"Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen" – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Imagine you're at a killer party. Classic Snoop Dogg thumps in the background. Scantily clad beautiful babies ripe for action decorate the scene. And the libations flow generously.
As the party continues deep into the night, you reach the always-precarious drinking forked road. To the right are brain cells, good sleep and your dignity. While the left offers forgettable moments, toilet hugs and a one-night stand with a bearded lady. It's always a tough decision.
In the fantasy football world, the calendar change from October to November brings owners to a similar T-intersection. What direction will you go?
Just past the midpoint of the fantasy season, here are my top-five "second-half surgers" who won't lead you astray.
5. Jason Witten, Dal, TE
Notes: No longer forced to block for the sloth-footed "Doo-Doo" Drew Bledsoe, Witten has regained top 10 tight end status in the eyes of fantasy owners. With an inexperienced Tony Romo calling the shots, Witten has posted back-to-back quality games averaging seven targets, five receptions and 76 yards-per-game. As Romo's main safety valve, his value will continue to skyrocket.
4. Jon Kitna, Det, QB
Notes: Undeniably the most underappreciated quarterback in fantasy, Kitna will attack the jugular of opponents over the remainder of the season. Six of the Lions remaining nine contests are against secondaries (Atl, SF, at Ari, Mia, Min, at GB) that rank in the bottom half of the league in pass D. Throw in a loathsome Detroit defense and Kitna will accumulate top 10 fantasy numbers playing from behind.
3. Chester Taylor, Min, RB
Notes: The Cheetah has had a rollercoaster season. But, come fantasy playoff time, he will reach top speed and be an elite contributor. The Vikings face a string of marginal defenses that have allowed a combined 121.3 rushing yards and 1.1 touchdowns-per-game.
2. Chad Johnson, Cin, WR
Notes: Ocho-Cinco's numbers will multiply in the second-half. Practically dormant for most of the season, the Bengals blowhard has come on of late averaging 78.5 yards in his past four and catching his second TD pass of the season in Week 8 versus Atlanta. With Chris Henry back, defensive pressure will be alleviated, which will help Johnson see more single coverage situations.
1. Shaun Alexander, Sea, RB
Notes: Terribly frustrating to own, Alexander is finally expected to return next week against a soft Rams front. With a host of questionable rush defenses on tap (StL, at SF, at Ari, SF, at TB), he will storm back with a vengeance.
Next week, I'll examine the top "second-half suckers" you need to sell, completely avoid and/or cast out of your fantasy life forever.
WEEK 9 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:
J.P. Losman, Buf, QB – Opponent: GB
Fearless Forecast: 274 YDs, 2 TDs, INT, 12 rushing yards
Notes: Dressed in leather with a guitar pick in hand "Judas Priest" is ready for a rockin' flame encore. Shockingly, Green Bay held the sultan of stubble Matt Leinart under 200 yards passing at home last week. Don't expect a repeat performance on the road. The Pack has surrendered a league-high 292.4 yards and 1.7 touchdowns-per-game to gunslingers this season. Many in Buffalo have Losman on the hot seat, which should light a fire under the rocky QB. In three home games, Losman has averaged a respectable 248 yards-per-game. Bills head coach Dick Jauron reshuffled the O-line over the bye week and worked on fundamentals to jumpstart the third worst offense in the NFL. Anticipate offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild to call Willis McGahee's number early to establish a formidable ground attack, which should allow Losman to take shots downfield to his money man Lee Evans. Available in 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues, 300-yard lightning could strike twice for J.P.
