Wednesday, November 30, 2005

WEEK 12 WRAP-UP ARTICLE!

WEEK 12 "WRAP-UP!"


Baltimore at Cincinnati: "Although Balty' DID beat the defensive minded Steelers last week... Pittsburgh and Cincy' are worlds apart. … Balty's been solid against the run and stout versus the pass. However, … Carson had a rock-solid 335 yard, 2 TD game last week against a stingy Colt Secondary (last week), and with a pass catching contingent of Chad Johnson (8/189/1 last week), T.J Houshmanzadeh (virtual non-factor last week), Chris Henry (3/31/1)... but snagged a scoring strike for a 2nd straight week), and scat-back Chris Perry (123 total yards on a scant 12 touches)... Palmer has a formidable arsenal at hand. With RB Rudi Johnson pounding away at a Raven run D that permits fewer than 100 rushing YPG, Palmer should enjoy modest success Sunday. ... The Raven offense is vanilla, at best. QB Kyle Boller is just not starting material, and when you couple RB Jamal Lewis's oft-discussed troubles with an under-achieving passing game... you have a recipe for offensive ineptitude."

Cincinnati Signal Caller Carson Palmer surveyed the Raven Secondary… and said to himself “I can beat these guys.” With RB Rudi Johnson (114/2) slamming himself between the Balty’ Tackles, Palmer was able to pick the Raven Secondary apart, hanging 300+, 3 TDs, and a pair o’ picks on ‘em. Not helping matters for the Ravens (given their Hi-Powered O, Cincy' needs NO help at all)… QB Kyle Boller’s "turnover troika;" 2 picks and 1 lost fumble (he put 2 MORE balls on the ground but recovered 'em). Cin’ City turned Baltimore’s generosity into points- and it was almost too easy. Indeed, the Bengal skill po’ players were all fine fantasy starts: WR Chad Johnson followed up his ill Week 11 performance with a 5/88/1 encore, WR T.J Houshmandzadeh reminded Palmer of his presence and blew UP for 147 receiving yards and a touch’ on 9 grabs, and steadily improving rook’ receiver Chris Henry (3/55/1) found the ‘Zone for a 3rd straight week. Baltimore scored 3- 3rd Quarter TDs within a 4 minute and 49 second span and they “narrowed” the deficit to 21-34, but there was simply no WAY the out-gunned, injury-thinned Ravens were going to beat the Playoff-starved and offensively ravenous Bengals. As for the wing-clipped Ravens, there were a few bright spots. RB Jamal Lewis’s frustrating run of feeble games came to an end, as he cranked out his first 100+ yard rushing effort OF THE SEASON! Lewis ran for 113 yards and a score on 23 totes, and added 36 receiving yards for good measure. With QB Kyle Boller healthy and handling the Signal Calling duties for Baltimore, TE Todd Heap is once again a weekly “Must Start.” Boller has a eyes for Heap, and the sure-handed TE hauled in 6 passes for 87 yards and a pair of TDs. WR Derrick Mason also found the End-Zone, it was his first such trip since Week 2. Look, Boller is a liability back there… but he’s probably better than backup Anthony Wright. Next week the Ravens oppose the defensively-meek Houston Texans, and I’d expect a Heap’in helpin’ o’ TE receptions. Derrick Mason should also flourish against a Texan defensive backfield that just allowed Ram rookie nobody Ryan Fitzpatrick to post a line of 300+/3, and RB Jamal Lewis may have finally found his groove. The Bengs’ schedule isn’t quite as gracious as they are forced to knock helmets with a surly Steeler squad. After Monday Night’s loss to the Colts… a loss that saw Peyton and pals roll up over 365 yards of total offense, the Steelers have an axe to grind. However, even with the hairy-human-missile that is Safety Troy Polamalu playing lights-out Football… the Steel City Secondary remains a weak-link. That, my friends, plays perfectly into Cincy’s pass-happy paws. Look for both QB Carson Palmer and WR Chad Johnson to pick on young Pitt’ CB Ike Taylor. Pittsburgh’s D-backfield… like so many, will be unable to match-up with Cincy’s trio of top-tier receivers, and I like WR Chris Henry as a sneaky-good “Flex”/WR 3 start. Although Colt stud RB Edgerrin James eclipsed 100 yards on the ground against ‘em, RB Rudi Johnson is an iffy start against the Steelers’ 4th ranked run D.

St. Louis at Houston: “With Jamie Martin over Center... this team isn't quite so good offensively. Defensively? Defensively they're abysmal. However... we're talkin' Houston here. Still, with WR Andre' Johnson and RB Domanick Davis playing good Football, it's not inconceivable that Houston sneaks off with a W. S-Jax's inexplicably poor day against the Arizona Cardinals last week was... it's.. well, it's inexplicable, frankly. This week, Jackson faces a herd of human turnstiles; the Houston Texans. Look for Jax' to get back on track Sunday... and even with Jamie Martin over Center, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Kevin Curtis are all "Must Start" pass catchers. The Ram offense sorely needs a pass catching TE, however. And oh yeah... forgot to mention one other thing. THE RAMS NEED DEFENDERS WHO CAN ACTUALLY DEFEND!”

After re-injuring his balky shoulder, QB Marc Bulger was back stalking the sidelines in a soft-cap. Once again, the offense belonged to backup-slinger Jamie Martin… until Martin suffered a slight concussion. Martin was spotted on the sidelines, apparently shaking his head “no” when asked if he could return to the game. So, down by 21 points at the Half and reduced to their 3rd-string Signal Caller… naturally the game was over, right? Wrong! Harvard grad’ and 7th round pick QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (310, 3 TDs, 1 INT) rode to the Rams’ rescue. I gotta’ tell you, the Rams were STILL losing by 10 points with less than 3 minutes remaining in regulation. Does the fact that St. Louis scored 16 points (not to mention a 21 point comeback) within that same time span say more about Fitzpatrick and his teammates… or is it a condemnation of Houston’s unbelievably bad defense? Dunno’, don’t care. In the 3rd, Fitz’ hooked up with Torry Holt (10/130/1) for a 19 yard TD pass. In the 4th, with less than 7 minutes remaining, RB Steven Jackson (110/1) found the End-Zone on a short 1 yard run, and that made the score 17-24. Houston QB David Carr enjoyed a season-best (293, 3 TD, 1 INT) game (and one of his best EVER as a pro), and with 3 minutes left in the 4th… drove his team downfield, allowing K Kris Brown to drill a 35 yard FG. With the score now 27-17 in favor of the Texans, the Rams’ new starter…a bright kid given his Harvard background, refused to say die. Fitzpatrick hit WR Isaac Bruce (4/94/1) in stride, and Reverend Ike crossed into the “6 Point Promised Land” on a beautifully thrown 43 yard bomb- thus making the score 27-24, Houston. By this point there wasn’t even half a minute left in Reg’… no problem, right? Wrong! Improbably, the Rams successfully recovered the Onsides kick, Fitz’ connected with Holt for a 19 yard gain, and Ram Kicker Jeff Wilkins was CASH-MONEY from distance (47 loooong yards). The Houston D was just a bold-faced lie, and with 9 seconds left in Reg’ the Rams had the score knotted at 27, having mounted one of THE most amazing comebacks in recent memory. With that, both clubs went to “bonus-ball.” Houston won the OT coin-flip… but they were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt. After a pair of short Steven Jackson runs and a pair of Torry Holt receptions (30 yards worth), Fitz’ tossed a short Screen Pass to the Rams’ #3 receiver Kevin Curtis… and “K-Curt” ran 56 yards through the Texan defenders and found the End-Zone. Game OVER! This has to be one of the single most painful losses in Houston history. But as ghastly-bad as the Texan D was… the Houston O, at least, showed signs of a pulse, and the team can draw some small solace from that. As projected in “Pick ‘em” and discussed in the ffspiral.com fantasy Football chat-room on Sunday morning, both Texan skill po’ players were worthy starts, and WR Andre’ Johnson was a fantasy stud. Johnson… a man who desperately needs a complementary pass catcher, snared a dozen passes for 159 yards and a score. RB Domanick Davis (120 total yards 1 TD) has been one of the O’s few constants, and QB David Carr (again) enjoyed a season-best Sunday. Carr posted a P/R of 116.4, and was 25 of 34 for 294 yards, with 3 TDs and an INT. Going forward, Carr and his posse of Texans will clash with the beat-up Baltimore Ravens Sunday. While Carr’s no Palmer, Cincy’s Signal Caller systematically dismantled the Raven Secondary… and with a receiver like Andre’ Johnson at his beck and call, QB David Carr could be a sneaky-good start Sunday. Andre’ Johnson, going against Balty’s injury-thinned D-backfield, is a “Must Start” as is RB “Double-D Davis.” The Ravens have struggled to halt opposing backs, as demonstrated by Beng’ back Rudi-Rudi-RUDI This past Sunday. With potential fantasy Playoff berths on the line… “DD” is a solid “#2-3” fantasy back. The Rams face a tougher test this week as they must cross swords with a rowdy Redskin team. Washington has dropped its last 3 games by a combined 10 points, and most likely saw their playoff chances go the way of the Passenger Pigeon. However, with post-season hopes a’flicker and pride on the line, the ‘Skins are dangerous adversaries. The D is a hard-hitting group, but they HAVE proven vulnerable to the run… (please see this past weekend’s stats, Bolt’ back LaDainian Tomlinson did Washington UG-LEE). With both the #1 and 2 QBs out with injuries, Harvard man Ryan Fitzpatrick will most likely be the brains behind the Ram outfit again. I would not, however, expect to see another 300/3 outing from Fitz’ as the Redskin Secondary is Beef-Jerky-tuff. With the #3-man taking so few snaps to this point in the season, you can bet your paycheck that RB Steven Jackson will carry the bulk of San Diego’s mail Sunday. On the still-cooling heels of San Diego’s LT, I’m lovin’ “S-Jax” as a fantasy start Sunday. Torry Holt is always a “Must Start,” but trot both Isaac Bruce and Kevin Curtis out at your peril. The Redskins put the clamps on Drew Brees and his pass-catching contingent… and I would expect a young Signal Caller to receive similar treatment.

N.Y. Giants at Seattle: “The G-men have a G-d awful Secondary... and C-Hawk QB Matt Hasselbeck will be sure to exploit it. However, the 'Hawks make their living off of the run... and Big Blue should be prepared for a whole lotta' Shaun Alexander. … guys like Mike Strahan, Antonio Pierce, and Osi Umenyiora can put a hurtin' on a runner. "Alexander the Great" recorded yet another multi-TD game last week... but I think he'll find the going to be tougher this week. Still, Shaun-A is a "Must-Start." Both 'Beck and "Alexander the Great" will have solid afternoons. On the other side of the field, the G-Men will look to get the young Mann' rolling early. Manning dances with a C-Hawk Secondary that has given up double-diggie' TDs. … RB Tiki Barber, TE Jeremy Shockey and WRs Burress and Toomer are fine plays.”

