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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

The Trash Can Report - Mooching for Week 16
Dennis Leonard
December 23, 2004

Hello again and welcome back to the Trash Can Report. Despite a very high point total last week I got beat in my local. But at least I went out gun blazing, as I’d have beaten any other team in the league. That’s better than getting punked, I suppose. Still, I started the Trash Can Report to fill the gaping, injury-related holes in my roster. (8 of the 14 players on my local roster were Trash Can Report alumni last week and countless others have been used for spot duty). For a second there I almost thought the bailing wire and duct tape was going to hold me over through the Super Bowl. Alas, no.

Now, I don’t mind losing to a superior team and/or coach. But the guy who beat me didn’t have a single injury all year. (Lucky SOB). And that’s just the way it goes sometime. I’m sure there are a number of you out there in the same boat. For those joining me on the sidelines I’m offering up some keeper prospects that you might want to add to your roster, if your league permits add/drops during the playoffs. And, as always, I’ll be serving up some piping hot swill that could be of use for those still in the hunt. As usual, I’ll be using a couple of these guys this week, as I did manage to make it to the semi-finals in my Huddle league.

And This Week’s Desperation Play Is…

A.J. Feely – MIA: A week ago you’d have been laughing your ass off at this suggestion. But after beating the Patriots on Monday night the guffaws probably aren’t as gregarious. Course, I doubt you trust a QB who, just a week ago, most disregarded as a fantasy after-thought. And I can’t say I blame you. However, last week I recommend Patrick Ramsey based on the notion that if you were really, really, really desperate at QB he’d contribute; basically that he wouldn’t lose the game for you. Feely is merely this week’s version of that same theme. My “last resort” QB pick, if you will. Let’s see what this slug has going for him in Week 16.

  • Over the last 5 weeks Feely was the 17th best QB in my Huddle league. That may not sound like much. But considering he played against the Bills, Broncos, and Patriots’ defenses, 17th best isn’t so bad;
  • He attempted the most passes of any QB during that time (199), which tells me the Dolphins are a pass-first team right now. And more passes equals more opportunities for QB production;
  • He threw for 1059 yards, which means he averaged a little over 200 yards per game. That’s serviceable;
  • He threw 8 TDs during the last five games. That’s the same number Delhomme and Brooks posted, and more than Favre, Brady, Vick, Brees, Vick, Plummer, or Boller – all of whom played in each of the last 5 games;
  • He has thrown at least 1 TD in each of the last five games (so there is some consistency) but somehow managed to throw 3 against the Bills (so there is some upside);
  • He also scored 1 TD on the ground;
  • He’s a little shakier when it comes to INTs. However, while he got picked 5 times by the sturdy Bills’ DEF, he only threw 2 against the Seahawks, 1 to my 49ers, 1 to the Broncos, and 0 to the Patriots;
  • There are also some intangible factors in play here, the most significant of which is last week’s stunning upset of the Patriots. With Coach Bates and Feely both auditioning for their jobs next year I expect both to put in 110% this week. Plus, the Dolphins’ DEF has proven they are still playing tough.

Week 16’s opponent – the Browns – make for a good match up because the girls from Cleveland are getting killed on both sides of the ball.

  • Over the last four games the Browns’ DEF has only managed 5 INTs;
  • Over those last four games they also have only 4 sacks – total – and have the NFL’s 2nd fewest this season (24). That tells me they shouldn’t put too much pressure on Feely, which is good because the Dolphins’ offensive line has allowed the 4th most sacks this season so far;
  • Over the last 8 games the Browns’ DEF has also allowed an eye-popping average of 31.6 points per game; and
  • On offense, the Browns are sporting the NFL’s 2nd worst time of possession – a paltry 27:27. They are also tied for the 3rd most giveaways (34) and 2nd fewest first downs per game (15.2), which tells me Feely and the Dolphin offense should get the ball back a lot and see ample time on the field.

Should you bench a proven performer for Feely? HELL NO!!! But if you’re scratching your head, have no depth at QB, and are basically one step away from picking a name out of a hat, then I recommend Feely this week. The game will be a dirty battle fought in the bottom of the NFL barrel, but Feely should perform adequately.

