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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Waiver Wire Warriors - Week 15
Dennis Leonard
December 14, 2005

It’s been a cursed year in my Huddle league. I scored the most points (by a lot), but also had the most points scored against me. Then, last week, I got knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by an inferior team who put up the most points in our league by a ridiculous margin. No rational line up or free agent decisions could have saved me. It’s just been that kind of year for me in that league and that’s the way it goes some times. At least I’m not going home empty handed.

I also lost the last game of the regular season in my local in yet another very high scoring affair. However, at least I secured the prize for most points in that league, too, and ended up with a good playoff seed. Hopefully I can advance this week because, more than anything, I simply can’t afford to lose my annual side bet with my commish. Each year, whoever advances the farthest gets to name the other guy’s team the following year. Needless to say, I’ve been absolutely ruthless to the guy over the last three years and I’m a little concerned about what kind of revenge he might exact on me with so much time to think about it. Ah, the things that will amuse and concern a fantasy junky.

Okay, with the waiver wire picked fairly clean there isn’t a whole lot more we can do at this point than make some educated choices, identify good match ups, and reiterate past advice that still rings true. From an advice standpoint, the playoffs represent something of a doldrums because there just isn’t much new material to work with. However, that isn’t going to stop me from trying.

Playoff Caliber Scrubs

David Garrard – JAX QB: That’s three productive games in a row for Garrard, who was recommended here going into Weeks 13 and 14. Granted, I didn’t know what to expect against the likes of the Colts’ DEF. But Garrard rose to the occasion and posted his best stats of the season against a very good defense, though his better than usual passing stats can largely be attributed to the Jags playing catch up late game. However, against lesser opponents, we should still expect Garrard to plow full steam ahead during our fantasy playoffs. In fact, that remaining schedule ( San Francisco, Houston, and then Tennessee) is the primary reason for my prior recommendations. While I doubt Garrard is still on waivers, if you made that speculative upside pick, here’s what to like now that we’ve seen a little of what he’s got to offer:

  • Bottom line: he’s been about the 7th most productive fantasy QB over the last three weeks;
  • His 60.5% completion ratio is fairly understated, but considering it has gone from 46.2% to 55% to 74.3% over the last three weeks, I like the direction his accuracy is headed in;
  • 5 total TDs to 2 total turnovers;
  • 84.4 QB rating – 12th best of the current starters – which has gone from 59 to 84.6 to 103.3 over the last three weeks;
  • Has rushed the ball 18 times in the last three weeks (most in the NFL), including 6 in the red zone (also the most), for 118 yards on the ground (2nd most during that span);
  • 15 passes in the red zone – 6th most in the last three games; and
  • By far the easiest schedule of any NFL QB going forward.

Garrard is simply a playoff savior at the QB position for teams missing their regular guy, and who missed out on earlier high-end waiver wire replacements like Kurt Warner. I wouldn’t bench a more proven performer with a favorable match for Garrard, but I would hesitate to rely on him if need be..

Charlie Frye – CLE QB: Like I said last week, I’m not pessimistic about Frye. I liked the idea of picking him up, but was squeamish about starting until we saw if he was a one-hit wonder or not. Well, based on what I’ve seen, what his teammates have said, and the numbers I’ve marinated in, I think Frye makes a serviceable play in Week 15 versus the Raiders for those who don’t have access to Garrard-like options. For starters, Head Coach Romeo Crennell has named him the starter for Week 15 (though, no word on whether Frye starts the rest of the season). But Frye himself has shown some gumption over the last two weeks:

  • Over those last two weeks he’s been a top 10 fantasy QB;
  • Scored 4 TDs (3 passing, 1 rushing) but only turned the ball over once;
  • Sporting a very respectable 65.9% completion ratio – the 10th best over that two week period;
  • Has chucked the rock 9 times in the red zone, which spells opportunity – only 11 QBs have thrown more passes in the red zone during the last two weeks;
  • He’s amassed 24 rushing yards – the 9th most during that span; and
  • A good enough 81.1% QB rating on the season as a whole;

Sure, those stats might not quite titillate your giblets, but consider the rookie was still pretty green when he posted them against respectable Jaguar and Bengals’ defenses. And apparently Frye is settling into the starting role quickly. According to Brown’s fullback Terrelle Smith, “(Frye is) quiet when you just talk to him. But he gets on that knee in the huddle, cusses at us, and tells us everything we need to do. That's what you want from your quarterback. When he gets under center, since I'm behind him, I see something nobody else sees. When he got under center against Miami, his hands shook because he was nervous. I didn't see that (against the Bengals)."

