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20/20 Hindsight - Week 5

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.”

Coming into Sunday, my QB picks for the FFTOC were better than 99% of the tourney. Then I started McNabb against the Cowboys.

FFTOC Update
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB D. McNabb 5.4 Maybe this was a blessing in disguise, but it doesn’t feel like it!
RB S. Davis 10.6 Looks pretty clear that Davis and Foster are an RBBC.
RB R. Brown 11.6 Not bad for a #2 RB, especially one that may cede some time to Ricky beginning next week.
WR A. Johnson 0 Gets hurt before he can do anything.
WR H. Ward 8.3 Sorry Charger fans, but referee Jeff Tripplette must have thrown a flag in his eye—it was a TD.
WR E. Moulds 11.9 Figured Holcomb would hook up with the veteran. Moulds starts better than he finishes (’03-’04)
TE E. Conwell 2.4 The Packers defense had a nice day for a change—probably their best day for the year.
K R. Bironas 10 Decent production here.
DEF Colts 14 Once again, this is why you play a defense against most first-year starting QBs.
  Total 74.2 McNabb and Johnson killed my week, but overall still sticking with my game plan.

The McNabb pick was really a hedge on my part. The Eagles QB has been amazing for much of September. Yet, playing a QB in the NFL with a sports hernia is entering new territory. One has a right to be skeptical that McNabb will be able to keep up this production, much less play the entire season. So I figured playing McNabb sooner would keep me from being disappointed at the more critical point of the tourney. Plus, the Cowboys pass defense has looked pretty bad for the opening month. Unfortunately, McNabb didn’t deliver this week but there’s still one week left in the opening period of the tournament and I’m still ahead of the curve with player usage.

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
D. McNabb T. Jones E. Parker E. Conwell R. Bironas Colts
  C. Brown A. Boldin      
  K. Barlow D. Stallworth      
  C. Williams J. Galloway      
  S. Davis J. Reed      
  R. Brown A. Toomer      
    T. Glenn      
    K. Curtis      
    H. Ward      
    A. Johnson      
    E. Moulds      

Although I have used the Broncos, Eagles, and Colts defenses thus far, my defensive strategy is a bit different than what I use for my skill positions—prey on the weak. In other words, look at the schedule of struggling, young offenses or erratic quarterbacks. Three out of my first five defenses were playing the 49ers. My Broncos pick against Gus Frerotte failed—I should have remembered Frerotte knows the Denver defense pretty well—but my selection of the Saints versus J.P. Losman was effective.

The next seven weeks will be crucial for me to make up the gap between me, and the competition. As for other leagues, this week was a excellent for me although I had to make several injury and bye week substitutions. Winning waiver wire plays included Joe Jurevicius, Eric Moulds, Chris Henry, Mark Brunell, and Jarrett Payton.

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

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

Matt Schaub Would Put Up Great Fantasy Numbers Against The Patriots
Not that the Patriots defense is nearly as formidable as they were prior to losing Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, Ted Bruschi, and Ted Johnson, but New England still is one of the more prepared defensive units in football. Facing a backup like Schaub might have seemed like an advantage to New England. But in reality, the unknown of whether the Pats would face Vick or Schaub is more difficult than it appears.

Schaub has only played in a limited number of games and getting an effective scouting report on his tendencies is difficult. All they probably knew was the Virginia alum is already a more accomplished passer than Vick and he shows a good grasp of the Falcons offense because it is the exact same system he ran in college. What they may not have realized until Sunday was that Schaub is very mobile quarterback in his own right. This tendency clearly caused problems the Patriots didn’t anticipate—Schaub was able to routinely roll away from a collapsing pocket and make a play.

This has been discussed frequently on Monday, but I definitely believe the Falcons effectively used gamesmanship with the Patriots this week when they discussed that Vick’s injury wasn’t serious and he’ll be ready to go. The fact that Schaub was taking reps with the first and second units in practice all week was made out to be just a precaution. The Patriots aren’t going to game plan for two different quarterbacks—no team can do this effectively in just a week. Don’t be surprised if this is what Falcons coach Jim Mora was counting on to gain an advantage. Unfortunately for Atlanta, the Patriots offense found their running game at just the right time, and Tom Brady is still clutch.

