Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Staff Writer
Email Matt

Matt's Articles

20/20 Hindsight - Week 12

As we all know Hindsight is 20/20. This weekly column is devoted to learning from common mistakes and serves as FFToday’s “Fantasy Football Confessional.”

This week, my 7-3-1 SOFA Auction team faced The ‘s 7-4 squad in a divisional tilt. Going into Monday night my squad was down over 30 points with Drew Brees and Greg Jennings versus their remaining player, Ryan Grant and I ended up winning by seven. When you have a player who is completing big plays at will like Brees, you’re never out of the game.

Would've (From The Who Would Have Known File)

Isaac Bruce would return to his early season form this weekend: Bruce has been a pitiful option for fantasy owners for the last six week, so it was a shocker to see Bruce accumulate 80 yards in the first quarter of this weekend’s match up with Dallas on his way to 8 grabs for 125 yards total.

Lesson Learned: The Dallas secondary is the glaring weakness of this team. Terrence Newman is their best cover corner and he’s a guy that on most teams would be considered the player opposing quarterbacks would pick on as much as possible. Although they are –17% against opposing QBs in Mike MacGregor’s S.O.S. analysis, the Cowboys are absolutely dime store quality (+27%) when it comes to facing opposing receivers.

The Jets would thoroughly dominate the Titans: The Jets fantasy stars included Brett Favre, Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and Laveranues Coles. The Titans defense generally doesn’t allow more than one quality fantasy performance from a player on the opposing offense. This week, it was four – arguably five – players who got theirs in a 21-point beat down of the previously undefeated Titans.

Lesson Learned: There were two contributing factors that led to such a thoroughly dominating performance by the Jets:

  1. The Jets offensive philosophy: This is a short passing team with a strong ground game. Brett Favre is aggressive and can make the deep, vertical throws, but he’s a west coast guy who is great executing the underneath passing game. He’s excellent at manipulating a defense with his eyes by tricking the safeties with where he is going. This is extremely effective when his offense can run the ball, which they were able to do against the Titans this weekend. A short passing game is only effective if the running game can put the offense in favorable down and distance situations. With the Titans pass rush as good as they are, it was important that the Jets could run the ball so they could make first downs with the short passing game. Otherwise, the Titans could have consistently teed off on Favre and force him into making more mistakes. One of the greatest reasons the Titans defense was at a distinct disadvantage was their secondary.

  2. The Titans were banged up in the secondary: Eric King and Reynaldo Hill are no longer available which forced the Titans to rely upon Chris Carr as their starting corner opposite the Pro Bowl-caliber Cortland Finnegan. Carr has been better than expected, but he’s clearly the weak link in this secondary. This puts more pressure on the safeties and prevents them from consistently adding that extra player in the box to help out with the run. I do anticipate the Titans shoring up this deficiency with the addition of free agent Tyrone Poole, who should allow the Titans to have a bit more flexibility with their defensive game plan.

Could've (From The Who Could Have Known File)

Watching a game with four all-star players in decline would be interesting: I’m talking about the Sunday night Colts-Chargers contest. Go ahead and lie when you tell me that you don’t think of Manning, Tomlinson, Gates, and Harrison when you think of these two teams. None of them are playing at the top of their form. Hopefully all four of them are just dealing with the effects of what amount to slow recovery time to injuries that would generally require a player to miss significant time to prevent re-aggravating the injury or delaying a complete recovery. But I think we all wonder if this is the beginning of the end of (at least some of them) their dominance at their position.

What We Learned from Manning: Manning’s moment that left me thinking about his career trajectory came in the first half when he executed a decent play fake – not a stretch play, because he can’t get their quick enough with his knee issue from this summer – and then slid away from the backside pressure as he was continuing his drop. This adjustment to his drop was probably the best part of the play because it combined his veteran knowledge of technique to utilize good footwork and his ability to sense what is happening in the pocket before he even sets up. Maybe five quarterbacks in the league could do what he did on this play – maybe. With plenty of time to set and release, Manning appears to be on time with a deep post headed for Marvin Harrison, who has a step on his man only for that cornerback to undercut the route and intercept the pass.

