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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 14
David Dorey
December 7, 2009
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Tony Romo 392 3
Jason Campbell 366 3
Bruce Gradkowski 328 3
Drew Brees 419 2
Philip Rivers 373 2
Running Backs Yards TD
Brandon Jacobs 113 2
Jerome Harrison 97 2
Joseph Addai 96 2
Knowshon Moreno 86 2
Jonathan Stewart 126 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Louis Murphy 128 2
Devin Thomas 100 2
Anquan Boldin 98 2
Santonio Holmes 149 1
Larry Fitzgerald 143 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Vernon Davis 111 1
Antonio Gates 167 0
Jason Witten 156 0
Bo Scaife 56 1
Fred Davis 53 1
Placekickers XP FG
Garrett Hartley 3 4
Matt Prater 5 3
Jay Feely 1 4
Nate Kaeding 3 3
Shaun Suisham 3 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Bengals 1 3 2
Eagles 1 2 3
Broncos 1 2 3
Panthers 0 2 5
49ers 0 5 1

Bumps, Bruises and Bow-outs

Mark Sanchez (NYJ) - Sprained knee
Antwaan Randle El (WAS) - Sprained shoulder
Matt Schaub (HOU) - Separated shoulder
Brett Favre (MIN) - Dashed hopes of immediate Sainthood
Tom Brady (NE) - Arm injury

That was delightfully low and makes me wonder who I have missed. Unfortunately, MIN MLB E.J. Henderson suffered what appeared to be a catastrophic break to his right leg in the night game.

Well, it has been a while

Michael Vick had his first touchdown playing for the Eagles when he was in Atlanta this week and he was cheered by many fans in attendance. It was an emotional return for Vick who contemplated making a Lambeau Leap after he ran in a score. Instead he decided to throw the ball into the stands.

He forgot that there is a net to stop field goals and extra point attempts. Hey - it had been almost three years since his last touchdown...

On the plus side the career leapfrogging was local

LaDainian Tomlinson played in Cleveland this weekend and entered the record books for rushing yardage again. He replaced Jim Brown as the 8th best of all-time with 12,312 yards and gave him a salute when it happened as Mr. Brown was in attendance. Tomlinson has also reached 150 career touchdowns faster than any NFL player since Emmitt Smith required 160 games to reach the mark and Jerry Rice needed 167 games. Tomlinson just did it in only his 137th game.

The Rich get richer and the rest just stays muddy

Though it seemed for a time unlikely to happen, once again NFL history was made by reaching the 13th week of the season and there are still two undefeated teams. The Colts and Saints remain well ahead with 12-0 marks and if nothing else, both have a chance to go undefeated. And get this, if both were to reach the Super Bowl undefeated it would mean that snobby group of Dolphins would have to share their perfect season with another team. And where is the Super Bowl played at this year? In Miami of course - how perfect is that?

The rest of the playoffs really only became less clear this week.

The Bengals and Chargers both won and at 9-3 are looking in good shape. But the Patriots just lost again and their lofty 7-5 record is only one game ahead of the Dolphins and the Jets. The AFC East is going to get worse before anyone clinches there. The Steelers just lost at home to the Raiders which alone should disqualify them from postseason play. The Ravens have a chance to go one up tonight against the Packers. Denver (8-4) is back in the picture with two straight wins and the Jaguars (7-5) are also contenders. The wildcard race in the AFC will be determined by the bloodletting in the AFC East.

In the NFC, the Cowboys lost and are tied with the Eagles at 8-4. Dallas has started the annual ritual of implosion for December and the Giants are now only one game back with the tie breaker over Dallas. The Vikings were slapped around in Arizona but at 10-2 are still probably locks for the #2 seed but not the #1 seed. The Packers could be as good as 8-4 after tonight. As it stands, the NFC playoffs will most probably be the Cardinals, Saints and Vikings as division winners and the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants producing one division winner and probably two wild cards. The other wild card would end up with the Packers.

Each week the two undefeated teams take turns looking like they are going to lose only to save themselves right at the end. Good drama and good fantasy points.

