A-11 Offense: The Next Wildcat?

Deadspin’s Rick Chandler exposed this devil-spawn offense to the jaw-dropping masses this summer — the A-11, two quarterbacks in the backfield causing chaos for opposing defenses.

The real debate with A-11 was whether a kicking formation was a legal offense. Should high school teams should be able to “gimmick” their way into the win column? Despite its haphazard ways, A-11 seems to do the job and keeps things interesting.

NCAA rules limit the use of the A-11 formation in college football, but given the popularity of “Wildcat” plays last season after the Miami Dolphins torched the New England Patriots with Ronnie Brown, how long is it going to be before this offensive scheme saves the Detroit Lions? And perhaps your fantasy team?

The A-11 Explained

The A-11 offense is actually a scrimmage-kick formation using two quarterbacks, two tight ends, one center and six potential receivers. As long as one quarterback lines up more than seven yards deep, there’s no need for those fatties on the offensive line to take the field.

From A11Offense.com:

The A-11 Offense (All Eleven Players Potentially Eligible) is an innovative new offense that blends aspects of almost every type of offense in the history of football such as the West Coast, Spread Option, Run and Shoot, Shotgun Zone Fly, Wing-T, Single Wing, Notre Dame Box, Triple Option and Veer just to name a few. Teams can use the A-11 as a “package” to supplement their own offense & feature up to eleven players as potential threats, and even two quarterbacks in the shotgun!

When the ball gets snapped, the quarterback is on his own — except for the other quarterback, of course. The two quarterbacks keep the defense at bay by splitting the field and moving the ball. If you need a visual, Deadspin’s got one for you, and you can read all about the offense and its California-dreamin’ co-creators Piedmont High coaches Kurt Bryan and Steve Humphries

Is it the wave of the future? Maybe. But it’s definitely the hottest thing to hit high school sports since Allison Stokke.

NFL Impact

The “Wildcat” was the experimental stepchild of every NFL coach after Miami’s offensive coordinator Dan Herring, who had experimented with the concept in Carolina with DeAngelo Williams in 2006, and quarterbacks coach David Lee, who was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2007 when they were running the “WildHog” formation with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, unleashed it full force against the Patriots with Ronnie Brown.

The A-11 could not only have a similar rise to prominence within the NFL, it could also make fantasy football a much different affair.

As Bryan points out in his blog, the athletes are getting faster and more suited to a wide open, speedy offense. The formation protects athletes and gives smaller schools a chance to compete at the high school level. What if it could save a rebuilding franchise or two?

The biggest danger is leaving highly-paid quarterbacks exposed, but if your offensive line is already doing a lot of that, there’s not much harm in designing a few A-11 plays to see what happens.

Obviously, the Lions come to mind, but teams like the St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars, who had all kinds of issues at the line of scrimmage this year, might help themselves out by adding some A-11 formations to the playbook.

If teams deep with receiver talent like the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals adopted it, the A-11 could cause devastation for a few plays.

Maybe it’s time the Lions signed Michael Vick and threw Vick and a quarterback of the future from the draft or their roster onto the field in the A-11. Vick would add the run threat to the offense and a veteran presence while a younger quarterback could develop.

Fantasy Impact

While good for struggling NFL franchises, the A-11 is not such a welcome change for fantasy owners.

These wrinkles added into the offense increase the number of players touching the ball even if they do make the offense more explosive. That means fantasy owners will have more wide receivers to track and more options for their roster each week who will only be getting a portion of the stats.

The A-11 could make it practically impossible to know which of six receivers is going to be the most effective on any given Sunday. The offenses could generate more yards and points while also involving more players.

In short, we might all be screwed. The A-11 is offensive chaos, but it’s the good kind of chaos, just like your first Mardi Gras…right?

How scared are you right now?

10 Foolish Thoughts on Super Bowl XLIII

I had to wait until after the Pro Bowl to gather my thoughts about this year’s Super Bowl. Even though the Pro Bowl is full of overhyped drama and hated by many NFL fans, I love it.

Outside of a video game, the Pro Bowl is the closest thing to two fantasy teams playing against each other. Drew Brees is out there throwing the ball to Larry Fitzgerald with Adrian Peterson in the backfield. How can you not love that? Tell  me. And how did Eli Manning get there?  

Unfortunately, my bold prediction did not come to pass for the Super Bowl. It’s finally digested that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the champs, but Arizona fans still got a happy ending, right?

**If the basic facts aren’t enough for you, get the rest of the NSFW details, courtesy of Deadspin, at the end of this post.

The fantasy season is over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from what we saw in this biggest game of the year. So I collected 10 critical and very foolish thoughts on Super Bowl XLIII. Enjoy.

