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Denver's devil went down to Georgia looking for a soul to steal. He was in a bind because the Broncos were falling behind; he was wiling to make a deal …
Last week in Hotlanta, Mike Shanahan challenged obscure fullback-turned-starting-tailback Peyton Hillis to a showdown of sorts. Perform admirably and the rookie would earn a shiny golden fiddle. Falter and Tatum Bell would pocket his soul.
Hillis' old school grit, stylish sideburns and unoriginal TD celebrations are very Csonka-esque
Spearheading a three-man committee, the youngster played his own version of "Run Boys Run" racking 70 total yards and two touchdowns on 13 touches. After the game Lucifer didn't quite lay down a golden fiddle at Peyton's feet, but he did commend his young back for a crucial catch on the Broncos game-clinching TD drive:
"He's got excellent hands. He might have the best hands on our football team. We caught the coverage that we were hoping to catch. They did a great job of coming off and making the play. He has string hands and found a way to make that catch."
Hillis' rise from the hellish depths of the waiver wire shouldn't come as a shock to any seasoned fantasy player. Identical stories have been written time and time again over the past few seasons.
Last year, Earnest Graham and Ryan Grant carried squads to the promised land. In 2006, "Candy Cane" Ron Dayne handed out early Christmas presents to little fantasy girls and boys. Three years ago, a new Nigerian Nightmare, Samkon Gado, frightened fantasy opponents to the core. And in 2004, another converted fullback, Carolina's Nick Goings, dominated the competition in one of the most memorable late-season stretches in virtual pigskin history.
The tales of how Goings and Hillis reached the pinnacle of their team's depth chart eerily mirrors one another.
Four seasons ago, Goings, a sparingly used undrafted second-year fullback, broke camp fourth on the Panthers RB pecking order. However, after Stephen Davis, DeShaun Foster and Rod "He Hate Me" Smart all succumbed to the injury imp by Week 10, Carolina's stealth treasure was unveiled as the featured carrier.
It was Goings' breakout game versus Arizona Week 11, ironically in the same week Hillis splashed onto the fantasy scene this year, when his production launched into another galaxy. Over his last seven clashes, he eclipsed the century mark in total yardage six times, averaging 129.4 total yards per game. He also tallied six touchdowns. When the dust settled, his 18.1 fantasy points per game tally during the season's most critical time rivaled the greats of that year – Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander, Tiki Barber and LaDainian Tomlinson. Owners, the Noise included, who gambled on Goings showed their appreciation with shaved heads and tribal arm tattoos. Several years later, we're exploring laser removal.
Now Denver's latest backfield incarnation is following in Goings' legendary footsteps.
Selected with the 227th pick in last April's draft (seventh-round), Hillis was the third-to-last RB taken. Overshadowed by electric rushers Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas, the ultra-versatile "tweener" led the Razorbacks in receptions and receiving yards in 2007. A punishing blocker with incredibly tacky hands, his powerful between-the-tackles style, plus vision and crease-finding instincts were appealing to the Denver coaching staff.
Ten years ago, Hillis would've likely been a first-day pick. However, the increased popularity of spread offenses has made fullbacks somewhat dispensable, which explains why his draft stock plummeted.
But like Goings before him, significant injuries to Michael Pittman, Ryan Torain, Selvin Young and Andre Hall have thrust the previously unknown Hillis to the forefront of the most iconic RB-nurturing organization of the past 15 years. In just two games, the 22-year-old, who idolized Mike Alstott growing up, has shown remarkable intensity, attacking lanes with a bullish attitude, evident in his helmet-popping 7-yard TD scamper last week.
A slew of injuries has turned the little known rookie into a fantasy "Frogger"
"I always knew the talent that I had; one day I just needed a chance to prove it. I'm glad that I came to a great program like Denver. They give me a chance. That's all they want; they want you to show your talents … I can't wait to prove myself."
