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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - 2004 Final
David M. Dorey
January 3, 2005
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Marc Bulger 450 3
Jake Plummer 262 3
Joey Harrington 359 2
Running Backs Yards TD
Larry Johnson 161 2
Rudi Johnson 99 3
Thomas Jones 112 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Torry Holt 116 2
Muhsin Muhammad 95 2
Chris Chambers 146 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Tony Gonzalez 144 0
Bubba Franks 59 1
Chris Cooley 24 1
Placekickers XP FG
Jeff Reed 2 5
Phil Dawson 1 5
Jason Elam 3 4
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
New York Jets 2 3 3
Cincinnati 1 3 5
Green Bay 1 9 1

Week 17 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Wayne Chrebet (NYJ) - Concussion
Billy Volek (TEN) - Separated shoulder
Keyshawn Johnson (DAL) - Fractured ankle
Cedrick Wilson (SF) - Broken leg
Kelly Campbell (MIN) - Sprained shoulder

Welcome to the Choke-a-rama

The season wrapped up in an odd way - seven teams already had locked up both their division and their playoff seed and the four wildcards and one division was still open to ten teams.

In one game, the Panthers lost - at home - to the Saints to end an incredible comeback over the last half of the season to reach the playoffs. The Panthers had already won 32-21 in New Orleans. Choke.

The Bills were on a six game winning streak and aiming to finally return to the playoffs as the hottest team in the AFC over the last two months. Instead, they dropped their game to the Steelers even though it was at home and the Steelers were without Bettis, Roethlisberger and Burress. Choke.

The Vikings only needed to win to be ensured a playoff spot and went to face the 5-10 Redskins who were without Clinton Portis and starting cornerback Fred Smoot. Instead, the Vikings end their second straight season with a loss they needed but still ended up in the playoffs anyway. Choke

The Jets went down to St. Louis with the NFL's leading rusher and, according to Pennington, a great passing game. In the end, the Jets were only close thanks to touchdowns scored on a kick return and an interception and yet still lost in overtime after winning the coin toss. Choke.

Though the game had no playoff implications, the Texans hosted the Cleveland Browns in a game that could allow them to produce their first ever .500 season. The Browns had not won in the last nine games. Of course, that meant that the Browns took the victory while the Texans offense playcalling can now be done entirely by handsignals. They merely point to which side that Domanick Davis will run. Choke.

Showing the Love

Tony Gonzalez entered the game against the Chargers yesterday with 88 receptions and a chance to become the first ever tight end with 100 catches in a season. By the time the final gun sounded, Gonzalez had not only reached the 100 catch threshold, he had 14 catches to end him with 102 receptions for the year. It only took 25 passes to him in the game to get him there. There were seven starting quarterbacks yesterday that did not throw that many passes to all of their receivers combined.

And then there's the anti-Vermeil

When Shaun Alexander entered the game against the Falcons, he knew by halftime that Curtis Martin had ran for 153 yards against the Rams and ended with 1697 rushing yards on the season. That meant that Alexander only needed 81 yards on the ground in order to become the NFL's leading rusher. Alexander already had 56 yards and one touchdown on just ten carries in the first half. With only 25 more yards needed, Alexander seemed a lock to reach that pinnacle of merit.

Unfortunately, he ended with nine more runs for only... 25 yards. With 80 yards in the game, he ended one yard behind Martin and second place rarely gets much more play than the back of a football card. He gained 17 yards in the final Seahawks drive on six carries and only had three runs total on the two previous drives. The final play by the Seahawks that secured the win was a one yard run for a touchdown - by Hasselbeck.

Must be the system

Antonio Gates was inactive for the meaningless game against the Chiefs and was replaced by the rookie Ryan Krause from Nebraska who had not played a down this season. His 81 yards and one touchdown was second only to Tony Gonzalez for tight ends yesterday. Okay, the Chargers were playing the Chiefs so, just maybe, the defense had a little to do with it.

It's like Deja-vu all over again

The Broncos faced the Colts in Denver in week 15 of 2003 and won 31-17 in Indianapolis. They then faced the Colts in the first round of the playoffs and were thrashed 41-10. Yesterday the Broncos once again faced the Colts and came away with a 33-14 win. In doing so, the Broncos not only reached the playoffs on another wildcard, they also get another first round ticket - to Indianapolis again. Wonder if the Colts just consider Denver as a 53-man good luck charm?

In other news, the Packers get to open their playoff run against the Vikings - their third meeting of the season. The Rams get to go play in Seattle - their third meeting of the season.

