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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 17
David Dorey
December 22, 2008
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Tyler Thigpen 377 3
Jay Cutler 389 1
Matt Cassell 364 2
Peyton Manning 365 1
Philip Rivers 287 4
Running Backs Yards TD
DeAngelo Williams 108 4
Brandon Jacobs 92 3
Derrick Ward 210 0
Le'Ron McClain 143 1
Lamont Jordan 78 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Marques Colston 99 2
Larry Fitzgerald 101 1
Dennis Northcutt 101 1
Hines Ward 109 1
Reggie Wayne 108 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Vishante Shiancoe 136 2
Dallas Clark 105 1
Antonio Gates 43 2
Anthony Fasano 47 2
Jason Witten 87 1
Placekickers XP FG
Stephen Gostkowski 5 4
Matt Stover 3 4
Nate Kaeding 5 2
Rian Lindell 3 3
Kris Brown 0 0
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Bengals 1 3 4
Titans 1 5 4
Chargers 1 2 3
Rams 0 4 4
Colts 1 3 1

Week 16 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Not too many that affected fantasy playoffs.

Jeremy Shockey - Sprained ankle
Ken Dorsey - Bruised ribs
Marshawn Lynch - Shoulder injury
Selvin Young - Neck injury
Calvin Johnson - Bruised knee
Clinton Portis - Bruised hand
Jason Witten - Sprained knee

Does anyone want to win anymore?

Having closely researched, predicted and reviewed every NFL game since 1996, I can tell you that week 16 is typically one of the most predictable since it often mixes "must win" teams with "who cares" teams and the home element is heightened when weather is introduced as well.

But week 16 was no such beast. It saw an incredible nine road teams win. Five of the six home teams that did win were not favored to win. All told there were nine upsets when the games counted the most. It was a shocking weekend and no doubt brutal to the conservative bettor. Makes you wonder what week 17 might hold...

If the season ended today...

What would it matter? Because it doesn't. The NFL playoff picture still has a lot left to figure out in the final week. Let's see what we know and what we don't.

AFC

East - Miami (10-5) and New England (10-5) are in the lead but the Jets (9-6) host the Dolphins. The Pats play the Bills. The Dolphins clinch with a win over the Jets, The Pats clinch with a win over the Bills AND the Jets beating the Dolphins. Jets clinch with a win over Dolphins and a Patriot loss.

North - Steelers have clinched the #2 seed. The Ravens (10-5) clinch the #6 wildcard with a win over the Jaguars.

South - Titans clinched the #1 seed and the Colts have clinched the #5 wildcard.

West - The division that no one deserves now is decided by the winner of the Broncos at the Chargers. And that means the Chargers could win division with a 8-8 record.

NFC

East - Giants have clinched the #1 seed and Cowboys can clinch wildcard with a win in Philadelphia. The Eagles clinch a wildcard with a win over the Cowboys and losses by Tampa Bay and Chicago.

North - Vikings clinch with a win over visiting Giants who do not care anymore next week or with a Chicago loss. Bears can clinch with winning out AND a Vikings loss.

South - Falcons clinch division with a win over visiting Rams (book it) and a Carolina loss in New Orleans. Panthers clinch division and second round bye with a win or an Atlanta loss. Buccaneers get wildcard win win over Raiders and a loss by Dallas.

West - Cardinals clinched and now seem unable to win a game.

Lucille - you ain't going nowhere baby. No... no.. NO! DON'T LEAVE ME NOW! DOH!

For those leagues which still use week 17 - and there are some out there -let's think about what players are most likely to mail it or be pulled early or just not play when you need them worst.

All Titans and Colts players. Get this - the Titans have clinched the #1 seed, The Colts have clinched a wild card. They play each other in Indianapolis this week and yet have nothing to win and need to protect players. This could be very interesting.

Steelers - Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes having nothing to win and only host the Browns.

Giants - Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward all having nothing to win and play in MIN where they must win.

Cardinals - Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Already showed last two weeks that motivation is lacking and yet hosting the Seahawks this week. Big risk and probably no Boldin anyway.

10 Random Thoughts

1. The Lions are now the only team in NFL history to have lost 15 consecutive games in one season. They now travel to Green Bay next week where the Packers have been waiting for someone to show up that they can beat. This is worth watching because it will be history. The only question will be what Rod Marinelli says in the post-game presser. I mean, what can you say? 0-16 doesn't leave a mark, it leaves a big "L" tattooed to your forehead.

