I've got problems with you people and now you're going to hear about them." – Frank Costanza
Some households celebrate Christmas, many Hanukkah and others the African tradition Kwanzaa. However, under the Costanza roof of outward hostility and elevated voices, people gather around an aluminum pole and air their year-ending grievances during the greatest of all fake holidays, Festivus.
In the spirit of this nondenominational celebration, you are cordially invited to join me for a comfort meal of meatloaf and asparagus as I express my complaints of the 2006 fantasy football season. Feats of strength are optional.
Grievance No. 5: Carnell Williams
Problem: After an explosive start to his career, Cadillac owners had lofty expectations for 2006. Befallen by a barrage of offensive line injuries and unable to find adequate running space with Bruce Gradkowski incapable of hitting a fat man from 10 yards away, Cadillac has run with bald tires. With only one score, three games of 100-plus yards and a miserable 3.5 yards-per-carry average, many owners will bypass him in '07 drafts. If Tampa Bay addresses their quarterback and offensive line needs this offseason, buy on the late-second round markdown next year.
Grievance No. 4: Quarterback Quandaries
Problem: In 11 years of playing this crack-addictive game, I've never seen so much turnover at quarterback in one season. Amazingly, nearly one-third of the league's backups saw significant action and contributed solid fantasy numbers at random points throughout '06. For Pete's sake, during the first 10 weeks,\ journeyman Damon Huard had top-15 value. Now, the bottom has fallen out so dramatically that Tim Rattay, a third-stringer Week 1, could be a championship cornerstone. This just cements my belief that you can always wait on a quarterback on draft day. Remember, Drew Brees went after Round 9 in most performance drafts. Unless your league scores six points for all touchdowns, don't be the numbskull who thinks you've pulled the ultimate coup by "stealing" Peyton Manning at the end of the first round.
Grievance No. 3: The Madden Curse
Problem: Curses should only be reserved for mummies, voodoo witch-doctors and Chicago Cubs fans. Skeptical at first of the feared Madden kiss of death, I'm now convinced Shaun Alexander was hexed. The loss of Steve Hutchinson to Minnesota spawned a series of unfortunate events that transformed Alexander from "The Great" to "The Garbage." Oh and Shaun, never claim you've been touched by God until you've been medically cleared by a doctor. The weekly "I'm ready" tease was not appreciated.
Grievance No. 2: Tailback Timeshares
Problem: If '04 was the year of the quarterback and '05 was the year of first-round busts, future fantasy followers will label '06 the year of the timeshare. In a collective effort to eliminate late-season wear and to frustrate the hell out of us, roughly one-third of coaches instituted a minimum 70-30 backfield split. That's up nearly 27 percent from 2005. If this trend continues, close-to-extinct workhorses like LaDanian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Rudi Johnson, Clinton Portis and Willie Parker become much more valuable. Also, it's now conceivable, although not encouraged, for owners to reach for a consistent quarterback or wide receiver earlier in drafts without having to commit fantasy suicide. By banking on steady scoring mid-tiered backs (i.e. Marion Barber III), waiver wire and matchup skillful owners can formulate a winner. However, those that actually employ this strategy are destined for widespread ridicule. Remember, since 2001, only 4.2 RBs per year picked after Round 5 have finished as top-20 scorers at their position. Can you hit the bull's eye?
Grievance No. 1: "Lucifer" Mike Shanahan
Problem: The fantasy Angel of Death has taken years off my life. Those who thought Taco Tatum Bell was the man back in August had their necks slapped with a handful of Shanahan orange-glow when undrafted rookie Mike Bell was named the starter. Though Taco regained the upper-hand, Lucifer caused migraine headaches as Mabel, and of all random people Damien Nash, spurned Taco supporters. Whether it's Taco, Mabel, or some other random schmuck, you know you'll have a 33.3 percent chance of netting a 1,000-yard rusher in your draft next season. Just avoid the situation until Round 5.
WEEK 16 FANTASY FLAMES
Do you want to look like a pigskin prophet? Each week the Noise will dig deep for seven no-so-obvious names to turn you into a gridiron guru. Here are this week's flame candidates:
Fearless Forecast: 267 YDs, 2 TDs
Notes: With taser in hand, Juggernaut Jay jolts Cincin-Attica. Be afraid Matthias Askew. Be very afraid. Cutler has rapidly matured over his past two starts, completing 62.2 percent of his passes, while posting a healthy 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Cincinnati has locked down opponents in the trenches, not yielding a ground score in five straight. Because the Bells are in a constant state of flux, the rookie signal caller will be depended on to deliver offensively. Evident of Cincinnati's 280.8 passing yards-per-game and eight air strikes allowed in their past five, the Bengals typically foster high scoring air affairs. Now that he's found his confidence, Cutler puts joy into the hearts and barrels of Bronco and fantasy fans. I told ya he was a December diamond-in-the-rough.
