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Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot.
But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not.
The Grinch hated Christmas. The whole Christmas season.
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason …
Two years ago giving LT "good games" was high on owner Christmas lists. This year that request currently ranks 12th, several spots behind PT Cruiser shoulder rubs, DeAngelo Williams thigh massages and Jay Cutler face punches.
LaDainian Tomlinson may not be covered in thick green fur, wear a frumpy frame or house a heart two sizes too small. But to the good little fantasy girls and boys who invested first-round dollars in the slashing Bolt with the expectation his efforts would lead to championship glory, the AFC's most revered runner is the Grinch incarnate.
The rapid downfall of venerated carriers is a story that has been told and retold countless times. Former Eddie George, Shaun Alexander and Marshall Faulk supporters can attest to the dramatic decline rushers on the precipice of 30 typically experience, especially those who consistently take on exhausting workloads over a long stretch. Thomas Jones owners would tell you otherwise.
For much of the year, disdainful epithets have been hurled at LT on dozens of message boards across the Web. Frustrated, maddened and enraged, his spoiled owners have pouted over the future Hall of Famer's inconsistencies and underachievements. Damn it, his better was supposed to be better than everyone else's better.
Did they honestly expect another 1,800 total yard, 20-TD season from a 29-year-old workhorse who had logged seven straight years of 300-plus carries?
A number of factors explain why Tomlinson has entered the white dwarf stage of his career.
First, he was derailed for several weeks by a burdensome hyperextended toe, inhibiting his burst and cutting ability. Although he powered through the piercing pain, Norv Turner noted the injury set his star rusher back six weeks.
Second, poor execution by San Diego's hobbled offensive line hasn't opened up the mammoth holes LT is accustomed to seeing. Historically, the Chargers' impregnable wall had demoralized opponents in the second half of games. But, even against meek competition, they've struggled to consistently outmaneuver adversaries with much success. LT, who sees lanes in enhanced, not hi-definition nowadays, has had trouble finding holes.
Third, the Chargers once electric defense has played at a low wattage for much of the season, forcing Turner to at times abandon the run in an attempt to fuel a comeback. In the past, San Diego's unyielding D would hold sizable leads which allowed LT to salt away the clock. This year, that's rarely happened.
Finally, Philip Rivers' noticeable ascension has caused Turner to institute a more balanced gameplan. Instead of relying solely on Tomlinson's legs to chew up yards, the Bolts have become more air-dependent. Back in mid-November, the two-time rushing champ threw a veiled jab at Norv Turner's play-calling, remarking that the ground game wasn't getting enough opportunities to establish a firm rhythm. Since then he's become more accepting of how the offense has evolved. From the Kansas City Star:
"In the first game, I hurt my toe, and so that hurt us a bunch. We went on to have a lot of success throwing the football, and we've kind of stuck with that. Whenever that happens, your run game is going to suffer, which obviously ours has."
LT's string of underwhelming performances against exploitable competition has again raised a red flag in the eyes of many owners. Excluding his Week 11 tussle with Pittsburgh, the five-time Pro Bowl selection managed just 3.3 yards per carry, four touchdowns and 92.4 total yards per contest against Kansas City (twice), Indianapolis, Atlanta and Oakland, four defenses that rank in the bottom 10 in fantasy points per game allowed to RBs. His 13.6 fantasy points per game accrued in his past five games ranks 14th among tugboats, several spots behind his former backfield partner Michael Turner and wavier wire treasures Pierre Thomas and Peyton Hillis. His head coach remains steadfast LT's uncharacteristic production has nothing to do with his current physical state:
"He's as capable physically as he's ever been. When we've given him the opportunity to spring loose, get him out in the open, he's shown he's as explosive as ever. We just haven't put him in the position many times where he could do that."
Unless Tampa's defensive line morphs into a group of weak-armed English blokes, and LT a mutant cyborg hell-bent on eradicating John Connor and the human race, don't expect No. 21 to have much stiff-arm success Week 16
Yes, his grueling workout regimen would make LenDale White's cardiologist cringe if copied, but it's clear arguably the greatest rusher in NFL history is wearing down. Remember, he's compiled over 3,100 touches (390-plus/year) in his career. Match that with his advanced age, Rivers' presence and Turner's commitment to a balanced offense and the once invincible LT is a very avoidable first-round pick next year. At this point, DeAngelo Williams, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton are far more desirable.
