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Commentary From the Edge - Week 8
Kevin Ratterree
October 24, 2006

Last week the subject of steroids in the NFL was discussed on the always entertaining Huddle message boards.  Then it him home when Shawne Merriman was suspended 4 weeks on Sunday.  Would the game be better with bigger, faster, stronger players?  At what price I ask?  The proliferation of HGH and steroid abuse is a bad trend any way you slice it.  The players doing it, are putting their very lives in peril.  We are messing around with stuff we shouldn't be messing with.  It can't possibly be healthy, it pushes the body beyond it's natural limits, and injuries will kill the sport as bodies continue to be built beyond limits the body's frame and ligaments have the ability to withstand.  It isn't difficult to figure out.  Ask an engineer.  If there is more meat than the skeletal system can support, something is going to give.  We have already seen the effects of this problem and it isn't pretty.  One look at Barry Bonds melon will convince you of that.

And what does all of this do for us, the viewing audience?  How much better is the game if everybody is doping?  Then it becomes, who has the best Doctor Nick.  And I realize it would be naive to think that doping in pro football isn't as old as........well, pro football.  In every aspect of life there is somebody willing to cheat to get ahead.  But do we really want NFL players to look like pro wrestlers?  Is that where we are headed?  Do we want to watch a video game?  Because I really don't need all that.  How long before the Madden video games give players the option to use HGH or not for the players they build.  This ain't your daddy's dopers.  This stuff is mean.  It is going to take lives.  Another concern is the fact that I'm already worried enough about the gene pool in America, we don't need to throw any more monkey wrenches in the DNA mix.  Not even in the name of football.  And I'm not willing to say, okay best cheater wins.  Call me old fashioned, but I'd just as well rather have natural abilities, and natural strength gained under natural conditions determine winners and losers.  Not which guys tendons or bones snap because of his artificially inflated muscles.
I don't want my football to imitate life, where the best cheater usually wins.  (at least in the short run)  I'd like my football just a little bit on the legitimate side.  This stuff is hard enough to predict already, I don't need any more variables.  I am up to here with variables.  The game is perfect the way it is.  Well, other than the officiating for the biggest games of the year.  That sucks, but the rest of it is pretty damn good.  How long will it stay that way, and who will be the one, or the thing that will screw it up? Steroids and HGH, and whatever the newest stuff that we don't know about yet that can't be detected by testing, are as good a candidates as anything.  Mr. Mackey said it best.  Drugs are bad, mmmmkay.

You will soon have the option be buried in a Raiders coffin, or your ashes placed for eternity in a Mighty Ducks urn.  Yes sports fans, the end is always near, and major league sports have found a way to grab your cash, even in death. And as a bonus the attractive urns will provide advertising for the teams in perpetuity.  Has there ever been a more brilliant marketing ploy?  Soon, no living room will be complete without a collection of sports logo urns lining the wall over your mantle.  Grandpa was a Bears fan.  He's up there.  Grandma was a Cubs fan, in the next urn over.  Crazy aunt Betty in the Detroit Lions urn.  The very thing that drove her to madness, still entombs her.  Kind of fitting really.

I'm not sure about being buried in a Tampa Bay Devil Rays coffin.  I want all the good karma I can get when I'm going for that long last ride.  I'd like to meet the guy tempting fate by showing up in the afterlife driving a Devil Ray coffin.  That would take guts.

Tiki Barber played the Jerome Bettis card last week announcing this would "probably" be his last season.  Hey, I have mixed opinions about this.  On one hand it is nice for Barber to let his fans know that this is the end of the road, so they can line up and pay homage one more time.  But on the other hand, my cynical nature points out the possibility that this was just a casual comment, meant to inspire his teammates to rally around him.  "One more for the road."  And it gives the media a new bone to chew on, since they have gnawed the T.O. bone down to the marrow.  But mostly I think it is just an unnecessary distraction for a team that doesn't need one.
But if Barber does retire, I give the man his due for a great career, and for getting out while still performing at a high level, and with the ability to get out of bed in the morning.  He may not be a hall of famer, but there are some fantasy players with trophies on their shelf that rode his under appreciated coat-tails to championships.

