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Nashville is a city familiar with comeback stories.
Frank Wycheck's miracle home run throwback to Kevin Dyson in the 2000 Wild Card game versus Buffalo still resonates deeply with the Titans' rabid fan base.
Collins has been the conductor on 10-1 Tennessee's "Train of Love"
But with the Grand Ole Opry the backdrop, the Music City's greatest resurrection didn't occur on the football field. It happened in a music icon's living room just north of Nashville.
Earlier this century, outlaw rockabilly artist Johnny Cash was an undeniable living legend. His distinct baritone voice, dark lyrics and catchy acoustic rhythms popularized country music and paved the way for modern artists today.
However, in 2000, the elderly "Man in Black" hadn't produced a commercially successful album since the early 1970s. Plagued by autonomic neuropathy spurred on by diabetes, an ailing Cash, guided by Rick Rubin, recorded several epitaphic songs about his relentless pain and impending quietus.
The albums were brilliant.
His haggard voice heard on a cover of Trent Reznor's "Hurt" was hauntingly chilling. Embraced by critics and audiences alike, Cash had written a poetic last chapter to an indelible career. His unforeseen resurgence was truly remarkable.
In the footsteps of Cash, another improbable late-career revival is under way in Nashville, this time on the NFL gridiron.
Slated to collect dust as Vince Young's backup for the third straight season, Kerry Collins has emerged from the shadows to direct the Titans to a league-best 10-1 record. His unlikely turnaround is an exercise in triumph.
Collins, like Cash, is a reformed rebel. In his 14-year career, the former first-round pick has battled the demons of addiction, racist stigmas stemming from an incident with former Panthers teammates and periods of fledgling production. According to Collins, life's missteps have taught him valuable lessons:
"Overall, I make better decisions. As a young guy, I made my share of mistakes. With maturity comes better decision-making. That is what all quarterbacks strive for, to lean on their experience and hopefully to continue to make better decisions as their career goes on. Every experience that you have, when you're successful, when you're not successful, every experience in the NFL if you use it as a positive, a learning tool or something you can carry with you, that benefits yourself."
But despite his reversal of fortune, fantasy followers still view the MVP candidate with much trepidation. Based on his first-half results, their views are understandable.
Over the first nine weeks of the season, the 35-year-old's statistical contributions were feeble at best. During that stretch, he played the role of Michael Scott averaging a paltry 167.9 passing yards per game and totaling just three touchdowns. Most savvy fantasy owners, the Noise included, widely regarded Collins as nothing more than waivers rubbish.
However, the poised leader's game has suddenly fallen into a "Ring of Fire."
Against three vulnerable pass defenses (Chi, Jac and NYJ) Mike Heimerdinger removed the padlock from Collins' rusty arm. In those contests, he averaged 254 passing yards per game and compiled an eye-opening 6:1 TD:INT split. Surprisingly, his 20.6 fantasy points per game over that span ranked 10th among QBs, ahead of respected No. 1s Philip Rivers, Donovan McNabb and Aaron Rodgers.
The "Man in Blue" may be a good boy, but he's always played with guns
This week, Collins' upward trend could reach the crescendo. Tennessee travels north to Detroit for a Turkey Day tussle with the winless Lions. Since Week 8, the Hello Kitties have shockingly limited QBs to just 199 passing yards per contest, but they've also allowed seven air strikes, the fourth-most in the NFL. Due to the ground game's recent struggles, Heimerdinger will likely feature the run to reenergize Johnson and calm down White. However, Detroit, as many defenses have done often this season, will probably overload the line in an attempt to contain the run, which will open up opportunities downfield for the opportunistic Collins. Before the bird is pulled out of the oven, the veteran could give those who start him a sizable early lead.
Over the next two weeks, similar stories could unfold for Collins against Cleveland and in Houston. On the year, the Browns and Texans have yielded a combined 223.2 passing yards and 1.1 touchdowns per contest to signal callers. It's quite possible he could not only springboard his backers into the second season but also help them advance past the first round.
Long-term, Collins won't be viewed in legendary terms like Cash, but with one more strong performance, playoff hopeful owners may just dub him the "Man in Blue."
