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Tunnel Vision - Week 5
David Dorey
October 11, 2010
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Tony Romo 406 3
Philip Rivers 431 2
Eli Manning 297 3
Alex Smith 309 3
Shaun Hill 227 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Matt Forte 188 2
Ray Rice 159 2
Chris Johnson 132 2
LeSean McCoy 137 1
Michael Bush 135 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Malcom Floyd 213 1
Brandon Lloyd 135 2
Hakeem Nicks 130 2
Miles Austin 166 1
Michael Crabtree 105 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Marcedes Lewis 54 1
Vernon Davis 104 1
Antonio Gates 92 1
Jason Witten 84 1
Zach Miller 62 1
Placekickers XP FG
Josh Scobee 3 5
Jason Hanson 5 3
Adam Vinatieri 1 4
Jay Feely 3 3
Robbie Gould 2 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Raiders 2 3 3
Cardinals 2 1 4
Lions 2 1 3
Titans 0 6 3
Falcons 1 3 3

Bumps, bruises and bow outs

Aaron Rodgers (GB) - Concussion
Donald Lee (GB) - Sprained shoulder
Jermichael Finley (GB) - Knee injury
Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX) - Wrist injury
Joseph Addai (IND) - Shoulder injury
Mark Clayton (STL) - Torn patella tendon
Seneca Wallace (CLE) - Ankle injury
Calvin Johnson (DET) - Shoulder injury

and then there was None

The Chiefs lost in Indianapolis and with that the first time since 1970 that the NFL has not had a 4-0 team. Back when there were only 26 teams playing 14 games per season 40 years ago. So yeah, this is a really different sort of season.

IT just gets weirder

If you are a bettor and haven't shot yourself yet, you will no doubt realize just how unpredictable the NFL has been this year. Over half the games yesterday were not only upsets, but often huge upsets. Those few who won on cue had weird results like the punchless Colts or the explosive Lions. There are no undefeated teams and yet we still have really bad teams. The Bills, Panthers and 49ers remain winless.

More telling is that of the 32 NFL teams, 24 of them (75%) have no streak currently since they haven't strung together more than their current win or loss. What makes this even more fun? When they drag down their fantasy players like, oh, say Arian Foster. Or Peyton Manning. This may just be a build-up to Halloween.

Either that or a parity fueled apocalypse.

ten random observations

1. If Jermichael Finley is injured to any extent, Donald Lee is one to strongly consider. Granted he only had two catches for 22 yards on Sunday but he scored once and can offer that over the middle presence that Aaron Rodgers so loves. Lee is not going to be as good as Finley, but he could make at least a prudent depth pick for your team. (Later note - Lee is out for a week or two with a chest bruise so never mind).

2. I like Ryan Fitzpatrick. And it isn't his chiseled looks or that he went to Harvard. It is because in three starts against the Patriots, Jets and Jaguars he has thrown eight touchdowns and never less than two in a game. The Bills - you know the team that doesn't really have any receivers other than Lee Evans and someone named Steve Johnson who has never been interviewed because no one thought he was important even though he... has caught... at least one score every week with Fitzpatrick. Wow. Fitz has eight touchdowns in three games and Johnson caught four of them. Ummm... just gonna go look at my waiver wire... no reason... be back in a sec....

3. I have filed a police report for a missing person. I felt it was my civic duty. You see, the Denver Broncos are employing a man using the name Brandon Lloyd but this is clearly a case of identity theft because there is no freaking way that is the real Brandon Lloyd. You see the real Brandon Lloyd started out with the 49ers and never had more than 733 yards or six scores on a team that tried desperately to make him into a starter. Three years of failure there led to two seasons with the Redskins catching 25 passes and never scoring. He went to Chicago for a year - nothing happened. He was with the Broncos last year and only had eight catches. So this year, there is no way that the 29 year old journeyman wideout on his fourth team could possibly have 589 yards and three scores in just five games. He is on a pace for 96 catches for 1884 yards and ten scores. The Broncos probably already know it is not Lloyd wearing #84 but who ever this guy is not only is playing great but he's working really cheap. He just hung 135 yards and two scores on the #1 defense of the Ravens. In Baltimore no less.

