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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 16
David Dorey
December 19, 2005
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Matt Hasselbeck 285 3
Brooks Bollinger 327 2
Carson Palmer 274 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Tiki Barber 249 2
Larry Johnson 184 2
Rudi Johnson 131 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Steve Smith 105 2
Drew Bennett 93 2
David Givens/Rod Smith 137 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Chris Cooley 71 3
Doug Jolley 102 1
Ben Troupe 116 0
Placekickers FG XP
Nate Kaeding 4 2
Kris Brown 3 3
Shayne Graham 2 5
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Washington 0 7 4
Houston 0 6 4
Carolina 0 1 6

Week 15 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Bit bigger list than in recent weeks:

Gus Frerotte (MIA) - Injured finger
Steven Jackson (STL) - Minor hip pointer
Eddie Kennison (KC) - Sprained knee
Josh McCown (ARZ) - Flu
LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) - Unspecified injury
Kurt Warner (ARZ) - Knee sprain, out for season
Ronnie Brown (MIA) - Knee sprain
T.J. Houshmandzadeh (CIN) - Sprained foot
Greg Jones (JAX) - Strained neck
Brandon Lloyd (SF) - Sprained neck
Eric Parker (SD) - Sprained foot
LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) - Bruised ribs
Jermaine Wiggins (MIN) - Sprained ankle
Muhsin Muhammad (CHI) - Leg injury

(Note to self - get back-up running backs)

The biggest games last weekend belonged to those big-time running backs that were drafted early - Tiki Barber, Larry Johnson, Rudi Johnson and Shaun Alexander. But the next eight highest scoring running backs for week 15 included Jonathan Wells. Michael Turner, Ryan Moats, Frank Gore, Ricky Williams and Cedric Houston. That means that six of the top 14 runners had better games than the running backs they replaced. And yes, there is a reason why that one guy in your league camps out on your waiver wire every Tuesday morning.

Defense wins championships

But it does not score very well. At least not this week since this is the first time this season that there were no defensive or special teams scores in the NFL. Not one. Steelers did have the rare safety though.

Them Standings

With two games left to play, only five teams have clinched and four of them are in the AFC:

AFC East - The resurgent Patriots have clinched the title and really have nothing more to win.
AFC North - The Bengals have clinched the title but still are tied with Denver for the other non-Indy bye
AFC South - The Colts have clinched the division and a first round bye
AFC West - The Broncos have clinched a playoff spot and need just one more win to clinch the title

AFC Wildcard - Realistically, will be two from Jacksonville (10-4), Pittsburgh (9-5), San Diego (9-5) and maybe Kansas City (8-6)

NFC East - NY Giants have a two game lead with two games left to play. Just needs to beat either Washington or Oakland.
NFC North - Chicago has a two game lead and just needs to beat either GB or MIN (both road games)
NFC South - Panthers (10-4) have a one game lead over Tampa Bay (9-5).
NFC West - Seattle has clinched the division and a first round bye.

NFC Wildcard - NY Giants (10-4), Washington (8-6), Dallas (8-6), Carolina (10-4), Tampa Bay (9-5) and Atlanta (8-6) all have a shot at either their division title or a wildcard, at least mathematically.

Prognostication - AFC playoffs are IND, DEN, CIN, NE as division winners with wildcards of JAX and PIT. NFC playoffs are NY Giants, Chicago, Carolina and Seattle as division winners with wildcards of Tampa Bay and Washington (via tiebreakers).

Huddle Player of the Week

Tiki Barber (NYG) - In the history of fantasy football, no player has been so consistently drafted below his true value virtually every season than Barber. Facing the #8 defense against running backs this week in a must-win game, Barber merely reeled off 220 yards on 29 carries with two scores and 29 more yards on five receptions. That'll win a few fantasy playoff games. That effort gives him a total of 1577 rushing yards on the season, second only to Shaun Alexander.

Salute!

