By Christopher Harris
October 1, 2006
Sometimes this job sucks.
Not coal-miner-trapped-in-a-cave sucks. Not stitching-soccer-balls-with-your-teeth sucks. But fantasy football can be quite the discouraging little mistress.
Regular readers might recall the League of American Recreational Gridiron Enthusiasts, or "L.A.R.G.E.," which is my personal primary fantasy league. And in this league, I was doing pretty darn well at about 3:50 p.m. ET on Sunday. Willis McGahee had (finally) scored a touchdown. Lawrence Tynes had kicked until his throbbing Scottish foot could kick no more. And my opponent had gotten nothing from his early-game charges. The Carolina Panthers needed a single first down to ice their game against the Saints, and the world was right.
Then DeShaun (Friggin') Foster struck. He rushed around the end, got the first down, realized that, well, no one on the New Orleans defense seemed to want to tackle him, and took it to the house. A meaningless 43-yard TD on a day when he otherwise had 15 carries for 62 yards. Needless to say, my L.A.R.G.E. opponent started Foster. But no worries; it was unfortunate, but I could survive the hit. The Saints would be getting the ball back, but just as long as Drew Brees didn't hit a long one to Marques Colston everything would be … oh, no. No. No-no-no-no-no-no. Literally 30 seconds of game time later, and Colston had turned a short pass into an 86-yard garbage-time score. He'd otherwise have had four catches for 46 yards. And yes, my L.A.R.G.E. opponent started Colston.
The most brutal 30 seconds in fantasy football history.
Let's take a look at the other highlights from Week 4.
(Note: In honor of the best novel about football ever written, this week's notes will include myriad references to Don DeLillo's End Zone. Sure, it's a book about college football. And yes, I run the risk of being too cutesy and "inside." So save the emails. You'll be able to comprehend the notes without having read DeLillo, and heck, maybe you should go order a copy. After all, reading is FUNdamental.)
The weekend began with three touchdowns in rapid succession. One of them was Dominic Rhodes, and more on him in a moment. The other two were Dante Hall and Malcom Floyd. You may commence punching your pillow … now.
The platoon in Indianapolis grows ever platoonier. Rhodes had 15 carries for 75 yards and the Colts' first red-zone series, of which the aforementioned touchdown was the conclusion. But Joseph Addai carried it 20 times for 84 yards, and his own red-zone score. Addai had three catches, Rhodes none. All in all, it's maddening, but in weeks where Indy plays rush defenses as weak as the Jets', you can feel free to start either/or.
The Garland Hobbs Quarterback Award ("He was tall and solidly constructed, about six-four and 215, good-looking in a blank way, faintly impressive, like a tall motel.") goes to … Matt Leinart, whose era has officially begun for the Cardinals. And not auspiciously. His second snap as a regular-season professional, he lost a fumble. Later, he threw an interception to LB Michael Boley. After the game, though, Dennis Green announced that Leinart would start next week against the Chiefs, because Kurt Warner is horrible. Okay, Green didn't say that. But Leinart is starting, and should be picked up in all leagues.
Vince Young throws like Johnny Damon.
The Taft Robinson Award ("Speed. He had sprinter's speed. Speed is the last excitement left, the one thing we haven't used up, still naked in its potential, the mysterious black gift that thrills the millions.") goes to … Michael Vick. Ho-hum. Another 101 rushing yards on 11 carries, giving him 333 for the year which, as of this writing, puts him sixth in the NFL. The entire NFL. Vick is back to being an every-week fantasy weapon, though he's certainly a better fantasy option than he is an actual quarterback. The Falcons were in the Arizona red zone more frequently than Representative Mark Foley is on Internet chat (allegedly), but Atlanta never scored a TD from in close, and instead kicked six field goals, had an interception by DeAngelo Hall returned for a TD, and a garbage-time 78-yard rush from Jerious Norwood.
Who's stupid now for recommending Damon Huard as a sleeper, people? Trust me: the Niners defense cures all ills. And boy, Frank Gore would appear to have a fumbling problem.
The Raymond Toon Award ("He was a reserve tackle on defense and he had come here because it was the only school he knew of that offered a course in sportscasting.") goes to … everyone who mispronounces the mascot of the team from Jacksonville. I complain about this every year. It's not "Jag-Wires." It's "Jaguars." Please. Stop. Mispronouncing. This. Runner up: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms cannot pronounce the word "Bengals." All day long: "Bingles. Bingles. Bingles." Argh. Second runner up: Shannon Sharpe's pre-game analysis: " I think they need to run the ball a little more effectively. And I think they need to be a little more effective on first down." I don't remember which game Shannon was talking about. I think it was all of them. Third runner up: Tony Siragusa: "They're very weary of where this guy's gonna be."
Travis Henry was a surprise inactive after practicing all week with his sore toe. We'll learn more as this week proceeds, but it doesn't bode well for the ex-Bill. Chris Brown got 12 carries, and LenDale White got nine. Brown got most of his while the game was in question, but one has to assume that as the season turns sour for the Titans, White will be the guy.
Foster was mostly the man for Carolina, and got praised for his nice stats on all the post-game shows. But the truth is, without that long, meaningless, soul-killing late run, the standout in Carolina's rushing game would've been DeAngelo Williams. He broke a 31-yarder early, and finished with 62 yards on eight carries. For now, though, the two-to-one carry ratio in favor of Foster seems about right.
Um, maybe it's time to start taking Colston and Jerricho Cotchery seriously.
I'm guessing San Diego punter Mike Scifres didn't anticipate playing quite such a significant role in Sunday's loss at Baltimore. He boomed a 71-yard punt. As holder for Nate Kaeding, he fumbled a field goal snap (on a kick that would've given the Chargers a nine-point lead) and then threw an incomplete pass … to Kaeding. Then Marty Schottenheimer instructed him to take a safety to make the score 13-9, giving the Ravens the ball back for their final, winning drive. If your league rewards fantasy points for punter drama, Scifres is a must-own.