Yes, the Denver offensive line is no longer the immovable parapet it once was and blood-thirsty vampire bats fly out of Shanahan's betraying mouth whenever he speaks, but Hillis can be trusted as an RB2 in 12-team and deeper leagues. Minus extremely difficult road matchups versus the Jets (Week 13) and Panthers (Week 15), he faces four flexible defenses (Oak, KC, Buf and at SD) that have surrendered a combined 4.6 yards per carry, 164.5 total yards per game and 1.2 scores per game to backs. More importantly, those units have also yielded nearly five receptions per game to rushers, meaning the rookie will likely prove invaluable in PPR formats. Even netting roughly 12-15 touches per game, he could amass 60-80 total yards per contest and 3-6 touchdowns down the homestretch.
In Week 12, look for him to build on his initial success against another black clad foe, the Oakland Raiders. Since Week 7, the Crypt Keeper's rancid bunch has yielded 5.2 yards per carry, 213 total yards per game and five scores to tugboats, equal to the fifth-most fantasy points allowed. With Nnamdi Asomugha expected to blanket Brandon Marshall, Shanahan will likely pound his ex-employer into submission via the run. Denver backs combined for 124 rushing yards on 27 attempts Week 1 versus their hated AFC West adversary.
Sure, Hillis will cede touches to Bell, P.J. Pope and a healthy Young, but he might just be the best second-half "son of a bitch that's ever been."
Week 12 Fearless Forecast: 13 carries, 59 rushing yard, 3 receptions, 24 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
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 a 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 12 Fantasy Flames|
|Ben Roethlisberger||QB||6||94, 45|
|Lowdown: For the Orphan Annie of fantasy QBs, it's been a hard knock season. Cast aside for meteoric risers Tyler Thigpen, Matt Ryan and Matt Cassel even in competitive leagues, Roethlisberger has battled through a menagerie of injuries to return to a trustworthy level. Despite not finding the end-zone last week, his 308 passing yard performance was his second-highest single-game yardage effort of the season. Thursday night, look for him to build on Week 11's output. The Bungles have been dismantled by opposing gunslingers in recent weeks. Since Week 7, they've yielded 274.5 passing yards and seven air scores to QBs, equal to the fifth-most points allowed. Big Ben posted one of his better fantasy tallies of the year against Cincy five weeks ago tossing 216 yards and two scores. Not taking his clawless foe lightly, Roethlisberger's prepared to due what's necessary to guarantee vertical success, "No one thinks this is going to be an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. We know how tough it's going to be, and like we said, they've played us pretty tough here in recent years. So we're going to get their best shot, and we have to be prepared to give them ours." Expect a sizable fantasy payday from Big Ben. Activate him in all leagues.|
|Fearless Forecast: 29-42, 281 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions|
|Warrick Dunn||RB||16||89, 40|
|Lowdown: The Gridiron Gandhi's philanthropic contributions away from the field are inspiring. This week, his on the field efforts will be too. Against the run, Detroit is a defensive disaster. Over the past five weeks, the Lions have surrendered 5.6 yards per carry, 180 total yards and eight end-zone plunges to backs, equal to the fourth-most fantasy points allowed. With Earnest Graham on injured reserve and Cadillac Williams unprepared to roll out of the garage, Dunn will shoulder at least 20-25 touches in what could be his finest fantasy week of the season. Yes, he'll likely cede all goal-line touches to fullback BJ Askew, but his versatility and burrowing style will prove problematic for a defense that's struggled to contain miniature rushers (e.g. Maurice Jones Drew Week 10). The 33-year-old, who has averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per touch this season, could surpass the century mark for the second time this year. Categorize him alongside Larry Johnson (vs. Buf), Thomas Jones (at Ten) and Brandon Jacobs (at Ari) as a mid-tiered RB2.|
|Fearless Forecast: 21 carries, 96 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 25 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Jonathan Stewart||RB||19||95, 41|
