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20/20 Hindsight - Week 6

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.”

Finding a player with a multi-touchdown game in week 6 was like almost as easy as spotting a story on Mark Foley or Terrell Owens on television—you almost can’t avoid them these days. I entered this week with a team still in the top 16% of 618 FFTOC entries and I should still be on my way to making the final cut unless there were 100 owners that started Tomlinson, Portis, Bulger, Branch, Holt, Steve Smith, and Shockey in this week’s lineups—not likely. Of course, I had to be the lucky S.O.B. to choose Rex Grossman as my starter…

FFTOC Update
 Pos  Player  Pts  Comments
QB R. Grossman 5.92 What a stunner! Leave it to a Florida Gator to mess up this Georgia Bulldogís potentially great lineup. A seriously ill-timed clunker.
RB C. Portis 19.5 Two scores made all the difference between respectability and mediocrity.
RB J. Jones 10.6 No scores made all the difference between mediocrity and respectability.
WR T. Owens 22.5 I figured T.O. would take out his frustrations on the Texans after his Cowboysí teammates and coaching staff bore the brunt of it all week.
WR L. Evans 8.2 I recommended Steve Smith to a caller over Evans on Miamiís 790 the Ticket despite the easier match up for Buffalo on paper. Too bad I started Smith in FFTOC weeks ago.
WR B. Berrian 3.1 He had a sure score 2-3 times on fly or post routes, but the Bearsí QB was off target tonight.
TE A. Gates 13.8 The first catch was enough to make me happy. The others were gravy.
K J. Wilkins 4.0 A two-game streak of not-so-good performances.
DEF Bears 21.0 And to think in the first half I thought the Bears defense would disappoint!
  Total 108.62 Like Rex Grossman, the Bears defense saved my night, too.

Once again, this was a respectable total, but only because the Monsters of the Midway came to my rescue. To think I could have done better with at least a dozen other quarterbacks or receivers this week is disappointing. It was one of those feast or famine weeks. Fortunately I still had enough big games to make up for my three whiffs.

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

Marc Bulger Would Make A Return To The Fantasy Elite?
Bulger was my preseason #2 fantasy QB overall, but as of week five the Rams’ quarterback was a somewhat disappointing 13th in QB Crank Score. Last week Bulger was the first player I mentioned on my list of players that will regain their fantasy prominence in the second quarter of the season. The St. Louis quarterback had a 360-yard, 3-touchdown performance against a Seahawks defense that allowed only one huge performance prior, a garbage-time effort from Eli Manning. While the Seahawks weren’t a great pass defense, Bulger is still a great downfield passer with excellent weapons.

It’s not like Scott Linehan abandons the passing game just because he abandoned the Greatest Show on Turf philosophy. The Rams’ coach coordinated excellent passing attacks in Miami and Minnesota that hinged on a more balanced offensive game plan. Although San Diego and Kansas City have tough fantasy points allowed differentials versus quarterbacks (see Rams QB vs. Remaining Schedule), these two opponents have overrated passing defenses that faced lackluster opponents that bolstered their stats. This is why the phrase “study the numbers,” is a deceptive statement, because if you raise your expectations for Bulger against these two teams, the remaining schedule looks quite favorable for the Rams passing game.

Seriously, you should have known Bulger would begin to produce. That goes for Chad Johnson, Randy McMichael, and many of the others I mentioned last week as second quarter rebound performers. As long as the player is healthy, the opportunities to score points remain consistent, and the surrounding talent is still there, don’t panic on established stars.

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

Travis Henry Could Stampede The Redskins
Yeah sure, Henry had a good week versus the Colts—a given when you consider Indy is missing the middle of their defense from 2005 which consisted of all-pro caliber players Corey Simon, David Thornton, and Bob Sanders—but did anyone seriously expect a 32-carry, 178-yard, 1-touchdown performance from the former Bills back that fantasy owners have begun to relegate to journeyman status?

