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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 8
David Dorey
October 23, 2006
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Donovan McNabb 378 3
Peyton Manning 342 4
Michael Vick 272 4
Running Backs Yards TD
Larry Johnson 161 2
Brian Westbrook 214 1
Leon Washington 137 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Hines Ward 171 3
Darrell Jackson 136 1
Marvin Harrison 73 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Alge Crumpler 117 3
Tony Gonzalez 138 0
Antonio Gates 63 1
Placekickers XP FG
Adam Vinatieri 3 3
Morten Andersen 5 2
Matt Bryant 2 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Tampa Bay 2 1 4
Green Bay 1 4 3
Minnesota 1 4 3

Week 7 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Three starting quarterbacks is not a good sign.

Andrew Walter (OAK) - Hamstring strain
Matt Hasselbeck (SEA) - Sprained knee
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) - Concussion
Greg Jennings (GB) - Leg injury
Santana Moss (WAS) - Hamstring strain
Troy Williamson (MIN) - Concussion
Clinton Portis (WAS) - Leg injury

To Every Season, turn, turn, turn

The best teams from 2005, as defined by the Super Bowl, now have undergone changes that are making the notion of any rematch rather unlikely. In just one day, both quarterbacks from the Super Bowl were knocked out of their game. Matt Hasselbeck has a knee sprain of some unknown severity while Ben Roethlisberger was concussed which could be even more significant given his recent history with getting a concussion on his motorcycle. The more they happen, the more they happen.

Seattle has already been playing without Shaun Alexander who may be back this week but could be without his normal quarterback - that will change the dynamics a bit, not to mention the way defenses will prepare.

Pittsburgh slides down to a 2-4 record which is not insurmountable in the AFC North but so far these Steelers have mostly just been "mounted" this year. 2006 looks very much like another year where the two best teams are going to be surprises. I wonder which ones...

And thanks for the endorsement... not

The bandwagon teams used to take a month or more before they would suffer some decline. The San Diego Chargers was popularly considered as the new powerhouse team in the AFC and even touted as a Super Bowl contender by some after a great defense was joined by an improving offense under Philip Rivers. That may be a little premature now since the Chargers lost to the Chiefs 27-30 and lost their sack leader Shaun Phillips for a month or more with a calf injury. They already lost their DE Igor Shansky for a month with a knee problem and now the NFL just announced that LB Shawn Merriman has been suspended for four games because of steroids.

Apparently the best luck comes from never being noticed by anyone.

The more things change, the more they don't apparently

While the NFL season is hardly over with only seven games played, using the 2005 season as a template says maybe it already is. In week seven of last year, all eight NFL divisions were being led by the team which would eventually win the division (Or at least tied for the lead). Half of the divisions had the team in second place at that time remain the second place team at the end of the year. There are still nine games left to play but there isn't even the normal amount of "middle" teams anymore. At this time last year, there were only three teams with just one win and there are still six so far in 2006.

At this time in 2005, there were only two teams with one or no losses (IND and TB). We still have five currently as parity takes an extended vacation.

Huddle Player of the Week

Alge Crumpler - There were many contenders this week - Hines Ward, Donovan McNabb (of course), Peyton Manning, Michael Vick and Larry Johnson mostly. But tight ends have not been scoring as much this year and in particular, Crumpler had only scored once this season and was turning in only around 30 or 40 yards each week. The Falcons were on the ropes after the loss to the Giants and with the Steelers coming to town, the outlook was even bleaker. But Crumpler stepped in and stepped up and turned six catches into 117 yards and three touchdowns. Every bit as important as those scores was when the Falcons had third and nine from their own 45-yard line in overtime and Crumpler caught a 29-yard pass which moved the sticks and made the winning field goal a reality. Anytime you get 117 yards and three scores from a tight end - that is a pretty good day.

Salute!