Daaaaammmmn! Short of laying down and allowing RB Tiki Barber to walk unmolested into the End-Zone, the ‘Hawks gave Big Blue EVERY opportunity to win this game. But first, allow me to preface the first 4/5 of the game. Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck took full advantage of NY’s porous Secondary Sunday, connecting on 21 of his 37 attempts, for 2 TDs and 1 INT. The G-Men pressured ‘Beck all day, Sacking him 3 times. The Blue-D was staunch during the 1st half and for the most part… they managed to keep a lid on Nitro-Xplosive Running Back Shaun Alexander. But alas, you can keep a talent like “Alexander the Great” down for only so long, and he finished the day with 110 rushing yards and 1 TD. As I speculated, both ‘Beck and Shaun-A enjoyed solid… but certainly not gaudy days by anyone’s measure. WR Joe Jurevicius… well, Joey’ J. is another matter entirely. A former Giant himself, NY gave up on Jurevicius in much the same way they gave up on WRs Phil McConkey and Easy Ed McCaffrey. Both McConkey and Easy Ed went on to finish their careers in productive fashion with other teams, as is Jurevicius. Sunday, the one-time G-Man gouged his former team, matching his career high 137 receiving yards and adding a pair of 6’s. Quite arguably, the Giants seemed the better team Sunday. Eli Manning lived up to his lineage, ringing-up 344 passing yards, 2 scores and a single pick, while RB Tiki Barber ran all over Seattle and notched a suhweet’ 178 total yards. Tiki did not, however, find the End-Zone and it was his 2nd straight week without a score. With Barber zipping in and out of the Seattle backfield like a sewing-machine needle through fabric, the ‘Hawks had no answers for either TE Jeremy Shockey (10/127/1) or WR Plaxico Burress (6/109), and #2 pass catcher Amani Toomer (6/62/1, his 3rd straight week with a TD) took full advantage of the slack coverage. It was in the 4th Q’, though, with the score tied-up at 21 when the wheels fell off of NY’s wagon. With 1:23 remaining in the period, Coughlin allowed his Kicker to attempt a 40 yarder. Certainly NOT a chip-shot, but Feeley’s got leg. Natch', Feeley missed on the attempt, and after the ‘Hawks failed to move the ball… it was time for "bonus ball!" To make this long and painful story brief, One… two… three times the Field Goal charm? Nope’! Giant Kicker Jay Feeley missed 3 consecutive Field Goals, including a preposterous 54 yarder. Yet, even at mid-field, the Giant D stood firm and forced Seattle to punt. From his own 20, RB Tiki Barber ripped off a 49 yard scamper and was driven out of bounds only because… well, I don’t know… could be that after 4 hours of Football he was exhausted!?! After Feeley’s prior misses and with the Seahawks reeling and on the ropes following Barber’s long run, one would, naturally, assume that Coach Tom Coughlin would put his team in the best possible field position. And yet, that was not the case. Three conservative plays later, Feeley was lining up for yet another 45 yard try. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Feeley missed of course, and finally the ‘Hawks had had enough. They drove briskly downfield, Kicker Josh Brown drilled a 36 yard attempt, and “the fat lady was finally singing.” The blame for this loss falls not on Jay Feeley’s shoulder pads, however. The blame for this loss lays squarely across Coughlin’s desk. And make no mistake, this loss WILL be costly. Sunday, the Seahawks will "beak it out" with the Eagles. Assuming Philly’s Secondary continues its poor play, QB Matt Hasselbeck and WRs Joe Jurevicius and Bobby Engram are solid starts, and there’s a chance stud receiver Darrell Jackson returns to action. Should that be the case, and "D-Jax" is back in Uni', the Seattle passing game will again be a juggernaut. The Eags’ have had issues stopping the run as well. Green Bay wunderkind Samkon Gado gashed the boys from PA for 100+ yards this past week, and Shaun Alexander is an elite back. With TDs in every contest but two this season, “Alexander the Great” is looking to conquer Priest Holmes’s single-season TD record of 27. I, for one, will not bet against Shaun-A. Look for a line close to 125+/2. On the other side of the field, NY has another crucial Divvy' game against their arch-rival Cowboys. The ‘Boys looked good against the Denver Broncos on Thanksgiving Day, and the ‘Poke D is the team’s bread and butter. When last they mat, the younger Mann’ struggled. Look for a better game from a more mature Signal Caller. RB Tiki Barber has been a fantasy monster all season long, and he, TE Jeremy Shockey, and WRs Toomer and Burress are solid fantasy starts in what should be a fantastic tilt.

Pittsburgh at Indianapolis: “With Big Ben back at the helm... the Colts will have their hands full. This could be, my friends, the game that sees Indy's run at immortality end. However, RB Edgerrin James is playing at an incredibly high level, TE Dallas Clark has come on strong (he's good a play Monday) and the Steeler D-backfield will have enough trouble contending with both Marvelous and Reggie, and QB Peyton Manning seems to be peaking. … Ceding a miniscule 84 YPG, the Steeler run D is as tight as a Manhattan parking space. Still, with Peyton (playing brilliant ball)... how do you sit Edge'? Answer: You don't. Keep your hopes for James modest this week, though. Should they win this one... the team will ride a sick high... all the way to the SuperBowl.”

In no uncertain terms, Indy’ systematically dismantled Pittsburgh in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. The Colt skill po’ collective had no trouble moving the ball against a supposedly stout Pitt’ D, while their own stingy D-unit kept a solid Steeler O' below 200 yards of total offense. Even with Big Ben Roethlisberger back in the lineup, the Steelers were unable to get anything going. On the very first play of the Colts’ first drive, Manning delivered a strike to a streaking Marvelous for an 80 yard TD… and Indy’ never looked back. This was more than a win for the Colts; this was a statement. In much the same way the convincing Week 9 thrashing they administered to the Patriots shook an 800 pound gorilla off of their backs, the whuppin’ they gave the Steelers Monday is a confidence booster; it affirms that they can beat the best the NFL has to offer. Peyton was sharp, throwing for 245 yards, 2 TDs and an INT, and RB Edgerrin James was workman-like, rushing for 124 yards on 29 carries (As stated, his fantasy production was “modest” and he failed to score for the first time since Week 2!). As they have been all season long, the Colt D was superb. The front 4 prevented Steeler back “Fast” Willie Parker from gaining his feet, holding him to a measly 43 rushing yards, and they refused to allow “The Bus” to gain traction (6/9). WR Hines Ward (3/28/1) was arguably the most productive of the Steeler starters; while fellow wideout Cedrick Wilson (3/44) had a handful more receiving yards… Ward found the End-Zone and was responsible for Pittsburgh’s only points. TE Heath Miller (4/26) continues to be a featured receiver, but the Colts clamped-down hard on him. Coming up this Sunday the Steelers will leap straight from Football’s frying pan and into its fire. Big Ben and mates have a date with Carson and the Cin’ City’ scoring machine! RB Willie Parker is a credible fantasy start as Cincy’s run D has been suspect, and both WR Hines Ward and TE Heath Miller are solid starts. Roethlisberger should have knocked off the accumulated rust… and both receivers should post solid diggies’ as this is a “must win” game for Pitt’. Indianapolis has a much easier tilt, for they draw the defensively anemic Titans. Normally, I’d urge caution as the Colt skill po’ players might receive more rest in order to keep them as fresh-legged as possible for their post-C’ run. However, with an undefeated season on the line… Edge’, Peyton, Reggie, Marvelous and Dallas Clark are all tremendous starts. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 300+/3 TD game from Peyton, and a 125+/2 TD game from Edge’.

Cleveland at Minnesota: “Minny' has won 3 straight and is back in contention for a VERY bad NFC North. QB Brad Johnson hasn't been great... but he hasn't been horrid either, and RB Mewelde Moore (look for Moore to post solid fantasy numbers tomorrow) has enjoyed some success running the ball. Surprisingly, the Vikes' have been getting it done with their defense and Special Teams. Although Cleveland RB Reuben Droughns has been a fantasy monster of late, QB Trent Dilfer remains an achilles heel. In fact, the team ran rookie Charlie Frye out onto the field last week. I like Brown WR Braylon Edwards and RB Reuben Droughns as fantasy starts... but at Home, with a Playoff berth on the line, I think Minnesota will squeak out a 3-point W.”

Why does this game rate mention? Because with their 3rd straight W, Minnesota is back in NFC North contention. While I don’t expect them to beat… or overtake the defensive-minded Bears, Minnesota is making a strong Playoff run nevertheless. The Purple D has stepped it up in recent games… and they were downright impressive against the Browns this past week. Minny’ Sacked QB Trent Dilfer 5 times and picked him off twice (they also snagged an errant Charlie Frye pass). They forced a pair of Fumbles, defended 8 passes, held brutish Brown back Reuben Droughns to 3+ YPC and refused to let him score. S Darren Sharper is playing an excellent Centerfield, he picked-off another 2 passes and has recorded 6 INTs in his last 4 games. Cleveland’s leading receiver was TE Steve Heiden (5/55), and that, Browns fans, is alarming. Offensively, QB Brad Johnson (207, 3 TDs, 1 INT) has been efficient, he’s spreading the ball around (he found 5 different receivers, each recorded multiple receptions) and has developed an interesting rapport with tall WR Marcus Robinson. The former Raven receiver hauled in 3 receptions for 32 yards… and each reception was for a TD; heady stuff indeed! This coming week, Cleveland faces…. Ahh fugedaboudit’ (as NY’ers are wont to say). Does it really matter? Look for rookie QB Charlie Frye to see an increased workload. Veteran Signal Caller Trent Dilfer is fading fast, and the team would like to find out if Frye has the stuff to be a future franchise. The only Brown worth starting is RB Reuben Droughns… and against Jacksonville’s stout ground defense, he’s a #3/”Flex” back at best. The Vikes’ have an oh-so critical game with the Lions IN Mo-Town. While the Lions play well at Home… Minny’s on one helluva’ roll. Johnson is a legit’ #2 QB, and RB Mewelde Moore constitutes a so-so #3 RB.

New England at Kansas City: “New England has far too many defensive holes, particularly against the run, and the Chiefs have RB Larry Johnson. If ever there was a worthy successor to Priest Holmes... LJ's the man. Last week, (he) went super-freakin'-nova with a 210+/2 TD evening against the hapless Texans. This week... against a Patriot D that has hemorhaged ground yards at a rate of almost 120 per... there are few better RB starts. Johnson is, and should continue to be, a "Must Start" in all formats. In turn, QB Trent Green (has) had enough time to knock back a sandwich and soft drink... THEN throw downfield and find TE Tony Gonzalez. While the spirit is willing... The Pat' D will be unable. Look for yet another heroic performance from NE QB Tom Brady, and I again like TE Ben Watson as his target of choice. Still, KC QB TG, RB LJ, and TE TG are all "MS!" (Must Starts). Look for another shoot-out, with KC emerging victorious.”

What can I say that I haven’t said before? I will repeat one phrase, though. Ready? “Dynasty… Shmynasty.” The Patriot D has more holes than a block of Imported Swiss, and RB Larry Johnson (172 total yards, 1 TD) and QB Trent Green (323/1) managed to find several. The story of this game, surprisingly enough... brace yourselves, was the KC D! Yes, the D. A virtually non-existent Pat’ rushing attack was held to 74 yards. Scat-back Patrick Pass was the team’s leading rusher with 26 yards on 8 totes. In the ffspiral.com “Sunday Morning chat,” RB Heath Evans’s value was raised. However, against a swift KC D and particularly stud rook’ ‘backer Derrick Johnson, I (and a number of chat participants) advised against starting the former ‘Phin castoff. Evans notched 11 rushing yards on 6 carries… and the Chief run D continues to be amongst the leagues’ best. It was, however, the horrifyingly bad Chief Secondary that made the difference Sunday, picking Tom Brady off… not once, not twice, ‘nope… not even thrice; yup’… err, “Fwice?” No… 4 times! Tom “Terrific” wasn’t so terrific Sunday. Brady threw for 248 yards with a TD, but his quartet of picks was, obviously, the most glaring stat. There’s a new chief Chief in town, and his name is Larry Johnson. LJ is a durable, workhorse back, eminently capable of 330+ touch season. Dude runs with a chip on his shoulder, and is just as happy to finish his run by finishing a defender. The KC run game pulled time off of the clock, and Pat’ QB Tom Brady was unable to develop any sort of rhythm. A weapon such as Larry Johnson is a valuable weapon indeed, and the entire team drew strength from their new feature back. This week, KC faces a stern test when they meet up with the Broncos. Will the Chiefs saddle the buckin’ Broncs’? Dunno’, and again… don’t care. It should, however, be a great game and will serve as a barometer for Denver. I would start QB Trent Green, TE Tony Gonzalez (Denver should have a hard time containing the physical TE), and RB Larry Johnson is a no-brainer. The Patriots, even at 6-5, are in 1st place in a VERY bad AFC East and they will knock heads with the Jets Sunday. This just in… the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets, are B-A-D Bad, Bad, Bad! Although Gang-Green put forth a valiant effort against the Saints on Sunday Night… coach Herm Edwards continues to make poor decisions, and the team continues to under-achieve. Edwards' willingness to accept half-assed efforts filters down to his charges, infecting them with a "mediocrity bug." The good news? With talents such as QB Matt Leinart and RB Reggie Bush heading the ’06 draft class, it’s almost in NY’s best interest to lose. Edwards is, however, a terrible game manager, and instead of talking contract extension (The Chiefs are reportedly interested in Edwards as a replacement for “Dicky Tears”)… the Jets should be looking for Edwards’ successor. But back to the matter at hand. Against the Jets this week, look for QB Tom Brady to hop back onto his high horse. A far lesser light in QB Aaron Brooks went SuperNova against the sad and sorry Jet Secondary this past weekend, igniting for a TD troika with no picks. Brady is a phenomenal 'phantasy weapon this weekend, while TE Ben Watson, and WRs Deion Branch and Tim Dwight should be solid starts. The "Million Dollar Question?" Whattup' with RB Corey Dillon? The Pat' back suffered a supposedly "mild" calf injury during the Week 10 win over Miami... and hasn't really been heard from since. Dillon could still be chillin' Sunday, his return to the field of play remains up in the air. But, with a Playoff berth still a very real possibility... if Dillon CAN play, expect him to. RB Heath Evans' lack of talent finally caught up with him last week.

Monday, November 28, 2005

SWERVIN' IRVIN NOT DESERVIN'... & MORE!

So, ESPN analyst and "Canton-wanna' be" Michael Irvin is busted for speeding... and the Stateys' find "drug paraphenalia" in his ride. The State Troopers arrested the former Cowboy star because he had an outstanding warrant for speeding in Texas... a warrant he apparently ignored, and this stack of dominoes led the officers to search Irvin's car. The Hall of Fame semi-finalist was released after about an hour... but the damage has been done.

