Happy New Year to everyone! Well, that’s it, the 2004 NFL Regular Season has come to a close, but that doesn’t mean that we’re closing things down here at fantasysharks.com. We ride this thing all the way to, and through, the Super Bowl. Articles, projections, contests, and of course, this rag. As always, I thank you for taking the time to stop by and read. Hopefully you got to sample some exciting college football games leading into yesterday’s action as there were some fantastic finishes that I wish I had the time to talk about here. There are some highly skilled players coming into the NFL (segue) and yes, the Dynasty Den will be back probably as early as this week so stay tuned!!
In any case, much went on in the final week and there is much to talk about. Some teams finished the season with class and dignity, while others, well, how do I say….umm, didn’t. Let’s put it this way, I’m just a little fantasy player and in the grand scheme of things I matter very little. I really can’t be mad that a certain player directly cost me two fantasy championships since the folks I really feel bad for are the fans of those teams that were directly affected by the outcomes of some of those games. I mean, the people of New Orleans certainly can’t be pleased that the Eagles mailed it in these last couple of weeks, allowing the Rams to get into the playoffs. And what of the Eagle fans that paid good money to have tickets to this week’s minor league game? Just gets my blood boiling….I will say this, these things have a way of working themselves out if not this year, then at some point down the line. Could even be this week as one of those teams that mailed it in will end up playing a team they could have eliminated this week in the first round of the playoffs. Say what you want about baseball, but you’d never see a team mail in a game if their opponent was still in the playoff chase. End of rant, on to the games…
at St.Louis 32, NY Jets 29 (overtime)
Great football game here as the Rams were fighting for their playoff lives while the Jets also were when this game began. The craziness began just before the half when Marc Bulger (450 yds, 3 TD) hooked up with Torry Holt (116 yds, 2 TD) from 44 yards out to put the Rams ahead 14-10 at the break. They would push their lead to 11 when the Jets’ Jerricho Cothcery took the ensuing kickoff 94 yards to paydirt. The Jets would get another field goal, then their defense would score, Jonathon Vilma taking a deflected pass 38 yards for the score. Bulger and Holt would hook up again midway thru the fourth quarter and the two point conversion put the Rams up by three. This was about the time that word came down that no matter the outcome, the Jets were going to be in the playoffs. And yet, they did not pull their starters and continued to fight hard for the win. Curtis Martin (153 yds) got New York into position for the potentially game winning score. The Jets had first and goal from the nine yard line with under a minute to play. With the fate of so many teams hanging in the balance, the Rams D came up big and held the Jets to a field goal, sending the game into overtime. And there the teams went back and fourth, each offense getting its turn to win the game. The Jets would have the first crack, but Doug Brien’s 53 yard attempt sailed just wide. Capatalizing on the good field position, the Rams were able to move the ball and once in position, Mike Martz wasted no time sending Jeff Wilkins on the field to win the game, which he did from 31 yards out. The Rams are in the playoffs!
at New England 21, San Francisco 7
Not a whole lot to report in this one, New England had locked their position, while San Francisco had done the same (first overall pick in the rookie draft). But in front of their home fans, the starters played three plus quarters of football. The Patriots certainly didn’t open their playbook, but it was enough to take the easy win against an extremely poor 49er team. No player from either team makes the story this week, but props to New England for putting in a nice effort with nothing to gain.
Cincinnati 38, at Philadelphia 10
At this time, I can’t rationally talk about this game. Rudi Johnson (99 yds, 3 TD) and the Bengals D (5 turnovers, return TD) make the print this week in a rout.
at Washington 21, Minnesota 18
Some things never change. The Vikings on the road in last season’s finale needed a win to get into the playoffs and they lost a heartbreaker at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals on a last second hail mary type of play. This year’s Minnesota team again found themselves on the road where a win would put them into the post season. This one held none of the drama that last years’ game did, as the Redskins dominated this one from the get go. Ladell Betts (118 yds, TD) had a tremendous game as the Vikings hardly got their offense going. Daunte Culpepper (299 yds, 2 TD) padded some stats with a late TD pass (and I mean late, less than 10 seconds on the clock) to make the score look like this game was close. It was not. And yet as it turns out, the Vikings still sneak into the playoffs.
New Orleans 21, at Carolina 18
Head to head, mano e mano, whatever you want to call it, this was essentially a game where only the winning team would have a chance at a post season berth. Let’s give credit where it is due, the Saints have been much maligned this season, but in this game they put in a tremendous effort that earned them a solid win. Duece McAllister (140 yds, TD) put in a great effort, as did the entire New Orleans team. They built up a nice 21-10 lead in the third quarter that held. Jake Delhomme (307 yds, 2 TD) found Muhsin Muhammed (95 yds, 2 TD) for the second time midway thru the fourth quarter as the Panthers tried to come back. As the seconds were winding down, Carolina was forced into trying a 60 yard field goal that was blocked as time expired. It was a great end of the season run for the Panthers, but it fell just short…and as it turned out, the Saints fell short as well. Two teams very hot down the stretch could not overcome their poor start and will be watching the playoffs from home like you and I. Sometimes there is no justice.
at Baltimore 30, Miami 23
The Ravens were in a position to make the playoffs with a win here but they needed some outside help. Up against third string QB Sage Rosenfels, Baltimore did just enough in this ugly game to do their part. Jamal Lewis (167 yds, TD) had a solid game in victory while on the other side Chris Chambers (146 yds, TD) gets a mention here for his effort. In the end, the Ravens had not done enough as they too will be missing this year’s playoff party.