Given the following mediocre stats regarding the upcoming Raiders’ pass defense, even though the game will be played in Oakland, I still believe think those willing (or forced) to take a gamble on Frye can expect another decent game from him:

  • Oakland has allowed about the 14th most fantasy production to QBs this season;
  • Only nabbed a very average number of sacks – 30;
  • Allowing middle of the road 200.6 passing yards per game;
  • Allowed an above average number of passing TDs – 17; and
  • Somehow, have only snatched 3 total interceptions this year – the lowest in the NFL.

Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams – MIA RBs: Brown and Williams continue to prove useful against weak opponents. I hate having to playing any running back that is splitting carries evenly, but these two are an exception to the rule.

In Week 15 Miami plays at home versus the Jets, who have been about the 7th most fantasy friendly opponent on the season for opposing running backs. Looking at just the last seven weeks, the Jets have been about the 6th most productive for opposing rushers. Let’s take a closer look:

  • The Jets are getting run on an average of 34.1 times per game – most in the NFL;
  • Allowing only an average 3.9 YPC;
  • Yet due to the volume of carries, opponents are averaging 134.4 yards per game against the Jets – 5th most in the NFL;
  • Allowed 16 rushing TDs – only 4 teams have allowed more;
  • Have allowed 112 rushing first downs – 2nd most;
  • The Jets’ defense has only recovered 7 fumbles all year – only Cleveland and New England have collected fewer;
  • The Jets’ DEF has the 3rd worst time of possession on defense (33:08), which usually leads to getting tired late-game, which leads to opposing running backs breaking off big plays; and
  • The Jets’ defense has committed 113 penalties on defense – the 3rd most in the NFL – which helps extends opponents’ drives.

Long story short, if you lack stud firepower at RB, and either Brown or Williams is on your roster, this week looks better than usual to sub them in.

Andre Johnson – HOU WR: Johnson has been a huge disappointment this season, but if he’s on your roster you’d better have stellar options if you’re considering benching him. While he hasn’t been all that consistent since coming back in Week 9, he has nevertheless demonstrated enough upside that you’ve got to consider giving him the benefit of the doubt.

  • Since Week 9 he has been about the 15th most productive fantasy WR, reeling in 38 passes for 439 yards and 1 TD;
  • He’s seen a high volume of passes: 11, 8, 10, 16, 13, then 8 in Weeks 9 – 14;
  • His reception ratio during that span has been a so-so 57.57%;
  • However, his 66 pass targets account for over one-third of the team’s passes (66 of 181), which is almost twice the next highest pass-target recipient: Jabar Gaffney;
  • Those 66 pass targets have been the 2nd most any WR has seen in the NFL during that span;
  • 9 of those pass targets have come in the red zone (only 6 other WRs have seen more);
  • Tied for the 4th most receptions during those six weeks – 38; and
  • This week’s opponent – the Cardinals – have been about the 6th most productive team for wide receivers to play against this year.

Terry Glenn – DAL WR: Glenn started out hot, but cooled considerably during the middle part of the season. Just in case you hadn’t noticed, his opportunities and productivity have been creeping back upwards over the last six weeks.

  • During that time he’s been targeted 4, 4, 5, 9, 10, and 10 times and I like the steady, upwards progression;
  • His actual receptions haven’t been all that spectacular, catching only 3, 2, 3, 4, 3, then 6 passes, but the opportunity for more is certainly there;
  • While he’s only been about a top 24 fantasy WR over the last six weeks, he cracked into the top 12 over the last 3 weeks;
  • In those last three weeks he’s tied for the 7th most pass targets of any WR – 29;
  • Sporting an okay 56.26% reception ratio, which is nothing to brag about;
  • Has amassed far more receiving yards than any other Cowboy – 979;
  • Has the highest yards per catch of any Cowboy – 18.1; and
  • Has caught 6 TD passes on the season – no Cowboy has caught more.

While this week’s match up with the Redskins may not seem all that glamorous (about the 17th most productive team for WRs to play against) I’d like to remind you that last time Glenn played against Washington (back in Week 2) he put 157 yards and a TD on them.

Cardinals’ DEF: The Cardinals’ DEF is nothing special. In fact, they’re a bottom-of-the-barrel choice most weeks. However, they have put up good-to-great fantasy numbers against the Titans, Redskins, and both times they played the 49ers. So perhaps against weaker opponents you can afford to roll the dice, assuming there aren’t safer options with as much upside. Because this week, against Houston, we’ve got upside.

