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The Trash Can Report - Excavating for Week 13
Dennis Leonard
December 2, 2004

Hello again and welcome back to the Trash Can Report. I’ve recovered from my first turkey coma of the year. I’m currently wearing my first heavy sweater of the year. And I can’t step foot in a commercial establishment without being ghoulishly inundated with overly-commercialized Christmas music. All three are dead give aways that the fantasy playoffs are close at hand. For those of you still in the hunt, I toil selflessly. I doubt you need as much help as you did say, I dunno, six weeks ago. But that’s no excuse for me to start slacking. (Well, not any more than usual, at least).

And speaking of slacking, for those of you who’ve been (or are about to be) mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, all I can say is this: don’t do it. Instead of slacking off, might I suggest being a low down dirty bastard, instead? Steal all the best free agents. Screw people out of handcuffs. Play spoiler and take other marginal teams down with you. Partly because you never know what might happen. Partly because there is still honor in playing for pride and ending a losing season with a win is better than with another loss. But mostly because you should respect your league mates enough not to clock out until its *officially* quitting time. A win may be a win, but it’s never as much fun when it comes against a team that has obviously been abandoned by its owner. So buck up and do the right thing. If you’re gonna go down, go down swinging. It makes for a more competitive – and ultimately more enjoyable – fantasy football experience for everyone. And on that note, let’s see what junk we can dig up this week to aid in that endeavor.

Is it me or is the waiver wire looking as depleted as my list of pithy metaphors? It has been my observation that team defense recommendations remain popular with those readers who are corresponding with me. So let’s pick up where we left off last week: exploiting bad offenses for defensive gain.

Recall that we looked at the following seven factors, awarding points to the seven worst teams in each category. (The more points, the worse the team). Those factors were:

  1. least points scored on offense;
  2. least yards gained on offense;
  3. least first downs;
  4. most punts;
  5. most give aways;
  6. most sacks allowed; and
  7. most penalty yards.

I updated the Offensive Crap-O-Meter. Here are the new rankings, compared to last week’s for reference:

Okay, so everyone but Detroit and Buffalo got worse. The Rams are a new addition to the list, as they now rank in the 7 th worst in at least three of the seven criteria measured, and Cleveland moved off the list. Whatever, let’s get to bottom line: who do these teams match up against in Week 13? The ones in bold are my recommendations.

I eliminated Buffalo, Cinncinati, and Arizona from contention because they all have top 15 DEFs. I also excluded Miami and San Francisco because I think they aren’t very favorable match ups.

  Total This Week Total Last Week
CHI 40 ↑ 37
MIA 25 ↑ 26
WAS 23 ↑ 21
BAL 20 ↑ 17
DET 18 ↓ 25
SF 16 ↑ 13
BUF 13 ↓ 19
ARZ 11 ↑ 10
STL 8 Not rated
SF vs. at STL
BUF vs. at MIA
ARZ vs. at DET
STL vs. SF

Vikings’ DEF: The Vikings DEF has played horribly most of the year. However, two of their best three fantasy games came in Weeks 11 and 12. So not only are they playing relatively better ball on DEF right now (1 INT, 2 fumbles recovered, 5 sacks, and 1 DEF TD), but they have limited the past two opponents to 19 and 16 points, respectively. That’s well below the average 23.8 points per game the Vikings’ DEF have allowed so far. Oh yeah. And they play the Bears who are the worst in 4 of the 7 offensive categories listed above and second worst in two more. I’m backing this pick with my own skin, benching the Seahawks, and playing the Vikings’ DEF instead in my local this week.

Giants’ DEF: The Giants’ DEF has had only one monster fantasy game this year. Guess who against? (The Redskins, back in Week 2). Since then both teams have gotten worse. Sure, the Giants have lost three of their starting defensive ends. On the flip side Portis is now sharing with Betts and the passing attack is looking worse than ever. I’m not in love with this pick but the fact is that while the Giants’ DEF doesn’t turn the ball over much, it does a pretty good job limiting points. And Washington’s offense has scored the fewest points of any team this year. Put the two together and you should expect a meat and potatoes performance: solid, but unspectacular.

Rams’ DEF: I know, I know. Green Bay did some naughty things to the Rams last week. But Rattay ain’t Favre. In fact, the whole SF passing game, which used to be clicking, is all discombobulated right now. About the only positive thing for the Niners’ offense is Maurice Hicks. (How sad is that?) Expect the Rams DEF to pull their weight this week versus an opponent that made the Zach Thomas-less Dolphins’ DEF look spectacular in Week 12.

Lions’ DEF: Come on, they’re playing against the Cardinals this week, who will be without Emmitt Smith. And they are starting a rookie, 7 th round QB. Furthermore, the game will be played in Detroit. While the Lions did loose Drummond (which makes the special teams aspect of the Lions’ DEF less attractive), keep in mind that the Cardinals couldn’t score more than 3 points against the Jets last week and they turned the ball over four times. This game sort of resembles Ultimate Fighting for lepers. I just expect Arizona to fall apart more.