You know what I mean about the journeyman status. Antowain Smith, Terry Allen, and Gary Brown were all backs that had promising years with their first team but fell out of favor only to flash weeks of productivity with different teams. Sometimes, those weeks stretched into seasons. Travis Henry is poised to become this player. Even if he churns out a 1000-yard season over the course of the next 10 games, he’s likely seen as a short-term option until Lendale White gets it together. Plus, I’m about to relegate Henry to my grudge list of players because he might well help the Titans win enough games they should be losing and ruin their chance of acquiring Adrian Peterson or Calvin Johnson in the 2007 draft. Thanks Travis, I guess the Bills fans are finally getting their revenge for the Music City Miracle. Then again, maybe they’ll win enough games that Fisher will remain the head coach—doubt it, but a man can hope, can’t he?

Anyway this section is just as much about the Redskins defense as it is my bittersweet feelings as a Titans’ fan regarding Henry’s performance. I’ll formulate an argument as to why Washington was prone to the Titans new ground attack, but the fact this topic is placed under the “Could’ve File” should tell you all you need to know. When you examine the Redskins’ fantasy points allowed stats vs. RB you’ll see that the only games where the defense shut down a teams’ ground attack were the Texans and Jaguars contests. These games had something in common: The Washington offense amassed over 30 points—both teams were forced to throw the football. Although the Vikings only managed 126 yards on the ground, the game was close enough that Minnesota could pound out 41 carries and wear down the ‘Skins’ defense in the 4th quarter. But the argument is fools gold because few could have imagined Washington wouldn’t blow out Tennessee in the first half and force the Titans to take to air for the entire second half.

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

Resisted The Urge To Start Michael Turner
I didn’t start Turner, although I do have him in a league where he made an enticing option versus San Francisco’s porous defense. But I saw quite a few media outlets touting Turner as a viable #2 fantasy runner heading into Sunday. Admittedly it was tempting, because anyone that owns Ladainian Tomlinson understands how much of a wet blanket the Northern Illinois alumnus has become for fantasy owners in the second halves of Charger games. When thought of this game, you probably didn’t have to know that the Niners had a nearly 33% fantasy points allowed vs. RB differential to have thoughts of Turner ripping off two long touchdown runs in the 4th quarter.

So why did I resist the urge? Michael Turner is not a starting running back. It’s that simple. If Earl Campbell in his battering ram prime or Barry Sanders with his castors for ankles were the #2 RB to LT I still wouldn’t start either resident of that Hall in Canton, Ohio. Unless you were missing a starting back due to this crazy bye week, you are not off the hook if you picked the Burner. I know, I know, Turner burns you all the time when he outscores your #2 RB and prevents LT from monster contests. Well, he burned you again. Just think of Turner as your friendly neighborhood fantasy lineup arsonist. Unless Tomlinson is officially on the bench or remains in the training room, don’t play with fire. Note to JocStrap (No, I don’t correspond to athletic equipment—I haven’t gone that insane—this is a guy’s screen name on our forums): I just saw your post…you and me were thinking the same thing this morning.

Week 6’s Grudge List

Unfortunately, I do have an update to my list of players with whom I’m biased against them for inexplicable reasons.

Willie Parker—Like my inaugural addition of Brad Johnson last week, Parker is a guy I should like: An un-drafted free agent sitting behind players on North Carolina’s depth chart that didn’t even get a sniff at the NFL not only becomes Pittsburgh’s starter, but scores a huge touchdown in the Super Bowl. That’s the problem—Parker plays for Pittsburgh and he’s a Super Bowl champion. The metamorphosis from underdog to front-runner was way too quick for me to feel anything.

To me, Fast Willie’s like those people you’ve seen in the news that win an ungodly sum of dough with a Power Ball ticket and then tell everyone they’re going to continue their job as the men’s room urinal mint replacement guy at the airport. You want to like the guy, but…Willie Parker is a runner I want to like…I should like him, but…I’m already thinking I want to like Najeh Davenport more. Now that’s sick.

Off The List

Matt Leinart—There’s something you should know about me. Whenever I start using the words “never” or “always” to precede a sentence, the Universe likes to humble me. I try to avoid these words at all costs, but I got suckered into saying I would never feel a connection with Matt Leinart as a fan. Its just minutes after the Monday night game and I have to retract that statement.