The most disturbing part of this play was Manning under-throwing the football. Manning never had a great arm, but this is a pass that used to be a touchdown two out of every three times he threw it to Harrison, which just 23 years ago seemed to happen every game. Manning even told John Madden that he was having increased difficulty throwing the deep ball. If this bears out not to be a knee issue that gets better, opposing defenses will no longer be afraid of the play action deep pass in the way they once where. Better defensive units may even dare Manning to complete these passes. It does sound reactionary, but it doesn’t take long for a player’s abilities to drop off in the NFL. Personally, I think Manning will be as good as new by 2009 and we’ll see him wreaking havoc with a rebound season of the likes that will be of legend. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts didn’t re-sign Edgerrin James and pair him with Joseph Addai and the Colts make one more serious run. But right now, Manning is willing himself through the season. He’s playing well enough to keep the Colts in the game, but he’s not sharp or strong enough to dominate defenses like he’s capable when fully healthy.

What We Learned from Tomlinson: LT looks ordinary. He knows it. We all see it. What has made Tomlinson a special back is his ability to accelerate and change directions in tight spaces. These are the common factors for 90% of the backs we recognize as great. When Tomlinson cannot avoid the first defender in the backfield or react to what he reads at the line of scrimmage in enough time to take advantage of the defense’s weakness, he’s struggling to get more than 3-4 yards on plays he normally would get 10 or more.

His toe will need prolonged rest for him to return to the elite level of play he’s so consistently reached throughout his career. Even so, he may need an orthotic device in his shoe to make it happen and that’s really no guarantee. Look at wide receiver, Laveranues Coles. This guy was devastating after the catch early in his career because he could change direction and accelerate at the blink of an eye. Since his toe injury, he’s always having issues with it and he’s not the same player. He’s smarter, runs better routes, and plays tough in the middle of the field, but he’s no longer a special athlete. A running back can lose a bit of speed, but he can’t lose his change of direction and remain productive. A lot of people will be looking for LT to rebound in 2009, but I would be highly cautious about drafting LT as anything more than a #2 RB. He’s going to tell the world this summer that he’s back and as good as ever. Until someone I trust sees him and believes it, I’m not buying.

What We Learned from Gates: Gates is still one of the two best fantasy producers at the tight end position, but he’s not dominant like he was. Tony Gonzalez is has 189 more yards on 22 extra catches. Gonzalez is has 46 more targets than Gates. Right now, the Chargers have targeted Vincent Jackson 70 times to Gates’ 65 looks. The Chargers tight ended doesn’t look as explosive as he has in the past, especially after the catch. But unlike LT, I think Gates remains a player who you pick as one of the top players at his position because he continues to produce as such. I wouldn’t pick him way above the other 3-4 choices, because his ability to dominate has diminished someone. Again, toes and feet are difficult body parts to expect a complete recovery.

What We Learned from Harrison: If you’re over 35 years of age you understand first hand what I’m about to tell you – it often takes longer to recover from activity - even if you’re in great shape and possess the excellent combo of flexibility, endurance, and strength. Many people also find that their body doesn’t take punishment and rebound like it once did. Slight bruises become deep muscle bruises. Pulls and strains become tears. A person often becomes more cautious and it is not even conscious thing.

Marvin Harrison still has enough speed and quickness to get deep. He still has enough technique to get open. What I think he’s lacking (at least this season) is that touch of recklessness that you need to make that adjustment to the ball, catch it, and take the punishment. I can’t say that I know what he’s thinking or feeling when I watch him on tape, but I can speculate that his actions appear that he is a split-second late to make that extra move or adjustment that he used to make to get the ball.

Let’s go back to the Steelers’ game where he got his bell rung in the end zone on a pass that split two defenders heading for a Harrison Sandwich. The Colts’ receiver hesitated just long enough to be late on fully committing to the ball and the hit, but still long enough to take the hit – dangerous stuff. This is why coaches want football players to play aggressive and not think about getting hurt. The old saying goes that when you try not to get hurt that’s when you usually do. It means you’re too consciously away of throwing your body around. There comes a time when your body’s reaction to pain begins to teach you a new way to react to it. With highly condition athletes this sometimes takes longer for them than your average person. I think Harrison has hit the wall. He’s still good for some big plays, but the spectacular play will be a much less frequent event for the rest of his career. Terrell Owens ability to run through defenders at the end of his long pass reception against the Niners was spectacular. Justin Gage’s catch over the shoulder of Darrell Revis in the fourth quarter on Sunday was spectacular. Plays Larry Fitzgerald makes between defenders are spectacular. At some point all of these receivers will not able to make those plays.

