In 1997, the impossible became reality. It was my third year of playing competitive fantasy football and as commissioner of my local beer and pretzels league, I had a reputation to uphold.
That year, the normally smokin' Pamela Anderson version of Lady Luck morphed into Angela Landsbury, taking out the 3,000-year-old age difference and decreased cup size on my team. Despite having fantasy playboys Barry Sanders and Antonio Freeman on roster, my record stood at 0-6. Unbelievably, every week my lofty totals were bettered by a squad touched by God. College grades plummeted. Gallons of adult beverages were consumed. Sex became less appealing. It seemed nothing could pull me out of my fantasy misery. That is, until the most pompous quarterback in NFL history resurrected my season.
On the brink of selling my team down the river for future draft considerations, something remarkable happened. In Week 2, I plucked a pair of Raiders off waivers, Jeff George and James Jett. Sticking to my draft day guns, I had yet to play the arrogant, yet ultra-talented George, opting to confide in an aging Dan Marino on a weekly basis. Now that my team was about to go out of business, it was time to kick the weight loss guru to the curb and see if the man in black could erase my despair.
It flippin' worked.
The lethal George/Jett combo netted me a combined average of 27 fantasy points-per-week and helped turn the tide of my stained season. I went on to win seven straight games, sneaked into the playoffs as the seventh seed and steamrolled my opponents on the way to the championship.
Don't think the same can't happen to you. In honor of my triumphant rags to riches story, here are my top-five tide turner tips to pull you out of despair:
5. Find inspiration.
Go to Youtube and watch Jim Valvano's "don't give up" speech a half-dozen times. After the tears have flowed, pop on a little GNR "Appetite for Destruction" and you'll be ready to go toe-to-toe with any league foe.
4. Avoid the "always start your studs theory" and take risks.
Sure, a so called stud could produce a big game at anytime, but rarely does a premiere back rack enormous totals against a staunch defense. For example, Larry Johnson has a brutal matchup versus San Diego's third-ranked rush defense this week. Do you bench him in favor of say a Kevin Jones who faces a weak Jets front? Absolutely. Fantasy is all about matchups and Jones gives you the best opportunity for a lucrative payday. If the matchup is enticing, chase temptation.
3. Work the waiver wire.
Every week, a handful of diamonds in the rough are waiting to be discovered. Possible Week 7 surprises Joey Harrington, Ernest Wilford and Derek Hagan are owned in less than one percent of Yahoo! leagues. If your squad is injury ridden or in dire need of capturing lighting-in-a-bottle for one week, an unsung hero is one click away.
2. Aim for super backups.
Injuries can turn fortunes around in blink of an eye. Guys like Michael Turner, Marion Barber III and Maurice Jones-Drew can be had for a six-pack and a smile. Remember they are one tweak away from stardom.
1. Buy low on underperformers with soft upcoming schedules.
Looking ahead is a must if you want to resuscitate your team. Over the next five weeks, the Patriots (at Buf, at Min, Ind, NYJ, at GB), Jaguars (at Hou, at Phi, Ten, Hou, NYG) and Bills (NE, Bye, GB, at Ind, at Hou) have ground-friendly schedules. Trade for a Corey Dillon, Fred Taylor or Willis McGahee and crawl your way back into contention.
WEEK 7 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:
Fearless Forecast: 289 YDs, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Notes: The original "King O' Stink" will smell potpourri fresh against a putrid Packers secondary ranked dead last in the league. The shoddy Miami O-line has performed admirably of late, yielding just one sack in their past two games. The extra time and Harrington's quick release has helped him rack nearly 42 attempts and 249 yards-per-game. However, his deplorable 1:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio shows his decision-making skills are still suspect. The Packers have given up 118 yards-per-game on the ground in their past three games and with their safeties prone to bite on the run, Harrington will find receivers wide open. Available in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he posts top-15 QB totals this week.
Fearless Forecast: 258 YDs, 2 TDs
Notes: The sultan of stubble will melt the painted faces of the Silver and Black faithful. When adversity hit its zenith late in the fourth against a vicious Chicago Bears defense, the USC product remained stoic and converted this writer from critic to fan. Sporting a sensational 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and averaging 242.5 yards-per-game in two starts, he has made a significant splash. On paper, the Raiders appear to have a formidable pass defense as they've yet to allow a 200-yard passer, but if you take a closer look, they have faced marginal air attacks (SD, Bal, Cle, SF, and Den). Oakland has tallied an NFL-low six sacks this season, which should give the rookie plenty of time to plant and fire behind a beleaguered 'Zona offensive line. Get him in your lineup.
