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14 Dec 2005

Scramble for the Ball: Holiday Gift Guide

by Al Bogdan and Vivek Ramgopal

Vivek: iPods, Madden 2006, and the Family Guy DVD top most holiday wish lists, but for NFL franchises, the holiday wish lists look a little different.

For the Houston Texans, the #1 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft

Vivek: Depending on how you look at it, lifetime membership to Kris Brown's Kick Club could be in high demand or dropping in value after his missed field goal on Sunday. While it cost the Texans a chance to beat the Titans, it moved them one step closer to winning the Reggie Bush sweepstakes. People have been calling for the Texans to trade this pick in order to fill more needs later in the draft. Pulling off a trade for a package similar to the one that the Giants gave the Chargers is tempting, but Reggie Bush is a stronger Marshall Faulk — essentially, a guy like that will come out in the draft once a decade. If they take Bush, the Texans could then use Domanick Davis as trade bait for a team that needs a runner. (Terry Bradway, I'm looking your way.) Or, if they decide to get a package of picks and the Jets or Packers bite, the Texans still might be able to select D'Brickashaw Ferguson (and finally keep David Carr on his feet) while grabbing an impact defensive player. Gotta love the options here if you're a Texans fan.

Al: I agree with you, Viv. If the Texans gets the #1 pick, they should be able to get a king's ransom from the teams picking right behind them who want Bush, ideally to move down to no lower than #3 or #4 and get a couple of extra picks in return. They can use an offensive lineman or four, but it's more likely that if the Texans do move down they'll do it because they cut David Carr and want to grab Vince Young or Matt Leinart. This team needs a lot more than Reggie Bush to improve next year.

For the New York Jets, a running back

Vivek: I see the Jets giving Chad Pennington another year to rebound and passing on a quarterback in this year's draft, meaning that running back will be a top priority for the team. Curtis Martin, who finally saw his streak of 1000-yard seasons end, has a cap number of more than $8 million next year. Cutting him early would save $6.2 million. If Martin returns to the Jets, expect it to be in a reduced role and with a smaller contract.

Al: The Jets' win over Oakland definitely took them out of the running for the #1 pick, but it might have also moved them down far enough that it doesn't make sense for Houston to trade the #1 to them. The Jets can't fall further than the #4 pick to even have a shot at trading up to grab Bush.

I doubt that Martin comes back with the Jets next year, at least without a serious contract renegotiation. Even then, at 32, coming off knee surgery, I don't see him being much of a contributor wherever he ends up playing in 2006.

I liked what I saw out of Cedric Houston on Sunday, but then again, it was against Oakland. There are a couple of intriguing backups that will be free agents this off-season that the Jets should look into -- as starters, like Chester Taylor, or at least to fill part of a committee, like Rock Cartwright. Don't forget, they also have Derrick Blaylock coming back next season. A combination of Blaylock, Houston, and Cartwright could be a solid, inexpensive backfield.

For the San Diego Chargers, a miracle

Vivek: Sunday's loss to the Dolphins was one of the most atrocious losses of the year in the NFL, not because of the score but because of what was on the table. The Chargers, widely regarded as one of the top three teams in the AFC, now face an uphill battle for the playoffs with the team needing to sweep Indianapolis, Kansas City and Denver. A two-point loss to Pittsburgh earlier in the season gives the tiebreaker to the Steelers, who end the season with a less-imposing schedule of Minnesota, Cleveland and Detroit.

Al: I still can't believe the Chargers lost to Miami. It's not that crazy to think their upcoming game against the Colts could have been a battle between two unbeaten teams if a few things had gone San Diego's way. And by gone San Diego's way, I mean if they weren't dumb enough to bench Antonio Gates in Week 1, didn't allow a blocked field goal touchdown return against Philadelphia, and stopped Denver and Pittsburgh on game-winning drives late in the fourth quarter.

Vivek: Sunday's two-point loss gives the Chargers five losses by a grand total of 15 points. Sure, maybe it is bad luck, but they still need a lot of bounces going their way to get a wild card slot.

For the New York Giants, some healthy players

Al: I haven't bought into the hype about the Giants being legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but in the NFC, they have a good chance of at least making it to the big game -- if they can get healthy. LB Antonio Pierce is out for at least this week against Kansas City, and as of Tuesday night, it was still unknown if or when LT Luke Petitgout, RT Kareem McKenzie, or DT William Joseph will be back in the lineup. The team did fine in Joseph's absence, but without Pierce backing them up in the middle of the field, you have to wonder how good New York's backup tackles will be. I'm not the biggest Luke Petitgout fan in the world, but I'd rather see him in there for the rest of the season than 42-year-old Bob Whitfield. McKenzie, however, would be the biggest loss if he misses any extended period of time. Kareem's having a Pro Bowl season at right tackle. Replacing him with left guard David Diehl, who was a disappointment at the position last season, would be a huge downgrade.

Vivek: The addition of Jason Whittle and Whitfield could mean that this offensive line reverts back to what it was last year, when its pass protection resembled that of the Texans. The main reason that I'm not sold on the Giants' chances for going deep in the postseason is the maddening inconsistency of Eli Manning. Take away some of his pass protection, and you could have the Giants fighting for the last wild card spot instead of the NFC East title.

