Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
by Patrick Laverty
The first half of the 2004 NFL season is in the books, and that means we've wrapped up the inaugural Football Outsiders Loser League Contest. 148 players signed up and after 9 weeks one Loser stands above all. "Mark Stinks" from Chicago, Illinois took home the grand prize, a copy of the upcoming 2005 preseason annual written by Football Outsiders (more details on this soon). Mark Stinks surged out with impressive fourth and seventh place finishes in the first two weeks and then held on for the full season win with 368 points, six more than second place finisher Fife Rampage from across the pond in Glenrothes, Scotland. Mark Stinks can attribute his standing to the efforts of Loser League All Stars Kyle Boller, Josh Scobee and Eddie George. You can find all the results of the first half of the year here.
Team accolades are nice, but which NFL player deserves the coveted title of Loser League MVP? That would be Ike Hilliard of the New York Giants. Ike amassed an impressive 39 points in nine weeks. He was very consistent and only received the penalty for not making two receptions once. His most valuable week was week 8 when he put up a big zero. Hilliard not only had two receptions for a total of 8 yards, but his long reception of the day went for 11 yards, which meant the second reception lost yardage. Way to help the team, Ike. A close second was Troy Edwards of Jacksonville who racked up 41 points on the season.
As for individual week low scoring by the players, we had a three-way tie for that lead with -2 for Jay Fiedler in Week 1, Todd Peterson in Week 3 and Kyle Boller in Week 5. Nice job, guys.
Let's take a look at our first half all star team:
QB: Kyle Boller, BAL 69
RB: Kevan Barlow, SF 90
RB: Eddie George, DAL 69
WR: Ike Hilliard, NYG 39
WR: Troy Edwards, JAC 41
K: John Kasay, CAR 43
If you'd chosen these players, you'd be running away with the Loser League title with a total of 351 points on the season. In the second half, look for more of the same. I would highly recommend taking Kyle Boller and Josh McCown. Both figure to have a rough second half. Don't fall into the Miami revolving QB trap, as you'll be sure to catch the penalty some weeks when you have the wrong guy. My surprise pick that won't hurt you is Marc Bulger. At running back, look for old. Eddie George and Emmitt Smith are very safe picks. For my unconventional pick, I like Duce Staley. He racks up some yardage, always gets his 8 carries, but the touchdowns are reserved for the Bus. At wide receiver, you can do worse than Peerless Price and Dez White. Michael Vick may be turning it around, but somehow these guys manage to stay out of the end zone. Its not that easy to find an unconventional pick at WR, as the guys that you would think would suck actually do. So I'll add Amani Toomer, teammate of MVP Hilliard, as another possible consideration. Finally, for your kicker, I like Kasay and Edinger this year. Neil Rackers is a frequent pick in Football Outsiders private Loser League action, but he's not in the top two for missing field goals this year. Martin Grammatica is making a late charge as well, and I may be adding him to my team. There are some traps to look out for at kicker. You have your pick of three Miami kickers. Who knows who's going to be kicking for them. It could even be Wes Welker again! And avoid anyone named Ola Kimrin. If you have a weekly draft, he could be a great pick, but when you have to stick with him and John Hall is waiting in the wings, go for the sure thing.
On the flip side, there are a number of guys who would have been worse than just taking the 135 point full season penalty. Some of the bad choices you could have made would have obviously included Duante Culpepper and his 223 points. If he's on your regular fantasy team, you're probably doing pretty well. Peyton Manning (207) and Priest Holmes (203) would have done some real damage to your championship hopes. Bethel Johnson and Tim Dwight were also surprisingly poor picks, as they tallied more points than the penalty.
One last thing to note, as did many of our readers early on, are some of the colorful names that people chose for their Loser League teams. Some of my favorites are the Joe Namath/Suzy Kolber inspired "I Wanna Kiss You", and the very definition of loser, "Winger". My wife is a big fan of the team named "More Cowbell", a reference to a Saturday Night Live skit where Christopher Walken is the producer on Blue Oyster Cult's song "Don't Fear the Reaper" and the only point he keeps making is how the song needs "More Cowbell"! There's the Karate Kid inspired "Cobra Kai" and the very loser league-ish "First and Seventy-Five". Most notable though is the team from Winnipeg, Canada, "Stack of Porn," who very obviously made an attempt to come in last place. In true loser fashion, even failed at that.
The second half of the Loser League season lasts from Week 10 through Week 17 and you can pick your team right here. We've changed the rosters of available players, so you too can feel the joy of owning Frisman Jackson. Signups for Loser League Part II last through Saturday, November 13. You'll also find a few questions at the end of the signup to help us tweak Football Outsiders and make the site even better, plus a place for you to suggest some early season nominees for the Second Annual Football Outsiders Awards. Do us a favor and fill that stuff out too.