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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 14
David Dorey
December 1, 2008
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Donovan McNabb 284 4
Aaron Rodgers 324 3
Tony Romo 345 3
Jay Cutler 355 2
Joe Flacco 295 2
Running Backs Yards TD
Brian Westbrook 130 4
DeAngelo Williams 86 4
Thomas Jones 159 2
Chris Johnson 134 2
Lendale White 106 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Mark Clayton 196 2
Larry Fitzgerald 65 2
Bernard Berrian 122 1
Terrell Owens 98 1
Greg Jennings 91 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Jason Witten 115 1
Tony Gonzalez 110 0
Johnson Carlson 105 0
Tony Scheffler 90 0
Donald Lee 37 1
Placekickers XP FG
Rob Bironas 5 4
Jeff Reed 3 4
David Akers 6 2
Josh Brown 0 4
Nick Folk 4 2
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Titans 1 4 3
Steelers 0 5 5
Indianapolis 1 3 2
Ravens 1 4 1
Chargers 1 0 3

Week 13 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Derek Anderson - Knee injury - may be out for rest of year
Kellen Winslow - Leg injury
Trent Edwards - Groin injury
Wes Welker - Possible concussion / neck injury
Ryan Grant - Bruised hand
Peyton Hillis - Strained groin

What? WHAT? HUH?!?!

In week 12 there were 11 road teams that won which is highly unusual other than one week per season has a lot of road teams win. Week 12 was it... until week 13 when 11 more road teams won with Monday night left to play. Out of 31 games in the last two weeks, only ten have been won at home. No idea what the record is but two straight weeks of 11 road teams winning is extremely unusual.

Okay, where the heck did that come from???

When you make your starting lineup decisions, you have to take into account what a player has been doing and the situation for them going into the game. And this week you would have reasonably considered benching these players:

Brian Westbrook - Over the last four games, Westbrook had averaged only 65 total yards, never more than three catches and no touchdowns. Westbrook is banged up worse than ever and cannot even fully practice. So of course he gained 130 total yards and four touchdowns against the Cardinals.

Jason Witten - Over the last four games, Witten had only totaled 53 yards. That is totaled. On average, about 13 yards per week. Bad ribs and all so those who benched him (and some for begrudgingly the first time) were greeted to him turning in nine catches for 115 yards and a score in his best game of the year.

Eddie Royal - Take a couple of unproductive weeks with less than 40 yards in each and add in a toe injury that either limited him or kept him out of practices last week and sitting him would be a natural thing to consider. And of course, he gained 84 yards on five receptions and scored on a 59-yard catch.

It happens every week to a few players and playing fantasy football always means the occasional bad start. But you never become "okay" with it happening.

If the Season Ended Today...

While no teams have clinched anything yet (technically anyway), we are seeing some separation in the AFC while the NFC remains a mess outside of the Giants.

AFC Division leaders - NYJ (8-4), PIT (9-3), TEN (11-1) and DEN (7-5). The wildcards currently are held by BAL (8-4) and IND (8-4). That is probably how it will end though NE and MIA are 7-4 and cannot be counted out yet.

NFC Division leaders - NYG (11-1), ARI (7-5) and then the NFC North has MIN (7-5) at the top. In the NFC South, both TB and CAR are tied at 9-3. DAL and ATL are right behind at 8-4. If the season ended today it would be NYG, MIN, TB and ARZ with wildcards of CAR and ATL. But there is much to still happen in the NFC with at least five teams very much alive for at least a wildcard.

10 Random Thoughts

1. Why not start out with my favorite rant. I hate the Broncos. I predict games every week, done it for 13 years now and been pretty good. Except for Denver. They just won in New York against the Jets. Is this not the same team THAT WAS CRUSHED BY THE RAIDERS IN DENVER? Well, they did beat the Buccaneers. Oh yeah, AND WERE CRUSHED BY THE CHIEFS. Going against the Vegas line - forgetting points - the Broncos have only won three of the seven games they were predicted to win. They have only lost one of the five games they were expected to lose. Each of the last five games for them have ended opposite what Vegas had them doing. Twice they were favored by 9.5 points and lost those games. Their biggest expected losses were the Jets (+7.5) and the Falcons (+5.5) of which they won. Ridiculous.

2. When is the other shoe going to drop with the Ravens? For over a month now, the Ravens have become a scoring machine. Take away the one loss to the Giants in week 11 and the Ravens have scored over 27 points for the last seven games. The Ravens- seriously. It was easy to write off Joe Flacco when he only had one passing touchdown in the first five games but now he has passed for two scores in four of the last five games. And he doesn't really even have any receivers. Derrick Mason started out his career as an Oiler. Mark Clayton is just a little guy with a spotty NFL resume. The running backs are a three man rotation with little rhyme or reason as to who or when. But they have an offense that scores. It's just so hard to accept.

