- Brendan Roberts, Fantasy
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This is the 15th and final "Best of the Blogs" column in this fine 2008 season, and I'm making this one an open forum.
During my chat this past Tuesday, just in the questions alone, I was told harrowing stories of defeat during the playoff rounds, dropped interceptions costing a team the season, a missed field goal for another team, late scores, injuries, etc. Each one stung me, having known what that felt like. Any veteran fantasy footballer remembers an instance or two in his "playing career" in which heartbreaks have cost seasons. (My worst was on a Monday night, I think in Week 17, in which Marshall Faulk scored, like, six touchdowns at Tampa Bay. He had Faulk -- and I had the Bucs' defense.)
Anyway, they were odd questions to get during a midweek chat before many teams' championship games, but I quickly realized these people didn't need advice, they needed consolation. They just wanted to vent through their keyboards or cell phones (you can now send questions through ESPN Mobile), and in that vein, I was happy to help them. This hobby we call fantasy football is a game, and it's not a game unless it has a winner and a loser.
And so I'm asking you to use our fine ESPN Conversation feature below this column. Tell us your heartbreaking story, and nothing is too good or not good enough to share. First-time caller? Need to get something off your chest? No problem; all are welcome.
Now, I fully realize that if you're reading this, chances are you are one of those who squeaked by and left someone else with the sob story. Well, you can share the story on your fellow owner's behalf if you'd like. But many of you are also in multiple leagues, and had vastly different results in Week 15.
I'm just making it an open forum. I know you've had all week to rehash Week 15, and if you'd rather just sit back and read, but not post, no problem. If we get only three posts below, then that's three people we helped to feel better, and that's worth it.
Now let's get to the news to see what we can do for those still-playing owners, whose heartbeats no doubt are beginning to rise right about now. Good luck in Week 16!
Bush done for the season | Read full blog entry
"The Saints placed running back Reggie Bush on the injured-reserve list Wednesday, ending a disappointing season. Bush first injured the knee in October and missed four games after having surgery to fix a torn meniscus. Bush returned to action Nov. 30 but never was able to bounce back to form. This means Pierre Thomas will be the main running back for the rest of the season. The only other alternatives are veteran Deuce McAllister, who has had only limited playing time this season, and Mike Bell, who was signed a few weeks ago." -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: It's news, but not entirely unexpected. Again Reggie Bush is shut down because of an injury. Sigh. So much upside, so many leg problems. Meanwhile, Thomas is our second-highest projected scorer in Week 16. How 'bout that?!
Hamdan to start at quarterback for the Bills? | Read full blog entry
"Buffalo News reporter Bucky Gleason explores the possibility third-string quarterback Gibran Hamdan might play out the season." -- Tim Graham
Fantasy spin: This is for real: The Bills seriously are considering going with Hamdan, the former Indiana University quarterback. And they wouldn't have brought it up this week if they weren't seriously considering it. And you thought you didn't like J.P. Losman as a quarterback Hamdan has thrown just two regular-season passes in his career -- and they were both in 2003, at least "three teams" ago. Yikes, talk about unproven. Oh well, at least the Bills are playing the Broncos. That would help. But I can't say anybody not named Marshawn Lynch looks good for the Bills right now (and yes, that includes Lee Evans).
Forte not concerned with toe injury | Read full blog entry
"Bears tailback Matt Forte isn't worried about his injured right big toe, writes Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald." -- Kevin Seifert
Fantasy spin: And you probably shouldn't be either. Check the practice reports this week, but Forte hasn't played since last Thursday and won't play again before Monday. I'm no doctor, but 10 days off is a heck of a lot better than the standard six days.