  1. Larry Fitzgerald reached his boiling point as a fantasy football receiver in the postseason, which means I won’t touch him in drafts next year at a first round price tag, especially if Anquan Boldin stays. Those two tradeoff stats too often, and there’s bound to be another Fitz breaking out next season. Hint: It won’t be Torry Holt.
  2. Tim Hightower’s not going to take the starting job from Edgerrin James in Arizona. If Edge leaves the Cardinals, J.J. Arrington might even put up a fight before Hightower is declared the starter. Where did Hightower go at the end of the season? Disneyland before the Super Bowl?
  3. On that same note, Rashard Mendenhall is not going to sweep into Steeltown and wipe Willie Parker away when he returns from injury in 2009. With Willie Parker, Mewelde Moore and Gary Russell battling for carries, he’s going to have to earn his spot over time.
  4. Kurt Warner: Still slippery even after all these years. But it was still a fumble. Still, if Boldin’s back, I’d gladly take him as my starting quarterback next season.
  5. Big Ben Roethlisberger should stop running. See thought No. 3? There are plenty of other players to do that job, Ben. You just weren’t meant to move that way.
  6. Santonio Holmes may have great toe control and the ability to make big plays, but I’d pass on him next year and take Hines Ward several rounds later. Holmes frustrated owners all season with his big play or no play performance. Nothings changed because he’s got a new trophy. Nate Washington is practically his equal.
  7. I want to play in a league where defenses get points for rushing yardage. You in? Did anyone else hear them say “a silverback jumped on the back of the silverback” during the runback? What does that even mean? Intrigued.
  8. We were cheated out of the Cardinals’ final drive, but it wasn’t because of the fumble. It was a missed penalty call. A hail mary to Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald would have been a more fitting way to ride this one out.
  9. Willie Parker’s still got it, even if he didn’t show as much in the Super Bowl as he did against San Diego. And, for once, I’m not talking about an injury.
  10. Anyone else find themselves wishing this Super Bowl was the Indianapolis Colts facing the Arizona Cardinals right about halftime?

*To follow your dreams to a happier ending than what I linked to at the top of the post, see all the coverage of the Super porn Bowl from Deadspin at your own risk.

NFL Divisional Championships: Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Once again, this weekend, we get a game that could very literally end with a final score of 3-0 and a game that could have a combined score of more than 70 points. Welcome the AFC and NFC championship games.

When I logged into the site to get geared up for this weekend, I got an extra treat. You want to know what the top search term of late leading people to Fantasy Football Fools is?

Booty. That’s right. I have a sneaking suspicion why that is, but it still doesn’t make it any less funny.

So with booty said, let’s get down to booty, er, business.

If you’re setting your salary cap playoff rosters this week, you’re probably locked in with them until the Super Bowl. There’s two ways to go here. You can either pick a collection of players from both teams that you expect to do well enough in this round and in the Super Bowl or you can suck it up and only pick players from the two teams you see making it all the way.

I’ll admit, I have the fear in me about being bold and only choosing players from my Super Bowl pick teams, but I’m so going there.

NFC Championship

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals

I don’t know what to think of the Arizona Cardinals. Many analysts predicted they would match the Falcons in the Wild Card round after their strong final game of the season, but I doubted them when they went into Carolina. I thought their possession of a running game was just an oversight by the Falcons defense and that the defensive plays made the Wild Card round were fluky.

In Carolina, Arizona showed us that they have a defense that will make plays on the ball. Their secondary was outstanding. They complimented it with a little bit of a running game again, thanks to Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower, despite being able to get the ball into Larry Fitzgerald’s hands even if he was covered by a flock of Canadian geese — the kind that brings down planes.

Despite their success, it’s hard not to keep betting on their demise…they are the Buzzsaw after all.

Of course, there’s no overwhelming favorite on the other side of the field. The Eagles are practically the same team, only in the NFC East. The Eagles started off looking like one of the best in the division before they sank to the bottom of the barrel after a ferociously embarrassing tie with the Cincinnati Bengals when Donovan McNabb didn’t even know that ties were possible.

Thanks to the failings of many a team standing in their way, the Eagles got hot at the right moment and went on a streak to get into the playoffs. Donovan McNabb has looked great, and Brian Westbrook has been required to do only light lifting. The formula has been working to perfection.

On Thanksgiving, the Eagles began their winning streak against the Cardinals. Arizona was clobbered by the combined scoring power of Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb, but since that game, Brian Westbrook has virtually and literally disappeared from the field.

If the Eagles are going to win this one, the offense is going to need a big game from Brian Westbrook. Otherwise, it’s very possible that McNabb gets Delhomme-d and leaves his team fighting on the wrong side of a turnover battle if Arizona’s suddenly-dominant secondary shows up again.

I’m going with the Cardinals here. They’re at home with a newfound spirit in the playoffs. Maybe that’s crazy. Maybe I just don’t really want to see an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl, or maybe I hate part of myself. Maybe I just want an offensive team to get in the Super Bowl. Whatever the reason, I’m on the Buzzsaw bandwagon.

At least we know their going to put up some fantasy points this week.

Hot Hands: Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook (Q), David Akers

Bubble Boys: Tim Hightower, Anquan Boldin (Q), Neil Rackers, Arizona D/ST, Eagles D/ST, Brent Celek

Cold Shoulders: DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant, L.J. Smith, Edgerrin James

AFC Championship

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

Personally, I am not a fan of this matchup.

Watching these two teams slam into each other repeatedly for four hours with minimal points on the board just leaves me feeling unsatisfied — especially as a fantasy football fan. The team that makes the most mistakes is going to lose this one, and since I called it twice before, I have to continue my trend of calling on Joe Flacco’s rookie shortcomings to suddenly rise to the forefront.

If the Steelers can successfully take Derrick Mason out of this game, Flacco will become pretty ineffective. Without Flacco, the Ravens have LeRon McClain, who is already a little banged up, and some guy we used to know the name of named Willis McGahee. Sure, they could put something together with that running back committee. They even have Ray Rice, too, but not against the Steelers defense.

Ben Roethlisberger may be concussed, but maybe he plays better when he sees two or three of every receiver. His long ball and a healthy Willie Parker helped the Steelers run right over the Chargers last week, and it’ll help them put up enough of a fight against the Ravens.

