Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
11/29/2006 03:48:00 PM
Better late than never?
Larry Fitzgerald burned his hometown Vikings for 11 catches and 176 yards on Sunday.
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We're heading right into the teeth of the playoffs, and while my colleague David Sabino has targeted 10 pretty deep sleepers (save DeAngelo Williams) to pick up to bolster your roster, some of your best bets may come from disappointing players who are on their way back at just the right time.
If you were lucky, you withstood the negative impact these highly-drafted guys made early on and found your way in the playoffs. Now it's time to take everyone by surprise and win it all.
Among the 2006 disappointments who are ready to bust out when you might need it the most include:
-- Shaun Alexander: I already mentioned this yesterday, but it bears repeating especially after the 201-yard game on Monday night. Denver is a tough test this week, but the Cardinals and 49ers loom after that. Plus, Alexander has been known to put up huge stats at the end of the season - sometimes too late to help out fantasy teams.
-- Matt Hasselbeck: Reports of a broken finger have me concerned a bit, but like Alexander, he missed plenty of time with an injury and hopes to come up big to lead Seattle back to the playoffs. He does have the weapons to boost his numbers late.
-- Larry Fitzgerald: The hamstring injury appears to be behind him, and after Matt Leinart went nuts last week, you've got to think Fitzgerald will be on the receiving end on a ton of those catches. There are some iffy games with Denver and Seattle down the line, but he's a player who shouldn't be too concerned with matchups. Looking at that schedule, it's best to think Fitzgerald will do something, as opposed to super-best Edgerrin James (although he has a decent matchup this week).
-- Jake Delhomme: I can never figure him out. He's got Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson to throw to, plus a decent running game behind him, and yet he yo-yos from week to week. However, he could be a guy to put up big stats down the stretch with games against the downward-trending Eagles, Giants, Steelers and Falcons.
-- Marvin Harrison: A handful of down weeks has me wondering what's wrong with Harrison. But you know that he still has a few big games under his belt down the stretch -- a 125-yard, two-TD outburst that could put you over the top in the right game.
Who are some of your best bets to come up big down the stretch, especially from guys you might not expect?
Shaun Alexander made up for lost time by rushing for league-high 40 carries and 201 yards through the snow in Seattle.
Ott Greule Jr./Getty Images
LaDainian Tomlinson had a brief slump early in the season before scoring 21 touchdowns in seven games. Larry Johnson didn't score in his first two games and had 26-yard and a 36-yard rushing days under his belt, but he has now scored in nine straight games. Shaun Alexander got off to a relatively slow start, missed six games with a broken foot and shook off the rust with 37 yards last week. But now the third member of the preseason fantasy triumvirate seems to be back after gashing the Packers for 201 yards on a whopping 40 carries.
Obviously, Alexander is one of the bigger fantasy busts this season because of the injury, but if you were able to stay in the race (like the Seahawks have), you might be able to squeeze out a playoff berth and a decent run once you're there. Alexander has Denver next Sunday night, and they just got burned by Johnson on Thanksgiving night. After that, he's got the Cardinals and the 49ers, who can both be run on, although a battle with the Chargers in Week 16 should prove to be a challenge.
And speaking of shaking off the rust, Matt Hasselbeck was miserable in the first half of his return to action, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble that was returned for a Green Bay score, but bounced back with three second-half TD passes to salvage his day (although a couple of the scores were short tosses near the goal line -- right in the area where Alexander usually gets his TDs).
As for other notes from the Monday night Seattle snow bowl: -- Brett Favre has just 10 interceptions this year, but they come in bunches, like the season-high three he had in a desperate second-half comeback attempt. He's only thrown picks in five games, but in four of them, he's had at least two. Still, Favre finished with 266 yards as he was forced to throw late and he did connect with Donald Driver on a score. -- Ahman Green did have a TD but was held to just 44 yards on 14 carries as the Seahawks seemed to find their run defense once again. However, Green added 46 more receiving yards. -- Seattle's receivers weren't the sharpest, and somehow D.J. Hackett led the team with five catches for 67 yards and a TD.
And for some more early lineup news for Week 13: -- The Cowboys nearly cut Mike Vanderjagt in training camp, and now they did the deed on Monday after a very spotty season. He was replaced by Martin Gramatica, who filled in for Adam Vinatieri earlier this season, although his best days are well behind him. Still, Gramatica isn't a terrible option, given the Cowboys improving offense. Still, Vanderjagt and to a lesser extent Neil Rackers prove why you shouldn't reach for kickers at your draft. -- Hines Ward had knee surgery and will be out at least this weekend. That should open the door for rookie Santonio Holmes to get the start. Holmes has quietly put up decent stats this year (32 catches, 486 yards, 1 TD), although he lags way behind Marques Colston and even Greg Jennings in terms of rookie impact. However, he could be a decent play against the Bucs. -- Kevin Jones practiced on Monday and is expected to return to the lineup this weekend against the Patriots. Jones missed the Thanksgiving game with an ankle injury, and the short week leading up to it definitely reduced his chances of playing. But the extra days of rest got him back in order.
