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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 7
David Dorey
October 13, 2008
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Drew Brees 320 3
Matt Schaub 379 2
Philip Rivers 306 3
Tony Romo 321 3
Peyton Manning 271 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Maurice Jones-Drew 148 2
Clinton Portis 143 2
Patrick Cobbs 138 2
Correll Buckhalter 183 1
Marion Barber 173 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Andre Johnson 178 1
Marvin Harrison 83 2
Bernard Berrian 131 1
Vincent Jackson 131 1
Roddy White 112 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Marcedes Lewis 64 1
Alex Smith 43 1
Antonio Gates 35 1
Mark Campbell 37 1
John Carlson 22 1
Placekickers XP FG
David Akers 4 4
Jason Elam 1 4
Joe Nedney 2 4
Josh Brown 1 4
Kris Brown 2 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Arizona 2 3 1
St. Louis 1 4 3
Philadelphia 1 3 3
Indianapolis 0 4 5
Cincinnati 1 2 3

Week 6 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

A bit heavier than usual and more than we would want to see but at least nothing seemed very serious as of Sunday night.

Joseph Addai - Hamstring
Mike Hart - Knee injury
Willis McGahee - Undisclosed
Adrian Peterson - Hand injury
Calvin Johnson - Possible concussion
Ladell Betts - Sprained knee
James Thrash - Sprained knee
Fred Taylor - Possible minor concussion
Brandon Stokley - Concussion
Felix Jones - Hamstring
Kevin Smith - Shoulder sprain
DeSean Jackson - Ankle sprain

Dunn but not Done

When the Buccaneers lost Carnell Williams last year, they discovered a dynamic back already on their roster in Earnest Graham. After scoring ten touchdowns and rushing for 898 yards in about a half season, Graham naturally became a coveted back in fantasy drafts. But the Bucs also picked up free agent Warrick Dunn who left the Falcons after six seasons to return to the team that originally drafted him in 1997. At the age of 33 and coming off a bad season, the expectation was that Dunn was merely playing out his swan song back with the Bucs. At least that what Graham was hoping. Not so much anymore.


Dunn began as a near equal to Graham and week five in Denver was the first time that he had the most carries.  But he was used more consistently as a receiver each week and against the Panthers on Sunday, Dunn turned in 115 yards on 22 carries and added three catches for 28 yards. It was his first 100 yard game since 2004.  Graham only rushed five times for 11 yards and scored a one-yard touchdown run as the fullback. Dunn may not be the future in Tampa Bay but he is there now and producing as much or more than Earnest Graham.  And yet he is still on several waiver wires for those who still do not believe. After last Sunday – believe..

Divisionally Speaking

At week six, there are clear leaders in every AFC division. The Bills (4-1), Steelers (4-1), Titans (5-0) and Broncos (4-2) all stand alone atop their respective divisions but that may not last long in the AFC West where the Broncos look like a model of inconsistency. The Bengals are 0-6 now and have a one game lead on the Lions (0-5) for the first pick in the NFL draft.

There are no losing records in either the NFC East or NFC South where the eventual winner still could be any team. Oddly enough, there are no winning records in the NFC North and only one in the NFC West. This season should have be a wild ride because a third of the season is over and other than arguably the Giants and maybe the Titans (?) there are no dominant teams really. At least no other teams without a loss. By week 17 it will all be clear and we will look back and see how a couple of teams emerged to reach the Super Bowl. For now - just no way of telling.

Can It Be Over Already?

Matt Ryan is enjoying a nice rookie season. After five games, he's already completed 113 of 210 passes (54%) for 1364 yards and six touchdowns against 14 interceptions... no... wait.. wait... okay... those are Peyton Manning's rookie numbers after six games. Matt Ryan has thrown a few less passes with 93 of 161 (58%) for 1164 yards and six touchdowns against only three interceptions. Oh yes, and the Colts were 1-5 while the Falcons are 4-2 and tied for the division lead. And yes, the 1998 Colts could be considered near equals to the 2008 Falcons at least two months ago. That Ryan kid just threw his first 300 yard game as well. Allow me to be the first to say it:

Rookie of the Year.

10 Random Thoughts

Wow - what a week. It's like every seven days you have to rethink about half the NFL players.

