Archive for December, 2008

Playoff Cheat Sheet

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Quarterbacks

1. Peyton Manning
2. Jake Delhomme
3. Ben Roethlisberger
4. Philip Rivers
5. Eli Manning
6. Donovan McNabb
7. Kurt Warner

8. Joe Flacco
9. Matt Ryan
10. Kerry Collins
11. Tarvaris Jackson
12. Chad Pennington

Running Backs

1. DeAngelo Williams
2. Brian Westbrook
3. Michael Turner
4. Brandon Jacobs
5. Chris Johnson
6. Adrian Peterson
7. Joseph Addai
8. Le’Ron McClain

9. Willie Parker
10. Jonathan Stewart
11. Derrick Ward
12. Darren Sproles
13. LaDainian Tomlinson
14. Dominic Rhodes
15. Edgerrin James
16. Ronnie Brown
17. LenDale White

18. Jerious Norwood
19. Ray Rice
20. Chester Taylor
21. Ricky Williams
22. Willis McGahee
23. Tim Hightower
24. Correll Buckhalter
25. Mewelde Moore
26. Ahmad Bradshaw

Wide Receivers

1. Steve Smith
2. Reggie Wayne
3. Larry Fitzgerald
4. Anquan Boldin
5. Roddy White
6. Hines Ward
7. Santonio Holmes
8. Vincent Jackson
9. Domenik Hixon
10. Derrick Mason

11. DeSean Jackson
12. Muhsin Muhammad
13. Bernard Berrian
14. Marvin Harrison
15. Anthony Gonzalez
16. Michael Jenkins
17. Kevin Curtis
18. Chris Chambers
19. Steve Breaston
20. Justin Gage

21. Nate Washington
22. Steve Smith
23. Davone Bess
24. Mark Clayton
25. Bobby Wade

Tight Ends

1. Dallas Clark
2. Antonio Gates

3. Visanthe Shiancoe
4. Heath Miller
5. Kevin Boss

6. Todd Heap
7. Anthony Fasano
8. Brent Celek
9. Bo Scaife
10. David Martin
11. Jeff King
12. Gijon Robinson
13. Alge Crumpler
14. L.J. Smith
15. Leonard Pope

Kickers

1. John Kasay
2. Jeff Reed
3. Matt Stover
4. John Carney
5. Rob Bironas
6. David Akers

7. Adam Vinatieri
8. Nate Kaeding
9. Neil Rackers
10. Jason Elam
11. Ryan Longwell
12. Dan Carpenter

Defenses

1. Steelers
2. Ravens
3. Panthers
4. Titans
5. Giants
6. Eagles

7. Colts
8. Chargers
9. Vikings
10. Cardinals
11. Dolphins
12. Falcons

The Scoop

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Kudos to the Rams for continuing to play hard. After a huge Week 17, it will be more tempting to select Steven Jackson early in 2009, but I’d avoid him if it takes a top-10 pick…Surprising to see Jerious Norwood caught from behind. He’s definitely one of the fastest players in the league…I can’t remember a year with more worthy candidates for Coach of the Year. Mike Smith is on that list…Over the last four games, Matt Ryan has posted a 3:5 TD:INT ratio. That still came with a strong 8.1 YPA, but he’s fading just a bit. His YPA dropped from 9.3 at home to 6.8 on the road this year, so Atlanta beating Arizona this week is far from a sure thing…Michael Turner is one of my favorite running backs in the league, but any prospective 2009 fantasy owners better hope for an early playoff exit. He’s fast approaching 400 carries, making him a big risk next season.

That wind was insane in the Pats/Bills game. Stephen Gostkowski’s miss should not count against him. More than rain, sleet and snow, wind affects a football game the most…New England can’t complain too much about missing the playoffs despite an 11-5 record since they lost to the Chargers 30-10 this year, but this is a team capable of winning the Super Bowl if given the chance…Fred Jackson continues to impress. His 136-yard (5.0 YPC) rushing effort was even more notable when you consider New England was gearing up to stop the run in those conditions.

Quietly, the Bengals played fantastic defense over the last three weeks of the year…How about Cedric Benson? Unbelievable…Do yourself a favor. Avoid the Larry Johnson headache next year…Tyler Thigpen is fun to watch, but a 6.2 YPA mark strongly suggests Kansas City needs to continue its search for the quarterback of the future.

I’d be shocked if Calvin Johnson isn’t a top-15 pick next year. If only Detroit could find a QB who even approaches mediocrity…Actually, Kevin Smith won’t be drafted too far after Johnson, as he really showed something over the second half of the year…The Lions recorded one interception by their secondary all season long. That isn’t very good…Mason Crosby has quite the leg.

Matt Forte wore down toward the end of the year, averaging just 3.3 YPC in December, but it’s rare for a rookie to show so much ability as a three-down back. Now, if only Chicago could find a quarterback…I’ll have a hard time deciding who to rank higher in 2009 – Calvin Johnson or Andre Johnson?…Hopefully all those missed games knocks Matt Schaub down fantasy lists next year. I can’t kick the habit with him…The Texans won a challenge for the first time all season in Week 17.

Do you realize the Colts’ six passing TDs allowed this season are the fewest in NFL history? That’s impressive…Vince Young did not look very good during his action last week. His future is a big question mark.

Eli Manning hasn’t thrown for 200 yards in any of his last four games. He also has just two touchdowns over that span. He has been known to step it up during the postseason, but Manning is really missing weapons on offense…Adrian Peterson’s fumbling problem has become an epidemic. He better avoid it this weekend, as I actually think Minny has a better chance at beating the Eagles than most do…Tarvaris Jackson’s interception at the goal line was brutal, but he’s gotten 8.3 YPA with an 8:1 TD:INT ratio over four games since returning. It’s come against easy competition, and Jim Johnson may very well make him look silly this week, but those are some impressive numbers.

What a game that Panthers/Saints matchup was. Steve Smith is unreal. DeAngelo Williams is out of control. And there was even a D.J. Hackett sighting…Did Lance Moore really finish the season with double-digit touchdowns?…Drew Brees had the 16 yards needed to break Dan Marino’s record on his last throw of the game; he just missed a wide open target. And maybe Carolina wanted to see him break the mark. That’s the only explanation for calling a timeout with a full 7 seconds left before the game-winning kick.

Bruce Gradkowski got 1.1 YPA on Sunday. Wow…I won’t kill Mike Tomlin for having Ben Roethlisberger in when he got hurt (Eli Manning was playing during the exact same situation in Minnesota at the same time), but that would have been devastating. The bye is huge, but don’t underestimate the effects of yet another concussion suffered by Roethlisberger…Toward the end of the first half, the Steelers made a big mistake by spiking the ball inside the 10-yard line with 45 seconds left after getting a first down. Teams make this blunder all the time (Oakland did the exact same thing last week). So after a quick incomplete pass, Pittsburgh only had 40 seconds for their third down play. Just 40! Better hurry it up and avoid the 38 step drop. Horrible clock management (although they did score a TD nevertheless)…That wasn’t even my favorite horrible coaching decision of the game, however, as Cleveland won the coin toss – and deferred to kick. Normally, I’m all for this, but in a game when the Steelers’ starters are only slated to play a half at most, wouldn’t it make more sense to give them the ball when their backups are in? This isn’t brain surgery. Adios, Romeo Crennel.

What a tough break for Carnell Williams. Just brutal to even watch…Not sure what happened to Tampa Bay, but I for one will not be missing them in the playoffs…Call me crazy, but maybe Michael Bush shouldn’t move to fullback. What a performance. Justin Fargas runs hard, but he’s the team’s third best option at running back. Hopefully a new regime understands that…Don’t look now, but JaMarcus Russell got 7.5 YPA over the second half of the season, including multiple TD passes in each of his final three contests. There might be hope after all. Now, go get him some receivers.

Jacksonville has a lot of work to do this offseason, starting with better decision making from the front office. I won’t stand for the talented Maurice Jones-Drew being stuck in mediocrity…I wouldn’t be too surprised if Baltimore made a deep playoff run. Then again, little would surprise me this postseason.

Miami ended the season with the fewest amount of turnovers (13) in the history of the NFL…Whomever the Jets hire, he better understand how to properly utilize Leon Washington….A couple of those Brett Favre interceptions were just plain unconscionable. In a season that looked so promising after Week 12 (8-3 and just beat the Titans 34-13), the Jets could not have finished worse. Favre may very well have ended his career with an NFL-high 22 interceptions and a 2:9 TD:INT ratio over his last five games. And he made the Pro Bowl over Philip Rivers!

