Saturday, December 31, 2005

NFL WEEK 17 PICK 'EM!

The final reggie' season week is upon us! Enjoy and happy, healthy New Year!

Denver at San Diego: With everything locked-up, coach Shanny' is giving thought to starting backup Bradlee van Pelt. 'Nuff said. The Bolts' STILL can't believe that they didn't receive an invite to the Post-Season party... but have only themselves... and a ghastly pass defense to blame. RB LaDainian Tomlinson's been slowed considerably by bad ribs... look for him to give the final game his all... and QB Drew Brees will try and leave his fans, and coach, with fond memories of his capabilities as it'll be either he... or former 1st rounder Philip Rivers. TE Antonio Gates and WR Keenan McCardell rank as excellent and decie' starts in that order.
The Broncs' will try and get #2 back Tatum Bell the 1,000 yard season he so depserately craves. Feature back Mike Anderson's on crutches... so he'll be out of action, but the only runner to eclipse the century mark against these Bolts was Chief RB Larry Johnson. Johnson ran for 131 yards that day... and in an odd twist of fate, Tatum "Chips" Bell needs... 131 yards to hit a grand on the rush-ometer. WR Ashley Lelie could be a solid start against a San' Secondary that has been battered repeatedly.

N.Y. Giants at Oakland: Oakie' has GOT to be one of the NFL's most disappointing teams. With playoff seeding left to play for, Barber and the boys play balls to the wall Football Sunday and look to shame their former QB, Kerry Collins.
However, once the team secures a double-diggy' lead... Coughlin might pull Tiki and Plax' in order to minimize the htreat of injury. I look for the G-Men to win.. possible big. HOWEVER, unless Coughlin finds a way to reinvigorate the porous, exposed Secondary... and starting Corey Webster in Curtis DeLoach's place may or may not be the move, "Big Blue" could be one and done. Then again... the G-Men are the kind of team that can get hot... and stay hot. I think that this game against Oakland is VERY significant. Start Plax' and Eli against a bad Black and Silver Secondary, Tiki should hang at least 65/1 on Oakland by the end of the first Half, and WR Amani Toomer is a rock-solid start.
As for the Raiduhs'... give WR Jerry Porter a start against an often times clueless NY D-backfield.

Arizona at Indianapolis: Believe it or not... this is a VERY important game for the AFC champs. Yeah, yeah- they've got Homefield locked AND a 1st round Bye. They've also dropped their last 2, haven't been playing up to their usual standards, and will need to regain the edge, and confidence, only a win can provide. While I'm not suggesting the starters are gonna' go 4... or even 3 Qs deep, I DO think Dungy will play this game as if it were a regular season model.. in an effort to get his team back on track. Likewise, the players will play hard for their coach as well as themsleves.
Against the Colts smallish Secondary, both Q' and Fitz' are fine pass catching starts... if ANY of you still have playoff games.

Baltimore at Cleveland: Looking like...dare I say it? I dare, I dare, a real live NFL QB over the past 2 weeks, Kyle Boller has not only shown signs of life and progress... he's forcing the Balty' brain-trust to make a decision; stick with Boller... or move on because 2 games does not a Quarterback make. More than likely, the Ravens will take a Signal Caller in the middle-rounds. Looking towards this week, however, the Browny' Secondary has really acquitted itself well of late... and WRs Clayton and Mason will have their work cut out for them. The key to the Raven passing game will, not surprisingly, be TE Todd Heap. The nimble, soft-handed TE has again assumed top 5 fantasy TE (Gates, Shockey, Crumpler, Gonzo remain ahead of Heap... though the Baltimore pass catcher is capable of supplanting every one of 'em save Gates) status with his recent play, and the passing game will, likely, feature him. Really, this game holds little interest.

Buffalo at N.Y. Jets: Herm Edwards and GM Terry Bradway need to go. Together, the tandem has made a litany of drafting and free agent acquisition errors... and the entire front office should be shown the front door. Expect Germ' Edwards to get 1 more year as the injuries suffered by both QBs are tantamount to a free pass. What the injries do NOT explain away are Edwards' poor clock management skills, his G-d awful GAME management skills, and the fire he REFUSES to light under his team... a franchise that has plodded along and been playing out the string since MID-FRIGGIN'-SEASON!
Look for WR Eric Moulds to have a standout game, likely his last in a Buff' Uni'. The Jets will again feed RB Cedrick Houston the ball in an effort to ascertain whether or not he's a future feature. Given Buff's ghastly run D, Houston could enjoy a solid day. QB Brooks Bollinger... or Vinne Testaverde (who, rumor has it, once posed as a model for Leonardo Da Vinci)... who's over Center? Doesn't matter.

Carolina at Atlanta: In a game that has meaning for the Panthers, look for QB Jake "Daylight Come and Me Wanna" Delhomme and WR Steve "Cash Money" Smith to hook up at least once as the Falc' Secondary will be without top cover corner DeAngelo Hall. In addition, the Atlanta run D has been absent all season, and the combo of Nick Goings and... and... could enjoy some success.

Cincinnati at Kansas City: With their Playoff berth and seeding locked-up tigher than Fort Knox, Cincy' has zero to play for, QB Carson Palmer's weenie is buggin' him, and RB Rudi Johnson can ill afford to suffer an injury... thus the infamous Jeremi Johnson will see a lot of back action. The Chiefs maintain a Post-C' pulse, I believe... though they won't get there without oodles of help. Nonetheless, they'll have NO chance if they lose. Look for QB Trent Green, TE Tony Gonzalez, RB Larry Johnson, and WR Samie Parker to all post solid fantasy diggies'. "LJ" is a stud this week... look for something like 140/2.

Detroit at Pittsburgh: Another team that has much at stake, the Steelers are looking to improve upon their positioning and sharpen their game. QB Ben Roethlisberger, TE Heath Miller, RB Fast Willie Parker, and WR Hines Ward are all solid plays against a decimated D-troit D.
On the other side of the field, WR Roy Williams has really impressed in recent weeks... he could victimize a Steeler Secondary that has shown cracks.

Miami at New England: Resident genius Bill Belichik was breaking game film down with his father, also a coach (though not a pro coach), as a 9 year old child. The coaching prodigy has an eerie and unparalleled ability to envision plays and their outcomes; how will the D respond, adjustments etc. The dude is SO gifted, he should be studied by a team of scientists with European accents. Although the game ultimately has little meaning for the Pats', Obi Wan Belichik wants his team to maintain their edge and hunger... the team is peaking at the right time and I would NOT expect the starters, with the exception, possibly, of RB Corey Dillon, to be pulled until the game is well within hand. With the playoffs just around the corner, scat-back Kevin Faulk and backup Patrick Pass will probably play far larger roles. Look for solid games from QB Tom Brady, WR Deion Branch, and TE Ben Watson. The run D could be an issue as LB Tedy Bruschi will miss the regular season finale with a calf injury suffered last week.
Significant stat time: The game-time temperature is projected to be around 33 degrees- Brady is 20-0 when the temp' is below 40 degrees.
Miami WR Chris Chambers has been playing phenomenal ball, and with Ronnie Brown nursing an injury and RB Ricky Williams running as well as he ever did, both skill po' players could enjoy productive games... that's about it offensively.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay: What would lead you to believe that the Aints' will put up any real resistance? Look for Caddy' to leave tire tracks on the N.O defenders, and QB Chris Simms and WR Joey Galloway have been making beautiful music together. Interestingly enuff', rookie TE Alex Smith is starting to get looks... he could be a sneaky-solid start.

Seattle at Green Bay: Aside from RB Shaun Alexander looking to set rushing and single-season TD records... this game means bupkiss to the 'Hawks. The only starters worth considering... or if your leagues' playoffs are over as mine are... the only players who may really contribute to the Seattle cause are WR Darrell Jackson and RB "Alexander the Great." D-Jax will probably see action so as to improve his timing and to prep' him for what should be a legit' SuperBowl run, and Shaun-A will get the G-Line totes and enuff' yardage to secure his records.
Alas, as I have been writing since my pre-season positional reviews... I believe we are amid QB Brett Favre's final days. While HE believes his physical skills remain intact... there is no question that his fastball has lost some zip... and many of his passes float are are underthrown.
That, however, is not the issue- Brett can still hop around the pocket and elude would-be tacklers, and he can stop trying to force passes into spaces no larger than a throw-pillow. What Brett CANNOT do is usher in a 3 year re-building project. The receivers are competent and top op' Javon Walker should return from his torn-up knee in time for training camp. The running game needs to be addressed... RB Ahman Green (another guy who I hated on in the pre-season analyses) is done as a feature back, hulking Najeh Davenport isl rehabbing nicely from his busted-up ankle and has an outside shot at being their 3-down man, and surprise Samkon Gado has a chance to be a change o' pacer, but will have to recover from torn liggies' first. Further, the O-line is aged, the D-line unable to pressure opposing Signal Callers, and the Secondary needs at least 1 top-notch coverman. There's no question that new D-Coordinator Bill Bates did an impressive job reconfiguring the D... the team allowed 60 fewer yards per game this season. Still, much work needs to be done... and a 15 year veteran QB will not be the answer. Favre is not interested in learning a new system, he's not interested in playing for another team, and he won't tolerate the firing of longtime friend and Head Coach Mike Sherman. In an odd way, Favre is holding the team hostage. However, Brett's recent news conference made it sound as if he had already made the decision to retire... and now it's simply a matter of whether he wants to UNretire. We shall see.

Houston at San Francisco: In the "Reggie Bush Bowl," Houston outguns a sappy San Fran' squad. Do you realize that rookie TE Alex Smith (Tampa Bay) has more TDs with 2 than rookie QB Alex Smithh as with 1? Sad, really sad. Of course... the Frsco' line is such in name only.

Tennessee at Jacksonville: Jax' has virtually nothing at stake in this game. The Titans, on the other hand, conceivably (though unlikely) could have QB Steve McNair at the helm for the final time. "Air" is forever banged up; he limps while laying down, he can suffer a ligament tear while eating dinner, and the dude bruises like an over-ripe tomato. All that being said, give the guy credit for playing while hurt. It wouldn't be a complete surprise if backup QB Billy Volek plays this weekend. At some point in the VERY near future, McNair will decide that he'd like to retain all of his limbs... as a 40 year old, and he'll finally opt to hang 'em up. I give him 1 more season. RB Chris Brown is dynamic when healthy... but that's a rarity. "Shockingly" listed as "Questionable" for Week 17, Brown is also another winner of "Frequent Training Table" Mile gift certificates. As for the receiving corps... they too have suffered their share of injuries. Check the IR... but really, WR Drew Bennett is prolly' the only worthwhile Titan fantasy start.
Jag' coach Jack Del Rio is faced with a QB quandry; start a now healthy Byron Leftwhich and give him some tune-up time for the post-C' ... or give QB David Garrard another start and maintain the forward mo'. Smart money says Garrard starts, but Lefty' sees some snaps to re-adjust to game speed.