For the Cleveland Browns, a first-round draft pick with a titanium leg

Vivek: A breakout game for Braylon Edwards turned into a nightmare in the fourth quarter in Week 13 against the Jaguars; for the second straight season, a leg injury ended the season for Cleveland's first-round pick. Last year, Kellen Winslow fell victim to a broken leg, and we all know what happened to his knee this offseason. Edwards' recovery time from his ACL tear might be as long as eight months, which would jeopardize the start of his 2006 campaign as well.

Al: If the Browns could get Edwards and Winslow ready for Week 1 next season, they could make some noise in the AFC North. Charlie Frye has looked pretty good these past two games. With some improvements on the offensive line and another good year out of Reuben Droughns, the Browns could finally have themselves an offense.

For the Detroit Lions, a wide receiver for their top-10 pick in the 2006 Draft

Vivek: This is more likely on Matt Millen's wish list, and admit it, it would be great to hear the uproar if Millen went this route. It does look like Charles Rogers is on his way out of Detroit after his suspension, so Chad Jackson from Florida might look good for Millen. (Note the sarcasm.)

Al: My holiday wish for the Lions and their fans is that they have a new general manager making that top-10 pick in next year's draft.

For the San Francisco 49ers, a loss in Week 17

Al: The NFL schedule makers have done a great job this year. There are a ton of playoff contenders matched up over the next three weeks, including the NFC South round robin tournament. But the biggest game may be the one being played in San Francisco on New Year's Day -- the Reggie Bush Bowl between the Texans and 49ers. Who can throw the game most effectively without looking like they're throwing the game? The #2 pick isn't worth as much to San Francisco as it would be to other teams since the 49ers have no use for Matt Leinart or Vince Young when they already spent the top pick in last year's draft on a quarterback. Granted, Alex Smith looked awful against Seattle, but you can't spend back-to-back early first-round picks on players at the same position. Unless, of course, you're the Detroit Lions.

Vivek: I disagree with Al about the draft possibilities for the 49ers. The one thing that I'm not seeing from Alex Smith (and granted it is early in his career) is the makeup that other top quarterbacks have. Of quarterbacks taken in the first round recently, in my mind, he has ranked (pre-draft) behind Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, and Byron Leftwich in terms of potential. Smith, who can attribute his collegiate success to being a “cerebral quarterback� lacks that arm strength that would earn him the title of “franchise quarterback.� His quarterback rating for his attempts of ten or fewer yards is only 52.7, but it gets even worse when you look at 11-20 yard attempts (18.1) and more than 20 (19.4).

My point is that if some team is willing to dangle a lower first-rounder or a combination of picks for Smith, and the 49ers do believe that Young or Leinart does have a much higher upside, then the team should explore those options.

Lessons Learned From Week 14

Lesson 1 -- Larry Johnson is Will Be the Starting RB for the Chiefs Next Year

Vivek: This past weekend, Johnson had his sixth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, breaking the record previously held by Priest Holmes. Johnson has risen to the fourth best rusher in the NFL in terms of yardage, and keep in mind that he did not have the starting job to himself until the first week of November. Johnson has always had the power and speed, but now he is being more patient and waiting for plays to develop behind his massive offensive line. That patience has paid off, and you can expect Larry Johnson to be a top three running back next season.

One piece of trivia for you: this February, Johnson should become the third Pro Bowl running back that has replaced Holmes in the backfield. (Ricky Williams at the University of Texas and Jamal Lewis in Baltimore being the other two.)

Lesson 2 -- No One is Signing With New Orleans this Off-Season

Al: You know the league has handled something poorly when John Madden is openly knocking the NFL during a Monday Night Football broadcast. If you were an NFL free agent, why would you sign with the Saints for next year? Even if the NFL gives assurances that the team will stay in New Orleans, is there any reason to believe them? The owner wanted out before Katrina, and the Superdome won't be ready until November 1 at the earliest. The likely plan for the Saints next year would be a split season between San Antonio and New Orleans. But what if the Superdome isn't ready by November 1? Would you trust that an adequate contingency plan is in place? The Saints were kicked out of their stadium for a women's volleyball tournament last week. If the Superdome isn't ready at the beginning of November, where does the team play when there's a dog show scheduled in the Alamodome? Things may look bad now for the Saints, but they'll look a lot worse next year when every player who can leave does so and the Saints are stuck overpaying for what few free agents are willing to take a chance on a team without a home.

Lesson 3 -- Vivek Needs to Take Back What He Said About Chris Simms Earlier

Vivek: Let's see, I said things along the lines of "The Bucs will head south soon if Simms stays behind center" and "Simms looks completely lost in the pro game." Maybe the Bucs read Scramble and this became bulletin board fodder. (I can't even type that with a straight face.)

Whatever the reason, Simms has kept alive Tampa Bay's division title hopes with his play. In this five-game stretch in which the team has gone 4-1, Simms has completed 60 percent of his passes and thrown only one interception. Gone is the trouble reading defenses and the inability to make adjustments at the line, and now Simms is doing a much better job of managing the game. Nobody is asking Simms to throw for 300 yards, and he is winning games by realizing that.

