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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 17
David Dorey
December 26, 2005
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Kelly Holcomb 308 2
David Garrard 332 1
Jamie Martin 354 1
Running Backs Yards TD
Julius Jones 211 2
Shaun Alexander 145 3
Larry Johnson 179 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Santana Moss 160 3
Torry Holt 163 1
Andre Johnson 119 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Antonio Gates 52 1
Chris Cooley 41 1
Jerramy Stevens 39 1
Placekickers XP FG
Rian Lindell 4 3
John Carney 0 4
Jeff Reed 5 2
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Buffalo 2 2 2
Arizona 1 3 1
Miami 0 4 3

Week 16 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Steve McNair (TEN) - Strained pectoral muscle
Carson Palmer (CIN) - Strained groin muscle
Steve Smith (CAR) - Ejected - touched referee
Mark Brunell (WAS) - Sprained MCL
Mike Anderson (DEN) - Sprained ankle

Now for the automatic DOH!

Week 16 not only denied many fantasy owners from winning their league super bowls, it denied much more than that. As a record this season, there were four field goals blocked this week. Of course, we all know that long field goals require a lower trajectory therefore making them much more likely to get batted.

What we don't know is why none of the four blocked field goals were more than just 32 yards long.

Brain Surgery... Origami... Knitting...

The list of what Larry Johnson cannot do is getting shorter every week. Johnson ran for 131 yards on 32 carries with one rushing touchdown and added 48 yards on four catches with another score. That makes eight straight games over 100 rushing yards and a total of a mere 14 touchdowns in just eight games. Coincidentally, those are the only games played since Priest Holmes left the picture. At that pace, Johnson could have ended with 2300 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns over a full 16 game season. Not too shabby...

Alexander the Great

Well, almost anyway. Shaun Alexander has tied the NFL record for touchdowns in a season with three scored against the Colts. That gives Alexander 27 on the season and ties him with Priest Holmes. Chances that the next game in Green Bay will feature Alexander scoring a touchdown? Rather high. The game will be meaningless so the Seahawks may end up sitting players including Alexander to some extent but after last season when he was denied a chance to be the NFL rushing leader for 2005, figure on Holmgren paying him back with a chance to be the NFL touchdown leader of all time.

Making Plans for January

The NFL Playoffs shake out like this:

AFC
Clinched - Colts, Broncos, Bengals, Patriots, Jaguars.

Still fighting - Steelers (10-5) just have to beat the Lions to take the final wildcard. Chiefs (9-6) need to beat CIN and have DET beat PIT. Both teams play at 1 PM on next Sunday, so neither will know what they have to do (or not).

NFC
Clinched - Seahawks, Bears

Still fighting - Buccaneers (10-5), Giants (10-5), Panthers (10-5) all have an inside track. One win and they all advance and they may advance anyway depending on what else happens. The Redskins (9-6) and Cowboys (9-6) need help. Most likely, this comes down to all these teams advancing other than the Cowboys need to win and the Redskins lose for them to advance. Anything else and the Redskins advance. If both teams lose, it would allow the Vikings to enter the picture should they beat Chicago this week.

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Mike McMahon 184 3 QB Peyton Manning 116 0
RB Labrandon Toefield 24 3 RB LaDainian Tomlinson 67 0
RB Maurice Hicks 112 1 RB Edgerrin James 55 0
WR Troy Walters 91 1 WR Steve Smith 18 0
WR Corey Bradford 101 1 WR Plaxico Burress 40 0
WR Ricky Proehl 104 1 WR Reggie Wayne 21 0
PK Rian Lindell 3 FG 4 XP PK Nate Kaeding 1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 127