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Brooks Bollinger 337 2 QB Trent Green 176 0
RB Jonathan Wells 98 2 RB Carnell Williams 27 0
RB Michael Turner 113 1 RB Michael Bennett 43 0
WR David Givens 137 1 WR Lee Evans 5 0
WR Charles Rogers 71 1 WR Joe Horn 6 0
WR Kelly Washington 48 1 WR Hines Ward 11 0
PK Kris Brown 3 FG 3 XP PK S. Janikowski 1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 117

Huddle Fantasy Points = 15

Sunday's Couch Commentary

TB 0, NE 28 Just when everyone gets comfortable with the Patriots demise being complete, they rip off a three game spree that outscored their opponents 79-10. Whatever progress that Chris Simms had made was unapparent when he threw 21 of 34 for 155 yards and no scores. Cadillac Williams was held to only 23 yards on 14 carries with no run exceeding three yards. Worst of all, Joey Galloway was held to only 38 yards on four catches. When Caddy doesn't run and Joey can't catch, the results are predictable. Tom Brady enjoyed 258 yards and three touchdowns while Corey Dillon did not gain many yards but scored both rushing and receiving. David Givens must be over his knee sprain since he had six catches for 137 yards and one score while Deion Branch (2-27) proved that there is no such thing as a consistent, preferred receiver for the Pats. The Bucs just ruined their lead over the Panthers while the Pats, again, have clinched the AFC East.
KC 17, NYG 27 The aerial war that seemed likely never materialized on Saturday since the running lanes were open and clear of traffic. Larry Johnson gained 167 yards and two scores to further his franchise-best string to six consecutive games over 100 yards. Johnson is playing like there never was a... you know, that other guy...Priest something. The Giants entered the game with a patchwork offensive line and were facing the NFL's #8 defense against running backs so naturally Tiki Barber made every fantasy owner wet their pants when they watched him gain 220 yards on 29 carries with two scores. He added 29 more yards on five catches. That makes Barber as the only runner this season with two 200+ rushing yard games. There's only been one other this season (naturally Larry Johnson). Barber also set a franchise record as well. This was a very good week to be in fantasy playoffs with Barber. Even more so with Barber and Larry Johnson on your team so you could just go to the movies on Sunday and not worry about your win.
DEN 28, BUF 17 The Bills were very impressive in using their first series to march down and let McGahee score a touchdown. And that last series in the game they had ended with a nice touchdown pass to Joe Burns. Every other offensive series was forgettable, but if you only saw the first and last five minutes of the game, this was a close one, boy. The Rod Smith Mystery Tour hit a zenith when he had nine catches for 119 yards and one score by halftime but he only managed to snag two more passes for 18 yards in the second half because someone in the Bills organization used the chalkboard at halftime to spell out "COVER &*#&*$*&# SMITH". The Denver ground game finally kicked in during the second half and Mike Anderson scored twice and ended with 97 yards on 21 carries. McGahee continues to slide as the season grows old and only had 36 yards on nine carries but Eric Moulds enjoyed his soul-mate Holcomb playing by reeling in nine catches for 110 yards. Lee Evans? That prank of putting Holcomb's hand in warm water during training camp continues to haunt him. Lee "long ball" Evans only had two catches for five yards. Denver has now clinched a playoff spot and just has to wax Oakland in Denver this weekend to take the divisional title.
NYJ 20, MIA 24 The Jets quest to actually win a road game will have to bleed over into next year. Cedric Houston (15-84) ran almost as well as a healthy Curtis Martin would and Brooks Bollinger had a career best when he threw for 327 yards and two scores thanks in no small part to Doug Jolley catching a 60 yard touchdown pass. No other NYJ receiver had more than 57 yards other than Jolley who ended with 102 yards on nine catches. Isn't that what they traded with Oakland to get? Why are they waiting until now? Gus Frerotte threw one touchdown before hurting his finger and leaving the game. Sage Rosenfels may not be a starter, but he's proving to be a nice closer with two saves in the last three games. Williams and Brown combined for 115 yards and one score and separately remain only marginally productive. The Dolphins are now 7-7 and a win over TEN next week means they'll end .500 with a final game in NE for a chance at an actual winning season.
ARI 19, HOU 30 Great - the Texans cannot even win the #1 pick in the NFL draft. With Domanick "entire offense" Davis inactive, Jonathan Wells gained 87 yards and two scores while Vernand Morency tacked on a third touchdown on his 25 yard scamper. All Texans players are now trying to prove they belong on the team next year and so far, the team is just going to be Wells with Morency as a back-up. David Carr only threw for 150 yards and one interception and Andre Johnson had seven catches for 51 yards which is freakishly high and yet not that impressive. The Cardinals lost Warner again, and then McCown so John Navarre once again was the last man standing and he ended with 174 yards and one score (AKA 'more than Carr"). Both Boldin and Fitzgerald scored because there were two touchdowns and no other Cardinal is capable of reaching the endzone. The rushing game skillfully mixed equal doses of Shipp and Arrington and that dramatic change-up allowed Arizona to post a big 30 rushing yards on 13 carries. The only interesting thing here is that now week 17 is set-up for the Bush Bowl when the Texans visit the 49ers. Loser is the winner.
PHI 17, STL 16 This game was an excellent example of why the season needs to end and teams go spend eight months trying to get better. The Eagles only threw for 97 yards, one score and three interceptions against the Rams defense which typically allowed that much yardage per quarter. The Eagles did nothing to deserve this game other than one 59-yard touchdown run by Ryan Moats who gained just 19 yards on his other 11 carries and one pass to Mike Bartrum which no fantasy team would have on their roster unless you get fantasy points for long snapping on punts. Ryan Fitzgerald was so bad that he only had 69 yards by the fourth quarter when he was yanked for Jamie Martin. One sure sign that Marshall Faulk is going to retire was when the Rams gave him 16 carries in the game - equal to Steven Jackson. Holt scored once but only had three catches for 16 yards. Oh yeah, time to put these franchises in the shop for eight months.