And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Ronald Curry – OAK: Curry is only two weeks removed from dropping some key passes, so I’m not 100% sold on him just yet. But Collins has his game in high gear and the Oakland O-line is *finally* hitting their stride. All that’s left is for the WRs to do their jobs. They did last week, which is a good sign. Here are some other good signs:

  • Curry was targeted 9 times last week, catching 8 balls;
  • More importantly, he was a red zone target on 3 of those passes (i.e., on 1/3 of the passes thrown his way);
  • He’s had two of his three best games of the year in Weeks 11 and 12, which could be a sign he is getting it;
  • He’s the Raiders’ second most targeted player in the passing game (64 times); and
  • He has the best reception ratio of the top 5 Oakland passing targets, a fair 64.1%.

Morten Anderson – MIN: The old man makes a decent (but not great) play most weeks. This week he’ll do in a pinch if you need some help. First off, he’s only missed one field goal in his last eight games. Second, Moss is back. That should help move the ball into scoring range. Third, the Bears’ have allowed 26 field goal attempts this year, which is the second most in the NFL. Fourth, the Vikings have kicked 32 extra points, which is the 4th most in the NFL and Mort hasn’t missed any of his all year. It’s not much, but it’ll do if you need a kicker for one week.

Prior Picks That Bear Repeating

Kerry Collins – OAK: Okay, I honestly didn’t expect Collins to do so well last week versus the Broncos. But he did. I figured the potential was there, though. And it still is. Expect him to keep passing at least 30 times a game; probably more now with Wheatley officially ruled out for Sunday’s track meet. Furthermore, this week’s opponent – Kansas City – is nothing special against the pass:

  • KC has allowed the 3rd most passing yards per game (254.8);
  • KC has allowed the 5th most passing TDs so far (28);
  • KC is in the bottom third in picking off INTs (only 9); and
  • KC is only middle of the road when it comes to sacking the QB.(24, or an average of 2 per game).

Collins is a borderline start every week. But this week is one of the safer opportunities to play him.

Antowain Smith – TEN: still only owned in 46 percent of CBS Sportsline leagues. Apparently some folks just don’t understand that there is a very, very good chance Chris Brown will stay on the shelf for the next couple weeks. As long as that’s the case Smith makes for a decent #2 RB. He’s gotten 20+ carries and racked up 100+ combined yards in each of his last two games. He scored in Week 11 and got 4 red zone carries in Week 12. He’s the Titans’ yardage back and their goal line back right now. Unless you’re in an 8 team (or less) league, there is no reason for Smith to remain homeless. This week’s opponents – the Colts – are very middle of the road versus the run. So that doesn’t really bode one way or the other for Smith’s chances this week.

Maurice Hicks – SF: Here’s the deal. I recommended him two weeks ago. Heck, I even picked him up in two leagues. But I don’t have much to add to what the Free Agent Forecast has already said. I will say this, though: Week 13 looks like a great week to play him. The match up versus the Rams is about as good as it’s going to get for the rest of the season.

Shawn McDonald – STL: Guess who was the second most targeted player in the Rams’ passing attack over the last 5 games? Not Faulk. Not Holt. Here’s a hint: he’s had a farm, he’s peddled burgers, and he’s built planes. That’s right, this “#4 WR” has received the second most looks (37, to be exact) in one of the NFL’s true pass-first offenses. (The Rams have thrown the ball 416 times, which is the 2nd most in the NFL).

Here are the other three reasons to like McDonald: (1) he’s almost certainly on waivers; (2) he does punt returns, if you get points for that; and (3) this week’s opponent – the 49ers – have allowed the most points in the NFL.

Troy Edwards – JAX: for those who get points in the return game, you’ve got to give Edwards a look. Regular Jaguar return man – Jermaine Lewis – is out with yet another concussion. Edwards has filled in serviceably in the return game before. Plus, he is the second most targeted Jaguar in passing game and has the best reception ratio of any regular target; a decent 62.3%. I don’t normally like Edwards on regular offense, but the punt and kick off return duties coupled with what he does get in the passing game makes him a low-risk, moderate reward kind of dude.

Jermaine Wiggins – MIN: he continues to be involved, despite Moss’ return. He went 4 of 8 last week for 55 yards. That made him the most targeted Viking last week. And he still has a 77% reception ratio, which is unbelievable for any player that’s been targeted more than 60 times. I’m playing Wiggins as a TE/WR flex this week, for what it’s worth.

Guys I Thought About Covering But Didn’t

Larry Croom – ARI: you didn’t really need lil’ ol’ me to point him out, did you?

T.J. Duckett – ATL: He’s more active than he was earlier in the season. However, the whole Atlanta running game is just too darn erratic to rely on right now.

Reggie Swinton – DET: With Eddie Drummond done for the year, Swinton steps into the starting role as the Lions’ return man. And Swinton got a some action on regular offense early this year. However, with RoyWilliams & Co. healthy (enough) to play again, Swinton got edged out. While his added return duties give him some value, I don’t think its enough to warrant picking him up… unless yet another Lions’ WR gets hurt.

Chirs Cooley – WAS: This rookie tight end went 7 of 10 last week, including one target in the red zone. He could be an interesting prospect for TE-mandatory leagues.

Washington’s DEF: I love the match up this week versus Eli and the(y might be) Giants. Eli didn’t play so hot last week in the elements. I expect more of the same this week. But the Redskins are just too good for me.