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Joey Harrington 417 2 QB Byron Leftwich 125 0
RB Wali Lundy 108 1 RB Laurence Maroney 30 0
RB Ladell Betts 93 0 RB Edgerrin James 38 0
WR Marty Booker 110 1 WR Santana Moss 20 0
WR Mike Furrey 109 1 WR Chris Chambers 29 0
WR Marcus Robinson 77 1 WR Laveranues Coles 44 0
PK Morten Andersen 5 XP 2 FG PK Josh Scobee 1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 114

Huddle Fantasy Points = 21

Sunday's Couch Commentary

JAX 7, HOU 27 If the Texans do not anoint Wali Lundy as the starting running back now, Kubiak needs to be committed. After no Texans running back had ran for more than 60 yards this season, Lundy peeled off 93 yards on 19 runs plus the first rushing touchdown of the year. Samkon Gado had the start and only managed 27 yards on ten carries. Andre Johnson (8-106, 1 TD) had his typical great game while all other HOU receivers had their typical bad game. Leftwich had a sore ankle but that still doesn't explain how he can go against perhaps the worst secondary in the league and only complete 14 of 28 for 125 yards and no scores - and 77 of those yards were divided between Maurice Drew Jones and Fred Taylor. This was a reverso game, where the Texans played like the Jaguars and vice-versa. Just swap the names on the top of the boxscore and you'd think "okay, so what's new?" At 3-3, the Jaguars fall three games behind the Colts and 'gasp' are just one game ahead of the Texans.
CAR 14, CIN 17 The Panthers finally learned how to lose with Steve Smith active though with eight catches for 126 yards, it was hardly his fault. DeShaun Foster only gained 59 yards on 14 carries and Keyshawn ranked second on the team with just 41 receiving yards. Carson Palmer still doesn't look quite back to form but his 240 yards and two scores were just enough to win the game. Rudi Johnson started out very slow but picked up steam as the game progressed and ended with 101 yards on 26 carries while Chad Johnson finally was the lead receiver with 73 yards on six catches but was, once again, showed up by Houshmandzadeh for fantasy leagues since he ended with 71 yards and one touchdown. The Panthers led until mid-way through the fourth quarter when Palmer finally hooked up for the tradition score to T.J.. HoushCarsonsBuddy. The loss drops the Panthers a game and a half behind the Saints while the Bengals are now tied with the Ravens in the AFC North.
NE 28, BUF 6 This would have to be considered the most boring game on Sunday when the Patriots scored 14 points on two Corey Dillon runs. The Pats only threw for 195 yards but scored twice and only had 76 yards out of Maroney and Dillon combined. But Brady never threw an interception and Losman did. Brady did not lose any fumbles - Losman lost two. McGahee was the lead rusher with just 59 yards on 20 carries and was also the lead receiver with just 61 yards one two catches - one being for 56 yards. Losman is on the hot seat now and is getting worse when they need him most. Lee Evans was held to only 11 yards and when that happens - the Bills passing game goes nowhere. Now the Pats have won three straight games and take a game and a half lead over the Jets while the Bills slide to 2-5 after losing their last three games.
DET 24, NYJ 31 The Jets have won their last two games and now sport a winning record at 4-3. The story of the game was Leon Washington who gained 129 yards on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns even though Kevan Barlow started and had 12 carries for 49 yards and a third score. It was easily the best rushing effort by the Jets who took advantage of two missing Lions defensive linemen for a total of 221 rushing yards. While there's no guarantee it will last, Washington has lent a "Westbrook" quality to this offense and deserves more playing time though the bigger Barlow is being used at the goal line. Laveranues Coles only had 29 yards in the game while Cotchery turned in 78 yards on seven carries but the Jets got a lead and actually kept it via the run. There's a new aspect to the offense. Kitna had three scores and 269 yards for the Lions but threw two interceptions. Mike Furrey (9-109. 1 TD) had a great game while Roy Williams was limited to just two caches for 29 yards though he scored once. The Lions are still getting nice production from Kevin Jones who gained 86 yards on only 15 carries and added 57 more yards and a score on six catches. The Lions waft downwards to 1-6 and get to go stew for a week while on bye. The Jets are 4-3 and are still in contention in the AFC East if you are a math major and only consider the raw numbers. In reality - the Pats are rolling to yet another divisional win.
GB 34, MIA 24 This game produced some very nice points but sadly only turned into loss #6 for the Dolphins. Joey Harrington had 414 passing yards that somehow managed to completely avoid Chris Chambers (2-29) and gave Marty "I'm not Chambers, leave me alone" Booker the chance to gain 110 yards and score once. Randy McMichael had 77 yards and continues his recent trend of being Harrington's favorite safety valve but Ronnie Brown was only given 15 carries in the game despite gaining 59 yards. He added 63 yards on five catches as well but the Packers rush defense set the Fins throwing in the second half when they finally took the lead on a Charles Woodson interception return. Harrington threw three interceptions to short cut the comeback effort of Miami. Favre had just an average game with 206 yards and two scores and Ahman Green returned to the field with 118 yards on 18 carries - 70 yards coming on a fourth quarter scoring run. Miami falls to 1-6 while Nick Saban thumbs through a thesaurus each week searching for other ways to say "disappointed", "error-filled" and "seething anger". The Packers rise to 2-4 on the season and obviously are far out of playoff contention but at least they are enjoying themselves more this week. Miami heads into the bye week frustrated while the Packers head home to host the Cardinals who evidently are cursed now that they are the team that Oakland beat. On the plus side, Denny Green seems to have more accepted the demise of the 2006 season now. Getting whipped by an win-less team will do that to you.