4. Michael Bush looked pretty good rushing for 104 yards on 26 carries against the Chargers on Sunday. He scored once and added three catches for 31 yards. Going to be a shame when Darren McFadden returns and we have to wait until his next hamstring strain or toe sprain or whatever injury next awaits McFadden. It was nice for Bush owners to get a game out of him after having watched McFadden blow up for several weeks. With any luck, one of these runners will always be hurt and allow a nice fantasy showing by the other guy.

5. I caught some flak for not projecting for Mike Tolbert this week but my reasoning was that Ryan Mathews was returning as the better runner and that Tolbert would be returning to a more subservient role such as week one before Mathews was hurt. But the Chargers still gave Tolbert 12 carries and he gained 11 yards. Scored once just to save his day but Tolbert only gained 11 yards on 12 caries which included a nine yard run. Mathews gained 59 yards on nine runs because he is a superior runner and was a first round pick in April unlike the undrafted Tolbert. I only bring this up because many of you who grabbed him in free agency apparently were getting really used to the yards and scores that Tolbert had in those two home games while Mathews was healing. Tolbert is the short yardage back and will get goal line duties but Mathews is back and getting better.

6. In case you did not see it, in the Chiefs-Colts game Dwayne Bowe was hit in stride in the endzone with a 30-yard pass from Matt Cassel and he dropped it. The pass was over the shoulder but it hit him in both hands and it was just bad. In order to get Bowe's confidence back up, they went to him on the very next play with a short pass for a wide receiver screen and he just dropped that one as well. I was semi-interested in Bowe coming into the season since he worked out with Larry Fitzgerald in the summer and seemed like maybe he would be less of a knucklehead. But the Chiefs need to establish the pass and this guy is just not helping. Think I am going to make a cut this week. I may regret it , but I regret the roster space he is taking up more.

7. A player that I always liked and I now see "dying on the vine" is Jonathan Stewart. I have stopped projecting for him as well because I just cannot imagine someone wanting to start him anymore. He's talented by all means and ran for 1133 yards last year. He had ten rushing scores in both 2008 and 2009. And now he's just nearly worthless. He scored once versus the Bengals and had a receiving score against the Saints but he has only averaged about 24 rushing yards per game. The loss of Steve Smith has doomed the Panthers rushing game to being the only part of the offense that opposing defenses care about. JStew will be back, but it's not going to be anytime soon. Even DeAngelo Williams has been marginally effective and he gets double the workload of Stewart.

8. The entire AFC South has a 3-2 record. Not sure what the record is, but five weeks into the season is deeper than I can remember where all teams have a winning record in a division. That pretty much defines "open for someone to take it".

9. You have to love change. No really - you have to or you would not like football. Consider the "final 8" teams in the playoffs last year. That would be the Cardinals who no longer pass. The Saints who just lost to those Cardinals anyway and seem to be so much less this year with exactly all the same parts. The Cowboys who are 1-3 and maybe not that good because they they excel only at helping teams beat them.The Jets are doing well now that they are a passing team (go figure) and the Chargers who just lost in Oakland. The Ravens have a newfound passing attack that they did not use this week at all. And last but not least are the 3-2 Colts. I continue to contend that there are plenty of bad teams in the NFL but not any great ones. Maybe not even "very good".

10. The trade of Randy Moss to the Vikings transpired last week and it's pretty amazing. Brett Favre gets a replacement for Sidney Rice but is Favre still the same? Moss leaves Tom Brady for a quarterback with all the knowledge and wisdom in the world about quarterbacking as translated through a chronically sore elbow. Once Rice returns and pairs with Moss and Harvin, and there is Adrian Peterson - that could be awesome... if they have the QB that can get it done. What gets me most is that Moss only cost a third rounder in 2011 and a seventh rounder in 2012. Moss is worth more than a third round pick in a eight team fantasy league. Seems a pretty cheap price to play. Really, really cheap. Take a look at the third round wideouts from any NFL draft.

