Saturday, January 21, 2006

Who will play for the Lombardi???....

The Final Four face off tomorrow afternoon and both games should be very good as none of the 4 seem to be that much better than any of the others. That being said, it makes picking the winners very difficult. Let's break each matchup down to see who will come out on top. We'll start with the AFC foes first.

At QB, you have to like what we've seen from Jake Plummer this year as he has cut down on his turnovers and has really come into his own as a leader for the Broncos. I personally never thought I'd see the day that the Snake would be playing in a conference championship game, but I tip my hat to him and to Coach Shanahan for believing in him. In order for Denver to win, Plummer will have to limit his turnovers to 1 or 2 at most, as he has been able to do most of the year, and make at least one big play downfield to stretch the Steeler's defense out and create running space for Anderson and Bell. As for Big Ben, he has been a great surprise for the Steelers in his first 2 years in the league, leading them to back to back AFC championship games and showing the ability to make plays when necessary. That being said, he will have to be on his A game tomorrow against a much improved Denver front seven, who will put pressure on him early and often. Advantage...Big Ben due to momentum, the way he played last week and being in this game last year.

At RB, you have a future hall of famer and a guy nobody ever heard of before 2005 in Bettis and Fast Willie for the Steelers. Denver counters with a former Marine in Anderson and the playmaking Tatum Bell. Both teams rely heavily on the run and both do it well, however both defenses do a great job of shutting down the run. Where does that leave us? Advantage...Even.

At WR, both teams have a solid #1 with veteran experience and a #2 with big play ability and speed. Rod Smith has been to a couple superbowls already and Lelie has shown flashes of his potential over the past 2 years. These two should be able to make a couple of big plays for the Broncos, but will have to be aware of where Polamalu is at all times on the field. Hines Ward is known for his toughness and intensity on the field, but he can also make a big play and move the chains consistently. Randle El has a step on Lelie in the playmaking department but he doesn't seem to be as consistent as you'd like to see him become which makes me question how effective he can be in the big game. Either way, I like Rod Smith's experience and hunger over Ward's and that may be enough. Advantage....Broncos, but not by much.

Looking at the team's defenses, both have the ability to put pressure on the QB and both have playmakers in the secondary, but you have to love what Pittsburgh did to the best offense in the league while on the road last weekend. As good of a corner as Champ Bailey is, he can be beat and the Steeler's Polamalu seems to always make multiple big plays, whether it is an interception or getting to the QB for a sack. Advantage....Steelers.

The other factors in this matchup such as kickers, special teams and coaching all seem to be pretty even here, so looking at the matchups discussed above, it looks like Big Ben does enough on offense to give the Steelers the lead and let the Steel Curtain drop on Jake and the boys in Denver. Final score....Steelers 23-Broncos 20....The Jaw makes it back to the Bowl and the Steeltown faithful burn down the city.

Now on to the NFC. At QB, you have a guy in Delhomme that has been absolutely great in postseason play, with his only loss coming in the 2004 Superbowl against the Pats. It's like he goes from Clark Kent to Superman when it is do or die and always puts the Carolina Cats in a position to win. For Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck has always been a great player and he has really stepped up his game this year even when his #1 WR was missing for several weeks. He has been careful with the ball and has made big plays when necessary - he looked especially good last weekend against a tough Redskin defense when he was playing without their #1 offensive weapon in Shaun Alexander for most of the contest. Advantage....Hasselbeck...they're both good, but Matt gets the nod.

At RB, the Seahawks should have the clear advantage in the NFL's MVP, but don't be surprised to see Nick Goings, Carolina's 3rd string RB, have a good game and rush for 100+ yards while chipping in with another 40-50 through the air. Goings is a versatile back who has proven he can carry the load as he put together a string of very good games during last year's regular season when Foster and Davis were both sidelined with injuries. The question is, will his 150 total yards be enough to help Carolina win the game. Advantage....Alexander due to a better O-line and his production during the year....he may not beat Goings in yardage, but he'll make up for it in TDs.