Huddle Fantasy Points = 23

Sunday's Couch Commentary

TEN 10, MIA 24 The Dolphins have now won their last five games and actually set up an interesting game next week in New England though the Patriots would still take the division even with a loss. After last year, the addition of Saban has been "a good thing" since the Fins will finish no worse than .500 on the season. McNair could not finish the game with a pectoral injury and the Titans may have taken a glimpse at next year when Billy Volek came on and completed 14 of 24 passes for 132 yards and one score. Drew Bennett scored once on four catches for 70 yards which gives him three scores in the last two games - he only had other touchdown all year as any Bennett owner can tell you. With Ronnie Brown sidelined last week, Ricky Williams shredded the Titans for 172 yards and one score which prompted HC Nick Saban to claim the same RB duo will be playing next year - oh joy. Chris Chambers is apparently the perfect fit for the new offensive scheme this year and he's never had anything close to his four game stretch with six touchdowns. Remember that next summer. And hope that no one else does.
SD 7, KC 20 The battle for the AFC West (imagining, for a moment, that there were no Broncos) boiled down to Larry Johnson (179 yards, 2 TD) versus LaDainian Tomlinson (67 yards). Evidently the Chargers spent all their good luck last week in Indianapolis because the KC defense had their number all game long and held them scoreless in the final three quarters. Antonio Gates had the lone touchdown and goes into the final week with three scores and 187 yard lead over Jeremy Shockey so he's a lock to end as the best tight end yet again this year. This just in - never play the Chiefs in December.
JAC 38, HOU 20 Fred Taylor had his second best game of the year right when fantasy owners needed him most. He ran for 101 yards and one touchdown but that included a fair amount of "opportunity lost" because LaBrandon Toefield had just four carries and yet scored three touchdowns. Ernest Willford caught four passes for 118 yards and a score and by now that first round selection is the only accomplishment that Reggie Williams will likely ever have in the NFL. The Texans actually led 13-10 at the half but they are the Texans and now at 2-13, they are a lock for the first overall pick in the NFL draft with a road trip to San Francisco next week. Andre Johnson had 119 yards and one score but hey Andre - too little, too late there buddy.
PIT 41, CLE 0 Cleveland Stadium is the only place where two shutouts occurred this year - too bad only one had the Browns winning the game. The Steelers mopped up the Browns in a "feel good" game as a sign they belong in the playoffs, even if they somehow miss the cut (unlikely with Detroit visiting next week). This was such a monumental blowout, that three running backs had touchdowns, Roethlisberger threw one and even Charlie Batch came in for one pass which resulted in yet another touchdown. The Steelers have been great on the road which is fortunate, since there will be no playoff games in Pittsburgh this season.
BUF 37, CIN 27 Each week needs at least one game that spawns the phrase "what the...?" Here is this weeks version. The lowly Bills that had not won on the road this season came into Cincinnati where the Bengals needed a win to reach a first round bye and left after scoring 37 points which including scoring runs by Holcomb and the wideout Tab Perry. The odd thing here is that Perry only has two carries and two receptions on the season - but two touchdowns. Rian Lindell led all NFL kickers last week with four field goals and three extra points while the only real star for the Bills was Lee Evans because he caught one 65-yard pass and had the only receiving touchdown. The Bengals have now lost their bid for a first round bye despite possibly ending 12-4. Then again, they have to go play in Kansas City this weekend so make that 11-5. With nothing to win of course.
DAL 24, CAR 20 Well, howdy Julius! Now WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Julius Jones ended with an NFL best 194 rushing yards and two scores last week and added 17 yards on two catches. His 194 rushing yards is actually better than his 79 yards last week. It is basically better than he had gained in the three previous games combined and he had not scored since week three of the season. Jones dominated what otherwise would have been just an average game for the Cowboys who went for the tying field goal with a minute left and Billy Cundiff missed the 33-yarder. Only he had Julius Peppers rough the kicker in that "you have to be kidding" sort of way and the Cowboys had a third and one from the two yard line with 29 seconds left to play when Terry Glenn made a very impressive catch for the winning score. It was exactly like most Dallas games, only this time the Cowboys were on the winning side. Going into the final week, the NFC East is still up for grabs for all but Philly who will play the Redskins in what could be the determining game. The Panthers' loss now makes the NFC West wait for the final week to see who wins that title. This all could have been easier but then it would not be the NFL.
