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?
06 Sep 2006
by Bill Barnwell and Ian Dembsky
Bill: It's been my observation that the most active waiver wire of the season occurs right after Week 1. It makes sense; (almost) nobody's given up on their team yet, so the activity rate is high. Sometimes, it's not worth the effort (I'm looking at you last year, Chris Baker), but other times, you pull an Anquan Boldin off the wire and he becomes a stud receiver. Of course, the real solution is to have a player who's going to have an unexpectedly big Week 1 on your roster before the season even begins, allowing you the latitude to hold onto him or, more likely, trade him for something much more likely to be valuable over the course of the other sixteen weeks of the season. In this article, I'm going to try and identify some guys who may fit that niche -- guys who, if you have an open spot on your bench before the season, you might want to take a gamble on. The flip side is also a positive -- if they don't work out, you can cut them for one of the better players who get waived by teams trying to acquire those Week 1 stars. Of course, none of these guys are guarantees -- they're just guys who, for one reason or another, are likely to look better during Week 1 than they will in subsequent weeks.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, JAC: Marcedes is a perfect example of this syndrome -- he's a guy who's already slightly overvalued (as you can read in this year's book, rookie tight ends are almost never fantasy point fountains), who'll be in an advantageous situation in Week 1. He plays at home versus the Cowboys, who were 31st in the league in defending against tight ends in 2005; in addition, the Cowboys will be employing Greg Ellis in coverage across from Lewis, a move which should inspire confidence in, well, Marcedes Lewis. The addition of Mike Tice to the Jaguars coaching staff won't hurt, either. The only downside here is that Lewis suffered a high ankle sprain during preseason and it may still be hampering him. I wasn't able to find information on whether he'd be available or healthy for the season opener. If he's going to be out, picking up reserve TE George Wrighster for a week isn't the worst idea.
Eric Parker, WR, SD: Parker is a guy I've been recommending as a sleeper pick all summer for the upcoming season: he's 27, was second in DVOA last year, and is across from an aging WR who's likely to see the ball less. Granted, he may only be the third option in the offense, but that's still going to mean a goodly amount of receptions. This week, Parker's playing Oakland, whose defense (27th against the pass in '05) is blending in several new starters at linebacker and cornerback; it's easy to envision the Raiders pushing their safeties up to help cover Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson, allowing Parker opportunities to beat the inexperienced Nnamdi Asomugha one-on-one.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR: While I expect Williams to be selected in most leagues, there should be some where he's available. If so, get ready to grab him and deal him. Williams is playing Atlanta in Week 1 -- the same Atlanta Falcons team that was last against the run in 2005 and solved their problems by, well, bringing in a pass rusher in John Abraham. Ed Hartwell's return (if he gets on the field -- he'll be questionable with a knee injury) should help the run defense some, but this team is built for the pass rush. The intelligent coaching staff in Carolina knows this, and will run the ball down their throat. With DeShaun Foster not really the type to run the ball thirty times (although he did rush a season-high 24 times against the Falcons last season) and the coaching staff trying to find places to get Williams in, he could see the ball up to fifteen times in this game. That won't be an every-week occurrence.
Jon Kitna, QB, DET: The Seahawks pass defense was nothing to write home about last season, finishing 25th in the league. They addressed this in the offseason by replacing Andre Dyson with first-round pick Kelly Jennings and/or Kelly Herndon. Whichever Kelly wins out, he can be expected to struggle, Jennings because of his inexperience and Herndon because of his history of ... struggle. That should only be magnified performing on the road, on a fast surface, against a Mike Martz offense. If you do pick up Kitna and he does well, trade him before Week 2. He moves on to play at Chicago, a slightly less appetizing fixture.
Ian: It's bold prediction time. Time for me to say the kind of things that can quickly be proven wrong; that I can look back on and laugh because I was so stupid. And for the one or two that turn out right, I can say, "See? I predicted that would happen!" Always a good ego booster.