1. You have to find the Cowboys interesting to watch. If you like them, they can be a powerhouse offensively and score in many ways. If you hate them, at the least you can watch them commit some ridiculous mistake or turnover almost every week and sometimes - like Sunday - that will result in losing the game. For a team that can look so good, it can sometimes look really bad. This would match the Denver Broncos to some extent though they had some injuries to point at and pretend they were the cause of recent struggles.

2. I have to say it. I think Tom Brady made a difference to the Patriots last year. Yep. And I think him being gone has made a big difference. Sort of like the difference between stock market a year ago and the stock market now except in this case 31 out of every 32 NFL fans are rather enjoying the show. Yeah, ran up the score in 2007? Uh-huh. Apparently that has not been forgotten.

3. What to think about Atlanta? I mean serious - this is a rebuilding team with a rookie quarterback. New offense and defense. New running back. And they are 4-2 on the season with most recent wins in Green Bay and against the Bears. Michael Turner is one of the top rushers - above both Adrian Peterson and LaDainian Tomlinson. Roddy White doesn't practice and doesn't even know if he will be allowed to play and then has nine catches for 112 yards and one score (and almost two)? He's currently #2 in the NFL for receiving yardage. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a Falcons' fan right now. After last year, it must be surreal.

4. Lance Moore has replaced Marques Colston since week one and Colston is about to return. Moore has looked very good though and has two efforts of at least 97 yards and two touchdowns. At the minimum, he has looked better than Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson or even David Patten. The Saints passing attack is prolific and any part of it is a good thing so Moore has to be considered for more playing time even when Colston is back. Drew Brees is still #1 with 1993 passing yards and that is almost 300 yards more than #2 Kurt Warner (1708). Brees has passed for 320+ yards in five of six games. He is on a pace to throw for 5300 yards this year which would be a record. And which he has so far done without Shockey or Colston.

5. Granted the Ravens had some injuries in the secondary but Peyton Manning has apparently gotten back on the horse and is once again whipping it along. He only had one score in his first three games, then two in week five and now a season high three touchdowns with 271 yards against the Ravens. And Marvin Harrison had two scores and 83 yards? Wonder what they are going to do in week nine when the Patriots come calling? Maybe go all Chargers on them?

6. The problem with Steve Breaston is that he has looked so good replacing Anquan Boldin that maybe the Cards are wondering how badly they really need to re-sign Boldin. These last three weeks, Breaston has caught 24 passes for 301 yards. Replacing Boldin on Sunday, he scored once against the Cowboys and had eight catches for 102 yards. If you are in a dynasty league, that Breaston guy may be someone to hold on for next year too. He's already producing well this season and what if he was to lineup across from Fitzgerald every week in 2009?

7. The tight ends this year are just ho-hum. As in next year they start to get drafted in the 12th round. Consider week six of 2007, there were seven tight ends scoring a touchdown and two of them had a pair of scores on the day. This year there were only six scoring, none twice and other than Gonzalez perhaps none were fantasy starters. The top five tight ends from this week in 2007 averaged 6.2 catches for 90.2 yards. This year it was 4.4 catches for only 64 yards. The best from Sunday was 75 yards by Vernon Davis (yeah, I know - go figure). In 2007, that would have only been 6th best. Tight ends are back to just being like a kicker with reception points. And not even that many points.

8. Here's an interesting question to me. Ask some of your league mates who the highest scoring running back is in your league. In most years, there is always a name at the top that every one knows. Tomlinson, Alexander, Holmes, whomever. But there are always one or two runners that are clearly head and shoulders about the rest. But this year - who is that? Clinton Portis is the leader in some leagues and has 643 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Adrian Peterson has done well but only has three touchdowns. Tomlinson is down the listing. Michael Turner and Matt Forte have been very productive - do they belong in the vaunted top five? Things will shake out by the end of the year but that normal "half of the top ten returns" could be challenged this year.

9. Okay, so Matt Schaub was no treat in the first weeks of the season with a brutal schedule but now that it has finally softened up a but, he's looking much better. Schaub passed for 379 yards and one passing touchdown against the Dolphins (and rushed in a score as well) and gets to host the Lions this week. If you ever were going to dust off your Schaub and start him, this is going to be the week.