And all the Jacobs owners in dynasty leagues are thinking, "Don't let the door hit ya' in the ass there Tiki", and rubbing their hands together like Mr. Burns, "excellent".  Calm down Jacobs owners, Tiki could have a change of heart.  It has been known to happen.  Ronde supposedly told an interviewer that there was "no way" Tiki would hang them up after this season.  Jim Brown walked away at the top of his game.  But he wasn't making a quarter or half mil per game.

While on the subject of the future I thought the halfway point might be a good time to mention a few names I like for possible second half runs, but mostly guys I would be targeting on Dynasty or keeper leagues. Of course, if you are in deep and competitive dynasty leagues, most of these guys are probably on somebody's roster already.  In that case, these would be players I would want to trade for.  In no particular order, but I will start with one that has a real chance of being on your waiver wire right now, even you play in a competitive 12 team or larger.  If your season is in the tank, it's time to look toward rebuilding.  And these guys are all either off a bye, or a lousy performance.  This is the week you want to go after them, the price will likely never be lower.
Matt Schaub:  This is by no means a rock solid pick, which is evidenced by the fact that he may just be available in your league.  The dynasty league I play in has a quarterback fetish for the most part, so looking for a gem for next season is no easy feat.  But, Schaub is sitting there, so I grabbed him last week.  He is a restricted free agent after this season, and his departure is by no means certain, nor is a starting position should he change teams.  Aside from those elements, some fantasy players that are too hung up on numbers will tell you that his 52% completion rate will be his doom.  But let's be real.  Who has the guy ever thrown to?  Marvin Harrison?  No.  Not quite.  Atlanta receivers are often confused when a quarterback pass actually arrives in their area.  But they could get used to it if forced.  And while it seems unlikely the Falcons would try to move Vick, they might not want to match the offers Shaub might get from other teams looking for a starter.  This is strictly a crapshoot in any case, there is somewhat of a glut of the next wave of quarterbacks right now, so a lot of you probably aren't interested in giving up a roster spot for him, but if you are desperate for a project player that could pay off nicely he is worth a look.

Matt Leinart:  If you played the, "I'll let someone else draft him, wait until mid-season and try to trade for him while he languishes on the bench" card, you came up with the dead man's hand.  If you didn't draft him, you are probably s.o.l., but he did finally look like a rookie last week, so this is a good week to make a move for him.  After that all you have to do is pray the weak O-line: a) doesn't get him killed before the season is over and b) also pray that the offensive line is upgraded before next season.  Not exactly a slam dunk.  But the good news is it can't get much worse.  But Leinart might have to survive a season filled with 4 game sacks, which is something he is not really accustomed to.  If he lives, he could be something.  But behind this line, he's going to look like Jake Plummer Lite this season.

Chris Perry:  Perry was somewhat of a forgotten man after spending the first 6 weeks on the PUP list.  I snagged him in all my leagues that he was available in a few weeks ago.  Perry hasn't exactly sold most people yet.  Glass jaw is the charge against Perry.  But he is 23 years old.  And he has shown the same type of brilliance as Marshall Faulk, Larry Johnson, and Tiki Barber.  Almost all leagues seem to be shifting toward points per reception, and guys like Perry are the next wave of running backs. Let's face it, the days of the 30 carry backs are fading.  Everybody in your league will not be able to draft an every down back in the first round, because those guys won't exist any more.  There will still be a few.  But we can all clearly see that the pool is thinning every year.  If Perry can shake his injury problems he has the potential to be a solid and possibly spectacular fantasy option next year and beyond.

Laurence Maroney:  Last weeks dud performance may have some owners down on him, so if you are looking for the perfect moment to offer a trade, this is likely it.  If you can find a way to trade for him, just do it.  Don't ask me who to trade for him.  Just do it.
Frank Gore:  I'm sold.  You won't likely pry him from anybody's hands, unless he has a string of bad games (in which case you might be afraid to pull the trigger anyway), but I don't think the Gore Express will slow down any time soon.  The offense appears to be headed in the right direction and Gore is leading the charge.

Noah Herron:  I know, I've mentioned him before.  Green doesn't have much left, and I think Herron will be a big part of the equation by the start of next season.

Mark Clayton:  I know, I've mentioned him before.  Yada yada yada.  The quarterback/head coach situation is shaky, but this guy has game.

Drew Carter:  Carter has emerged this season as a dangerous 3rd receiver, and I like his chances in the future.  He is simply too good a weapon to keep off the field.

