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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 2
David Dorey
September 11, 2006
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Donovan McNabb 321 3
Kurt Warner 302 3
Charlie Batch 209 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Frank Gore 169 2
Brian Westbrook 132 1
Ronnie Brown 62 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Donte' Stallworth 141 1
Laveranues Coles 153 0
Terrell Owens 80 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Heath Miller 101 1
Tony Gonzalez 81 1
Kellen Winslow 63 1
Placekickers XP FG
Jeff Wilkins 0 6
Robbie Gould 2 4
John Carney 1 4
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Ravens 1 3 3
Bears 1 3 3
Rams 0 4 5

Week 1 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Pretty light opening weekend though Green's injury looked bad enough to count as more than one. Hopefully it'll just be one hellacious headache for a while and he'll be back soon.

Trent Green (KC) - Severe head trauma
Joe Jurevicius (CLE) - Cracked ribs
Javon Walker (DEN) - Leg injury

And so ends the streaks

Larry Johnson had gained at least 100 rushing yards in each of the last nine games, tying him for third best in NFL history. Against the visiting Bengals, Johnson only ended with 17 carries for just 68 yards, proving himself both mortal and that 2005 is over.

Brett Favre extended his consecutive games started record, but after playing in 225 games in his career, for the first time he had to explain why his team failed to record even one point in a game. Favre contends that the Packers are still very talented and just need to work harder and get better, proving that the only way he may leave the NFL is when he has lost enough brain cells to remember the way to the stadium.

Shaun Alexander had scored in the last nine games (and fourteen of the last fifteen). Coming off the NFL record of 28 touchdowns in a season, Alexander of course failed to record a score against the Lions, proving that eventually someone will say "no" to John Madden.

The Ravens had not won on the road in the last 11 attempts dating back to November, 2004 and came up with a dominating 27-0 crushing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who last were the NFC South division champs, proving the old adage of "prior performances are not guarantees of future results" if not the much honored "on any given Sunday"...

And swapping mantras ...

Up until this week, we all had to repeat "it's just the preseason, it's just the preseason." Now that the NFL has kicked off and it's real once again, the important motto now is "it's just week one, it's just week one". Consider in 2005 how the season opener went for a few notable players - Shaun Alexander (73 yards, 0 TD's in the all-time record setting year), Anquan Boldin (4-62), Reggie Wayne (4-50), Hines Ward (2-25), Roy Williams (2-13), Todd Heap (4-38), Chris Cooley (3-34) and Jason Witten (1-12). It gets much better for the star players, they just cannot all start out red hot.

This leads me to other notable week one performances from last year - Frisman Jackson (8-128, 1 TD), Marty Booker (5-104, 1 TD), Patrick Crayton (6-89, 1 TD), Chris Baker 7-124, 1 TD), TE Alex Smith (4-34, 2 TD), Gus Frerotte (275, 2 TD) and Keenan McCardell (9-123, 2 TD) all made team owners wonder how they benched the player or even worse sent them running to the waiver wire for no real reason as it ended up.

After all, "it's just week one"...

The RBBC Report Card

After spending the summer fretting over all these teams likely to use running back-by-committee, what really happened?

Team Player Carries Rush Yds Catches RCV Yds Touches % Work Total Yards Total TD's FF Points
ATL Warrick Dunn 29 132 1 10 30 75% 142 0 14.2
Jerious Norwood 10 66 0 0 10 25% 66 0 6.6
CHI Thomas Jones 21 63 1 0 22 67% 63 0 6.3
Cedric Benson 11 34 0 0 11 33% 34 0 3.4
DAL Julius Jones 17 72 1 1 18 78% 111 1 17.1
Marion Barber 3 13 2 13 5 22% 26 0 2.6
DEN Mike Bell 10 58 4 30 14 49% 88 1 14.8
Tatum Bell 15 103 0 0 15 51% 103 0 10.3
HOU Wali Lundy 11 32 2 -1 13 68% 31 0 3.2
Vernand Morency 5 13 1 6 6 32% 19 0 1.9
NE Corey Dillon 16 73 2 22 18 51% 95 0 9.5
Laurence Maroney 17 86 0 0 17 49% 86 0 8.6
NO Reggie Bush 14 61 8 58 22 50% 119 0 11.9
Deuce McAllister 22 90 0 0 22 50% 90 0 9.0
NYJ Derrick Blaylock 19 36 2 10 21 65% 46 0 4.6
Kevan Barlow 11 35 0 0 11 35% 46 1 10.6
TEN Chris Brown 16 64 1 4 17 63% 68 0 6.8
Travis Henry 9 22 1 2 10 37% 32 2 17.2