What a fitting end to the Cowboys’ season. The good Tony Romo is one of the best players in the league, but all those turnovers knock him down quite a few pegs. No way Peyton Manning blindly ignores oncoming rushers like that. He really needs to put ball security at the top of his list of things he needs to improve this offseason…It’s hilarious that Dallas is keeping Coach Cupcake. Things are going to get worse before they get better in Big D…Maybe it’s just the “Hard Knocks” jinx, as none of the four teams that have been featured on HBO’s preseason series have made the playoffs that year…Philadelphia’s defense is legit, and the team has serious potential to go deep into the playoffs. However, Donovan McNabb has gotten just 6.4 YPA with an 8:8 TD:INT ratio on the road this year (he has a 15:3 TD:INT ratio at home), so he’ll need to play better away from home in order for it to happen.

Maybe paying Julius Jones starter’s money was a mistake, after all…Edgerrin James made Tim Hightower look even worse last week. What a huge disappointment the rookie has been. Arizona still needs to address the running back position during the offseason.

If the 49ers wouldn’t have absolutely blown Week 10’s end-game situation, they’d have finished with the same record as the division winning Cardinals. Now that is crazy…I wouldn’t touch Clinton Portis with a 10 foot pole in fantasy leagues next year. He averaged 2.9 YPC over his last five games, failing to record one single run for more than 15 yards…Still not sure what Mike Martz did wrong…Player A (who made the Pro Bowl): 1,705 yards, 4.3 YPC, nine TDs. Player B (who did not make the Pro Bowl): 1,636 yards, 5.5 YPC, 20 TDs. Maybe voting should be done just a little later in the season.

To me, the best thing about LaDainian Tomlinson’s big Week 17 is the increased likelihood of others reaching for him in next year’s drafts. Actually, his final numbers were rock solid in 2008 – but all signs point to future decline. It’s tough being successful with a 3.8 YPC mark. I say Darren Sproles is a bigger factor Saturday against the Colts, which is easily the game of the week…Let me personally thank Brandon Marshall for tripping over his own feet last Sunday, ruining a would be 40-yard touchdown and losing my Randy Moss bet in the process. I would blame his hand being numb all year long, but since Moss lost Tom Brady 10 minutes into the year, the fact it was even close means I deserved to lose…Mike Shanahan has made plenty of poor personnel decisions, so his firing makes more sense if he refused to relinquish that responsibility, which is likely. Still, there’s little doubt the Broncos have significantly downgraded at head coach with the move. With perhaps the worst running back corps in the NFL, the Broncos still finished the year with the second highest YPC mark in the league (4.8) – the same as the Panthers! Moreover, the passing attack has about as much upside as any in the league as well. The man knows how to build an offense. It was the one true shocking firing, and the team will suffer as a result.

Top-5 Under The Radar Songs By Bands Otherwise Famous

1. “The Hexx” by Pavement
2. “Lurgee” by Radiohead
3. “No Leaf Clover” by Metallica
4. “Thirty Three” by Smashing Pumpkins
5. “Dissident” by Pearl Jam

Bet on It

Friday, December 26th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went a horrific 3-13, bringing my season total to 121-112-7. At least the Giants luckily covered, bringing my best bet record to 10-4-2. A season ATS I could be proud of all of a sudden looks less impressive, so I really need to bounce back in a big way during the final week. As if picking ATS isn’t tough enough, Week 17 gives us the added challenge of trying to predict playing time, giving more uncertainty than ever. As a result, I went with more dogs (11) than usual. As much as the Chargers easily beating the Broncos seems like a foregone conclusion, that’s a lot of points to give by a mediocre San Diego team. Also, while Sunday’s game means more to the Bears, they are traveling during a short week, and Houston is tough at home and will be focused to finish the season strong after laying an egg last week. Back the Texans.

Rams +14.5 at Falcons

Patriots -7 at Bills

Chiefs +3 at Bengals

Lions +10 at Packers

Bears +2.5 at Texans (best bet)

Titans -3 at Colts

Giants +6.5 at Vikings

Panthers -3 at Saints

Browns +10.5 at Steelers

Raiders +14 at Buccaneers

Jaguars +12.5 at Ravens

Dolphins +2.5 at Jets

Cowboys +1.5 at Eagles

Seahawks +6 at Cardinals

Redskins +3 at 49ers

Broncos +9 at Chargers

The Scoop

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Going 1-5 in six championship games and an ugly 3-13 ATS this week, I’m calling 12/21/2008 “Black Sunday” in the course of history. Actually, I had fun on the day, tailgating at the Raiders game with my buddies, rain and all. And let me tell you, some classy individuals showed up at McAfee Coliseum on Sunday, and since I actually didn’t watch most of Week 16’s carnage, it’s almost as if it didn’t truly happen, and assuredly, outcomes would have been different had I willed my teams with my own two eyes. Of course, the results did in fact occur, and in hindsight, I couldn’t have picked a better Sunday to leave the TV behind. Alas, I must move on with life, so after two days digesting as much “Short Cuts” (best invention in the history of mankind?) as humanly possible, let’s go over the Week 16 action:

The Colts had no business winning that Thursday night game. Then again, the same could be said about five other Indy wins this season. At some point, it’s obviously more than just luck, but some of that good fortune may have run out, as the team clearly preferred traveling to Denver than the now more likely scenario of going to San Diego…I’ve resigned the fact Peyton Manning is going to win the MVP, but I must admit, that was an awesome performance last week…If the Jags cut ties with Fred Taylor and bring in little competition in their backfield, I’ll have Maurice Jones-Drew ranked as the No. 2 fantasy back. There are less than a handful of backs who get most of the carries between the 20s, catch passes and also dominate at the goal line, and none of them are as talented as MJD. It would help if Jacksonville improved as a team, but right now I’m closer to putting Jones-Drew No. 1 than I am moving him lower.

You won’t find a bigger Marion Barber fan than me – possibly the toughest RB to tackle in the NFL. However, his lack of long speed is apparent and hurts his overall upside quite a bit. Even a healthy Barber would deserve losing touches to the exciting Tashard Choice – this kid can play. And Felix Jones will be a factor next season as well…What is wrong with Roy Williams? Looks like the guy is running in quick sand. What a trade by the shrewd Lions!…It’s looking likely the AFC’s No. 3 and No. 4 seeds will be home dogs during wild card weekend, and no one should want to play this dangerous Ravens team…I’m not exactly jumping off my Cowboys bandwagon, but it’s getting lonelier with yet another disappointing performance. Fitting two of the league’s biggest underachievers with possibly the greatest potential meet Week 17 in Philadelphia.

Did the Bengals really attempt just nine passes Sunday?…I’m beginning to think Ken Dorsey might not have a future in this league…The Browns have gone five straight games without an offensive touchdown…During Weeks 15 and 16, fantasy football’s most important time, the leader in yards from scrimmage was? Cedric Benson!…Word is, Carson Palmer will in fact require Tommy John surgery. Good thing they didn’t take care of it 10 weeks ago.

What’s up with Sean Payton’s refusal to give Pierre Thomas a full workload? He’ll still be a recommended fantasy pick next year, but his ceiling is lowered by Payton’s usage…What an awful drop by Jeremy Shockey. He’s actually a solid blocker in the run game, but his career as a receiver has been a massive disappointment…I’m for sure in the minority here – in fact, I may be the only one at all – but I thought Rob Parker’s comment was funny, not offensive. He even started the question by prefacing, “on a light note.” Rod Marinelli’s endless supply of optimism and willingness to put all the blame on himself is admirable, but one can’t improve –both on the football field and in life – if unable to admit faults. As such, there is no reason for change.

Sunday marked the first time this season the Dolphins committed more than one turnover, yet the team still prevailed since they also forced three takeaways. What a turnaround…Ricky Williams gets 2.8 YPC and loses a fumble, while Ronnie Brown gets 4.0 YPC yet four fewer rushes. I don’t get it, but it’s become a theme…Tyler Thigpen is a much better fantasy quarterback than he is a real life one, but that doesn’t mean he’s not fun to watch.

How bad are the Cardinals? That performance was disgusting Sunday, and any weather excuse doesn’t work since Matt Cassel threw for 345 yards. It’s the fourth loss by at least 21 points this season for the NFC West champions. They’ll be yet another home dog during the first week of the playoffs…The Patriots have scored 40 points in a game the same amount of times this year as they did last season…It’s a cruel world when the 11-5 Patriots could possibly be left out of the postseason when an 8-8 Chargers team gets in.

Steven Jackson looked like he was playing with a broken leg Sunday. If things break right, Jackson has about as much fantasy upside as anyone in the league. In reality, he’s always hurt and stuck on one of the worst teams in the NFL. Let someone else take him early during next year’s draft…I like Shaun Hill as a quarterback, but his lack of arm strength was apparent last week…You do not, let me repeat, do not mess with umpire Garth DeFelice.

