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20/20 Hindsight - Week 16

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.”

Happy holidays everyone. I hope your season was a success. Although I didn’t win a championship for the first time in three years I did send three teams to the semis and one to the championship game. I lost my lone championship game with three bad lineup choices for my 19-player starting line up in a full IDP dynasty league (My team is on the right):

 Better Luck Next Time...
Swat Team Pts Comments Out To Lunch Pts Comments
Ryan, Matt ATL QB 11.9 Gutsy start over Eli, so-so pick. Garrard, David JAC QB 29.4 I had to hope for the best and I got it.
Benson, Cedric CIN RB 19.1 Excellent choice - sickening. Smith, Kevin DET RB 18.1 A big reason I lost despite a good game.
Turner, Michael ATL RB 13 No brainer. Westbrook, Brian PHI RB 14.6 How do I not start him?
Owens, Terrell DAL WR 14.8 No brainer. Berrian, Bernard MIN WR 2.8 Horrible game.
White, Roddy ATL WR 3.9 The reason I still had a chance. Bowe, Dwayne KCC WR 4.3 To think I had Devard Darling for two seasons.
Clark, Dallas IND TE 22.5 This helped him win it. Fitzgerald, Larry ARI WR 20.6 One of the original members of my team.
Olsen, Greg CHI TE - I did this going into Monday Night. Keller, Dustin NYJ TE 0.7 Even the Titans No.2 TE was better.
Graham, Shayne CIN PK 0 Kept me in it. Kasay, John CAR PK 2 I stubbornly refused to believe in Lindell - bad.
Sims, Pat CIN DT 1 Bad day Brown, Tony TEN DT 6.5 Not bad.
Brown, Alex CHI DE - See Greg Olsen Dockett, Darnell ARI DE 4.5 Ok.
Burgess, Derrick OAK DE 10 Nice game Parker, Juqua PHI DE 1 Vanden Bosch’s injury has plagued me all year.
Bulluck, Keith TEN LB 16.5 No brainer. Dansby, Karlos ARI LB 13.5 Acquired as rookie in a draft day trade.
Howard, Thomas OAK LB 8 No brainer. Johnson, Derrick KCC LB 6 Same as above, but not as excited about it.
Jones, Dhani CIN LB 7.5 Decent day. Peterson, Julian SEA LB 3 Decline underway?
Morrison, Kirk OAK LB 1.5 Good player, rough day Willis, Patrick SFO LB 13 Best defensive draft pick I ever made.
Winfield, Antoine MIN CB 8 No brainer. Harper, Nick TEN CB 5.5 Not bad, but no Michael Griffin
Wright, Eric CLE CB 8.5 No brainer. Jennings, Tim IND CB 6 Decent
Griffin, Michael TEN S 22 Wow… Dawkins, Brian PHI S 6 Ditto
Williams, Madieu MIN S 2 Yuck Mikell, Quintin PHI S 6.5 Ditto
Starter Total: 170.2 Starter Total: 164
Potential Points: 207.2 Potential Points: 206.4
Efficiency Rating: 82.10% Efficiency Rating: 79.50%
Non-Starters Non-Starters
Manning, Eli NYG QB 17.1 I would have started him. Brennan, Colt WAS QB 0 Reserve
McNabb, Donovan PHI QB 11.3 Great #3 QB Culpepper, Daunte DET QB 0 Reserve
Jackson, Fred BUF RB 18.8 Nice day for a #2 RB Edwards, Trent BUF QB 15.7 Knew I’d bench him.
Johnson, Rudi DET RB 0 Retire now. Simms, Chris TEN QB 0 Intriguing reserve.
Washington, Leon NYJ RB 1.4 Give him more time. Darby, Kenneth STL RB 10.7 Intriguing reserve.
Boldin, Anquan ARI WR 0 Was hoping he’d start Boldin. Harrison, Jerome CLE RB 0 Reserve
McDonald, Shaun DET WR 0 Reserve Jacobs, Brandon NYG RB 27.7 Underestimated his health - cost me the title.
Moss, Sinorice NYG WR 0 Reserve Omon, Xavier BUF RB 0 Reserve
Simpson, Jerome CIN WR 0 Intriguing reserve Williams, Ricky MIA RB 17.4 Never would have used him, but go figure…
Utecht, Ben CIN TE 0 Reserve Young, Selvin DEN RB 1.6 Reserve
Robbins, Fred NYG DT 2.5 I would have started him. Bowman, Adarius FA WR 0 Long term roll of the dice.
Geathers, Robert CIN DE 0 Reserve Hill, Jason SFO WR 1.6 Intriguing reserve.
Groves, Quentin JAC DE 1 Intriguing reserve Jones, Matt JAC WR 0 Reserve
Harris, David NYJ LB 4 Reserve Schilens, Chaz OAK WR 12.7 Picked up mid-season, intriguing reserve
Johnson, Landon CAR LB 0.5 Reserve Walker, Mike JAC WR 2.3 Intriguing reserve.
Thomas, Adalius NEP LB 0 Reserve Scaife, Bo TEN TE 4.6 Keller had more upside in my mind.
Lucas, Ken CAR CB 4.5 Reserve Lindell, Rian BUF PK 12 This pick angered me more than the RB gaffe.
Sheppard, Lito PHI CB 0 Reserve Vanden Bosch, Kyle TEN DE 0 Hurt all year. Imagine if he were healthy Sunday.
Bullocks, Josh NOS S 10 Good start Boley, Michael ATL LB 5 Tailspin this year.
Ndukwe, Nedu CIN S 9.5 Good start Crowder, Channing MIA LB 0 Hurt.
White, Marvin CIN S 0 Reserve Jones, Sean CLE S 4.5 Coming off injury
Non-Starter Total: 80.6 Non-Starter Total: 115.8
Starter + Non-Starter Total: 250.8 Starter + Non-Starter Total: 279.8

