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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 17
David M. Dorey
December 27, 2004
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Brett Favre 365 3
Daunte Culpepper 285 3
Brian Griese 321 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Shaun Alexander 154 3
Reuben Droughns 121 3
LaDainian Tomlinson 176 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Muhsin Muhammad 115 2
Lee Evans 95 2
Donald Driver 162 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Tony Gonzalez 124 2
Antonio Gates 49 1
Daniel Graham 30 1
Placekickers XP FG
Steve Christie 1 5
Mike Vanderjagt 2 4
Jason Hanson 1 4
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
New Orleans 1 3 3
Houston 1 3 3
Carolina 1 2 3

Week 16 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Ken Dorsey (SF) - Bruised finger
Byron Leftwich (JAX) - Concussion
Clinton Portis (WAS) - Bruised chest
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) - Bruised sternum
Jason Witten (DAL) - Possible broken nose

And begins the shell game

Starter... starter... which one is the starter?

Week 16 began an early guessing game since several teams already had locked in their place in the 2004 regular season, even though fantasy football is rather interested in week 16 (having long ago realized that week 17 is always full of surprises - most of them bad).

Let's take a quick gander at what happened to some of those players you spent the year relying on - or didn't think you could this week:

Reuben Droughns - Was named as the DEN starter, but what does that really mean anymore with Bell there? It means 121 yards and three scores. At least this week anyway. In most leagues, FF'ers played it safe and let him sit.

Billy Volek/Drew Bennett - After three monumental weeks against bad secondaries, everyone thought they could squeeze one more week out of the these late season delights. They were wrong.

Roy Williams - Had 102 yards and two scores last week and yesterday? Back to only 33 yards.

Michael Vick/T.J. Duckett/Alge Crumpler - All sat out and particularly Crumpler left a hole in fantasy lineups

Plaxico Burress - After missing 4 games and being questionable again, he actually was able to start and ended with 97 yards and one score against the Ravens.

All JAX players - Sure, losing Taylor was tough but then losing Leftwich during the game spelled complete disaster. Facing one of the worst secondaries in the league, Leftwich and Jimmy Smith ended with 35 and 17 yards respectively.

Curtis Martin - Ran for 70 yards in New England and now only managed 33 yards at home.

Deion Branch - Supposed to be the hot NE receiver this year, got hurt and only had 50 yards or less the past month. Ended with 82 yards and a score.

Willis McGahee - Barely practiced all week with a hyper extended-knee and was no lock to play. Suited up and only carried 15 times but gained 116 yards and two scores.

Clinton Portis - Okay. So maybe you had already given up on him. Bruised his chest/shoulder and only gained 32 yards.

Muhsin Muhammad - After a torrid streak, faced the last team that ever stopped him. Ends up, he is unstoppable now.

There were certainly more and undoubtedly every one of your players carries a story of woe or glee from the weekend. When it all comes down to one game, many of those plays that looked safe weren't and several that appeared very risky were the best scorers on the day.

For those of you still playing in week 17, this week was mild compared to what will happen next weekend.

And the Fight to lose as a wildcard heats up

Entering into week 17, not only is every division already locked up, the seeding of those teams is also already certain. (This disregards the NFC West as an actual NFL division).

The AFC has the Steelers as the #1 seed and now the Patriots have locked up the #2. The Colts are #3 and the Chargers are #4. Regardless of what happens in week 17, this will not change. Try to figure out who to start in fantasy football with those four teams not needing their stars to do anything but stay healthy this week.

The AFC wildcards will be the Jets and either the Ravens, Bills, Jaguars or Broncos. Only Denver and Buffalo won this week of those five. All the division leaders won this week except for the Chargers who took the Colts to overtime.

The NFC has the Eagles and Falcons already seeded as the #1 and #2 teams. The Packers have won the NFC North and Seattle has a lead in the NFC West which will be the division title if the Rams lose to the Eagles tonight.

The NFC wildcards, which incidentally no one deserves since none are even .500, will be two of the Rams, Vikings, Saints or Panthers. There is still a chance the Rams win tonight and end up with the title, but they play against the Jets next week while the Seahawks go against the Falcons, so it would only delay the inevitable for one week.

It's just a good thing that the AFL/NFL merger happened a long time ago. If it was on the table right now the AFL might decline for fear it would decrease the competitiveness of the league.

Did anything change over the last 15 weeks?