Impressive win by the Titans, but if anything, it really just makes it that much more likely the Steelers win if there’s a rematch in the playoffs. The game was much closer than the final score indicated. Still, quite surprising it was Tennessee who was the first team to reach 300 yards against Pittsburgh this season…Here are Willie Parker’s YPC over the last five years: 5.8, 4.7, 4.4, 4.1, 3.6 – notice a trend?…Tony Brown and Jason Jones (who?) were flat-out dominant Sunday. Even without Albert Haynesworth, that defensive line is incredible.

I’ve been calling Philip Rivers MVP since the middle of the season, and now that the team looks likely to make the playoffs, maybe those who are obsessed with team success in a sport that starts 22 players can even throw me bone (but probably not). He leads the NFL in TD passes (32), YPA (8.3) and QB rating (104.0) – in fact, the second best QB rating is nearly 10 points lower! With the season on the line, he went into Tampa Bay and got 9.3 YPA with a 4:0 TD:INT ratio. Rivers doesn’t throw many picks or take a bunch of sacks and also isn’t aided by a comfy home stadium that’s a dome. If win/loss record is so important, consider San Diego’s defense ranks 25th in the league, and there isn’t a single above average weapon at his disposal on offense, unless you consider Vincent Jackson one. LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates haven’t been close to their former selves, and everyone knows Chris Chambers sucks. Week 1 they lost when Carolina scored a touchdown as time expired. Week 2 was the “Ed Hochuli game.” Week 12 they lost on a 51-yard FG as time expired. My point? Judging individual performance based on team record is a dangerous endeavor. Rivers has been the best player at the game’s most important position in 2008, hence making him the most valuable…Where do you rate Antonio Bryant in your WR rankings next year? Top-15? Top-10?…It’s probably just a coincidence, but the Bucs have had three straight disappointing defensive efforts right after the Monte Kiffin departure came to light.

My man P.J. Pope was off to a big start Sunday, running for 44 yards (7.3 YPC) over the first 7 minutes of the game. Too bad torn hamstrings are so tough to predict. Then again, wasn’t it obvious? After all, Denver has placed a staggering seven RBs on the IR this season…Fred Jackson would be an upgrade at RB for at least 15 other teams (and maybe even his own). I hope he ends up on a bunch of my rosters next year…The final two plays of Sunday’s game were a microcosm of Jay Cutler’s season. First he misses a wide open Brandon Stokley in the end zone. Then he throws a perfect pass while off his back foot under pressure that lands directly in Stokley’s hands for a would be TD had the defender not knocked it away at the last second. Cutler needs to improve his consistency and accuracy, but I still believe…Update on my Randy Moss vs. Brandon Marshall bet: Moss (68 catches, 995 yards, 11 TDs), Marshall (98 catches, 1,210 yards, 6 TDs). Looks like I’m going to need a big effort from Baby T.O. Sunday night!

What a disappointing performance by the Texans. As usual, the Raiders left Nnamdi Asomugha at RCB all game, so Chris Johnson also deserves plenty of credit for shutting down Andre Johnson (and Kevin Walter). Matt Schaub is now 2-10 on the road over the last two years…Darren McFadden was in for just 30 of Oakland’s 60 snaps, so apparently Tom Cable didn’t get the memo…Is there a better TD call than Greg Papa’s “TOUCHDOWN, RRRRAID-ERS!!!”? I say no.

Brett Favre has a 1:6 TD:INT ratio over his last four games. In other news, he’s in the Pro Bowl and Philip Rivers isn’t. Awesome. Please, just retire already…How funny would it be if the Pats win the early game, and then the Jets rest all of their starters to ensure a Dolphins win, and therefore, keep Eric Mangini’s good buddy out of the postseason? Come on, you know he’s at least considered this…The Seattle game was so boring, even Gus Johnson only got high pitched 20-25 times – approximately 80 fewer than usual.

Fumbles are the great equalizer and can make predicting outcomes seem futile. Minnesota outgained Atlanta in yards 350-222, yet five backbreaking fumbles were the difference. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan puts the ball on the carpet, and it’s recovered by the Falcons for a TD. Adrian Peterson really needs to figure this problem out fast. Speaking of AD, I love me some Purple Jesus more than anyone, but talk of him as an MVP is silly – is Minnesota really that much worse with Chester Taylor in the backfield?…Tarvaris Jackson continues to impress. He’d be a sneaky fantasy option if he continues to run like that…It’s a lot easier when playing with the lead in the NFL, and Atlanta’s plus-82 margin in the first half this year is best in the league…A Falcons division title is inevitable, no? After all, it would mark the sixth straight year the previous last place NFC South team won the division the next year, which is as long as the division has been in place. The Saints might want to consider tanking Sunday’s game as insurance.

I haven’t flip flopped more on a team than this year’s Eagles, and true to form, they disappointed yet again last week just when I bought back into them. And against a bad Washington squad to boot. Tough to blame Donovan McNabb with all those drops Sunday, but how good can a team really be if its quarterback has gotten just 6.0 YPA over the last seven games?…With 2,023 career carries and a body that looks less healthy than the lead singer from Deerhunter, I’m letting someone else draft Clinton Portis next year.

What an awesome Giants/Panthers game, highlighted by a terrific backdoor cover of my “best bet.” Why was Jonathan Stewart getting the OT carries? Do you realize DeAngelo Williams entered Week 5 with zero touchdowns? How was that Carolina’s first pass interference call of the season? How does Derrick Ward run for 215 yards on just 15 carries and without a TD? He’s a perfect nickel runner…Hines Ward is the best, but Muhsin Muhammad isn’t far behind when it comes to run blocking. He’s a big reason why Williams has six 30-plus yard TD runs this year…As fantastic as Williams has been – hands down the fantasy MVP – I’m not sure I’d take him in the top-5 next year. It will be next to impossible repeating such a performance locked in a timeshare. Then again, Stewart has been prone to nagging injuries.

In the 2008 season, Ryan Grant averaged 2.9 YPC on the road…Chicago has found its long-term answer at running back and tight end, but the team still needs to address the quarterback position. Kyle Orton is simply not the answer…While the Vikings aren’t great, I’d still rather see them in the playoffs than the Bears. Good thing Houston should take care of that this week.

Three Sneaky Starts for Championship Week

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

1. Darren McFadden – Since McFadden was taken fairly high in most fantasy leagues, this suggestion isn’t nearly as under the radar as the next two, but considering the rookie RB has been virtually unusable since Week 2, this would still require a leap of faith during crunch time. Despite what can only be described as a highly disappointing first season in the NFL, Run DMC has averaged a solid 4.5 YPC while being an exciting option in the passing game (10.6 yards per catch) when given the opportunity. Unfortunately, the opportunities have been few and far between; in fact, he hasn’t played one snap in the first quarter in either of the last two games. However, after McFadden totaled 114 yards and a touchdown on just 15 touches last week, Tom Cable has been getting ripped in the media all week for his lack of usage, so you can expect a major correction Sunday. Facing a Houston front seven that has allowed 4.5 YPC and 17 rushing scores this year in what could be wet conditions, there are worse flex options than McFadden this week. I’m personally starting him over Chris Johnson in the RotoWire Staff League.

2. P.J. Pope – Who? An undrafted rookie out of Bowling Green, Pope could be a major factor Sunday. He totaled 75 yards with a score on just 10 touches against a tough Carolina defense last week, outplaying the always disappointing Tatum Bell. Moreover, Selvin Young is unlikely to see many touches after his devastating fumble, which led to an inactive second half last week. Pope has been taking starter snaps during practice all week, and at worst, is the team’s best option at the goal line as well as in third down situations. It’s never wise to guess what Mike Shanahan is thinking, but the weather should be conducive to running in Denver on Sunday, and Buffalo has allowed 4.2 YPC and 15 rushing TDs this season – which rank No. 21 and No. 24 in the league, respectively. It’s doubtful anyone who has made it this far would be desperate enough to turn to such an uncertain option, but with Frank Gore, Joseph Addai, Marion Barber and Anquan Boldin all unusable, crazier things have happened. I’m not a religious man, but I would have no problem turning to the Pope this Sunday.

3. Cleveland Browns Defense – Do you realize the Browns lead the NFL in takeaways? Over their last five games, they’ve forced a whopping 15 turnovers, and that’s been against the likes of the Texans, Colts, Titans and Eagles’ offenses. The Browns don’t rack up many sacks, and its overall defense ranks just No. 27 in the NFL, but the weather conditions could be brutal in Cleveland this week. Additionally, Ryan Fitzpatrick has gotten an astounding 5.0 YPA with a 1:5 TD:INT ratio during four games on the road this season, so the matchup is highly enticing. In one of my other leagues, I’m going with the Browns over the Titans D this week.