DEN 17, CLE 7 Sheriff departments across the country are now installing TV's in all interrogation rooms since it has been discovered that forcing someone to watch a Denver game speeds the time for a criminal to breakdown emotionally and tell the truth "God NO! No more Plummer! I did it! I stole the bicycle! I did it! I shot Kennedy too! Just change the channel PLEASE!". This week Plummer only had two interceptions and one lost fumble but did throw a score to Brandon Marshall while Javon Walker (9-107) had a good game. Tatum Bell ended with 24 carries for 115 yards and one score and since the Broncos had a ten point lead, they were even safe enough to let Mike Bell take ten carries for 25 yards. Rueben Droughns predictably stumbled for only 33 yards on 12 carries but Charlie Frye took a bad day and make it shine just a little when he actually threw a touchdown Joe Jurevicius with under two minutes left to play to prevent the shutout. Denver can just barely score on offense, but the dominating defense has only given up 44 points after six games. Denver leads the AFC West by a full game over the Chargers now while the Browns drop to 1-5 and trail the world champion Steelers by a full game. Denver is ranked #1 in points allowed in the league. They are #31 in points scored thanks only to Oakland. That means that every 1-5 and 1-6 team in the NFL has scored more points than the Denver offense.
MIN 31, SEA 13 Yet another upset on the week but due in no small part to the loss of Matt Hasselbeck. The game was tied 10-10 when he was injured but Seattle was already without Alexander and now we no longer have to wonder - Maurice Morris + Seneca Wallace < Hasselbeck * Alexander. Hasselbeck will have an MRI today but HC Mike Holmgren refused to speculate on or really even discuss the knee injury. The Vikings had already been playing Seattle even before the injury and racked up 21 points after Hasselbeck left. This included a 40-yard TD pass to Marcus Robinson and a franchise record 90-yard touchdown run by Chester Taylor who ended with 169 yards on 26 carries (or just 79 yards on 25 carries other than the one run). Troy Williamson had a concussion that he claimed knocked him out for ten seconds. This is not the way the NFC Champions intended the season to go. Seattle is now tied with St. Louis in the NFC West while the Vikings still trail Chicago by two full games.
ARI 9, OAK 22 It had to happen eventually but the win by the Raiders meant that the Cardinals now are "it". After showing up impressively against the Chiefs and Bears (ranked #3 and #4 against quarterbacks), Matt Leinart went against the #31 Raiders and finally looked like a Cardinals rookie should. He only completed 13 of 32 for 203 yards and two interceptions. Against the Raiders. Arizona may have acted a bit premature in releasing OC Keith Rowen last week because this passing attack looked nothing like the previous two weeks. Edgerrin James ran for 34 yards on 13 carries but was finally used in the passing game as well when he had "A" catch for four yards. Andrew Walter racked up 263 yards and one score against the Cards before being injured and gave Randy Moss his biggest game of the year with 129 yards and one score. Moss is finally becoming a big factor this year and only had four dropped passes this week. Lamont Jordan was bothered by a back condition but practiced during the week and was listed as probable going into the game but was held out after dressing and warming up - he was not inactive, just unused. Now the Cardinals travel to Green Bay in search of snapping a six game losing streak while the Raiders get to host the Steelers. After such tremendous success at USC, Matt Leinart has lost as many games in the last three weeks as he did in his career at USC. Nothing like playing in Arizona to slap the cockiness out of you.
WAS 22, IND 36 The Colts were trailing 14-13 at halftime thanks to a Randle El punt return but then Manning turned up the dial in the second half and easily sent the Redskins packing with another loss. Manning was battered in the game, at one point being twisted awkwardly and violently backwards in a way you wouldn't try with your brother's G.I. Joe that resulted in his helmet being ripped from his head. Always the warrior, Manning didn't miss any time and ended with 324 yards and four touchdowns. Reggie Wane (7-122, 1 TD) and Marvin Harrison (7-73, 2 TD) were more than enough to beat the Skins who lost all punch once Clinton Portis was injured the second time. Initially Portis took a helmet to the groin and missed a few plays but later had a defender fall heavily on his leg at the start of the fourth quarter. Brunell played better than usual in throwing for 226 yards and two scores that had nothing to do with Santana Moss (3-20). He hit eight difference receivers and none had more than 42 yards. Now the Colts remain the only unbeaten AFC team and go to Denver for their biggest test of the season. The Redskins fall to 2-5 and get a bye week to heal up and figure out why Al Saunders has made no real impact on this offense.