3. There have been many people injured in the crush of holiday shopping and I have made a vow that I will do all my Christmas shopping via the internet with the exception of one run to Target or WalMart for some stocking stuffers. Imagine, saving gas, avoiding crowds and having a full selection of offerings. Before the internet, it was me on Christmas Eve running into a Kohl's department store and asking some tired worker to help me get $200 worth of merchandise. "What are you looking for?" she would always ask and I would honestly reply "It doesn't matter since she will just return it anyway so make it something easy to put away that can be broken down into four or five presents."

4. Thomas Jones has really come on this year after scoring only once in the first four weeks and having minimal yardage but now has become a scoring machine with 12 touchdowns in the last eight games. Even when the Jets had no real offense from Brett "HE IS NOT A DIETY" Favre, Jones still contributed two touchdowns and ran for 138 yards. That's a very good sign for the Jets as the weather turns in New York. Now if that Favre guy could only throw a touchdown.

5. The media has to talk about something. They have to, it is in their job description. And they love to fan flames even where there is no smoke let alone fire. So pre-game discussions between ex-football players turned talking suits had - I heard this - a talk about how trading away Tom Brady next year may make sense since you could get a lot for him (well... yeah) and just keep this Matt Cassel kid because he just passed for over 400 yards and three scores against the Jets and Dolphins. WOW! Kick that Brady guy to the curb because he's been Wally Pipped by Cassel. But wait, Cassel only passed for 434 yards combined from the two previous games (IND and BUF) and no scores. And of course after making that conversation, Cassel at home only can only complete 19 of 39 for 169 yards and two interceptions against the Steelers. Gosh, Brady only managed 399 yards and four touchdowns against the Steelers last year. Yeah... let's keep the Cassel kid...

6. Bernard Berrian scored on a 99 yard pass play against the Bears when the right cornerback bit on a pump fake. That has to be quite a treat for a receiver to know that they just tied an all-time record and it rather helped out Gus Frerotte's passing stats as well. The weather has started to turn but we are still getting some long scores which helps quarterbacks maintain their production. Mark Clayton (70), Eddie Royal (59) and Devin Hester (65) all started out on their own side of the field.

7. Tony Gonzalez is such a first ballot lock for the Hall of Fame. He is 32 years old and yet is on a pace for one of the best seasons of his 12 year career. It's like we keep waiting for age to take some toll, for what has been an ever declining offense to finally limit him but he continues to crank out the catches. He had 110 yards in Oakland this week and is nearly unstoppable.

8. I find it very sad when I see what happened today with the Colts and 49ers and it is not because they only scored ten points, but because they won after only scoring ten points. The Colts did not even have an offensive touchdown. It just makes me queasy like I was watching soccer.

9. The two highest scoring teams in the NFL are currently the NY Giants ( 352) and the NY Jets (340). They are the favored teams to go to the Super Bowl according to some prognosticators. Would that not be one of the worst Super Bowls ever? The most ideal matchup would be teams from either coast or at least a great distance between them but the same city? And how could you tell if the rioting was because they won or they lost?

10. Fantasy playoffs are looming - have you made sure you have a backup for every position? Yeah - I'm talking kicker too though losing one this late in the year is extremely rare. If you still can use your waiver wire, think about getting yourself some options at defense and kicker if not even tight end that addresses the chance that a blizzard makes some a kicker worthless or a defense even more enticing.

Players that make me look forward to 2009

It is getting too late in the year to worry as much about free agents since the waiver wire is closing in many leagues and the offerings are rather sparse by now anyway. Basically, it's just about seeing who was just injured and grabbing their replacement. What I want to consider are just a few players that I see that interest me more for 2009 than this year. It is never too early to think about next year and for those of you in dynasty leagues, you have to start considering 2009 now to see who you want to get and who you are willing to lose.

Matt Ryan - You almost have to wonder if this guy will have the sophomore slump because he has played so well as a rookie. He has 2625 passing yards and 13 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions. That's off the hook for a rookie. If this is what he can do as a rookie on a team that was rebuilding, what sort of ceiling does this kid have? The Falcons will look to improve in the offseason, what will Ryan be like with an even better cast around him and a year of experience under his belt?

Darren McFadden - Easy enough to label him as a bust and he really has only one good game but he has been hampered by a bad toe that assumedly will be all better in 2009. And he is a Raider which means there is always a hope that somehow the dysfunction and general futility around the team gets resolved. In ever so brief moments, he has looked impressive. He may be a career bust and live off potential but I am not ready to write him off yet.