Week 16 Lineup Rankings

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Quarterbacks

1. Drew Brees
2. Jay Cutler
3. Peyton Manning

4. Tony Romo
5. Kurt Warner
6. Matt Cassel
7. Tyler Thigpen
8. Shaun Hill
9. Matt Schaub
10. Donovan McNabb
11. Philip Rivers
12. Aaron Rodgers
13. Matt Ryan

14. Dan Orlovsky
15. Chad Pennington
16. Brett Favre
17. Tarvaris Jackson
18. Eli Manning
19. Jake Delhomme
20. Kyle Orton

Running Backs

1. Adrian Peterson
2. Pierre Thomas
3. Steve Slaton
4. Brian Westbrook
5. Maurice Jones-Drew
6. Matt Forte
7. Kevin Smith
8. Steven Jackson

9. Marshawn Lynch
10. Michael Turner
11. DeAngelo Williams
12. Brandon Jacobs
13. Thomas Jones
14. Frank Gore/DeShaun Foster
15. Joseph Addai/Dominic Rhodes
16. Sammy Morris
17. Ryan Grant
18. Jamal Lewis
19. Darren McFadden
20. Chester Taylor
21. Clinton Portis
22. Ronnie Brown
23. Tashard Choice
24. Larry Johnson

25. LaDainian Tomlinson
26. Kevin Faulk
27. Chris Johnson
28. Willie Parker
29. Cedric Benson
30. Jonathan Stewart

Wide Receivers

1. Calvin Johnson
2. Roddy White
3. Steve Smith
4. Andre Johnson
5. Reggie Wayne
6. Larry Fitzgerald
7. Brandon Marshall
8. Marques Colston

9. Dwayne Bowe
10. Randy Moss
11. Antonio Bryant
12. Wes Welker
13. Lance Moore
14. Braylon Edwards
15. Greg Jennings
16. Bernard Berrian
17. Anthony Gonzalez
18. Kevin Walter
19. Davone Bess
20. Steve Breaston
21. Eddie Royal
22. Jerricho Cotchery
23. Deion Branch
24. Domenik Hixon
25. Santana Moss

26. Isaac Bruce
27. Torry Holt
28. Donnie Avery
29. Bryant Johnson
30. Terrell Owens
31. Lee Evans
32. Vincent Jackson
33. Devin Hester
34. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
35. Kevin Curtis
36. DeSean Jackson
37. Hines Ward
38. Santonio Holmes
39. Chad Johnson
40. Laveranues Coles

Bet on It

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 6-8-2, bringing my season total to 118-99-7. The Cowboys had no problem with the Giants, improving my best bet record to 9-4-2. I struggled with this week for the most part and once again sided with too many favorites for my liking. While the Giants’ offense has become easier to defend without Plaxico Burress, it seems like a good opportunity to buy low here and sell high on Carolina. The Giants still defend the run well, so the Panthers may have to rely on the pass more than usual, and Jake Delhomme has gotten just 6.5 YPA with a 3:7 TD:INT ratio while on the road this season. Back the G-Men.

Colts -6.5 at Jaguars

Ravens +4 at Cowboys

Bengals +3 at Browns

Saints -7 at Lions

Dolphins -4 at Chiefs

Cardinals +8.5 at Patriots

49ers -5.5 at Rams

Steelers -1.5 at Titans

Chargers +3.5 at Buccaneers

Bills +7.5 at Broncos

Texans -7.5 at Raiders

Jets -5 at Seahawks

Falcons +3 at Vikings

Eagles -5 at Redskins

Panthers +3 at Giants (best bet)

Packers +4 at Bears

Barometer

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Week 16 edition.

The Scoop

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

In the most important week of the 2008 fantasy season, Frank Gore, Joseph Addai, Brandon Jacobs and even Marion Barber were all missing in action, confirming what a cruel game this is. It’s this time of year when the sob stories come out – I personally lost one league by 1.16 points because Trent Cole disappeared (and sat out) during the second half of Monday night’s game. Won another league by two points because Donovan McNabb was taken out of the same game. Lost my main home league after scoring the most overall points this season because Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Chris Johnson, Ronnie Brown and Jay Cutler all decided to have their worst performances of the year in Week 15. Oh well, that’s what makes it so fun.

It appears Devin Hester may emerge as a playmaker at WR after all. Of course, the team still needs a long-term answer at quarterback…What a heroic return by Matt Forte. After looking almost assuredly done for the game after leaving on the first play from scrimmage, fantasy owners had to be panicked before he jogged out of the locker room a quarter later, rendering Willis Reed’s triumphant return now moot…Speaking of injuries, the one to Reggie Bush might be the best thing to happen to New Orleans in the long run, as the team can hardly deny Pierre Thomas as the feature back from now on. Expect a huge game from the Frenchman this week against the Lions…Through seven games, Drew Brees has gotten 6.9 YPA with a 9:12 TD:INT ratio on the road this season, making him a below average QB when not playing in the Superdome.

Not that he’s all that valuable, but Carnell Williams has proved me wrong so far, as he’s already leading Tampa Bay in carries in a given week. Remember though, he’s been a big disappointment in the NFL, failing to live up to his cool moniker…I really hope Michael Turner’s heavy workload this season doesn’t lead to a breakdown in 2009, because this is one impressive running back…Eli Manning a Pro Bowler over Matt Ryan is a sick, twisted, unfunny joke, right? There’s no sane explanation for that one.

I must admit, I didn’t see Cedric Benson outproducing Clinton Portis last week. Remember when everyone thought the Skins were good?…Got to love Santana Moss getting a 15-yard penalty for celebrating his touchdown that brought Washington to within 17-7 of the 1-11-1 Bengals. And after Shaun Suisham sent the kickoff out of bounds, Cincinnati started its next drive on Washington’s 45-yard-line. Brilliant…Ryan Fitzpatrick has gotten more YPC (5.5) than YPA (5.2) this season, which is almost unfathomable.

Andre Johnson is an absolute beast. What a performance against a tough Titans secondary, during fantasy crunch time to boot. I’d have a hard time not ranking him as the No. 1 fantasy WR for 2009…Moreover, tough not to consider Steve Slaton a top-10 fantasy pick next year as well…I wanted to pile on Jeff Fisher for passing on a FG attempt down 13-12 with just two minutes left, but after further review, he really felt Rob Bironas had no chance going in that direction. And it sounds like Bironas really was nowhere close from that distance in warmups, so I’ll give the smart coach the benefit of the doubt…As impressive as Andre Johnson was Sunday, it still fell short of Gus Johnson’s effort in the booth. That guy is an unstoppable force. I guarantee he went through at least three pairs of underwear during that game.

It wouldn’t be inconceivable if they still won it all, but this Colts team is pretty mediocre…New rule: No MVP candidate can have a YPA of less than 7.0…I’m as big of a Bob Sanders fan as you’ll find, but no one that injury prone can be considered an elite player…If Calvin Johnson ever gets an above average QB throwing to him, he’ll break the NFL’s season yardage record.

I’m beginning to think the Packers aren’t as good as the peripherals suggest. Still don’t understand why Brandon Jackson hasn’t gotten an opportunity at all…If Brett Favre had stayed in town, Green Bay might be 2-12 right now and battling for a top-3 draft pick…If Fred Taylor is jettisoned and no other backfield competition is brought in, Maurice Jones-Drew is an easy top-10 pick. Maybe top-5 next year.

What a crazy turn of events at the end of the San Diego/Kansas City game, likely changing many fantasy results in the process…If you really want to take a chance on LaDainian Tomlinson bouncing back next season, it better not be before round six…Good riddance King Carl. Finally, the Chiefs take a step in the right direction…Brett Favre over Philip Rivers in the Pro Bowl is ridiculous to the point of offensive. What a joke.

The Dolphins haven’t committed more than one turnover in a game this season, setting an NFL record. That might help explain why Miami can win a game they lost time of possession 38:13-to-21:47 and had 13 fewer first downs (24-to-11). That and good red-zone defense…Playing most of the game with a 14-3 lead, good thing Miami gave Ronnie Brown just 10 carries, especially since he averaged a paltry 6.7 YPC…Even after a disappointing game last Sunday, Shaun Hill makes for a fine QB1 during fantasy’s championship game this week.

How impressive was Fred Jackson’s TD run, when he carried five-to-six defenders from the five-yard line? Very…After the way he’s played, the person most distraught with the AFL folding may very well be J.P. Losman…Including special teams, Leon Washington has nine plays of 40-plus yards this season – the most in the NFL. He needs Keyshawn Johnson as his publicist.

What’s up with Steven Jackson unable to finish games? His career has been a fairly large disappointment…Back getting targeted heavily, there are worse flex options than Donnie Avery at home against San Francisco this week…John Carlson will play in multiple Pro Bowls before all is said and done.

