Scramble for the Ball
Fantasy football, the Loser League, and general goofiness

Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

by Bill Barnwell

Well, we've made it to Week 14, and with it, the fantasy playoffs for most leagues are upon us. For those of you who made it this far and have reached the playoffs, congratulations; for those of you who didn't quite make it to the promised land this year, well, sorry about Larry Johnson. Better luck next year, I guess.

With the postseason about to begin, I decided to take this week and look back and the great performances of fantasy playoff yesteryear. Of course, when Jerry Rice scores 406 points in a year, it's not so extraordinary when he picks up 88 points in the three playoff weeks. I'm going to also pay attention to those players who put up big numbers that stood out amongst the rest of their season or their careers.


Jerry Rice had a gigantic year, putting up those aforementioned 406 points, and his 88 fantasy points were the most of anyone during the fantasy postseason. The unlikely fantasy stud was another veteran wideout, though: Tony Martin, who caught 26 passes for 357 yards and three scores before his breakout 12-touchdown campaign a year later. The biggest surprise player was Tampa Bay wide receiver Horace Copeland, who had a weird season -- five catches for 155 yards and a score in Week 1, and then no more than two catches, 40 yards, or any touchdowns in any other week until the playoffs began, when he had 19 catches for 274 yards and a score. Even when Week 17 rolled around, he was back to the one-catch guy.


By all counts, this was Steve Young's postseason. He missed about five games during the regular season with injury, but when he was healthy, oh, was he great. Young threw for 900 yards and ran for 128 more when the playoffs rolled around. The other player announcing himself to be a star was Antonio Freeman, who had been playing very well before an injury kept him out for several games. When he returned in Week 14, he put up 391 yards and four scores in the postseason.


This postseason belonged to a rookie: Corey Dillon. After putting up one 100-yard game before the playoffs, Dillon exploded with three during the playoffs, including a 246-yard, four-touchdown performance against Tennessee that helped earn him 90 playoff fantasy points, just about 40 percent of his yearly total. The other shocking overachiever was certainly not a rookie: Boomer Esiason. In his last season before retirement, Esiason lined up in front of Dillon for the Bengals and threw for 892 yards and seven touchdowns.


There wasn't the same sort of huge playoff breakout performance in '98 that had been seen previously. The star combination was Randall Cunningham and Randy Moss, who put up 83 and 74 fantasy points, respectively. The only players to really post an unexpectedly large fantasy postseason was retread Floyd Turner, playing out the string for an awful Baltimore team, as well as Tim Biakabutuka, who put together a healthy three weeks to win some teams a fantasy trophy.


Our first 100-point postseason came from Marshall Faulk, who put it up as part of a banner 400-plus-fantasy point campaign. The fantasy shockers, though, were a pair of unassuming wide receivers. Patrick Jeffers matured into a superstar wideout over the last five weeks of 1999, putting up five consecutive 100-plus-yard games while scoring eight touchdowns. He'd only catch fourteen more passes in his career because of injury. Qadry Ismail, meanwhile, didn't catch a single pass in 1997 or 1998, but started off the playoffs with a shocking day: Six catches for 258 yards and three scores. He added seven more for 115 and a score the next week, pushing him over 1,000 yards.


Marshall Faulk topped his previous postseason with 107 fantasy points as part of a 456-point campaign. The runner-up for fantasy point king, though, was Warrick Dunn, who put together the best three-game streak of his career. He had 210- and 145-yard games, scoring twice in each. Aaron Brooks also scored 55.5 percent of his fantasy points in the playoffs this year.


Guess who? Marshall Faulk upped it to 112 points this year, perhaps single-handedly winning some teams their leagues; no other player had more than 77 points in those three weeks. The random breakout performer was Jamel White, who didn't do very much all year, but put up 396 combined yards and three scores in a three-week stretch that would be his only signs of life in a short career.


Now that Faulk had descended from the heavens, we were back down to a mere 83 points for the star of the playoffs -- that would be Marvin Harrison, who was in his peak 143-catch season. His numbers aren't out of line for what was an absurdly good campaign -- nine and ten catches, right around 100 yards per game. A bigger surprise would have been Amani Toomer, who put up a monster 204-yard, three-touchdown performance against Indianapolis in Week 16 that should've earned him fantasy winnings.


