As we all know Hindsight is 20/20. This weekly column is devoted
to learning from common mistakes and serves as FFToday’s “Fantasy
Week one is in the books, and among the many players that I’m
riding high off their performances include Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy
Smith, Derrick Johnson, Preist Holmes, and Karlos Dansby. It was
a great week—I won the opener in 8 of 12 leagues and posted
the highest score in four, plus the second highest score in the
other two. As for the FFTOC, my choices were a mixed bag, but
it’s only week one, and I’m saving my more established
stars for the future:
||Pretty good game for Harrington--a guy
I wouldn't consider starting with the chips on the line…at
least, not yet.
||Injured ribs in the first quarter.
||Great example of the type of player
to start early in the tournament.
||Okay day for Bryant, but I was hoping
for Randle El's numbers.
||Maybe this means he'll start slow and
||A. Randle El
||At least one out of my three "unproven
players" hit--that's all I need this early.
||No huge loss, but he almost made a great
grab for a score.
||Culpepper's bad day meant a decent day
||Three turnovers, but a surprisingly
disappointing day for Denver.
Considering that none of the traditional stud RBs outside of Clinton
Portis and Corey Dilllon had great fantasy outings, I didn’t
waste a quality player this year. With the equivalent of fantasy
also-rans, I still earned a respectable score.
Let’s move on to the week one files of 20/20 Hindsight.
You Can Put Larry Johnson And Priest Holmes
In Your Starting Lineup And Be Successful
I’m not saying it’s a good idea to do on a consistent
basis (yet), but Johnson looks ready to explode every time he
carries the ball and Holmes certainly doesn’t look like
he’s lost anything. In NFL history, have there been seasons
where a fantasy owner would have benefited from starting two backs
from the same team?
|Fantasy History - Starting
2 RBs From The Same Team
In 35 seasons, I only found five where starting two backs on
the same depth chart was a worthwhile fantasy strategy. What do
these examples have in common?
- The backs complement each other’s style of play. Of
each duo, one back was a power runner (Mack, Cain, Harris, Csonka,
Woods), while the other was a multi-dimensional threat (Byner,
Andrews, Bleier, Kiick, and Brooks).
- The workload was evenly split. There was no more than a 5-carry
per game difference among any of the tandems.
- All five teams made the playoffs. In fact the Steelers tandem
was Super Bowl bound.
- Balanced offenses. All five tandems ran for teams with excellent
quarterbacks with productive receivers in both the intermediate
and deep game. Bernie Kosar (Cleve), Steve Bartkowski (Atl),
Terry Bradshaw (Pitt), Ken Anderson (Cin), and Bob Griese (Mia)
were among the most productive quarterbacks of their eras.
- Different Era. The last time two backs from the same team
were this productive in a season was 1988. The West Coast Offense
was a cutting-edge philosophy and free agency was still on the
This tells me that the idea of starting the Chiefs backs in your
lineup week in and week out still a big risk. Last week, Holmes
had 22 attempts and Johnson had 9 attempts—far from an even
split in carries. The Chiefs were well ahead in the second quarter,
and it is unlikely in today’s NFL that Kansas City will
have this luxury on a weekly basis.
Although the Jets should have called for an instant replay review
of Priest Holmes’ touchdown, the run is a great example
as to why KC will continue to use Holmes inside the twenty-yard
line as long as the veteran remains healthy. It may be tempting
to use Larry Johnson in future weeks, but until Dick Vermeil announces
a change in the workload I am counting on Holmes and saving Johnson
as an injury/bye week starter. I’ll consider starting Johnson
and Holmes in the same fantasy backfield on a bye week, but I’d
feel better about it if Johnson and Holmes were each getting an
even number of attempts. For now, Johnson is terrific trade bait
Daunte Culpepper Would Struggle
Tampa Bay had the top-ranked passing defense in 2004, and were
a top-five defense overall. I believe Culpepper will get better,
but from an X’s and O’s standpoint it could take a
more than a couple of games. First, the Buccaneers only allowed
Culpepper to complete two passes of over 20 yards—one a
catch and run by Moe Williams for 25 yards, and the other a 25-yard
reception by Travis Taylor. As
I’ve stated before, Randy Moss is a big reason why the
Vikings passing game was effective in the past. Nate Burleson
and company should expect much tighter coverage now that opposing
defenses no longer have to keep one eye Moss on every play. Culpepper
will complete passes to his tight ends and backs, but a short
to intermediate passing game to keep a defense off balance takes
more effort and consistency than having one guy that can out-run,
out-leap, or out-fight double coverage. Just the threat of Moss
changing the game on one play takes away a tremendous amount of
pressure from an offense.