Is it unreasonable to expect our sports immortals to be flawless? Absolutely. However, it is NOT unreasonable to expect our Hall of Fame enshrinees to adhere to the laws of the land, and it is NOT unreasonable to expect our immortals to be law abiding members of the community at large. Due to Irvin's past transgressions, quite frankly... one would think the guy would be a little more discrete. Naturally, Michael claimed that the items weren't his and they belonged to "a friend." Yeah, that friend would be his personal demon. Football talking heads and Irvin supporters have issued statements of support, claiming that Mike's a "changed man," and that "if Mike say's the items belong to someone else... then they must." C'mon people! Given everything Irvin stands to lose; a cushy and lucrative ESPN gig, his Canton-candidacy, his FAMILY... Irvin has EVERY reason to lie.

Let us assume, for the moment, that Michael Irvin IS found guilty of possession of narcotic paraphenalia. I believe his career, and potential Hall of Fame bust, will ride upon the substance he's still using. While still a member of the Cowboys Irvin was tagged' for using both Crack Cocaine and Marijuana. However, socially... Weed is viewed as light stuff, a penny-ante offense. Crack Cocaine... rightly or wrongly, is viewed much differently. Crack's a whole other animal; a carnivorous animal that devours careers, lives, families, everything around it.

As any employer is bound to do (be it ethically or legally), ESPN should force Irvin to pursue professional counseling for his substance abuse issues BEFORE Allowing him to resume his analyst position. Substance abuse is not acne... and it's not a bad Flu. 30 days of Re-hab' can't correct years of poor choices and physical and mental addiction. Again, given Irvin's prior history... ESPN should have known better, and perhaps they did. I have often wondered, while watching the "Sunday Morning Countdown," as to whether or not Irvin was high while on-air. Very often his eyes would be mere slits in his face, and his comments and behavior were curious at best.

Time will tell. However, IF Irvin IS found guilty of possession... it would make me ill to see Irvin inducted alongside such stellar men as John Elway, Walter Payton, and Earl Campbell to name but a few. Once Irvin truly addresses the issues that besiege him... then, perhaps, he warrants Hall of Fame induction. Until that time however, and this IS assuming he's found guilty, the only place Michale Irvin belongs is a good Rehab' facility.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

How bad are the NY coaches?
Can you tell me, please, why Giant coach Tom Coughlin allowed Kicker Jay Feeley to attempt yet a 3rd 40+ yard attempt when his confidence was obviously shot? Can you tell me why Coughlin would allow his Kicker to attempt a 54 Yarder? Thus allowing Seattle mid-field position? After Giant Running Back Tiki Barber ripped off a long OT run that put his team at roughly Seattle's 40 yard line... why did Coughlin essentially sit on the ball? No doubt in my mind, the Giants should have tried to get as close to the 20 yard-line as possible. Clearly, Feeley's confidence was blown. After 4 1/2 Quarters, the Giant defenders were exhausted, and 'Hawn back Shaun Alexander was able to impose his will upon them. However, this loss is NOT attributable to Big Blue's OT break-down. No, this loss is directly attributable to coach Tom Coughlin's poor decisions, and it WILL come back to haunt the team, mark my words.

Why would ANYONE expect anything less from Gang-Green? Why would ANYONE expect anything more from coach Herm Edwards. Much like their NY brethren, the Jets and their coach played for the TIE. Why... oh why, would Edwards kick an Extra Point that put his team up by a useless 2 points? Even the announcers were boggled by Edwards' downright stoopid' decision. With RB Curtis Martin running well, the 2-point conversion would almost certainly have been successful. I can tell you this much, a 2 point conversion would have put the Jets up by 3 points... and that could've made a huge difference. After the Jets scored late in the 4th, the Saints got the ball back... but foolishly, went 3 and out and ran like... bupkiss off the clock. That put the ball back in the Jets hands... for nothing.

Friday, November 25, 2005

NFL WEEK 12 START & SIT ... THANKSGIVING DAY

For those ffspiral.com members ... I hope you all enjoyed your holidays and kept the family in-fighting to a minimum. Thanks for visiting my Blog!

BRIEF THANKSGIVING DAY RE-CAP!

ATLANTA at DETROIT: If you ARE familiar with ffspiral.com, and happened to have perused the Weekly "Pick 'em" page... then you're aware that I selected the Falc's "DVD" (Dunn, Vick, Duckett) and TE Alge Crumpler, and the Lions' KJ, and Roy Williams as "Must Start" fantasy candidates. I projected Vick's favorite target, Crumpler (7/104/2), to be "amongst the most productive fantasy TEs of the week." After ringing up 100+ receiving yards and finding the End-Zone twice Thursday afternoon... the big guy certainly stands to be. Warrick Dunn (116 rushing yards... but no TDs) enjoyed yet another 100+ yard afternoon, T.J Duckett hung 70+ yards and a TD (his waning minutes fumble infuriates), and Vick (146 easy passing yards with a pair o' 6s and an INT, 57 rushing yards on 6 carries) had a solid afternoon as well.
After rushing 4 times for 32 yards, Lion RB KJ suffered a Quad' injury Thursday... but WR Roy Williams (3/55/1) did me proud with his circus-act score . The Falcons dominated the game from start to finish; Vick was able to lay back, Dunn was rested after the 3rd Quarter, Duckett picked up the rushing slack, and the Lions were reduced to using 3 QBs. Unable to move the offense or inspire ANY excitement, starter Joey Harrington (61 passing yards, no TDs, 1 INT) was as awful as advertised and he gave way to coach Mooch's chum, Jeff Garcia. Garcia (154/1/1) was no better and after so many years in the league... the former 49'er looks spent. Detroit actually threw rookie Signal Caller Dan Orlovsky out onto the field, and the youngster went 5 of 11 for 43 yards with a Sack. Hey- unlike the other D-troit QBs at least "Z" didn't toss a pick! The Lions didn't score their lone TD until the 4th Quarter and the Falcons were, by that time, playing out the minutes. All in all, an excellent fantasy day for the Falcon skill po' players. The concern for you Dunn owners is that the feature back will see lots of action between the 10's... but Duckett's gonna' pilfer your scores. Further, as the season winds down, you can bet that Dunn will surrender more of the rushing load to the bigger back in order to keep him as fresh as possible for the Post-C.

MUST START QUARTERBACKS"

Carson Palmer: c'Arson looks to set the Balty' D-backfield ablaze Sunday. The Ravens, however, boast the 4th-ranked pass defense and allowing fewer than 173 passing yards per week... they WILL be a tough nut to crack. Carson had a rock-solid 335 yard, 2 TD game last week against a stingy Colt Secondary, and with a pass catching contingent of Chad Johnson (8/189/1 last week), T.J Houshmanzadeh (virtual non-factor last week), Chris Henry (3/31/1... but snagged a scoring strike for a 2nd straight week), and scat-back Chris Perry (123 total yards on a scant 12 touches)... Palmer has a formidable arsenal at hand. With RB Rudi Johnson pounding away at a Raven run D that permits fewer than 100 rushing YPG, Palmer should enjoy modest success Sunday. Look for something like 265/2.

Peyton Manning: Peyton Manning has seen his stats escalate dramtically in recent weeks. With opposing defensive coordinators determined to shut-down Edgerrin James and the Colts' frighteningly efficient rushing attack, Manning has been free to dissect their Secondaries. And frankly, few teams have the depth it takes to corral WRs Marvelous, Reggie and Stokely, and TE Dallas Clark. Clark enjoyed the break-out game I'd projected for him last week; hangin' 120+/1 on the Cincy' 2ndry, and Wayne is becoming a true #1 receiver. With a Sunday night game against a so-so Steeler Secondary (allowing 206.5 Passing YPG)... look for Manning's streak of multi-TD games to continue. Peyton's thrown for 3 TDs in each of his last 3 games... and another Touchdown trifecta might be on the ambitious side. Look for a 275/2 evening from Manning, and TE Dallas Clark should again be a fantasy factor. I like Clark as a 'Wire pick-up if he remains available. D-Clark had excellent second half numbers last season... and I think he'll do the same again this season.

Tom Brady: Facing the 'Aints last week, I wrote that coach Obi-Wan Belichik would unleash the air attack and turn to the passing game for his points. I projected "A Very Brady Sunday for Tom "Terrific;" look for 245/2-3." Accordingly, Brady didn't disappoint. The prolific Pat' passer threw for 222/3. This week Brady will face yet another anemic pass defense as the Patriots look to do battle with the Kansas City Chiefs. With Thanksgiving just over... ironic, no... Pilgrims, Indians? Well, anyway, the Chiefs have been Queens, allowing over 240 passing YPG and Brady and Co. should light KC UP! TE Ben Watson has been a clutch receiver for 3 weeks now, hauling in 10 receptions for 139 yards and 2 TDs over that span. Watson should continue to be a favored target, especially when in the Red-Zone. With RB Heath Evans sure to struggle against LB Derrick Johnson and a Beef-Jerky tuff run D... it's up to the Air Attack to again post the points. Somehow, I have a feeling that Brady will deliver.

SECOND TIER STARTERS

Brett Favre: Favre's TD to INT ratio is almost 1:1 this season. Currently, the prolific Pack' passer has 18 TDs and 17 INTs. But with a decimated receiving corps, a rushing attack that has suffered SO many injuries that they've been forced to start undrafted free agents (Umm, Samkon Gado), and an O-Line that's been forced to re-configure due to injuries of their own... what more can you expect? Further, an equally D-pleted D has been horrendous... and Favre's been forced to go airborne early and often. With teams looking for the pass... it's small wonder Favre's struggled so. However, some things are not so easily explained away; things like... Favre's poor decision making and occassional lack of zip. The Cheese Wiz' faced a generous Viking Secondary last week, but managed a line of 227/2/2. The fact that surprise back Samkon Gado went from "flash" (3 Week 10 TDs against Atlanta) to bang" (almost as many yards as carries and a crucial fumble last week) inside of a week didn't help matters much, and the Packer run game will be crucial to the passing game's success this week. The 4-6 Eagles have nothing left to play for but pride... and that makes them dangerous. However, the Eagle Secondary will be without stalwart CB Lito Sheppard (broken ankle)... and even before he fell to injury they were bad. Philly's Secondary allows almost 225 passing yards per game, and Favre, who IS mulling retirement, will play his booty off in this one.

Aaron Brooks: Brooks has been about as "regular" as my grandma; not very. Actually, Brooks has been very INconsistent, throwing for 200+ yards in only 4 contests. As I wrote last week, "Brooks is like the girl with the curl- when he's good.... he's VERY good, and when he's bad... well, he's VERY bad." Brooks, a "Second Tier Starter" last week, crushed the porous New England Secondary for 343 yards and a pair of TDs, and I look for him to do a similar number on a NY Jet team that has mailed its season in.

Trent Green: It was nice to see KC QB TG post solid numbers last week. He does, however, need a credible pass catcher other than TE Tony Gonzalez (who should hang excellent numbers again this week). Green had a 220+/3 TD evening, thoroughly humiliating an already humiliated Texan team. This week, Green faces the New England Patriots and their league-worst pass D (allowing almost 265 YPG). The Pats' will have no answer for either RB Larry Johnson or TE Gonzo, and Green should be very close to 250/2 by the time the final Q' ends.

Matt Hasselbeck: 'Beck faces a NY Giant Secondary that surrenders almost 240 YPG... but RB Shaun "Alexander the Great" is the key that pops the Seahawks' lock.

Eli Manning Manning dances with a C-Hawk Secondary that has given up double-diggie' TDs. Both Plax' and Shockey (check his status) are "Must Starts."

MUST START RUNNING BACKS

LaDainian Tomlinson: LT knocks heads with a Redskin D that has struggled in recent games. LT was thought to be an ideal start against Buff's wussy-tuff run D last Sunday, but the Bolt' back managed only 67 yards and a touch' on 19 totes. It could be that, with QB Drew Brees throwing 4 TD passes, there was no need for Tomlinson to worry about a little thing like scoring. Still, LT has posted a single 100+ yard rushing game in his last 3 games, and has a scant 2 in his last 6 games. Keep an eye on TE Antonio Gates' status. If Gates' foot injury keeps him out of Sunday's game... LT will be met by stacked fronts and will find his holes to be the approximate size of throw pillows.

Edgerrin James Ceding a miniscule 84 YPG, the Steeler run D is as tight as a Manhattan parking space. Still, with Peyton peaking... how do you sit Edge'? Answer: You don't. Keep your hopes for James modest this week, though.

Shaun Alexander The G-Men may struggle to stop the pass... but guys like Mike Strahan, Antonio Pierce, and Osi Umenyiora can put a hurtin' on a runner. "Alexander the Great" recorded yet another multi-TD game last week... but I think he'll find the going to be tougher this week. Still, Shaun-A is a "Must-Start."

Tiki Barber Barber is the straw that stirs "Big Blue's" drink. The Seattle Seahawks can expect to receive a steady diet of Barber, and seeing as how they permit opposing runners to cruise through the century mark each week... containing Barber will be no easy task.