“He went to” Jared Allen has been simply one of the very best offseason acquisitions this year. He spent more time in Arizona’s backfield last week than Tim Hightower…How can a team like Minnesota get so complacent after spending so much time out of the playoffs?…Chester Taylor has quietly become a sneaky flex option these days…Who is this Tarvaris Jackson, and what have you done with the former scrub?

I’m not sure how they keep pulling through at the end of games seemingly lost, but it’s tough not to consider Pittsburgh the best team in the league right now. The defense honestly deserves to be in the conversation as the best ever…Too bad Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t played very well this season. And the running game is stagnant…I actually think the ball to Santonio Holmes broke the plane, but going off the rule – that is indisputable evidence – clearly the call should not have been changed. Does Pittsburgh go for it there if not?

Who had P.J. Pope as Denver’s Week 15 leading rusher before the season began?…Steve Smith is half man, half amazing. What a player…Jay Cutler, ugh. Some more consistency would certainly be nice…It’s not Clinton Portis’ fault the NFC is so loaded at running back, but DeAngelo Williams certainly deserved the Pro Bowl nod over him…There is a far greater chance of a fumble than an 82-yard TD run with the defense in prevent mode, so why in the hell did Mike Shanahan just not take a knee with 15 seconds left in the first half Sunday? Horrible, horrible call…Can’t wait for this week’s Panthers/Giants showdown.

Will someone please explain to me why Darren McFadden didn’t take the field until 12:26 left in the first half last week? After totaling 114 yards from then on out, the toe injuries certainly can’t be the explanation. Wake up, Tom Cable…Got to love Bill Belichick for challenging a call up 29 points with fewer than three minutes remaining. It remains a mystery why he’s so unliked throughout the league…Nnamdi Asomugha update: he has allowed only eight completions in 14 games for 133 yards. Three of those came Sunday for 40 yards by Randy Moss.

I’m as big of a Marion Barber fan as anyone, but Tashard Choice sure does possess a burst missing from The Barbarian’s game even when healthy. It’s too bad Dallas faces Baltimore this week, or Choice would be an excellent fantasy start. Even though much of his yardage has come on screens and draws where he’s in open space, Choice has highly impressed…Forget Matt Ryan, did Eli Manning really make the Pro Bowl over Tony Romo? That’s reprehensible…How good is DeMarcus Ware? The Cowboys’ defensive line has been exemplary over the second half of the season. The defense makes them very dangerous…Suddenly, the Giants’ offense is much easier to defend. Plaxico Burress’ loss will go down as devastating.

How big of a dope is Asante Samuel for dropping the ball before reaching the end zone Monday? It’s even worse when you consider the one other time it happened this season was by an Eagle…The most impressive play Monday? Brian Westbrook catching up to and stopping Brandon McDonald during his 98-yard interception return. Man Westbrook is fast…It would take some stones, but I’d consider Braylon Edwards a decent WR3 or flex option against the Bengals this week…Donovan McNabb was terrific Monday, firing lasers with pinpoint accuracy. I still have no faith in Andy Reid, but Philadelphia may very well be one of the three best teams in the NFL right now. Still, they remain on the outside looking in as far as the postseason is concerned. Whoever wins the Eagles/Cowboys Week 17 game might be my favorite to come out of the NFC.

Week 15 Lineup Rankings

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Sorry for the late post this week. As a result, I just left out all Saints/Bears in the rankings.

Quarterbacks

1. Kurt Warner
2. Peyton Manning
3. Tony Romo
4. Philip Rivers

5. Aaron Rodgers
6. Jay Cutler
7. Tyler Thigpen
8. Donovan McNabb
9. Shaun Hill
10. Eli Manning
11. Matt Cassel

12. Matt Schaub
13. Jake Delhomme
14. Chad Pennington
15. Matt Ryan
16. Brett Favre
17. Jeff Garcia
18. Jason Campbell
19. Tarvaris Jackson
20. Seneca Wallace

Running Backs

1. Brian Westbrook
2. Adrian Peterson
3. Clinton Portis
4. Maurice Jones-Drew
5. Thomas Jones
6. DeAngelo Williams
7. Dominic Rhodes
8. LaDainian Tomlinson
9. Chris Johnson
10. Steven Jackson

11. Michael Turner
12. Steve Slaton
13. Kevin Smith
14. Ryan Grant
15. Jonathan Stewart
16. Ronnie Brown
17. Marshawn Lynch
18. Larry Johnson
19. Derrick Ward
20. Sammy Morris
21. Maurice Morris

22. Marion Barber/Tashard Choice
23. Warrick Dunn
24. LenDale White
25. Chester Taylor
26. Le’Ron McClain
27. Tatum Bell
28. DeShaun Foster
29. Jamal Lewis
30. Justin Fargas

Wide Receivers

1. Anquan Boldin
2. Larry Fitzgerald
3. Steve Smith
4. Reggie Wayne
5. Brandon Marshall
6. Andre Johnson
7. Roddy White
8. Greg Jennings
9. Calvin Johnson
10. Dwayne Bowe

11. Randy Moss
12. Wes Welker
13. Terrell Owens
14. Santana Moss
15. Antonio Bryant
16. Vincent Jackson
17. Lee Evans
18. Marvin Harrison
19. Eddie Royal
20. Deion Branch
21. Davone Bess

22. Bernard Berrian
23. Jerricho Cotchery
24. Domenik Hixon (check status)
25. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
26. DeSean Jackson
27. Kevin Walter
28. Donald Driver
29. Steve Breaston (check status)

30. Laveranues Coles
31. Ted Ginn
32. Isaac Bruce
33. Bryant Johnson
34. Hines Ward
35. Santonio Holmes
36. Derrick Mason
37. Anthony Gonzalez
38. Chad Johnson
39. Amani Toomer
40. Torry Holt

Bet on It

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 9-7, bringing my season total to 112-91-5. I lost my best bet for the second straight week, yet the two others I specifically recommended came through. My record there stands at 8-4-2. Oh well. Serves me right for going against the force that is the San Francisco 49ers. I need to stop taking road favorites there. Not an easy slate this week by any means, and I must be insane giving that many points in the Colts game. I had an especially difficult time with the Raiders/Patriots matchup, and is there any team in the league that switches from 7-plus point favorites to 7-plus point underdogs as much as the Broncos? The teams I feel most comfortable backing are the Packers (my second best bet), 49ers and Ravens. As for the Cowboys, their losses in the secondary hurt, but can New York’s passing game take advantage? Tony Romo should bounce back with a big effort at home, and Dallas simply needs a win more than the Giants.

Saints +3 at Bears

Buccaneers +2.5 at Falcons

Redskins -7 at Bengals

Titans -3 at Houston

Lions +17.5 at Colts

Packers -1.5 at Jaguars

Chargers -5.5 at Chiefs

49ers +7 at Dolphins

Bills +8 at Jets

Seahawks -3 at Rams

Vikings +3 at Cardinals

Steelers +1.5 at Ravens

Broncos +7.5 at Panthers

Patriots -7.5 at Raiders

Giants +2.5 at Cowboys (best bet)

Browns +14 at Eagles

The Scoop

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Eventually, San Diego was bound to cover one of those crazy spreads, and Oakland was more than happy to oblige. The Raiders look competent at times, but when they are bad, they are awful. To think, they drafted Michael Huff over Jay Cutler and JaMarcus Russell instead of Calvin Johnson. And there’s never a good reason to draft a running back early. Adrian Peterson was the exception, not the rule…Zach Miller is the only decent offensive player…In one of the most crucial fantasy weeks of the year, I’m starting the Patriots D over the Titans because they play Oakland…What is going on with Antonio Gates? He must really be hurting…Norv Turner is doing opponents a favor every time he plays LaDainian Tomlinson instead of Darren Sproles…I’m beginning to think Kwame Harris wasn’t worth a first round pick.

Think Jacksonville is regretting the David Garrard contract? Same with Jack Del Rio, who seems to have completely lost this team. Still, neither of those are nearly as egregious as Jerry Porter’s deal…In most other seasons, Matt Forte would be the clear Rookie of the Year winner. In 2008, he’s a distant second, highlighting the most impressive rookie class in the history of the NFL…Maurice Jones-Drew continues to be one of my favorite running backs to watch. Get this guy 25 touches each week!

At this point, Adrian Peterson feels like a family member to me, but that was quite a disappointing performance last week. Forget the 4.4 YPC mark against the NFL’s worst run defense, AP’s fumbling has become a real problem…If starting a franchise from scratch, Calvin Johnson would easily be the first wide receiver off the board. He’s without question a top-10 property in the league…Looking ahead to Week 16, the Saints’ D may not be a bad fantasy play against a potentially Drew Henson led Lions team. The Colts’ D looks like the best option over Weeks 14 and 15. Go figure.