  • Hands down the most sacks allowed this season – 61 – with the next highest ( Minnesota) coming in at just 49 sacks allowed;
  • Has scored the 5th fewest points on offense – 181;
  • 2nd lowest average yards per game on offense – 242;
  • 3rd fewest first downs per game – 14.9;
  • Last week the inferior Titans’ defense held the Texans to just 10 points and accrued 6 sacks, which was good enough to vault the Titans into top 6 team DEF territory.

Like I said, this pick is all about upside. But it offers little in the way of downside protection, so I don’t advise using the Cards’ unless: (a) nothing better is available; or (b) you’re forced to swing for the fences this week.

Dolphins’ DEF: Recommended two weeks back as a worth while addition for both Week 13 and 15, I’m standing by that prior recommendation. For starters, over the last three weeks Miami has been a top 10 fantasy defense racking up four INTs, five fumble recoveries (the most during that span), one safety (no team had more), and 12 sacks (the 2nd most over the last three weeks). However, this week looks more promising than usual, as the Jets:

  • Have scored the 2nd fewest points on offense this year – just 163;
  • Gain the 4th fewest average yards per game – 245.8;
  • Gain the 6th fewest first downs per game – 15.8;
  • Have coughed up the ball 28 times on offense – 7th most this year;
  • Allowed 39 sacks – 4th most;
  • The Jets will be without Curtis Martin; and
  • Miami is playing at home.

Miami offers a low downside defense going up against a high upside offense, though it is worth noting that the Jets aren’t quite as craptacular as they were just two weeks ago in terms of the six criteria I use to evaluate weak offenses. They’re still bad, but given how the Raiders were unable to capitalize on the Jets last week, I think it is fair to say that they may not be quite as opportunistic as they were in earlier this year. Or maybe the Raiders’ DEF is just that horrible; hard to say.

Packers’ DEF: Stable, above average fantasy production is what we’re seeing from the Pack’s defense right now. A top 15 or so defense on the season, the Packers have been posting consistent top 8-10 fantasy production over the last six weeks. No spectacular number of turnovers or sacks, but just enough to always contribute something useful. This week versus the Ravens should be no different, as Baltimore has:

  • The 3rd fewest points on offense – 165;
  • 7th fewest average yards per game – 278.8;
  • 5th most turnovers on offense – 31;
  • Tied for allowing the 5th most sacks this year – 38;
  • Tied for committing 3rd most penalties on offense this year – 117;
  • The Ravens will likely be without Jamal Lewis this week (though, is that good or bad for Green Bay?);
  • Kyle Boller has a laughable 4-10 TD-to-turnover ratio over the last three games;
  • Derrick Mason is now complaining to the press about how unhappy he is with how the Ravens are using him, which should do locker room wonders for the 4-9 Ravens.

Eagles’ DEF: It is rather likely that whoever drafted the Eagles’ DEF has long since given up on them. Can’t say I blame them, as they’ve come up real small in four of their last seven games and have lost countless talent on both sides of the ball. However, this week looks good if you’re in need of one week upside. Not only did the Eagles prove in Week 14 that they have not mailed in the season, Week 15’s opponent – the Rams – are looking more vulnerable than ever, as they have given up the NFL’s most turnovers (34) and the third most sacks (43).

Since his big game in Week 12 against the Texans, rookie QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has played poorly. He’s turned the ball over 8 times and scored only 2 TDs. He’s completing only 58% of his passes, which is only slightly better than Aaron Brooks and Kyle Boller. And the Rams’ lack of a big-threat passing attack has allowed opponents to key in on stopping the running game, thus forcing Fitzpatrick to try to carry the team; a task he does not yet appear capable of.

Josh Scobee – JAX PK: Scobee was a deferred adjudication from last week, as I recommended adding him for the remainder of the season, but didn’t advise playing him in Week 14. I think Scobee’s one twenty-seven yard field goal and 1 extra point verify that benching him last week was the right call. But this week the Niners offer up one of the most kicker-friendly opponents in the NFL. And Scobee has another nice match up next week ( Houston). So he should be solid for the remainder of the playoff stretch.

Paul Edigner – MIN PK: I like Edinger again this week. For starters, he hit all 5 of his kicks last week, which included two field goals, bringing his accuracy up to 70.4%. He’ll also be kicking at home again at the Metrodome, so bad weather won’t be a factor. Lastly, Week 15 opponent – the Steelers – is actually one of the more productive opponents for kickers to face, despite Robbie Gould and Bears’ coming up small last week. (I told you to avoid Gould last week, if possible). Expect Edigner to produce at a top 12 level again this week.

David Akers – PHI PK: I, and countless others, simply wrote the Eagles off for the rest of the season. That assumption turned out to be a mistake on my part. Akers had a great game last week (and back in Week 12) and is now facing one of the most productive teams for kickers to face: the Rams.