Using the criteria of a committee meaning that the primary back does not get more than around 2 of every 3 carries (or at least 70% of all touches), our fears have been very realized. Dunn doesn't share much though much more than he did last year. Julius Jones was a primary back unlike many expectations and he should continue with that ratio at least for now.

But that 2:1 ratio holds true in Chicago, Houston, New York (Jets) and Tennessee. And the always detested 50/50 existed in Denver, New Orleans and New England. Any of these could change - it is only week one. But it is disappointing to see seven teams watering down what a primary back could do. An injury in any of these could produce a very nice fantasy tailback but until something happens to change the status quo, expect less than what you probably wanted to happen.

Huddle Player of the Week

Frank Gore - Playing on the worst offense in the NFL (last year, anyway) is never a positive but Frank Gore has obviously welcomed the addition of OC Norv Turner and the absence of Kevan Barlow when he had 16 carries for 87 yards (5.4 YPC) and six receptions for 83 yards for a total of 170 yards with two touchdowns. That performance made more than a few fantasy team owners win their week and after Turner turned Lamont Jordan into a fantasy star in 2005, it appears that he's back at work in San Francisco with a very willing pupil. Salute!

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Charlie Batch 226 3 QB Carson Palmer 126 0
RB Travis Henry 24 2 RB Carnell Williams 47 0
RB Anthony Thomas 45 1 RB Reuben Droughns 27 0
WR Jerricho Cotchery 65 1 WR Joe Galloway 0 0
WR Bernard Berrian 49 1 WR Roy Williams 36 0
WR Marques Colston 49 1 WR Chad Johnson 62 0
PK Jeff Wilkins 6 FG PK Jason Elam 1 FG, 1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 85