10. I have to admit that Vincent Jackson has been much better than expected. Chris Chambers was out and that helped this week when Jackson caught five passes for 134 yards and one score but Jackson has been WR3 worthy in pretty much every game since he almost always has 50 yards if not more than 70 yards per week. For a team that has been predicated on feeding Tomlinson and Gates and Chambers, being #4 seemed to suggest a fantasy wasteland but Jackson is a contributor.

Early Bird Free Agents

A few reasons to look at the waiver wire this week:

RB Dominic Rhodes - Joseph Addai went down with a hamstring injury and even though HC Tony Dungy says it isn't that bad, Rhodes will be the first guy likely taken in most leagues after scoring a touchdown and gaining 73 yards against the Ravens this week. With rookie Mike Hart injured as well, Rhodes would become a clear cut primary back for the Colts until Addai returns.

RB Patrick Cobbs - I know he had 138 yards and two scores. Whoopee. He only had three catches and no carries. Let him be the second guy taken from your waiver wire by someone else who deserves to have an early pick on the waiver wire. He almost doubled career receiving marks with that game.

WR Harry Douglas - The Falcons rookie already is the slot receiver and comes off a five catch, 96 yard game. Evidently the new Falcons passing attack bears no resemblance to the old one with Michael Vick. Douglas is only worthwhile in a dynasty league to stick on the back of your roster for next year. Roddy White cannot do it all (in theory anyway) and the starting flanker keeps changing. Douglas may end up as the #2 next year with a QB that is apparently able to get the job done.

RB Ray Rice - Willis McGahee was injured on Sunday (though not clearly with what so far) and Rice came into the game instead of Le'Ron McClain. Rice only gained 23 yards on six catches but he had seven catches for 64 yards if you are in a points per reception league. Still not certain that McGahee will miss time though and Rice disappears if McGahee is there. McClain fumbled on his first catch last week and that may have been one reason why he only had a few more touches in the game. That and the fact that the Ravens barely had the ball before it was 14-0 and they had to abandon the run.

Huddle Player of the Week

Thomas Jones - There were several contenders here - Marion Barber, Andre Johnson and even Correll Buckhalter. But the nod has to go to Jones who has languished in New York this year while the media goes crazy over Brett Favre and only mention Jones when they say "lost a step". He opened the season with 101 yards and one score in Miami but the three successive games only totaled 45 carries for 153 yards and no scores. About 51 yards per week. On Sunday against the Bengals (AKA "as good as it gets"). Jones ran 17 times for 65 yards with two touchdowns and added three catches for 13 yards and a third touchdown. That's three times as many scores has he had in the first four games. Heck, that is more than the amount of touchdowns from the entire 2007 season. Maybe it won't happen again and maybe it happened on your bench, but it happened, baby.

Salute!

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Matt Ryan 301 1 QB Brett Favre 189 1
RB Patrick Cobbs 138 2 RB Joseph Addai 3 0
RB Dominic Rhodes 73 1 RB Fred Taylor 20 0
WR Rashied Davis 41 1 WR Santana Moss 22 0
WR Harry Douglas 96 0 WR Bobby Engram 0 0
WR Malcolm Floyd 75 1 WR Tory Holt 23 0
PK Jason Elam 5 FG 1 XP PK John Kasay 1 FG

Huddle Fantasy Points = 104

Huddle Fantasy Points = 22

Sunday's Couch Commentary

Wow.

I mean what a weekend. We had several big-time beat downs - TB over CAR, IND over BAL, NO over OAK and SD over NE. Just blowout wins. Not even a real game.

But there were at least five games worthy of game of the week. At least. The Jets beat the Bengals of course. Philly beat the 49ers but it was closer than the score suggests. The Packers used the second half to dominate the Seahawks. But that still left five great, close games. The Vikings won 12-10 over the Lions on a field goal with 12 seconds left but they were supposed to win.

That leaves four. And it would be grossly unfair to all to consider any of them to be better than the other. Four games ended in unbelievable ways. If you don't have Direct TV and the NFL Sunday Ticket - man, you are missing out (unpaid endorsement there). At least go to a sports bar because weekends like this are just why we love football. My first ever four-way tie for Game of The Week. In most any other week, any of these games would stand alone as the best game of the week.