Trent Edwards could bounce back with one of the best fantasy games of the season: If you saw the Monday Night Football debacle between the Bills and Browns, you know that Trent Edwards had a multiple-interception game and appeared more tentative than an adolescent L.L. Cool J at the dance in the Old Spice commercial. This week was a completely different story: 24/32, 273 yards, 2 scores through the air, and 2 scores on the ground off 38 yards rushing in a 54-31 victory over the Chiefs.

What we learned: In the Browns game on Monday, Edwards had a ton of time in the pocket, but was not decisive. This led to throws that were late or shouldn’t have been made in the first place. Prior to the Browns game, the Bills offensive line was not playing up to par and Edwards wasn’t used to this kind of time. There were moments in the game where Edwards didn’t over-think what he saw and acted quickly. He did this when they drove down the field at the end of the game, a drive that included a well-timed pass down the seam to his tight end.

Edwards clearly made the adjustments necessary to return to his early season form. I don’t believe the Adrian Wilson hit was as much of a problem as it was Edwards over-thinking his reads. You have to read and react on a short timer as a pro quarterback and Edwards was taking too much time. This weekend he made quick reads and got rid of the ball on time or broke the pocket for big gains.

Remember, Edwards is a young quarterback who has barely reached the one-season mark as a starter in the NFL. If you’re patient with him, you will wind up with a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback within the next 2-3 seasons.

Should've (From The I Knew I Should’ve File)

Benched T.J. Houshmandzadeh: Chad Ocho Cinco Johnson’s Grandfather’s Goldfish was deactivated just prior to the Thursday night showdown with the Steelers and that left the Bengals with Glen Holt and Chris Henry to complement Houshmandzadeh in the passing game. The Bengals leading receiver only managed 4 grabs for 20 yards.

Lesson Learned: Good players have bad games. Good possession receivers shouldn’t be benched even if they have a backup QB slinging them the ball. Sound familiar from last week? Let’s amend it with “When the receiver that forces defenses to play your receiver honest is no where to be found, reconsider adding him to your fantasy lineup.”

Started Derrick Ward: Ward started for Brandon Jacobs, and his banged up knee, and gained 99 total yards and a touchdown in a victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Lesson Learned: As I have been telling advice seekers all week, Ward was as safe a start as you could get because even if Jacobs were to play, Ward sees enough carries to be a productive option. With Jacobs out, this was the no-brainer line up decision of the week that worked.

Donovan McNabb remains a lightning rod for controversy: If you read this column regularly, you know I defended McNabb last week. This weekend the Eagles QB had to face one of the best defenses in the league with their best offensive player hobbled. After a rough half, Andy Reid benched McNabb for heir apparent, Kevin Kolb, who looked just as bad. Now there’s talk that McNabb is done in Philadelphia.

Lesson Two: It may be close to the end for McNabb in Philly, but I think it would be a mistake to pronounce his career as a productive starter over. Without out much more than five minutes of “research” I found nine quarterbacks who did well in a new setting after getting the boot from their old team. The years in bold denote the player made that Pro Bowl that year. I included Brett Favre because he’s on pace to meet or beat his touchdown total and exceed 3500 passing yards despite coming to a new team during the preseason.

