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20/20 Hindsight - Week 2

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.”

If week one was unusual, week two clarified a number of things. With a loss to the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers really are on the decline—especially when Trent Dilfer looks like he’s back at Fresno State. On the other end of the spectrum, the Tennessee Titans defense responded to LB Keith Bulluck’s challenge and held J. Lewis to a total worthy of one of Mike MacGregor’s Groin Shot nominations—in fact, I like the odds of him winning it. Indianapolis’ defense continues to impress, and Cadillac Williams has proven to me that he’s worthy of starting week in and week out after running over the Buffalo Bills.

What was most evident about the NFL in the first two weeks of the season is that home field advantage is a viable factor in pro football contests. Look at the difference with the Niners, Falcons, Eagles, Titans, Dolphins, Broncos, and Jets from week one to week two. Sure, there are many other factors with just as much, if not more, significance but you can’t ignore the effect of playing at home.

Checking in with the FFTOC, week two was a slight improvement, but my choices at the running back position (other than Fast Willie) continue to disappoint in the early stages. Fortunately I’m doing a decent enough job at selecting quarterbacks to keep me within striking distance once it is time to make my move.

FFTOC Update
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB T. Dilfer 31.94 Packers pass defense was as bad as they looked last week.
RB J. Lewis 4.10 Titans defense was much better than they looked last week.
RB A. Green 9.9 Okay, but not enough to make up for Lewis' laying an egg.
WR B. Engram 7.7 Good for a guy I wouldn’t have played late in the season.
WR E. Parker 3.0 Under whelming, but wasn't waiting to count on him later, either.
WR A. Boldin 11.9 Pretty good and earmarked for the early weeks due to his historical FPG splits.
TE B. Franks 1.5 Hoped for a red zone score, but didn't happen.
K J. Hanson 0.0 Meant to play Rackers…thought I changed the lineup, but did not.
DEF Eagles 20.0 Great match up to exploit this week.
  Total 90.04  

Although a diving, over the shoulder job in the backyard against a 6-3, 185 lb. trash talking, prep-star-in-the-making for the game winner was extremely satisfying for this out of shape, 35-year old, it’s not pretty when I scored more touchdowns than my fantasy receivers. Still, if I continue with this output, I may be able to wait another month before I start pulling out the big guns.

Let’s move on to the week one files of 20/20 Hindsight.

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

The Jags-Colts And Rams-Cardinals Divisional Tilts Wouldn’t Be Shootouts
All four teams can pressure the quarterback and the combined 16 sacks in these two games dramatically illustrate at least how much the Colts and Cardinals defenses have improved. It also underscores why pure pocket passers are quickly becoming rarities in today’s NFL.

The Titans Defense Would Hold Jamal Lewis To 9 Yards!
As I mentioned last week, Tennessee’s defense quit on their team after Pittsburgh pulled ahead by three scores. Yet this week demonstrated why excellent coaching impacts youth in a positive way. The Titans team is not without talent on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive lineman Randy Starks was the youngest rookie in the league in 2004 and has Darnell Dockett/Roderick Coleman potential as a pass rushing defensive tackle. Albert Haynesworth and Antwaan Odom are top-notch athletes on the line that need to continue to mature, and Kye Vandenbosch is displaying the pass rushing skills The Gut Check mentioned a few weeks ago when profiling the DE for his All Gut Check Preseason Squad.

When the defensive line can play up to its potential—as it did Sunday—it makes the job a lot easier for the rest of the defense—also a young, but talented and athletic group. Even before his stint as a head coach in Arizona, Dave McGinnis was a highly respected linebackers coach. As the Titan’s current LB coach, he has gone on record to say that he feels the unit of Bulluck, Kassell, and Sirmon have what it takes to be special in this league. All three display excellent pass coverage skills in addition to their ability to stop the run. Bulluck is also a pass rushing threat.

The pass defense is still a weaker aspect of this team, but Jeff Fisher may be the most underrated coach in the NFL, and a one of the best defensive minds in the league. The Titans offense has been efficient against two of the best defenses in the NFL despite a great deal of personnel changes from last year. Don’t be surprised if this team plays much better than expected over a 7-8 week period. Unlike the Chiefs of last year, who had the scheme but not the athletes, the Titans of this year have decent athletes that are still learning the scheme—and how to play. Shutting down Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor is a promising sign. The defense may actually be a nice waiver wire pick up, because if you can stop the run and rush the passer you can keep your offense in the game. The schedule gets easier for Tennessee down the line, so keep an eye out for them.

Cadillac Williams Would Be Even Better Against The Bills
Maybe it’s the nickname that had so many pegging Williams as runner that couldn’t be physical enough in the NFL. All I know is that I can’t think of a vehicle that has the burst of a motorcycle combined with a bulldozer’s desire for contact. If there is one, I suggest we start a movement to rename Carnell Williams after his 24-carry, 128-yard, and 1-TD performance against a physical unit like the Bills. Williams’ greatest influence is Walter Payton, and the Buc’s rookie attacks defenders with the same type of fervor when faced with the option of contact. At the same time, the Bills defense allowed over 16 fantasy points per game versus the run—12th easiest in the NFL last year. So the Bills defensive reputation is a bit deceiving.

I have Williams in two leagues—a dynasty format where I traded up one pick to land him, and a re-draft where I acquired him in round 5 after acquiring starters Edgerrin James and Curtis Martin. I’ve kept Williams on the bench for the first two weeks in the re-draft and I promised myself I’d start Cadillac if he gained at least 70 yards on Buffalo. Heading into this weekend, I couldn’t be happier to be a proud owner of Curtis Martin as my recently demoted, #3 RB.