As for this week, don't expect the Grinch to re-gift any heisted cans of Who Hash. Traveling to Tampa to face a hungry Bucs team desperate for a win to solidify its playoff resume, LT is poised to mystify his loyal backers once again.
Sure, the Bucs have walked the plank defensively over the past five weeks, surrendering 5.2 yards per carry, 169.6 total yards per game and six end-zone dives to RBs, equal to the seventh-most fantasy points allowed, but their humiliating efforts against Carolina and Atlanta were on the road. In six clashes at the Ray Jay this season, they've yielded a mere 3.2 yards per carry, 79.8 total yards per game and one touchdown to rushers. Plus, the potential return of starting defensive tackles Chris Hovan and Jovan Haye, who've missed the past two games with knee injuries, could reinvigorate Tampa's struggling trench unit. Based on San Diego's blocking deficiencies, Tampa Bay's stalwartness at home and possible activation of key players, Chucky's bunch will drive their sabers into the heart of the former MVP.
It's extremely difficult to bench a living legend, but fortunate owners blessed with friendlier alternatives (e.g. Pierre Thomas (at Det), Steve Slaton (at Oak) and Ryan Grant (at Chi)) should consider the unthinkable.
If you're a Cindy-Lou Who seeking championship celebrity, don't expect San Diego's Grinch to carve the roast beast.
Week 16 Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 68 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 26 receiving yards, 0 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 16 Fantasy Flames|
|Brett Favre||QB||9||98, 52|
|Lowdown: Although selected to the Pro Bowl over more deserving players Philip Rivers and Matt Cassel, the Larry King of quarterbacks will show the fantasy masses why his nomination is justified. For those who've recently gambled on the withered gunslinger, statistical rewards have been elusive. Since Week 11, the grizzled veteran has averaged a mediocre 214.6 passing yards per game and totaled a 5:5 TD:INT split. His 16.5 fantasy points per game compiled during that span ranks 21st among QBs. At this point in his career, the future Hall of Famer isn't concerned by his sharp downturn in production, "You get to a point as an older player where statistics don't matter quite as much as they used to. The one statistic that matters is wins and losses." Even though Favre could care less about how the fantasy community views him, he's someone all trophy-seeking managers should activate in Week 16. The Jets travel cross-country to face a woeful Seattle defense that has conceded 281.4 passing yards and 1.4 air scores to signal callers over the past five weeks, equal to the eighth-most fantasy points allowed. New York's graybeard should establish an early rhythm with receivers Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, which will pay enormous end-game dividends. Keep in mind, Seattle has yielded the most 20-yard pass plays this season. This week, Favre turns back the clock and tallies one of his finest efforts this year.|
|Fearless Forecast: 24-38, 262 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception|
|Willie Parker||RB||13||96, 29|
|Lowdown: Derailed for much of the season by injury and ineptitude, Fast Willie has failed to stoke the engine fire. Frustrated by his unsteady role, Parker snapped at head coach Mike Tomlin last week remarking traditional "Steelers Football" has been abandoned. Hines Ward echoed Parker's mounting dissatisfaction, "We definitely got to get the run game going. As the year goes on in the latter part of the season, it's hard for teams to go out there and sling the ball around. We can't go out and count on throwing the ball 40 or 50 times. We need to go out and control the clock and help our defense out." This week, the ground game will most certainly be the point of emphasis for Steely McBeam. Minus premiere back snackers Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tennessee's defense is definitely Titanic – in the sinking ship sense. Torpedoed last week by Steve Slaton (24 carries, 100 yards), the Titans will likely concede only their third 100-yard rusher of the season. Yes, Parker's been a complete disaster down the stretch (62.2 ypg, 0 TDs since Week 12), but he should be tagged a trustworthy RB2 in all formats.|
|Fearless Forecast: 22 carries, 103 rushing yards, 1 reception, 5 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Sammy Morris||RB||14||82, 36|