The best fantasy playoff performance of the last twelve seasons? You'll never guess who. LaDainian Tomlinson scored an even 115 points in the three playoff weeks on the fantasy schedule. He actually fell short of double-digit rushing totals in Weeks 15 and 16, then exploded for 243 yards in Week 17. He also scored six times and had 510 combined yards from scrimmage. The two surprise packages that were astute waiver wire packages were 49ers: Jeff Garcia, who also scored 100 points, and Kevan Barlow, who made his career almost solely based upon a pair of 154-yard games he had in Weeks 14 and 16.


Speaking of people making their careers based upon three weeks, try on Drew Bennett and Billy Volek. While the 2004 Titans were the collapse year of the great Titans teams from the late-'90s, Bennett led all performers with 99 fantasy points despite only catching two passes for 26 yards in Week 16. How did he pull that off? Try 25 catches for 393 yards and five scores in the two games prior.


Ah, the halcyon days of Larry Johnson. As part of his "Greatest Half-Season In NFL History" campaign, Johnson ran for 431 yards and seven touchdowns in the playoffs, throwing in 201 yards and three scores in Week 17 for good measure. This was the year of Chris Chambers' big playoff run as well, as he scored five touchdowns for fantasy teams worldwide despite only catching 17 passes.


Steven Jackson was the only player over 100 points in the 2006 playoffs, capped by his four-touchdown day against Minnesota to end the season. Jackson had 518 yards from scrimmage and scored six touchdowns during the playoffs. The big shocker was Ron Dayne, who put up a huge game against Indianapolis (which inspired the matchup column I wrote in this year's book), as well as Ronald Curry, who finally stayed healthy long enough to show off despite having to handle the Andrew Walter Experience.

Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.

Loser League

All the negatives, contrary to what some guys from Austin might've told you a few years ago, have not been destroyed. We've got a bunch this week.

QB: OK, well, if you chose Brett Favre, you're either a brave person, jaundiced and petty, or clairvoyant. Favre's disaster game against the Cowboys this week was good for a -2. He was joined by John Beck, who put up that performance against the freaking Jets. The Jets! -16.0 DPAR! That's grounds for getting Bob Griese in there. At least we know he's sober.

RB: Sadly, we did not see the same epic failure here that we did at quarterback, but when it comes to Reggie Bush... well, we'll get to him later. He scored a 4, one ahead of Jesse Chatman and Warrick Dunn, each of whom had 3. Julius Jones also had a 4.

WR: Get ready for this list of studs with a single point: Ted Ginn, Drew Carter, Keenan McCardell, Lance Moore, Derek Hagan, and Wes Welker. Well, Welker doesn't deserve to be lumped in there, especially with Ginn. That swap turned out well, huh?

K: No negative kickers, either, but we saw bad games from some old reliables: Josh Brown, Shayne Graham, Joe Nedney, and Rob Bironas all had 2s.

Keep Choppin' Wood

A lot of thought and debate went into KCW this week. Some people argued for Rex Ryan because of his fourth-and-1 timeout call, which is ridiculous. For one, Ryan designed a great game plan that limited the league's elite offense. Second, Ryan called a perfectly defensible timeout. The fact that the timeout was only granted after the play had been run and the Ravens had stopped Brady (literally the first time I've ever seen him not get the yard on a sneak) is irrelevant to the timeout decision.

More people nominated Joe Gibbs, for his timeout snafu at the end of the game on Sunday that cost the Redskins their game with the Bills. I wavered on this one all week. On one hand, yes, it was a boneheaded, stupid move that Gibbs should have known better than to make. Alternately, someone should have told Gibbs that the move was a bad decision, but based on previous communication issues detailed after last season, well, I'm not surprised no-one stopped him.

I can't give Gibbs the dubious honor, though. Not under the circumstances Gibbs has been under all week. It makes it easier, perhaps, that there's a coach who made a decision 95 percent as dumb, but with none of the related emotional draining that's taken place over the past week. There's been some talk of a Sean Payton second-year curse, based upon his performance as an offensive play-caller in New York and Dallas, and it seems to be rearing its head in New Orleans, where his offense clearly isn't anywhere near as effective as it was a year ago. Whether that had something to do with Sunday's abysmal play-call or not, I can't say, but Payton's call of a reverse while the Saints were running down the clock with a lead was among the worst I've ever seen. I happened to be tuned to the game when the play happened, and the reaction of everyone in the room to the fumble was just disgust. That's usually a sign that those involved should be chopping wood.

