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?
16 Nov 2005
by Al Bogdan and Vivek Ramgopal
Al: Before we go any further, I just want to thank Ian for filling in for me these past two weeks while I was on paternity leave. The Football Outsiders Medical Leave Act only lets you miss two columns before they start cutting your salary, so unless I came back this week I'd start owing Aaron money.
The midseason mark passed us by in my absence, which means we're a week late with our midseason awards. But that's not going to stop us, is it Viv?
Vivek: Absolutely not, and welcome back. I used Eminem lyrics when Ian returned, so you'll have to do without any entrance music this week.
During the season's midpoint and after, Al and I offer our selections for both the traditional and not so traditional awards. So live from Las Vegas (well just me in Vegas and I guess not live), Scramble for the Ball is proud to present the ...
Al: Tom Brady. Trying to distinguish between the top four running backs in the league -- Edgerrin James, LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander, and the rarely mentioned Tiki Barber -- is a fool's errand. You could easily make the case that each of them is the best at his position, which to me says there's no clear MVP in the group. Steve Smith is getting a lot of recent publicity, but he's not having that much better of a season than Muhsin Muhammad did last year in the same role in the same offense.
For my money, no one has been as valuable to his team as Tom Brady has been this year. He tops our DPAR rankings as the most productive quarterback in the NFL this year. With a defense that has missed somewhere between 18 and 31 games by defensive starters, depending on whose definition of "starter" you want to go by, New England's offense has needed to carry the team more than it has at any point during the Brady/Belichick era. With injuries plaguing the offensive line and running back corps, the responsibility to move the ball downfield has fallen squarely on Brady's shoulders, and he's delivered.
Vivek: Shaun Alexander. If you are going to pick a quarterback, how does Brady top Carson Palmer? Palmer's QB rating has topped 100 every week this season with the exception of the Pittsburgh game. Palmer has better overall numbers, has led his team to more victories and is right behind Brady in DPAR. I'm not taking anything away from arguably the greatest clutch QB in the history of the game, but I think that there are better candidates this year. The reason that Palmer does not get my vote though is that he has come out on the short end of the stick against the Steelers and Jaguars.
Which leads me to my choice: Shaun Alexander. How do you differentiate between that quartet of running backs? I'll give you 17 reasons why -- just look at his touchdown total. Alexander has also done more with less around him. Injuries have left a thin receiving corps around Alexander, but defenses have still not been able to limit his production. With Alexander, the Seahawks are sitting atop the NFC standings.
Vivek: Neil Rackers. No, you did not misread that. Yes, I know he is a kicker. No, this isn't one of those factual errors that made it through the editing process. Rackers is 28-for-28 on field goals this season, including 14 from beyond 40 yards. I've always preached that all kickers are made equal in terms of fantasy scoring, but let me amend that to say â€œwith the exception of Rackers,â€? who has racked up (pardon the pun) 55 percent of his team's points.
The Cards have not been winning, but what Rackers is doing is amazing. He has a shot at topping Gary Anderson's 1998 season, which is regarded as the greatest single season for a kicker ever (35-for-35 field goals and 59-for-59 PATs). Apologies to Dwight Freeney, who might not have the statistics, but is commanding double teams. Not to take anything away from his teammate Robert Mathis, but the double teaming of Freeney is one reason that Mathis is leading the NFL in sacks.
Al: Walter Jones. The best player on one of the best units in football. Shaun Alexander and the Seattle offense has hit the ground running this year in large part because Jones didn't have his annual training camp/early season holdout. With Jones blocking for them for a full season, Alexander is on pace to break the NFL single season touchdown record and Matt Hasselbeck is on pace to pass for close to 4000 yards.
Al: Jamal Lewis. I guess spending four months in a federal penitentiary isn't the best way to get ready to play during your contract year. In just two years, Lewis has gone from a 2000-yard workhorse to a first round Loser League selection. At this point, Chester Taylor is the best back on the Ravens roster, by any measure you choose to look at, whether it's DPAR, DVOA, or simple yards per carry.
Vivek: QB Ravens. Remember Tecmo Super Bowl for Nintendo, the one that had to have QB Eagles instead of Randall Cunningham and QB Browns instead of Bernie Kosar? Well, I'll take a page out of TSB's book and give this award to QB Ravens, basically whoever is behind center for any given game. This could have been a monster season for Al's award recipient with the potential of an aerial attack, but as in the past, it has been non-existent. Anthony Wright was not able to move the ball, which had fans hoping for a quick return by Kyle Boller. (That just sounds odd to say.) As a whole, QB Ravens has six touchdowns and 13 interceptions, for a stellar 66.4 quarterback rating.