Chicago at Minnesota: The Bears snared the NFC North... and they did it with a powerful, scary-good, formidable, relentless... please continue to fill-in your own adjectives, defense . A D, mind you, that rivals the legendary Dent, Singletary, McMichael unit of the mid-80's. While the Bears have nothing to play for...technically, the game will serve as further conditioning for QB Rex Grossman. While rook' Signal Caller Kyle Orton's modest skills and sound decision making kept the franchise afloat... now back from injury, "veteran" QB Rex Grossman's more substantial gifts could guide the team all the way to Mo-Town. Whereas Orton's short and accurate passing game supplemented the run game, brutish back Thomas Jones now sets up Grossman's strong-armed passing attack. That, my fantasy friends, is a VERY important distinction. WR Muhsin Muhammed's skills are no longer going to waste, and Jones is a far more dangerous runner now that the team can go vertical.
QB Rex Grossman is a sneaky-solid start in most formats, and I wouldn't hesitate to trot out Jones and "Moose" against a Viking team that WILL undergo a major off-season face-lift.
It's fascinating to me. Everyone praised the Vikes for their annual "Save Coach Tice's Job" drive... but did'ja stop to consider the opposition they were beating? I mean... with the offensive talent the team was able to field (even without Moss playing half-assed ball), should we give the Vikings props for winning? And what about the other side of the ball. An enormous sum of money was thrown at free agents such as Fred Smoot, Darren Sharper and Pat Williams to bolster the secondary and help shore up the run D... but to little avail when all was said and done. Should Minny' be lauded for beating on Detroit, Green Bay, St. Loo' and other sub .500 teams? No. Say g'bye to coach Mike Tice, a knuckle-head if ever there was one. New owner Zygi W. is gonna' clean some house... and it won't end with Tice being shown the door. Players such as RBs Onterrio "Faux-Weenie" Smith and Michael Bennett, WR Kelly Campbell and possibly Marcus Robinson, DB Brian Russell, LB Napolean Harris (a zero of a backer who was a key component in the Moss trade)... a number of the butt-heads implicated in the embarrassing "Love Boat" scandal, expect a rebuilding process to begin.
Wilf will usher in a new and prouder Viking era as compared to the "McCombs error." The former owner, Red McCombs, was known to pinch a penny SO hard, you could practically hear Abe Lincoln scream! Wilf is anxious to guide the Vikes back to where they should be... atop a once proud NFC North. Keep an eye on QB Daunte' Culpepper's recovery from a VERY serious, career-threatening knee injury. Should C-Pepp's recovery hit a hurdle, the team could either look to draft a potential franchise QB... or make a move to aquire a veteran starter.

Washington at Philadelphia: Ok, newsflash! The Eagles are bad. I have seen birds crash... but never actually burn. The Eagles, however, were a teaming inferno- "ablaze" that began with "TO-Gate."
With a win, those nutty, fun-lovin' 'Skins can score a Playoff berth. Look for Clinton Portis to run hard, look for WR Santana Moss to find the soft spots in a riddled secondary, and look for the Redskins to exit a very hostile Philly' venue as winners. QB Mark Brunell (check his status) should have enough time to pick apart the bad "Iggle" Secondary, and H-back Chris Cooley... a guy whose praises I've been singin' all season, should give the Eags' fits and find the 'Zone yet again.
As for worthy Eagle starts... snicker-snicker... ummm, go with LB Jeremiah Trotter.

St. Louis at Dallas: The Rams have been D-fensively D-ficient all season, and injuries... Mike Martz's achy-breaky heart... and poor-play aside, let's face it, the Rams cannot WAIT for the off-season. There's always next year, and with some defensive acquisitions and .... never mind.
So... the 'Pokes are looking for a second season invite and the only way they'll be able to secure one is with help. Lots and lots of help. However, it all starts with a win at Home, against the butt-head Rams, for both themselves and their coach who has been taloking about retirement, Again. If I had a share of Google Stock for every time Parcells retired, I would own a small Island in the South Pacific.
Look for strong play from RB Julius Jones again. He came outta' no where to gut the Carolina Panthers and their run D last week... look for a repeat performance. Lovin' the hard-hittin', snob-bubble makin' S Roy Williams. D-rooks Ware and Stroud have bright futures, the light may have come on for Ware last week. Assuming Jamie Martin is over C' for th Rams, WR Torry Holt and RB Steven Jackson are each decie' starts Check S-Jax's health. I am sure interim coach Joe Vitt would like to have his team exit a sad season with a W.

Friday, December 30, 2005

FANTASY HOOPS BY POSITION: FRONT & "CENTER"

The true Center is fast-becoming an extinct species in today's Highlight-fueled, ESPNeedy NBA.

Now, that's not to say that there are no skilled big men in the league... actually, far from it. But what I AM saying is that the legit', unadulterated, Center; an immense and immovable object possessing an arsenal of low post moves and the ability to pin incoming shots to the glass is a true rarity. Rather, now we have guys such as 'Ronto Raptor Chris Bosh... rising Sun Amare Stoudemire... and Indiana Pacer Jermaine O'Neal who man the middle- these athletes are hybrid "Power Forward / Centers."

Sure, a few throwbacks take the court each night- guys such as Milwaukee's Steak Tartar-raw rook' Andrew Bogut (8.8/7.2/2.1, and averaging fewer than 1 block per game) the Clippers' defensive-minded 2nd year Chris Kaman (just starting to heat up, Kaman's line is 9+/8+, with less than 1 dime' but almost 2 swats per game), and the NJ Nets' unheralded but integral Nenad Krstic (a nice piece to a playoff puzzle, "Special K" is hanging 12.6/5.7/1.1, with 1+ swats per game). But as a rule, nimble 7-footers such as Shaq', 'Zo, and the retired Patrick Ewing will be spoken of in awe-hushed voices in the years to come.

Let's take a look at Fantasy's top TRUE CENTERS!

Heat Shaquille O'Neal: "Shaq-Daddy," "The Big Aristotle," "Officer O'Neal" ... whatever Shaq's being called this season, one thing IS certain; O'Neal's Hall of Fame career is winding down... and fast. Coming off of an early season leg injury, Shaq has been limited to 12 of his team's 30 games. In his stead, the equally venerable Alonzo Mourning filled-in and played out-of-his MIND Hoops. Love him or hate him, you've gotta' put your hands together and applaud 'Zo's grit and moxie. Anti-rejection drugs for his Kidneys, exhaustion, illness, age, and nay-sayers aside, 'Zo and SG Dwyane Wade kept the Heat... hot. Back on the court and burning to reclaim his place amongst the game's pantheon of elite players, Shaq-Daddy has been logging 30+ minutes of floor-time per night and has played rock-solid B-Ball. Over the span of his last fistful o' games (5), O'Neal has drained 119 points, pulled down 55 'boards, and blocked 7 shots. On addition, the Heat Center has been playing well with others (namely young master wade) and is averaging almost a Double/Double; 19.4/9.2. Look for O'Neal to suffer at least one more injury that will cost him significant time, but the big guy remains both motivated and dominant.

Nuggets Marcus Camby: Do I really wanna' list the Camby-man as a top-5 Center.... ahh, not really. The former U Mass' star, as fragile as a China Vase, just underwent surgery to repair a busted-up pinky. Anyone recall former Forty-Niner Safety Ronnie Lott telling the sideline Docs' to cut his damaged digit OFF... so he could return to the game in order to help his team win? Yeah, well, Camby decided to hold onto all of his fingers and due to such selfishness will miss as many as 4 weeks. Prior to his pinky-problem, Camby was well on his way to a career year. For the season, the Nugg' lug has a line of 16.3/12.9/1.4, and is averaging 3+ swats per game. With Camby out and PF Kenyon Martin gimpy (anyone notice how K-Mart's game plummeted once he left the cozy confines of Jersey's Continental Airlines Arena?), it would appear as if PG Andre Miller and SF Carmelo Anthony will be playing 2-man Hoops.

Cavaliers Zydrunas "Big Z" Ilgauskas: The Cavs' have rapidly become an NBA force due, in large part, to SG LeBron James' remarkable gifts. However, the post-pubescent phenom is only part of Cleveland's roundball revival. King James' court boasts an offensively talented... if aging, Center in Ilgauskas. The 30 year-old middle-man sports some creaky knees at this stage of his career... but he's currently logging 15+/7+, and swats almost 2 would-be baskets per game. In addition, because "Big Z" is an "in the paint" fixture (he can also drain the 10-12'er), the Cav' C currently boasts the 2nd best shooting percentage of his 10 season career. "Z" is shooting 51.9% from the floor, and a for him unheard of 87.8% from the "Charity Stripe."

Rockets Yao Ming: Yao is now the "big oww!" Ming has a toe issue... and for an athlete who makes a living on his feet, that's a problem. Ming could be out for as long as a month, maybe even longer. Prior to being nailed by a toe, the Rocket had a line of 20 (19.9 actually)/9 in his pocket. Never known for his toughness or staunch D, Ming was averaging career-best point, steal, 'board, and free-throw accuracy numbers. Look for a strong mid-season return.

Jazz Mehmet Okur: With AK-47 (Andre' Kirilenko) healthy, at least for now, Okur shifts over to the Center slot. And, at just a hair under 7', Okur could be considered a true Center. Due to a dearth of blocks, Okur hasn't considered an "elite" Center... but if recent games are any indication, that may be changing. It would seem as if Okur's increased his intensity level over the span of his last 4 games "The Big O" has dropped 77 points, hauled in 47 Rebounds, distributed 18 Assists, and batted away 9 shots. In addition, Okur is shooting better than 45% (now) from the floor and is unafraid to "dial in" from long distance. With 31 3-pointers made and a more than respectable 39.7% accuracy from beyond the arc, Okur's value at the Center spot only increases. It's not unreasonable to believe that the Utah Jazz's big man will approach "elite" status within the next 2 seasons at this rate.

Pistons Ben Wallace: TO BE CONTINUED-

Thursday, December 29, 2005

THE AFC POST-SEASON PICTURE!

PART II: THE AFC’S POST-SEASON PARTY!

In actuality, the AFC's picture is just as murky as the NFC's; I.E clear as mud. Several spots remain up for grabs and several games hold critical implications this weekend. In other words, the American Football Conference is pretty tight!

AFC… WHO'S IN?

1. Indianapolis Colts: Up until Week 14, things were lookin’ rather rosy for the Colts. The D formidable, the O nearly peerless, and the coaching staff always well prepared; the entire enchilada was assembled by head chef Tony Dungy. Dungy’s resume is an impressive one with recent stints in Minnesota, and later as captain of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ ship. Dungy was unceremoniously shown the door first by the Vikings and then made to walk the plank by the Bucs’. Those firings allowed Tony D’ to fall into a pot of Indy’ gold! With a Canton-bound QB in Peyton Manning, an equally prolific Wide Receiver in Marvin Harrison, and a stud, bull of a back in Edgerrin James, Dungy had his offensive “triplets.”
Using the trips’ as a nucleus, Dungy assembled a phenomenal cast of pass catchers, assembled a swift O-line, and forged a strong defensive unit via the draft and scouting other teams’ ranks. However, Indy’s dropped 2 straight, the D has shown hairline fractures, and the tragedy (Jamie Dungy's apparent suicide) will either pull the team closer together… or sap its collective energy. The final regular season game will speak volumes, believe it or not. Now, boasting a 13-2 record, the Colts are the AFC Champs’ and enjoy both a 1st round Bye and “Home Field” advantage. For an O built on speed and for a team that thrives at Home, wearing the AFC crown could mean the difference between representing in the SuperBowl and a ‘1 and done” playoff appearance. The Colts play the Cards’ this weekend… look for cameo appearances from both Manning and Edge’, and a whole lotta’ QB Jim Sorgi, WR Troy Walters, and RB Dominic Rhodes.

2. Denver Broncos: The AFC West champs’ also clinched a first-round berth… and the time off will do wonders for the teams’ collective health. Playing a meaningless game against a San Diego squad that STILL can’t believe they missed the playoffs, look for RB Tatum Bell to see the bulk of the back action. RB Mike Anderson (1014/13) suffered a sprained ankle and is still on crutches, and RB Tatum Bell is looking to crash through the 1,000 yard mark. With 869 rushing yards already in the bank, Bell is looking to ring a grand’ on the ol’ “rush-ometer.” The Bolts’ boast a top-ranked ground defense, and the only back to hang a C-note on the unit was Chief RB Larry Johnson. Natch’, “LJ” rushed for…yup’, 131 yards. Should Tatum “Chips” Bell eclipse a hunnert’, the Broncs’ will boast a pair of 1,000 yard backs- simply ridiculous.

