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.
12/22/2006 08:59:00 PM
More Week 16 lineup news
Some late news of note for fantasy owners: -- Fred Taylor is indeed out with his hamstring injury. Maurice Jones-Drew is a solid play as he'll get the bulk of the carries. -- One of this year's biggest busts, Carnell Williams, likely won't play with a foot injury. The tag team of Michael Pittman and Mike Alstott would share his looks. -- The Jets' Cedric Houston may not play, giving extra touches to Leon Washington and Kevan Barlow. -- Antonio Bryant was suspended four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Bryan Gilmore probably starts in his place, but Arnaz Battle and Vernon Davis probably pick up the extra catches in Bryant's place.
Brian Westbrook has the fourth-most points in all of fantasy football but wasn't selected to the Pro Bowl.
In some ways it's strange to see the Pro Bowl rosters come out with two games left in the regular season, but from a fantasy perspective it actually seems very relevant since it's a decent indicator of the players who helped your team when it counts the most.
So let's take a look at the choices and see how they relate to this year's fantasy stats. After their name will be where they rank at their position according to the scoring used in the SI.com Experts League.
(Of course, a lot of this will be irrelevant soon enough when a bunch of these guys withdraw from the game and we're down to Kevin Faulk and Andrew Walter taking their place.)
AFC Quarterback: Peyton Manning, Colts (1); Carson Palmer, Bengals (4); Philip Rivers, Chargers (12) Top-rated snub: Tom Brady, Patriots (7) Comment: Rivers' awful Sunday night game dropped him way down the charts, probably after all the votes were counted, although Brady was still ahead before then.
NFC Quarterback: Drew Brees, Saints (2); Marc Bulger, Rams (5), Tony Romo, Cowboys (20) Top-rated snub: Michael Vick, Falcons (3) Comment: Brees was the top-rated quarterback until Sunday's loss to the Redskins. … Vick's huge game against the Cowboys likely wasn't considered when the votes were taken. The rushing stats helped catapult Vick's fantasy value, even if he is very inconsistent passing. … Donovan McNabb still ranks eighth among all quarterbacks despite missing the last four games. … If you count only the games Romo has started, his fantasy points per game (19.9) ranks slightly behind Vick (20.8) and ahead of Bulger (18.3)
AFC Running Back: LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers (1); Larry Johnson, Chiefs (3); Willie Parker, Steelers (6) Top-rated snub: None. The top three AFC running backs are represented. Comment: It's nice to see Parker get the nod as he's had a great season, save for a couple of down games. After Parker, Maurice Jones-Drew is the next AFC running back on the list as the 10th-ranked RB overall.
NFC Running Back: Steven Jackson, Rams (2); Frank Gore, 49ers (5); Tiki Barber, Giants (7) Top-rated snub: Brian Westbrook, Eagles (4) Comment: Barber has moved back up the running back list despite just two TDs this year, but it's hard to overlook Westbrook (especially in this league that gives a point per reception). Westbrook trails Larry Johnson by less than a full fantasy point (316.4-315.6) and he missed one game with injury.
AFC Wide Receiver: Reggie Wayne, Colts (1); Marvin Harrison, Colts (2); Chad Johnson, Bengals (3); Andre Johnson, Texans (7) Top-rated snub: None. The top four AFC wideouts are represented. Comments: Both Johnsons are starting although they each struggled in Week 15. Meanwhile, Wayne leads Harrison by 0.3 points for top honors among wide receivers. The numbers pan out correctly, although Laveranues Coles (9), Javon Walker (10) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (11) are not far behind.
NFC Wide Receiver: Torry Holt, Rams (5); Donald Driver, Packers (6); Steve Smith, Panthers (8); Anquan Boldin, Cardinals (17) Top-rated snub: Terrell Owens, Cowboys (4) Comment: Even with all the drops, T.O. is the top-ranked NFC wide receiver, but there are other factors as to why he didn't get the bid. Boldin was an interesting choice since Darrell Jackson (12), Marques Colston (14), Roy Williams (15) and Plaxico Burress (16) are all ahead of him.