One of the most predictable first scores of the season: rookie St. Louis TE Joe Klopfenstein's 16-yard score. Detroit had already given up the most fantasy points to tight ends so far this year, and that's now the fourth TD that tight ends have scored against them. Take note for Week 5, Jermaine Wiggins owners.
Doug Gabriel has finally hit the point in New England's offense where he needs to be owned in every league. He scored again in Cincy on Sunday, on another very pretty catch. While Tom Brady may never truly have a WR1 in his mind, Gabriel got a bunch of looks in all sorts of down-and-distance situations.
The Oscar Veech Award ("'Typical,' Veech said. 'That's typical of the whole attitude around here. You people are a bunch of feeble-minded … farmers … If you can't concentrate, you can't play football for this team. Awright now. What was I talking about, Hopper?'") goes to … Eric Mangini. The new Jets coach has done a terrific job getting a team without much depth to believe it belongs in most games, and gone are the weekly ignominious Herm Edwards clock mistakes. But he did make his first big head-clutching error by going for a TD on fourth-and-three tied late in the third quarter. It's not second-guessing if you say it at the time, and everyone where I was watching was saying it at the time. The good news is that those of you who listened to a couple of Yahoo! columnists who shall remain nameless and started Kevan Barlow are probably pretty happy right now.
That Santana Moss guy may just have a future in this league – Four catches, 138 yards (most on yards-after-catch) and three TDs. Hoo.
Can someone explain the hands-over-the-head thing Steve McNair does when he's celebrating? It looks vaguely Parthenon-ish. Is it a tribute to the Athenians?
Stephen Davis got some close-in carries late for the Rams, with the game still very much in question. Hmm … Steven Jackson had a decent day (22 carries, 81 yards and a short score), but this bears watching.
How about the shot of ex-Bill Andre Reed at halftime, clearly wearing green earplugs while being inducted into the team's Ring of Fame. "Thank you! I love you people, though I cannot tolerate the grating sound of your collective voice, which will haunt me until the day I die."
If you'd told me that Carson Palmer would be sacked one, four, six and four times to begin the season, I'd have told you he'd be in knee-traction somewhere.
And if you'd told me that Daunte Culpepper would be sacked a combined 21 times in the Fins' first four games, I'd have told you Miami would stink. Lo and behold, they do. Oh, and the spirited comeback (which included a Chris Chambers sighting) was cool, but here are some notes on the two-point conversion play. When Ronnie Brown rolled out and threw that duck, it struck me that maybe nobody has ever asked Ronnie if he actually throws right-handed.
If Laveranues Coles seriously hurt his shoulder on that last-play melee as the Jets were lateraling the ball all over the place, I imagine New-York-area sportscasters will begin to find the play much less amusing.
The Dennis Smee Award ("He got hit first by a linebacker, Dennis Smee, getting some belated and very nasty help from a tackle and another linebacker … I went after (Smee), helmet to groin, and then fell on top of him with a forearm leading the way.") goes to … Tennessee defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, who believes he shouldn't be punished just because he's enthusiastic about plastic surgery. Haynesworth decided to rearrange the face of Cowboys center Andre Gurode right there on the field, with his cleats. The double-kick and step on Gurode's helmetless head got Haynesworth ejected, and got Gurode 30-plus stitches on his face. A suspension will be forthcoming for Haynesworth.
I blasted him last week, so I should praise him now: J.P. Losman played within himself and pretty darn well against Minnesota. For the year, he's only turned the ball over three times (hey, he had 11 turnovers in limited action in '05), and he went 23-for-32 for a score. Most importantly, he managed the game, and actually got something resembling protection from his beleaguered offensive line. Jason Peters, the new right tackle, had a couple of devastating blocks to spring Willis McGahee, but unfortunately, Peters tooketh away as well, with two false-start penalties on the same second-half drive.
Who says there's no place for the option in the NFL? (Well, actually, I do, but that's neither here nor there.) Vince Young and LenDale White ran one for the Titans, and then on a fourth-and-one, the Jets' Brad Smith and Leon Washington executed another.
The Buddy Shock Award ("I waited until the coach finished and then I grabbed Buddy, spun him around and hit him with a forearm to the chest, hard. He answered with three open-hand blows against the side of my helmet.") goes to … New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita for cheap-shotting Steve Smith, slamming into Smith's legs from behind when the ball wasn't anywhere near the fleet-footed receiver. Smith hobbled off but was able to return; in all, Smith wound up with 10 catches for 87 yards and a nine-yard score. He's back.
The Spurgeon Cole Award ("Spurgeon Cole stood beneath the goal posts, repeating them, arms raised in the shape of a crossbar and uprights, his fists clenched.") goes to … Corey Dillon for chucking the ball into the Cincinnati crowd after scoring a late TD. Extra credit to the Bengals fans, who made like Wrigley and tossed it back.
The Bing Jackmin Kicker Award ("Bing Jackmin met me at the sideline. 'Our uniforms are green and white,' he said. 'The field itself is green and white – grass and chalk markings. We melt into our environment.") goes … to Mike Vanderjagt. The Cowboys may have won 45-14, and the kicker may have made a 43-yarder when the game was well in hand. But he doinked a shorty at the end of the first half. His head ain't right.
Christopher Harris is a Fantasy Sports Writers Association award-winning columnist and beagle-owner who has written about fantasy sports for SportsIllustrated.com, NBA.com, and TalentedMrRoto.com. Send Christopher a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Sunday, Oct 1, 2006 11:21 pm, EDT
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