Keep Choppin' Wood Award

Al: Kris Brown of the Texans gets it this week for missing a virtual chip shot that would have sent Houston's game against Tennessee into overtime after a great kickoff return by Jerome Mathis. I don't think he blew it on purpose so that Houston can get the #1 pick in the draft, however, as others have suggested. The kick was too terrible for it to have been an intentional miss. If you're going to blow a field goal on purpose, you'd have to make it believable. Just outside the uprights, or maybe even kick it low so that it could be blocked by a defensive lineman. But no one would be dumb enough to kick it practically parallel with the crossbar if he was trying to throw the game.

Scramble for the Ball Mailbag

Send your fantasy football questions each week to scramble@footballoutsiders.com, or fill out our contact form.

Leading off this week once again is loyal reader and part-time Scramble writer Ian:

I must again consult the Oracle, who correctly predicted that I should start Cadillac Williams over DeShaun Foster last week, which I did despite not thinking it was the right move. Now I'm in the playoffs, and the scoring system is (again) 6 pts for TDs, 1 pt for 20 yds rush/rec, 1 pt for 10 yds rush/rec over 100. I must pick two of the following options: Mike Anderson @ BUF, Cadillac Williams @ NE, DeShaun Foster @ NO. I'm leaning towards Anderson and Foster, but also think I should perhaps bench Mike Anderson since he seems to vanish at times. What to do, O wise one?

Al: I'd be nervous about relying on Anderson in a playoff game. He hasn't been that involved in the offense the past three games, a fact which has been somewhat hidden by his long touchdown catch against Kansas City two weeks ago. Tatum Bell had the majority of the carries last week, and Ron Dayne was more productive on the ground than Anderson for the two weeks before that.

After his midseason slump, Cadillac has put together four straight solid fantasy weeks. We're not the biggest DeShaun Foster fans here at Football Outsiders, but you have to start almost any running back playing against the Saints. He should be able to break off at least one long run in Baton Rouge.

David: I bet you'll be getting a flood of fantasy football questions this week, what with the start of many leagues' playoffs. I'm no different: just because I made it doesn't mean I have 100-percent confidence in my picking ability!

Pick 3: Burress, Branch, Wayne, Roy Williams, Lee Evans.

Pick 2: L. Johnson (a gimme), D. Davis, M. Anderson, T. Bell, Droughns

Al: WR: Burress, Wayne and Roy Williams. I'm not sure how much I like the Giants' chances to beat the Chiefs this week, but Burress should be able to have a nice game against the Kansas City corners. Reggie Wayne is a must start, and I like his matchup against the Chargers secondary that let Chris Chambers run wild. At the third wide receiver spot, I like Roy Williams. None of those three have great matchups, but Evans has a terrible matchup against Champ Bailey. That leaves Williams and Branch. Branch's production has dropped off in the second half. He's caught five balls in each of the past six games, but his yards per catch are down about a yard and a half from the first two months of the season. Williams is averaging over 14 yards per catch since returning to the starting lineup last month, and he has five touchdowns in five games. He's been a better fantasy option than Branch in four out of the last five games.

RB: Johnson and Droughns. I don't want to have to guess which Denver back will get the carries in a must-win fantasy playoff matchup. That leaves Davis and Droughns as the two safest options. Both have great matchups, but Droughns has been the better back this year. Plus, you never know what Houston will do to lose that game against Arizona.

Vivek: Droughns has been a fantasy sleeper in terms of yards on the ground, but do not expect him to grab those six points for a touchdown this week. He has gotten into the end zone only twice this year and not since Week 11.

Adam #1: Two playoff semifinal questions. 1) Is it time to give up on Steven Jackson, and start Willie Parker or Cedric Houston instead? 2) Hasselbeck or Garrard?

Al: Tough call with Jackson, but I'd stick with him. If Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to throw five interceptions a game, there's no reason for teams not to regularly bring a safety down into the box, like Arizona did a few weeks ago, to shut the Rams running game down. However, you don't have any other great options. The Vikings have been tough against the run lately, and I wouldn't be surprised if Bettis was a bigger factor than Parker in Pittsburgh's game plan. That leaves Jackson against Cedric Houston, who looked good against a bad Oakland defense. But I don't expect Houston, on the road against the Dolphins, to duplicate his performance from last week.

Adam #2: For many of us, this week is a time to stash onto our keeper league rosters a player or two who didn't contribute in 2005 but has an interesting upside for 2006. Any suggestions?

Vivek: After having Pennington, Ahman Green, Jamal Lewis and Randy Moss on one of my keeper teams, I've been thinking along the same lines for a while now. A few guys that jump out at me:

Patrick Ramsey -- With Jason Campbell on the Washington roster, Ramsey will be somewhere else next year. Ramsey's accuracy on short to medium range passes and his strong arm can mean success in a system that is based on shorter, timed routes.

Billy Volek -- Steve McNair insurance. Despite the 2-9 record as a starter during the past two seasons, Volek has had eight quality starts with injuries and diminishing talent around him.

Drew Bennett -- Injuries have kept Bennett from matching his 1247-yard, 11-touchdown season from 2004, but a full year (and possibly back with Volek) might boost his numbers in 2006.

