First Quarter Stat Line
The “Gut Feeling” is often synonymous with a sense
of desperation resulting from a lack of preparation. The Gut Check
is a huge proponent of studying the numbers, but there’s
a point where one can place too much emphasis on the wrong information.
This can result in the undervaluing or overlooking a player’s
potential. Therefore, The Weekly Gut Check is devoted to examining
the frame of reference behind certain number-driven guidelines
that fantasy football owners use to make decisions.
Although The Weekly Gut Check doesn’t claim to be psychic,
he does believe that he can dispel certain numbers biases and
help you make the best choices for your team. We’ll keep
a running tally of The Weekly Gut Check’s insights. This
way you can gauge his views as something to seriously consider,
or at least seriously consider running the opposite way as fast
as you can!
Every four weeks Yours Truly is going to hold his preseason
projections to the harsh light of the 2004 season and determine
whether they still have life to them, or require an autopsy. The
Gut Check doesn't know what Krueger's evaluation process will
entail, so he created his own.
At first, he considered using the standard educational grading
system (A=90-100, B=80-89, C=70-79, etc.). But fantasy football
isn't schoolit's gambling's more affable cousin. And if The Gut
Check earned anything over a C-minus on a consistent basis, he'd
probably have to start considering a career in odds making, which
means the grading system does not reflect the performance.
Then he thought about going with the favorite ploy of many sports
columniststhe old "batting average grading system,"
where anything over .300 is good. The Gut Check has never been
a baseball fan, and he doesn't want to make his work look better
than advertised. The field goal percentage tactic is basketball
doesn't work either.
Ultimately, it all comes back to football. The Gut Check will
model his evaluation after a quarterback's stat line. The number
of statements he's made about a player or situation will be the
attempts. The amount of these
statements that still have a reasonable chance to be true will
be considered completions. Yardage
will be rewarded upon the difficulty of the insightmore yards
for the least likely scenarios, less for the easier predictions.
The statements Yours Truly made that appear to be way off track
will be interceptions. Touchdowns
will be the picks that turned out very close to the mark. We'll
use The Gut Check's completion percentage
and touchdown to interception ratio
to evaluate his record during the four, quarter points of the
season. When the season ends, The Gut Check will have something
akin to a quarterback stat line for a four-quarter game. Obviously,
results may change from one quarter to the next so we'll just
assume every grade is ultimately under the review of instant replay
until the season ends.
But before taking the field, The Gut Check has to comment about
John Henderson's idea for pre-game motivation. Is it just Yours
Truly, or did you also have these thoughts?
- Slapping a 6'8", 320-pound behemoth in the face without
suffering dire consequences has to be a perverse thrill, doesn't
- If you're an opposing quarterback or running back on the Jags
schedule, did you really want to see this is what happens just
before he lines up in your path?
- How did this come up? Did they practice this during the week?
Henderson to Jags' Trainer: I want you to slap me so hard
that it leaves a hand mark on my face-no, on second thought-I
want you to slap me so hard, that the hand mark appears on the
opposite side of my face! Jags' Trainer: (The look on his
face shows he doesn't know whether to get excited or piss his
Let's get this evaluation started. The Gut Check will review
the highlights, lowlights, and other predictions of note. If you
want to see the entire scorecard check out this table.
Overall The Gut Check's first quarter stat sheet reads like this:
|Gut Check's 1st Quarter
|| FF Pts
|The Gut Check
In fantasy scoring terms, Yours Truly would rate 4th among QBs
in total pointsa good amount above Marc Bulger and just below
Daunte Culpepper. As you can see, The Gut Check's completion percentage
isn't really NFL-worthy but he has a knack for making the big
play. Kind of like the rookie signal caller that likes to go downfield
but needs to learn how to read and react more effectively at this
level. Of course there are a lot of plays still under review,
so the stat line could change significantly. So far, it looks
like a Boom or Bust season
Play Call: "Truth be known,
Lee Suggs was always a better back than William Green. Although
the Gut Check believes Green still has a shot at a bright NFL
future if he continues his personal recovery, Suggs will be the
Result: 20-yard completion across the middleTrue,
Suggs has only played one game this year, but he was impressive
against the NFL's top ranked defense against the run that allows
59 yards per game on the ground and 2.5 yards per carry. Considering
that Butch Davis was going to be cautious with Suggs in this first
game back, and still wound up feeding him twenty-two times, The
Gut Check has no problem saying Suggs illustrated what Yours Truly
has been saying this since June.
