On Monday night, Steve Freeman demonstrated why he is simply the most dominant back judge in today's NFL. Freeman seized control of the Cincinnati-Baltimore game in the fourth quarter, just when actual Bengals and Ravens were threatening to decide the outcome.
After the two-minute warning, Baltimore had the football at the Cincinnati one yard-line. It was fourth down, and Kyle Boller was under center. Boller lofted a perfect pass to Todd Heap in the back of the end zone for an apparent game-tying touchdown …
Offensive pass interference!
Replays could detect no obvious infraction. But visual evidence is for the weak. The end zone is Steve Freeman's house, and you will respect his rules.
After the 10-yard interference penalty was enforced, the Ravens had the ball at the Bengals 11. Still fourth down, 1:54 remaining. Under pressure, Boller lobbed a pass down the middle. It was intended for Demetrius Williams. Safety Madieu Williams had the coverage. The ball fell incomplete … but no!
At least that's what Freeman probably said.
Defensive holding! The game will not end until Steve Freeman allows it to end!
First down at the Cincinnati six. Three plays later, Boller rocketed a short pass off Heap, and Bengals defensive tackle Michael Myers dove after the ball, making an astonishing interception. Steve Freeman seemed pleased.
It was a breathtaking performance by a remarkable back judge. If you started Freeman in your fantasy officiating league, congratulations.
If you started Todd Heap in a regular fantasy league, though … well, sorry. It can be a cruel game. I'm sure there are thousands of you who lost your Week 1 match-up because of a rather dubious interference call at the end of the first Monday night game. That's just a brutal way to go 0-1-0.
No matter how you arrived at 0-1-0, and no matter how few total points you managed in Week 1, the best advice I can give you is this: Don't freak. Don't panic. Don't start making eyes at Tony Romo. Even though the video segment (link above) are telling you that Steven Jackson, Drew Brees, and Deion Branch were Week 1 flops, that doesn't mean you should immediately deal them. Their value didn't change substantially after a single game.
But my email today is looking a lot like it did in mid-April, at the beginning of the baseball season: "Albert Pujols is killing me!"
Except that now it's Jackson or Cedric Benson. Going 0-1-0 in a football league inspires extraordinary behavior from fantasy owners. If you're not patient with your uninjured first- and second-round picks, you're likely to make an unfortunate situation (0-1-0) significantly worse.
Don't let a back judge ruin your season. This is not the time to trade elite players.
• This is, however, the appropriate time to troll the waiver wire. In most active leagues, Derrick Ward is the add of the day. Chris Brown, Lamont Jordan, and Ronald Curry are all undoubtedly out there in many 10-team public leagues, but not in larger, more competitive formats. Ward is going to go to a team with relatively high waiver priority, of course. If you're ninth or tenth in the priority queue, consider Sammy Morris, Chicago's Adrian Peterson, or Michael Pittman instead.
As we discussed in the Sunday Scene, Morris' carries were basically even with Laurence Maroney's for quite a while in the first half against the Jets. Those 11 rushing attempts weren't exclusively in mop-up duty. Pittman figures to benefit from Carnell Williams' rib injury. Peterson doesn't yet seem like any great threat to Cedric Benson … but Benson's running style does. He does not at all times appear to be trying to make tacklers miss so much as he's trying to make them disintegrate.
• The most impressive player – in fact, he may have been the only impressive player – in the Monday night/Tuesday morning game between Arizona and San Francisco was 49ers rookie linebacker Patrick Willis. He had nine tackles, two assists, and a forced fumble. That guy was a maniac, and the three-headed Mike monster calling the game was right to focus on him. Don't ignore Willis in IDP leagues.
• We don't yet know the severity of Steve McNair's groin injury, but you shouldn't bet on him missing games. The Ravens have an excellent match-up with the user-friendly Jets in Week 2. If you need a one-week fill-in for Eli Manning, consider the Baltimore QB. Whoever it is. Boller wasn't so bad on Monday night. Freeman was just that much better.
• September 16 at home against Kansas City seems like the game in which Rex Grossman will accumulate 90 percent of his useful statistics in 2007. You might recall his 289-yard, four-touchdown performance at home against Detroit on September 17, 2006.
• Wednesday, when the waiver dust settles, we'll finally sift through the Week 1 results in the Y! Tank Johnson Desert Classic. And we'll discuss the awesomeness of what is clearly the Kissing Suzy Kolber approach to fantasy football: the multi-Johnson attack.