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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 4
David Dorey
September 22 , 2008
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Drew Brees 421 1
Brian Griese 407 3
Kyle Orton 289 2
Jay Cutler 271 2
Carson Palmer 309 1
Running Backs Yards TD
Ronnie Brown 132 5
Michael Turner 104 3
Reggie Bush 148 2
Marshawn Lynch 114 2
Marion Barber 167 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Brandon Marshall 155 1
T.J. Houshmandzadeh 146 1
Brandon Lloyd 124 1
Roddy White 119 1
Miles Austin 115 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Anthony Fasano 66 1
Jerramy Stevens 61 1
Kevin Boss 51 1
Delanie Walker 44 1
Vishante Shiancoe 38 1
Placekickers XP FG
John Carney 2 4
Olindo Mare 4 3
Josh Scobee 2 3
Sebastian Janikowski 2 3
Shayne Graham 2 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Philadelphia 0 9 3
Baltimore 1 5 2
Minnesota 1 5 2
Tennessee 1 3 3
Tampa Bay 1 0 4

Week 3 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Yes, I know most of these are all from the same game but I could not locate any other fantasy relevant injuries which is wonderful... unless you own Westbrook.

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) - Hand injury
Brian Westbrook (PHI) - Ankle Injury
Donovan McNabb (PHI) - Chest injury
Jon Kitna (DET) - Sprained knee

And this is for not giving me a reference

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hardly noted for passing much or well so it was not expected that a trip to Chicago would result in much passing yardage. However, Brian "remember me?" Griese was traded by the Bears to the Bucs in the offseason and his little gift to his ex-employer was to throw 67 passes in the game - a Tampa Bay franchise record and only three passes short of the NFL record. Griese passed for 407 yards without his best receiver Joey Galloway and he led the overtime drive to secure the win.

Oh yeah, grab the early quarterback

So it's bad enough that Tom Brady owners are doing "without" and Peyton Manning owners are making do with "a little". But week three was further proof why 2007 was oddly "the year of the quarterback" and that burning an early pick doesn't make a lot of sense in most leagues. The top five passers on Sunday included Brian Griese, Drew Brees, Kyle Orton (seriously), Aaron Rodgers and J. T. O'Sullivan. Of that group, only Brees would have been making payments on an early draft pick.

Goose egg to the right

After just three weeks, there are only six undefeated teams. In the NFC, the only two are both in the NFC East - Dallas and the Giants. In the AFC, each division is solely owned by teams that have only felt the thrill of victory - Buffalo, Baltimore, Tennessee and Denver.

Early Bird Free Agents

Here's an early heads up on some free agents to consider:

QB Brian Griese - throwing for 407 yards and two scores guarantees that Griese comes off the waiver wire in every league and he did do that in Chicago which made it all the more remarkable. In case you wondered why you did not see that coming, it is because he only had 160 yards and one score against the Falcons last week. But he had a couple of 300 yard games in 2007 for the Bears, so it isn't like he has never had a big game before. But he had to have a little something extra for the team that traded him away in the offseason.

RB Steve Slaton - He is probably taken in most leagues but he may have solidified a job in Houston with his 116 yard effort against the Titans. That doesn't mean he won't disappear again or that HC Kubiak doesn't jack around with the starters in the future, but Slaton looked like the second coming of Domanick Davis (before he got hurt and changed his name).

RB Rudi Johnson - The Lions went with Johnson instead of the rookie Kevin Smith against the 49ers and he ran for 83 yards on 14 carries and added three catches for 48 yards and a score. Smith only had three runs for 14 yards and no catches. If you want a piece of the Detroit running game, now Johnson is the guy.

RB Correll Buckhalter - Poor Westbrook, oh poor, poor... oh... forget it. When Westy left the game Buckhalter stepped right in and had 43 yards on ten carries and six catches for 44 yards and a score. And that against the Steelers defense. If he is on your waiver wire, grab him and then at least extort something from the Westbrook owner.

WR Antonio Bryant - Yeah, he has been the second coming of David Boston but he just posted a career best ten catches for 138 yards as a part of the head scratching Buccaneer passing game. If Griese can be this good on the road in Chicago then Bryant as a starter needs to be on a fantasy team at least as a back-up.