Al: Daunte Culpepper. More fantasy seasons have been destroyed by Culpepper than by any other player this season. Last season, Culpepper averaged 25.8 fantasy points per game in a basic scoring system. This season without center Matt Birk, Randy Moss, or an effective running game backing him up, Culpepper has averaged a paltry 14 points per game.
Vivek: A no-brainer here, emphasized by the fact that he was a consensus top seven pick.
Al: Kevin Jones. Yeah, so it looks like he won't be leading the league in rushing this year. I'd still recommend trading for him now from a frustrated owner because of the great schedule Detroit has over the rest of the season.
Al: Joey Galloway. Raise your hand if you thought Tampa would have the #2 wide receiver in fantasy football. Now keep it raised if you thought it would be Galloway and not last season's rookie sensation Michael Clayton. After nine games, the soon to be 34-year-old receiver already has more touchdowns than he has had in a season since 1998. Galloway needs only another 188 receiving yards to top his career high set back in 1997. If Galloway can keep up this pace, he'll finish the year with over 1,500 receiving yards.
Galloway's late-career resurgence is unprecedented in NFL history. Galloway would eclipse his career high in receiving yards by over 400 in his eleventh year in the league. Only six receivers have set a career high so out of line with their past performance as late as their eighth or ninth seasons in the league, and only Rob Moore with the 1997 Cardinals has done it after having a 1,000 yard season earlier in his career.
Vivek: Santana Moss. Moss was regarded as a very good second receiver, but never one that would take over a game. During the offseason, he was traded to a team without a solid option at quarterback and one that could potentially hand the ball off 25-30 times a game. The KUBIAK projections had Moss as the 22nd best receiver. Lo and behold, Moss is two yards away from being the top receiver in the NFL and has the same amount of touchdowns as his namesake in Oakland.
Al: Green Bay replaces Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera with William Whitticker and Adrian Klemm/Scott Wells. In 2004 Green Bay had arguably the two best guards in football. According to our offensive line statistics, the Packers were #2 in the league at power success (running on third or fourth down and less than two yards or on any down inside the two-yard line), #8 in the league in preventing runs from being stuffed, and #12 overall in adjusted line yards. This year, with Wahle in Carolina and Rivera in Dallas, the Packers are in the bottom half of the league in both power success and in preventing runs from being stuffed, and in the bottom five overall in adjusted line yards. If you want some explanations for why the Packers are at the bottom of the worst division in football, the loss of Wahle and Rivera is a perfect place to start.
Vivek: Travis Henry. A four-game suspension for substance abuse and only three carries since Week Two. This is not what the Titans had in mind when they traded a third-round draft pick for Henry and awarded him a four-year contract extension. We knew that it would be tough for Henry to duplicate his 2002 and 2003, but it has been nothing but a nightmare in his return to the state of Tennessee. With Chris Brown firmly entrenched as the feature back, it will be 2006 before Henry makes an impact.
Al: Minnesota signs Fred Smoot. Smoot signed with Minnesota in hopes that he would bolster one of the worst pass defenses in football. After an incredible 2004 season with the top defense in football, the Redskins, Smoot was expected to line up opposite Antoine Winfield to form the best pair of cornerbacks in the NFC North. Instead, Smoot has made more noise off the field than on. He engaged in a war of words with Steve Smith leading up to Minnesota's game against Carolina, in which Smith torched Smoot for 201 yards and Fred committed four penalties. And of course, Smoot is allegedly the man who chartered Al & Alma's Supper Club and Charter Cruises for the infamous team jaunt onto Lake Minnetonka. Oh, and the Vikings still have an awful pass defense.
Vivek: Phillip Buchanan. The Texans gave up a second and a third round pick for the former Raiders cornerback. Now he is stuck behind Dunta Robinson and DeMarcus Faggins on the depth charts.
Al: I think the biggest surprise is that there are two NFL players named DeMarcus playing in Texas.
