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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 6
David Dorey
October 9, 2006
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Donovan McNabb 354 2
Philip Rivers 269 2
Damon Huard 288 1
Running Backs Yards TD
Fred Taylor 143 1
Larry Johnson 142 1
Deuce McAllister 131 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Hank Baskett 112 1
Joey Galloway 110 1
Greg Jennings 105 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Antonio Gates 55 1
Randy McMichael 84 0
Alex Smith 16 1
Placekickers XP FG
Robbie Gould 4 4
Jay Feeley 1 4
Phil Dawson 0 4
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Minnesota 2 5 4
Philadelphia 1 7 5
San Francisco 1 1 4
(Author's Note - the original finished Tunnel Vision for this week was lost due to a computer error so at 2 AM I am starting over a column that usually requires about 6 or more hours to write. My apologies for any brevity or apparent drop in quality but I have never missed a Tunnel Vision deadline in nine years and I won't end that now.)

Week 5 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

So far the injuries haven't started mounting but the season is young..

Larry Johnson - Neck sprain
Kevin Jones - Concussion
Dennis Northcutt - Rib injury
Frank Gore - Neck injury
Jeremy Shockey - Foot injury
Brandon Stokley - Sprained knee
DeAngelo Williams - Sprained ankle
Roy Williams - Back stinger
Larry Fitzgerald - Hamstring strain

The Young and the Restless

We all know that it takes veteran leadership to command an offense, so exactly how can we explain the outstanding performances not only be rookie quarterbacks this week, but ones that had never started an NFL game?

Bruce Gradkowski - The newest Buccaneer quarterback went to New Orleans and calmly completed 20 0f 31 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He made Joey Galloway look like a superstar again and looked incredibly polished for a player drafted in the sixth round back in April.

Matt Leinart - Given the starting nod this week against a very tough Chiefs secondary that had not allowed a passing score this season, Leinart coolly completed 22 of 35 passes for 253 yards and two scores without any interceptions as well. He opened the game with an 49-yard touchdown strike to Anquan Boldin.

Even Vince Young came very close to beating the Colts in Indianapolis when he ran 19 yards for a touchdown through the defense like it was USC all over again. Sheesh, kids these days... they're pretty good it seems.

Well isn't this a fine howdy-do

When you drafted your players this summer, you obviously went for the ones that would deliver the most weekly points, right? Those studs that would show up at the top of their positions and since leagues usually have ten or twelve teams, all the good ones went pretty fast and would be certain starters. So let's look at this week:

# Quarterback Pts Running Back Pts Wide Receiver Pts
1 McNabb, Donovan 26 Taylor, Fred 20 Baskett, Hank 17
2 Kitna, Jon 19 Johnson, Larry 20 Galloway, Joey 17
3 Rivers, Philip 18 McAllister, Deuce 19 Jennings, Greg 17
4 Huard, Damon 18 Herron, Noah 19 Berrian, Bernard 16
5 Gradkowski, Bruce 17 Benson, Cedric 18 Battle, Arnaz 16
6 Smith, Alex 17 Jones-Drew, M. 18 Evans, Lee 15
7 Leinart, Matt 17 Gore, Frank 17 Brown, Reggie 14

While McNabb went fairly early for quarterbacks, how many of the other top players were drafted as anything more than fantasy depth if they were even drafted? Huard, Gradkowski and Leinart were not even starters when we had our fantasy drafts.

The top running backs - those studs that are always the easiest to forecast - had Larry Johnson and Frank Gore, but the rest were all considered to be parts of a committee if not the short end. Herron, Benson and Jones-Drew are not even starters.

For wideouts it gets even goofier with only Evans and Galloway drafted with any anticipation of them being top players in any week.

Case in point - you never know until you know. The waiver wire has been unusually rich so far this year and it's not getting any less productive. Look for many of the above names to end their time in free agency this week.

Whew! Got that one just in the nick of time...

The Packers-Rams game opened on Sunday with a surprise. Donald Driver was not inactive but once again, Ahman Green was. While he had returned to practice this week and the prevailing wisdom was that he would play, his hamstring once again kept him on the sideline. As we saw last week when Vernand Morency ran for 99 yards against the Eagles, owning a back-up running back means suddenly having a starter for the week. Many fantasy owners were sent scurrying to their rosters to start Morency over Green. A few even started Morency even though they did not own Green because now they had a starting running back!

