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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 17
David Dorey
December 28, 2009
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Donovan McNabb 351 3
Tom Brady 267 4
Kurt Warner 313 2
Matt Ryan 250 3
Matt Schaub 286 2
Running Backs Yards TD
Jonathan Stewart 222 1
Darren Sproles 61 3
Chris Johnson 179 1
Brandon Jackson 39 3
Ryan Grant 97 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Roddy White 139 2
Randy Moss 45 3
Jabar Gaffney 69 2
Santonio Holmes 86 1
Jacoby Jones 79 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Brent Celek 121 1
Todd Heap 37 2
Antonio Gates 74 1
Jason Witten 117 0
Zach Miller 110 0
Placekickers XP FG
Mason Crosby 6 3
David Akers 3 3
John Kasay 5 2
Jeff Reed 2 3
Phil Dawson 2 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Jets 1 2 3
Falcons 1 2 3
49ers 0 2 6
Cardinals 0 4 4
Panthers 4 4 0

Bumps, Bruises and Bow-outs

Steve Smith (CAR) - Broken arm
Matt Bryant (ATL) - Hamstring strain
Tony Gonzalez (ATL) - Calf injury
Julius Jones (SEA) - Sprained ankle
Ricky Williams (MIA) - Sprained shoulder
Marcedes Lewis (JAC) - Concussion
Pierre Thomas (NO) - Bruised ribs

I disagree... vehemently

The Colts led the visiting Jets15-10 after one series in the third quarter and then the coaches opted to pull Manning and go with Curtis Painter at quarterback for the rest of the game. After one "three-and-out" , Painter took over again on his own 20-yard line. He was hit, fumbled and the Jets recovered for a score. The only time that Painter did not have "three-and-out" was when he threw an interception on a second down. He never gained a first down.

The Jets went on to win 29-15. The Colts opted to protect their star players for the playoff run as so often happens in the NFL this time of year. How could anyone blame them? Well, I for one think it was an idiotic and sad move. If Peyton Manning would take off his company hat, I bet he would agree judging by the pained look on his face for the rest of the game. The Colts management sacrificed a perfect season on the premise that they may have prevented an injury in the final 20 plays or so of one game.

Sure, you want to be healthy for the playoffs. A Super Bowl is great (like the one they won a couple of years ago) and they have a new one every single year. A perfect team? There has been one and that was in a shorter season. The Colts had a chance to lay claim not to just the best season of the year but of all time. But it was thrown away.

Sure, Manning and company could have been hurt on the 20 or so remaining plays just as they could have in the entire first half. Or on every other play in the playoffs. I am not a fan of the Colts and I had no dogs in the fight thanks to my own personal Black Sunday last week. But as a fan of football, I cannot believe the chance for perfection, for something never done before in a 16 game season, would be thrown away on the chance that something bad could happen in the final 20 plays that had not happened in the 939 offensive plays run by the Colts this year.

I think it sullies the purity of the game. I can begrudgingly live with the Jets getting a free win that makes the AFC wildcard race potentially determined by a team that threw away a game. The Jets may get that next week too. But denying Manning and company - the players - a chance for perfection is something that should have been decided by those players, not stuffed suits. It's just treating the players as parts of a machine. And the goals of the Super Bowl and a perfect season are hardly mutually exclusive.

Shame on Bill Polian and HC Jim Caldwell for playing Corporate Football. Shame on them making Peyton Manning talk about "organizational philosophy" in the post game interview. I'll get off my soap box. I guess I should be thankful because my life just got a lot more free time.

After all, the only thing apparently worth watching is the Super Bowl.

ANd we get to see the space needle too? awesome!

The watch is on for Chris Johnson this week. He ended the game against the Chargers with 142 rushing yards and 37 receiving yards. That leaves him with 1872 rush yards and needing 128 yards to reach 2000. If he can run for 234 yards he would break Eric Dickerson's all-time record of 2105 rushing yards. Marshall Faulk holds the current record of 2429 total yards from scrimmage back in 1999. Johnson currently needs only 126 total yards to break Faulk's record.