Matt Leinart threw for 405 yards with a TD against the Vikings but lost.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Leftover fantasy thoughts and injury updates after a strange Week 12 where three of the top fantasy performers this week were two rookies and a guy who hadn't seen any regular season playing time until this season:
-- Joseph Addai still isn't starting for the Colts (that honor goes to Dominic Rhodes), but he might as well be after burning the Eagles with a career night on the Sunday night stage. Addai has vaulted himself way up the running back rankings with the big game and is now the top rookie back. What's interesting is that while Reggie Bush was drafted very high, despite the fact he was sharing time with Deuce McAllister, Bush is now being outproduced by Addai and Maurice Jones-Drew, who are also in committee situations. However, both Addai and Jones-Drew have eight total TDs this season, compared to Bush's one from scrimmage.
-- Speaking of rookies, it was encouraging to see the big numbers from both Vince Young and Matt Leinart on Sunday. Young turned in an impressive comeback against the Giants, even if Tom Coughlin's guys seemed to give the game away in the fourth quarter. And he did it with a patchwork of receivers like Bobby Wade and Brandon Jones.
Meanwhile, Leinart turned in his first 400-yard game as the Cardinals stole a page from the Patriots' playbook in throwing and throwing some more against the Vikings. When you can get Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin the ball 20 times combined, you'll be in good shape. Of course, it'd be nice to have a running game to back him up.
-- Continuing on the rookie quarterback theme, Jay Cutler will indeed start in place of Jake Plummer on Sunday against the Seahawks. Plummer has been average at best all year for fantasy owners, so he won't be missed from that standpoint. However, Javon Walker's value has to take a dip as Cutler gets used to playing in a NFL game and may not find his standout receiver as often as he'd like. Rookie quarterbacks can be very inconsistent from week to week as Young and Leinart (as well as Bruce Gradkowski) have shown this season. While the Broncos may hope to ride Cutler to the playoffs, you're better off looking elsewhere to help your fantasy playoff chances.
-- The wide receiver position continues to be the most fickle in fantasy football when it comes to the top stars. Chad Johnson has 573 yards and five TDs in his last three games. In the eight games before then, he had 483 yards and just two scores with no 100-yard games in the mix.
For a while, both Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt were this year's top wideouts. However, both are in a major slump. In the five weeks since the Rams' bye, Holt has 26 catches for 269 yards and no scores. Before then, he had 37 catches for 526 yards and seven TDs in six games.
Harrison was held to just one catch for eight yards on Sunday (and had Lito Sheppard steal the ball from him for an interception), and two weeks ago had just two catches for 21 yards. Even in the Cowboys game where he had six catches for 94 yards, he had a key fumble. Both are still top wideouts, but it's disconcerting to see such bad games with fantasy playoff berths on the line.
As for injury updates: -- Tatum Bell appears ready to return from a toe injury that has kept him out the last two games. Denver's running game is so up-and-down that it's hard to figure out what to expect from him or Mike Bell on a week-to-week basis. -- Hines Ward aggravated his knee injury against the Ravens, so once again he's an iffy play this week even against the Bucs. -- Frank Gore is still undergoing tests on his leg injury, although it may not be an ankle injury as earlier thought. -- Chris Perry is out for the season with a broken leg. Kenny Watson replaces him as Rudi Johnson's primary backup.
And for the question of the day: After seeing Joseph Addai go for more than 200 total yards and four TDs, what is your most surprising big fantasy performance you got out of one single player this season? As good as LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson or Peyton Manning are, you can't be totally surprised with the huge games they can put up, but Addai? You couldn't see that coming.
Vince Young's comeback effort could remind some of his Rose Bowl performance.
Charles Small/US PRESSWIRE
These late games weren't necessarily the prettiest to begin with, but they did provide a bunch of close finishes to keep people interested even if they weren't counting every single yard for your fantasy team.
First off, a couple of injury notes from the early games: -- Frank Gore injured his ankle late in the game against the Rams. -- Chris Perry appears to be done for the year after injuring his ankle against the Browns.