3. Cincinnati Bengals: How was the AFC West won? QB Carson Palmer matured before our very eyes, improving with every game, RB Rudi Johnson ran his stripes off, WR Chad Johnson’s body cashed the numerous checks his gold-toothed mouth wrote, and complementary receiver T.J Houshmanzadeh punished the Secondaries that elected to overlook him. This week, the Bengs’ dance with a desperate band of KC Chiefs.
A win would improve Cin City’s playoff seeding… but a loss, combined with LOTS of help, would guide the Chiefs to the Post-Season promised land. QB Carson Palmer’s groin is buggin’ him, and RB Rudi Johnson lacks a backup as Chris Perry remains sidelined with an ankle injury (slight chance he returns). Although coach Marvin Lewis claims otherwise, I would look for the Beng’ starters to play a minimal amount of time; just enough to maintain their edge. Although the game DOES hold meaning for Palmer and pals… it’s far more important to the Chiefs who MUST win if they have ANY shot at Post-Season play.

4. New England Patriots: Peaking at the right time, the 10-5 Pats’ know their Post-C bidniss’. Coached by the biggest brain in the biz’, Bill Belichik, look for the Patriot starters to get just enough playing time to remain razor-sharp.
Early in the season, when the defense was riddled by injury and the running game stalled due to Corey Dillon’s ankle injury, the team’s hopes of a title defense was as thin as MLB pariah Rafael Palmeiro’s “someone slipped something into my Vitamin B12 injection… Miguel Tejada,” excuse. Now, though, Brady and the bunch have ripped off 5 straight Ws and they’ve 7 of their last 8 contests. Tom Brady put the entire team on his back and carried them when they faltered. Now, with DE Richard Seymour and LB Tedy Bruschi healthy (better check Bruschi’s status… he suffered a potentially serious calf injury last game), the D has improved substantially, particularly against the run.
Look for the Patriots, who play the ‘Phins Sunday, to try and maintain their momentum… without putting their starters at risk.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: The 11-5 cats’ are locked and loaded for the playoffs… yet they are faced with an interesting conundrum; does coach Jack Del Rio play a now-healthy Byron Leftwich in a meaningless game against Pittsburgh and in so doing afford him with some tune-up time… or does he allow backup slinger David Garrard to maintain the teams’ forward progress? The smart money says Lefty’ sees some action.

THE AFC’S WEEK 17 RAMIFICATIONS:

As Game Show host Alex Trebec always says before “Double Jeopardy,” folks…“here’s where the scores can really change!”

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: At 10-5, Pitt’ is in control of their own destiny. Currently the #2 Wild Card, “Big Ben” and the boys can snag a seat on the Post-Season Merry-Go-Round by beating the Detroit Lions this weekend (a tie would serve the same purpose).

A. With a Kansas City loss or tie.
B. With a San Diego win.

**MOST REMOTE

2. Kansas City Chiefs: The 9-6 Chiefs must be considered one of Football’s biggest disappointments this season. Talk about needing “Lady Luck" to look your way, the only way Dicky “Tears” Vermeil’s troops make it to the second season is with a win, coupled with a Steeler loss or tie AND a San D’ loss or tie. Seeing as how the Steelers oppose a hapless, toothless, Lion franchise… the Chiefs will, most likely, be left to ponder what could have been.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

THE NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE

PART I; THE NFC


Let me tell you a little something; if the "Playoff Picture" were really a "picture," it'd look something like a Picasso or Jackson Pollack! Oh sure, anyone can tell you that the 13-2 Seahawks ran away with the NFC crown as the next closest team, believe it or not, would be the suddenly dangerous 11-4 Bears. As for the AFC? Any casual fan can impart this gem of wisdom; "the Colts, having had a dream season and nearly going undefeated, are the class of the division." But given the tragedy that has recently befallen Indianapolis's Football family (the apparent suicide of coach Dungy’s teenage son, James) coupled with a pair of dropped games, the Denver Broncos are now neck and neck with the Colts.

Let's take a closer look at the Playoff Picture as it stands prior to the weekend, shall we?

NFC WHO'S IN?

1. Seattle Seahawks: A 13-2 record overall, a 6-0 Divvy' record, and a 10-1 Conference record ensures a Bye week AND Homefield advantage throughout. This just in.... the Seahawks are for real! 'Beck and the boys wrap the reg' at Green Bay- should be a relative cake-walk.

2. Chicago Bears: If you believe in young Signal Caller Rex Grossman, the Bears are now balanced on both sides of the ball and are more lethal than ever. Red in tooth and claw, the grizzled Bears rode their Defense to victory and locked the Division with an 11-4 record. In addition, Chi-Town mowed down the comp' as they rolled undefeated through the Divvy (5-0), and stumbled but once within the Conference (10-1). With a final tilt remaining at Minny'... look for QB Sexy Rexy Grossman, WR "Moose" Muhammed, RB Thomas "The Animal" Jones, and the new "Monsters of the Midway" to maul the Vikings in a Post-C' tune-up.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccs' harrrummmph! Their 10-5 record mirrors that of New York, but with a 4-1 Divisional record and an 8-3 Conference record, Tampa bests New York by one game in each and thereby earns the 3-seed. T-Bay beats 10-5 Carolina for the NFC South by virtue of their Divvy' record ('Lina is 3-2 within the Division whereas the Buccs are 4-1), and with their final opponent being a ghastly-bad, 3-12 New Orleans 'Aints squad... the Buccs' are sitting pretty!

4. New York Giants: Due to an 8-4 Conference record, "Big Blue" secures a Playoff berth over the Panthers and their 7-4 Conference record. Hey… that's the way the funny shaped ball bounces! Anyway, this week the G-Men lace 'em up against a hapless 4-11 Oakland squad and their QB, Kerry Collins. You remember him... he used to lace 'em up for these same Giants. As the "better" NY team has already booked reservations for the post-season... the only intrigue this game holds is whether or not the Jints' look to tattoo Collins. If Head Coach Tom Coughlin's smart (and frankly, we've seen nothing to indicate that he really is), he'll look to bolster the Secondary any way he can, and find a way to better protect franchise Field General Eli Manning.

5. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers currently have the Wild Card clutched tightly between their paws. They face-off against the disappointing Not-Lanta Falcons this week, and the Cats’ will clinch their Post-Season berth with a win or (snicker, snicker) tie. Eager to play spoiler, look for the Falcs’ to come out swingin’.
Yet, alas, here’s where it gets REALLY tricky.
The Panthers can also make Post-C’ reservations;
A. With a Dallas loss or tie.
B. With a Washington loss or tie.
C. Can CLINCH THE NFC SOUTH with a win coupled with a Buc’ loss or tie…. OR, a tie and a Buc’ loss. … ‘Kay, got it?

THE NFC'S WEEK 17 RAMIFICATIONS!

NFC EAST:
1. **NY Giants: While the G-Men have already clinched a spot, Tom Coughlin's crew can win the Division by beating Oakland this week... or having the game end in a tie. Hey, when was the last time YOU can remember a game ending in a tie? “Big Blue” can also take the NFC b'East banner if the Redskins lose or tie.

2. Washington Redskins: Those nutty 9-6 Washingtonians boast better Divisional AND Conference records, therefore they hold “Head to Head” tie-breakers over Dallas and they can clinch a spot with a win over the really bad Philadelphia Eagles. Or...
1. A Dallas Cowboy loss (talk about a real Cowboy and Indian rivalry!).
2. The ridiculously improbable, Earth will sooner come to a complete stand-still; both Washington AND Dallas’s games end in a tie. What’s the likelihood of such a remarkable confluence? Put it this way, I will sooner be struck unconscious by a falling sack of hundred dollar bills.

3. Dallas Cowboys: Just as a little aside, retirement rumors are already swirling around “happy go-lucky” coach Bill Parcells’ ample waist. The smack is, “The Big Tuna” has become disenchanted, dismayed, and disgusted… and "dis' is no surprise” given his teams’ talent and level of play.
But as for our concerns, much like their Divvy’ rival Redskins the ‘Pokes also sport a 9-6 record. Alas, that’s where the similarity ends. ‘Boys will be ‘Boys, and with a 3-3 Divisional record this bunch goofed off against their fellow NFC Easterners. Thus… ergo… and therefore, the only way the ‘Pokes play Post-Season Football is with help.
Dallas knocks helmets with the aimless Rams this weekend, and they can clinch a seat at the Post-C’ table with;
A. A win and a Washington loss or tie.
B. A win and a Carolina loss.
C. This one’s fun! I practically needed an Abacus to calculate it:
A win, a T-Bay loss, a Giant loss, and a “Strength of Victory” tie-breaker by the “G-Men” and “Big D” over Tampa Bay. Talk about needing some help!

And that, my fantasy friends, is the NFC Playoff Picture as it stands today, Wednesday!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

ON GUARD! and The KNICKS KNACK-

Boston Celtic PG Delonte West is worth a look in deep leagues. The Celts' 24th overall pick in this past draft is so up and down... the guy can make you sea-sick. Over his past couple, D-West nailed 27 points, 12 'boards, 12 Assists, 3 swipes', 2 Blocks... and was called for 5 fouls and turned the ball over but twice. Be patient with West and start him judiciously. Trot him out against lesser competition. Any team that starts Ricky Davis and Paul Pierce... well, they remain 1 ball short. Plus, Big Al Jefferson has his big games as well. The team will gel over time.

Dallas Mav' SG Devin Harris is also worth taking a flyer upon. A 2nd year player, Harris drained 20 for the 3rd time this season... a feat he NEVER accomplished as a sushi-raw-rook' last year.
Over his last 6 games, Harris has posted 92 points, 22 Rebounds, 19 Assists, 4 steals and a pair of No-No's.
Any team that can throw sleeper-stud SF Josh Howard (though he's really nicked-up, Howard is averaging 15/7+/2 over a 20 game span), PG Jason Terry (solid distributor... always good for some 3's), G/F Marquis Daniels (when healthy, dude can be a force), and PF Dirk Nowitzki (playing out of his friggin' MIND Hoops, the Giant-German is throwing down 26+/9+/2+ per game, with with- 3 30+ point games in his past 6 games) out onto the hardwood is a serious contender.
Dallas rarely hits the floor as a complete and healthy team; F Jerry Stackhouse has yet to play a minute this season, Nowitzki's style and sore feet make him tuff' to rely upon (Nowitzi missed a frustrating number of games last season), and Marquis Daniels is currently out of action with a neck injury. However, when they DO field all of their working parts, the Mavs are a Championship caliber franchise. The team practices keen ball movement- the O goes thru "Dirk the Dominator" ... then Josh Howard... THEN everyone else.
Given the appropriate match-up, "D-Dog Harris" can been a VERY solid fantasy play.

The cellar-dweller Knicks, currently mired in a 2-8 swoon, have a knack for losing. But given their talent, payroll proven coach, and bottomless bankroll... Why? In short- they play 1 dimensional Basketball. They simply aren't a "Larry Brown" type of team.
Can the Knicks play Defense? I don't think so. You tell me, who the hell CAN play D on NY?
Center Eddy Curry, recently of the Bulls? Uh-uh, Curry is strictly an offensive player. Yes, at 6-11 the guy is a true "big-man" and can play with either his back to.. or facing the basket. However, Curry is somewhat fragile (he's missed his last 4 with an ankle sprain), he pulls down fewer than 6 'boards per game... and at almost 7-freaking-feet TALL, that is sad, and the guy's notched 18 blocks in 26 games. Worse yet, he'll disappear for GAMES at a stretch... not Quarters, GAMES. As for the rest of the Knicks, what... do you really expect PG Stephon "Me-Bury" to hustle back on D? How's about Jamal Crawford... the Bulls were positively thrilled to send him packing... Quentin Richardson you say? The "late of the Phoenix Suns Q?" Oddly enough, the team's exciting off-season Small Forward acquisition has turned into a modest defender. As the Sun's part-time 2-Guard Q' was an offensive powerhouse, capable of piling up the points with a sugar-sweet shot. Now, however, that Quentin Richardson has vanished... leaving in his place a Quentin Richardson that is averaging 7.4 PPG (down from 15 PPG as a Sun), 4.1 Rebounds per game (down from 6+ as a Sun), and a single 3-pointer per game (he averaged 3 per game as a Sun). In addition, Q's Steals, Blocks, and Shooting Accuracies have all taken the "Nestea Plunge."

