Karabell: Rumors of McNabb's demise premature
Those who relied much of the season on Donovan McNabb for fantasy prowess couldn't have been at all pleased by the turn of events in Week 12. McNabb played a poor first half against the Baltimore Ravens, registering a brutal minus-four points for his owners, and that's when Eagles coach Andy Reid ended the quarterback's afternoon. Kevin Kolb was summoned, and the Eagles got demolished. Who knew what the future would look like for the quarterback, the coach, even the team?
Two weeks later, McNabb is quarterbacking one of the hottest squads in the NFC, as the Philadelphia Eagles come off resounding wins over the Arizona Cardinals and NFC-leading New York Giants. While Brian Westbrook has rightfully received most of the accolades for leading fantasy football in scoring each of those weeks, McNabb hasn't played poorly. The turnovers have ceased, and McNabb does have 40 points in two weeks. Of course, one of those weeks McNabb earned 28 points, and in Week 14 he delivered a vastly different 12. What type of performance do we expect on Monday night?
McNabb has been projected by ESPN for 14 fantasy points against the Cleveland Browns, not a top-10 total for his position. The matchup is friendly and both player and team are certainly motivated, as the playoffs appear within reach. By the time you read this you likely have already made your decision about your starting quarterback, unless you have both Monday night options and are debating. Um, we'd choose McNabb over Ken Dorsey. We might choose Ken Stabler over Dorsey at this point.
Just to be thorough, the reason why McNabb wasn't projected for a better game is because the Eagles seem to be basing their newfound reliance on running the ball. Yes, I know it sounds crazy for the Eagles to adopt this game plan, but it seems to be working, and could limit the potential for the quarterback to rock the fantasy world for 20-plus points. Oh, and the Browns are kind of bad, which also limits second-half passing if the Eagles jump out to a big lead.
Whether you rely on McNabb in Week 15 or not, it has become clear that rumors of his demise were a bit premature. The Eagles surely couldn't have made long-term decisions on youngster Kolb just from his second-half performance against the Ravens, but at this point it's unclear where McNabb will be throwing in 2009. It could be Philly, or maybe like the awkward Brett Favre exit from Green Bay the franchise signal-caller will be gently directed to the exit door and call Tampa Bay or Detroit home. It has happened before.
From a fantasy perspective, however, we should not presume McNabb is done. He has failed to reach double digits for fantasy in only four of his starts this season, and a mere six quarterbacks and 12 players overall have accrued more points. Reid's odd decision in Baltimore notwithstanding, McNabb is not having a poor season. Maybe he just needed a wakeup call, and he can be relied upon again.
The Eagles close their regular season with the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, clubs McNabb delivered a total of 22 fantasy points against this season. Those were hardly terrific performances, and like our projection for Monday night against the Browns, you wouldn't be laughed at if you sat McNabb on your bench. Just don't forget how good the Eagles' all-time leading passer can be if you need a decent outing, or someone to rely on in 2009.
Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.
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