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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 2
David Dorey
September 9 , 2008
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Donovan McNabb 361 3
Drew Brees 343 3
Philip Rivers 217 3
Jon Kitna 262 2
Chad Pennington 251 2
Running Backs Yards TD
Michael Turner 226 2
Willie Parker 138 3
Reggie Bush 163 1
Marion Barber 101 2
Frank Gore 151 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Hines Ward 76 2
Plaxico Burress 133 0
Randy Moss 116 1
Terrell Owens 87 1
Hank Baskett 102 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Dante Rosario 96 1
Anthony Fasano 84 1
Antonio Gates 61 1
David Martin 53 1
Robert Royal 52 1
Placekickers XP FG
John Kasay 2 4
Neil Rackers 2 3
Jason Elam 4 2
Rian Lindell 4 2
John Carney 1 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Buffalo 1 5 2
Tennessee 0 7 3
Arizona 0 4 5
Pittsburgh 0 5 3
Chicago 1 2 1

Week 1 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Not the worst weekend for injuries but leading off with Tom Brady cast a big shadow in the world of fantasy football. And it looks like he's out for the year.

Tom "Oh yeah, him" Brady (NE) - Knee injury
Nate Burleson (SEA) - Knee injury
Maurice Morris (SEA) - Knee injury
Brodie Croyle (KC) - Shoulder sprain
Vince Young (TEN) - Knee sprain
Marion Barber (DAL) - Bruised ribs
Donte Stallworth (CLE) - Groin injury
Chris Johnson (TEN) - Unspecified injury
Dallas Clark (IND) - Knee injury
Joseph Addai (IND) - Possible concussion

You sure it was you guys? Really? Sure?

The best four teams in the AFC last year all met in the Divisional round of the playoffs. The Bolts clipped the Colts at Indy and the Pats had their way with the visiting Jaguars. Until the Giants finally won in the Super Bowl, the NFC had been given second class status in the NFL for the last several years.

So how come three of the best four AFC teams from 2007 just lost their first game? The Colts were violated at home by the Bears who were not known to have an offense until now. The Chargers blew it with the visiting Panthers even though they were without their best player. And the Jaguars couldn't win in Tennessee. The only AFC "Final Four" that won was the Patriots who suddenly look like the weakest of the four. They just squeaked past the visiting Chiefs - wrap your head around that one.

Going to be an interesting year.

So it's going to be that kind of year, huh?

You could argue that 2007 was the year of the tight end (at the least, the year of the passing game) and as of week one there were some rather familiar names as the most productive tight ends. The top five included Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Kellen Winslow and Dallas Clark. 2008 has started with this top five: Dante Rosario, Anthony Fasano, Robert Royal, Bo Scaife and finally, whew, Antonio Gates. And 2009 can be the year of the tenth-round-or-later-tight-end.

I mean come on... Dante Rosario? He only had six catches for 108 yards in his entire career until Sunday when he had seven receptions for 96 yards.

Welcome to the Panic Room now featuring, uh... You!

There's nothing much I can say to Tom "My first freaking pick" Brady owners, but for the rest of the league that is currently looking at their roster and wondering where it all went so wrong so fast - chill out! While it sucks to have a crappy season opener, remember that all the great defenses had to play someone this week and new offenses do not come together overnight. And some of those goofy smiles that other owners are wearing won't last long because one out of every 16 players just had their season best game.

The best players in week one last year? Lamont Jordan (159 yds, 1 TD), Travis Henry (183 yds), Shaun Alexander (117 yds, 1 TD) and of course Tatum Bell (93 yds, 1 TD). Fred Taylor rushed for just 16 yards. Ernest Graham had 11. Ryan Grant didn't have a new uniform yet.

The same is true in every position, every year. Take a deep breath, put down the staple gun. It will all get better... probably.

Move over, Old Man... It is the Year of the Rookie RB

Football is a young man's game and nothing says unbridled optimism like rookie running backs. While most of the recent years have been rather sparse with the amount of rookie rushers that produce significant statistics, Sunday said that we are having a banner crop this year mi amigo, a banner crop.

Matt Forte (CHI) - 23-123 rush, 3-18 catch, 1 TD
Chris Johnson (TEN) - 15-93 rush, 3-34 catch, 1 TD
Kevin Smith (DET) - 16-48 rush, 4-32 catch, 1 TD
Felix Jones (DAL) - 9-62 rush
Tim Hightower (ARI) - 8-13 rush, 3-21 catch, 1 TD
Jonathan Stewart (CAR) - 10-53 rush
Ray Rice (BAL) - 22-64 rush, 3-19 catch
Steve Slaton (HOU) - 13-43 rush, 3-6 catch
Rashard Mendenhall (PIT) - 10-28 rush
Tashard Choice (DAL) - 5-26 rush, 1-2 catch

And none of those include Darren McFadden who plays on Monday night and was the first tailback drafted. Or the injured Ryan Torain. Youth be served!

