By now, the phrase “strangest season in fantasy football history” has been going around ad nauseum—whether it’s in this column, the Shark Tank, ESPN, SI, or in any of the thousands of outlets that cover our beloved pastime. OK, it is a wacky season, we get it. Quarterbacks are outperforming running backs (in my league, nine of the top 10 point-scorers are QBs), no-name wide receivers are piling up points, and tight ends are nonexistent. For many of you out there, this season has been one of gloom and misery. You know who you are: the ones who drafted Cadillac Williams, Lamont Jordan, Daunte Culpepper, Trent Green, Randy Moss and Chris Chambers. Jesus, how many friggin’ busts have there been so far this year?
But fear not, my friends. I was just like you, teetering on the brink of collapse at 1-3 due to bad managerial decisions and injuries. And in my darkness, I was saved by the most unlikely of heroes:
Fragile Fred Taylor.
Thank you, Fragile Fred, for saving my season. Yes, I had no other choice but to start you with Rudi Johnson on bye week. But I always believed. I didn’t even pick up that young upstart Maurice Jones-Drew, who everybody said was going to take your job. OK, so maybe somebody took him ahead of me on waivers, but that’s not the point. I kept the faith in you and your groin. May that groin stay unharmed and lead your team (as well as mine) to the playoffs.
Were we ahead of the curve last week? Let’s see:
· Donovan McNabb continues to be the MVP of fantasy football, throwing for 354 yards and two TDs against Dallas in the first T.O. Bowl. If you can trade for him (highly unlikely), do so. When you play against him, pray Philly gets the running game going that day.
· Tom Cruise’s favorite football team, the Washington Redskins, took a step backward and only scored three points on the road against the Giants. I must state that I was wrong, and it was pretty apparent after this game that as Clinton Portis goes, so do the Skins. If you take out the monster game against Jacksonville, Santana Moss has been invisible. Washington does have a nice rebound opportunity this weekend against Tennessee.
As an aside, I just have to ask this of all Redskins fans: Aren’t you way past ashamed or embarrassed by Dan Snyder at this point? Your owner has a Napoleonic complex and obscenely overcharges you for everything associated with the team. He purchases the best Redskins message board on the Web, inherently giving him control over what can be posted. Then he decides he’s going to ruin your family trips to Six Flags by buying the company. Now Tom Cruise is associated with the team. I mean, what’s next? Control D.C.-area talk radio? Uh oh.
· On the flip side, the Giants seemed to keep it simple against the Skins: a greater commitment to the running game and less Eli Manning playing mad bomber. The result was a more balanced offense that sprinkled deep passes to Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer with 120+ yards on the ground from Tiki Barber. The one negative was that Jeremy Shockey’s injury woes continue, as he had X-rays on his never-healing ankle. Shockey owners should take note that his back-up is Visanthe Shiancoe.
· When a couple of bad to mediocre teams face off, there’s bound to be points scored. San Francisco dropped 34 on Oakland, who actually got a TD out of Randy Moss. Frank Gore continued his stellar play, and Arnaz Battle became a waiver wire pickup with two TDs. Tampa Bay showed signs of life against New Orleans in Bruce Gradkowski’s debut. Gradkowski threw for two TDs (one to Joey Galloway), and Cadillac actually made it out of the garage this week with 111 yards. Michael Clayton is still worthless.
· A similar match-up of mediocrity signaled the dawning of the Matt Leinart era in Arizona. Unfortunately, it also signaled the popping of Larry Fitzgerald’s hamstring. He’s out anywhere from two to six weeks. Enter Bryant Johnson, who will be the flavor of the week on the waiver wire. Leinart started hot, hitting Anquan Boldin for a 49-yard TD. He would later throw for another TD and have one dropped in the end zone. This is a work in progress, especially now with Fitzgerald out, so watch warily and don’t get overly excited just yet.
· Meanwhile, the other storyline out of that game is Larry Johnson’s neck injury, where Antrel Rolle tried to make his head spin like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” LJ had not done much in the game prior to that, but was still solid in this weak start to the season for running backs. Owners should continue to monitor his injury status as the week progresses. His back-up is former Celtics guard and NBA Slam Dunk Champion Dee Brown.
