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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 3
David Dorey
September 19, 2005
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Donovan McNabb 342 5
Brett Favre 342 3
Carson Palmer 337 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Thomas Jones 158 2
Stephen Davis 77 3
Shaun Alexander 155 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Terrell Owens 143 2
Hines Ward 84 2
T.J. Houshmandzadeh 79 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Steve Heiden 104 2
L.J. Smith 119 1
Randy McMichael 77 1
Placekickers FG XP
Shayne Graham 3 4
Neil Rackers 4 0
Rob Bironas 3 2
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Chicago 2 2 5
Tennessee 1 6 2
Bengals 0 2 7

Week 2 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

David Akers (PHI) - Hamstring injury
Marcus Pollard (DET) - Possible concussion
Byron Leftwich (JAX) - Sprained knee
Priest Holmes (KC) - Neck stinger
Michael Vick (ATL) - Hamstring strain
Alex Bannister (SEA) - Collar bone injury
Chris Brown (HOU) - concussion
Ronald Curry (OAK) - Leg or knee sprain

And so Bilbo said "wear this shirt"

Donovan McNabb entered the match-up against the 49ers with a chest injury and instead of wearing a flak jacket, he wore a "protective shirt". The only reason that McNabb left the game late was because he was risking a case of tendonitis from throwing so many touchdowns (5).

Forget Under Armor, gotta get me one of them shirts...

Oh sure - went with Eli instead, had a hunch...

Peyton Manning is hardly new to turning in phenomenal performances, every team in your fantasy league (save one) was treated to a memorable and even historic game. Facing the Jacksonville Jaguars in Indianapolis last year, Manning threw for 368 yards and three scores. Yesterday? He had only 122 yards and no scores with one interception.

Searching...searching... Nope. Never did that poorly in any full game while in the NFL. Again, it was a happy day for all team owners in your league... "save one."

Ordering heart pills now

Priest Holmes owners collectively winced and kicked the coffee table while Holmes was down in the Raider game. Sure, they saw it happen because we pretty much all watch Holmes run so we can be the first to shout "he's holding his <insert body part>! Holmes is down!". Ends up that it was only a neck stinger that bothered a nerve temporarily so Holmes returned to the game and still ended with 90 total yards and one score. Larry Johnson turned his spot duty into 41 yards and one score which gives him a mere 162 yards and three touchdowns on the season AKA the 6th best fantasy back so far (Priest is 8th).

Hey! HE'S DOWN! He's... oh. Never mind. He got back up... this time...

Okay look Rex, we gotta talk

The Bears are pleased with their rookie quarterback Kyle Orton who completed 14 of 21 passes for 150 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers plus made actual use of Muhsin Muhammad (6-81, 1 TD). The Bears won 38-6 which is their highest game score this millennia and the biggest margin of winning in 18 years. Rex Grossman had been the franchise quarterback until he was injured earlier... I said Rex Grossman. About this tall. Wears #8? Oh, just never mind.

Never lean on early standings

If the season ended now, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we're happy it is not, the divisions and conferences are looking rather different from last season. Consider, technically, the leaders for each conference if the season ended today (no tiebreaker emails please, I am making a point here).

In 2004, after the first two weeks:

AFC - New England, NY Jets, CIncinnati, Denver, Oakland, Indianapolis
NFC - Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, Seattle, Carolina, St. Louis

That obviously wasn't how it ended. The only undefeated teams currently are Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh (with Dallas, NY Giants and Washington left to play). The only undefeated teams at this point last year were Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, New England and the NY Jets.

We still have a long way to go.

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Trent Dilfer 336 3 QB Peyton Manning 122 0
RB Lamar Gordon 43 1 RB Corey Dillon 36 0
RB Marcel Shipp 93 0 RB Willis McGahee 33 0
WR Braylon Edwards 107 1 WR Andre Johnson 20 0
WR Steve Heiden 104 2 WR Reggie Wayne 19 0
WR Robert Ferguson 47 1 WR Steve Smith 34 0
PK Neil Rackers 4 FG PK Rian Lindell 1 FG