2. You have to love the Atlanta Falcons. They just clinched a wildcard one season after their nightmare of 2007. Granted, Roddy White didn't do much for me this week but imagine what this team may grow into with Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White already in place? They had a good shot at ending 11-5 this year. The new head coach of Mike Smith is relatively quiet and unobtrusive - you rarely see clips of him. But after the game in Minnesota he gave his interview with the little grin he was fighting. Like he says all the right things to the media and then goes home to his wife who he grabs and shakes while saying "CAN YOU FREAKING BELIEVE THIS?!?! THE PLAYOFFS! WHAT THE HELL DID I DO THIS RIGHT?!?!

3. I hate Brandon Jacobs. Sure, I drafted him on a couple of teams and it is great to see him trot in and punch in a touchdown all the time. But it really gets old seeing Derrick Ward run like a cheetah with a flaming tail and taking all the yardage from Jacobs. Both players are free agents next year and Ward will be 29 years old. Ward was almost gone this year but came back when no one else in the league wanted a flaming cheetah. Maybe I just am hating all these committee backfields.

4. Once again, the Broncos screwed my prediction. I have gotten maybe five of the 15 games right. They just got beaten by the visiting Bills. They have been beaten by almost every team that they were favored to beat. I just cannot imagine what it must be like to be a Denver fan. Now they have to win in San Diego or they are out of the playoffs. The Chargers just won in Tampa Bay somehow though most of this week had results that defied rational explanation. So watch the Denver-San Diego game this week but you'll probably feel like taking a shower when it over.

5. I always tell myself that typically most people over-react to weather. It looked like the worst week 16 for weather in memory and yet it ended up with most the NYJ-SEA, CIN-CLE and ARZ-NE as showing the obvious effects of the weather. But Cassel did pass for 345 yards and three scores even if the Cardinals freaked and refused to take the field. My new rule of thumb is that the wind has to be over 20 mph to matter or it must be unrelenting heavy rain or snow. Mud on a natural grass field should also be respected. But it is amazing how well most teams play in bad weather. And we will forget that in 12 months.

6. How can JaMarcus Russell look so good in some games and so thoroughly bad in others? He has thrown for around 240 yards and two scores in the last couple of games when he has lost almost all receivers besides Zach Miller. You could - and should - argue that the Raiders currently feature the worst receivers in the NFL. Russell will probably have a new offense to learn next year and more new players to adjust to. I bet that means his NFL career is screwed until Big Al departs or he hits free agency. The Raiders have lost at least 11 games for each of the last six years. They had five coaches in that time (not counting interim). Could it be the Raiders are the only NFL with a commitment to inconsistency ?

7. When the Jets beat the Titans and the media all slobbered over how they were the team to beat in the AFC and they had BRETT FAVRE. Now they have lost three of the four games since and are all but out of contention. Seattle has the worst snow storm in a decade and yet Seneca Wallace passed for 175 yards and one touchdown. Brett Favre - you know the cold weather god - passed for 187 yards and two interceptions. If you see him in the post-game interview, he sounds like he knows he is in over his head (or rather beyond his abilities) but "it is what it is". What it is would be a team that is going to miss the playoff and then get to wait while Bret Favre decides if he wants to return just to pad his career stats again (Part IV).

8. I want you to go look at your league stats to see who the best fantasy defenses have been and what the point differential is between them. Then I want you to think really hard about when you draft a defense next year. As in wait until they start to go. Remember a 15 point difference is only one point per game. I can wait. Go on...

9. I wish I was in a league that played week 17 and that I owned Chad Pennington. The Miami Dolphins clinch the AFC East just one year after going 1-15 and do so by playing in New York against the Jets. Now Chad Pennington probably doesn't even remember that they dumped him for Brett "His Highness" Favre. Or that he will be back playing in New York. Or that beating the Jets destroys their very longshot chances at the playoffs. Actually I bet he does. No word on what he's promised the defensive lineman.

10. Get ready for a VERY weird week. There is no Thursday game or even a Saturday game. They are all on Sunday - all 16. And 13 of them all happen in the early round at 1 PM EST. Try watching 13 games all at once. Then in the afternoon will be SEA-ARI and WAS-SF which no one cares about and that mean nothing to the playoffs. The final game is DEN-SD to see which team will represent the AFC West and lose in the first round of the playoffs. 13 games all in the early round. Wow. My channel changing thumb better get in shape.

Huddle Player of the Week

DeAngelo Williams - The Panthers running back not only just scored four touchdowns in one game, it wasn't even the first time he's done that this year. This only brings more angst to fantasy owners when they still wonder " why did the Panthers ever start Deshaun freaking Foster over Williams?" He's merely scored 16 touchdowns in the last eight games. He has scored six touchdowns from 30 or more yards out. He is the machine that has overshadowed the fantasy potential of all other players on the team. And he just won a lot of people their fantasy championships even though I had him and lost by 2 points but I digress...