Ray: My QB situation has me in yet another quandry. Favre @ Baltimore or Bledsoe @ Washington? According to Football Outsiders' DVOA stats, Washington has the better pass defense. But Favre has been pretty awful fantasy-wise the last few weeks, and Bledsoe had a great game against KC. Also, am I nuts for thinking it's time to bench Randy Moss? He's been pitiful the last few weeks, and if Tuiasosopo plays again, Moss is likely to be dead weight on my roster. Of course, my current alternative is Donald Driver, but he has been outscoring Moss lately (if not by much). Or should I go fishing for a FA to fill the spot?

Al: Randy Moss has become a forgotten man in the list of players who have killed fantasy seasons. He's only had three 100-yard games this year and hasn't found the end zone in a month. You're not crazy to consider putting him on your bench for the playoffs, but I wouldn't do it for Donald Driver or waiver wire fodder. Norv Turner has already said Tuiasosopo won't be starting against Cleveland, so even if rookie Andrew Walter is behind center, Moss will have someone better throwing to him this week than he did last week in New Jersey.

As for your quarterback, go with Favre. Both have been bad fantasy options lately. Play the better matchup.

Setzler: Lame fantasy defense question for you. My playoff opponent this week has a very good team, and we're pretty evenly matched. I think my defense has a very good chance to be the deciding factor, so who do I play? Miami (against the Jets) or Denver (against Buffalo)?

Al: Denver. The Broncos have been a good fantasy defense all year. Kelly Holcomb is back behind center in Buffalo, and he has at least one fumble in every game he's started this year. Denver should be good for at least three turnovers.

Vivek: In terms of DVOA, the defenses are pretty even. The difference is who you see having a better game: Cedric Houston and Brooks Bollinger or Willis McGahee and any quarterback. Unlike Al, I'll take Miami.

Tony: Throughout most of the year, my wide receivers were my strength. I had Santana Moss, T.O., and Steve Smith. Then, when I lost T.O., I traded for Kevin Curtis, who was great until Bulger went down. Now Curtis is entering his third week of being useless, and my only other option is Laveranues Coles ... so, who do I start in the semis, Curtis @ Philly or Coles @ Miami?

Vivek: It wasn't just Bulger's injury that ended Curtis' hot streak. Isaac Bruce has forced Curtis into a true third receiver role, limiting his production to five catches in the past three games. Coles has not scored a touchdown since the first week of November, but I'll take my chances that he gains some yardage on one of his five catches.

Al: I'd still go with Curtis. With Bollinger throwing to him, Coles will give you 30-50 yards without much of a chance of scoring. At least with Curtis, you have a better shot that he'll break a long one for a touchdown.

Daniel: My fantasy team consists of Shaun Alexander, Carson Palmer, and a bunch of other guys who've done just enough to get me by this season. Fortunately that was good enough to get me a first-round bye in my league's playoffs, but, you know, I'm hoping to do a little better than that this week. With that in mind, which of these RB's would you say is my best option?

Mike Anderson @ BUF, Willie Parker @ MIN, Ronnie Brown vs. NYJ, Cedric Houston @ MIA, Ryan Moats @ STL? Also, would you go with Eddie Kennison @ NYG, Bobby Engram @ TEN, or Joe Jurevicius @ TEN?

Al: Moats. I've listed my reasons for being down on Parker and Anderson elsewhere in the mailbag. I'd stay away from Brown for the same risk of playing the wrong part of a running back by committee. That leaves Houston and Moats, both rookies starting their second career game and their first on the road. Moats is playing the weaker run defense, so I'd go with him. At wide receiver, Engram is the pick. Engram and Jurevicius have been going back and forth the past few weeks as Matt Hasselbeck's favorite target. Bobby looks like he's the hot hand, so go with him.

Raul: Is Mark Brunell to be trusted this week in a big game against Dallas? I'm riding a six-game win streak into the playoffs and I hate to make unnecessary changes to my lineup. David Garrard (vs. the 49ers) is my backup, but I'm afraid Jacksonville will rush for five touchdown's and throw the ball 20 times.

Vivek: Garrard did have a pretty good day against Indy last week (26-for-35 for 250 yards and a touchdown). Before the Chiefs last week, the Cowboys had held opposing quarterbacks to under 200 yards passing for five straight games. On the flip side, Brunell hasn't topped 200 yards in his past four games. Garrard should be the easy pick against an awful San Francisco defense.

Al: I agree. It's not like you're benching Peyton Manning to play Garrard. In addition to what Vivek said about Brunell's lack of recent passing yards, he has also thrown only four touchdown passes in his past seven games. If anyone is going to stick to a ground game on Sunday, it will be Washington riding Sheriff Gonna Getcha as far as he'll take them.


Loser League Update

Al: A much belated Loser League update. For those of you who have been checking the results despite the absence of Loser League updates in this space, there were some problems with the Week 12 results, which have been refigured for everyone. Now, your Week 14 Loser League All-Stars starring Randy Moss:

QB: Alex Smith, SF: 0 points (22 passes, 77 yards; 6 carries, 18 yards; 1 fumble; 1 INT)
RB: J.J. Arrington, ARI: 0 points (9 carries, 26 yards; 1 catch, 6 yards; 1 fumble)
RB: Willis McGahee, BUF: 0 points (8 carries, 3 yards; 1 catch, 5 yards)
WR: Randy Moss, OAK: 1 point (2 catches, 18 yards)
WR: Kevin Curtis, STL: 1 point (2 catches, 13 yards)
K: Ryan Lindell, BUF: -1 points (1/1 XP, 0/1 FG)

The Shiznits from Kittery, Maine, home to Yummies Candy & Nuts and their 10,000 pounds of candy on display, are at the top of our second half contest standings with three weeks to go. A low-scoring day from Brad Johnson helped make up for a shocking 20-point performance from Gus Frerotte to keep The Shiznits on top of the standings.