I'm betting he'll get the 2000 and Faulk's record but 234 in a game is a lot - even against a Seattle team that has already given up for the season. You can be damn sure I will be watching this game and not the Colts at the Bills. Pffft...

winding down rather quickly

In just one week, the playoff picture just got much clearer.

In the AFC, the divisions are all done. The Colts and Chargers will take the #1 and #2 seeds. The Patriots and Bengals have won their divisions. The only possible thing to play for is which team gets the #3 and #4 seeds.

The AFC wildcard is going to be a wild one with the Broncos, Jets, Ravens, Texans and Steelers all 8-7. The Broncos host the Chiefs - scoot them into the wildcard secured category. The Jets may get another freebie from the Bengals this time and sneak in much to the dismay of the Ravens, Texans and/or Steelers.

In the NFC, The Saints, Vikings and Cardinals have won their divisions. The Eagles will either win the NFC East or get a wild card depending on next week in Dallas.

The Packers have secured a wild card and the Cowboys will do no worse than a wildcard.

Here is the problem now. The following games have no bearing on the playoffs and could have resting of players.

Colts at Bills
Chargers vs. Redskins
Cardinals vs Packers (both teams)
Saints at Panthers (only if MIN loses to CHI on Monday though)
Patriots at Texans (potentially if they do not care about #3 vs. #4 seed)
Bengals at Jets (potentially if they do not care about #3 vs. #4 seed)
Vikings vs Giants (only if MIN loses to CHI on Monday though)

This will become more clear after the Monday night game. But there is definitely a fear about using players from IND, SD and ARI since they have zero to win or lose. And very likely NE and CIN will not care much either. This could be one of the worse seasons for teams resting players in week 17 in many years. And leagues using the final week are really going to feel the pain.

10 Random Thoughts

1. Todd Heap has caught two touchdowns in both of the last two games. That begs the question - is he going to be a fantasy factor again? I'd have to lean towards no but that is only because I strongly believe the Ravens will have all new receivers next year. Derrick Mason will probably retire again. Kelley Washington and Mark Clayton are not going to get the job done so the Ravens need to grab the best free agent WR possible - Anquan Boldin? - and draft a hot shot out of college. Joe Flacco has done pretty well throwing 21 touchdowns this year with these receivers.

2. Something to remember for next year - the Panthers had one of the toughest rushing schedule in the entire NFL this year and yet have produced a top five rushing attack using the tandem of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. If they have an average or better rushing schedule in 2010, both guys could end up a bargain in drafts.

3. Why anyone drafts or starts a New England Patriot running back is beyond me. The Pats used four different backs this week and Sammy Morris (12-95, TD) was the best but can you rely on that? Laurence Maroney is having a career best year and now just gets five carries this week? Fred Taylor had 11 carries. They must just stand in a line on the sideline and wait their turn.

4. For the couple of people who bothered to write in last week and mention what an idiot I was for projecting a decent showing by Arian Foster, this week showed what could have been. Foster lost a fumble and was benched last week against the Rams. This week he ran for 97 yards on 19 carries and scored once in Miami. Ah, what could have been in St. Louis...

5. Jerome Harrison has carried the ball 73 times in the last two weeks. He gained 484 yards and apparently has gone back to being the primary back for at least one more week. Harrison's big game against the Chiefs led to him getting 39 carries for 148 yards against the visiting Raiders. But that was only 3.8 yards per carry at home against a bad rush defense. Let's see what he does against the Jaguars this week.

6. Playing wide receiver in the NFL is one of the toughest jobs to learn since it requires learning plays, running precise routes and gaining chemistry with the quarterback. Michael Crabtree did not show up and play until week seven but since then has caught at least three passes in every game. All but one had four or more catches. He had no training camp. What will he be like in 2010 with a complete offseason and preseason with the same quarterback who will be starting all year? Could be a nice surprise.

7. As of week 16, I hereby announce that the Redskins, Seahawks, Bills and surprisingly the Giants have apparently already started on their offseason planning and stopped playing actual NFL football. Come on - even the Rams and Lions are still sort of trying.

