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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 16
David Dorey
December 27, 2010
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Aaron Rodgers 430 4
Josh Freeman 270 5
Matt Cassel 334 3
Carson Palmer 268 4
Jay Cutler 218 4
Running Backs Yards TD
Jamaal Charles 117 2
Matt Forte 169 1
Correll Buckhalter 92 2
John Kuhn 29 3
Arian Foster 135 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Jerome Simpson 124 2
Dwayne Bowe 153 1
Johnny Knox 92 2
Michael Crabtree 122 1
Miles Austin 115 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Kellen Winslow 98 2
Zach Miller 66 1
Rob Gronkowski 54 2
Owen Daniels 73 1
Jacob Tamme 78 1
Placekickers XP FG
Sebastian Janikowski 2 4
Neil Rackers 2 3
Josh Brown 2 3
Shayne Graham 4 2
Ryan Succop 4 2
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Cardinals 2 3 5
Chiefs 1 3 2
Lions 1 2 3
Packers 0 1 6
Patriots 0 2 7

Bumps, bruises and bow outs

David Nelson (BUF) - Injured ribs
Mark Sanchez (NYJ) - Aggravated shoulder injury
Peyton Hillis (CLE) - Bruised ribs
Zach Miller (JAC) - Concussion
Knowshon Moreno (DEN) - Injured ribs
Mike Tolbert (SD) - Neck injury
Matt Hasselbeck (SEA) - Hip injury

The final stretch and jockeying for position

The playoffs are taking shape now but there is still some clarity on four different spots that cannot be determined until next week's games. There are no Thursday or Saturday games. There is no Monday night game. Just eight games at 1 PM EST and then seven games at 4:15 EST with STL-SEA being the late game showcase so we can see if a losing record can really win a division.

What we know:

AFC

NE - #1 seed and bye + homefield through out. All hail Tommy B.
PIT - #2 seed if PIT wins in CLE or if BAL loses to CIN. Otherwise wildcard.
BAL - #2 seed if PIT loses in CLE and BAL beats CIN. Otherwise wildcard.
KC - Won AFC West. Wildcard round host.
IND - Must beat TEN to win AFC South or JAC loses in HOU.
NYJ - Wild card team no matter what.

The only thing left to see is if IND or JAC wins the AFC South and smart money likes IND at home to beat TEN, JAC has to both win in HOU and have IND lose to get the division.

NFC

This is still up in the air with NO, ATL and PHI left to play this week.

ATL - Have secured a spot that could be #1 seed or a wildcard.
CHI - Clinched division but plays GB next week.
PHI - Clinched division has home games against MIN and DAL left
STL - Leads SEA for NFC West but has to win in SEA next week.
NO - Has @ATL and TB left and need both.
GB - Packers can get a wildcard with a win against CHI this week.
NYG and TB - need GB to lose to CHI for them to have a chance.
SEA - has to beat STL this week in SEA to take division

Still much to determine in the NFC but it's mostly about SEA-STL shootout for the AFC West and if GB can beat CHI then the field is all set with NO and ATL deciding who has the division and who has the wildcard.

ten random observations

1. Sam Bradford has thrown 335 completions to rank #1 in NFL history among all rookies including Peyton Manning. If Bradford throws 26 more passes he will surpass Manning in rookie pass attempts to become #1. And yes, that means that Bradford has a better completion percentage than Manning had as a rookie. And just to appreciate Bradford a little more, Manning's two best receivers as a rookie were Marshall Faulk (86-908, 4 TD) and Marvin Harrison (59-776, 7 TDs). Bradshaw has made do with Danny Amendola (75-627, 3 TD) and Brandon Gibson (47-521, 2 TDs). Faulk and Harrison versus Amendola and Gibson. Yeah. Rookie of the Year.