Al: Washington signs center Casey Rabach. Last year, the Redskins were in the bottom third of the league at running up the middle and second to last in the league in power running situations. Washington went out and signed the best center on the market, and lo and behold, the team has moved up eight spots in our power running rankings and eleven spots on runs up the middle. The rejuvenation of Mark Brunell and the addition of Santana Moss are being given a lot of credit for the improvement in the Washington offense, but don't underestimate the impact that Rabach, and the return of left tackle Jon Jansen from an Achilles' tendon injury, have had on allowing the Redskins to move the ball more effectively.
Vivek: What this year's Redskins team has is stability on the offensive line. Last year's was a patchwork line that was decimated by injuries and ineffectiveness.
Al: Denver imports the Cleveland defensive line. Why weren't these guys this good in Cleveland? According to our adjusted line yard statistic, the 2004 Browns had the second worst defensive line in football. In, Denver, however, Ebenezer Ekuban, Michael Myers, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren have done a great job and helped turn linebacker Ian Gold into, almost, a household name.
Vivek: Plaxico Burress. I'll admit that I was wrong about Burress coming to the Meadowlands. I thought that this was a classic case of overpaying for one good season in the past, but he has become Eli Manning's favorite target. Burress is on pace to finish the season with 85 receptions, 1255 yards, and nine touchdowns.
Vivek: Single decision -- Dick Vermeil going for the win against Oakland. Of course Russell Levine might have given Vermeil the Mike Martz/John L. Smith award if the Chiefs were not successful on the play, but it's a moot point since the Chiefs came out on top. The Raiders were moving the ball at will against the Chiefs defense, and with Sebastian Janikowski, one big pass play in overtime could have set up the potential game-winning field goal. A loss would have dropped the Chiefs into a last place tie and a greater dogfight for the playoffs.
Vivek: Season long -- Mike Holmgren. Mike Holmgren has gotten his defense to play a lot better, even without the presence of defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, who has missed time for health reasons. The team lost Ken Lucas in the offseason, but has not missed a beat, en route to a 7-2 record and the best record in the NFC.
Al: Lovie Smith. After Rex Grossman went down yet again with an injury, no one would have blinked if the Bears once again became a playoff afterthought. Smith, however, didn't let his team fall apart and somehow has them in first place, with a two game lead over the rest of the division. Outside of Seattle, there isn't a better bet to make the playoffs in the NFC than Chicago. Smith deserves all the credit in the world for making that happen in only his second year as head coach with an overmatched rookie at quarterback.
Vivek: Dom Capers. It's really unfair to put this all on Capers, but someone has to be accountable for how much the Texans have regressed. Capers has still not given David Carr any pass protection and has not gotten the most out of his trio of potential stars at the skill positions.
Al: Jim Haslett. Probably no other coach in NFL history has had to deal with what Haslett has this season after Hurricane Katrina turned the Saints into a traveling road show. If anything similar happens in the future, coaches will be well served to look back at the job Haslett has done as a great example of what not to do. After the Saints won their Week 1 game against Carolina, many thought the Saints would take inspiration from the thousands of their fans affected by Katrina and make a strong run in the NFC. The only thing the Saints have been making a run at since Week 1, however, is the top pick in the 2006 draft.
Al: San Diego -- Luis Castillo. Castillo was slowly rising up draft boards this off-season before it was revealed that he had tested positive for andro at the NFL combine. Castillo admitted to taking the banned substance so that he could recover from an elbow injury, and sent a letter to every NFL team explaining what happened and stating that he'd be willing to give back his signing bonus if he ever tested positive for steroids in the future. The Chargers selected Castillo with the 28th overall pick, higher than many draft boards had him going before his positive drug test. Castillo has responded by becoming a force on San Diego's defensive line. He has done a great job at absorbing offensive linemen, allowing fellow rookie Shawne Merriman to make plays in the backfield.
Vivek: Dallas -- DeMarcus Ware. Bill Parcells hit the jackpot in the draft with DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears, enabling the Cowboys to institute a 3-4 defense. To this point, Ware has outplayed his rookie counterpart, with 25 tackles and four sacks. (Don't be surprised if Matt Jones has this award at the end of the season.)
Al: Detroit -- Mike Williams. Matt Millen signed a five year contract extension this off-season, so you know what that means -- five more years of first round wide receiver draft selections. The last thing Detroit needed going into the draft was another wide receiver, especially one who hadn't played organized football in over a year. The three players selected after Williams, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, linebacker Shawn Merriman, and offensive tackle Jammal Brown, would have better filled needs for the Lions and have made immediate impacts on the teams that actually drafted them this season.