Let me count the ways of silliness

For leagues that extend their playoffs into week 17, the champions it produced likely gave a bit of an unfair advantage to teams that drafted well - but not the best. Consider how many teams reached the lofty championship game only to witness Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Ladainian Tomlinson, Brett Favre, Edgerrin James and Antonio Gates all sit out or barely play and each is within the top 5 of their position (to name but a few of the "sit-downs" for the day). Let those championships mean something more than a lottery ticket for players who are not good enough to have clinched a playoff spot.

Err... compounding that bit of silliness

Week 17 is a crapshoot at best as to who will play and who will sit. But in a few select situations, the pain turned to pleasure. Marc Bulger (450 yds, 3 TD), Thomas Jones (112 yds, 2 TD), Deuce McAllister (154 yds, 1 TD), Jamal Lewis (167 yds, 1 TD), Torry Holt (116 yds, 2 TD) and Chris Chambers (146 yds, 1 TD) all had one of their best games of the year yesterday. Bulger, Jones, McAllister and Chambers all had season high fantasy points.

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Doug Flutie 118 2 QB Donovan McNabb 0 0
RB Ladell Betts 112 1 RB Edgerrin James -2 0
RB Sammy Morris 102 1 RB LaDainian Tomlinson 0 0
WR Ryan Krause 81 1 WR Hines Ward 11 0
WR Freddie Mitchell 76 1 WR Andre Johnson 13 0
WR Malcolm Floyd 49 1 WR Jimmy Smith 22 0
PK Jeff Reed 2 XP 5 FG PK Mike Vanderjagt

2 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 103

Huddle Fantasy Points = 6

Sunday's Couch Commentary

SF 7, NE 21 Let's see here. Patriots started out with two fumbles and an interception and Kevan Barlow ran for 103 yards. But these are the 49ers so that meant that they only lost by 14 points because they did not know that Cleveland would win today and ensure that the 49ers would have undisputed claim to the #1 draft pick regardless of what happened. Now every sports agent has to get caller ID so they don't mistakenly pick up any call made from the 415 area code. "How about we just let that one ring, shall we..."
CLE 22, HOU 14 There are several head coaching candidates that spent the day writing down "note to self - Holcomb and Suggs, not Garcia and Green". The Browns incredibly ended a nine game losing streak by hitting the road and playing the Texans who had their first ever chance to end a season .500 (AKA "not losing"). While Andre Johnson made the Pro bowl, the voters must not have been watching the last six weeks when he had only one game over 46 yards and ended his year with a 13 yard effort. Once again, Davis had 145 total yards which was over 50% of all yardage gained by the Texans. Since Davis was both the lead rusher and receiver for the Texans, perhaps they should just spend the offseason teaching him how to throw as well and just save a lot of boxscore ink next season.
GB 31, CHI 14 The Packers let Favre play just long enough to score two touchdowns - eh, about a quarter. The Packers ran up a 28-7 lead by halftime and then spent the rest of the game resting starters and sacking Chad Hutchinson a total of nine times. The Bears opened with a 63 yard completion to David Terrell (no score there of course) and then spend the rest of the game making sure that no receiver exceeded 30 yards because THAT IS THE PLAN, MAN. Thomas Jones turned in two scores and 108 yards rushing so the hometown fans would have something to applaud. At least those that still were in the stadium.
NO 21, CAR 18 In one of those odd games of the day, the Panthers suddenly had no rushing out of Nick Goings while Deuce McAllister rambled for 140 yards. The Panthers had already beaten the Saints once this season but at home with a possible playoff berth meant that the Saints would continue their head-scratching, "we're better now for some reason" level of play. Aaron Brooks had said that he was superior to Delhomme before the game and afterwards was quoted stating "I said after the game that I'd be laughing at y'all, the fake experts in the media. All y'all been talking (expletive) on Aaron Brooks." This is the final sign before the meltdown. The quarterback now refers to himself in the third person. HC Jim Haslett is perhaps the only NFL coach that looks uncomfortable with winning, like he's smiling while thinking "please don't ask me to explain this".