Fearless Forecast:256 YDs, 2 TDs, INT
Notes: To take liberty with a Smashing Pumpkins lyric: Despite all his rage, Tim is still just a Rattay in a cage. At the start of the season, Rattay was buried on the Bucs depth chart as a third-stringer, but a ruptured spleen and a fallen Polish prince later, he's the new No. 1. The seven-year vet is a savvy signal caller who stands poised in the pocket and throws an excellent deep ball. In Week 15, Rattay exposed a black and blue Bears secondary, ripping them for 268 yards and three touchdowns. This week, Tampa Bay travels to C-Town to take on a crippled Cleveland defense that has allowed 266.4 passing yards-per-game and 11 air scores since Week 11. In a spread offense led by speed demon Joey Galloway, he has a great shot to post consecutive Big Noise shocker special numbers.
Fearless Forecast: 22 carries, 101 YDs, TD
Notes: You know there won't be any "Half Steppin'" when Big Daddy Dayne barrels his way through the Colts. Since Week 11, Indy has yielded an abhorrent 198.6 rushing yards-per-game and eight ground scores. Unexpectedly, Dayne has emerged from the Texans three-headed ferret totaling three touchdowns while averaging 92 yards-per-game in his past three. His bulldozer 5-foot-10, 245-pound frame and adequate burst have excelled in Gary Kubiak's one-cut zone-blocking scheme. Even if Houston were blown out early, Kubiak is committed to stick to the run. Dayne racked a large chunk of yards down 27-0 to New England in Week 15. For the first time since September of '01, Dayne eclipses 100-yards.
Fearless Forecast: 21 carries, 103 YDs, TD
Notes: This week, Caddy is one luxury car that doesn't need an oversized red bow to gain attention. The subject of owner spite and malevolence all season, Williams will rev his engine against a Browns defense that has surrendered 149 rushing yards-per-game since Week 11. The resurrection of Rattay aids an offensive line desperate to create running lanes. Rattay will take several shots down field to giant gainers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard, which should open up Abominable Snowman-sized holes for Cadillac to drive through. Sure he's averaged a paltry 3.5 yards-per-carry and hasn't scored since Week 3, but you've got to have No. 2 faith given the matchup. If his foot injury keeps him at bay, Michael Pittman is a Week 16 waivers savior.
Fearless Forecast: 11 carries, 67 YDs, TD
Notes: For Seattle, "The Burner" will be an itchy case of fourth-quarter gonorrhea. Since the Chargers have yet to clinch home-field, Marty Schottenheimer will continue to feature Turner prominently to keep LT fresh for a Super Bowl run. Finally healthy after a hamstring injury sidelined him for three weeks, Turner racked 58 yards on just seven carries versus Kansas City and continues to be the league's most lethal back in limited doses. Seattle's trench wimps couldn't tackle a dummy as they've allowed 167 rushing yards-per-game since Week 11. Still available in 94 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Marty Ball takes center stage as Turner posts fantastic flex numbers in deeper formats.
Fearless Forecast: 8 receptions, 83 YDs, TD
Notes: You bet your Brian Bosworth-inspired mullet this D.J. can Hack-it. With top target Darrell Jackson still out with a turf toe injury, Hackett stays in the lineup as the No. 2. Recently, the second-year wideout has become the apple of Matt Hasselbeck's eye averaging 6.7 targets, 4.5 receptions and 67.8 yards-per-game in his past four. San Diego has surrendered just one touchdown and the second-fewest fantasy points to receivers over their past five. However, the questionable state of the Seattle ground attack will force Hasselbeck to throw 35-plus times, increasing point opportunities for Hackett. Mother Nature won't screw me out of a flame tally this week. Start D.J. as a No. 3.
Fearless Forecast: 13 Points Allowed, 2 Sacks, 3 Turnovers
Notes: In the land of sausage and cheese, the Vikes become a Hickory Farms holiday gift box. Intriguing youngster Tarvaris Jackson is expected to make his first NFL start of his career for Minnesota. The rookie is a superb athlete who can make explosive plays with his feet and Howitzer arm. However, as promising as T-Jax is physically, he's still cerebrally raw and error prone. The Packers have forced 12 turnovers in their past five, the fifth-highest margin in the league. Coming off a 16-point fantasy tally against the loathsome Lions, they will be a top-10 defense at home against an inexperienced quarterback.
WEEK 16 FANTASY LAMES
Worried about your awful matchups this week? The Noise lists five players that should be relegated to clipboard duty for your fantasy team. Here are this week's lame candidates:
Fearless Forecast: 184 YDs, TD, INT
Notes: You'd think a guy who dresses in red with Green for a last name would deliver a holiday gift. Unfortunately, the Raiders are a QB's "Black Christmas." Oakland corners Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington have played tenacious defense, allowing a mere three games of 200-plus passing yards this season. Green has been subpar since returning from injury in Week 11, averaging a lowly 184.6 passing yards and one touchdown per game. KC needs a victory to remain in the race for the Wild Card and given the flexibility of the Oakland D-Line, Grand-Ma-Ma is set to knit a few Christmas sweaters. Even in two QB leagues, Green is a fantasy Grinch.