In contrast, Tampa Bay’s offense completed three passes
over 20 yards, and one over 40 yards. The Vikings will need to
find a way to stretch the field in order for the running game
and short to intermediate passing game to work efficiently. At
this point, a fantasy owner may not want to consider giving Culpepper
special status as an every week must-start. He’ll improve,
but taking away Moss was the football equivalent of someone pruning
a plant to force its growth.
The 49ers Would Dominate The Rams
In hindsight, it makes sense that San Francisco coach Mike Nolan
would know what to do with talents like Julian Peterson, Andre
Carter, and Bryant Young. The Ravens former defensive coordinator
put his 49ers in the right position to sack Rams QB Marc Bulger
six times in route to a 28-25 victory that wasn’t as close
as the score indicates. Defense and special teams were the catalysts
in the victory—St. Louis’ first five drives in the
half started on the 1, 28, 14, 19, and the 9. Field-position like
that places the advantage with the defense. If LB Julian Peterson
is only 90% and he can accumulate 4 tackles, 4 assists, and 2
sacks, I’m a happy IDP owner.
The 49ers passing game clicked with Rattay going 11-16 for 165
yards and 2 Tds. Arnaz Battle and Brandon Lloyd performed well
even without a viable receiving threat at TE on the field. The
one player to keep watching is rookie RB Frank Gore. Kevan Barlow
had 22 yards on 14 attempts and lost a fumble. The veteran’s
best run was a 9-yard touchdown that occurred after Frank Gore
soften up the defense earlier in the drive with an 9-yard run
and 18-yard reception. No coach is going to put up with low production
and turnovers from a player at a key skill position.
Remember, the Rams are well known as an inconsistent team capable
of playing down to their level of competition. Week Two’s
match up with the Eagles will be a better indication of the 49ers
progress. If the offense can hold its own against Philly, I’ll
be much more optimistic about their fantasy prospects for the
remainder of the season. At this point, Brandon Lloyd is the only
offensive player I’d consider starting most weeks. But defensively,
I think Nolan could be on his way to making this a respectable
unit. Julian Peterson is certainly a must-play.
Drew Bledsoe Could Play Like He Was Ten
The Cowboys new QB was 18/24 for 226 yards and 3 scores. Sure
he was sacked five times and fumbled twice, but he was poised
and accurate. I think Bledsoe could be in for a good season, but
if you drafted him as your #2 or #3 QB, I would consider trading
him rather than promoting him to your starting lineup.
The Chargers were only ahead of Kansas City in pass defense last
year—not necessarily a ringing endorsement of Parcells’
most recent QB re-tread—so I’m not too excited about
his prospects just yet. San Diego had the fourth-lowest sack total
in the NFL last year and I didn’t see any new faces on the
Chargers defense that made a difference. I watched the game and
a couple of the sacks had nothing to do with Bledsoe holding onto
the ball too long. Yet, the defenses in the AFC West haven’t
been nearly as strong as those in the NFC East in recent years.
Starting Cadillac Williams Was A Great
This may change as the season wears on, but did anyone see Michael
Pittman on the field holding a football during the game? I didn’t,
nor did I place much stock in the idea of Pittman taking away
opportunities from Carnell Williams once the season began. Cadillac
carried the ball 27 times against Minnesota and his last run was
his best—a 71-yard jaunt for a game-sealing score in the
4th quarter. Jon Gruden made it clear all preseason that Cadillac
would be the Bucs offensive bell cow. First, he made him the starter
within the first week of training camp. Next, he wouldn’t
allow Williams the opportunity to see significant playing time
in the training camp games because the coach said he saw all he
needed to see out of his rookie back. Gruden’s frame of
reference was enough to believe him—he gushed over Williams
at the senior bowl, the combine, and the draft. By the time he
anointed Cadillac the starter, there should have been little doubt.
Skeptics will point out that Williams had a pedestrian 77-yards
on 26 carries prior to his game-ending jaunt. If you watched the
game, Cadillac had several runs where he was very close to breaking
one for a significant gain. It’s the rookie’s first
full game and he faired as well against a defense that showed
it was improved from last year. Plus let’s look at some
other backs and how they faired week one:
|Cadillac By Comparison:
Not one of these backs would be considered a worse choice than Cadillac
going into week one, but even taking away Williams’ final
run, he was about on par with more heralded fantasy starters. Look
for Williams to continue to be a good start this year.