We had a tie in Week 14, with two teams scoring 19 points. San Francisco, like its real life counterpart, was carried by Alex Smith, Brandon Lloyd and Kevan Barlow. D'Brickashaw! also had Kevan Barlow, who was paired up with J.J. Arrington's zero-point performance to carry this team to the top.

Best Bets

Al: (0-2-1 last week, 20-17-1 overall)

I can't believe I'm letting you back into this race. I have no idea how to pick these games anymore. Either the lines are ridiculously huge, or you have two teams playing each other that were out of playoff contention a month ago. I'll go with the lame games and leave the ones that matter to you.

ST. LOUIS -3.0 over Philadelphia

When two terrible quarterbacks are playing each other, I like to take the one that's at home. Fitzpatrick will hit Holt or Curtis for one long strike during the game, which will open things up enough for Steven Jackson to be productive.

Cleveland +3.0 over Oakland

Charlie Frye played well against a pretty good Cincinnati defense. Against a bad defense in Oakland, he should do even better.

Arizona -1.0 over HOUSTON

If there's one thing Arizona can do it's pass the ball, with Kurt Warner hooking up regularly with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. If there's one thing Houston can do, it's lose football games. I expect more of both on Sunday.

Vivek: (1-1-1 last week, 22-24-1 overall)

Maybe your newborn daughter should start making picks for you …

The lines this week, as Al mentioned, are brutal. I'm tempted to skip the NFL picks this week and instead take the Arkansas State Indians +17 in the New Orleans Bowl and NC State -6 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl (real bowl game).

Cincinnati -7.0 over DETROIT

Matt Millen take note. This is how a team should draft.

Seattle -7.0 over TENNESSEE

The Seahawks have their sights set on home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs, so don't expect any letdown this week at Tennessee. The Titans have not been able to stop the run this year, so Shaun Alexander should control the game with a 120-yard performance.

Denver -9.5 over BUFFALO

Denver's ground game + the second worst run defense = Denver covering the spread.

Posted by: scramble on 14 Dec 2005

41 comments, Last at 19 Dec 2005, 12:57pm by cjfarls


by Smeghead (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 4:44pm

Please bring the Seahawks a playoff victory.

Three would be nice.

But one, at least, for a start.

by Adam B. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 4:59pm

Thanks -- I am the "Adam #1-#2" of this week. On the keeper question, I ended up grabbing Moats (upon the Westbrook news) and Charlie Frye. I actually have had Bennett all season, but under our keeper rules it looks like I'll have to drop him anyway.

There is no good answer on the Steven Jackson question, but he really has played like crap since Fitzpatrick has been in there.

On Hasselback v. Garrard, I'm leaning heavily to the young man in Jacksonville. I'm playing against someone who ought to beat me, which is what happens when I end up replacing TO with a mix of Mason, Wilford and Bennett, and I need all the upside I can muster.

Ray, I'd take Bledsoe over Favre. Favre isn't going to give you a 4-TD game anymore.

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 5:25pm

Fantasy Defense/Special Teams question for the playoffs here: Defenses score for yards-against in my league as well as points-against. Chicago DST has been my 3rd leading scorer this year. I'm going up against a guy with LDT, so I need every point I can get. Yards-against scoring starts at 12 and goes down 2 points for every 50 yards against. Points-against scoring starts at 8 and goes down 2 points for every 7 points-against. The other scores are as usual (INT, Sack, fumble recovered, defensive TD).

So, given that Vick is sore and Losman hasn't practiced and BUF may start Holcomb, do I start Chicago home vs. Atlanta or Denver @ Buffalo. Chicago's secondary is a bit banged up, but so is Vick and not enough to bring in Schaub. And Atlanta is not a power run-blocking team like Pittsburgh, so Chicago's speed-based D should be more effective, wouldn't you think? I was leaning towards Denver, figuring Losman was going to throw a pick or maybe two. But Holcomb may start. Hmph. I'm leaning back towards Chicago. Any thoughts?

by bartleby (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 5:26pm

R. Smith vs. Buff. or S. Moss v. Dallas?

by ToxikFetus (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 5:33pm

I know someone is going to kill me for posting this, but here's my "dilemma": I have L. Tomlinson, L. Johnson (booyah Priest Holmes insurance policy), and T. Barber, but I can only play 2. It's sacrilege to bench LdT, but I don't like the matchup against Indy with the injury.

by BC Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 5:39pm

should I start cadillac or gado alongside alexander? Also, in another league, tatum bell or ryan moats alongside lj?