And Now, Joining Us For The First Time…

Lee Suggs – CLE: Suggs is actually available in 20% of CBS Sportsline leagues. Is he available in yours? If so – especially if it’s a keeper or dynasty league – make room for him. With Butch Davis gone and Suggs healthy again, Suggs is basically auditioning for the starting gig next year. William Green simply didn’t do enough on the field, and failed to garner enough support off the field, in order to lock that job up. If you’re hesitant because the Browns are horrible this year (I did just spend some time bashing them, didn’t I) let me ask you this: how were the Chargers last year? Or the Panthers the year before that? Parity abounds in the NFL so don’t get too caught up in this year’s standings. Suggs could very well make for a nice keeper prospect.

Secondly, Suggs was the only bright spot in the Browns’ shut out last week. He carried the ball 21 times, putting 105 yards on one of – if not *the* – best run defense in the NFL. Folks, that’s an astonishing 5 yards per carry. And it came in horrible weather. Green only got 5 carries, so it looks like Suggs may have recaptured the lead role in the Browns’ backfield. Further consider that this week’s opponent, the Dolphins, have a real tough time defending the run. They allow the NFL’s 3rd highest average rushing yards per game (140.7), an average of 4.3 yards per carry, and have been scored on 11 times on the ground. Most recently, Dillon slapped 121 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, and added another short-yardage receiving TD on the ‘Phins. Furthermore, consider that Suggs put 82 yards and a TD on the virile Redskins’ DEF back in Week 4, 119 total yards and a score on the Bengals in Week 6, and 83 combined yards and a TD on the Eagles in Week 7. While I like the Dolphins to beat the Browns this week, Suggs should do well enough to serve as a decent #2 RB.

Tatum Bell – DEN: His health is a concern. He lost a critical fumble last week. You can’t trust any news that comes from the mouth of a Bronco coach. And yet everyone and their mother has recommended Bell over the last few weeks. Thus, you don’t need me to point out the obvious. Personally, I still think Droughns and/or Hearst will still be very much in the mix this week. So Bell’s projected utility in Week 15 has more question marks than the Riddler’s Underoos. If you’re ultra-desperate for a RB, I guess he’ll do. But I’ve gotta believe you can find safer options.

I’m recommending Bell for a different purpose. Bell has an outside chance to be the featured Denver running back next year. So if you are in a deep keeper league, or a dynasty league, Bell makes a nice late-season addition to your roster… maybe even for those who are out of the playoffs already.

Michael Bennett – MIN: What a waste of an early draft pick, this guy was. He’s fast but fragile. Course, now he’s healthy and starting; right when I no longer need him. Figures. But if he is available he makes sense this week for two reasons.

First, there is a good chance he’ll get the bulk of the carries versus Green Bay. Tice has named him the starter versus a Packers’ DEF that has allowed the 6th most production to RBs this season. But I’ve seen that song and dance before from Tice, so take it with a grain of salt. However, Bennett did get 13 of the 19 handoffs last week earning 51 yards on the ground, an okay 3.92 ypc, and 1 of those runs came in the red zone. He also went 3 of 3 in the passing game for an additional 51 receiving yards. Since no defense is going to stack the box against the Vikings, thus daring Culpepper to beat them through the air, the Minnesota running game stands a nice chance to put up some fantasy production in Week 16. *If* Bennett is the featured back, I think he’ll have his best game of the year… unless he gets hurt. (Again). So Bennett is a high-risk, high-reward play this week.

Secondarily, there is some speculation that the Vikings might let Bennett go at the end of this season because they have a deep backfield. It’s just conjecture, mind you. But if you’re in a deep keeper or dynasty league – and Bennett is just sitting there on waivers – he is worth a flyer just to see what happens next year.