Giants-Titans: It looked like the Rose Bowl all over again as Vince Young ran wild and threw key passes to score 24 fourth-quarter points to stun the Giants 24-21. Young finished with 249 passing yards and two TDs with 69 rushing yards - both career-highs. … Young stepped up because Travis Henry ran for just 27 yards. However, Young got plenty of help from Bobby Wade (6-83-0) and Bo Scaife, who caught his second TD pass of the season. … Tiki Barber did break 1,000 rushing yards for the season with 82 here, but Brandon Jacobs scored two more TDs. … Eli Manning threw an early TD pass but two picks to Pacman Jones, including one in the final 30 seconds to set up the winning field goal. Manning continues his major slump.
Raiders-Chargers: Once again, San Diego was spotty early before turning it up in the fourth quarter. Oakland's underrated pass defense stymied Philip Rivers all day (just 133 yards and a pick) and kept LaDainian Tomlinson in check until late in the game. Then LT threw his sixth career TD pass and ran for the winning score not too long after. Not counting the scoring pass, Tomlinson now has 24 TDs this season. … Antonio Gates got back on the TD board thanks to Tomlinson and finished with six catches for 81 yards. … Aaron Brooks passed for 187 yards with a TD to rookie John Madsen and two picks. … Oakland's running game was non-existent -- Justin Fargas led the way with 32 yards. … Vincent Jackson had a confusing play where he was flagged for an illegal forward pass after spiking the ball when celebrating a fourth-down catch.
Bears-Patriots: Defense ruled this game with nine combined turnovers, including three interceptions by Asante Samuel on Rex Grossman, who had another one of "those games," although he had a bunch of passing yards wiped out on pass interference penalties. … Tom Brady did throw for 269 yards but was picked twice himself. Brady made good use of Ben Watson again (6-89-1). … Reche Caldwell had 57 yards and a couple of key catches late. … Laurence Maroney scored a TD and had 78 total yards (33 rushing, 45 receiving), while Corey Dillon ran for 40 but also fumbled late that gave the Bears one more chance. … Thomas Jones led the Bears with 99 yards rushing, but Cedric Benson looked decent in limited action and scored Chicago's only TD. … Bernard Berrian got himself back in the books with five catches for 104 yards. ... Robbie Gould missed his first field goal of the season thanks to a Richard Seymour block. Eagles-Colts: Joseph Addai was emphatic with his first career 100-yard game, ripping the Eagles for 171 yards and four scores, plus 37 more through the air. His counterpart Brian Westbrook wasn't shabby either with 170 total yards (124 rushing -- his third straight 100-yard game) and a score. ... Peyton Manning didn't have to do much with Addai running wild, so he finished with just 183 yards, a TD and a pick. He connected with Reggie Wayne for a score, but Marvin Harrison had just one catch for eight yards as he's in a bit of a fantasy slump. Manning also lost Dallas Clark early to a knee injury. ... Jeff Garcia was so-so in his first start for the Eagles, throwing for 140 yards and two scores to L.J. Smith and Reggie Brown. ... Donte Stallworth was held to just two catches for nine yards.
Michael Vick ran for 166 yards, but only passed for 84.
Doug Benc/Getty Images
While there were a handful of decent performances early Sunday (especially from top running backs), there were some head-scratchers, like Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger. And with Larry Johnson and Tony Romo already playing, and LaDainian Tomlinson not playing until later, there wasn't really any one dynamite effort that could get your team way ahead of the game.
Saints-Falcons: Michael Vick ran for 166 yards, but thanks to a ton of drops, passed for just 84 yards -- 43 on one play to Alge Crumpler. … Drew Brees put up his fifth straight 300-yard game despite not having Marques Colston in the lineup. Instead, Devery Henderson was huge again, catching four passes for 158 yards and a TD. … Reggie Bush was quiet (49 total yards), but Deuce McAllister ran for 70 yards and two scores. … Warrick Dunn scored his fourth TD of the year.
Bengals-Browns: The Bengals made Charlie Frye's day a living hell by picking him off four times. Cleveland didn't have much of a running game to back him up with Jerome Harrison, Jason Wright and Reuben Droughns combining for 34 yards. … Chad Johnson put up his third straight 100-yard game, but this time T.J. Houshmandzadeh had a TD catch while Chris Henry picked up two more scores. … Rudi Johnson has a great history against the Browns but he had just 64 yards with a TD. … Carson Palmer went for 275 yards and his third straight three-TD game.
