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"The Great" has officially become "The Grim."
With the first half of the fantasy regular season almost in the books, it's apparent that the career of the once incomparable gargantuan of our virtual reality sport, Shaun Alexander, is undergoing a major transformation.
And unfortunately for his owners, he's taken up residence in a place where the once-adored-now-nearly-forgotten careers of Bam Morris, Joe Theismann and 90s hip-hop chart-topper Coolio currently live.
Once perceived as the essence of dependability, Alexander has lost his assertiveness, explosiveness and, uncharacteristically, his self-assuring coolness. In Week 7, the normally mild-mannered back, obviously frustrated, exchanged sideline unpleasantries with head coach Mike Holmgren after accumulating a terribly mundane 65 total yards against the rancid Rams – the same defense that artificially inflated Julius Jones' ego back in Week 4.
Since Week 4, he has averaged a detestable 2.7 yards per carry and has failed to sniff the end zone in five straight games – his longest touchdown drought in seven years. Even more damning, Alexander has totaled fewer fantasy points in his past four games than what Kenny Watson accomplished last week versus the Jets.
Holmgren's insistence in involving Maurice Morris and Leonard Weaver – they've tallied 25 combined touches since Week 5 – more into the Hawks offense is definitive evidence that the coaching staff has lost faith in the ancient Alexander.
And so should you.
To be fair, the Seattle offensive line has underachieved, failing to create adequate running lanes for Alexander to plow through. But it's clear that he is a shell of his former self.
In the midst of a very favorable stretch of games, the Alexander of old could make a cameo appearance after the Seattle bye. From Weeks 9-12, he's scheduled to square off against four defenses (at Cle, SF, Chi, at StL) that have allowed a combined 123.3 rushing yards per game to tugboats.
However, salvage what you can now.
Almost every league has at least one devout Alexander supporter in denial who will overpay for the past. Just take a look at what he's commanded in solo Y! Plus league trades this week:
A far cry from 2005, eh?
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 four-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 one-week 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. You could say, his stones are larger than Rodney Harrison's.
*BNRK = Big Noise weekly position ranking
*Y!% = Percentage owned in Yahoo! leagues through 10/20
|Week 8 Fantasy Flames|
|Lowdown: Griese, the Bill Lumbergh of the NFL, will force the loathsome Lions secondary to work on TPS reports this Sunday. Although widely available, Griese only ranks behind some dude named Tom Brady in quarterback output since Week 5. Over that span, he's resuscitated the Air Bears attack, averaging a robust 305.7 passing yards and 2.0 air strikes per game. Amazingly, in his past two, he's completed an otherworldly 81.1 percent of his passes and posted a 4:0 TD:INT split. Griese has transformed Muhsin Muhammad (L3: 8 REC, 140 YDs, 2 TDs) from a decaying dinosaur to a pigskin carnivore and has incorporated He-Man Greg Olsen (L3: 13 REC, 168 YDs, TD) brilliantly into the offense. The lackadaisical Lions defense surrendered 286 yards and two scores to Griese in Week 4 and has allowed 289.3 yards per and 2.0 touchdowns per game to QBs on the season. It's time to give Lumbergh some No. 1 love, mmm-kay. This week, he's a top-five play, even in puddle-shallow leagues.|
|Fearless Forecast: 297 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions|
|Lowdown: Chatman, who reminds me of a love-child conceived by closet couple Bert and Ernie, will invade England this week. The unfortunate news of Ronnie Brown's demise instantaneously turned Chatman from waiver wire coal to gold. The five-year vet is a downhill bulldozer compared to the slasher Brown. But, like Brown, he's equipped with excellent hands. The Dolphins offense employs several packages where the running back is used as a bailout receiver. Because the Giants pass rush is relentless, Chatman will be targeted often. The G-Men have allowed 123 total yards per game to running backs since Week 4. Because of his versatility, Chatman should total top-15 numbers this week, racking abundant yards in garbage time. Remember, after Brown exited in the third quarter in Week 7, Chatman snaked 82 total yards and a score in a lopsided loss to the Pats. Marion Barber III, Edgerrin James, Larry Johnson and Willis McGahee owners in search of a bye-week filler should confidently insert Chatman into their lineups.|
|Fearless Forecast: 19 carries, 89 rushing yards, 5 receptions, 32 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Lowdown: Fab Five Freddy will hip-hop his way to serviceable totals against a Tampa Bay defense that's ineffective versus the run. Since Week 5, the Bucs have conceded the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs, yielding 105.7 yards per game and four touchdowns. In his past four performances, Taylor has played admirably, averaging a superb 5.6 yards per carry while totaling 70.0 yards per game. With Maurice Jones-Drew nursing a sprained knee – he missed practice Wednesday – amateurish quarterback Quinn Gray behind center and facing a Cover 2 defense that suffocates the pass, Taylor could tally a season-high in carries. Taylor vocalized his disgruntled feelings about playing a limited role last week in the Jags lopsided loss to the Colts, proclaiming himself "a pawn." Considering the matchup, this week he'll be a fantasy knight. With a large number of marquee backs on bye, Taylor is worth a start as a No. 2 or flex play in all 12-team leagues.|
|Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 97 rushing yards, 1 catch, 7 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Lowdown: The presence of Chris Chambers should impact Jackson's value very little. If anything, Chambers will deflect defensive focus away from Jackson, which could open up the giraffe-long receiver to convert on vertical plays downfield. In his past four contests, V-Jax has notched a respectable 59.8 yards per game and two touchdowns. On paper, the Chargers aerial matchup against the Texans is unappealing. Houston has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to receivers since Week 5. However, in Week 7, the unremarkable combo of Kerry Collins and Roydell Williams burned them for 124 yards on five receptions. Look for Philip Rivers to take advantage of Jackson's height over the diminutive Texans corners. On the season, Houston has surrendered 19 pass plays of 20 or more yards, the eleventh-most in the league. Count on Jackson as a top-flight No. 3 in all 12-team leagues.|
|Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 79 yards, 1 touchdown|
|Lowdown: With ancient gold panner Trent Dilfer behind center, Battle totaled a noteworthy 7.5 targets, 4.5 receptions, 46.5 yards and one touchdown per game in his past two. The sinful Saints have yielded the third-most fantasy points to receivers in their past three, allowing four touchdowns and six wideouts to eclipse 70 yards. On the year, 'Nawlins has surrendered a despicable 24 pass plays of 20-plus yards and six bombs of 40 or more yards, the most in the league. Because Alex Smith hasn't played since Week 4, look for offensive coordinator Jim Hostler to call numerous quick-outs early in order to establish a rhythm for his young QB. The porous New Orleans pass rush should lead Smith to execute on crisp pass plays downfield – an ideal situation for Battle. Have faith in the San Fran wideout as a No. 3 in 12-team leagues.|
|Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 63 yards, 1 touchdown|
|Shocker Special of the Week|
|Lowdown: With the fragile Chris Brown sidelined last week, Henry, in his first game of the season, impressively compiled 69 total yards and a touchdown on 13 touches. The rookie out of Arizona was the darling of the NFL combine in April, running a lightning-quick 4.3-forty. He rockets through the hole with blistering straight-line speed and racks ample yards after contact given his stout 5-foot-11, 240-pound frame. Undoubtedly, observational learning has paid dividends for the youngster. Brown's status for this week's encounter with the Raiders remains uncertain. If the vet is deactivated, Henry will again net 10-15 touches in the Titans time-share with LenDale White. Assuming Brown sits, he's a spectacular flex play in 12-team leagues. Oakland has conceded 166.7 total yards and 1.3 rushing touchdowns per games to opposing plowshares, equal to the third-most fantasy points allowed.|
|Fearless Forecast: 12 carries, 51 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 10 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Week 8 Fantasy Lames|
|Lowdown: Yosemite Favre is back to his rootin', tootin', gunslingin' ways. Straying away from the polished game manager we saw earlier this year, Favre has rolled the dice in his past two games, indicative of his deplorable 1:4 TD:INT split. Uncharacteristically, the Broncos have allowed six passing touchdowns in their past two, largely due to backup Dominique Foxworth's coverage inadequacies with Champ Bailey sidelined by a quadriceps injury. Bailey is expected to return this week. Because the Packers lack a formidable presence on the ground, the Broncos will be able to concentrate diligently on limiting the slant-happy pass attack. With a healthy Bailey, Denver has surrendered a mere 129.3 passing yards and 1.3 passing touchdowns per game. Lean on more favorable options Derek Anderson (at StL), Ben Roethlisberger (at Cin) and Brian Griese (vs. Det) over the Wrangler pitchman.|
|Fearless Forecast: 229 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, 2 interceptions|
|Lowdown: The Indy time-share alert level has been raised from yellow to red. On Tuesday, Tony Dungy hinted at installing a committee approach, saying he would like to "keep guys fresh for our running game." Since the disparity in carries between Addai and tag-team partner Kenton Keith versus the Jags was a mere one tote, it appears a platoon approach is already entrenched. More discouraging for Addai owners, Keith bulled his way into the end zone from three yards out and ran impressively on a couple of other short-yardage opportunities. It's possible that Keith has become the new Dominic Rhodes. As for this week, Indy travels to Carolina to face an inflexible Panthers front that has not allowed a plowshare to surpass 90 yards in a game this season. Given the probable 60-40 split in carries and the unfavorable matchup, the odds of Addai surmounting 100 total yards are minimal. Of course, keep him active in all 12-team leagues, but if you have quality secondary options like Kevin Jones (at Chi), LenDale White (at Oak), or Cedric Benson (vs. Det) in shallower formats, he is bench worthy.|