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 5:54pm

bartleby(#4): I'd take Smith. BUF's pass D is worse than DAL's and Smith has a better QB and offense with him. Brunell has been playing ugly, DAL's pass D is good (7th DVOA), and I bet WAS will pound, pound, pound with Portis. At least, that's what I'm hoping, since I'm starting Portis. :D

ToxikFetus(#5): I desperately PRAY that you are right about LDT being a bad matchup, because my game is against a guy with LDT and LJ as well, but he has no alternative RB's. But honestly I can't see it. Tiki is playing against the #1 rushing defense DVOA. Indy's rush defense DVOA is #18. Yes, I know Indy will get ahead and SD will have to throw, but they throw to LDT as well, so I think he's a slightly better option.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 6:53pm

"But no one would be dumb enough to kick it practically parallel with the crossbar if he was trying to throw the game."

But maybe Brown is just that savvy that he knows only a horrific miss would be interpreted as unintentional.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 6:58pm

you can’t spend back-to-back early first-round picks on players at the same position. Unless, of course, you’re the Detroit Lions.

I actually wouldn't mind my team spending back to back TO BACK early first round picks on the same position... as long as it was offensive lineman. Could you imagine an offensive line whose biggest problem was that they had to move Ogden, Jones, or Pace to guard? For what it's worth, I'd move Ogden. He's a bear in run blocking, but sometimes gets beat by quick defensive ends (Dwight Freeney). On the inside, he'd just overpower any pass-rushing defensive tackle he would line up against.

by Tecmo Bo (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 7:12pm

Is Vince Young really projected to be a top 5 pick?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 7:31pm

Geez, if the Almighty wants to convince any doubters of His sense of humor, hardening Millen's head, and having him select another wide receiver would be wonderful. Sorry, Lions' fan, it has to be hoped for.

The notion that Brown tanked the kick is absurd, but if a team wanted a player to do it, the guy to approach would be the holder or the snapper.

by Raul Amargosa (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 7:46pm

#6: I have the same dilemma, picking between Carnell Williams and Samkon Gado. Last week both did well (I went with Gado out of fear of Carolina's D), and I suspect both will play well again this week. But I'm going with Williams, as he and other guys on playoff contenders might do slightly better.

But should I bench Thomas Jones for Samkon? Haha what a strange idea, and I'm not doing it, though something tells me I may regret it.

by Raul Amargosa (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 7:50pm

#10: Vince Young will be a top 10 pick, he will go to the Lions. Try and guess how it will pan out. You heard it here first.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 8:30pm

For the Detroit Lions, a wide receiver for their top-10 pick in the 2006 Draft

I hate you all.

We won't get a new GM. Ford will dig in his heels against all the public pressure. Besides, look what happened the last time we got a new GM ...

by Daniel (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 11:45pm

I'm the "Daniel" of this week. Thanks for your suggestions, first of all. I'm gonna go with Moats and Engram and hope my opponent's two studs -- Edgerrin and Larry Johnson -- flop this week. (Eeeeeeesh.)

Just curious -- do you guys edit the questions you use for the Mailbag? I'm pretty sure I wrote that "my fantasy team comprises...." and it was changed to "my fantasy team consists of....." Both are grammatically correct. Just thought it was funny that you guys changed it.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 12:08am

"Is comprised of" would be the correct way to use comprise in that situation. Comprises would be used if you had just Shaun Alexander, ie, "Shaun Alexander comprises my team." Comprise would work, but it would have to be sentence-final, as in "Shaun Alexander and Kimo von Oelhoffen comprise my team."

by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 12:13am

Someone at Jaguars.com suggested that the NFL introduce a draft-lottery like the NBA has. I think this is a fantastic idea for 2 reasons:
1) Lottery day would be the most exciting day for the league as whole because every teams fans would be watching to see how their team draws.
2) The controversy surrounding the Texans missed kick is downplayed because the game had zero impact on anything else. Did they miss on purpose or not? We don't know. But believe that if that same situation happened against the Steelers, or Jaguars, or Chargers, or Chiefs, you would have some serious backlash in those other 3 cities. It would be some intense consequences. Plus it irks me that everyone and his brother is already making their own draft board for next year and predicting whose gonna go to what team at which spot. We're getting ready for the playoffs here. The whole Reggie Bush to the texans or 49ers bit is getting way too much discussion

by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 12:18am

Also, anyone who says the Texans should take Reggie Bush and just trade Domanick Davis....do you know what kind of market value RB's have??? NONE. The Colts put Edge on the market last year for a 2nd round pick and had no takers. The Seahawks shopped Alexander and got nothing. The RB is not as important to the rushing attack as the O-line is. That's fact. It's the most replaceable position in the game. Trade Davis! thats a joke...

by Richard (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 6:33am

I still hope the 49ers get the top pick and draft Bush. It'd be great to see Alex Smith and Reggie Bush on the same team again. Helix High School was pretty good that year.

by Oswlek (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 10:03am

Fantasy question:

My lineup is pretty set with two exceptions, a RB and a W/R slot. RBs get 1 point/20 yards and 6/TD. WR get the same but also get .25/reception. All offensive players also get 1 point/25 return yards. Here are the options:

Bettis vs. Minn
Cadillac vs. NE
Koren Robinson vs. Pitt

Bettis appears to be a good play, but it is so dependent on TDs. Cadillac is running well, but the Pats have been great against the run lately. I want to fit Robinson in there, but I don't trust Minn's offense enough against Pitt's D. Although, he would be almost certain to get about 3 points just from KO returns.