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

Peyton Manning Would Have Such Meager Totals After Week Two
When Gus Frerotte and Trent Dilfer are outscoring Manning in most fantasy leagues, something seems off-kilter, but fantasy owners shouldn’t worry about him. Manning faced two of the better defensive units in the AFC to open the season and has Cleveland, Tennessee, and San Francisco in succession—which should be welcome news in comparison. What makes Manning great is his discipline. The Colts quarterback is with checking down to a running play if the defense dictates this is his best move. Edgerrin James owners rejoice! Even with more looks to James, Manning will get his shots downfield—and capitalize.

Steve Heiden Would Be A Leading Tight End In Fantasy Football
A 6-catch, 104-yard, 2-TD effort will do that for a player. So should fantasy owners make Heiden a waiver wire priority? Absolutely. The 7-year veteran out of South Dakota State had a career high, 5 scores in 13 games in 2004. This year, Heiden already has 3 scores and only 151 yards away from topping his yardage total.

But the real reason you should consider Heiden is QB Trent Dilfer. The veteran starter uses the tight end like a security blanket in the passing game—something quarterback coaches try to instill in young signal callers year after year. Antonio Bryant, Dennis Northcutt, and Braylon Edwards are decent enough options to draw attention away from Heiden. Don’t expect any more games like last week from the Browns starting TE, but he should be a serviceable starter capable of at least 4-6 points per game on a consistent basis. I wonder how Kellen Winslow, Jr. is faring right now?

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

Joey Harrington Has Earned The Opportunity To Begin His New Role As Career Backup In 2006
Harrington, and Texans QB David Carr were the top two QB prospects of the 2001 draft class. Neither has lived up to expectations, but surprisingly, these are two quarterbacks going in different directions despite the similarity in their stats.

Harrington & Carr
Last Name First Name Year Team G Pct Pass Yds Pass TDs INTs Rush Yds Rush Atts Rush TDs FF Pts
Harrington Joey 2002 det 14 50.12% 2294 12 16 4 7 0 163.10
Harrington Joey 2003 det 16 55.78% 2880 17 22 86 30 0 220.60
Harrington Joey 2004 det 16 56.03% 3047 19 12 175 48 0 245.85
Carr David 2002 hou 16 52.48% 2592 9 15 282 59 3 211.80
Carr David 2003 hou 12 56.61% 2013 9 13 151 27 2 163.75
Carr David 2004 hou 16 61.16% 3531 16 14 299 73 0 270.45

Harrington has thrown 14 more touchdowns than Carr in their first three seasons, but consider the team around Harrington in comparison to Carr. The Lions’ QB had veteran receivers and a better coaching than Carr. Marty Mornhinweg and Mariucci produced far more successful quarterbacks (and offensive systems) than Chris Palmer and Dom Capers. Palmer has been known as a quarterback guru, but his most recent projects have been Rob Johnson and Tim Couch. Palmer was influential in choosing Couch over Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper. On the other hand, Mariucci coached Brett Favre, Mark Brunell, Kurt Warner, and Jeff Garcia.

Place Carr on the Lions and Detroit is a playoff team by now. Just look at Carr’s steady improvement with his completion percentage despite the fact his offensive line’s pass blocking is among the worst in football. Carr is also a far better scrambler. Don’t expect Carr to make an immediate improvement with the firing of Palmer and the Texans in-house choice of Joe Pendry as the replacement. Pendry was with Capers during his tenure with the Carolina Panthers (Kerry Collins) and 1998-2001 with the Buffalo Bills (Doug Flutie-Rob Johnson)—none of these players had completion percentages over 60% or 25-plus, passing touchdowns in a season. Still, Carr is recognized among some of the better quarterbacks that have played the game as an up and coming signal caller.

Harrington has at least two receivers with the talent level of Andre Johnson, and cannot get the job done. If Jeff Garcia were healthy, Harrington would be starting his new role today. Maybe the Lions will find themselves in the running for Matt Leinhart…

Nagging Feelings—Week 3

Matt Schaub, Billy Volek, or David Garrard will be traded to either the Lions or Ravens before the 2006 draft. Neither team will play poorly enough to be in the running for Leinhart. Nevertheless, they will need a quarterback that is young enough to be the future, but with enough experience to step in immediately. Stash these guys on your roster in keeper leagues.

Rueben Droughns has been the starter due to his versatility and consistency, but don’t believe he’ll hold onto the job once Lee Suggs gets healthy. In fact, William Green looks like he’s regained some burst and looked good this weekend on his only time with the ball in his hands. The fact is that Suggs is the most talented of the three. Droughns 20 carries for 50 yards against the Packer’s poor defense is a good indication that Romeo Crennel won’t hesitate to give Suggs a shot.

Look for Jerry Porter to have some big games within the month. Porter has been coming along slowly from his hamstring injury, but last weekend against Kansas City he showed signs of regaining some stamina, and had 50 yards receiving in the process. Ronald Curry tore his Achilles tendon, but Doug Gabriel is almost ready to play. Gabriel is actually a more accomplished receiver than Curry, although not as physically talented. The 3rd year Raider has the size and speed to get deep and should make life easier for Porter as another deep complement to go alongside Randy Moss and draw coverage away from the former West Virginia defensive back.