Best Bets

1-2 last week, 17-17-1 overall

Now, it's a battle to put up a winning record on the season. Otherwise, God, I'll just look like I'm Ian or somebody. Nobody wants that, least of all me.

GREEN BAY (-10.5) over Oakland

OK, so now, we have Josh McCown and/or JaMarcus Russell starting on the road? Yeah, I can bet against that pretty comfortably.

Cleveland (-3.5) over NEW YORK JETS

The Jets pass defense moved all the way up this week ... to 27th! If you're still awake in the Meadowlands, feel free to pat yourself on the back now, Barry Horowitz-style.

Kansas City (+6.5) over DENVER

This is just a feel bet for me. I really like Kansas City's defense and how it's developed as the season has gone along, and Denver just looks to be a team in disarray.


44 comments, Last at 09 Dec 2007, 8:56am

4 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

How did A.J. Feeley not even manage to make the discussion for KCW? 4 picks (including 3 to the same player), including the one that lost the game for the Eagles? He's actually done that twice in a row now...

5 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

What scoring system do you use? How many points did Mike Anderson get in the 2000 playoffs? His stats:
week 14: 251 rush yards, 4 TDs
week 15: 131 rush yards, 2 TDs
week 16: 49 rush yards, 29 rec yards

6 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace


Maybe Bill's a closet Philadelphia-area Eagles fan? I swear that the local fans and talking heads are still saying that Feeley is a better QB solution than McNabb. Even though Feeley has thrown more interceptions in 2 games than McNabb threw in 10. Even though Feeley almost single-handedly lost the Patriots and Seahawks game.

I can't wait for McNabb to raise the Lombardi Trophy in a Vikings uniform next year.

8 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

For very logical reasons related to moving around a lot when I was younger, I'm a Packers fan and a Syracuse fan. Hence the thought of McNabb in a Vikings uniform just makes me sad. Isn't there anyone else that needs a QB and isn't in the NFC North or AFC West (as I'm living in San Diego now, and the Bolts are unlikely to acquire Donovan)?

9 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

Did you even watch the Pats-Ravens game? You can see Ryan calling the timeout and the official waving his arms to stop play before the snap. Look right in front of the fourth down marker.

10 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

Miami Dolphins fan venting in three, two, one:

I am so goddamn sick of writers bashing to Dolphins for trading Wes Welker (see loser league WR section, Peter King, etc.). The Dolphins have made 5 zillion mistakes in the past 5 years, and trading Welker was not one of them. Welker is a nice player, playing for one of the most potent offenses ever. He would have SUCKED this year for Miami.

By the way, we picked Samson Saetele with the pick New England gave us. He's started every game as a rookie! Dr. Z thinks he's gonna be a perrennial Pro-Bowler!!! Sure, he doesn't have pretty hair like Nick Mangold, but our problem ain't the o-line anymore, thanks in part to Saetele.

I hate this season so much. Rant over. As you were.

11 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

What was it Montgonmery Burns said many years ago while reading the Springfield Times: "Ah Ziggy, will you ever win?"


And thanks once again for leaving the Colts off the BBBB list.

Man, look at some of the two-week stretches in the NFL recently--Baltimore gets NE on a Monday night and then Indy on a Sunday night-two of the best teams 6 days apart. What'd they do to deserve that? (oh, go 13-3 last year I guess). At least they're both at home.
Then Oakland has GB on the road before a home game against Indy. 2 of the best teams 7 days apart, with one on the road. What'd THEY do to deserve that? Okay, that's self-evident.... Silly question.

Looking at those records gets me thinking, has there ever been a season with a 16-0 team (no), or a 15-1 team (only a couple) or TWO 14-2 teams (none that I know of) all making the playoffs? Wow, that's just nuts. What would be good for a #1 seed overall most other years could be good enough for just the 4th ranked record this season. With that top-heavy line-up, I'm thinking the SB is primed for two 6th seeds to play each other. Where can I get odds on a Minny/Cleveland SB? Nowhere? Okay, no biggie.

12 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

In Hall of Suck photo 11 is grabbing his crocthc.

R Gannon was very big player for fantasy teams in 200-0-2.