Garcia expects to play | Read full blog entry
"Quarterback Jeff Garcia just said he expects to play in Sunday's game against San Diego. Garcia sat out a loss to Atlanta with an injured calf and said there's been some improvement in the last few days. 'I'm going to practice [Wednesday],' Garcia said. 'So I'm planning on playing Sunday.' Sounds good, but I wouldn't put this one in ink just yet. The Bucs thought Garcia would be able to play against Atlanta, but that didn't happen after he experienced difficulty in pregame warm-ups. Brian Griese got the start against the Falcons and, presumably, would get the nod if Garcia can't play against the Chargers." -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: A lot of people are intrigued by Garcia this week at home against the Chargers' shoddy pass defense, but I'm not. It's clear by these reports that his calf is not 100 percent, and don't you realize that Garcia's legs mean everything to him? If his calf hurts, he won't tuck it and run, an occasional bonus from him. And he can't scramble as well, which, as an undersized quarterback, he needs to be able to do to be effective. I'm just not feelin' the Garcia love this week, although I do like Warrick Dunn and Cadillac Williams more if Garcia plays.
Orlovsky to start again for the Lions | Read full blog entry
"Dan Orlovsky is Detroit's starting quarterback for at least one more week, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press." -- Kevin Seifert
Fantasy spin: Oh joy. That said, Orlovsky did play pretty well last week in Indy, and the Lions have the nothing-to-play-for Saints (and their 26th-ranked pass defense) at home. Plus, the team's best player is a big-play receiver. I know better than to recommend a Lions quarterback in a standard league, but if you're in a deep league or a two-active-quarterback league, I think you could do worse. Let's just leave it at that.
Patriots' Light hurting but will keep playing | Read full blog entry
"Ron Borges and John Tomase of the Boston Herald report Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Light has a mildly separated shoulder but that he should keep playing." -- Tim Graham
Fantasy spin: He might not be 100 percent, but it sounds as if he'll play. The Pats more or less need him to with their season on the line. Light is a Pro Bowl (just announced) left tackle, and those guys don't grow on trees. In Week 16, the Pats host the Cardinals, who are 12th in the league in sacks. If Light can't play, you might have to downgrade Cassel slightly because his blind side will be exposed more.
Williams' loss bigger in Minnesota than you'd think | Read full blog entry
"I don't think you can overstate the impact of Minnesota nose tackle Pat Williams' fractured right scapula, a shoulder injury that will keep him out at least two weeks and probably longer. Especially when you consider the two opponents remaining on the Vikings' schedule. The Vikings must face the NFL's top two rushing offenses (the Falcons and Giants) without their big nose tackle. Williams is a major reason why the Vikings have the NFL's best interior run defense, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Yes, the Vikings still have a strong defensive line led by Kevin Williams and Jared Allen. But it's no secret that offenses must pick their poison when blocking against the full-strength Williams Wall. Now opposing offenses can get away with routinely double-teaming Kevin Williams. The likely replacement for Pat Williams, Fred Evans, is a decent player but certainly doesn't require a double-team. Like most Cover 2 defenses, the Vikings are built around the idea of their front four creating regular havoc. Monday's news isn't curtains for the Vikings' playoff hopes, but it is as impactful as the loss of a nose tackle can be." -- Kevin Seifert
Seahawks hurtin' on the O-line | Read full blog entry
"Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says Sean Locklear's injury could leave the Seahawks with zero projected starters on the offensive line. Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Locklear's dislocated toe will prevent him from practicing all week. Also, Matt Hasselbeck isn't going to play against the Jets. From Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Kyle Williams could start at left tackle for Seattle, a startling development." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: Uh, yeah, the situation isn't so good on the offensive line for the Seahawks. They're at home, and the unit has been holding its own, but I think the Jets' defensive line will have a field day on Seattle in both the rushing and passing games. Simply put, the Seahawks haven't faced a line as good as the Jets' the past couple weeks (they did play the Patriots, but the Pats were really banged-up on the D-line). I'm not expecting much from any Seahawk in Week 16.
Cardinals battling defensive injuries | Read full blog entry
"[Cardinals defensive end] Travis LaBoy suffered an ankle injury of undetermined severity in Week 15. With Clark Haggans out for now and Bertrand Berry best suited to a situational role, the Cardinals are already testing their depth on defense. That could become more of a problem if Arizona fails to sustain drives on offense." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: Indeed. The Vikes exposed the Cardinals' defense last week, and I think the Patriots will have a field day, bad weather or no, at home in Week 16 against this unit.
