Bringin' the Noise: Call it a comeback

Brad Evans

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Don't you never, ever, pull Larry Johnson's lever.

Kansas City's troubled back may not stockpile velour Kangol hats in his closet. He may not possess the rhyming skills of a world-renowned multi-platinum artist. And his approach with the ladies would never be described as suave.


Larry Johnson is the NFL's only known half-human, half-alpaca player

(US Presswire)

But the 1-8 Chiefs are optimistic their turbulent runner will be L "Cool" J the rest of the season.

In regards to dominating the competition during the most crucial weeks of the season, frustrated owners hope his soundtrack will be "(Grand) Mama Said Knock you Out."

For much of the season, Johnson's off-the-field shortcomings have crippled his fantasy value. After scoring three touchdowns and averaging 83.4 rushing yards per game over the first five weeks, the two-time All-Pro was charged with simple-assault Oct. 10, stemming from a rather disgusting incident at a Kansas City area nightclub. According to police reports, Johnson allegedly threatened to kill a woman's boyfriend and confused her for a spittoon multiple times. The outburst marked the fourth time in five years he had been charged with assault on a woman.

Deservedly benched by the Chiefs for three games and suspended by the NFL for another, the now reformed rusher has made amends with the coaching staff and is anxious to return to the playing field. Head coach Herm Edwards has welcomed him back with open arms. Per the Associated Press:

"He's doing good. He's excited about getting going. We had a good discussion about where he's at, what he's trying to do. Just come in here and get ready to play and find your niche in what we're trying to do. Our offense has changed a little bit. But he's going to be involved in it. He's excited about being back."

Hampered by a deplorable defense and with an inexperienced quarterback behind center, the Chiefs were forced to evolve offensively without Johnson. Chan Gailey scrapped K.C.'s traditional smash-mouth system, choosing to install a college-styled spread to maximize Tyler Thigpen's strengths. The scheme employs several three-to-four wide receiver sets with the quarterback operating almost exclusively out of the shotgun. In a way, it's similar to Missouri's offense spearheaded by Heisman hopeful Chase Daniel. The move has not resulted in a string of wins, but it has transformed Thigpen overnight from Kate Moss sacker to fantasy points racker, evident in his rising completion rates (pre-spread: 42.2, post: 64.7) and passing yards per game (pre: 98, post: 233.7).

It's hard to say exactly how Johnson's punishing, straight-forward style will be utilized in Gailey's retooled scheme, but Edwards has emphasized balance in order to protect his young quarterback from blitzes:

"When you spread your tackles out in space, you leave your edges too open, you become vulnerable to blitzes unless you get the ball off fast. Linebackers are a lot faster in this league, defensive linemen are faster than in college. The closing speed is a lot different. When you leave your quarterback vulnerable, they get hit a lot. There are certain things that are positive, but you can't live with it. You still have to run the ball, whether you're in a spread or a traditional offense."

During Johnson's hiatus, the three-headed gerbil of Kolby Smith, Jamaal Charles and Dantrell Savage scored only once and averaged a combined 4.1 yards per carry and 77 rushing yards per game. With Smith out for the season, Charles' style more conducive to change-of-pace duties and Savage very green, LJ will almost certainly be given substantial carries immediately in order to resurrect the ground game.


Ari Gold would agree: Herm Edwards, LJ and his owners just need to hug it out

(US Presswire)

Due to Thigpen's emergence as a legitimate passer, Johnson may no longer see consistent eight-man fronts like he did early in the season. His keen eyes, patience and Clydesdale power could rack significant yardage plowing through wide open spaces created by the aerial game. More encouraging, he could be featured more as a receiver. Recall in eight contests last season he averaged 3.8 receptions per game, the fourth-highest mark among RBs.

Yes, it is possible another suspension could be levied in December, but with trade deadlines looming in Y! leagues, sage owners should buy on a bear market. Including this week's tussle with New Orleans, K.C. is slated to face seven pliable run defenses (NO, Buf, at Oak, at Den, SD, Mia, at Cin) that have yielded a combined 157.9 total yards and 1.2 touchdowns per game to plowshares. Johnson, traded straight up for Hines Ward, Ryan Grant, Willis McGahee and Donovan McNabb in Y! Plus leagues one-for-one deals this week, is worth the risk. Assuming he doesn't miss additional time down the stretch, he could easily average 100-plus total yards per game and tally 4-6 scores.

