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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 4
David Dorey
September 25, 2006
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Matt Hasselbeck 227 5
J.P. Losman 328 2
Brett Favre 340 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Brian Westbrook 164 3
Clinton Portis 164 2
Willie Parker 146 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Javon Walker 130 2
Keyshawn Johnson 101 2
T.J. Houshmandzadeh 94 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Eric Johnson 87 1
Bo Scaife 53 1
Todd Heap 36 1
Placekickers XP FG
John Kasay 2 4
Robbie Gould 1 4
Ryan Longwell 1 3
     
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
NY Jets 1 3 3
Philadelphia 1 3 2
Cincinnati 0 3 5

Week 3 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

The injury list is not long but once again a quarterback ended up in the hospital. We all wish Chris Simms a speedy and complete recovery.

Chris Simms - Ruptured spleen
Vernon Davis - Cracked bone in leg
Frank Gore - Strained abdominal muscle
Desmond Clark - foot sprain
Plaxico Burress - Re-Aggravated back injury
Corey Dillon - Unspecified arm injury

Shut up, already....

The much maligned Mark Brunell spent two weeks listening to the media roast him as an over-the-hill, immobile quarterback who needed to be replaced. In Houston on Sunday, Brunell not only completed 24 of 27 passes for 261 yards and one score, he had no turnovers and set an NFL record by completing his first 22 consecutive passes. Of course that was the first time this season the Texans had not allowed at least 314 passing yards or at least three touchdowns in a game, but let's not mix the positive with any negatives here. That can happen next week when Brunell gets to play against the Jaguars defense.

What do you mean I have to block ?

2005 was the year of the tight end with Antonio Gates leading a pack of fantasy-relevant stud tight ends that made the position deep enough for everyone and important enough to win your games. Throw in reception points and some of those tight ends were better than most wide receivers and were showing up regularly on rosters that didn't even consider tight ends separately from wideouts. But how have those studs from 2005 been faring so far?

2005 Top Tight Ends
Games
Catches
Yards
TD's
 
1
Antonio Gates
2
6
81
1
 
2
Jeremy Shockey
3
11
134
1
 
3
Todd Heap
3
15
99
2
 
4
Chris Cooley
3
7
38
0
 
5
Alge Crumpler
2
4
49
1
 
6
Jason Witten
2
7
78
0
 
7
Tony Gonzalez
2
12
88
1
 
8
Randy McMichael
3
6
59
0
 
9
Jerramy Stevens
0
0
0
0
 
10
L.J. Smith
3
16
186
1
 
11
Heath Miller
3
7
146
1
 
12
Ben Troupe
3
3
64
0
 

Seems like the old days - the top three guys continue to reward and L.J. Smith has actually topped them all for now. But the others either have done little or had just one game of note. A bit early to make any conclusions here but the tight ends are just not showing up like they did last year. At this rate, they're heading back to the final rounds of drafts next year.

I can catch too but I don't want to show off

The Browns are certainly frugal. Charlie Frye is obviously the leading passer for the team and so far has 674 yards and two passing touchdowns after three games played. But he also has 60 rushing yards on 12 carries which is one more yard than Rueben Droughns has so far. He's also gaining five yards per rush unlike the 2.4 yards per carry of Droughns or the 2.0 yard average of Jason Wright. Oh yes, Frye has scored one rushing touchdown in each of his first three games. He's the leading rusher, passer and scorer for the Browns. With no prospect of an actual rushing game developing, this could still be true 13 weeks from now.

Seriously, how much did we pay for these tickets?

Opening week was an odd one with a couple of shutouts and 11 of 16 road teams winning. It was back to normal last week when only 4 teams managed to win on the road and 12 home teams made their fans happy. Don't get comfortable quite yet since week three served up 10 wins by the visitors and only three home victories with the undefeated Falcons visiting the Saints left to play. After three weeks, the road teams hold a 25-20 edge over the home teams. That means the average NFL fan is leaving the stadium in a rather bad humor.

