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» Scramble for the Ball: Quarter Pole Projections

Mike and Tom weigh the chances of this year's class of receivers, running backs and tight ends who are on pace to break the magical 1,000-yard mark for the first time.

Loser League Midseason Report

by Ian Dembsky and Bill Barnwell

Ian: Howdy, and welcome to the preview article for the second half of this season's Loser League Contest. Before we look ahead, though, it's time to look back at the first half of the season to see which players were truly Loser-riffic!

At quarterback, it simply didn't get any better than Andrew Walter. In fact, it wasn't even close. The best three Loser quarterbacks of the first half were Walter (68), Brad Johnson (85), and J.P. Losman (102). Of course, virtually no one had Walter on their team, since Aaron Brooks appeared to be the man at the start of the season. For those of you who took Brad Johnson, however, that turned out to be an excellent choice.

At running back, the sad but true story of the Buccaneers continues. Cadillac Williams led the other backs in putridity with a measly 72 points for the first half. Never a penalty, and rarely a touchdown helped make his first half of the loser season a great one. Close behind Cadillac was Jamal Lewis, who finished with 76 total points. Despite his recent resurgence, he was simply awful early on. His Week 4 through 6 scores of three, four and four points were an impressive string of poor performances. The third-worst running back of the first half was another player most people didn't bother to draft, and that was Maurice Morris. Shaun Alexander's injury turned Morris into fantasy gold, despite Morris' first two weeks in which he scored 17 and 19 Loser points (with penalty).

At wide receiver, the best of the worst was Eric Moulds, who topped five points only three times (once by pulling penalty in his bye week) en route to only 53 total first-half points. Tied for second at 57 points were Michael Jenkins, who probably would have had many more points if he could hang onto more Vick passes, and Wes Welker, who came out of nowhere to boast an amazingly consistent performance, with weekly scores of 6, 4, 5, 5, 7, 5, 3, 15 (bye week) and 7.

At kicker, it simply didn't get better (worse?) than Matt Bryant, despite his heroic 62-yarder to help Tampa Bay beat the horrifically unlucky Eagles. Not only did Bryant have only nine field goal chances, but he missed three of them! That he made all 12 extra point attempts saves this from being a Loser performance of legendary status. Tied for the second-worst kicker spot are Kris Brown and Mike Nugent, both of whom struggled to score points behind inconsistent offenses.

"Victory"

Bill: We now must give our utmost respect to Daniel Drackley and the Minnesota Viqueens, who rode J.P. Losman, Eric Moulds, and Jamal Lewis to 335 points and the title. As the winner of the Loser League's first half, he will receive a copy of Pro Football Prospectus 2007, free admission to the Football Outsiders Hall of Infamy Exhibit (subject to museum opening, 2034), and, if he's ever in a Chipotle with a Football Outsiders staff writer, we'd be hard-pressed to not buy him a burrito. We'd probably find a way, but there would be hard pressing before that, I can assure you.

As for the Scramble writers, well, me and Ian have had a back-and-forth thing going on this season. I'm winning when it comes to Best Bets, but he's pretty much locked up the Baltimore Ravens jersey we actually wagered on before the season started; advantage by a large margin, Ian. Fortunately, I am perfectly acceptable with useless, hollow victories, like the one I enjoyed in the first half of this year's Loser League, where STEVE HOLT! beat Destined For the XFL2, 384-415. For this, I owe the utmost to Eric Moulds, Reuben Droughns (with a proxy pound for LeCharles Bentley and Maurice Carthon), and Edgerrin James, while Robbie Gould gets nothing but scorn for being the perfect kicker throughout Weeks 1-9. Ian, on the other hand, had a team that oscillated wildly from week to week; despite winning Week 5 with a Loser League season-low 10 points. Of course, when you get a 73 the next week and nearly achieve all-penalty status, that is going to happen. Ian now has beef with Laveranues Coles, Chad Pennington, and Chester Taylor, but he'll still be buddies with Droughns and Rob Bironas. Mmm. .. fungibility.

All of the results from the first half are here.

