Recent Fantasy Clicks 7-25-08: All-Undervalued Team 7-24-08: Running to nowhere 7-23-08: A threat on the NBA's horizon 7-22-08: Escape from New York 7-21-08: Breaking Down Vlad, Lee and Crawford 7-18-08: Beware of the Curse of the HR Derby 7-17-08: Best advice for season's second half 7-16-08: Biggest fantasy busts of 2008
The Real Playoff Horses
Peyton Manning: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
There's a dark side to Tom Brady's dream season of 2007 (NFL-record 50 TD passes, 2 rushing TDs; 40 TD passes by Week 10). In Week 15, usually the semifinal round for fantasy playoff leagues, Brady completed only 14-of-27 passes for zero TDs and one INT -- pedestrian numbers spurred on by the Jets' aggressive defense and perhaps the wildest crosswinds in the Patriots' history at Foxboro. The result: Fantasy teams that rode Brady's golden arm to division titles were likely bounced from the playoffs. Ouch!
OK, so stuff happens. But there's a lesson to be learned from that Week 15 aberration: It's wrong to trust QBs playing in East Coast games (or blustery Seattle, for that matter) during the vital playoff weeks -- even if he's a sure-fire Hall of Famer and potentially the greatest signal-caller in NFL history.
For those playing in head-to-head leagues, SI.com presents an inside look at the consensus top-8 quarterbacks in this year's fantasy drafts -- sorry Derek Anderson and Matt Hasselbeck -- and their cold-weather/warm-weather schedules for the all-important Weeks 11 through 16 (as if you needed another reason to draft Peyton,Romo or Brees).
Which underrated, yet highly versatile playmaker from the 1990s holds the NFL single-season record for receptions by a pure running back? (Hint: He also holds the third spot on this exclusive list.) Scroll down for the answer.
From The Week 1 Highs ...
The Hall of Fame Game between the Peyton-less Colts and Redskins is still six days away. But the insightful eggheads at Accuscore.com are already busy breaking down the Week 1 matchups, specifically the Chiefs-Patriots tilt in Foxboro. Using Accuscore's estimates, the Patriots will tally an NFL-high 31.6 points against the rebuilding Chiefs. And surprise, surprise, Tom Brady (298 passing yards, 2.5 TDs) and Randy Moss (6 catches for 99 yards and 1 TD) will spark New England to its season-opening rout.
... To The Lows
In case you're wondering, Accuscore also predicts Rex Grossman's Bears will match the Chiefs' low scoring output for Week 1. Grossman, already embroiled in a sluggish QB battle with Kyle Orton, is projected to throw for approximately 117 yards with zero TDS and one INT. Tuck that nugget away for draft day.
Steven Jackson: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Excuse the Seinfeldian intro here ... but did you ever notice how today's fantasy owners have become immune to the "superstar holdout" before the first preseason game? Rams running back Steven Jackson is officially pulling a "Larry Johnson" (circa 2007) -- in terms of skipping camp while demanding a long-term extension -- and yet this seemingly juicy tidbit has barely registered a blip on the fantasy radar screen. There are two schools of thought regarding Jackson's holdout:
1. By missing camp and working out at home, he's less likely to get injured (although he's more likely to slip on a McDonald's burger wrapper at home -- while indavertently smashing his arm through a TV set to break the fall -- than at the Rams' training facility).
2. Or, by missing a chance to get in "football shape" before Week 1, Jackson would be more susceptible to nagging injuries or even freak ones -- like Johnson's mysterious foot injury last season.
Time will tell, of course. But here are five published projections for Jackson in '08:
The Cardinals' Larry Centers cobbled together two of the most prolific seasons for a pure running back in the mid-90s. In 1995, Centers hauled in a record 101 catches for 962 yards. One year later, Centers caught 99 passes for 766 yards.
Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back
Switching gears to baseball ... Chris Carpenter, the 2005 National League Cy Young winner, is set to make his first start since Opening Night 2007 on Wednesday, a mere 12 months and six days after he underwent Tommmy John elbow surgery. Carpenter's arrival could serve as a trade-deadline-like boost for the Cardinals, who trail the Cubs (4 games) and Brewers (3) in the NL Central. Of course, that's assuming Carpenter is ready to contribute at a high level again.
In 2005 and '06, Carpenter tallied 36 wins and 397 strikeouts, while racking up absurdly low ERA (2.88) and WHIP totals (1.06) during that span. (Writer's Note: Carpenter is now a proud member of my team in the SI.com & Friends fantasy league.)
Exploiting Your Own Weakness
For fantasy owners in AL- or NL-only leagues, BaseballHQ offers an interesting take on why it might be more worthwhile to trade from a point of weakness, as opposed to auctioning off players at a surplus position. This theory works in concert with those who believe that, come August, all consummated trades must target specific statistical categories. No exceptions!
The most valuable, in-season fantasy tool for the peripatetic fantasy owner is the "30 Days" option on Stats tabs, tracking a player's production for only the last month. Here is a list of the Best of the Best since June 25:
Hits:Dustin Pedroia, Boston and J.J. Hardy, Milwaukee (tied at 41)
Runs:David Wright, New York Mets (25)
Home Runs:Adam Dunn, Cincinnati and Ryan Howard, Philadelphia (tied at 11)
RBI:Miguel Cabrera, Detroit and Philly's Howard (tied at 29)
Steals:Alex Rios, Toronto (11)
Strikeouts:Tim Lincecum, San Francisco (53)
Wins:Bronson Arroyo, CIN; Ubaldo Jimenez, COL (tied at 5)
ERA (minimum 30 innings):Dan Haren, Arizona (1.22)
WHIP (minimum 30 innings):Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets (0.86)
In Case Of Emergency ...
In search of an unheralded Monday spot starter for your fantasy lineup, one who may bring glory in Ks, ERA and WHIP -- if for just one night? Look no further than future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux of the Padres. I'm not going to lament his 350 career wins, or his strong 1.27 WHIP this year. I'm not going to harp on his 14-start winless streak, dating back to May 10, either. For this recommendation, I'm simply relying on gut instinct when declaring that Maddux will stifle the first-place Diamondbacks tonight, while also boosting his stock as a July 31-deadline trade option for a playoff-contending team.
I Cannot Leave Without Saying ...
As you count down the hours and seconds until NBC kicks off the preseason with Indianapolis vs. Washington on Sunday night, it's important to remember this fantasy commandment: Thou shalt stop paying attention to all preseason games at halftime.
Recent history is littered with unsung players who had amazing preseasons but were never heard from once the real season started. And these "heroes" usually appear in the latter stages of random preseason games. In fact, here are last year's leaders: J.T. O'Sullivan (passing), Thomas Clayton (rushing) and Detroit's Shaun McDonald (receiving), whose other 2007 claim-to-fame was dropping a crucial fourth-quarter pass against the New York Giants in Week 10. Any more questions?
Come One, Come All
At long last, SI.com has a fantasy football game, complete with all of the drafts, waiver wires, stats and analysis you need. Take the grand tour here and sign up a league. Heck, sign up two leagues if you want. We'll be waiting.
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