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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 10
David Dorey
November 3 , 2008
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Kurt Warner 342 2
Donovan McNabb 349 2
Jay Cutler 306 2
Dan Orlovsky 292 2
Peyton Manning 243 2
Running Backs Yards TD
Chris Johnson 161 1
Peyton Hillis 116 1
Thomas Jones 107 1
Ray Rice 176 0
Adrian Peterson 139 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Derrick Mason 136 1
Donald Driver 136 1
Michael Jenkins 64 2
Antonio Bryant 115 1
Anthony Gonzalez 55 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Owen Daniels 133 0
Brent Celek 131 0
Derek Fine 43 1
Kevin Boss 30 1
Vishante Shiancoe 25 1
Placekickers XP FG
Dan Carpenter 2 4
David Akers 2 4
Rob Bironas 1 4
Matt Stover 4 3
Matt Bryant 1 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
NY Jets 1 5 3
Cardinals 1 2 3
Falcons 0 4 2
NY Giants 0 4 4
Cowboys 1 4 1

Week 9 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Getting smaller as the season goes.

Matt Schaub - Sprained knee
Kyle Orton - High ankle sprain
Kolby Smith - Out for Season knee injury

And then the earth spun off its axis, negated gravity and flung everyone out into space...

Raise a glass to the Jacksonville Jaguars for being the one team that the Bengals (1-7) could beat. That leaves the Detroit Lions as the only team without a win and they came close - very close - but the Bears were afraid they would have been shot walking out into the parking lot and mounted a comeback to win.

In other news, the Jaguars plan to discontinue their "bouncing a quarter into a beer mug" tournament during flights enroute to road games.

So Did I Miss Anything?

The Bills third series against the Jets started on their own 30-yard line with 8:05 left to play in the first quarter. After driving to the Jets 14-yard line, Trent Edwards threw an interception that was returned for a Jets touchdown. The Bills started out on their own 34-yard line and then drove to the Jets 8-yard line where the drive stalled when Fred Jackson was unable to gain one yard on fourth down.

In fact, the Bills ran 30 consecutive offensive plays (with one interception sandwiched in there) that took up 14:02 of clock time and that covered 114 yards and yet produced only seven points - for the Jets.

10 Random Thoughts

1. What's up with running backs? There were only 12 rushing touchdowns scored by a tailback on Sunday and just two receiving touchdowns. No runner had more than one in a game. Only two were longer than 12 yards. As the weather starts to turn, the running backs are supposed to take center stage. They are not getting that memo. And the top four runners all had over 125 rushing yards and they combined for one measly score.

2. This season just seems like such a transition year. Half of the top scoring backs this week were rookies and yet Chris Johnson was the only first rounder playing this week and he was taken after Darren McFadden (inactive - toe), Jonathan Stewart (bye week but still not caught fire), Felix Jones (injured) and Rashard Mendenhall (on IR). The second and third rounds are rarely productive rookies but Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Kevin Smith, Jamaal Charles and Steve Slaton all played and did well on Sunday. Even fifth rounders Tim Hightower and Ryan Torain played. As if veteran running backs didn't already have a short shelf life.

3. The Jets are atop the AFC East and tied with the Pats and Bills with the Dolphins just one game behind. In the AFC, there are only six winning records and three are in the East. There are nine winning records in the NFC and the NFC East teams all are above .500 and only one NFC South team is not. The NFC is winning more games this year but will it end up to be the Giants versus the Titans in the Superbowl? It never happens like that.

4. The Broncos were spanked by the visiting Dolphins and that has to be their low point of the season. The team that used to be the premier rushing team just gained a total of 12 yards on 11 carries by three running backs. At home. Against a team that was 1-15 last year. Wow. The uber-hyped Torain had three carries for one net yard. The only saving grace was a rookie fullback named Peyton Hillis who led the team with seven catches for 116 yards and one touchdown after only having three carries and one catch on the entire season. And yet he couldn't celebrate his career best game. Denver seemed like they were on the right track for the first few games of the year but since then there's almost no predicting what they will do from week to week. Their last five games have seen them go 1-4. And yet - and here is the great part - they are still all alone at the top of the AFC West with a 4-4 record because every other AFC West team lost. Wow. Who would have thought that the AFC West would become the worst division in the NFL?

5. Brett Favre threw the 300th interception of his long, illustrious career. He is pulling away from George Blanda (277) with a record that may never be matched. Oh yes, and he did not throw a touchdown for the second time in three weeks. At least the commentators are no longer blathering on about him.

6. When the Cardinals decided to go with Tim Hightower as the primary back, hopefully the memo mentioned that Edgerrin James is dead to them now. Dead I say. He had zero carries against the Rams while even J.J. Arrington had six runs. And Hightower rushed for 109 yards on 22 carries with one touchdown. So let's compare. Hightower game #1 = 109 yards and a score. The best game James had this year over eight weeks was 100 yards on 26 carries and no score (week one actually). Oh yeah, Edge is on the ledge and probably took the leap. Or was it a push? Meh - no matter. It's Hightower from here on out.