If you’re looking for a kicker, I like Jeff Reed in this game. I know that the Cardinals and the Eagles are playing in a more offensively friendly matchup, but Jeff Reed is probably going to be one of the only players scoring points this Sunday night. You might as well get a piece of the action.

Hot Hands: Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes, Jeff Reed, Matt Stover, Steelers D/ST, Ravens D/ST

Bubble Boys: Willie Parker, Hines Ward, LeRon McClain, Joe Flacco, Todd Heap, Derrick Mason

Cold Shoulders: Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Heath Miller, Mark Clayton

Lineup Calls

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going to go all-in with the Cardinals and Steelers on my roster this weekend. At least if Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner end up sitting out the Super Bowl, I will know that I tried and failed brilliantly.

Sure, I could throw Brian Westbrook on my roster as a safety valve and capitalize if the Eagles were to make it into the Super Bowl, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, no matter what running back gets to the Super Bowl from the NFC, they’re not going to do much against the Baltimore Ravens or the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So this weekend, I’m a Buzzsaw-lovin’ Arizona Cardinals fan. Maybe they’ll make it to their first Super Bowl, and that’s a story that might even spare us the press on T.O. and Brett Favre for a few days.

Divisional Playoffs, Part 1: Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders

Today’s matchups treat us to a battle of two defenses and a battle of two different styles of offense.

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans

This game is all about the defense. I wouldn’t want to bet on many of the offensive stars being a factor, but there are a few players who should have an impact. Though the Titans have faded down the stretch, they’ll come into this game healthy enough to compete and make Joe Flacco show his rookie colors.

The running backs should be grinding yardage in this game, which will likely come down to time of possession. I think the Titans have enough in the tank and the more powerful rushing attack to take it. Feel free to start running backs on both sides even though they won’t score a great deal.

Hot Hands: Chris Johnson, LeRon McClain, Titans D/ST, Baltimore D/ST

Bubble Boys: Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason, LenDale White

Cold Shoulders: Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, Kerry Collins, Justin Gage

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

In contrast to this afternoon’s game, tonight’s game pairs two of the more powerful offenses in the playoffs. The Cardinals are going to look to throw the ball even though they showed signs of a running game in the first round. The Panthers, on the other hand, will try to pound the ball and make their running backs take time off the clock.

Unlike the Cardinals, the Panthers have a more balanced attack with the abilities of Steve Smith in the passing game. That balanced attack will trump the Cardinals and end Arizona’s first trip to the playoffs in…well, ever.

If Anquan Boldin sits, there’s a very good chance that the Panthers are able to shut down the Cardinals offense. Since the Panthers will spend more time on offense, the running backs and Steve Smith are safer plays than the Cardinals.

Hot Hands: Larry Fitzgerald, Kurt Warner, DeAngelo Williams

Bubble Boys: Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith, Jonathan Stewart, Panthers D/ST

Cold Shoulders: Edgerrin James, Tim Hightower, Arizona D/ST

Week 17 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: Championship Edition?

First of all, why are you guys still having your championship in Week 17? That’s like playing a game of chess for hours only to bring in toddlers to play out the final three moves. Why would you do that? And where did you get chess-playing toddlers?

This week, I absolutely love everyone involved with the Denver and San Diego passing games. Sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if Darren Sproles goes off for a long touchdown or if LaDainian Tomlinson gets some decent yardage and a score, but this game that will be decided by the arms of In Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers.

I am not sure who will step up this week, but I do like Denver a slight bit more than the Chargers. I think they have it in them to play all out for this last game.

I also love all the Falcons going up against a soft, soft St. Louis Rams that is just glad to not be the Lions these days. Michael Turner is already drooling over this one. Start ‘em if you got ‘em.

In contrast, I hate everyone that will be on the field when Indianapolis takes on Tennessee. Both teams have no reason to play on Sunday, but rather than just let them forfeit, we have to watch them struggle to figure out who really cares.

My guess is that all starters are pulled before halftime, and I give the edge to Peyton Manning in the scoring department. A sneaky play from that one is Vince Young, likely to see plenty of time once old bones Kerry Collins heads to the bench.

I hate Maurice Jones-Drew this week against the Baltimore Ravens defense. Jacksonville’s passing game isn’t scary enough to keep the Ravens off of Jones-Drew at the line, and I, once again, must hate Brett Favre this week.

Even in Favre’s matchup against Miami, which would clearly favor the pass for most teams, I don’t like Favre. I think the Dolphins take care of business in the Meadowlands for a playoff spot and make Jets fans wonder what might have been if they had kept Chad Pennington around.

Of course, that won’t really stop the Patriots from steam-rolling the Bills. The Buffalo boys will keep it close enough to keep their respect, but the Patriots are going to be sure to win this one with the chance of it actually meaning something for the playoffs.

If the Pats make it anywhere close to the big show this season, people really will start to wonder what they are going to do with Matt Cassel this offseason.

In the Bengals-Chiefs game, I like all the Chiefs fantasy studs on your roster.

A Bengals team without Chad Johnson or T.J. Houshmandzadeh is just going to try and run Cedric Benson all day and then call it quits at halftime with fingers crossed they have     Carson Palmer back next year.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, have some good reasons to play hard.

Larry Johnson needs to prove he still deserves to stay with the team despite his off-the-field issues, and Tyler Thigpen needs to continue to prove he can be effective as a quarterback in the NFL so that the Chiefs don’t forget about him this offseason. I am sure Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe would love to continue to get those stats up. Play your Chiefs.