Next week will probably return to the home teams winning again - unless you plan on relying on it.

Huddle Player of the Week

Brian Westbrook - One of these days Westbrook is going to be banged up and held out of practice, listed as questionable and a gametime decision and then be made inactive. Only then will we all say "What? He's really hurt?" . After being held out of practice and deemed questionable this week, Westbrook was barely used against the 49ers when he only had eight carries and just four receptions. But he gained 117 yards on those eight runs and scored two touchdowns and had 47 yards on those four receptions and a third score. That's 164 total yards and three touchdowns on the game with only 12 touches. Oh yeah, he's hurt really bad.

Salute!

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB J.P. Losman 328 2 QB Ben Roethlisberger 208 0
RB Ladell Betts 151 1 RB Corey Dillon 16 0
RB Maurice Drew 135 1 RB Rudi Johnson 57 0
WR Roscoe Parrish 104 1 WR Chad Johnson 11 0
WR Greg Jennings 101 1 WR Hines Ward 17 0
WR David Tyree 72 1 WR Plaxico Burress 23 0
PK John Kasay 4 FG 2 XP PK Neil Rackers 2 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 127

Huddle Fantasy Points = 22

Sunday's Couch Commentary

TEN 10, MIA 13 The Dolphins finally get a win this year but it came by only three points at home against one of the weakest teams in the NFL. Daunte Culpepper went against a defense that had been ravaged by Chad Pennington and Philip Rivers/Tomlinson and the best he could do is throw for 168 yards and no score? This should have been his "shut up, already" game and instead Chris Chambers only had 39 yards. The MIA passing game remains Missing In Action. Ronnie Brown gained 90 yards but that required 26 carries of which one went for 27 yards. Hard as it is to fathom, the Fins hosted a very weak team and were lucky enough to win the game. The Titans musical chair backfield had Henry with 60 yards and only one carry for LenDale White. Were it not for the three turnovers, the Titans could have pulled off the win here. Bo Scaife is the star receiver for the Titans now as a second string tight end.
JAX 14, IND 21 Sure, the Jaguars lost but they have nothing to hang their heads about. Other than allowing a punt return for 80 yards by Wilkins, this was a tie game. Leftwich struggled on the road with only 107 yards, one score and two interceptions but the JAX rushing game racked up 191 yards that included 103 yards on 13 carries by Maurice Jones-Drew who was also the leading receiver with 32 yards and a second touchdown. Jones is only 5'7" but he looked great running, just like the rookie DeAngelo Williams did last week. And like DeAngelo this week, Drew could post minimal numbers again in week four because he is not going to be the primary runner until Taylor goes down. Since that is about as likely as gas prices rising again, figure on Drew as a prime candidate for a second half of the season break out. He's fast, he's short, and he's pack a decent punch. The Colts won here mainly thanks to turnovers by JAX and the special teams TD. Imagine Drew playing for the Colts...
WAS 31, HOU 15 When a team is frantically searching for their first win, visiting Houston not only assures you that victory, but you can also visit NASA while you are there. The great news for the Redskins is that Clinton Portis finally showed up big with 164 total yards and two scores and even Betts ran for 124 yards. Brunell threw for 261 yards and a score but still failed to bring along Santana Moss (6-50) or Brandon Lloyd (2-20) or even Chris Cooley (4-18). Now that HC Gary Kubiak has set up shop on the other side of town from the Broncos, he's finding out that maybe this winning thing is a tad bit harder than it seems. He spent the week discussing on the importance of establishing a ground game and that led to Ron Dayne starting so that he could gain just 58 yards on 14 carries. Andre Johnson (11-152) still has big fantasy value but no one else on this team seems worth a consistent fantasy start.
GB 31, DET 24 Another game decided by a returned interception for a touchdown, but at least Brett Favre served the media a big glass of shut-up juice when he ended with 340 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He used ten different receivers with the rookie Greg Jennings (3-101, 1 TD) topping them all thanks to a 75-yard touchdown catch. Jon Kitna had a decent game with 342 yards and two scores as well and even Kevin Jones gained 125 total yards and scored once. Roy Williams grabbed seven passes for 138 yards and one score in this shoot-out. This is the sort of game that fantasy football loves and that has been all too rare between these teams in the recent past. High scoring game that went the wire in a close match-up. Perhaps these teams cannot pull this sort of performance off against quality opponents, but playing each other - it's a good thing.
