"A handful of trade, a handful of gold." – Dutch proverb
Amid the Swatch watches, parachute pants and Aquanet-teased hairstyles of 1983, arguably the most lopsided trade in NFL and sports history was agreed upon. When top pick John Elway refused to suit up for the Baltimore Colts, he was dealt for a trio of forgettable names: Quarterback Mark "Pee-Wee" Hermann, offensive tackle Chris Hinton and a first-round pick in 1984, which turned out to be guard Ron Solt.
Of course, Elway went on to a decorated, 16-year Hall of Fame career that included two Super Bowl wins, 51,475 passing yards (third all-time) and 300 touchdown passes (fourth all-time). Meanwhile, the unremembered threesome vanished from the collective memories of most casual fans.
At this time each year, I'm reminded of the one-sided Denver deal. With the Yahoo! trade deadline on November 17, it's time to ransack your opponents' roster and find the one piece that will lead your team down a road paved with championship gold. Here are my top-five money makers you need target:
5. Wali Lundy, Hou, RB Lundy's cakewalk schedule (Buf, at NYJ, at Oak, Ten, at NE, Ind, Cle) could put your team over the top. His job is safe for now, but you may want to add Samkon Gado as insurance.
4. Mark Clayton, Bal, WR The guy I touted as a prime breakout candidate in August, decided to wait until mid-season to peak. After letting Jim Fassel go, Ravens head coach Brian Billick has put the "Air" back in McNair. Clayton is a budding star who will post top-20 wide receiver numbers down the stretch.
3. Tony Romo, Dal, QB Along with Jon Kitna, Romo is a fantasy Rodney Dangerfield. With a host of suspect secondaries on tap over the final four weeks (NO, Atl, Phi and Det), he will average close to 270 yards and two touchdowns-per-game. I wonder if he's read T.O.'s children's book Little T Learns to Share.
2. Thomas Jones, Chi, RB People banking on "Boo-Boo" Benson to wrestle away carries need to poke their heads in a different pic-a-nic basket. TJ has a cushy schedule with the hapless Jets, Rams, Bucs, Lions and Packers in five of his remaining seven.
1. Ronnie Brown, Mia, RB The Fish have the most RB-friendly matchups in Weeks 15-17 facing a motley crue of rush defenses that have collectively allowed a mind-blowing 141.3 rushing yards and 1.1 touchdowns-per-game.
WEEK 11 FANTASY FLAMES
Do you want to look like a pigskin prophet? Each week the Noise will dig deep for five no-so-obvious names to turn you into a gridiron guru. Here are this week's flame candidates:
Fearless Forecast: 289 YDs, 3 TDs, INT
Notes: The rarified "Air" in McNair is back. In his return to Tennessee, the heavy-hearted gunslinger torched his old club for 373 yards and three touchdowns. The sixth-best quarterback in fantasy since Week 8, the Baltimore signal-caller has averaged a sensational 259 yards-per-game and totaled six touchdowns (one rushing). Different from years past, McNair has played the role of Picasso this season, painting the field evenly to Todd Heap, Derrick Mason and the fast-rising Mark Clayton. The dirty birds from Hot-lanta have cooled defensively over their past five, surrendering 11 air scores (highest in the league) and 273 yards-per-game. With Jamal Lewis' stuck in a quagmire, Brian Billick will bark out McNair's number repeatedly.
Fearless Forecast: 221 YDs, 2 TDs, INT
Notes: Destined for Johnsonville bratwurst commercials, Gradkowski will cook the Skins. Flippant fantasy owners would scoff at the rookie's 165.3 yard-per-game average in six starts, but his 7:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio is tough to ignore. This week the gritty, aggressive quarterback faces a woeful Washington secondary that has yielded a decrepit 7:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 282.6 yards-per-game in their past three. Gradkowski will connect multiple times with his money man Joey Galloway downfield in the Bucs' spread offense. The crafty Galloway should create numerous mismatches against a Skins secondary that has been heavily exposed. Still available in 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he is a tremendous one-week start if you're in QB dire straits.
Fearless Forecast: 17 carries, 75 YDs, TD, 2 receptions, 12 YDs
Notes: Without the benefits of orange skin tint and a pink Speedo, "Wali World" will post numbers worthy of a Mr. Universe designation. An undersized Bills line has been out-muscled consistently this season giving up three 100-yard rushers and six ground scores in their past five. Lundy's numbers since Week 7 have been more serviceable than sexy, averaging 18.3 carries and 87.3 total yards-per-game. Ignore Samkon Gado's 67-yard outburst. Gary Kubiak is sticking with the kid as the starter. Trust him as a strong flex option in Week 11.