Huddle Player of the Week

Matt Forte - After four weeks, it was getting hard to consider Matt Forte as a fantasy starter. He had to rely on catches for fantasy value in the first two weeks of the season and then once that was gone, Forte owners were lamenting they couldn't even trade him away because finding a similarly bad running back to make it an even trade was nearly impossible. After four games, he had totaled 50 carries for 134 yards and no scores. He had a 2.6 yard per carry average. So naturally when he was on the road this week, he busted off a 68-yard touchdown run. He also had an 18-yard run for a score. He ended with 166 yards on 22 carries and two scores and added two catches for 22 yards to become the highest scorer in many leagues.


Drama 101 - Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Line-up Yards TDs Tragedy Line-up Yards TDs
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 220 3 QB Matt Schaub 196 0
RB Earnest Graham 65 1 RB Arian Foster 25 0
RB Mike Hart 55 1 RB DeAngelo Williams 59 0
WR Steve Johnson 46 2 WR Anquan Boldin 8 0
WR Anthony Armstrong 84 1 WR Chad Ochocinco 20 0
WR Danny Amendola 95 0 WR DeSean Jackson 24 0
PK Josh Scobee 3 XP 5 FG PK Neil Rackers 1 XP 1 FG

Huddle Fantasy Points = 106

Huddle Fantasy Points = 22

Sunday Snippet

JAC 36, BUF 26 The Jaguars rise to 3-2 largely thanks to David Garrard (178, 3 TD) and two of those scores went to Marcedes Lewis (4-54) who just made someone filling in a bye week very happy. Mike Sims-Walker (4-46, TD) didn't suck which means he will next week. Maurice Jones-Drew only added 84 rush yards on 19 carries but the Jaguars have played like a real team for two weeks in a row. The Bills drop to 0-5 despite a three touchdown game by Ryan Fitzpatrick who connected with both Lee Evans (5-87, TD) and Steve Johnson (5-46, 2 TD). The tough part about being a Bills fan is to see them just remain consistently not good enough.
DEN 17, BAL 31

Kyle Orton faced the #1 pass defense and still threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns. The Denver rushing attack does not exist but Brandon Lloyd posted 135 yards and two scores on only five catches against the Ravens secondary/ Jabar Gaffney had 87 yards and nine catches as well which mostly means that Lloyd and Gaffney will disappear next week while Eddie Royal and Demaryius Thomas show up. Always a lot of yards, rarely the same guys. Ray Rice rewarded owners (after a month of waiting) with 159 total yards and two scores with enough left over to give a score to Willis McGahee (10-67). Flacco rushed in a score as well while the Ravens had no significant stats passing. They never needed them. Now the Broncos fall to 2-3 while the Ravens rise to a division best 4-1.

