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20/20 Hindsight - Week 10

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."

With two weeks left to get into the top 200 and qualify for the grand prize, I'm making my move in the FFTOC. Last week, I compiled nearly 125 points and moved up 47 spots in the rankings. I projecting I'll need to average 119 points per game between weeks 10-12 in order to make the top 200. How did I do this weekend? It was my best week of the year.

FFTOC Update
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB B. Favre 33.44  After starting Manning vs. Minny last week, starting Favre made sense.
RB D. Blaylock 28.4 Terrific opponent for the #2 RB to get some injury time.
RB E. Smith 18.7 Needed to play the best fantasy RB in the NFL to stay alive.
WR J. Walker 13.6 Decent week, but not the elite week I hoped for from the top FF WR.
WR M. Muhammad 30.3 Was expecting Walker to put up these numbers and vice versa.
WR D. Givens 6.6 Was open deep a few times, but overthrown.
TE T. Gonzalez 7.1 A TD would have been nice, but the yardage kind of made up for it.
K D. Akers 7 A nice total, considering they all came off extra points.
DEF Steelers 19 Even without Porter, the Steelers defense was dominant.
  Total 164.00  

The total would have placed me in the top ten for last week, so I expect this total should be close to a top ten performance for week 10 (I won't officially know until publication). Regardless, I'm moving in the right direction.

Yet in hindsight—of course, that's the purpose of this column—I still didn't make the best decisions in a tournament that requires me to maximize my opportunities. I originally had Jerome Bettis as my #2 RB, but with Staley having an outside chance to play, I didn't want to take the chance. Unfortunately, starting Bettis would have earned me nearly 4 additional points and I would have saved another starter. Now, Duce Staley is likely to be back next week and if I intend to use Bettis I'll have to hope he gets multiple touchdowns from the goal line—not exactly the best strategy in comparison to the opportunity I had to use him as a starter for the last two weeks.

On to the weekly files of 20/20 Hindsight …

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

Drew Bennett would go off this weekend? Mike Krueger took the recommendation to start Bennett in the FFTOC, and benefited nicely. Why Bennett? I learned the lesson from Santana Moss last week. Both receivers have been playing with injuries and have finally recovered. Bennett was playing with injured ribs since the beginning of the season. If you've watched any Titan's games early in the season, you probably noticed Bennett consistently beating defensive backs by at least two steps but unable to catch a perfectly placed ball from McNair. It's painful enough to breathe with injured ribs much less raise one's arms while running at top speed.

Sure, as a pro, Bennett is supposed to make these plays if he's healthy enough to take the field. But let's be realistic for a moment, the Titans were so thin at receiver (Calico out, Berlin inconsistent, and Schifino cut) that they needed Bennett out there. When healthy Bennett has been known to be able to get deep and make the big play as evidenced by his game winning touchdown bomb from McNair as time expired against the Texans last season.

This week, Bennett lived up to expectations against the Bears secondary as he gained 148 yards on six receptions, including a 47-yard touchdown. It's likely going to be too little too late for the Titans, but expect a healthy Bennett, Kinney, and (when healthy) McNair to play spoiler in the AFC South as they play for pride and a long shot at a wild card berth.

Lessons Learned: Consecutive weeks where a receiver that has fully recovered from an injury he played with earlier in the season has lit it up. Don't shy away from Moss or Bennett down the stretch if they remain healthy.

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

Rod Coleman was so important to the Falcons Defense? Coleman, the former Raider, returned to the lineup after getting injured in an automobile accident and recorded two sacks. But it was the double teams Coleman commanded that helped the rest of Atlanta's defensive unit sack Brian Griese an additional four times and hold Michael Pittman to 62 yards on 20 carries.

Lessons Learned: Coleman is a great example of why the middle of the defense is such an important building block. Look at the better defenses in the NFL and you'll notice they have top personnel at the positions of defensive tackle, middle linebacker, and safety. The Baltimore Ravens have this combination and are a championship-caliber defense. The Patriots had this combination and are hoping Vince Wilfork and Keith Traylor can replace Ted Washington. The Eagles just replaced their middle linebacker with Jeremiah Trotter with the hope of shoring up a defense that the Steelers manhandled.

The Falcons aren't a great defense, but with Coleman applying pressure up the middle they are good enough to keep their team in the game as long as Mike Vick cooperates.

Detroit's Team Defense/Special Teams was this good of a play? I picked up Detroit's defense in a showcase league while the Titans were on bye, but promptly dropped them for additional receiving help heading into this week. Although the Titans put up more than respectable numbers, Detroit has consistently been a terrific unit for fantasy football purposes. This week, thanks to Eddie Drummond's two punt returns for touchdowns, Detroit continues to be a top unit.

Lesson Learned: The best fantasy defenses/special teams units aren't always the best NFL units. Detroit has been highly opportunistic and they are improving, but no one would mistake them for the Baltimore Ravens. Nevertheless, they are approaching that level (still a ways to go) as a fantasy unit. The Cinncinati Bengals are another defensive-special teams unit that fits this category. The Bears are in this category with the recent play of Alex Brown and R.W. McQuarters.

Michael Pittman would return to earth: As I mentioned last week, Pittman averaged a very pedestrian 3.57 yards per carry against the Chiefs if you didn't include his 78-yard touchdown run. Facing the Falcons defense—that won't be mistaken for the Chiefs defense—Pittman only managed 3.1 yards per carry. Although I'm still wary of Pittman, next weekend's contest versus the 49ers might warrant a start. Just don't go overboard on the guy. In most leagues, he's a decent #3-#4 option.

Lesson Learned: Michael Pittman is an average NFL starter. Against a good defense he'll struggle. Against a bad defense, he'll shine.

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

Derrick Blaylock was a good start. As long as Blaylock was the clear-cut starter against the Saints this week, you could have counted on a good day. This is a back with a running style very similar to Priest Holmes and he is running behind the same great line. Plus, he's running against an underachieving defense. 120 yards on 18 carries was certainly criteria for a good start from any back, but that was just the first half! 186 yards and a touchdown with another 38 yards through the air was better than any fantasy owner should expect.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes back ups make better fantasy starts than other every week starters when the match up is right and the offensive line is one of the best in the league. More examples? Jerome Bettis, Mewelde Moore, Reuben Droughns, Lamont Jordan, and Najeh Davenport all are all good examples of backups that should outplay many starters whenever they get a chance to be the main man for their team.

For those of you that made the right decisions this week, congratulations. For those of you that didn't: Hindsight's a...