Fearless Forecast: 13 carries, 58 YDs, TD
Notes: Barber is my version of "sexy-time with Pa-may-la." Touted highly by yours truly back in July, Barber is an unheralded consistency king. The 12th-best back in fantasy over the past five weeks, he has scored in six of nine games this season. In a near 50-50 split with Julius Jones in Week 10, the more powerful Barber should compile a minimum of twelve touches-per-game as long as the ineffective Jones continues to flounder. The Tuna loves his Barber and will again turn to him often to keep the rock out of Peyton Manning's hands. Indy has surrendered an abhorrent 142.4 yards-per-game and four scores to runners since Week 6. Activate him as a flex option in all formats.
Fearless Forecast: 6 receptions, 102 YDs, TD
Notes: Clayton is Jessica Alba hot. In his past two, the high-flying Raven has totaled 27 targets, 15 receptions, 198 yards and two touchdowns. The rejuvenated McNair has developed a strong rapport with Clayton and both should prosper versus an Atlanta secondary that has been clipped repeatedly. The Falcons have given up the third-most fantasy points to wideouts this season. Clayton blossomed down the stretch in '05 and appears to have hit his stride at just the right time. If he builds off his past couple of weeks, Atlanta corner Jason Webster may need an oxygen tank by halftime. Confide in him as a No. 2 in 12-team leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 7 receptions, 72 YDs, TD
Notes: The "Governator" would agree, Reche is a "girly-man's" name. Despite the ambiguous name, "Ricochet" has surpassed the spoiled Doug E. Fresh and become the main man-crush of Tom Brady. Caldwell has scored in two of his past three and averaged a healthy 7.7 targets-per-game since Week 8. Brady has spoken highly of Caldwell's improved comfort in the Pats offense comparing him to David Givens. Although he doesn't possess the drag-racer speed of Gabriel, he has the skills set to be a receptions hound, especially versus a Packers D that is susceptible to coverage breakdowns. The Pack has allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year. Available in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he is a trustworthy short-term No. 3.
Fearless Forecast: 3 receptions, 38 YDs, TD
Notes: At 6-foot-7, Stevens could double as Bigfoot in the "Messin' with Sasquatch" Jack-Links ads. The latest out of Seattle is that Matt Hasselbeck felt "particularly sore" after practice on Monday, which could jeopardize his chances of returning on Sunday. If Seneca Wallace were again called up, Stevens would see ample targets his way. He has scored in two of his past three games with Wallace calling the shots. The 49ers have given up three touchdowns and the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends in their last five. Owned in just 37 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he posts borderline top-10 tight end numbers.
WEEK 11 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: 238 YDs, 2 INTs
Notes: Don't say I never make bold predictions. In his legendary career, Favre is practically unstoppable at home, notching an insane 242.1 yards and 1.8 touchdowns-per-game in 100 career starts. History clearly favors him, but the Pats bombard offensive lines with multiple defensive fronts and blitz packages, which can confuse even the most experienced veterans. The young Green Bay O-line will be tested greatly by Tedy Bruschi and company. New England has only allowed seven passing touchdowns this season and the fifth fewest fantasy points to signal callers. Favre will smell Limburger cheese-awful early and rack most of his yards in garbage time.
Fearless Forecast: 19 carries, 61 YDs, 2 receptions, 12 YDs
Notes: What can Brown do for you? Try a Dolphin kick to the package. After a solid 89-yard, one-touchdown effort against the Chiefs in Week 10, Brown complained he was playing at "70 percent" due to a groin injury tweaked in his career-high 157-yard explosion in Chicago in Week 9. The trench tandem of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are two hungry, hungry hippos who will devour Brown as if he were a white plastic marble. The Vikings have allowed an unreal 55.7 rushing yards-per-game and zero scores over their past four. With Brown nowhere near full strength, it would be wise to use more favorable options this week.
Fearless Forecast: 16 carries, 55 YDs
Notes: Like a desperation Hail Mary, Henry is all or nothing. Unfathomably, Henry pounded the second-ranked Ravens rush defense in Week 10 for 107 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Prior to last week's impressive game, Henry had rushed for a dismal 48 yards-per-game in his previous two contests. The Eagles bendable rush D will yield yardage. They have given up 140.7 YPG in their past four, but only one ground score. Unless Vince Young can throw the ball effectively downfield, expect linebacker Jerimiah Trotter to stay home and scout the run.
Fearless Forecast: 3 receptions, 32 YDs
Notes: If you thought the "wrestling" scene from Borat was tears-down-your-face hilarious, wait until you see Moss' laugher numbers in Tampa. Let's see. No Clinton Portis. No experienced quarterback behind center. And a balky hamstring. I'm no rocket scientist, but that clearly points to a disastrous fantasy day. Back in Week 4, I belittled Moss and he ripped off 138-yards and three scores. Interestingly, he has not crossed the chalk and totaled more than 50 yards in a game since. Tampa Bay has given up the second-most fantasy points to wideouts in their last three, but the deck is stacked against the Washington offense.
Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 27 YDs
Notes: Maybe Eric Mangini should hire Bob Knight to motivate Coles with a chin slap and a chair toss. The most misspelled first name in football has failed to connect with Chad Pennington despite an abundant amount of targets (21) in his past two. Catching a despicable 42 percent of passes thrown his way for 62 total yards since Week 9, Coles' value has steadily spiraled downward after a searing start. Called out by blowhard Plaxico Burress last week, the Chicago Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher tag-team stepped up and limited Eli Manning to a pathetic 121 yards. Look for them to blanket the Meadowlands once again. The Bears have yielded the seventh-fewest fantasy points to wideouts this year and will have Coles owners in fetters.
Scanning media reports with a fine-toothed comb, the Noise puts his fantasy spin on various tasty tidbits.
Spin:Now that Portis has plenty of time to shop for multi-colored wigs, Betts instantly becomes a low-tiered No. 2. T.J. Duckett will also see an expanded role. I'm still baffled why the Redskins made a deal for the goal-line beefcake only to use him sparsely. He logged a miniscule two carries last week, but I believe he could net 5-10 touches from here on out, including some goal-line carries. Joe Gibbs did mention he will play a "prominent" role the rest of the way.
In Portis' stead, Betts carried the rock 20 times for 83 yards (4.2 YPC) at Philadelphia. At 5-foot-10, 223-pounds, the fifth-year vet is a versatile tackle-to-tackle punisher that can rack abundant yards after initial contact. The Al Saunders system is ground-centric, which should propel Betts into starting lineups in deeper leagues. He will undoubtedly be a difference maker come fantasy playoff time with New Orleans and St. Louis scheduled in Weeks 15 and 16.
As for this week, Betts is a top-20 play against Tampa Bay. Typically, the only way to soften the Cover 2 is by pounding the defensive line into submission. This will definitely be the case with Jason Campbell behind center. The Bucs have played extraordinarily well versus the run since Week 8, allowing 78.3 yards-per-game. However, Betts should surpass 25 touches and total 100-plus yards as a crutch for the inexperienced Campbell. Owned in less than 13 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he is clearly a must grab in all formats.
UNLEASH THE BEAST
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Willis McGahee? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?
"As crazy as it sounds," you, sir, are not a very good 'expert'. You as well as every other quote unquote "expert" believes the Detroit Lions are a horrible team whether or not you've actually watched them play. If you have ever sat down on Sunday and watched the 'loathsome Lions' (as you call them) play, you would have noticed KJ's unseen fantasy value. He would be a number 1 or 2 back in any fantasy league with 2 RBs per team. As Roy Williams said, 'We are not a 1 and 6 team; We are a 9 and 0 team, We can run the table' … Call me a delusional Lions fan like everyone else in this world but for once, I actually believe that my team can and will contend. Come Week 17, the Lions will be in the playoffs … Mark my words.
Noise: I'm not sure if it's the tasty Bells Ale up there in Michigan or the fond memories of Barry Sanders that have corrupted your ability to be rational, but, my friend, you are completely delusional. The fact that you quoted a misguided braggart squelches your credibility. Just to remind you, here is Williams' finest foot-in-mouth moment this season:
In reference to the Week 2 clash with the Chicago Bears: "Y'all can take that as a guarantee or whatnot, but we will win this game. I'm just saying that when we play the way we are supposed to play, there's not a defense in the NFL that is going to stop us. If we play that way against the Bears, and we should, we'll win. It was stupid how close we were to putting 40 points on the board." The Bears won 34-7 and the Lions fell 34 points shy of 40 in Week 1 against the Seattle.
To clarify, not once did I describe the Detroit offense as loathsome. That was directed solely at their defense.
As for KJ, I admit, I was completely wrong about him. In a pass-heavy Martz offense, I figured he would wallow with a meager 15-20 carries-per-game. Surprisingly, he has been a key asset, ala Marshall Faulk, in the Martz air attack, averaging nearly 41 receiving yards-per-game. He's been phenomenal and a real bargain this season, but KJ is about to get skinned. I stand strong behind my conviction that his Week 13-17 schedule (at NE, Min, at GB, Chi, at Dal) will crush his scoring totals when it's needed most. Collectively, these staunch foes have given up a measly 83.8 rushing yards and .60 touchdowns-per-game. An owner of Jones in a couple of leagues, I hope I'm wrong, but he screams sell high.
Please help the uneducated and explain to me how a so called future "playoff team" loses to San Francisco at home? Just because I revel in the possibility of public embarrassment (Sorry Buffalo fans!), if the Lions run the table and make the playoffs, I'll post a picture in a future Noise wearing a T-shirt that says "Roy Williams is a genius."
- Wali Lundy