2. The Broncos now are 4-11 on the season which ties them for #2 worst record with BUF and CIN. CAR has a 2-13 and already have the #1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft. There was still a chance that DEN could have landed the #1 pick had they lost and CAR beaten the Falcons next week. Before you think that is laughable, consider that if the Falcons beat the Saints on Monday night they rise to 13-2 with the #1 seed and nothing to play for in week 17. This is all germane because John Elway is expected to become the chief football executive for the Broncos and is a fan of the Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck who is expected to be the #1 pick in April. Landing in Carolina instead may prompt the rookie to change his last name. Tebow had the great fortune to face the worst secondary in the NFL and looked like a viable option for 2011.

3. The 49ers have fired head coach Mike Singletary and named defensive line coach Jim Tomsula as the interim head coach for the final game against the visiting Cardinals. So far, this season has already seen four teams fire their head coaches during the season - DAL, DEN, MIN and now SF. Teams that will at least consider a similar move - ARI, CAR, CIN, CLE, DET, HOU and JAC . Let there be a total of eight or more teams that end up with new coaching staffs and it's going to be a grand time forecasting games and players when a third or more of the teams are new.

4. Tom Brady has thrown 319 passes in a row without one interceptions - all in the same year no less - to set an all-time NFL record. He broke Bernie Kosar's record that had stood for 19 years. His last interception was thrown against the visiting Ravens (who had two that game) back in week six. Brady has thrown for 21 touchdowns since that game and to be even more impressed, he has only thrown four interceptions this year and never lost a fumble. As noted by HC Bill Belichick, it "makes it easier to win games when you do not lose the ball." It also makes it easier when you pass for 300+ yards and about three touchdowns every week as well.

5. If you ever play in a best ball league where the best players in their position are automatically used each week, make sure you draft both the New England tight ends who will not be very expensive because they are so inconsistent. But together they have already combined for 15 touchdowns this season. Most NFL teams do not have 15 receiving touchdowns from all of their wide receivers combined. The Pats have that from two tight ends. Who are only rookies.

6. The Eagles game is now on Tuesday in an attempt to miss the blizzard conditions that would have made the game a blast to watch from the warm confines of our collective La-Z-boy recliners. But I agree with the move since the weather was so bad that putting tens of thousands of people into motion in an outdoor stadium - players, team employees, stadium employees, fans, police, Emergency services, etc. - could have placed people into harms way. We all love football for being the one sport that doesn't hike its skirt and run when there is rain or snow. But blinding snow conditions are another thing. There is no Thursday or Saturday game this week anyway. We could use a few more snow games though.

7. You draft players for what you believe they will do over the course of a season. You certainly would not draft a player based on what you think he would do in just one game. But we just had week 16 when most fantasy championships are played so let's look at what those top ten wideouts from the Average Draft Position did for you when you needed them most:

1. Andre Johnson (DNP), 2. Randy Moss (DNP), 3. Reggie Wayne (3-40). 4. Larry Fitzgerald (1-26), 5. Calvin Johnson (4-52), 6. Miles Austin (6-115, TD), 7. Roddy White (has not played),8. Brandon Marshall (10-102), 9. Greg Jennings (7-142), 10. DeSean Jackson (has not played).

Other than Jennings, only Austin and Marshall had big games and they had been disappointments for most of the rest of the year. But all position incur transition each year and it was only one game for most of these players. It is encouraging that even with the colder weather, teams are not really throwing any less overall.

8. Week 17 is not a waste even if all your leagues are over and your wife wants to drag you to after Christmas sales. This is going to be a time where some teams are going to evaluate players to see if they want to keep them next year or if they look good enough that they will let other older and more expensive players go. Particularly on the teams with first year head coaches like BUF, SEA and WAS (hence the move to Grossman). Team GM's and personnel guys want to plan as well which calls in the teams using only interim head coaches - DAL, DEN, MIN and SF. That makes for a hard to predict game but in fantasy terms it shows you who they are looking at and what they are seeing before going into the offseason with free agency and the NFL draft looming. Some of the players making cases for themselves with heavy use just this week include Donald Jones (BUF), Andre Roberts (ARI), Jason Hill (JAC), Jordy Nelson (GB) Jerome Simpson (CIN), Danario Alexander (STL) and Jared Cook (TEN) to name a few.