Huddle Player of the Week

Michael Turner - Not a lot of decision making needed here. Turner the Burner merely took his first ever start for the Atlanta Falcons and shattered their franchise record with 220 rushing yards on just 22 carries and two touchdowns. Now granted, they won't all be the visiting Detroit Lions but hard to mark down a player's performance in any way when he gains over 200 yards. They won't all be games like this but for the season opener, there was one guy smiling in every league.

Salute!

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Chad Pennington 251 2 QB Tom Brady 76 0
RB Le'Ron McClain 110 0 RB Joseph Addai 47 0
RB Jerious Norwood 99 1 RB Maurice Jones-Drew 50 0
WR Hank Baskett 102 1 WR Torry Holt 9 0
WR Dante Rosario 96 1 WR Marques Colston 26 0
WR Anthony Fasano 84 1 WR Braylon Edwards 14 0
PK Jason Elam 4 XP 2 FG PK Nick Folk 4 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 103

Huddle Fantasy Points = 19

Early Bird Free Agents

The game reviews are being broken off to their own page now but in their place, I wanted a very early heads up on free agents. There will be plenty of free agent help on Tuesday and beyond, but for those of you guys in leagues where they unwisely give you free and unrestricted access to the waiver wire, here are a few guys to consider already:

QB Matt Cassell - Yeah, an obvious one. He is on an offense with Randy Moss and Wes Welker though and Tom Brady owners almost never drafted him. There is going to be a major scramble to the waiver wire when it opens and the Tom Brady owner may not be the happiest guy at work on Monday.

TE John Carlson - Look, Matt Hasselbeck is losing receivers left and right and the rookie tight end Carlson just had four catches for 52 yards as the second best Seahawks receiver. The best was Nate Burleson who was injured. While I would normally shy away from all rookie tight ends, they are not usually the only healthy receiver a team has.

TE Anthony Fasano - You could almost throw David Martin in here too. The Dolphins two best receivers were their tight ends and Fasano (8-84, 1 TD) and Martin (4-53) had more than double any other receivers on a team that will need to throw. Martin has already proven to be sub-average though while Fasano was a Parcells draft pick brought over from Dallas.

RB Sammy Morris - Far from me to usually pimp a Patriots running back, but Morris was used in equal measure with Laurence Maroney and was the guy at the goal line at least this week. Sort of smacks of 2007 before Morris was lost for the year.

RB Warrick Dunn - He is on several of my teams because no one wanted to draft him.. But while Graham had ten carries and three catches on Sunday, Dunn had nine rushes and a catch as well. Okay, so Dunn is not going to win your league for you but if you have the roster room, he is getting points every week and Graham could get hurt.

WR DeSean Jackson - There are a few leagues out there where he was not drafted. The kid just had six catches for 106 yards and the Eagles need a go to guy that is healthy. Jackson is way too small to be a starter but he hasn't gotten that memo yet and is playing "big". And far more than any other Philly receiver. Actually, the Eagles have Westbrook too. It's like where all the little guys go to turn into studs.

Any TEN receiver - If Vince Young is out for more than a week or two, then consider Justin Gage and Bo Scaife in a much more favorable light. Scaife in particular was not drafted in most leagues and just had 105 yards on six catches thanks in part to a 44 yard catch thrown by Kerry Collins (one of his two). Granted - it is only one game but it was against the Jaguars. If Young is out for more than two weeks, then Scaife could be interesting. Otherwise, don't bother. Next two weeks are @CIN and HOU which is pretty attractive.

Sunday's Couch Commentary

Opening week is always a treat and this year delivered in spades. Just to make sure it all remained weird but at least consistent, the entire early slate of games were all won by the home team with the lone exception of the Jets beating the Dolphins 20-14 which is not something to brag about. But the three afternoon and one evening game were all won by the visiting team. Granted, the Colts and Chargers had to choke to accomplish that but it would certainly make betting easier if all the early games were home wins and everything else went to the visitor. I can dream.

Just some random observations that must be made.

1. The Redskins offense is, uh, not good. I mean it has all the same players in it from before but so far has become a mere shell of its old mediocre self. The kind of bad where you need to see more to guess how long it may last. It's like the rebuilding job has the schematics in the wrong language. Que? At least Portis keeps on dancing while the others try to figure out what song is playing.

2. The Falcons offense is, uh, good. I mean let's be serious. It was just the visiting Lions which is like getting to play against ... well... the visiting Lions. They define the category of "welcome to town!". But Matt Ryan and company looked as sharp as they needed to look. What if Michael Jenkins ends up to really be a first-round talent wideout? Michael Turner just became the darling of Georgia and the team that struggled on offense for so long just looked flawless. In Tampa Bay next week it will be entirely different, but for one week it is certainly happy days.

3. Sometimes things do not change. Delightfully not. That is why I want to review the schedules of all my players and see how often I get matchups against the defenses of the Lions, Bengals, Rams, Texans and Colts 49ers. And the Saints. They truly make fantasy football the fun and thrilling pastime it is.

4. The Bills are for real. One home game against the Seahawks doesn't equate to the division title but the defense looks outstanding (particularly in the rain) and the offense looks good enough to follow the lead. As an added bonus, the Pats just took a major hit with Brady getting injured and only the Dolphins and Jets stand in the way to that division title. Hmm...

