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The Devil is loose in Denver. And his name is Mike Shanahan.
Beneath his smug looks and perpetual orange-glow exterior is a man so sinister, so vile, that a combined army of financially desperate Travis Henry and Shawn Kemp baby's mammas couldn't stop him from ruining fantasy teams.
Throughout his 13-year tenure as the Broncos sideline boss, "Lucifer" has arrogantly relished in transforming a host of unrenowned underdogs – Terrell Davis, Clinton Portis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns and Mike Bell – into irrefutable fantasy marvels. The only blemish on an otherwise impeccable track-record was the failed Maurice Clarett experiment two seasons ago. If only bottles of Grey Goose and assault rifles could've been dangled as motivation …
The latest chapter in a storied career of Shanahan treachery is Selvin Young. The undrafted rookie out of Texas was declared the No. 2 back behind Henry last Friday, leap-frogging previous Shany man-crush Mike Bell on the Broncos depth chart.
Who the hell is this guy?
Owned in a microscopic 0.31 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Young is a 5-foot-11, 207-pound former backup to Cedric Benson at UT. During his five-year stay in Austin, Young's potential went virtually unnoticed as groin and ankle injuries forced him to work in a time-share.
Scouts have commended Young for his determined work ethic, lateral quickness and sharp vision, noting that he's a "one-cut and go" type of back. In other words, he's an ideal fit for Denver's classic zone-blocking scheme. It's no wonder that after averaging a stout 4.9 YPC in the preseason – primarily against third-string defenses – Young became the apple of Shanahan's eye.
Although unquestioned starter Travis Henry has fully recovered from a sprained knee and is primed to pound a Bills defense that ranked 28th in the league last year against the run, the 29-year-old powder keg has completed only one full-season (2002) in his entire six-year NFL career. This means Young deserves immediate waiver wire consideration in all formats because he could become an impact player at some point this year. With the physical tools to thrive in a system tailored to his strengths, Young could easily become the next dark-horse Denver dynamo if Henry were nicked.
It figures my Mike Bell mid-round selections in three leagues are now completely worthless.
Forget Leona Helmsley, Michael Myers or Freddy Kruger, when I venture to the gates of Hell, only Lucifer Shanahan will be there to greet me.
Man, eternal damnation is going to suck.
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 10 percent 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. Yep, his stones are larger than Rodney Harrison's.
*BNRK = Big Noise weekly position ranking
*Y!% = Percentage owned in Yahoo! leagues
|Week 1 Fantasy Flames|
|Lowdown: From my comments about his ho hum Harry Potter looks to Tiki Barber's leadership admonishments, little Manning has been the subject of many media jabs. This week, he pulls a rabbit out of his helmet and makes us all look foolish. Last year, the Cow Pokes secondary was contemptible, yielding 233 passing yards and 1.5 air scores per game to opposing quarterbacks, the worst in fantasy. Manning was no exception against the Boys in '06, averaging 229.5 passing yards while totaling a dynamite 4:1 TD:INT split. Under the tutelage of defensive whiz Wade Phillips, Dallas will try and capitalize the 'd' in their defense with more a more aggressive, attacking style. Look for Eli to operate out of the shotgun more often, a place where he's mechanically more fluid, to counteract Dallas' blitz-happy approach. With a 500-pound gorilla on Eli's back, this is a statement game. If your No. 1 signal caller has a questionable matchup – Vince Young at Jax, Philip Rivers vs. Chi, Jon Kitna at Oak – put your opening week trust in the hands of the younger Manning.|
|Fearless Forecast: 248 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT|
|Lowdown: Al Davis better stockpile the Depends for Sunday. Jordan, the Oakland beer keg, will flow uncontrollably. The Lions enter '07 with hopes of bettering their eighth-worst fantasy rush defense from a season ago. In the offseason they added DE Dewayne White and nursed DT Shaun Cody back to health, bolstering a flexible defensive front that allowed 125.6 yards and 1.1 rushing touchdowns per game. Regardless, their unphysical, fallible attempts to stop the run make them more like Hello Kitty weaklings than hungry caged beasts. Running behind an improved, but still somewhat suspect offensive line, Jordan rolled his way to a hearty 4.5 YPC average in the preseason. Jordan's pounding style and versatility out of the backfield can wear down defenses. With a capable Daunte Culpepper or Josh McCown behind center, the Raiders air offense should be serviceable enough for Jordan to find wide gaps at the line of scrimmage. Typically drafted in the seventh round of 12-team drafts, Jordan will return an early-round profit this week.|
|Fearless Forecast: 21 carries, 96 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 16 yards, 1 TD|
