I don’t know if there are words to describe losing an under wager on the last play from scrimmage. That’s the joy the Auburn Tigers provided me with last weekend as that wonderful team—instead of falling on the ball—returned a fumbled lateral for a touchdown on Florida’s last-ditch kick return attempt. As 0:00 showed on the clock. WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO FALLING ON THE BALL? I was a mix of enraged, ashamed, and stunned. Thank God I had a beer in my hand and a box of Entenmann’s cookies in front of me. Never discount the healing powers of those two items. But screw you, Auburn; you’ll never be involved in any of my wagers again.
Here’s what happened the following Sunday and Monday night, at least I think so, because I was still in a post-loss coma that made me unable to even scream at Tony Siragusa to shut up. Hey Tony, the reason they’re giving you a game to actually commentate on in the booth is because it’s ARIZONA vs. OAKLAND. In that crappy NFL universe, no one can hear your stupid blatherings.
· Three top offenses (and teams as a whole) returned, with diverse results both record-wise and fantasy-wise. Seattle and St. Louis got themselves into an old-fashioned shootout, and John Brown hit several long FGs—including a 54-yarder for the victory. Matt Hasselbeck rebounded in a big way from his Chicago horror show, throwing three TDs, two to Deion Branch. However, the Seahawks remain without Shaun Alexander for two more weeks, and Jerramy Stevens was a surprise scratch. Cincinnati got shut down by Tampa Bay, and lost the game with help from the officials (because you apparently can’t even sack the QB anymore). But the Bengals’ offensive line woes look to hinder their studs for the rest of the season. Chad Johnson has struggled throughout the season, Rudi Johnson has slowed down, and Carson Palmer only seems to be connecting with Housh (or Chris Henry when he’s not violating some civil statute). Shayne Graham is still a good play at kicker, though. Atlanta got their butts handed to them in the second half, but not after Warrick Dunn ran for a 90-yard TD. Michael Vick scored the other TD on a 22-yard scamper, but when he dropped back to pass, his receivers either dropped it or his offensive lineman failed to block. Alge Crumpler looked a little lame, too. Returning this week from the bye: Indianapolis, New England and Jacksonville.
· Perhaps we started the funeral services for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers a little early. He threw for 238 yards and two TDs while Pittsburgh crushed Kansas City 45-7. Fast Willie Parker chipped in with another 100+-yard game with 2 touchdowns. Hines Ward caught his first touchdown pass since Week 1, and is as healthy as he’s been all season. The Steelers can get right back into the NFC North race over the next two weeks. First, they bring their vaunted running game to Atlanta, whose defense was last seen getting steamrolled by the Giants. Then they have the NFL’s version of a forfeit when they play the Raiders. That should get them to 4-3 before the schedule gets a little tougher with Denver and New Orleans coming to town. As for the Chiefs, they can be summed up in a text message I received on Sunday, “Who knew that Herm Edwards sucks?”
· Martyball was eschewed for a week, and Philip Rivers responded with 334 yards and two touchdowns—one to Antonio Gates. This could be the rebound that propels Gates owners to the numbers they’ve been looking for all year. In addition, Rivers may be pushing for a No. 1 starter role on many fantasy rosters right now. Ladainian Tomlinson broke out for four TDs, singlehandedly winning the week for some owners. Unlike other prognosticators, It doesn’t seem like he is splitting carries to me. Let’s see if this becomes a trend, of if Schottenheimer goes back to his conservative ways.
This week showed just how difficult the NFL is to prognosticate (better known as “to bet on”). There were two big upsets around the league, with some previously worthless players making their greatest contributions of the year. Travis Henry rumbled for 178 yards and a TD as the Titans beat the Redskins in Washington. Vince Young of all people threw a TD pass to Brandon Jones. But are any of these guys viable, even as bye week replacements? Well, they still have two games to play against Houston, so Henry could be. But the rest do not have value until further notice.
The other surprise was Bruce Gradkowski and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who beat Cincinnati with seconds on the clock. Who was that guy who caught and almost dropped/fumbled the winning touchdown pass? Michael Clayton? I thought he was dead. Well, he is to me, because I spent good money on him last year and was rewarded with NOTHING. Cadillac almost got to 100 yards. As for Gradkowski, we’ll see how he handles a pair of NFC East foes in Philly and the Giants before we crown him the next Rich Gannon. The skill pieces might be there, but the line stinks and the schedule might not be conducive to big games.
Bring out the stud wide receivers
The list of wide receivers who blew up this week is long and distinguished, which is a good sign going forward for fantasy owners who had seen meager returns so far this year. Torry Holt, Steve Smith, Roy Williams, Anquan Boldin and, of course, T.O. all posted high numbers. But they weren’t alone. The Seattle duo of Branch and Jackson continued to get going. Returning from the dead was Joe Horn, while young bucks like Reggie Brown, Mark Clayton posted big games. As several running backs continue to flounder, WRs are becoming increasingly more valuable.
Some of the highest scoring “players” this year have been the DSTs—Bears, Chargers, Ravens, etc. The Bears and the Ravens have outscored most studs, and with teams passing more than ever, sacks, fumbles and interceptions continue to pile up. If you can trade for one of these top defenses, take a shot. They are more valuable than kickers at this point.
No real Mr. Random candidates or updates this week, so we’ll cut this discussion short. Next week we come back, hopefully in the New York Groove. If you have any comments or thoughts, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a topic in the Article Discussions section of the Fantasy Sharks forum.