And start he did. Morency was used on all four plays of the opening drive - two receptions followed by two runs. Problem was that he lost a fumble on that fourth play, but to open - all Morency, all the time. The Rams scored on the shortened field and kicked off to the Packers. In the first five plays, Morency had three more runs but fumbled again. In trotted Noah Herron who proceeded to gain 38 of the 57 yards to the Rams goal line, ending with a one-yard touchdown. He remained in the game - why change what works? Herron ended with 106 yards on 20 carries for one score and added 20 yards on five receptions as well. Morency? He came back all right. He had one play in the fourth quarter for three yards. Hope that 0.3 points helped you...

Huddle Player of the Week

Donovan McNabb - Not only is McNabb the player of the week, he's on pace to be a lock for the MVP of the league this year. McNabb currently leads all fantasy quarterbacks and in most leagues has around a 50% lead over the #2 player (usually Peyton Manning). McNabb in averaging 320 yards per game and is on pace for a 5100 yard season. He has more passing touchdowns (11) than any other quarterback and is tied (3) for the lead in rushing scores by a quarterback. He feasted on an early schedule that included HOU, SF and GB, but against the Cowboys he still had a league high 354 yards and two touchdowns with one more ran in. He's answered the question "How will he do without Owens?". The answer is evidently - "even better".

Salute!

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Philip Rivers 269 2 QB Chad Pennington 84 0
RB Noah Herron 126 1 RB Laurence Maroney 38 0
RB Cedric Benson 62 2 RB LaDainian Tomlinson 70 0
WR Hank Baskett 112 1 WR Santana Moss 39 0
WR Arnaz Battle 37 2 WR Donald Driver 24 0
WR Greg Jennings 105 1 WR Laveranues Coles 19 0
PK Robbie Gould 4 FG 4 XP PK Rian Lindell 1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 130