NYG 20, WAS 35 This game was a perfect way to keep the league interesting until the end of the season. The Skins were waxed 0-36 in New York earlier this season and the entire english-speaking world knows that the Redskins are really only three players - Portis, Cooley and Moss. I'll say it again. The Redskins are really only three players - Portis (118 yds, 1 TD), Cooley (41 yds, 2 TD) and Moss (160 yds, 3 TD). Take those guys out of the picture last week and the Skins had a really bad game (Part 15). Eli Manning continues his small steps backward by only throwing for one score and one interception while the Redskins lost Brunell who was replaced by Patrick Ramsey - no drop-off at all. Almost the exact same numbers. The big three in Washington are so important that Chris Cooley only threw one pass and still scored - to Moss of course.
ATL 24, TB 27 OT This was almost the Game-of-the-Week but it not only came very close to being the first tied game this season, but HC Jim Mora openly discussed intentionally going for the tie by sitting on the ball and running out the clock. He didn't because no one could quickly figure out if it would benefit or harm the team to have a tie versus a win. As it ends up, I think we would all agree a tie is better than a loss. Cadillac Williams loves the Falcons since he has rushed for a total of 266 yards and two scores in their match-ups this season. Michael Vick played for five full quarters but still only ended with 161 yards while being the leading rusher for the team with 63 yards. Cadillac scored the tying touchdown with only 31 seconds in regulation time but it took 14:41 of overtime to get that final field goal thanks mainly to a 28 yard punt return that set it up. That's 35 plays in overtime and only 19 seconds away from a tie to manage one field goal.
OAK 3, DEN 22 Now this is what a "mail-in" game should be about. One team clearly more talented (Denver) and the other visiting at the end of a bad season (Oakland). So Denver then squashes the Raiders like a bug and Ashley Lelie and Rod Smith combined for 201 receiving yards. Randy Moss had 72 yards on five catches but no other Raider receiver had more than 29 yards. Kerry Collins took his big second chance to complete 17 of 41 passes for 178 yards and one interception. It was pretty boring for a Denver/Oakland game really, then again Zack Crockett was the starting tailback for the Raiders - just like the end of last year.
DET 13, NO 12 Take this game as a sign that no matter what, the Saints are having a monumentally if not historically bad year. The Saints started out the season with star players in Brooks, McAllister and Horn. They are ending with their best players being Todd Bouman, Antowain Smith and Zack Hilton (best = relative term). The only touchdown scored in the entire game was a 21-yard fumble return by DT Shaun Rogers. Remember this for next year - regardless of what it may look like or what promise there may seem, the only wideout in Detroit is Roy Williams. And until they get a new quarterback, that is not really saying much.
PHI 21, ARZ 27 This game was not nearly as close as the score makes it seem - the Cardinals led 27-7 until the Eagles scored twice in the fourth quarter, the second touchdown coming when there were only 28 seconds left in the game. The Ryan Moats magic evidently does not go on road trips because he managed only 13 yards on nine carries, or roughly what he has done all along without the one or two long breaking runs in a game. Josh McCown threw for 294 yards and two scores that went to - Anyone? Anyone know? Anyone want to guess then? Correct - to Anquan Boldin (9-81) and Larry Fitzgerald (5-93). Their third touchdown was on an interception return so it was a trick question - only Bolding and Fitzgerald are allowed to score offensive touchdown. Now the Eagles get to go back home and hope to dash the Redskins playoff hopes.
IND 13, SEA 28 Amazing when two teams that are currently 13-2 meet and all they produce are some yawns. Shaun Alexander scored three times, of course, and gained 139 yards on 21 carries to continue his league leading ways. The Colts had two big stars - Brandon Stokley (5-122) and Troy Walters (8-91, 1 TD). Oh yeah, look for that again in the playoffs. Not. Now both teams head off to more meaningless games this week.
CHI 24, GB 17 The only notable fact that comes out of this game is that the Packers 17 points meant that the Bears cannot challenge for least points allowed in NFL history and that Brett Favre can still throw a lot of passes (30 of 51, 317 yds) but not to the right people all the time (four interceptions). Here's a question from the Trivial Pursuit "Sports from hell" edition - name the five different runners to score rushing touchdowns against the Bears this year (Jerome Bettis, Mike Alstott, Kevin Jones, Samkon Gado and Noah Herron). Rex Grossman only completed 11 of 23 for 166 yards, one score and one interception but man - he looks a lot better than Orton. Maybe that wasn't all that big of a challenge, but it bodes better for the playoffs.
MIN 23, BAL 30 The Vikings gave the Ravens a score for most of the game but Kyle Boller has responded well knowing that his existence in the NFL hinges on the final games. Boller threw for 289 yards and three scores against the Vikings, spreading the touchdowns out to Derrick Mason (9-103), Mark Clayton (5-90) and Todd Heap (4-30). The Vikings gave a good fight for most of the game and Brad Johnson ended with 248 yards and two scores but this game illustrated an important aspect to winning games. The Ravens won and relied heavily on only three receivers. The Vikings lost and used ten different receivers with the best being Troy Williamson's 56 yards that he caught on just one pass. Spread the wealth, reduce the score, lose the game. We know it in fantasy football, why is the NFL so slow to catch on?