AFC Tight End: Antonio Gates, Chargers (1); Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs (2) Top-rated snub: None Comments: Those picks seem almost automatic, but right now they're dead on, although Kellen Winslow (3) and Todd Heap (5) aren't far behind.
NFC Tight End: Jeremy Shockey, Giants (4); Alge Crumpler, Falcons (6) Top-rated snub: None Comments: Two of the usual suspects, but again, they have the numbers to back up their selections, and there's a reasonable gap between Crumpler and Chris Cooley (7) and Desmond Clark (8).
Kickers: AFC: Nate Kaeding, Chargers (4); NFC: Robbie Gould, Bears (1) Top-rated snub: Josh Scobee, Jaguars (3) Comments: Gould is running away with top kicker honors this year with a close fight among Jeff Wilkins (2), Scobee and Kaeding for second. Scobee leads Kaeding by 2.5 fantasy points.
So how many of these players are on your fantasy roster, especially those heading into the fantasy Super Bowl? In fact, for those of you playing in the finals, what does your starting roster look like? Do you have the usual suspects like LJ or LT, or surprising players such as Gore, Colston and Romo? Or are you lucky to get to the finals and are relying on a Ron Dayne or Jay Cutler to get you a championship?
Marvin Harrison lifted many teams to the fantasy title game with a season-high three touchdowns on Monday night.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Well, the Monday night game wasn't the huge overall fantasy outburst many might have expected, although Peyton Manning (286 yards, four TDs) and Marvin Harrison (8-86-3) made sure to get their owners into the championship game with some very impressive performances. And Reggie Wayne (7-84-1) had a decent game to keep many teams afloat.
Meanwhile, the Bengals stuck to the run game and though Rudi Johnson had a respectable 79 yards and a touchdowns, he couldn't gash the Colts like many other backs had so far this season. And through the air, Chad Johnson (3-37-0), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (4-45-0) and Chris Henry (no catches) indeed suffered the same fate as many other top wideouts this week as Carson Palmer was held to just 176 yards with no TDs. Thanks for nothing, guys; however, much credit should go to the Colts defense, especially Dwight Freeney, who more than doubled his season sack total with three.
But it wasn't all good news for the Colts as Joseph Addai sprained his ankle late in the game. However, Dominic Rhodes did have a few good runs late and would carry more of the load on Sunday against the Texans. And with the Colts still looking for a first-round bye or possibly the No. 1 seed in the AFC, look for Indianapolis to pull out all the stops against the Texans. Thus, Manning is a great play (he had 400 yards and three TDs in his last meeting against Houston) and Rhodes will be if Addai is limited or can't go.
As for some other items of note for those of you still alive and playing for a championship: -- Maurice Jones-Drew looks like he'll play after leaving Sunday's game early with a knee injury; however, Fred Taylor's hamstring may keep him out of the game against the Patriots. Jones-Drew is probably the better play anyway as he's scored in six straight games and has 12 total TDs this season. -- Ronnie Brown says his broken hand is getting better and would return on Christmas Day against the Jets. He ripped the Jets for 127 yards and a TD in their Week 6 meeting and would be a great start should he go. -- Michael Vick expects to play against the Panthers despite injuring his groin on Saturday night, although head coach Jim Mora isn't so sure. With fading Carolina losing Mike Rucker for the season, Vick has a solid matchup at home, but keep a close eye on the injury report throughout the week. And be sure to have a good second option on hand (or get Matt Schaub, just in case). -- Speaking of new starting quarterbacks, Tim Rattay and Tarvaris Jackson will get the starts for the Bucs and Vikings, respectively, after putting up decent numbers in relief on Sunday. Both have decent matchups against the Browns and Packers, but it's hard to put your title hopes on their shoulders. And for what it's worth, Aaron Brooks will start for the Raiders, but it's doubtful you're playing for a fantasy title if you've got any Oakland players on your starting roster. -- Jerious Norwood appears he'll return to action against the Panthers after missing the Cowboys game with a knee injury. He'd be a passable flex option after running for 66 yards on just 10 carries against Carolina in the season opener.