|Fearless Forecast: 17 carries, 70 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 21 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Lowdown: The boisterous Portis will be muzzled by the Pats. Earlier this week, Portis expressed his frustrations about the current state of the Redskins running game by pointing fingers at the coaching staff. The primary culprit of Portis' frightful 2.8 yards per carry average since Week 6 is not Joe Gibbs or Al Saunders – it's the pesky injury imp. Washington's offensive line has been devastated by a rash of injuries. Unless the fresh trench hogs jell quickly, it appears another sub-80 yard game is in the offing for Portis. The Patriots have not allowed a runner to surpass 80 yards in a game this year and have yielded the seventh-fewest fantasy points to backs. Clearly, he and backfield partner Ladell Betts will be the focus of the offensive attack as Washington will try to eat as much clock as possible. But he's a risky play on the road. If you don't have attractive options to lean on, keep him in your lineup as a No. 2.|
|Fearless Forecast: 19 carries, 65 yards, 3 receptions, 15 yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Lowdown: If Stallworth finds pay dirt again this week, Jimmy Kimmel will co-host Monday Night Football next year. Quiet through the first four weeks, Stallworth has exploded in his past three, crossing the chalk three times while tallying 4.7 receptions and 84 yards per game. Tom Brady is a pocket wizard who spreads the ball judiciously. However, this week, grease man Wes Welker could be the primary focus of the Patriots air game. Washington has surrendered just 12 pass plays of 20 or more yards this season, the third-fewest in the league. Because Stallworth's value is contingent on converting long pass plays, the talented safety tandem of Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry should restrict him. As en fuego as Stallworth has been, it's not unreasonable to keep him active in 12-team leagues, but anticipate a fruitless effort.|
|Fearless Forecast: 3 receptions, 41 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Lowdown: Brian Urlacher is no Calvinist. The battered and bruised Bears defense showed noticeable improvement last week against the Eagles, limiting Donovan McNabb to 226 yards and one touchdown. Much of their success last week was due in large part to Danieal Manning shifting from cornerback to safety. This week, Chicago has the thankless task of defending one of the NFL's best aerial units led by Roy Williams and super rookie Johnson. In five games this season, the second-overall pick in April's draft has averaged a somewhat disappointing 45.8 yards per game and totaled three scores. With the Bears vulnerable to the run – they've allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs since Week 5 – look for Mike Martz to institute a more balanced game plan this week. Start Johnson only as a flex option in 12-team PPR leagues.|
|Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 31 yards, 0 touchdowns|
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Carnell Williams? 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?
Brad, even though you don't always get it right you are very entertaining and a fun read. I enjoy the way you put all the information in front of us so we can make more educated decisions. I will pay the cover and the two drink minimum anytime your on.
– Michael, Valencia, CA
Great column last week. I have been reading for several years now and found this week's rendition to be among the most entertaining. I'm only 26 but have been playing fantasy sports for 12-or-so years. In addition, I have been a staff writer for the Minnesota Vikings for five years so (at risk of sounding arrogant) I can appreciate an entertaining column when I see one. Again, great article, Brad. Keep up the work.
– Josh, Sartell, MN
Hey Brad, I was surprised to hear that you went to Illinois. I was also saddened, because that's quite a blow to the reputation of that school. Clearly there is no incentive for you to do a good job writing, because you would have either started writing better or lost your job to someone who could. Apparently, there is little competition at your position, although guys like Behrens, Buser, and Funston do at least a mediocre job of being informative and entertaining. I hope your work as a writer at Yahoo! is not a full-time job. I'm pretty sure I could put together an equally shoddy column with better grammar, spelling, and wit in under 10 hours a week, including research. I would expect to get paid about no more than $10 per hour for that kind of work. To your credit, you make predictions, but I can't remember the last time I read a useful one. Somehow, you consistently 'lose' in your own prediction 'game.' I feel sorry for you. I don't know how you got your job, and I don't know why you would even want your job if you were any sort of real journalist. One way you could start to get your dignity back is refraining from the middle school-level humor that defines your column. Try high school-level humor or no humor for starters, and then go from there.