Fearless Forecast: 17 carries, 72 YDs, TD, 2 receptions, 12 YDs
Notes: Why is it every time Indy runner's name is mentioned, old school WWF wrestler Dusty Rhodes pops into my head? Yes, polka-dotted trunks included. Fresh off a bye and ready to slam the ' Skins into the turnbuckle, Rhodes is a nice upside No. 2 play this week versus a Washington defense that reignited the career of Travis Henry in Week 5. The Redskins have yielded a whopping 174.5 rushing yards-per-game in their past two clashes. Peyton Manning is the best in the biz at finding weaknesses in defenses and should have little trouble stretching the field, which will help create monster holes for Rhodes. Listed as questionable with an ankle injury, if Rhodes were unable to suit up, Addai is in store for a monster day.
Fearless Forecast: 13 carries, 52 YDs, TD, 3 receptions, 33 YDs, TD
Notes:The speedy Jones-Drew is a mismatch for a Texans linebacker battery that would have difficulties holding their own in a pick-up game against the Women's Seminary of the Worthless Miracle. Jags head coach Jack Del Rio loves to pound inside with Fred Taylor and round the corners with the rookie. Anticipate more of the same this week as the Texans have given up 145.8 rushing yards-per-game. Jones-Drew will also find ample space in the flat as Houston has garnered a league-high 58.6 receiving yards-per-game to running backs. The youngster's electric open-field moves and drag-racer speed will certainly get his Umpa-Lumpa frame rolling down the sidelines for a couple of long gainers.
Fearless Forecast: 6 receptions, 82 YDs, TD
Notes: "Kick me in the" Cotchery has punished the family jewels of fantasy owners of late. After a strong start, the Jets wideout has simmered, totaling a mere five receptions for 55 yards in his past two contests. Cotchery is a fleet-footed, tough receiver with excellent break-tackle ability. His physical nature and first-rate athleticism will be too much for outmatched Lions corner Fernando Bryant in Week 7. So far this season, No. 2 receivers have averaged a stout 4.3 receptions, 73.5 yards-per-game and totaled five scores in six games versus the tame kitties. Start him as a borderline second receiver in all formats.
Fearless Forecast: 7 receptions, 77 YDs, TD
Notes: Available in 95 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Welker gets the esteemed honor of being this week's "Big Noise" shocker special – I'm two-for-two since the shocker special was unveiled in Week 5. Welker will thrive against a Green Bay defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to wideouts. With Marty Booker sidelined by a shoulder strain, the gritty Fin has totaled the eighth-most targets (21) among receivers over the past three weeks, while snagging 12 passes for a credible 133 yards. Booker's status looks grave again this week and, despite a minor leg injury, Welker is a potential breakout candidate.
Fearless Forecast: 10 points allowed, 4 sacks, 2 INTs
Notes:The staunch Arizona defensive performance was overshadowed by the Bears historical comeback on Monday. Led in the trenches by underrated defensive end Bertrand Berry, the desert birds swarmed the then third-best fantasy quarterback, Rex Grossman, in an impressive display of aggressive play. In all, the Cards generated six turnovers, batted down several passes, racked two sacks and limited the air Bears to only three offensive points. Corners Eric Green and Antrel Rolle revel in laying out wide receivers and will drive Randy Moss insane. Owned in less than two percent of Yahoo! leagues, they should have no trouble racking huge fantasy totals against a rancid Raiders offense that has given up the most sacks (24) of any team this year and average a paltry 229 total yards-per-game.
WEEK 7 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:
Fearless Forecast: 197 YDs, TD, 2 INTs
Notes: Who cares about his return from fantasy obscurity, Big Ben will get his clock cleaned by John Abraham and company in the A-T-L. Finally off the snide totaling 238 yards and two scores a week ago, Roethlisberger benefited greatly from his boss-hogs up front who gave up just one sack versus the Chiefs. Atlanta boasts one of the best pass defenses in the league, allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to signal callers. Now that Abraham is back, the Falcons pass rush is once again at full strength. Add the tenacious tandem of DeAngelo Hall and Jason Webster roaming the secondary and the unlucky Steelers gunslinger will take a step back this week. Also, Roethlisberger has struggled away from Heinz Field in his career, averaging 185.5 yards, 1.1 touchdowns and 0.8 interceptions-per-game. Deactivate him.
Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 66 YDs
Notes: Mighty Mouse needs the power of cheese to boost his game this week. Anchored by boisterous linebacker Joey Porter, the effective Steelers 3-4 scheme suffocates the run. Pittsburgh has given up the seventh fewest points to ball carriers this season and a microscopic 78.4 ground yards-per-game. The shifty, elusive Dunn finally found the end zone last week and continues to be a consistency king, averaging over 102 yards-per-game and 5.3 yards-per-carry. But, his crown will crack in Week 7. Expect Bill Cowher to use his fearsome foursome set of linebackers to stuff the NFL's top-rated run offense and force Michael Vick to beat them through the air.
