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20/20 Hindsight - Week 7

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.”

Contrary to what I wrote last week, my planned Phase Two of the FFTOC began this weekend, and my strategy is off to a good start. Week six became a dry run for the next phase, and I learned a valuable lesson. I took my own advice not to second-guess my decisions this week, and my restraint from over analysis paid off.

FFTOC Update
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB A. Brooks 24.0 Former WR Mike Furrey is the Rams starting Sand Brooks helps me save my studs a bit.
RB S. Jackson 23.6 With Bulger, Bruce, Holt, and Martz out, what else were they going to do?
RB M. Moore 16.5 Moore does well on turf.
WR T. Owens 11.3 I thought Owens would get me more vs. the Chargers secondary, but this was acceptable.
WR D. Driver 17.4 Driver has a nice history vs. Minnesota, and on turf.
WR A. Hakim 16.0 One of my bye week specials. He won me games in four leagues this weekend.
TE J. Witten 4.7 Disappointing, but every point helps.
K R. Longwell 8.0 Decent.
DEF Redskins 5.0 I was expecting more.
  Total 126.5 My best score of the year as I begin the second phase of the tourney. A solid start!

My total was nearly 40 points more than my Phase One average. This is the type of output I am expecting from now through week 12. Brooks, Moore, and Hakim are the best kind of plays at this stage of the tournament—players I don’t want to use later, but I have learned enough about their match ups to use them to my advantage. After seeing Jackson run strong against the Colts, I knew he was a great choice versus the Saints. The fact that Holt was ruled out of the game was almost a bonus.

As Phase Two gets underway, I’ll begin relying on more establish fantasy starters to make up the difference in points.

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
D. Brees C. Brown A. Boldin J. Stevens J. Feely Seahawks
A. Brooks K. Barlow D. Stallworth J. Witten R. Longwell Redskins
  C. Williams J. Galloway      
  S. Davis J. Reed      
  R. Brown A. Toomer      
  W. McGahee T. Glenn      
  M. Moore K. Curtis      
  S. Jackson H. Ward      
    A. Johnson      
    E. Moulds      
    M. Harrison      
    D. Branch      
    C. Henry      
    T. Owens      
    A. Hakim      
    D. Driver      

This week should help me climb the rankings about 20 spots. If I can continue climbing at this rate, I’ll have a solid shot at making the top 60 with good players to burn…

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

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

LaDainian Tomlinson Would Be Held To 33 Total Yards On 21 Touches
Even the most consistent players in fantasy football have bad days. Tomlinson found little room to run this weekend as the Eagles defense kept the team in the game, although the Chargers looked like the better team for most of the contest.

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is one of the better coaches in football. His philosophy is to bully offenses—instill fear into them early and then play off that fear for the rest of the game. Johnson tends to blitz aggressively early with the hope that the offense will adjust to a more conservative game plan. If this happens, Johnson then gets to shorten the range of the field the offense targets in the passing game. Teams that succeed against Johnson’s defenses bully back. They use deep passes early in the game to force the Eagles to think twice about blitzing.

The Falcons and Chiefs were successful with this strategy in the first quarter of their match ups versus the Eagles. Both hit long passes to a receiver and forced the Philly defense away from their signature approach. In contrast, the Chargers are not a long ball team. The team will throw passes of 20-35 yards on a frequent basis, but Brees doesn’t have that strong arm. As a result, the Eagles already had an advantage and could cheat the run a bit more.

Lesson Learned: One cannot underestimate the level of game planning the Eagles had available to them due to the bye week. Any NFL team should be able to have success with their strategy with two weeks to prepare—even a defense known for their prowess against the run that has under-performed in this respect.

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

Randy Moss Could Play This Week And Have A Decent Week, Too
Moss was listed as doubtful with a bruised pelvis, ribs, and a groin strain. Although he practiced late last week, most speculated that Moss would be on the sideline to start the Buffalo game. It came as a surprise to many when Moss had three receptions for 43 yards and a score. In hindsight, this shouldn’t have been much of a shocker.

The 1-4 Raiders were desperate for a win after some close losses through the first third of the season. Just from the looks of it, a 1-5 record seems a lot more difficult to overcome than 2-4. Maybe it just had to do with the fact that at 2-4, you still have to double your current losing output to be eliminated from playoff contention. Regardless of the reasons why, Randy Moss knows this was a must-win game for his team.

Even if Moss couldn’t be effective, he’s demonstrated in the past that he can still help his team as a capable decoy. Last season, Moss wasn’t 100% upon his return to the lineup, but kept the Vikings competitive. Most people only remember Moss pretending to the moon the Green Bay crowd in that wild card playoff game, but what isn’t pointed out is that Moss was still hurt, and came up with a clutch moment in the cold—and muscle pulls don’t respond well to cold weather. Moss’ behavior may elicit a lot of negatives, but he’s a deceivingly tough player.