|Lowdown: Mo' Money, overshadowed by Matt Cassel's heavy-hearted four TD aerial bonanza last week, rushed for 117 yards and a score against Oakland, his second-highest fantasy output of the season. When healthy, the moderately used 31-year-old has played admirably this season. He's totaled at least 11 fantasy points in a contest five times, spearheading New England's revolving door of backs. Collectively, Patriots RBs have averaged 4.8 yards per carry, the franchise's highest mark since 1983. Gray-hooded sweatshirt genius, Bill Belichick, credits the offensive line and Cassel's timely audibles for the running game's success, "The backs have done a good job – they've all done a good job – and we've had a lot of good blocking by the offensive line, some good play-calling, and some adjustments at the line of scrimmage. At times Matt has changed the play to get us into a good play or sometimes, more importantly, to get us out of a bad play where kind of the deck is stacked against us." Expect the Pats to embarrass Arizona between the tackles this week. Away from the desert, and especially of late, the Cardinals have been beakless defensively. Since Week 11, they've yielded 151.4 total yards per game and 11 scores to rushers, equal to the third-most fantasy points allowed. Yes, Morris will split time with Kevin Faulk and potentially LaMont Jordan, but even with 15-18 touches he should be counted on for terrific RB2 totals in a potential blizzard.|
|Fearless Forecast: 15 carries, 74 rushing yards, 1 reception, 10 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Torry Holt||WR||17||79, 30|
|Lowdown: Still steaming from a Jumbotron-assisted pass interference call last week, Holt will release his pent-up anger on the improving 49ers. Despite experiencing the poorest statistical season of his career, the seven-time Pro Bowler is determined to finish strong and lay a foundation for the future, "You reflect on all that we said and all the promise we had coming into the season. And then with three games left, you're a 2-11 football team. It can wear on you … But you can't dwell on it; you've just got to try to put your best foot forward and ask yourself, what can you do to help our football team get things turned around?" Tallying his second-best fantasy performance of the year last week against Seattle (4-64-TD), the 32-year-old should step onto the black side of the ledger again this week. Since Week 11, San Francisco has yielded four 60-yard receivers and three touchdowns to wideouts. Holt, who caught five passes for 60 yards against the Niners in Week 11, should tally excellent numbers against either Nate Clements or the rapidly deteriorating Walt Harris. According to Football Outsiders, San Fran's 7.8 percent DVOA against No. 1 receivers ranks 23rd in the NFL.|
|Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 71 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
|Braylon Edwards||WR||15||96, 51|
|Lowdown: Edwards, who would've been a dreadful partner for an egg-parenting project in high school, is a high-end WR2 this week. Plagued by one disastrous drop after another, the Crisco-secreting receiver hasn't made any new fans in the Dawg Pound. Instead of blaming himself, Edwards feels he's an isolated Wolverine trapped in stadium full of vengeful Brutuses, "I've learned since being here that I'm very unappreciated. Not by the organization, just in the eyes of the fans and the city. Since Day 1, I've been a marked man coming from Michigan. It's just gone that way. I'm just to the point now that I'm playing football and I could care less about the fans and the media. People are talking about trading me and the B-S that's going on with our team, and this season. I've got a job to do and my job is to catch the football." For the love of Webster Slaughter, please catch the damn football. Coming off his third 100-yard game of the season, the Zen Master is must-start material in your championship. Handicapped by injuries, the Bungles secondary has surrendered eight 60-yard games and five scores to wideouts since Week 11, equal to the fifth-most fantasy points allowed. Ken Dorsey is positively horrendous, but he'll likely lock-in on Edwards 10-plus times this week. Anticipate one of his better totals of the year.|
|Fearless Forecast: 6 receptions, 96 receiving yards, 1 touchdown|
Other Flame candidates: Kyle Orton (vs. GB), Chad Pennington (at KC), Chester Taylor (vs. Atl), DeShaun Foster (at StL), Kevin Smith (vs. NO), Isaac Bruce (at StL), Deion Branch (vs. NYJ), Anthony Gonzalez (at Jac), Ted Ginn Jr. (at KC), Jeremy Shockey (at Det)
|Shocker Special of the Week|
|Dan Orlovsky||QB||13||5, 1|