Play Call: Regardless of the
conspiracy theories, the answer will emerge in this summer in
training camp. Although William Green will have something to prove,
it's mainly to himself. As admirable as that may be, it doesn't
generate the same type of motivation as being slighted. William
Green had it handed to him and he didn't appreciate it. That's
why the Gut Check is betting on Lee Suggs to take the job and
not let go.
Result: 15-yard fade in the end zone for a touchdownSuggs
won the job outright in training camp. Although he didn't start
the first quarter of the season due to the neck stinger, there
was no question Suggs was the man.
Play Call: "But Westbrook
also has the potential to be an every down back. He has a deceptively
strong lower body befitting someone that would weigh 220 rather
than 205 and this allows him to break more tackles than one would
normally see from a back of his height. Westbrook runs with a
low center of gravity and this actually keeps him from absorbing
as much punishment as some of the bigger backs that run upright."
Result: 10-yard pass in the flat for a scoreSo far
Westbrook is averaging just over 22 touches per game considering
Priest Holmesfantasy football's perennial top pick is averaging
28 carries per game. Only Tiki Barber has gained more yards from
scrimmage than the Eagles' starter. Despite not scoring a touchdown,
Westbrook is still the thirteenth-rated fantasy back in standard
performance leagues. Of course, it is only the quarter point of
the season. We'll see if this play holds up under review.
Play Call: "So what does
the Gut Check recommend for the 2004 season? Value Duckett similar
to that of Mike Alstott: some weeks with heavy goal line carries
and the occasional 100 yard game, but don't count on him as anything
more than a weak #3-solid #4 RB in 10-12 player fantasy leagues.
Otherwise, disappointment is (as the last two years have illustrated)
is likely for fantasy owners of Duckett."
Result: 30-yard strike for sixDuckett is the 35th
ranked back in standard scoring leagueslittle more than
a bye week option right now at best. Although Duckett's carries
have increased every game, he's still clearly backing up Dunn.
Half of his 2004 total came in week four and neither of the last
two games was in doubt when the Spartans' alum got the ball. Seems
to The Gut Check that Dunn is still very much the main man (16th
in yards rushing in the NFL) in Atlanta.
Play Call: "The steal of
the draft was landing Chris Brown in round eight!!"
Result: 30-yard td passBrown had three consecutive
100-yard games, including an effort against a Jaguars defense
that didn't allow this type of performance from backs rated far
higher than the first year starter. Round eight for a running
back rated among the top five is clearly grand larceny.
Play Call: "Thomas Jones
in the sixth round was a steal. So was Aaron Brooks in round nine."
Results: Two, 20-yard scoring passesLike Brown, Jones
was leading most fantasy RB's in points scored until last weekend.
The Gut Check also mentioned in his offensive line ratings that
Chicago's line should contribute to improved fantasy value of
some skill position player and listed Jones (and Westrbook) as
a part of his All-Preseason Gut Check Squad. Aaron Brooks is a
top-five fantasy quarterback in most standard scoring leagues.
Play Call: "Nearly all
of the breakout receivers in our sample study were starters. So
eliminating all but the clear-cut starters heading into 2004 is
a wise approach. This brings the list down to 9 players. We're
also focusing on players that are entering their second, third,
fourth, or fifth season. This leaves us with six strong, breakout
candidates from the 41-reception, 400-yard, 2-TD minimum:"
|Strong Breakout Candidates
|| First Name
|| Rookie Year
|| Rec Yd
|| Rec TD
|| FF Pts
Results: 4 out of 6 for 100 yards, including a 25-yard touchdownThus
far, Wayne, Walker, Johnson, and Gardner are among the top twelve
receivers in fantasy football after four weeks. Branch was also
off to a good start prior to his knee injury. McCareins has been
quiet. Yours Truly has to credit Tony San Nicholas for getting open
in this series so the Gut Check could just make some easy throws.
Play Call: "On the other
hand, Terrell Owens is a point of departure. Mike [Krueger] projects
Owens, as an Eagle, will have similar production as his 2003 season
as a Forty Niner. The Gut Check believes Owens will have a significantly
better season catching passes from McNabb. This was a good reason
for The Gut Check to reconsider his expectations. However, after
looking at Owens' 2002 season, and factoring in McNabb is a more
accurate deep ball quarterback, Yours Truly decided to keep his
Results: 30-yard completion (TD under review)Owens
is on track for 104 receptions, 1456 yards, and 24 touchdowns. Realistically,
the touchdown total doesn't seem attainable and there's still plenty
of season left, but the point is that Owens has actually been underrated
as a fantasy receiver over the course of his career and he's exceeding
expectations thus far in Philly.