Congratulations to my opponent for his victory. I don’t think either of us fully expected to get to this game, both of us beating the more favored teams in our first two match ups in the playoffs. If I had started Rian Lindell and Brandon Jacobs I would have been up by twelve heading into Monday night, but I seriously believed Derrick Ward would be more productive and Kevin Smith was a more likely to have a nice day. I was wrong, but still somewhat justified in my decision when you consider Ward had 215 yards and Smith had an 18-point day. I felt my worst decision was keeping Lindell on the bench against a poor Broncos defense. For some reason I just fixated on Kasay having more opportunities and I have been wrong about this down the stretch.

Now’s not the time to dwell on should’ve, could’ve, would’ve because if you got this far, you should be congratulated on a successful season regardless of your week 16 outcome. So we’re going to end the season with a series of connecting thoughts about the weekend that was and the season as a whole.

Kurt Warner has a rough history with games played in wintry weather. You wouldn’t think this would be such a problem consider that Warner’s college career was in Northern Iowa with that wind whipping across the planes. The problem is the Panthers play in a dome. Explains a lot, doesn’t it? Stats don’t always tell the story.

Here’s another example where stats don’t even come close to telling the story – Going into week 16 here are the season stats for three quarterbacks whose careers permanently intersect:

 QBs Through Week 15
Comp Att Yds Tds Ints Fpts
296 466 3,470 23 12 310.9
323 482 3,239 21 19 256.3
299 446 3,453 17 7 252.3
If I told you at the end of the 2007 season that the QB of the Packers would have the best stats, the QB of the Jets would be in the middle, and the QB at the bottom would be the Dolphins starter, you would have been fine with these numbers as projections – except you’d probably say the Dolphins QB looked a little too good.

What you would never have guessed is the conference runner-up Packers would be out of the playoffs despite a strong season debut from Aaron Rodgers who bumped a retired, then un-retired Brett Favre. The gunslinger went to the Jets and equal parts great and terrible, but still has New York in the post-season race. Ironically, the team with the best shot of the three to make the playoffs was the QB left for the trash heap. Chad Pennington has the worst arm, the worst team on paper, and the fewest fantasy points heading into week 16, but he also has the fewest turnovers, nearly as many yards as Rodgers, and a better completion percentage. Efficiency is sometimes the stat you need to consider over raw production. It was an easy and understandable slip-up for everyone to prefer Brett Favre to Chad Pennington, but it looks like the former Marshall QB is making Jets fans wonder if they’re going to be featured on yet another TV clip cheering the wrong move by their team’s brass.

I think the real answer to the question is the one that anti-Farve guys will love to hate: I believe Favre would have had a huge season if he never called it quits in the off-season. Think about the fact he has 20-plus scores and 3200 yards in a system and players he had less than a month to learn before the regular season. That’s exceeding realistic expectations. The additiona of Alan Faneca cannot be understated, but he also forced defenses to respect his ability to make the big play, which helped the offensive line and the running game. Most importantly, the Jets would likely be contenders with Farve or Pennington but the Packers couldn’t make it happen defensively. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t a victim of the Madden Curse, but the Packers organization was as a whole.

Speaking of slip ups, I loved that Chris Berman called Merrill Hodge “Myrtle” about 40 minutes before kickoff. Too funny…and speaking of Myrtle, I was telling a reader the same things Hodge said Sunday about the Tennessee defense without Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch. What we neglected to consider is the physical style of the Titans. This team’s modus operandi is to make sure you feel that you were in a football game when the clock strikes 0:00. If there is a team on both sides of the ball that was capable of standing toe-to-toe with the Steelers and not back down it was the Titans.

Most people know very little about Tennessee because they are a small market team that just recovered from a salary cap purge of big contracts from the late 90s-early 2000s teams that were consistently in Super Bowl contention. Here’s want you need to know: this team is in built according to Jeff Fisher. They will beat you up, they are resilient physically and mentally, and they take risks.