10 Random Thoughts

1. Antonio Gates (8-167) and Jason Witten (14-156) both come off career highs and gained more yards than any other receiver besides Wes Welker who also had 167 yards on ten catches. The amazing part is that all three gained more than any one else in their position and yet none of them scored. And in particular, Jason Witten has chugged along like some relatively mediocre tight end this year after leading the league in 2008. He still has only one score so far but had 19 catches for 263 yards over the last two games. If this is a sign of what to expect in December, Witten may reclaim some of that lost ground.

2. The six week scoring streak of Laurence Maroney ended when he only produced 41 yards on 13 carries in Miami. Sammy Morris had nine runs for 40 yards just to drain all value from the Patriots backfield. Seems the Patriots offense has deteriorated into the same muddled backfield sharing an ever-changing ratio of rushing attempts. Tom Brady gets a little more banged up each week while spending the entire game looking for Moss deep and settling for Wes Welker over the middle. Welker already has 95 catches with four games left to play. Not only does that dwarf all other receivers, remember back at the first of the season WHEN HE MISSED TWO GAMES. He is running right at a pace that would result in him tying Marvin Harrison's NFL record 143 receptions on the year. Even though HE MISSED TWO GAMES. At what point do you think the defense starts to notice him? Eighth catch? Tenth? Welker had ten catches in Miami - no other Patriot receiver had more than two. There were only 19 completions.

3. I won't spend much time on this worn-out soap box but the Vikings went to Arizona and Adrian Peterson had eight carries in the first half. The consummate workhorse back only had 13 carries for 19 yards against the Cardinals? How can he ever get into any rhythm with such sporadic use? They did give him six catches for 46 yards but now he is a receiver? All that passing may have been fun rolling up the score on bad teams visiting Minnesota but come playoff time, wouldn't it be nice to have a dominating running game again?

4. I looked it up and in the past the Colts would rest players in weeks 15 and 16 in a similar situation to what they currently have in the AFC. Plus - in week 16 this year they face the Jets. All I know is that I am looking at Reggie Wayne on a bunch of my rosters and wondering if I dare play him in a game he may be rested and will be escorted by Darrelle Revis anyway. And now that the Vikings have lost again, makes you wonder about the Saints and their motivation in week 16. But I hold onto the one dream - two undefeated teams ending the season. That would save us all, even though I am pretty much just thinking of my teams right now. Been happy with owning Joseph Addai on most of my teams. Just don't leave me when I need you most, Jo-Jo.

5. The thing I like about late season games is that there is a far lower incidence of little known players popping up with big games and mostly just the studs are the ones that deliver, particularly with wideouts. Brandon Marshall (7-94, TD), Calvin Johnson (6-123, TD), Chad Ochocinco (9-137, TD), Andre Johnson (7-99, TD) and Roddy White (9-104, TD) were not only highly productive this week, but no other wide receivers on their teams had anything remotely close to that level of production. December is start your studs month. Live by it and resist getting cute playing matchups.

6. Did you ever get the feeling that the Raiders actually have a decent NFL team, one that could win a lot of games only no one knows how to put it together? Like back when you were a kid and got the erector set with electric motors and all that great complicated stuff you could build. Only you never did more than make rudimentary cars and psuedo-kung fu stars to throw at your brother. How else can anyone explain how a franchise mired in dysfunction and poor management can beat the Eagles, Bengals and Steelers? Bruce Gradkowski just threw for 308 yards and three scores in Pittsburgh. This is Twilight Zone stuff.

7. Speaking of Oakland, and we so rarely do, are we to consider Darren McFadden along with the other great busts in the position? This is his second season and so far he has 72 carries for 230 yards and one touchdown. He is 6'2 and 210 so he has the size for all sorts of work - why is it that the Raiders never use him more than a dozen times per game if that? Just seems like a gigantic waste of money like JaMarcus Russell or Darrius Heyward-Bey.

8. Nothing this season has changed my mind that we are witnessing the death of the NFL running back. At least as we once knew it. Granted there were seven runners with more than 100 yards this week. But there were only nine players with more than 20 carries that signals a full-time workload. In fantasy terms, we are going from a running back league to a quarterback league. We just had nine quarterbacks who passed for 300+ yards. I'll total it up at the end of the year but I can tell you already - the NFL is into a pass-happy era and yet spreading the ball around more than ever. Sign of the times - of the seven runners who topped 100 rushing yards on Sunday, only two had a touchdown.

