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20/20 Hindsight - Week 7

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.”

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

Nate Washington, Malcom Floyd, Josh Morgan, and Donnie Avery were good starts: Put these guys in a four receiver line up versus Jerricho Cotchery, Greg Jennings, Terrell Owens, and Reggie Wayne and your opponent would be laughing about his good fortune, right? Not this weekend. Washington caught yet another Ben Roethlisberger-bomb, Floyd led all Chargers receivers in production, Morgan was a big-play producer versus the Giants, and Donnie Avery torched the Cowboys’ saddle sore defensive backfield early in the Rams’ upset.

Lesson Learned: What these surprise wide outs have in common are big-play ability, opportunity due to injury, and the trust of their quarterback. Washington benefits from the injuries to Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, because Pittsburgh employs more three wide receiver sets to spread out the defense for the scat back, Mewelde Moore’s benefit. As a fantasy owner you have fair warning about Washington if you checked his last game’s stat line.

Considering I had a chance to add Washington to my lineup in a dynasty league this week with Larry Fitzgerald on by, but chose Chaz Schilens instead, you can see you’re not alone about ignoring the good signs for Roethlisberger’s favorite deep threat from the slot. Of course, we can compound the pain when we remember how Malcolm Floyd burned the Patriots last weekend and Chris Chambers was out for yet another week.

I don’t think anyone could have reasonably predicted Josh Morgan going off this week, but most fantasy owners remember Morgan as the preseason darling who helped make J.T. O’Sullivan the starting quarterback this year. Donnie Avery scored for his second straight week after taking over for the oft-injured Drew Bennett. It’s clear if you’re looking for a bye week receiver off the waiver wire, three factors matter most: opportunity, recent evidence of a good rapport, big play ability facing a reasonably good defensive match up.

One Johnson would beat the other Johnson’s yardage and touchdown total on 9 fewer catches: This is a lot like Joe the Plumber trumping Bob the Builder last week in the presidential debate. Andre Johnson helped the Houston Texans move the ball up and down the field in route to a victory over the Detroit Lions with 9 catches for 141 yards, but Calvin Johnson won the fantasy match up with 154 yards and a score off just two grabs.

Lesson Learned: There goes my thought that Detroit would try to target Calvin Johnson in the short passing game. Of course, we are talking about two huge plays against the Houston Texans’ secondary. For the few of you not in Texas or Detroit who watched this game, even the box score makes it evident that Detroit’s deep passing game benefits when the ground game is productive. With or without an established quarterback, expect Calvin Johnson to perform well if the Lions face a mediocre rush defense.

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

LenDale White would have an 80-yard touchdown run in the NFL: This might have been the most surprising highlight of the year. LenDale White is a good runner, but the only two players I would be more surprised to see with 80-yard touchdowns in their career would be Craig “Ironhead” Heyward and Mike Alstott.

Lesson Learned: Remember a month ago when people were ready to anoint Darren McFadden rookie of the year after his big game in Kansas City? After seeing DeAngelo Williams, Chris Johnson, and LenDale White it gives us a lot more perspective on Darren McFadden’s performance. The Raiders’ first round draft pick has had nice moments in just about every game while playing with a bum toe, but Justin Fargas is still the guy the Raiders rely upon.

But back to White and his three-touchdown day. The Titans co-starter showed off a decent burst and enough gas in the tank to take it the distance versus a second and third level of the Chiefs defense that was too aggressive and overran the play. Whenever there’s a run like this, you have to credit the offensive line for opening gargantuan holes in a defense.

One thing about the Titans, Bucs, and Giants is that they are strongest where it counts: the trenches on both sides of the ball. They can run and defend the run and at worst, they have quarterback play effective enough to convert third downs to keep drives a live.