1. Chicago 20, Atlanta 22 - The second half started with the Falcons surprisingly ahead 9-3 and on the first series, they extended their lead to 12-3 when they stalled at the CHI 23-yard line. But the Bears responded with a touchdown drive that consumed much of the third quarter at with 2:29 left in the third, they trailed only 10-12.

The Falcons then drove the field as well and by 13:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, Matt Ryan hit Roddy White with a touchdown pass for a 19-10 lead. The Bears then returned the kickoff to midfield and reached the ATL 8-yard line where Orton threw an incompletion, then Forte gained seven yards to the one yard line. A run by Jason McKie gained nothing. On fourth and one with 8:03 left to play, the Bears went for it and Matt Forte was stuffed for no gain. The Falcons took over and ended up punting away. The Bears then drove to the ATL 14-yard line where three incompletions led them to opt for the field goal and 13-19 deficit.

With 3:48 left to play, the Bears kicked off and Jerious Norwood returned it 85 yards to the CHI 17-yard line. Three runs by Turner used up a couple of Chicago time outs and then Jason Elam missed the 33 yard field goal that would have made a huge difference. The Bears took over with 2:43 left to play and Orton peppered the field with short passes and reach the Atlanta 17-yard line where he hit Rashied Davis with a touchdown with only 17 seconds left to play to take their first lead 20-19. ONLY SEVENTEEN SECONDS. What could happen?

Squibby kick fielded and Harry Douglas downed at the ATL 44-yard line with six seconds left to play.

Pass to Michael Jenkins has him pushed out of bounds at the CHI 30-yard line with ONE SECOND left to play. Elam redeems himself by nailing the 48-yard field goal. whew...

There may still be some Bears players who thought they won. It was an incredible treat for all those Falcons fans who suffered through 2007 without resorting to hiding their NFL affiliation and using hand signs with friends to signal they were Falcons fans.

2. Dallas 24, Arizona 30 (OT) - This game opened with J.J. Arrington returning the kick for 93 yards and a score and it wasn't until the second quarter before the Cowboys could tie it up with a 55-yard score to Patrick Crayton. That 7-7 yawner of a score held at halftime even though the Cowboys were on the ARZ 18-yard line and had Nick Folk doink it off the left upright. Yeah, those three points would matter.

The first series of the third quarter had Dallas reaching the ARZ 14-yard line where Tony Romo found Miles Austin for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead. That lasted about five minutes before Kurt Warner connected with Larry Fitzgerald for a score and another 14-14 tie. After the Cowboys had to punt, the Cardinals entered the fourth quarter on a drive that would end with Steve Breaston catching an 11-yard touchdown for a 21-14 lead with 10:49 left to play.

The Cowboys went three and out.

The Cardinals drove from their own 34-yard line to kick a 41-yard field goal with 3:21 left o play for a 24-14 lead. But the Cowboys drove 87 yards in just one minute thanks to Marion Barber turning a short pass into a 70-yard touchdown. With 2:17 left to play, the Cowboys trailed 24-21 and kicked off to the Cards. They held them to four plays and used up all their timeouts to get the ball back at the DAL 32-yard line with 50 seconds left to play.

After four plays, Romo hit Jason Witten for a 30 yard gain to the ARZ 39-yard line and killed the clock with only four seconds left to play. Since the Cards were flagged for not getting lined up properly at the snap because Travis LaBoy was injured and hobbling back, the Cowboys got another five yards and Nick Folk nailed a 52-yard field goal to tie at the end of regulation.

The Cowboys won the coin toss and then Romo fumbles but recovers it himself. Then two incompletions are thrown at Terrell Owens and the Cowboys punt...

Only for the first time in NFL history, the punt was blocked and returned for a touchdown, Cardinals win 30-24. Wow. The Cardinals were not even looking to block the punt and had called for covering the return. Unbelievable.

3. Miami 28, Houston 29 - The winless Texans went into half time down only 13-14. Patrick Cobbs had caught passes of 80 and 53 yards for the Miami scores while the Texans were close only because Jacoby Jones returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown. But the second half opened with Matt Schaub driving the field and hitting Andre Johnson for a 12-yard touchdown. FInally, the Texans led 20-14.