Steven Jackson Jax's inexplicably poor day against the Arizona Cardinals last week was... it's.. well, it's inexplicable, frankly. This week, Jackson faces a herd of human turnstiles; the Houston Texans. Look for Jax' to get back on track Sunday... and even with Jamie Martin over Center, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Kevin Curtis are all "Must Start" pass catchers. The Ram offense sorely needs a pass catching TE, however. And oh yeah... forgot to mention one other thing. THE RAMS NEED DEFENDERS WHO CAN ACTUALLY DEFEND!

Larry Johnson: If ever there was a worthy successor to Priest Holmes... LJ's the man. Last week, Larry Johnson went super-freakin'-nova with a 210+/2 TD evening against the hapless Texans. This week... against a Patriot D that has hemorhaged ground yards at a rate of almost 120 per...there are few better RB starts. Johnson is, and should continue to be, a "Must Start" in all formats.

Chris Brown: The word "sturdy" and the name "Chris Brown" had never been associated with with another until recently. This season, Brown has been precisely that. Last week Brown scorched a very good Jaguar D for 119 combined yards and 2 TDs (1 receiving), and this week... well, a San Fran' D that allows almost a buck 20 per game doesn't promise to contain him. Fearing Brown's penchant for injury, the Titans signed former Bill back Travis Henry... and the Titans are thrilled that Henry's been stalking the sidelines all season.

SECOND TIER STARTERS

LaMont Jordan: Raiduh' feature Lamama' Jordan has really hit a wall in recent games. Jordan hasn't recorded a TD since Week 8, and he hasn't RUSHED for a TD since Week 7. Week 7 was also the last time Jordan (126 rushing yards, 3 TDs) hit a hunnert' on the ol' rush-ometer. However, the Miami Dolphins have struggled mightily in stopping the run... please refer to Cleveland runner "Boobin' Reuben Droughns' freakish effort last week. And, with QB Kerry Collins looking to find his stride against the 'Phins' very middling Air D (ranked 15th, allowing 215+), I would expect Jordan to find his own as well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NFL WEEK 11 WRAP-UP!

WEEK 11 WRAP-UP!

It is a short NFL week this week, and like so many Football fans… it's my favorite week; Thanksgiving Week!
So, here’s a reminder- submit your lineups and punch in your picks by Thursday morning at the latest! Dallas, Denver, Detroit and Atlanta will be bangin’ heads while you and yours gnaw upon drumsticks and knock back glasses of Red Wine.

And now… onto “NFL Week 11”
I’ll start with what was THE most highly anticipated match-up....

FEATURE REVIEW

Indianapolis at Cincinnati: "Indy' has a daunting task on their collective hands... or hooves, or whatever; out-score the hi-octane Cin' City O. The Colts DO have an "'edge" on the Bengs, though, and you can bet RB Edgerrin James will run hard and effectively against the 25th ranked Cincy' run D. Edge' has rushed for a C-note or more in 7 of the Colts' 9 games, has 140+ combined yards in 5 games, and has reached the "6 Point Promised Land" in 6 consecutive games (with 10 total TDs). Although Cincinnati, has been able to force turnovers... their run D has been poor. The Bengs' yield almost 125 rushing yards per week. Look for Edge' to bank 25+ touches, 130+ yards, and 1 TD Sunday. Here's my bet: conversely, I expect the Bengals to attack the strength of the Colt D... its speed, by running Rudi Johnson right at both DEs Mathis and Freeney. Will that be enuff'? Will the Bengs' be able to control the clock? I don't think so. The In-D is very good, and the team is far more balanced. While they still have much to prove, beating the offensively powerful Bengals will go a long, LONG way to establishing the Colts has 'Bowl faves'. Peyton Manning has caught fire, plain and simple. ... Opposing D-Coordinators are scheming against James, trying to prevent the Colt runner from beating them single-handedly, (and) the peerless passer is taking advantage of the opportunities provided him. Over the course of the past 4 games Peyton's thrown 10 TDs to only 2 INTs, and has notched a pair of 300 yard games (Ok I lie... last week he had 297 yards. I'm rounding up). ..the Bengs' will be forced to creep up in order to better defend against the (run), and Peyton will be able to dissect the Cincy' Secondary. Or, so says my "Fantasy Magic 8 Ball." I dare not prognosticate numbers... but I WOULD start TE Dallas Clark (who made his first trip to the End-Zone last week)... After a solid game last week, Colt TE Dallas Clark COULD have the break-out game his owners have been longing for. The promising TE has been the biggest let-down at the position this year, but as he did last season... he could have a solid 2nd half."

Wow- this game was a blast to watch and it certainly lived up to the hype! Palmer (335/1/2) and Peyton (365/1/3) combined for 700 passing yards (slightly under ½ a mile) and 5 TDs Sunday! The primary difference between the clubs was, as expected, the strong running of the Colts’ Edgerrin James. But to attribute Indy’s critical (not to mention awfully impressive) win to a single player diminishes the outstanding efforts of their other skill position players. James DID bank 25+ touches Sunday, he recorded 107 total yards, and he crossed the stripe twice. James' success on the ground forced Cincy's Secondary to loosen up, and Indianapolis’s horses were free to blow out of the barn. Manning was brilliant Sunday, and his numbers have been escalating over the last few weeks. Frighteningly enough for the rest of the National Football League… Peyton and pals seem to be peaking! You want talk diggies’? I’ll show ya’ diggies! Since returning from the team’s Week 8 Bye, Peyton Manning has thrown for 983 yards, with 9 TDs and a mere 2 INTs (again, that’s almost 1,000 passing yards in 3 games!). And, for a 5th straight week, Peyton posted a Passer Rating in excess of 104.0. … I digress- back to the contest at hand. As projected, Colt TE Dallas Clark had his break-out game. The speedy TE has a knack for finding the soft spots in zones and getting himself open, and with a proven ability to catch most anything thrown his way- Peyton didn't hesitate to throw him the ball. Clark hauled in 6 passes for 125 yards and 1 TD. Given the depth of the Indianapolis receiving corps, there was really only so much the Cincy’ D-backfield could do. WR Reggie Wayne took another step forward on his path to #1 “pass catcher-hood”; Wayne recorded 5 receptions for 117 yards (23+ YPC) and a touch’. Although Marvelous Marvin Harrison has twice as many TDs as Wayne with 8, Reggie has notched almost 100 more receiving yards with a nearly identical number of receptions; Harrison has 58, Wayne 59 (on the season). At age 33, Marvelous could finally be slowing down; his YPC average of 11.5 is almost 2 full yards below his career average of 13.1. He remains, however, a brilliant route runner, and both he and Manning share a scary rapport. Look for Reggie to supplant Marvin as the go-to guy next season. As for the Bengals… I would venture to say that, as a team, they are where the Colts were 2 seasons ago. The Cincy’ O can make virtually any defense look bad, as evidenced by WR Chad Johnson’s team record setting (8/189/1) afternoon. But the Beng’ defense needs 2-3 more playmakers, and as a team… they must develop a sense of “hunger.” Take a look at the unit Colt coach Tony Dungy has assembled. After developing a system while in Tampa Bay, Dungy finally has “his guys” in place. And how did Dungy do it? Not with big free agent signings, ala’ Oakland, Kansas City and Minnesota. (those defenses are amongst he leagues’ worst). Nope’, Dungy built his defense from the ground up; he drafted his defenders and brought in guys no one else believed in. Now, athletes such as Robert Mathis (’03 5th rounder, projected as a ‘backer by most teams), Dwight Freeney (’02 1st rounder, his height concerned many teams), and Bob Sanders (in street clothes, Sanders looks more like a Special Team’er) head-line a defense that has legitimate SuperBowl aspirations. Once the Bengals secure like talent… the Secondary remains a real liability and they need a couple of Pass Rushers… they too will vie for a ‘Bowl berth. Until then, however, the Bengals will be fun to watch… And speaking of “fun…” Prior to the game, always chatty Cincinnati receiver Chad Johnson was quoted as saying “even I wouldn’t wanna’ cover me.” After setting a team record for receiving yards with 189… Johnson’s body cashed the check his mouth wrote. QB Carson Palmer enjoyed a rock-solid… bordering on gaudy passing day (365/1/2), marred only by his interception. RB Chris Perry is, perhaps, the most dangerous back-up runner in the league. I’ve been touting Perry’s abilities since Week 3 or so, and the Teflon-slick runner is finally starting to draw national notice. Sunday, the former Michigan star ran for 82 yards on 8 totes, added 41 receiving yards on 4 receptions, and averaged 10.3 yards per run… and 10.3 yards per catch. Although Perry and his fellow Bengals have 2 tough games coming up (Baltimore, Pittsburgh), the team finishes the season with games against the Browns, Lions, Bills and Chiefs. I’m telling you- this guy’s unique. With a Wideout’s mitts and a feature back’s running skills, look for the staff to give Perry added touches down the road. Another member of Cincy’s supporting cast enjoyed a solid Sunday as well; WR Chris Henry. Henry has been mentioned previously in this column as well, and he too was productive against the Colts this past Sunday. The #3 (you can bet he’ll be the 2 next season) receiver banked another TD and 31 yards receiving, and has found the End-Zone twice in 2 weeks. The numbers aren’t flashy… but Henry’s productivity can’t be disputed. Opposing Secondaries are forced to double-up on Johnson, and Henry is a direct beneficiary. Palmer, Johnson, Johnson, Perry and Henry are a nearly peerless offensive group and form the nucleus of an outstanding ball-club, and how the team rebounds from Sunday’s loss will speak volumes. This coming Sunday, the Bengs’ look to do battle with the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have disappointed on BOTH sides of the ball. Balty’ QB Kyle Boller is NOT a starting caliber Signal Caller, that fact has become painfully apparent, and RB Jamal Lewis continues to be a “3 yards and a cloud o’ dust” runner. Therefore, in an odd twist, the Bengal D I was just blasting is a VERY worthy start this week. The Raven D has been reasonably stout against the run, holding opposing backs below the century mark each week. Ergo, and I don’t get to say “ergo” very often, Beng’ back Rudi Johnson constitutes a very iffy start. The 4th ranked Raven pass D has been pretty solid, with opposing QBs throwing for under 175 each week. But c’mon, are you really gonna’ sit Carson Palmer or Chad Johnson? No, you’re not.

THE BEST OF THE REST!

Arizona at St. Louis: “The Ram D may be awful, but the O is EX-plosive. I like the Rams to out-point the gaudy 'Zona passing game. This game has shoot-out written all over it, and Warner ranks as a rock-solid start against his old mates. Even without the advantage of a run game, WRs Fitz' and Boldin are excellent plays. … Warner may not be the magician of old... but damn- the old guy can still hang gaudy passing numbers! Look for a 250+/2-3 TD afternoon. … This coming Sunday, Bulger will again face-off against the Cardinals… . In their Week 2 tilt Bulger struggled; his line for the day was 216/1/1, with a fumble and 4 Sacks. … With RB Steven Jackson's full complement of skills finally being put to use, opposing Ds cannot afford to play off the line. And, with both WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce relatively healthy and back in the line-up, and #3 receiver Kevin Curtis (40/587/4 on the season) posting numbers worthy of a #1-2 pass-catcher, Bulger is again top-tier fantasy QB.”

The Cardinals put it together and… surprise, surprise, they beat the Rams. ‘Zona’s win may be more attributable to St. Louis’ G-d awful Secondary than anything else however, and as projected… Card’ QB Kurt Warner popped-off for 285 yards and 3 TDs. Warner has enjoyed spectacular line play in recent games, and after a 0 sack Sunday last week… Warner took but a single Sack this week. Again… as we did last week, let’s put our fantasy hands together for the Cardinal O-line. In addition to great line play Warner’s top 2 receivers, Anquan Boldin (back from injury, he was good for 8/105/1 Sunday) and Larry Fitzgerald (stepping up as a top vertical threat, hung 9/104/1), have been playing inspired Football. The Cards’ have been disappointed by their run game all season, but rook’ runner J.J Arrington (11/45/1) is finally showing signs of life. Arrington has been an impatient runner, more inclined to run up his blockers’ butts than waiting for the hole to develop. Those of you who lack back depth… keep an eye on the young Card’. With Warner playing catch with Fitz’ and Quan’, opposing D-coordinators will defend against the pass first… and J.J could find room to roam. As for St. Loo’… their run game hit an inexplicable hurdle this past week, and bullish RB Steven Jackson notched twice as many carries as yards with 12, and lost a costly fumble. Compounding matters, Ram starter Marc Bulger re-injured that balky shoulder of his, and Jamie Martin was pressed back into starting duty. According to Ram sources, there is substantial swelling and damage, and with nothing to play for… Bulger could be out for the remainder of the season. With the team in a 4th Q’ hole the Rams aired it out, and WRs Torry Holt (11/129/1), Isaac Bruce (4/83/1), and Kevin Curtis (9/98/1) all found the End-Zone and enjoyed solid fantasy afternoons. The Ram’s horrendous D (allowed Arizona to roll-up 372 total yards of O) continues to conspire against what could be an excellent offense, rendering it predictable. This coming week the Rams face a Houston team that is setting the bar for utter ineptitude. Although the NY Jets look to steal the Texans’ thunder for a “burst to worst” and the correlating draft pick, Houston’s run D allows a simply unbelievable 160 YPG, and the Air D permits almost 220 per. Ranked 30th in “Total Yardage Allowed” (opponents have hung an average of 380 YPG on ‘em), look for the Ram passing game to exploit a fictitious Secondary (I’d start all 3 Ram receivers)… and RB Steven Jackson should get back on track. Even QB Jamie Martin is a reasonable spot-start. On the other side… Arizona’s task is not quite so easy. The Cards’ explosive passing attack will be met by the Jacksonville Jaguars and their #1 pass defense (ceding under 160 PYG). Even so, Card’ QB Kurt Warner has been SO out of his mind… he’s a “must start” candidate, as are QRs Boldin and Fitzgerald. Boldin, apparently, has made a rapid recovery from his knee injury.

