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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 16
David M. Dorey
December 20, 2004
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Billy Volek 492 5
Josh McCown 321 4
Kerry Collins 371 5
Running Backs Yards TD
Larry Johnson 151 2
Curtis Martin 134 2
LaDainian Tomlinson 111 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Jerry Porter 148 3
Drew Bennett 160 2
Nate Burleson 134 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Ben Troupe 75 1
Antonio Gates 72 1
Kris Mangum 53 1
Placekickers XP FG
Jeff Reed 3 4
Rian Lindell 3 4
Jeff Chandler 2 4
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Buffalo 2 3 4
Carolina 1 4 4
Kansas City 1 6 3

Week 15 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Robert Ferguson (GB) - Possible neck injury
Matt Hasselbeck (SEA) - Sprained elbow
Byron Leftwich (JAX) - Bruised wrist
Willis McGahee (BUF) - Hyper-extended knee
Terrell Owens (PHI) - Sprained ankle
Todd Pinkston (PHI) - Sprained knee

Not many players really, but every Owens owner will be most interested in the Monday MRI.

Okay, okay - now THAT I remember

The Eagles were always one passing game away from the Super Bowl the last three seasons and the addition of Terrell Owens was the final missing piece. Now Owens will be the missing piece for how every long his ankle sprain takes to heal up. Considering the Eagles have now locked the NFC homefield up for the entirety of the playoffs, there is a realistic chance we have seen our last of Mr. Owens until January.

Without Owens, the Eagles struggled to pass against the Cowboys. In their first matchup, McNabb had 345 yards and four touchdowns. Without Owens, McNabb only had 223 yards, 1 score and two interceptions. The Eagle passing game was conspicuously gone again when Owens was in the locker room.

While that may bring a tear to the eye of every fantasy owner who was looking forward to another 3 TD game against the Cowboys this season, there is a bright side to it. Owens will likely end the 2004 regular season with 14 touchdowns - only one less than the 15 that Andy Reid said would prompt him to somehow fit into a skin tight Under Armor outfit.

Whew....

And the guessing game so begineth

With two weeks left to play in the NFL regular season, it's time to consider which teams may decide that following their normal player rotations and game plans are no longer needed. Especially if you are relying on a player from one of those teams. Let's take a quick look at the playoff picture for an idea of teams that will continue to fight towards a playoff berth, even if it means using up a player in a game.

AFC Clinched Berths: New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and San Diego already have their AFC division titles. Assuming that New England beats Miami, the only thing left to worry about is whether PIT or NE will get the final home game in the AFC Championship. Indianapolis and San Diego really don't have much to win, but they are both unlikely to start tanking any time soon and even play each other this week.

AFC Wildcards: The wildcard race is likely a lock by the Jets, and then the final AFC wildcard is up for grabs between Buffalo (8-6), Baltimore (8-6), Jacksonville (8-6) and Denver (8-6).

NFC Clinched Berths: The Eagles have locked down homefield throughout the playoffs and may be without Terrell Owens anyway. They have nothing to accomplish but keeping players healthy. The Falcons have a lock on the other bye and cannot catch the Eagles so they have nothing to accomplish and two road trips left. This would not be a good time to let Vick get hurt. The Packers have clinched a playoff berth of at least a wildcard but lost yesterday and at 8-6 and two road games left, the division is no lock. They need to win this weekend against the Vikings to hope for the division.

NFC Wildcards and "The West": The Seahawks (7-7) are in the lead for the division and since the Rams (6-8) look even worse, Seattle will likely end up winning it if only by default. Minnesota (8-6) can still win the division or at least a wildcard but the final wildcard is still wide open to ten different teams that are either 6-8 or 5-9 and not one of them deserve it.

 

It's all about the ratings

Peyton Manning entered the Sunday night game with only two touchdowns needed to tie Dan Marino's 48 scores in one season and with three, Manning would set a new record. He ended with only one score so this weekend's game - at home - against the Chargers will be the countdown all over again and ensure high viewership to see an all-time record set.

There could be another reasoning why Manning is delaying the record after such a torrid pace this season. If he ended with 60 touchdowns on the year, there would be no where to go for the rest of his career. Break it by a little and with all the receivers signed for next year he might break it all over again.

There could be one other reason as well. Maybe the Ravens don't like records being set against them. I'll take #3 with this but still wonder if #1 and #2 mean anything in our world of conspiracies.