Vivek: Tennessee -- Pacman Jones. This could also be the Maurice Clarett division, but that would be too easy of a pick. The game has not really started for Pacman, the 6th overall pick in the draft. Jones has no interceptions, no forced fumbles, one postgame scuffle with an opposing coach and an arrest on his resume so far. He is one of the primary reasons that the Titans have failed to shut down opposing receivers. Case in point: Jerry Porter burned Jones twice for touchdowns on Halloween.
Al: Chicago's missed FG return for a TD against San Francisco. The missed field goal returned for a touchdown is easily my favorite play in football. You only see this play once every few seasons, but Nathan Vasher's touchdown return against the 49ers this past Sunday was as predictable of one as is possible. The decision to attempt a 52-yard field goal in that situation was terrible given the conditions in Soldier Field. Robbie Gould's first quarter miss from only 39 yards heading in the same direction in the first quarter was so comically bad that Fox broke into other games to show the ball being blown out of bounds by the wind. Has a network ever broken into another game to show a highlight from a first quarter missed field goal?
Nothing good was going to come out of the field goal attempt. The Niners should have just kneelt on the ball and walked into the locker room with a lead. Instead, the Bears did the logical thing and placed Vasher in the end zone to await the inevitable short kick. The Bears special teams did a great job blocking for Vasher, who set an NFL record for the longest touchdown in league history with his return.
Not to digress too much, but that's the lamest record in the NFL. With no yard markers in the end zone, can you really say with any accuracy that Vasher's "108-yard" return was longer than Chris McAlister's "107-yard" missed field goal return from 2002? Why do players get extra credit for return yardage if they catch the ball deep in the end zone, but receivers don't get extra yardage for the same thing? If Randy Moss "dots the i" in the back corner of the end zone instead of at the front corner, the NFL doesn't give him eight extra yards. Either give a player credit for the extra end zone yards or don't give a player credit. The return/non-return distinction makes no sense.
Al: Michael Irvin reviews touchdown celebrations. I've only seen this once, so I'm not sure if this is a running feature on Sportscenter or was just a one-time occurrence, but Michael Irvin's recap of the week's touchdown celebrations was the best two minutes of programming I've seen on ESPN outside of PTI this year. Just a tour de force. Irvin spends the entire segment ripping all over the players whose performances he is reviewing, making inside jokes, using references that maybe one percent of the audience understands, while laughing at himself the entire time. Like Danny Bonaduce, this segment is a complete train wreck, but fascinatingly entertaining to watch.
Vivek: Kenny Mayne's feature on the Burger King. A very good, hard-hitting interview which answers questions like: "Why isn't the King fined for uniform violations?" and "How can he play on multiple teams?" Murrow Award worthy.
Can I also nominate our fearless leader's appearances on ESPNEWS? Can I suck up with the best of them or what?
Al: I Like It, I Love It. You're telling me Tim McGraw has nothing better to do on Mondays than to record a new version of his hit song with terrible lyrics about the previous day's NFL action? Isn't this guy married to Faith Hill?
Al: The King. There's just something hilarious about a man wearing a royal cape and an oversized king mask picking off Drew Bledsoe and taking it to the house. The recent BK commercials have somewhat diluted the King's appeal, but the original is still the best commercial of the year.
Vivek: Gatorade Winning Formula. It's not NFL-specific, but includes a "what if Dwight Clark never made The Catch" clip. I love technology.
Vivek: The King. I still wake up in the middle of the night after having nightmares about that damn King.
Al: Peyton Manning cheers for the common man. I was a big fan of last year's "Cut That Meat" commercial, but this year's version of Manning acting like a football fan at your average job is a bit too condescending for my tastes. Asking the guy stocking shelves at the supermarket to sign a loaf of bread is pretty insulting coming from someone who pocketed over $34 million in bonus money over the past year and a half.
Al: Dick Stockton/Daryl Johnston/Tony Siragusa. Stockton has a great voice and is a very solid, nuts and bolts play-by-play man. Johnston is a very understated but astute observer of a game. He doesn't overwhelm you with his analysis, but will more often than not point out something that I missed watching the play live. That's all I want out of my announcing team, and Stockton and Johnston deliver.