KC 9, IND 19 The Chiefs made this into a very close game and Peyton Manning finally failed to log 300 passing yards or throw a touchdown for the first time this season. Manning only threw for 244 yards and one interception while Mike Hart had the only offensive touchdown for the Colts. This was a very defensive game with depressed stats across the board for each team. The Chiefs did start with Thomas Jones (8-19) but finally relied much more on Jamaal Charles (16-87) with predictably better results. The Chiefs were undefeated as much because of their defense and special teams as anything they have done offensively and gave the Colts almost more than they could handle. The Chiefs fall to 3-1 and still lead the NFC West while the Colts rise to 3-2 like every other AFC South team.
GB 13, WAS 16 Not many points here but there were some fantasy performances of note. Brandon Jackson has run out of believers and so turned in 115 yards on ten carries in Washington, along with 25 yards on five receptions. While many of you are sitting on James Stark with your fingers crossed, Jackson is not helping your secret cause. Aaron Rodgers only threw one score and had 293 pass yards that really favored no one. The four wideouts all had between 42 and 65 yards and did not score. Jermichael FInley was hurt on the first play and that removed a favorite target for Rodgers. The Skins had Donovan McNabb throw for 357 yards and one score which benefited Santana Moss (7-118), Anthony Armstrong (3-84, TD) and of course Chris Cooley (7-69). But the Skins still cannot run the ball and Ryan Torain only managed to gain 40 yards on 16 carries. Now the Packers fall to 3-2 behind the Bears again and the Skins are 3-2 and tied with the Giants for the NFC East lead.
STL 6, DET 44 WHAT?!?! The Lions not only won their first game, they just had their biggest point differential in 15 years (positive that is). Stefan Logan returned a kickoff 105 yards for a record long score by a Lions player and Shaun Hill (227 yards, 3 TDs) is going to be pretty sad once Matt Stafford returns. Hill threw scores to three different players but no Lion's receiver had more than four catches for 56 yards. Jahvid Best turned in 104 total yards but no scores which seems a shame in a 44 point effort. The Rams' Mark Clayton injured his knee after just one catch and without him, Sam Bradford could not get on track. Danny Amendola caught 12 passes for 95 yards and should be your next waiver since early word is Clayton is out for the year. The Lions are 1-4 and yet smiling while the Rams fall to 2-3 and may need to find some other has-been wideout that was dumped by his previous team. Losing Clayton made Bradford almost look like a rookie.
CHI 23, CAR 6 I think you have to admit that the Panthers are the worse team in the NFL. AT 0-5 they are tied with the 49ers and Bills But I'd take either of them and give a touchdown compared to the Panthers. The passing here is so bad that it boggles the mind to realize all these guys were probably studs in college. DeAngelo Williams is losing all fantasy value and settled for 59 total yards in a home game. Jonathan Stewart only gained 30 yards. It's plenty ugly. The Bears did not have Jay Cutler and only passed for 51 yards and four interceptions and still kicked the Panthers backside. This was thanks mostly to Matt Forte who more than doubled the output of his first four games as a rusher when he gained 166 yards and two scores on just 22 runs on Sunday. How bad are the Panthers when Forte only gains 2.6 yards per carry and never scores even at his own house on his birthday and yet he can rip off a 68-yard touchdown run on the road? Panthers are 0-5 and should be considered somehow worse than that. The Bears are 4-1 and lead the NFC North after passing for 51 yards and four interceptions. Wow.
TB 24, CIN 21 Yet another head scratcher. Yes Earnest Graham scored a 61-yard touchdown but before you spend all your remaining free agent bucks on him, realize this is a guy who is 30 years old, has played for the Buccaneers for over six years and probably is not the savior for the Bucs let alone your team. Mike Williams comes from Syracuse and reminds me exactly of that other Orangemen receiver - Marvin Harrison. Everyone was watching this game to see LeGarrette Blount only get four carries for three yards. The Bucs used all four RBs in this game so just forget starting any of them until some dust settles (if it does). The Bengals got a big game from Cedric Benson (23-144) and Terrell Owens (7-102, 1 TD) but if you had to blame just one person for this loss, it would be pretty easy to point at Carson Palmer's three interceptions. Yeah, I bet even Owens would agree. Now the Buccaneers are somehow 3-1 and the Bengals are only 2-3 with plenty of potential ego problems ahead.