Huddle Fantasy Points = 21

Sunday's Couch Commentary

DET 17, MIN 26 The Lions are perfecting their odd "find a way to lose" routine and showed their advance losing capabilities against the Vikings who they led 17-3 in the fourth quarter. Since the Vikings offense refused to win, the Lions had to resort to giving up two touchdowns to the opposing defense, along with one passing score to Travis Taylor. The only part of the Minnesota offense that works is Chester Taylor who had 123 yards on 26 carries and added 31 more yards on five catches. Without him, this is a team with nothing but a smattering of 30 yards per game receivers. The Lions lost Roy Williams to start the game but Mike Martz just plugged in Az-Zahir Hakim for 92 yards on eight catches. But the three interceptions by Kitna were the killers and the final one with 1:45 left to play was a very ugly way of not taking a sack.
TEN 13, IND 14 Each week needs a "what in the hell" game and this match-up stepped up. The Colts were favored by 19 points this week going against a team that had no apparent chance to even keeping the score close, let alone winning the game. Instead, the Colts came out flat (Part 3) and the Titans took a 10-0 lead into halftime. Sure, we all knew the Colts would yet again come back and win the game. The Titans probably knew it too. But it took until only five minutes were left in the game for the Colts to have their first and final lead in the game. After being the dominant team last year, the Colts are employing a new strategy this year. Start out slowly, get behind, and then come back in the nick of time to barely win a game that should have been a slam dunk. This way they have a chance peaking in the playoffs because it certainly is not happening right now. This is about the ugliest 5-0 team in history so far. Indy heads into their bye week where they will whisper to each other "do they all think we suck now?"
STL 23, GB 20 This was a game with a difference. Just one really. Both Bulger and Favre threw for 220 yards. Jackson ran for 98 and Herron had 108. Both teams had two touchdowns and and the Rams had three field goals against only two for the Packers. And with 44 seconds left in the game, the Packers were at the STL 11-yard line with second down. And Favre was the difference maker in an otherwise very similar game when he was sacked and lost the ball that was recovered by the Rams to win the game. Kick a field goal - tie the score. Throw a touchdown - win the game. Lost a fumble - head into the bye week at 1-4 while the media tries to find new ways to ask "are you still happy you decided to return this season?" to Favre. The Rams return home to host the Seahawks this week in a rather important match-up. Seems the Rams are 4-1 and atop the NFC West, better than even the 3-1 Seahawks.
BUF 7, CHI 40 The Bills team bus was unfortunately stuck in traffic but managed to reach the stadium just in time for the fourth quarter where they actually scored one touchdown. The Bears are running out of ways to win that are new, finally relying on Cedric Benson to score his first two NFL touchdowns because two weeks ago you used him to cover a bye week and got a big goose egg for your effort. The passing game no longer is surprising and we have all stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop because by now, it is for real and that shoe is getting shoved into every opponent's keister each week. Bernard Berrian has twice the scores and almost as many yards in the last five games as he had in his first two NFL seasons. Currently a Bears wideout is the top fantasy receiver in most leagues and there is no end in sight. The Bills offense has now de-evolved into being nothing more than Losman trying to hit Lee Evans while letting McGahee slam into the line and go down. Evans ended with 94 yards on nine catches or roughly 67% of all net yardage by the Bills.
CLE 12, CAR 20 This was a boring game that should have sported some offense but in the end, very little happened. DeAngelo Williams left the game and DeShaun Foster ran for 106 yards on 24 carries but still did not score. Steve Smith only had 62 yards and the only touchdown went to Keyshawn Johnson. Jake Delhomme was a hot property by the optimistic fantasy drafters last summer but he only had 170 yards and one score as his average game. The Browns never did score a touchdown in this game and Reuben Droughns ran for 65 yards on 18 carries to remind you that last week was not the norm. The Browns now head into their bye week 1-4 while the resurgent Panthers get to travel to Baltimore to see exactly how resurgent they truly are. In Baltimore, they measure opponent's production in inches, not yards. This was a lazy win.
TB 21, NO 24 The good news here for the Buccaneers is that Bruce Gradkowski looked like the real deal in his first ever start, even better than Simms had looked at any time this year. While Simms has benefited from his last name, "Gradkowski" is a guy you know worked hard to get where he is. The rookie had 225 yards and two scores without any interceptions and made Joey Galloway rekindle 2005 when he had 110 yards and one score on just four catches. Carnell WIlliams was in top form, finally, when he ran for 111 yards on 20 carries. This was as good as showing as the Buccaneers have made this year, it just wasn't good enough. The Saints got 123 yards from McAllister and Reggie Bush continues to be the highest paid rookie receiver that was drafted as a running back. Bush only had 23 yards on nine carries but collected 11 receptions for 63 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown - and the game winner - on a fourth quarter punt return with only four minutes left to play. The Saints get to host the Eagles this week as a test to see if 4-1 is legit or just the product of some heavy voodoo. The Buccaneers return home where their next two games are against CIN and PHI. The Gruden scowl has become the weekly frown now and will be followed soon by coping, then finally acceptance as the last stage of the 2006 season death is reached.
