end of the game would have been stunning to any other team in the league.  Just another day at the office for this cursed franchise.    

1) BROWNS:  I think it is safe to say at this point that the Browns are truly the worst team in the league, and take over the top spot in the misery index.  While Cleveland fans may be stunned by the development, this team has actually looked even worse since Butch Davis hit the bricks.  Terry Robiskie is the leagues new interim coach poster child, taking over teams Jesus himself could not heal.  The Browns will need to recruit someone near that status to turn this ship around.  I don't know what this team is made of, but it is supposed to be made of tough guys that would never let a bunch of West Coast boys come in and shove them around in a blizzard.