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense

Hopefully by now you understand my methodology. (If not, please take a gander at past articles where I explain in excruciating, anal-retentive detail how I come up with these numbers). Basically big numbers = terrible offense. Small numbers = slightly less terrible offense. And our job is to exploit them mercilessly. Updating the Offensive Crap-O-Meter for Week 15’s stats, here’s how things look going into Week 16:

  This Week Last Week Change
CHI 42 42 0
MIA 28 25 +3
WAS 25 23 +2
SF 19 14 +5
CLE 17 16 +1
BAL 15 15 0
DET 13 20 -7
BUF 9 n/a n/a
ARZ 6 9 -3

Okay, so Miami, Washington, San Francisco, and Cleveland got worse. Chicago and Baltimore stayed the same. Detroit and Arizona got better. Buffalo is back to being rank, which makes sense because it’s their DEF that’s winning games. And since the Giants no longer appear as one of the seven worst teams in the seven categories I measure, they are no longer on the list.

Speaking of which, how many times do each of the above teams appear in those seven categories? I’m glad you asked.

  • Chicago is still on all seven lists, is the worst in five of them, but is also threatening to escape from “most penalty yards given up;”
  • Miami appears in 6;
  • Washington – 5;
  • San Francisco, Detroit, and Cleveland – 4; and
  • Arizona, Baltimore, and Buffalo – 3.
  Week 16 Week 17
CHI at DET GB
MIA CLE at BAL
WAS at DAL MIN
SF BUF at NE
CLE at MIA at HOU
BAL at PIT MIA
DET CHI at TEN
BUF at SF PIT
ARZ at SEA TB

Okay. Let’s find out who these losers play against in Week 16. The opponents in bold form the basis for my team defense recommendations this week. I’ve also included their opponents for Week 17, in the event that you’d like to plan a week in advance.

As usual, I’m not going to recommend any of the top-12 fantasy DEFs. So that excludes Buffalo, Pittsburg, and Chicago from contention. In addition, anyone seriously considering Cleveland or San Francisco’s defenses at this point in the season should consider an extended stay at your local Betty Ford Clinic. You’ve clearly got a larger problem to deal with. That leaves the following:

Detroit’s DEF: Last week I recommended Houston’s DEF – who, for the record, sucks – and they ended up ranking as the second best fantasy DEF in Week 15 in my Huddle league. No one figured the warm-blooded Texans could hang in the cold weather. Surprise, surprise: the Bears went into hibernation on offense. (Again).

And when you factor out Week 15, Detroit has performed much better than the Texans on defense this season. For example, through Week 14 the Lions’ DEF had scored 131 points in my Huddle league, relative to the Texans 106. So I really like the Lions’ chances here. Oh, and there is one other small matter. Remember when the Lions and the Bears faced off waaaaaay back in Week 1? (I didn’t either). If you check your league’s stats you’ll find that was the Lions’ best defensive fantasy performance of the year so far. So let me ask you this: do you think the Bears are playing better or worse now, relative to Week 1? (Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question). Since the Lions’ DEF is also largely available on waivers, they make for an outstanding one week pick up. I snagged them and will play them with confidence this week.

Dallas’ DEF: This week Dallas plays the Redskins. Overall, the Cowboys have one of the worst defenses for fantasy. However, over the last four games they’ve scored the 9th most points in my Huddle league. Sure, one of those games came against the Bears in Week 11; everyone blows up against the Bears. But one of those games also came against the Eagles (in Week 14) where the Cowboys’ DEF had its 3 rd best fantasy performance of the year. So maybe the ‘Boys DEF has some juice right now.

Considering that Washington’s offense appears in four of the seven categories we rank (2nd worst in points scored, tied for 4th worst yards per game, 2nd most punts, and 2nd most yards given up to penalties) this appears to be another good week to play Dallas’ DEF. I figure if Dallas can give McNabb a run for his money, take Owens out for the season, and hold the Eagles to just 12 points, then they should perform similarly as well against a Redskins’ offense that isn’t nearly as good.

Miami’s DEF: If you watched Monday night’s game against the Patriots, who most believe are going to this year’s Super Bowl, then this pick makes some sense. Not only did Miami beat the Pats, they picked the normally accurate Tom Brady off four times and sacked him twice. I shudder to think of what a revved up Dolphins’ team could do the servile Charlie Browns.