|Lowdown: Affectionately called "Stewie" by Jake Delhomme, the rookie may not have an oval-shaped head, English accent or insatiable lust to commit matricide like the character of the same name from "Family Guy," but this week against Atlanta, he's destined to post cartoonish numbers. Bothered first by a nasty stomach virus then a heel injury, Stewart had been shackled physically until last week. His season-high 130 yards and a score versus Detroit finally showed why pundits fawned over his skill set back in August. Delhomme thinks he's just now starting to find a groove, "DeAngelo you can see is kind of coming into his own. With Stewie, the surface hasn't been scratched yet in my opinion." Compact and explosive, he's primed to break several significant runs in Week 12. The Falcons have yielded 5.2 yards per carry, 133.8 total yards per game and five scores to RBs in their past four contests. He'll continue to split carries with upstart DeAngelo Williams, but with 14-17 touches he should rack appreciable totals. Recall Week 4 against the Falcons, Stewart rushed for 55 yards and a score on 15 carries. Because Delhomme has regressed in recent weeks, John Fox will undoubtedly lean on his dynamite ground duo to set up the pass. Trust the youngster as an RB2 in all 12-team leagues.|
|Fearless Forecast: 15 carries, 66 rushing yards, 1 reception, 3 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Kevin Walter||WR||15||90, 46|
|Lowdown: Walter's on-again, off-again contributions is the reason why many in fantasyland refuse to slap a "dependable" label on him. At 6-foot-3, Houston's Ed McCaffrey clone is an ideal underneath complement to high-flyer Andre Johnson. Greatly underappreciated, his 16 red zone targets ranks third in the NFL behind megastars Larry Fitzgerald and Johnson. Equally eye-opening, Walter has scored three times and averaged 3.8 receptions and 61.6 yards per game since Week 7, equal to the eighth-best fantasy points per game mark among WRs. This week in the Rock n' Roll City look for the 27-year-old to wail on the whammy bar. Over the past five weeks, the Browns have surrendered seven touchdowns and six 70-yard games to wideouts, equal to the second-most fantasy points conceded. Due to Sage Rosenfels' aggressive bulldog nature and the Browns' coverage inadequacies, Houston is very likely to bombard their AFC adversary relentlessly through the air. Walter should easily exceed 75 yards for the third straight week. Start him in all 12-team leagues.|
|Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 77 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Donnie Avery||WR||22||77, 22|
|Lowdown: Wildly inconsistent, Avery has been hampered by St. Louis' permeable offensive line. Without adequate time to step and fire, Marc Bulger has succumbed to defensive pressure, routinely making idiotic decisions. Despite the Bulge's dramatic downturn, Jim Haslett continues to defend his franchise QB, "I think every quarterback goes through a phase in their career where it's not going good. When Marc came in (in 2002), he stepped in with great personnel around him — playmakers galore. Three or four wideouts, a running back, a great line that had been together for a long time. He's not in that situation right now. It's a little bit different. Obviously, we'll try to get back to that someday, but right now it's not that situation." Orlando Pace's loss complicates matters, but Chicago's difficulties against the pass bolster Avery's scoring potential. Yes, Brian Urlacher and company will be able to disrupt the pocket with minimal restriction, but in situations when they drop back in coverage, Bulger will burn them deep. Since Week 7, the bendable Bears have allowed five touchdowns and five 80-yard performances to receivers, equal to the third-most fantasy points surrendered. With Torry Holt meat grinder material, Avery, who quietly caught nine passes for 93 yards last week in San Francisco, should be counted on as a WR3 in all 12-team leagues.|
|Fearless Forecast: 6 receptions, 86 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Shocker Special of the Week|
|Kerry Collins||QB||12||33, 9|
|Lowdown: The Titans' graybeard, who apparently is preparing for a lucrative country songwriting career after football, has largely been more Carrie (Underwood) than Kerry (Collins) in terms of fantasy production. However, Tennessee's evolving offense has their aerial cowboy back in the saddle. With defenses overloading the box to stymie Chris Johnson and LenDale White, Collins has turned to the air to generate first downs and score points. Over the past two weeks, the grizzled veteran has averaged 259.5 yards per game and totaled five touchdowns. His command of the offense and stoic leadership is the reason why he's been discussed as a possible MVP candidate. Justin Gage agrees. Per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "He's not just a quarterback but also a coach. Anytime on the field, he'll take us through what needs to happen. If we're a little confused or uncertain, he's always there for us. When you have a guy like Kerry, he'll make great decisions, knows how the game is played and reads defenses. He is the true leader of our team." This week, look for Jeff Fisher to install a vertical-heavy gameplan. The Jets, led by man-eater Kris Jenkins, are very stout in the trenches (3.2 YPC, 0 TDs to RBs in last five), meaning Collins will likely again unleash his arm. New York, who was humiliated by Matt Cassel in Week 11, has surrendered 261.4 passing yards and 1.4 touchdowns per game to slingers in their past five contests, equal to the seventh-most fantasy points allowed. Similar to Jeff Garcia (at Det), Sage Rosenfels (at Cle) and Tyler Thigpen (vs. Buf), Collins is a fringe starter in 12-team leagues.|