Carolina at Chicago: “No way the iffy Bear O beats the Panthers.”

Ok, I was wrong… and I hate being wrong. QB Kyle Orton (136/1/1) has done an admirable job of minimizing his mistakes, and the Bear run game (T. Jones 85 yards) is plodding along. The fact of the matter is the Bear D, which is statistically superior to the legendary Chi-town D of ’85, has allowed the marginal offense to remain competitive. This past week the Bear front 4 Sacked Delhomme 8 times! That is domination. For the most part ‘Lina was awful on Sunday. RB Stephen Davis was unable to find a groove (4/6) and his carries were extremely limited, QB Jake Delhomme (235/2/0) was uncharacteristically careless with the ball, and WR Steve Smith (14/169) was STILL ridiculous. Foes KNOW the ball is going to Smith… but they remain unable to do anything about it. For now. Without a doubt, these cats need a complementary pass catcher to emerge. I’d look for RB DeShaun Foster (61 yards on 12 touches) to see an increased workload. He had 12 touches this past week, tripling Davis’s total, and is far more explosive. Sunday, DeShaun and Delhomme are on the road to Buffalo. The Bill Secondary was gashed by San Diego slinger’ Drew Brees this past week… but the Panthers don’t have a receiver like TE Antonio Gates. Still, I like WR Steve Smith in this one. To be honest, I like Steve Smith in EVERY one. The Bears tangle with Tampa on Sunday, and I do NOT envy ‘em. Chicago’s D is as formidable as any in history to this point, and short of starting the Chicago D… I see no one worth using.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta: “Here's my biggest reach. The Buccs' have effectively put the clamps on Falc' QB Mike Vick... except at Home. Vick and the Falcs' whipped the Buccs' last year when playing in their Home Dome. Look for the 1-2 RB combo of Dunn and Duckett to play a factor here. Dunn always runs well at home, and has been he Falcs' MVP. Incrementally, the Hot-Lanta passing game has improved. Rook' receiver Roddy White is developing into a credible deep threat, and TE Alge Crumpler remains a top opp' at his position.”

If I told you Sunday’s game saw a 300 yard effort from a QB… you might be more inclined to believe it was Bucc’ Chris Simms. It wasn’t. Falc’ freak o’ nature Michael Vick took another step forward as a pro Signal Caller with a 306/0/2 afternoon! As expected, TE Alge Crumpler (5/49/1) and WR “Hot” Roddy White (4/108) were fantastic against the above average Tampa Secondary, forcing the Buc’ ‘Backers off the line, and the Hot-Lanta 1-2 punch of Duckett (51/1) and Dunn (102 total yards) made excellent use of the space afforded them. Duckett logged his first trip to the ‘Zone since Week 4, and Dunn recorded his 9th 100 yard (combined) game. Tampa Bay Bucca’Back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams found the road again, rolling for 116 yards on 19 carries. It was Caddy’s first 100 yard game since Week 3, and should go a long way towards rebuilding his crimped confidence. The last second(s) loss by a Field Goal hurts Atlanta, and they’re faced with a critical Thanksgiving Day game against the lowly Lions. I’d start ALL my Falcs’, including WR Roddy White. The D-Troit D is D-pleted. Tampa hosts Chicago… and that will be no walk in the park. Although Caddy’ had a rock-solid effort Sunday… it came against Atlanta’s iffy run D. Think long and hard before trotting him out.

Kansas City at Houston: “The Chiefs could lose this game... but ptobably won't. QB Trent Green hasn't been playing great Football... but the Texan Secondary doesn't warrant great play from the position. Look for RB Larry Johnson to enjoy a rock-solid rushing day, and TE Tony Gonzalez should as well. Gonzo's been coming on strong in recent games, and if ANY pass D will allow him his break-out game? It's this one. The Priest Holmes thing has coach Dick Vermeil in umm, tears. Even if Holmes returns to the field of play... he'll be doing it as a member of another team. At 33, Holmes' time in KC is at an end and the Larry Johnson era is just beginning.”

There’s really nothing much to report…. Other than Chief RB Larry Johnson’s “rock-solid day!” Well, what else would you call a 210+ yard, 2 TD evening!?! Johnson was a machine, and he pounded over, around and through the hapless Houston defenders. The truth of the matter is, the Texans tried to arm tackle Lil’ J on more than 1 occasion and that tells me 2 things; it tells me that Houston is a defeated bunch… which was no mystery and is no great revelation, and it tells me that the Texans have ZERO idea of how to tackle. And, seeing as how opposing runners are now averaging 160+ YPG, that is no epiphany either. KC TE Gonzo went off again, and has finally come round. Tony Gonzalez tagged the Houston Secondary for 98 receiving yards on 9 grabs… but the “greatest Tight End of this era” has scored only 1 TD all season. KC QB T.G scored 3 TDs Sunday night, and Green has a very favorable 2nd half slate. Green hung 220 yards on the Texans, and tossed a pick to go along with his Touchdown trifecta. That’s Ok, it’s nice to Green throwing the ball with confidence again… having a 200 yard rusher in the lineup will bolster ANY Qubes’ confidence. Green has, what could be, a patty-cake passing game on the schedule Sunday. The Chiefs host the New England Patriots and their porous passing D Sunday. The worst (31st) Secondary in the league has seen opposing Signal Callers rack up over 260 passing yards per… and both Green and Gonzo are “must starts.” Likewise, the Pat’ run D is a very middling group. Even with LB Tedy Bruschi back in the middle, New England has allowed almost a C-Note 20 a week… and hot off of his 200 yarder, RB Larry Johnson’s a “must start” in EVERY format. The Texans and their G-d awful D-unit will host the St. Louis Rams. The Ram D has been B-A-D bad, and RB Domanick Davis constitutes a sneaky-good start. Davis has posted average yardage, but the Rams permit almost 130 rushing YPG… and the guy DOES have a nose for the End-Zone. WR Andre Johnson is hampered by his QB, David Carr, and the team’s lack of a complementary receiver. Nevertheless, against the Ram defens-SIEVE backfield…a Secondary that has seen opposing passers post almost 245 per… Johnson is a fine “Flex” start.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

MONDAY NIGHT'ER & A FANTASY HOOP 'WIRE PICK-UP!

Last night, every Packer backer was forced to watch as the Minnesota Vikings slipped past their team by a Field Goal. Minny' has won 3 straight and is making a run at the Divvy'. The Vikings continue to live off points scored by the 2ndry. Erstwhile QB Brad Johnson is a liability. While I don't think the Vikes will slip past Da' Bears and their stupid-good defense...it's not out of the realm of impossibility as the NFC North is a joke. Speaking of Chicago.... THIS Bear D is statistically better than the legendary '85 Bear D. The difference? The '05 Bears don't have the luxury of Walter Payton running the ball for 'em. QB Kyle Orton has made good decisions and hasn't lost many games... yet, he hasn't won many either. With Sexy Rexxy Grosssman ahead of schedule... it's possible Grossman supplants Orton. We shall see!

Here's yet ANOTHER Fantasy Forward who may still be available on your leagues' Waiver Wire. He was on mine, I snatched him yesterday... and he netted me 20 points (on 8/14 shooting), 9 Boards, and a pair of Steals for good measure. In his past 2 games, he's dropped 54 freakin' points, grabbed 17 Reboauds, and dished 5 Assists. Who is he? New Orleans PF David West. West has very quietly been VERY good, and he should be picked up in ALL formats. While he's not much of a shot blocker... West IS a solid scorer, and he'll garner you some Assists as well. If you need a 2nd tier starter or just pine-meat, you could do far worse than DW.

Former Hornet PG Baron Davis seems to be thriving now that he's out of New Orleans. Finally playing up to the level of his ability and staying healthy, Davis is a top 4 PG. Too bad for Hornet fans he couldn't... or wouldn't, stay healthy while in their teams' Uni'.

Monday, November 21, 2005

FANTASY FOOTBALL & HOOPS

Is it NOT amazing that 'Hawk Running Back Shaun Alexander may, by himself, outscore the ENTIRE NY Jet franchise this season? More to the point... can you tell me why Jet coach Herm Edwards is being talked up for the Chief job? Dicky "Tears" Vermeil is irate at both RB Priest Holmes and his organization for keeping him out of the whole injury loop, and odds are that the 69 year old coach will leave KC at season's end. But... what the hell does a 2-8 coach have to offer yet another team that will be in re-building mode... can you tell me? "Herm the Germ," that's what some knowledgable NY Football fans call NY's greatest excusionist. The Jets mailed the season in some time ago... yet Herm does nothing but talk his guys up "there's no quit in these guys... no one's stopped playing hard." Oh yeah? According to several teams the Jets have faced in recent weeks... that's exactly what has happened; the team turned belly-up. With nothing to fear, Gang-Green has stopped playing tough Football. Jobs should be on the line! Even though the Offense collapsed when both QBs Pennington and Fiedler did... the D, a unit that was believed to be of SuperBowl caliber, has underperformed in dramatic fashion. The Broncos simply embarrassed the NY defense yesterday, beating them without the need for a passing game. RB Mike Anderson and the O-line imposed their collective will upon the Jets, and frankly, the game was over before it even started.
With bupkiss left to play for... the Jets are lookin' at a high draft pick. With QB Chad Pennington's Football career in serious jeopardy, the Jets may need to think Signal Caller. But, by the same token, RB Curtis Martin's game has fallen off a cliff. I found it astounding that since the Jets obviously had no intentions of retaining Raider feature-creature LaMont Jordan, as they let him walk away as a Free Agent this past off-season, they didn't attempt to move him during the '03-'04 season. At least the team would have received SOME compensation... even a mid-round Draft pick would've been preferable to letting him walk away and having nothing to show for it. I'm thinkin' the Jets take USC Running Back Reggie Bush with their top 3-ish pick. There have been a handful of college backs in recent years who, prior to entering the draft, were no-brainer NFL studs; Miami's Ricky Williams and Indy's Edgerrin James, San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson (I could not wait for LT to turn pro), and to a lesser extent, New Orleans' Deuce McAllister. There is no doubt that NFL-stud to be Reggie Bush will be an outstanding NFL back. The kid's got great poise, more moves than a Vegas Call Girl, and has been compared to former Bear great Gale Sayers. Now... all that remains is for Bush to prove it!

Could the Colts REALLY go 16-0? The '72 Dolphins, the last team to do so, have started pouring out of the woodwork to comment upon such. Guys like Nick Buoniconti, Jim Kiik, and Larry Cszonka are all over ESPN offering their opinions. If the Colts are to accomplish the awesome feat they'll have to prove their mettle; win upcoming games against both the Jaguars and Steelers
If Pittsburgh gets Roethlisberger back, and they should, an already tough Pitt' team will be that much tougher. As for the Jaguars ... they are NOT to be taken lightly. QB Byron Leftwich has made great strides as the season has progressed, and Lefty's looking a helluva' lot like an NFL starter. Not coincidentally, the Jag' pass catching contingent of Matt Jones, Reggie Williams, and Ernest Wilford, has also taken steps forward.

Briefly... still need some Fantasy Hoops help?
I already pushed Fs Charlie Villanueva, Sean May and Channing Frye, and I directed you towards a couple of Gs such as Boris Diaw and Luke Ridnour. Still need a solid Guard or Bench depth? Before he attracts any more notice take a look at 2nd-year Trailblazer G Sebastian Telfair. "Basey" is Knick PG (soon to be SG) Stephon Marbury's cousin, and the youngster possesses a nice package of skills. Portland's Point had a break-out game last night dropping a career-high 27 points, with 6 Boards, 6 Dimes', 3 Steals, and a trio of treys'. After averaging 16 points over his past 4 and with 4 games this week, at the least... Telfair warrants a bench spot.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

NFL WEEK 11 "START AND SIT!"