9. I've been analyzing the NFL closely for about 15 years now and along the way I not only learned rules of thumb but come to appreciate even more when exceptions happen. One major exception happened this year. Tight ends usually break out in their second season with some tease during their first year. Vernon Davis was a bust of major proportions when he was drafted with the 1.06 pick in 2006 and then did little more than disappoint and fall short of all expectations in those first three years. Then this summer we heard good things for the fourth straight summer and decided to not get burned for the fourth time. And suddenly Davis is being used correctly, extensively and highly productively. He already has ten receiving touchdowns - more than any other NFL player. He's an undeniable stud. And yet how many teams in your league owned him at one time only to throw him away?

10. My favorite "someone finally woke up" wide receiver has to be Robert Meachem who was drafted with the 1.27 pick in 2007. He never played that first year due to injury and falling behind in learning the offense. But he was drafted by one of the more prolific passing offenses. Last year was great expectations all over again - and nothing. He had three scores and two decent games but was phased out of the offense. This year looked about the same through week four but then he had 70 yards and a score in week six. But then he was blanked in week seven and held to 48 yards in week eight. And then, it happened. Sure, Lance Moore being injured helped open the door but Meachem has scored in each of the last five games including two against the Buccaneers on his only two catches. Playing in Washington this week, he had a career best eight receptions for 142 yards and a score to lead the team. Meachem is scoring on long bombs and short strikes over the middle. He's delivering on that potential of 2007. And guaranteed that guy who owns him in your league is smiling because he grabbed him off the waiver wire.

Huddle Player of the Week

Louis Murphy - Tell me you saw this one coming. Being a Raiders wide receiver has been an NFL equivalent of snowplow driver in Siberia. You go out, you do your job and no one sees you or has any idea of what you did. Murphy suffered through all the JaMarcus Russell games where he would go out for a pass and just keep running until the crowd groaned. But on Sunday with Bruce Gradkowski, Murphy not only had 128 yards on four catches with two touchdowns to lead all NFL wide receivers, he did in in Pittsburgh and he won the game with an 11-yard touchdown catch with only eight seconds left to play. Granted - probably no one started him in the entire world. But we should have.

Salute!

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

Comedy Yards TDs Tragedy Yards TDs
QB Bruce Gradkowski 328 3 QB Jay Cutler 143 1
RB Jerome Harrison 97 2 RB Adrian Peterson 59 0
RB Leonard Weaver 96 1 RB Laurence Maroney 49 0
WR Louis Murphy 128 2 WR Reggie Wayne 48 0
WR Devin Thomas 100 2 WR Vincent Jackson 54 0
WR Sam Aiken 81 1 WR Terrell Owens 31 0
PK Garrett Hartley 3 XP 4 FG PK Stephen Gostowski 3 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 140