And four months later

After drafting that costly first rounder last summer, how well did the player do in the traditional first week of the fantasy playoffs? Let's take a look using the Average Draft from MyFantasyLeague.com:

Slot Player Week 15 Comment
1
Priest Holmes Ouch Sort of sucks when a pick needs TWO backups. But LJ was week 15 gold.
2
LaDainian Tomlinson 111 yds, 2 TD Big game from your valuable #2 overall pick. LT rocks.
3
Ahman Green 105 yds, 0 TD Solid as always, not huge like always this season
4
Clinton Portis 130 yds, 0 TD If you had him in fantasy playoffs, you must have drafted very well otherwise
5
Shaun Alexander 96 yds, 0 TD Got you to the playoffs and did not kill you, nor kill your opponent
6
Deuce McAllister 97 yds, 0 TD Against TB, you were happy enough to get this much
7
Edgerrin James 92 yds, 1 TD Never huge, never small. Super solid every week yet rarely spectacular
8
Jamal Lewis 147 yds, 0 TD Nice enough but no help to get you into the playoffs this year
9
Randy Moss 102 yds, 1 TD Great game and he owed you that much will all the missing weeks
10
Peyton Manning 249 yds, 1 TD Disappointing but after 46 other TD's you can swig some shut-up juice.
11
Daunte Culpepper 426 yds, 3 TD Probably helped you to get into playoffs and stay in the playoffs
12
Marvin Harrison 73 yds, 1 TD Solid not the monster game you would have wanted.

That's pretty impressive. Of the dozen players taken first in most leagues, none had a bad game other than Holmes and his replacement had 151 yards and two scores (if you had him). While Portis, Lewis and even Moss may not have gotten you to the playoffs, at least they did their job when it counted the most.

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Josh McCown 321 4 QB Drew Brees 85 1
RB Larry Johnson 151 2 RB Onterrio Smith 26 0
RB Dorsey Levens 60 1 RB Reuben Droughns 41 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 149 1 WR Chad Johnson 10 0
WR Samie Parker 84 1 WR Terrell Owens 24 0
WR Dez White 71 1 WR Isaac Bruce 37 0
PK Jeff Chandler 4 FG 2 XP PK David Akers

1 missed XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 136

Huddle Fantasy Points = 21

Sunday's Couch Commentary

PIT 33, NYG 30

Eli Manning still lost the game, but he skyrocketed up from his previous "0" QB ranking the previous week and ended with 182 yards and two touchdowns. Sure, nothing went to the wideouts but all we are looking for are baby steps by this point. Tiki Barber came back to life and gained 114 yards and one touchdown against the #1 defense in the NFL. The Giants really did not look nearly as bad as they actually are. The Steelers have won their last 12 games and since their last five wins have all been by less than 10 points, it appears they are merely toying with their opponents and playing a "just good enough" brand of football. This was the same sort of football played by the Patriots last year. Hmmm....