This week, matched against a Saints defense minus Hollis Thomas and Mike McKenzie, look for No. 27 to diamond-cut his opponent at least once. Six of New Orleans' allowed eight TDs to backs have come away from the Superdome and since Week 7 they've surrendered 163.5 total yards per game and five scores to RBs, equal to the seventh-most fantasy points conceded. Based on the matchup and K.C.'s renewed offensive fervor, he should be considered a strong RB2 in all formats.

LJ Owners? (What!) LJ Owners? (What!) Are you ready? (We're ready!)

Grand-ma-ma is gonna bomb your opponent's town.

Week 11 Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 83 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 26 receiving yards, 1 touchdown

Here are this week's flames, lames and stars of video games:

Each week the Noise highlights five somewhat obscure, unobvious names who he believes are destined for flame madness or lame sadness. In honor of waiver wire hero Ron Dayne's legendary three-game dominance late in '06, the "Shocker Special" segment spotlights one player owned in less than a third of Yahoo! leagues who is poised for instant greatness. The Noise, an accountability advocate, will tally his hits and misses and post the results, whether genius or moronic, each week using the scoring system listed at the end of the lames segment.

*BNRK = Big Noise weekly position ranking
*Y!% = Percentage owned, started in Yahoo! Plus leagues

Week 11 Fantasy Flames
Player Team Pos Opp BNRK Y!%
Tyler Thigpen QB 9 57, 33
Lowdown: Over the past three weeks, the former Chanticleer has ruled the fantasy roost. During that stretch he's averaged a rock solid 236.7 passing yards and 22 rushing yards per game and posted a sparkling 6:0 TD:INT split, ranking him seventh in FPPG among signal callers. Chan Gailey's brilliant implementation of a collegiate spread scheme has rebuilt the youngster's shaky confidence and catapulted him into fantasy stardom. K.C. guard Brian Waters credits the coaching staff for Thigpen's dramatic transformation, "They've done a great job putting together a game plan that he's very comfortable with. We all know his history as a college football player and what he ran in college. A lot of it has to do with the things going on around him. The mixing of the run and pass, the no huddle, all those different things have given teams a lot of things to look at and has made it a little clearer for him, because these are things he's comfortable with." With Larry Johnson back in the mix, Thigpen's numbers won't suffer, they will likely improve. Minus Mike McKenzie, New Orleans' defense, which has surrendered the most 20-yard pass plays in the NFL (32), will help Thigpen venture again into top-10 QB territory.
Fearless Forecast: 26-39, 253 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 24 rushing yards
Julius Jones RB 19 90, 37
Lowdown: The flyest Mohawk in professional football will attempt to ground a high-flying Cardinals defense that has been very effective against rushers this season. Over the past five weeks, 'Zona has yielded a meager 3.6 yards per carry and 125 total yards per game to RBs, equal to the 10th-fewest fantasy points allowed. However, three of the four rushing touchdowns they've conceded to backs this year have come away from Phoenix. Matt Hasselbeck's return behind center will finally create a stable atmosphere for a wandering Seattle passing attack searching for an identity. Because the Cards are wingless against the pass, the Hawks should be able to gain ample yardage vertically, setting up Jones in the red-zone. Coming off a noteworthy 88-yard effort in Miami, Jones, who feels he rediscovered a rhythm against the Fins, could notch surprising numbers. In four home performances this season, he's averaged 5.0 yards per carry and 88 rushing yards per game. Label him a mid-tiered RB2 in 12-team and deeper leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 19 carries, 84 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 12 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Jerious Norwood RB 21 72, 34
Lowdown: Last week, Norwood showcased more high-steps than a North Korean People's Army exercise turning a simple swing pass into an electrifying 67-yard TD scamper. Finally, Mike Smith appears to have warmed to the idea of launching the Mississippi Missile with more regularity, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week, "Jerious is a very gifted athlete. He can do a number of things. He's very multi-faceted. … When you give him opportunities to get touches, he's made the most of them." Recently, offensive coordinator Mike Mularky devised creative ways to get the ultra-explosive back more involved, which has paid handsome dividends for his owners. Over the past three weeks, Norwood has averaged 12.3 FPPG, the 16th-best mark among RBs. Hosting one of fantasy's friendliest run defenses this week at home, he could tally his third-straight game of 80-plus total yards and a score. The beleaguered Broncos have yielded 5.3 yards per carry, 187.5 total yards per game and six scores to plowshares since Week 7, equal to the sixth-most fantasy points allowed. Norwood's versatility and breakneck open-field speed is daunting assignment for a Denver D that has conceded 13 20-yard run plays, the second-most in the league. Insert him into the Flex in all 12-team leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 10 carries, 51 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 44 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Muhsin Muhammad WR 18 89, 56
Lowdown: Wookie nerds and fantasy freaks would agree the Lando Calrissian of Carolina is a must start in Week 11. Quietly, the ex-Bear is undergoing a revival of sorts in familiar surroundings. In nine contests, Moose has scored three times and averaged a stout 4.4 receptions and 60.6 yards per game. His 8.1 FPPG ranks No. 26 among wideouts, ahead of notable names Derrick Mason, Donald Driver and Jerricho Cotchery. Sure he hasn't surpassed 70 receiving yards in four straight weeks, but his delicious matchup with Detroit is very enticing. The O-fer Kittens have allowed five touchdowns and four 70-yard receivers since Week 6, equal to the third-most fantasy points surrendered. With so much attention being paid to Steve Smith, Moose will undoubtedly benefit from single coverage. Seventh among WRs in red-zone targets netting 1.2 per contest, the Panthers No. 2 should snag his fourth TD of the season en route to appreciable WR3 totals.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 72 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Anthony Gonzalez WR 20 79, 32
Lowdown: Owners who reap the benefits of "Kojak" will ask their Week 11 adversary, "Who loves you baby?" The bone-polished former Buckeye is slowly overtaking Marvin Harrison, who has uncharacteristically dropped passes and appeared lost at times in recent weeks, on the Colts depth-chart. Although his statistical totals have been somewhat sluggish, Tony Dungy has spoken highly of Gonzo's development, "He's learned a lot about what we do, and what makes it work. It's easier to understand those little adjustments now, and the face that he's in there on third downs says a lot about him." Yes, Gonzo's been largely erratic, but his hefty 5.4 targets per game over the past five weeks coupled with Peyton Manning's remarkable success against Houston (31:5 career TD:INT) are a formula for fantasy success. Disregard his one-catch three-yard performance in Houston Week 5. Based on his expanded role Gonzalez should be faithfully started as a WR3 in all 12-team and deeper leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 67 receiving yards, 1 touchdown

