Line of scrimmage: Bad teams make bad mistakes in the NFL

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Playing Madden Football again, Jon?

Usually Dave, but this all happened in the final 53 seconds of the first half of the Oakland-San Diego game, right after Oakland had taken a 14-12 lead.

Chargers-Raiders? Did that game even count?

When San Diego or Oakland fans say they can't understand how Philip Rivers lost his second fumble of the day and cost San Diego the game, I laugh. I guffaw. I choke, and then tell them to never make me laugh when I'm eating. To simplify a game that way is something we all like to do. The truth is a game is much more a sum of all the parts, and this is the anatomy of two mediocre football teams. Oakland should have been pinned the Chargers further back on the kickoff, but a penalty forced a re-kick. San Diego also could have scored a TD after another illegal contact penalty on the Raiders extended their drive and put them first and 10 on the 14. Instead, they committed a holding penalty. Good teams take advantage of mistakes.

And bad teams ...

... are worse than good teams. Duh!

Topic No. 1: Michael Bush is healthy again, and showed he can carry the load. Is Darren McFadden's value going to take a hit when he returns from injury?

Block: Once again, McFadden is injured. In the past, this was a reason for McFadden owners to smile because it meant that they no longer were beholden to their yet-again-disappointing upside pick. This year, things are much trickier as the 23-year-old McFadden is averaging 4.6 per carry, while garnering 392 yards, good for ninth in the league. I know you're all shocked that money factors into things the NFL. The Raiders are in the third year of a six-year, $60 million deal with McFadden or half the GNP of our current economy. Bush is a free agent after this year and the Raiders owe him $550K. I'm guessing that the moment McFadden is healthy he gets the bulk of the carries. At least this year he's earned it. Bush will only be a solid start while McFadden heals. Put the "For Sale" sign up.

Counter-block: No one doubts McFadden's talent or his contract, but based on their size differential, they line up as a classic "Thunder (Bush) and Lightning (McFadden)" RBBC. That puts Bush in prime position to vulture red zone TDs, even when both are healthy (think 2006 Marion Barber). And remember, McFadden's opportunity this year as RB1 came from an injury to Bush. There's no reason Bush can't "Wally Pipp" McFadden back while he's healing. And as Dr. Phillips so ably pointed out in his comments, McFadden is no stranger to the trainer's table. He will get hurt again, and Bush will get more time as RB1. Don't be in a hurry to unload non-trophy-returning Bush.

Piling on: If you can finagle someone into giving you Ray Rice or Michael Turner, you're better than we are, so take it. Bush will have some value while McFadden is injured (and when he gets re-injured), and is a decent PPR back. Consider him an RB3 with upside.

Topic No. 2: Terrell Owens has looked like the T.O. of old. Is now a time to deal him before he cools off, or should he be a player to target?

Block: If you got T.O. later than the sixth round, you're probably patting yourself pretty hard on the back now (I know I am). He's averaging 95.2 YPG and has 2 TDs in the last 2 weeks. Now the question is whether you back away from the craps table or you let it ride. True, he's ransacked some sad teams, but he's also been the target of Carson Palmer's affections. Palmer has gotten him the damn ball, and Chad Ochocinco is only averaging 65.2 YPG. T.O. is the man on this team, and is only two seasons removed from his 1000-plus yard, 10-TD Cowboy campaign. Last year in Buffalo was just a terrible dream, which might not even have happened now that I think about it. T.O. has only had one true injury-marred season ('05), and shows no signs of slowing down. Ride him all year long.

Counter-block: Come on, Dave. It took T.O. a matter of two weeks to get fined for breaking the new media rules of the NFL. We all know that once you feed the T.O. monster, it eventually bites off the hand. It only seems fitting that Owens would end up in Cincinnati as this seems to fit their character in the NFL soap opera. They're the character that always gets the raw deal in the end. They tend to the wounded, try to nurse them back to health, and then question why they're in such dire shape at season's end when that self-centered individual does something destructive to himself that hurts the team. See the tragic Chris Henry or the impossible Odell Thurman for reference. There is no "Team" in "T-E-R-R-E-L-L." Owens has 17 catches, 324 yards and two scores in the last two games, but the last time he had this kind of back-to-back output was in 2007 with the Cowboys. There's almost no way he can maintain it, be it interference from the physical limits of being 36 or his mental limits of being 10. The guy is a great receiver, but I would want someone younger and more reliable for my playoff stretch.

Piling on: In a keeper league, we'd gladly trade him away for Brandon Marshall or even Brandon Lloyd at this point. We expect him to perform well this season as his first year anywhere seems to bring the best out of T.O.

Topic No. 3: Max Hall delivered a 17-of-27, 168 yard performance with an INT and no TDs. Is he worth a roster spot considering his good chemistry with Larry Fitzgerald, who led Arizona in receiving with seven receptions and 93 yards?

Block: The Cardinals can't run. The Cardinals can't pass. The Cardinals attempted 24 running plays, with Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower managing only 1.8 and 1.5 yards per carry, respectively. With no passing TDs and no (planned) rushing TDs, the offense's only score was by OT Levi Brown on a fumble recovery. Am I drawing a clear picture here? The only good thing about this performance was Hall's tendency to place the ball where Fitzgerald could catch it (i.e., off the ground). Fitzgerald, who had games like Week 1 where he had 15 balls thrown his way only to catch three, caught seven out of the nine Hall threw at him. Fitzgerald could help Hall develop on a shorter learning curve, but would you roster a Cleveland QB right now? Would you trade your whole team for Devin Hester? Would you take your date out for Vegemite Sandwiches in a Land Down Under? I think you get me.

Counter-block: No one in their right mind would drop a starting QB and pick up Hall. Well, no one who isn't running the actual Cardinals team. However, in fantasy sports player value comes down to three things: health, talent and opportunity. Hall hasn't broken anything, so that's one for him. His talent...okay, we'll come back to that one. And number three, he has the starting job for a team that can't run, will find itself behind in most games, and plays in a sad excuse for a division. Back to the second issue, we saw Hall's arm at BYU and he has Fitzgerald lining up outside ready to catch anything that comes his way. Hey, Troy Aikman won only one game his rookie season, and Hall has already tied him. OK, Hall is no Aikman (Hall makes sense when he speaks), but the opportunity is there for some decent garbage numbers, even if his team can't win.

Piling on: Hall is not worth a spot, but is worth monitoring. If he develops faster spot than expected, this team has solid receivers and pass-catching backs that he could make a viable fill-in against NFC matchups.

Jon Phillips is the 2008 Champion of the Columbus Dispatch National Fantasy Football Contest "Rate the Experts" and has written for Talented Mr. Roto, and He also hosted Rotoexperts flagship radio show "Xperts Edge" as well as "The Think Tank" with Scott Engel. Dave Young has written weekly fantasy sports columns for Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Talented Mr. Roto, and other sites he can't remember. Called the "Laverne and Shirley of Fantasy Football," catch them both on "Just A Bit Outside" on, Sundays, noon Eastern (9 a.m. PST), and read their column, "Line of Scrimmage" weekly on E-mail Jon at or Dave at for subjects you'd like to see debated on "Line of Scrimmage."