Huddle Fantasy Points = 35

Sunday's Couch Commentary

NYJ 19, BUF 13 It was a field goal lover's dream, if in fact such a person existed. And they don't. Sorry, Canada. We'll do better next time.
DEN 44, KC 13 Yippee! Great game for McDaniels. Now say hello to my little friend. His name is Peyton. At Indy no less.
HOU 18, JAC 23 Other than Andre Johnson (7-99, TD) no one did anything right in this game. Fantasy wasteland.
TEN 17, IND 27 Manning only had 1 TD but Addai scored twice and Wayne did almost nothing. Even Johnson did not rush for over 125 yards and killed his streak.
DET 13, CIN 23 Perfect game. Calvin and Chad both big stats, Kevin and Cedric both solid efforts. Granted Palmer was a disappointment but at least we know Benson is healthy again since he had 36 carries.
STL 9, CHI 17 At least Matt Forte scored and almost had 3.9 YPC. There were only two TDs in this game. Thanks for nothing, Chicago. It was the Rams visiting with Kyle Boller. 17 points? Really?
TB 6, CAR 16 Okay, so now the STL-CHI game looks better. No DeAngelo meant 120 yards and a score for Stewart and Josh Freeman set a personal best with five interceptions. And yet - only 16 points. Wow.
PHI 34, ATL 7 The Eagles pounded the injury depleted Falcons who still managed to get 9-104 and one score for Roddy White using only Chris Redman. Eagles won big and yet had no big scoring players. Vick was back in the hood that finally was met with cheers once the Falcons realized the game and the season was over.
SD 30, CLE 23 The Chargers won but how could they let Quinn throw 271 yards and 3 TDs? Browns last four games scored 23, 7, 37 and 0 points. Bit of wiggle room there. But Chargers are on 7 game win streak.
SF 17, SEA 20 Okay here is the deal. If you wanted to throw every down, why did you get rid of Mike Martz? This game symbolizes the official death of smashmouth football. I bet Singletary drinks hot tea with his pinkie out.
DAL 24, NYG 31 Al least the annual December crash and burn is producing decent fantasy points from the Cowboys and Jason Witten lives. When you let Brandon Jacobs who weighs 264 pounds run 74 yards untouched to score a touchdown, you just do not deserve to win. And he was the only one talking smack too.
MIN 17, ARI 30 Apparently there is a difference between playing at home against soft teams or going to play in Arizona. The Cards crushed the Vikes every way possible. Lord Favre threw two interceptions and could have had more and really sort of ruined the whole "playing better than any QB in the history of the universe" as espoused by the sports media announcers. On the plus side - no more worrying about tie breakers with the Saints.
NE 21, MIA 22 This was a definite contender for GOTW but there was only a total of three points scored in the fourth quarter. The Fins drove 74 yards and kicked a game winning field goal with a minute left to play. Brady's final drive lasted three plays when he threw an interception. Pats are 7-5. The only thing worse is that they still lead the AFC East.

Game-o-the-week

We have been treated to some really great games in the recent weeks and then comes along week 13. And as happens on a rare occasion, there was no way to name just one game as GOTW. There were two games that had major implications in the NFL and in fantasy football that were just jaw-dropping emotional roller coasters. This was a great week to have the Sunday NFL ticket. It's a two-way tie for GOTW and a proud day to be an NFL fan.

GAME-O-THE-WEEK #1

Saints 33, Redskins 30

If any game defines ridiculous, it was this one. First off, the Redskins not only have no offense, they are down to only Rock Cartwright as running back to go along with a non-existent passing game. And so to much surprise, the Redskins went up 10-0 on the Saints and were going to go into the halftime with a 17-10 lead but Drew Brees threw an interception right at the end of the quarter. As Kareem Moore was returning it, Robert Meachem just grabbed the ball out of his hands and then ran 44 yards for a touchdown the other way. Wow. Just wow. Heads up play by Meachem and not a Hallmark moment by Moore. Tied score at halftime. See - not to worry.

But in the third quarter, the Skins kicked a field goal and got a second touchdown from Devin Thomas (note to self - check waiver wire for Thomas). They held the 27-17 lead and all the Saints could do was get a field goal when their drive stalled at the WAS 8-yard line at the end of the third quarter. 27-20 and you had to know that all is well, the Saints were just making this win a little more dramatic than the others.

And yet in the early fourth quarter, the Skins kicked another field goal to make it 30-20. The Saints responded with another drive that stalled out and drew to within seven points when they settled for a field goal. WIth 6:56 left to play, the Saints still trailed 23-30. This could not be the week, could it? The Redskins? Really? All the Saints had to do was to stop the Redskins and get the ball back and yet...

The Skins returned the kickoff to their 41-yard line. Then four straight completions reach the NO 16-yard line with 4:32 and they started milking the clock. After six straight runs had brought the clock to under two minutes, the Redskins settled for the field goal that would... wait... what? Shaun Suisham missed a 23 yard field goal wide right. That's only three yards farther back than an extra point. The Saints took over with 1:52 left to play down by seven points on their own 20-yard line.

Brees reached the 35-yard line with a pass to Devery Henderson. Two two plays later it's Robert Meachem for a 12 yard gain to the NO-47 yard line with 1:27 left to play. The next play saw the streaking Meachem split the middle seam and score a touchdown with 1:13 left to play for the tie, 30-30.