WAS 26, SF 16 Sure, Portis has been a major disappointment but he had 130 yards yesterday and overall, he is still top ten for running back fantasy points. And he faces DAL and MIN up next. Rod Gardner had a big 111 yard game which makes him a worthy fantasy start every eight weeks. In a "glass half full" view, the 49ers saw Ken Dorsey score two touchdowns against the tough Redskin defense (shhh - he had four interceptions). The 49ers are on a pace to match their worst season record in franchise history with final games against the Bills and Patriots and by this point, actually winning games is not that important (nor even possible). Imagine what the 49ers would have been like if they did not play in the easiest division in the NFL.
CAR 31, ATL 34 OT The Falcons held off the Panthers on Saturday thanks to Michael Vick's ability to do just enough at the right time in order to win. Otherwise, there is a complete disconnect between his passing ability and the unnatural affection of every TV announcer that talks about him. Warrick Dunn had 134 yards and one score in the game thanks to Duckett being out and allowing Dunn to be the only running back. The Falcons had plenty of trouble with Julius Peppers which should be more interesting next season when half of the team returns from injured reserve. The Falcons have now clinched a first round bye and a trip to Philly if they win their first game. The Panthers finally lose their first game in the last six weeks and at 6-8 their magical return to the playoffs have taken a big hit. But not as big as what Peppers like to give quarterbacks.
BUF 33, CIN 17 The Bills are getting scary. They lost Willis McGahee and Bledsoe only managed to throw for 183 yards and one score and yet Buffalo scored 33 points thanks to a defense that has been astounding the last several weeks. Buffalo has won their last five games and remain in the thick of a wildcard run. The Bengals had to use Jon Kitna this week but there was no flashback to last season. Kitna only had 151 yards and one score with two interceptions and Chad Johnson only managed 10 yards on two catches. Rudi Johnson was huge with 130 yards but the way the Bills defense is scoring lately, a running game will never be enough to keep pace. At 6-8, it's officially "next year" already in Cincinnati.
HOU 24, CHI 5 The Bears offense has gotten over their one game three weeks ago when it appeared that they could score a touchdown and they have been blanked now for the last two weeks. This includes by the visiting Texans who hail from South Texas and would not normally be considered a better cold weather team than the Bears. The only success by the Bears defense was that they held Andre Johnson to only 31 yards but no receiver for Chicago really did any better than that anyway. Hutchinson threw for only 169 yards and one interception and let me be the first to say it ' "where's Jeff George?" Since there has only been two field goals by the offense in the last two games, what's it going to hurt to see what Jeff can do? There are no expectations any more.
DEN 17, KC 45 The entire Denver season was contained in only one play yesterday. While Clinton Portis Tatum Bell was not a lock to play much, he actually was the primary back and turned a reception into a 58 yard run that ended with a fumble out of the endzone for a touchback. He was never in the game again. The Broncos were beaten in every facet of the game. No Denver running back had more than 9 carries or 50 yards and all three played (Bell, Droughns and Hearst). Jake "5 year contract" Plummer threw two interceptions in a game that was almost three quarters worth of trash time. The Chiefs looked great even without Morton or Holmes or Blaylock. Larry Johnson led the entire NFL with 151 rushing yards on Sunday and it is safe to assume that he has removed his diapers while the Denver defense was running around knee deep in LJ doo-doo the entire game. The ever eloquent Plummer summed it up well: "This game was not a fun game. It was a bad day."
DAL 7, PHI 12 Yeah, you're not so bad without Owens, huh Tough Guy?!?! Okay, so maybe still tough enough to beat Dallas but it took the entire game to get there. The Eagles have now won everything they can win until the playoffs reach week two so there's no telling who will be playing the final two weeks. Risk Brian Westbrook? Why? Risk McNabb? Why? The only interesting aspect of Philly will be guessing who plays for how long these final two weeks when fantasy teams need them the most. The Cowboys remain little more than Julius Jones and Jason Witten with a pinch of Keyshawn but tying it all together with Testaverde is a ticket to 5-9 and merely dreams of mediocrity.
SEA 14, NYJ 37 The irony here is that Seattle (7-7) will likely win their division while the Jets (10-4) are still fighting for a wildcard. And the Jets absolutely decimated the Seahawks. Not only did Curtis Martin run wild (134 yards, 2 TD's), but even Chad Pennington threw for 253 yards and three scores that included - I swear this is true - two scores to Santana Moss. With two final games against NE and STL, Moss will likely catch on fire for the final games and end up with what appears to be solid numbers for the year. Don't be caught in that trap next summer. The AFC East should petition the NFL to just replace the NFC West since they will likely have three teams with better records than the division winner in the NFC West. It's all about the division, baby. And Seattle does NOT miss the AFC. Are the Jets really that good? There is no guarantee they are better in every facet of the game, admittedly. We just cannot know how good they are at punting since they never had to punt in the entire game on Sunday.