Huddle Fantasy Points = 112

Huddle Fantasy Points = 21

Sunday's Couch Commentary

MIN 8, CIN 37 The Randy Ratio has been replaced with the weekly Culpepper Catastrophe which calls for him to score once for every five turnovers. While Culpepper did rush in one score, his turnovers are drive and game killers and yet again, the Vikings appear hell bent on getting rid of Mike Tice. Fortunately, the RBBC of the Vikes doesn't matter because combined they do not add up to fantasy relevance and separately they look like a first quarter box score. Palmer has opened this season with a nice schedule - CLE and MIN - and has absolutely shredded both defenses and currently commands the highest scoring offense in the NFL. There simply is no escaping that you need to learn how to spell Houshmandzadeh.
JAC 3, IND 10 Both these teams had over 300 yards passing in this game last year. Both teams have the same offensive players. What no one wanted to see was that both teams are now sporting actual defenses and killing the fantasy fun this game used to present. That first round pick you made with 49 stars in your eyes a month ago currently ranks as the 22nd best fantasy quarterback and could dip down to 25th best after Monday night. Edgerrin James was the leading rusher (128 yards) and receiver (39 yards) and yet was pulled at the end so Ran Carthon could take the only touchdown in the game. Now then, just climb back off that ledge and realize that Manning next faces CLE, TEN, SF and STL. There - feel better now?
SF 3, PHI 42 This game was like all the wrong planets coming into alignment for the 49ers who are not "all that" quite yet and really, they are not yet even "some of that". The 49ers had a monster win in week one (any win qualifies here) but had to go to Philly where the Eagles were mad about losing in Atlanta, playing in their home opener with Owens facing his old team for the first time and, oh yes, they were going to play the 49ers who were on the road. The 49ers did have a nice hit on Owens over the middle to watch on film this week. That about concludes any highlights. McNabb had four scores in the first 19 minutes of the game. Even LB Mark Simoneau made an extra point while Akers was injured. Kudos to both teams for bringing some consistency from 2004.
BUF 3, TB 19 Admit it - you picked up Rian Lindell, didn't you? The Bills lack of offense became somewhat more critical when they hit the road to face a surprisingly improved Buccaneers team that suddenly looks like it is a Super Bowl year again. They held Willis McGahee to only 34 yards rushing and J.P. Losman (12/28 - 113) looked every bit as bad as was feared. Carnell Williams now has his second 100 yard rushing effort and I'm ready to cast my ROY vote already. The big defense and sound rushing game is back in Tampa Bay which is killing the Griese passing game because they just do not need it.
PIT 27, HOU 7 The Steelers host the Patriots this Sunday and finally they get to open the season with an actual game. According to boxscores, Ben Roethlisberger is a top ten quarterback and Willie Parker is currently the #1 fantasy running back in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Texans need to shy away from the Alamo analogies because everyone will assume they mean they all end up dead. David Carr is playing the way that Kyle Orton is supposed to be playing and Andre Johnson is currently the 87th best wide receiver in the league, tucked between Ernest Wilford and Reggie Brown. Last year, the entire offense revolved around Domanick and Andre. Now it is just Domanick and this is not being lost on the opposing defenses. If you bump into Dom Capers near a dumpster, just point out the empty boxes and keep walking.
BAL 10, TEN 25 This is exactly why they play the games - because some are supposed to make no sense. The Titans were coming off a big loss in Pittsburgh that exposed their use of big duffle bags as defensive linemen and facing the most recent 2000+ yard rusher in Jamal Lewis, limited him to only nine yards on ten carries. The new Titan offense ran for 97 yards on the Ravens even though Chris Brown left early with a concussion. Steve McNair was effective in focusing on no single receiver and threw for 195 yards though 52 yards was the tops by any wideout (Bennett). The Ravens has one-time offensive mastermind Brian Billick for a headcoach and yet there is almost no sign of actual pages in the playbook. Evidently it is harder without Culpepper and Moss... make that just without Moss.