NYJ 28, BUF 20 Played in bad weather, this was a close game that saw J.P. Losman (328 yards, 1 TD) excel and not Chad Pennington (183 yards, 1 TD). Willis McGahee had a big game with 150 rushing yards on 26 carries and there were two wideouts that topped 100 yards as well - Roscoe Parrish (4-104, 1 TD) and Lee Evans (8-107). It was the first time in history that the Bills had a 300 yard passer, a 100 yard rusher and two 100 yard receivers and yet still lost the game. This happened, yet again, due to a defensive score on a fumble return. The Jets are now 2-1 and tied for the AFC East lead despite having no idea who the starting running back is on their own team. Kevan Barlow, Leon Washington and Cedric Houston all played with Derrick Blaylock made inactive so that Houston could play. Trying to guess which Jet running back you should start is a little like Russian roulette - the best you're going to end up with is really nothing more than you already had when you started.
CIN 28, PIT 20 A great game to watch and one that seemed at first like it would be a Steeler blowout. Fast Willie Parker did gain 133 yards though he ran 31 times to get there. He scored twice and made a nice bounce back from his butt-kicking in Jacksonville last week. However, the same cannot be said for Ben Roethlisberger who had 208 yards but threw three interceptions against no scores. Big Ben was solid last season and electric in the playoffs and right now, he looks like Charlie Batch's stunt double. The world-champs are now 1-2 and heading into a bye week where HC Bill Cowher will take Big Ben on a tour of the endzone just to get him familiar with it again. Carson Palmer was given enough time to throw which is never, ever a good thing for a defense. This time it came at the price of four touchdowns split between Houshmandzadeh (9-94) and Chris Henry (5-69). This was made possible by Chad Johnson (1-11) who was constantly accompanied by more men in black than President Bush. The Bengals are now 3-0 and two games up on the Steelers. Next up - spanking the visiting Patriots this week.
CHI 19, MIN 16 Rex Grossman continues his streak of hot passing with 278 yards and one score against the Vikings though he had two interceptions. Muhsin Muhammad (9-118) and Bernard Berrian (6-70) still resemble great wideouts to the casual observer but the ground game here is just as dull as it was the first two weeks. Thomas Jones only gained 54 yards on 18 carries while Cedric Benson is currently the highest-paid bench player in the league (non-quarterbacks). Benson never had a single carry in the game only days after HC Lovie Smith reiterated his desire to continue the rotation. We should all be so lucky to be paid that much to wear a uniform and mull on the sidelines. The Vikings drop their first game of the season and only an interception return for a score propped the game score up to make it so close. Expect the media to take the gloves off when covering the Vikings from now on. HC Brad Childress suffered his first loss and in the post-game interview he would only take three questions before cutting it short and leaving. Expect tougher questions from now on there Brad...
BAL 15, CLE 14 This was the sort of game that has to happen at least once or twice each week. The Ravens had not allowed a touchdown this season and the Browns scored twice in the second quarter to take a 14-3 lead into halftime. This was done thanks to surprisingly good passing by Charlie Frye and in the absence of almost any rushing game at all. Rueben Droughns was made inactive and Jason Wright (15-31) took the minimal production instead. Braylon Edwards (5-116, 1 TD) continues to show why he was the first receiver drafted last year and his knee injury appears to be a mere footnote to last year. Kellen Winslow (7-92) also showed up big in the game though no other receiver mattered - eventually defenses are going to notice that. The Ravens pulled this game out with a 12 point fourth quarter and a field goal with only 20 seconds left to play. McNair is finding Mason (7-132) again and even Todd Heap had a touchdown. Closer game than anyone expected, but not quite close enough for the Browns' fans.