At WR, the Panthers probably have the most valuable player in this year's playoffs so far. Steve Smith is a guy who can score a TD in the blink of an eye and put the team's offense on his back when other options just aren't there. The problem for Carolina lies in their depth at the position, as Colbert has been non-existent and no one else has stepped up to help Smith and the passing attack, which leaves Delhomme with pretty much one reliable target. The Seahawks on the other hand have 3 good WRs and have the ability to spread the offense out, which also will help create running room for Alexander. Darrell Jackson is a very, very good WR and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. He is a playmaker and gives Seattle a big bonus as a #2 threat in their offensive attack. Let's not forget about Jurevicius, who stepped up with Jackson sidelined in the regular season and has become a real redzone threat, and Bobby Engram, who always seems to convert when called on. Advantage....Seahawks....will be interesting to see how often Carolina's nickel package is on the field and how effective Ricky Manning Jr. is in this NFC Championship game.

The team defenses are both solid and both capable of making plays, but you have to like the Carolina front seven a bit more, especially with Peppers in the lineup (who should be OK to go). The Seahawks D seems to do just enough to help the team win, but I'm still not sold on just how good they are. The Panthers should be able to slow Alexander down and force more passes from Hasselbeck but will they be able to get to him and force needed turnovers to give their offense better field position? We shall see. Advantage.....Carolina.

Without getting into any other matchups and looking at the advantages above, it looks like Seattle will be able to let Goings get his yards and concentrate on shutting down Steve Smith, which isn't good news for the Panthers. Expect a good game from Hasselbeck and Darrell Jackson, helping the Seahawks reach the Superbowl. Final Score....Seattle 27-Carolina 23.....just not enough for the Panthers to win on the road this time around.....go crazy SEEEEAAAAHAAAAAWWWWKKKKSSS!!!!


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Top 10 Fantasy Wide Receivers for 2006....

Now that the 2005 fantasy season is behind us, we can start preparing for 2006 and get you ready to make that jump from middle of the pack to top of the class. Note that this list is as of right now and that it will change slightly as offseason transactions take place and as some of these guys find themselves in different situations heading into the new season.

1. Steve Smith - This guy is flat out amazing. How can a guy so small be so good? He may not match the numbers he put up in 2005, but unless the Panthers decide to completely revamp their offensive scheme it would be a kick in the nuts not to rank him in the top spot for next year.

2. Larry Fitzgerald - 103 catches and 10 TDs in his 2nd year in the league......scary. The sky is the limit for this young stud.

3. Terrell Owens - As an Eagle fan I surely am not happy with TO at this point, but he is undoubtedly one of the best receivers to play in today's game, if not the best. His numbers through 7 games played with the Eagles in 2005 projected out to be 108 catches, 1,700+ yards and 14 TDs - numbers that may have put him ahead of Steve Smith for the year. That being said, those numbers came in a pass-first offense with a Pro Bowl QB throwing him the ball. No one can be sure where this social misfit will land and how it will effect his fantasy status, but it is hard to drop him below 3rd overall until we know more.

4. Torry Holt - Seemingly underrated by many fantasy players over the past several years, this "Big Play" threat is a lock for 95+ catches and 1,400 yards every season. Imagine what he will do when Bruce moves on....

5. Chad Johnson - His skills are as golden as his teeth...and his TD celebrations make him that more exciting. Expect him to continue to get better each year.

6. Randy Moss - While Randy's tall frame, speed and jumping ability make him a freak of nature on the football field, his off-field antics and recurring injuries have led to his fall from the fantasy king at WR. If he stays healthy in 2006 and remains quiet when not playing, Moss may find himself back at the top in 2007 but until he can show me the money, I'm steering clear.

7. Anquan Boldin - Another Cardinal you say? That's right...teamed with Fitzgerald, these 2 are one of the best WR tandems I've ever seen. An average of 100 catches and 1,375 yards in 2 full seasons should have fantasy owners fighting for his services on draft day. Only downside is that Fitzgerald seems to be the #1 redzone target, but we'll take the other stats and be happy.