49ers-Rams: Both running backs had great games as Frank Gore had 168 total yards (134 rush, 31 receiving) and a score, while Steven Jackson topped that with 192 (121, 71) and a score. Jackson had nine catches, helping his totals in PPR leagues … Marc Bulger saved his fantasy day by going 9-for-9 for 66 yards on the final drive, including the winning TD to Kevin Curtis. … Torry Holt's slump continues as he was held to just 30 yards on four catches. … Vernon Davis had one catch for 11 yards, his first stats in weeks, while Eric Johnson caught Alex Smith's only TD pass.
Cardinals-Vikings: Brad Johnson played his best game in weeks, throwing for 271 yards and three TDs. Getting Marcus Robinson (7-82-1) back into the groove really helped matters. … Chester Taylor ran for 136 yards and a TD but a fumble at the 1 was returned 99 yards for an Arizona TD. … Arizona didn't even bother to run, with Edgerrin James getting just four carries for 15 yards. … Instead, Matt Leinart passed for a career-high 405 yards but had just one TD and was picked off twice, including a Hail Mary attempt as time expired. … Minnesota native Larry Fitzgerald had a season-high 11 catches for 172 yards, while Anquan Boldin went for 140 yards and a TD on nine catches. … The Cardinals had two returns for scores -- the fumble return and J.J. Arrington on the opening kickoff.
Texans-Jets: Great passing games for David Carr (321 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and Chad Pennington (286 yards, 1 TD), but that's because both running games were non-existent. … Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery both went for 100 yards, with Coles getting the TD catch. … Andre Johnson broke out of his mini-slump with 10 catches for 98 yards and a TD, mostly while Houston was playing catch-up. Eric Moulds also had 10 catches for 79 yards. … Wali Lundy was held to just 11 yards rushing but had eight catches for 68 yards. … Cedric Houston ran for a Jets score but finished with just 13 yards. Leon Washington led the Jets with 17 yards rushing. … Mike Nugent tied a career high with four field goals.
Jaguars-Bills: Willis McGahee returned to the lineup and scored two TDs, but Roscoe Parrish provided the big plays with a punt return for a score and a long catch to set up Rian Lindell's winning field goal. … Lee Evans had five catches for 58 yards as the encore to his 265-yard game. … While David Garrard did throw two short TD passes, the air attack is still shaky with just 51 passing yards by the receivers, led by Reggie Williams' 31, although Matt Jones did have a score. … Jacksonville's ground attack is solid, as Fred Taylor ran for 101 yards, while Maurice Jones-Drew had 125 combined yards with a TD.
Steelers-Ravens: Once again, Ben Roethlisberger turned in a stinker with three total turnovers, including a fumble returned for a TD. … Baltimore's defense recorded nine sacks and held Willie Parker to just 22 yards en route to a shutout. … That strong defensive outing was more than enough as Steve McNair (140 yards and a TD to Todd Heap) and Jamal Lewis (66 yards and a TD) were passable. … Not a great day for wideouts with Derrick Mason going for just 43 yards, Hines Ward for 33 and Mark Clayton for 31.
Panthers-Redskins: Jason Campbell has thrown four TD passes in his first two NFL starts, and he's clicking with Chris Cooley as they connected on a 66-yard TD late in the fourth quarter. … Ladell Betts bounced back by running for 104 yards. … Jake Delhomme's massively inconsistent season continues as he passed for just 168 yards and a TD but two picks, including one late. … Steve Smith did have a TD but was held to just 34 yards receiving. … DeAngelo Williams ran for 63 yards in place of the injured DeShaun Foster. … Santana Moss returned, but was held to just three catches for 12 yards.
A number of big names are inactive and a bunch more are on their way back this week as you try to adjust your lineups.
-- Marques Colston is inactive this week with an ankle injury. Expect Devery Henderson and Terrance Copper to get extra looks along side Joe Horn.
-- DeShaun Foster’s elbow injury keeps him out today, so rookie DeAngelo Williams gets the start and could be a solid play against the Redskins, who allowed Carnell Williams to run for 100 yards last week.
-- Willis McGahee will return from a rib injury for the Bills, although he has a tough matchup against the Jaguars. Anthony Thomas will be waiting to get some carries if needed.
-- Santana Moss is back for the Redskins after missing last week with a hamstring injury. However, he’s not a great bet against an improving Panthers defense.
-- Reuben Droughns will return for the Browns this week, although it’s likely he’ll split carries with Jason Wright and maybe Jerome Harrison.
-- Hines Ward will play despite suffering from a knee injury.
-- And to provide a couple of updates from the Thursday games: Ronnie Brown broke his hand and had surgery. It’s likely he’ll miss a couple of weeks. Sammy Morris should pick up more carries in his place. Also, there’s a good chance Jay Cutler replaces Jake Plummer as the Broncos starting quarterback next week.