Eddie Royal - The Bronco has defied the rule of thumb that says all rookie wide receivers will have no worthwhile fantasy value and he isn't even the #1 guy on his team. But he connected immediately (and often) with Jay Cutler and maybe the Broncos are not quite so manic next year. He looks like he could be something special for the long term.

Huddle Player of the Week

Brian Westbrook - There were several other contenders like Mark Clayton, DeAngelo Williams, Thomas Jones and even DOnovan McNabb but the POtW has to go to Brian "go ahead and try benching me" Westbrook who ripped off 130 total yards and four touchdowns against the visiting Cardinals on Thursday night. It was a surprise and he was banged up going into the game and hurt his toe during the game but he is capable of this every week. You can never bench him because of weeks like this.

Salute!

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Joe Flacco 295 2 QB Peyton Manning 125 0
RB Peyton Hillis 129 1 RB Clinton Portis 37 0
RB Pierre Thomas 54 1 RB Joseph Addai 63 0
WR Mark Clayton 196 2 WR Laveranues Coles 2 0
WR Devin Thomas 29 1 WR Dwayne Bowe 27 0
WR Davone Bess 84 0 WR Wes Welker 30 0
PK Rob Bironas 5 XP 4 FG PK Shaun Suisham 1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 116

Huddle Fantasy Points = 20

Sunday's Couch Commentary

Lot of road wins again this week but not many were close games or had two high scoring teams. It was mostly either close, low scoring games or one team blew out the other one. There were seven games that had over a 20 point differential in score between the two teams. Not much in the way of exciting finishes but here was one game that had scoring - 66 points in all - and the closest to a fun finish.

Carolina 35, Green Bay 31

This game had a road team pulling an upset (though minor at +3 line) with nice points that didn't all happen the way you would assume.

The Panthers opened the game with Muhsin Muhammad catching a 44 yard pass and then losing a fumble at the GB 19-yard line. After several series with no first downs, the Panthers finally had DeAngelo Williams rush in a 1-yard touchdown in the middle of the first quarter.

The Packers finally had a field goal to start the second quarter but the Panthers came back with a one-yard touchdown plunge by Jake Delhomme. On the next series, the Packers finally had Aaron Rodgers connect with Donald Driver for a 6-yard touchdown. But the Panthers had Williams punch in another 1-yard touchdown for a halftime advantage of 21 -10.

KNowing that they cannot afford any loss and still entertain any notion of the playoffs, the Packers came out in the second half and got a field goal on their opening series and then a touchdown pass to Donald Lee on their second possession. A two point conversion to Jennings was successful and the score was locked 21-21 with five minutes left to play in the third quarter.

When the fourth quarter kicked off, the Packers scored again with a pass from Rodgers to Jennings for 21-yards and the first lead in the game 28-21. But on the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers got a return to midfield and then a pass interference call. On third and 11, Delhomme found Steve Smith down the middle for a 36 yard gain to the GB 1-yard line. Smith wasn't open really but he is Steve Smith and the little man is going to come down with the ball. Bank on it. Williams rushed in his third one-yard touchdown and the tie was again knotted at 28-28 with 11:14 to play.

The Packers drove from their own 20-yard line down to the CAR 7-yard line where Brandon Jackson rushed for six yards. On second down, Jackson was stuffed. On third down the fullback Kuhn was stuffed so they settled for a 19-yard field goal and a 31-28 lead with only 2 minutes left to play. Consider this the turning point of the game. Could have gone for it on fourth down. But no because what's the worst that could happen?

Ends up it is a kick return to the CAR 45-yard line, then a 54-yard completion to Steve Smith who, recall, cannot be covered and is once again tackled at the one yard line where once again DeAngelo Williams rushes in his fourth 1-yard touchdown. Extra point is good and the Panthers lead 35-31 and it only took them 27 seconds from kickoff to scoring. That's sort of "worst case scenario coming true."

Rodgers threw an interception on his second pass attempt and the game was over. Yet another road team won and the Packers probably just ended their bid to make the playoffs. The only saving grace to the day was that Brett Favre had an even worse game and lost to the Broncos.

Winding down but every point is starting to count more. Home teams can barely win anymore and the weather is turning to rain and wind. Snow is not far behind and then more wind. We've already seen the highest scoring weeks of the year already pass so be prepared for lower points from here on out. And that means you gotta care about kickers and defenses because you will need every point.

Um... and about that trade for Brady we talked about last week...

Now get back to work...

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