Falcons sign Pollard | Read full blog entry
"The Falcons just announced a series of minor roster moves. Among them, receiver Laurent Robinson was placed on the injured reserve list, and they signed veteran tight end Marcus Pollard. The most interesting move here is Pollard, who was with the Falcons in training camp. He's a 14-year veteran who spent most of his career with the Colts and has 40 career touchdown catches. The Falcons don't throw to their tight ends a lot, and that's not going to change dramatically now. But Pollard gives a young team someone with lots of experience and he could end up making a play or two." -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: A "did you know": Pollard is our own Ken Daube's favorite player. It's true. He (Pollard, not Daube) hasn't been relevant in years, but every time he signs, fantasy owners who remember his glory years in Indianapolis perk their ears up. Folks, those "glory years" were in 2001 and 2002, right in the thick of the Colts' offensive revolution. In essence, he was Dallas Clark before Dallas Clark. He couldn't emulate that prime situation again if he tried, and even if he did, he no longer has the skills to take advantage of it.
More injuries for Jags | Read full blog entry
"The Jaguars continue to add players to injured reserve. On Tuesday, three veterans were moved to the list, the 12th, 13th, and 14th players who won't finish the season. Linebacker Daryl Smith (groin), defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (toe) and wide receiver Jerry Porter (groin) are finished. Nine of the players who won't finish the year were starters or regular contributors." -- Paul Kuharsky
Fantasy spin: And that should help explain why the team is a surprising 5-9 this season. But the Jaguars actually played pretty well Sunday against Green Bay, and I could see them hanging in against Indy this week. Fortunately, Maurice Jones-Drew is still on pace for more than 1,300 total yards and 16 touchdowns. Really, that's about all that matters to us, although it would be nice if they provided us a usable defense again.
Cassel wins big following personal loss | Read full blog entry
"Matt Cassel's [game Sunday following the loss of his father days earlier] was incredible, and one of those story-book performances. It was one of those games that solidifies Cassel's stature as a bona fide NFL starting quarterback, and it probably made him some money also. I have spoken to some people around the NFL who took notice that a guy who could play under those circumstances, to be grieving and go out there and play the way he did shows a certain something about his makeup. When it comes time for him to be a free agent after this season, teams will consider that when they think whether Cassel is worthy of being [their] quarterback. A lot of GMs are gonna say, 'We want this guy.'" -- Tim Graham
Fantasy spin: I'm sold. I didn't think I would be, but I am: Cassel is a bona fide NFL starter. He'll be starting somewhere next year. Likely not in New England, but somewhere. The only problem is he likely will be placed behind a patchwork offensive line somewhere, and he won't be throwing to Randy Moss and Wes Welker. So temper your expectations. I see a little something like Matt Schaub, with the occasional big game but injuries and "battered" performances coming with it. But still, those of you who get to keep free-agent pickups at bargain-basement cost in your keeper league need not worry about "that guy who used to be the quarterback for the Patriots" (you'd have to listen to the Fantasy Focus podcast to fully understand that).
McNabb can pick defenses apart with time | Read full blog entry
"In watching [Monday's] game, we were reminded how lethal Donovan McNabb can be when he has time in the pocket. You could tell he was playing with supreme confidence because he was delivering balls into tight windows downfield. He's much better on downfield throws than he is on short passes, and that was certainly on display against the Browns. John Fisher of ESPN Stats and Analysis told the NFC East blog this morning that McNabb was 20-of-23 for 226 yards and two touchdowns when the Browns rushed four or fewer defenders. When the Browns rushed five or more players, McNabb was 6-of-12 for 64 yards and an interception. If you give the man enough time, he'll pick you apart. In the three games since Andy Reid sat him down, McNabb has thrown for seven touchdowns and just one interception. Except for the underthrown ball in the end zone late in the first half, he was nearly flawless against the Browns. This team is rolling." -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: Indeed it is, and this week it plays a team in the Redskins that is doing quite the opposite, having basically tanked it over the past month. Granted, it's a divisional rivalry, and you never know with those. And some pundits are looking at Washington's sixth-ranked pass defense and predicting a mediocre game, at best, from McNabb. Sorry, I'm just not seeing it. The guy is slinging it right now, and he also appears nimble on his feet. I don't see the Redskins slowing down the Donovan Train.
