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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

The Trash Can Report - Recycling for Week 17
Dennis Leonard
December 30, 2004

“It took all the strength I had not to fall apart;
kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart/team.
And I spent oh so many nights just feeling sorry for myself.
I used to cry. Now I hold my head up high.

Did you think I'd crumble?
Did you think I'd lay down and die?
Oh no, not I. I will survive.”

     - Gloria Gaynor

Hello again and welcome back to this season’s final edition of the Trash Can Report. If you ask me, Ms. Gaynor was singing about my Huddle league squad. Battered and bruised I fought hard and made it to the semis last week. The score, you ask? An edgy 119 to 115. And yes: I survived.

Course, my Super Bowl opponent is as formidable as the legendary sarcosuchas.* So we’ll just have to wait and see how things go but, suffice it to say, I’m going to need some luck. Honestly, I’m just happy to have made it this far. So, if you too have an interest in Week 17’s games, maybe one or two of the names below can be of assistance.

And Now, Joining Us For The First Time…

Tommy Maddox – PIT: you’ve simply gotta be screwed at QB to even consider this guy. But if you’ve made it this far and your starter has suddenly disappeared on you, Maddox should see four quarters of play. In Week 17, that makes him worth something.

John Kitna – CIN: Ditto. Because I whole-heartedly believe Palmer sits this one out. And if Kitna doesn’t exactly warm your cockles, consider that his performances against the Bills and Patriots would have made most QBs look like chumps. But versus the Giants Kitna posted 186 yards, 2 TDs, and only 1 TD. This week, against the Eagles, I seriously doubt the Bengals will see four quarters versus defensive starters. Too many Philly players are getting hurt right now for Andy Reid to risk much in a meaningless game. So I expect a nice second quarter from Kitna and the Bengals.

Zach Crockett – OAK: I’m not a huge fan of Crockett because Oakland’s backfield by committee has multiple members. However, Wheatley has been ruled out for Week 17 and the Raiders ran the ball more than usual last week (22 rushes to 37 passes). However, Crockett got 10 of those carries, which included the Raiders’ only 4 rushing plays in the red zone. Moreover, Crockett has scored in two of his last three games. I’ll admit that his rushing yards aren’t all that spectacular: 20, 27, and 32 over those last three weeks. So, in my opinion, Crockett makes more sense in TD-only leagues because he seems to be the only RB who’ll get goal line carries.

Kevin Faulk/Cedric Cobbs – NE: There is some scuttle-butt that Dillon might sit this week, along with a number of Patriot starters. If you’re a Dillon owner, you simply cannot afford to assume Dillon plays a full game this week. Add Faulk NOW. The match up against the 49ers this weekend means that whoever carries the rock in Week 17 should do some damage. Heck, even if you aren’t a Dillon owner, Faulk makes for a decent speculative upside pick up. The only downer is that Faulk is nursing an ankle injury of his own. If he can’t go then Cobbs should be the main man. So keep an eye out on both Dillon and Faulk’s status, as well as Cobbs’ availability on waivers.

Deion Branch – NE: Before you berate me for dipping into the pool of stud WRs, let me point out that over the last 6 games Branch was active in he did not crack into the top three-dozen WRs. So, while I doubt he’s on waivers, he’s still worthy of the Trash Can Report’s consideration. I’m recommending him this week for two reasons. First, he went 7 of 10 last week for 82 yards and a score, including three looks in the red zone. Second, the Pats face off with the 49ers this week, where any offense player on any opposing team is a threat to score. If Branch is on your roster and some of your regulars are looking iffy, don’t hesitate to start him.

Rod Gardner – WAS: Gardner is an upside-reach this week. He went 5 of 7 last week for 31 yards, but that included two looks in the red zone. Gardner also recently had a good game against the 49ers (11 rushing and 111 yards receiving) so he is capable of producing against weak secondaries. Lucky for him this week’s opponent – Minnesota – has allowed the 4th most production to WRs this year. Another way to look at Gardner is that his fantasy production is virtually identical to Coles’. So if you’d have no problem starting Coles this week, then Gardner offers the same upside at a more affordable price.

Prior Picks That Bear Repeating

Eric Parker – SD: I recommended Parker before the Chargers’ Week 10 bye. Since then he turned in a few good games. Most recently he went 7 of 10 for 103 yards and a TD. So Parker may already be on your radar screen. But here are some other tid-bits I like about the guy:

  • with McCardell likely out again this week, Parker should continue to be emphasized in the passing game;
  • This week’s opponent, the Chiefs, tend to get in shoot outs;
  • The last time these two teams met (back in Week 12) Parker registered 58 rushing and 78 receiving yards;
  • The Chiefs have allowed the 2nd most production to opposing WRs this season;
  • Parker is the 2nd most targeted player in the Chargers’ passing game (76 times);
  • He’s gone 47 of 76 on the season, giving him a respectable 61.84% reception ratio;
  • Over the last five weeks he cracked the top 25 WRs in my Huddle league and has produced on par with the likes of Reggie Wayne and Jimmy Smith; and
  • He returns punts, if you get points for that.