8. Marvin Harrison - Marvelous Marvin is the epitome of class and consistency at the typically flamboyant wide receiver position. He finds a way to put up great numbers year in and year out and those numbers just might get bigger in 2006 if the Colts fail to bring back the Edge or replace him with someone capable of filling his running shoes. If the Colts running game suffers, it will only mean more opportunities for the passing attack and more chances for Marvin to do his thing.

9. Santana Moss - Many fantasy players wrote this speedster off after a subpar 2004 which left him available in the middle to late rounds of many drafts. Not the case heading into the 2006 draft, as his 2005 numbers were quite eye-popping in the somewhat conservative Redskin offense. He is definitely a player whose value will be volatile heading into next season as we have seen him go from breaking out in 2003 to disappearing in 2004 and back again in 2005. A lot of his value is attached to his QB and we all know that Brunell is hardly a stud so if he goes down so could Santana's stat line.

10. Javon Walker - Sort of going out on a limb here given his injury and QB situation, but his upside, 2004 season and contract situation all make him an attractive option heading into 2006. If Favre retires and Javon's knee is still hampered, his value drops significantly, but if Brett gives it one more shot and Walker is running pain free come training camp, you'll want to pay attention.

That's all I have for now, stay tuned for analysis of other positions and further discussion of receivers on the bubble of the top 10. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the playoffs and Superbowl - it should be a good one.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Who is most important to their playoff team?...

Which of these following players is most important to their respective team's chances at winning this year's Superbowl?

Shaun Alexander
Big Ben
Steve Smith
Jake Plummer
Matt Hasselbeck
The Bus
Jake Delhomme
Champ Bailey
Darrell Jackson
Troy Polamalu
Julius Peppers
Rod Smith

Personally, I would rank Steve Smith at the top of this list right now, with Polamalu a close second. Steve Smith gives the Panthers that wild card on offense that none of the other 3 teams remaining seem to have. This guy can force defenses to change their game plan completely in order to try to slow him down but he always seems to find ways to make an impact and timely big plays. We all know he can go up for the deep ball and turn a screen pass into a long TD, but he can also run an effective reverse and return punts if needed. Plain and simple, this little guy is dangerous and has defensive coordinators scratching their heads right now on how to contain him. I hope Ray Rhodes has a few tricks up his sleeve for this weekend or Hasselbeck may be forced into a shootout with the Cats.

On the opposite side of the ball, Polamalu has opposing QBs doubting themselves in the back of their minds. Captain Caveman's relentless pursuit of the ball has to have Plummer worried and may cause him to hesitate to throw very far downfield. This shortening of the field caused by Plummer's hesitation will help Pittsburgh to crowd the line of scrimmage more often and eventually lead to a couple of turnovers that we all know Plummer is more than capable of. The Broncos will have to find a way to minimize Polamalu's effectiveness or it could be a long day for their offense.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The guy nobody's talking about....

While everyone is talking about what order Reggie Bush, Vince Young and Matt Leinart will be drafted in the 2006 NFL draft, no one is talking about which player is going to make the biggest fantasy impact in 2006. Many will rush to say Reggie Bush because of his explosive play and hype as the next Marshall Faulk, but I haven't heard anyone talking about the Thunder to his Lightning.....that's right, LenDale White. While everyone is hyping Bush (not that he doesn't deserve it because he should be a very good NFL player some day soon), I will be tracking White to see where he lands and what type of role he will take on with his new team. If he ends up on a team like the Cardinals, Packers or 49ers, he could wind up being a very productive rookie runner assuming he is given the lion's share of the carries. If he winds up in a place like Philly and is the short yardage, red zone guy than he will obviously not be as valuable in yardage leagues but will still be a solid middle round pick as a TD vulture and solid backup to a guy like Brian Westbrook. You just look at his size (235 Lbs) and the TDs he scored this past year (not to mention he had the better game in the 2006 Rose bowl) and you salivate at him taking the reigns over in a run oriented offense where he could easily rumble for 1,200 yards and 10+ TDs as a rookie.