Akers is still available in about 48% of Fanball leagues, so I know some of you can still get to him. Because of a tepid start to the season followed by an injury, he sort of dropped off the map. Since then folks have been understandably reluctant to rely on him for fear that he may have lost some leg strength, might be prone to reinjury, or (as I erroneously thought) that he would be the secondary victim of loss of offensive talent around him. However, he is normally an elite kicker and has connected on 11 of the 14 field goals he’s been asked to make since coming back from his injury, which included a 50 yarder last week. While the Eagles may have oodles of uncertainty on offense, so do the Rams. I think the main difference will come down to defense this week and, in that department, the Eagles have the edge. I expect Akers to have a busy day: anything less than five kicking opportunities will be a big disappointment.

Guys I Thought About Recommending In More Detail But Opted Not To

Marques Tuiasosopo – OAK QB: A huddler recently asked me why I didn’t feature Tui last week. Because he sucks, that’s why: 124 passing yards and a TD, 19 rushing yards, and 4 turnovers. Against the Jets. He sucks. Bring back Kerry Collins. Or give newbie Andrew Walters some snaps; rookie looked composed, strong, and capable in preseason. He looked like he just needed to work on his accuracy, which would progress more quickly if his butt weren’t riveted to the bench. FYI, early rumors have Collins coming back in Week 15, so that’s another massive reason to steer clear of Tui this week.

Kelly Holcomb – BUF QB: Losman is looking questionable for next week’s game. And after a horrible performance in Week 14 it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Bills gave Holcomb the nod, at least for this week, rather than rolling with a less-than-100% Losman. But that’s purely conjecture on my part. Plus, Week 15 opponent ( Denver) just lost another starting corner back, which leaves them painfully thin at that position and ripe for exploitation.

Todd Bouman – NO QB: Just in case you’re in a 32 team league and need a QB that’s starting this week, I thought it might be worth mentioning that Aaron Brooks is getting the bench and Bouman will be starting versus Carolina this week. The match up sucks, but he’s a health body if you one.

Cedric Houston – NYJ RB: The rookie took 28 carries for 74 yards (just 2.64 YPC) and a TD against a Raiders’ team who put forth a pathetic all around effort. But since Curtis Martin is done for the year, Houston represents a starting running back, who can be found on waivers… during the play offs. First come, first served.

Jerome Bettis – PIT RB: Yeah, Bettis is still playing like a heavyweight. He just can’t go ten rounds anymore. Bettis isn’t going to carry the Steelers’ running game every week, but he’s clearly a worthy addition for those scrambling for RB depth. I like him more than Duckett, but view him as a similar type of asset. Willie Parker owners should probably make room for Bettis, if possible.

Eric Moulds – BUF WR: Remember this guy? He’s still got game. That is, when he isn’t getting benched for throwing a hissy fit and when someone resembling a quarterback is throwing the ball for Bufallo. Moulds clearly clicked better with Holcomb under center, so *if* Holcomb gets the not, *then* Moulds is worth a good long look. Because Moulds has only had four good games this year and three of them came during Holcomb’s tenure in Weeks 5, 6, 7, and 8. Since it’s looking like Holcomb will get the start, seriously consider sliding Moulds into your line up.

Jaguars’ DEF: Please, we saw this playoff match up with the Niners weeks ago. Play ‘em if you got ‘em.

Browns’ DEF: I toyed with the idea of spending more time recommending the Browns, as there is certainly some upside against the floundering Raiders. (No team is more penalized on offense; only four teams have given up more sacks). But playing in Oakland is always tough and there’s no telling who will be under center for the Raiders this week. Though, I’d like the Browns’ DEF a whole lot more if I knew Marques Tuiasosopo was starting, but that’s looking less and less likely as the week shapes up.

Neil Rackers – ARI PK: He’s back. Scoop him up if his previous owner cut him, as Houston is a very prolific opponent to kick against and the game will be within the confines of the Texans’ retractable dome.

Waiver Wire Report Card

We had a pretty good week, all things considered. Not too many home runs, but quite a few base hits: 11 hits of varying degree, 5 misses, 1 push, and 1 deferred adjudication means we’re batting well over our targeted .500 mark. Not bad, considering the scrap heap we limit ourselves to.

Steve McNair – TEN QB: 208 passing yards, 17 rushing yards, no TDs, no turnovers. That wasn’t at all the kind of game I was anticipating from McNair. He didn’t lose it for you, but I’m not really sure he even pulled his own weight last week, fantasy-wise. He ended up about a top 20 play; about the same as David Carr, Kyle Boller, and Kyle Orton. That alone is sufficient to call this a modest miss.