5. Houston got waxed by the Steelers and they will not have a ground game of note this entire year. But - the passing offense just had their worst matchup of the year and Andre Johnson still had 10 catches for 112 yards. Schaub and the rest get easier matchups from here on out.

6. Willie Parker could not buy a touchdown last year and now has three on the season. He's either going to be a major steal in drafts or the next weeks in Cleveland and in Philadelphia will make him back into the "home only" runner he was in the past. And Mendenhall had 10 carries too to Parkers 25. It may never get any better with Parker but his best this year was about three times better than last year.

7. The 49ers at home were beaten by the Cardinals. The Mike Martz system has already taken root since J. T. O'Sullivan was sacked four times and threw one interception. The 49ers lost four fumbles. You could do worse than picking the opposing defense of the 49ers every week.

8. If the Colts cannot shake off their rust, the Pats cannot compensate for being Brady-less and the Chargers get back on track, the AFC is going to be more wide open this year than in decades. This could be a lot of fun to track. But hey - it is only week one. But what a week it was!

Game-O-The-Week

The game of the week typifies the jaw-dropping, "don't change the dial" sort of finish that was just never supposed to happen. I mean hey - the Chargers almost went to the Super Bowl after playing the Patriots just about even in a road game with almost every important player hobbled or out of the game. Starting the season out at home against a team that had suspended their best weapon of Steve Smith should have been a cakewalk. Jake Delhomme was returning from Tommy John surgery and was a risk. The Panthers didn't even have a winning record last year (though now that I think about it, they were 5-3 on the road).

It was supposed to be the chance for everyone to get to start their brand new Tomlinson or Gates. And bench all their Panthers.

Carolina 26, San Diego 24

The first quarter was surprisingly a draw with neither team doing more than a few plays and punting. But in the second quarter, the Panthers managed to kick a field goal for the lead. That alone was a success since the Panthers had scored first on the road against the Chargers. And the Chargers only needed six plays for Chris Chambers to catch a 44-yard touchdown. At 7-3 this was no scoring fest but at least the Chargers were showing up finally.

But the next series for the Panthers used DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart on almost every play to reach the SD 15-yard line and settle on a field goal. After the Chargers went three and out, the Panthers once again marched down to the SD-12 yard line where they kicked a field goal for a 9-7 lead. The Panthers had not scored a touchdown yet, but then again the Chargers only had one score. LaDainian Tomlinson only had 33 yards on eight carries and Antonio Gates had only caught two passes for 30 yards.

After trading three-and-outs, the Chargers opened the scoring in the second half with a 27-yard field goal because the Panthers let Tomlinson run in big chunks from the SD 40-yard line but toughened up in the red zone. Of course after Tomlinson had brought them that far, the Chargers went with running Sproles and Tolbert for two yards and then a pass to Tomlinson fell just short of the first down. But the Chargers led again 10-9.

Yeah but...

After holding the Panthers on their next series, Rivers threw a completion to Antonio Gates at the SD 31-yard line and Gates then fumbled. The Panthers' cornerback Chris Gamble ran it in for a score and the challenge by the Chargers was upheld. The Panthers were back to leading 16-10.

The Panthers defense once again held the Chargers who had scored a ridiculous ten points in the first three quarters. This was the offense that had scored 415 points last year. And they were at home where they were 7-1 last year.

And the Panthers just did not respect that because Stewart and Williams ran the ball down to the SD-31 yard line and kicked a field goal for a 19-17 Carolina lead. This was not pesky, it was downright disrespectful.

But not to worry. Rivers took over with ten minutes left in the game and guided the Chargers 80 yards in six plays that ended with Gates catching a 24-yard touchdown. Trailing only 17-19, the Chargers forced a fumble by D.J. Hackett that was recovered by LB Shaun Phillips on the CAR 28-yard line with 4:56 left to play. Four Tomlinson runs reached the Carolina 6-yard line. Sproles ran for one on second down and Rivers found Vincent Jackson for a five-yard touchdown with 2:32 left to play. The Chargers finally - whew! - took the lead 24-19.

The Panthers took over on their own 32-yard line after the kickoff and at the two minute warning, Delhomme had reached the SD 48-yard line. Short passes to Hackett and TE Dante Rosario reached the SD 34-yard line with a minute left to play. An incomplete and then a short catch by Dwayne Jarrett went to the SD 23-yard line with 31 seconds left to play. An ill-advised three-yard catch by Nick Goings only went three yards to the SD 20-yard line and the next incomplete killed the clock with only 11 seconds left. Another incomplete to Hackett was followed by Muhsin Muhammad gaining six yards and Delhomme took his final timeout with only two seconds left from the SD 14-yard line.

And as the clock hit 00:00, the already thrown ball was caught by little known (or used for that matter) tight end Dante Rosario right down the middle, threaded between two defenders. A 7-9 NFC team playing on the road without their best player had just beaten an AFC powerhouse at home and full strength.

And the NFL is changing still. Welcome to 2008.

Now get back to work...

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