Huddle Player of the Week

Ronnie Brown - When I do the P-O-t-W, it is usually some great player that happened to have a really big game. This time around, I did not see this one coming. In the first two weeks, Brown had a total of 17 rushes for 48 yards and Ricky Williams was the primary back. But on Sunday, and potentially every single fantasy bench, All Ronnie Brown did was run 17 times for 113 yards and FOUR TOUCHDOWNS. He kept on scoring on the old High School direct snap to the running back that the Patriots had absolutely no answer for. Just when it appeared the Pats had him stopped on a direct snap play, Brown rolled to the left and then threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Fasano. Yep - major points on a whole lot of benches.

Salute!

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Brian Griese 407 2 QB Ben Roethlisberger 134 0
RB Steve Slaton 124 1 RB Kevin Smith 14 0
RB T.J. Duckett 79 2 RB Earnest Graham 16 0
WR Johnnie Lee Higgins 84 1 WR Terrell Owens 17 0
WR Brandon Lloyd 124 1 WR Andre Johnson 29 0
WR Miles Austin 115 1 WR Randy Moss 25 0
PK John Carney 4 FG 2 XP PK Adam Vinatieri 3 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 132

Huddle Fantasy Points = 16

Ten Random Thoughts

1. The Chiefs and the Rams are in a dead heat battle to be the worst team in the league. Now personally I would lean towards the Rams since they have yet to allow less than 37 points and yet have never scored more than 13 points in any game. The Chiefs are plenty bad - make no mistake - but they have been in games sort of. They have only allowed more than 23 points once so in NFL terms it means the Rams are the worst.. But in fantasy football terms, we all have to love the Rams. And have opposing players to start every week.

2. This was like a market correction week of sorts with the Raiders, Buccaneers, Bengals and Jaguars either winning or at least making their opponents work really hard at it. For the want of a few points, the Raiders, Saints and Bengals could have won road games. it usually takes about four or five weeks to get a good feel for what teams are going to be like for the season. That may take a little longer this year.

3. So the respective coaching staffs of the Chiefs, Bengals, Lions, Rams and Browns have got go be polishing their resumes up and preparing to answer the 2008 question "so what were you doing in 2007?" to which they can explain the apparent gap in employment by saying "I was in a jail in Tijuana for stealing a car" which would probably sound better than "I ran the defense for the Rams" or "I was in total control of the Lions". Wonder who is the first to go? Bet more than one by the end of the year.

4. I feel badly for the Texans since they opened against the Steelers and Titans and had a hurricane make them skip a visit by the Ravens. Their next opponents are @ JAX and IND before finally facing MIA and DET. Brutal opening so look for people dumping Schaub, Owens or even Andre Johnson by week five before their schedule gets a lot easier.

5. One week of Gus Frerotte and Bernard Berrian had three catches for 79 yards. The Vikings won their game against the previously-surprising Panthers. And did it without Peterson going nuts. I think Tarvaris can just get comfortable for a while and I say this for more reasons than just owning Berrian in a few leagues. Of course none of those other reasons matter to me.

6. The committee nature of backfields is really getting out of hand. There are hardly any teams that do not rely on multiple players in their backfield and while there are still obviously good backs to use, there are not as many and they are not as good as they once were. Case in point - Baltimore Ravens. This week Ray Rice only had five carries while Willis McGahee returned and had 15 runs for 64 yards and a score. And converted full-back Le'Ron McClain had 17 runs for 66 yards and two scores.

7. Does diabetes medicine contain steroids? The Denver Broncos have long been known for being a big rushing team but currently Jay Cutler has passed for 914 yards this year and is second only to Drew Brees in the NFL. Brandon Marshall has 321 receiving yards and he is second only to Greg Jennings. But Marshall has only played two games. When he did not play, the rookie Eddie Royal went nuts. The Broncos suddenly are one of the elite passing teams. And I guess what bothers me most is that every time I see Cutler I think he looks like Chandler Bing from "Friends". So I expect him to go to the press conference and say "could I throw it any better? I don't think so!"