|Lowdown: St. Louis will not be the "Little Napoleon's" Waterloo. D-Will, involved in a 60-40 time-share again this season with the most unheralded starting RB in fantasy, DeShaun Foster, will be featured prominently this week in Jeff Davidson's ground-pounding, zone-blocking attack. Other than the oxymoronically named Leonard Little, the Rams front seven is suspect. Last year, they conceded the most touchdowns (21) and the second-most rushing yards (134.8) to backs. Williams is a nifty, slippery runner who should generate ample success on the wings and in the passing game. Against the rancid Rams D in Week 11 last year, he tallied his only 100-yard performance of the season (20 ATT, 114 YDs), averaging a superb 5.7 YPC. His workload will probably be chopped to 12-15 carries, but his breakneck speed and vulture vision will lead him to break a couple of captivating runs.|
|Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 71 rushing yards, 3 catches, 29 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD|
|Lowdown: "Sherlock" Holmes will have to do minimal detective work to solve a pliable Browns secondary. Crafty, speedy, and mentally tough, Holmes will begin his spellbinding '07 campaign in electrifying fashion. Leigh Bodden is a cumbersome corner who will shadow Hines Ward, making Holmes Ben Roethlisberger's weapon of choice. Although the Browns secondary is emerging, outside of Bodden, they are relative young and unrefined. Last year against the Cleveland Chihuahuas, Holmes was targeted 15 times in two games and notched 9 receptions for 156 yards and a score. In Bruce Arians' high-flying aerial offense, Holmes will become a viable No. 2 fantasy receiver. And at the expense of CB Daven Holly, the breakout begins this week.|
|Fearless Forecast: 5 REC, 94 YDs, TD|
|Lowdown: With tenuous Terry Glenn likely soaking in the locker-room spa, Crayton will dig his spurs into an underwhelming Giants secondary that yielded the eighth-most scores to wideouts a year ago. An undervalued fantasy draft selection (200.1 ADP), Crayton is a fleet-footed receiver who accelerates quickly into his routes. The Giants have one of the slowest defenses on paper, which should allow Crayton to gain substantial separation across the middle and on the wings. Operating out of the slot in two games against the G-Men last year, Crayton totaled six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. With Terrell Owens the primary defensive focus, the former Northwestern Oklahoma State – surely a picturesque campus – product could be in line for an enrapturing opening night.|
|Fearless Forecast: 6 receptions, 73 yards, TD|
|Shocker Special of the Week|
|Lowdown: As hip-hop chain smokers Cypress Hill would say, in Week 1 the product from tiny Lane will be "insane in the brain." A "Dragon" in college, Jones will engulf an aging KC secondary in fire with his stirring speed and dauntless demeanor. Matt Schaub completed an unreal 72.7 percent of his passes in the preseason and established a positive cadence with the rookie, who caught 7 passes for 92 yards (13.1 YPC) and two scores. Jones' 4.5-forty speed and sturdy 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame should outmatch sloth-footed corners Ty Law and Patrick Surtain across the middle in the Chiefs' Cover 2. Technically the third receiver behind Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter on the Texans depth chart, Jones will post numbers worthy of a fantasy No. 2. With double-teams in the forecast for Johnson, Jones should have the opportunity to reel in a couple of Schaub bombs.|
|Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 66 yards, TD|
|Week 1 Fantasy Lames|
|Lowdown: Young better hope the impassable Jacksonville frontline looks like a row of Butterball turkeys to LenDale White. In Young's brief career, the Jags quick-moving linebacker battery has latched onto his jugular. Last season, Young was an offensive oaf in two clashes against a very physical Jacksonville defense averaging an appalling nine rushing and 124 passing yards per game with three turnovers and one TD. Brian Williams and Rashean Mathis are sensational cover corners and, with no dependable weapons in his receiving arsenal, Young will have marginal success against them. If you're a Young owner who doesn't believe in curses, by all means, insert him in your lineup. But a dismal performance seems likely. Fantasy backups Schaub (21.2 percent owned), Jeff Garcia (13.2 percent), and David Garrard (1.2 percent) will post more meritable numbers this week.|
|Fearless Forecast: 171 passing yards, TD, 2 INT, 17 rushing yards|
|Lowdown: Rudi may indeed be a king of consistency, but in his career against the Ravens, he's royally blah. Johnson is the epitome of a grinder, but insiders have commented that he's dropped a noticeable amount of weight, suggesting Father Time may finally catch up to his rigorous workload (346.3 carries/season since '04). The Ravens' ironclad front, led by trench smasher Haloti Ngata, is one of the league's finest rush defenses. In two contests last year, Johnson averaged a despicable 3.6 YPC on 34 attempts and will likely again be suffocated. It's difficult to bench a popular first round draft choice in the Week 1, but, as I've preached incessantly over the years, fantasy football is all about matchups. If you have a reputable backup with a more favorable matchup – Ahman Green vs. KC, DeShaun Foster at StL, Brandon Jacobs at Dal – plug him in. Otherwise, anticipate a disappointing start to Rudi's season.|
|Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 67 yards, 0 TDs, 3.7 YPC|
|Lowdown: Lynch will be anything but hot and spicy in the city where chicken wing were spawned. Destined to be a fantasy clucker in his inaugural game, Lynch has a benign matchup on paper. The Bills boast a number of buffet closers on their frontline as they collectively average an artery-clogging 334 pounds. Realistically, they should outmuscle a historically undersized Denver D in the trenches. However, the Broncos added steers Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder to assist in defending the run. Last year, the Broncos yielded 106.5 ground yards and 1.2 rushing touchdowns per game to running backs, which equated to the ninth-most fantasy points allowed to RBs. Despite the potentially profitable matchup, Lynch lacked assertiveness in the preseason, averaging a pathetic 1.8 YPC. He needs space to maximize his output and with Denver's strong linebacker corps, gaps will be limited. With the split of the Bills committee still vague, it's wise to bench the rookie in favor of a more trustworthy option.|
|Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 57 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 24 yards, 0 TDs|
|Lowdown: Andy Behrens may need a prescription for Zoloft after the Dirty Birds peck out the eyes of his cherished man-tasy. The Falcons frontline looked frenetic at times in the preseason and is more formidable than most think. Last year, Atlanta gave up a respectable 103.6 rushing yards and 0.81 touchdowns per game. Suspect starter Tarvaris Jackson completed an atrocious 44.4 percent of his passes in the preseason, which will undoubtedly encourage the physical, aggressive Falcons front to stack the line of scrimmage and force the Vikings to go airborne. Norseman Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell will try to implement a conservative ground attack behind his bulldozing O-line, but unless Jackson can keep the secondary honest, the trench war will be lost. Peterson's role in the time-share is undefined and with it being his first game as a pro, it's best to employ a cautious approach. Insert him into your lineup only as a flex play.|
|Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 62 yards, 0 TDs|
|Lowdown: T.J. Houshmandzadeh's wingman will crash and burn like Goose in "Top Gun." In '06, the master of the Riverdance was, well, consistently inconsistent. And his start to this year's campaign will be much of the same. Ravens stickler Chris McAlister is a physical defender who will ride Ocho-Cinco like Michigan boosters on Lloyd Carr. McAlister pressures receivers intensely by jamming them at the line, which will take CJ out of his element. In his past five clashes with Baltimore, Johnson has failed to eclipse the 100-yard mark and has crossed the chalk only once. Carson Palmer will pick on Samari Rolle and his tender ankle, which points to a very productive day for notorious Ravens killer (L6 vs. Bal: 7.3 REC/G, 111.1 YPG, 4 TDs) T.J. Housh. Expect a manic Monday night for No. 84, not 85.|
|Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 74 yards, 0 TDs|
I agree that Brandon Jacobs is going to be an excellent fantasy option this year. One of the biggest arguments against him is the 3.9 YPC vs. Barber's 5.2 YPC. This argument doesn't hold water when you consider that nearly thirty percent of Jacobs' carries came inside the opponent's five yard line and Barber didn't have many of these. When he carried the ball outside the opponent's five, and therefore did not face a goal-line defense, his average balloons to 4.7 YPC.
– Mark, Oklahoma City, OK
Your man love for Brandon Jacobs is embarrassing. If it was for a skilled player then I could let it slide, but I had to chime in on this. How you convinced Yahoo! to pre-rank him at No. 16 is beyond me. This is a guy who was a third-stringer at Auburn and had to transfer to Southern Illinois where he still split time. If he was two inches shorter no one would even know who he was. You also neglect to mention that the only reason he scored all those TDs throughout his career is because he had one of the better backs in the past 15 years in Tiki Barber moving the ball for him. Third and one? First and goal from the one? Yeah, he's great, but if you think that he will come anywhere close to 1,500 total yards this year then you, my diminutive friend, are a simpleton. Please have the balls to post this next week so we can come back to it later in the year. Thanks much.
– Fedor, London, UK
Noise: Fedor, if you haven't figured it out already, I have elephantiasis. Jacobs' split-time situations earlier in his career actually will help him this season, because his body has not been subjected to extreme punishment over the years. Sure, his upright running style leaves him susceptible to brutal blows, but other tall backs like Eddie George survived spear shots and went on to have fruitful careers. Ya, Jacobs won't have the benefit of Barber, but as Mark from OKC duly noted, the guy averaged 4.7 YPC outside the opponent's five. Extrapolate that average over 20 carries per game and that's 1,504 rushing yards. If he reached that accomplishment, a restraining order would most certainly have to be filed against me.
