As we all know Hindsight is 20/20. This weekly column is devoted
to learning from common mistakes and serves as FFToday’s “Fantasy
I’d like to thank the
Eagles and 49ers for the gift they gave my FFTOC squad over the
weekend. I had second thoughts about fielding half my lineup with
Eagles starters just prior to kickoff, but I resisted the urge
to play it safe. My only regret was not to play Willis McGahee
or Chris Henry—two players I thought to use over Ronnie
Brown and Santana Moss. Make those two replacements and I might
have catapulted into the upper 20% of the tourney rankings. Still,
I had a nice week.
||I had Donnie Syracuse rated as a top
five QB this year and he’s doing little to disappoint.
||Glad I have him in dynasty leagues,
because I can’t get him anywhere else.
||Good thing I’m not a betting man…I thought
he was a lock for a big day.
||Even a bad outing from Driver is pretty
||I’m satisfied with this performance,
although I expected a TD, too.
||Chris Henry’s performance is haunting
me in two leagues this week.
||My streak of picking a TE that scores
a TD is now in its third week.
||Good, but having Matt Stover in other
leagues has spoiled me.
||Another 3-week streak of picking decent
performers at this position.
||My best week thus far, and I need to
build on it in week 4.
Let’s move on to the week two files of 20/20 Hindsight. Were
you patient with your key sub-par performers after two weeks? Let’s
use this week’s files as a quiz. If you’re shaking your
head in disgust after reading any of these, pony up to the bar and
Brett Favre Would Tear Up A Defense In
I’m going to miss watching Brett Favre when he retires.
I’m painfully aware of the backlash among many fans that
are sick of the infinite number of football writers, announcers,
and analysts that laud the Packers QB. If you’re one of
those fans, I advise you to skip to the next section…
…I believe Brett Favre’s approach to football embodies
everything our country mythologizes about the American Spirit
and that’s why most of us have such a connection with the
player. He began his career as a rebellious underdog that got
a second chance to make something of his football life when he
was sent packing to Green Bay. His play has always been a daring
combination of recklessness and guts that can equally inspire
and frustrate at every turn. When I watch Brett Favre play, I
think of the last scene in the movie The Right Stuff
where President Johnson is holding a glorified barbeque for the
Mercury 7 astronauts and lauding them as the greatest pilots in
the world while possibly the best of the best, test pilot Chuck
Yeager, is seen taking a shot at the altitude record out in the
desert. The movie switches back and forth from the astronauts’
ceremony and Yeager’s test flight with the symphonic music
weaving the two storylines together. Yeager’s plane goes
into a spin, and the pilot that did more to advance aeronautical
engineering than many recognized at the time, bails from the cockpit
with his helmet smoking, just before his aircraft slams to the
earth with a fiery explosion.
As the ground crew races to the scene of the crash, they look
for traces of Yeager—presumably dead—until the driver
says with a smile, “there’s a man,” and Yeager
emerges from the smoky horizon a bit battered, but really no worse
for wear as he drags his parachute behind him. To me, Brett Favre
has that kind of aura about him: The rugged, American hero that
lives on the dual-edged sword of courage and recklessness.
Personally, I don’t care if Favre keeps playing until he
performs like Unitas or Namath at the end of their careers. Death
on any scale has an ugly side to it. The death of Favre’s
career could be ugly, but it doesn’t mar the beauty of his
game in the prime of his career. If teams are foolish enough to
want his services when Favre’s skills have fallen too far,
blame them, not the former three-time MVP. Right now, it sure
looks like Favre was right about his ability to still play, and
his team having a high level of talent. Of course, skill that
doesn’t translate to the field is merely potential. With
this in mind, Favre accurately described his team this summer.
I know the Lions and Saints aren’t going to remind anyone
of the Steel Curtain or the Monsters of the Midway, but Favre
and the Packers offense appears to be getting on track.
Heck, “on track,” would be only 250 yards and 2 scores,
not 300-plus yards and 3-plus scores! This is why you should seriously
reconsider making Favre your every week starter from this point
forward. I was happy with Kurt Warner as my starter, but one of
the great comeback players in the history of the game is still
making it difficult to count him out. Too bad I didn’t play
him this weekend, because it would have been the difference in
my local league.
Kevin Jones, Steve Smith, And Cadillac
Williams Would Get On Track
These three were all beneficiaries of good match ups last week.
Jones actually performed like the all-purpose threat many of us
envisioned he would be in Detroit’s offense. Considering
the Lion’s competition for the first two weeks, I think
it’s fair to say that Jones should have more decent performances
on the horizon.