9. Some of the receivers that I am paying more attention to here at the end of the year because I like them to do more in 2011 include Michael Crabtree (SF), Mike Williams (TB), Mike Thomas (JAC), Kenny Britt (TEN), Brian Robiskie (CLE) and whatever is going to happen in CIN. There are a lot of things that can change between now and next August but now is a good time to target some promising players to follow in the offseason to see if their situations improve or get worse.

10. In case you have not noticed, the NFL made a brilliant move in making week 17 be nothing but divisional matchups. Granted many of them match the wrong teams in terms of interest and importance but I think it is a great idea and one that should help generate more fan interest. And as one poster on our message board said - "like the way we always do it in our fantasy league." It is a great idea regardless and one they should keep from now on. That ensures at least a few games of high drama and interest as teams fight to the final minute to win their divisions or secure a wild card.

Huddle Player of the Week

Aaron Rodgers - Rodgers missed last week with a concussion - his second of the season - but showed no signs of being woozy when he destroyed the Giants secondary for 404 yards and four touchdowns. That's the way to win a fantasy championship provided his absence last week did not kick out his owners teams. He's been deadly all year and delivered big time just when you needed him the most.

Salute!

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

Comedy Line-up Yards TDs Tragedy Line-up Yards TDs
QB Tim Tebow 335 2 QB Philip Rivers 256 1
RB John Kuhn 29 3 RB Peyton Hillis 40 0
RB Danny Woodhead 125 1 RB Chris Johnson 58 0
WR Jerome Simpson 124 2 WR Reggie Wayne 40 0
WR Jordy Nelson 124 1 WR Larry Fitzgerald 26 0
WR Andre Roberts 110 1 WR Andre Johnson 0 0
PK Sebastian Janikowski 2 XP 4 FG PK Olindo Mare 1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 124