Play Call: "Fitzgerald
will prove in his first year that he's the most NFL-ready receiver
in the class."
Result: Receiver went down with a sprained ankle on an
out pattern and the cornerback got an easy pickRoy Williams
has emphatically proved Yours Truly wrong with some unbelievable
displays of athleticism that make him look like a rookie combination
of Randy Moss' acrobatics and Terrell Owens' toughness after the
catch. Fitzgerald leads the Cardinals in receiving, but that's
not saying much. The phenom out of Pitt is on track for 68 receptions
and 814 yards. This isn't the impressive total Yours Truly had
for him (70-1100-5), but it's still within possibilityespecially
if Fitzgerald's ankle heals and Bolden comes back this season-nothing
The Gut Check is counting on
Play Call: "[Troy Edwards]
If everything comes together, he could have a season like Az-Hakim
did with the '99 Rams-36 receptions for 677 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Edwards had 35 receptions for 487 yards, and 3 touchdowns in thirteen
games last year. If Leftwich makes the jump that many second year
quarterbacks do, then Edwards could benefit, even in the slot."
Result: The Gut Check overthrew his receiver and the safety
was playing center fieldEdwards has been a frequent target
in the slot when he's been in the game, but Hokie-alum, Ernest
Wilford has usurped most of Edwards' opportunities with his stellar
play. Edwards could still have some good games, because he's received
multiple looks in the red zone, but he's not really a player to
consider for your roster any time soon.
Play Call: The Gut Check's
number one player to avoid in the draft-Giants' running back Tiki
Result: Total misread of the defense and threw the ball
right into double coverage for an INT return and a defensive touchdown.
Probably the worst call Yours Truly made so far this year. Barber
is tops in yards from scrimmage after four games and is the #2
RB overall in fantasy football. The presence of Coughlin, the
threatened re-emergence of Dayne, the patchwork offensive line,
and Barber's fumbling problems were sound reasons why Barber didn't
appear as a promising option, but The Gut Check has to admit that
he might have let the fact that he picked Barber in 2003 as his
#2 back to pair with Ricky Williams and the disappointment might
have prematurely soured him on Barber.
Play Call: Kevin Dyson was
a smart pick, but the round he got him was a higher than he was
going in many drafts.
Result: Thrown into double coverage and picked offSmart
pick? Nothing about landing Kevin Dyson was a smart pick and the
only thing too high in conjunction to drafting him might have
been the state that fantasy owners have shared with Ricky Williams
Play Call: All Gut Check offense
Result: Easy PickWilson made the practice squad,
but you can't make an impact for fantasy owners on the bench wearing
street clothes. Unless Dunn or Duckett go down for an extended
length of time, Wilson won't be promoted anytime soon. Even if
this happens, Wilson needs to hold onto the football and learn
how to pass block. If Wilson can improve in these two aspects,
don't be surprised if the Gut Check is calling his name next year.
Play Call: All Gut Check offense
Result: Very inaccurate throw for an easy pickKevin
Johnson has definitely been a better option than Travis Taylor,
but that's not saying anything considering Taylor is hurt. Randy
Hymes has been the most productive Raven receiver and Kyle Boller's
play has done little to warrant much consideration for any Baltimore
pass catcher at this point.
Play Call: All Gut Check offense
Result: Quarterback and receiver not the same page and
resulted in an intThe Gut Check thought this was a can't
miss situation, but it turns out T.J. Houshmanzadeh has been the
more productive player off the bench for the Bengals and was the
one to replace Peter Warrick. Washington had one decent game,
but he hasn't busted out as predicted.
Play Call: "These changes
dropped Carr six spots in The Gut Check's ratingssignificant
enough of a drop to force the Gut Check to think twice about making
Carr a solid backup on his roster."
Result: The Quarterback hesitated on the open man and threw
the ball too late for an interceptionCarr is the 6th rated
fantasy QB in standard performance leagues after the first quarter
of games. We'll find out if Carr has truly made the leap or Detroit,
San Diego, Kansas City, and Oakland have horrible pass defenses.
The Gut Check's head coach is getting ready to throw the red flag
onto the field for this one..
Play Call: "As for this
year, the Gut Check projects at least 850 yards and a 5 TD season
with weeks where Lloyd comes up big and others where he disappearsdefinitely
a decent fill in for your #3 WR spot on your re-draft league's
fantasy roster but valued more like a #4 or #5 WR on draft day."