In 2008, next year Jamarucs Russell and Darren Mcfadden both fantasy stars for Raiders.

In writing about packers-Raiders game, no way Gb covers spread. Raiders definitely keep that game close, maybe even win it. Just don't blink or you might miss one of Russell's laser passes.

14 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

Re: 11

Too late! I blinked and missed those ten Raider wins this year too!

On an unrelated note

Kitna (vs. Dallas) or Cutler (vs. KC)

Welker (vs. Pitt) or Jennings (vs. Raiders)

16 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

Also, I agree with all of your best bets but I think you missed the best of them all: TB -2.5 @ Houston, ESPECIALLY with Garcia back and Rosenfels starting.

19 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

Bobman said: "Looking at those records gets me thinking, has there ever been a season with a 16-0 team (no), or a 15-1 team (only a couple) or TWO 14-2 teams (none that I know of) all making the playoffs?"

In 1998, Minnesota was 15-1 and both Denver and Atlanta were 14-2.

20 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

"sorry about Larry Johnson."

REALLY!? This says to me: ooo look at how great our projections were, we hit on this one guy, people must have been idiots to take him and not trust our projections.

Why not say sorry about Frank Gore, or Donavan McNabb? I normally get annoyed by people who claim you guys to too much self promotion. But this really irks me.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, and obviously i don't have any data to suggest KUBIAK did any better or worse than say the ESPN projections, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was worse. And starting the article off with that unearned superior attitude seems to go against everything this site stands for.

22 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

Re: #19

Wow, relax, man. Bill didn't mention KUBIAK in the slightest. I think he was just commenting on the fact that Johnson was a fairly high pick in most fantasy leagues, and people that spent that pick on him were disappointed...

(I got Brian Westbrook with the 10th pick. I am most definitely not disappointed).

29 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

I appologize for the tone of my earlier post. Chalk it up to lack of caffine.

I still can't resolve Barnwell's use of "Better luck next year, I guess" at the end of that. He wouldn't write "I guess" unless he was conflicted about wishing good luck. The implication being that the type of people who would draft Johnson in the face of the overwhelming evidance against such an action can't be helped. I can't read it as anything other than a condescending attitude toward people foolish enough to take LJ, and by extension, those foolish enough to distrust FO's projections. I don't think FO has earned the right to be arrogant about its player projections.

Full disclosure: FO has every right to be arrogant about DVOA, its team projections, the quality of its writing staff, the level of discussion on its message boards(non Pats-Colts related), and probably lots of things im forgetting. I'm a believer in the overall tenets of 370 and stayed far away from LJ.

also how is my previous post #20 now?

30 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace


Raiders just have problems at Qb positions. Problem get fied in 2008. by name of Jamcus Russell. Every prediction I made about 2007 season came true, except record of Raiders. Can't be right all the time or you guys would think I was an alein with all this brain power.

31 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

19/21 Thanks. It figures, last year of grad school, who had time for football? Well, aside from the beer and poker,I mean.... I was probably too busy trying to read the tea leaves of Manning's rookie year. I knew Minny had such a season and of course Denver--Atlanta was 14-2 also? Ye gods! That final four had some pretty lofty records to live up to.

What was the conventional wisdom heading into the playoffs that year, that Minn was too much of a powerhouse, or that Elway's 2nd SB was a guaranteed swan song? Was that the year of the "dirty bird" TD dance in Atl? I'm no major fan of the no fun league, but I can surely say I am happy there are no named celebrations anymore. (does the "lights out dance" count? yick. I am a party pooper.)

32 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

#30 Raiderjoe, Most of us probably already think you are an alien, so no worries. And if you substitute "beer" for "brain power" you hit the nail on the head.

I have to give it to you, though, your faith in your team is unwavering.


33 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

Raiderjoe was gone for a while, and I suggested that he might have stopped coming because he was depressed about the Raiders. But then I remembered that he's never depressed about the Raiders. And that, of course, is why we love him so much.

Raiderjoe, we salute you.

35 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

The feeling was definitely that it should have been Denver vs Minnesota in the Super Bowl. I thought that the Vikings would have won (but I'm biased). FO thinks that Denver was the better team.

The Vikings were unstoppable on offense that year. The 556 points they scored are (for the moment) the most points that a team has scored in a season in NFL history.