Huddle Fantasy Points = 32

Sunday Snippet

CAR 3, PIT 27 Uneventful game that allowed most people to still go to the mall for last minute gifts. Jimmy Clausen only completed 10 of 23 passes for 72 yards and cannot be automatic starter next year. James Stewart did well enough just gaining 71 yards on 18 carries. Ben Roethlisberger has a better game than expected with 320 passing yards and both a passing and rushing score. Mike Wallace (4-104, TD) was the only real fantasy star wideout in the game and Rashard Mendenhall scored once but only rushed for 65 yards on 18 carries.
DAL 26, ARI 27 The importance of not throwing two interceptions returned for a touchdown in the first quarter was never more apparent than in this game, along with the underestimated importance and yet challenge of kicking an extra point. Jon Kitna (115, TD) was knocked out of the game which left Stephen McGee so come in and play well enough with 111 yards and one score. Marion Barber scored once but all three backs shared in the 28 carries and Tashard Choice only had four runs as the low man, Miles Austin ended with 115 yards and a score on six catches thanks to a 37 yard scoring catch and run. Jason Witten turned in eight catches for 45 yards and one score that came on a fourth down try. The Cardinals only had one offensive touchdown when Andre Roberts got behind the cornerback and scored a 74-yard touchdown. Beanie Wells ran better than usual but still only had 47 yards on 11 carries. In the end the Cowboys took the lead but missed the extra point and then the Cowboys secondary could not stop John Skelton even when he had a fourth an 15 yards to go. Jay Feely nailed a 48 yarder with only ten seconds left to play. Game-O-The-Week contender but by now Dallas losing in the last second by allowing anyone a long drive in the final minute is hardly news.
NE 34, BUF 3 Probably the only real surprise here was that Tom Brady passed for only 140 yards when he had his three touchdowns that included Rob Gronkowski (4-54, 2 TD) as the lead receiver. BenJarvus Green-Ellis gained 104 yards on 19 carries and Danny Woodhead scored once in his 13 runs for 93 yards. Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 251 yards and three interceptions and none of the Bills mattered much in fantasy or real life. Their field goal was the first score in the game before the Pats went on a 34-0 run. By now the Pats are just trying to look like Bullies. Actually drop the "trying to look like" part. The Patriots have won the #1 seed and have nothing to play for next week.
NYJ 34, CHI 38 Close game with lots of points and a GOTW contender as well. Fortunately the Jets claimed a wildcard berth even with the loss so next week doesn't really matter so much. The Bears have clinched the NFC North title and can get the #2 seed with a bye if they win next week. Sanchez passed for 269 yards and one touchdown that went to Santonio Holmes (4-69) while Dustin Keller (7-79) had one of his better games. LaDainian Tomlinson scored once on his 13 carries for 28 yards but Shonn Greene also scored once and had a much more effective 12 rushes for 70 yards. Jay Cutler passed for 215 yards and three touchdowns which was really four if you count the pick-six he gave away. Johnnie Knox led all receivers with four receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns and even Devin Hester scored on his three receptions for 48 yards. Matt Forte rushed well with 113 yards and a score on 19 carries. Great game but the scoring almost all stopped in the fourth quarter.
BAL 20, CLE 10 The expected low scoring win that had Ed Reed slamming into Peyton Hillis' ribs that helped to keep him to only 35 yards on 12 rushes and just one catch for five yards unlike the 1454 rushing yards he posted on them back in week three. Colt McCoy could only pass for 149 yards and three interceptions and no Browns player offered any notable performances. Joe Flacco only threw 19 passes for 102 yards and scores to both Derrick Mason (4-50) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (4-32). Ray Rice settled for 92 rushing yards but only one catch for no gain. The Ravens are in the playoffs but have to win next week to secure the AFC North title otherwise they end up with a wildcard.
WAS 20, JAC 17
OT
Maurice Jones-Drew was held out of this with a sore knee and Rashad Jennings only gained 32 yards on 15 carries while David Garrard passed for 299 yards and one score to Mike Thomas (6-96) plus Garrard rushed in one touchdown himself on his six carries for 39 yards. Rex Grossman had his second start and ended with 182 yards and one touchdown. Chris Cooley had five catches for 48 yards but dropped several passes including an easy touchdown and Santana Moss led the crew with 85 yards on five receptions. Ryan Torain scored once but only gained 65 yards on 20 carries. The game went into overtime when David Garrard led a long drive in the fourth quarter that ended with his 20-yard touchdown run. But after winning the coin toss, Garrard threw a bad interception on his second pass and the Skins ended up with the winning field goal. The Jaguars are out of the playoffs unless they win and the Colts lose next week.
TEN 14, KC 34 The Chiefs held Chris Johnson to only 58 yards on 14 carries and Kerry Collins passed for 235 yards and two touchdowns that were split between Jared Cook (5-96) and Kenny Britt (4-89) and somehow Randy Moss did not catch a pass (Part III). Matt Cassel had a great game with 314 yards and three touchdowns that went to Dwayne Bowe (6-153) and Jamaal Charles (4-40, 2 TD). Charles also gained 77 yards on 13 runs while Thomas Jones rushed 23 times for only 51 yards and still makes no sense why he gets more work than Charles. Now the Chiefs have secured the AFC West and yet cannot get a bye so there is nothing to play for next week.