Second Half Preview

Bill: So now, we have a second half to play for. Nine weeks in, and we have new heroes with names like "Gradkowski" and "Gostkowski" and "GEdgekowski". Men for whom two catches are a goal and three catches are a sin. For whom the goalposts are an obstacle, not a guide. Sure, kids tonight might not go to sleep dreaming of Mike Nugent shanking extra points and Reggie Bush earning negative rushing points. But you and I do. Ian now previews the grandeur awaiting all of us in the second half:

Ian: Quarterback: First of all, some names to avoid. I'd stay away from Steve McNair, as he has both the potential to put up solid numbers on any given week and a storied injury history with Kyle Boller waiting in the wings. I'd stay away from any Oakland quarterbacks; who knows who'll be taking snaps as the season progresses? I also think that, although he's tempting, Brad Johnson is likely a bad start or two away from heading for the bench. He's breaking down before our eyes (136 yards and an interception at San Francisco?), and before long the Vikings may begin to look at what they have in Tarvaris Jackson. Mark Brunell may also be holding Jason Campbell's clipboard before too long.

As far as who to pick, my money for the best Loser quarterback of the second half is -- and it just kills me to say this -- Bruce Gradkowski. Five of the remaining tilts for Tampa Bay are on the road, including Pittsburgh, Chicago and Cleveland in December, when Tampa's historically struggled in the cold. Gruden also recently gave a strong vote of confidence to Gradkowski, while indicating that he will start for the rest of the season, regardless of growing pains. During the weeks when Joey Galloway disappears (which happens to coincide with every week he's been on my active fantasy roster this season), Gradkowski can put up some lovely low scores.

Other players I anticipate having nice Loser League second halves: Alex Smith, who seems to have seriously regressed since the start of the season; Joey Harrington, who looks to hold off Culpepper until next year; Philip Rivers is a nice dark-horse candidate, simply because the Chargers don't need to throw the ball most weeks.

If you're feeling risky, some sleeper picks include Aaron Brooks and Jason Campbell, both of whom could be leading their teams, and doing it poorly, relatively soon. I know I said to avoid Oakland QBs earlier, but sometimes you gotta play risk/reward. Hey, there's always the possibility of taking Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter as your two QBs... with no more bye weeks, new strategies are possible.

Running back: There are a number of top-quality loser running backs available, but none of them are higher on my list than Reuben Droughns. Cleveland changed offensive coordinators, and Droughns responded with 33 carries for 125 yards, so everything's great, right? Well, that came against the worst run defense in the NFL (the Jets), and next week it was back to reality with a three-point showing against San Diego. The occasional good game will keep Reuben in a starting role, but the mostly bad games will make him a reliable Loser League performer.

Also near the top of the list is Cadillac Williams of Tampa Bay. He's not going anywhere both in terms of his role with the team, as well as in terms of his running on the field. He and LaMont Jordan have been two of the season's biggest fantasy busts.

My third recommendation at running back is Thomas Jones. The Bears will always remain committed to the run, which means that drawing penalty is extremely unlikely. Jones doesn't find the end zone too often though, and with the emergence of Cedric Benson as part of a committee, Jones is unlikely to have many big games in the second half of the season.

Some names I'd prefer to avoid include DeShaun Foster, who could lose carries and eventually his starting role to DeAngelo Williams, and Edgerrin James, who should benefit from the return of Larry Fitzgerald and a more experienced Matt Leinart to help keep defenses honest.

Wide Receiver: With wide receivers, it's all about finding those "possession receivers" who'll catch a few balls a game for first downs, but do little else. A prime example of that in the first half has been Eric Moulds. As you saw above, he had a phenomenal first half as an outlet receiver for David Carr, and there's no reason to think that won't continue.

One of the true surprises of the Loser League first half that I'm guessing no one actually had on their team is Wes Welker. Amazingly, like Eric Moulds, Welker failed to pull a penalty, while scoring only one touchdown (in a game where he only had 14 yards receiving, no less). With Joey Harrington continuing to attempt a flurry of pass attempts, I see no reason why Welker can't continue his run at Loser excellence.

My third choice at wideout is someone who I was unfortunately pimping before the season began as a starting fantasy receiver, and that's Derrick Mason. He has no touchdowns on the season, and he seems to be the fourth option to score on the Ravens behind the running backs, Heap and Mark Clayton. He's only pulled penalty once, and that was when McNair got a concussion and Kyle Boller took over. McNair looks to be the starter as long as he's capable, which means Mason should get his touches and keep Loser Leaguers happy.