The Vikings seemed like they could be this kind of team, but the offensive line has been out of synch with Bryant McKinnie out for the first month of the season and their quarterback is not a game manager. I repeat, don’t listen to people tell you that Gus Frerotte is a game manager. That’s like saying (whether you are voting for him or not) a guy with 29-year career in Congress is a maverick. If Brad Childress kept Brad Johnson and turned to this leader earlier in Jackson’s tenure, the Vikings could be a so much better and Jackson might have had a chance. More on this subject below…

That one could say, “Mewelde Moore…Adrian Peterson…What’s the difference?” Not much of a difference this weekend. Moore’s stats: 20 attempts, 120 yards, 2 rushing scores. Peterson’s: 21 attempts, 121 yards, 2 TDs. But throw in Moore’s 5 receptions for 14 yards and a TD and Moore wins the fantasy contest, Peterson gets the admiration of NFL people because of his feasting on Bear: 2 games, 42 carries, 345 yards, and 5 scores.

Lesson Learned: I realize I pick on Brad Childress frequently in my columns. I believe his decisions have set back the Vikings path to become a true contender. Although I understand why he wished to part ways with Daunte Culpepper, the selection of Tarvaris Jackson was a blunder of mammoth proportions. I’m not saying this because Jackson was benched by Childress. Terry Bradshaw and John Elway were benched early in their careers, but both players showed flashes of their enormous talent. One could argue Vince Young has done the same. Jackson? Not so much.

Compounding the blunder was Childress’ being okay with getting rid of Brad Johnson. Sorry folks, but Brad Johnson and Gus Frerotte are two completely different quarterbacks. I know Johnson had a rough outing Sunday, but he was asked to do something that he’s not well-equipped to do: play from behind and aggressively go downfield. The Vikings have a as strong of a running game and a better defense than Dallas. With Johnson in the lineup, the Vikings were closer to contending before the Childress-Peterson-Jackson era. He’s the perfect offensive caretaker. He’ll keep games close and let the players around him win it for the team.

If you want a caretaker quarterback for your organization, you want him to serve as a good example for your young signal caller. Johnson is the Nanny 911 of caretaker quarterbacks; Frerotte is Uncle Buck. I’ve been sharing this sentiment for weeks now: Frerotte is a multi-TD/multi-Int statline ready to happen in every game. Two scores and four picks is about what we use to see from him in St. Louis, Denver, and Washington. This is not what you want to show Tarvaris Jackson.

Childress is that brainy guy you lock away in a room to analyze specific situations and come up with solutions. It makes him a good offensive coordinator, but not a strong leader or personnel guy. Haven’t we seen enough of this lately with Scott Linehan and Cam Cameron? You give these guys keys to the press box and the film room, not the head coach’s office. They’re best as thinkers and creators, not managers. Exhibit A: Childress’ handling of Sidney Rice’s passing of his grandmother who raised him. I’m sure Childress wasn’t trying to be heartless, but it was a clear example that he lacks the perspective to lead men. He may know football strategy, but he doesn’t know how to deal with people.

Mike Tomlin knows people. Mike Tomlin didn’t try to reinvent the Steelers defense, despite the fact that he was hired because of his skills as a defensive coordinator with the Vikings. He knew he was entering a great situation with Dick LeBeau and didn’t try to put his ego on it. Tomlin also had enough sense to take a good player in Mewedle Moore who was stuck behind a logjam of players other coaches in Minny liked more, and add him to his squad. Tomlin saw enough of Moore in Minnesota to know that he was a useful player and is now benefitting from the acquisition. If Gary Russell or Najeh Davenport were the main backs, we would probably be talking about how the Steelers are struggling to run the football and this is why they are losing games they would normally win. In contrast, were talking about the Vikings losing games they should win but they are giving away with turnovers and reckless play.

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

Not given up on Kevin Smith: Smith had 61 yards on 10 carries, including a 26-yard score. He’s looking better every week, despite the addition of Rudi Johnson and the subtraction of Jon Kitna and Roy Williams.

Lesson Learned: What we are beginning to see is the competitive spirit of a future fantasy starter. Smith could have pouted like a Cedric Benson when the Lions decided to split the workload. Instead, Smith used it as motivation and is outplaying the veteran. He’s rising to the occasion and learning to play with pain. Sure, it was the Texans this weekend, but like Frank Gore, who was a bright spot for a dismal 49ers squad competing with Kevan Barlow, Smith is doing the right things. He may be a player you can buy low in dynasty leagues.