Huddle Fantasy Points = 25

Sunday's Couch Commentary

SF 27, ARZ 31 Fantasy football can still always rely on the 49ers and Cardinals for some wonderful games. Rookie TE Vernon Davis turned his first NFL catch into a 31-yard touchdown and much maligned Alex Smith threw for 288 yards and the one score without an interception. It was like everything that was good from 2005 all in one game with none of the bad. Antonio Bryant had 114 yards on four catches while Larry Fitzgerald turned in nine catches for 133 yards with Boldin, Bergen and Walters catching TDs during Warner's best in the league 301 yard game. Frank Gore had 87 rushing yards and six catches for 83 yards with two touchdowns. I touted Gore as the next Lamont Jordan in the preseason since he not only has Norv Turner this year, he's likely more talented than Jordan when healthy. Edgerrin James totaled 73 yards on 26 carries to show that a 3.0 YPC is standard in ARZ no matter who is running the ball - it's just about volume really.
ATL 20, CAR 6 Okay, so don't get comfortable with the idea that 2006 is going to be just like 2005. The NFC West Champs were without Steve Smith but that's not enough to explain how a home game can see Delhomme only had 186 yards and one interception and Foster only gained 54 yards on 15 carries after he shredded the Falcons twice last year (and really only then but that is another story). The feared Panther defense recorded no turnovers and only one sack while allowing Michael Vick to throw for 140 yards and TWO touchdowns - one even went to a wide receiver. The CAR defense held Dunn to only 132 rushing yards on 29 runs and Norwood had to take ten carries for 66 more yards because Dunn needed a blow from time to time. About the only difference here from last year is that Carolina did not show up on either side of the ball which makes it hard to win as it ends up. The same old, same old - the Panthers have dropped the last three home openers.
NO 19, CLE 14 The world finally saw Reggie Bush and the results were pretty satisfying - 14 runs for 61 yards and 8 catches for 58 yards to lead the Saints. Deuce McAllister may seem a little slower than last year before his knee injury but 22 carries for 90 yards says he's already healthy enough to be a fantasy starter every week. Drew Brees opened his new career in New Orleans with a win but his 176 yards with one score and an interception was nothing to crow about. This game actually started with a 74-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Braylon Edwards that was called back on penalty. Edwards only ended with 23 yards on two catches but he's already able to do much more. The rushing game was non-existent for the Browns with Droughns gaining only 27 yards on 11 carries and Charlie Frye leading the team with 44 yards on four runs with a rushing score. He also had one passing score to Winslow who ended with eight receptions for 63 yards, finally delivering on his draft selection a mere 29 months later. So far - the Browns are struggling in all facets of offense but could put together a couple scoring series.
SEA 9, DET 6 The Mariners battled the Tigers until a homerun in the eight inning... no wait. This is the NFL. What in the... The season started out with the all-time record holder for touchdowns scoring none and only gaining 51 yards on 19 carries. Hasselbeck had no scores and 210 yards while the best wideout for Seattle was Bobby Engram with just 52 yards and Jackson turned in 47 on five catches. Pricey free agent Burleson only managed 36 yards on one catch. Kitna had almost the same numbers (229 yards) and Kevin Jones could only gain 35 yards on 14 carries and Mike Furrey was the best wideout (55 yards) for the new Martz-inspired offense. If Hanson could have connected on all three of this kicks, the game would have gone into a tie and likely would still be playing now. What a disappointment across the board for fantasy football. Let's hope this was just a trash game and from now on both teams will actually score a touchdown. Josh Brown won the game on the final play but the Game of the Week must contain more than 5 field goals. The Lions blocked two of the tries by Brown earlier in the game.
CHI 26, GB 0 What is worst than an NFL shutout? Playing against a fantasy team that has CHI as their defense. The Bears recorded two interceptions, a fumble, three sacks and returned a punt for a score. The Favre you saw in the preseason is still the same Favre now despite his statement "I was optimistic going into this game, I really was. Maybe I was the only one, but I really felt like we could surprise these guys. Obviously, that was not the case." The oddity here was that while Favre went 15 of 29 for 170 yards, Ahman Green rambled for 110 yards on 20 carries. It's like bizarro world and Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson combined for 32 carries and just 97 yards (3.0 YPC) and the only score was thrown by Rex Grossman to Bernard Berrian on his only catch in the game. And no, none of this much makes sense except for the one thing that always matters - the Bears defense.