And no, even though he looks like a better start than Eli Manning this week, I won’t recommend that you start David Carr. I just can’t go there.

Good luck.

A Fool and His Money in Week 17

It’s craziness in Week 17. Will the playoff teams even bother to start their studs? Will the backups be decent when they get in there?

We can attempt to negotiate through the darkness of the last week of the season, but in reality, we’ll just be happy to be at .500 for the season with this week’s picks.

Oakland Raiders at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Raiders (+13) over BUCS
Crazy things happen in the final week of the regular season. If we knew which Oakland team was going to show up, 13 points would be perfect. Will it be the one that has a decent defense and running game or the team that just plain sucks all around?

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

STEELERS (-10.5) over Browns
Normally, I would expect starters to rest for a team that has secured a bye and has nothing to play for, but Mike Tomlin insists that the Steelers are “playing to win.” If that’s truly the case, I expect the Steelers to easily win by double digits.

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts

Titans (-3) over COLTS
Both of these teams have already secured their playoff seeds. The Colts have not been particularly good at home this year, and Jeff Fisher says the Titans will play to win while Tony Dungy has been mum on the subject. Even if they both tried all out to win, I still like the Titans by a field goal in this one.

St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons

Rams (+14.5) over FALCONS
I loved picking the Falcons this year, especially when they were getting points and playing teams with inferior records. But alas, it appears those days are gone. I can’t refuse taking 14.5 points in an NFL game.

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

Patriots (-6.5) over BILLS $
The Patriots are looking good right now, and there is playoff spot on the line. What does that mean? It means Belichick pulls no punches and rips into the Bills. I hope the Patriots make the playoffs over Miami because they are playing a lot better right now than they were earlier in the season.

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers

Lions (+10) over PACKERS
This is a pity pick for the woeful Lions. This is your last chance to avoid history. Good luck.

Chicago Bears at Houston Texans

TEXANS (-2.5) over Bears
The Texans get on a nice little roll, and then what happens? They lose by double digits to the Raiders. I honestly believe this Texans team just doesn’t know how to be winners as an organization or as a team. They are full of players who weren’t dynamic winners or leaders in college. If only they had drafted Vince Young … I will never forgive them for this mistake.

Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals

Chiefs (+3) over BENGALS
Watch out, the Bengals are on a winning streak! Haha, that just sounds funny. I’m taking the Chiefs because they have looked decent every week recently and because Tony Gonzalez helped lead my fantasy team to the championship! Suck on that, Jacob!

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings

VIKINGS (+6.5) over Giants
If the Giants try, they will wipe the floor with this Vikings team, but I don’t think they are going to try very hard. The Vikings are at home with playoffs beginning a week early for them. I should at least take them with the points.

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

SAINTS (+3) over Panthers
The NFC South teams are just plain sick at home, and I don’t see the Panthers being particularly motivated after losing the No. 1 seed in overtime last week.

Washington Redskins at San Francisco 49ers

Redskins (-3) over 49ERS
I don’t care about this game at all. I’ve already written too much.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens

RAVENS (-12.5) over Jaguars
I don’t like giving away so many points, but I like this Ravens team. I think the Ravens will rise under pressure with a playoff berth on the line.

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

CARDINALS (-6) over Seahawks
Do you smell that? That is the Cardinals stinking up the joint the past three weeks. They better get their mojo going in a hurry if they don’t want to be a sacrificial lamb in the first round of the playoffs. Luckily, playing the Seahawks at home can inspire a lot of false confidence.

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

EAGLES (-1.5) over Cowboys
This is purely a pick out of hate. I hate the Cowboys. I’m going to ignore the fact that the Eagles lost to the Redskins last week and only scored three points.

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets

JETS (-2.5) over Dolphins
This will be one of the most intriguing games of the week. The Jets have looked horrible the past four weeks and went 1-3 in that span. Brett Favre did somehow get a Pro Bowl spot over a much more worthy Philip Rivers, so maybe he’ll prove why in this game. This week would also make for a nice revenge game from Pennington if he can come into the Meadowlands and take a playoff spot right in front of his former team.

Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers

CHARGERS (-8.5) over Broncos
Wow. Who would have seen the Chargers coming back to win the division? A Chargers-Colts rematch in the first round would be insane, but first, they have to get past the floundering Broncos. I’m guessing the Chargers dominate this game right from the beginning. Philip Rivers is the man. I traded Donovan McNabb and Marques Colston to get him in my fantasy league five or six weeks ago, and it worked out brilliantly. He gave me 35 points in my championship, and I pulled off an upset to win for our traveling trophy. My first three picks next year will be Philip Rivers, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. I’m not joking either; those guys are my heroes.

Current Standings after Week 16:

Nick: 116-113-6
Nick’s Locks: 9-9-1

Foolish Thoughts on Week 16: How much do you hate DeAngelo Williams?

Seriously, how much do you hate DeAngelo Williams right now?

Many a game was won or lost off the play of DeAngelo Williams Sunday night. While I thought he’d keep rolling as he has been the past several weeks, I didn’t think he’d get more than two touchdowns, and I never dreamed that he would get four touchdowns in a game where strong defenses let running backs go wild.

That’s just crazy talk … or tradition in the fantasy football playoffs.