Your advice is much appreciated.

by Al (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 11:20am

#3: I think you're fine either way. My argument against Chicago would be that their injuries in the secondary play directly into the strength of the Falcon's passing game: Alge Crumpler. With both their safeties banged up, Crumpler could have a big day, even with a hobbled Vick.

#4: Rod Smith. He'll give you 60-70 yards and likely a touchdown. Moss had those two big catches against Dallas, but he hasn't out performed Smith since then, and the Cowboys secondary will be keying in on him all game to make sure they don't get embarassed again.

#5: Yeah, you're crazy. LT and LJ. The Giants will have trouble defending Johnson with Pierce and Joseph out.

#10: From what I've been reading, Young seems like the consensus #2 right now. Of course everything will change after the combines.

#12: You can't count on Gado. He's worth a start against bad run defense, but against a decent run defense like Baltimore keep him on the bench.

#15: We do edit letters sometimes to fix up grammar, spelling, etc. I didn't change yours, but one of the higher ups might have.

#20: I'd stick with Cadillac. Like you said, if Bettis doesn't get a carry inside the 5, he's not a great option, especially if you only get a point at 20 yards. Yes, New England has been good against the run, but Williams has done well recently against good defenses like Carolina and Chicago. I'd start Koren over Bettis as the W/R. The return yards clinch it. He'll get you at least two points because of return yards and will get you at least another two points on receiving yards. Will Bettis get you 80 yards rushing if he doesn't score a TD?

by Goober King (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 11:36am

Dear Santa,

Please give the Patriots a better conditioning coach. Their injury list these past few years has been longer than your Naughty/Nice list!

Or, maybe they just need an uglier trainer.

by IzzionSona (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 12:20pm

#17: The problem with the draft lottery is the appearance of impropriety when one of the good media markets is in the pool. Think NY Knicks, circa the beginning of the Patrick Ewing era. There's a lot of buzz that the NBA rigged the lottery so that NY got the #1 that year. So, what happens if the J-E-T-S pull the #1 this year from a lotto? The NFL would suffer from claims that they rigged the lotto so that Bush went to a large media market instead of Houston, Texas, or such. Thus, despite the incentive of Houston/San Fran et al to try to tank it, I think a records-based draft is better for the league as a whole.

Plus, if an organization really did that, I would think it would infect the organization to the point that it might poison the attitude necessary to become winners. In which case, they get the #1 pick here, and shoot themselves in the face for the next 10 years.

by Al (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 12:33pm

Let me put up a couple of decisions I have to make in one league for discussion:

I'm in the playoffs in one league with a crazy scoring system that I would take too long to explain here. Roster requirements are 2QB, 3 RB, 3 WR, TE, K, DT. My dilemmas involve my 2nd WB and my 3rd RB.

My QB dilemma is whether to start an injured Vick on the road against Chicago, or a healthy David Garrard against San Francisco. I'm leaning towards Garrard right now.

At RB, because of injuries to Westbrook and KJones, I'm hurting for my final RB spot. I have to decide between Artose Pinner, J.J. Arrington, Cedric Houston and Antowain Smith. I have Pinner in the lineup now because of the matchup against Cincy's run defense, but I'm worried that Detroit will fall so far behind they'll quickly abandon their running game.

by DS (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 1:33pm

I am a huge underdog in our upcoming fantasy semifinals. I made the playoffs riding Leftwich's ludicrously easy schedule in the second half.

I have two big decisions.

One QB: Bledsoe (at Washington), Collins (vs Cleveland), Frerotte (vs Jets)

One RB (in addition to Barber): Droughns (at Oakland), Dunn (at Chicago)--obviously I'm leaning Droughns here.

Our league has a pretty standard scoring system: 10 rushing/receiving yds=1 pt; 25 passing yds = 1 pt; TD=6; Fumble Lost/Pick = -2.

Any thoughts?

by Oswlek (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 1:45pm

Al (#24),

Garrard has to be the one. He has been servicable over the past few weeks and San Fran is terrible.

If those are your options at RB than I feel for you. I really am not all that sure. You have the right read on Pinner; Is Arrington the starter(?), because they have a good matchup. I can't quite remember who The Saints are playing, but that is intriguing due to Brooks' benching. I would think they would want to run a little more.

by NF (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 2:46pm

Personally, I think JAGUARS (-16) over SanFran is a pretty good bet. The 49ers are so awful on the road that even the Cardinals in Mexico City beat them by 16 points.

by IzzionSona (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 4:07pm

Fantasy playoffs question:
In a squeaker that could very well determine the league championship result in this week's semi-final. I have the Colts D/ST, but there're indications that some of the big-name players (June, etc.) won't be suiting up against San Diego. Seattle is on the wire, and they're playing Tennessee. Should I pick up and start Seattle instead?

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 4:15pm

I would, simply because Seattle's playing Tennessee rather than San Diego.