Game-O-The-Week

Another week of tremendous match-ups with more than a few upsets. Texans turned the tables on Jacksonville and won convincingly. The Bengals ended the Panthers mini-revival and the Packers used a road trip to Miami to filet the Dolphins. The Vikings took out Hasselbeck and then let Chester Taylor loose when it was safe. Maybe none were as important as the win by the Raiders who were win-less but now are evidently sporting a far better defense than the Bears and don't even need their starting running back or quarterback to secure their first win. The last couple of weeks were tailor-made to trim down those survivor pools.

I hate to do this, but I cannot award a Game-O-The-Week to just one match-up yet again. It simply would not be fair and we again were treated to three incredible games this week that each amply qualified as the best game. To cull out two of them would be to piss off the fans of those winning teams and rightfully so. This season has turned up the highest number of GOTW contenders and you know - I'm not going to complain. Each week is coming up with great games with big points and exciting finishes. It's a good thing.

San Diego 27, Kansas City 30

The Chiefs jumped out to a 20-6 halftime lead against the Chargers who were struggling to mount any offense. After two quarters of play, LaDainian Tomlinson only had 16 yards on seven carries and three catches for 16 yards. Larry Johnson had a bit more success with 57 yards on 13 carries and one touchdown. In the third quarter, Gates caught a touchdown pass to make it 20-16 but Johnson scored again before the quarter was out and with 15 minutes left to play, the Chiefs had a safe 27-13 lead.

But on their first drive in the fourth quarter, the Chargers reached the KC 37-yard line where on fourth and three, they went for it. Rivers hit Tomlinson on a pass that resulted in a 37-yard touchdown. WIth 13 minutes left to play, the Chargers trailed 20-27. After both teams had unsuccessful series, the Chiefs took over on their own 24-yard line and Huard was sacked and stripped of the ball which was recovered by the Chargers on the KC 29-yard line. On third and five, Rivers threw an incomplete by Ty Law was called for pass interference in the endzone. WIth 5:15 left to play, Tomlinson took a pitchout to the right and then threw it to Brandon Manumaleuna for the game tying score. The fifth time in his career he has thrown a touchdown pass.

After each team traded series, the Chiefs took over on their own 18-yard line with only 33 seconds left to play. Suddenly Huard turned into an All-Pro. He hit Larry Johnson on a 15 yard completion that stopped the clock out bounds. WIth 25 seconds left, Huard found Tony Gonzalez for a 19 yard game to the SD 48-yard line and a time out. With just 18 seconds left, he hit Gonzalez again for a 18 yard gain to the SD 30-yard line. Lawrence Tynes came on to kick the 47-yard field goal but a false start backed him up to the 35-yard line where he punched in the 53-yard game winning kick.

The Chiefs sorely needed this win and the accolades showered on the Chargers may have been premature.

Pittsburgh 38, Atlanta 41

The previous week showed that the Steelers were back in a big way and ready to resume their championship ways while the Falcons were thumped at home by the Giants who exposed Michael Vick as a quarterback who could not throw. But by halftime, the score was already an astronomic 24-21 with the Steelers in the lead. Vick had already thrown three touchdowns including one to an actual wideout. Ben Roethlisberger also had three touchdowns and this game was no longer about two great defenses that were supported by sound rushing games. It was turning into an aerial war with little success on the ground but amazing gains made by passing - by Michael Vick no less. Hard to explain away three scores as being flukes. Hard to argue that Big Ben was as sharp as ever.