7. The Atlanta Falcons are just astounding. At 5-3, they have already exceeded the wildest of expectations and yet they seem to be getting better. Michael Turner ran for 139 yards in Oakland for his second big road game. Matt Ryan passes for 220 yards and two scores without any interceptions. Roddy White only had five catches for 54 yards but Michael Jenkins chipped in two touchdown receptions. Sure, it was just the Raiders but the Falcons held them to 31 passing yards and 67 rushing yards. And 46 of those rushing yards were JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders had no first downs and (-2) yards after the first half. And 77 total yards were a franchise low since 1961. That game was truly a tale of two cities.

8. The Giants are so dominating in the NFC that is seems almost impossible that they advance to the Super Bowl again. They are reversing their normal trend and doing exactly opposite from last year by remaining all healthy so far and winning games big. Brandon Jacobs has the toughest rushing schedule in the league and he still gains 100 yards and scores in most games. They have not yet been challenged other than losing that trap game. But peaking too early maybe? Bet they are.

9. There were only four tight ends with a touchdown this week. In my SOFA Auction league for example, of the top ten tight ends for week nine, seven of top 12 tight ends were free agents. Brent Celek? Derek Fine? Really? Starting to make me wonder if we need to come full circle again and not consider tight ends separately. They are largely pathetic this year. And if you drafted Jason Witten and are waving your hand, the rest of us want you to just shut up already.

10. I just knew the Titans were going to beat the Packers. It took overtime but until it happens, the Titans are unbeatable. And not because they have a great offense - they have a horrible passing game. But because they have "it" that makes things go their way. It is rarely pretty and almost always unpredictable, but they get the job done. They are the anti-Chiefs.

11. Had to tack on a mention of Cedric Benson gaining 104 yards on 24 carries and scoring once against the surprisingly outmatched Jaguars. That was the second best game of his career beating out a 109 yard effort in a meaningless week 17 game in 2006. He looked pretty good. If it was the only time you had seen him, he looked awesome. But four other games for the Bengals had 41 carries for 137 yards so the band wagon still has plenty of open seats.

It Ain't Over for Everybody

In fact, it is just starting for some NFL players because every year there are guys who are hot in the first half of the season and there are guys who are hot in the second half of the season. These are not always the same guys in both cases. Let's take a quick gander at top 12 running backs from the two halves of 2007.

NAME Week 1 - 8 Rank Week 9-17 Rank 2007 Rank
Adrian Peterson 1 16 5
LaDainian Tomlinson 2 1 1
Brian Westbrook 3 3 2
Joseph Addai 4 10 3
Willis McGahee 5 19 12
Marion Barber 6 13 7
Willie Parker 7 31 20
Edgerrin James 8 20 14
Clinton Portis 9 5 4
Marshawn Lynch 10 23 16
LaMont Jordan 11 82 40
Maurice Jones-Drew 12 15 10
Ryan Grant 64 2 9
Jamal Lewis 25 4 6
Laurence Maroney 38 6 15
Brandon Jacobs 27 7 8
Earnest Graham 21 8 11
Chester Taylor 53 9 22
Fred Taylor 33 11 17
Steven Jackson 37 12 19

Things are going to change for most players and there are always surprises in the final half of the year. Thinking about riding that great team into the playoffs? Might want to be sure YOUR team hasn't peaked already.

Early Bird Free Agents

The least we can do is raid an injury situation.

Jamaal Charles - Kolby Smith is out for the rest of the year and who knows how much trouble that Larry Johnson gets into before it is all over. Charles may not be a difference maker in the best case but he's worth owning.

Rex Grossman - Looks like Kyle Orton will be out about a month according to early word and that makes Grossman worth owning. Historically, Grossman always used to pass for more scores and yards and Orton but he had a tendency to throw interceptions and lose fumbles as well. Orton has created receivers where there were none, Grossman could turn in a few surprises and he has a pretty nice schedule to step into as starter.

Sage Rosenfels - Matt Schaub may not miss any time but his one knock was being injury prone and he's not doing much to dispel that. If you are in a dynasty league and holding Schaub, maybe you should consider Rosenfels as part of the matched set. This offense can post fantasy points with either quarterback.

Michael Jenkins - He is out there on a lot of waiver wires and will be gone because he just had two touchdowns. He's inconsistent to be sure but the Falcons passing attack is for real and getting better. Someone will get the benefit of not being Roddy White and Jenkins is the one. He's not a bad keeper in a dynasty league since you get him dirt cheap and can see what more develops in Atlanta.