Fearless Forecast: 21 carries, 69 YDs
Notes: Like New York on "Flavor of Love 2," Johnson fans feel spited. The loss of center Rich Braham four weeks ago has severely dampened his numbers as the workhorse has averaged a meager 54.6 yards-per-game, 3.2 yards-per-carry and totaled one touchdown in his past three. Now with starting left tackle Levi Jones out with a knee injury, rookie Andrew Whitworth gets the toilsome task of protecting Carson Palmer and Johnson from beastly pass rusher Julius Peppers. Portly defensive tackle Kris Jenkins is an exceptional run-stopper and with the Panthers allowing a lowly 75.5 rushing yards-per-game since Week 2, Johnson will again be declawed.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 45 YDs
Notes: Edwards is one Brown that will make you frown this week. In five games, the frenetic, high-energy Denver secondary has yielded only one passing touchdown and 204.8 air yards-per-game. The Mile High boys also rank second in fewest points allowed to wide receivers. Edwards will likely draw super cover corner Champ Bailey this week. At 6-foot-3, the second-year wideout has a height advantage over Bailey, but the corner's athleticism and aggressiveness should frustrate Edwards and sequester his numbers. Also, the intense pressure of defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban will force Charlie Frye to turn to his safety valve Kellen Winslow more, limiting the chances of big plays for Edwards.
Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 38 YDs
Notes: Historically, the Cowboys have miniaturized Burress. In three career starts versus Big D, the Giants receiver has averaged a terribly boring four receptions and 50 yards-per-game. Eli Manning has become a more accurate, crisp passer this season, spreading the ball around instead of solely looking toward Burress. Target totals of Amani Toomer and Tiki Barber have increased sharply, while Burress has seen a three target-per-game decline from last year. To complicate matters, Plax will have to deal with the league's best strong safety Roy Williams, who will aid corner Anthony Henry in coverage downfield. Look for Manning to again turn to safer options Jeremy Shockey and Barber in short-yardage plays. Confide in "Plexiglass" only as a No. 3 in points-per-reception formats.
Scanning media reports with a fine-toothed comb, the Noise puts his fantasy spin on various tasty tidbits.
Spin: If your team is drowning in mediocrity, now is the time to seize the moment. For many impatient Alexander owners, the insatiable want for gratification has become unbearable. With hasty feelings presumably at their peak, it's the perfect time to pitch an offer. Many question the bruised state of the Seattle O-line, but they did show some minor improvement after the bye week helping the Hawks tally 125 yards of offense on the ground in St. Louis. Give them a couple of more weeks and this suspect line should be serviceable.
Anticipate Alexander to return with a vengeance. From Weeks 9-12, "The Great" could again conquer the fantasy football world matched against four defenses that have given up a collective 123.1 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown-per-game. Get him at giveaway prices.
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?
OK, so you don't like DeShaun Foster. You put him at No. 2 on your "fragile five" list and you put him on the "lame list" using the reasoning that the Ray Lewis-led Baltimore Ravens defense will put the flop on him. Well, he isn't hurt, yet he is running effectively. DeAngelo Williams, who has been stealing carries, is disabled this week and the Carolina passing game is back with Steve Smith on the field and that will help open up the running game. The season stats on Baltimore's defense are deceptive. They built up lopsided early season stats against weak offensive teams including the passless Tampa Bay Bucs, the hapless Oakland Raiders and the Droughn-less Cleveland Browns. But, in Week 4 LaDainian Tomlinson went for 98 yards. Last week, Denver ran effectively enough for Tatum Bell to rack up 92 yards. To me this adds up to Foster having a respectable week and your 44 percent Lame record will take a further hit and go from spewy to ka-plewy.
– Paul, Houston, Texas
Ka-blam! My second hate mail from Houston in a month. For the love of Domanick Davis' blown out knee, why do people in H-Town hate me? Don't blame me for the Mario Williams pick. If it makes you happy, I'll sport a Houston Comets WNBA jersey and write country songs about Oilers' legend Warren Moon. OK?
Yes, I deserve below-the-belt blow for my loathsome "Lames" record. However, thanks to your strong convictions on Foster having a "respectable" Week 5, it helped me inch one step closer to 50 percent. Isn't crow tasty?
Paul brings up a good point in his Foster rant: Defensive statistics can be deceiving. Fantasy owners and experts alike are too often statistically dependent and many on both sides merely bank on concrete numbers to find a desired conclusion.
Take for example, the erratic Mark Brunell versus the Indianapolis Colts this week. Indy ranks third in the league in pass defense, allowing just 158.6 yards-per-game. The stat hound would stop there and bench Brunell, but a true fantasy gumshoe would take the analysis one step further. Sure Brunell has been unpredictable, but he still remains an upside play. Why? Because Indy ranks last in the league versus the run, opponents have put more trust in their runners to win games. Given Brunell's struggles, Indy will likely overload the box and force him to throw, increasing his odds at a successful fantasy day. Rational decision made. Case closed.
It's important to look at several different angles when making an educated lineup decision. If you don't have the time, nor want to put forth the effort, let Funston and I rack our brains and risk our necks to try and help you resolve your quandaries. That's what being a fantasy expert is all about.
- Joey Harrington