David Garrard, Jax, QB – Opponent: Ten
Fearless Forecast: 151 YDs, TD, 41 rushing YDs, TD
Notes: If Maurice Jones-Drew is an Oompa-Loompa, Garrard is a hungry Augustus Gloop. Ready to devour the Titans defense like a fudge brownie mountain, Garrard should give fantasy owners a sugar high. An older, wiser version of Vince Young, the athletic, fleet-footed signal caller will thrive against a Pacman-less Titans secondary that has allowed 221.6 yards-per-game and six touchdowns in their last three. In a blustery game at Philly last week, Garrard was unimpressive from a fantasy perspective, but don't write him off. As a starter in five games last year, he averaged 200.4 yards-per-game, sported a solid 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and totaled two rushing scores. Jags head coach Jack Del Rio has yet to name a starter, but with Byron Leftwich still not quite at full strength, look for him to tip his hand and go with the multi-dimensional Garrard. Del Rio will emphasize the run against a Titans defense that has yielded 162.1 yards-per-game this season, increasing the odds of the super backup finding pay-dirt with his feet. A free agent in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he is a top-20 start if Leftwich sits.
Carnell Williams, TB, RB – Opponent: NO
Fearless Forecast: 21 carries, 107 YDs, TD
Notes: Last week, owners across the country must have felt they were riding in a pink Cadillac, without the crushed velvet seats. Totaling a career-low eight carries for 20 yards in Philly, Jon Gruden put his advanced degree in brain surgery into practice by going airborne 40-plus times in 40-50 mile-per-hour winds, because he saw "several great looks in the passing game." Obviously, Chucky's plan failed miserably and this week he will rededicate the Bucs to the run. The Saints have allowed 147.5 rushing yards and a touchdown-per-game in their last four contests. Caddy hit the accelerator against New Orleans in Week 5 rushing for 111 yards on 20 carries. Expect him to see a minimum of 22-25 carries en route to his second century-mark day of the season.
Laurence Maroney, NE, RB – Opponent: Ind
Fearless Forecast: 17 carries, 91 YDs, TD
Notes: Sir Laurence will turn the Colts into Elmer's glue this week. Since Week 6, the former Golden Gopher has burrowed underground averaging a paltry 33.6 rushing yards-per-game. The Colts have been desecrated by the run this season, yielding the seventh-most fantasy points to runners and a horrendous 176.5 rushing yards-per-game and seven scores in their last five. The media is billing this contest as a clash of the QB titans, but the duo of Corey Dillon and Maroney will steal the show. Count on Maroney and his snow plow style to blast through a beleaguered Colts front that is a gigantic eyesore on arguably the most overrated 7-0 team in NFL history.
Chris Henry, Cin, WR – Opponent: at Bal
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 77 YDs, TD
Notes: Take your pick. Does Henry look like a Saluki or a cracked out version of Whitney Houston? Personally, I think he barks. Regardless of his bizarre appearance, Henry will shine versus a Ravens defense that has been pillaged by the pass allowing an uncharacteristic 374 passing yards-per-game and five air scores in their last two. When not in Marvin Lewis' or the NFL's dog house, Henry has paid dividends for fantasy owners, averaging nearly nine targets, five receptions, 87.6 yards and a touchdown-per-game in his last three starts. At 6-foot-4, Henry's exceptional athleticism, body control and top-gear speed will help him score his third career touchdown against the Ravens in as many games. Most view Baltimore as an elite all-around defense, but Carson Palmer and the Bengals three-headed receiver monster will maul them through the air.
Mike Furrey, Det, WR – Opponent: Atl
Fearless Forecast: 7 receptions, 84 yards, TD
Notes: Ignore his cute, cuddly last name, Furrey is a ferocious receptions-thirsty beast who will feast on the Falcons. Playing safety a year ago in St. Louis, Furrey has transitioned back to wide receiver flawlessly, ranking eleventh in the league in total receptions. When matched against weak opponents (Sea, GB, StL, NYJ) the Lions No. 2 has found the end-zone three times and racked 6.2 receptions and 71 yards-per-game. A super route-runner with slippery, deceptive speed, look for him to see ample open looks with DeAngelo Hall draped on Roy Williams. Atlanta has struggled immensely in defending the pass, garnering the fourth-most fantasy points to receivers on the season. Fresh off a bye, Furrey will roar as a No. 3.