Lesson Learned: Don’t rule out Randy Moss if it’s a must-win game, and the team hasn’t confirmed his absence. Moss has a tendency to prefer to fight through the injury rather than sit out games. Based on his performance, he should be back to his acrobatic, self within a couple of weeks. Until then, he’s still going to make a decent play as your #2 or #3 WR against the Titans young secondary this weekend.

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

Started Az-Zahir Hakim
Hakim has been playing well for the Saints ever since he got the opportunity to fill in for an injured Joe Horn. His 100-yard, 1 TD-outing versus his former team was the reason why the diminutive receiver was a highly sought after player on the waiver wire this week. Why has Hakim been producing in New Orleans when he was an overpaid dud in Detroit?

First, Hakim had a very serious hip injury during his first season with the Lions. This took him more than a year to rehab, not to mention the time missed to establish a rapport with his QB. Speaking of signal callers, the Lions are still having issues at this position and establishing some sort of continuity is difficult, at best.

Even if Hakim were healthy enough to establish a connection with the quarterback, his physical skills do not lend themselves well to being a primary receiver. One may counter with Santana Moss and Steve Smith as examples of smaller receivers that lead their teams’ aerial attack. But Moss and Smith are faster than Hakim and they play a more physical style of football. Hakim’s strength is his elusiveness and short area quickness. The Saints receiver also doesn’t have the kind of vertical leap that helps Moss and Smith face larger corners and still possess the equivalent of a height advantage when both are fighting for the ball.

Hakim needs other capable receivers to stretch the field so he can work underneath the coverage. Or, the other receivers need to occupy the middle of the field so Hakim has the opportunity to surprise the defense and slip behind them. Dontè Stallworth, Ernie Conwell, and Devery Henderson do just enough to complement Hakim. Stalloworth in particular is playing better than any receiver the Lions had while Hakim was in Detroit.

Lesson Learned: As long as Joe Horn remains out, Hakim is a good bet to be a decent start. When Horn returns, Hakim will still have some big games in a slot, but he’ll be a much less consistent play.

Started Heath Miller
Last week, I mentioned in week 6’s Nagging Feelings that the Steelers tight end was beginning to make noise in the passing game. I drafted Miller as my TE in several leagues this year, only to drop him in many of them due to short-term injury replacements needed at other positions. Fortunately I was able to add Miller in a league where I had lost Drew Bennett, Issac Bruce, and Cadillac Williams for significant portions of time.

Since I have Antonio Gates—and he scores like a receiver—I could afford to play a 2-TE set. This I was forced to do with Jimmy Smith on bye. Miller and Gates wound up out-producing my three starting WRs (Jurevicius, Bryant, and Gabriel) and with the help of Edgerrin James, I still had an excellent week.

The Steelers haven’t regularly looked toward a TE in the passing game since they had Eric Green back in the 90’s. But Miller is just the kind of option the Steelers were looking for in the spring, because the tight end is the optimal check down option for a quarterback. The tight end running underneath routes off play action is also a staple of an offense that effectively runs the ball. Now that Plaxico Burress is a Giant, Hines Ward is the only consistent option on the outside.

The Steelers may not have and adequate replacement on the outside to draw attention away from Ward, but Miller fits the bill underneath. The threat of the run or Miller over the middle frees up Ward on the outside. In addition, Miller can clear out the safety and give Ward—an excellent runner after the catch—to have more space to operate over the middle.

Lesson Learned: As long as Pittsburgh can run and Ward remains healthy enough to make plays, Miller could become one of the more exciting fantasy rookies in the second half of the season.

Nagging Feelings—Week 7

The Buffalo Bills allowed more yards per carry after week six (5.3) than any team in the NFL. After Lamont Jordan’s showing, this stat isn’t going to improve. Clearly the losses of Takeo Spikes and Antoine Winfield (an excellent tackler at corner) have made a difference. Definitely rank them with the Texans and Vikings as teams that pose favorable match ups for your running back choices at this point of the season.

Detroit WR Mike Williams had his best day as a pro with 95 yards receiving—including a 49-yarder. But it’s worth noting this reception would have likely been a touchdown for at least half the starting receivers in the league and 90% of those starters with a first round label. Williams will be a plausible fantasy start in the coming weeks because he has several circumstances favoring him.

With Roy Williams hurt, Charles Rogers suspended, and Kevin Johnson gone for the year, Mike Williams is the primary option by default. Jeff Garcia’s veteran presence and scrambling ability also favors Williams, because he’ll have more time to get open. So for the next couple of weeks, Williams will look enticing.

Be wary. I thought Williams would be a strong candidate for rookie of the year. This was after the draft and I thought about Garcia as the starter and Williams insulated by two other up and coming receivers. Despite the injuries that changed this outlook, it was the reports Williams was chronically late, and lazy with his study of the playbook. This belied his seeking out Cris Carter as a trainer in his year away from college football. I believe Williams will mature, but I’m not counting on it this year. Look for Williams to tantalize fantasy owners until the regulars return to the lineup.