If coach "LB" is to succeed in New York... then one of two things MUST happen;
1. The current Knicks will mature as players and adapt their individual games. They will learn to play as a team and they will learn to play D.

Or, more likely...

2. Coach Brown will oversee a "roster-purge." Rooks' G Nate Robinson and PF Channing Frye (the only Knick playing acceptable defense) will form the young corps, and perhaps MOST importantly) the savvy and cunning coach will convince PG Stephon Marbury to move to a Shooting Guard role.

either way.... these Knicks are a LONG way from being competitive in the eastern Conference.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

MORE HOOPS HELP!

Yao Ming's down, Dwight Howard crashed to the hardwood 2 minutes into last night's game after suffering a potentially serious ankle sprain, and you're in need of a Power Forward.

Give Houston Rocket Juwan Howard a look. No, stop laughing, I'm serious. The ridiculously over-paid Howard has really stepped up his game with Yao down and out with a leg injury. Over the past 5 games, Howard's recorded 57 points (that's including a 2 point game that saw him pull down double diggy' boards), 41 Rebounds, 9 helpers', 3 Steals and ZERO blocks. Dude just doesn't swat shots... he's got 2 blocks on the season. Anyway, J-Dog's seeing quality minutes without Yao around... and on a team that has apparently packed the season in ALREADY... as has its coach, Jeff Van Gundy (guy looks and sounds like a beaten man at his news conferences), Howard could really be a legit' fantasy fill-in.

2 sneaky Point Guard pick-ups for you; Raptor Jose Calderon and Celtic Delonte West. West may not be a secret in your league... but he's available in mine. Calderon has been losing minuted to the notably UNspectacular Joey Graham.... but after yet another game of uninspired from Graham... Calderon, who possesses a nice court presence and generally hangs solid Assist numbers, could get starter minnies' again. West has quietly assembled a solid first 1/3. On his first game back from a concussion, West knocked-out his opponent with 15 points, 7 boards', 5 dimes', 3 steals, and 2 swats.

I pushed him before... and someone WILL snag him before you do. Clipper PG Shaun Livingston AND his circa '73 Fro' are rounding back into shape. Livvy' hung another 10 Assists last night... and the points will come. Grab him if you need depth or help in the dime' department!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

FANTASY HOOPSTER HELPER!

Better than Hamburger Helper, anyway!

Okay, I've pimped the following 'Wire grabs; Raptor F Charlie Villanueva (if not for PG Chris Paul, Chuck would be a near lock for Rookie of the Year), Sun F/G Boris Diaw (dude is having a great season!), 76'er C Sammy Dalembert (he was no secret, trading for... or grabbing him at the right time was the key), Pacer SG Sarunas Jasikevicius (been up and down, but he's a shooter), and so-so Hawk G Salim Stoudamire (on a terrible team, he's got to grow into his position).

I mentioned him before... I push him again- Houston SG Luther Head. With Rafer Alston still out with an injury, the young Rocket is igniting. Over the past 2 games, Luther Head's gotten bigger : )~
36 points, 9 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 4 Steals, and a whopping 8 3's. Luther's game is relatively clean for a youngster- he's shooting 40+% from downtown, he's drawn a scant 2 whistles, and he turned the ball over 2 and 3 times respectively.

Now that he's receiving starting minnies', 'Blazer SG Juan Dixon is lighting opposing defenders up. Using his last 3 games as a sample (he's averaged 41 minutes over the past 3, before this week he averaged 16 minutes per), Dixon notched 51 points, 9 'boards, 14 Assists, and 6 swipes'. The downside? Dixon MUST improve upon his accuracy- shooting .420 (AKA 42%), dude is not exactly Wyatt Earp. Further, Dixon gathers fouls like others do Easter Eggs. Over this trio of games we've been discussing, Juanny' D has drawn 11 whistles.

With Kareem Rush sidelined, Charlotte Bobcat PG Raymond Felton... a guy I mentioned earlier in the season, is again seeing quality floor time. The Cat's 5th overall pick this season is again flashing his intriguing versatility, and over his past 2 games (wherein he received 35+ minutes) Ray-Ray's drained 35 points, pulled down 11 'boards, dished 11 dimes', recorded 4 Steals (in 1 game), and swatted a pair. While Felton's shooting % is currently a ghastly 33%, getting into the flow of the game will help him find a rhythm and you can expect to see his accuracy improve dramatically.

Maaaannn, aside from stunningly talented PF Chris Bosh, the Raptors are an empty vessel; they're a thin group of Hoopsters lacking direction and a legit' fan base. However, alongside improving young master Bosh are rookies PF Charlie Villanueva and PG Jose Calderon. Doing yeoman's work and toiling in near anonymity- SF Morris Peterson. When Mo' Pete' was playing alongside hi-flyin' Vince Carter... the sky seemed the limit. Now, though, it's all the threesome can do to keep the Raptor's heads above water... and pray for a trade. Those in deep leagues should take a look at Pete' should he remain available. Over his last 5 contests, Mo Pete' has notched 68 points, 27 Rebounds, 15 Assists, 10 Steals, and 9 treys'. Peterson won't hurt you with fouls (averaging less than 2 per game) or foolish turnovers (also less than a pair per), and his shooting percentages are solid enuff'.

As mentioned previously, keep an eye on Clipper PG Shaun Livingston. The 6-7 PG belongs on a roster if you're in a deep league. Just rounding into shape following an unusual back injury... Livvy' projects to be a quailty 1-Guard. The 2nd year Clip' has tremendous court vision, rare size, and the ability to slash to the hoop and throw it down.... or kick-it out to the open man. So long as he remains healthy... and that's no easy feat for him, look for him to become a rock-solid fantasy player in the not too distant future!

Nuff' said for now!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

YANKEE BASEBALL!

First, allow me to preface. The New York Yankees have several needs to fill, but the acquisition of popular Red Sock (now former) Johnny Damon answers several of them. The "Caveman" affords the Bronx Bombers with a legit' lead-off hitter, and most significantly... Damon solves NY's perennial "Centerfield Problem." In addition, the soon to be clean-shaven and neatly-shorn ball player brings speed to the basepaths, swagger to the dugout, a solid Batting average and an enviable OBP to his new team. Damon may not be a big base stealer ala' Carl Crawford or Juan Pierre, but the dude can get from First to Third in a hurry!

Something the casual fan may not realize, however, is the damage this does to Boston's lineup. A formerly explosive 1-8 is now lacking in speed and pop. Further, the Yankees now boast their strongest lineup since the teams of '98 and '99, and woe to the #3-5 starters this Murderer's Row will punish. The KC, Tampa, Detroit, and other such weak-kneed squads are mere cannon-fodder for this group of mashers.

The Bombers now need to groom a successor to C Mariano Rivera, and to ascertain whether or not giant Lefty starter Randy Johnson's numbers were an awful aberration. Still, the Yankees are again the AL East team to beat!

WEEK 15 NFL WRAP-UP!

WEEK 15 WRAP-UP

FEATURE REVIEW!

Tampa Bay at New England: "The Pats' are getting healthy at the right time, and their formerly feeble run D has performed like a porn star. ... QB Tom Brady will miss TE Ben Watson if Watson... but an underappreciated Pat' pass catching corps, coupled with a willin' Corey Dillon, should be enuff'. Further, Bucca'Back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams has concerns about 2-wheel drive limitations. Caddy' can play in the sun, and Caddy' can play in the rain... can Caddy' play in the cold and snow? Even HE has doubts and has expressed as much. Although snow is not in the forecast, the temp is expected to hover around the freezing mark. Here's a meaningful stat' if ever there was one; the Buccs' are just 2-21 when the mercury plummets below 40 degrees. Look for a typical Tom Terrific day (225/2-3), and Dillon (90+/2) will relish the chillin' temps. Assuming he's able to play 4, Corey will wear Tampa down with each successive run, and towards the mid-3rd to 4th Q'... expect a lot of half-hearted arm tackles from the Buccaneer defenders."

Until someone knocks them down, the Patriots are the NFL's reigning champs. And accordingly, until someone bloodies their collective post-season nose, New England will remain the team to beat. Period. Not the 13-1 Colts, not the 12-2 Seahawks, not the 11-3 Bengals. No- the Patriots are Football’s championship yard-stick. Best the Pats' and you've beaten the best. Head coach Bill Belichik really is the NFL’s answer to Albert Einstein or Nils Bohr. Dude has broken the game down to it's most basic structure; he understands every component of the game and grasps its most subtle nuance. The Patriots didn’t just beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, a team possessing one of Football’s stingiest Ds and brightest young coaching minds, the Patriots shut-out and shamed their opponents 28-0!
At the start of the season, opposing runners were able to gobble up yards like PacMan does “dots and dashes.” But no more! LB Tedy Bruschi’s recovery from a stroke (however mild, it matters not) is a story in and of itself, yet in team terms, Bruschi’s run-stuffing presence makes a world of difference. The playmaking ‘backer notched 9 Tackles, 2 Sacks, forced a fumble, defended a pass, and was instrumental in holding the Bucca’Back nick-named Cadillac to a spare 27 total yards on 17 touches. The peaking Pat’ D-unit simply blew holes through the Bucc’ O. After suffering the indignity of 7 Sacks (and a lost fumble) young Tampa Bay QB Chris Simms (21/34 for 155/0/0) found himself looking down at the turf with great regularity. The relentless New England pass rush harried Simms all day, and the kid was unable to look downfield for his receivers. Promising rook’ runner Carnell Williams was listed as a “Second-tier Starter” for a reason. Prior to the game, Williams was filled with trepidation about playing in the cold… and expressed as much. Now there’s an ill-advised idea for a professional athlete. Let me tell you, sure as the sun rises and sets, the Patriots smelled Williams’ fear like a shark does blood in the water. And after hanging a measly 23 yards on 14 carries (1.6 YPC), Williams instantly became one of this week’s most disappointing fantasy starts. In stark contrast to Tampa Bay’s offensive futility stood the Patriots’ undisputed leader, QB Tom Brady. Brady was fabulous and he rose to the challenge; undoubtedly, this IS his time of year! A merry ol’ soul is Tom, and Saturday saw Brady distribute passes like Kris Kringle does toys. “Tom Terrific” hit 9 different pass catchers… including a TD toss to O-lineman turned (temporary) TE, Tom Ashworth. The prolific Signal Caller completed almost 65% of his passes for 258 yards, and tossed a TD-Trifecta; WR David Givens (6/137/1 Saturday) and RB Corey Dillon (63 total yards, 2 TDs) hauled in Brady’s other 2 scoring strikes.
I can’t recall who said “Dynasty-shmynasty”… okay, it mighta’ been me. The Pats’ are playing crisp Football and they’re executing on Offense, Defense and Special Teams. In sum, the Pats’ are peaking like a bowl of whipped egg-whites. This week, in front of a national Monday Night Football audience (there’s a riveting game!), Brady and bunch look to do battle with the 3-11 New York Jets. Do NOT expect to see Brady, Dillon, Deion Branch, Tedy and the other starters sit. Yes, New England has clinched a Post-C berth, but coach Belichik claims that this contest will be approached with same energy as any regular season game. Ever the pragmatist, the game’s greatest manager wants his guys to be sharp… and there remains the potential of the Pats’ moving up in the seedings. Against a surprisingly frisky Jet team (after Sunday’s inspired play, Jet RB Cedric Houston should be on a back-needy roster), Brady and Dillon rank as top-tier starters. This past Sunday the Jets finally gave a 100% effort in a game. Bravo! That does not, however, mean they’ll be able to slow either Tom Terrific or a determined Dillon down. In addition, WR David Givens is a fine start as well. Keep an eye in the IR. If Ben Watson should return from his head injury… he’ll constitute an excellent fantasy TE start. As for Tampa? This is a cornered team. The blanking-spanking administered to them by the Pats’ may have snuffed-out their flickering post-season hopes. If TB wins their remaining games against Atlanta and New Orleans then they’ll hold the tie-breaker advantage with a “Divvy’ best” record. Saturday, the Buccs’ host an even more desperate Atlanta Falcon team. Hot-lanta has an 8-6 record… but they’re 4-5 within the conference and 1-3 in the division. To even remotely consider playing after next week, the Falcs’ will need to thrash their final foes, Tampa and Carolina (and even then they’ll need help). This week, although he’s really floundered, start Cadillac Williams against Atlanta’s poor, 22nd ranked (allowing 118+) run D. That is, however, the extent of Tampa’s skill po’ players. WR Joey Galloway might constitute a marginal “Flex” play against a Secondary that has snared 14 INTs and holds opposing Qubes’ below 195 passing yards per game… but you’d be placing a whole lotta’ faith in young Bucc’ Chris Simms, who has a grand total of 1 TD in his last 5 games, and 1 game of 160 or more passing yards over that same span.