Finally, while we've seen the impact running backs have on fantasy teams (especially guys like LaDainian Tomlinson and Steven Jackson), do quarterbacks matter as much? Drew Brees and Carson Palmer might've sunk a number of teams this week, but did teams owning them even make it that far?
For example, here are the starting four quarterbacks in the semifinals in a few leagues I'm in: -- League 1: Chad Pennington, Jeff Garcia, Trent Green,Brett Favre -- League 2: Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Matt Leinart -- League 3: Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Michael Vick, Matt Hasselbeck
Granted, there are plenty of other factors involved. And yes Tomlinson and Jackson were part of all three leagues -- although a team with LT did lose in one of those games, but it does show that having a strong base of running backs and wideouts matters as much as a strong QB. (And I won't get into the finals of an office league one year where the starting quarterbacks were Charlie Batch and Rob Johnson.)
Peyton Manning's showdown against Carson Palmer will decide many matchups.
For many fantasy owners, Week 15 has been a major disappointment so far thanks to a slew of less than stellar (Larry Johnson, Torry Holt, Drew Brees) or downright terrible (Brett Favre, Andre Johnson, Donte Stallworth) fantasy performances from some reliable players all season long.
At least LaDainian Tomlinson, Steven Jackson, Brian Westbrook and Michael Vick put up the big numbers to keep many teams afloat. But thank goodness for Monday night where the Colts and Bengals can save many fantasy games and determine even more championship matchups with what we all hope will be a shootout.
There are plenty of combinations of matchups for tonight. So my question is: Who do you have to root for and against in tonight's game? For example, a key playoff semifinal game in one of my office leagues (a one-point game heading into Monday night) is coming down to Marvin Harrison vs. Chad Johnson. In the SI.com Experts League, one matchup (just slightly over a one-point difference) is down to Johnson vs. Chris Henry. I'm sure there are some Palmer vs. Manning matchups or something involving the running backs as well.
A couple of leftover notes from Sunday: -- While Antonio Gates (1 catch, 7 yards) had a bad night in a big spot, it wasn't a completely terrible day for tight ends (at least in relation to quarterbacks or top-flight wide receivers). Desmond Clark had the huge game with 125 yards and two TDs, but there were very passable games (relatively speaking) from solid prospects like Jeremy Shockey (8-70-0), Chris Cooley (4-80-0), L.J. Smith (4-54-2 point conversion), Kellen Winslow (5-61-0) and Vernon Davis (one TD). Of course, you'd like to see more from Tony Gonzalez (6-53-0) or Todd Heap (5-58-0), but if you needed to reach, guys like Tony Scheffler, Alex Smith, Jerramy Stevens and Courtney Anderson would've been helpful, especially in point per reception leagues.
-- While tight ends were, for the most part, passable, it was a really down Week 15 for wide receivers with only five breaking 100 yards (including Demetrius Williams and Roddy White, who probably weren't on many fantasy rosters) and only Terrell Owens catching two TD passes (with just 69 total yards).
So if you had guys like Javon Walker, Reggie Brown, Lee Evans, Braylon Edwards and Travis Taylor, who all had at least 60 yards and a TD, you might actually be in good shape. Hopefully, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry can change that tonight. Let's just hope that at least one of them can find the end zone, something top wideouts like Larry Fitzgerald, Donald Driver, Torry Holt, Steve Smith and Andre Johnson didn't (and none of them had more than 77 yards receiving).
Steven Jackson didn't need to catch any passes to put up big stats against the Raiders.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Only three games on the late afternoon schedule to set up the prime time doubleheader that will be the difference in almost all fantasy playoff matchups this week. But there were still points to be had in these games.