The gamble with Parker is that, despite having three nice games in the last five, he also had two stinkers (versus the Browns in Week 15 and Broncos in Week 13). Moreover, the Chargers have nothing to play for this week, so that’s an X-factor. I doubt the Chargers will mail this game in, but its doubtful Gates, Tomlinson, and/or Brees will play the entire game. Not having his supporting cast could adversely affect Parker’s late-game productivity.

Jason Hanson – DET: Last week I recommended Hanson – who is now the 3rd most productive kicker over the last 6 weeks – and he responded with 4 field goals and 1 extra point. Over the last 6 weeks his worst performance was for 1 field goal and two extra points. Yet, over that same span, he attempted 4 field goals in each of three different games. Seriously, this guy’s stats should make him an easy sell.

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense

  This Week Last Week Change
CHI 40 42 -2
MIA 29 28 +1
WAS 26 25 +1
SF 23 19 +4
CLE 19 17 +2
BAL 16 15 +1
DET 13 13 0
NYG 11 N/A N/A
ATL 6 N/A N/A
OAK 6 N/A N/A

I, for one, have been scraping for team defenses for weeks. So I was quick to update the Offensive Crap-O-Meter for Week 16’s stats. Going into Week 7, this is how things look.

No major changes in the overall wretchedness of the worst seven teams. Though, Buffalo and Arizona have fallen off the list, as they no longer appear as one of the seven worst teams in at least three of the seven categories we consider. However, the Giants are back and the Falcons and Raiders appear for the first time.

Here is a list of their Week 17 opponents, with my team DEF recommendations appearing in bold.

Obviously the Ravens and Patriots are unworthy of consideration here at the Trash Can Report, as both are top 12 DEFs for the season to date. I’m also leery of using either the Seahawks or Titans; they were two of the three worst fantasy DEFs over the last 5 weeks. Even against weak offenses these two teams have not performed at high levels. And, it’s just a hunch, but I don’t like the Vikings’ DEF versus the Redskins. Lastly, if the Texans can put 21 points on the Jags’ DEF *and* shut them out, I’m not confident they’ll do much against the Raiders’ potent aerial assault. That leaves the following four:

  Week 17
CHI v. GB
MIA v. at BAL
WAS v. MIN
SF v. at NE
CLE v. at HOU
BAL v. MIA
DET v. at TEN
NYG v. DAL
ATL v. at SEA
OAK v. JAX

Packers’ DEF: They’re playing Da Bears, who continue to suck like a swamp full of leeches. I’m not a huge fan of this pick this week though, given the Pack looked vulnerable in their shoot out with the Vikings last week. But the Bears ain’t the Vikings, so I wouldn’t sweat it too much. If there is nothing better available this is a decent play based solely on the weakness of the opponent. But neither of these teams have anything substantive to play for.

Texans’ DEF: I love the Texans this week. For starters, over the last 5 weeks the Texans have quietly become the 4th best fantasy DEF in my Huddle league. They made a lot of head way over the last two games, in which they pulverized the Jaguars and Bears. During Weeks 15 and 16 the Texans amassed 3 INTs, 4 recovered fumbles, 6 sacks, 2 defensive TDs, and allowed a total of 5 points. That’s pretty impressive all by itself. Further considering the Texans play the Browns this week, well, you’ve got to be excited about the potential.

Last week I recommended the Dolphins’ DEF versus the Browns. Miami managed 2 INTs, 2 recovered fumbles, 2 sacks, and only allowed 7 points. That made Miami one of the top 6 defensive plays in Week 16. I expect similar results from a Texans’ DEF that shut out the Jags last week and who, in my opinion, is playing the best defense of the franchise’s history right now. While Lee Suggs has indisputably given the Browns’ a potent weapon on offense, Houston is actually pretty burly against the run. They have allowed the 13th fewest average rushing yards per game (113.7), the 6th fewest rushing first downs per game (82), and – most importantly – allowed the NFL’s fewest rushing TDs this season (a mere 4). Oh, and I’m pretty certain Houston’s DEF is still available in most leagues. I’m backing this pick up with flesh, as I’m playing the Texans’ DEF in my Huddle league Super Bowl.

Cowboys’ DEF: Would it surprise you to learn that the Cowboys’ DEF has been the 6th most productive DEF in my Huddle league over the last 5 weeks? One great game (against the Bears) and two solid games (against the Eagles and Redskins) during that span suggest that the Cowboys are a good play this week against the still struggling Giants. Let’s face it: Eli Manning wouldn’t scare the Cowardly Lion. About the only things working for the Giants is Tiki Barber and, at least sporadically, their kicking game. If you’re still not sold on this match up, chew on these stats:

  • Dallas has allowed the 11th fewest average rushing yards per game (111.1);
  • The are tied for allowing the 6th fewest rushing first downs per game;
  • Allowed only a very average 13 rushing TDs this season;
  • Tied for allowing the 5th fewest field goal attempts to date;
  • On the flip side, the Giants are tied for giving up the 2nd most sacks to opposing DEFs;
  • The Giants are the 4th most penalized team on offense;
  • The Giants have the NFL’s 3rd worst 3rd down percentage (28.5%);
  • They have the 2nd worst 4th down percentage (21.1%); and
  • Eli Manning sucks. He has completed an embarrassingly low 45.3% of his passes and sports a pathetic 48.1% QB rating. For a point of comparison, the Bear’s Craig Krenzel is better in both categories.