San Diego at Indianapolis: "Call me crazy... but Indy's teeny, tiny Secondary will have a hard time containing TE Antonio Gates, and RB LaDainian Tomlinson will be motivated to whip some Colt butt. Brees had a great game against Indy last year, and is a solid fantasy start. Likewise, the 27th (or so) ranked San' Secondary will be hard-pressed to contain a scary deep pool of Colt receivers. On the other hand, a #1 ranked run D will give prolific Colt back Edgerrin James a tough time. ...Edge’ has been THE most reliable runner in the NFL. However, the Bolt’ D is rather lopsided; ranked 1st against the run (yielding a scant 78-ish YPG) and 27th against the pass (surrendering almost 230 passing YPG...with a total of 17 passing TDs thrown against ‘em), Peyton and his pass catchers will probably play the larger role in this one. Further, the San D” will be hitting like sledge-hammers as they must "win the string" (and even if they do that they’ll need help) if they’re to keep their playoff hopes alive. Predicated upon how big a lead… IF there’s a lead the Colts jump out to… Dungy could yank Edge’ by Half-Time and replace him with reliable and sturdy Dominic Rhodes." But, in a shoot-out, the Chargers out-point the Colts... and crush the Colts' dreams of undefeated immortality."

Alright, the bad news? Indianapolis’s hopes of an undefeated season went the way of the Passenger Pigeon.
The good news? that may not be such a bad thing as the pressure is now off. Is the goal of an NFL season to go undefeated? Or, is the goal of each NFL season to hoist the Lombardi Trophy after 16 regular season contests and a fistful of playoff games? There are two schools of thought regarding this matter, and each has merit.
A. After several years, will YOU recall who won the ’05 SuperBowl? Or … let’s look at it this way. Who won the ’97 SuperBowl? (answer lower in this review)-
B. The other school of thought is as follows; the Colts, much like the ’72 Dolphins, would have become immortal. Peyton and pals would have accomplished something that is, quite arguably, the most impressive achievement in sports- an undefeated season!
Since the Bolts’ shocked the Colts Sunday by a score of 26-17… it’s all moot. However, the pressure that was inexorably building with each successive win is now alleviated, and Indy’ can focus upon the ultimate goal; representin’ in Mo-Town for big game XL! Not coincidentally, the ’98 Denver Broncos were the last team to go a lucky 13-0. Guess where they ended up? Riiiggghhht! In San Diego with Favre and the Pack’, playing in SuperBowl XXXII, which they won by a score of 31-24. Ironically, the answer to the above trivia question!
After falling behind by 16 points, the Colts mounted a come-back midway through the 3rd Q’. Indy scored 17 quick points and took a 1 point lead… but the Chargers were not to be broken! K Nate Kaeding was a stud (2/2 XPs, 4/4 FGs)… and I ain’t “Keeding!” The lead-footed Kicker launched a loooonnngg 49 yard FG with 6 minutes and change remaining in the 3rd, and San Diego never looked back. The Colt offense played this game in what appeared to be a half-hearted fashion and it might’ve been a blow-out if not for solid play from the InD’. Manning was Sacked a season-worst 4 times, and although he rolled-up 336 passing yards and a touch’, many of his yards were of the “gimme’, garbage-time” ilk. Peyton also threw a pair of picks and posted a Passer Rating of 70.2. RB Edgerrin James, as projected, struggled mightily against the Chargers’ league-best (surrendering a mere 74 YPG best) run D and was a disappointing fantasy feature back. Edge’ “rumbled” for 25 yards on 13 carries, added 20 receiving yards on 2 grabs, and found the End-Zone. Due to the deficit the Colts were operating from… and given the brazen Bolt’ run D, as projected in the “Pick ‘em” piece, all the offensive weight fell upon Peyton’s pads. Therefore, Manning became a “Wanted Man.” And if Manning was the “Outlaw,” rookie LB Shawn Merriman played the role of “Johnny Law.” Manning will be seeing Merriman in his sleep for the next few weeks; the rookie fell upon the Colt QB like rain, banking 2 Sacks and 4 Solo Tackles. In addition, DE Igor Olshansky and fellow rook’ NT/DE Luis Castillo each pounded Peyton into the turf once, and CB Quentin Jammer put on a Cornerback clinic! Jammer recorded 4 stops and assisted on 3 others, pulled down 1 pick, and swatted away a season-best 5 passes. Even still, P-Mann’ found Marvelous 8 times for 135 yards, Reggie Wayne 10 times for 91 yards, and TE Dallas Clark 3 times for 45 yards and a score.
On the other side of the ball… interestingly enough, neither TE Antonio Gates (6/29) nor RB LaDainian Tomlinson played significant roles in the Chargers’ big W. With LT (24/76) rib sore and bone-weary, backup Michael Turner turned 8 totes into 113 yards and a TD. That TD, mind you, was an 83 yard scamper that salted the win away. As for Bolt’ QB “Cool” Brees… Drew blew both hot and cold this past weekend. The Charger Field General found WRs Keenan McCardell 3 times for 88 and a touch’, diminutive Eric Parker 3 times for 63 yards, and undrafted rookie receiver Vincent Jackson 2 times for 41 yards.
The big Bolt’ win saw an immediate ripple effect. The victory kept 9-5 San Diego’s Wild Card hopes alive while preventing the Denver Broncos from clinching the AFC West. Further, Colt coach Tony Dungy can now rest his starters should he elect to do so as the Colts have Home Field advantage locked-up nice and tight. This weekend, San D’ plays a VERY crucial (for them, both remaining games are crucial) game against a miserable tribe of KC Chiefs. While the Chargers remain on the outside lookin’ in… at least they still maintain a heartbeat. Kansas City’s Post-Season quest effectively ended a couple of weeks ago with a painful, 4 point loss to Dallas. Look for the Chargers to play HARD, and RB Michael Turner could be a sneaky-solid play. Tomlinson’s ribs are really buggin’ him, and he’s been dogged by “off” play. However, RBs Turner and Tomlinson face a Chief run D that was sliced, diced, julienned, gashed, slashed, and mashed by Giant runner Tiki Barber last week. QB Drew Brees is an excellent start against the faltering KC pass D, and TE Antonio Gates is a fine start as well. As for the suddenly self-questioning Colts, Indy locks-up with a fat and happy flock o’ Seahawks on Christmas Eve! Ho-Ho-Whoa! Christmas Eve? Daaaammmmnnnn, there’s an awesome stocking-stuffer! Anyway, the Colts are the AFC’s team par excellence, the ‘Hawks are the best the NFC has to offer, and though both squads may be inclined to rest their starters…. don’t be shocked to see ‘Beck, Peyton, Edge’, D-Jax, Engram, Clark, Reggie and Shaun Alexander go 3 Quarters deep, however. Alexander is a particularly solid play as he’s got a chubby for Priest Holmes’ single-season rushing TD record. With 24 scores already jotted down in his “rushing deposit slip,” “Alexander the Great” needs 3 more 6’s to tie the ill-record… and 4 to own it.
*NOTE: Marvelous has an injured hand- he’s expected to be benched for this tilt. Therefore, TE Dallas Clark should see even more action than he has been. Likewise, #2 TE Bryan Fletcher (missed Week 15 with a sprained knee) and #3 WR Brandon Stokely are both solid starts… Stokely should be an excellent start with Harrison likely out due to injury.

BEST OF THE REST

Kansas City at N.Y. Giants: "...The Giant O-line suffered injuries to BOTH starting Tackles Luke Petigout and Kareem McKenzie... (and) the young Mann' has been regressing a bit, prone to forcing his passes and seeing them sail on him. The Chief run D has improved demonstrably, and the Secondary has played MUCH better of late as well. Lastly, the loss of G-Man 'backer Antonio Pierce bodes poorly. TE Tony Gonzalez AND RB Larry Johnson could run amok today. If the Giants are to win, it'll be because RB Tiki Barber rises to the occassion, along with some ultra-grittiy play from DEs Osi Umenyiora and Mike Strahan. ... Barber’s been THE most unheralded runner in the league, period. And, hot on the heels of last season’s career best production, Tiki just set another impressive mark- a quartet of consecutive 100+ rushing yard games. Over his last 4 games, Tiki has rumbled for 502 rushing yards… and during the week 10 game against Minnesota, Barber ran for 95 and added an additional 111 receiving yards. The sole concern? Tiki has a single score over his last 4. ...LB fill-in Nick Griesen MUST make "Big Blue" think Antonio.... who?" Chief RB Larry Johnson's a beast; look for a multi-TD day..."

Sure, the G-Men missed injured MLB Antonio Pierce and their O-line was a “Tackle tossed-salad”… but with Tiki running through the KC D with all the ease of a sharp knife through silk, NY needed …well, nothing else! Barber found his holes and ran to daylight on nearly every play. The holes; some big, some just creases, and others… others were a mere figment of Tiki’s over-active game-time imagination. And, when there wasn’t a hole to be found… Barber made one for himself. There are times, top athletes say, that “time seems to slow down” and they “see” the action developing moments before it does, allowing them an almost out-of-body” experience. Tiki Barber enjoyed just such an experience this past weekend. Aside from putting their terrible tackling skills on display, it was as if the Chiefs were playing at a slower speed. How ‘bout numbers… ya’ need diggies’? In a season that has seen Barber set or break several records, Saturday, Tiki broke his own record for “Most Rushing Yards in a Season.” The Big Blue back shattered his “old” record of 1,518 rushing yards set waaaay back in … umm, ’04, with an utterly ridiculous 220 yards on 29 carries (the guy averaged 7.6 YPC). The new franchise mark is 1,577 rushing yards… and counting, with games against Washington and Oakland still remaining. Barber also added 29 receiving yards on 5 grabs, and pounded his way into the ‘Zone for a pair of rushing scores. This game was NOT without its warts, however. QB Eli Manning’s (186/1/1) play has visibly regressed, and the NY faithful are not pleased. The younger Manning apparently doesn’t see wide-open receivers, he frequently over and under-throws his pass catchers, and on Saturday, he tossed his 7th INT in his last 4 games, he lost a costly fumble, and understandably… Eli was booed for the first time in his career. When Manning gets anxious in the pocket he has a tendency of throwing the ball so high that former Hoopster Manute Bol (A skill-less 7-7 Center who weighed like… 175 Lbs soaking wet) couldn’t come down with it. Any Safety playing deep has a shot at picking off an Eli Manning pass… and opponents have caught on to this quirk. The good news, aside from Tiki’s unreal play, was that the NY Secondary tightened up and held QB Trent Green to 176 yards, no TDs, and they picked him off once. The G-Men decided to pick their poison and force RB Larry Johnson beat them. A beast of a back, “LJ” hung an impressive line of 186/2. That was to be expected, however, and with TE Tony Gonzalez (4/51) held scoreless, and veteran receiver Eddie Kennison limited to a scant 21 receiving yards… the Giants accomplished precisely what they set out to do.
While this may not have been a “pretty” win… the NFL doesn’t award “style” or “difficulty” points, and a win is a win in the league. That being said, if the Giants hope to make any kind of post-season noise… then QB Eli Manning, TE Jeremy Shockey (3/33), and WR Plaxico Burress (2/34) must develop better on-field chemistry. As of now, the Quarterback and his pass catchers are on different pages. Again, savvy Amani Toomer (5/69/1) was the most productive New York Wideout. “It’s not a tumor, it isn’t” (line from Kindergarten Cop) managed to find the’ Zone for the 4th time in the last 6 games.
This coming week, “Big Blue” is forced to contend with a suddenly impressive band of Redskins. Washington absolutely dismantled the Cowboys Sunday, holding a reasonably potent ‘Poke O to 216 total yards. Worse still, the Redskins were on Drew Bledsoe like white on rice. The Giants ad-hoc O-line better gel quickly if Eli’s life-expectancy is to extend past Sunday. I would not, however, even think of starting Manning if you’ve any other credible alternative. Manning’s worst statistical came against these same ‘Skins a few weeks ago… and I have seen nothing to indicate that he’s prepared to take a step forward. Helping to alleviate the considerable pressure placed upon Eli will be Barber, a “Must Start” candidate. Hot off of his latest act you’re not going to drop the curtain on the Tiki Barber show, though I would expect more humble numbers (115/1-2) TE Jeremy Shockey is a marginal start, WRs Burress and Toomer are pinch starts if you lack better options. As for the Chiefs… they have a date with a desperate San Diego squad. The Bolts’ feast on opposing backs… but struggle to stop the pass. QB Trent Green is a “better than average” Signal Calling start, WR Eddie Kennison is a solid “Flex” receiver, and TE Tony Gonzalez, while disappointing, remains a top 4 TE. Given his dearth of scores, “Gonzo” has been a far better “Yardage League” play.