WAS 3, NYG 19 On the plus side, this wasn't the complete and total trashing that the Redskins had last year in New York. After all, they scored a field goal this time. The Giants may have a soft secondary, but what failed to occur to many fantasy teams who grabbed Brunell from the waiver wire this week was that the Skins are a one Moss pony and once he is covered - and he has been in every game except for last week - then the passing game here is pretty bad. Brunell only had 109 passing yards on Sunday and Moss ended with just three catches for 39 yards. Couple that with 76 yards from Portis and the field goal was good enough to prevent the shutout. The Giants came off their bye week evidently having tracked down the old Tiki Barber who had 123 yards on 23 carries and Eli Manning threw for 256 yards and one score to Burress. The Skins go back home this week to face the Titans and with that a great chance to once again pretend their offense works. The Giants rise to 2-2 on the season but are faced with two road trips in a row to ATL and then DAL in their season of scheduled mayhem.
MIA 10, NE 20 Just another "we can win this guys, let's get it over with" games. Daunte Culpepper mentioned to Nick Saban that his shoulder was a little sore and sent Saban running and yelling "Culpepper's too hurt to play! He's out this week! We have to start Joey!" Culpepper was issued a new baseball cap for the game and Harrington took his first start which produced pretty much the exact same results as Culpepper would have - 232 yards, two interceptions and one loss. Ronnie Brown turned 17 carries into a cool 39 yards but scored once to give just enough fantasy value that you will consider him this week against the Jets. Chris Chambers is starting to work out with slot midget Wes Welker to learn his secrets of the trade while Randy McMichael (6-84) was suddenly noticed running pass patterns. The Patriots yawned through out this game and Maroney only had 38 yards on 18 carries and Dillon turned 10 runs into 45 yards. About what they normally do in a quarter or so. Brady had two scores but only 140 yards and by now - it's about his norm.The Patriots were just trying to start their bye week early and against the Fins - they got away with it pretty easily.
OAK 20, SF 34 Just lose, baby. Even if it means taking halftime leads and squandering them. For the second week in a row, the Raiders led going into the third quarter but the 10-7 lead was far closer than the one they blew last week against the Browns. Lamont Jordan (12-71) actually ran fairly well but had limited carries thanks to Justin Fargas (8-63) being given some playing time. Jordan was slated to be returned to the passing game this week and he was - he had three catches for ten yards. That's three times what he had in the previous games combined. Randy Moss has now caught a touchdown in each of the last two games while dropping scores in both as well. Ronald Curry had 94 yards and will be a waiver wire guy this week though he only had four catches and won't do that again for a while. Frank Gore had a career best 134 rushing yards in the game and was also the lead receiver with 38 yards on three catches. Arnaz Battle had two scores but only three catches for 37 yards on Sunday but that meant that Alex Smith scored three times and completed 15 of 19 passes for 165 yards. The Raiders are efficiency consultants now. Whenever they leave an opponent, everything there is working like a charm once again. This week the Raiders go to Denver where a laugh track is being added to the sound system at Invesco Field.
NYJ 0, JAX 41 This game wasn't nearly as close as the score indicates. The Jags have won all their home games this year and had shutouts in the last two. Chad Pennington turned into a pumpkin once again with only 71 passing yards and three interceptions. Leon Washington will be the hot waiver wire guy this week thanks to his 23 carries for 101 yards that he had no business getting because his first carries came with the team trailed 14-0 and had only a couple of runs before it was 21-0. The Jags dropped off into a prevent and gave the diminutive Washington room to run because it was cute and it didn't hurt anything. Plus it helped to end the game faster so their bye week could start a little earlier. Fred Taylor had 111 yards on 21 carries with one score while Maurice Jones-Drew ran 13 times for 59 yards and two scores. The Jags now just have to figure out how to win on the road and they will be set. The Jets return home to host the Dolphins and then Lions, so the chance for Pennington to turn back into a princess is high.
KC 23, ARZ 20 The Cardinals drop to 1-4 but that's not the blame of Matt Leinart who was thoroughly impressive against the Chiefs in his debut. Leinart threw for 253 yards and two scores against a secondary that had not allowed any this year. He found Anquan Boldin on a 49-yard score to start the game and connected for another touchdown with Larry Fitzgerald before he heard his hamstring go "pop" followed by every fantasy owner going "dammit all". Edgerrin James ran for the standard 71 yards on 24 carries while Larry Johnson could only gain 36 yards on 16 attempts but he did have 106 yards on just six catches. Johnson gained 78-yards on one pass play that ended with Antrel Rolle finally catching up to him and bringing him down by using his face mask like the cord to start a lawnmower. After Johnson nearly did the owl thing with his head, he laid on the ground for a bit before finally moving and then getting up. Early reports are he will be fine but it looked like more than a mere stinger when it happened. The ironic part of this game was that it all came down to the KC 33-yard line with only two seconds left to play when Neil "Mr. Wonderful 2005" Rackers missed a 51 yard field goal that would have tied the game.
PIT 13, SD 23 There are unsubstantiated reports that the Super Bowl committee is requesting the media stop referring the the Steelers as the "current Super Bowl Champions" for fear that it would confuse people about what the Super Bowl is supposed to represent. The PIT defense is still solid, it just kept Tomlinson to only 36 yards on 13 carries and gave up two touchdowns to Philip Rivers because eventually they could only bend so much before breaking. The Steelers actually led in this game at halftime 13-7 before giving up 16 unanswered points in the second half, The problem here is the same as the last two weeks. The running game does okay and the defense is good and Ben Roethlisberger just gets in the way of a good time. He had 200 yards in the game but had no scores and two interceptions. His helmet is like a black cloud now and on Sunday there were plenty of lightning bolts all around. The Steelers are now 1-3 with the one opening win over the Dolphins to prevent having the same record as the Raiders (thanks, Charlie, we owe you big man). The Chargers now go to SF for some sourdough bread and another win while the Steelers return home to host the Chiefs.