Week 13 Fearless Forecast: 24-38, 237 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
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 one-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 13 Fantasy Flames|
|Donovan McNabb||QB||8||98, 57|
|Lowdown: Chastised for his rudimentary knowledge of basic overtime rules. Questioned for his desire to bake pumpkin pies on the Linc sidelines in cold, wintry conditions. And now, he's the innocent victim of Andy Reid's gross mismanagement. Yeah, McNabb's emotions have surely run the gamut over the past week. But despite his mental rollercoaster ride, he's someone owners absolutely must ride this week. In four contests along and east of the Mississippi River the Cardinals have been beakless. They've conceded 229 passing yards per game and 12 total air scores. For the five-time Pro Bowler, the bendable Birds are exactly what the doctor ordered. Yes, McNabb has performed brutally in leagues that score harshly for turnovers, but he's still averaged 238.8 passing yards per game and totaled seven touchdowns (one rush) since Week 8. Unbelievably his 19.4 FPPG accumulated over that span ranks 10th among signal callers. Sure rumors have already begun to swirl about McNabb returning to his hometown, Chicago, via an offseason trade, but with three home games remaining, he'll likely regain the confidence of the Eagles faithful and his coach, starting Thanksgiving night. Possibly with Lorenzo Booker in the backfield and given the strong likelihood a turkey-tossing shootout will ensue, McNabb could post sweet potato totals on 40-plus attempts.|
|Fearless Forecast: 26-45, 303 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception, 17 rushing yards|
|Darren McFadden||RB||18||85, 27|
|Lowdown: Yo, ho, ho! It's finally "Christmas in Hollis" for Run DMC's very patient owners. An "ill reindeer" in last week's unforeseen pounding of the Broncos, the rookie rushed for two touchdowns and totaled 52 yards on 12 touches. This week, McFadden is primed to see another spike in productivity against the arrowless Chiefs. The first-rounder's playmaking panache will prove devastating for a makeshift K.C. D-line that has yielded 4.4 yards per carry, 171.1 total yards per game and seven scores to backs since Week 8, equal to the fifth-most fantasy points allowed. Undoubtedly, Justin Fargas will tote at least 60 percent of the load, but McFadden's versatility at the goal-line and explosiveness in the open field implies another multi-TD performance is on the horizon. With his turf toe no longer an issue and his confidence at an all-time high, count on the electric youngster to finish in the Week 13 RB top-20. Remember, the last time he faced Kansas City (Week 2) the Raiders' rocket totaled 173 yards and a score.|
|Fearless Forecast: 15 carries, 71 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 16 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns|
|Leon Washington||RB||19||73, 30|
|Lowdown: According to Irish lore if anyone keeps an eye fixed upon a leprechaun, he cannot escape, but the moment the gaze is withdrawn, he vanishes. The 5-foot-8, 200-pound Washington is New York's own mischievous sprite equipped with superhuman powers. Grossly underrated, the diminutive scatback has quietly flourished in recent weeks. Since Week 8, he's totaled 68.8 yards per game and crossed the chalk five times on just 9.4 touches per contest. His 12.9 fantasy points per game compiled over that five-game stretch ranks 13th among RBs, one spot ahead of Clinton Portis. Jets fullback Tony Richardson credits Washington's intestinal fortitude for his sudden emergence, "If you look at Leon's stature as far as his weight, size and height, you'd say by NFL standards, especially for the running-back position, he can't survive. But the size of his heart is probably bigger than half the guys' in this room. I'll put him in a fight with anybody, especially on the football field because he's going to give you everything he has with his ability." Although still underused, Washington's role is slowly increasing. This week, a workload similar to what he logged against St. Louis in Week 10 (16 touches) could be in order against Denver. Over the past five weeks, the My Little Ponies have allowed 150.5 total yards per game and six touchdowns to rushers, equal to the seventh-most fantasy points conceded. The expected return of Champ Bailey is a significant boost for Lucifer's suspect secondary, but it’s also a major benefit for Washington. In order to avoid Bailey and exploit Denver's primary weakness, look for Mangenious to tailor a gameplan around the legs of Thomas Jones and little Leon. Owners in 12-team and deeper leagues should bite into this leprechaun's Lucky Charms.|
|Fearless Forecast: 11 carries, 50 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 33 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Santonio Holmes||WR||11||92, 49|
|Lowdown: With the same number of touchdowns as such dominating superstars David Anderson, Marty Booker and Dane Looker, few have wanted to shout "What up?" to Holmes this season. Before he was cold-Crocked by Cincinnati's Chris Crocker last week, the inconsistent wideout was having one of his best games of the season. His final five-reception, 84-yard tally was his third-highest yardage effort of 2008. Mike Tomlin reiterated earlier this week his premiere home run threat is "going to be fine" and expects to see him in action Sunday. The Steelers' Week 13 adversary, New England, has recently performed inefficiently against the pass. Since Week 8, the Pats have conceded six touchdowns and five 70-yard games to wideouts, equal to the third-most fantasy points allowed. Plus, they've allowed the third-most 40-yard pass plays in the league this season. With Ben Roethlisberger almost fully recovered from a myriad of injuries and the running game in limbo, it's very likely Bruce Arians will attack New England by uncorking several downfield bombs to Holmes. Consider the irregular receiver an upper-tiered WR2 in all leagues.|
|Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 93 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Roy Williams||WR||26||92, 43|
|Lowdown: Dallas' game of musical quarterbacks hasn't done Williams any favors. Playing with three different signal callers in his past five games, the former Lion is slowly adjusting to life as a Cowboy. Although nearly universally owned, R2-D2 has produced uneventful numbers since donning the blue star. Since Week 7 he's caught just nine passes for 110 yards and one touchdown. On Tuesday, Wade Philips discussed Williams' progression with the Cowboys stating, "I think he's worked in pretty well. It's not an easy thing for him or for us to do. He's a big receiver with big play ability. We'll try to work him more and more into the offense as the season goes on." Tony Romo's confidence in his No. 2 appears to be growing, evident in Williams' increase in targets over the past two weeks. Thanksgiving could finally be the day R-Dubs resembles the standout receiver from his pre-Calvin Johnson years in Detroit. Seattle has surrendered the most 20-yard pass plays this year and the ninth-most fantasy points to receivers since Week 8. With Terrell Owens officially "unleashed" look for the Seahawks to rotate an extra defender over to No. 81's side, which could isolate the 6-foot-2 Williams on smallish corner (5-foot-9) Josh Wilson. Insert him into all 12-team lineups as a WR3.|
|Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 62 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
Other Flame candidates: Trent Edwards (vs. SF), Joe Flacco (at Cin), Ricky Williams (at StL), Chester Taylor (vs. Chi), Justin Fargas (vs. KC), Justin Gage (at Det), Marvin Harrison (at Cle), Lance Moore (at TB)
|Shocker Special of the Week|
|Davone Bess||WR||29||6, 1|
|Lowdown: The former Hawaii Warrior is primed to stamp a tribal tattoo on each member of the Rams' secondary. Vaulting into the No. 2 spot after Greg Camarillo was sidelined last week by torn knee ligaments, the undrafted rookie should build on his season-best nine targets for five catches and 87 yards Week 12 versus New England. Primarily working as a slot receiver, Bess has steadily grown more comfortable with the Dolphins offense as the season has progressed, ''I'm getting more and more confident each week. I'm continuing to work hard. Now, I feel like I need to stay ready. I know every position on the field. That goes for all of the receivers, just in case something like this happened. So we're all prepared.'' A turquoise-clad blur who runs precise routes, Bess' talents should pose a serious threat to a St. Louis defense which has surrendered the seventh-most 20-yard pass plays this season. Yes, the Rams have only yielded three touchdowns and four 70-yard efforts since Week 8, but because most offenses have pounded them on the ground, the perception they're an adequate vertical defense is skewed. With Chad Pennington searing, deep-thinking owners in dire straits for an upside WR3 should employ the Dolphins overachiever.|
|Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 73 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Week 13 Fantasy Lames|
|Tyler Thigpen||QB||15||77, 37|
|Lowdown: Attention aroused
|Fearless Forecast: 16-32, 213 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 21 rushing yards|
|Michael Turner||RB||20||100, 93|
|Lowdown: The Chargers, Turner's former employer, are fully equipped with fire extinguishers strapped to their backs and water buckets clinched in their fists. Labeling the Burner a lame after posting a scoring sombrero (4 TDs) last week may seem absurd, but no one knows his nuances better than his old teammates. Earlier this week, Turner acknowledged the circumstances are strange, "In practice, I'd run against them to make each other better. Now we're trying to beat each other. That's an entirely different tempo. But it'll be weird … It's going to be a fun game. I'm sure there will be a lot of trash-talking." Occasionally, the Chargers have been manhandled in the interior this season, but most of those poor performances have been away from SoCal. In five games at Qualcomm they've yielded one RB touchdown and limited backs to 4.0 yards per carry and 73.2 rushing yards per game. Turner, who ranks No. 2 among RBs in Y! leagues on the year, is practically unbenchable, but an uneventful tally could be on deck in what will likely be a sour homecoming.|
|Fearless Forecast: 23 carries, 89 rushing yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Reggie Bush||RB||28||99, 25|
|Lowdown: A lame-duck much like his presidential namesake, Bush, sidelined by a torn meniscus in his knee, has rotted away on fantasy benches for the past five weeks. But the Fathead pitchman claims this is the week he'll return to action, "I definitely feel like this is the week. I'm just trying to make sure you're 100 percent before you get back out on the field." The last time Mr. Kardashian faced the Bucs, Week 1 in New Orleans, he plundered their treasure chest, totaling 163 yards (112 receiving) and a touchdown. But the Swashbucklers are a completely different squad with the pirate ship firing off shots in the background. In five contests at the Ray Jay, Tampa has not surrendered a rushing TD and has held backs to only 78 total yards per game. Yes, Bush's incredible hands and smooth moves in space can obliterate the Cover 2, but it's very possible he will cede touches to Pierre Thomas initially, especially in the red-zone. Throw in the lessons the Bucs likely learned in their first encounter with Bush and he's an untrustworthy option in non-PPR leagues this week.|
