Eli Manning: AP
If you were surprised by the Giants' methodical 16-7 victory over the Redskins on Thursday ... then perhaps you don't follow pro football too closely. This game was vintage G-Men: Time-consuming drives keyed by bulldozing rushers (Brandon Jacobs, 116 yards), high-percentage passing (I don't recall Eli Manning throwing more than four deep balls), solid special teams (three field goals by 44-year-old John Carney) and, above all, a ball-hawking, relentless defense that disrupted the opposition's timing and rhythm. Sad to say, the Redskins also had a vintage outing, racking up only 209 yards of offense -- and looking the part of a team with aging talent, dwindling depth and a remarkably stagnant sense of urgency late in the ball game.
1. It's a rare night in fantasyland when the winning NFL team scores only 16 points but satisfies three separate owners (Manning -- 16 points in standard-scoring leagues), Jacobs (124 total yards -- 12 fantasy points) and Plaxico Burress (10 catches for 133 yards -- 23 points in PPR leagues).
2. If I didn't know any better, I would have sworn the Redskins' three top draft choices -- receivers David Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and tight end Fred Davis -- had all been axed before training camp ended. OK, so Kelly was out with a knee injury; I knew that. But Thomas, the speed demon from Michigan State (my alma mater), was the only one to (barely) register anything over nil -- one catch for five yards.
3. It was only one game, but Clinton Portis (23 rushes for 84 yards; zero catches) once again displayed his worth as a solid second-round pick in standard leagues ... and a fourth-rounder in PPR leagues. (Hmmm ... I guess deposed offensive coordinator Al Saunders -- now in St. Louis -- deserves major kudos for CP's 47-catch, 383-yard passing-game output last season.)
4. If you are wondering who'll make a better fantasy backup QB this season, Jason Campbell or Jon Kitna, you may want to stick with Kitna -- with or without Mike Martz.
5. For those who drafted Ahmad Bradshaw (zero yards) as the fantasy handcuff to Jacobs -- instead of Derrick Ward (nine rushes for 39 yards) -- you have a real decision on your hands, eh?
WR David Patten, New Orleans
WR Kevin Walter, Houston
TE Ben Utecht, Cincinnati
RB Tim Hightower, Arizona
RB Ray Rice, Baltimore
Yes, I know Daunte Culpepper could not be found on any active rosters this summer -- which likely prompted his exit from pro football at age 31. But I also would like to remind everyone of his monster game against the Dolphins in 2007, while serving as the Raiders' short-term stopgap to JaMarcus Russell. On a day best remembered for Ronnie Brown's season-ending knee injury (and to a lesser extent, LaMont Jordan's ugly back injury), C-Pep threw two touchdowns and ran for three more in Oakland's 35-17 road triumph. In contrast, QB Joe Flacco, who'll make his first NFL start in his first-ever pro game for the Ravens on Sunday, may not account for five total touchdowns until Week 4.
1. Nate Kaeding, Chargers vs. Panthers
2. Josh Scobee, Jaguars @ Titans
3. Jason Hanson, Lions @ Falcons
4. Adam Vinatieri, Colts vs. Bears
5. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots vs. Chiefs
Ray Rice: Greg Fiume/Getty Images
As I'm typing the Clicks, the NFL Network is reporting that RB Willis McGahee is a game-time decision for Ravens-Bengals on Sunday. And if I'm Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, I'm genuinely hoping that Willis plays at least half the snaps ... because an elusive talent like rookie Ray Rice should be harder to stop than a straight-line runner, like McGahee, who also cannot cut effectively (if at all) on a surgically repaired knee. Speaking of rookie rushers, here are some Week 1 projections for the '08 running back class (courtesy of PigskinAddiction):
Kevin Smith, Lions: 100 total yards, 1 TD
Ray Rice: 105 total yards, 1 TD
Steve Slaton, Texans: 75 total yards
Matt Forte, Bears: 100 total yards, 1 TD
Darren McFadden, Raiders: 50 total yards
Chad Pennington will exact some revenge against his old team this weekend (along with the legendary QB who supplanted him, Brett Favre). Final score: Dolphins 19 Jets 14
Switching gears to baseball ... on Thursday Ervin Santana became the first Angels pitcher in decades to register at least seven strikeouts in seven straight outings. Can you name the club's last fireballer to accomplish that feat? Scroll down for the answer.