Smith was a player I was wary of starting this week. I worried
the Panthers receiver was succumbing to the media pressure by
rushing back from his hamstring woes. Well, 112 yards later, Smith
may still have weeks where this injury could impact his playing
status, but he certainly did enough to dispel my thoughts he’d
be too limited to make an impact. He even had a 41-yard reception
to show the explosiveness of his game was intact.
Williams wasn’t off the charts impressive by any means,
but he had a workmanlike day that included a red zone score. Will
Cadillac’s production go downhill with Chris Simms recovering
from a ruptured spleen? I think Williams’ play depends more
on the health of his offensive line than Simms. Teams are already
stacking the line to force Tampa to win through the air, so Williams
can’t do much worse. Unless Tampa attempts to give a free
agent a two-week crash course in their offense, Bruce Gradkowski
will get a shot after the bye week.
While I’d hate to see any player get hurt, I will be cheering
for the 6th-round rookie that I’ve been touting a great
deal this summer. And if the Bucs go on a 3-4 game winning streak
as a result, I’ll reveal more about the email I mentioned
in last week’s Gut Check. What happened to Simms was one
of the events (injury or benching) I mentioned in this email I
sent to my friends in August as my personal storybook scenario
for the NFL playoffs. It wasn’t a prediction, just a remote
coincidence if Gradkowski can do something with the opportunity.
Why do I have what might seem like an irrational feeling that
Gradkowski could be better for this team? Mobility in the pocket
is my answer. The rookie can elude the pass rush and has the kind
of speed to make plays in the open field. Gruden began his head-coaching
career with high-priced free agent, Jeff George at the helm of
his offense. George might have the best arm of any QB that ever
played, but he had poor pocket presence and lacked the persistence
to keep playing through a beating. George’s first season
under Gruden was a great success statistically speaking, but the
coach went outside the organization when year two was over, it
was evident George wasn’t a match for the position. Rich
Gannon was a mobile QB with a lesser quality arm, but great on-field
awareness. Gruden then went after backups that had a similar skill
set of mobility: Billy Joe Hobert and Marques Tuiasosopo. Although
Gruden drafted Chris Simms, Gradkowski is a better match with
the coach’s profile for the position.
I believe the more Gradkowski plays the greater his learning curve
will accelerate. He’s that kind of player that makes good
decisions and from what I saw of him at Toledo, learns quickly
from his mistakes. With a more mobile QB in the lineup, this could
take some pressure off the running game. We’ll find out
if this is just wishful thinking on my part in October.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh Would Score Two Touchdowns
I was counting on Chris Henry to have a nice effort, but who could
have known that Houshmandzadeh would have just as good of a performance?
In hindsight, it makes sense: the Oregon State-alum makes an ideal
slot receiver in the Bengals offense with Johnson and Henry’s
speed to burn on the outside. The sticking point I had with Houshmandzadeh’s
prospects was the lingering heel injury. Foot injuries are too
dicey to predict with any accuracy. Physiologically speaking,
the fact our bodies are supported on finely structured bones and
able to do all these athletic feats is an engineering miracle.
So once something with the foot is out of whack, all bets are
off—it could be a one-week injury or a career-ending blow.
Now that the Bengals receiver demonstrated he could perform with
this problem, he’ll be worthy of fantasy consideration.
Unfortunately for Houshmandzadeh owners, I wouldn’t be surprised
if Chris Henry will remain on the outside as the #2 WR until further
notice, or at least complicate matters with whom will receive
the greater amount of targets.
Maurice Jones-Drew Would Have A Bigger
Day Than Fred Taylor
I talked about the Colts weak run defense in week one’s
version of “Nagging Feelings,” and figured Taylor
would have a big day at the RCA Dome. The Jaguars starting back
wasn’t too shabby, but Jones-Drew repeatedly gashed the
Colts on draws out of a spread formation. The rookie out of UCLA
was a player many compared to Chargers kick return specialist,
Darren Sproles, but I said this spring in the 2006 RSP that Jones-Drew
was actually more comparable in skill set to Warrick Dunn because
of his balance and ability to finish runs with a physical style.
It sure looks like Jones-Drew earned an opportunity to be the
change of pace to Fred Taylor in the foreseeable future. The next
few weeks will determine whether the rookie will cut into Taylor’s
time on a regular basis, or his Colts performance was just an
anomaly. Either way, l’d be shocked if Jones-Drew doesn’t
get a chance to be the main man in Jacksonville in 2007. Jack
Del Rio has a good track record of meaning what he says about
players in the media, and the Jags head coach has been steadfast
with his viewpoint that Jones-Drew is capable of being an every
down back. The rookie runner certainly did a good job with initially
supporting Del Rio’s impression. More to come…
Started Bengals WR Chris Henry
I’m scoring points like a madman in my local league, too
bad that for 2 of those 3 weeks more of those points were left
on my bench! Besides starting Warner over Favre, I took a chance
on Marques Colston and started him over Chris Henry. The same
Chris Henry that has nice totals whenever he gets regular targets.