|Fearless Forecast: 27-39, 244 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception|
|Week 12 Fantasy Lames|
|Matt Cassel||QB||19||85, 35|
|Lowdown: Not even Harold and Kumar would recommend starting the White Cassel this week. Coming off an unforeseen fantasy bonanza against the Jets (400 passing yards, 62 rushing yards, 3 TDs), the inexperienced signal caller is blossoming before our eyes. Jeans connoisseur Brett Favre concurs, "Matt Cassel played one [heck] of a football game. I don't know if you can make a better throw at the end of the game than he made, honestly. It was a great catch on Randy's part, but that ball was thrown - I mean, Ty Law has great coverage - you can't get any better than that throw. He made some tremendous throws throughout the game." Cassel's rapid maturation has been remarkable, but a pivotal road contest against the intradivisional rival Dolphins will not yield similar results. Since Week 7, Miami has allowed just 221.4 passing yards per game and four total air scores to QBs, equal to the seventh-fewest fantasy points surrendered. New England's recent troubles running the football means Fins defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni will attempt to confuse Cassel with several disguised blitz packages. If the three-headed mongoose of Faulk, Morris and Green-Ellis can weaken Miami's 3-4, passing lanes will widen. However, the Noise is banking on the new Mouth of the South, Joey Porter, to win the war upfront, thus limiting Cassel vertically.|
|Fearless Forecast: 26-38, 218 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 21 rushing yards|
|Brian Westbrook||RB||26||100, 86|
|Lowdown: Andy Reid is on the hot seat. Donovan McNabb is baffled by rudimentary overtime rules. And Westbrook is currently moving with the grace of John McCain. Yep, for the sake of the Eagles' players, it's a damn good thing the Phillies won the World Series. The popular first-round pick was described by local beat writer Les Bowen Wednesday as "alarmingly hobbled." Crippled by a high ankle sprain and knee swelling, the versatile dynamo, who didn't practice Wednesday, is lucky to be upright, "It's tough to say what your percentage of health is. As a player, you go into every game ready to play, but of course, you're never going to be quite 100 percent during the season. Once you get injured once in the football season, it takes a long time to get completely healthy. For me, I'm still fighting the injury bug, tying to get completely healthy…The thing about a high-ankle sprain is that it doesn't go away very quickly… throughout a game, at any point, it can come right back, and that pain can come right back." Not good. The Eagles are a mess offensively right now. McNabb is making terrible coverage reads. And because Westbrook is unable to make sharp cuts, his touches have dwindled. Don't expect a miraculous turnaround this week. Baltimore was humiliated by the Giants O-line last Sunday, which means they're motivated to reclaim dominance in the trenches. Including last week's debacle, the Ravens have still yielded the 11th-fewest fantasy points to rushers since Week 7. The slightest contemplation of benching Westbrook seems ludicrous, but based on the current situation he's someone who really can't be trusted with playoff aspirations on the line. Oh quickly how the mighty can fall…|
|Fearless Forecast: 16 carries, 59 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 27 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Chris Johnson||RB||22||100, 83|
|Lowdown: If this game was played along the coast of Somalia, Captain Quick would engage in unlawful piracy. However, since this contest is scheduled for LP Field, the Captain is likely to get crunched. On the road against Chicago and Jacksonville the fleet-footed rookie was successfully contained. In those clashes, he averaged just 2.3 yards per carry and 55.5 total yards per game. Despite his drop-off in production, the Titans are committed to a smash-mouth approach. However, the Jets front line led by hole-plunger Kris Jenkins has performed valiantly this season. Over the past five weeks, they've not conceded a rushing touchdown and have limited backs to 3.2 yards per carry and 111.8 total yards per game, equal to the second-fewest fantasy points yielded. Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger will likely devise ways to counteract the Jets interior stalwartness by swinging Johnson out for dumps and screens. This suggests the rookie will likely rack serviceable total yards and viable PPR numbers, but that's probably it. As discussed with Collins, the Titans will have more offensive success through the air than on the ground based on the matchup. Johnson should be demoted in shallow leagues (10-teams) but remains a potent Flex option in 12-team and deeper PPR formats.|