The Packers’ secondary has taken a step back recently since Charles Woodson has moved to safety, but Matt Schaub was highly impressive last week. He can’t be counted on to stay healthy, but I bet he ends up on a bunch of my fantasy teams once again next year…So much for the Brandon Jackson speculation. He must be a terrible blocker and/or horrible practice player, because he’s done nothing but outperform Ryan Grant whenever on the field this season…It’s hard to fathom the fact Houston has a better record (6-7) than Green Bay (5-8)…Steve Slaton has been simply fantastic. This kid can really play, and if he’s asked to carry the full workload next season, there’s a good chance he’ll finish as a top-10 fantasy player.

The Colts haven’t allowed a touchdown in eight quarters. Meanwhile, the Bengals haven’t scored a TD in 11 quarters…How did this Cincinnati team tie Philadelphia again?…Maybe Carson Palmer is planning on waiting for training camp to undergo Tommy John surgery…Joseph Addai is a fraud. He drops passes, he fumbles, he gets 3.5 YPC. I’d start him this week, of course, but I wouldn’t feel all that confident in doing so.

How good is Roddy White? There isn’t a team in the NFL with a more impressive nucleus of young skill position players than Atlanta. And it’s not even close…Pierre Thomas is the Saints’ best running back. Period. Speaking of which, how crazy is it that Reggie Bush’s 43-yard run Sunday was the longest of his career?…There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Matty Ice at this point. Over the last two weeks, he’s completed 73 percent of his passes, got 9.3 YPA and taken zero sacks. He’s the best NFL rookie in the history of the league, hands down…Trailing 29-24, Mike Smith chose to punt on fourth-and-five from his own 35 with 3:23 left in the game. This despite facing the league’s No. 1 ranked offense. Predictably, the Falcons never got the ball back.

Domenik Hixon’s drop on a would-be 85-yard TD was a game changer, but that was still an impressive performance by the Eagles’ D. Anyone who doesn’t think the loss of Plaxico Burress is significant is crazy…So it looks like Brian Westbrook is feeling better. Expect a similar effort Monday night at home against the Browns….Brandon Jacobs’ lingering knee injury is a real concern. Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw are going to be major contributors from here on out.

Ken Dorsey is really bad at football. Philadelphia is the No. 1 fantasy D this week…How about Jamal Lewis getting 1.1 yards per touch last week? That’s not very good…Chris Johnson is on pace to finish the season with 1,663 total yards and 11 touchdowns. There’s a chance he also finishes fifth (or worse) on Rookie of the Year ballots.

Buffalo has won three straight coin tosses, deferred each time and has started behind 7-0 in all three instances. I actually like deferring, but that’s pretty crazy…This Dolphins turnaround is quite remarkable. Still, they better not take the 49ers lightly this week…I’m not saying their 4-0 start was a complete fraud – Trent Edwards was playing much better then, but looking back at that schedule (Seahawks, Jaguars, Raiders, Rams), the big collapse since then is less surprising.

Where did that come from Seneca Wallace? Easily the surprise performance of Week 14…Did you see Deion Branch completely run out of gas toward the end of his 63-yard reception? However, he did make up for it with a nifty catch in the end zone…I’ll keep riding the John Carlson train until it stops. Next up, the Rams…I’d be fairly shocked if Matt Hasselbeck plays in another game this season…Wes Welker is seriously good. He’s an absolute PPR monster. A trip to the end zone would be nice, however.

Update on my preseason bet with Chris Liss (Brandon Marshall vs. Randy Moss): Marshall – 83 catches, 1,033 yards, six TDs. Moss – 61 catches, 841 yards, eight TDs. Go Baby T.O.!…Rough ending for Peyton Hillis, who had really been playing well. Can’t believe Tatum Bell is relevant again…Tony Gonzalez is ageless. Sometimes the boring veteran option is the way to go…I have a dilemma. In my main home league, I’m debating whether to start Jay Cutler or Tyler Thigpen this week. On one hand, Cutler is the better player and has also put up bigger numbers while on the road this season. However, Carolina’s secondary has been very good (Monday night notwithstanding), while San Diego’s D has allowed 21 passing TDs this year, the third most in football. KC/SD should be a shootout, and Thigpen has been a TD machine despite a mediocre YPA. Plus, he’s averaged 39.0 rushing yards over the last four games, which is just like adding one passing score. So, whom should I go with?

Shame on me for picking against the 49ers last week. That line screamed something fishy. The Jets’ passing offense is a mess. Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles combining for two catches and 15 yards?…It may not always be pretty, but Shaun Hill is highly effective. Unless something drastic happens, he’s clearly the team’s undisputed starter entering 2009…Only Mike Martz would call a seven-step drop from the opponents’ three yard line. And it resulted in a touchdown…Alan Faneca’s play has really started to slip of late. He made Justin Smith look like an elite rusher last week…What a blow for Frank Gore owners. It makes it even more difficult when his backup is a stiff like DeShaun Foster.

If Tim Hightower can only muster 2.7 YPC while playing at home against the Rams and with St. Louis focusing on stopping Arizona’s high-powered passing attack, then he doesn’t belong in fantasy lineups. No matter what…The Rams need to use their likely top-3 pick next year on a quarterback, assuming one makes sense. Speaking of which, I don’t watch much college football at all, but Tim Tebow will be a terrible pro, right?

Tony Romo hardly played well, but Jason Witten was the culprit of two huge late game gaffes. First the 25-yard “pick six.” And later on Dallas’ last offensive play, when he was apparently running a 30-yard route on a fourth-and-10, never bothering to look the QB’s way…What’s up with Jerry Jones throwing Marion Barber under the bus? Call me crazy, but he seems like a pretty tough player to me…Tashard Choice has impressed, but with a Sunday night game on tap in Week 15, that backfield situation is going to be a nightmare for many fantasy owners during the most crucial of times…I applaud Mike Tomlin’s aggressive coaching, and that defense is one of the best ever, but Ben Roethlisberger needs to play better if they are going to win the Super Bowl…Dallas’ defense is for real, and the team was surprisingly physical despite the elements. I still pick them to win the Super Bowl.

I’m thinking the Redskins are regretting the Jason Taylor trade right about now. That offense is one of the very worst in football. They’ve scored fewer points than Detroit!…And what about Jim Zorn using a challenge with the end result being a difference of six yards (first down either way)? Seemed like a good time not to throw the flag there Jim…I would not want my favorite team facing the Ravens in the playoffs. They are very, very good.

For someone so critical of Tony Kornheiser on MNF, I have to give credit when it’s due. His “he went to Jarrett” line after Dwayne made a catch was positively brilliant. I cannot get that “Jared” commercial out of my head. I walk around randomly saying that phrase with or without people nearby. I’m one more away from my fiancée leaving me…What a game by Antonio Bryant. There’s serious talent there…Somewhat quietly, Carolina might have the best rushing attack in the NFL. The Giants have a strong argument, and their 4.9 YPC mark would be the best in the history of the league, but the Panthers aren’t far off with 4.8 YPC, and they’ve also rushed for seven more touchdowns (23-to-16). I’ll give the run blocking to New York, but I say Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are both better than any Giants back. Stewart is a future star, but how about Williams’ nine TDs over the last four games? He’s definitely improved and become more powerful this season, but his performance is also an indictment on John Fox’s coaching ability. Shame on him for giving DeShaun Foster 100-plus more carries than Williams last year…Ultimately, Jake Delhomme hurts their chances, but if the Panthers can somehow get homefield advantage throughout (and they control their own destiny), this team might just make the Super Bowl.

It’s been a great career Oscar De La Hoya, but please, hang ‘em up. What a clinic Manny Pacquiao put on. If he were ever to get in a ring with Floyd Mayweather, I’d happily open my wallet…At first I thought it was just a bad dream, but I can’t believe “The Roots” are really going to be Jimmy Fallon’s house band. Wow. I’m speechless.

Next season’s top-five fantasy rankings:

1. Adrian Peterson
2. Brian Westbrook
3. Michael Turner
4. Frank Gore
5. Marion Barber

10 Burning Questions

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Who will win the Super Bowl?