Minnesota D/ST – Opponent: at SF
Fearless Forecast: 13 points allowed, 3 sacks, 3 turnovers
Notes: The 49ers have a bountiful booty of fantasy defensive gold, which the Vikings are prepared to plunder. Torched for 430 yards of total offense and 31 points by a surging Patriots club, Minnesota will look to reassert their defensive prowess against the hapless gold panners. San Francisco leads the NFL in fumbles lost with 12 and have surrendered seven sacks in their last two. The tenacious tandem of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams have limited opponents to just 69 yards rushing in three road games this year and should punish the heart of the San Fran offense, Frank Gore. Available in just over half of Yahoo! leagues, they will easily post top-10 defensive numbers.
WEEK 9 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:
David Carr, Hou, QB – Opponent: at NYG
Fearless Forecast: 201 YDs, 2 INTs
Notes:Umm, dude, you were benched for Sage Rosenfels. Highly ineffective against a suspect Titans defense, Carr got the hook early in the second half after coughing up the rock three times. Despite the downfall, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak remained firm earlier this week that Carr was still the unquestioned starter. However, don't anticipate a bounce back effort on the road. In three games away from H-Town, Carr has averaged a pathetic 153.3 yards-per-game and totaled an equally deplorable 3:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Undeniably one of the hottest secondaries in the NFC, the Giants cornerback tag-team of Sam Madison and Corey Webster have stiffened, allowing just one 200-plus passing game since Week 5. Leave Carr in the garage.
Kevin Jones, Det, RB – Opponent: Atl
Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 45 YDs, 4 receptions, 27 YDs
Notes: Don't tell Eminem, but Detroit is second behind St. Louis as the most dangerous city in the country. There goes the psychological advantage. KJ has seared of late averaging over 109.6 total yards-per-game, while crossing the chalk three times in four games. The ground game will likely take a back seat this week as air-frenzied Mike Martz will turn to Kitna some 40-45 times to exploit a disadvantaged Atlanta secondary. The strength of the Falcons defense clearly resides in stopping the run as the dirty birds have limited runners to a microscopic 64 yards-per-game and zero scores in their last two. The Lions O-line is close to full strength, but this week Jones is a strong king o' stink candidate.
Travis Henry, Ten, RB – Opponent: at Jax
Fearless Forecast: 17 carries, 57 YDs
Notes: The Jags Jekyll and Hyde defense will show their ugly side at home in Week 9. In three contests at Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville has stuffed the run, limiting ground attacks to just 82 yards-per-game. After two back-to-back 100-yard performances, Henry vanished last week against an improving Houston front, totaling a horrid 29 yards on 15 carries. Part-time sideline photographer and part-time man-eater Marcus Stroud could return this week and start next to fellow run-plug John Henderson. Regardless if Stroud dresses, Henry will have major difficulties mounting serviceable fantasy numbers against a Jacksonville front that held Brian Westbrook to 38 rushing yards last week.
Deion Branch, Sea, WR – Opponent: Oak
Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 48 YDs
Notes: If you would have told me back in August that the Raiders would be ranked first in pass defense in Week 9, I would have said you were completely delusional. With Shaun Alexander out another week and Seneca Wallace behind center, Branch is a stone-cold must bench. Oakland has surrendered the fewest fantasy points to wideouts this year, including a league-low three touchdowns. Corner Nnamdi Asomugha leads the team in picks (3) and will likely blanket the diminutive Branch throughout. Coming off a two-catch, 45-yard effort versus a marginal Chiefs D, other options need to be explored.