|Fearless Forecast: 16 carries, 57 rushing yards, 5 receptions, 28 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Marques Colston||WR||31||99, 79|
|Lowdown: Colston has driven his maddened owners to the bottle. Over the past four weeks the enigmatic star has failed to cross the chalk and has averaged an uneventful three receptions and 56.5 yards per game. Colston's prolonged injury absence unintentionally forged an unbreakable bond between Lance Moore and Drew Brees. With their chemistry percolating, the former fantasy standout has struggled to regain his previous form. Now dealing with a tender knee and slated to face arguably the stingiest secondary in the NFC, the former Hofstra product is poised to underwhelm once again. Charles Woodson and company have played brilliant vertical defense this season. No wideout has surpassed 72 yards against them since Week 5. They've also surrendered the fewest fantasy points to receivers over the past five weeks. At this point, Colston's value is limited to name only. His general fragileness and susceptibility to scoring blackouts labels him a major risk. Given the unfriendly matchup, owners with upside bench options should strongly consider deactivating him this week.|
|Fearless Forecast: 3 receptions, 36 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Brandon Marshall||WR||32||100, 95|
|Lowdown: Expected to draw coverage from the "Black Death," Nnamdi Asomugha, festering swells and blackened buboes will form on Marshall's skin. The Raiders' prized corner is a one-man fantasy demolition crew who infects those who dare cross his path. Just ask Lucifer Shanahan, "The people that throw at him usually get beat. He's not going to be challenged, but he plays 100 percent on every play. He plays the run, he plays the pass, the guy is a competitor. He's the most underrated top player in the game - I can't say the history of the game because I haven't been around here that long - but I can say in my 25 years, he is by far the most underrated player." Serving a suspension Week 1, Marshall was not apart of the Eddie Royal show in O-Town. Having him in uniform this go-around suggests Asomugha, who has been thrown at roughly 15 times this season, may rotate assignments to aid Chris Johnson. But more than likely he'll shadow Marshall for most of the game. Because the Raiders have performed repulsively against the run, the Broncos restructured rushing attack will be the primary focus of their offensive blueprint Sunday. Managers with favorable secondary options (e.g. Kevin Walter (vs. Cle), Marvin Harrison (at SD), Antonio Bryant (vs. Det)) should seriously debate benching the seventh-ranked receiver in fantasy.|
|Fearless Forecast: 2 receptions, 24 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
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 12 contestant: Matt from San Francisco, Calif.
Jason Campbell, Was (at Sea): 19-28, 212 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions
Warrick Dunn, TB (at Det): 17 carries, 75 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 20 receiving yards, 1 touchdowns
Pierre Thomas, NO (vs GB): 11 carries, 49 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 48 receiving yards, 1 touchdowns
Mark Bradley, KC (vs. Buf): 6 receptions, 71 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Dallas Clark, Ind (vs. SD): 5 receptions, 60 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Fred Jackson, Buf (at KC): 11 receptions, 44 receiving yards, 4 receptions, 32 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Kurt Warner, Ari (vs. NYG): 17-30, 207 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac (vs. Min): 14 carries, 56 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 28 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Michael Turner, Atl (vs. Car): 19 carries, 60 rushing yards, 1 receptions, 3 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Brandon Marshall, Den (vs. Oak): 4 receptions, 54 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Lance Moore, NO (vs, GB): 3 receptions, 36 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 11 Results: Ryan from London, Ontario
Flames: 2-4, 33.3% (W – Marshawn Lynch, Peyton Hillis; L –Jake Delhomme, Antonio Bryant, Muhsin Muhammad, Donte Stallworth (SS))
Lames: 3-2, 60% (W – Philip Rivers, Tim Hightower, Andre Johnson; L – Thomas Jones, Braylon Edwards)
Noisers YTD - Flames: 33-33, 50.0%; Lames: 30-24, 55.5%; Shocker Special: 6-5, 54.5%
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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- Mike Shanahan