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20/20 Hindsight - Week 8

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 is one of those weeks where the box sores were more interesting than the games. There were a ton of how did that happened? For example, Joe Flacco had a 43-yard reception courtesy of tonsil-less Troy Smith. Smith’s former OSU teammate, Ted Ginn, had a stat line commensurate with a top-15 draft pick – 7 catches for 175 yards – but how does an NFL wide receiver average 25 yards per catch and not score a touchdown?

Chaz Schilens, the Raider receiver I selected over some quality free agents last week in a dynasty league, came alive a week later than I needed him with three catches for 76 yards, including a 60-yarder against the Baltimore Ravens, nonetheless.

Kevin Smith’s stat line: 7 for 50 and 4 for 12. I would have assumed the 7 for 50-stat was his production on the ground, but it was in fact his receiving stats. Drew Brees had the day most fantasy owners expected from him against his old team, the San Diego Chargers, 30/41 for 339 yards and no interceptions. But I bet there are a handful of owners who lost their games because of Brees’ end of the game, -26-yard carry that resulted in a fumble out of the end zone for a safety.

It’s a bizarre game we play. But I don’t care about the fact half my fantasy teams lost on Monday night, because the Titans are 7-0 and have a four game lead on a team I admire as much as any.

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

Donnie Avery would out-produce Torry Holt and Randy Moss…combined: Avery had six catches for 163 yards and a score. Moss had 102 yards and Holt had 28 yards, neither had a touchdown. Two of Avery’s catches were completions of over 40 yards. On a personal note, I picked up Avery three weeks ago. I have yet to start him in a solid corps of receivers and this weekend it cost me a potential victory against the best squad in my local league.

Lesson Learned:: Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever learn that you always play the receiver getting the highest number of targets with the greatest upside. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had the targets, but with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, lacked the upside. Isaac Bruce is garnering neither lately. Either of these receivers than their combined 9 points I would have happily benched for a 28-point day from Donnie Avery.

Funny thing about Avery, he was considered a huge reach as the first receiver taken in the 2008 draft. I never got the chance to watch Avery in his final season. What I heard was that he was fast and a hard worker, but he didn’t run routes well and didn’t catch the ball with good technique. Right now, he’s the best rookie receiver in the league.

The Jets receiving duo of Coles and Cotchery would be as good starts versus Kansas City’s defense than New York’s starting runner: I almost benched Jerricho Cotchery Sunday morning for Mike Furrey, because conventional wisdom around fantasy circles was the Jets would run over the Chiefs just like every other team that has faced them thus far. As it turns out Cotchery and his questionable shoulder had 9 catches for 102 yards and Coles added 64 yards and a nice stop-fade touchdown reception. Meanwhile, Thomas Jones was held to 54 yards on 14 carries and a score – paltry numbers for a back facing the Chiefs.

Lesson Learned:: Once I learned the both Jets starters would be playing, I checked the Chiefs’ opponents and found that the only two quality signal callers Kansas City faced prior to this game were Jay Cutler and Jake Delhomme. The Denver starter had 361 yards and despite a big game by Deangelo Williams, Delhomme passed for 236 yards. At that point, Cotchery was immediately in my line up, because Farve and his receivers qualified as Chief opponents with similarities to the Broncos and Panthers. Sometimes it’s not about the stats on the surface like KC’s average yards given up on the ground per game, and more about the type of opponents they faced. It’s always good to find some perspective with any stats you consider.

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

The most productive receiver on the field in San Francisco could be a fullback: This was a not a defensive struggle. The stat line read 4 catches, 116 yards, and two scores, including a 62-yard catch and run. The amazing thing is this production didn’t belong to Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan, Arnaz Battle, Bobby Engram, Koren Robinson, or even Frank Gore, Julius Jones, or Jason Hill. The owner of this 29-yard per catch average is none other than fullback Leonard Weaver.

Lesson Learned:: Considering Weaver has 6 catches for 43 yards going into this game, there was no way of knowing he’d be a better option than Randy Moss, Torry, Holt, Hines Ward, or even Ted Ginn. With Seneca Wallace at the helm and a decimated receiving corps, it shows anything is possible. The last time I actually started a full-time fullback was in the mid-nineties when William Floyd was the 49ers goal line option and I had more touted backs on bye.

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

Steve Heiden was the best waiver wire option at the tight end position this week: With Greg Olsen on bye, I had a few teams where I needed a tight end. I was busy debating the merits of Dusting Keller, Marcedes Lewis, and John Carlson, when Kellen Winslow’s back up, Steve Heiden was sitting there all along. Heiden had 3 catches for 73 yards, including a 51-yarder off a great play call by the Browns’ offensive coordinator.

Lesson Learned:: Sometimes a quality back up subbing for an elite starter in an offense where that position is prominently featured in the passing game is a much better choice than finding a current starter on a team that doesn’t feature the position.

