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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Apocalypto Now
Joe Levit
December 6, 2006

In Mel Gibson’s latest epic, the Mayan civilization is coming to an end. As Gibson has made clear while promoting the picture, apocalypto means a new beginning, as much as an ending. His main character is forced into novel and dangerous conditions, and must adapt quickly or perish.

Fast forward about a baktun, and we fantasy owners appear in the middle of a tremendous time of change in the fantasy landscape. These crazy circumstances are looming large just at the time most owners vying for a fantasy football playoff slot need some continuity.

It seems as if the NFL itself is going loco, and we owners need to understand some of the trends taking place, or risk being extinguished early in league playoffs… if we even make it to them. There were some real upsets in the league this week – Cleveland beating Kansas City 31-28, Arizona topping St. Louis 34-20 on the road, and Tennessee edging Indianapolis 20-17.

In the process, there were a number of anomalous occurrences. Derek Anderson, Cleveland’s backup quarterback, led the Browns to that aforementioned victory over KC. Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson netted only five yards in Houston’s win over the Oakland Raiders on the road and the New York Jets rolled over the Packers on Lambeau field, rushing for 178 yards as a team in an impressive 38-10 rout.

We’ll take a look at some of these oddities, one from each of the NFL games played last week, and determine whether they will be trends.

Cincinnati 13, Baltimore 7
Oddity: There was a Derrick Mason sighting.
Trend?: Yes. As the season ends, look for Steve McNair to connect more often with old reliable. Mason caught seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown last Thursday.

Arizona 34, St. Louis 20
Oddity: Marcel Shipp scores three times.
Trend?: Yes. Although there is no precedence for this, the Cardinals are going to go with what works right now, especially when it helps them win a game. Shipp played the vulture on a day when Edgerrin James ran 26 times for 115 yards, topping 100 yards for the first time this season. It seems even when James has a good day, there is something lacking.

Atlanta 24, Washington 14
Oddity: Jerious Norwood out-rushes Warrick Dunn 107-87.
Trend?: No. Though Norwood could replace Dunn next season as the starting tailback, and may score more than Dunn the rest of the year, he won’t often run for more yards.

New England 28, Detroit 21
Oddity: Mike Furrey gains 73 more yards than Roy Williams.
Trend?: No. Although Furrey has been a surprise starter this year in fantasy circles, Williams is a monster. The Patriots had to often put three guys on him to contain him.

Tennessee 20, Indianapolis 17
Oddity: Vince Young leads the Titans past the Colts.
Trend?: Yes. Young is an explosive playmaker, who is beginning to show off his talents in the NFL and in fantasy football. He had two passing scores, but the reason he is a force is that he can run for a lot of yards too, as evidenced by his 78 yards rushing. He could perhaps become a more consistent form of Michael Vick.

Cleveland 31, Kansas City 28 (OT)
Oddity: TE Steve Heiden scores two more touchdowns than Kellen Winslow.
Trend?: No. Heiden has in the past made some odd things happen, but he caught these passes because Winslow was ailing. Owners could however be hampered by Winslow when they need him most.

Chicago 23, Minnesota 13
Oddity: Cedric Benson rushes for 28 more yards and a score more than Thomas Jones on three fewer carries.
Trend?: It appears so. The Bears keep working Benson into running sets, though Jones has not really given much reason to put him out to pasture. This could become a committee in a hurry.

N.Y. Jets 38, Green Bay 10
Oddity: Cedric Houston hits the 100-yard mark and scores twice.
Trend?: No, at least not yet. Kevan Barlow had a number of yards and touchdowns early in the year, and Leon Washington had some terrific games midseason, rushing for 101 and 129 yards in the month of October. See if Houston does it another week before anointing him the new “man” for New York.

San Diego 24, Buffalo 21
Oddity: Willis McGahee gets 16 carries despite playing with broken ribs.
Trend?: Yes. The team obviously wants McGahee on the field when at all possible. The 1.6-yard average wasn’t impressive, but he did score a touchdown, and Anthony Thomas received only two carries.

New Orleans 34, San Francisco 10
Oddity: Reggie Bush scores four times.
Trend?: Yes. He won’t score that much that often, but this effort should help to finally get his scoring in gear. And, it seems clear that Bush, who gained 131 yards on nine receptions, can co-exist in the backfield with Deuce McAllister, who still had over 100 yards rushing.

Houston 23, Oakland 14
Oddity: Ron Dayne did something positive.
Trend?: No. When has Dayne ever consistently produced in the NFL? He surprised everyone with this 95-yard effort in a win over Oakland, but Wali Lundy got the rushing score.

Jacksonville 24, Miami 10
Oddity: Matt Jones apparently isn’t dead.
Trend?: Yes. The Reggie Williams thing didn’t continue, and the Ernest Wilford experiment went nowhere. With Jones healthy, he could finally be coming on as the primary receiver. He put up 128 yards on the Dolphins Sunday.

Dallas 23, N.Y. Giants 20
Oddity: Marion Barber III got more carries, instead of just fantasy points, than Julius Jones.
Trend?: Absolutely. Barber has officially, at least as far as I’m concerned, supplanted Julius Jones as the team’s top back. This was a long time coming, but it was still a little surprising to see Barber get so many carries between the 20s. Though he finished with only one more total carry than Jones, his 6.3-yard average in this game was nearly three times better than what Jones could muster. And, he scored twice yet again.

Pittsburgh 20, Tampa Bay 3
Oddity: Nate Washington is the new primary receiver for Ben Roethlisberger.
Trend?: For now. If Ward gets back, Washington will be no better than second, but he can top Cedrick Wilson, and is tamping down the production of rookie Santonio Holmes.

Seattle 23, Denver 20
Oddity: Tatum Bell gets the ball.
Trend?: Can’t tell with Shanny. Is the turf toe history? One thing is known. Bell has a terrific set of matchups in the final weeks of the season. Use him if he’s ready to play.

Philadelphia 27, Carolina 24
Oddity: Jeff Garcia plays like a winner.
Trend?: No. Garcia had a nice afternoon against the Panthers, with 312 yards passing and three touchdowns. But, he is mistake prone now, and one tweak of a hamstring for Donte’ Stallworth or Brian Westbrook will lower all expectations.


Joe Levit provides fantasy football presentations for corporate outings or client appreciation events. Go to www.FantasyFootballSpeaker.com and find out what this service is all about. Joe can be reached at joelevit_writer@yahoo.com.