8. The Miami Dolphins are a run-first team and having lost Ronnie Brown, again, have needed to pass. That's sort of unfortunate since their set of wide receivers have not been exactly challenging the top ten. But something has quietly been happening. Chad Henne who was just another game manager struggling to produce more than 200 yards in a week has suddenly topped 300 yards in three of the four last games. That's Chad Henne - Mr. 300-yards. Granted he only had three touchdowns total in that time but when was the last time that the Fins had a passer throw for over 300 yards in three of four games?

9. After weeks of barely being able to play, Steven Jackson finally took a week off and it ends up that the Rams are not very good without him. Of course, no fantasy owner should ever have to pick between Kenneth Darby and Chris Obbonnaya. Come to think of it, no NFL team owner should have to either.

10. Everyone was disappointed when Beanie Wells started the season playing caddy for Tim Hightower and many of us owners settled back hoping that he would at least show up for the fantasy playoff weeks. Mission accomplished. In week 14 in San Francisco, Wells had 103 total yards and a touchdown. Then in Detroit, he scored again and had 123 total yards. This week was 93 yards and another touchdown. Granted - if Tim Hightower would just return to being the fullback he is we would have a new stud in the NFL but at least Wells finally earned his keep.

Huddle Player of the Week

Jonathan Stewart - Most teams that drafted Stewart probably only used him a few times this year or at least had their fingers crossed if they did rely on him since DeAngelo Williams has been the primary back. IN week 13, Williams sat out and Stewart ran for 120 yards and a touchdown. Last week Williams was injured and Stewart ended with 109 yards and a score. And this week, when you needed him most, Stewart took the full load for a career best 206 rushing yards and a score in New York. Timing is everything.

Salute!

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

Comedy Yards TDs Tragedy Yards TDs
QB Matt Moore 171 3 QB Peyton Manning 192 0
RB Lex Hilliard 86 2 RB Maurice Jones-Drew 88 0
RB Arian Foster 97 1 RB Ricky Williams 61 0
WR Jabar Gaffney 69 2 WR Mike Sims-Walker 19 0
WR Jacoby Jones 79 1 WR Reggie Wayne 33 0
WR Marty Booker 57 1 WR Brandon Marshall 39 0
PK Mason Crosby 6 XP 2 FG PK Josh Scobee 1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 123

Huddle Fantasy Points = 29

Sunday's Couch Commentary

SD 42, TEN 17 Starting to think the 11 game winning streak is not a fluke. Chris Johnson still kept pace but the Chargers have that "where are the Colts?" look in their eye again.
BAL 20, PIT 23 Very close game that BAL could have won if Mason could catch with his facemask or if the officials had not exclusively watched the Ravens on every play.
CAR 41, NYG 9 On behalf of every CAR fan I will say "where in the hell has this been all year?" The last two weeks Panthers look more like the Saints than the Saints have. Brandon Jacobs gained one yard on six carries for a career worst game. Seriously - where did these Panthers come from? And what ever happened to Jacobs anyway?
TB 20, NO 17 When TB returns a punt for a TD and Cadillac Williams runs for 129 yards you do not deserve to win. Garrett Hartley missed a 37-yard FG at end of regulation to let this happen. Okay, Saints are mortals now but losing to TB? Really?
JAC 7, NE 35 Pats clinch title when MJD is not enough to win the game for the Jaguars. NE is back to using 4 RBs in the same game while Tom Brady kept throwing passes that said "come on, Randy, smile!"
HOU 27, MIA 20 Andre Johnson just became only the second player with back-to-back seasons of 1500 receiving yards (with Marvin Harrison). This was a great game with Fins falling short in their comeback bid in part because Ricky finally broke down.
SEA 10, GB 48 Seahawks tossed in towel a week ago. This game was so easy that Packers scored five rushing touchdowns.
OAK 9, CLE 23 Jerome Harrison ran for 148 yards and a score and since you will remember the last two weeks, you'll be drafting him way too early next summer. CLE has three wins in a row. Stuff like that makes odds makers heads explode.
KC 10, CIN 17 This does not bode well for the Bengal's playoff chances. But CIN won ugly, own the division and Benson has a franchise record sixth game of 100+ rushing yards.
BUF 3, ATL 31 It was as if the Bills had no head coach and the offensive coordinator did not know what he was doing. Gonzo got hurt but everything else went right for ATL. Owens hit 1000 career receptions and even he did not care.
DET 6, SF 20 49ers won but only Gore did anything. By this point no teams have any respect for the Lions and are willing to sit on any lead knowing that they can win. That's just wrong, Everyone should score vs. DET. That is like an inalienable right.
STL 10, ARI 31 Warner passed for 313 yards and 2 TDs. How about doing that last week, KURT? Even Steven Jackson finally did not play because his arms and legs kept falling off when he was getting dressed. This was just a standard Rams-beatdown™.
NYJ 29, IND 15 Travesty. Makes me want to go take a shower.
DAL 17, WAS 0 Skins back to having zero offense while Jim Zorn perfects the "pretend to care" look on the sidelines while waiting to hear from his realtor about selling his house. Cowboys clinch a playoff spot thanks to the Giants sudden disinterest in playing professional football.