Drew Bledsoe
Year Age Tm G GS Comp Att Comp% Yds TD Int
2001 29 NE 2 2 40 66 60.6 400 2 2
2002 30 BUF 16 16 375 610 61.5 4359 24 15
2004 32 BUF 16 16 256 450 56.9 2932 20 16
2005 33 DAL 16 16 300 499 60.1 3639 23 17
Drew Brees
Year Age Tm G GS Comp Att Comp% Yds TD Int
2005 26 SD 16 16 323 500 64.6 3576 24 15
2006 27 NO 16 16 356 554 64.3 4418 26 11
Boomer Esiason
Year Age Tm G GS Comp Att Comp% Yds TD Int
1992 31 CIN 12 11 144 278 51.8 1407 11 15
1993 32 NYJ 16 16 288 473 60.9 3421 16 11
Brett Farve
Year Age Tm G GS Comp Att Comp% Yds TD Int
2007 38 GB 16 16 356 535 66.5 4155 28 15
2008 39 NYJ 11 245 347 70.6 2461 20 13
Rich Gannon
Year Age Tm G GS Comp Att Comp% Yds TD Int
1998 33 KC 12 10 206 354 58.2 2305 10 6
1999 34 OAK 16 16 304 515 59 3840 24 14
Jon Kitna
Year Age Tm G GS Comp Att Comp% Yds TD Int
2005 33 CIN 3 0 17 29 58.6 99 0 2
2006 34 DET 16 16 372 596 62.4 4208 21 22
Joe Montana
Year Age Tm G GS Comp Att Comp% Yds TD Int
1992 36 SF 1 0 15 21 71.4 126 2 0
1993 37 KC 11 11 181 298 60.7 2144 13 7
1994 38 KC 14 14 299 493 60.6 3283 16 9
Warren Moon
Year Age Tm G GS Comp Att Comp% Yds TD Int
1993 37 HOU 15 14 303 520 58.3 3485 21 21
1994 38 MIN 15 15 371 601 61.7 4264 18 19
1995 39 MIN 16 16 377 606 62.2 4228 33 14
Vinny Testaverde
Year Age Tm G GS Comp Att Comp% Yds TD Int
1997 34 BAL 13 13 271 470 57.7 2971 18 15
1998 35 NYJ 14 13 259 421 61.5 3256 29 7

Six of the eight players (not including Favre) actually had Pro Bowl caliber seasons within the next year or two of leaving their old team. Only Drew Brees was under age 30 when he made the transition. Testaverde and Bledsoe technically did this more than once. I showed both years for Bledsoe, but Testaverde’s happened in his first year in Baltimore although the team was still the same roster as the old Browns and years after he left the Buccaneers.

McNabb is 31 and on pace for a 3500-yard, 20-touchdown season despite a three-week period where the Eagles QB hasn’t completed 50% of his passes. Check out the disparity in his numbers when you look over the gamelog stats from FFToday:

Donovan McNabb
Week Opp Result Cmp Att Cmp% Yard TD INT Att Yard Avg TD FFPts
1 STL W 38-3 21 33 63.6 361 3 0 1 3 3 0 26.7
2 at DAL L 37-41 25 37 67.6 281 1 0 5 20 4 0 17.2
3 PIT W 15-6 24 35 68.6 196 1 1 2 -2 -1 0 11.6
4 at CHI L 20-24 25 41 61 262 1 1 2 -5 -2.5 0 14
5 WAS L 17-23 17 29 58.6 196 0 0 0 0 - 0 7.8
6 at SF W 40-26 23 36 63.9 280 2 1 1 4 4 0 19.6
8 ATL W 27-14 19 34 55.9 253 0 0 6 25 4.2 1 18.6
9 at SEA W 26-7 28 43 65.1 349 2 1 2 6 3 0 22.6
10 NYG L 31-36 17 36 47.2 194 3 1 3 35 11.7 0 23.3
11 at CIN T 13-13 28 58 48.3 339 1 3 1 2 2 0 17.8
12 at BAL L 7-36 8 18 44.4 59 0 2 1 7 7 0 3.1

No one had true reason to complain until three weeks ago when his completion percentage dropped off the face of the earth. Drops are certainly an issue. Is Westbrook’s injury a factor? The Eagles RB is a better between the tackles runner than credited, but the offensive system is not set up for power running. Pair McNabb with a runner capable of physically beating up a defense and I think you would see a huge improvement in McNabb’s numbers. I can think of five teams that would become strong Super Bowl contenders with McNabb: Chicago, Carolina, Minnesota, Miami, and Kansas City.