I'd stay away from Reche Caldwell of the Patriots. He's been loser gold in the first half, but Chad Jackson is finally seeing the field, and between Gabriel, Jackson, Brown and the tight ends it's tough to predict when Caldwell will pull penalty. Michael Jenkins is also someone to avoid. Despite his pulling in only a few catches a game, Vick is airing it out more and likes to lob the ball to Jenkins in the endzone. Don't be surprised if you get a one-catch, one-touchdown performance from him on a given week.

Kicker: Surprisingly, the kicker that hit the best field goal of the season is probably your best choice for a Loser League kicker. Matt Bryant is kicking for an offense that simply can't move the ball well. Factor in all the road games, many in cold climates, and it's hard to pass on him as one of your kicking choices.

For your other choice, why stray from Mike Nugent? He's missed three of his ten field goal attempts this season, and an extra point for good measure. Chad Pennington is regressing lately, as is the entire Jets offense.

One tempting kicker I'd prefer to avoid is Sebastian Janikowski. When Aaron Brooks finally takes over the offense again, I expect them to get better, but not very good. Which will mean the same low number of touchdowns, but more field goal attempts, and Janikowski is a very good kicker who's 9-for-10 on the season.

I Look Like A Wedding Cake!

Bill: Finally, it's time to name a Loser League MVP. Ian has come down on the side of Andrew Walter; undoubtedly, he sucks, but not many people actually selected him, either. It'd be like naming a congressional page as the MVP of the Democratic campaign; sure, he may have helped, but it's beside the point. Furthermore, who doesn't like beating a dead horse? My Loser League MVP is Mike Nugent. The Nuge would have been the low scorer for kickers by a whopping nine points if it wasn't for his bye last week -- while he hasn't matched the -3 he started the season with, his line of -3, 5, 4, 4, 0, 8, 7, 5, and the aforementioned 15 have made him a viable Loser League kicker every single week of the season -- it's hard to find another player you can say that about short maybe Wes Welker, who hasn't scored below a 3 or above a 7 all season. I mean, even Matt Bryant had an 11 one week...

Click here to review the Loser League rules.
Click here to go straight to signup for Loser League Part II.

Comments

1
by Diane (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:17am

Justin Fargas, when selected for the 2nd half league, don't show up on the final roster.

Is he invisible? Is that why he is a Loser?

2
by asg (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:36am

There are definitely problems with the selection -- my 2nd QB and kicker didn't register on the summary.

3
by turbohapy (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:39am

Gradkowski (2nd QB) didn't show up on mine.

4
by admin :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 2:18am

I think the problem is that new players in the system (i.e. guys not in Part I) are not showing up in the final listing of your team. They are in there in the database, so you have them, but we forgot to stick in the names so the name will come up on that last page. Pat will fix it in the morning, I'm sure.

5
by Vash (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 3:48am

My selection of Matt Leinart somehow turned into John Hall. Who is quarterback John Hall?

6
by The Leon Express (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 4:54am

Vince Young did not show up...

7
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 10:48am

no award for best team name? I'd like to nominate "The Suckiest Sucks who ever Sucked." Although there are many other worthy contenders.

8
by Patrick the Programmer (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 10:56am

Yep, Aaron was right, and it's all fixed. Nothing was lost, for those of you who want Justin Fargas and Vince Young, you have him on your team, it is successfully saved. Anyone else who wants these guys will see the names displayed when they confirm their team. Sorry for the confusion.

Although I have to disagree with Joel on the best team name. Homer's actual quote was "The suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked. So I think the best team name is lost for not accurately attributing the quote. :) My all time favorite team names have to include "I wanna kiss you" and "More Cowbell"

9
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 11:45am

Dangit! I was so close to losing the Loser League, only to end up 4th last.

Not that I was trying, mind you.

I'm pretty sure I would've been better off some weeks with all penalties. Sigh.

10
by noah of the ark (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 12:31pm

Wow, Wes Welker. To think that he's been one of the nicest surprises for the Dolphins...

11
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 12:36pm

I own Welker in leagues where his returns get points. As a receiver, he's terrible.

12
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:08pm

I think "Extinguished Firecrotch" was pretty original. I wonder what kind of traumatic event brought that to mind...

13
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:10pm

Woot! I actually won a week!

I thought my team name was clever, but I forgot that brevity is the sould of wit.

Heath Shuler For Congress in LL2!

14
by Smeghead (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:28pm

Is it too late to get Santorum in the Loser League?