Pittsburgh at Minnesota: "...While QB Brad Johnson's been the very definition of conservative, somehow... Minnesota's been making the plays when needed. ... RB Michael Bennett has been given his starting job back, but he could surrender the G-Line totes to rook' Ciatrick Faison. Even if he doesn't... Bennett's a marginal start against a fine (Steeler) run D. ...On the other side of the field, RB "Fast" Willie Parker is an excellent start... if you belong to a YARDAGE league. Leagues that place greater emphasis on scoring... eh', not so much. You never know if Bettis will see the bulk of the carries again. Still, Parker's a versatile running threat and I like his receiving skills against a Minnesota team that can still be beaten through the air... surrendering almost 220 passing yards per game and after allowing 19 scores through the air, some might think Minny’ pass vulnerable. HOWEVER, Big Ben’s a dicey start with his damaged digit, and the Viking pass D has stiffened up considerably over the past 4+ weeks. In addition, Roethlisberger and the Steelers will have to contend with the ear-splitting noise of a rowdy Minnesota Metrodome. Such a venue will challenge the young Signal Caller and his single real receiving threat, WR Hines Ward… TE Heath Miller is a decent start too. The concern? Minnesota hasn’t exactly faced the cream of the QB crop. Aside from picking Eli Manning off 4 times several weeks ago, the Purple and White have faced Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jeff Garcia and Joey Harrington, and Okay, a receiver-less Brett Favre. ...While he may end up winning the game… Big Ben’s a marginal fantasy start at best."

Minnesota had ripped off a 6 game winning streak; they seemed to have turned a sinking ship around, QB Brad Johnson was destined to be the team’s savior, and Head Coach Mike Tice’s serious transgressions and errors in judgment (Love Boat, ticket scalping, you name it) were swept under the rug. But, closer inspection will reveal that Minny’ made the most of some terrible teams. The Vikes’ beat Detroit twice, a bad Green Bay team by a Field Goal, a worse Ram team, and they slipped past the Giants by 3 points as well. Any team of relative talent took Minnesota to the woodshed this year; Cincinnati creamed the Vikes by 4+ TDs, Atlanta beat ‘em by 20, a QB-less Chi-town team beat them by 25 points, and the Panthers beat them by the same 25 point margin. The Vikes’ seem to be paper tigers, and with both Baltimore AND Chicago left on the docket… it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Vikings drop 3 straight. Hail to the Steelers, however. Though the Viking Secondary DID manage to stymie Big Ben (149/0/0) and his bum thumb… as projected, RB “Fast” Willie Parker (81 rushing yards, 16 receiving) had the Vikings running all over the field. It was the Steeler’s rock-solid D that made the difference on this day. The boys from Steel City Sacked Brad Johnson 4 times, picked him off twice, and batted away 7 passes. In addition, Pitt’ forced a fumble and held Minny’ to a microscopic 185 TOTAL yards of offense. In a game marred by a combined 25 penalties and over 220 yards assessed, the Steelers simply punched the Vikings in the nose. Looking towards this coming week, as mentioned… Minny’ mixes it up with Balty. RB Michael Bennett is an iffy start… and yeah, that’s about it. As for the Steelers? In a must win tilt, they take on Cleveland. RB Willie Parker and WR Hines Ward are solid starts, and TE Heath Miller (Steelers leading receiver against Minny’ having gone 2/58) is a better than average TE op’. I would be wary of Big Ben and his damaged digit. The Cleveland Secondary is playing better ball of late…. Remember, they kept Carson’s crew below 100 total passing yards recently.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

WHOOPS! FANTASY HOOPS 'WIRE GRABS!

Okay, Okay... just as Hornet SG J.R Smith looked to be turning a corner... he ran into a brick wall. Smith will be as predictable as the Stock Market.

Pacer Sarunas Jasikevicius is a fine SG if you still have need of such. The dude can drain the 3, he'll garner some steals, and he's getting starting minnies'.

Keep an eye on Clipper PG Shaun Livingston. Now healthy... kind of, anyway, the 6-7 PG belongs on a roster if you're in a deep league. Just rounding into shape following a back injury... at some point in the near future, Livvy' will be a stellar REAL 1-Guard.The 2nd year Clip' has tremendous court vision and rare size. Look for him to become a rock-solid fantasy player!

C Sammy Dalembert pulled down a ridiculous 18 boards in his most recent game, and before his value escalates further... trade for him if you need a quality fantasy Center!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

NFL'S WEEK 15 FANTASY PROGNOSTICATIONS!

WEEK 15 BOYS AND GIRLS!

It's Week 15??? I find it easier to believe in Santa. By the way, I want a Pony, a Rocket-Ship, a Red-Raider B.B Gun, and a date with Alyssa Milano.

AFTER A ROUGH START... ON THE SEASON I AM 138-70.


Tampa Bay at New England: The Pats' are getting healthy at the right time, and the formerly feeble run D has performed like a porn star. Even explosive Chief Larry Johnson was "held" to 116/1... taking a look at some of his other games, the Pats' positively stymied him! QB Tom Brady will miss TE Ben Watson who's out due to injury... but an underappreciated Pat' pass catching corps, coupled with a willin' Corey Dillon, should be enuff'. Further, Bucca'Back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams has concerns about 2-wheel drive limitations. Caddy' can play in the sun, and Caddy' can play in the rain... can Caddy' play in the cold and snow? Even HE has doubts and has expressed as much. Although no snow is expected, the temp is expected to hover around the freezing mark... and here's a meaningful stat' if ever there was one; the Buccs' are just 2-21 when the mercury plummets below 40 degrees. Look for a typical Tom Terrific day (225/2-3), and Dillon (90+/2) will relish the chillin' temps. Assuming he's able to play 4, Corey will wear Tampa down with each successive run. And, towards the mid-3rd to 4th Q'... expect a lot of half-hearted arm tackles from the Buccaneer defenders.

Kansas City at N.Y. Giants: There are 3 factors that will go into a BIG Chief win. The Giant O-line suffered injuries to BOTH starting Tackles, Luke Petigout and Kareem McKenzie. Next, the young Mann' has been regressing a bit, prone to forcing passes and have them sail on him. The Chief run D has improved demonstrably and the Secondary has played MUCH better of late as well. Lastly, the loss of G-Man 'backer Antonio Pierce bodes VERY poorly. TE Tony Gonzalez AND RB Larry Johnson could run amok today. If the Giants are to win, it'll be because RB Tiki Barber rises to the occassion along with some ultra-grittiy play from DEs Osi Umenyiora and Mike Strahan. Further, LB fill-in Nick Griesen MUST make "Big Blue" think... Antonio who?" Chief RB Larry Johnson's a beast, look for a multi-TD day, Gonzo should bank a TD as well.

Denver at Buffalo: Although "Marine" Mike Anderson has been slowing down and QB Jake Plummer has taken some small steps backwards, RBs Tatum "Chips" Bell and Ron "Big Game" Dayne will pound the run-poor Bill D. Bill back Willis McGahee has forgotten what the end-Zone looks like... he hasn't been there since Week 6, his last 100 yard game came Week 8! The only way the Broncs' lose this game is if they take their foes too lightly... and I do NOT expect that to happen. The best Bill start might well be vertical threat Lee Evans. As top cover corner Champ Bailey will be shadowing Eric Moulds... Evans has a shot at a decie' fantasy game. Still, look for Bronco honcho Mike Shanahan to control the clock with a dominating run game, and allow Plummer to pass only when pressed. In a low scoring game, the Broncs' bank a needed W.

Arizona at Houston: Here again, I am so inclined to pick the Texans to win. Actually, my heart says Texans win... but logic dictates that Warner's Cardinal clan wins. Should 'Zona lose to the hapless Houston squad? That WOULD be a "Cardinal sin!" Look for "KW" to toss another 300+, WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are each good for 100+ receiving yards. If this Card' team could simply muster the THREAT of a rushing attack... they'd be dangerous. The fact of the matter is, though, Houston's just terible defensively and even if the DO score first... no lead is a safe lead. Look for big diggies' from RB Domanick Davis and solid numbers from WR Andre' Johnson... but it won't matter. Now that evil Raider leader Al Davis allowed the Jets to win by playing a High School quality QB last week, Houston WILL draft the versatile and star-bound USC back Reggie Bush. Doub' D could be dealt... or worse, serve as a mentor for a year.

Carolina at New Orleans: If New Awlins' was trotting out veteran Signal Caller Aaron Brooks... this would be a more difficult decision. Can YOU think of a reason they're going with a strong-armed but lifetime backup in Todd Bouman? Me neither. Joe Horn was SO distraught... he reverted to discussing himself in the 3rd person again... when Joe Horn talks about "Joe Horn," you KNOW things are bad for the 'Aints. Look for RB DeShaun Foster to make a "statement" game; "I AM next year's feature back" he'll, umm, say. The Saints allow almost 140 rushing yards per game... So Foster, a versatile back, should be good for 125 combined yards and a TD. Likewise, look for yet another Delhomme to Smith connection. Those two can communicate with a glance. Spooky, huh? 'Lina wins by less than a TD.

N.Y. Jets at Miami: Laugh if you want, but look for Miami to obliterate "Germ's" Gang-Greenous. The Jets... umm, suck. They can stop neither the run nor pass, and WR Chris Chambers WILL again hang gaudy digits. RB Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are both solid starts against a team that gave up a long, LONG time ago. Ironically, winning last week's game against Oakland could come back to haunt the Jets. With that win... their shot at USC / NFL stud-to-be Reggie Bush became most remote. Even with Texans runner Domanick Davis playing at a high level, the Texans would be hard-pressed to by-pass such an explosive playmaker. Ideally, the Jets draft Bush and grab a Signal Caller with their 2nd-4th rounder. Perhaps, if Bush is gone and QB Brady Quinn declares himself eligible... Gang-Green takes the strong-armed collegiate QB.