PIT 29, BUF 24 The AFC East darlings, the Bills had won their last six games and were vying for that final playoff spot by facing a Steeler squad that was without Roethlisberger, Bettis and Burress. Staley barely played. And yet on this day Willie Parker ( 109 yards) was plenty enough as long as Randle El and Lee Mays was playing...?.... The Bills sort of end the season proving what they knew all along. McGahee and Lee Evans are definite bright spots on the offense and pretty much nothing else is. The Steelers roll into the bye week on a 14 game winning streak. It all seems so "Patriot" like.
MIA 23, BAL 30 Take away the 76 yard Chambers score and the Morris run for 35 yards and the other touchdown and this game met all expectations. Jamal Lewis finally had a monster game of 167 yards and one touchdown just to insult everyone who drafted him last summer and did not have fantasy football in week 17. The Ravens won the game but still ended up squeezed out of the playoff picture. Pity too - that Lewis guy is just now getting warmed up. Lewis ran for 167 yards and that gave him 1006 yards for the year. Must have been tied to an incentive or something (like he gets an extra case of beer for gaining exactly half what he did the previous season).
MIN 18, WAS 21 Let's call him Coach Mike Twice. For the second season in a row, the Vikes played on the road in week 17 where a win could cement a playoff invite and for the second time - they failed. And they did so when the Redskins were missing Clinton Portis (AKA the offense) and CB Fred Smoots (AKA the Moss guy). The other CB Shawn Springs even missed some of the third quarter after getting sick at halftime. No matter. The Vikings reverted back to shuttling in all three running backs and neither Bennett, Williams nor Smith gained more than 19 yards in the game. While that trio was busy totaling 28 yards rushing, Ladell Betts was gaining 118 yards on 26 carries with one touchdown. Now the Vikes head to Packerland this week and face the team that beat them 34-31 twice already this season. That's twice.. Mike Twice... soon to be Mike Thrice...
DET 19. TEN 24 The Lions on the road did exactly what has never worked this season - have Harrington look really good and Kevin Jones only average. The Titans won mainly due to Ben Troupe and Antowain Smith and the fact that if the Lions were to win they would mess up their chance to take a third straight highly ranked wide out. They need someone to man the slot along with Roy Williams and ... oh man - this is embarrassing.. that guy - you know really fast play maker and all that... sort of like everything that Drew Bennett is not.
NYJ 29, STL 32 The vaunted Jets pass defense was accidentally left at the airport and Marc Bulger threw for 450 yards and three scores to hand the Jets yet another swirl down the old porcelain throne during the late season. Santana Moss ended with only 28 yards and THAT is what you need to remember next summer. Curtis Martin may be heading home for the playoffs but at least he'll get to watch the television with his NFL rushing champion trophy. The Rams now get to travel to Seattle where they sincerely hope the Seahawks have forgotten all about that 33-27 comeback win back in week five.
CIN 38, PHI 10 Thank the Eagles for being the only playoff team to clearly and with ample advance notice make no pretense that they are going to mail in the game and whatever happens is just fine with them. Chances are that Eric McCoo and Reno Mahe will not be the primary runners in a few weeks when Philly plays. The Bengals took their gift gratefully and ended with an 8-8 record. The Bengals are 8-8. Season over and the second number is not bigger than the first. Now they get to find out just how hard that whole "middle of the draft" thing really is.
ATL 26, SEA 28