Once again, I have to lament that I picked the wrong Carolina running back. Last year, I drafted DeAngelo Williams but didn’t spend a pick on DeShaun Foster, and I watched Foster roll slowly in several games while DeAngelo was bottled up for use during only flashy plays.

Surely, despite Foster’s absence in Carolina this season, Jonathan Stewart, drafted as the new power back rookie, would put Williams in the Robin seat of the Batmobile once again.

I followed my draft rankings and got Jonathan Stewart in two leagues only to watch another owner snag DeAngelo Williams a few picks later. Honestly, I only tried to get DeAngelo as well in one, but I waited too long. Thus, I can’t benefit from his production late this season.

I never thought I’d regret having Brian Westbrook instead of DeAngelo Williams…

Given their late season production, it’s no longer crazy to assume Thomas Jones and DeAngelo Williams will break into a top 10 or two next season. I think there’s a strong chance that they do, but it will also depend on their strength of schedule.

I think the Jets run game can produce big days next season with the offensive line they’ve built, but I worry that a full offseason with Brett Favre could lead to an improved passing game and that the aging legs of Jones could also yield even more to Leon Washington.

In Carolina, I think it’s only safe to draft a Carolina running back if you can get both of them. Assuming DeAngelo takes a top spot, the two will likely be drafted as Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall were this season, one in early rounds and one just before mid-rounds.

Stewart’s power and ability when healthy cannot be doubted, and I could easily see Williams and Stewart being the Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew for several years … while Jones-Drew becomes the Clinton Portis of 2007 … and Portis becomes the Shaun Alexander of 2007…

But look at us, talking about the future when there’s still one week left for some of you unfortunate souls that play a championship in Week 17 — the horror!

In Week 16, we saw the weather come into play in a big way as it always seems to right around playoff time, but Matt Cassel was unaffected. I’m impressed. If Kurt Warner breaks down in the passing game and you don’t, that’s some solid ability.

In Week 17, the Patriots go into another must-win game, and Cassel is a must-win start against the Bills. I think he’ll be able to make it happen.

Peyton Manning came through in a pinch to secure third place for me in my main league. I set the high score of the week in Week 14, the first week of the playoffs, and Week 16, the championship week. It’s a shame that I had to drop the ball in Week 15.

Speaking of which, Brian Westbrook officially joins my “Avoid” list after his performances these past two weeks. A guy that is as integral to an offence as Westbrook is usually a great pick, but injury scares and no-show games in the playoffs are good enough reasons for me to skip him next season.

Rumors that Andy Reid might step down from his position with the Eagles don’t help much either. Surprisingly, this was my first season to own Westbrook, but I’m done — or at least saying I am for now. Sorry, Westy.

In a season where a lot of teams seemed to escape the trend, touchdown vultures reared their ugly head this week for several big playoff games. I’ve always accepted that any coach utilizing a different running back in goal line situations doesn’t play fantasy football.

And what’s the deal with Saturday Night Football? Can the NFL just stop pretending and put football on every night of the week? It’s fine. I am sure you can find a channel to show it.

Just when you get used to watching Thursday Night Football, the NFL throws another wrench in the gears to goof up your Saturday night.

I’ll admit, I was actually glad it was a Saturday so that I could go out to blow off some steam after I watched the Dallas Cowboys get rolled by Baltimore in the final game at Texas Stadium.

The Cowboys have been one of the most unpredictable offenses this year when it comes to fantasy. Terrell Owens, normally a staple of the offense, hasn’t been productive for fantasy owners, and the Roy Williams trade just added  more confusion to the mix.

At this point, the only people I trust are Tony Romo and Jason Witten — and no, it’s not because they have a love affair going on behind T.O.’s back.

Well, that’s enough foolish thoughts on football for this week. Merry Christmas and/or happy holidays, everyone. If you haven’t had the chance yet, I hope you get a championship for Christmas.

Remember that any acts of violence against DeAngelo Williams can and will be used against you when it comes to naughty/nice list sorting.

Foolish Thoughts on Week 15: I’m all out of love, so lost without you

It was hard to bring my thoughts together between fits of extreme sobbing after watching all the football games in a very serious, totally masculine way this weekend.

Yes, I lost at Nick’s hands this week, one game away from the championship … in a game where I was “projected” to win by 50 points.

Thank you, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Lee Evans and Brian Westbrook for dropping the ball when I needed you most.

I could blame Peyton Manning for managing only one touchdown against the Lions or Matt Forte for being just gimpy enough after a slight injury to barely crack double digits, but I’m still too happy with both of them this season. Forte was the best pick I made in the draft this year, and Manning reclaimed the title of “The Better Manning” … and, therefore, shoved the lesser Elisha Manning back down a notch, where he belongs.

Going into Monday night’s Eagles-Browns showdown, I needed 35+ points from Brian Westbrook and no-name tight end Steve Heiden, backing up the injured Kellen Winslow for the Browns (and my fantasy team). If Westbrook could get another 30 points against the Browns, maybe Heiden could get me those last critical points by catching a garbage-time touchdown or catching a few escape passes from the not-so-Brady-Quinn-esque Ken Dorsey as he ran for his life. I mean, the Eagles do have a little problem covering tight ends. It’s possible.

Sadly, not only did Westbrook do a whole lot of nothing in this one because Andy Reid obviously reads things I say about him, but Heiden was carted off the field with an injury after catching zero passes for zero yards. As the cart went off the field, so did my season in my primary fantasy league (the one with the biggest trophy).