Dolphins’ DEF: Recommended here last week, the Dolphins did rather well. In fact, the Dolphins’ DEF has been the 8th most productive DEF in my Huddle league over the last 5 weeks. For example, over that period Miami has recovered the 2nd most fumbles (7), picked off the 3rd most INTs (8), and recorded the 5th most sacks (15). Yeah I know what you’re thinking: over the last five weeks the Dolphins have played the lowly Browns and 49ers. But they’ve also played the Bills, Patriots, and Broncos. So it’s not like the ‘Phins padded those stats against a bevy of crappy teams. Also, the Dolphins are also coming off two straight wins, so you know the team is pumped.

While I’m not in love with this pick, the Dolphins should still cough up something productive. Mainly because the Ravens’ offense isn’t as imposing as you might think. Consider the following:

  • 7th fewest points on offense/special teams;
  • 2nd fewest yards on offense;
  • tied for 4th most punts;
  • tied for 3rd fewest first downs;
  • five weeks ago the Patriots’ DEF had their best fantasy performance of the year against the Ravens;
  • two weeks ago the Colts registered 2 INTs, 2 sacks, and allowed only 10 points;
  • last week the Steelers snapped up 1 INT and allowed only 7 points; and
  • over the last 5 weeks, the Raven’s DEF has not been playing all that well, as they only ranked as the 22nd most productive. That might help counteract what appears to be the unavailability of A.J. Feeley this week when it comes to the time of possession battle.

Guys I Considered Recommending But Opted Not To

Kerry Collins – OAK: I told you repeatedly this season that Collins was a solid addition going into the fantasy playoffs. If your regular QB might be seeing extended bench time this weekend, you’re probably doing cart wheels if you also have Collins going into a Week 17 Super Bowl.

Jake Delhomme – CAR: Delhomme is a no-brainer against a Saints’ DEF that rarely shows up.

Ladell Betts – WAS: I recommended that Portis’ owners handcuff Betts going into Week 12. Hopefully you did so between then and now. Because anyone and everyone in need of a running back this week will be sniffing around the wavier wire to see if Betts is available.

Lee Evans – BUF: If the other members of your ether-huffing league still haven’t woken up to Evans, it’s high time you did.

Curtis Conway – SF: Looks like Brandon Lloyd is out this week and Conway will replace him. However: (1) Conway is a 49er; (2) Woods could steal looks; (3) he’s a 49er; (4) he matches up against the formidable Patriots’ DEF this week; (5) he’ll likely have either an injured Ken Dorsey or a health Cody Pickett throwing to him (talk about dilemma); and (6) he’s a 49er.

Joey Galloway – TB: Targeted a whopping 13 times in the passing game last week; caught 9 of those passes. Ah, but you already knew about Galloway, now didn’t you?

Rian Lindell – BUF: Hey, Lindell was the difference between victory and defeat for me last week. If I’d have started Josh Brown at kicker instead (my regular guy) I’d have lost. So I’m indebted to Lindell and – personally – I’m rolling with this Buffalo for all the marbles. However, I recommended him two weeks in a row, so I’ll give him a rest. Never mind that he’s been the 2nd most productive kicker for 7 weeks running…

Well folks, its time to lock up, turn out the lights, and let this fantasy season come to rest. I hope you had as much fun reading the Trash Can Report as I did writing it. I’m not sure if you kept score, or followed my weekly self-critiques in the Huddle’s Pro Football forum, but the TCR got more picks right than wrong each and every week. That’s fairly impressive when you consider the scrap heap we limited ourselves to. I took a lot of pride crafting each week’s article. So I hope you found a useful nugget here everyone once in a while. Take care. Have a safe, happy New Years. And for those of you with Week 17 Super Bowls, good luck and game on! On that note, I leave you with this interesting (though monumentally geeky) factoid.

*Non-football note: The sarcosuchas, or “super croc,” lived 110-130 million years ago. Explorers found the skeleton of one of these hulking crocodiles embedded in the fossilized sediment of a Nigerian desert a few years back. The skull measured over 6 feet in length… just the skull. Experts estimate that sarcosuchas was about 40 feet long (more than twice a long as the largest croc in recorded history) and could exert over 18,000 pounds of pressure with its jaws. For a point of reference, a great white shark can “only” exert about 1,000 pounds of pressure with its jaws. You can see an artist’s rendition of, and learn more about sarcosuchas, here: http://www.supercroc.com/exhibit/index.htm. I recently watched a National Geographic show on this amphibious behemoth and it was simply amazing; it literally ate dinosaurs for lunch.