SD 21, CLE 0 The Chargers get better and the Browns get worse - they cannot even score any more though they did gain positive yardage this week. Lee Suggs ran for 105 yards just to make the offseason decisions even more interesting while Luke McCown (11 of 27, 108 yards and an INT) provides interim HC Terry Robiskie with something to talk about in every post game interview. The Browns end their season with two road games just to cement the folly. The Chargers have now won the AFC West and if every Super Bowl has to contain one surprise team, San Diego would be less of a shock every passing week. Tomlinson is running in top form and the defense is quietly getting better all the time. The Chargers play in IND this week for an interesting matchup with little on the line other than who will be the #3 or #4 seed in the AFC.
STL 7, ARZ 31 The Greatest Show on Turf continues identical to previous years all except for those yards and scores. The Cardinals throttled the Rams - the team that has lost to the 49ers twice this season held the Rams offense scoreless and entirely inept since not one Ram player could actually hold on to the ball. Holt fumbled near the endzone. Chandler lasted for six passes that totaled one completion for one yard and an interception. Emmitt Smith left the game with a migraine headache but that was probably just sympathy pain for every St. Louis fan who also had turned off the television with a splitting headache. Emmitt will be better next week. The Rams play Philly. Steven Jackson is calling his agent to ask if he can re-enter the 2005 NFL draft (the answer is no).
NO 21, TB 17 New Orleans should petition the league to change their name to the "Stupid Saints" since that is the way everyone refers to them. They've suddenly found a defense where none existed the first 12 games and they've won their last two games both on the road in DAL and TB. They've only won two games at home all season. Brian Griese has been red hot most of the season and when he is at home against what was a terrible secondary, he only manages 118 yards and one score with one interception. Aaron Brooks threw for two scores and the game opened with Stecker fumbling the kickoff and then returning it 98 yards for a touchdown. Then the Bucs went up 17-7 until New Orleans scores two touchdowns in the final three minutes because Tampa Bay cannot cover punts and Pittman cannot hold on to the ball when he cannot afford to lose it. There's only one way to describe the enigmatic team from New Orleans - "Stupid Saints".
JAX 28, GB 25 I had initially projected that the Jaguars would win this game but after a deluge of email that pointed out Green Bay was 38-1 at home in freezing weather I changed my mind (almost always the wrong move historically). Basically, the Jaguars won by letting Fred Taylor run wild and standing back deep enough in coverage to catch three Favre interceptions. The Packers are having bad mojo lately led primarily by Favre who has gone three weeks unable to both throw for good yardage and yet not a lot of interceptions as well. The Packers have lost two of their last three games and yet have clinched at least a wildcard because this is the NFC 2004 where mediocrity is rewarded. The Jaguars remain in the thick of the wildcard race for the AFC in spite of having Leftwich repeatedly blasted yesterday. With two final games against HOU and OAK, J'ville will find the going easier as the season ends. Jaguar SS Donovin Darius had the scariest hit of the year when he clotheslined Robert Ferguson so badly that Ferguson lost his mouthpiece, helmet and the feeling in his legs initially. Thankfully, Ferguson appears to be okay but that was an ejection from the game for Darius and a sure to be expensive use of his forearm.
TEN 35, OAK 40 The only sad fact here is that you have to assume by next season at least one of these teams will produce an actual defense. This is not the case right now in a game that totaled 863 passing yards and nine touchdowns with not even a hint of a rushing game by either team. Drew Bennett only had a total of 9 catches for 118 yards total in weeks 11 and 12. In the last three games he has caught 28 passes for 517 yards and EIGHT touchdowns (TEN lost all three games). The only other receiver to accomplish that was Jerry Rice. And yet Bennett only had a total of two scores in the previous 12 weeks. There's something to be said for a three game stretch against IND, KC and OAK. Jerry Porter had 148 yards and three scores which gives him seven touchdowns in the last three games. Evidently there is also something to be said for facing KC, ATL and TEN. Now Porter goes to face KC while Bennett goes against DEN. This insanity may not be over quite yet. Volek has scored 12 touchdowns in the last three games which only makes no big deal from missing that guy... Steve... tall guy, holds his chest a lot... it'll come to me....
BAL 10, IND 20 Here was a game that went largely to expectations in outcome but had little fireworks getting there as Peyton Manning was held to only one touchdown. Just one. Peyton Manning. All those signs with interchangeable numbers to count the season tally and Manning only had one score. It was a sweet score to Harrison who put a move on CB Chris McAllister doing a ballet twirl while Harrison appeared to be uncovered, but it was the only touchdown by Manning. Instead of an exciting record breaking performance, it was just a boring game. With the Chargers coming to town this week, all those stadium signs should be getting much better use. If you do not get that game in your viewing area, don't worry. Whatever score breaks the record will be replayed every 20 minutes on ESPN SportsCenter for the entire week.