Game-o-the-week

Sort of a strange week since there were so many blowouts and not all were because of teams giving up or having no reason to play. We saw the last remaining unbeaten team fall when they callously spit in the face of honor allowed the Jets to win the game. The Saints have completely erased any sense of them being unbeaten as well. The best game ended up being the one that had plenty of playoff implications that will be more apparent after this week. The closest thing to a nail biter was the overtime game in New Orleans but ending 20-17 is hardly that fascinating.

DEN 27, PHI 30

This game was close in score but happened in a very weird way, The Eagles were already ahead 20-7 at the half and had scored on each of their possession except once when Donovan McNabb was sacked at the DEN 19-yard line and lost a fumble. The Broncos had one scoring drive and every other series was just three downs and then punt.

In the second half, the Broncos opened up with a field goal after McNabb threw an interception. But on the next series, McNabb drove the field and found Jason Avant for a 15-yard touchdown and a 27-10 lead.

The Broncos were getting much better on offense and reached the Eagles 40-yard line before losing an interception. The Eagles just went three and out. The Broncos took over on a short field after a bad punt and a penalty and hit Jabar Gaffney for a 7-yard touchdown pass with 1:48 left in the third quarter. At 27-17, the Broncos were closing the gap.

The next kickoff was fumbled and the Broncos got the ball right back on the PHI 16-yard line. Three players later, Kevin Moreno had a touchdown catch and the Broncos had suddenly drawn to within 27-24 with 16 minutes left to play.

But then there were six series - three from each team - with not one first down. It was not until the 9:48 mark in the fourth quarter that the Broncos took over and drove for a 46-yard Matt Prater field goal and a 27-27 tie with 6:11 left to play.

The Eagles reached midfield and had to punt with 3:07 left to play. The Broncos could not get a first down and punted with 1:50 left top play and DeSean Jackson returned the punt to the DEN 42-yard line. After a meaningless run by LeSean McCoy, McNabb hit Jeremy Maclin for a 27 yard gain once the play was challenged and the incompletion ruling was reversed. Then it was just three runs to drain the clock and David Akers kicked the game winner from 28 yards out.

Not greatly exciting and mostly just a bitter disappointment for Denver fans who were lulled into thinking they had a chance.

This was the big week in the fantasy world and Chris Johnson owners continued to reap the benefits even though no other top back had a big game. Roddy White and Randy Moss owners reaped big games if they lasted past what happened last week. This was a year that saw a tremendous amount of change at the running back position, the dominance of several good wideouts and a large number of great fantasy producers at quarterback. Outside of Chris Johnson, there was absolutely no player to own that guaranteed team success and even Johnson owners had to field a full team.

It was a year that every single week had changes with players stepping up or down, getting new starts or hitting the bench. It was a season that demanded you paid constant attention and upgraded your roster at every chance. There were no free rides in 2010 and champions had to earn their titles with showing up every week. Every single week mattered and with that was the fun and thrill and excitement of football.

Someone go tell that to the Colts.

Now get back to work...

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