The Top Tens from week one for RB and WR compared to their week 16 performances:

#
RB
Wk1
Wk 16
Comment
1
Shaun Alexander
166 yds, 3 TDs
154 yds, 3 TDs
Something to be said for consistency
2
Quentin Griffin
157 yds, 3 TDs
IR
Call it his 60 minutes of fame
3
Priest Holmes
149 yds, 3 TDs
IR
Fond memories of half a season
4
Curtis Martin
203 yds, 2 TDs
77 yds
Well. Pretty good up until this week.
5
Ahman Green
116 yds, 3 TDs
90 yds
This is called peaking very early
6
Domanick Davis
157 yds, 2 TDs
189 yds, 1 TD
That one month of Jonathan Wells was just for laughs
7
Tiki Barber
200 yds, 1 TD
113 yds
Considering the team, Barber was golden all year
8
Thomas Jones
105 yds, 2 TDs
143 yds
But this was roughly equal to the last 4 games combined
9
Clinton Portis
163 yds, 1 TD
32 yds
Just when you think he has maybe turned the corner
10
Onterrio Smith
139 yds, 1 TD
inactive
Fun while there were no other MIN RB's.

The week 16 Top Ten runners included Reuben Droughns, Larry Johnson, Willis McGahee and Michael Bennett. None of them were starters in week one. Only McGahee even had a carry that week.

#
WR Wk1 Wk 16
Comment
1
Terrell Owens 68 yds, 3 TDs
IR
What a gem that left right when you needed him most
2
Isaac Bruce 112 yds, 1 TD
Has not played
3
Chad Johnson 99 yds, 1 TD
46 yds, 2 TDs
scored once in next 8 games but now afire the last 5 weeks
4
Cedrick Wilson 94 yds, 1 TD
18 yds
Actually on the high side for him now
5
Randy Moss 27 yds, 2 TDs
30 yds, 1 TD
Injury interrupted big year
6
Deion Branch 86 yds, 1 TD
82 yds, 1 TD
pssst - only his third TD all year
7
David Terrell 146 yds
10 yds
Did you really think week one meant anything?
8
Doug Gabriel 84 yds, 1 TD
11 yds
And they actually need him badly to step up
9
Terry Glenn 84 yds, 1 TD
IR
This was way back when Dallas had a passing game
10
Brandon Stokley 77 yds, 1 TD
123 yds, 1 TD
Hmmm... maybe week one wasn't such an aberration

The wideouts that did the best in week 16 - when you needed them the most - are a fascinating Top Ten.

#
WR Wk 16
Comment
1
Muhsin Muhammad
115 yds, 2 TDs
Wasn't a lock to be a Panther last summer. Now he is the only one to own.
2
Lee Evans
92 yds, 2 TDs
ROOKIE - on fire and making Moulds look like a sidekick
3
Donald Driver
162 yds, 1 TD
2004 was not the year to write off the little engine that could
4
Larry Fitzgerald
70 yds, 2 TDs
ROOKIE - 4 scores in the last two games
5
Michael Clayton
66 yds, 2 TDs
ROOKIE - ROY contender. Has to be.
6
Brandon Stokley
123 yds, 1 TD
Has made being a #3 receiver mean something. Like 10 TDs.
7
Nate Burleson
110 yds, 1 TD
Moss getting injured was the best thing that ever happened to Nate
8
Dennis Northcutt
114 yds, 1 TD
His second score all year in Miami. Yeah, sure.
9
Anquan Boldin
107 yds, 1 TD
His first score all year.
10
Chad Johnson
46 yds, 2 TDs
Now this, THIS, has made sense all year long.... well... most of the year

Amazingly, three of the best WR's for week 16 were rookie receivers. None of the top nine were considered the team's #1 receiver coming into this season. Other than Chad Johnson - not one of the top nine were likely drafted this summer as a fantasy starter.

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Brian Griese 321 3 QB Billy Volek 111 0
RB Michael Bennett 159 1 RB Clinton Portis 32 0
RB Shaud Williams 93 1 RB Curtis Martin 77 0
WR Patrick Crayton 54 1 WR Hines Ward 21 0
WR Derrius Thompson 34 1 WR Drew Bennett 26 0
WR Alvis Whitted 32 1 WR Chris Chambers 41 0
PK Steve Christie 1 XP 5 FG PK Josh Scobee

