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Friends and Family Matters: Championship

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After 15 weeks, it has come to this.

Brandon Funston and Rotowire's Chris Liss are set to match up this weekend in the finals of the fifth annual Yahoo! Friends & Family League.

For Funston, this marks his third trip to the finals and the chance to earn his first career Friends & Family League football title. For Liss, it's an opportunity to win his second league championship since 2005.

But as the two fantasy experts prepare to meet, they can't help but acknowledge what has brought them this far. When their teams looked down and out, when their seasons appeared all but over, they both received some help from the same unlikely source.

That source is one who likes that old time Rock & Roll. It is one with a rare loyalty toward fellow Illinois alumnus Jeff George. It is a person who, over the last two years, has become notorious for having "man crushes" for power running backs Brandon Jacobs and Rashard Mendenhall.

Funston and Liss have made it to the championship because of one man: Brad Evans.

Like some strange fantasy football dark knight, the fellow Yahoo! expert rescued Funston's season before it ever began.

"Back in mid-August, Evans and I were on the phone talking about how we liked Steve Slaton as a sleeper in Houston," Funston said. "Evans stopped in the middle of the conversation and asked if anyone drafted him in the Friends and Family League.

"I told him that someone had (which wasn't true) so as to throw him off the scent. And while the conversation continued, I went in and dropped Jon Kitna and added Slaton."

Months later in Week 13, Funston was in the worst way, trailing by 42 points to Matt Romig entering the Monday Night Football game between the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. With a win, Funston's team would capture the final seed in the Friends & Family playoffs. With a loss, its season would be finished.

David Garrard and Slaton played that night for Funston and together did the impossible. Led by Slaton's 30-point outburst, the duo combined to score 31 of their 43 fantasy points in the fourth quarter to lift Funston to a 92-91 miracle win and clinch the final playoff bid. The rest is history.

Liss, meanwhile, received so much help from Evans throughout this season, he might as well make him a co-manager.

There is no nice way to describe Liss' roster after the league drafted back in August, so we won't try.

"Basically, my team sucked," Liss said.

The starting lineup was as follows: Derek Anderson, Marshawn Lynch, Ernest Graham, Terrell Owens, Santonio Holmes, Nate Burleson, Alge Crumpler, Kris Brown, and the New York Giants defense. Aside from stud Jay Cutler, the bench was filled mostly with underachievers: Rudi Johnson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Javon Walker, Mark Clayton and Matt Jones.

Liss needed help, and Evans answered the call.

Leading up to Week 4, Evans dropped Dallas Clark after a slow start to the season, and Liss added him off waivers. Clark now enters this weekend as the game's third-best tight end, and his 16-point effort Thursday night helped give Liss a 28-0 advantage heading into Sunday's action.

About a month after the Clark add, Liss needed more help, this time at wide receiver. Again, Evans was there.

In what was at the time referred to in this column as a deal that "might go down as the greatest 'sell high/buy low' trade in Yahoo! Friends and Family League history," Liss swapped Donnie Avery and Steve Breaston to Evans for Torry Holt and Randy Moss. Since the transaction, Holt and Moss have outscored Avery and Breaston considerably, 112-68.

All that leads to now: a championship match sponsored by Brad Evans, Inc. To follow it, check out the matchup page, and stay tuned for next week's Friends & Family League season recap.

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