WEEK 11 "START AND SIT"

It seems as if starting Signal Callers are dropping like flies. Minnesota has lost Daunte Culpepper for not just this season, but given the nature and extent of his injury... C-Pepp's very career is threatened. At the least, "those in the know" speculate that the popular purple passer will miss much of '06 season as well. And, another Field General from the fabled class of '99 has fallen victim to injury; the Eags' will, most likely, be without Donovan McNabb services until the '06 season. Unable to play his style of Football, in considerable pain, and with the Eagles barely aloft in the NFC East, it would seem as if 'D-Nabb" is seriously considering season-ending hernia surgery after being examined by a prominent sports medicine surgeon. The Dolphins will be without Gus Frerotte, and San Francisco has been reduced to starting Ken Dorsey. Need I go on?

"MUST START QUARTERBACKS"

Peyton Manning: Finally... Peyton Manning has caught fire, plain and simple. After last season's preposterous (not happy with "preposterous?" feel free to insert your own adjective) production, owners and fans expected a 40+ TD encore from the record-setting passer. But with several months to study the '04 Colt O in detail, opponents are dropping into a 2 deep zone and preventing the Colt receivers from burning 'em deep. So, with Manning's cannon arm somewhat silenced the team was able to turn to RB Edgerrin James.... and James is grinding foes to powder. With his ability to pound the rock between the Tackles, bounce it outside, or serve as a receiver coming out of the backfield, Edge' has positively bludgeoned opposing Ds and is a legit' MVP candidate. And now... now things have come full circle. Opposing D-Coordinators are scheming against James, trying to prevent the Colt runner from beating them almost single-handedly. Naturally, the peerless passer is taking advantage of the opportunities provided him. Over the course of the past 4 games Peyton's thrown 10 TDs to only 2 INTs, and has notched a pair of 300 yard games (Ok I lie... last week he had 297 yards. I'm rounding up). This week, against the Bengals' 8th ranked pass defense, the Colts could be walking into a trap. Certainly they won't be looking past this dangerous foe, but the Bengs' are one of the very few teams with skill po' players capable of matching up with Indy's "Triplets." The advantage Peyton has over Palmer? Edgerrin James will take advantage of Cincy's 24th ranked run D (yielding almost 125 per), the Bengs' will be forced to creep up in order to better defend against the CASH-MONEY runner, and Peyton will be able to dissect the Cincy' Secondary. Or, so says my "Fantasy Magic 8 Ball." I dare not prognosticate numbers... but I WOULD start TE Dallas Clark (who made his first trip to the End-Zone last week) and WR Brandon Stokely. Both targets will benefit from less talented coverage, and Clark could really have the breakout game his owners have been longing for.

Carson Palmer: Here's the thing that links Palmer to Peyton, and BOTH passers to their Canton-honored brethren; there is no such thing as being "over-prepared." Each Signal Caller clocks hours upon hours of film and field work, and neither takes an opponent lightly. The way Manning works with Marvelous is the way Palmer works with Chad Johnson; both men realize just how important their top targets are. Carson's "nose to the grindstone" ethic is bearing fruit, and with fewer than 2 dozen NFL starts under his belt Palmer is already considered an "elite" talent. The Cin' City Signal Caller and his top pass catcher took a road-trip this past week; the already prolific pass and catch combo sat in the stands and watched the Colts whup' the Texans. Palmer felt that, as opposed to the distance of film study, there was something to be gleaned from watching (in person) his opponent play. The "In-D" is tuff-tuff-tuff, ranking 8th against the pass (174 passing yards per) and 9th (97.4 rushing yards per) against the run. The smart game-plan would be to have RB Rudi Johnson attack the edges of the D by running right at Colt DEs Mathis and Freeney. In this way, the Bengs' might be able to nullify the strength of the defense: its speed. With Rudi banging away at the D-line, Palmer should be afforded some extra time to pass. And, in WRs Houshmandzadeh, Henry, and Johnson, the guy has an embarrassment of pass catching riches to turn to. In addition, versatile 2nd-year RB Chris Perry has a wideouts mitts... with a Runner's power, speed, and moves. Look for a solid, but not spectacular day from Palmer. He does remain, however, a "Must Start" QB.

Marc Bulger: After languishing on the sidelines for almost a month due to a shoulder sprain, Bulger handed the clip-board back to QB Jamie Martin, shed his soft-cap in favor of a helmet, and reclaimed command of the Ram offense. The strong-armed Ram QB picked-up right where he left off, and threw for 300+ yards with a "welcome back" TD (he also threw 1 INT) to his top target, WR Torry Holt last week. This coming Sunday, Bulger will again face-off against the Cardinals and his former mentor, Kurt Warner. In their Week 2 tilt Bulger struggled; his line for the day was 216/1/1, with a fumble and 4 Sacks. But this week I would expect the underwhelming Card' D to be much softer than they were at the season's start. You know, back when they still held hopes of a post-season play! With RB Steven Jackson's full complement of skills finally being put to use, opposing Ds cannot afford to play off the line. And, with both WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce relatively healthy and back in the line-up, and #3 receiver Kevin Curtis (40/587/4 on the season) posting numbers worthy of a #1-2 pass-catcher, Bulger is again top-tier fantasy QB. Given the sorry state of BOTH defensive units, this game could actually turn into a shoot-out!

Tom Brady: Although the Saints' 5th ranked Secondary has actually proven to be reasonably stout against the pass... allowing a mere 167.8 passing yards per game is kinda' sorta' stingy... are you really gonna' sit Tom Terrific? Make no mistake... Brady has made some himself of late (mistakes, that is), but the Aints' have dropped 5 straight and 7 of their last 8, and have clearly given up on the season. With the Pats' fielding a wafer-thin O' and eager to post back-to-back Ws for the first time all season (can you believe it? "Dynasty... shmynasty"), I'm willing to bet that Obi-Wan Belichik turns to Brady and the passing game. Scrap-heap escapee Heath Evans will again be expected to legitimize the run game... as he did last week (102 total yards last week), and I'd look for another "Very Brady Sunday;" 245/2.
*NOTE: As projected in last week's "Week 10 Start and Sit" piece, TE Ben Watson (3/37/2) DID turn out to be the key that sprung the Pats' offensive lock. Look for the physical TE to again be a solid Red-Zone weapon.

"SECOND-TIER STARTERS"

Kurt Warner: The Card' QB came up for discussion in the ffspiral.com "Sunday Morning Chat-Room" last week. Warner may not be the magician of old... but damn- the old guy can still hang gaudy passing numbers! He is, therefore, worth a start... particularly in yardage leagues. Without the benefit of a run game, Warner blew-UP for a season-high 359 passing yards and a touch' against the Detroit Lions Week 10, and for the first time all season.. didn't take a Sack. Let's put our fantasy hands together for the 'Zona linemen. Anyway, this week Warner faces his old team, the Rams, for the 2nd time this season. The first meeting (Week 2) saw Warner thow the ball up and down the field and accrue 327 passing yards on a 29 of 42 day. However, Kurt failed to throw a TD pass, he DID toss a pick, and he suffered the indignity of 5 Sacks and 3 fumbles (1 lost). Warner IS worth starting against the Rams' 27th ranked Air defense (allowing 240+ passing yards per), and WR Larry Fitzgerald should again be a favored target. Look for a 250+/2-3 TD afternoon. *NOTE: 'Zona has an 0-5 record in games where Warner has been the starter.

Matt Hasselbeck: 'Beck's been a fantasy pillar, and no NFL Qube' has been more consistent. We've been through the whole "consistent consistency" thing-but it IS true, and Hasselbeck's owners know what they will get from this guy week in and week out. The C-Hawk Signal Caller certainly hasn't been spectacular; he doesn't post "Warner type" yardage totals or "Manning type" TDs. He's been "reliable," and if you're not looking for him to win your week for you... you won't be disappointed. Hasselbeck has failed to throw a TD pass in only 1 game this season (Week 3, Arizona), and he's thrown for 200+ yards in every contest but 2. Last week, everyone (including Matt's mommy) expected the dude to blow holes through St. Louis' stupid-bad 2ndry... and he didn't ((17/29 for 243with a pair o' picks a single TD pass). Instead, Shaun "Alexander the Great" conquered yet another team virtually by himself. I know I (along with several skillion' other fantasy writers) projected 'Beck to do the Rams ugly last week... but THIS week? Against THIS San Francisco team? Matt Hasselbeck stands to post a season-best game. The Niner' 'backers are the strength of the ... umm, "D" (and I use the term loosely), "holding" opposing backs to... umm, 117 rushing yards per game. Laugh if you want, but the Frisco' rush defense is utterly air-tight when compared to it's passing D! The Niner' 2ndry has been a "defen-SIEVE," permitting teams to rack-up over 280 passing yards per.... and to move the ball the ball almost with impunity. Look for 260/2-3 from Hasselbeck Sunday... and those numbers shouldn't disappoint.

Mark Brunell: Facing Oakland's 23rd ranked pass defense (almost 220 passing yards per) and their 19th ranked run D (allowing almost a buck 20 by ground), Bru' rates as a solid signal calling start this week. Keep in mind that Brunell HAS had issues with turnovers over the past 2 (3 combines fumbles against Philly and Tampa, 2 INTs at Tampa last week) games, but the Raider Secondary isn't exactly a buncha' ball hawks. With RB Clinton Portis running better... Brunell, TE Chris Cooley (a fine fantasy TE, especially in yardage leagues) and WR Santana Moss are all solid starts Sunday.

Brett Favre: If Brett and Co. were playing any team other than the Vikings this Monday Night... I wouldn't give much thought to starting him. However, the Wisconsin cheese Wiz' IS playing against the pathetic and floundering Minny' D, and is therefore worth a start because of it. The Vike's 26th ranked pass Defense has allowed opponents to roll up over 230 passing yards per, and even the injury-ravaged Pack' attack should post yards against 'em. With no-name RB Samkon Gado taking the NFL by surprise, in much the same way Steeler Willie Parker did, Favre finally has a run game to rely upon. I think. Either way, Favre WILL throw a couple of picks... but he should also be good for a 250+/2 evening.

"MUST START RUNNING BACKS"

Edgerrin James: James needs no introduction, and I need not write of his accomplishments. Simply know that this season, opposing D-coordinators devised their schemes in order to prevent Colt QB Peyton Manning and his pass catching contingent from beating them. These teams figured that they'd let James get his yards... and they'd be able to keep the scoring to a minimum. Well... they got part of it right. Dropping a pair of Safeties back and deep has prevented, to some degree anyway, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, and Brandon Stokely from lighting 'em up. What they did NOT count on? That James would become a 1-man Wrecking Crew. Edge' has rushed for a C-note or more in 7 of the Colts' 9 games, has 140+ combined yards in 5 games, and has reached the "6 Point Promised Land" in 6 consecutive games (with 10 total TDs). Although this week's opponent, Cincinnati, has been able to force turovers... their run D has been poor. The Bengs' 24th ranked run D yields almost 125 rushing yards per week.
Look for Edge' to bank 25+ touches, 130+ yards, and 1 TD Sunday.

LaDainian Tomlinson: LT is always a "must start" fantasy weapon. However, much like Chief RB Larry Johnson- this week LT is chomping at the bit, eager to take a bite of some Buff' backside. The Bill run D? Call 'em "Buffa-blow," seeing as how the human turn-stiles allow over 150 rushing yards a week. QB Drew Brees and TE Antonio Gates will have their hands full with a #2 ranked pass D, but with LT pounding over, around, and through Buff' defenders... the passing game should, obviously, benefit.

Shaun Alexander: NO runner has meant more to his team this season than Shaun Alexander, and the 'Hawk runner is a legit' candidate for league MVP. With last week's 3 score game against the Rams, Shaun-A became the first back in league history to record 5 consecutive seasons with 15 or more TDs. That, my fantasy friends, is heady stuff. Say what you want about LaDainian Tomlinson... but Alexander means more to his team and is as durable as they come. The Seahawk feature back has played in every regular season game since entering the league as a rook' in '00. The guy will also garner what projects to be a record-breaking contract during the coming off-season. ... So- entering this season, the supposed "strength" of the Niner' D was its Linebacking corps. Julian Peterson and Co. have helped "hold" opposing runners to a meager 117 YPG. Right. Anyway, here's the bet; look for Seattle to run Shaun Alexander left, run Shaun Alexander right, and run Shaun Alexander up the middle. Matt Hasselbeck is solid in the pocket and can pick apart San Fran's awful 2ndry, and "Alexander the Great" is a near-lock to record yet another multi-TD game.

Steven Jackson: Jax' has really poured it on over the last 5 games; he's recorded 100+ total yards in each, and has averaged a TD per. And this week... well, the Cards' sick and sorry run D (giving up 125+ YPG) doesn't figure to slow him down any. With QB Marc Bulger back at the Ram helm... Jackson should be even more dangerous. Look for the Ram runner to receive 20-25 touches, as he's rapidly developing into a top pass-catching back.