Nope

Huddle Fantasy Points = 91

Huddle Fantasy Points = 22

Sunday's Couch Commentary

GB 34, MIN 31 GOTW contender. Once again, the Packers end the game with the winning field goal. It was a great way to start the weekend with fantasy points all around if you started any of the Big four in Green Bay and Culpepper still delivered. But Moss had one touchdown and nothing else and the Vikings are back to Michael Bennett for now. Maybe all that time while Moss was out just meant that Culpepper realized it was okay to throw to another receiver. This was the most painful loss for MIN all season and the one they needed the most.
OAK 30, KC 31 GOTW contender. This is exactly what we want to see from two teams that have nothing left to play for except to produce big fantasy points. In a 61 point game, the only really big receiver was the tight end Gonzalez though and Larry Johnson delivered two scores and 122 yards for those who picked him off the waiver wire a few weeks back thinking "eh - so what's the worst that can happen?" The Raiders are now using a four back rushing attack that all spells nothing in the fantasy world. The only decent Raider player was really Porter who might be gone next year. The Raiders have first round RB written all over them.
DEN 37, TEN 16 So maybe that whole "Volek for President" movement took a hit this week when he suddenly returned to being a pumpkin after a stint as the surprise fantasy princess. This entailed taking Drew Bennett down with him, who also was unable to sustain his pace for becoming the most prolific receiver in the history of the NFL (go figure). You probably only wanted the one more week from him anyway. Plummer finally reversed his trend of becoming a Rocky Mountain goat and threw for 303 yards and two scores because, finally, he could. The Mike Shanahanigans continued with him making Reuben Droughns the centerpiece this week and gave Droughns three touchdowns one week after Droughns was hurt and barely played. Droughns went off while on many fantasy benches because how can you trust Shanahan on who is starting ever? Think you can now? 'Sigh'... we'll still be pondering this whole scenario next summer no doubt. Only there'll be yet another rookie RB there to throw even more shadows.
CHI 13, DET 19 The Lions actually quit trying after being up 16-0 by the half and the Bears score reflects one interception return for a score. Chicago remains nothing more than Thomas Jones but at least this week he popped for 143 yards because after the last month, no one would dare start a player that had not topped about 50 yards a game. Harrington's good play last week was short lived. He returned to only throwing for 166 yards and one interception while Roy Williams crawled back under a rock and Hakim did not matter. It's sort of like old-time CHI/DET games where there was a lot of good running, not much passing and decent defense all around. There are no fantasy points for boredom though.
NYG 22, CIN 23 GOTW contender. This was one of those "Twilight Zone" games that always end the season when the Giants convinced the Bengals that they were facing an actual defense and Rudi Johnson only managed 31 yards on 19 carries and Kitna sandwiched two scoring drives for Chad Johnson with 50 minutes in the middle of the game where it just did not work very well against a suspect defense. Eli Manning has now topped the elusive 200 yard mark for the first time in his career. The Bengals needed a big punt return and a final drive that ended with the touchdown with only 44 seconds left to take the lead. Ends up that 44 seconds is not enough time for Eli Manning to mount a comeback yet.
ATL 13, NO 26 The Falcons offense without Vick or Crumpler did not work since the wideouts could not understand why the quarterback was throwing balls at them while they tried to perform their traditional downfield dance routines. No matter where they tried to run, the quarterback would actually follow them with his eyes and try to hit them with the ball. Was it that he did not like them? Was he trying to hurt them? It was too weird. By the end of the game, he was even trying to lead them when he threw which made them take evasive maneuvers to prevent getting hit by the ball. It was obvious that Schaub was out to get them. "Are we not men?" they thought. "Does he think this is some sort of human shooting gallery? Think, think... did I say something wrong in the huddle?" Vick needs to return before someone gets hurt downfield.
BAL 7, PIT 20 The Steelers have now locked up the homefield throughout, have won their last 13 games and avenged their only loss on the season by smacking around the visiting Ravens by holding Jamal Lewis to only 26 yards on 14 carries. Plaxico Burress finally returned from his month long vacation to catch yet another touchdown bomb and by the time that Duce Staley returns to playing it will be a disappointment since the Bus has been rolling for so long that no one can stop all that momentum. The Steelers will play in Buffalo this weekend and may have to let that game slide past just to take the pressure of a winning streak off now that it doesn't matter. Then again - if Roethlisberger's chest is hurt bad at all, it's time to dust off the "Maddox to Ward" show so the Steelers can resume their losing ways.