Losing when you are so close to the prize just leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. As a guy, it’s sort of like hearing that some famous female celebrity is becoming one of those every-man’s-fantasy lesbians and then discovering that her hot hookup partner is this thing.

Now, that’s just disappointing.

But alas, it’s no shocker that the prohibitive favorite loses out in the playoffs. There’s always an Antonio Bryant, a Tarvaris Jackson or a Dominic Rhodes waiting in the wings to blow up the top seeds in the playoffs.

Just look at what the Giants did in the playoffs last season. If you knew who was going to win, we wouldn’t play them.

That’s actually why the NFL is considering canceling the rest of the Detroit Lions’ games. We all know how they are going to go.

Even though Peyton Manning was less than explosive against the Lions on Sunday, Dallas Clark had a huge game for his fantasy owners with 142 yards and a score. It looks like he’s ramping up for fantasy owners in the playoffs.

I guess he really is that awesome…

The one bright spot of this weekend was the Cowboys-Giants game, the drama unfolding on the big Sunday Night Football stage. Just like Plaxico Burress, it seems the Giants are shooting themselves in the leg this season when it matters most, and, as a true Cowboys fan, I was happy to see that the Cowboys showed up to play.

After a week of intense “what did Terrell Owens say now” stories plastered all over ESPN, the Dallas Cowboys were supposed to flop. That didn’t happen and now their hot story of the week seems to have blown up in their hands.

I’m really no T.O. lover. I’m sort of indifferent to him until the press about a guy gets to a roaring buzz — so basically, the same way I feel about Brett Favre.

I think blaming him for any Cowboys loss, regardless of how politically correct his postgame interviews are, is getting old. Especially after the press tour he seems to have gone on to clear his name, it’s hard not to take his side.

Ed Werder doesn’t seem like the kind of journalist who would fabricate a story, but I wonder why he didn’t try to get a quote from T.O. about the words that were being put into the wide receiver’s mouth by an anonymous source before going public with the story.

When he does say something about his teammates or quarterback, T.O.’s never been one to cover it up.

At least the drama is coming to a close for now, and I think that T.O. and Ed Werder will make up.

T.O. reportedly sent Werder a famous Japanese foot massager as a peace offering.

On quarterbacks
Who would have thought that the leading scorers at quarterback in Week 15 would be Matt Cassel, Tarvaris Jackson, David Garrard and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

That, my friends, is magical.

On “Freedom” running backs
Pierre Thomas is legit. Looks like the Saints will be chunking the Deuce this offseason for their hot, new French toy.

Thomas had his way with the Bears defense on Thursday night while the Bears’ running backs struggled to do anything against the Saints. I fear what he can do this week against the Lions.

His only competition is Reggie Bush, who can’t stay on the field for an entire NFL season due to badunkadunk. Besides, Bush’s only a pretend running back anyway.

Since that’s about all I have to say about the French, here’s a message from the “That’s a country?” video collection.

And yes, France is a country.

If you currently own Pierre Thomas, you might be smarter than a fifth grader.

On finding meaning this holiday season
James Jones going off against the Jaguars might be a sign — not for this week or next week but for next season as Donald Driver heads closer and closer to Marvin Harrison-ism.

On the other hand, Dennis Northcutt’s big game means nothing. It’s one of those warmest-body-on-the-field games.

Do you know who Johnnie Lee Higgins is? Big arm + playmaking wide receiver = potential. Keep an eye on a kid like this one in Oakland this offseason. Two big games this year leave the door open for a brighter tomorrow.

Maybe Al Davis will sell the team or give up overhead projector firings. You never know.

On Pro Bowl “picks”
First of all, the Pro Bowl rosters would make for one hell of a fantasy team. I salivated just reading the names of the backups, but Brett Favre? The pick master is one of the league’s best?

As much as I dislike him, where’s the Philip Rivers love? Even the Pro Bowl needs a crier.

A Fool and His Money in Week 15

Jacob here. I guess it’s time for us to stop covering up the deep, dark secret we’ve been hiding for the last several weeks. You see, we killed Chadam.

It’s not that he was doing a terrible job picking spreads each week … well, actually, he really was falling off there near the end, but, regardless, we killed him because we couldn’t stand his incessant picking of the Texans. It was just too much. Even with Sage at the helm? Are you serious?

Now, it’s over.

The most recent picks, other than a few rare occasions like last week, have been made by Nick and Nick alone. That’s why we stopped carrying Chadam’s record at the bottom each week if you caught the clue.

We buried the body at the side of Reliant Stadium, and then … Nick peed on it. I don’t know why he did. I think it’s some kind of dominance thing. Chadam may or may not have been completely dead. We don’t really know. We just simulated the Houston Texans offensive line for him by having Chadam stand behind a sheet of paper while we drove a car at him — maybe it just knocked him out?

If you’re out there Chadam … if you’re still alive, can we call a mulligan? I mean, you’re out of the fantasy playoffs in our shared league, what else are you going to do besides return as a faithful contributor to your foolish friends?

Now that “the incident” is off my chest, take it away, Nick.

New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears

Nick Takes: BEARS (-3) over Saints

The Bears’ pass defense is not very good, and the Saints passing game is one of the best. But December in the Windy City can affect even MVP-caliber quarterbacks. Da Bears!

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

Nick Takes: Titans (-3) over TEXANS

Jeff Fisher claims the Titans aren’t going to rest any players even though they’ve secured the division and a first round bye for the playoffs. Do you believe him? I think the Texans will compete in this game, but a fourth quarter turnover costs them the spread.

Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals

Nick Takes: Redskins (-6.5) over BENGALS

The Redskins are limping their way to the end of the 2008 season. Lucky for them, The Bengals have already ended their season. I would expect any team to beat the Bengals by a touchdown or more. That list includes but is not limited to the Florida Gators, Detroit Lions, Texas Longhorns and the Little Giants.

Green Bay Packers at Jacksonville Jaguars

Nick Takes: Packers (-1.5) over JAGS

Jack Del Rio doesn’t seem interested on the sidelines, and when the coach isn’t interested, you can be damn sure the players aren’t interested. The Packers are at least playing hard, especially Aaron Rodgers and his Brett Favre complex. I don’t know what exactly a Brett Favre complex is, but later in life, Rodger’s psychiatrist will explain it.

San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins

Nick Takes: 49ers (+6.5) over DOLPHINS

Mike Singletary has done something besides guaranteeing himself some future Coors Light commercials this season; he has gotten the 49ers to play hard. First, they hold the Bills to three points at home, and then they beat Jets. I just realized the 49ers are on a winning streak. That might be their first one in three years. I think the Dolphins might get shocked in this one.

Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts

Nick Takes: Lions (+17) over COLTS

I can’t give up 17 points. I want to, but I can’t get myself to do it. The Colts are at home and just won their last game by 32 points, but I just can’t do it.

San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

Nick Takes: Chargers (-5) over CHIEFS

I like the Chiefs, but I’m picking the Chargers for one reason only: I desperately need Philip Rivers to have the game of his life. I am going against Jacob in the semis of our fantasy league, and as a result of what I consider a very dirty trade on Jacob’s part in the early weeks of the season (Peyton Manning and Tony Scheffler for J.T. O’Sullivan and Santana Moss), I have to go against Mr. Commercial the week he is playing the Lions. Thus, it would be bad karma of me to pick the Chiefs over the Bolts and still hope for Rivers to have a good day.

Note from Jacob: Nick has never heard of a ‘Buy Low’ and doesn’t believe in them … just like he doesn’t believe in diabetes. In my defense, since Nick has ranted on this trade all season: 1) I didn’t offer this trade. It was an offer I received; 2) The league did not veto the trade when it happened; 3) At the time, Moss was the No. 1 fantasy receiver, on pace for a Braylon Edwards-like season, and JTO was putting up solid numbers as a Mike Martz quarterback (better numbers than Peyton was at the time); and 4) I ran the trade past a message board of neutral parties who all agreed it was a solid trade of equal potential/value just to avoid any outrage from my own league (but, of course, I still get Nick).

Comment below if you want to jump in on the trade discussion; otherwise, we’ll save further talks for a later, season-wrapping post.

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets

Nick Takes: JETS (-7) over Bills

Both these teams are looking really bad right now. I don’t want to have to pick a winner. The Jets cost me some serious dough last week when I bet on them to beat the 49ers. I’m officially writing them off as a team that is too inconsistent to be a serious threat in the playoffs, but they have a better chance of recovering than the Bills — I hate you Brett Favre. (Language toned down at editor’s request.)

New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders

Nick Takes: Patriots (-7) over RAIDERS

I wonder which Patriots team will show up. I also wonder which Raiders team will show up. Regardless, I’m going to bet on the Belichick to have his team ready for a game they desperately need to win.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

Nick Takes: RAVENS (-1.5) over Steelers

I’m really starting to like these Ravens. I’m not impressed by a comeback win over the Cowboys at home. The Steelers should never have been down by 10 points to begin with to a team that isn’t going to make the playoffs.

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

Nick Takes: Giants (-3) over COWBOYS

By reading my previous pick, you probably know who I’m going to pick in this game. Normally, I would worry about a team resting after they secured the division, but I don’t think that will be a problem with the Giants this week. Tom Coughlin will not let his team suffer back-to-back losses and go into the playoffs on a cold streak.

Cleveland Brown at Philadelphia Eagles

Nick Takes: Browns (+14) over EAGLES

The Eagles were born to let people down. They have played great the past two weeks, so what does that mean? It’s time to lay an egg! Andy Reid just doesn’t have the magic anymore. I think this game will be a big letdown.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

Nick Takes: Bucs (+3) over FALCONS

I was expecting this line to be the other way with the Bucs favored by three. I guess Vegas is now respecting the fact that the home team has won every NFC South matchup. I think the Bucs break that trend in this one. They have been in late-season playoff struggles before, and the Falcons are untested with the postseason on the line.

Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers

Nick Takes: PANTHERS (-7.5) over Broncos

The Panthers made a believer of me on Monday night, but you never know what to expect out of the Broncos. I definitely think the Panthers will win, but I’m a little leery of giving Denver more than a touchdown. Denver will also need another running back to step up for the now injured Peyton Hillis.

Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

Nick Takes: Seahawks (-3) over RAMS $
($ = Nick’s lock)

The Seahawks have been competitive the past two weeks, which is more than I can say for the Rams. The Rams may play inspired because they have a chance against this opponent, but I’m a firm believer that you can’t just turn it on in the NFL.

Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals

Nick Takes: CARDINALS (-3) over Vikings

I’m very tempted to take the Vikings in this, but as I write this pick, Gus Frerotte’s status is still unknown. I never would have guessed in a million years that one of my picks rests on whether or not Frerotte is starting. What a crazy NFL season.