ATL 20, CLE 10 The Falcons squeaked out a win here thanks to a fourth quarter interception return for a touchdown and the fact that the Browns could not rush. While Peyton Hillis owners are quick to point out that they are waiver wire geniuses, they had to accept the 28 yards on ten carries this week. Hills did have 49 yards and a score as a receiver so, sure, you are still a genius. The rest of the Browns offense just sputters so badly you half expect the players to belch smoke on occasion. The Falcons got 140 yards from Turner and Roddy White gained 101 yards and a score on five catches because the Falcons care about fantasy footballers and try to make it right every week. Not so much for Gonzalez owners though (5-41). Now the Falcons are 4-1 and all alone at the top of the NFC South. The Browns are 1-4 and are still kinda pleased about the one win.
NYG 34, HOU 10 Just do not ever get comfortable with how good or bad you think NFL teams are this year. The Giants started badly this season but dominated the once-impressive Texans with ease. Eli Manning passed for three scores and 297 yards that went to Hakeem Nicks (12-130, 2 TD) and Steve Smith (6-89, TD). Nicks came within a foot of making that three scores. Ahmad Bradshaw turned in 89 total yards but this was mostly about passing. Matt Schaub only managed 196 yards and one interception and most of that came late in trash time with Andre Johnson (5-95) making all his catches in the second half. This game was a house of horrors to Arian Foster owners since he only gained 25 yards on 11 carries and only two yards on two catches. He almost finished with sub-10 yards rushing but went in during the fourth quarter and had a couple of minor runs. The Giants are now 3-2 and tied for the NFC East lead and the Texans drop to 3-2 like every other AFC South team.
NO 20, ARI 30 Sure, all makes sense. World champion Saints just lost to the Cardinals who had only 41 yards on 24 rushes and started an undrafted rookie quarterback who only threw for 168 yards and one interception. But the Cardinals returned one fumble for a score and ended with an interception return for a second defensive score. Larry Fitzgerald had 93 yards on seven receptions which boggles the mind since it meant that the defense actually bothered to cover anyone else. Drew Brees passed for 279 yards and two scores but had three interceptions. This was just one of the many surreal sort of games and when your defense can score two touchdowns, it just makes the game go so much better.
TEN 34, DAL 27 Definite contender for Game-O-The-Week. The Cowboys came off a bye week rested and ready and still could not get out of their own way. Dallas now features one of the most balanced offenses in the league meaning they cannot have a good series or score without giving something right back to the opponent. The Cowboys tried focusing on stopping the run and Vince Young (173 yards) passed for two scores to start the game. In the second half a returned interception wound up as a one yard score for Chris Johnson (19-131) and after a Dallas touchdown they allowed the Titans to return a kick so deeply that the facemask penalty on the kicker gave the Titans a chance to let Johnson score for the second time in the game. Tony Romo passed for a career high 406 yards and three scores but had three interceptions. Felix Jones had a rare good game with 126 total yards and Miles Austin remains one of the deadliest wideouts with 166 yards on nine catches and one score. The win makes the 3-2 Titans tied in their division for the lead. The loss drops the Cowboys to 1-3 which triggered DEFCON 4 alarms at team headquarters in Valley Ranch. At 1-3, it is time to wonder aloud of these Cowboys are "all hat and no cattle".
PHI 27, SF 24 Yet another super painful loss. This is the first time the 49ers have been 0-4 in 31 years. Alex Smith was almost yanked from the game but was allowed to rally the team. The Eagles led 17-10 at the half and then only scored one more field goal and a touchdown on a 52-yard fumble return. Smith ended with 309 yards and three scores but two very bad interceptions. Frank Gore gained only 52 yards on 18 carries and he also lost two fumbles. He did score once on his four catches for 21 yards to salvage his fantasy value. Vernon Davis had five receptions for 104 yards and one score but the big surprise was Michael Crabtree (9-105, TD) playing like a first round pick instead of a bad attitude with butterfingers. He looked very good. Kevin Kolb notched a win replacing Michael Vick and was efficient with 253 yards and one score to his buddy Brent Celek (3-47) who apparently does still play for the Eagles. This was yet another game where the loser should have been the winner were it not for the bad mojo that rippled through the league this week. The Eagles are 3-2 and tied for the NFC East lead while the 49ers are 0-5 and probably the best 0-5 team in the history of the NFL. Yeah, probably not going to be much fun at practice this week. Rumors are that the 49ers are installing a metal detector at the training facilities but will only make Mike Singletary walk through it. Twice. Plus a pat down.

