Clinton Portis: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
The countdowns are in full gear now (assuming you're reading this at 10 a.m. Monday) ... approximately 177 hours until the Week 1 Monday Night Football doubleheader (Vikings @ Packers; Broncos @ Raiders), 147 hours until Chiefs-Patriots (along with eight other 1 p.m. Sunday games), 80 hours until Redskins-Giants on Thursday night and, perhaps most importantly, 48 hours until the Fantasy Clicks "Start 'Em/Sit 'Em" for Week 1. Whoo-hoo ... it's football time!
(collecting breath) In the meantime, since even fantasy honks must enjoy the fruits of Labor Day, SI.com presents a potpourri of information to cap a rather-uneventful preseason (and that's a good thing -- since we loathe needless August injuries to stud running backs, like Clinton Portis, circa 2006). First up, some 2008 Fantasy Predictions:
|NFL 2008 preseason predictions|
1. RB Earnest Graham, Buccaneers
2. WR Bernard Berrian, Vikings
3. WR Laveranues Coles, Jets
4. RB Rudi Johnson, Free Agent (for obvious reasons)
5. QB Derek Anderson, Browns
Need further proof the NFL is a "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" league? Check out the cruel fate of former Bengals running back Rudi Johnson. From 2003-06, Johnson rushed for 5,178 yards and 45 total TDs (1,295 yards and 11 TDs per season), rock-steady fantasy numbers worthy of a low first-round or high second-round draft pick. But after a one-year rash of injuries in 2007 -- along with the development of Chris Perry and Kenny Watson this spring -- Reliable Rudi is suddenly out in Cincinnati and without an NFL home (although he will reportedly take a physical with the Lions on Monday). What's next for the 28-year-old pro, should things fall through with Detroit? Here's hoping the Bears, Niners, Browns and Rams -- rusher-needy teams that do not advocate 'one-cut' zone-blocking schemes -- give his agent a call.
1. RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
2. WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets
3. WR Brandon Marshall, Broncos
4. QB Jay Cutler, Broncos
5. WR Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs
Ever dreamt of playing fantasy football against a Hall of Fame safety, Sports Illustrated football writer, Major League Baseball general manager, world-renowned swimsuit model, professional poker player or best-selling author -- to name a few? SI.com, in conjunction with Facebook, will welcome someone into its 2008 Celebrity Fantasy League where one lucky fan matches weekly wits, from Draft Day to the Fantasy Bowl, with Ronnie Lott, Peter King, Oakland A's GM Billy Beane, supermodel Brooklyn Decker, poker great Phil Gordon and Michael Lewis, author of the sabremetrician-friendly book, Moneyball. Time's running out, though, so click here and register today! As a consolation prize for the contest non-winners, you can create new leagues and develop newer rivals on the new SI/Facebook fantasy game.
1. WR Josh Morgan , 49ers
2. RB Tim Hightower, Cardinals
3. WR Justin Gage, Titans
4. RB Fred Jackson, Bills
5. QB JaMarcus Russell, Raiders
6. QB Trent Edwards, Bills
7. WR Donnie Avery, Rams
8. TE Zach Miller, Raiders
9. TE Ben Utecht, Bengals
10. K Brandon Coutu, Seahawks
Derrick Mason: AP
Last week, I solicited the help of Fantasy Clicks readers over whom to start at WR in Week 1 for my SI.com & Friends league -- Lee Evans (vs. SEA), Derrick Mason (@ CIN), Javon Walker (vs. DEN) and 49ers sleeper extraordinaire Josh Morgan (vs. ARI). (I'll be starting two of the four in Week 1, given that Steve Smith and Brandon Marshall -- my stud pass-catchers taken in Rounds 3 and 5 -- are serving suspensions.) By an overwhelming margin, the readers believe I should ride Evans and Mason to Week 1 glory; and in a somewhat humorous shocker, the readers also say I should give Walker the heave-ho and grab someone with greater promise and no police record. Hmmmm ... as I ponder dumping Walker for San Diego's Craig Davis or Chicago's Earl Bennett, here are the AccuScore projections for Evans, Mason and Walker:
Evans: 4.4 catches for 64 yards and .035 TDs
Mason: 4.2 catches for 47 yards and .017 TDs
Walker: 2.5 catches for 33 yards and .013 TDs
1. Vikings: Adrian Peterson --> Chester Taylor
2. Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew --> Fred Taylor
3. Panthers: Jonathan Stewart --> DeAngelo Williams
4. Titans: LenDale White --> Chris Johnson
5. Raiders: Justin Fargas --> Darren McFadden
5. (tie) Giants: Brandon Jacobs --> Derrick Ward
1. Browns: Jamal Lewis --> Jason Wright, Jerome Harrison
2. Texans: Ahman Green --> Steve Slaton, Chris Taylor
3. Lions: Kevin Smith --> Tatum Bell, Rudi Johnson (?)
4. Rams: Steven Jackson --> Travis Minor, Brian Leonard, Antonio Pittman
5. 49ers: Frank Gore --> DeShaun Foster, Michael Robinson
Switching gears to baseball ... before you get inundated with information about today's call-ups from the minors, there are still plenty of underrated starters on the mixed-league waiver wires, including key pieces to fantasy titles -- assuming you act now. To wit: SI.com presents a list of the 10 most unheralded hitters with the best combination of HRs and Runs in the last 30 days. We're essentially talking about guys with at least 3 HRs and 11 runs since Aug. 1 (and Baltimore's Jay Payton, whose prodigous numbers in runs cannot be ignored).
1. Jay Bruce, Reds, (7 HRs, 14 runs)
2. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians (4 HRs, 19 runs)
3. Brian Giles, Padres (5 HRs, 15 runs)
4. Willie Harris, Nationals (4 HRs, 15 runs)
5. Edgar Renteria, Tigers (4 HRs, 15 runs)
6. Lyle Overbay, Blue Jays (4 HRs, 14 runs)
7. Ben Francisco, Indians (4 HRs, 13 runs
8. Gary Sheffield, Tigers (5 HRs, 11 runs)
9. Jay Payton, Orioles (1 HR, 17 runs)
10. Jim Edmonds, Cubs (3 HRs, 14 runs)
In my mind, Rick Sutcliffe and CC Sabathia are joined at the hip -- and not because they're both 6-foot-7 (or taller), Cy Young winners and pitched for (and traded from) the Indians at one point. No, the righty Sutcliffe and lefty Sabathia easily rank 1-2 (or 2-1) for having the greatest years by pitchers after being dealt during the season. (Looking at CC's numbers with Milwaukee below, I am stunned that anyone would even question his bid for back-to-back Cy Youngs.) But which pitcher boasts the more impressive season after being dealt? (Note: Sabathia still has another 5-6 starts for the playoff-contending Brewers.)
Sutcliffe (1984, Cubs): 16-1, 2.39 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 115/39 K-to-BB ratio, 7 CG, 3 shutouts
Sabathia (2008, Brewers): 9-0, 1.59 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 85/18 K-to-BB ratio, 6 CG, 3 shutouts
Speaking of Sabathia ... he threw a 1-hit shutout against the Pirates on Sunday. Can you name the last Brewers pitcher to accomplish that feat -- a 1-hit complete-game shutout? Scroll down for the answer.
In search of an unheralded Monday spot starter for your fantasy lineup, one who may bring glory in wins, ERA and WHIP -- if for just one night? Look no further than Texas pitcher Matt Harrison, the 22-year-old wunderkind and likely anchor for the Rangers' soon-to-be-coming wave of golden arms (Blake Beavan, David Paisano, Derek Lee, Neftali Feliz, Justin Smoak, Wilfredo Boscan, etc.) In his last five starts, Harrison has posted four wins, a 2/1 K-to-BB ratio (18-9), a 1.38 WHIP and 4.25 ERA -- although he allowed two runs or less in three of those outings. What's more, Harrison was a supreme model of consistency in his last three full seasons in the minors (2005-07) -- racking up a cumulative K-to-BB ratio of 310-97. It's no secret that I'm a sucker for guys with high Ks and low walks, but I'm an even bigger honk for guys when facing the hapless, often-punchless Mariners. As luck would have it, that's Harrison's assignment tonight.
To use Monday's holiday as a mental break from fantasy football ... because come Tuesday, starting with Jeff Ritter's Fantasy Clicks, we hit Week 1 like nobody's business. In fact, Reveille starts at 0600 (+ 4 hours)!
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.