Game-O-The-Week

This was the big week for most leagues to have their superbowl and there were enough monster performances that more than a few teams won big ( and then made a mental note to write a thank you to Shaun Alexander). But the week did not have any big firework games. The Bills pulled off the most surprising upset but won by ten points. There was one overtime game but it required almost the entire 15 minutes to finally kick a field goal. There were no big games really, at least not in the exciting sense.

Therefore, in keeping with the Christmas spirit of gift giving, I am selecting the GOTW to be what was the least likely game going into the weekend. A game so devoid of interest and meaning that no one watched one of the biggest upsets of the day. I hope you all realize the sacrifice I am making in writing this up. Now pretend you know nothing about each team and let's give them something they were not expecting. Let me take a couple of big swigs on my special egg nog here.... uh-huh... waiting... waiting... and warm flush - ready now. Okay. So one more can't hurt.

San Francisco 24, St. Louis 20

if you drew a horizontal line through the middle of the country, these two teams would be the closest to it from the NFC West - easily. That means this game was clearly going to be the battle for the championship of the middle of the NFC West. This was a replay from week one when the mighty 49ers stomped on the Rams. It was a new dawning for the 49ers who were ready to forget that terrible 2004 season. Opening with a win was just the ticket. Less so for the Rams who actually lost to the 49ers, the first time any non-Arizona team had in about 18 months.

This was the Alex Smith versus Jamie Martin match-up that we had all been waiting for since the schedules came out. The young and inexperienced against the veteran guy who has been waiting for his nod for 11 years in the league. First pick in the NFL draft going mano-a-mano against a guy that has seen some of the greats play. Can it get any better than this? (rhetorical)

The 49ers struck first, using that secret weapon that went undrafted in 2002, picked up for two years by the Bears before ending up in San Francisco - Maurice Hicks. On the first play from scrimmage, Hicks shot through the defense like we have been expecting the last four years, covering 73 yards before notching the first score in the highly anticipated game. We knew it was going to be good, but with a score every five seconds of play, we were looking at a game that could go into overtime 2520 to 2520. That dream ended when the Rams did not run the next kick-off back in five seconds.

But Jamie Martin was ready to explode. He skillfully led the team down the field using passes to Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt (remember this wideout - he looks good) until the drive reached the SF 18-yard line. A penalty and a sack lost 14 yards and Wilkins nailed a 50 yard field goal. Take that Maurice Hicks! Take that invading 49ers that beat us in week one!

After the teams both traded series that featured improved defensive play (AKA lost yardage), the Rams had Martin hit that Holt guy for 19 yards, then that Bruce guy for 30 yards and Steven Jackson scored from the three yard line. The Rams led 10-7. This was going to be a war, an all-out assault on our gridiron dreams and sensibilities. While they were not going to score every five seconds as initially hoped, they were going to score every quarter and we were happy because as kids growing up, that did not always happen.

Frank Gore showed up in the backfield for the 49ers for secret weapon #2 since the Rams defense was devoted to stopping Maurice Hicks despite the fact Hicks was actually on the sideline. Runs by Gore were masterfully mixed in with incompletions to mostly no one close just to keep the defense guessing, guessing, guessing - will they run? Will they throw an incompletion? Why are the linebackers standing near Hicks over by the 49er bench? Method with madness. But the drive died at midfield when Alex Smith was sacked again and Gore ran too close to the 49er sideline where all the linebackers were standing guard over Hicks.