DET 6, CHI 38 Continuing the string of eyebrow raising games this weekend, the Bears apparently channeled 1985 onto their field and squashed the Lions in every facet of the game. Orton was relatively flawless, Thomas Jones (139 yards, two touchdowns) will never make it onto the Benson christmas card list and the defense had five interceptions of Harrington and limited Kevin Jones to only 22 yards on eight carries. Just because Jeff Garcia can only hop now doesn't necessarily take him out of the running as starter. Other than one nice strike to Roy Williams, Harrington displayed a comedy of errors in the passing game and is bound to be first on the plane home so he cannot hear people talking behind him. Evidently the Charles Rogers we have been waiting to see looks a lot like the other scrubs that took over for him the last two seasons.
NE 17, CAR 27 The Panthers just defeated the NFC Champ Patriots and of course now rest in the basement of the NFC South (at least technically). Oddly enough, that is also where the Pats rest in the AFC East right now. The Panthers held Dillon to only 36 yards on 14 carries and Brady threw for 270 yards with a score and a lost fumble and interception. Stephen Davis scored three times this Sunday and while he lacks a burst, he can hold on to the ball and gain one yard - three times if needed. The Patriots may have been looking up at the trip to Pittsburgh this week though that would go against all direction by Bill Belichick. If the Panther defense remains healthy this season, it won't be the last time they end up beating a favored opponent. Thankfully, they do not play a winning record for the next five games.
STL 17, ARZ 12 So now the Rams are a road team... just great. The Cardinals trap in the desert pretty much only caught themselves as Kurt Warner (327 yards, 0 TD, one interception and a fumbled snap) reminded his old employers why they got rid of him last year. Warner is now 0-2 this year against ex-teams. Arrington was a scratch for the game due to the flu (convenient?) and Shipp was fairly effective with 54 yards on only 12 carries. Neil Rackers becomes the hot kicker free agent this week with four field goals so you can dump Lindell for him now. The main reason that the Rams won, on the road, is from a new scheme they are using called "stop throwing interceptions". We'll see if they bring that to Tennessee this week.
ATL 18, SEA 21 This game was very nearly the Game-of-The-Week, but how many times do you really want to read that Vick had a couple exciting runs, threw for only 123 yards and then got hurt so the Falcons lost? Facing one of the softer defenses in the league, Dunn only gained 54 yards on 16 carries while Duckett came in for the touchdown run. Alexander ran for 144 yards and one score which allowed Hasselbeck enough time to look good once again. The Falcons were coming off a short week and an emotional win and the Seahawks were already talking about "must wins". The Falcons now travel to Buffalo where one of the two teams there will show up.
MIA 7, NYJ 17 Trying to bring some shred of normalcy to the NFL, the Dolphins performed much like everyone expected the "new team" to do last week. Frerotte only completed 20 of 43 for 177 yards and one score. Ronnie Brown only gained 35 yards on 12 carries and the defense stepped up to stop Curtis Martin who was held to only 72 yards on 31 carries including several goal line stuffs. What they still lacked was enough defense to compensate for Pennington (190 yards, 2 TD) who said after the game it was ugly but still a win. Hosting the resurgent Jaguars next week, it may just be "ugly".
SD 17, DEN 20 This game also nearly was the game of the week since it went down to the final five seconds before Elam kicked the winning field goal. Tomlinson only rushed for 52 yards but scored twice while Drew Brees is suddenly making people remember that Rivers kid. Just to ensure that no one benefits from the Denver rushing game this season, Mike Anderson did play but only had 49 yards, Tatum Bell got nicked up and yet never had a carry and Ron Dayne now looks like the best back on the team. At 0-2, the Chargers appear to have turned back into a pumpkin this season and that is with Gates (6-80) returning as the primary receiver. Both of these teams are still developing, we just cannot be sure into what quite yet.
KC 23, OAK 17 Yet again, this game could have been the game of the week on an afternoon slate which insisted every game go down to the wire. Holmes and Johnson again combined for a great rushing game but not the astronomic level that Holmes was turning in for the first eight weeks of 2004. Trent Green had 237 yards and has yet to actually throw a touchdown this season. While the Raiders only managed 59 yards out of 15 carries by Jordan, that is up sharply from the nothing of last year and Jordan rushed in one score this week and added 32 yards on six receptions. Evidently Randy Moss' role is to go deep every play and eventually Collins will hit him one each game. He'd be just an average wideout without that one long scoring catch but then again - he's still doing it every week. The Chiefs defense wasn't as dominating as in week one, but it was markedly improved from last year. You have to hate when teams discover they have a defense.