Fearless Forecast: 23 carries, 67 YDs, 2 receptions, 18 YDs
Notes: If you ever wanted to know what a Yule log tastes like, bank your fantasy championship on Parker. Almost single-handedly carrying owners to the finals, Steamin' Willie has chugged his way to 355 yards and two scores in his past two. Parker's pronounced productivity ends versus a Ravens club that has yielded 79 rushing yards-per-game and zero touchdowns since Week 11. Four weeks ago, Parker ran for a disappointing 22 yards on 10 carries versus Baltimore and has crossed the chalk once against them in three career contests. It's tough to bench him, but if I had to choose between say Parker or Dayne, I go with the bowl full of jelly.
Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 57 YDs
Notes: Although he has elfin features, Santa better fill Lucifer Shanahan's stocking with a load of coal. Tainted with E-Coli, Taco Tatum was unable to find water in the desert and was pulled for Mabel after a fumble led to an Arizona touchdown in the second quarter in Week 15. Taco finished with 18 carries for 29 yards, while the resilient Mabel reemerged for 62 yards and two scores. With the Broncos in desperation mode, Shanahan vows he will go with whoever has the hot hand. Dependent on in-game circumstances, Taco and Mabel are completely unreliable, especially versus a suddenly stiff Bengals rush defense that has allowed 77.6 rushing yards-per-game and no touchdowns since Week 11. Avoid the juggling Bells.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 62 YDs
Notes: All Ocho-Cinco wants for Christmas is two diamond-studded front teeth and a one-on-one matchup with Darrant Williams. Drawing the disadvantageous assignment of shutdown corner Champ Bailey, Johnson will have to keep the salsa shoes in the closet. As a whole, the Broncos secondary has surrendered a microscopic one touchdown since Week 9 and the eighth-fewest fantasy points to receivers over their past five. Denver has struggled greatly in the trenches, which points to another hefty workload for Rudi Johnson. When Carson Palmer does go airborne, expect T.J. Houshmandzadeh to see double-digit targets as Cincy will want to exploit the weak-side of the Bronco secondary. Johnson battled through cramps on Monday night and totaled a menial 37 yards in Indy. This week, another letdown appears plausible.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 58 YDs
Notes: With T.O. busy decking the "Hall" with projectile saliva, Glenn continues to be an unsung consistency king. Over the past five weeks, Glenn is the ninth-best receiver in performance leagues averaging 5.2 receptions and 93 yards-per-game with two scores. The once-wounded Eagles secondary has healed and developed into one of the more formidable pass defenses in the NFC. Since Week 13, the resurgent birds have given up the 10th-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. Glenn caught five passes for 61 yards versus a then-injury ridden Eagles squad in Week 5. Anticipate similar totals this time around.
In an ongoing effort to spread the gospel of the Noise, this segment is for YOU to ridicule my random musings. Oh, and if have any positive contributions, that's cool too.
Thank you for the Week 15 advice to sit Vick. Your obviously doing a great job. Keep it up! Who wanted to advance in the playoffs anyway?
Tim, Baltimore, MD
I would have hunted you down if I benched Michael Vick during the finals. Thank God I came to my senses. I'm never reading your Franken crap articles again.
Michael, Orange, CA
Noise: I flashed multiple dirty birds at my television on Saturday night. The Cowboys had been a top-ten fantasy defense against quarterbacks up until Drew Brees spurred them for five touchdowns in Week 14. I really thought they would've bounced back with a bit more aggressiveness and vigor in Atlanta. As it often does, absurd took the wheel and threw logic out the window. Kudos to Vick and the owners who had the stones to play him.
Way to totally drop the ball on your flamer Garrard call. He was awful and single-handedly lost that game. Yuck! Nice pick. Those who took your expert advice will probably have some funny stuff I look forward to reading.
Eric, Savannah, GA
Noise: Ok, so the "Beer-Truck" failed to deliver a six-pack of holiday brew, but he wasn't entirely skunky. Luckily his 43 rushing yards erased the four dreadful turnovers. Hey, any Brees owner would have killed for 233 yards and a touch.
Um, nice calls on Garrard and Vick. Shall I take the opposite of any advice you give for my championship game?
Josh C, Chicago, IL
Noise: Here's a piece of advice: Don't eat yellow snow.
I'm a week late on this comment. In 2004 not only did I start Volek AND Bennett on my fantasy team, I attended that frigid Monday night game in Nashville. The best part: I'm a Chiefs fan and they won in a shootout! I don't think there has ever been a better moment of simultaneous fan and fantasy football satisfaction.
Micah, Chattanooga, TN
Noise: My ultimate simultaneous satisfaction fan and fantasy moment: While surrounded by a hottie entourage of Jessica Alba, Heidi Klum and a ready-to-party Miss Universe, I watch my beloved Chicago Bears roll in Super Bowl XLI.
Slug back a few glasses of Bailey's for the Noise. Happy Holidays everyone!
- Tim Rattay