I’ll go ahead and say it’s the Dallas Cowboys. Marion Barber is hurt, Wade Phillips is clueless, and the combined record of their four remaining opponents is 34-13-1. Moreover, aside from the division leaders, there are two other wild card candidates with records of 9-3 and 8-4, so there’s a legitimate chance the Cowboys don’t even make the playoffs. Still, this team is dangerous. The defense is underrated, allowing just 4.0 YPC and 6.7 YPA with the second most sacks in football (40). They need to create more turnovers, and Tony Romo needs to curtail the picks, but he also may be the NFL’s best player. His 8.5 YPA leads the league, and he’s rarely sacked. Jason Witten is back to health, and Roy Williams has nowhere to go but up. The Giants’ loss of Plaxico Burress may not affect the locker room, but his missing presence on the field will eventually kill New York. They are even better than last season, but don’t forget just how good Burress was during last year’s playoffs, MVP of the Championship Game and catching the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. Who else in the NFC? The Cardinals? Bucs? Panthers? Vikings? Please. Dallas is still a long shot (I just recently placed a wager on them at 9-1 this week), but I’ll be a rich man if it happens.

Was O.J. Simpson treated like any other citizen during his sentencing?

I’m hardly a legal expert, but The Juice got the proverbial kitchen sink thrown at him, no? My favorite part was when the judge had a prewritten 11 minute speech in which she ripped him a new one with a condescending tone. Of course, he’s an idiot for getting into any kind of trouble in the first place, as this outcome is far from surprising, but nine years for that offense seems excessive. Judge Glass: “Earlier in this case I said to Mr. Simpson that I didn’t know if he was arrogant, ignorant or both. I got the answer and it was both.” Snap!

Would C.C. Sabathia look good in black and orange?

Hell yes. Word is he doesn’t want to pitch in New York, and his wife is pushing hard for SF. It remains highly doubtful, but I can dream after Brian Sabean has made some shockingly competent signings so far (Jeremy Affeldt – a lefty with a 9.2 K/9 IP mark last year, who had a 1.77 ERA and 1.04 WHIP outside of Great American Ballpark. Bob Howry – solid peripherals and a one-year commitment while Mike Lincoln gets a two-year deal). Edgar Renteria improved over the final two months last year, and he gets the back to the NL factor, but his defense has become a real problem. Sabathia has been worked incredibly hard over the past two seasons and his body type is also in question, but if he takes a discount, it would be difficult not to get excited about a rotation with Sabathia, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Of course, Sabathia is probably on the wrong side of 30 in Sabean’s warped mind. Additionally, if he’s going to trade Jonathan “dirty” Sanchez, it better be for Edwin Encarnacion and not Jorge Cantu.

Can Chris Landry ever be taken seriously again?

Boring and irrelevant to some, I’ve found this case of plagiarism rather fascinating. How in this day and age did this guy not realize he was going to eventually get caught? My favorite part about the whole thing is that the site that was getting plagiarized found out about the situation with the help of a competing site that they previously had problems with. Like in “Pulp Fiction” when Butch goes back to save Marsellus Wallace even though they were just trying to kill each other 20 minutes earlier. Love that scene. But did Butch really have to be so deliberate when deciding his weapon of choice? Still, classic moment in cinematic history.

Who is the best NFL team no one is talking about?

The Baltimore Ravens. Flying under the radar, the Ravens boast the No. 2 ranked defense and No. 3 ranked rushing attack in the NFL. Oh, and their signal caller has posted the best QB rating in the league over the past seven games. Please read that sentence again. Over that span, the team has lost only to the 11-1 Giants, and Joe Flacco is only getting better. The team is well coached and has allowed just three rushing scores all year. There also isn’t a better secondary in football. They’ve allowed just 6.0 YPA with a league leading 20 interceptions. Opposing passes have posted an NFL-low 58.4 QB rating. This team is for real.

What is the album of the year?

Hands down, it’s “Dear Science” by TV On The Radio. If you don’t like this album, there’s a good chance you think Tony Kornheiser is good on Monday Night Football, Curb Your Enthusiasm isn’t funny, Sarah Palin was a savvy VP pick by the GOP, and Natalie Portman isn’t hot. If you haven’t been captivated yet by this brilliant LP, as TVOTR states: “I’m living a life not worth dying for.”

What’s up with Plaxico Burress?

Forget the legal implications. Or the moral ones. Who parties at a Radisson hotel? And while wearing sweatpants?

Was Sean Avery’s suspension one of the craziest ever?

Sure was. When I first heard this story, I was positive it was a piece by “The Onion.” This has been beaten to death, so I won’t add much, but I still don’t understand what happened here. I guess he had been warned not to go there by the commish? What did Elisha think? Is Justin Timberlake going to write another song about her?

Why has Carson Palmer not undergone Tommy John surgery yet?

He hasn’t played since Week 5, has a ligament and tendon detached from his elbow, and the Bengals are 1-10-1. What good does delaying the inevitable do? This team should have been thinking about next season for weeks now. I guess nothing less should be expected from the inept franchise.

Is Darren Sproles currently a better running back than LaDainian Tomlinson?

Sure looks that way. At 5-6, 281 lbs, Sproles isn’t an ideal 20-plus carry guy, but he’s gotten a full yard per carry more than Tomlinson this season (4.7 to 3.7), and that’s not situational. He’s also averaging 13.4 yards per catch, and San Diego’s offense simply becomes tougher to defend when he’s on the field. Sproles is basically a more powerful version of Reggie Bush, and he needs to see the field more. Tomlinson has had a terrific and Hall of Fame career, but the end is near. Repeat after me. Do not take LT2 in your fantasy draft next year.

Week 14 Lineup Rankings

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Quarterbacks

1. Drew Brees
2. Kurt Warner
3. Jay Cutler
4. Peyton Manning
5. Aaron Rodgers
6. Tony Romo

7. Matt Ryan
8. Tyler Thigpen
9. Philip Rivers
10. Matt Cassel
11. Brett Favre
12. Shaun Hill
13. Donovan McNabb
14. Eli Manning
15. Ben Roethlisberger

16. Matt Schaub
17. Chad Pennington
18. Matt Hasselbeck
19. Joe Flacco
20. J.P. Losman

Running Backs

1. Adrian Peterson
2. Michael Turner
3. Joseph Addai
4. Thomas Jones
5. Chris Johnson
6. Matt Forte
7. Brandon Jacobs
8. Steven Jackson
9. Frank Gore
10. Ryan Grant
11. LaDainian Tomlinson
12. Steve Slaton
13. Peyton Hillis
14. Larry Johnson
15. Brian Westbrook

16. Tim Hightower
17. Marshawn Lynch
18. Reggie Bush
19. Ronnie Brown
20. DeAngelo Williams
21. Le’Ron McClain
22. Pierre Thomas
23. Maurice Jones-Drew
24. Sammy Morris
25. Clinton Portis
26. Warrick Dunn
27. Willie Parker
28. Marion Barber
29. LenDale White
30. Justin Fargas/Darren McFadden

Wide Receivers

1. Anquan Boldin
2. Larry Fitzgerald
3. Greg Jennings
4. Reggie Wayne
5. Roddy White
6. Brandon Marshall
7. Calvin Johnson
8. Andre Johnson
9. Dwayne Bowe

10. Steve Smith
11. Randy Moss
12. Lee Evans
13. Marques Colston
14. Lance Moore
15. Bernard Berrian
16. Eddie Royal
17. Wes Welker
18. Marvin Harrison
19. Jerricho Cotchery
20. Terrell Owens
21. Hines Ward
22. Santonio Holmes
23. Vincent Jackson
24. Domenik Hixon
25. Laveranues Coles
26. Antonio Bryant
27. Kevin Walter

28. Donald Driver
29. Santana Moss
30. Anthony Gonzalez
31. Davone Bess
32. Ted Ginn
33. DeSean Jackson
34. Michael Jenkins
35. Steve Breaston
36. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
37. Chad Johnson
38. Kevin Curtis
39. Amani Toomer
40. Isaac Bruce
41. Mark Bradley (check status)
42. Matt Jones
43. Devin Hester
44. Derrick Mason
45. Chris Chambers

Bet on It

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 10-6, bringing my season total to 103-84-5. The Colts’ loss dropped my best bet record to 8-3-2, which was frustrating for two reasons. One being how Indy lost, which was disgraceful. The other being that I viewed the Giants as an equally good bet, and of course, they covered easily. As for Week 14, at some point, not going “ugly” enough will probably come back to bite me. For now, I just can’t help myself, going with 10 more favorites, including all three road ones. Cowboys vs. Steelers is easily the game of the week and quite possibly a Super Bowl preview. As for the Jets, traveling across the country to face a much improved San Francisco team hardly makes them a lock, but the 49ers are coming off a huge win, while New York better be focused after last week’s drubbing. Their pass rush should really disrupt an SF offensive line that struggles in protection, which should lead to a turnover or two. I’ll take the sucker side here. I also particularly like the Chiefs and Panthers this week.