Result: The ruling on the field is an incomplete pass,
but the defense is challenging the play and contends it's an interception--The
Gut Check almost made this an interception, but the fact that
Lloyd is getting double- covered and other receivers have put
up solid numbers means that Lloyd is doing something right from
an NFL WR standpoint. So far it looks like Yours Truly threw this
one into tight coverage and the play is still under review because
the opposition is challenging that the DB had possession of the
If Lloyd can return from injury and start making playsand
the fact, he was targeted a decent amount in key situations suggests
he canthis could turn the other way.
Play Call: "Yet just from
playing the percentages, the owner that picks a second year (or
second year starter) at quarterback that is likely projected at
best as a second-tier fantasy passer has a good shot of getting
a player that will not only crack the top ten in yards and tds,
but has a better than even chance to be in the top five for yardage
and nearly a 75% chance of making the top five in scoring. This
means Kyle Boller, Josh McCown, and Carson Palmer may be good
risks this year as well--but 14 out of the 19 qbs listed in the
table played in at least 10 games and had over 200 attempts in
their rookie year. That's why the better gamble is a player with
reps in actual games. Statistically speaking, Leftwich is the
best choice of the three with Boller, McCown, and Palmer behind
him in that order."
Result: The ruling on the field is an incomplete pass,
but the offense is challenging the receiver had both feet in boundsthis
order is dead-on accurate in terms of quarterback rating. Of course,
fantasy owners can care less about this statistic. In terms of
yardage, it's Palmer, Leftwich, McCown, and Boller. Leftwich leads
Palmer and Boller in touchdowns (Emmitt Smith as more passing
tds than McCown). Overall, Palmer (#15 fantasy QB) and Leftwich
(#19 QB) look like the best 2nd year candidates to have a shot
at attaining these lofty performance projections. After the first
three weeks of the season, Leftwich appeared nowhere close to
achieving this status, but his performance in the clutch and the
show he put on during the Indianapolis game might change how he's
used with a softer schedule ahead.
Play Call: "Melwelde Moore
is this year's Domanick Davis."
Result: Incomplete, but the potential 50-yard bomb for
a touchdown is still under reviewNot that the Gut Check
realistically thought Moore would get the opportunity to start,
but Yours Truly watched enough of the Tulane star to know that
Minnesota drafted a talented back. Based on the history of Vikings'
backs, don't be surprised if Moore does well enough to create
a total fantasy mess out of this backfield when Smith and Bennett
return. There always seems to be at least one every year
Thoughts on what's ahead for the second quarter
of the NFL season (Take this as intuition or indigestion-whichever
Maybe its because both players starred at Wisconsin and wound
up with AFC East squads, but Buffalo rookie Lee
Evans looks like he could have a second half performance
that rivals Chris Chambers' rookie year. Josh Reed hasn't become
the player the Bills' thought they stole in the second round of
the 2002 draft. With 7 receptions for 170 yards in three games,
The Gut Check believes his friend Jutwho said Evans would
be ready to make an impact his rookie yearmight have been
right all along. Don't be surprised if the Bills' skill players
sneak their way back onto the fantasy radarespecially Eric
Moulds who is benefiting from Evans' starting on the opposite
A lot of fantasy owners are hitting the panic button on Thomas
Jones after Rex Grossman tore his ACL in week three. The
second year quarterback was averaging 15.1 fantasy points per
contest19th among quarterbacksbefore injury. Although
the Bears' backup Jonathan Quinn only put up 7 points in his first
game, Jones owners should allow for a rust factor. Chicago's offensive
line is intact and playing well thus far. The Gut Check isn't
convinced trading Jones while he's hot is the best decision. Lovie
Smith and Terry Shea know they need to find ways to get Jones
the ball in advantageous situations. Additionally, the Eagles
defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has proven in the Vikings game
how to game plan appropriately to shut down the a specific player,
as illustrated by Onterrio Smith having two big efforts sandwiching
an average outing against Philly on Monday night.
Maybe it's because Yours Truly will never be able to completely
shake his Browns' up bringing, but he's looking for Cleveland
to go on a winning streak. Based on his teammates reaction to
his return, it's apparent Lee Suggs
has potential to become a leader on this team and seems to have
the type of grind it out, never say die outlook as quarterback
Jeff Garcia. The Gut Check isn't getting excited about the Browns'
this year, but they might get some of the Dawgs in the Pound frothing
at the mouth in October.
That's it for this week!