Even if you don't have LJ or LT, there were still points to be had from other top running backs as Steven Jackson shredded the Raiders for 127 yards and two TDs (but surprisingly no catches), while Brian Westbrook picked up a couple of scores as the Eagles turned to the running game a lot more against the Giants. It was also a nice homecoming for Mike Bell, a Phoenix native and former star at Arizona, who scored two touchdowns to burn the Cardinals.
However, the bad day for quarterbacks continued as Matt Leinart was picked off twice and threw for 240 yards (most of it in garbage time), Aaron Brooks was pulled for Andrew Walter, Marc Bulger only threw for 137 yards, and Eli Manning was picked off twice with no scores in a loss to the Eagles.
Even Jeff Garcia threw his first interception with the Eagles after 164 pass attempts, although he atoned for it with the go-ahead score late to beat the Giants. The only decent quarterback effort came from Jay Cutler, who burned Arizona for 261 yards, two TDs and a pick.
With the quarterbacks struggling, there weren't a lot of great wideout performances either. Plaxico Burress did break 100 yards, but Donte Stallworth had just one catch for five yards, and top stars like Torry Holt, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald had modest numbers at best. On the other hand, Javon Walker did put up 84 yards and a TD as he's finally finding a rhythm with Cutler.
A few leftover observations and news from the early games: -- Cedric Benson got a lot of the load late in the game, helping the Bears get in position for the game-winning field goal in overtime. Benson finished with 15 carries for 53 yards and a TD. Thomas Jones had 17 carries for 68 yards and a score. They'll both get their carries even with home-field advantage clinched. -- For the few teams it might impact, Cleveland's Jason Wright left the game with what was called a severe knee injury. That would give Reuben Droughns more looks against the Bucs next week. -- There was a Troy Williamson sighting, as he caught six passes for a team-high 74 yards, but as usual, had a couple of key drops. You don't need him at this point.
Sunday night notes -- No surprise LaDainian Tomlinson continued rewriting the record book. With eight straight games with at least two TDs, even a one-TD game would be a disappointment. And he easily outdueled Larry Johnson, who had problems getting carries early when the Chiefs were still in the game. -- The theme of disappointing quarterback play carried over into this game as Philip Rivers failed to crack 100 yards passing and was picked off twice (and Antonio Gates held to under 10 yards receiving) and Trent Green wasn't a lot better.
Brett Favre broke Dan Marino's career completions record and his Packers did beat the Lions, but his three picks burned many fantasy owners.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Let's be honest, most fantasy contests will be decided with the Sunday night and Monday night games given the personnel involved there. However, you'd like to get decent help from your players at this point in the day (like the Thursday and Saturday night games did for the most part).
Unfortunately, if you were relying on a quarterback early (since you don't have Peyton Manning or Carson Palmer going), you likely came up empty.
It starts with one of this season's surprise stars, Drew Brees, who passed for 207 yards but was held without a TD was picked off once by a Redskins defense that struggled against the pass all year.
But Brees' stats, while bad given his stature, was pretty good if you compare it to these other passing lines: -- Jon Kitna: 16-26, 135 yards, 2 INTs -- Brett Favre: 20-37, 174 yards, 3 INTs -- David Carr: 16-28, 127 yards, 4 INTs -- Joey Harrington: 5-17, 20 yards, 2 INTs -- Vince Young: 8-15, 85 yards (only 4 yards rushing)
Steve McNair could also belong here with 0 yards passing with four incompletions, but he left in the first quarter after getting his hand stepped on. Kyle Boller stepped in to pass for 238 yards and two TDs plus a pick.
Another perpetually injured star, Fred Taylor, also left at a bad time, injuring his hamstring in the first quarter of the Titans game. Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 98 yards and a score as he got full-time work before he too got hurt on a long run late in the game.