Mike Anderson: "Marine" Mike Anderson fits the Denver Bronco D like a summer sun dress fits Paris Hilton. While Anderson would probably shudder to be compared to the Internet video queen... and oh yes, heiress to the Hilton empire (we dated for awhile, but she chews with her mouth open, I'm allergic to Chihua-hua dogs, and I had to end it). However, Anderson's one-cut, North/South running style meshes perfectly with the Bronc' O-line. This week, Anderson and the Broncos draw an under-achieving, underwhelming, underperforming Jet team. The Jets play with no fire, and as their season effectively ended when both QBs Pennington and Fiedler fell to injury in the same game, a scant 7 plays apart- Gang-Green is really playing for draft position. Reggie Bush, anyone? It's unlikely that the Jets will get Matt Leinart... but a top-notch runner should be on their wish-list. For that matter, a head coach capable of instilling fire and yes, even fear should also be on their Christmas list. Current coach Herm Edwards is good at excusing his players, and he's good at standing up for them... certainly admirable. Edwards seems incapable of having them play as if their very jobs depend upon each and every play, however, and that's really what the Jets need. They do NOT need a great excusionist. This is an argument better left for it's own article.
Look for the Broncos to use RB Mike Anderson as a sledgehammer... and the swifter, more agile RB Tatum Bell to serve as the anvil. Both backs are rock-solid starts Sunday against a 29th ranked Jet run D that has mailed the season in.

Larry Johnson: Could the stars be aligned any better for Larry or his owners? This week, Johnson and a semi-desperate tribe o' Chiefs take on the G-d-awful Houston Texans. Houston positively BLEEDS yards, surrendering a .. a.. (insert your own adjective for "utterly unbelievable") over 150 rushing yards per week! In 9 games (and he's only been the unquestioned feature the past 2) this season, Johnson's notched 638 yards and 6 TDs on 124 carries.
Look for Lil' J to record yet another game of 175 total yards and 2-3 TDs.

"SECOND-TIER STARTERS"

Tiki Barber: For all Barber's strong running and hard work this season... he'll probably garner the team MVP award. Last week, Barber and friends were forced to swallow the bitter pill of defeat after giving the game away to Minnesota. The loss had nothing to do with Tiki, though. The ageless back did EVERYTHING in his power to secure the win. The loss was attributable to a combination of horrifying Special Teams work and QB Eli Manning's turnovers. Be that as it may, that's not what we're here to consider. Let's consider, instead, the record Barber quietly broke last Sunday for it underscores his value and versatility to team and fasntasy owner alike. Barber ran for 95 yards and a score on 23 carries; yeah-yeah, great. He also snared 8 passes for 111 receiving yards. Was that Barber's excellent work... or was it Minnesota's ghastly-bad D? Dunno, don't care. Sunday, Barber and Big Blue tackle a Philadelphia Eagle team that has dropped 3 in a row and is positively out of control. The Terrell Owens thing is bad, but the loss of QB Donovan McNabb is insurmountable and effectively ends the Eag' season. Look for Tiki (as his Giants are tied for 1st with Dallas in the rough & tumble NFC East) to enjoy another rock-solid Sunday against a Run D that allows almost 115 per, and more to the point, has bupkiss to play for.

Clinton Portis Much like the aforementioned Tiki Barber and his Giants, C-Port's Redskins are coming off a tough-luck loss of their own. Yet another 1-pointer, their's to the defensive-minded Buccaneers. Those "defensive-minded" Buccs' weren't able to shackle Portis though, and the 'Skin back ran for a season-high 144 yards and 1 TD on 23 carries. Sunday was the 4th time this season that portis broke the century mark. This week, Portis and tribe host the disappointing Oakland Raiders. Oakie's O was supposed to be unstoppable, and the D solid at worst. Unfortunately, the "on-paper" Raiders are much better than their "on-field" counterparts! The Black & Silver D permits 115+ rushing yards, and almost 220 passing yards. As mentioned last week, "if the Redskins are for real... then this game will prove it." The 3rd place Redskins' post-season hopes are still a'flicker in the highly competitive NFC... but the team MUST play better ball, and that starts with the rushing attack.

Samkon Gado: Gado stepped into former Pack' back Ahman Green's cleats during the Week 9 game... and has taken full advantage of the opportunity. Against a gristle-tough Pittsburgh Steeler Run D Gado ground out hard yards (62/1), and gave the Packer O just enough. Last week, though... last week was a whole other story! Gado, as projected in the "Week 10 Start and Sit" (Re: the "next Willie Parker) and "Pick 'Em" pieces, was a capable "spot-start." In actuality, Gado was far more than "capable." Dude wen *BOOM* for 103 combined yards and 3 TDs (1 receiving). With a re-configured but still awful Viking D (they allowed the NY Giants 400+ yards last week) next on the Packers' plate (they play in the Monday Night'er), Gado is a "must start" in every format. The Purple Patsies' are allowing runners to rack-up 125+ each week.

Greg Jones: Here's another back who was listed as a "2nd Tier Starter" last week... and was pushed during the always friendly... always informative,ffspiral.com "Sunday Morning Chat." G-Jo the Jag' mauled the Ravens last week, rolling up 106 rushing yards and a touch' on 25 carries. With RB Fred Taylor still nursing an ankle injury, look for another strong game from Jones. The Jags' play a bad (115+) Tenne'D Sunday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

NFL WEEK 10 WRAPPING-UP THE BEST!

WEEK 10 WRAPPING-UP the BEST!

Minnesota at N.Y. Giants: "Minny' found a passing rhythm with backup QB Brad Johnson at the helm last week... but it's hard to believe he's the answer. ... the Purple peeps' have been better against the run, but the passing attack remains their Achilles heel; especially with CB Fred Smoot out. This week, Tiki and Co. draw a soft Minnesota Viking team. The Vikes' are coming off of a win, but that win came against a weak Detroit team. Meanwhile, Minnesota has more holes than the Titanic; they cede almost 130 rushing yards per tilt, and the pass defense is consistently riddled by opposing Signal Callers. Tiki's found the End-Zone at least once in 5 of 8 contests, has 4 games of 100+ total yards, and I'd expect yet another 135+ total yard/1-2 TD game. ... if you're in a pinch- WR Amani Toomer should be a solid "Flex" WR start. ...The Giants are peaking at the right time."

Perhaps it would be more apt to say that the Giants have "peaked?" Sunday's home loss against the bottom-feeding Vikings is proof-positive that the Giants, and their fledgling signal Caller, are a team in flux. As good as the young "Mann" has looked in prior games... was as bad as he looked Sunday. The Vikes' had Eli confused all day long; they shifted coverages, they executed D-Line stunts, and Manning finished the day with a line of 23/48 for 291, no TDs, 4 INTs. But the loss cannot be placed upon Manning's shoulder-pads alone. Aside from Tiki Barber's brilliant effort, (206 total yards and a TD on 31 touches) New York was unable to execute in ANY phase of the game. Curious coaching decisions, turnovers, foolish penalties, and horrendous Special Teams play all contributed to Big Blue's sorry day. The Vikes, with an 0-4 Road record this season, became the 1st team in NFL history to return a Punt, a Kick-off, and an Interception for a TD in the same game. The most telling statistic? Minnesota rolled up a scant 137 total yards of offense (compared to the Giants' 405 yards of O), did NOT record an offensive score all afternoon, and STILL walked away with the win. How bad was the Viking offense? Minny' notched a ridiculous 6 TOTAL yards of O... then broke for Half-Time. It was really the re-configured Purple D and their Special Teams work that won the day. With Eli Manning apparently unable to recognize that Safety Darren Sharper plays for another team, Sharper was able to pick-off a trio of Eli's passes and return a 2nd Quarter INT 92 yards for a score. The Vikes received credible, but not special play from QB Brad Johnson (17/30 for 244/0/0). With RB Mewelde Moore recovering from a sprained wrist and limited to return duty (he recorded a 71 yard Punt return for a TD), former Viking feature back Michael Bennett was allowed out of the dog-house and received the starting nod. With more carries (19) than yards (16) Bennett did not impress, would probably have preferred to remain IN the dog-house, and his Viking life-expectancy is most likely limited to the end of this season. The Viking 2ndry DID manage to keep a lid on both WR Plaxico Burress (3/50) and TE Jeremy Shockey (5/55), but WR Amani Toomer (8/61/1) managed to snatch a score. The Vikes' get a "breather" next week when they visit depleted Green Bay, and given the Packs’ injury-thinned D… QB Brad Johnson might be a marginal "Flex" QB start if you're in dire Signal Calling straits. Check his status, but RB Mewelde Moore's expected back... and should he return, he'd be a legit' start against a poor run defense.
The Giants have one the those "all-important" NFC East match-ups against a desperate Eagle team. After Manning's fiasco this week, I'd be reluctant to start him. I would not, however, hesitate to start either Plax' or Shockey, and against Philly's 21st ranked Run D (allowing almost 120 YPG)... RB Tiki Barber remains a top op'. *NOTE: Although they won the game, MikTice's ce’s troubles continue to mount. To add “injury to insult,” the beleaguered Viking coach suffered a torn MCL… while standing on the sideline.

Washington at Tampa Bay: "If the Skins are for real... today's game will prove it. I like the Washington D, a D that has struggled to force turnovers, to control QB Chris Simms and Co. TE Chris Cooley and WR Santana Moss are the only legit' Washington pass catchers, but Clinton Portis does just enuff' on the ground to keep the passing game effective."

With several crucial match-ups sitting on the Week 10 slate, who'd have figured that this one would turn out to be one of the most exciting of the bunch? With both teams down but not out in the NFC East and South respectively, this game was played as if it were a playoff game. And, given their highly competitive divisions... this game may well have Post-Season implications. Washington, at 5-4, is now in 3rd place and a mere 1 win behind the first place G-Men (6-3). Meanwhile, the NFC South is wound tighter than a schizophrenic on a caffeine high. Tampa's 6-3 record has 'em tied for 2nd with Atlanta, and the surging Panthers are also 1 win ahead of both clubs. With Washington coming off a hard-fought Week 9 win against Philadelphia, they may have looked past the Bucs' and their young and inexperienced QB. Foolish mistake; a long-standing NFL axiom is to NEVER look past ANY opponent! But the young Bucc’ (Chris Simms) outplayed his veteran Redskin (Mark Brunell) counterpart in impressive fashion, and the Redskin D suffered a collapse. Chris Simms was drafted in the 3rd round of the '03 draft as the "future of the franchise," but Gruden soured on him... perhaps unfairly. But, once QB Brian Griese went down with a season-ending knee injury during the Week 6 tilt… Gruden was left with few options, turned to “Simms Jr.,” and he hasn’t been disappointed by the results. Son of legendary Giant QB Phil Simms (and unforgettable SuperBowl hero), the younger Simms enjoyed a career-best game Sunday, throwing 3 TDs, no INTS, and for 279 yards on 15 completions. Simms and greybeard pass catcher Joey Galloway clicked harmoniously Sunday, and with Simms at the helm… Galloway retains value over the seasons’ final third. Galloway snared 7 for 131 and a score. Simms’ youth was tempered by Mike Alstott’s experience at the Running Back position. Which brings us to this critical point. Rookie Bucc’a’back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams started the season off in hi-gear… but after suffering a foot injury, and essentially being run into the ground by his coach, Williams has struggled since returning to the lineup. Prior to his foot injury Caddy’ had rolled-up 3 consecutive 125+ yards games, he’d notched scores in 2 of the 3 games, and had ripped off runs of at least 25+ yards in each affair. Now, back in action and off the Trainer’s Table… we see a different Carnell Williams. Cadillac is NOT running with confidence, he’s not cutting on a dime like he had in Weeks 1-3 (though team observers claim otherwise during practices), and he seems to lack burst. Again, a telling stat’; before his foot injury… Caddy’ rolled for an average of 4.9 YPC. Now? Caddy’s got a flat; dude’s running for less than 2 yards per tote. That, my fantasy friends, is a dramatic drop-off in production. In Williams’ stead Sunday stepped veteran of many a Tampa war, the aforementioned RB Mike Alstott. Alstott, no stranger to injury himself (he’d suffered a career-threatening neck injury), lowered his head and won the game when he successfully crossed the money-stripe on a crucial 2-point conversion. Alstott was an effective G-Line runner all afternoon, and certainly warrants a Waiver Wire look. With Williams struggling and Pittman floundering, Gruden WILL turn to his veteran runner. The 250 pound Fullback is about as easy to stop as an Oil-Tanker, and Alstott recorded scores on earlier rumbles of 2 and 1 yards. Initially, Gruden and his band o’ Buccs’ were content to kick the EP’ and play for OT. But, when the over-zealous ‘Skins leapt off-sides in their attempt to block the kick… and the ball was placed half-the-distance as a consequence, Gruden simply couldn’t kick a gift-horse in the mouth. In came Alstott, 2-point conversion successful, game over. The resurgent Buccaneer defense deserves much credit. Although the unit is aging, they can still get after the QB (Brunell was Sacked twice) and force big plays. The Tampa D forced Bru’ to fumble on both Sacks and they picked him off twice, as well. This coming Sunday, Washington has a date with a potentially potent Raider offense. The Black and Silver D is, however, a very middling group. Oakie’ has lost 2 straight and 3 of their last 5. With Portis churning out a 4th 100+ yard rushing effort (actually, C-Port ran for 144 yards and 1 TD) this past week, he’s a rock-solid start against a Raider run D that allows opposing backs almost 120 per. I’d also start WR Santana Moss. Although TE Chris Cooley (also a credible fantasy start) is the only other legit’ ‘Skin receiver, Moss could break one or 2 against a pass D that permits almost 220 passing yards per week. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will cross swords with the Atlanta Falcons and their very iffy run D. Although RB Carnell Williams should start in most formats as the Falcs’ cede 115+ ground yards FB Mike Alstott should again see Red-Zone work. Hot-Lanta also fields a 16th ranked Air defense… and, if you’re feeling lucky, plucky Chris Simms could enjoy a 225/2 afternoon. Given the rapport QB and receiver seem to be developing; WR Joey Galloway is a reasonable “WR 3” start.