Martin wasted no time, finding the youngster Bruce for an 18 yard gain, then Curtis for 12 and finally, a 40 yard strike to the Holt guy for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead. No matter that these were the fear-inspiring 49ers, the Rams were not going to be intimidated.

On the next offensive series for the 49ers, Hicks ran twice for a total of two yards lost since the defense was still keying on him. Alex Smith allowed two more sacks on himself as a set-up to lure the Rams to sleep thinking that the 49ers offense was not going to put up a fight beyond one run by Maurice Hicks. The Rams bit the bait and bit it hard.

The next series saw the Rams kick a 51-yard field goal and a 20-7 lead with just 3:38 left in the first half. How wrong they were to think that lead meant anything with Smith, Hicks, Gore and, like, other guys on the 49ers.

'SNAP' goes the trap.

Taking over on his own 26-yard line, Smith hits Hicks for three yards and then Jason McAddley for 16 yards. Then he ran for seven yards. Then he hit Lloyd for eight yards, Jackson for nine yards and Terry Jones for 21 more. Count 'em - five straight completions. This would be a day of records. On first and ten, Frank Gore sliced through for a touchdown and a 14-20 score with only 1:25 left in the half. After the Rams took to the field, they went no where, still reeling from the five consecutive completions and the touchdown.

The third quarter was like the middle of play when you sneak out to go to the restroom knowing that nothing is going to happen until the final act and it is never quite as boring walking around as when you just sit and watch some stupid play you got hooked into seeing. The Rams punted, the 49ers punted and the fourth quarter arrived, the Rams were driving down to the 49ers 11-yard line where Martin threw an interception at Bruce rather than relying on a veteran receiver.

The 49ers... hold on... need more "egg nog"... yeah, the 49ers returned to their rope-a-dope style by opening the fourth quarter with a drive that mixed in sacks on Smith with runs by Hicks and Terry Jackson? Who? They're using Terry Jackson now? Come on, Nolan, don't push this "play dead" strategy to ridiculous levels!

The Rams held the ball for about four minutes and reached the SF 22-yard line when on fourth and one they went for it. Let's all drink some egg nog and think about this. Up by 20-17 with 9:16 left to play. Kick the 39 yard field goal, go up by six. WHAT ARE YOU SCARED OF INTERIM COACH VITT? Alex Smith to fumble on a sack that somehow rolls 75 yards down the field for a 49er score? Sheesh - this is good eggnog. Really. I mean we all like egg nog but it goes deeper than that for me.

The 49ers take over on their own 23-yard line and then it is Gore running five and six yards a chunk and then Smith adding rushes that are really just failed sacks. With 4:14 left to play, the 49ers have reached the STL 30-yard line where Gore hits right tackle for a touchdown jaunt. Oh my goodness, they fell for the rope-a-dope. 49ers lead 24-20 in St. Louis. On the road. The 49ers.

The Rams took the ball and started driving the field needing a touchdown to win or two safeties to tie which is like impossible no matter how much egg nog you have been drinking (unless you had my egg nog, maybe). With 1:14 left to play and on first and ten, Martin spies Kevin Curtis open as did nickel back Ben Emanuel who intercepted the ball. Two plays, two kneel downs, the great match-up is over with the 49ers yet again victorious.

Winning pitcher - Alex Smith (12/16, 131 yards)
Losing pitcher - Jamie Martin (33/41, 354 yards, 1 TD)
Winning best wideout - Jason McAddley (2-38)
Losing best wideout - Torry Holt (10-163, 1 TD)

(Hold on, think I spilled somethi... oh yeah, that is going to stain)

Congrats to all the Superbowl winners this week and condolences for those of you who merely got close. Second place is nothing to be ashamed of, at least not if you are the guy in second place. Next week is the final Tunnel Vision for the 2005 season and it'll be a special edition with some annual awards. A final bit of sarcasm for the next eight months. And yet, still, a bit more of this delicious egg nog stuff.

Oh - and to all a good night.

Now get back to work...