Now here are this week’s storylines, which are a tad more exciting than multiple “Will Priest Holmes come back now” threads in the Shark Tank:
As the bye week turns
Some major offenses return from the bye this week, while others say goodbye. Seattle, with a returning Jerramy Stevens but not Shaun Alexander, goes to St. Louis. This could be a tough game for the Seahawks offense, given the Rams’ ability to create turnovers (eight interceptions, seven fumbles) and Matt Hasslebeck’s propensity lately for throwing it to the other team—seven INTs, all in the last three games. Cincinnati should get revved going to Tampa Bay. Big days should come across the board for the Bengals: Palmer, Rudi, Chad, T.J., etc. Atlanta has a boom or bust game against the Giants. The G-men have been solid against the run, but it could be that everyone just chooses to pass on them instead. I would still start the Falcons’ Big Three (Vick/Dunn/Crumpler), especially Vick, because the Giants never contain scrambling quarterbacks.
Our weekly departed include Indianapolis (Manning, Addai, Clark, Harrison and Wayne), New England (Brady, Dillon, Maroney, Waston) and Jacksonville (Leftwich, Fragile Fred, R Williams, Wrightster). Hopefully you’re playing against someone who has these guys on their team.
Big Ben a big bust?
Roethlisberger is yet to throw a touchdown pass, but he has thrown seven interceptions. Tremendous. The Steelers are 1-3, and their one win came against Miami with Charlie Batch at the helm. That was thought of as a big win at the time; however, we have learned in the following weeks that the Dolphins stink. Willie Parker has continued to be OK (325 yards, 3 TDs), but Heath Miller and Hines Ward each only have 1 TD—and those came in the first game! Ward only has 13 catches through four games. I’m sure you’ve benched Big Ben already, but it may be time to start looking to move these other Steelers if the offense doesn’t improve. Also take note that the Mad Crapper, Najeh Davenport, may start to eat into the carries of Fast Willie so he doesn’t wear down.
A Rivers runs through Pittsburgh
Horrible pun? Yes. But also the truth. After the media and San Diego faithful cried “Death to Martyball” following the loss to Baltimore, Schottenheimer decided to let Philip Rivers loose on Pittsburgh. OK, so it wasn’t that loose, but going 24-37 for 242 and a touchdown isn’t bad against a Steeler defense. Not to mention that this game provided Antonio Gates owners with some hope, as the previously invisible tight end had his second touchdown of the season. It also displayed a potential TD hog in 6’5” wide receiver Malcolm Floyd. Even though Ladainian Tomlinson didn’t have the greatest game (Michael Turner outgained him), this growth in Rivers’ game would seem to be good for the entire San Diego offense. And can somebody tell me why they don’t make the powder blues the regular home jersey?
A pair for Mr. Random
Two new entries in the Mr. Random competition this week, both of whom should be available on your waiver wire. The first is Green Bay running back Noah Herron, who came off the bench to rush for 20 carries, 106 yards and a touchdown. The Northwestern product got the carries because Vernand Morency couldn’t hold onto the football. Has Ahman Green even played this year? Sure doesn’t feel like it. Anyway, the Pack is on bye this week, but if you have depth problems, you may want to pick up Herron for Week 7 at Miami, which has become a winnable game.
Our second nominee for this week is former Notre Dame stud Arnaz Battle, who plays WR for San Francisco. Although he had only 37 yards, Battle scored two TDs against the hapless Oakland Raiders. Now I’ll admit this guy is a reach. But remember that the 49ers’ No. 1 receiver, Antonio Bryant, is on the Looney Bin All-Star team, and that the starting tight end (as well as the pride of Maryland) Vernon Davis is out for a while. Eric Johnson—who last prospered when TIM RATTAY was the quarterback—is decent, but still getting back into shape. I also recall that during the Brandon Lloyd era, while Lloyd made the spectacular catches, Battle made the possession catches and the touchdowns.
Doesn’t sound so crazy to just keep tabs on him, now does it?