Leinart won me over with his leadership, poise, ability to see the field, and his accuracy. While the Cardinals new starter does not possess the arm strength to deliver ball on intermediate and deep routes without setting his feet, Drew Brees and Tom Brady seem to do just fine in this area. I still like Jay Cutler’s potential more than Leinart’s because he has the Favre/McNabb ability to chuck it deep while moving backwards or in awkward settings but as I always noted, this is like discussing the merits of a future Favre (Cutler) or Brady (Leinart)—no coach would refuse either player in their prime.

I was completely wrong about what he projects from a leadership standpoint. While I’m still more enamored with Gradkowski’s play due to his underdog status, Leinart showed signs of being a mentally tough player. The rookie did more than enough for Arizona to win this game. Although they lost, I’m convinced Leinart is ready to be a decent fantasy player for your roster immediately.

Nagging FeelingsóWeek 6

Kevin Jones had another nice game. I keep telling you guys not to give up on him. Check out his remaining schedule, because I think heís going to overtake some of these surprise top-15 RBs from the first quarter of the season. Jonesí fantasy stretch run and playoff schedule looks rough, but the schedule is deceivingófor instance, Miamiís RB fantasy points allowed stats are worse than they look because they faced some pretty mediocre running teams outside of the Patriots. And in that contest with New England, Heath Evans was the leading point-getter. Speaking of New England, their competition hasnít been all that impressive, either. Now Atlanta, Detroitís next opponent, might be a wee ticked off after Tiki Barber ruined their reputation against the run. But after the Falcons, Jones has quite a nice 3-4 game run. Take advantage.

I picked up Michael Clayton two weeks ago when Bruce Gradkowski got the job, because the 3rd year receiver out of LSU has a game that suits the short to intermediate accuracy of the Toledo quarterback. Although Clayton didnít tear up fantasy leagues against Cincy this weekend, he was targeted in the clutch. One thing I also noticed was that as much as Gradkowski threw the ball deep to Galloway, he was really off the mark. His deep accuracy should improve, but he will go underneath to Clayton far more than Chris Simms. Iíd recommended picking up this forgotten man if heís still a free agent in your league.

Lo and behold a Joe Horn sighting in The Superdome! Did we really think 7th round pick, Marques Colston was going to be the best wide receiver for the entire season? While Iím hoping heís good enough to continue to play like a fantasy #3 or #4, Iím inclined to believe Joe Horn is just getting warmed up and will find a way to get close to the 1000-yard mark by seasonís end.

Desperate for a receiver due to the bye weeks ahead and waiver wire is picked clean? Try rookie Derek Hagan. The former Arizona State Sun Devil is a good route runner and was actually targeted 12 times this weekend. In fact, I wouldnít be surprised if Hagan plays himself into a more significant role by seasonís end. The Green Bay match up is a good opportunity for him to surprise if you are short on receivers in week 7. Here was my take on Hagan this summer in our Rookie Impact Series on receivers.

Derek Hagan, Dolphins: Hagan began the year as one of the best prospects of the class, but his post-season workouts in the Senior Bowl and combine were disappointing. The problem was Hagan didnít display great hands. He fought the ball or had costly drops on easy throws.

This wasnít the Hagan I saw at Arizona State University. The player I saw caught 40-yard bombs over his shoulder with a player wrapped around his waist 2-yards prior to the ball arriving. The player Iím talking about displayed leaping ability and concentration that reminded me a bit of Herman Moore but with more speed.

Former Lions starter, Gary Danielson compared Haganís game to Rod Smith because Hagan has a knack for getting open. As much as I like Haganís game, I believe it will take Hagan more work to generate similar comparisons as a pro.

Still, I think Hagan is an absolute bargain in dynasty leagues. Miami is looking for a player to beat out Marty Booker and I believe Hagan will achieve that objective sometime in 2007. While Hagan isnít a burner, heís very athletic and has more speed than people expected from him. The Dolphins rookie should develop into a terrific complement to Chambers. If Nate Burleson can have a 1000-yard season in his sophomore year with Culpepper, I believe Hagan can come close, if not exceed those totals at the same point in his career in Miami.
With this in mind, keep an eye on Santonio Holmes. Pittsburgh is making the effort to get him involved with the offense. He could be a nice pick up down the stretch especially if makes good on his opportunities. Two catches on three targets for 58 yards against Kansas City wasnít a bad start.