SF 17, STL 25 The 49ers still have no idea who their starting quarterback is other than maybe he is not currently on the team. And the head coach of 2011 is out there somewhere else as well. The Smiths combined for 273 yards and one score to Michael Crabtree (6-122) and Vernon Davis turned three catches into 70 yards. Brian Westbrook only gained 40 yards on ten carries. ROY Bradford passed for 292 yards and one touchdown and Danario Alexander (6-99) had a big game since it was the every fourth week when he was healthy. Steven Jackson only gained 48 rush yards on 24 carries but scored once. The Rams now can win the NFC West either with a win next week or a Seattle loss and since they play each other, their destinies are up to their own.
HOU 23, DEN 24 Another GOTW contender. This loss may be the one that sends Gary Kubiak packing though in fairness there are nine others to choose from this year. Matt Schaub threw for 310 yards and one touchdown that went to Owen Daniels (8-73) and since Andre Johnson actually missed a game, Jacoby Jones stepped up and had 115 yards on five receptions. Arian Foster gained 91 yards on 19 carries and scored once while adding 44 more yards on four catches. The Broncos may have started the Tim Tebow era. Of course he was facing the #32 defense against quarterbacks but he did throw for 308 yards and one score in only his second start and added a rushing touchdown and 27 rushing yards. Brandon Lloyd ended with 111 yards and five catches and Jabar Gaffney turned in 90 yards on four receptions. Again - #32 defense but pretty nice all the same. Correll Buckhalter took over in the second half when Knowshon Moreno was out and not only gained 42 rushing yards and one touchdown but added 50 receiving yards and a second score on his three catches.
IND 31, OAK 26 Yet another good game. The Raiders started the game with a 99 yard kick return for a score by Jacoby Ford who is making a name for himself. The Raiders could not score an offensive touchdown until the end of the game when Zach Miller scored on his nine catches for 66 yards. But Jason Campbell only passed for 231 yards which was not enough with Darren McFadden (11-45) surprisingly shut down by the Colts whose early lead forced the Raiders to throw more. Peyton Manning passed for 179 yards and three touchdowns and could have had a rushing touchdown but he took a knee at the goal line instead of score to keep the clock running so that the Raiders would never get the chance for a comeback. Jacob Tamme (7-78, TD) was the only receiver that had much note though scores did go to Pierre Garcon (3-35) and Blair White (2-20). Joseph Addai actually returned to play and scored once on his 12 runs for 45 yards and Dominic Rhodes led the rushers with 17 carries for 98 yards. Donald Brown has already had his 15 minutes of fame and only got six carries. The Colts preferred Rhodes who two weeks ago was playing semi-pro football. The win keeps the Colts in contention and they can win the AFC South with a win next week or a loss by the Jaguars.
SD 20, CIN 34 What a great game. The Bengals have nothing to play for and both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco did not play against the #1 secondary in the NFL. The Chargers had to win to have any playoff hopes. So naturally, Carson Palmer passed for 269 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Jerome Simpson led all NFL receivers on Sunday with 124 yards and two touchdowns and the rookies Jermaine Gresham (4-56) and Jordan Shipley (1-3) both scored as well. Cedric Benson was held to only 52 yards on 24 carries but Bernard Scott ran in one touchdown on his 11 runs for 50 yards. Philip Rivers needed a good game but only ended with 256 yards and one score that went to Kelley Washington. Legedu Naanee led all Chargers with only 59 yards on four catches. Ryan Mathews ran in a touchdown on his 12 carries for 55 yards. But the loss makes it official that the Chargers dug too deep of a hole earlier in the season.
SEA 15, TB 38 Seahawks still a bad road team that only passed for 90 total yards between Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst. Marshawn Lynch only gained 53 yards on 14 carries while Leon Washington scored on his only carry in the game. It was a horrible showing for the Seahawks who now must win big next week and had the Rams lose to advance to the playoffs with a 7-9 record. The Buccaneers still have a chance at a wildcard but would need the Packers to lose and maybe the Giants too depending. The Bucs had a big game with Josh Freeman setting a personal best with five passing touchdowns on his 237 yards. That went for double scores by both Kellen Winslow (7-98) and Mike Williams (3-44) and LeGarrette Blount ran for a career best 164 yards on only 18 carries including one of his trademark hurdles over a would be tackler.
NYG 17, GB 45 The Giants are looking like just another late season slide that may keep them from the post season depending on what happens with the other three 9-6 teams in the NFC. Aaron Rodgers was as deadly as ever throwing for 404 yards and four touchdowns. Greg Jennings (7-142) did not score but Jordy Nelson (4-124) did along with James Jones (4-36), John Kuhn (2-7) and Donald Lee (2-4). No runner had more than 39 yards for the Packers though John Kuhn also had two touchdowns on his six carries for 22 yards for a total of three on the day. The Giants rushing attack only rolled up a combined 20 runs for 78 yards but Mario Manningham (4-132, TD) and Hakeem Nicks (4-93, TD) both had big games. The killer was that Eli Manning passed for 301 yards and two scores but had four interceptions giving him eight in just the last two games and already a career worst 32 picks on the year.