BTW, thanks for ruining our storied soccer tradition by supplying us with the "Todd Marinovich of futbol" – David Beckham. Luckily, we can lean on Posh to produce insignificant headlines.
This is getting ridiculous. Enough of the man-crush articles! You get paid to write about fantasy sports. This isn't your pretty pink pony diary. I'm sick to death reading about Rich Hill and Brandon Jacobs. Here's a big sign of how ridiculous you are: B-Fun drafted the guy knowing full well he would rip you off in a trade involving Joseph Addai – you're pathetic.
– Ted, Rochester, NY
Noise: For your information, my diary is purple and is covered in unicorns, Care Bears and, yes, provocative pictures of Hill and Jacobs. I'm sure you keep a similar journal with snapshots of greased up, Speedo-clad wrestlers under lock and key. Right, Million Dollar Man?
As a fellow Jacobian – those fantasy owners who obsessively support Jacobs – I yearn for the day when my affections will no longer be viewed as questionable by the general masses. In Tiki Barber's sensational career he demolished the Cow Pokes and I pray in Week 1 the "Football Frankenstein" picks up where the NBC blabbermouth left off. Dallas only allowed 87.3 YPG and 0.50 TD/G to opposing backs last year, but I'm banking on 75 yards and an end-zone belly-flop from Jacobs Sunday night.
What are your thoughts on Tatum Bell? Right now, he's my second RB. Do you think that Tatum is going to be at the very least an average back? I am in no way a Lions fan, in fact, I'm a Bears fan, but I just think he'll be better in Detroit than he was in Denver.
– Blake, Indianapolis, IN
Noise: As I've said numerous times already this season, "Taco" Tatum will have owners screaming "Kaopectate!" as soon as Kevin Jones returns to the lineup. If you missed it, Jones practiced for the first time with limited restriction on Monday and noted afterwards he "felt timid, but good." Since Jones will not start the season on the PUP list, he is considered week-to-week and should be in uniform no later than Week 4.
Bell has the wheels to be explosive in space, but he's never excelled in pass protection and is a marginal receiver – something he needs to improve on to be trusted in a pass-first system. Martz seems determined to will Jones back into action, which suggests Bell's efforts in the preseason have been unsatisfactory. Remember, last year KJ averaged 5.0 receptions and 43.3 yards per game, ranking him fourth behind Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush and Brian Westbrook.
After their opener against the bendable Raiders, Detroit has a horrendous three-week stretch matched against Minnesota, Philadelphia and Chicago, who combined allowed 85.3 rushing yards and 0.58 ground scores per game last year. If Bell storms out of the gate, dish him to a halfwit immediately. The underappreciated Jones will be the full-time starter no later than Week 6. Fearless Forecast (Bell): 156 attempts, 611 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns.
I find your "in fact, Manning has never finished first in fantasy points per game at his position" statement from last week's Noise highly suspect. Doing some quick math I found that he averaged 23.6425 PPG in 2004. So tell me, who put up better numbers in '04?
– Dave, Omaha, NE
Noise: Impressive. You noted Manning's PPG to the ten-thousandths of a point. Stephen Hawking would kiss you.
Using a standard performance-based scoring system (4 pts/pass TD, 1 pt/20 YDs passing, 1 pt/10 YDs rushing) Daunte Culpepper averaged 27.7812 fantasy points per game in '04, while Manning averaged 26.7312 PPG. That's a difference of – Drumroll! – 1.05 points per game. I just made my fifth grade math teacher Mrs. Hernandez very proud.
This might be fantasy heresy, but we should pick punters. Before you bite my head off, mull it around for a bit. It could work.
– Brandon, Washington D.C.
Noise: After a five-second moment of deep reflection, I would only consider the idea if we could A) Award bonus points for bare-footed punts, B) Agree that if a punter is selected ahead of a starter at any other position, with K the exception, as punishment, the loser who reached would have to kick a bag of frozen cauliflower a minimum of 10 yards without the benefits of a sock or shoes and C) Eliminate all punters of Australian decent from the draft pool. If the LT of punters, "Crocodile Dundee" Darren Bennett, were ever coaxed out of retirement, he would skew the scoring so severely dunderheads in soccer mom leagues would reach for him in Round 8. Then again, that would be fantastic. Someone would have a welt from a rock-hard bag of cauliflower.
- Mike Shanahan