Willie Parker Would Go Off On Tennessee
Parker had an impressive day, but I’m more inclined to believe
fantasy owners can attribute his performance to not only his skills
but also the Steelers’ offensive system and the Titans defense
quitting on the team in the second quarter. Pittsburgh has one
of he best offensive lines in football, period. I’m confident
back up Verron Haynes would have had a good fantasy game if he
started instead of Parker.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying Parker’s
talent. He had some nice runs. I just don’t want to deny
the offensive line their great performance, either. They opened
some huge holes and wore out the Titans defense.
Speaking of the Titans, I’ve never seen this team quit
in the middle of a game like they did on Sunday. LB Keith Bulluck
was chewing out players as they left the field after Steeler scores
because he saw the same thing we all did—poor tackling and
lack of effort. This is an inexperienced Titans defense—one
of the youngest in the league. Look for Parker to come back to
earth a bit in future weeks, but Cowher will still ride him until
his main stable returns to health. The longer Parker can produce
enough for the Steelers to win, the less wear and tear on his
big guns for the stretch run.
Nagging Feelings—Week 2
I don’t know about you, but I’m anticipating offensive
fireworks when the Jaguars face the Colts in the RCA Dome. The
Colts defense looked excellent against the Ravens, but we all
know the Baltimore passing offense is below average—and
pass blocking isn’t Baltimore’s strong suit. The Jaguars
are actually a better pass-blocking unit and they employ the play
action game, which Baltimore doesn’t do as effectively.
I anticipate Byron Leftwich
and Peyton Manning to each have
300-yard days and the game to be won on the last drive.
The same goes for Arizona and St. Louis. Kurt
Warner has some weapons capable of rivaling Torry Holt
and Isaac Bruce so this year’s duel should produce more
points. Neither defense looked good last week against competition
they were suppose to dominate, so expect an intense game. I’m
not convinced Kansas City and Oakland will be as much of an offensive
display, but I’d still take my chances here with offensive
players from either team.
The Chiefs defense was impressive
against a Jets offensive line that’s one of the better units
in the league. Chad Pennington fumbled the ball 6 times, so he
made life easier for Kansas City by placing the Jets offense in
tougher situations from the start. Nonetheless, the Chiefs placed
a lot of pressure on Pennington. Kerry Collins has been known
to make poor decisions under duress, although he played a fairly
poised game against the Patriots. Still, the Patriots’ are
without two of their best LBs and the Chiefs linebackers are very
athletic and dangerous. Trent Green only threw for 200 yards against
the Jets, plus he didn’t find the end zone. This could be
a get healthy game for the Chiefs, but I thought the Oakland Raiders
defense actually held their own against the Patriots running
game so don’t be surprised if the match up isn’t all
it’s cracked up to be.
Frank Gore is going to win
the San Francisco starting job this week. The Eagles are a defense
that tries to scare offenses away from stretching the field, which
is the exact opposite thing they should to. If the 49ers receivers
get over matched by the Philly secondary, Kevan
Barlow is going to need to play mistake-free football and
gain 4-5 yards on early down runs. Based on Barlow’s recent
history of underachievement, I think the coaching staff is keeping
a close eye on his play. Any reasonable manager that inherits
an under performing member of a team will want to give that person
a fresh start. At the same time that manager knows every member
of the team is waiting to see what the new leader will tolerate.
Don’t expect Mike Nolan to tolerate much from Barlow.
There are five wide receivers that had significant showings last
week that were collegiate quarterbacks: Drew
Bennett, Matt Jones, Patrick Crayton, Arnaz Battle, and Frisman
Jackson. Most fantasy owners know about Bennett and Jones.
But which of the remaining three should you choose if you were
only to select one from the waiver wire this week?
Crayton was the most consistent receiver for Dallas. He has the
best combination of size, speed, and toughness among the receivers
on the roster. The problem is Crayton will also be sharing time
with Peerless Price as the former Falcon gets acclimated to the
system. Dallas is also primarily designed as a running team.
I like Crayton the most, but if I were to choose one it would
be Arnaz Battle. This is an athletic receiver that looks like
he’s developing into a great complement for Brandon Lloyd.
In the 49ers offense, Battle should see a lot of looks because
I don’t anticipate the defense playing quite as well for
the rest of the season as they did in the opener.
Frisman Jackson is a guy The Gut Check mentioned last year as
an Under the Radar candidate. Jackson has freakish tools, but
he’s been slow to develop. This was a nice game for the
Cleveland Brown, but I don’t think the game plan is going
to be designed around him any time soon. Bryant and Edwards should
be the main threats with Northcutt and Jackson getting the scraps.