Granted, (and as stated above) Suggs is back and Miami is vulnerable to the run. However, Miami has allowed the 2nd fewest passing yards per game (164.8), has allowed the 6th fewest passing TDs (18), is tied for the 9th most sacks (34), has allowed the 8th fewest first downs per game, has a so-so 13 INTs this season, has given up a relatively low 777 penalty yards on defense, and is tied for 5th fewest field goals allowed (17). So, they really aren’t doing that bad of a job on DEF.

The Browns, on the other hand, are morbid on offense. They got blanked last week, have the 6th fewest points on offense/special teams, 4th fewest yards per game, tied for 3rd most giveaways, and 2nd fewest first downs. While the Dolphins’ DEF is not an every week play, they should do well enough this week to keep your post-season competitive.

Seattle’s DEF: This is my least favorite team DEF pick this week. The Seahawks collapsed this year like a 2-month old jack-o-lantern. The only reason this pick makes any sense at all is because they are playing the Cardinals. The Cards are schizophrenic on offense this year, though. Sometimes they show up; sometimes they don’t. So you’re playing Russian roulette here. However, if you’re in a deep league and better options just aren’t available, then Seattle is worth a shot. Just be warned: it’ll be from half court, at the buzzer.

Prior Picks That Bear Repeating

Kerry Collins – OAK: Over the last five weeks Collins has been the most productive QB, second only to Manning. Narrowing the scope to just the last four weeks Collins was still the most productive QB, second only Volek. Gee. I wonder what he might do against a Kansas City DEF that has allowed the MOST production to QBs this season? Unless you’ve got Manning Deluxe, Culpepper, or *maybe* Volek on your roster, start Collins.

Dante Hall – KC: See above. Now, consider that Hall is also this season’s most prolific kick returner with 1458 yards and 2 TDs. He also returns punts and plays a little on regular offense. If you get individual points in the return game, Hall makes a lot of sense this week because these two teams should be trading scores with frequency.

Dorsey Levens – PHI: Westbrook got hurt bad last year. Westbrook got hurt bad – again – earlier this year. The Eagles just lost T.O. for what appears to be the remainder of the season. And the team has nothing left to play for until the NFL playoffs. Given those facts, its likely Westbrook will be used sparingly for the remaining two regular season games. With Mahe ailing and Levens already the short yardage/goal line back, Levens has the best chance to inherit a significant amount of additional touches. If you are relying on Westbrook in the playoffs you should probably snag Levens just in case. Even if you don’t, Levens still makes for a decent speculative upside acquisition/desperation play.

Antonio Chatman – GB: By now everyone has seen the dastardly hit put Ferguson last week. I’m glad to hear he was scheduled to rejoin the Packers sometime Wednesday and that the injury isn’t a serious as it could have been. However, Mike Sherman has already ruled Ferguson out for this Friday’s game. (That’s right. The Vikings and Packers play on Friday, so get your line ups set in advance). In his stead, Chatman steps into the #3 WR role. Chatman really only has appeal as a medium-upside player for those who get individual points in the return game. He’ll certainly perform punt return duties, as he did last week. He’ll likely also split kick off return duties with Davenport, as Chatman is #3 on the depth chart in that department (behind Ferguson). Here are some other things you might like to know about Chatman:

  • He went 4 of 6 last week for 48 yards and a TD, plus another 50+ punt return yards;
  • However, his reception ratio is embarrassingly below 50%;
  • The last time Ferguson was out (back in Week 6) Chatman filled in well going 5 of 9 for 50 receiving yards, plus another 32 punt return yards;
  • This week’s opponent – the Vikings – have allowed the 12th most production to wide receivers this year;
  • The Vikings and Packers are tied at 8-6 in the NFC North, which makes this week’s game important to both teams. This could easily turn into a shootout;
  • Favre torched the Vikings for 4 TDs the last time these two teams met (Week 10); and
  • If Winfield (the Vikings best, though injured, corner back) can’t go this weekend, or is limited, the depleted Vikings’ secondary could very well loose track of Chatman as they spend the bulk of their time trying to contain Driver, Walker, and Ahman Green.

Yeah, Chatman’s upside is limited. But if you get points in the return game, so is his downside. He’d make a decent #3 WR if your other options are looking too risky.

