My colleague Christopher Harris, the regular author of this column, was on a flight from Boston to Las Vegas Sunday afternoon to attend a Yahoo! Sports group off-site meeting, so I'm pinch-hitting for him this week – I don't fly out until Monday morning. So, in keeping with the Sunday Scene tradition, here's what I gleened from my television-surrounded perch in Week 9:
I strolled into the local bar-and-grill where I usually take in Sunday's NFL action and was met by a buddy of mine who immediately informed me that Willis McGahee had been killed. Of course, he wasn't really killed, and he may ultimately not even be that badly maimed, but he did get gang-tackled by some Green Bay defenders, resulting in his permanent exit from Sunday's contest because of pain in his ribs. In the NFL's twisted logic, backup Anthony Thomas, who rushed 20 times for 95 yards, would find pay dirt, something McGahee has done just twice in his past 18 regular season games.
Same buddy's dad used to drive us to baseball practice when I was a young kid in this late-model, dilapidated Cadillac that could literally fit a dining room set into its cabin area. Cadillac's are known as a smooth riding vehicle, but the suspension on this thing was shot and it would constantly bounce to and fro as it rolled down the street. I'm trying to paint this picture because it works as an image of what kind of Cadillac Carnell Williams owners have been saddled with this season. On Sunday, Williams finished with less than 50 rushing yards (39) for the fifth time in eight tries. He also finished under that mark five times last season. He's basically the running back equivalent of Santana Moss. Most of his fantasy numbers are derived from the efforts of just a few big games, although at least Moss usually has the courtesy of mixing in some touchdowns when he blows up.
I focused a lot of attention on the St. Louis/Kansas City contest – as Seahawks fans, my friend and I had a strong desire to see the Rams get served with a beat down. The first thing that jumped out at me was the Chiefs' arrogance in the running game. Rightfully so, the team has no qualms about turning to Larry Johnson in any situation. In the first half, LJ picked up 45 yards on a 3rd-and-9, and then a few series later, he took a handoff on 3rd-and-17 and picked up 16 yards. This running game is just a machine right now. I know Johnson faces some tough run defenses down the stretch, but I don't think it's really going to matter.
One thing which could cause the Chiefs' offense to hiccup would be if/when QB Trent Green re-assumes control. He's supposed to get clearance to play this week, but he's probably still at least another game away from stepping back in. Backup Damon Huard has been a model of efficiency in his place. Of his mere 15 passes thrown against the Rams, 10 were completed – three of them for touchdowns. On his first TD toss of the game, a three-yarder to TE Tony Gonzalez, Huard showed Tom Brady-like poise in getting the throw off despite the presence of a defender (who had blitzed unabated up the gut and was right in his grill). My buddy said he appeared so unphased that he looked like he was posing for his Topps card. It's going to be really hard for head coach Herman Edwards to pull the plug on a guy that now has an 11-to-1 TD to INT ratio and who is 5-2 as a starter.
Fantasy's version of Chinese water torture had to be facing Steven Jackson on Sunday in a points per reception league. Jackson hauled in a ridiculous 13 passes for 133 yards, all the while handling 19 carries for another 86 yards and a touchdown on the ground. It was the NFL's highest single-game reception total of the season, and he could have easily added another catch and another score if he would have been able to handle a softball, point-blank, dump pass from Marc Bulger at the goal line late in the game. I' m pretty sure Jackson won't be browsing for "Wish You Were Here …" postcards to send to former offensive coordinator Mike Martz after his career-high 32 touches on Sunday.
Rams No. 3 receiver Kevin Curtis scored a touchdown for the second straight week, and the third time in his past four games. But if he gets a chance to score in his third straight game next week, he'll be lucky. On the final play of Sunday's game, with the Rams losing 31-17, St. Louis must have been having delusions of a 14-point play, because QB Marc Bulger dropped back to pass and left Curtis out to dry near the sidelines. As Curtis leaped to make the grab, he was absolutely coldcocked by Kansas City's Sammy Knight. I mean, his helmet came flying off and everything. Even the movie "The Waterboy" didn't choreograph a collision like this. Curtis was taken to the hospital afterwards for observation.