PHI 24, HOU 10 Donovan McNabb wasted no time in showing the world that Owens was needed anymore by throwing for 314 yards and three scores against the Texans (as so many have). Donte Stallworth becomes this week's answer to the question "which player did you want in your draft but just missed taking but you are not saying anything until now?" With six catches for 141 yards and a score, it was like vintage Owens without the acrimony and fanfare. Brian Westbrook's foot has healed well enough to allow him to gain 71 rushing yards and 61 yards on four catches including one score. The duo of Stallworth and Westbrook was plenty to put away the Texans. Evidently you can take the coach out of Denver but you cannot take the Texans out of the Texans. Wali Lundy only had 11 runs for 32 yards in what was a nonexistent rushing game despite the accolades of Kubiak but Andre Johnson starts the year with a nice 101 yard effort and Eric Moulds had 68 yards and the only touchdown for Houston. David Carr was sacked only five times, so Kubiak is making progress in that department.
DAL 17, JAX 24 The Cowboys came out on fire with 10 points and a dominating defense but it went away by the second quarter and the Jaguars ripped off 24 unanswered points while Bledsoe was throwing three interceptions that should have been followed with a "my bad" each time. Julius Jones ran for 72 yards by mixing longer runs with a lot of "stuffed at the line" plays. Terrell Owens had 80 yards and one score in a solid debut while Glenn had 81 yards as well. Reggie Williams had 6 catches for 47 yards and one score and should be one of the guys leaving your waiver wire this week. Matt Jones led the team (5-71) but Wilford only had thee catches for 58 yards. The Dallas defense seemed to get tired since Fred Taylor was stuffed in the first half but ended with 74 yards on 21 carries including the rare rushing score. Dallas remains a powerhouse team if it can only turn the first 15 minutes of play into a full game while the Jags showed poise and character after falling behind to make their start a mere footnote to a solid win. Vanderjagt did not play but Suisham continued the tradition of making Big D stand for "doink".
CIN 23, KC 10 It appears that Herman Edwards has brought not only his vast wisdom and knowledge to the Chiefs, he has also retained his amazing tendency to have quarterbacks get injured. Trent Green was not having a great game already and attempted to slide on a run when he was flattened by DE Robert Geathers and his head slammed back violently into the turf. He laid motionless for several minutes and was carted from the field with what is described as "severe head trauma". The Chiefs have said it was not as bad as it seemed but that leaves a lot of room to still be plenty bad. Larry Johnson ended with just 68 yards on 17 carries but still had a 4.0 YPC with less volume than last year. Damon Huard played relatively well considering the team was already trailing badly. To the horror of those fantasy team owners who thought they spent a crafty third or fourth round pick, Carson Palmer in the rain only threw for 127 yards and no score mainly because that was all he needed to do. Rudi Johnson was enough (28-96, 1 TD) while Chad Johnson led the team with a mere 48 receiving yards. Houshmyleghurtszadeh did not play and in his place Chris Henry hauled in one pass and found enough room upfield for a five yard loss. Tony Gonzalez had ten catches for 81 yards and one score - 55 yards and the TD coming from Huard.
BUF 17, NE 19 The game started out with a Brady fumbled turned into a Bills TD on the first play but that was about as much as BUF would do other than an 18 yard rushing touchdown by Anthony Thomas instead of Willis McGahee who could only gain 70 yards on 20 carries. Losman had 164 yards but no scores and no interceptions. Losman never hit any receiver more than twice other than Josh Reed (3-40) who led all receivers for the team. Brady only had 163 yards but threw for two scores and that RBBC situation is quite alive and well in NE with Maroney and Dillon combing for 33 carries for 159 yards almost exactly split. Ben Watson moved up sharply in drafts towards the end of August and while he had 50 yards on three catches, one was for 34 yards. He led all receivers for the Pats in this rather boring game with not much offense and yet the only notable defense was the opening score by BUF and the safety by the Pats in the fourth quarter. The only apparent change to the Bills offense that is directed by ex-STL OC Steve Fairchild is that now the Bills cannot run either. This was a close game and could have been game of the week with just a tad bit more offense.