Ben Troupe – TEN: If you’re searching for a quality tight end (perhaps to replace Alge Crumpler?) then I like Ben Troupe this week. While previous TE recommendations by the Trash Can Report remain solid (e.g., Gates, Erickson, McMichael, Cooley, Wiggins, Shockey, and Heap) I’d like to add Troupe to the list.

Troupe didn’t play much this year, but he really came on last week and seems to have developed a rapport with Billy Volek. Troupe had a very impressive 9 passes thrown his way last week, catching 6 of those for 75 yards and a TD. Now that’s sweet. That tied him with Gates as last week’s most productive TE. Perhaps more telling of his potential value is that he was targeted 4 times in the red zone. That smacks of opportunity to me. While I would NOT bench a proven performer like Gonzo, Heap, or Gates, if you’re searching for a TE during the fantasy post-season Troupe offers some tempting upside.

Rian Lindell – BUF: He was nails last week. In fact, he’s now the most productive kicker over the last five weeks. Since the Bills are playing my decrepit 49ers this week he continues to make a strong play off extra point potential alone. Also, did you know that the 49ers are tied with the 4th most field goal attempts allowed, at 27? I didn’t know that, either. So hopefully you snagged Lindell after I recommend him last week. Because the cat is pretty much out of the bag on this guy. For what it’s worth, I’m giving him the start this week.

Jason Hanson – DET: Got beat to Lindell? Check on Hanson’s availability. I’ve recommend him before and he’s done an adequate job. However, it’s worth noting that over the last 5 weeks he has been fantasy’s 4th best kicker; just a hair below Matt Stover. Only Vanderjagt and Lindell have performed substantially better. During that span he’s gone 6 of 6 on extra points, but seems to make his money on field goals, as he’s gone 12 of 13 there. Oh, and one other thing: this week’s opponent – Chicago – has allowed the NFL’s 2nd most field goal attempts.

Guys I Thought About Recommending But Opted Not To

Billy Volek – TEN: You don’t need me to tell you to start Volek. But I thought I’d bring him up this week for nostalgic purpose. Care to take a stroll down memory lane with me? <Cue theme music from the Wonder Years and fade out.> It was September 29 th, 2004 at 4:01 pm. It was my first rudimentary stab at the Trash Can Report. http://forums.thehuddle.com/index.php?showtopic=59974&hl=

My stuff is appears in the 20 th post. Ironically, Volek was my second recommendation ever. That was going in to Week 4.

And look at little Billy, now. All growed up and proper-like; throwing for nearly 2200 yards, and scoring 18 TDs in just 7 games. Ah, the memories. Remember folks, you heard about him first here at the Huddle.

Shaud Williams – BUF: If McGahee is out Williams is an obvious pick up.

Antowain Smith – TEN: As a Chris Brown owner I’d recommended – nay, begged – you to handcuff Smith on numerous occasions. With Brown done for the season, hopefully you did so because Smith is probably long gone. While Smith won’t do as well as a healthy Chris Brown (is that an oxymoron?) at least he’s the starting RB on a high-scoring offense.

Nate Burleson – MIN: Burleson has been banged up real bad lately. Yet he never complains, always plays, and went 5 for 5 last week hauling in two TDs, to boot. In fact, over the last 7 games he has been the 6th most productive WR in my Huddle league, producing 29 rushing yards, 429 receiving yards, and 6 TDs. Further consider that he has scored a TD in 5 of those 7 games, making him rather consistent. He’s also outscored Moss this season: 145 points to 126, if you can believe that. Course, that means that Burleson has graduated from the ol’ Trash Can Report. However, I count him among one of our most successful alumni and will be starting him in my Huddle semi-finals this week.

Eddie Kennison – KC: I’ve recommended him before, back when he wasn’t so in vogue. But he’s simply too good right now to be a candidate here. I like him this week, though.

Well folks, that’s it for now. It’s time to wrap things up and kill of the last of my holiday shopping. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Christmas break and that Week 16 brings victory to your team(s). I, for one, am sweating bullets over my Week 16. Though I’ve beaten him twice before *and* he just lost Owens, I’ve also watched him cave other opponents’ skulls in with some pretty hefty point totals. So cross your fingers for me and I’ll do the same for you. Game on!