SEA 28, TEN 24 The Seahawks rolled up a quick 14-0 lead and started losing interest when the Titans made this into a game tied 14-14 at the half and the Titans led 24-21 going into the fourth quarter. But unlike in Indianapolis, a comeback proved certain enough and Hasselbeck ended as the best fantasy quarterback with 285 yards and three scores, Alexander ran for 172 yards and one touchdown and even Darrell "did you miss me?" Jackson played and had six catches for 72 yards and one touchdown. Seattle cruises to a 12-2 record now and return home to host the suddenly mortal Colts while the Titans end their season on the road to Miami and Jacksonville, spreading joy and handing out wins wherever they go.
CAR 27, NO 10 The Panthers dispatched the Saints with relative ease, relying mostly on letting Todd Bouman throw four interceptions. DeShaun Foster (21-75) eventually gave way to Nick Goings (16-52) meaning now that Davis is on IR, Goings is just one fragile heartbeat away from being the starter again like last year. Steve Smith turned in 85 yards on six catches with one touchdown catch and even added a 20-yard run for another score. If there is any bright spot for the Saints, and there really isn't, it would be the play of Donte Stallworth this season. Stallworth had five catches for 102 yards and one score against the Panthers while Joe Horn only had one catch for six yards. Stallworth has 837 yards and seven touchdowns this season while Horn only has 573 yards and just one score. There's a sign of how things are changed.
PIT 18, MIN 3 The Steelers ended the Bears winning streak last week and stopped the Vikings on Sunday. When the opponent doesn't make mistakes, these Vikings are left trying to produce offense with second-string players compared to seasons past. Brad Johnson only had 143 yards and two interceptions and Michael Bennett only managed 43 yards on 11 carries. As always, no Viking receiver had more than 38 yards in the game. There was little passing in the game for the Steelers as well since Hines Ward's 11 yards was not welcomed by fantasy owners but Willie Parker turned in 97 total yards as the lone player in the game with any real fantasy significance. Disregard all the screwy wins by the Vikings this season and the result here was what would be expected. The Vikes remain in playoff contention mathematically as one of the four 8-6 teams vying for the final wildcard.
CIN 41, DET 17 The Bengals have clinched the AFC North by throwing the Detroit cats out of their own house. Carson Palmer had the rare dud game last week but bounced back with 274 yards and three scores doled out with one for each starting wideout. Chad Johnson turned in 99 yards on 11 catches and Houshmandzadeh had six grabs for 61 yards. Rudi Johnson continues to enjoy a far better second half of the season and he ran for 117 yards and two scores. Jeff Garcia had 138 yards and one score along with three interceptions and eventually Joey Harrington came back in and calmly threw 6 of 7 for 77 yards and one score - where's that been? As a final sign that the Lions are a team in transition, Charles Rogers scored a touchdown and led the team with 71 receiving yards.
SF 9, JAX 10 Evidently the first pick in the NFL draft gets you a quarterback that throws only 8 of 24 for 123 yards and one interception though Alex Smith did gain 30 yards on four runs while screaming "LEAVE ME ALONE! STOP CHASING ME!" Frank Gore had 79 yards on 19 carries while the best back of the franchise was sidelined with a knee sprain (or was he really attending a frat party at some unnamed college?). David Garrard only had 216 yards passing with no scores but made no mistakes and had one touchdown on a run. As the score suggested, this was not the sort of game that kept anyone from changing the channel. With only Houston and Tennessee left, the Jags are a lock for a wildcard but their level of play post-Leftwich does not suggest a lengthy stay in the playoffs.
CLE 9, OAK 7 If you clicked into this game from the Jacksonville game, then maybe you just figured it was time to go Christmas shopping. Charlie Frye has been genuinely impressive in his limited play as of late and had 198 yards and one interception. The Raiders incredibly dropped yet another game and Kerry Collins big second chance produced only 132 yards, one score and one interception. Hopefully he will be getting luggage for Christmas. Lamont Jordan ran for 132 yards on just 25 carries and was also the lead receiver with five catches for 40 yards. Randy Moss (yes, he still plays for them) had the lone touchdown catch in the game on his lone catch in the game. Monday morning film review for the Raiders has been replaced with a seminar by the California State Employment Department on how to fill out the forms and file for benefits. Only Moss, Jordan and Porter have been excused from that meeting.
DAL 7, WAS 35 Just when it appears that Dallas is not quite good enough to get over the hump, they go and show that they are no where near good enough to get over the hump. The last time the Redskins swept the Cowboys in a year was when both sides were using horses and firearms during westward expansion. Drew Bledsoe was brought in expressly for the late season consistency and he only failed to throw an interception in one quarter. Evidently Dallas had not bought a game program or they would have known that the entire Washington offense revolves around Portis (116 yards), Santana Moss (73 yards) and Chris Cooley (71 yards, 3 TDs). Cooley not only enjoyed a career best game, he doubled his amount of touchdowns on the year. Both teams are now 8-6 and the wildcard race in the NFC will come down to tie breakers which may not favor either team.
ATL 3, CHI 16 In the chill of Chicago, Michael Vick displayed the form that has long brought his detractors by completing only 13 of 32 passes for 122 yards and two interceptions. This included one pass which he made to himself for a 14 yard loss (hint - do NOT catch batted passes). Warrick Dunn had a few nice runs during his 81 yards and Brian Finneran caught six passes for 75 yards when he was not busy experiencing the "hit by an 18-wheel truck" sensation. Kyle Orton was just the same Kyle Or ten he has ever been but since going 2 of 10 for 12 yards is not all that impressive, Rex Grossman showed back up again and looked incredibly sharp if only because he was compared to Or ten and Vick.