Raiders +10 at Chargers

Jaguars +7 at Bears

Vikings -9.5 at Lions

Texans +6 at Packers

Bengals at +14 at Colts

Falcons +3 at Saints

Eagles +7.5 at Giants

Browns +14 at Titans

Dolphins +1 at Bills

Chiefs +9.5 at Broncos

Jets -4 (best bet) at 49ers

Patriots -4.5 at Seahawks

Rams +14 at Cardinals

Cowboys +3 at Steelers

Redskins +5.5 at Ravens

Buccaneers +3 at Panthers

Barometer

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Week 14 edition.

The Scoop

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

If the Titans didn’t let up on Thanksgiving, there’s a good chance the team could have dropped 70 points on this pathetic Lions team. Everyone called me crazy when I said they were going winless five weeks ago, but I’d be shocked if it doesn’t happen…Chris Johnson hit the turbo booster button on his 58-yard TD, but Detroit’s defensive pursuit and the angles the back end took were an abomination….I understand CBS was put in a tough situation having to shill a primetime game featuring an 0-11 team, but listening to Phil Simms and Jim Nantz compliment Daunte Culpepper was brutal. I felt outright lied to.

Way to stick it to your old team Julius Jones. I’m sure they are regretting the day they let you walk to sign a $12 million deal…John Carlson is a player. In a year devoid of big tight end numbers, he must be owned in all fantasy leagues. In fact, he’s well worth starting with upcoming matchups against the Patriots, Rams and Jets…Matt Hasselbeck definitely played better, but it was a jail break trying to stop that Dallas pass rush. Remember when Seattle’s offensive line used to be good?…He’s back. Consider Jason Witten the No. 1 (or No. 2, Tony Gonzalez is pretty damn good) fantasy tight end from here on out…Marion Barber is tough, but he didn’t look very good after suffering that injury. No team has a harder schedule against the run during the fantasy playoffs than the Cowboys.

As if getting drunk with in-laws isn’t bad enough, we have to watch three straight blowouts? Oh the humanity!…I know it would take some stones during crunch time, but I see Tim Hightower as a solid RB2/flex play this week…Thanksgiving certainly wasn’t one of Anquan Boldin’s better games of his career…Looking ahead to Week 15, the Eagles D should score a ton of fantasy points at home against the Ken Dorsey led Browns. Same goes for the suddenly rejuvenated Brian Westbrook.

Since I considered both the Giants and Colts equally good bets last week, it was extremely frustrating watching Indianapolis lay an egg after making them my “best bet.” What a joke. The offense doesn’t score a touchdown, and Adam Vinatieri misses a field goal and I still only lose by one point. That was ugly…There isn’t a single Cleveland player I’d start in fantasy leagues right now. Not one…Peter King currently has Peyton Manning as his MVP winner this season, which is absolutely laughable. His 6.6 YPA mark ranks 25th in the NFL. His 12 interceptions are the fifth most in the league. Give me a break.

What a catch by Mark Clayton. Simply fantastic…I’ve pretty much dismissed Baltimore as a legitimate Super Bowl threat all year long, but they need to be taken seriously. The defense is obviously elite, but Joe Flacco has also really improved. He’s playing very well right now and is extremely elusive…Over the last five years, I’ve played in an estimated 35 fantasy leagues. I’ve never owned Willis McGahee. For some reason, I never trusted the guy. That said, I have no clue what John Harbaugh’s plans are for that backfield…I’m beginning to think Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t very good…Last week the Bengals nearly had twice as many punts (11) as first downs (six).

Many Steven Jackson owners probably missed the playoffs, but he could be a major difference maker over the next three weeks. He still has the horrible St. Louis offense working against him, but matchups versus the Cardinals, Seahawks and 49ers are highly favorable…Not sure how the Dolphins failed to record a single sack, but Marc Bulger stares down his receivers more than any QB in the league right now…Ronnie Brown’s 3-yard TD run was highly impressive. Still, Ricky Williams has really killed Brown’s fantasy value this year…The Rams’ red zone conversion rate of 26.3 percent (five TDs in 19 trips) is easily an NFL low.

San Francisco has the league’s best linebacker and punter and also one of the NFL’s five best running backs. After that, there’s not much else, unfortunately…Three points at home against the 49ers? Ouch Buffalo. What has happened to Trent Edwards?…Shaun Hill is San Francisco’s best quarterback since Jeff Garcia.

Got to love DeAngelo Williams’ line Sunday with four touchdowns from the one-yard line. In fact, he could have had a fifth if not for Jake Delhomme sneaking another in from the one as well…I like Ryan Grant, but he’s clearly just not right physically. Time to see what Brandon Jackson can do. He’s looked like a completely different player this season after last year’s disaster as a rookie…The Packers continue to disappoint. Quietly, Aaron Rodgers has gotten just 6.4 YPA over the past four games, and Green Bay’s run defense is bad. Still, there’s a very real chance they win out over the next four games, which still puts them right in the playoff race.

It’s remarkable the Bucs are 9-3 with that type of quarterback production. Jeff Garcia does an excellent job preventing turnovers, but at some point this team is going to need to score more if they want to have any chance of becoming the first team in a long while to play a home game during the Super Bowl…New Orleans is simply too soft outside of their friendly home dome. Drew Brees has gotten 9.6 YPA with a 17:4 TD:INT ratio at home this season. He’s gotten 7.1 YPA with a 7:10 TD:INT ratio while on the road.

Again, why was the best team in football just 3.5-point favorites against an average Washington team?…Clinton Portis has had a terrific year, but he’s looking at an underwhelming finish after such a high workload and a tough upcoming schedule…My favorite part about the Plaxico Burress fiasco was that after 90 minutes of deliberation, the best excuse he came up with to give the hospital was that his name was Harris Smith and that he’d been shot at an Applebee’s. Let me tell you, I ate at the “Neighborhood Grill and Bar” just last weekend, and once I entered the establishment, I immediately regretted leaving my piece at home…And for the last time, it’s pronounced PLEXICO. Is it really too much to ask ESPN to know this if they are going to bombard us with overwhelming coverage?

It’s safe to say the Chargers are what their record shows. I’m still kicking myself for not leaving them out of the playoffs during my preseason predictions. I had them only as a wild card, but almost went one step further. I’m telling you, teams tend to struggle after losing in the conference championship the year before. It may just be anecdotal. It may not…R.I.P. LaDainian Tomlinson. It’s been a good run…Clearly, San Diego chose the wrong back to get rid of last year. Michael Turner is going to go awfully early in fantasy leagues next year…This Falcons team is dangerous. I might go as far to say they are the third best team in the NFC…If I were starting a franchise, I might make Matt Ryan the No. 1 pick.

Ben Roethlisberger has always benefitted from great teammates around him, but Pittsburgh is literally winning despite him this year. He really needs to play better…Randy Moss’ drops killed Matt Cassel’s day last week. New England needs to correct its problems on third down and in the red zone ASAP…The Steelers have the best defense in football. Period.

The Jets/Broncos game is a perfect example of how Jekyll and Hyde the NFL can be. I mean, Denver was coming off a 21-point home loss to the dreadful Raiders, whereas New York had just beaten Tennessee by 21 points on the road…Denver’s running back carousel has been crazy over the last few years, but this year has taken it to a new level. There was Selvin Young, Andre Hall, Michael Pittman and Ryan Torain all involved, yet it’s Peyton Hillis who has emerged as the best option. The guy was blocking for Felix Jones and Darren McFadden last year…I’d like to personally apologize to Thomas Jones, who I had written off after last year. It’s not just the 13 touchdowns, but his 4.7 YPC mark at age 30 is truly remarkable. Approaching 2,000 carries, he’s still someone I’d avoid in fantasy leagues next season, but for 2008, Jones is someone I was dead wrong about.

It’s too bad Tom Cable’s curious fake field goal try resulted in an easy KC score the other way, as I would have loved to watch Seabass attempt to pick up the first down that was a mere 17 yards away…With Chris Johnson’s emergence at LCB, Oakland’s secondary is solid. They aren’t a good matchup for opposing QBs in fantasy leagues…Will Tony Gonzalez ever slow down? He just continues to get it done.

You won’t see an easier 99-yard touchdown than Bernard Berrian’s last week…Matt Forte has as many receiving TDs this year as Andre Johnson. Has there ever been a season with more impressive rookie running backs?…Gus Frerotte’s ridiculous flop trying to get a personal foul penalty was absolutely hilarious. I highly encourage more of that behavior moving forward…Derrick Rose is already the quickest guy off the dribble in the NBA right now.

I guess I’m in the minority, but I like the Texans’ alternate uniforms…If you haven’t realized it by now, Jacksonville has given up on its 2008 season…Love watching Maurice Jones-Drew run. He’s going to be a fantasy monster one of these years…Steve Slaton – wow. The future most certainly looks bright for the running back position in the NFL these days.