Huddle Player of the Week

Kurt Warner - This week was a down week for monster games but Warner's 342 passing yards and two scores in St. Louis is indicative of what Warner has been doing all season long for fantasy owners that probably drafted him very cheaply if in fact they did not grab him as a free agent. Derrick Mason had a freak good game and Chris Johnson was a top back even if it didn't feel like it. But Warner has been golden this year and he plays in warm weather for most of the rest of the season.

Salute!

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Tyler Thigpen 201 2 QB Brett Favre 201 0
RB Peyton Hillis 116 1 RB Steven Jackson 17 0
RB Ray Rice 176 0 RB Marion Barber 41 0
WR Koren Robinson 105 1 WR Plaxico Burress 24 0
WR Derek Stanley 80 1 WR Brandon Marshall 27 0
WR Mark Clayton 87 1 WR Laveranues Coles 40 0
PK Dan Carpenter 4 FG 2 XP PK Nick Folk 2 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 100

Huddle Fantasy Points = 23

Sunday's Couch Commentary

This was a wicked weekend. It almost was a major upset special but enough teams pulled it together at the end to make it seem almost normal. The Bengals got their first win and the Lions almost did the same. The Chiefs led for a time before allowing the Bucs to win. More road teams than home teams won. Only two teams had less than 13 points and yet only three teams had more than 30 points.

I should make the Bengals win as the Game of the Week since it may take another year to happen but I'll opt for one of the highest scoring games that also went into overtime and clearly shows this is not 2007.

Tampa Bay 30, Kansas City 27 OT

To start with, this game pitted Jeff Garcia against Tyler Thigpen so the expectations were on the low side. The Chiefs were without Larry Johnson who had been suspended so their outlook was limited at best. The game and the look of a low scoring, boring game that the Bucs would secure by halftime and then just sit on for the rest of the game. Which is exactly what did not happen.

Now everyone knows that Dwayne Bowe is the only wideout that is worth covering but in the first offensive series, he caught a seven-yard touchdown. After Earnest Graham lost a fumble on the Bucs first offensive play, the Chiefs covered the 40 yards and had Kolby Smith score a one-yard touchdown. The Bucs had only run one offensive play and were down 14-0.

After a Matt Bryant field goal to open the second quarter, the Chiefs again drove the field and on a trick play, had Mark Bradley throw a 37-yard touchdown back to Tyler Thigpen. It was 21-3 already. The Bucs next series had Garcia throwing an interception, and then both teams had to punt. The Chiefs added a field goal late in the quarter for a 24-3 laugher but on the kickoff, it was returned by Clifton Smith for a 97-yard score.

The third down was nothing but trading punts and the Buccaneers reached the KC 13-yard line where Clifton Smith lost a fumble. On the next play, Jamaal Charles lost it right back to the Buccaneers who scored on the next play when Earnest Graham threw a three-yard touchdown to Alex Smith. We had quarterbacks with receptions, why not a running back with passing yards? A failed two point attempt left it 24-19 for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs put together a nice drive from their 20-yard line down to the Buccaneers 13-yard line but three plays could not score and a field goal made it 27-19. Only a touchdown and a two point conversion away. And the Buccaneers marched down the field on their next possession and reached the KC 7-yard line where Earnest Graham once again loses a fumble and the Chiefs recover. After a four-and-out, the Chiefs punted to the KC 43-yard line with only 1:23 left to play. Smith ran for ten yards and then Garcia hit Bryant for 14 yards to the KC 19-yard line where a spiked ball killed the clock and drew a five yard penalty since Ike Hilliard had a false start. With only 25 second remaining, Garcia his Bryan for a 24 yard touchdown and then hit Alex Smith for the two point conversion with only 14 seconds left on the clock. The game was tied. The Chiefs were screwed because destiny had noticed what was happening.

The Buccaneers won the coin toss and then marched down the field until they kicked a 34-yard field goal to win the game.

It was never supposed to be a game but it was. And the Chiefs allowed a chance for a second win slip through their fingers while the Buccaneers set a franchise record with a 21 point comeback to win.

You want change from 2007? Garcia passed for 339 yards and Tyler Thigpen looked pretty good. Jamaal Charles was the most productive back in the game with 106 yards on 18 carries while Kolby Smith (10-46, 1 TD) has been lost for the season with a bad knee. Mark Bradley is starting to show up in box scores at the top and somehow both Bowe (2-29, 1 TD) and Tony Gonzalez (7-62) had a decent game. Antonio Bryant (8-115, 1 TD) shows that it sometimes takes four teams or more before a player can start to produce.

And in the end, what happened is what was expected. Just not in the way that most envisioned. We're into crunch time now in fantasy football with teams vying for a playoff spot. Knowing that the NFL is always changing and top players rarely last, how many best teams in leagues right now have already peaked? And how can you know that your team isn't about to take a sharp climb up?

You never know until you know but - you always play the game.

Now get back to work...

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