MIA 17, PIT 28 The reigning world champs just served notice that the offense does not need Roethlisberger or Bettis to win and the defense is at least as good as last year and maybe even better. Culpepper only completed 18 of 37 passes for 262 yards and two interceptions so he appears to be back in 2005 form. Ronnie Brown had two scores to save his fantasy value but only gained 30 yards on 15 carries but he added 32 yards on three catches. The important thing here - no other running back had a carry and that alone makes his a fantasy football delight. Chambers only had five catches for 59 yards but was thrown 13 passes. OC Mike Mularkey has never used tight ends in the past which Randy McMichael (1-10) probably is even more aware of now. Parker didn't do much until the end of the game but with 29 carries he had 115 yards on the ground and 13 more on three receptions. The same receiving duo delivered the goods with Hines Ward (5-53, 1 TD) and Heath Miller (3-101, 1 TD) both turning in difference making games with Batch at the helm. The Fins may still win the AFC East, but it wasn't apparent how in this game.
DEN 10, STL 18 Call it the curse of Linehan. The Broncos opened 2005 against MIA and Linehan's offense shredded them in a surprising upset and this week Linehan's Rams sent the Broncos packing with yet another opening loss. Jake Plummer (13-26, 138 yards, 3 interceptions and one fumble) did himself no favors in his quest to keep Jay Cutler on the bench. Javon Walker was the best receiver with only 41 yards. The Broncos did split duties with the Bell boys and Tatum had 15 runs for 103 yards thanks to some long jaunts while Mike Bell had 58 yards on ten runs with one TD and four catches for 30 yards. With a passing game, the Broncos could have been contenders here but somehow the Rams under DC Jim Haslett bear little resemblance to previous years. Bulger wasn't asked to throw 60 passes with Martz gone and ended with 217 yards and no scores. Steven Jackson rumbled for 121 yards on 22 carries while Holt (7-80) and Bruce (5-64) showed that the passing game was becoming normalized from the start and without those constant four receiver sets of the past, neither Curtis or McDonald even had a catch. It wasn't as much fantasy football fun as the Rams used to provide, but it was a solid win that made Jackson look really good and Plummer really bad. Imagine - the "greatest show on turf" just won a game by kicking six field goals with no touchdowns. Oh for the old days...
NYJ 23, TEN 16 Definite game of the week contender other than the two teams likely to challenge for two of the worst in the league by the end of the year. Chad Pennington was the star (and I cannot believe I just wrote that) by throwing for 319 yards and two scores as proof positive that you must start any quarterback or receiver against the Titans secondary at every chance you get. Laveranues Coles ended with a league leading 153 yards on eight catches and Jerricho Cotchery had six catches for 65 yards and one score (let that sink in) while Chris Baker once again starts the year with a bang by scoring on four catches for 34 yards. The Jets feasted on the pass but still could not get the run going with Derrick Blaylock gaining only 36 yards on 19 carries and Kevan Barlow rumbling for 35 yards on 11 runs though he did score a touchdown. The most effective runner for the Jets was the rookie wideout Brad Smith who had 13 yards in just two runs. Kerry Collins had 223 yards and two interceptions and was temporarily replaced by Vince Young who three three straight completions that were impressive and then his fourth pass was an apparent lob to DB Andre Dyson (success) that killed a potential scoring drive. Chris Brown ran for 64 yards but Travis Henry came in to score two touchdowns just to stick to everyone who started Brown. It was actually an exciting game in that "pretend the NFL has only two teams" sort of way when the Titans mounted a 16 point comeback to tie the Jets until the Baker score with two minutes left. Collins drove the field and was at the NYJ 12-yard line with 1:11 left to play but only gained four yards in four plays to end the comeback bid. If you didn't start Drew Bennett (8-106) you might not get another chance until week 8 when Houston comes to town.
Peyton 26, Eli 21 The Manning Bowl did not disappoint. Eli had the higher passer rating with 247 yards and two scores but Peyton's 276 yards and one score combined with one rushing score and plenty of Vinatieri was just enough to outlast his little brother. Tiki Barber is not only under-sized and over-aged, he is completely unaware of his limitations and ran for 110 yards on 18 carries and added 61 yards on five receptions. Brandon Jacobs is becoming a scary addition with the customary touchdown and also 54 yards on eight runs. The Colts had no rushing attack with Rhodes and Addai combining for just 55 yards on 23 carries but with Harrison (9-113) and Wayne (4-67) and a good defense, they were just enough to take the win. This was a great game to be sure and a wonderful choice for the late game on Sunday. If Feely makes his field goal and the refs called them all right, this could have gone to the Giants. After a rather dry day for fantasy with so many defenses dominating their opponent, this was a great way to end the day. This is the game of the week except I wanted to hold out a more representative match-up for the weekend.