This game slowed down in the second half with both teams going three and out. On the second series for the Steelers, Roethlisberger started on his own 20-yard line and gained one first down. After a short run by Willie Parker, Roethlisberger tried to hit Hines Ward again but was clobbered when he was tackled by two defenders and received a shoulder shot to his head. That hit knocked Big Ben from the game with a concussion. Two plays later, Willie Parker lost nine yards and then fumbled which was recovered by the Falcons on the PIT 36-yard line. After a pass to Crumpler and a defensive pass interference call, Warrick Dunn scored on a one-yard run to give the Falcons the lead 28-21.

Now Charlie Batch was the quarterback and after just four plays, he found Hines Ward behind the safeties and hit him for a 70-yard touchdown strike that was 40 yards with two shoes and the final 30 yards with just one shoe. The Steelers regained the lead 31-28.

Not to be outdone, Vick took over on the next series and needed only six plays before he hit Crumpler for his third touchdown in the game. Back to the Falcons, 35-31. Neither team could gain much for the next couple of series and with 10 minutes left to play, Vick mounted a drive from his own 29-yard that reached the PIT 8-yard line with a third and six. He then threw the rare "pass to himself" (actually batted back) but he only gained a yard. Andersen hit the field goal for a 38-31 lead with 6:28 left to play.

But Batch got hot on the next series when he found Nate Washington for a 49 yard gain to the Atlanta 17-yard line and on the next play, he threw the third touchdown scored by Hines Ward. With 3:24 left to play, the score was tied, 38-38.

Atlanta drove the field and carefully used up the clock. With only 30 seconds left and fourth down from the PIT 38-yard line, Koenen made the field goal but PIT was credited with calling a time out. On his second try, he missed but had Troy Palomalu run into him (sort of) and with the extra five yards gained, they opted to use Andersen for the 50 yard attempt.

Andersen kicked field goal... and missed.

The Falcons won the coin toss for overtime and missed nine runs with one pass (to Crumpler - natch) and Andersen finally made the game winning field goal from 32-yards. Now the Steelers are 2-4 and Vick threw four touchdowns in one game. Go figure.

Philadelphia 21, Tampa Bay 23

In case the Chicago-Arizona game wasn't wacky enough for you last week, The Buccaneers entered the fourth quarter with a 17-7 lead because Ronde Barber had interception returns for touchdowns of 37 and 66 yards. The Bucs had very little offense really and Gradkowski only ended the game with 104 yards and no scores. Carnell Williams had 82 yards on 23 carries and no Buccaneer receiver had more than 30 yards or score. And yet - McNabb was still throwing scores, just not to his own team.

On their first series of the fourth quarter, the Eagles marched down the field without losing the ball and McNabb hit Reggie Brown for a seven yard touchdown to draw the game close at 14-17. But on the next series, the Bucs reached the PHI 26-yard line and kicked a field goal to go up 20-14 with just 2:54 left to play.

But this is McNabb in 2006 and everyone knew what he could do. After eight plays, he reached the PHI 48-yard line where he had third and six with just 46 seconds left to play. And a short pass over the middle to Brian Westbrook turned into a 52-yard touchdown and the final Eagle's lead, 21-20. Whew. That was close.

With 27 seconds left, Gradkowski took over on his own 36-yard line. He hit Clayton for 11 yards and he scrambled for nine more to reach the PHI 44-yard line with just 10 seconds left to play. The rush was too heavy to allow him time to chunk a Hail Mary and he threw it away with only four seconds left to play. Incredibly, Jon Gruden accepted the inevitable by asking Matt Bryant to attempt a 62-yard field goal even though he had never been successful from more than 50 yards before in his entire career.

He cleared the bar with a yard or two to spare. The only thing separating the Eagles from a 7-0 record (instead of 4-3) was three unlikely plays. But they happened.

Another fantastic week for watching the NFL and with so many monster performances, no doubt many of you won big this week (okay, so the other half lost big). But take a look at your league standings - how many teams are 3-4 or 4-3? Last year the NFL apparently had their playoffs set this early in the year but you cannot count on that in 2006. And unless you are 1-6 or 0-7, you probably shouldn't count yourself out either. Sure every league has one or two apparently great teams, but ask Seattle just how brittle that can actually be.

Now get back to work...