CAR 26, TB 24 This could very easily be considered the Game of The Week. Steve Smith finally suits up and even though everyone was saying how he would be a decoy and not 100%, he still led the team with seven catches for 112 yards. Imagine when he is healthy. The most important aspect to this game was the opportunity for Keyshawn Johnson to stick it to his ex-employer Jon Gruden when he had 97 yards and a touchdown and later scored again on an end around. DeShaun Foster had 20 carries for 82 yards but DeAngelo Williams only netted a one yard loss on four carries after gaining 90 yards and a score against the Vikings last week. Soon as Foster has his annual injury this will all clear up. The good news for the Bucs was that they actually scored points - 24 of them no less - and made it a game with a 14 point third quarter. Carnell Williams scored a touchdown but only gained 48 yards on 19 carries (though that was a season high). But the Bucs have lost Chris Simms for some amount of time because he evidently gutted out most of the game with a ruptured spleen that landed him in the hospital after the game. The rookie Bruce Gradkowski will likely step up into the starting role now but Tampa Bay has a merciful bye week to figure this all out now.
PHI 38, SF 24 The NFL should get on their knees and thank the fantasy football world. When the Eagles took a 31-3 lead in the third quarter, the entire viewing audience would normally go back to mowing the yard or at least turn to their closest child and ask "okay, so who are you again?". But with fantasy football, this all spells the joyful term "trash time". At halftime, McNabb already had 232 yards and two scores and a very comfortable lead. Alex Smith had only thrown for 67 yards. By the end of the game, Smith had 293 yards and a score. Brian Westbrook was questionable to play all week and would be a far scarier fantasy start were it not for the fact that he has been cleaning up every week when he is supposed to be hurt and limited. Westbrook had 161 total yards and three touchdowns. He was the entire offense other than Reggie Brown (5-106, 1 TD). Stallworth was a late scratch due to the hamstring he aggravated late Friday and likely because the Eagles didn't think they needed him - they were right. The 49ers witnessed their two stars injured on the same play when Frank Gore strained his abdomen and Vernon Davis cracked a bone in his leg. Davis will miss a month but Gore's status will be determined during this week. If he too is out, then only Antonio Bryant remains for Smith and Michael Robinson becomes the top free agent of the week. Ah - he scored twice yesterday and will be grabbed in free agency immediately regardless of how well Gore is. And Gore's nasty habit of coughing up the football near the goal line is not being replicated by Robinson. Reasons enough to worry about Gore staying in when the goal line nears.
STL 16, ARZ 14 How sad is it when the Rams and Cardinals play and only three touchdowns in total are scored? Playing at home the Cards are always tough and Steven Jackson (24-62) could not get on track. Marc Bulger had 309 yards but on scored once to Torry Holt (8-120). While Holt's numbers remain the same this year, the rest of the passing game has taken a step backwards. Edgerrin James ran for 94 on 24 carries and came tantalizing close to breaking that mythical 100 yard barrier. He even scored in the game which gives him two touchdowns on the year, basically accomplishing everything the 2005 rushing game did in only the first three games. These are now two very similar teams with one key difference - Bulger had no interceptions while Warner had three. And Warner's lost fumble on the final series sealed the loss. Arizona is 1-2 now with ATL, KC and CHI up next. Where is that Leinart kid anyway?
DEN 17, NE 7 The Broncos couldn't stop Larry Johnson in Denver last week but they had little trouble containing Corey Dillon (5-16) and Laurence Maroney (12-18) on Sunday night. For those keeping score, and you really need to stop, the Broncos are now using Tatum Bell as a heavy-use back (27-123) and Mike Bell (4-12) is nothing more than a relief player. At least for this week. Plummer finally had a solid game with two scores and 256 yards with no turnovers. Javon Walker (3-130, 2 TD) made the most of his few passes and even Rod Smith (6-44) became a target again. Amazing how well things work when the quarterback hits his own players and doesn't fumble. Brady threw 55 times with 31 completions for 320 yards and one score to Doug Gabriel. In true Patriot fashion, no single receiver had much fantasy value as none had more than the six catches for 66 yards that Ben Watson had. When the rushing game disappears, the Patriots now appear to be Brady playing in a pick-up football game and he's picking players second. This could be a problem in Cincinnati this weekend.