|Fearless Forecast: 10 carries, 33 rushing yards, 5 receptions, 37 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Braylon Edwards||WR||30||99, 85|
|Lowdown: Pass the gravy to Edwards and a disastrous result is bound to occur. Embarrassed by his ball-dropping incompetence, the maligned wideout, who dropped three more passes last week versus Houston, finally manned-up to his dreadful play, "I haven't been what I was last year for this team. I don't know what it is. All I know is that I work hard. I know what I'm supposed to do. I'm healthy. It hasn't been all bad or all good, but it's definitely been more of the bad. Last year I was one guy. This year I'm a different guy. I know the fans are upset with me right now, and I don't blame them. But I want them to know that I'm trying. I don't ever drop a ball that I don't care about." Kudos to Edwards for accepting his shortcomings, but this week's matchup likely won't get his game back on track. Hosting an Indianapolis Colts defense that has allowed the second-fewest 20-yard pass plays this year, Cleveland, once again led by the horrifically inaccurate Derek Anderson, is primed to post atrocious aerial numbers. Edwards has averaged a healthy four receptions and 70.8 yards per game over the past five weeks, but during that same stretch, Indy has surrendered just one wideout touchdown and four 60-yard WR games, equal to the seventh-fewest fantasy points conceded. Sure, his targets will rise with the stronger-armed Anderson behind center, but the Colts are an outstanding pass defense who will be more concerned stopping Jamal Lewis, not Edwards.|
|Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 47 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Plaxico Burress||WR||33||100, 62|
|Lowdown: Hogtied by reoccurring hamstring strains, Burr-ess' fantasy temperature has plummeted. He has not surpassed 50 receiving yards in a game since Week 6 and has found pay-dirt just one time in his past five contests. An MRI on his balky hammy Tuesday revealed only a strain. Tom Coughlin called him "day-to-day" Wednesday, but remained cautious on whether or not his prized receiver will be available for Sunday's pivotal intradivisional tango with Washington, "Hopefully it's something that he can overcome in a short amount of time. But let's face it, it's a hamstring." The game-time temperature in Washington is forecasted to be near 50 degrees, which is good news for Burress' prospects of staying loose. However, even if Plax is available, he's not a recommended play. Sure, Burress scalped the Redskins for 10 receptions and 133 yards Week 1, but the acquisition of DeAngelo Hall three weeks ago has solidified an already stalwart Washington secondary. Over the past five weeks, including two games with Hall, the 'Skins have surrendered a mere two scores and two 60-yard games to wideouts, equal to the third-fewest fantasy points yielded. Managers with playoff aspirations on the line who back Burress will be very regretful come Monday. Deactivate him in all formats.|
|Fearless Forecast: 3 receptions, 28 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
Other Lame candidates: Brett Favre (vs. Den), Eli Manning (at Wash), Mewelde Moore (at NE), Brian Westbrook (vs. Ari), Clinton Portis (vs. NYG), Marques Colston (at TB), Dwayne Bowe (at Oak), Randy Moss (vs. Pit), Steve Smith (at GB)
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 (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 that’s required are your player selections and projections. Winners earn a league spot to compete against yours truly next season. Good luck!
Week 13 contestant: Jake from Los Angeles, Calif.
Chad Pennington, Mia (at StL): 24-31, 234 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions
Michael Turner, Atl (at SD): 25 carries, 152 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 31 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Jonathan Stewart, Car (at GB): 15 carries, 104 rushing yards, 1 receptions, 6 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Isaac Bruce, SF (at Buf): 10 receptions, 123 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
Dustin Keller, NYJ (vs. Den): 4 receptions, 56 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Hank Baskett, Phi (vs. Ari): 5 receptions, 78 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Tony Romo, Dal (vs. Sea): 30-45, 210 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac (at Hou): 11 carries, 65 rushing yards, 0 touchdowns
Marion Barber, Dal (vs. Sea): 20 carries, 89 rushing yards, 1 receptions, 1 receiving yard, 0 touchdowns
Eddie Royal, Den (at NYJ): 2 receptions, 18 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Calvin Johnson, Det (vs. Ten): 8 receptions, 67 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 12 Results: Matt from San Francisco
Flames: 4-2, 66.7% (W – Jason CampBell, Warrick Dunn, Pierre Thomas, Mark Bradley; L –Dallas Clark, Fred Jackson (SS))
Lames: 0-5, 0% (W – none; L – Kurt Warner, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner, Brandon Marshall, Lance Moore)
Noisers YTD - Flames: 37-35, 51.4%; Lames: 30-29, 50.8%; Shocker Special: 6-6, 50.0%
Challenge Winners: (Brian from Dallas, Noah from Kansas City, Bill from Indonesia, Zhen from Shanghai, Elliot from Fremont, Calif., Ryan from Ontario)
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