36 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

Re: Gibbs -

Seems to me that both Gibbs AND the Refereed screwed up the Time out rule
Rule 12
Section 3
Article 4

( i) a team has already been charged a time out during the same dead ball period;
( ii) a team has exhausted the three charged team time outs that are permitted in a half.

If an attempt is made to call a time out in these situations, the officials shall not grant a time out, play will continue, and a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be enforced. If a time out is inadvertently granted, the penalty shall also be enforced.
Note: The Referee (or another official) will notify the Head Coach

(i) that two charged time outs by the same team in the same dead ball period are not permitted, and

(ii) when he has exhausted his three charged team time outs in a half.


No question that Gibbs screwed up and deserves blame. But it's interesting that the NFL hasn't been called to task for allowing Gibbs to take a TO (Especially if what Gibbs claims is true, and he specifically asked a referee if he could call a TO

37 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

I just want to note that I named LJ because he was the most prominent player to have a bad year this season.

Adding something like "you guess" is an attempt to mitigate the faux-awkwardness of comforting a reader who had a poor season. Any extrapolation of me being arrogant about KUBIAK's performance this year (which would be silly) or towards people who don't "listen" to FO is, to be entirely honest, clutching at straws and extrapolation.

38 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

And you hit it right on the head for me with the Larry Johnson comment. I unfortunately had to miss the first round of my fantasy football draft and got Larry Johnson, who I was not planning on picking, at the #3 spot. Oh man have I been pissed for month after month. Good luck next year is right.

39 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

Fair enough, Bill. I'll take your word that you didn't mean anything by it.

Thats the way I read it though, and I wanted to express my displeasure of reading something like what I thought I read here. I extrapolated my thoughts to show where I was coming from. Its not so much that I thought your statement was an intentionally subtle slight, just that it reflected an certain superior attitude towards those who took LJ. And in a column that contains the KCW award, I don't think its too far fetched to believe you would have a superior attitude towards the decisions of others. Nothing against the KCW award, just saying.

I embarrassed to add myself to the long list of people getting upset after incorrectly reading tone in written text. I've always considered myself so good at it, I guess I'll go back to lurking :(

41 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

Pit was 15-1 and NE 14-2 in 2004. That was also the year the Steelers played two consecutive undefeateds midway thru the season: NE and Philly, and won both. The loss was the end of Maddox's career and the start of Roethlisberger's.

42 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

Sorry about Larry Johnson? How about sorry about Gore, McNabb, Tarvaris, Leftwich, Randall Moss, and the various other misseps of Coo-be-ick? Oh wait, you're gloating, not being accountable. Got it.

43 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

I've now caught up to the comments and discovered that Lou (a) took the LJ comment as I did, (b) got called out for it, and (c) apologized. Well, okay, whatever that means. I will say this - the Johnson comment struck me the same way it initially did you, albeit I'll give BB the benefit of the doubt on his clarification.

Kubiak's season vs. the rest of the fantasy horde? It won't grade out well. It's quite a bit of work (at least with my resources) to grade out every major fantasy pundit but I'm trying to do it and I can tell you it's not pretty from a Kubiak perspective from what I've already been through. Here's the crux: at the end of the day the worth of a fantasy projections system is measured on how it does with the "away from the masses" picks, the players it liked or disliked considerably more than everyone else. And even the most sycophantic reader would have to conclude that in 2007, FO botched a whole heck of these outlier picks. We'll see what happens next year - I can't wait to read the spin in the book.

I have my helmet on and mouthguard in, so go ahead and pile on.

44 Re: Scramble for the Ball: You're a Legend, Horace

At the end of the day with Kubiak, it comes down to this - profile the best teams in your league and ask yourself what players drove them there. So many of the "profit" guys for 2007 Kubiak begged you off - Romo, Owens, Moss and Peterson are four of Yahoo's top five "winning theme" players and Kubiak missed on all of them. Brady is also on that list; Kubiak ranked him at the industry average, no bias in either direction.

Look, maybe Kubiak will be great in 2008, dunno. But when I see Aaron in a BP chat essentially shrugging off Kubiak 2007 with a "hey, everyone's having a bad season, not just us" explanation, it gets my dander up. Add up the scores, compare the outliers with other sites. It's been a lost Kubiak year, and some accountability towards that would be refreshing.