Game-O-The-Week

What a week. The studs almost all performed at least solid if not great production while the Eagles had a glimpse of life without Terrell and it looked oddly like all the other Eagle teams from the past three years. It was a weekend of bad weather. The incredible cold and windy games played in CLE, CIN, CHI and GB were won by the visitors even though SD, JAX and HOU are all deep south in the country. There are now eight teams that are on winning/losing streaks of at least five straight games. Where's the parity in that?

With two weeks left to play in the regular season, the AFC divisions are all wrapped up and really only the final wildcard is in question. The NFC will be sending six teams to the playoffs and unless Owens returns to the Eagles soon, there appears to be about four teams in the AFC better than anything in the NFC. The die is cast for many teams and those that are still vying for a spot in the playoffs are really only fighting over crumbs. The Game Of The Week highlights what this season is all about - destiny versus bad karma with an every present amount of head scratching.

Minnesota 29, Detroit 27

The Lions came into this game having lost six of their last seven games and with Joey Harrington looking so bad that even the Bears would not pick him up off waivers. Roy Williams had started the season well but had done little in the last six games and never scored in that span. The only working feature to the offense was Kevin Jones while all else had gone south for the winter.

This week that meant that Joey Harrington went from being 5 of 22 for 47 yards against the Packers to throwing for 361 yards and two scores against the Vikings this week. Harrington only threw for 91 yards a month ago against the Vikings and had only gotten worse. His 361 yards was over 100 yards better than any other game this season.

Roy Williams had only two catches for 19 yards in week 11 against Minnesota. Yesterday he had seven catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Az-Zahir Hakim had 108 yards on four catches as well.

The Vikings had recently seen Randy Moss return and yet had lost their last two games to the Bears and Seahawks (think about that one). They had fallen one game behind the Packers for the NFC North title but were facing the same team that they had already beaten 22-19 in week 11.

The Vikings had named Onterrio Smith as the starting running back for the rest of the season but yesterday that meant he would run for only six yards on four carries while Michael Bennett had 13 carries for 51 yards. The game was downright boring until the fourth quarter that began with a 14-13 lead by the Vikings.

With almost half of the fourth quarter over, Culpepper finally hit Nate Burleson for a 37 yard touchdown to make the score a more comfortable 21-13. With 8:37 left to play, the Lion took over on their own 18-yard line and Harrington finally found Hakim on a pass that he gained 37 yards before lateralling to Shawn Bryson who ran another 25 yards to the MIN 14-yard line with 6:59 left to play. On the next pay, Harrington hit Roy Williams for his first touchdown in the game. The Lions try for a two point conversion but the pass is incomplete to Tai Streets but wait - defensive holding. The next attempt has the Vikings blitzing Harrington immediately and he throws the ball as he is smacked. It's more of a lob really but it somehow comes down between two defenders into Tai Streets' arms for the tie - 21-21.

The Vikings get the ball with exactly six minutes left to play from their own 17-yard line and Culpepper mixes short passes and a couple of Bennett runs to reach the DET 11-yard with third down and two yards to go and 1:43 left to play. Moe Williams blasts of the middle, plowing over two defenders as he scores a touchdown. The extra point makes it 28-21.

With only 1:37 left to play, the Lions take over on their own 20-yard line. They need an 80-yard scoring drive from a quarterback who only had 47 yards in his entire previous game. They needed a second score from a quarterback who only had two scores in the last five games.

Harrington reached the DET 47-yard line with only 47 seconds left to play by throwing to Kevin Jones or Stephen Alexander. On second down, he found Tai Streets for 15 yards to the MIN 38-yard line with only 35 seconds left to play. He spiked the ball and killed the clock. He then threw to Hakim for 23 yards to the MIN 15-yard line with only 19 seconds left to play. He spiked the ball to kill the clock. A pass to Roy Williams was incomplete but a pass interference call in the end zone gave Detroit the ball on the MIN 1-yard line with only 12 seconds left to play. Down by seven points. An unthinkable comeback for a team that couldn't catch a break this season.]

Harrington finds a very tall Roy Williams for the leaping catch and score! With only 8 seconds left on the clock the Lions have mounted two scoring drives in a game that finally made Harrington look like a quality quarterback and brought new life into the passing game. Roy Williams scored again! Mariucci starts to ponder the over time plans and...

No freaking way.

The ball is snapped to the holder Nick Harris but it bounces along the ground. In one of those moments in life that last forever in a second, Harris fumbles to get the ball down while Jason Hanson screeches to a halt mid-kick. Viking DB Terrance Shaw seems so surprised to discover this little snafu occurring that when he arrives that he mostly just falls on top of Harris rather than actually try to tackle him. There is no kick. There is no extra point. And thanks to Randy Moss, there is no successful onside kick.

Jason Hanson had not missed an extra point in his last 43 attempts. He had not missed one at home since 1999. He had never missed one on the final play of the game that spelled the difference between a loss or sending it into overtime.

And that's like fantasy football as many of you in your playoffs are discovering. Sometimes a win or loss comes down to the most unimaginable plays. And for every one of those, there's one owner who'll be frustrated for the next eight months until the 2005 season rolls around. And there's also another owner who will smile when he thinks about that game. It's the way it's supposed to be and if you play long enough, you'll get your share of the random fortune that always accompanies any human sporting event.

Losing hurts. And it's no fun. But it's all part of the process. The same one that witnessed one of the most tough-luck teams from 2003 just win the AFC West this year.

And if your team wins this week, good luck on your Championship. As far as you know none of us are referring to your team as the "Stupid Saints".

Now get back to work...