Although he can get a bit too schticky at times, Siragusa is the best sideline reporter in all of sports. Sideline reporters normally bring nothing to the table unless they're getting information about a player's injury. This isn't meant to denigrate the individuals who work on the sidelines, but to criticize the role that the networks put them in. Getting a head coach to tell you at the end of the first half that his team "needs to cut down on mistakes" or some other clichÃ© does nothing for me. Cutting to the sideline reporter so s/he can tell me that player X is a great person and serves food at a local soup kitchen when he's not helping old ladies cross the street is even less valuable to the broadcast.
With Siragusa, however, you have someone analyzing the play on the field from a unique vantage point that the announcers in the broadcast booth can't get. He's an incredibly valuable contributor to their broadcast and I'm amazed the other networks haven't hired other former players to serve in the same role.
Al: Sam Rosen/Bill Maas. Just so we don't look like too much of a kiss up to our friends over at Fox Sports, I'll give my vote to a Fox broadcast team. This one pains me to write, as I have a Sam Rosen/John Davidson dual bobblehead sitting on my entertainment center at home. But the Rosen/Maas pairing is extremely difficult to listen to. There is never a second of silence during one of their broadcasts. Maas occasionally does give some good insights into the game and Rosen is fine as a play by play man, but those quality moments get lost in the sheer volume of commentary produced by this pairing.
Vivek: Chad Johnson's Riverdance. Admit it, after a few beverages that afternoon, you tried to do it as well.
Al: Deion Branch as Kid n' Play. In a season that has seen a good number of over the top touchdown celebrations, Branch's 80's throwback after scoring against the Colts in Week 8 was my favorite. With the goalpost standing in for Play, Branch acted like a Kid at a House Party rocking the step-step-kick, backstep-backstep, step-step-kick. Just another example of how Branch is a true Class Act.
Vivek: Chicago right tackle Fred Miller ended his streak of 110 consecutive starts because of a broken jaw. He initially told the organization that he woke up in the middle of the night and possibly fell down because of a child's toy on the stairs. What really happened? Teammate Olin Kreutz landed a punch during a fight last week.
Al: One thing I've learned in my extensive two weeks of parenting experience is that when you get an opportunity to sleep when there's an infant in your house, you take it. So with the Eagles up by two scores in the fourth quarter and my daughter sound asleep, I decided to call it a night.
When I went to bed, it wasn't a very restful sleep, however. I was worried about this week's upcoming Giants game against Philadelphia. The Eagles team I had seen on Monday night wasn't the same one I had seen for the first half of the year. The one I had seen on Monday was the one that had given the Giants fits over the past few seasons. Brian Westbrook was running the ball effectively -- not a good sign since he's destroyed New York in the past and the Giants are without William Joseph for the next month. Donovan looked like the McNabb of old, moving outside of the pocket to give his backs and tight ends a few more seconds to get open. Lito Sheppard and the Eagles secondary were giving Drew Bledsoe fits by shutting down Terry Glenn and looking like the perennial Pro Bowl players that they have been in the past.
So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up Tuesday morning and saw that the Eagles blew the game in the last five minutes, pretty much knocking themselves out of playoff contention in the strong NFC East. Plus, I found out that there's a realistic chance that the immortal Mike McMahon will be starting against the Giants in the Meadowlands on Sunday. I'm going to sleep much better the rest of the week.
Vivek: Watching football is never going to be as painful as watching the end of an NBA game, but the number of penalties is really slowing the game down. This year, eleven teams are averaging eight or more penalties per game, compared to two teams for all of last year. It seems like a good portion of these penalties are offsides, false starts and illegal procedures -- this is all a result of poor practice habits.
Vivek: Terrell Owens had to be laughing at his own funeral after Reggie Brown dropped the softest toss in the history of the NFL (maybe not, but exaggeration helps my case) with less than a minute left in the game. The catch would have left David Akers with a 35-yard field goal versus the 60-yarder he missed as time ran out.
David has two questions, one about keepers, and another about trade possibilities:
I've got a keeper question. In an eight team league, which three players do you recommend I keep for next year: Brown RB, Bell RB, S. Jackson RB, Plummer QB, M. Anderson RB, K. Jones RB and Culpepper QB? (Incidentally, you start: 2 QB/2 RB/3 WR/1 TE/1 DEF&ST/1 K/1 Flex. That flex can be a QB, a RB, a TE or a WR.)
And, no, I'm not one of the livid Broncos fans. I just happened to end up with those guys, plus Rod Smith and Jason Elam. Odd, really.