Other Flame candidates: Jake Delhomme (vs. Det), Matt Ryan (vs. Den), Ricky Williams (vs. Oak), Deuce McAllister (at KC), Lee Evans (vs. Cle), Isaac Bruce (vs. StL), Bo Scaife (vs. Jac)

Shocker Special of the Week
Player Team Pos Opp BNRK Y!%
Peyton Hillis RB 26 32, 6
Lowdown: Kleptomaniac Tatum Bell may steal some of Hillis' carries, but he can't take his fantasy pride. The seventh-round pick from Arkansas, who paved pathways for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in college, could do his best Nick Goings impersonation this week in Hotlanta. Determined to prove his worth, the youngster is confident he'll be prepared to handle an expanded workload Sunday, "I have that mind-set (of a RB). I think if I do get a whole week of practice at tailback, people will see a lot of difference in me." Several reports suggest Taco Tatum could rack roughly 10-15 carries, but based on Hillis' interior-pounding style he's best suited for goal-line duties. Jay Cutler should be able to move the ball through the air without inhibition, which will put the Broncos into numerous red-zone situations. Even with 10-15 touches, the rookie has excellent odds of contributing quality Flex numbers in 12-team and deeper leagues. The Falcons have yielded four scores, 127.6 total yards and 4.6 yards per carry to backs over the past four weeks. More importantly, they've conceded 5.1 receptions per game to RBs which suggests the ultra-versatile fullback could accumulate abundant receptions similar to his Week 9 outing versus Miami. Yes, the Denver running game is a far cry from its 1,000-yard churning heyday, but Hillis is a durable, flexible back with favorable scoring potential.
Fearless Forecast: 12 carries, 48 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 27 receiving yards, 1 touchdown

Other potential Shockers: Kerry Collins (at Jac), Ladell Betts (vs. Dal), Bobby Engram (vs. Ari), Mark Bradley (vs. NO), Josh Morgan (vs. StL), Donald Lee (vs. Chi)