Game-O-The-Week

Every opening week is always odd and often unlike the weeks to follow. The problem here is that they generally are much higher scoring and then they settle down and according to 2006, defenses have been working every day since January while the offenses spent their time hanging out at Chris Henry's place making bad decisions about what to do with their money. This year we opened with as low scoring as there has been in many years. Consider that in 2005, opening week produced 66 touchdowns and 43 field goals. While we still have two games left to play, so far there has only been 42 touchdowns and 42 field goals. We're short a mere 24 touchdowns and a field goal which seems unlikely from the OAK-SD and MIN-WAS games though with the Raiders defense you really cannot rule anything out. In 2004, there were 38 field goals and 69 touchdowns. Scoring is down in the first week but it all catches back up before you know it.

We had nine visitors win against only five home teams - usually that is reversed if not worse for the opener.

We had two shut-outs in the first week - what were those offenses doing for the last eight months? We had nine new head coaches that evidently have focused initially on their defenses. All those new teams are somewhat to blame as is the transition in the backfield with older players giving way to newer runners and a handful of teams now convinced that there is no such thing as a primary runner.

The game of the week had to reflect how odd this week was, how surprising and yet how unreliable the week will likely prove to be as an indicator of what to expect this year. Also just how much has changed since week 17 of 2005

Baltimore 27, Tampa Bay 0

The Ravens had not won a road game in the previous 11 attempts, so heading down to hot Tampa Bay to face the NFC South champion seemed to be a tall order. Waiting for them was the 2005 Offensive Rookie of the Year. There was Joey Galloway who had 1287 yards and 10 scores last season to rank 8th best among fantasy wideouts last year. Worst than all that was the Tampa Bay defense that allowed only 4444 total yards last year - #1 in the entire NFL. Only six teams allowed fewer points than the Bucs in 2005. They were 11-5 on the season while the Ravens were only 6-10. Doesn't sound very fair really.

But while the Buccaneers stood pat on their offense this year, the Ravens invested in Steve McNair who joined the team just in time for training camp. The Ravens took the opening kick-off and marched 80 yards in nine minutes so that Jamal Lewis could score a four-yard touchdown and take the lead 7-0.

The Bucs ignored Cadillac Williams and went three and out. The Ravens took the next series and actually lost seven yards on six plays thanks to a fumble and punted. The first quarter ended with Carnell Williams having one rush for seven yards and the Buccaneers throwing a pass from their own 40-yard line that was intercepted by Chris McAlister and returned for another score. After one quarter of play, Cadillac had one carry, the Bucs had gained 18 yards on nine plays and the Ravens led 14-0.

The first half ended after each team had four fruitless series except Simms threw another interception that was returned 60 yards to the TB 9-yard line and became a field goal for a 17-0 lead at halftime.

When the third quarter started, it was apparent that the rushing game had been abandoned by Tampa Bay and the Ravens added another field goal after a punt from the TB 16-yard line only went 39 yards and was returned to the TB 37-yard line. The score was 20-0 ten minutes into the quarter and Cadillac had one carry in the entire second half that lost four yards.

The Ravens tacked on another touchdown mid-way through the fourth quarter after a 61-yard, ten play drive. By this time, Tampa Bay had switched to the rookie Gradkowski at quarterback and both teams merely played out the already decided game.

Jamal Lewis ended with 78 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries while Steve McNair had an efficient 17 of 27 for 181 yard effort with one score and no interceptions. Todd Heap only had five catches for 46 yards and just two for 13 yards in the second half because he was just not needed. Derrick Mason only had four receptions for 50 yards because anything more was piling on.

But that impressive Tampa Bay offense from last year? After eight months of preparation of the same offense with the same players, Chris Simms only managed 133 yards and three interceptions. Carnell Williams ran only eight times in the game for 22 yards but had five catches for 22 yards just to prove he was there. Joey "magic year" Galloway? Three passes and no catches. A rather inauspicious start that by halftime smacked of the Bucs throwing in the towel with promise to "start this thing right next week".

Cadillac will be back to form perhaps in Atlanta next week. The Buccaneers are not a 27-0 team after this spanking and everything we have learned from this week could well prove temporary as soon as next Sunday. It's the NFL and that means changing dynamics, surprise studs and shocking duds. But it doesn't all happen in week one and sometimes not all in the first month. That is not to say now that you've had a taste of 2006 that you should stand steadfast on your freshly drafted fantasy team blindly because we've already seen some of those shooting stars from 2005 already fizzle. Now is the time to start digesting exactly what we are getting into this season and every week unveils a new piece of the puzzle. Those players from last year may have won you a championship but that means nothing in 2006. Just ask the Buccaneers about resting on your laurels and thinking everything that was good last year will be good again. It's going to be another wild, wacky and wonderful year that will continually remind you of one truth.

The more you expect things to remain the same, the more they are going to change.

Now get back to work...