Sunday's Couch Commentary

For three weeks there have been upsets and teams that suddenly get good or bad. Those in the betting world are probably pulling their hair out and just forecasting simple win/losses are tough because there is precious little consistency from teams. But we had several big scores this week and saw the Lions finally win. The Game-O-The-Week was crystal clear because it was a great example of the never-ending change and inconsistencies that are the NFL 2010.

Chargers 27, Raiders 35

If there was any lock this week (and ends up there wasn't), it should have been the Chargers winning their 14th straight game over the Raiders. Winning 13 games in a row over an opponent is like saying "I take your lunch money so often that I include it in my budget."

The Chargers were at full strength with Ryan Mathews back but the Raiders were not only without Darren McFadden (which matters this year) but they also were to quickly lose Bruce Gradkowski. This all spells Disaster #14 but it's a brave new world in which we live. Or is it the Twilight Zone?

Allow me to submit for your consideration...

The Chargers took first possession and after three meaningless plays, punted the ball but it was blocked by Rock Cartwright and went out of bounds in the endzone for that ultra-rare 2-0 start to the game.

The Raiders get their kick at midfield and reach the 32-yard line where Sebastian Janikowski kicks a 50-yard field goal and the even rarer 5-0 lead in the game.

The Charger took their second possession and just like the first one, went nowhere. When they punted, it was BLOCKED again and recovered for a touchdown. WIth 10:33 left in the first quarter, the Raiders had a 12-0 lead that entailed no real offense. Two blocked kicks back-to-back. Someone's looking for a new assistance coaching job in the morning.

The Chargers took over on their 20-yard line and sticking with Rivers passes or Tolbert runs for no gain, they reach the OAK 1-yard line where Tolbert loses a fumble. This is followed by the Raiders ending up punting to the SD 28-yard line. On the first play of the Chargers next series, Rivers passes to Malcom FLoyd for 55 yards. Now at the OAK 14-yard line, Rivers only needs two plays to lose a fumble to the Raiders.

On the next play, Bruce Gradkowski was sacked and lost a fumble but that was reversed and called a forward pass instead. And so ended the first quarter.

Once the Raiders ended up punting, the Chargers led a drive that included no blocked punts or lost fumbles. In fact, with 10:13 left in the second quarter, Antonio Gates caught a touchdown in his ninth straight game. And after the Raiders went four and out because they had to use Jason Campbell to replace the injured Gradkowski, the Chargers took over on their own 19-yard line.

After a nine play drive featuring several nice runs by Ryan Mathews, Tolbert comes in and scored from the four-yard line. 14-12 in favor of the Chargers who were finally getting out from this black cloud. But the Raiders had an actual offensive drive using short passes and ended up with a Janikowski field goal for a 15-14 lead. But it only took the Chargers 36 seconds to go down and end the first half with a Nate Kaeding field goal and a 17-15 lead.

The second half started out without the fireworks we were used to seeing. The Raiders had two series and did nothing and the Chargers had one fruitless series and then got a 41-yard touchdown on the second series to go up 24-15 over the Raiders.

But the Raiders were not giving up. They were not rolling over. They were not playing dead. They went from their own 3-yard line and using mostly Michael Bush runs went 97 yards in 13 plays for a Zach Miller touchdown catch. The Raiders only trailed 24-22 with 1:21 left in the third quarter.

When the fourth quarter opened, the Chargers were on the march and ended up at the OAK 17-yard line where they accepted another Kaeding field goal for a 27-22 lead.

And once again, the Raiders did not go away. They started at the 11:55 mark on their own 27-yard line and had a 17 play drive down the field for a three yard Bush touchdown. That included one fourth down conversion but unfortunately the Raiders went for the two point play and failed making their lead 28-27 with 3:43 left to play.

All could be well. All could be forgiven. The world could remain spinning on its axis. All the Chargers needed was a field goal. They took over on their own 28-yard line with 3:33 left to play. By the two minute warning, the Chargers were on the OAK 40-yard line. A pass to Craig Davis gained six yards and a new first down. Then two incompletions followed and a pass interference penalty that brought it to the OAK 23 yard line with 1:22 left to play. A holding call on Gates moved it back ten yards. On first down, River missed connecting with Floyd. On second down he went back and OH MY GOD RIVERS FUMBLED THE BALL WHEN HE WAS SACKED! Right before it was recovered by a fellow Charger reaching out for the ball it was snatched up by SS Tyvon Branch who RUNS 64 YARDS FOR A TOUCHDOWN!!!

The Raiders kick the extra point and take the 35-27 lead with 53 seconds left to play. With 27 seconds left, the Raiders get the ball back on downs and with that kills the 13 game monkey on their back.

You know, got hand it to the Raiders. It happened in all kind of weird ways and without a couple of the offensive stars. But it happened. And after 13 games over seven years, you have to think the locker room was nothing but smiles after the game.

The NFL is spitting out a lot of upsets now and that is having an effect on everyone's teams as players either disappear or go off in nearly random order. And even if you have a losing record right now, even if your fantasy team is 0-5 on the season take solace in one inescapable fact.

You do not have to explain why to Mike Singletary.

Now get back to work...

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