Week 11 Fantasy Lames
Player Team Pos Opp BNRK Y!%
Brady Quinn QB 22 71, 22
Lowdown: With the inexperienced Quinn in town, Ralph Wilson patrons won't have to resort to stall fornication for excitement and entertainment. Quinn was spectacular in his debut last week versus Denver completing 23 of 35 attempts for 239 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers. But the Bills defense is significantly more rigid than the Bailey-less Broncos. Quinn is very aware of the challenge, "Buffalo is a tough team, solid defense all around. It presents a tough task not only for myself coming into my second start, but for our team going into an environment like Buffalo on Monday night." Over the past four weeks, Buffalo has allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to QBs, surrendering 239.3 passing yards per game and only three air scores. Because Quinn operates best on short-to-intermediate pass plays, Dick Jauron, who rarely presses quarterbacks, will drop linebackers back in coverage to clog vertical lanes. Jamal Lewis is the key to Quinn's success. If the bulldozer can routinely blast through Buffalo's staunch frontline (3.4 YPC to RBs in last four), it will soften the Bills' coverage. Still, the second-year QB will likely flunk his first major road test.
Fearless Forecast: 21-34, 226 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions
Steve Slaton RB 25 99, 75
Lowdown: Houston's "Slasher" has been unable to slice and dice his way through the wall. Mentally and physically "worn down" according to Gary Kubiak, the rookie sensation is expected to surrender carries to Ryan Moats and Ahman Green. Kubiak remarked Wednesday that Slaton looked "fresher, Iâm going to find ways this week to freshen him even more," but didn't note exactly how many carries his prized back would tote. Glancing superficially at the matchup, it would appear the Slasher is poised to terrorize Indy. Since Week 7, the Colts have allowed seven touchdowns and 134.8 total yards per game to backs, equal to the 12th-most fantasy points yielded. However, those stats are deceiving. During that same stretch, the Colts have conceded just 3.2 yards per carry to rushers. The return of premiere run stopper Bob Sanders to the lineup has fortified Indy's flimsy rush defense. Yes, Slaton torched Indy for 96 total yards and two scores in Week 5, but remember Sanders was not in uniform. Considering he'll likely cede at least 10-12 carries, is on the road and with Sanders at full-strength, the youngster is someone to avoid despite what seems to be a stellar paper play. Keep him active in deeper leagues, but owners in shallow formats should lean on friendlier alternatives (e.g. DeAngelo Williams (vs. Det)).
Fearless Forecast: 13 carries, 47 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 14 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Thomas Jones RB 22 99, 83
Lowdown: The No. 2 ranked running back in fantasy over the past five weeks, Jones has dropped atomic bombs on opponents. Over that stretch he's averaged 5.3 yards per carry, 110.6 total yards per game and splashed pay-dirt eight times. His three TDs last week against St. Louis tied Curtis Martin's single game club record. Eric Mangini has been very complimentary of Jones' resurgence, noting to the New York Daily News on Monday, "Thomas is making things happen when there are holes there, and he's making things happen when there aren't holes there. He's always been a tough runner, his ability to bounce outside and to create some things out there. The yards after contact, I think, have always been really positive. He wasn't voted captain, but he still has that leadership game in and game out." New York's offensive line is playing at a very high level right now, but buffet closer Vincent Wilfork is one of the NFL's preeminent back snackers. Since Week 6, the Patriots have yielded zero scores, 3.3 yards per carry and 98.6 total yards per game to tugboats, equal to the second-fewest fantasy points allowed. Jones posted one of his weakest performances against the Patriots in Week 2 (75 total yards, no scores). Anticipate another crash landing, this time in Foxboro.
Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 63 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 9 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Calvin Johnson WR 22 100, 91
Lowdown: Without a legitimate Hobbes at quarterback, Calvin’s prospects of a stellar fantasy day are imaginary. Carolina's tall, athletic secondary will prove problematic for one of the game's rising stars. Over the past five weeks, the Panthers have given up only two scores and three 80-yard wideouts, equal to the seventh-fewest fantasy points allowed. In late-October Rod Marinelli told the Detroit Free Press the coaching staff was "very conscious (about) trying to move Johnson around to get him away from certain coverages." For the most part, it's worked. Megatron has netted 96.4 yards per game and snagged four TD receptions since Week 6. But with the horrifically abysmal Daunte Culpepper expected to man the offense in hostile territory, Johnson's prospects for a fruitful fantasy day are ominous. It's extremely difficult to bench him, but a sorrowful effort similar to Weeks 3 (4 catches for 40 yards at SF) and 5 (2 receptions for 16 yards vs. Chi) is possible.
Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 48 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Bernard Berrian WR 23 99, 59
Lowdown: The BB Gun will fire blanks this week in Tampa. Monte Kiffin's Cover 2 has become more stringent as the season has worn on. Hungrily swarming the football, Jon Gruden's bunch has suffocated receivers. Since Week 6, the Bucs have surrendered a mere two scores and one 70-yard game to wideouts, equal to the third-fewest fantasy points allowed. Because the hallmark of the Cover 2 is stymieing big plays, Berrian's Week 11 value will be minimized. Sure he's been a top-10 performer over the past four weeks (3.3 rec/g, 79 ypg, 3 TDs), but he will be the focus of Tampa's aerial gameplan. Yeah, a consecutive donut effort isn't probable – Adrian Peterson will weaken Tampa's trench unit enough to create opportunities downfield – but an underwhelming performance is. Michael Jenkins (vs. Den), Mark Bradley (vs. NO) and Kevin Curtis (vs. Cin) will likely notch better totals.
Fearless Forecast: 3 receptions, 36 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns

Other Lame candidates: Kyle Orton (at GB), David Garrard (vs. Ten), Brandon Jacobs (vs. Bal), LaDainian Tomlinson (at Pit), Adrian Peterson (at TB), Vincent Jackson (at Pit), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (vs. Phi)

QBs: 15+ fantasy points
RBs: 10+ fantasy points
WRs: 7+ fantasy points
TEs: 6+ fantasy points
D/ST: 10+ fantasy points
*Scoring system:
4 PTs/Pass TD
1 PT/20 pass yards
6 PTs/Rush-Rec TD
1 PT/10 Rush-Rec yards
-1 PT/INT or FL
W: Matt Ryan = 17 Points
W: Sage Rosenfels = 15 Points
W: Deuce McAllister = 10 Points
W: Justin Gage = 10 Points
L: Ray Rice = 3 Points
L: Greg Camarillo = 2 Points
L: Shaun McDonald (SS) = 3 Points
Week 10 Flame Record: 4-3
Shocker Specials: 3-7
Season Total: 35-32 = 52.2%
W: Steve Smith = 0 Points
L: Eli Manning = 16 Points
L: Matt Forte = 18 Points
L: Ryan Torain = 12 Points
L: Reggie Wayne = 17 Points
Week 10 Lame Record: 1-4
Season Total: 27-23 = 54.0%

Each week one lucky aspiring fantasy prognosticator is chosen to go toe-to-toe against the Noise. If you want to be a guest "expert" submit your flames, lames (QB, 2 RB, 2 WR/TE) and shocker special (any position) along with a valid email address here no later than midnight central time on Tuesdays. Oh, and please, no long dissertations to justify your picks. All thatâs required are your player selections and projections. Winners earn a league spot to compete against yours truly next season. Good luck!

Week 11 contestant: Ryan from London, Ontario

Jake Delhomme, Car (vs. Det): 319 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions
Marshawn Lynch, Buf (vs, Cle): 33 carries, 118 rushing yards, 5 receptions, 46 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns
Peyton Hillis, Den (at Atl): 17 carries, 68 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 52 receiving yards, 1 touchdowns
Antonio Bryant, TB (vs. Min): 8 receptions, 106 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Muhsin Muhammad (vs. Det): 6 receptions, 95 receiving yards, 1 touchdown

Shocker Special:
Donte Stallworth, Cle (at Buf): 7 receptions, 89 receiving yards, 1 touchdown

Philip Rivers, SD (at Pit): 242 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interception, fumble lost
Thomas Jones, NYJ (at NE): 17 carries, 68 rushing yards, 0 touchdowns
Tim Hightower, Ari (at Sea): 19 carries, 71 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 12 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Braylon Edwards, Cle (at Buf): 3 receptions, 35 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Andre Johnson, Hou (at Ind): 5 receptions, 61 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns

Week 10 Results: Bob from Chicago, Ill.
Flames: 2-4, 33.3% (W – Matt Ryan, Michael Jenkins; L – Jamaal Charles, Leon Washington, Nate Washington, Roscoe Parrish (SS))
Lames: 3-2, 60% (W – Steve Slaton, Lee Evans, Donald Driver; L – Eli Manning, Ronnie Brown)

Noisers YTD - Flames: 31-29, 51.7%; Lames: 27-22, 55.1%; Shocker Special: 6-4, 60.0%

Challenge Winners: (Brian from Dallas, Noah from Kansas City, Bill from Indonesia, Zhen from Shanghai, Elliot from Fremont, Calif.)

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