Let's pretend you're just two agonizing points away from a fantasy league title and desperately need to break a four-way tie in the Steals category. What's the easy solution? Well, since it's too late to trade for Grady Sizemore or Willy Taveras -- not to mention shelved stars Carl Crawford and Ian Kinsler -- you'll need to hit the waiver wire. To wit: SI.com's presents a list of the 10 most unheralded hitters with the best combination of Hits and Steals in the last 30 days. We're talking about guys with monthly minimums of 19 hits and two steals (except for Oakland's Eric Patterson, whose prodigious steals rate could not be ignored).1. Cesar Izturis, Cardinals (25 hits, 8 steals)
2. Chris Dickerson, Reds (26 hits, 5 steals)
3. Jay Payton, Orioles (26 hits, 3 steals)
4. Felipe Lopez, Cardinals (26 hits, 3 steals)
5. Clint Barmes, Rockies (25 hits, 3 steals)
6. Emmanuel Burriss, Giants (25 hits, 3 steals)
7. Rajaj Davis, Athletics (19 hits, 7 steals)
8. Coco Crisp, Red Sox (22 hits, 4 steals)
9. Eric Patterson , Athletics (14 hits, 7 steals)
10. Edgar Renteria, Tigers (26 hits, 2 steals)
The last Angels pitcher to register at least seven strikeouts in seven consecutive games was none other than ... Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in 1978. (Trivia credit: ESPN)
It's not everyday a Royals hitter makes me look the fantasy fool. But two weeks ago, in my favorite AL-only league (where I stand just five points from first place), I dumped the heftiest singles hitter in all of baseball, Kansas City DH Billy Butler. Soon after the release -- as if word had somehow gotten back to Billy ... who then swore vengeance against this sight-unseen fantasy honk -- Butler immediately morphed into a power-hitting, run-producing, run-scoring machine for the rejuvenated Royals. Here's a breakdown of Butler's amazing run since Aug. 22, in comparison to his fantasy replacement, Twins SS Nick Punto:
Butler: 21 hits, 12 runs, 3 HR, 12 RBIs, 0 SB, .438 average
Punto: 16 hits, 6 runs, 0 HR, 2 RBIs, 2 SB, .314 average
Speaking of Ervin Santana ... while the Rays are enjoying baseball's best team turnaround this year, Santana should take a bow for a similarly stellar rebound -- during road games. Check out the 25-year-old's absurd home/away transformation:
Home: 10-2, 3.02 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 76/35 K-to-BB ratio
Away: 6-6, 5.95 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 65/35 K-to-BB ratio
Home: 6-4, 3.27 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 61/24 K-to-BB ratio
Away: 1-10, 8.38 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 65/34 K-to-BB ratio
Home: 5-3, 3.33 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 80/13 K-to-BB ratio
Away: 10-2, 3.16 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 111/31 K-to-BB ratio
How bad was Santana away from The Big A in 2006 and '07? During the SI.com & Friends baseball fantasy league draft in March, team owner Brandon Marcus (a notorious Angels nut) waited until the very last round (pick No. 282 overall) to grab the über-talented Santana ... and then threw in the insulting caveat of, "I'm taking Ervin Santana here, but I'll only start him for home games." Six months later, Santana is on the short list for "Best Road Play in Fantasy" -- and even-shorter list of AL Cy Young candidates.
That Carlos Zambrano needs to somehow cure his rotator-cuff woes before the playoffs begin. If he's not at 100 percent come October, I'd hate to see another untimely Cubs playoff defeat blamed on someone innocently sitting in the Wrigley Field stands again -- but this time in right field. (I'm kidding ... sort of.)
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.
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.