Philadelphia at St. Louis: If the Ram D wasn't as bad as Houston's... or perhaps even worse, I'd give 'em the benefit of the doubt. However, as stands, the Eags' are receiving solid Wide Receiver play, RB Ryan Moats looks like he's the future feature, and Mike "Aint the" McMahon offers an iota of signal Calling leadership and capability. Look for St. Loo' to go run heavy and feed Steven Jackson the ball upwards of 25 times in an effort to limit the damage young and inexperienced QB Ryan Fitzpatrick can do. WR Torry Holt is a solid #2 WR start... because even if Jack Kemp were still stewarding the Rams... Holt would produce. Still, look for the Eags' to do just enough defensively, and I would expect Kicker David Akers to play a significant role in an Eagle win.

Pittsburgh at Minnesota: The noise in the raucous Minny' Metrodome WILL disrupt the Steelers' ability to play call, check-off, and make on-the-fly adjustments. Further, a bum-thumbed Big Ben's a risky play against a resurgent, ball-hawking Viking secondary. While QB Brad Johnson's been the very defintion of conservative, somehow, some way... Minnesota's been making the plays when needed. Look for WR Koren Robinson to continue his fine play... and he's a decent "Flex" start. RB Michael Bennett has been given his starting job back... but he could surrender the G-Line totes to rook' Ciatrick Faison. Even if he doesn't... Bennett's a marginal start against a fine Pitt' run D. Both S Darren Sharper and CB Antoine Winfield are excellent IDP plays this week, for the Vikes' are sure to force more turnovers. On the other side of the field, RB "Fast" Willie Parker is an excellent start... if you belong to a YARDAGE league. Leagues that place greater emphasis on scoring... eh', not so much. You never know if Bettis will se the bulk of the carries again. Still, Parker's a versatile running threat, and I like his receiving skills against a Minnesota team that can still be beaten through the air. Nevertheless, Home Field advantage will afford Minny a Paul Edinger 3-Point win.

San Diego at Indianapolis: Call me crazy... but I can't shake the thought that Indy's teeny, tiny Secondary will have a hard time containing graceful leviathan TE Antonio Gates, and RB LaDainian Tomlinson will be motivated to whip some Colt butt. Brees had a great game against Indy last year, and is a solid fantasy start based upon past history. Likewise, the 27th (or so) ranked San' Secondary will be hard-pressed to contain a scary deep pool of Colt receivers. On the other hand, a #1 ranked run D will give prolific Colt back Edgerrin James a tough time. Look for average numbers from Edge'... 75/1, with another 25-30 receiving yards. If, by chance, the Colts jump out to a big lead... James is the most likely Colt to come out of the game in an effort to preserve him for the post-season. But, in a shoot-out, the Chargers out-point the Colts by less than a Field Goal and crush the Colts' dreams of undefeatd immortality.

Seattle at Tennessee: Much like the 'Zona / Houston game, my heart and head contradict one another. Seattle's already locked up a Playoff berth and may well be inclined to ease up. The Titan passing game can move the ball up and down the field, and the young D IS improving. Still, with "Alexander the Great" charging after Priest Holmes' single-season TD record of 27 ... and 23 TDs already banked, Shaun-A is a fine start. Also, QB Matt Hasselbeck has been outstanding in recent weeks, and made the most of an injury-thinned receiving stable. Even with an iffy group of receivers... Seattle has reeled off 9 straight wins, and that's indicative of am impressive coaching job. As for the somewhat less than titanic Titans, RB Chris Brown is a "Must Start" with Travis Henry out. But, for a change, Brown is nicked-up... and I'd keep my hopes modest as the Seahawks surrender few rushing scores. The Titan QB Steve McNair is a decent start... but "Air" WILL miss having 100% healthy TEs.

San Francisco at Jacksonville: Jag' QB David Garrard is a dual running and passing threat. Several teams pursued Garrard to be their starter... but Garrard re-signed a cap' friendly, 3 year deal with the Jaguars.... look for one of severla QB-strapped franchises to offer close to a king's ransom for Garrard... IF he plays out the string in impressive fashion. Due to Garrard's unfamiliarity with the playbook, WRs Ernest Wilford and Matt Jones offer minimal fantasy value. RB Greg Jones should poke a buncha' holes through a terrible San Fran' D.

Cincinnati at Detroit: Today's rumor? Former Cowboy and Dolphin guru Jimmy Johnson is being wooed by the team owning Ford family. Should Jimmy leave his lap of luxury South Florida life-style, he'll demand total and comlpete control. That will, of course, be the end of the Matt Millen Error ... sorry, "era." Look, the Lions are toothless and the Bengals will maul 'em in what should be a high-scoring yet boring Cat fight. Start ... like ALL your Bengs', and like... maybe Roy Williams. **NOTE: The loss of RB Chris Perry is significant as his liquid-qwik' elusiveness provided the Cats with a nearly "un-defendable Beng-able." RB Rudi Johnson will have no one of consequence to spell him... yet, coming off of a tremendous game against the Browns... look for yet another outstanding fantasy (and real) effort from the Cin City' Feature Cat.

Cleveland at Oakland: Why do I pick Oakland? I'm not sure... certainly their play doesn't warranr or demand confidence. However, the Browns allowed RB Rudi Johnson to disembowel 'em, and LaMama' Jordan could do a similar number on a dispirited and weak-willed D. Likewise, with QB Kerry Collins back over Center, WR Jerry Porter demands to be played. For Cleveland, RB Boobin' Reuben Droughns is a solid start... and that's about it. Still

Dallas at Washington: This WILL be THE most important game of "Cowboys and Indians" to be played ANYWHERE this week. Coming off of a VERY impressive 3-point win over the Chefs... sorry, "Chiefs" last week... Dallas has proven themselves to be a dangerous opponent. In turn, the 'Skins have played well also and they ripped off a pair of consecutive Ws... against St Louis and Arizona, though. RB Clinton Portis will have a tough day at the office against a solid Dallas run D... and Mark Brunell will, likely, be harried all day long. With Dallas peaking and playing truly motivated Football, in a squeaker... Parcells's 'Pokes out-point Washington.

Atlanta at Chicago: Although Vick and Atlanta don't play well in the cold... the forecast calls for mild temps... and that plays into the Falcs' feathered fingers. Look for a solid day from RB Warrick Dunn... and T.J Duckett will receive any carries from inside the 10's... but with Minnesota breathing down their necks... look for the Bear D to make this win happen. If not for RB Thomas Jones, there would be no cuh thing as a Bear O. Look for the Chi-Town D to make this win happen.

Green Bay at Baltimore: Has Balty' done much to inspire you? Nah', me neither. The Running Backs are at one another's throats, the Quarterback expects the big ol' boot, and the D has "D-isappointed." This could easily be a swan-song for Favre... I truly think the man is mulling retirement. What is there to come back to? Already, there have been some subtle... yet distinct, calls for Aaron Rodgers to get the nod. In dire need of re-building, with the very real possibility that Brett will be forced to learn an entirely new offensive system... something he's NEVER done, Favre COULD retire. Brett ALWAYS plays well on Monday Night... and I'd look for a rock-solid game from Football's most beloved (active) Signal Caller.

Friday, December 16, 2005

FANTASY HOOPS WAIVER WIRE PICK-UP!

Hornet Guard J.R. Smith may finally be living up to his tremendous po', and for owners in need...the dude rates a flyer. In the 2 tilts prior to tonight's game, Smith drilled 47 points (on 50% shooting) and 15 'boards.

The young Guard's output included a suhweet' 10 threes, and he was called for a scant 3 fouls and turned the ball over only once. Sure, the sample is small... but if your roster is thin... the upside is there!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

NFL WEEK 15 START AND SIT!

Alrighty boys and girls; if you're still making "Start and Sit" decisions for your Roto-roster... that means you managed to make it to your league's fantasy post-season! That, my fantasy friends, deserves a hearty round of congratulations.
Now, you didn't make it this far by making boneheaded decisions... and you didn't make it this far by putting complete stock in another individual's beliefs. No, you qualified for your leagues' fantasy playoffs by reading and weighing advice and mixing it with your own gut instincts... and thus far, that strategy has served you well.

Good luck to all... and I hope that I... ffspiral.com ... and www.jameythereferee.blogspot.com helped you in some way. Don't hesitate to visit the referee (or contact me via email) for Fantasy Baseball and Basketball assistance. And with that...

"MUST START QUARTERBACKS"

Matt Hasselbeck: Last week, 'Beck's fantasy value was bandied about the ffspiral Sunday morning chat. I felt that, given the state of the feeble state of the San Fran' Secondary he was facing, the C-Hawk Signal Caller was rock solid. In hindsight... after posting a line of 226/1/4, he sure was.

Trent Green: After throwing for 340 yards, Green cracked the 300 yard mark for the second time in his past 3 contests. This week, against a Giant Secondary that has proven itself vulnerable by allowing opposing Signal Callers to toss over 220 passing yards per game, look for T-Green to approach a 3rd 300 yard effort. And… the G-Men, without big ‘backer Antonio Pierce, will have a hard time containing TE Tony Gonzalez. Gonzo’s a “Must Start” candidate.

Kurt Warner: Warner is a 300 yard passing machine, and the Houston Texan Secondary… much like their run defense, is fictitious. Houston has allowed a whopping 20 passing scores, and Warner’s top target, Anquan Boldin, should hang another 100+/1-2 day. Likewise, with so much attention being paid to Q’, Fitzgerald is a likely Red-Zone candidate as well. Look for Kurt to bank something like 315/3, thus proving the adage “Runinng Game? We don’ need no steenkeeng’ running game!”

Peyton Manning: In an effort to keep his boys sharp for what promises to be a difficult post- C’, you can bet yer’ boots that coach Dungy keep his troops in the game for at least 3 Quarters. And, should the game be close… and it likely WILL be, as San Diego is fighting for their very Playoff lives, look for Peyton and pals to play 4-Quarter Football (Edge' being the sole exception). Against San Diego this week… a team that allows 230+ passing yards per week and has seen a total of 17 passing TDs thrown against ‘em, Manning is a rock-solid start. Especially at Home, mind you.

Carson Palmer: In a tough, “to the bitter end” contest, I don’t know who was calmer… Palmer or coach Marvin Lewis. My guess? With Rudi Johnson running his stripes off, Palmer was the calmer party. Although he hung season-worst numbers, look for a bounce-back game against the toothless Lions.

"SECOND TIER STARTERS"

Brad Johnson: Johnson… I had Johnson nailed as a “Must Start,” big number candidate for last week’s game against the St. Looser’ Secondary. However, “BJ” blew! Throwing for a meager 146 yards, with no scores… and not even a friggin’ pick to spice things up a bit! Seriously though, Johnson has steadied a Viking ship that was way off course with Daunte Culpepper at the helm. C-Pepp’ was constantly looking downfield, and was constantly forcing the ball into spaces no wider than a postage stamp. This week, Johnson and tribe host a frenzied Steeler team. Coming off of a loss, the Steelers look to be tough adversaries. And yet… after reeling off 6 straight and 7 of their last 8, Minny’s become quite the pigskin powerhouse! RB Michael Bennett is capably carrying the mail, WR Koren Robinson is staying between the white lines, and fellow pass catcher Marcus Robinson demands Red-Zone respect. Further, the Vike’ D has made more turnovers the Entenmann’s Bakery these past few weeks… and Johnson looks to be a solid, if unspectacular start against a Steeler Secondary that HAS been picked on of late. If you don’t need Brad Johnson to win your week for you… then you won’t be disappointed!