HOU 21, JAX 0 The Jaguars entered the must-win game without Fred Taylor and after Leftwich was blasted into a concussed silliness, Jacksonville learned that life using backups is not a life worth leading. The same secondary which had allowed over half of their opponents to throw for over two scores (including three games of 4 or 5 TDs allowed) managed to hold the Jags to only 54 passing yards. Domanick Davis only rushed for 56 yards in the first meeting in Houston but rumbled for 150 yards yesterday. This was the official "Say What?" game of the weekend. The Texans host the Browns this weekend and with a win can claim a .500 season. True - it is not a winning season. But it is not a losing season either and were they an NFC team they could have possibly taken a division.
NE 23, NYJ 7 The Jets took their best chance in two years to finally squash their inferiority complex against the Patriots and instead likely cemented it for a while longer. This was a 23-0 game until the fourth quarter. Curtis Martin only gained 33 yards. Chad Pennington, who could perhaps use some advice about when to spout off and when to wait a bit came out after week 15 berating the media because he just threw for 253 yards and three scores against Seattle and the media had been too harsh on him in the past because, like, he just had one good game and everything. Pennington ended with 252 yards, one score and two costly interceptions yesterday against a secondary that doesn't even use exclusively defensive players anymore.
BUF 41, SF 7 This was actually 41-0 and even that maybe sounds closer than it really was. Lee Evans looks just like Peerless Price from two years ago though Eric Moulds still looks like the 2003 version. Willis McGahee gutted it out for 15 carries because it was against the 49ers and Willis needed the 102 yards and two scores to help pad his stats. Disregard the first month of the season and Buffalo has gone 9-2 with an awesome defense and running game that allows Bledsoe to look good since he doesn't have to try very hard. The 49ers have not given up their will to fight, they've just conceded that they have nothing to fight with. The 49ers management has come out and said if (not an if) they end up with the first pick in the draft they will not trade it away, they will use it. Now there's a reason to be the second best collegiate player in the country.
WAS 10, DAL 13 GOTW contender if you enjoy watching grass grow and dislike having to clap or get excited. The Redskins still have a great defense and no offense while the Cowboys have a better defense with a worse offense. Both teams threw interceptions into the endzone to kill scoring drives and Testaverde finally managed to throw a touchdown only 59 minutes and 30 seconds into the game. Most fans left the game before there was anything to watch since it was 6-3 until the final six minutes in the game. Vinny now enjoys a chorus of boos when he trots onto the field while there is speculation that he may return for another season.
CAR 37, TB 20 Two of the best defenses of 2003 meet up and produce 57 points. Delhomme threw for four scores and Muhsin Muhammad has scored more touchdowns this season than he had in the last four years. Even the Buccaneers cannot stop the 33 year-old wideout. Can a player actually breakout in his ninth season? Will Muhammad slow down enough so we can ponder the question? Michael Pittman decided to formally end his hot streak of the last nine weeks exactly when you wanted more than just 53 yards. Galloway and Clayton turned in three touchdowns to make the Bucs look more like a passing team, at least until Galloway gets hurt again.
ARZ 21, SEA 24 Surprise! Hasselbeck may have been probable to play this week, he was in practice and even was named as the starter but when it comes right down to game time, Holmgren rekindled his penchant for the misdirection and made Dilfer as the starter and Hasselbeck as the #2 just in time for kickoff. Evidently he planned all along to do nothing more than hand off to Shaun Alexander ( 154 yards and three touchdowns) but the Cardinals scored twice in the fourth quarter to put a little "here we go again" fear back into the Seahawks but one first down by the Seahawks was enough to drain the clock and secure the win. Seattle now owns the NFC West if the Rams lose to either PHI or the NYJ next week which is very likely. Since SEA ends with ATL who no longer shows up, they might even win the West with an actual 9-7 winning record.
CLE 7, MIA 10 The Dolphins come off their most exciting win in years when they beat the Patriots and yesterday turned in perhaps their most boring win in years when they beat the Browns by a late field goal. The same team that took down the reigning world champs last week could only score one touchdown against a team that had averaged allowing almost 40 points per game over the last month. The only thing that came out of this game was that Lee Suggs ( 38 carries for 143 yards) is a lock to be the starter next year until he is injured again. The week started out great with the GB-MIN game and ended very cruelly here.