Chicago, Carolina, and Minnesota are excellent pass rushing defenses that are tough to beat when the team is playing with a lead. All three can run the football and just need a more accurate passer who can extend a play from the pocket which will force defenses to take a more cautious approach to stopping any single facet of these teams’ offensive game plan. As a fan I would love to see McNabb, Peterson, and Berrian working off that strong Minnesota line. I think if the finances worked, the Panthers would dump Jake Delhomme in a second for McNabb. Steve Smith would probably cold-cock his current QB for a chance to catch passes from McNabb. And we all know that coming home to Chicago would probably help the Bears attract a veteran stud at receiver if the front office were savvy enough to make it happen. Miami has the ground game and I’m sure Bill Parcells (Don’t you love how everyone in the media calls the Dolphins Bill Parcells’ team while Tony Sparano is the coach?) would make it happen under the right conditions.

I’m not even sure I believe McNabb’s career in Philly is over at the end of the season. If Reid goes, I believe that’s a sign that McNabb will be soon to follow. With the off-the-field personal issues Reid has experienced with his sons, the streak of seasons not making the playoffs, and the team getting older in all the key places without finding suitable replacements, the Eagles may decide it is time to rebuild.

Nagging Feelings—Week 13

I have a feeling the Quarterback by Committee Strategy is effective, but I have found it frustrating. I tried it this year with one of my leagues by waiting until the late rounds to draft Jake Delhomme and Jason Campbell. It might have been successful if I could start the correct player on a weekly basis. Last week, Delhomme gets a prime match up against the Lions and he tanks. This week, I start Campbell and Delhomme is forced to play catch up and exceeds Campbell’s total by nine points. Not that it cost me this week, but it has been the story of my up and down season in this league.

My Genius Moment of the Week: Last week I started Brian Westbrook and Ricky Williams over Kevin Smith and Brandon Jacobs in a dynasty league, which nearly cost me a much-needed victory. This week I forget to check Brandon Jacobs’ status and start him over Ricky Williams. At least I got I right with Kevin Smith…

My Super Duper Mensa Moment: Starting T.J. Houshmandzadeh over Muhsin Muhammad and/or Isaac Bruce. Once again, it didn’t cost me – but if it weren’t for Michael Turner’s four-touchdown game, I would be worried.

Who Is?

Johnnie Lee Higgins: The UTEP-alum may not be catching many passes, but he’s returning punts and kickoffs for scores at the rate that we could see him as one of two deserving candidates (Nnamdi Asomugha) for the Pro Bowl. If your league gives points for special teams returns, Higgins is a must-have for your roster. If he gets quality coaching and makes the effort, Higgins has the raw skills to develop into a quality receiver, too.

Martellus Bennett: This week’s stat line for Bennett was 1 catch, 1 yard, and 1 score. Last week he also had a score, but it was a much more impressive display of athleticism. With Jason Witten playing tough guy down the stretch with rib issues, Bennett will see more situational looks and if he continues to produce, he’ll may get even more time to take the pressure off Witten. Personally, I thought Bennett was one of the most physically talented tight ends to come out of the 2008 draft class. What he lacked was consistency and the professional approach to the game. I know the Cowboy’s coaching staff isn’t the same disciplined crew as the Parcell’s regime, so it’s possible Wade Phillips’ crew isn’t making Bennett work as hard to earn his reps, but if the Texas A&M product has his head screwed on straight, Jason Witten could become a free agent sooner than later (as hard as it is to believe right now) – that’s how talented Bennett is. Personally I’d rather have Witten, but Bennett has that kind of potential.

Davone Bess: In case you missed it, Wes Welker 2.0 – Greg Camarillo – is now out for the season with a knee injury. Davone Bess stepped in against the Pats and got 87 yards off five receptions. I’ve talked about Bess before and I think we can safely call him Wes Welker 3.0. If you need someone to shore up your receiving corps down the stretch and there’s not much available, Bess is probably your guy. He’s good after the catch, has solid hands, and he’s tough. He dropped out of the draft because he was small and quick rather than tall and fast. He also had a prison record and I think the NFL may have a bias against former Hawaii coach June Jones, his history with the Falcons, and his style of offense – definitely his style of offense. Jones compared Bess favorably to Andre Rison. For the last month, we’ll get a chance to see if he was doing so just for recruits.