The Skins had a chance to score but threw an interception with 35 seconds left and the Saints took over near mid-field. Five plays from the Was 40-yard line, Garrett Hartley missed a 58-yard field goal as regulation ended.

The Skins took the kickoff in overtime but three plays later Mike Sellers was hit and lost the fumble when the play was challenged and reversed. Starting on the WAS 45-yard line, the Saints held on for seven plays to reach the one yard line where Hartley made his 18-yard field goal to win the game. A heartbreaker for the Redskins fans in their own stadium and almost certainly the last time Shaun Suisham wears a Redskins helmet other than a Halloween party.

GAME-O-THE-WEEK #2

Raiders 27, Steelers 24

Now I watch a lot of football. A lot. NFL Sunday ticket, Super Fan package, multiple TV's, etc. Not a lot gets by me at the time and I can always review any game later. This game got by me. I watched the Saints conclusion. I had no idea what was brewing in this game. This was a meeting between a desperate Steelers team who was 4-1 at home against a Raiders team that was 1-4 on the road. You know, Super Bowl champions versus the visiting Raiders. You half expect the Oakland players to start fighting among themselves during actual plays.

At half time it was 10-6 in favor of the Steelers who obviously had a grasp on how meaningless and easy the game would be. The third quarter had no scoring. 10-6 entering the fourth quarter. Me? Watching the Saints game. The Colts and Bengals and Eagles and Chargers and interesting teams that were scoring. I guess I looked away. How could you blame me? Even the familia de Roethlisbergers were probably no longer watching.

The fourth quarter starts with a Pittsburgh drive stalling out and Jeff Reed missing a 53 yard field goal. That gives the Raiders the ball on their own 43-yard line and on 4th-and-one, they go for it because they are the Raiders and what heck? They make it when Bruce Gradkowski runs up the middle for two yards. On third and three, Gradkowski runs for eight yards and a first down. Three more plays gain 14 more yards and suddenly Gradkowski find Chaz Schilens for a 17-yard touchdown. And a 13-10 lead in Oakland with only 8:27 left to play. You'd think that was victory enough. You'd be wrong.

The Steelers wasted no time. They returned the kick to the 40 yard line and on first down, Santonio Holmes caught an 57-yard pass that ended on the OAK 3-yard line. Next play was Rashard Mendenhall scoring. Whole thing took 15 seconds off the clock and the Steelers were leading 17-13.

Raiders get the ball with 7:06 left on their own 16-yard line and on third and one, Gradkowski finds Louis Murphy for a 75-yard touchdown! Boom! 5:42 left in the game and the Raiders lead 20-17. The game has almost no scoring in it and then in the fourth quarter, there are three touchdowns scored in the matter of six plays. What do you mean you had to use the restroom?

Taking over on their own 20-yard line, Roethlisberger leads the team to the OAK 11-yard line where he finds Hines Ward for a touchdown with two minutes left to play for a 24-20 lead. Whew. How silly was all that? Took seven plays. In the matter of 13 plays, there had been four touchdowns scored. There were people who went to relieve themselves of some beer at 10-6 and it was 24-20 before they got back to their seats.

The Raiders took over on their own 12-yard line with 1:48 left to play in Pittsburgh down by four points. The Raiders would usually throw in the towel at this point and that's assuming they had any idea where the towel was or who was supposed to throw it. On third and ten from the OAK 29-yard line with 1:29 left to play, Gradkowski hits Todd Watkins for a first down on the OAK 41-yard line. Two plays later, he connects with Murphy for 19 yards to the PIT 40-yard line with 41 seconds to play. Two plays later and it is Murphy again for 23 yards to the PIT 17-yard line with 27 seconds left. On second down and ten with 15 seconds left to play, Gradkowski finds Murphy for the touchdown and win.

The world champs were punked by the Raiders who scored 21 points in the fourth quarter in Pittsburgh. Merry Christmas Raider fans everywhere. And to all Steelers a good night.

And a quick thanks to all veterans for their service and sacrifice on Pearl Harbor Day.

Now get back to work...

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