Game-O-The-Week

This was a low scoring week - only four teams topped 30 points in their games. That short list has PHI, SF, CHI and JAX - probably the first time ever SF, CHI and JAX made up three of the top four scoring teams for a week. There were no trap games this week but it came close in many places and it was like a respite week where the wins were mostly close and unexciting. The stars from Sunday were made up of some genuine head-scratching names if you think back to fantasy drafts this summer and that all left only one game as the Game of the Week.

Dallas 24 , Philadelphia Eagles 38

Rare that a game so hyped could actually deliver and in this case, even exceed expectations. The lead constantly changed hands and there were odd plays throughout. The Cowboys opened with their punter missing the snap which led to the first Philly score and the next series by Dallas only lasted for one play when Bledsoe was sacked and lost the ball. That led to a field goal and a fast 10-0 lead by the Eagles.

But the Cowboys marched down on the next series using almost exclusively runs by Julius Jones and scores on a short plunge by Marion Barber after Jones failed on his two tries. A few series later the Eagles were in Dallas territory when McNabb was hit while he was trying to throw and the ball popped up and into DeMarcus Ware's hands. Ware took off running and was helped by L.J. Smith who just pushed him forward instead of actually tackling him. The 69-yard fumble return gave the Cowboys a 14-10 lead.

Evidently trying to make L.J. Smith feel better about himself and his poor tackling techniques, McNabb him on a 60 yard completion on the next Eagle offensive play. McNabb tried to throw him a touchdown on the next play but it was incomplete. Then Thomas "The Tank Engine" Tapeh was stuffed at the goal line so on third down Donovan McNabb bulled over for the score because that is what he always does on third down and goal from the one yard line even if you are screaming at the television "McNabb is going to run it in! Watch McNabb! Watch McNabb!"

In this tit for tat game, that led to the Cowboys next series reaching the PHI 7-yard line where Drew Bledsoe also ran in a score though no one was yelling for it or even expecting it since Bledsoe is slow enough just breaking huddle and getting under center. Dallas led 21-17 at the half.

The third quarter was proceeding without much fanfare until the Eagles had the ball at their own 13-yard line and on their first play McNabb hit Hank Baskett for an 87-yard touchdown - the first of his career though only one of several allowed by the Cowboys secondary this season (and this game as it ended up).

The Cowboys managed a field goal to start the fourth quarter that tied the game but McNabb was back at work the next series with two passes to Greg Lewis to reach the DAL 40-yard line and then a handoff to Correll Buckhalter who ran ... NO WAIT... IT's A FLEA FLICKER!!! By the time the toasty Dallas safeties reacted, Reggie Brown had a touchdown. The Cowboys even tried holding on that play to no avail. The Eagles led 31-24.

Bledsoe brought the team down to the PHI 33-yard line on the next series but threw an interception that was closer to three defenders than it was to Terrell Owens. After holding the Eagles on their series, the Cowboys took over with 4:26 left to play on their own 16-yard line. On third and six from the 20-yard line, Bledsoe hit Jason Witten for seven yards. Later on fourth and four from the 33-yard line, Bledsoe found Patrick Crayton for 12 yards. On fourth and 18 on the Dallas 37-yard line with only 47 seconds left to play, he threw to Terry Glenn who was interfered with on the PHI 6-yard line. This was getting good. One touchdown meant overtime.

On first down, Bledsoe over threw Terrell Owens who was commanding about the same level of attention as a Paris Hilton-Lindsay Lohen mud wrestling contest. On second down with 31 seconds left , there was time for a running play (he had scored on a seven yard scamper already and Barber had ran in a score as well). Bledsoe could have thrown a nice, safe corner fade to Owens. He could have done any number of reasonable, rational things that would have either been productive or, in the words of the medical doctor's oath - " do no harm". But he opted for option #313 which evidently was to throw the ball right into Lito Shepard's gut so he could run untouched for the next 102 yards for a Philly win.

Game over. Turn out the lights when you leave.

It was an exciting game with odd plays, big swings, defensive scores and in the end nothing about Terrell Owens. It was a fitting Game of the Week for a Sunday that had the best players mediocre and the previously ignored players showing up at the top of their positions. Games were mailed in and won. Others were the same team going at each other waiting for the other guy to finally make a mistake at the end. We've seen the waiver wire as productive as ever with quarterbacks and wideouts not only delivering but doing so in a big way. Even the occasional running back. It's been a wild first five weeks to the season and chances are the best is yet to come.

After all, were not even a third of the way through 2006.

And with that, I see the sun rising on a Tunnel Vision record still intact. Hope your week goes better.

Now get back to work...