I've got a trade question also. I'm in sixth place out of eight teams. You'd think I'd be out of it, but the league leader's at 5-4 and I'm 3-4-1. So, anyway, the regular season ends after Week 13 and the top four teams get in. (Each round of the playoffs is allotted two weeks to minimize the effects of end-of-the-year roster silliness.)
The point being, I have this deal on the table: I give up Ward WR and Brown RB for R. Johnson RB and Jurevicious WR. Do I do this deal? Or, since I get to keep three guys from this year's roster, should I just start building for next year?
Al: I'd make that trade even if you are playing for next year. Rudi Johnson is a legit #1 fantasy RB. If you can get him for Ward and part of a RBBC (I'm asusming you mean Ronnie Brown, but the suggestion is the same even if it's Chris), you have to make that trade. As for your keepers, I'd keep your newly acquired Johnson, Jackson and K. Jones for next year. That's a very solid foundation to build your team around.
Vivek: I'm not going to let go of Culpepper so fast. You need to start two quarterbacks, and not holding onto any means that you might wind up starting someone the caliber of Kyle Orton or J.P. Losman.
Chris L asks us to answer one of the great mysteries of fantasy football:
I have Eli Manning and Jake Plummer on my fantasy team, and five weeks out of eight that they both played, I picked incorrectly (and on one of the other three, the difference was only a point). How do you pick between two capable but inconsistent players?
Al: There's no sure fire way for this to work 100 percent of the time. If you're going to go by committee at a fantasy position, you're assuming the risk that you'll start the wrong player each week. I usually base my decision on a combination of the player's performance so far this season and the quality of the corresponding aspect of the opposing defense, based on DVOA, with the player's past performance getting more weight than strength of opponent. I was hurt by this, however, just this past week when I chose to start Eli Manning against the previously awful Viking pass defense instead of Mark Brunell against the previously solid Tampa D.
Vivek: For this year, Plummer has been the safer bet, throwing 13 touchdowns to only three interceptions. This production has dubbed him "No Mistake Jake." If you are in a league that penalizes for incomplete passes, Manning's inaccuracy can hurt you.
Darrell H writes:
Gents, didn't get to see the Pittsburgh/Cleveland game. Why were there only zeros for Heath Miller? Did he play? Injured? Unproductive?
Al: Miller played, but only had one pass thrown in his direction -- at the beginning of the fourth quarter when he was double covered. You weren't the only one asking where Miller was on Sunday. Bill Cowher actually had a bit of a snippy response when talking about Miller's lack of production on Sunday in his postgame press conference: "He played very solid tonight. If you get the ball anywhere near him, he'll catch it. He's a big part of our offense, it just didn't materialize tonight. The receivers caught some passes. Sometimes people ask why we didn't throw it to the receivers; if we throw it to the receivers, people ask why we didn't throw it to Heath. If we throw it to both, people will ask why we didn't run the ball more."
Randy writes in:
1) I got trounced last week with the Washington Defense, which netted me minus-six points. Please tell me which one of these curmudgeon defenses I should use this week off my waiver wire: WAS, CLE, DET, STL, SD, NYJ,or TEN?
2) Which two WRs would you start? C.Chambers, J.Jurevicius, R.Smith, R.Ferguson, B.Stokely, B.Finneran, or Brandon Jones.
3) Which two RBs would you start? Heath Evans, Patrick Pass, K.Jones, C.Brown, A.Peterson, or M.Bennett.
4) And last but not least, B.Troupe or M.Pollard for TE?
Al: 1) Go with the Rams at home against the Cardinals. They should get you a couple of picks.
2) Rod Smith and Jurevicius.
3) Kevin Jones and Bennett.
4) Dallas has been worse against tight ends than Jacksonville has, so go with Pollard.
Vivek: 1) I have been using rankings from The Most Valuable Network on Friday to pick defenses each week. Like Al said, the Rams are the only team that has a quasi-favorable matchup.
2) Jurevicius and Rod Smith as well.
3) As soon as I jumped onto the Bennett bandwagon, Mike Tice announced that Mewelde Moore will start against Green Bay. Use Chris Brown instead of Bennett.
Tommy S. asks us to rank some players for the upcoming week:
Please rank the following players for my Flex League: C.Brown, C.Chambers, F.Gore, J.Jurevicius, M.Alstott, J.Bettis, Heath Evans, M.Moore, M.Bennet, M.Faulk, and A.Peterson.