But the Dolphins drove 73 yards in just six plays before Ricky Williams scored a touchdown for a 21-20 Miami lead with 6:25 left in the third quarter. Schaub again drove the field but then lost a fumble at the MIA 24-yard line. Both teams traded short series before the Texans settled for a 42 yard field goal with 6:08 left to play and a 23-21 lead.

The Texans seemingly had it under control when Chad Pennington threw an interception on third and five from the MIA 36-yard line but the Texan defender then fumbled it back to them for what actually ended up to just be a first down. The Dolphins then had Williams run for ten yards, Fasano caught one for 12 more yards and then Ronnie Brown turned a short pass into a 39 yard gain. Two plays later with 1:51 left to play, he scored a touchdown for the 28-23 Miami lead.

Matt Schaub took over at his own 24-yard line with 1:40 left to play and drove the field until reaching the MIA 3-yard line with 16 seconds left to play. An incomplete to Andre Davis is followed with an incompletion to Andre Johnson. On fourth down from the three yard line and only seven second left, the Texans spread the field with receivers and then MATT SCHAUB JUST RUNS IT UP THE GUT FOR A TOUCHDOWN! The Texans finally get rid of that "0" from their standings and get ready to meet the Lions this week.

Great game. Truly.

4. St. Louis 19, Washington 17 - I mean come on - the Redskins had beaten the Eagles and the Cowboys recently. Every other early game on Sunday went to the home team. The Rams on the road? This was not going to be pretty. And it wasn't. Realize too that no opponent had scored less than 31 points against the Rams. The Skins were favored by 13.5 points.

It started with the Redskins eight play drive leading to a punt and the Rams only needed two plays before Steven Jackson lost a fumble on the Rams 3-yard line. Clinton Portis punched in the score on the very next play. Surely the beat was on.

Both the Rams and Redskins had three-and-outs and the Rams then actually had the audacity to reach the WAS 33-yard line before the drive stalled out and they settled for a 51 yard field goal which destroyed the dreams of a shutout. The Redskins closed out the first half by reaching the STL 39-yard line before Chris Cooley lost a fumble and the Rams ended the quarter mercifully with only a 7-3 deficit. That alone was a major victory.

But the second quarter had the Redskins reaching the STL 34-yard line before Casey Rabach lost a fumble. After more back and forth punting, the first half ends as the Redskins reach the Rams 16-yard line and there is another fumble which is returned for a 75-yard touchdown by the Rams. At halftime, the Rams led 10-7 even though they only had 82 yards of offense.

Adding to the comedic element here, the Rams opened the second half by driving down to the WAS 7-yard line and kicking a field goal for a 13-7 lead. After a few punts, the Rams kicked a 44-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter and the jaw-dropping, eye-rubbing, head-scratching score was 16-7 in favor of the visiting Rams. The winless Rams. Those Rams.

With no time to waste, the Skins got a field goal on their next possession and then held the Rams to a punt. With 8:18 left to play, the Skins finally drove the field and had Portis score another touchdown for a 17-16 lead. Whew. Imagine - losing to the Rams. Whoa. That would be embarrassing. At home no less.

The Rams took over at their own 24-yard line with 3:40 left to play. On third and two, Marc Bulger hit Donnie Avery for 12 yards and a first down at the 44-yard line at the two minute warning. After Jackson lost three yards on a run, Bulger hit Avery with a 43 yard completion to the WAS 16-yard line with 1:13 left to play. Bulger kneels down and the Skins use their last time out with 35 seconds to play. Then Richie Incognito who would do well to heed his last name and just shut up, was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct by saying something to the referee. That meant as time expired, Josh Brown had to make a 49 yard field goal instead of a 34-yard chip shot. To the tremendous benefit of Mr. Incognito, Brown was true. The Rams have a win on the road no less.

Unbelievable.

The day held at least four games that all had do-not-change-that-dial endings. It was a tremendous day for the NFL fans and a day where some studs showed up again like Jones-Drew, Andre Johnson and even - gasp - Marvin Harrison. Two teams that had not won a game finally managed to get their win and refresh their team. The NFL seems nearly deadlocked around who the good teams are and who they are not. After a third of the season is over, it is almost like we are just starting over.

And if you are trailing in your league, take heart because the change will only continue. And if you are at the top of your standings, you can be sure of one thing.

We are all coming after you this week.

Now get back to work...

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