Then throw in the fact he torched the Steelers in the playoffs
last year on the first play from scrimmage, and all I can say
after his 69-yard, 2-td performance is I must have fallen asleep
at the wheel. I’m writing this before the Saints game. As
you’re reading this column, Marques Colston and Reggie Bush
could have very well played the games of their lives and I overcame
my 38-point deficit. But with Favre and Henry in my lineup, I
would have been down only by 6 points with Reggie Bush left to
play—much better odds, don’t you think?
In hindsight, I thought Henry would be splitting time with Houshmandzadeh,
and Chad Johnson would see far more looks than he did Sunday.
Colston splits time with Devery Henderson, but with the way Joe
Horn has started the season I figured I’d take my chances
on the rookie and his rapport with Brees. I’m kicking myself
more on Favre than Henry, but at least it’s still early
in the season. Of course, there’s more…
Considered Ladell Betts Despite Portis’
Proclamation Of Health
I also had Ladell Betts sitting on my bench in this league! With
Larry Johnson on bye I had my choice among Joseph Addai, Thomas
Jones, and Betts. I was torn between Addai and Betts. From a match
up standpoint, Betts had the clear advantage. But in terms of
playing time, I thought Portis would get more carries and Addai
showed enough to earn more time. Wrong answer…
Betts had a 100-yard day as Washington paced Portis in his return
to the field against an overmatched Texans defense. Addai barely
got any opportunities. His best play was a long pass reception
and run that was called back due to an interference call on Reggie
Wayne. So it appears this should be the second game I lose where
I left major points on the bench. Good thing it’s only week
three and I can use this information to assess my roster and make
Nagging Feelings—Week 4
Why don’t the Jaguars ever use the play action pass after
they are dominating on the ground? I just don’t understand
why. I heard training camp reports from the past two years where
the offensive coordinator said he’d use the play action
game more often. Is Byron Leftwich just not good at play fakes
or does the offensive coordinator not make good on the promise?
I want to know, because with those big receivers, it would seem
the play fake would give them an advantage to get down field and
help Leftwich buy time to deliver. Jacksonville is a good team,
but it’s the production from the deep passing game that
could elevate them from a dangerous team to elite competition.
I was wrong about Corey
Dillon holding off Laurence
Maroney, but not due to Dillon’s play. The veteran runner
is at the point in his career where it appears his physical style
is wearing down his body. In addition, Maroney just looks so fresh
in comparison. He’s not as physical as Dillon, but his pass catching
skills might be better and he can take a hit. Maroney had a reception
and run against the Broncos where LB Al Wilson nailed the rookie
with a shot, but failed to wrap him up. Maroney showed great balance
and gained another 30 yards on the play. Al Wilson actually made
the “rookie mistake” with that hit. Yet to Maroney’s credit, that
was a blow that would have been enough to knock down 85%-90% of
the runners in the NFL. I think Maroney will still split time
with Dillon, but the opportunities will be weighted in his favor.
Speaking of the Pats, Gut Check favorite Doug
Gabriel looked pretty good last night in the 4th quarter.
The Denver defense was playing with a lead, but I think Brady
and Gabriel will continue to develop a rapport. Gabriel has excellent
hands and has enough speed to stretch a defense. He was a favorite
among the players in Oakland for his work ethic. The Pats are
likely headed for a mediocre or down year, but I think they are
simply reloading. Gabriel and Chad Jackson are two examples of
the new ammo coming to Beantown where the best is yet to come.
If you picked up Gabriel as a free agent when he was traded from
Oakland, I recommend you hold onto him if at all possible. I believe
he could be an excellent fantasy receiver for your stretch run
after week 8.
Mike MacGregor was so right about Randy Moss last March when
we met in Kansas City. He felt the wheels on the Moss bandwagon
were falling off and he wouldn’t be surprised if the past
two years were the beginning of a slow decline. Unless Moss gets
traded to a team with an offensive line worth its salt, “the
Freak’s” fantasy outlook appears hopeless. Is there
a team that needs a receiver but can afford an asking price that
right now might seem inflated due to his lack of production? Not
likely. Nor does it appear Oakland would even be willing to part
with Moss, although I wouldn’t be surprised if their prized
receiver requests a deal out of town.