8. Michael Turner already has five rushing touchdowns in three games. The Falcons as a team only rushed for seven touchdowns in 2007 and only Warrick Dunn had more than one. If nothing else, Turner has been a blessing for those who buy season tickets for the Falcons and I'm not even mentioning Matt Ryan's deep ball every week.

9. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked eight times on Sunday. That gives him 13 on the year which is on a pace for 69. He had 47 last year and 49 the previous season to rank the Steelers in the bottom five in the league for allowing sacks. Big Ben has a great arm, can make the accurate throw and gets the crap beaten out of him every week. Gotta make for a long, noisy season inside Big Ben's helmet. As someone who tracks player performances very carefully, I was dismayed to see Willie Parker back to his old track of look great at home and against bad teams but disappear on the road, He only ran for 20 yards on 13 carries in Philly. The Steelers do not look like a juggernaut when Parkers is always stuffed and Roethlisberger is always crushed.

10. I still contend there is some sort of bad mojo going on this year. The Colts had the Jags beaten but had a penalty on fourth down that kept the Jags alive long enough to kick a game winning field goal even after Manning drove down for his traditional game winning drive. The Jags couldn't run at all the first two weeks and then 'boom' - they get 228 yards on 45 carries by Jones-Drew and Taylor at Indianapolis. My contention is that the Patriots, Colts and Chargers all have the bad mojo this year. So far... so true...

Sunday's Couch Commentary

Man, what a screwy weekend. Only four road teams won and three of them were upsets. There are seven NFL teams that still have not won a game and in the AFC there is exactly one team per division that is undefeated and not one of them won their division last year. The wide receivers were mostly duds this week except Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald and Houshmandzadeh who finally made a showing. We had two overtime games but the Game of the Week had to be something special, something that said "this is not going to be a season that makes you feel comfortable". The most jaw-dropping game of the day was expected to be little more than a boring game enjoyed only by the fans of the home team. How wrong that was.

Game-O-The-Week

Miami 38, New England 13

Wow. And not just they got beat "wow". It was a "wow" in every sense of the word. This wasn't a close nail-biting game, it was a blowout. But the wrong team was doing the whooping. The Patriots had not lost in their last 21 regular season games. It was the first time in 13 home games they lost. Season ticket holders had to think back to 2006 to remember what it was like to lose a game there. "You know, we really miss Taaam. We need Braaadee baack.". The funny part was that the last team to win there was the Dolphins.

But it wasn't just an offensive implosion that was certainly there as well. It was that the Patriots defense was back on their heels for the entire game. The Patriots allowed Ronnie Brown to rush 17 times for 113 yards and four touchdowns. Ricky Williams added 16 runs for 98 more yards. That's 33 rushes for 211 yards and four scores. And Brown did most his damage while taking snaps directly from center. He even threw for a touchdown. Ronnie Brown set a Dolphin's franchise record with five touchdowns in a game and his four rushing scores were also a team record. All this must mean that somehow next year Brown becomes a Patriot.

This was such a bad beat that the Dolphins went with Chad Henne and Patrick Cobb late in the fourth quarter. Even the Patriots turned to Kevin O'Connell for quarterback because why not? This was a major beat down.

But what is the reality for both these teams? The Fins had lost to the Jets and Cardinals and were 0-2 before this game. And the Patriots were 2-0 including a win in New York over the Jets without Brady. But therein lies the reason to me. Last week the Pats remained fired up to play well because they hate the Jets and they needed to show the NFL that they could still play without Brady. They were up for the game and they won it. This week they were facing a team that they had beaten by 21 points or more twice last year and they let down. Too far obviously. This was their emotional let down day when the air came whooshing out of the tires.

Kudos to the Dolphins for inventive play calling and to Brown who has certainly had a shocking return to being a starter. This season is a turning of the soil of the top teams and Miami laying the wood to the Patriots in a road game only proves it. And therein lies the beauty of the NFL and in that fantasy football.

Never get comfortable. Always expect change. And know that the Fins win in New England won't hardly be the most shocking thing when the season wraps up.

Now get back to work...

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