|Lowdown: Rogue end-zone boundaries may be the central subject of Orlovsky's nightmares, but the former Jon Kitna apprentice could be the silver lining for Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan owners concerned about their QB's ominous matchup. Orlovsky, sidelined several weeks by two fractures and a torn ligament in his right thumb, returned to the starting lineup last week hoping to show league executives he's chart-topping material, "I expect myself to play at a high level. Watching the film (from Sunday's game at Indy), I could have been 28 of 34, 30 of 34. Missed some throws. I didn't play as well as I wanted to." With many viewers tuning in to watch the Lions' loathsome dash toward infamy, the former '05 fifth-round pick, who is in a contract year, will get another opportunity to prove his mettle, this time against a softer opponent. Since Week 11, the Saints have surrendered 217.8 passing yards per game and nine touchdowns (three rush) to QBs, equal to the fourth-most fantasy points allowed. Orlovsky's low turnover rates and excellent rapport with playmaker Calvin Johnson have greatly enhanced his averages as a starter (232.6 ypg, 6:2 TD:INT in five games). Because the Hello Kitties will likely be piled on early, Orlovsky will assuredly launch a minimum of 40 passes, increasing his odds of posting surprising Super Bowl numbers.|
|Fearless Forecast: 27-44, 273 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions|
|Week 16 Fantasy Lames|
|Eli Manning||QB||17||98, 54|
|Lowdown: The Giants' exploration of signing Joe Horn, who ironically was penalized $30,000 in a game against New York five years ago after magically manifesting a cell phone during a touchdown celebration, shows just how little confidence management has in the current Toomer/Hixon/Smith receiver battery – a grim reminder of Eli's sinking value. The first-time Pro Bowler is someone you simply can't trust this week. Without a dependable wideout, Manning could be swallowed whole by a relatively unspectacular Carolina secondary. Over the past five weeks, the Panthers have yielded 251.4 yards per game and seven touchdowns to signal callers, equal to the ninth-most fantasy points per game. Yes, John Fox's bunch likely won't match Dallas' eight Eli takedowns last week, but if the G-Men's pulverizing ground game doesn't resurface, the Panthers will have little difficulty containing the pass. To complicate matters, Mother Nature could wreak havoc on the Eastern seaboard Sunday night. The preliminary forecast projects a rain/snow mixture with possible advisory criteria winds (30-39 mph sustained winds with higher gusts). Throw in the fact he's tossed one multi-TD game since Week 11, and Eli is completely avoidable.|
|Fearless Forecast: 16-29, 174 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions|
|Clinton Portis||RB||24||100, 84|
|Lowdown: The esteemed womenfolk of South Florida may regularly grease Portis' in-home brass pole, but this week, no fantasy owner should touch Washington's beaten back with a 10,000-foot version of one. Reflected in Jim Zorn's self-punitive statements, the wheels have come off the Redskins wagon in recent weeks. Once on the fast-track to the playoffs, Washington has stumbled, bottoming out last week against harmless Cincinnati. The primary reason for the 'Skins downward slide: Portis' declining performance. Totaling seven touchdowns and six 100 total yard games over the season's first nine weeks, the Drag Queen of Mean has registered zero scores and only one century mark effort since. Handicapped by a variety of injuries, the Pro Bowl selection has sapped owner confidence. Don't expect a miraculous resurrection this week. Jim Johnson's swarming Eagles defense has limited backs to just 2.9 yards per carry, 89.4 total yards per game and one touchdown since Week 11, equal to the fewest fantasy points allowed. Battered, bruised and broken, Portis is an enormous risk, even as a Flex play in deeper leagues. Kevin Smith (vs. NO), Chester Taylor (vs. Atl) and Kevin Faulk (vs. Ari) are more trustworthy options.|
|Fearless Forecast: 23 carries, 73 rushing yard, 2 receptions, 13 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Ronnie Brown||RB||21||99, 81|
|Lowdown: Criminally selected to the Pro Bowl ahead of Steve Slaton, Brown, despite having what at first glance appears to be an delectable matchup, is untrustworthy. Subtract his single-handed destruction of New England in Week 5 and he's averaged a marginal 9.9 fantasy points per game or the same amount as Sammy Morris. Tony Sparano's heavy underutilization of Brown since Week 10 (12.8 carries/game) implies his surgically repaired knee could be wearing down. It's also plausible the hardnosed coach is simply trying to keep his star runner fresh for a potential playoff run. Regardless which reason is true, Brown is not a slam-dunk to post stellar totals in Week 16. Yes, Kansas City has been repulsive against the run for much of the season – they've surrendered the most fantasy points to backs this year – but the Chiefs have shown some improvement in recent weeks. Although they've surrendered nine total scores to RBs since Week 8, no runner has eclipsed 90 rushing yards against them over that span. Of course Brown is someone who must be started as a Flex in deeper formats, but counting on him for otherworldly RB2 totals is an absurd delusion. Remember, he's netted just 74.2 yards per game and splashed pay-dirt once in his past five games.|
|Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 65 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 11 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Brandon Marshall||WR||18||100, 95|
|Lowdown: The Wyatt Earp of the AFC West has consistently failed to inflict fatal wounds on opponents. Sure his Week 14 effort against K.C. was magnificent (11 receptions, 91 yards, 2 TDs), but for owners in standard non-PPR leagues his routine 5-8 point tallies have been maddening. Last week's five-catch, 48-yard total was particularly dismaying. This week, Marshall owners' disillusionment will reach its climax. Expected to draw coverage from receiver shackler Terrence McGee, Jay Cutler's top target may struggle to find open spaces, especially if "Taco" Tatum Bell, who Marshall noted was "hungry" (Maybe for a volcano taco) to prove his worth last week, can't keep the Bills honest up front. Over the past five weeks, Buffalo has surrendered only three 70-yard games and three touchdowns to wideouts, ranking them in the middle of the pack in FPPG allowed. Marshall's high-ceiling means he can't be demoted, but another doleful result could be in store.|
|Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 57 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns|
|Lance Moore||WR||21||97, 75|
|Lowdown: The unforeseen rise of Sir Lancelot proves chivalry isn't dead. But, despite his valiant triumphs earlier this season and what appears to be a very friendly Week 16 matchup, he's slated to disappoint. In late November, the undrafted receiver was Drew Brees' aerial crutch. Sean Payton, who leaned heavily on Brees' arm with the Saints running game ailing, spoke highly of Moore's transformation, "I think the players and the people that study the tape certainly pay attention to who is getting the ball on third down and Lance has done a good job of being very consistent. He has strong hands in traffic and has real good athleticism. To his credit, he's a guy that really came from first base, that it didn't come real easy to." Since then, the winds of change have howled through the Big Easy. The reemergence of Marques Colston combined with Pierre Thomas' epic ascension has made Moore the forgotten man. Over the past three weeks, his targets per game average has dipped (Weeks 1-11: 7.7, Weeks 12-15: 6.7) along with his yardage and scoring output (25.7 ypg, 1 TD). Expect that trend to continue. Because teams have assaulted the Hello Kitties interior unchallenged, opponents haven't needed to throw, which explains why they've conceded only one 60-yard game and one touchdown to WRs since Week 11, equal to the second-fewest fantasy points allowed. Since Brees targets Moore often in the red-zone, benching him is not recommended, but he could compile numbers comparable to what Marvin Harrison did last week against Detroit (2 receptions, 22 yards, 0 TDs).|
|Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 36 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 16 contestant: Collin from Chicago, Ill.
Shaun Hill, SF (at StL): 30-38, 310 passing yards, 2 passing touchdown, 0 interceptions, 15 rushing yards
Jamal Lewis, Cle (vs. Cin): 22 carries, 89 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 19 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
LenDale White, Ten (vs. Pit): 8 carries, 32 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns
Lee Evans, Buf (at Den): 7 receptions, 99 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
John Carlson, Sea (vs. NYJ): 6 receptions, 95 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Trent Edwards, Buf (at Den): 21-32, 260 passing yards, 1 touchdowns, 1 interceptions, 29 rushing yards, 1 touchdown
Kurt Warner, Ari (at NE): 22-37, 255 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble lost
DeAngelo Williams, Car (at NYG): 15 carries, 72 rushing yards, 0 touchdowns
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac (vs. Ind): 13 carries, 68 rushing yards, 0 touchdowns
Andre Johnson, Hou (at Oak): 5 receptions, 66 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Tony Gonzalez, KC (vs. Mia): 4 receptions, 55 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 15 Results: Brennon, Nantucket, Mass.
Flames: 0-5, 0% (W – none; L – Seneca Wallace, Cedric Benson, Darren Sproles, Steven Breaston, Donald Lee; Daunte Culpepper (SS) - DNP)
Lames: 3-2, 60.0% (W – Chris Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall; L – Tony Romo, Michael Turner)
Noisers YTD - Flames: 41-47, 46.6%; Lames: 37-37, 50.0%; Shocker Special: 6-9, 40.0%
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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