Even if the Colts were playing full strength, Cincinnati dropped 37 on them. I can't imagine San Diego not scoring 20+, whereas I could easily see Tennessee held to under 10.

by NoJo (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 4:41pm

My loser league team scored more than twice as many points as my real fantasy team this week. How depressing.

by cjfarls (not verified) :: Thu, 12/15/2005 - 7:20pm

#20: Definitely stick with Cadillac

#24: Garrard all the way, and I would actually look at A.Smith at RB... Carolina looked pretty soft against the run last week... whether for injuries or whatever.

Now my question: A WR/TE flex spot-
C.Cooley vs. Dallas, K.Curts vs. Philly, Burleson vs. Pitt, or Horn vs. Carolina?

by Tyler (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 1:01am

Re 28: I would definitely pick up Seattle. A much weaker opponent, and they've played well lately.
Re 31: I'd have to go with Cooley if those are my choices. Dallas allowed a big game to Tony Gonzalez last week, and while Cooley isn't in the same league as Tony, there probably won't be much open down the field, forcing Brunell to dump it off a lot. If receptions aren't big in your league, then that might be a deterrant, but Cooley has been a decent play lately, and had a touchdown 2 weeks ago.

My Question deals with WR's. I'm set with Larry Fitz and Torry Holt as my top 2, but I need a third out of Moose Muhammad vs Atl, Joey Jur vs Ten or Dante Hall vs NYG. I have been using Jurevicius in that spot, but with him being dropped down to the number 3 slot on his own team with the return of Jackson, I'm worried about him not getting the ball.

by clonmullin (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 11:52am

Yes another fantasy one. I have Rudi as my no. 1 RB and have to choose between ...

Willie Parker Vs Cleveland, Ruben Droughns Vs Pittsburgh,
Willis McGahee Vs Denver,

... as my No. 2 Leaning towards Parker but would like to know what others think

by Adam B. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 2:38pm

A few answers, a status report, and a question:

33: Parker's playing Minnesota. I think I'd go with him -- though the fact that Losman's no longer playing makes me wonder if McGahee comes back, finally.

32: I'd go with Muhsin if you expect to win the game and just need "some points", JJ if you need higher upside.

31: Horn. I'd take a chance on Bouman.

28: I hate leagues where you can add/drop in the playoffs. Less of a challenge. If you don't have to drop anyone major, I'd probably make that move.
Status: I'm starting Garrard over Hasselback (but Brady over Garrard) in my two leagues, and Moats > CBrown and SJackson . . . barely, over CHouston and Parker, though that last one may change.
So here's my question: given Losman's benching, do I still start Lee Evans over Deion Branch (with Brady as my QB)?

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 3:15pm

OK, 2 flex spots. It's a TD/yardage/point-per-recepetion league. The choices:

RB: C. Houston, J. Bettis, F. Gore, S. Davis
WR: E. Moulds, D. Bennett, B. Lloyd

Right now I think I'm leaning towards Moulds (who's done MUCH better with Holcomb this year) and Bettis. It sounds like Houston might be splitting time with B.J. Askew, and Miami's a bad matchup anyway.

Oh, and at TE, would you go with Zack Hilton or Jeb Putzier?

by Raul Amargosa (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 4:17pm

Joe Jurevicius isn't starting ahead of Bobby Engram? Are you sure about that? That would be an absurd decidion by Seattle if it's true.

by SJM (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 4:46pm

I too have to decide between Hasselbeck and Garrard. I'm leaning toward Matt, because he's WAY more proven than David and Seatle still has something to play for this week.
Also, Tennesee and San Fran have allowed an equal number of passing TDs, but SF has more INTs. In my league, passing yards don't count for much, but SF allows a lot more than Tenn if that is a factor for you.
In DVOA, the passing D's are very close: Tenn 35.9% 29th, SF 41.3% 31st.

And that's probably way more than anyone wanted to know about Tennesse's and San Fran's passing D's.

by Adam B. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2005 - 6:20pm

SJM, two deciding factors for me: Hasselback's more likely to have a 200y/1td game (with Alexander going large) than something like last week, and I just have visions of Garrard running one in himself.

Plus, I'm playing a guy who ought to destroy me (with Westbrook/TO gone, my core five starters are Alexander/Moats with Ward/RSmith/DBennett to his Edge/Tiki/Holt/Boldin/Stallworth), so I'm leaning to upside over steady.

by Jeremy (not verified) :: Sat, 12/17/2005 - 1:32am

Two questions:

1. Eli or Drew Brees at QB?

2. I need two WR from the following bunch. I need more steady production than a possible big game. (S. Moss (v. Dal), Lee Evans (v. Den), Ronnie Brown (v. StL), K. Curtis (v. Phi), and E. Wilford (v. SF))

by kevin (not verified) :: Sat, 12/17/2005 - 7:48am

Re#36 . . .

Why would Engram starting be "absurd"?? JJ had every chance to claim the starting role this past offseason, and he didn't do it . . . Engram will start, and in 3WR sets, JJ will be split wide, and Engram will (as usual) move to the slot . . .

by cjfarls (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 12:57pm

Okay, now I feel dumb...

After posing the question here about who to play, and getting advice to play Cooley, I ended up benching him and wading into free agency and picking up K. Robinson instead... now I'm down 6 points in my playoff game, with only D. Mason tonight... My season is in the hands of K. Boller... yeesh.