Boldin uncharacteristically struggling | Read full blog entry
"Anquan Boldin's recent run of dropped passes and fumbles has been uncharacteristic. In searching for possible answers, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt wondered if the team had burdened Boldin with too many extra responsibilities within the game plan. The team has incorporated Boldin in multiple packages, including a Wildcat-style group featuring Boldin as a rusher. Perhaps Boldin has been thinking too much." -- Mike Sando
Fantasy spin: That's probably just a convenient way to explain a slump. All players have games like this, and we're really not down on Boldin. In fact, if the team could actually establish the running game, maybe Boldin wouldn't need to have so much placed on his shoulders. Either way, I'd start him at New England, no questions asked.
Cowboys wear their sunglasses at night | Read full blog entry
"With a win Saturday against the Ravens, the Cowboys would have 12 straight night-game victories. The Colts are the only team at 12. [That streak ended in 2007.]" -- Matt Mosley
Fantasy spin: That's not fantasy, right? Well, a win doesn't necessarily mean strong fantasy performances -- it could be a 9-7 win -- but that number does display that the Cowboys come to play when the sun goes down. They have quite a challenge this week against the 9-5 Ravens and their second-ranked overall defense. But the game is in Dallas, the Cowboys' backs are against the wall, they just beat the Giants I'm probably alone on an island on this one, but I think Tony Romo plays well in this one. The Ravens, first and foremost, stop the run, and I think they'll succeed in stopping Tashard Choice and Marion Barber (yes, in that order), forcing Romo to the air, where he has plenty of weapons to throw to. I don't see a 400-yard day, by any means, but I could see the Cowboys finishing with somewhere around 350 total yards, with a good 300 of 'em coming through the air.
Interesting stat about the Saints | Read full blog entry
"Here's a stat from ESPN Stats & Information that should be more than a little scary for New Orleans fans as the Saints prepare to play the winless Detroit Lions. Throughout history, there have been four winless teams that were at least 0-7 when they played the Saints and came away with a win: the 2007 Rams, the 1999 Browns, the 1998 Panthers and the 1977 Bucs." -- Pat Yasinskas
Fantasy spin: Gulp! I'm telling ya, I could see the Saints losing here, and some people circled this date on the calendar weeks ago for the Lions to get their first win. The oddsmakers, at least the ones who are represented on our Pigskin Pick 'em page, still have the Saints as a 6.5-point favorite, but I see the Lions playing well, at least offensively, and giving them a better game than that. If you agree, adjust accordingly.
Is Orton the future of the Bears at QB? | Read full blog entry
"There are some NFL observers, including the NFL Network's Cris Collinsworth, who believe Orton can only be successful when his primary receiver is open. If he has to look to a second or third read, he is 'lost,' to use Collinsworth's word. But the Bears have been searching for a quarterback since, well, a long time ago. They know how much worse it can get than Orton. Knowing the state of quarterbacking in the NFL, the Bears will have to ask themselves if they can do better than Orton." -- Kevin Seifert
Fantasy spin: I've never been a big fan of Orton. He had a fine stretch midseason, but he was hot, and teams underestimated him. That is no longer happening, and Orton looks decidedly average. It's kind of like that little stretch Kerry Collins had. He proved to teams that they shouldn't completely stack up to stop the running game. When it comes down to it, Orton doesn't have major arm strength, is not the most mobile quarterback and doesn't even have great receivers to throw to. I'm not expecting to take him at "starter-level" in a 12-team league next season.
Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.