UPDATE: Reports now indicate that Tarvaris Jackson is the likely starter for Minnesota in this one. Frerotte is still being plagued by back pain.

Last Week:

Nick: 7-9

Current Standings after Week 14:

Nick: 104-97-3
Nick’s Locks: 9-7

Foolish Thoughts on Week 14: Game balls and last-quarter falls

I’m convinced that there is something in the water in Denver. If you’re in Colorado, don’t drink it. Just dump it down the drain and walk away. It must contain a chemical that turns your muscles into paper. How else would Shanahan lose four running backs in the same season — five if you count Selvin Young’s never-quite-good-enough-to-play hamstring?

Maybe it’s a higher power trying to teach Shanahan  to choose, and every time he thinks of screwing fantasy owners, the gods smite one down.

I don’t think Tatum Bell’s juju is strong enough to will him back into a starting role, but he’s the new running back of the week for Denver now that Peyton Hillis is out for the season with a torn hamstring. I only hope he helps Peyton Hillis get his bags since he was nice enough to do it for Rudi Johnson.

With Hillis out, the entire backfield of incoming rookies from Arkansas has come down with an injury during the course of this season. Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis were taken out for the season by hamstring tears while Darren McFadden suffered from turf toe in both feet for most of the season.

Maybe we should sniff out the water in Arkansas as well.

Of course, this injury curse means that Mike Shanahan will carry 10 running backs on his roster next season, forever making it impossible to predict which running back will tote the rock the most for the Broncos. Thanks, Fate. It wasn’t hard enough already.

For next season, I’ll just roll a dice each week to figure out which Denver running back to recommend as a start.

The Cowboys-Steelers game was painful to watch — not only because I projected the Cowboys to win but because it looked like only the defenses would be getting fantasy points out of that game. You got lucky if you played Tony Romo or Big Ben Roethlisberger and won this week.

Romo may have lost the game with that fourth quarter pick, but I don’t put all the blame on him. He played poorly, but the team caved as a whole at the end of that game.

I’m more concerned with Romo’s noticeable inability to hit his targets on several key plays. Whether it was the cold weather or having his splint off for the first time, Romo didn’t look like the same guy that put up 300-yard games with his splint on these past two weeks.

Can you trust Romo for your fantasy team? Well, if you made it through the first week of playoffs or made it into the playoffs with his horrible Week 14 point total, sure. Just don’t expect him to be the stud that wins your games these next few weeks.

You may find better options on your waiver wire — *cough* Shaun Hill *cough* — but there’s no reason to sit him unless you have a gem of a matchup since he has the potential to blow up for 300+ yards against anyone.

The Giants are the best team in football. They’re balanced. Their pass rush can get to anyone. They are packed full of talent. They will not be distracted by Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the hamstring.

Unfortunately, they will be distracted by a Westbrook. The Eagles managed to rebound from their slump by beating two of the best teams in the NFL, the Cardinals and Giants, in dominating performances in the last two weeks.

Both games were won on the back of Brian Westbrook because you have to get creative to stop him. That’s why he can be such a huge asset, when healthy, for any fantasy football team. When he’s good, he’s matchup proof.

The oft-injured Eagles running back is heating up right at the perfect time for fantasy owners and has a delicious matchup against the finished Browns, who are once again waiting until next year. Sorry, Ken Dorsey, I don’t believe in you.

On Sunday, the Eagles proved that a stout defense and the ability to negate the pass rush with a guy like Brian Westbrook can expose the Giants.

On Northern Exposure
Speaking of exposing giants, how about Visanthe Shiancoe? He has the balls — literally — to come out to see the lovely game ball presentation for Brad Childress’ son, bound for the Marine Corps, in a tiny little towel?

Congratulations, Janet Jackson, you are now off the hook for your televised nudity. It’s situations like these that make me wonder about the potential of the NFL in 3-D.

I’d post the video of the action here, but you don’t really want to see that. No, really, you don’t.

On hot or not
Instead, let’s tackle a very important issue that seems to have come across my radar. Is Britney Spears hot again?

I mean, I know she’s got the new album and the new body and all that, but isn’t any hotness she now regains negated by the crazy we have seen in the past?

It’s a lot like Antonio Bryant. No matter how many flashy games he has had this season, you still want to doubt him because, well, he’s Antonio Bryant. He’s got a little bit of crazy coach clash waiting in the wings and a little bit of suckage that always returns.

Does that make Jeff Garcia the equivalent of Kevin Federline? Garcia did sort of come out nowhere, the CFL, and every time you think he’s down and out, he comes storming back into relevance — or the press in Federline’s case.

I’ll have to ponder that one a bit more. In the meantime, check out Britney Spears’ new look for yourself. Hot or not, my foolish friends? Hot or not?

On the weather in Matt Jones’ nose
Sadly, the snowy-nosed Matt Jones finally got reevaluated by Santa — err, I mean Roger Goodell — for the naughty or nice list and finally serves his suspension starting this week just because YOU might be needing him for your fantasy playoffs.

Now, I don’t follow every intricate detail of the suspension and appeal process. I just try to avoid any players messed up in the system in any way, but how exactly did Matt Jones hold off this long?

Did the league wait to suspend him until the final three games of the season on purpose? Did he request he be able to finish out the one good season he’s ever had? It seems a little fishy to me.

On the Packers’ Super Bowl chances
The Green Bay Packers should not make the playoffs for this fan’s dancing and this fan’s dancing alone. The baby jersey doesn’t help either.