Salute!

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Tyler Thigpen 377 3 QB Kurt Warner 30 0
RB Tashard Choice 115 1 RB Adrian Peterson 92 0
RB Fred Jackson 113 1 RB Ronnie "Pro Bowl" Brown 53 0
WR Dennis Northcutt 101 1 WR Andre Johnson 19 0
WR Johnnie Lee Higgins 56 1 WR Roddy White 22 0
WR Ted Ginn Jr. 75 1 WR Dwayne Bowe 28 0
PK Stephen Gostkowski 5 XP 4 FG PK Jeff Reed 2 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 124

Huddle Fantasy Points = 22

Sunday's Couch Commentary

Some weeks there are hardly any games worthy of being the Game-of-the-Week. But weeks like this there are so many it is hard to choose. There were nine upsets. There were nine road teams winning. The Browns were shutout and the Bengals won their first road game of the year. The Ravens are staying afloat while the Cowboys seem, yet again, intent on a December face plant into the cement. The 49ers beat the Rams by one point but who really cares? The Fins had to score 38 points to beat the Chiefs and that almost qualities except I get sad when I write about the Chiefs and this is a festive time of year. There were undoubtedly some very happy fans and some downright pissed off ones this week because more often than not, what was expected was not what happened.

I have to go with the game that most everyone saw that was a nice definition of week 16 with bitter cold weather and gusty winds.

CAR 28, NYG 34 OT

This was the game for the #1 seed, the one that ensured all playoff games would happen at home and the first week was just relaxing and then preparing. The Giants had lost Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs had been injured. The Panthers were on a roll and appeared capable of steamrolling anyone. It was the meeting of the best rushing attacks and the best rushing defenses.

What a track meet. The score only had 62 total points but realize just how often that scoring really was when it was all rushing and the clock rarely stopped. First half went like this:

Giants ten plays to a 32-yard field goal. All runs expect for two passes to Hixon. 3-0

Panthers seven plays to a 13-yard touchdown by DeAngelo Williams, 3-7

Giants ten plays to end of first quarter, then three more for Jacobs to score a 2-yard touchdown, 10-7

Panthers ten plays to Williams 5-yard touchdown. 10-14

Giants get ball and actually punt four plays later. 23 minutes into game have first non-scoring drive.

Panthers get a 60-yard pass to Muhammad and three plays later Williams scores one-yard touchdown because Steve Smith, yet again, barely misses scoring. 10-21

Remarkably, both teams trade punts and then Giants get a 35-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter. 13-21.

The second half had the ball change hands three times on punts before Manning hit Kevin Boss with a 4-yard touchdown pass. 20-21.

Panthers drive field and end up with a 30-yard Williams touchdown to start the fourth quarter. 20-28

With 9:21 left to play, Giants teach the Panthers 38-yard line and stall but punt instead of kick in the wind.

Panthers go three and out.

Giants take over at CAR 44-yard line with 7:09 to play and seven plays later, Brandon Jacobs scored a one-yard touchdown and a pass to Hixon gets the two point conversion. 28-28 with 3:24 left to play.

The Panthers drive the field and reach the Giants 32-yard line and with nine seconds left to play, Kasay kicks the game winner except it went wide left and it was 50 yards in that wind. Drifting... drifting.. and overtime.

The Giants win the coin toss and then punt after only gaining six yards. The Panthers take over and punt after only gaining seven yards. On their own 13-yard line, the Giants hand off to Derrick Ward who tacks on 51 more yards and reaches the CAR 36-yard line. Two plays later and Ward runs for 14 more to the 19-yard line, then runs 17 yards to the 2-yard line. And then, of course, Jacobs comes in and bulls the touchdown in for the win.

I'll remember that game for a while. You see, I was defending my title in a dynasty league and entering into that game I was already down 82 to 147 so I had written it off. Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson and Randy Moss had been a formidable quartet this year but had fallen way short when I needed them the most. In the final game I still had two players - Brandon Jacobs ( 92 yards, 3 TDs) and DeAngelo Williams (108 yards and 4 TDs). And I scratched my way back through the entire game, closer and closer until that final goal line plunge by Brandon Jacobs ended the game. And left me on the short side of 145.95 to 147.30.

Oh the humanity... Oh the horror...

Yeah, thanks for letting Derrick Ward run for 215 yards. I just needed maybe 14 of them for Jacobs. Or any of a dozen little ways I could have won or he would have lost. But it is what it is. A great game between a couple of friends and I will get over it soon enough and he will never forget it. I've been on the other side of those championships before and it feels great.

It's just going to have to wait until next year to happen...

May your holidays be happy and full of good memories. Those are the real presents you get to keep.

Now get back to work...

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