Chris Chambers, Mia, WR – Opponent: at Chi
Fearless Forecast: 2 receptions, 29 YDs
Notes: This weekend, Chambers will scare fantasy owners like the crass jokes from "Borat" will conservative Midwestern moviegoers. Touted as a top-ten wideout on draft day, Chambers has floundered catching just 43 percent of passes thrown his direction. Despite a potentially profitable 9.2 targets-per-game, he has yet to eclipse the 70-yard mark in a game this season – And it won't happen versus a bloodthirsty Bears defense has yielded the seventh fewest fantasy points to wideouts on the year. Expect defensive tackle Tommie Harris to apply copious amounts of pressure on a Dolphins O-line that has had protection problems. The added pressure will force Joey Harrington to turn to his safety valves Randy McMichael and Ronnie Brown more, squashing Chambers' value in Week 9.
Scanning media reports with a fine-toothed comb, the Noise puts his fantasy spin on various tasty tidbits.
There's a new controversy in Denver. Mike Bell may have substantially increased his role or temporarily supplanted Tatum Bell as the starter after rushing for 136 yards and two scores in Week 8 versus Indianapolis. "Taco" was limited due to a nagging turf toe injury. No starter has been named for this week's contest at Pittsburgh.
Spin: Just when we thought we had Shanahan pegged, the sinister side of Lucifer rears his ugly head. If only we could pull a "Being John Malkovich" and read his inner thoughts then maybe we would know what the heck is going on. Then again, he would trick everyone and promote Cecil Sapp.
As many of you know, I have caught a great deal of heat for backing Mabel back in August. His incredible cut-back moves, rocket burst and versatility made my heart go pitter-pat in the preseason. Well, after last week's breakout performance, I may need a pacemaker. As for my adversaries, they better be ready to feast on fried crow. Funston, bring the ketchup.
The powerful, fearless attitude that Mabel exuded versus the Colts is something that Taco and his speedy wheels have always lacked. Lucifer has to turn to a time-share for at least the short-term, and possibly the remainder of the season, to subside the pain of Taco's toes. Although it's almost impossible to figure out the puzzling ways of Lucifer, don't be shocked if Mabel gets the start at Pittsburgh this week. However, plug Mabel in only as a flex play. The Steelers have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to backs this year.
My prediction: Mabel becomes a bullish version of Mike Anderson who will net the bulk of the touches over the next couple of weeks and 10-12 carries-per-game once Taco's bunions heal. Given Mabel's leaping ability and bulldozer strength, he will be the primary option at the goal-line and is the guy you want over the next 2-4 weeks.
UNLEASH THE BEAST
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Daunte Culpepper? 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?
While many people see Edgerrin James as a victim of a horrid O-line, I don't pity him at all. He chose to move to Arizona, take the money and run. He gets what he deserved. I – and many fantasy experts – were too distracted with his reputation to see what would happen and chose this loser in the first round.
– Adam, San Diego, CA
Noise: I've yet to decide what's more scary: Counting on Edgerrin James as a No. 2 fantasy back, or that demonic, robotic doll from those new Playstation 3 commercials? Since "Child's Play" permanently scarred my brain and made me pediaphobic (fear of dolls), the creepy PS3 ads take the cake. However, anytime a consensus first rounder averages a libido-sinking 2.8 yards-per-carry and 64.5 yards-per-game, it's positively frightening.
The awful play of the Arizona offensive line and the inconsistency of Matt Leinart have only fueled the disintegration of James' value. At this point, his value is so low, it's actually worth pursuing in a trade. What? Has the Noise been sippin' gasoline? Nope, not even ethanol. Here's why I'm buying on a bear market:
1. Despite the odds stacked against Edge, the Cards have a few favorable matchups remaining (Det, at StL, Sea, at SF). These teams have given up a combined 119.2 rushing yards and 1.1 ground touchdowns-per-game.
2. Outside of his performances against Chicago and Oakland, he has averaged a serviceable 12 fantasy points-per-game in performance based leagues.
3. If your league scores for receptions, he will continue to perform admirably. Edge ranks fifth in targets and seventh in receptions among backs. With a bad O-line and a young, inexperienced quarterback he will continue to be a focal point in the passing game.
Edge is far from a trustworthy No. 2, but as a flex option his gold grill still glistens.