Scramble for the Ball: Seventeen Again
by Bill Barnwell
Despite the utter stupidity in such a move that is apparent to most fantasy football players, some leagues out there still play their championship game in Week 17. I play in one at the moment, and in an older league of mine, the commissioner actually insisted on playing the final in Week 17 simply because I complained about it so much.
This year, I'm fortunate enough to be in my Week 17 league's championship game, and it will actually work out better for me, considering that Ronnie Brown, Willie Parker, and Roy Williams have all since departed my team's mortal coil. Is there a better week to mine the waiver wire? Most years, though, I'd be fuming if I were in this spot. The whole point of drafting and maintaining your team throughout the year is so that you have the best players possible when it matters most. Instead, I'm left debating whether I should bench Jon Kitna for the potential of Seneca Wallace versus the Falcons pass defense.
Crying over potentially spilt milk does us no good, though. Instead, in the Christmas spirit, let's celebrate some of those random wonders who put up huge Week 17's in the DVOA era and, just maybe, won a fantasy league or two for the random owners who backed into them that week.
In 1995, Kevin Williams was the Cowboys' returner and played the Alvin Harper role without the whole touchdown part, making him a virtual fantasy nonentity despite playing on the third-best offense in football. He had no touchdowns all year in Weeks 1 through 16; in Week 17, he had nine catches for 203 yards and two scores, making him the high scorer on the week. (In your "Occasional Great Moments in Larry Centers" moment, the fullback had 172 yards receiving for Arizona this week. 172!)
In 1997, the career game in Week 17 belonged to a quarterback: the magical Eric Zeier, who was getting his chance to prove himself in Baltimore, and threw for 349 yards and two scores in the final game of the season against the Bengals. It was the last multi-touchdown game of his career.
Although we do rip on him a lot because of Wade Phillips' incorrect decision to start him, Rob Johnson sure did look promising at the beginning. He had a gorgeous Week 17 in 1998: 12-for-18, 216 yards, three touchdowns. He was joined in the Week 17 annals by Brett Bech, who I admit I've never heard of before. He had 379 yards and four scores in his career; in Week 17 of 1998, he had 113 yards and two scores for New Orleans.
Tim Dwight sure has lasted for a while being the same guy: a pretty good returner who can run really fast and not do much else. Week 17 in 1999 might have been the best of his career, as he caught seven passes for 162 yards and two scores. Also, in the pantheon of miserable comparisons based solely on race, is there a worse comparison than Tim Dwight and Wes Welker?
Not many fullbacks make it on to fantasy rosters. Actually, unless you're talking about Mike Alstott, no fullbacks make it on to fantasy rosters. One who probably did for at least half a season was Richie Anderson, who caught 88 passes for 853 yards in 2000. His Pro Bowl year was capped in Week 17, when he caught 11 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Speaking of guys I've never heard of before -- Dameane Douglas? How do you pronounce his first name? "Da Mean?" "Demean?" "Da Meanie?" I like all of them. He spent four years as an Eagles backup receiver and special teams guy, racking up 165 yards and three touchdowns in his career. This week in 2001, he had 77 yards and two scores -- and never again caught an NFL pass.
In what may have kept Lee Suggs on people's radar screens for two years, he ran for 186 yards and two scores against the Bengals the last week of the 2003 campaign. That would be your second-worst rush defense in football that year, of course. And we must shout out our favorites: Rock Cartwright ran for 43 yards, caught five passes for 53 yards, and scored this week.
In the "We can put our hopes on you, Eli!" game at the end of Eli Manning's difficult rookie season, he seemed to forge a link to special teams dynamo David Tyree, who caught seven passes for 71 yards and a score. Tyree then went back to his usual life, waiting for Tim Carter to get hurt.
We haven't really mentioned many tight ends, but it's worth noting Ben Troupe's 2005 Week 17. He ended up with nine catches for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals, who were 27th against tight ends that year.
And last year? That prize goes to Hank Baskett, who somehow morphed into a stud receiver against the Falcons, catching seven passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. This year? 14 catches for 135 yards, all year. Just like we said about the Week 1 stars: Don't read too far into these things.
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QB: At one point on Sunday, JaMarcus Russell had -8 points. -8!!! Someone else actually got close to that this week, but you'll have to wait for that. Russell ended up with 2 points courtesy of a late touchdown and totally irrelevant two-point conversion. The worst quarterback of the week, sadly, was the aforementioned Eli, whose four turnovers led to -3 points for the week. Brodie Croyle scored one point to finish as runner-up.
RB: Aaron noted Warrick Dunn's fall from grace in Quick Reads, and this week was no exception. He had 13 rushing yards for a single point, which tied him with Kevin Jones, who at least had an injury for an excuse. Julius Jones, who has become a fixture in these pages, scored 2.
WR: Live from Eric Mangini's doghouse, it's Justin McCareins! In some sort of misguided tribute to Ike Hilliard's Giants campaign, McCareins put up nine yards for a donut. Marques Colston, Ronald Curry, Javon Walker, and Jeff Webb each had 1.
K: Ladies and gentlemen, just when you thought it was safe ... the Nuge returned. In a game that the Jets lost, 10-6, Mike Nugent missed a field goal and had an extra point blocked (which counts as a missed extra point). That's -7. Truly, the gift that keeps on giving.
Keep Choppin' Wood
Do you remember that ESPN show Tilt? The one that was advertised pretty much nonstop for a month straight? No, not "You're risking a patient's life!" That's House. "His father is the district attorney!" Nope. Skin. And they're both FOX. And how come TV shows only have one-word names? Anyway, Tilt was the show with the ubiquitous Vegas-typecast logo on green felt that was advertised literally every break during Sunday night football games a couple of years ago starring Michael Madsen, whose character's name was, simply, "The Matador."
In that same vein, a new matador has won our award this week. Warren Sapp gets the big axe for getting the axe himself -- picking up three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the course of three plays would be something absurd if it was Bart Scott, who'd played his heart out and saw his team collapse with its only chance to justify its season's existence on the line, but Sapp? Really? Sadly, we know that we could hand him the axe and point him to the stump, but he'll still run ten yards away from it so he doesn't have to take it head-on.
2-1 last week, 23-20-1 overall
See, Colts fans? I didn't jinx you! This is the hardest week of the year to bet, with so many teams playing random backups. There are only a few teams I think I can trust, so I'll go with them.
New England (-14.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
If this were Week 8, the Giants might have one of the better chances at beating the Patriots, with a pass rush that can get to Tom Brady with only four rushers, but I suspect that Wes Welker and (if healthy) Ben Watson should take the Giants apart underneath.
Dallas (+9.5) over WASHINGTON
Are Dallas banged up and likely to play subs? Sure. Can they still play Washington closer than nine points? Oh yeah.
CLEVELAND (-10) over San Francisco
One hiccup is one thing. No way does Cleveland do it twice.