Nagging Feelings—Week 7

Somebody really needs to make a football movie that focuses on the techniques of the game within the storyline. If you ever saw Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, you’ll understand what I’m saying. The brilliant part of that story is you learn to appreciate the sweet science of boxing through the eyes of one of the least likely type of boxers. The way the techniques of boxing are interwoven through the plot, coupled with the mercilessly truthful dialogue among the characters makes this among my favorite all-time movies. Instead of another over the top film about hard-partying players, money-hungry owners, and coaches that resemble generals, I’d like to see a stripped down story about football in a similar way Eastwood adapted this story for film. There are tons of rich moments in the details of how the game is played that could make for a great movie.

Lately, I’ve been endlessly fascinated with watching the match up between a defensive end and left tackle in a passing situation because of this battle between giants that involves more intricacy in detail than we typically catch. Sunday, I got to see one of the best, Julius Peppers and Jamaal Brown in the Panthers-Saints game. At first glance, to watch Peppers sack of Drew Brees in the first quarter was like watching chaos breaking out. It certainly was for the Saints offense on that play, but when you replay the sack and see Peppers press up field yet at the same time prevent the fine, left tackle, Jamaal Brown, from getting his hands on him, you realize the art form of rushing the passer is one of the more impressive feats of athleticism, technique, and strategy you can see in a three-second window. It’s not out of control; it’s playing on the edge of losing control, but with an unbelievable amount of knowledge about leverage, positioning, and hand-to-hand combat. If you have a TIVO and you’re normally enamored with a beautiful throw, catch, or run, focus on the defensive end and left tackle battle. It may not be the most media friendly, but it is the reason why left tackle is among the highest paid positions in football.

In fact the best play I saw all day was from Julius Peppers. On a 2nd an 10 with 12:11 in the half, Peppers caught Brown in a backpedal, and with a double-handed punch to the chest, bull-rushed Brown off balance so badly, the left tackle nearly did a split as he fell to the ground. As this was happening, Brees threw a short jump pass over the arms of the front side defensive end to Jeremy Shockey. The Saints tight end took off towards the right hash and Peppers tracked down and blindsided Shockey nearly six yards behind the line of scrimmage, stripping the ball away with a tomahawk chop. If I could switch bodies and knowledge with a football player on a Sunday afternoon, give me the chance to be a bad ass, 6-5 or 6-6, 260-280-lbs.guy with explosive speed and strength with smarts and unmitigated rage channeled to stop the quarterback. Peppers or Justin Tuck would be the first two on my list.

In terms of great plays over the weekend, a close second was T.J. Duckett running over the umpire trying to throw his flag. Message to umpires: get out of the way first, AND THEN throw the flag.

Another great movie is one I watched this weekend, John Singleton’s Hustle And Flow. There’s a great scene of rage channeled for a higher purpose when the characters played by Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, and DJ Qualls, create the song “Slap That Trick.” Even if you’d never catch yourself listening to a song like “Slap That Trick” on the radio, the context of how it fits into the scene of the movie gives you an appreciation for the act of creating something out of your environment.

Anyhow, as an alumnus of UGA, I particularly enjoyed the halftime highlight I saw Sunday afternoon of Hines Ward personally welcoming USC alum, Keith Rivers, to the NFL with a hit that made me want to sing “slap that trick” the second I saw it. Then I saw Rivers is out for the year with a broken jaw – it kind of ruined the moment…not that the play was dirty.

I’d like to congratulate my peer, Emil Kadlec of Football Diehards and WCOFF, who I faced this week. He made the right move picking up rookie WR Donnie Avery. I contemplated grabbing him on the waiver wire, but just couldn’t pull the trigger. Smart move.

Would you believe that in my original draft of Thursday’s Gut Check I said the best option of the two new Detroit receivers would be Mike Furrey? That’s what I get for second-guessing myself with the aid of Internet fantasy analysts…