That being said, I have a strong premonition many of these things will happen. Some will be more likely than others, but here goes:
For the record, I think the Colts will finally make it to the Super Bowl, where Peyton will top Eli for his first Super Bowl ring. That's not really going out on a limb though now, is it?
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Bill: You know, I was reading Seventh Day Adventure earlier and they have a fancy name for their best bet of the week. I'm not going to lie -- I'm a little jealous. Especially 'cause they named it after Fred Edelstein. If anyone can think of a good name for our best bet, I'd like to hear it.
Keeping in mind what I mentioned before about the Carolina offense versus the Atlanta defense, I have lots of faith in Carolina's defense to shut down Michael Vick and the Falcons running game. Besides, this is the yearly game that Kris Jenkins gets to play two quarters in before he blows out his knee! Hooray for humans!
Houston, in some sort of misguided and bizarre tribute to the 2005 Packers, is already out of running backs. With that in mind, the Eagles won't need to employ their defensive tackle rotation -- this should be an easy win for the Eagles, even on the road.
As you may be aware, we are not very high on the chances of the Cowboys following the Pilsner trail to victory this year. To be honest, I don't think it really makes a difference whether Terrell Owens is in Jacksonville, Dallas, or Idiot Joy Showland this week. The Jaguars are going to be too much, especially at home, for a Cowboys team that isn't going to be able to stop the run.
I hate laying a lot of points week one of the NFL season, but I can't resist here. Not only do I expect the Arizona offense to have a field day against the Niners' D, I expect a good day for the Cardinals defense as well. They're a good spot start for those of you that didn't draft a top fantasy defense and are playing the weekly matchup game. The new stadium will be rockin', and the 49ers will be reelin'.
I'm also not a big fan of laying points on the road on week one. No worries here though; San Diego swept the season series last season against Oakland, and should do so again this season without a problem. Look for LaDainian Tomlinson to rack up huge numbers to help take the pressure off of Philip Rivers, while the defense will contain Randy Moss and the offense.
The converse is certainly true, of course; I love taking points at home in week one, especially when it's an above-average team getting the points. The loss of Edgerrin James will make the Colts more of a one-dimensional team. Not that they'll have a problem relying on the pass, but passing often leads to more second-and-longs, which lead to more punts, which means the G-Men will have the opportunity to keep the game close. Who knows; maybe they'll pull an upset, but either way I'm predicting a close game here.
Bill: Obviously, as Scramble For The Ball is the home of the Loser League, myself and Ian each selected a group of heroes (I hope to give the Ike Hilliard induction speech when he enters the Loser League Hall of Fame) to represent us in football mediocrity this season.
Ian: With the Loser League roster set for eight weeks without substitutions, my goal was to avoid penalties. Take guys I think will be in there week in, week out, and hope for the crappiest performances no money could buy.
QB: Jon Kitna: There are worse starters out there. But not many. Kitna has proven a capable quarterback, but I don't expect much in his first season in Detroit. New team, new offensive system, mediocre fantasy numbers. It's pretty funny he's also on your list of guys to pick up -- who knows; maybe he'll come busting out of the gates and turn Roy Williams into the next Torry Holt. It doesn't really matter to me, because I also selected ...
QB: Chad Pennington: Ladies and Gentleman, your probable first-half Loser League MVP! The Jets are looking pretty poor at the moment, which is great for Chad, because no one will notice his miserable numbers in the midst of a disaster of a team. It's pretty depressing that Cedric Houston and Kevan Barlow have to take up spots on fantasy rosters, because a starting running back should never go undrafted. Either one of them won't do much to take the pressure off of Pennington, who'll be looking to pass the ball to Laveranues Coles and, um, Jerricho Cotchery? Hey, at least they have Chris Baker.
RB: Reuben Droughns: When a starting running back carries the ball 309 times in a season and scores a mere two touchdowns, that's what the Loser League is all about. I can't imagine he'll score that few this season, but he's a safe bet for eight carries a game with piss-poor results.