"SUSPECT STARTS"

Ben Roethlisberger: Surrendering almost 220 passing yards per game and after allowing 19 scores through the air, some might think Minny’ pass vulnerable. HOWEVER, Big Ben’s a dicey start with his damaged digit, and the Viking pass D has stiffened up considerably over the past 4+ weeks. In addition, Roethlisberger and the Steelers will have to contend with the ear-splitting noise of a rowdy Minnesota Metrodome. Such a venue will challenge the young Signal Caller and his single real receiving threat, WR Hines Ward… TE Heath Miller is a decent start too. The concern? Minnesota hasn’t exactly faced the cream of the QB crop. Aside from picking Eli Manning off 4 times several weeks ago, the Purple and White have faced Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jeff Garcia and Joey Harrington, and Okay, a receiver-less Brett Favre. Still, I expect the Steelers to go run heavy and to ram “The Bus” down the Vikings’ collective throats. While he may end up winning the game… Big Ben’s a marginal fantasy start at best.

"SLEEPER STARTS"

David Garrard: Mobile and strong-armed. Better yet, mobile, strong-armed, and opposing the league’s WORST Air defense in San Francisco! After allowing 283+ passing YPG and surrendering a whopping 26 TDs, the Secondary’s just a bold-faced lie. Look for an improving David Garrard, a dual running/passing threat, to boost his stock. Several teams sought him to be their starter… but the backup signed a cap-friendly, 3 year deal. Should he perform well, it wouldn’t be a shocker if one of the numerous QB starved teams sends out a trade-feeler. The Saints, who just gave up on veteran Aaron Brooks, might be a good fit.

"MUST START RUNNING BACKS"

Larry Johhnson: The defense has been the backbone of a playoff bound NY Giant club, and the unit has been particularly stout (ranked 8th) against the run. However, yielding almost a C-Note per game against a special runner such as “LJ” is nothing to write mom about. Johnson has whipped the very best run Ds the NFL has to offer, and so long as QB Trent Green offers some semblance of a passing game… LJ should be close to 130/2 by the time the final gun sounds. And that yardage figure, my fantasy friends, may even be slightly conservative.

Shaun Alexander: Shaun-A was almost an ornamental runner last week, as he left the heavy lifting for QB Matt Hasselbeck. The aforementioned Hasselbeck was up to the challenge, and the C-Hawk back scampered for a nearly effortless 108 yards and a touch’ on 21 totes. This week, while the Tenne’D isn’t quite as bad as San Frans’ was… the Titans still surrender almost a buck-10 per. With 23 TDs already in the bank… and 2 games remaining in the regular season, Priest Holmes’ single-season record of 27 rushing scores may be just beyond reach. Not because “Alexander the Great” lacks the talent (With Tennessee and Green Bay still remaining, Alexander could conceivably hit 30 scores)… but because with the Playoffs this close, you can bet that coach Holmgren will give backup back Maurice Morris ample work. Stay tuned, but look for 120/2 from Shaun-A SunDAY!

Rudi Johnson: Rudi is the man… plain and simple. When The Browns shut the lights on Cincy’s passing circus, Johnson played human wrecking ball, blowing through the Brownys’ for a semi-ridiculous 177 total yards (that cat averaged 5.6 YPC!) and 1 TD. This week, against Detroit’s 26th ranked run D (allowing opposing runners 126+), look for RJ to hang his 4th 110+ rushing yard effort.

Thomas Jones: Jones IS the Bear O. There’s no other way around it. QB Kyle Orton has thrown for more than 150 yards in a mere 3 games (of 14), the Bear QB hasn’t tossed a TD in 2 weeks, and he HAS thrown picks in 5 of the last 6 games. If it ain’t Jones… it ain’t anybody. Fortunately for the Chicago faithful, the Bears host the run-defenseless Atlanta Falcons Sunday. The Falcs’ yield almost a C-Note 20 per week, and the downhill running Jones will most likely wear down the warm-weather Falcons with each successive carry. Come the 4th… you may see a lot of half-hearted arm tackles coming from ‘Lanta backers. A line of 130/2 from “T-Jo” wouldn’t be outrageous.

Domanick Davis: Carr is a lemon and WR Andre Johnson’s a 1-man band. In an effort to convince the Houston brass that they need not draft ultra-talented USC’s-NFL star-to-be Reggie Bush, Double-D has put on quite a show in recent weeks! Over his last 4 contests, Davis has notched 590 combined yards and 3 TDs. The problem is, Davis has a mere 2 rushing scores all season, and has surpassed 100 yards rushing in 3 of his 11 games (Davis missed Weeks 9 and 10 due to injury). Continuing his roll, look for Doub’ D to do Arizona’s pathetic ground D ugly. Allowing almost 115 rushing yards per game, Davis should be somewhere around 125/1-2 by the end of the 4th. Actually, given ‘Zona’s potent passing attack… and Houston’s feeble passing D (20 passing TDs allowed), this one should be quite the shootout. I would start WR Andre Johnson and hope that Domanick Davis’s hard-charging style forces the defenders to creep up in an effort to slow him down.

"SECOND TIER STARTERS"

Edgerrin James: Edge’ has been THE most reliable runner in the NFL. However, the Bolt’ D is rather lopsided; ranked 1st against the run (yielding a scant 78-ish YPG) and 27th against the pass (surrendering almost 230 passing YPG), Peyton and his pass catchers will probably play the larger role in this one. Further, the San D” will be hitting like sledge-hammers as they must "win the string" (and even if they do that they’ll need help) if they’re to keep their playoff hopes alive. Predicated upon how big a lead… IF there’s a lead the Colts jump out to… Dungy could yank Edge’ by Half-Time and replace him with reliable and sturdy Dominic Rhodes.

Carnell Williams: This may not be the best week to hang your hopes on a Buccaneer back. Tampa travels to snowy New England, “The Cadillac” has already admitted that he harbors concerns about running in inclement weather… and who wants to have their fantasy feature “tread with dread?” Further, that Patriot run D is improving by the week… just in time for the Playoffs. Hey… who was it that said “Dynasty-Shmynasty?” We’ll see… New England needs this “W.”

Tiki Barber: Barber’s been THE most unheralded runner in the league, period. And, hot on the heels of last season’s career best production, Tiki just set another impressive mark- a quartet of consecutive 100+ rushing yard games. Over his last 4 games, Tiki has rumbled for 502 rushing yards… and during the week 10 game against Minnesota, Barber ran for 95 and added an additional 111 receiving yards. The sole concern? Tiki has a single score over his last 4. Against a Jerky-tuff KC run D, look for 75/1 kind of numbers.

Mike Anderson: “Marine” Mike and the Broncs’ face off against a run-generous Buffalo Bill squad. With this being a crucial game… and Plummer slipping backwards a bit, look for coach Shanahan to give Anderson additional work.

"SUSPECT STARTS"

Willis McGahee: Not against a very swift, tough, and sure tackling Bronco ‘backer corps, and not with Willis struggling mightily and lackin in confidence.

LaMont Jordan: Jordan has slumped lately… but, with Kerry Collins back over Center, LaMama' once again has a shot at putting up #1 back figures. Cleveland did a much better job stopping the pass last week when they miraculously managed to keep Carson Palmer and crew to under 100 yards passing. That being said, RB Rudi Johnson ran through the Browny' backfield like a hot knife through buttery 'backers. I do, however, find it odd that the Raiders threw Tuiasosopo out against a Jet team that was in the Reggie Bush sweepstakes... and now, now it's Collins' team again. Am I the only one who sees this?

Clinton Portis: C-Port and his fellow Washingtonians play a critical.... and HEAVY emphasis on the "critical," game of "Cowboys and Indians" Sunday. When last the 2 teams met (Week 2) Portis stumbled along for a spare 52 yards (AKA 156 feet) on 17 carries, with Dallas out'Poking the 'Skins by a point. While Portis HAS run better in recent weeks, the Dallas D has improved demostrably. Portis is a feast or famine kinda' back... I would look for a relatively humble day with so much riding on a Dallas W.

Warrick Dunn: Dude', in the bitter winter clime of Chicago? No way. Okay, Dunn's been running VERY well and has very quietly assembled a top 8-ish Fantasy season and has been a top 6 REAL back. There is a difference and it is VERY important to weigh NFL'ers on their real performances and not just how they perform for your fantasy teams. I.E Wide Receivers such as LaVeranues Coles haven't hung the numbers expected of them... but each week, they're out there... tossing their bodies about and helping pave the way for the run game. These are the little things that top players do... that don't manifest themselves in fantasy-world. Start Dunn.... but don't expect a whole lot. Duckett will get ANY G-line touches, and Dunn doesn't seem to play very well against the Bears. Last time these teams met, Warrick "rumbled" for 27 yards on 10 totes, and in 11 career games against the new Monsters of the Midway, the Falc' feature has AVERAGED 51 YPG.

Steven Jackson: S-Jax has 91 total rushing yards in his last 2, and with an inexperienced Ryan Fitzpatrick still shepharding this herd of Rams... they're really sheep. Jackson is a risky start against a spunky Eagle squad. If Fitz' found no success against Minnesota's terrible ground D last week... I would expect similar numbers this week. If your options are limited... cross your fingers and hope that Fitz' finds his receivers against a thin Eag' Secondary.

Michael Bennett: Michael Bennett has been given back his feature back job based on the strength of his last 3 (or so) games. However, Minny' knocks heads with a VERY surly Steeler team this week... and I would expect Minny's ground game to be minimal.

"SLEEPER STARTS"

Ryan Moats: The bold Eagle was drafted and immediately annointed "a Brian Westbrook Clone." Well, Westy's side-pined' with an injury and won't return this season, and Philly's playing for pride... which again, makes 'em awfully dangerous. As I stated last week, back-up QB Mike "Ain't The" Mc-Man." With the real McQb D-Nabb watching from the sidelines, the fill-in Field General threw for 342 yards, no TDs, and 2 INTs... over the span of his last 3 games! With McMahon floundering and throwing like a "girlie-man," an embattled coach Andy Reid turned to his run game and rookie runner. Against the Giants last week Moats assuredly didn't disappoint, rumbling for 114 yards and 2 TDs. Now, with a ghastly St. Louis Ram D-unit next on the Eag' menu... look for Moats to further entrench himself as a legit' contender for 3-down duty. A line of 90/1 might even be on the shy side.

Jerome Bettis: Man... you NEVER know how coach Cowher's gonna' use his backs. However, one MUST assume that the league's longest tenured coach kept "The Bus" up on blocks for precisely this time of year... and precisely this kind of weather. Against Chicago last week, Bettis rumbled for 100+/2 against a stout run D. With a resurgent but still run-vulnerable Viking team next on the slate... a Playoff-desperate squad o' Steelers, captained by a bum-thumbed QB, will probably go run-heavy. RB "Fast" Willy Parker and "The Bus" will attempt to run over, through, and around Minnesota. Still, playing in the Metrodome will be a challenge. Count on Bettis getting the G-Line totes... and these last few games could be Jerome's swan-song. At his age... it's not inconceivable that Bettis hangs up his well-worn spikes.

Sam Gado: Oh no… it’s Gad-O! Look-out NFC North, Sam “The Scram” Gado is back! After having his feature back position threatened due a maddening case of stone-hands, (he put the ball on the ground 4 times inside of 3 games) Gado has become a true plough-horse runner. Gado put the Pack’ on his back last week, rushing for a team record 171 yards and a TD on a career-best (however brief that “career”) 29 carries. The undrafted rook’ has crashed through the 100 yard mark in 3 of his last 5 games, and possesses a credible pair o’ pass catching hands. This week, Green Bay knocks heads with a stark-ravin’ Balty’ team! Disappointing on defense, underachieving on offense, coach Billick and his staff need to examine the Ravens entire offensive scheme from top to bottom; from Quarter to Running Back. Anyway, look for Gado to enjoy some success against a Raven team that HAS been run upon.

T.J Duckett: Although Chicago's run D is tuff, they were bowled over by Bettis and Parker. Last Sunday, "The Bus" blasted his way through the Bear D-line for a C-note and across the Goal line for twin TDs... Duckett should be good for at least 15 yards... and a TD this week.