Either way, I see White being more valuable in 2006 than his former college teammate. The biggest reasons for this are Domanick Davis and Deuce McAllister. Davis has put up awesome numbers the past 2 seasons in an offense where he was clearly the focus of opposing defenses and was running behind one of the worst (if not the worst) offensive lines in the league. The guy can catch and runs hard between the tackles - his only downfall has been his injuries, but what do you expect when they have asked so much of him. The Texans taking Bush over Vince Young makes no sense to me given that Davis has already proven he can make plays on the ground as well as through the air. You put a similar RB in that system and what does that get you? A lot of money wrapped up in 2 very good, very similar runners and still a piss poor offensive line. If Bush goes #2, he will have to compete for playing time with one of the NFL's premier rushers in Deuce McAllister. We all know Deuce is hurt, but it happened fairly early in the season and he should be back and ready to play in time for the 2006 season. I actually like Bush going to the Saints more than the Texans for fantasy purposes, but again, you don't just bench your proven workhorse stud RB for a rookie no matter how good he can potentially be. In other words, Bush would be fighting for time if McAllister is ready to roll and I'm assuming he will be. Now all bets are off if Bush lands in Tennessee because he would more than likely get a ton of work there since Chris Brown has been slightly better than good the past 2 seasons and has also been known to be injured often. This would be the best case fantasy scenario for Bush but I think it would be a huge surprise to see him drop that far. Another question mark for Bush would be his durability at the NFL level, as he never really handled a full load at USC and is not exactly a big RB at 6ft 200 Lbs.

Given all of that, big LenDale White should wind up being a more reliable source of fantasy points in 2006, as he has a more ideal size for the bigger, faster NFL and his draft position should place him on a team where he'll be able to handle more carries than Bush and surely get more red zone/goal-line attempts. Time will tell, but I am looking forward to the draft and free-agency as there should be quite a few new RB situations at the start of the 2006 season.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Manning is good but Pittsburgh was better....

After the game, Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter said of the ruling:
"I know they wanted Indy to win this game; the whole world loves
Peyton Manning. But come on, man, don't take the game away from us like that."

That quote by Porter was in reference to the botched call by the refs when Steeler's safety Troy Polamalu made a great interception on a late 4th quarter pass by Peyton Manning as he was trying to rally the Colts to a come from behind victory over the tougher and more physical Steelers.

I for one agree with Porter's comments, as I immediately had the same reaction as soon as the ref announced the ruling as an incomplete pass. Are you F'ing kidding me? The long haired freak, who was all over the field on Sunday and who should have had at least 2 or 3 picks, made a remarkable nail-in-the-coffin catch which should have sealed the deal for Pittsburgh but instead lead to one of the craziest finishes to an NFL post-season game in recent memory. I could really care less about who won the game other than the fact that I, along with every other sports fanatic, had picked the Colts to win, however the Steelers were handing the Colts their asses in Indy all day long and if that call (which did eventually help the Colts climb within a game-tying field goal attempt) cost the iron city meatheads the game you would have heard about it for years to come. I swear that as much as none of us want to believe it, the NFL brass must be stuffing $100 bills in the zebra suit pockets before these high-stake contests to make sure the "rights calls" are made to keep things interesting.

Given all that crap, I was glad to see Mr. Head-Bobbing, "I'm a real football player", Vanderjagt crush the ball into the corner of the end zone (possibly the worst game-tying kick attempt ever.....seriously) to send Mr. Perfect Peyton packing early. The guy is a good kicker but what a clown. He and Peyton should stop talking trash on their own teammates and take a good look in the mirror because your TEAM was better on paper and if the two of them had played up to their potential instead of bad and worse, we'd be watching the Snake in Indy next weekend. Just something to chew on while you're sitting at home on your couch listening to country music and watching Big Ben in Denver next Sunday (by the way, that's Ben's second trip to the AFC title game in two attempts if you're counting at home - I know he doesn't look as cool at the line of scrimmage yelling at his linemen as some, but he may look pretty darn good in an AFC Championship hat).

One last note before I sign-off......mad props to Big Ben for making the ugliest game-saving tackle I've ever seen and putting your team in a position to make history...that is if you can keep the snake in his cage for one full hour.....good luck because if the Bus drops the ball this time, the Broncos will take advantage and move on to Motown.