Game-O-The-Week

The season is coming to yet another dramatic conclusion and the scores were down across the league as they always are at this time of year. The only teams to score at least 30 points were the Bengals and rather surprisingly, the Texans and Redskins. The Buccaneers were shutout by the Patriots who are looking suspiciously like last year's version again and those of you looking for fantasy points were likely disappointed if you had players in the PIT/MIN, SF/JAX, CLE/OAK or ATL/CHI games since each one had less that 22 total points.

But this week's Game-of-The-Week was a certain lock and one that comes with a sigh of relief or a tear of regret, depending on what you wanted to happen:

San Diego 26, Indianapolis 17

The Colts are one of those rare teams that very few dislike. The players are all vastly talented and yet without the egotistical, bad attitudes and legal problems that many such teams experience. Plus they have been the biggest ally to fantasy football for years now and they are always, seemingly, the underdog after years of "close but not close enough". This year the Colts had won their first 13 games and needed only to beat the Chargers, Seahawks and Cardinals to enter into NFL immortality as the second undefeated team in history.

Most figured the biggest culprit for a misstep would be next week in Seattle against the 12-2 Seahawks who are undefeated at home. Less likely that they would stumble against the Chargers who were 4-2 on the road and just 8-5 on the season.

But this game was different than expected. For the first time this season, the Colts looked under prepared and out of synch against a team that seemed bent on giving 110% towards a win. By halftime, the Chargers led 13-0 and Edgerrin James had only rushed for 18 yards on six carries. Manning had only 91 yards and one interception. It was the unthinkable but there was a half left to play and a chance that the Colts could comeback and make this game just a laughable side note to a perfect season - "Remember when the Colts trailed 0-13 at the half? I still cannot believe they won that game 45-13."

On their first series, the Colts went three and out. Apparently the comeback was delayed.

The Chargers took their first series of the second half and drove from their 30-yard line down to the Colts 30-yard line before settling for a Nate Kaeding field goal. Now the score was 16-0. Two touchdowns to Harrison, a couple of two point conversions for the tie and then okay, an eventual 31-16 score?

The Colts reached the San Diego 16-yard line but the Chargers stiffened up and Vanderjagt had to kick a 32-yard field goal. The Colts were on the board finally and okay, so maybe 27-16?

On the next series, the Chargers ran twice and then Brees threw an interception that was returned to the San Diego 26-yard line. That's what I'm talking about, boyee! Manning hit Harrison for a 25 yard completion to the one yard line and the James banged it in on the next play for a 16-10 game with 3:45 left to play in the third quarter. Still plenty of time for 27-16. Maybe 31-16?

