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20/20 Hindsight - Week 4

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.”

The first month of the FFTOC is in the books, and I’m just where I thought I’d be—looking up at the rest of the competition. But as John Elway purportedly said to his teammates on their own 2-yard line in Cleveland Municipal Stadium nearly 20 years ago, “We’ve got them just where we want them.”

FFTOC Update
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB E. Manning 35.64 That Chargers game was a good sign more was on the way versus the Rams.
RB C. Williams 1.90 Big waste of a player choice here.
RB K. Barlow 5.50 At least I donít have to worry about using him later in the tournament!
WR K. Curtis 7.80 Decent game for Curtis, but maybe itís the slot in St. Louisí offense that generates the points!
WR A. Toomer 8.00 This early in the season, the #4 option in this hot Giants offense still keeps me afloat.
WR T. Glenn 6.40 That 57-yard rainbow from Bledsoe helped me out.
TE K. Mangum 6.40 About as good as I could hope from a TE that shares time.
K J. Nedney 2.00 I thought the 49ers drives would stall out on the other side of the Cardinalsí 50-yard lineÖ
DEF Saints 14.00 This is why you play a defense against most first year starting QBs.
  Total 87.64  

I’m probably 70-90 points behind my bracket leader, and 50-60 points behind the 60th-ranked manager, but I’m feeling good because of the players I used (and more importantly, haven’t used) thus far:

Already Used
D. Bledsoe M. Anderson A. Bryant J. Peele P. Edinger Broncos
T. Dilfer W. Parker C. Rogers B. Franks J. Hanson Eagles
J. Harrington J. Lewis A. Randle El A. Smith N. Rackers Cowboys
E. Manning A. Green B. Engram K. Mangum J. Nedney Saints
  T. Jones E. Parker      
  C. Brown A. Boldin      
  K. Barlow D. Stallworth      
  C. Williams J. Galloway      
    J. Reed      
    A. Toomer      
    T. Glenn      
    K. Curtis      

Bledsoe and Dilfer are surprising good so far, but I believe both will come back to earth to varying degrees. Younger Manning might work out well as the season progresses, because he is appearing to get it—but remember, that 4-TD effort was against the Rams. I still have all the perennial top tier quarterbacks at my disposal and most of the solid starters capable of great games. The quarterbacks many of the managers in my bracket have used thus far? Kerry Collins, Marc Bulger, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady.

I’m just as rich at the running back position as I enter the second stage because with the exception of Mike Anderson and Cadillac Williams, I would have never used most of these guys down the stretch. Jamal Lewis is producing like the second-best runner on his team. Last week wasn’t so, but the Ravens were playing a team without a passing game. When Lewis can put up at least 80-yards and a score when the opposing team has the Ravens playing from behind, I’ll stand corrected on this one. Willie Parker, Kevan Barlow, and Thomas Jones are on the verge of losing more carries to teammates. Now that Green Bay and Tennessee have proven that they can’t stop the pass, Chris Brown and Ahman Green will be riskier plays, at best. As for my opposing bracket managers plays this month at running back? Brian Westbrook, Tiki Barber, Shaun Alexander, Corey Dillon, Priest Holmes, Steven Jackson, Kevin Jones, and Willis McGahee (just has he’s going to get a passing game with Kelly Holcomb at the helm) all used up during the initial stanza.

Other than Terry Glenn, Anquan Boldin, and Joey Galloway, I haven’t used a single #1 receiver for an NFL franchise. Holt, Chad Johnson, Bruce, Ward, Kennison, Harrison, Owens, and Wayne have all seen playing time this month. The same thing goes for the TE position.

This theoretically wise use of players should give me an advantage because there are plenty of things I got to observe throughout the first four weeks of the season—things I wouldn’t have known to begin the year. Here’s just a few:

  • Dallas is prone to the deep ball and their defense still needs work

  • Indianapolis has a defense worth saving, and their offense is just getting warmed up.

  • McNabb and T.O. are absolutely fine.

  • Corey Dillon isn’t quite the rock of consistency he was last year, although his TD output still helps.

  • Carson Palmer is carrying over his stretch run from 2004

  • Byron Leftwich is the first guy ESPN’s Tom Jackson watches to find a play for his “Jacked Up” segment, and it this rate there will be no Byron Left which to hit.

These observations and many more, help me plan for the most vital part of the tournament—the last eight weeks of the regular season. If I can outscore my bracket by an average of 10 points per week over the next two months, I not only have a good shot at doubling my entry fee, but I also should get into the tournament finals. All of this sounds good, but we’ll see how the practical application of this strategy works. Depending on week four’s overall tournament results, I may wait just one more week to begin making my move.

Now for the week four files of 20/20 Hindsight.

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

Cadillac Williams Would Have Blown A Tire
Detroit’s defense looked like a road ready for a little Sunday cruise in the Buccaneers’ rookie ride, but there were some tell tale signs this road was hazardous.