15
by bmw1 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:40pm

I liked 'The Team That Both Sucks and Blows' for the first half name award.

16
by NoJo (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:44pm

When I try to create my new team, I get the following error: "There was a problem saving your team. You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near 't','NoJo')' at line 1".

Although I have to disagree with Joel on the best team name. Homer’s actual quote was “The suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked. So I think the best team name is lost for not accurately attributing the quote. :)

D'oh! Attach the stone of shame! I won't make the same mistake again, I promise.

17
by zip (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 2:26pm

#16

Yeah, apostrophes in your team name break their SQL insert. I don't know how else to say this, but your web programmer is a total noob.

18
by calig23 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 2:36pm

Woohoo, Got my second half team entered. Hopefully, this group of losers will lose more the group that made up "Jerame Tuman and his Impersonator" did. Those guys were just about middle of the pack every single week. Can't even lose properly, ya bums! Of course, it didn't help that Duce Staley didn't dress in a single game this year. Geez, I thought he'd at least play a in a couple of games...

19
by NoJo (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 2:57pm

Hmm. That would be the problem. I just escaped it with a backslash when I typed the team name into the text box. It appears to have worked....

20
by Shylo (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 3:38pm

I didn't play in the first half, but "The Spirit Squad" will, if nothing else, win the 2nd half team name award.

21
by Chris M (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 4:08pm

A solid 13th in the first half for They of the Awfulness. Sadly, I'm thinking I can win the second half by just picking players on my fantasy teams. Cadillac Williams all the way...

22
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 4:26pm

I'm partial to "Gonna Get Our Goose On!," myself.

23
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 4:39pm

Well, [-Insert Obsenity Here-] just barely snuck into the top quarter, so I've got that going for me...which is nice. Hopefully The Oakland Miasma of Suck will come through for me. My only regret is that there weren't enough Oakland RBs or Ks to make the entire team Raiders. I can only hope that somehow, through some act of God, Travis Henry and Rob Bironas end up in the Silver&Black by some waiverwire deals or something.

24
by JasonK (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 5:37pm

FYI-- Amani Toomer, who was a popular pick for the first half, is officially out for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury (link).

25
by ZS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 10:09pm

Shhh. The more people who don't know that, the less competition. Although my team had 450 points last time, I'm sure my new team ("That Which Does Not Kill Us Is Not Good Writing", for the record and hopefully the name award) will prosper.

26
by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 11:28pm

I will say that if we gave a team name award out, it would be hard to beat The Andre Ware Wolves.

27
by mactbone (not verified) :: Thu, 11/09/2006 - 11:30am

I'm curious whether someone actually names their team Ocho Cinco at the beginning of the year or if they just remembered which team was theirs recently. If it's the former, then I'd like to know if they have a 900 number.

I'm partial to Another Canadian Roughriders Team. I also like Sideshow Bob's Cavalcade of Whimsy, just because whimsy is such a great word. I have to give credit to I Promise to Salute God Like Jon Kitna After a TD Pass if the Packers Do Better than this Team, I think it's the longest name and it conveys a heartfelt emotion. The Ventures made a go of it and placed ninth, but I'll have to discover more starters who will suck.

I remember last year someone made a team that they hoped would be the loser of the Loser League, basically guys like Manning, but they failed since half of the guys on the team sucked. This year the last place team apparently didn't understand the concept of the penalty. That or they thought Anthony Wright and Ciatrick Faison would actually play.

28
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 11/09/2006 - 11:47am

I was gonna name my team "Al Davis & Terry Sciavo...Separated at Birth?" but I just couldn't pull the trigger.

29
by SJM (not verified) :: Thu, 11/09/2006 - 1:52pm

I think my team (Mr Roderick Smart) had the highest variance. I had a top-15 finish AND a bottom-3 finish.

30
by Tim Kirk (York, UK) (not verified) :: Thu, 11/09/2006 - 7:46pm

re: 29

I got some pretty good consitency out of my team - was in the top 15-20 overall right untilthe final week... Then managed to score 80 points in the final week. I guess I'd been riding my luck too long as (along with many others) I'd be burnt by Aaron Brooks drawing me 15 every week.

80 points with a kicker scoring 0 must be close to record...

Oh well, at least I can drink my team to drown my sorrows (Newcastle Browns...).