When the Chargers got the kickoff, a holding call backed them up to their own 15-yard line and on third and 13, Brees was sacked, stripped and the Colts recovered on the San Diego 4-yard line! Oh yeah, 31-16. Whew! And to think that the Colts could possibly lose - you nonbeliever! On third and one, Manning hit a wide open Dallas Clark for a touchdown and a 17-16 lead with the third quarter almost over. Man. Chargers beating the Colts - you idiot! Get real!

San Diego opened the fourth quarter with a drive that stalled on their own 46-yard line and they couldn't even punt the coffin corner. Colts took over at their own 20-yard line and yet after one first down they stalled. They punted from their own 44-yard line with 10:20 left to play. Okay... So back to 27-16. Still a nice win. Very nice. Nod. Nod.

The Chargers were backed up on their own 8-yard line because Hunter Smith can punt inside the ten and on third and nine, Brees hits McCardell on a FIFTY FOUR YARD PASS COMPLETION?!?! Who was covering him? What the...doh. After gaining just six yards, the Chargers had Kaeding come on and try an impossible 49 yard kick and for the first time in his career, it actually was possible. The Chargers led again 19-17! Okay, okay - 24-19. Nothing wrong with that. A win is a win. Nod. Nod.

On the ensuing kick-off, Dominic Rhodes reached the 29-yard line where he promptly "pop" let the ball get away from him. The Chargers took over with 6:36 left to play. Thinking... thinking... 24-22? That's okay. That's a win. I did not bet on the game so that is just fine. Nod. Nod.

On the second play, Brees went for the score and was intercepted in the endzone BABEE. Back to 24-16, maybe even 27-16. I mean there was almost six minutes left. Whew!

Manning drove the team down the field mixing runs and passes and hit Wayne on a 18 yard gain to the Chargers 24-yard line. First down - James gets a yard. Second down, those Chargers came hard and Manning had to throw it away - but as intentional grounding. That backed the Colts up to the Chargers 35-yard line and a loss of down. On third and 21, all Manning had to do was to gained maybe five yards somehow for a field goal kick and, oh yes, a 20-19 lead. Not a thing wrong with a 20-19 win, man. Same as winning 45-0. A win is a win. Nod... nod... cross fingers...

Manning gets sacked. I mean he loses three yards and from the 38-yard line (plus ten, add the seven) that would be a 55 yard field goal. Hunter Smith punts. Only 2:36 left to play. Yes- I'd like an order of 20-19 win please. I will tip big. Come on, baby.

The Chargers get the ball on their own 20-yard line and, by the way, Tomlinson is not playing. He is on the sideline. Nudge, nudge, there's their ready made excuse to lose, eh? Wink. Nod. Nod. On first down, Michael Turner gets creamed for a three yard loss. On second down, the Colts surround him on the right sideline and OH MY FREAKING GOD HE'S RUNNING DOWN THE FIELD! HE'S RUNNING AND RUNNING AND WHERE IS THE DEFENSE? FLAG? WHERE IS THE FLAG? WHAT THE...

83-yard touchdown with 2:20 left to play.

First the Titantic and now this. The Chargers take the lead 26-17 which to the untrained eye looks like nine points which there is not, at least currently, any play in the NFL that produces nine points. I mean sure, three field goals and all but that does not seem realistic with two minutes left to play. Um... okay. Touchdown. Extra point. Onside kick with recovery, one long pass and then a field goal for a 27-26 win... That's just five things that have to happen, right? It could happen, right? Nod.... blank stare...

The Colts take over on their own 29-yard line with two minutes left to play. Manning hits Wayne for 11 - Boom. Manning misses Wayne... no boom. Manning hits Dallas Clark but it caroms off and ends up with Quentin Jammer who takes about three steps before realizing "this is really unnecessary" and just falls down cradling the ball like it just beat one of the greatest undefeated teams of all time.

And it did.... 'click'

Nothing lasts forever and no matter how bad you want it, even the great ones stumble. At home, with an all-world team, even the best cannot be perfect. In the fantasy football world, you can put together the greatest team of all time and it can sometimes come down to surprising results when you expect it least. There is a bit of randomness even in the most consistent and some times it just doesn't happen for you no matter how tantalizingly close you came. It is the curse and yet the beauty of it all that brings us back every year on our own quest for that perfect team. We may never get it, we may only get close, but it is always possible. And we'll be back after it next year. Only then the other guy won't be so damned lucky. Yeah. Next year for sure.

Nod. Nod.

Now get back to work...