As a final thumbing of the nose at the fantasy world, now that most leagues ended last week the Falcons threw an actual touchdown to a wideout - Peerless Price no less. Even Brian Finneran caught one as well. In one meaningless game, the Falcons 167 passing yards and two scores to a wideout were enough to keep them in the game that was led primarily by Matt Schaub. Both Dunn and Duckett ran well but Seattle still held on to the win that assured them the NFC West title with a lofty 9-7 record. The Falcons end their season with two straight losses but a week off to forget about them. The Seahawks face off for the third time against the Rams this weekend and the Rams actually won there earlier this season. Gosh - if only Alexander would have gained one more yard in that game. Just one more yard! YOU HEAR THAT SHAUN? THEY'RE LAUGHING AT YOU SHAUN... hehehe... works every time

TB 7, ARZ 12 When the only scoring in the entire game was a 75 yard pass to Michael Clayton or four Racker's field goals, you can't really consider it much of a game. Emmitt's possible swan song was 69 yards on 23 carries. It was like both teams were vying for a better draft slot and someone forgot to tell Rackers to miss.
KC 17, SD 24 Nothing says a season should end with your team is beaten by Michael Turner, Andrew Pinnock, Ryan Krause and Malcolm Floyd. Doug Flutie may be old but he still runs around like a 5 year-old after a halloween sugar high and Philip Rivers got to throw his first ever NFL touchdown to Malcolm Floyd and Ryan Krause also scored and the three players were all first-timers at scoring since none of them had ever actually played an NFL regular season down before. Larry Johnson looks a whole lot like Priest Holmes if you squint your eyes and he would have been both the leading rusher and receiver had it not been for the crazed dedication to push Gonzalez over 100 receptions for the year. The Chargers now rest for a week while the Chiefs enter yet another offseason with the same question - "what does a defense look like with arrowheads on their helmets?"
JAX 13, OAK 6 Sure, blame the monsoon for the lackluster offenses but the Raiders hadn't allowed less than 31 points in the last four games. For them to hold an opponent to only 13, it seems the weather should have included a tornado, an earthquake and hail the size of beer bottles (like exactly the shape of beer bottles). At some point in the fourth quarter it was realized that Zack Crockett was running well and he had 12 straight runs that were interrupted only by one pass to him as well. As it ended up, Crockett was the only "mudder" of the 106 active players for the game and could have been fun to watch if they would have figured it out sooner. The Jags hung on to win but in the end - didn't matter.
IND 14, DEN 33 Peyton Manning completed only one pass before he heard the crackle on the helmet headset "zzzrrrrppp... whoa, that's good enough, buddy. Come get your clipboard" Jim Sorgi threw for two touchdowns because he was handed the keys to the NFL equivalent of a Ferrari. The only certainty from the game was that nothing the Colts did will be seen again this weekend when they play again in Indianapolis. Chances are good that James will have more than one carry and Manning will throw more than one completion. Both Bell and Droughns perfectly split carries while Plummer looked good again. Now that the scrimmage is over, the real game is about to start.
DAL 24, NYG 28 The Giants finally killed an eight game winning streak and Eli Manning is now 1-0 as a starter (or 1-6 depending on how far you look back). He won the game without Amani Toomer (who he never used) or Jeremy Shockey (who he did use but pretended that Shiancoe was just Shockey). The Cowboys lost the game because they were so set on not allowing Manning to have his first ever last minute drive that they forgot that Tiki Barber is a much more effective way to march the field and score a touchdown. Dallas ends the season with the running back and tight end spots locked up for next season and nothing else is for sure.

Game-O-The-Week

There is no game of the week because for this 115th edition of the Tunnel Vision since 1998 (and final for the 2004 season), I am calling this the WEEK OF THE SEASON. Simply put, it did exactly what we needed even though it was hard to see coming in all facets.

After 16 weeks, there were definite trends developing and it was becoming very clear exactly which teams were the "haves" and the "have nots". This season had already seen an incredible seven teams already clinch their division and by a quirk - even their playoff seeding by last week. There would be little drama this week other than witnessing which teams would get the chance for a one week cameo appearance in the first round of the playoffs.

But that didn't happen really.

In almost every case, the lowest ranked teams in the standings - the Dolphins, Browns, Titans, Raiders and Redskins either won their games or came very close. The three longest losing streaks - Cleveland (9), Giants (8) and Tennessee (5) all won their games.The two of the three longest winning streaks - Indianapolis (8) and Buffalo (6) both lost. It was like closing the poker table for the season by removing everyone's chips and setting it all back to zero for next season. The NFL whipping boy of the NFC West had three of four teams win yesterday.

We now have to wonder - were the Bills, Jets, Ravens, Saints, Jaguars or Panthers ever really that good? Were the Chiefs, Texans, Lions, Cardinals or Buccaneers ever really that bad? This final week offered a chance to catch our breath after 16 competitive, frustratingly enjoyable weeks of fantasy football and mostly all it did was to reshuffle the deck to prime us for the new game in eight more months.

The playoffs will answer how twelve of the teams will finish the season but in fantasy football we have to pay attention to all 32 teams and by next summer determine what we believe about each before drafting any of their players. That'd be hard enough if we didn't also have to factor in some new head coaches, new offensive systems, free agent movement and, oh yeah, that good old NFL draft next April that will sprinkle each and every team with hope and optimism. Just like your fantasy draft.

It's been a great year and one that has witnessed old vets looking like youngsters again, a waiver wire that produced several top ten players in all positions and not only the chance to rebuild teams mid-season but occasionally a real need to do so. It's been a great year and so will 2005. I know it's so because there'll be just as much new to learn, more chances for interacting with the knuckleheads that dare play in a league with me and plenty of opportunities to laugh, cry and kick the coffee table as I watch the Sunday games.The only thing better than coming off a good year is knowing that the next one will be even better. To borrow from the author Mark St. Amant, we are the Cadre of the Committed. Members of a society dedicated to spreadsheets, keyboards and remote controls that can ask the questions which leave most sports media types merely shrugging.

Enjoy the NFL playoffs and then check back on occasion to see what free agency is doing. Get fired up again in April when we all learn an entirely new list of names and then follow the teams as they start to come together during the summer. Right now - it's time to rest and reconnect. Thanks to all who were kind enough to shoot me an email just to say my sleepless Sunday nights were not in vain. It's all about having fun and I appreciate being able to contribute if only in a small way.

So it's on to eight long months of me biting my tongue and keeping my sarcasm and sense of humor in check because the wife, family members and the general public have not proven to be as receptive to my observations as many of you. By September, I'm going to have a whole lot of venting to get rid of.

Hope you'll be around to hear.

Have a happy new year and a great offseason. And for the 115th time...

Now get back to work.