Game-O-The-Week

What a weird weekend. The morning slate had all home teams except for Houston win and most of them were blowouts except for the one game that was supposed to be the biggest - Jaguars at the Colts, 10-7... SAY WHAT?

The afternoon games took a different tact by having five of six games decided by less than one touchdown. Write this down - morning games are always blowouts and afternoon games are always close. And then throw away the piece of paper because it won't happen again that way. The question after two weeks is this - are these teams all so dramatically changed from last season or is it just the opening of the season that is to be different? Over the last ten years, my mantra has become threefold:

1. Do not draft players that build a great team - for last year.
2. Do not start players because of last week.
3. Do not expect the first three weeks of the season to be more than a general guide of what will happen.

There will be teams that snap back into place after playing poorly and others that have been playing over their head and come crashing to earth. All those new offenses will have more game film to study each week and the injuries will begin to eat away at some teams. Probably about half of all teams - at most - remain relatively the same. The others are changing and the Game-of-the-Week is all about change.

Cleveland 26, Green Bay 24

There was a time not so long ago that Lambeau Field was an automatic win for the Packers regardless of opponent. There simply were no other teams that could visit the land of cheese hats and bratwurst and expect to win there. The fans were all very nice because they never saw their team lose and besides, they got to wear cool hats and be on television. Even ugly girls could get on TV because under all that clothing, who knows what they look like really?

Then cracks started to show and eventually, no one could win in Green Bay under certain atmospheric conditions. The other games? Eh - maybe, maybe not.

The proud franchise that has stood with one of the all-time great quarterbacks for the last 13 years has not changed because there has been no big reason to change. Ahman Green was stolen from Seattle six years ago and has been a top back, at least every other team and last year was a down one. A bevy of wideouts have come and gone in the last 13 years and they have all had several things in common. They were not considered that good when they got there. They were never good if they left there. They get hurt a lot with those crossing patterns too.

The game on Sunday between the Packers and the Browns was a perfect match between the old and new. The Packers still had Favre, Green and Driver though they had just lost Javon Walker. The Browns are in year one of a rebuild by Romeo Crennel with new coaches, schemes and players. The Browns too had lost, again, tight end Kellen Winslow though he's really never been there so cannot be considered a change that needs adaptation.

Five years ago, even two years ago, this game would be considered over before it started. But things change.

The Packers began as expected with a touchdown pass on the first drive to Donald Driver. But the Browns matched them with a 12 play drive that ended with Trent Dilfer throwing a touchdown pass to Steve Heiden. Surely this would just motivate Favre into throwing a big game and putting the upstart Browns into their place. Instead, two plays later Favre threw an interception and it required 11 plays to go from the Packers 21-yard line to their 3-yard before the Browns settled for a Dawson field goal and the lead 10-7. The Packers lack of defense allowed the Browns to keep drives alive and yet not score until finally, Dawson hit a second field goal at the end of the first half for a 13-7 lead.

Favre just looked older and thinner. The once-young gunslinger was struggling against a secondary put together just a few months ago. Ahman Green ran reasonably well in the few carries he had. Let's be serious here - the stage was set for a patented Favre comeback. Down only by six at the half, surely Favre could produce magic once again.

The two teams had a couple of series before Favre drove the field to the CLE 20-yard line with just under three minutes left in the third quarter. He threw a strike to Robert Ferguson in the endzone but the CB Baxter cut in front for the interception. Once the Browns took over on the 20-yard line, Dilfer threw and incomplete and then hit the rookie Braylon Edwards on an inside slant that did not stop for 80 yards until the #1 wideout drafted this last April had his first score. And the Browns unthinkably had a 20-7 lead. In Lambeau. Against Favre.

With added motivation, the Packers took the kickoff and drove the field to the CLE 16-yard line. Then Favre loses a fumble but falls on it. Then he has incomplete passes to Ferguson and Driver. And the Packers settle for a 34-yard field goal to make a 20-10 score with only 12 minutes left to play. The Browns go three and out and Brett Favre takes over on his own 4-yard line with just ten minutes left to play and 10 points to make up. He drives the field with nine completions of ten passes until finally he hits Ferguson for the 19-yard score with 3:47 left to play. 20-17 and time for some more Lambeau magic.

The table was set. The return to the old days was ready. And then on second and nine from the CLE 38-yard line, DIlfer hits Steve Heiden on a short pass that completely surprises the defense. Heiden runs the 62 yards for a touchdown with 305 pound DE Orpheus Roye trying to catch up. At the two minute mark, the Browns lead 26-17. Nine points - two scores.

Favre leads the team 78 yards to an eventual touchdown pass to Tony Fisher but that is with only 10 seconds left. The extra point makes it 26-24. The new Cleveland Browns get their first win for HC Romeo Crennel on the road at Lambeau. The Packers sink to an even deeper low. Change happens - could be fast or it could be slow but it always happens. The baton is either passed off, taken away or just dropped but no one holds it forever. Not even at Lambeau. Not even by Brett Favre.

The season will continue to reveal itself in the coming weeks and there's only one certainty - things will continue to change. And a few just won't. We have 15 more weeks to see which is which and to react or merely observe.

Now get back to work...