Kansas City at Buffalo: "With Holmes' career in jeopardy, Larry Lil' J." Johnson IS the back of the future. If you managed to handcuff yourself at the season's start... bravo! Johnson has been breathtakingly productive. If not... and you're in a "Keeper" league, try and trade for him. Relatively durable and as slick as Teflon, Johnson has more wiggle than a bowl of Jell-O. (playing) Buffalo (and their awful run D) this week, LJ's a "Must Start." The Bills just don't have enough firepower to out-point the surging Chiefs, who've won 3 of their past 4. Look for DE Jared Allen to make life VERY difficult for Bill QB Kelly Holcomb, and Bill back Willis McGahee is the best of the Bill skill po' players today. ...keep in mind that the Chiefs' 26th ranked pass defense surrenders a butt-load of passing yards each week (to more precisely define "butt-load," it's almost 261 passing YPG), thus QB Kelly Holcomb and Wideouts Lee Evans and Eric Moulds should help ease some of the offensive load placed upon the Buff' back"

Well here was a largely unexpected outcome. After Bill QB Kelly Holcomb left the game after suffering a 2nd Quarter concussion, 2nd year Signal Caller J.P Losman reclaimed his position over Center. Losman was furious at his early season demotion, but given the quality of his play... one could hardly blame the Bill brass for benching him. After a solid Week 1 (170/1) outing against lowly Houston, Losman's play plummeted; J.P recorded consecutive Passer Ratings of 33.8 (Week 3 Atlanta) and 34.0 (Week 4 New Orleans). With an entire season in jeopardy, the Bills trotted out QB Kelly Holcomb. The more experienced Holcomb immediately rendered WRs Eric Moulds and Lee Evans relevant, and made RB Willis McGahee far more dangerous by legitimizing the pass. This past week... SWEET REDEMPTION! Losman clearly benefited from his benching. An arrogant, over-confident QB left the field Week 4 after connecting on a scant 7 passes for 75 yards with a pick, and a more poised, more prepared QB assumed the field Sunday. The Bills never doubted Losman’s ability… they simply felt the man-child needed more time. And, if Sunday's 2+ Quarters (9/16 for 137 with 2 TDs and no turnovers) of work are any indication, Losman is finally ready to direct this offense. WR Lee Evans was pleased with his QBs play; Evans snatched 2 TDs and accrued 66 receiving yards. RB Willis McGahee (20 totes, 66 yards, a lost fumble) was not, however, the fantasy factor his owners hoped he’d be. His Chief counterpart, however, RB Larry Johnson, was UPS personified; "Larry delivered." Last week, against Oakland, Johnson's strong running (155 total yards/2 TDs) and waning moments score earned him a hero's celebration. This week, Johnson (178 total yards, 0 TDs) again ran with power, balance, and speed, he again posted solid fantasy figures, but was unable to single-handedly pull out a "W." Chief Field General Trent Green saw his career-best streak of 159 consecutive passes without an INT snapped; Buffs' tuff' secondary picked Green off not once... not twice... yeah-boy, thrice (3)! Green had a butt-ugly day, taking a whopping 6 Sacks, losing a fumble, tossing those picks we discussed, and posting a ghastly-bad Passer Rating of 41.7. Not helping matters? KC's sloppy play. The Chiefs were penalized 8 times for 65 yards. Unlike Chief fans, fantasy buffs are able to walk away from this game appreciating the following; hangin’ 4 solo Tackles, 2 Sacks, and forcing a fumble, DE Jared Allen WAS a one-man wrecking crew. Likewise, TE Tony Gonzalez has regained his fantasy value. Due to KC's iffy O-line, Gonzo’s been forced to stay home and block. Over the past 3 weeks, though, the prolific pass catching TE has hauled in 20 passes for 248 yards and a touch'. As he has been for so many seasons, Tony Gonzalez is a lethal receiver and a nightmare to cover. Looking towards this coming week, KC has a cake-walk of a game as they visit Houston. The Texans boast a terrible pass defense, are terrible against the run, and EVERY Chief skill po' player is worth starting. Buffalo, on the other hand, has a VERY tough game against a San Diego team that hopes to visit MoTown in January. While the Bolts’ brag the #1 ranked run D and are holding foes under 80 ground yards per… their pass D leaves something to be desired. It's that whole "Yin and Yang" thing as the Chargers' Secondary allows almost 250 passing per, and is ranked 30th. If you're thin at the receiver position, young WR Lee Evans is a decie' vertical threat, and Eric Moulds is as savvy as can be.

Dallas at Philadelphia: "Philly's season is ON THE LINE. ... Coach Andy Reid has eschewed the run game in favor of the passing game, but if the boys from P.A are to win... it'll be because RB Brian Westbrook played a considerable role. Look for Reggie Brown to emerge as a credible receiving threat... and D-Nabb' to put forth a heroic effort. Still, I look for the Dallas D to control the tempo of the game, RBs Marion Barber and Julius Jones to control the clock, and the 'Pokes to escape with a 3 point W."

C’mon… I was close. The 'Boys split town with a 1 point win. It was, though, a stunning victory to be sure. The Cowboy win also underscores the point that, no matter what you do, and no matter how you play the game, NEVER count an opponent out until the game clock reads 00.00. It was a timely S Roy Williams interception that cooked the Eagles' goose, so to speak. With 2.43 left in the 4th, McNabb threw an ill-advised pass that Williams returned 46 yards to pay-dirt. Why the Eagles, exactly, were throwing the ball at that point in the game is a question better left for Philly' coach Andy Reid. Even Roy Williams couldn't believe an obviously hernia hurtin' McNabb was dropping back to pass. For 4/5 of this tilt, the Eags' controlled the tempo of the game and dictated its pace. They finally gave the ball to versatile RB Brian Westbrook, and Westy' (86 rushing yards and a TD, 32 receiving yards) didn't disappoint on his 21 touches. But, alas, the Cowboys scored twice within the space of 21 seconds (WR Terry Glenn scored on a 20 yard TD pass), and Philadelphia dropped its 3rd straight the first time they've dropped 3 consecutive since the '99 season. After being roundly criticized for their obviously lop-sided, pass-heavy offensive scheme (prior to this game, the Eagles threw the ball on 72% of their plays) the Eagles ran successfully on the Cowboys; in addition to Westbrook's solid game, the bigger RB Lamar Gordon recorded 57 rushing yards. Further, the Eagles controlled the pace of the game for 55 or so minutes. In the end, though, the Cowboys got to ride off into the sunset of this all-important divisional Monday Night Football match-up. As mentioned in my "Pick 'em" blurb, Philly's (in last place in the NFC b'East) post-season hopes are on life-support. This Sunday the Eags’ lock up with the NY Giants. The G-Men are stinging from their own last-minute loss to the Vikings this past week, and make for a mean and ugly opponent. McNabb, already hobbled and hampered by his hernia, will have DEs Osi Umenyiora and Mike Strahan breathing down his neck all day long. RB Brian Westbrook is a solid start, however. Check the IR McNabb might sit this one out, though I doubt it. Dallas, lucky to have escaped with this W, has a date with D-troit in their Home Dome Sunday. The Lions looked… good, frankly, this past week, and they always play tough at home. With the NFC East knotted-up, coach Parcells will have his 'Boys ready to play, however. QB Drew Bledsoe and WRs Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn are decent starts against Detroit's 16th ranked Air D. Likewise, RBs Julius Jones and Marion Barber could find room to run against a run D that permits 105+ per game.

New England at Miami: "Brady calls out his team; they're not motivated, they lack fire, etc. They respond with a nice effort. The Phin O has clearly benefited from the presence of Coordinator Scott Linehan…. That being said, Miami QB Gus Frerotte lacks touch and frequently over/underthrows open receivers… RBs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown have formed a nice 1-2 punch, with Williams enjoying his best game of the year last week. The 'Phins have dropped 4 of their past 5 including last weeks' game against Atlanta, wherein Falc' Field General Mike Vick did his best Johnny U. impersonation. If the 'Phins allowed Vick and his sub-par pass-catchers to ignite, then the Patriots deeper corps could blow. Both TEs Watson and Graham could play a role in this one, and while each can catch the ball... Graham seems to be the better pass catcher of the 2. Just check the IR, he's got a banged-up shoulder. Look for a rock-solid Sunday from New England from Tom Terrific... the sole concern? The run game. With Dillon nicked-up and Pass hobbled, issues abound."

There was a subtle thread of intrigue that ran through this game... a thread that may have escaped the casual fan. This game was tantamount to a chess match. Friends for 23 years, the experience and proven NFL brilliance of Patriot coach Bill Belichik was pitted against the moxie and "forward-thinking" of college prodigy and NFL newcomer Nick Saban. Belichik pulled-out all the stops and proved utterly resourceful Sunday. Without RBs Corey Dillon or Patrick Pass to turn to, Belichik ran Heath Evans out onto the field. Heath... Evans? Evans, a virtual no-name, was good enuff'... 111 combined yards good, and good enough to keep the 'Phin defenders back on their heels. Here's the irony, though; Heath Evans was cut by... you guessed it! Miami's new coach Nick Saban. Clearly, Evans had an axe to grind. With a reasonable but not gaudy run game to rely upon, Brilliant Brady had an iffy (21/36 275/2/2) but again... a "good enough" game. Good enough to guide his Patriots to a much-needed W. After losing the Week 9 game to the Colts by double diggy' points, Brady called his teammates out onto the carpet and stated that they "lacked fire." An injury-riddled (4 Offensive starters were sidelined, and the Defense has obviously been weakened by S Rodney Harrison's loss, amongst others) Patriot team responded to their leader's challenge. Indeed, a Patriot TE played an integral role in the much needed win, New England's 21st Divisional win of the last 25 Divisional games. With TE Daniel Graham sidelined with a shoulder injury, TE Ben Watson stepped-up and caught 3 passes for 37 yards and 2 TDs. The Dolphins were in this game until the very end. With less than 3 minutes remaining in regulation, Miami was actually up by a point with the score 16-15. This was the score after a failed 2-point conversion. Coach Nick Saban, figuring that a 2 point lead was as worthwhile as a 2 legged-stool, opted for the conversion that would afford them a Field Goal lead. But the conversion failed, "Brilliant Brady" got his hands on the ball, and needed only 2 plays to claim a lead. The "closest thing to Joe Montana" hit WR Tim Dwight for a 59 yard gain, and followed that up with a 17 yard scoring strike to TE Ben Watson (his 2nd TD reception of the day). Miami wasn't finished yet, though. Frerotte drove his fellow Phins' downfield and actually forced the Pat' D back to their own 5 yard line. The New England D stiffened like cement at that point, and Saban will be 2nd guessed for opting to pass on 4 straight downs. One of Gus's passes, the 3rd down attempt, resulted in RB Ronnie Brown getting dropped for a 5 yard loss. Why Saban didn't try to pound Brown, who averaged over 4.5 YPC Sunday, across the Stripe is curious. This week, the Pats' face a New Orleans franchise that has dropped 4 straight, and a semi-ridiculous 7 of 8. "Semi-ridiculous" because, well, they ARE the 'Aints. Look for that team to give rookie 5th-round pick QB Adrian McPherson a look sooner rather than later. Athletic but bisquit-headed QB Aaron Brooks is like the girl with the curl. When Brooks is good... he's very good, and when he's bad... he's VERY bad. Back-up slinger Todd Bouman's also been around the league and does not possess a starter's skills. McPherson is, however, an intriguing talent. The Dolphins will oppose the Cleveland Browns this Sunday. Cleveland has dropped 4 of their last 5 games, and has been bludgeoned by opposing Running Backs. The Browns yield over 130 rushing yards a week, and both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are solid starts. Brown (18 touches to Ricky's 12 this past week) is slowly emerging as the lead back and will probably be the better start. But, seeing as how Cleveland apparently can't stop a toddler from waddling into the 'Zone, Williams constitutes a reasonable "Flex" start.