Greg Jennings:  This is another guy I would love to have on a dynasty team.  Because I have a feeling that he is going to be really really good, for a really really long time.  Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Greg Jennings.  Yep, all in the same sentence.  After this weeks injury his owner might be ready to bail for a price.  Help him bail.

Ben Watson:  Obviously this hasn't been quite the monster season some were hoping for in this years fantasy drafts.  And I must say that even I am a bit down on Watson.  Any receiver in the Patriots offense is a huge gamble because the Pats spread it around like the neighborhood skank.  But I still think this guy will come around and get his.  Maybe the guy that owns him in your league is ready to sell.

This not a scientific list.  This is gut feeling and crystal ball stuff.  These are the guys I have my eye on.  Of course there are others but these are some players in my core target group .  Keep in mind that it is often the second half player that garnishes the most sleeper attention in the next season, so values of some players will be very dependent on what happens in the last half of the season.  I like them right now.  I would try to trade for them now, and take my chances.  And these are some guys you might actually be able to get.  Of course I would like to have Roy Williams in a keeper league, but after his monster start, who would trade him?  And for who?  I'm talking about players on the fringes of trade-ability or waivers.

But then again some of you play in easy leagues and don't need my advice.  I guess every league seems easy if you win all the time.  Or at least compete.  And I do.  So I am just feeding my thoughts to the masses for consumption.  As with most advice.  If you tend to agree with the things I say then you are probably of like mind and likely are already on these players anyway.  So I'll just reinforce that, and we can move on then.  And of course, if I'm right I'll never let you forget it, but if I turn out to be wrong we can just both forget the whole thing and pretend it didn't happen.  But wait a that really possible, that I am wrong.  Nah, probably not.

Mike Vick got mad, and lashed out last week screaming to the world that he was a good passer.  But the world didn't believe him, except for his mama.  And then he went out and ripped the Steelers a new one with 4 TD's.  He called his shot.  Count me among the stunned.

Did anyone notice that when Bledsoe threw the interception at the end of the first half, T.O. was barking on the sidelines like a dog.  Foaming at the mouth over the missed opportunity in the red zone.  He got his wish.  Romo took over.  Owens dropped a crucial 4th down pass that Romo put right on target in stride.  Owens walked off the field with a huge smile on his face after that costly mistake.  Apparently he only goes into a frenzy when someone else makes a mistake, but doesn't feel the need to act like a jackass after he himself commits the sin of being human.  Count me among the not stunned. 

Crazy as Hell pick of the week

After a long climb out of the 3-0 start, the Crazy as Hell pick is finally at .500 after nailing the Monday night game again.  4-4 and out of the hole.  Disaster averted.

I'm 1-4 with my last 5 picks and that's the way we like it.  That's right, I'm as hot as a Jalapeno chili fart so jump on my coat-tails and hold your nose.  Lets push this baby into the loss column and hit that 60% mark where profitability begins.

I am looking at the opening lines I have available , and I see some pretty tough games.  Lots of great match-ups this week,  and after minutes of exhaustive research I have narrowed it down to a couple I like.  But I can only pick one.  I strongly considered picking the Jets/ Browns game.  But I won't.  I will simply mention that the Browns are 2-9 against the spread when playing teams with winning records.  And the Jets are 4-3, getting 1 1/2 points, and to this point are clearly the better team here.  Somewhat dangerous, but interesting.

The Rams, fresh off a bye, visit sunny San Diego where the steroids flow free.  I have to tell you, this is a spread that I just don't understand.  The Chargers are a 9 point favorite.  Wow.  Fresh off a thumping at the hands of the Chiefs, and facing the loss of their defensive leader this week due to steroid policy violations.  The Chargers four wins have come against teams with a combined record of 6-19.   The Rams haven't had larger than an 8 point differential in any game they have played this year.  Meanwhile, they have an equal 4-2 record and are well rested.  The Chargers are shaky.  This spread is shaky.  9 points?  I think that is quite generous.  The Rams could go in there and bust them up.  You want a supporting number?  The Chargers have covered the spread only 9 times out of the last 33 games played at home after a division loss.  Okay, that's kind of out there, but that and the huge nine points is enough for me.  There's no bout adout how to play this one this one in my opinion.  The Chargers will be lucky to get out of this game with a win, let alone a nine point win.  If you haven't watched the Rams this year, you'd be tempted to lay the nine.  Trust me when I tell you they are very capable of winning this game outright.  The nine points is just too many.  Easy pick for me.  Chargers -9.