Sunday's Couch Commentary

We had the Thursday night beat down of the Panthers and on Saturday saw the Cowboys throw away yet another game in a different and interesting manner. Sunday started out with the news that the Philly-Minny game was postponed until Tuesday night making it three straight weeks for the Vikings to be moved around to a new place to play. We had nine teams scoring more than 30 points and five games with more than 50 total points. The Cardinals pulled a small upset and the Bengals had a bigger one. But no team needs to be recognized more than the biggest upset of the week.

Lions 34, Dolphins 27

The Lions won last week in Tamp Bay to break their 26 road game losing streak. They beat the Packers the week before that. So what could the odds be that they could win a third game in a row AND a second road win AND it would be a second road game win in a row? Apparently better than we thought.

The Dolphins had only won one home game. They were 1-6 to tie for the worst home record in the league. And yet they are 6-1 in road games to tie for the best record when not at home. How do you do that? It's like the team has a collective nagging wife waiting at home that sucks the competitiveness out of them. Best on the road and worst at home. That has to be some sort of record in itself.

In the first quarter the teams both had a field goal for a 3-3 tie.

In the second quarter, Brandon Pettigrew caught a 33-yard pass and then scored from 20-yards out to give the Lions a 10-3 lead. That was surprising by itself and one had to wonder if the incredible bad mojo of the Fins could actually see them lose to the Lions despite the astronomical odds.

By the next series had the Dolphins drive the field and get a touchdown run from Lousaka Polite to tie the score. The quarter ended when the Fins returned a punt to the DET 40-yard line and four plays later Chad Henne connected with Davone Bess for a 13-yard touchdown and a 17-10 lead.

After the Dolphins had a short series to open the second half, the Lions drove 86 yards in 14 plays and ended with Maurice Morris rushed in a five-yard touchdown. That tied the score 17-17 with 5:44 left in the third. The Dolphins responded with a 11 play drive that ended with Ronnie Brown punching in a one-yard touchdown for a 24-17 lead at the end of the third quarter.

When the Lions could not get a first down, they punted back to the Dolphins who then drove 62 yards in ten plays and kicked a field goal when they could not get past the DET 10-yard line. At 27-17 with nine minutes left to play, the game was safely in hand. The Lions even punted after six plays and the Lions held the ball down to the five minute mark when they punted to the DET 47-yard line.

On the first play, Shaun Hill threw a short pass to Jahvid Best who took off and did not stop until 53-yards later when he scored. With 4:49 left to play, the Lions drew up to 27-24.

When Chad Henne got the ball back on his own 29-yard line, he faced a third and 11 and threw an interception. That allowed the Lions to kick a tying field goal with 2:49 left to play.

Chad Henne took over on his own 20-yard line and only needed to drive the field and get a game winning field goal.

He threw an incompletion.

He scrambled for a two yard gain.

On third down, he THREW ANOTHER INTERCEPTION AND IT WAS RETURNED FOR A 30-YARD TOUCHDOWN!

With two minutes left to play, the Lions suddenly led 34-27.

The Fins took over at their own 8-yard line and drove as far as the DET 28-yard line before they ran out of time. Ronnie Brown could not get out of bounds and the clock expired.

Now the Lions are 3-0 in recent games including two road games.

The Dolphins are 1-7 in home games this year to tie for the worst. They play in New England this week where the Patriots will have nothing to win so they could take that game and end up with an NFL best 7-1 in road games. It just doesn't get any weirder.

Until it gets weirder. And it always does.

Question of the Week - Who is the NFL Offensive MVP?

Now get back to work...

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