RB: Corey Dillon: It's unfortunate to see that Laurence Maroney is nicked up going into Week 1, as now Dillon will probably have a very nice game against the Bills. I'm counting on Maroney to limit Dillon to 10-12 carries a game, which should make him a consistent low scorer without pulling penalty.
RB: Chester Taylor: Taylor should have a pretty decent first half. The Vikings aren't likely to throw the ball all that well with Koren Robinson gone (hmm, maybe I should've gone with Brad Johnson over Jon Kitna), and so they will rely on their running game. Which means the probability of penalty with Chester Taylor is very low. I don't envision him putting up great numbers though; he should score in the 5-8 range most weeks. That's good enough for me.
WR: Laveranues Coles: Jeez, who would've anticipated my picking Coles? Wide receiver penalties are common when you go for the weaker options at wideout. I try to pick number one guys that don't put up number one numbers, and Coles fits right in.
WR: Keyshawn Johnson: Here's a former number one receiver now operating as a number two wideout. Given that Steve Smith is such a red zone target, I can't imagine Keyshawn scoring more than a handful of touchdowns this season. Which will make him a Loser League All-Star; he's very unlikely to pull penalty either.
WR: Muhsin Muhammad: Another player that's likely to give me 5-8 points each week, but is very unlikely to pull penalty.
K: Mike Nugent: Drafting Loser League kickers is first and foremost about picking teams with weak offenses, and second-most about drafting inaccurate kickers. Last season, Ryan Longwell was the man, but now he's kicking in a dome. This season no kicker combines the two better than New York's own, Mike Nugent.
K: Rob Bironas: I like Rob Bironas. I think he'll be a solid kicker for the Titans in the years to come. But the Titans don't know who their starting quarterback, or who their starting running back is. This is not a good sign when the season starts in less than a week. It's purely a matter of opportunity here, and I don't see Bironas getting all that many.
Bill: With my team this season, I decided to go Boom or Bust. I chose guys who I know will be in the starting lineup, but guys who may theoretically have some potential to be above replacement-level. It is my confidence, though, that they will perform to the standards I would expect of Ike Hilliard, Thomas Lewis, Aaron Pierce, and many other famed former Giants receivers who were awful and disappointing but were not so lucky as to get a character on 24 named after them. Anyway, my team, lovingly and memorially entitled STEVE HOLT! (remember, there's no "I" in win), entails:
QB: Charlie Frye: Oh yeah. Sure, he may have the heart of a hundred men and run a huddle like nobody's business. So could Roy Keane, probably. Doesn't mean he's an NFL quarterback. Or a Championship manager, for that matter. Now, if he could take York to the Champions League like me...
QB: Brad Johnson: I really like Troy Williamson. Unfortunately, Minnesota has absolutely no one else to throw to besides him in the offense this year. Since I think the Vikings will be behind a lot of the time, Johnson will be chucking it up quite frequently, which should lead to loads of interceptions. Of course, he will eventually get hurt, which is why he won't be on my second-half team.
RB: Reuben Droughns: Oh yeah. I'm not real high on the Browns this season. Gotta back up those Over/Under bets. While the LeCharles Bentley injury didn't help, even if he was healthy, Droughns would still be playing on a team that, like the Vikings, will be behind a lot of the time; that means lots of 12 carry, 38 yard days for our boy Reuben.
RB: DeShaun Foster: Foster's going to lose time to DeAngelo Williams this year, but he's still going to get twelve carries a game. In typical DeShaun Foster fashion, though, he won't be doing very much with eleven of them. Sure, he may get 35 yards on his one successful carry, but no worries.
RB: Edgerrin James: Someone wondered whether anyone would dare to pick Edge in the Loser League thread right before I selected my team and, well, I bit. This is a selection that places total belief in our offensive line statistics.
WR: Reggie Brown: I think that Reggie Brown is going to be a very good player -- it just won't be until 2007. Brown's going to be a starting WR, and he should catch four balls a game, but they're going to be, likely, as a possession receiver. That's exactly what the Loser League loves.