Nagging Feelings—Week 8

The Jaguars were victims of a bad call on the third to the last play of the game. In fact the officials missed two penalties on one play. It was a 2nd down throw to the end zone with less than a minute left and the Browns defensive back clearly facemasks Jerry Porter at the end line and changing the course of what could have been a game-winning touchdown reception. Yeah, I know, Jerry Porter and game-winner match about as well as the words “clean” and “political campaign”, but it was as blatant a penalty I’ve seen not called at the end of the game as any this year.

They also wouldn’t have to worry about Browns fans pelting players with plastic beer bottles; they were in Jacksonville! Then again, were those fans in the stands or did Wayne Waver go to the local novelty store and get a bunch of Fatheads of normal people? Not only did the officials miss the interference call, but they also didn’t penalize Willie McGinest for a roughing the passer penalty that he clearly committed on this same play. It was clear McGinest thought he was late with the hit, because he immediately looked back at the official and held up his arm as if he were a guilty party trying to explain. Not that I like to see games decided by officials, but these were two egregious, non-calls.

If you were unfamiliar with the Titans until you watched last night’s game, you saw the same philosophy executed by the team that has been in place since Jeff Fisher took over from Jack Pardee in Houston: Run the ball, keep make key stops on defense, and win the game in the second half with sustained drives with a conservative passing game. You have to develop patience to cheer for the Tennessee Titans, because they play hard and generally stay in the game. When Steve McNair, Eddie George, Frank Wycheck, and Derrick Mason were playing, Tennessee was capable of coming back from two or three touchdowns so you had to have some faith in the team remaining level headed in adversity.

With Kerry Collins under center and a receiving corps with players that might not earn the third spot on a depth chart for 85%-90% of the teams in the league, 10 points is probably the Titans’ limit. It’s also clear that Collins is playing smart football, but he lacks that pinpoint accuracy to make game-changing plays. He’ll move the chains and make some tough third down throws, but this was a game where the Titans got some gifts. There were two potential interceptions that the Colts dropped, a Chris Johnson fumble that was not called as such, and an Alge Crumpler fumble that went out of bounds. Credit the Titans for making the best of their good fortune and staying in the game to pull away at the end, but this was not a dominant performance. At the same time, without Kyle Vanden Bosch in the line up and Dave Ball hurt to begin the game, the defensive line was not at full strength. If it were, I believe Manning would have been sacked three times in this game.

While I think a 12-win season is possible for the Titans, I think 11 games is probably their ceiling this year.

I once knew a former Ohio State fullback who told me he roomed with the Hall of Fame wide receiver, Paul Warfield, while in college. I liked him. He told me funny jokes, taught me how to cook some cool things like Beignets and an authentic, Italian red sauce for pasta. He married my mother when I was 10 years old.

On the Saint Patrick’s Day after my 11th birthday, I was in my room while my mother and her husband were having an argument. It wasn’t an uncommon experience for them to have the occasional argument. As a child hearing two people I cared about yell at each other, it bothered me. But the idea my mother might be in physical danger never entered my mind until I heard my mother scream the split second before I heard a loud thud.

When you’re confronted by surprise with the imminent threat of physical violence to you or ones you love, the fight or flight mechanism comes into play. Unless you are trained in a martial art and used to fighting, you never know how you’re going to react. Nearly ten years after the event I’m about to describe, I actually fled an apartment and grabbed a fire extinguisher at the entrance as an instinctive response to encountering a young man robbing my place. The point I’m making is I’m not telling this story below to impress you about my courage. Because as the robbery I just described above shows, we often react by instinct. Courage or cowardice is a quality of action that comes with thought.

I was in my room when I heard the scream and the thud. Without thinking, I grabbed my aluminum Louisville Slugger and ran into the kitchen. The 6-1, 240-pound, former fullback, was with one hand, holding my mom against the wall by the throat and his other hand was balled into a fist. He saw me stop at the kitchen entrance with the bat and before he could say anything, we heard a familiar voice say, “Let my mom go right now and leave this house or I’m going to knock your head off your shoulders, through that window behind you, and over that fence.”

Lucky for us, he did what that voice - my voice – told him, and he never returned to live with us. It took me five years to realize those events I remembered were real and not a dream. It was surreal.

I share this story because I think of another Big Ten back with similar dimensions, far more talent, and equally disturbing behavior. I think Larry Johnson was about as contrite as he could be in his apology about his recent behavior. You don’t see many people pending a formal trial admit that the direction of their career, and more importantly, their life is disgusting to them. At the same time, an apology is just the beginning.

Larry Johnson has an anger problem and he needs serious help with it. The reasons he has this problem probably stem from him being a victim as a child and never having an opportunity to grow from this past that haunts him. But he’s an adult and its time to learn how to behave like a man. The Chief may run like a man, but he doesn’t know how to act like one without a football in his hand. Here’s hoping he does everything necessary to learn how to become a real man before he places his family in a situation like the one I described, or far worse.