Al: With as many backups and parts of committees as you have at running back, it's all going to depend on the final injury report. Bennett against Green Bay has to be at the top of the list. Bettis and Brown both will get carries but have bad matchups. I'd have to put them ahead of either of your wide receivers, though. I like Jurevicius more than Chambers because of his matchup. The ranking of Peterson, Gore, and Evans depends completely on the status of the players ahead of them on their teams' depth charts.
Vivek: As of today: Brown, Chambers, Jurevicius, Moore, Peterson, Faulk, Bennett, Bettis, Gore, Alstott.
I play in a league where TEs are not required (you can start 3 WRs). This week, should I start Tony Gonzalez (vs. Hou) or Bobby Engram (vs. SF)? In the QB slot, should I start Tom Brady (vs NO) or Trent Green?
Al: I'd go with Engram and Brady, although you should be fine if you start the other two instead.
Vivek: This is as much of a wash as you can get, but my picks would be Gonzalez and Green. You can get a nice package points deal for both of them. The Texans are almost at the bottom of the league in terms of passing defense DVOA versus tight ends.
Ray G. writes:
I have a few Fantasy Football quandaries this week that I'd love some advice on.
First: Favre vs. Min or Bledsoe vs. Det? I'm leaning towards Favre because Detroit's secondary has made some plays this year.
Second: Which two to play of these three receivers? Driver vs. Min, Branch vs. NO, or Chambers at Cle? I sat Chambers last week and missed out on his two TDs. Was last week a fluke?
Third: This is more a matchup issue, but which of these two should I start? Johnson vs. Ind or Gado vs. Min? Was Gado last week a fluke? I'm also worried that the Cincy vs. Indy game could turn into a shootout leaving Johnson largely out of the picture. Who knows what will happen in Green Bay.
Al: 1) I tend to agree with you, I'd play Favre as well. Bledsoe's been the better QB this year, but I'm expecting big things from the Packers on Sunday.
2) Driver and Branch. I don't like relying on Chambers. You never really know what to expect out of the Dolphins passing attack.
3) You have to start Rudi Johnson. He's seventh in the NFL in rushing yards going against a below average run defense.
Vivek: 1) Bledsoe against a poor Minnesota pass defense.
2) Driver and Branch
3) The only reason you don't start Johnson is so that you can scream out "SAMKON GADO!" Rudi is a must.
Data for the first week of Part II should show up later this week, but here are your all-stars from Week 10:
QB: The immortal Brooks Bollinger, -4 points (98 yards passing, 4 INT)
RB: Michael Bennett, 0 points (16 yards rushing, 11 yards receiving, fumble)
RB: Edsel Williams, 0 points (20 yards rushing, fumble)
WR: Mark Clayton, 0 points (3 yards receiving)
WR: Numerous players tied with 1 point
K: Rian Lindell, -2 points (2 XP, 2 missed FG)
Al: (2-1 three weeks ago, 18-8 overall)
The calendar has turned the page into November, so it's time to whip out THE SYSTEM!. For you new readers out there, THE SYSTEM! was developed by Anthony Brancato, who discovered that "one of the worst bets you can make in the NFL is to wager on a team that plays their home games either in a dome or in a warm climate when such a team has to play on the road at a northern, outdoor site from November 1st onward." Although THE SYSTEM! didn't fare as well last year as it has in the past, I'm going to stick with it this week.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the Vikings won't get three return touchdowns again this week. Plus, THE SYSTEM! works best in late afternoon or evening games.
The Saints have lost their last three official road games by an average of 25.7 points.
A loss here would pretty much knock the Redskins out of playoff contention in the NFC. I like their chances of coming through against Oakland at home.
Vivek: (1-2 last week, 13-20 overall)
For those of you wondering, my picks don't do any better in Vegas.
The Williams-Brown running back tandem has not worked for the Dolphins yet, as Ricky Williams has not been effective. Add an inconsistent Gus Frerotte, and this matchup favors the Browns on paper ... but I am going with those intangibles. Here's betting that the Dolphins keep the momentum going from last week's near win against New England.
See my pick for MVP.
The Chiefs were embarrassed by their performance against the Bills last week, and deservedly so. The Texans will be a sparring partner, as Trent Green makes amends to fantasy owners for last week's performance.
105 comments, Last at 10 Mar 2006, 11:00am by jore