Personally, I think Michael Vick is a good quarterback, and great runner. Still, I have long-believed there will come a time when Matt Schaub will force a very difficult decision for the Falcons organization, because he’s a better quarterback when it comes to passing the football. In fact, his progression of growth as a passer has been greater than Vick at the same stage of his career. That time may arrive in the off season, and if Vick doesn’t make greater strides to improve as an NFL passer there will be a lot of “what-ifs,” when Schaub is successfully leading an opponent.

Lesson Learned: Understand which NFL teams have the quality backup quarterbacks, and stash them away on your roster if you have room. Schaub worked wonders for me this week in one league. Others to consider, other than Kelly Holcombe, include: Brad Johnson (Vikings), Bill Volek (Titans), Doug Flutie (Patriots), Jon Kitna (Bengals), and Tommy Maddox (Steelers).

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

Daniel Graham Would Have A Monster Day
The Falcons are one of the tougher defenses in the NFL, and a Patriots tight end having this type of game wasn’t something many would predict. How did it happen? Atlanta lost Edgerton Hartwell to an Achilles injury and the Patriots were able to run Corey Dillon better than any time this year. These two things opened up the middle of the field for Brady to find his tight ends.

Lesson Learned: As long as the Patriots can run the ball, look for the tight end position to have better outings—the problem is guessing which New England tight end it will be.

Chris Henry Would Out-Produce Chad Johnson
The Bengals rookie had 3 receptions for 85 yards and a score against a Jaguars defense that may just force Chad Johnson to place a check in the “yes” column of his Who Can Cover #85(?), checklist, next to Jacksonville CB Rashean Mathis. Although Anquan Boldin and Michael Clayton had great rookie seasons, it’s rare for a rookie WR to be a consistent fantasy threat. Henry shares the elite physical skills of some of the top receivers in the NFL, but he still needs some polish. Fortunately, his ability to adjust to the ball in the air and his excellent speed can help him recover from rookie mistakes.

What is really interesting about Henry’s prospects is he’s getting targeted close to 4 times per game, and other than week 5, Henry has at best been the #3 WR for the offense. The fact that in the 4th quarter Palmer actually threw the ball to Henry in tight coverage in the end zone demonstrates confidence in the rookie.

Lesson Learned: As a fantasy owner, I was fortunate that my waiver wire pick up of Henry couple of weeks ago paid off handsomely during a bye week. I’m still not counting on the rookie as a weekly starter, but he makes an excellent guy to acquire in dynasty leagues. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a good possession guy with sneaky speed, but Henry has the potential to develop into an option 1A receiver for the Bengals. The best lessons learned are the most trusted ones: watching the waiver wire and injury reports can be of tremendous benefit to any fantasy squad—especially and ailing one.

Jerome Bettis Would Be A Decent Fantasy Option
Most media outlets were reporting Bettis was good to go, but the likelihood of him getting a lot of playing time was not likely. I certainly didn’t endorse Bettis this week, except out of desperation—and that’s exactly my situation in the SOFA Auction League. I lost Ahman Green last week, and Priest Holmes was on bye. Fortunately I had (had being the key word) Najeh Davenport, but out of desperation I picked up Jerome Bettis off the waiver wire two weeks ago, just in case I needed more RB depth.

The logic behind this move was Willie Parker’s weight loss after his first few starts and the Steelers became concerned about him wearing down too early. I thought at the very least Bettis would be the short yardage and goal line option. This was exactly what Pittsburgh fed to the media prior to last night’s game. It’s difficult to rely on numerous goal line opportunities to solely gain quality fantasy RB totals, but as a bye week option I was fortunate. What was even more encouraging was Bettis actually split time with Parker, and played entire drives. Against an aggressive San Diego run defense, the 13-year veteran actually looked pretty good.

Will Bettis have a similar season as 2004? I don’t believe 13 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards are in Bettis’ future, but I think he’s capable of 600-800 yards and 7-9 scores—enough fantasy points to make him a valuable #3 RB or bye week option/injury replacement. Much like real life, you may not want to take The Bus for the entire trip, but he’s a cheap and convenient option for shorter trips.