Other notes of interest from the early Sunday games: -- The Jaguars may like David Garrard at quarterback, but he makes too many mistakes with too few yards for fantasy purposes. And this time he accounted for three Tennessee defensive touchdowns with his miscues. On the other hand, he did get Reggie Williams decent stats for the first time in weeks. -- Could there be some QB controversies on the horizon as Tarvaris Jackson stepped in for Brad Johnson and threw a TD for the Vikings, and Tim Rattay replaced Bruce Gradkowski threw three TD passes against the Bears? A bunch of other backups came in for mop-up duty as well (Cleo Lemon, Charlie Batch, Matt Cassel, Brett Basanez). -- Who would've figured two of the top games from quarterbacks early on would come from Chad Pennington and J.P. Losman? Pennington took a page out of Tom Brady's playbook in killing the Vikings with short passes with the occasional longball, while Losman somehow pulls out nice games from nowhere. -- Make it four straight 100-yard games for Ladell Betts. It will be interesting how the Redskins use him and Clinton Portis next season because Betts is proving he can carry the load. -- The Jets' Cedric Houston ran for 53 yards and a TD -- mediocre numbers for fantasy purposes, but an accomplishment against a tough Vikings defense. -- There was plenty of offensive firepower available in the Lions-Packers game, but when the two quarterbacks combine for five interceptions, it was a miserable game to watch if you wanted anything from any of those players. -- Tom Brady threw two TD passes but had just 109 yards passing and 187 over the past two weeks (Pennington broke 200 yards in the first half against the Vikings, in contrast). And Kevin Faulk just seems to get his share of TDs every year (two against the Texans) despite never even being an afterthought on most fantasy teams. -- Carr's struggles have really rubbed off on Andre Johnson, who did get five catches but for only 28 yards. Roy Williams also suffered from Kitna's woes, getting just one catch for 11 yards; and somehow Mike Williams got three catches for 42. -- It took a while, but Rex Grossman finally got first his 300-yard game of the season, although it took overtime for him to get there. -- The one bright spot in Houston in the rejuvenation of Ron Dayne, who ran for 94 yards with a TD against the Patriots.
Marion Barber bounced back from a nonexistent game against the Saints to score two late TDs against the Falcons.
Paul Abell/US PRESSWIRE
First off, a rundown on players that will and won't be starting for a critical Week 15: -- Ben Watson and Laurence Maroney are both out for the Patriots, meaning Daniel Graham and Corey Dillon will see more action. They each have a nice matchup against the Texans. -- Travis Henry will play for the Titans, although tight end Bo Scaife is out. Ben Hartsock could see action for the Titans but he's not a great play. -- Thomas Jones and Muhsin Muhammad are both active, so feel free to use them against the Bucs. -- Marcus Robinson, arguably the best receiving option in Minnesota, is out with an ankle injury. That's bad news for Brad Johnson.
Now some early thoughts from the first two games of the week: -- Frank Gore has moved himself into the first round of fantasy drafts next year. The question is where does he sit in the pecking order, assuming LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson probably go 1-2? -- On the other hand, what about Shaun Alexander, who hasn't looked good since his 200-yard game against the Packers? Or for that matter Marion Barber, who now has a whopping 15 total touchdowns despite not being the starter in Dallas? -- D.J. Hackett has emerged as the top target for the now iffy Matt Hasselbeck. Something to keep in mind with Darrell Jackson possibly not playing in Week 16 either. -- Michael Vick had another one of those big games fantasy owners hope for (four TDs, 86 yards rushing); unfortunately his inconsistent play makes him such a maddening player to project. It's a good guess that roughly less than half of his fantasy owners could take advantage of his big Saturday night in the playoffs. And right now Vick's status for next week is up in the air after leaving with a groin injury late in the game. -- So Terrell Owens' struggles with drops could be due to torn ligaments in his finger? T.O. still produces despite the drops, although there is thought of what might've been. It will be interesting to see what punishment he gets for spitting on DeAngelo Hall, although he already had his way with him by burning Hall for two TDs. -- Warrick Dunn did start for the Falcons, but once again it was Justin Griffith who came up big with two receiving TDs, which is where he is usually most dangerous anyway. Still, Griffith might have played out his fantasy usefulness.