Cleveland 22, at Houston 14
Both teams were looking to win this one, Cleveland in a bid to keep their interim coach, Houston in a bid to finish .500. It turned out that the Browns’ effort was much better than that of the Texans, much to the displeasure of the home fans that were on their team early and often, even cheering when franchise QB David Carr had to briefly leave the game due to injury. Phil Dawson (5 FG, PAT) and Lee Suggs (131 yds) led the way for the winners while Domanick Davis (103 yds, TD) capped of a great fantasy season in a losing effort.
Pittsburgh 29, at Buffalo 24
With nothing to gain and everything to lose, the Steelers took the opportunity to rest some players and play some backups, and it helps that one of those backups is a seasoned QB like Tommy Maddox. Buffalo had a chance to keep their improbable season going with a win here, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Jeff Reed (5 FG, 2 PAT) was the offensive star for the Steelers as they do just enough to take the win. The story was the solid Pittsburgh D that came to play, no matter who the players were. Early in the fourth Pittsburgh was holding a two point lead when the defense forced the turnover and returned it 18 yards for the score. Buffalo would continue the fight, Willis McGahee (79 yds, 2 TD) keeping things close but in the end it was not enough to overcome.
Green Bay 31, at Chicago 14
Green Bay played their starters for most of the first half, and that was enough to build up a lead they would not relinquish. The Packers D (9 sacks, return TD) went wild, pressuring Bears QBs all day. Thomas Jones (108 yds, 2 TD) the lone bright spot for the visitors as he completed an incredible fantasy season.
at Tennessee 24, Detroit 19
Two teams with not much to play for put in inspired efforts on both sides of the ball. In the end, the Titans get the win in front of their home crowd. Tennesee had built an 11 point lead, but the Lions came back, Joey Harrington (346 yds, 2 TD) tossing a TD pass with just over four minutes to go. The Lions D would then knock out Billy Volek, in the process giving their offense one last chance to win the game. But the Titans D held strong, stopping Detriot inside the 20 yard line and victory was theirs.
at Seattle 28, Atlanta 26
With the early returns already in, Seattle had everything to play for. Win and they would earn themselves a home game by winning the NFC West, lose and they’d find themselves on the road. Michael Vick started and played most of the first half, as the Falcons put their best foot forward in an effort to win the game. Leading by a point in the fourth, Matt Hasselbeck (191yds, 2 TD, rushing TD) called his own number from a yard out to push the lead to 8 points. The Falcons would drive the field, and as time expired they scored a touchdown to close to within 2 points. Alas, the two point conversion failed and that was the end of the game.
at Arizona 12, Tampa Bay 7
Mostly a forgettable game for both teams as the defenses did well to keep their opposing offense off the scoreboad. In the end, Neil Rackers (4 FG) did more successful kicking than his counterpart and the Cardinals close out the season with a victory.
at San Diego 24, Kansas City 17
A difficult season for the Chiefs comes to a close as they accept defeat at the hands of the Chargers backups. Doug Flutie and Philip Rivers had some success for the San Diego offense, though no players gets an official mention in this space. Player of the Week Larry Johnson (115 yds, 2 TD) had a strong game, along with Tony Gonzalez (144 yds) and Trent Green (373 yds, TD, 4 int) but it was not enough to get a victory on this day.
at Denver 35, Indianapolis 14
With nothing to play for, the Colts mailed this one in and the Bronocos glady take the win and the playoff spot that goes along with it. Jake Plummer (246 yds, 2 TD) and Jason Elam (4 FG, 3 PAT) peformed well in the win that earns Denver a trip to play these same Colts next week.
Jacksonville 13, at Oakland 6
The Jaguars needed to win to have a chance at making the playoffs and they put in a strong effort in earning the win. A muddy and rain soaked field greeted the players from both teams, and defense reigned supreme. In the end Jacksonville was able to put more points on the board, but it was not enough to get them into the post season.
at NY Giants 28, Dallas 24
The regular season came to a close with two division rivals squaring off in prime time where they both wanted to end the season on a winning note. Late in the third quarter, Jason Witten (77 yds, TD) capped off a tremendous fantasy season by catching a 7 yard pass that put the Cowboys up 16-7. The Giants would come back, Eli Manning tossing the second of his three TD passes to close the gap. Then Tiki Barber (95 yds, 2 TD) took over, catching a 3 yard TD pass to put the Giants ahead. Not to be outdone, and hoping to retire on a winning note, Vinny Testaverde lead Dallas back down the field, where Julius Jones (149 yds, TD) hit paydirt on a fourth and one play with under two minutes to go. Staring their ninth straight loss in the face, Eli Manning became a man, driving the Giants down the field where Barber ended his storybook fantasy season, his three yard run ending the scoring and finally giving Manning and the Giants a win.