Game-O-The-Week

The season is winding down and we were forced to witness some downright weirdness this week in the first ever shutout by the Texans (on the road against a potential playoff team no less) and snorefests in Dallas and Miami. The 49ers have officially stopped trying and will end up in NE for their last game (now there is a treat). The Big keep getting bigger and the middle is still muddled with mediocrity. These 2004 playoffs are shaping up to be meaningless in the first week and the real games start in week two. And even then, maybe only in the AFC.

The game of the week is naturally the only meeting between divisional winners last week - both were 11-3 and there were several potential all-time NFL records on the line. What a great game.

San Diego 31, Indianapolis 34

This was the game that offered a chance for Peyton Manning to secure a spot in history by being the first player to tie and then beat the all-time record for touchdowns passed in a season. At home and with that on the line, it meant that the first half would only produce three field goals by Mike Vanderjagt while the Chargers scored on a 74 yard pass to LaDainian Tomlinson and later on a second pass to Eric Parker. Two passing scores in the game and neither were Manning's. At the half, the Chargers led 17-9.

Knowing that the game was on the line and the records still needed breaking, Manning came out in the second half and immediately threw two incompletions and then fumbled on third down. The Colts punted and then witnessed the Chargers marching down the field, ending with Antonio Gates catching the NFL record 13th touchdown by a tight end in one season. Unfortunately, this also meant that the Colts trailed 24-9.

Finally, starting at his own 28-yard line Manning was able to put together a drive that relied on Marvin Harrison and some defensive penalties to reach the Chargers 3-yard line where he flipped a shovel pass to James Mungro to score his 48th passing touchdown on the year to tie Dan Marino's record. The Colts only trailed 24-16.

On the next series, the Chargers took over on their own 29-yard line and worked out the final six minutes of the third quarter to reach the Colts 16-yard line using mainly Tomlinson rushing. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Tomlinson ran to the right side for the rest of the sixteen yards to score an NFL record 12th straight game with a rushing score. In the matter of three straight series, the NFL had a new tight end touchdown record, a tie for the most passing scores in one season and the most consecutive games with a rushing score by a running back.

The Chargers led 31-16 and kicked off to Dominic Rhodes who then ran 88 yards for a touchdown. That's four scores in the matter of about nine minutes. Now the Colts trailed by 31-23. And still left to see would be if Manning could throw for one more score to set a new record.

The Chargers reached the Colts 34-yard line before having to punt instead of trying a 51 yard field goal with 9:35 left to play in the game. The touchback comes out to the 20-yard line and the Colts then march down to the Chargers 21-yard line where Manning is sacked on third down and Vanderjagt comes out to miss a 47 yard field goal. There is only 4:47 left to play and the Chargers take over on their own 29-yard line. They run three plays and punt 60 yards for a touchback.

With 3:42 left to play and down 23-31, the Colts start out and Manning throws an incomplete followed by yet another sack for a five yard loss. On third and 15, Manning throws for 11 yards to James. On fourth down and four from their own 26-yard line with 3:05 left to play, the Colts go for it. Gutsy call. Manning hits Reggie Wayne for a 19 yard gain and a first down.

Then a pass to Clark for 16 yards and another to Clark to 7 more yards. And incomplete to Harrison makes it second and 10 from the Chargers 39 yard line with 1:04 left to play. Manning then hits Harrison for an 18 yard completion to the 21-yard line and on first down, does not break an NFL record. He breaks two. On a post route, Brandon Stokley catches a 21 yard score that represents the first time in NFL history that one team has had three receivers with ten or more touchdowns. And just as notably, for the first time in NFL history, a quarterback has thrown for 49 touchdowns in a single season. Down 31-29, the Colts have the most prolific passer in NFL history try for a two point conversion by handing it off to Edgerrin James who slashes in for the tying conversion.

31-31.

The Chargers are unable to use the final minute to score and the game goes into overtime. The Colts win the toss and Rhodes only reaches the Colts 27-yard line on the kickoff. After a James run for three yards, Manning clicks. 23 yards to Stokley then 35 yards to Wayne and suddenly the Colts are already on the 12-yard line. One run to line up the kick and Vanderjagt slams home the 30 yard field goal for the win.

It was an incredible game even without three NFL records being broken. Throw those in and it was great drama and a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It was only appropriate for the game to end in overtime after a furious comeback by the Colts thanks solely to the passing of Manning. As the season ends, we're seeing some great football from where it counts the most - the new elite class of the NFL that has seven teams with nothing to play in the final week.

The final week will be unusually odd thanks to so many teams likely to protect the health of players and we should see some second stringers get some playing time and a few youngsters audition for next season. There's a reason enough to watch this weekend since it will be like watching an entirely different NFL. After the final week of the regular season, it will be back to business for the playoff teams that all agree with one aspect of fantasy football..

The ring's the thing.

Now get back to work...