  • The Lions had two weeks to prepare
  • Williams missed practice all week and sported a walking boot
  • The Lions previous opponents weren’t balanced offenses

Teams coming off bye weeks are often tough to beat because they have the time advantage for practice and game planning. This is even more advantageous to a team facing a non-divisional opponent lacking familiarity with them. Although Detroit lost the game, they did render Williams ineffective for the first half, and therefore kept it a contest. In hindsight, I downplayed Williams’ injury a bit too much. I feel justified in my decision to start him over Curtis Martin in one of my leagues, but Cadillac was a poor selection in one-time starter leagues like FFTOC where I could have chosen a healthier option facing a team not coming off a bye week. Detroit’s defense really wasn’t as bad against the run as the numbers appeared on the surface. The Lions only played two games, and the Bears were already up by 10 points when Thomas Jones gained 83 of his 139 yards and Cedric Benson tacked on another 49 yards in the 4th quarter. This wasn’t the best assessment of the situation.

Lesson Learned: Be wary of teams coming off bye weeks and don’t take stats for face value this early in the season—research the level of competition and how those games unfolded before assuming you have an easy pick.

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

Josh McCown Would Have Nearly 400 Yards And 2 TDs
Anyone else notice that McCown looks ridiculously like Dolph Lundgren (Ivan Drago from Rocky IV)? If not, you had to notice that Kurt Warner looked as if he wanted to set himself on fire rather than listen to the Sam Houston product make excuses for his horrible start. That miked explanation on ESPN for not arcing the ball correctly to a wide-open receiver rivals the rationale of some of our nations finest politicians during the last 20 years. All I know is if McCown continues to play out his career like those last three quarters in Mexico City, he might be able to talk himself into a major leadership position in our federal government.

Like some of these Reagan-inspired politicians as of late, McCown had a little help from the opposition, or more accurately, the lack of opposition. The 49ers were without half their starting secondary, and LB Julian Peterson. Yet, McCown deserves some credit. As Brett Favre did Monday night, McCown brought his team back while operating behind an offensive line that performed like also-rans from The Gong Show. McCown’s performance in my opinion wasn’t nearly as good as Favre’s in a losing effort, but on a smaller scale it was as impressive as it was improbable.

Lesson Learned: Check the injury reports of the potential opposing defenses and former starters with decent win-loss records prior to getting benched, have some modicum of talent. Plus, if you have a receiver that’s good enough with the ball in the air that you might as well be throwing at the side of a barn, then he’s worth at least a bye week start.

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

The Colts Offense Would Get Healthy
Three radio station hosts asked me the same thing last week: Is it time to worry about Peyton Manning, and the Colts offense? My answer was no, of course, and for three reasons: Tennessee, San Francisco, and Houston next on the schedule. Baltimore and Jacksonville are excellent defenses. Yes, Jacksonville lost to Denver, but when Mike Shannahan had to result to gimmick plays involving a former TE playing LT at the goal line in order to score, I don’t have to make any further argument.

As they handled Tennessee on Sunday, the Colts will be able to maintain a balanced attack against less talented defenses. According to his 2003-2004 Crank/Consistency Score, Manning averaged 2 sub-par games per year. If 2005 comes close to his 2003-2004 consistency of performance, then his two bad games have already come and gone. Since just about every defense in the NFL is less talented than Baltimore and Jacksonville, get out the blankets and grills because the fireworks are about to begin.

Lesson Learned: If you traded Peyton Manning due to a couple below average performances, good luck down the stretch—I hope you got a lot in return.

Nagging Feelings—Week 5

Jarrett Payton had his NFL debut during the Colts drubbing of the Titans as time ran out. He looked decent enough that Teresa M. Walker of the Associated Press reported Steve McNair felt the un-drafted free agent out of Miami showed he could serve as a good 1-2 punch with Chris Brown in the backfield while Travis Henry serves his suspension. True, 4 carries for 37 yards at the end of a blow out isn’t much proof, but I’m taking a flier on him in certain leagues where I have the luxury of depth. Payton may not show it this year, but his rate of improvement from last season to this season was too noticeable to ignore—and I have the nagging feeling he’ll continue to progress at a similar rate between now and 2006. If you don’t see how my feeling is more than gas pains, click the link and check it out.

Kelly Holcomb is about to resuscitate the Bills moribund offense. If the former backup to Peyton Manning could do it in Cleveland under Butch Davis, he’ll be fine in Buffalo where they actually have a defense. If you are fortunate enough to be in a league where Eric Moulds was placed on the waiver wire—I was—grab him. If you’ve been benching Lee Evans, keep him close to the sideline because you might see signs that you need to send him into the huddle pretty soon.

As you find yourself in situations to decide whom to start between a couple of players consider whether they catch the ball with any frequency and are playing the Oakland Raiders. The secondary often looks like they are playing two-hand touch when a receiver gets the ball. If this were a new NFL rule, Oakland would have the toughest defense in the league because getting their hands on a player isn’t a problem—but actually laying a hit and wrapping up an offensive player running through their area is still too foreign a concept. Unfortunately, they have a week off so you’ll have to wait until they face the Chargers to take advantage. Don’t worry about the bye week, this is a divisional game and the advantage isn’t as big and the Raiders make too many mistakes.