Game-O-The-Week

Week three brings us to yet another batch of road warriors whooping up on the home teams and the fantasy world has to applaud the multiple touchdown performances of Brian Westbrook, Clinton Portis, Willie Parker, Michael Robinson, Javon Walker, Keyshawn Johnson, Houshmandzadeh, Chris Henry and Darrell Jackson. Eli Manning and Brett Favre had three scores, Carson Palmer managed four and Matt Hasselbeck ended with the big five touchdown game. WIth plenty of 300 yard passers and 100 yard runners and receivers, there's been a bevy of fantasy points to distribute. Each week we are treated to another player showing up big for the very first time and Maurice Jones-Drew will be the subject of more than a few waiver wires and trade offers.

The game of the week was initially going to be the Panthers-Buccaneers slugfest and it was an exciting game that ended up tinged with the bad news about Chris Simms. It was replaced as the best game by one that featured everything that is near and dear and frustrating and wonderful to the fantasy football fan.

NY Giants 30, Seattle Seahawks 42

What's not to like about a game with 72 total points scored and stocked with fantasy starters on both sides?

The Giants came off their emotional comeback win in Philadelphia and quickly proceeded to come out flat as a pancake faced against a fierce Seattle defense. By the end of the first quarter, Shaun Alexander had his obligatory touchdown and Matt Hasselbeck had two scores. By halftime, the Seahawks not only led 35-3, it was only because of a field goal that ended the half that the Giants were even on the board. Down by 35 points, time to change the channel, right? Nah - it's fantasy football. It's trash time if nothing else and the Giants had already mounted a big comeback in week two. Maybe not this big, but since Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Jeremy Shockey and Tike Barber were in the game, plenty was still worth watching.

Eli Manning only had 65 yards and no scores at the half. He ended with 275 yards and three scores. If he could just pretend it was always the fourth quarter, he'd be setting NFL records.

The game had the red hot Plaxico Burress in it but his back bothered him again (plus two drops and a lost fumble) and he only had one catch in the game and sat out the second half. The "check your program" player became his replacement David Tyree who had 72 yards and a touchdown. The game that pitted the #1 and #2 rushers from 2005 only had 64 yards from Barber and 47 yards from Alexander. Combined that's less than either averaged in games last year. The red hot relief back Brandon Jacobs only had one rush for nine yards. Deion Branch started his new career as a Seahawk though he only had two catches for 23 yards and failed to score despite there being five receiving touchdowns by Seattle.

It was a game with the two best rushers from 2005 doing little and while there was 502 passing yards in the game, no single receiver had more than Tyree's 72 yards that didn't even start until the end of the second quarter. Seven different receivers scored and Darrell Jackson (7-57) had two touchdowns. The Giants returned an interception for a touchdown during the fourth quarter when the Seahawks should have been just running out the clock.

The Giants now have been outscored 72-17 in the first half this year and then reversed that 64-21 in the second half.

The game was a microcosm of what football and fantasy football is all about. The biggest rushing studs from last year being mediocre while the second tier quarterbacks combined for eight touchdowns that were split between expected and completely unforseen players. The game was over before it barely started and yet it wasn't over because so much remained to happen that involved us, thrilled us and in the case of Burress owners, just depressed us. The swings of momentum, the unintended errors and the brilliant individual plays are what it's all about. The game was decided early and in the world of "only winning matters" there was no sense in watching those final 45 minutes. But for those of us who know that the beauty lies not in the product but in the process, how could you not watch it? Let the rest of the world glance at the standings and grunt.

Just give me the game.

Now get back to work...