Reggie Bush at Tampa Bay on Sunday: 11 carries, -5 rushing yards, four catches, 22 receiving yards. The Houston Texans probably aren't going to seek an official apology from the countless talking heads that lambasted its decision to take Mario Williams first in April's draft, but they should. Williams recorded another sack at New York on Sunday, giving the defensive end 4.5 sacks on the year. He's actually making a difference on the field for the Texans, which is more than Bush can say, save for a game-winning punt return to beat Tampa Bay in Week 5. Overall, Bush's numbers are starting to look incredibly ordinary. His yards per carry has plummeted to 2.6 for the season. He has yet to score a rushing or receiving touchdown. On Sunday, his indecisive running made him look more like a "Dancing with the Stars" contestant than the NFL's next biggest thing.
Bush may have been a shot of adrenaline for the New Orleans fan base, but QB Drew Brees is the life blood of this team. After watching him record his third-straight game with three touchdown passes, I'm fairly convinced that Brees could make a star out of any receiver around him. WR Devery Henderson got a taste of the sweet life filling in for an injured Joe Horn on Sunday. Henderson was the recipient of three Brees passes that went for a combined 111 yards, including two touchdowns. Rookie wunderkind Marques Colston added 11 catches for 123 yards and a score. In all, just another incredibly good outing from Brees.
A multitude of readers jump to the defense of Rex Grossman each week that I leave him off the fantasy football Big Board – he hasn't cracked the list yet. But outcry should dwindle this week after Grossman looked very Joey Harrington-like against the Dolphins, throwing three interceptions and completing just 18 of 42 passes for 182 yards and a TD. Frankly, Grossman hadn't faced but one good defense before Miami rolled into town. And now he's about to embark on a three-game road trip that has him face the Giants next week and New England in Week 12. For Grossman owners, the honeymoon is officially over.
Terrell Owens was at his polarizing best on Sunday, catching a third-quarter touchdown pass from Tony Romo. He then dropped to the ground in imitation of sleep, with the football propped under his head like a pillow – clearly in mockery of the hoopla that surrounded him this past week for his inability to stay awake in team meetings. But, later in the quarter, Owens dropped what would have been a sure TD of roughly 70 yards on a beautifully thrown deep ball by Romo. "I owe this one to the team," Owens said. "I let the team down. Honestly, I think it was a lack of concentration." After the celebratory mock nap, he may have been thinking too much about what he was going to do for an encore. The TD-that-wasn't cost the Cowboys the game and, well, it was the difference in my fantasy matchup as well. And as much as the guy can get my blood boiling sometimes, I'd much rather own him than not right now. The guy has been paying his fantasy bills for four straight weeks now.
Clinton Portis was the object of my frustration early on in the Dallas/Washington game. On Washington's first drive of the game, the team moved down to the Dallas 4-yard line. From there, Portis would get five carries in the team's next six plays (a penalty by Dallas helping to pad that number), but he came away empty handed, with the Redskins turning the ball over on downs after Portis' 4th-and-goal carry from the 1-yard line was stuffed. However, Portis did score a touchdown in the second quarter from 38 yards out after QB Mark Brunell faked a handoff up the middle to the fullback and then pitched to Portis on a sweep. If football awarded assists, WR Brandon Lloyd would have received credit for two on the play for clearing out two would be tacklers with one block.
Washington had the ball with a 1st-and-10 at their own 31-yard line with just a few ticks of the clock left before halftime. Dallas, guarding for an end zone bomb attempt by Brunell, was in an extreme prevent defense. Brunell ended up throwing well underneath the deep coverage to TE Chris Cooley across the middle for a meaningless 27-yard gain. As soon as the play ended, I immediately wondered how many fantasy games were decided by this innocuous Cooley reception. I'm guessing at least a few. With a few million people playing on Yahoo!, there's no such thing as a meaningless 27-yard catch.
I would have bet my O.J. Simpson signed rookie card that Ronnie Brown was going to lay an egg against Chicago. Instead he ran for a career-high 157 yards. I also thought Brandon Jacobs, facing Houston, was a shoe-in to score a TD in his fourth straight game. Instead, he gets stuffed in his one goal-line shot. And I had Hines Ward down as a dud for this week facing off against Champ Bailey. Ward would get shut down for three quarters, but he picked up 73 receiving yards in the fourth quarter (63 came on one catch) to finish with 127 yards total. Sometimes I'm curious to see how I'd do if I made my picks by throwing darts blindfolded at a list of names.
Alright, that's all I got. I'm off to Las Vegas for some "team-building."