Remember the 4th down play against the Texans two weeks ago where Fisher called the pass play and Collins missed it and the media panned Fisher and we all predicted the demise of the Titans, who peaked too early now that they’ve gone 2-2 in four weeks?

This weekend, I watched the Titans up by three with home field advantage on the line call a pass play on 4th and 3 late in the 3rd quarter against the best defense in football and convert.

So much for bad coaching.

Seriously, consider the fact that Fisher and company understands Tennessee needs to practice executing in big situations and there’s no better time to do it than with the game on the line. The Titans had little to lose – they made the playoffs and had a home game sewn up. They need to get comfortable executing under pressure more than they need home field advantage. If they have the confidence to perform in key situations, it doesn’t matter where they are playing does it?

Sunday, they also were the first team this season to post 300 yards on the Steelers defense and they caused seven fumbles and an interception return for a score without Albert Haynesworth and yet again, Kyle Vanden Bosch – both Pro Bowl caliber defensive linemen. Justin Tuck was a player I loved out of college and I compared Lions DE Cliff Avril to him in some ways last week. This week, let’s look at the Titans second-round pick, DE Jason Jones, who many teams saw as a potential LB because he was high-hipped, very quick, athletic, and good against strong competition. Sounds a lot to me like LB Justin Tuck out of Notre Dame, who just needed to add weight/strength. Well, looks like Jones had his first coming out party yesterday. Remember the depth of the New York Giants line last year with Kiwanuka, Tuck, Umenyiora, and Strahan rotating? Vanden Bosch and Haynesworth should be healthy by the playoffs and with Ball, Kearse, Jones, Hayes, and Brown all making plays, the Titans with Kerry Collins could be the Giants South.

Speaking of the Titans, I don’t know where Alge Crumpler has been all season, but it was nice to see him on Sunday catching and running with the football.

Another reminder of Titans toughness: Derrick Mason scoring with a dislocated shoulder in the second half of the Cowboys game. Gritty. These are the type of players that embody the spirit of the Titans football teams. Just remember him and McNair. Think about McNair and Fisher losing that Super Bowl by a yard. It takes a lot of mental toughness to lead your team back to a few more conference championships after that kind of loss. These guys could have imploded, but they didn’t. Mason is a football player of the highest order: not prototypically big, not prototypically fast, but off the charts tough. I watched him play on a sprained kneed at the end of a Monday night football game several years ago where he was the go-to receiver on the final drive that won them the game. He made plays after the catch and then would limp back to the huddle. Gritty.

Speaking of toughness did you hear Tom Jackson list the new additions to his torso? Artificial right hip, artificial left knee, pin in shoulder? That segment on playing in pain by ESPN was excellent.

And Jackson also got the gift of introducing the best highlight of the 2008 season on Monday Night Countdown. Chiefs linemen Damien McIntosh pancaking consecutive Dolphin defensive backs into an IHOP short stack on the Jamaal Charles flare pass for 75 yards. It was the funniest and greatest play I’ve seen all year. Someone needs to YouTube it for posterity.

And underrated play was one from Eli Manning on Sunday night. His accuracy was on display with 11:00 in the 1st QTR on the opening drive when he uncorked a deep pass on the run in double coverage. Although his form and mechanics weren’t pretty, he knew exactly where the place the ball so Hixon could turn back to the ball and make an uncontested catch.

From underrated play to an underrated coach: Cleveland brass, please bring back Marty Schottenheimer. You have the makings of a team that he can easily mold into his image. He has an offensive line that is fundamentally strong that he can make better. He has a big play receiver in Braylon Edwards and Josh Cribbs, Jerome Harrison, and Paul Hubbard - late-round athletes he’ll know how to use like he did with Herman Fotenot, Earnest Byner, and Brian Brennan in the 80s. He’ll create a defense that will dominate the Bengals, and make the Ravens and Steelers match ups into gutter wars. Hire Schottenheimer and the AFC North will become the best division in football and the hardest hitting within three seasons. Fans will also give Schottenheimer a longer honeymoon because they hated to see him go the first time and they know he’s inherited a mess, a promising mess, but a mess nonetheless. As long as you let Schottenheimer have a real say in drafting players along the offensive line and anywhere on the defensive side of the ball, you’ll be fine.

Speaking of the draft, I’m looking forward to answering the following questions:

Deciding whether I think Clemson’s C.J. Spiller is more like Reggie Bush or Chris Johnson…I know James Davis is a decent college runner, but don’t waste your time picking him early in dynasty drafts.

Is there a quarterback remotely close to Matt Ryan’s level of talent and more importantly, is there an NFL team with a good enough situation to give him a chance to perform at a high level and not get his psyche bashed in by game six?

Will the linebacker class be better than it was in 2008? I sure hope so.

Is Rice’s Jarrett Dillard a Derrick Mason-like receiver prospect?

If you’re playing for your championship in week 17 and not in an all-points league…WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR LEAGUE?

Seriously, good luck and have a great off-season!