WR: Eric Moulds: Another guy who will just barely make it over the two-catches-a-game hump, Moulds has been playing off of his reputation for three years now and while he should free Andre Johnson up, that's going to be to Johnson's advantage, not Moulds'.
WR: Amani Toomer: My token Giants selection. Toomer will be in the starting lineup for the first half of the season and then get replaced by Tim Carter v2.0, Sinorice Moss. This pick hurts because I like Amani so much as a person and player, but, well, even Yankees fans began to boo Bernie Williams once the fork in his back started not answering the bleacher calls.
K: Rian Lindell: Lindell will be a stronger pick in the second half because of the cooler temperatures in Buff ... who am I kidding? There's a 30 percent shot of it snowing in Buffalo in September. Lindell's strictly a weather pick.
K: Robbie Gould: Firmly in the same vein, I remember the gusty game from Chicago last season and know that such a situation can also happen at anytime in Chicago. Again, nothing personal guys, you just happened to get jobs in cold-weather places. Blame Olindo. Not me. Olindo.
Don Ganzer: HELP! Im in a yardage and TD league. All TDS equal value. Rush/Rec.1 PT for every 25 yards. I have RBS S.Jackson, D.McAllister, T.Fisher. WRS Driver, R.Williams, J.Walker, A.Bryant, Mason. Please tell me why I should trade J.Walker for Chester Taylor?
Ian: That's an easy question, Don. The answer is because you probably need to start two running backs, and so far you only have one worth starting. Deuce McAllister is unlikely to put up much with Reggie Bush sharing the rock, and Tony Fisher is, well, Tony Fisher. Meanwhile, even if you have to start three wide receivers, going with Donald Driver, Roy Williams and Derrick Mason is perfectly reasonable. Javon Walker is likely to have a very nice season, but he won't be better than any of those three guys in a way that Chester Taylor will be better than McAllister.
Michael O'Neill: I am playing in a Yahoo fantasy football league and am trying to figure out which quarterback I should go with for the first week. I have Donovan McNabb versus Houston, McNair versus Miami (I believe), Ben Roethlisberger, and Brett Favre versus the Bears. I can only start one of these guys and I am a big Steve McNair fan. Every ranking list I have seen has McNabb number 7 QB or better and McNair is around 14 or so.
Which guy should I go with and what are your thoughts on a recent trade i just made? I traded Kevin Jones, Carnell Williams and Torry Holt for Shaun Alexander, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Keenen McCardell. I start two RBs each week. I already have Westbrook and now I got Alexander. My thinking is Alexander is as good as it gets and the difference between Holt and Houshmandzadeh is minimal (TJ could very well be better than Holt this year). I think I got a steal of a deal because Alexander scores 25-30 TDs annually and Williams does not score all that much.
Ian: Well, first of all, McNair is playing at Tampa, which is a big difference than being at home versus Miami. Second of all, Roethlisberger is out. Third of all, Favre was eaten up by the Bears last season, so he's not an option. All that being said, you should be starting Donovan McNabb every week he's healthy, regardless of matchup. I also (as you all know) am a big Steve McNair fan, but he shouldn't be expected to put up better numbers than Donovan on a given week. Don't make the mistake many people do and worry too much about matchups; you should never bench a top player for a decent reserve if the top player is healthy.
As far as the trade goes, I'd say that it was a closer deal than you think. Torry Holt is regarded by many as the top wide receiver out there. Cadillac is among the better second-tier running backs, and Kevin Jones is a nice RB3 for any team. T.J. Housh is a good guy to start any given week, but it's very unlikely he'll put up numbers like Torry Holt; not with Chad Johnson on the other side of the field. All that being said, any trade where you get one of the Big Three is usually a good one, and you'll be loving it when Alexander runs wild on the 49ers, Cardinals and Rams. Not knowing the other team's roster and how it affected him, I'd say that this is a trade that is very slightly in your favor.
39 comments, Last at 12 Sep 2006, 2:41pm by Tom Kelso