– Ben, Chicago, IL
Noise: Spoken like a Northwestern grad.
Real journalist? Not sure if you noticed, but this is a fantasy opinion column. In a way, fantasy writers are like Stephen Colbert or Ron Burgundy. We're a group of somewhat egotistical reporters for a virtual game who enjoy satirizing sports. Oh, and we also have a strong hankering for fine scotch. Believe me. I'm hardly a common "journalist."
In regards to my "middle-school humor," since puberty has eluded me for 29 years, on-going jokes about body parts, bowel movements and armpit noises will always be funny. Plus, Hannah Montana and Hilary Duff songs constantly cycle through my IPod. Yep, I'm perpetually 13.
As for my dignity, I lost it years ago when my first anatomy joke made print. It's highly unlikely it will ever return …
To answer your "who would be Skeletor?" issue, I offer none other than Dick Jauron, Bills head coach. Seriously. Look at him on Snake Mounta … I mean the sidelines. Get the man a purple-hooded cloak, and we've got ourselves a villain.
– Phil, Boston, MA
Noise: I'm proud to say, many loyal Noisers forwarded me several pictures of Skeletor sports clones. Here are some of my favorites:
Do you intentionally pick people who make poor choices for their noise as the weekly special? This isn't a criticism. I would do the same thing, personally. Just wondering if you do see some emails and think, wow, those are some very good picks. Trash button …
– Andrew, Indianapolis, IN
Noise: Actually, the majority of the "Silence the Noise" picks I receive must be from people that play in 8-team leagues. When I receive emails that list guys like Tom Brady, Kevin Jones and Joey Galloway as "shocker specials," they are immediately deleted. Generally, I try to find well-rounded, aggressive picks. Unfortunately, a small number of those show up in my inbox. Be creative, people.
Brad, even though I do enjoy your columns, aren't you a little bit worried about Ronnie Brown and his fantasy output so far in comparison to the Football Frankenstein? Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't there a certain promise you made to everyone that involved a pale-skinned dude (yourself) and a set of pretty exposing swimwear?
– Justin, Jacksonville, FL
Noise: After praying at the alter of my basement shrine dedicated to the fantasy anti-Christ Jake Plummer, my dreams came true. Brown's misfortune means that the good citizens of South Beach can rejoice. My lily white derriere will not cause mental anguish or irreversible blindness – at least, not this year. Thankfully now I can get a refund on my tanning salon membership. Long live the Football Frankenstein!
SILENCE THE NOISE CHALLENGE
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 and shocker special via the link in the column footer no later than midnight central time on Tuesdays. Oh, and please, no long dissertations to justify your picks. All that's required are your player selections and projections. Good luck!
Week 8 contestant: Mike from Grand Forks, ND
David Carr, Car (vs. Ind): 27-41, 297 passing yards, 42 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Steven Jackson, StL (vs. Cle): 19 carries, 98 yards, 5 receptions, 64 yards, TD
Jesse Chatman, Mia (vs. NYG): 23 carries, 83 yards, 7 receptions, 72 yards, TD
Santonio Holmes, Pit (at Cin): 7 receptions, 132 yards, 2 TDs
Calvin Johnson, Det (at Chi): 5 receptions, 121 yards, 2 TDs
Reggie Kelly, Cin (vs. Pit): 5 receptions, 64 yards, TD, 1 post-game arrest for harassing a minor
Brett Favre, GB (at Den): 13-30, 173 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Adrian Peterson, Min (vs. Phi): 17 carries, 42 yards, 2 receptions, 8 yards, 0 TD
LaMont Jordan, Oak (at Ten): 21 carries, 60 yards, 3 receptions, 10 yards, 0 TD
Chad Johnson, Cin (vs. Pit): 4 receptions, 61 yards, 0 TD
Roy Williams, Det (at Chi): 3 receptions, 33 yards, 17 rushing yards, 0 TD
Week 7 Results: Shawn from Kansas City, MO
Flames: 3-3, 50% (W – Marion Barber, Earnest Graham, Arnaz Battle; L – Matt Schaub, Antwaan Randle El, Chris Baker (Shocker Special))
Lames: 1-4, 20% (W – Reggie Williams; L – Donovan McNabb, Ronnie Brown, Marshawn Lynch, Dwayne Bowe)
Noisers YTD: Flames: 11-13, 45.8%; Lames: 11-9, 55.0%, Shocker Specials: 0-4