Misery Index

10) Cowboys:  A Monday night loss to the division rival Giants was devastating enough.  But now Parcells seems to have painted himself in a corner with the quarterback switch.  When Romo came in the game and threw a tipped interception with his first attempt, I would imagine Bledsoe was smiling on the inside, while Parcells was holding back his dinner.  He threw two more picks along with a few nice passes and runs.  He might help, but he probably isn't the answer to the problem.  For Parcells, he has it all riding on Romo.  And the kid was slow out of the gate.  Parcells looked like a beaten man after the game, and said he was ashamed of putting a team like that on the field.  Bill, we concur.
9) Seahawks:  After losing Hutcheson in the off-season, the team wasn't quite the same.  After losing Alexander several weeks ago they definitely were looking vulnerable.  Now after losing to the Vikings at home, with Hasselbeck out, and heading to Arrowhead next weekend, they'll feature Seneca Wallace handing the ball off to Maurice Morris?  Ugly.  The Superbowl curse lives on?
8) Jaguars:  Well, the wheels seem to be coming off fast.  When you manage to make the Texans offense look like the Colts offense, it's time to push the panic button.  And they gain the distinction of being responsible for wiping out half the survivor pools in the nation.  This putrid performance will not be soon forgotten.

7) Eagles:  This team was on top of the world a couple of weeks ago, but have now have become the last second loss specialists two weeks in a row to supposedly inferior teams.  Not a good way to prep for the NFC East gauntlet.  They should have run away from the field, but now it's going to be a good old fashioned knock down drag out, first team to 9 wins takes it.  And gets their arse kicked in the first round of the playoffs because they are beat all to hell.  Some prize that NFC East is going to be.

6) Redskins:  Painful.  Very painful.  Every bit as bad as I thought they'd be.  Jason Campbell debuts in about 2 weeks.  Gibbs soon decides watching cars pass each other in circles is just a lot more fun than watching the NFC East teams pass him in the standings   All this just goes to prove that Championships can't be bought, but it sure is fun watching somebody try. 
5) Steelers:   Mike Vick carved them up like an electric knife through a Thanksgiving turkey.  What more do I need to say.  Gobble gobble.

4) Bills:  Loseman doesn't seem to be getting it done.  It's that time of year again! Musical quarterbacks!!

3) Dolphins:  Well, the stinky fish managed to help the Packers break a long streak of Miami road trip futility.  It is amazing how bad this team is.  Harrington is throwing the ball 60 times a game?  Is that the answer here?  Apparently not.  But it is as close as they can come to winning.  Saban's handiwork has to be seriously questioned at this point.  Because this sure doesn't seem like a team that should be where they are.  Something is very wrong here.

2) Raiders:  Well the dream season ended way to soon for those of us in the Index.  This is truly a dark day.  I can't think of anything funny to say about this, because there is nothing funny about this.  I am crushed.  I mean, every year I give my heart to some team.  I know I'm going to get hurt but I do it anyway.  Why do I put myself through this?  Why do I let myself believe?  Never again I tell you!  Never again. (sob)

1) Cardinals:  I want to crown their ass, so I'll just crown their ass.  After a loss to the pitiful Raiders, they are worthy of crowning.  They are without doubt the most miserable team in all the land.  What a long strange trip it's been. In the off-season they gave Edge a big tub of money for some instant credibility.  Started out as pre-season darlings (yet again) and opened with a rousing home win against the 49ers.  After that, Warner turned into Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.  Loss, loss, (in comes Leinart) loss, loss.  Then the Monday night tragedy.  This team, in the space of 7 days went from having their foots on the throats of the undefeated Bears on national television, to blowing the game, and losing handily to the worst team in the league in a place called the Black Hole.  And the one guy they could depend on last season, the kicker, suddenly finds his teammates referring to him as "Shank." Sometimes things just have to hit rock bottom before you can admit there is a problem, and find a way to fix it.  But they have, at this point managed to make a mockery of one of the leagues finest running backs, and are well on their way to getting their prize first round quarterback slaughtered before the end of his first season.  Yep, the pre-season hype was just a mirage.  My gut feeling was right, something has gone horribly wrong on the way to the playoffs. This team knows how to lose like nobody's business.