Kevin Faulk – NE RB: 14 yards rushing and another 71 on 6 receptions. Since I recommended him more highly in leagues that award points for receptions its worth noting that Faulk produced about 14 points and a top 20 RB in that format, which makes him a solid hit. But in standard leagues he did okay, too.

Aaron Stecker/Antowain Smith – NO RBs: I recommended Stecker in leagues that award points for receptions and/or individual return yards. He produced 35 yards on 7 carries, 12 more yards on 2 receptions, over 100 more yards returning kicks. No TDs, no turnovers. That’d be worth 11 fantasy points in my local. Smith, on the other hand, was the recommendation in more standard leagues. He produced 60 yards and a TD on the ground, plus 12 more on 3 receptions. That’d be about 11 points in standard leagues. Keep in mind, I recommended benching the following list of RBBC guys in lieu of Stecker or Smith and they all came up smaller than the Saints’ RBs: Greg Jones, Stephen Davis, DeShaun Foster, Marcel Shipp, J.J. Arrington, Ronnie Brown, and Ricky Williams. Considering the success we’ve had rotating these polishing turds, I’ll take a double hit.

Michael Bennett – MIN RB: 18 carries for 70 yards and a TD,1 fumble, plus 4 receptions for 6yards. In hindsight, I shoulda played him instead of Chris Brown. And now Bennett looks to be starting in Week 15, which is a nice bonus. Hit.

Artose Pinner – DET RB: Kevin Jones got hurt again, so Pinner got the bulk of the work. And Jones has already been ruled out for Week 15, so if you picked up Pinner last week (or before) based on my recommendation, you can’t be too miffed about the sudden up-tick in his value. However, 13 carries for 25 yards and 3 receptions for 8 more in Week 14 was still a miss.

T.J. Duckett – ATL RB: Going into Week 13 I noted how I didn’t like Greg Jones’ Week 14 match up versus the Colts and that if you had the opportunity to snake Duckett on the cheap, I recommended playing him instead. Jones: 43 yards on 7 carries, no TDs, no turnovers, and 1 reception for 8 yards, which is a mere 4 fantasy points in most leagues. Duckett turned out to be the better play with 13 yards, no turnovers, and a TD, which is good for 7 points in most leagues. Modest hit.

Tony Fisher – GB RB: 4 carries for 0 yards and 1 reception for -4 yards made this pick an embarrassing miss.

Bo Scaife – TEN TE: Don’t know what to say here, folks. Scaife’s numbers looked real good. The opponent looked ripe for the picking. The injury to Troupe opened the door to heightened opportunity. It just didn’t work out the way it was supposed, and that happens sometimes: 2 receptions for 12 yards was a big miss.

Raiders’ DEF: I blew it on this one, too. The Raiders were a big let down and illustrated why banking on the weakness of the opposing offense isn’t always a lock for above average production, especially when the defense you’re considering has considerable downside. I told you this Raiders’ DEF was the riskiest team defense I recommended last week, but it was still a miss.

Broncos’ DEF: Wish I’d have played them instead of the Bears. But you know what they say about benching your studs, and all that. Still, the Broncos’ DEF got ‘er done last week, posting top 6-8 stats for team defenses. Nice hit.

Vikings’ DEF: Vikings came in as a top 6 team DEF last week in standard formats. Not too shabby. Big hit.

Packers’ DEF: I keep tellin’ ya, this crew is a steady above average contributor. Nothing flashy; they aren’t going to win the day for you. But you can plug this squad in any week and they aren’t going to be a liability. A top 15 or so performance last week, about the same as the Colts, Ravens, and Giants, and better than Jaguars, Bears, Cowboys, or Panthers. Modest hit.

Paul Edinger – MIN PK: 2 field goals and 3 extra points. If you started/acquired him based on last week’s article, you’re welcome; easily a top 10 kicker. SolidHit.

Rob Bironas – TEN PK: 2 field goals and 1 extra point wasn’t half bad. Top 15 or so last week, anyways. Modest hit.

Todd Peterson – ATL PK: 2 field goals, including one from 43 yards, plus 4 extra points made Peterson a good play this week; easily a top 10 kicker. Tasty hit.

Nick Novak – ARI PK: I warned you Rackers was practicing and might return earlier than expected. It was known after my article, but before the game started, that Rackers would start. So you had time to look elsewhere. Push.

Josh Scobee – JAX PK: I didn’t recommend him for Week 14. I recommended picking him up for Week 15. Deferred adjudication.

Well, that’s about it for this week. I’ve got to go fret about my own playoff line up now. For those of you still in the mix I wish you good luck, may your running backs never fumble, and game on!