Lesson Learned: Pay attention to the physical condition of players. Losing weight may not qualify has an injury, but it is a concern for a player like Parker—an un-drafted rookie that isn’t a big back in the first place. View the waiver wire every week—regardless of how well your team is performing, and try to pick up players with proven track records of production. The key is timing—I picked up Bettis two weeks prior to his start, because I knew he’d be gone last week if I waited for the team to announce he’d be active. I did something similar with Jarrett Payton—he’s a player that was best picked up last week, when most owners in your league would scratch their heads at your choice because he hasn’t proven anything yet. Now, Payton will be an early round pick on the waiver wire—not the best value for a player with a career of 48 yards and a td, and backing up a talented starter. You may fail with your pick, but at least you are trying to think ahead—eventually it will benefit you.

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

Started Joe Jurevicius
One thing the Seahawks backup has that his fellow starters don’t is consistency catching the football. Jurevicius made one of the sickest grabs in football history as a Buccaneer, and he his height is a great red zone advantage. With Engram and Jackson out, the former Penn State star was the default primary option on the outside. The Rams have been an excellent team to face when you have receivers and quarterbacks facing them. A divisional rivalry makes the circumstances even riper for a lot of points. Jurevicius’ 137 yards and a score could be a sign of things to come with Houston, Dallas, and the Rams again on the schedule for the month ahead.

Lesson Learned: He may have only been a bye week option for me in one league, but Juervicius performed like a #1 receiver.

Mentioned The possibilities Why Peyton Manning Could Be Average Against The 49ers
I posted this on a thread about whether this could be the worst time to face Peyton Manning:

"Actually, there could be...when Manning faces a team with a better defense and a much better passing offense. This is one of those games I always get the feeling that Manning gets 2 quick Tds and then they use James and the running game...especially if Smith messes up and the Colts defense scores early. I'd be more worried about facing McNabb as he goes against that Dallas defense!"
The order of events in the 49ers-Colts game weren’t exactly like this, but the result was similar in nature. I was feeling better about Manning’s chances when Rattay was the starter, because the 49ers actually have some semblance of an offense with the veteran signal caller behind center. Smith’s performance was just ugly. Expect more of the same several times for the rest of the year.

Lesson Learned: This is possibly good anecdotal evidence that it is more likely for QBs to deliver high performances when facing teams with opposing offenses of similar, or greater caliber. Sounds like a good idea for another column…

Nagging Feelings—Week 6

The Tennessee Titans are 2-3 although they faced Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Indianapolis defense, and had to defend the Colts and Rams powerful offensive units. The Titans offense has struggled due to youth at the receiver position, and frankly, some untimely mistakes from Drew Bennett in the red zone in games versus Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. On the other hand, Steve McNair has put together some nice fantasy games, as mentioned here a couple of weeks ago. Bennett will continue to get out of his semi-slump—the past couple of years he’s gotten off to slow starts due to nagging injuries. Sound familiar? Don’t give up on Bennett, because he’ll reward you at just the right time this year.

If you’ve been down on Kevin Jones thus far, don’t trade him just yet. This doesn’t have to do with his game against the Ravens—that second score was the byproduct of a fluke play, although Jones gets credit for having enough awareness to pick up the ball and keep running until an official blew a whistle. My nagging feeling about Jones has to do with the Lions making a more concerted effort to exploit his skills and the fact he’s facing Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota, and Arizona in the coming weeks.

Anyone else noticed Chris Perry playing most of the second half? The Bengals 2004, first-round draft pick looked impressive as both a runner between the tackles and a receiver. Perry a 6-0, 224-lb., back out of Michigan certainly has the experience pounding the ball inside, although he’s been labeled as a change of pace, third-down option in the Bengals offense. Perry will be a frustrating play this year, if Johnson is healthy but he’s great insurance at this point. Most fantasy teams need this type of safeguard if they want to succeed at the end of the season when injuries pile up, or better teams begin sitting their starters.