East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
Back from the Dead
Remember Ciatrick Fason who I touted in Week 1 and had long since forgotten? He had 11 carries for 75 yards and a score. How about Cedric Houston (105 yards, 2 TDs), Ron Dayne (95 yards), Cedric Benson (60 yards on 9 carries vs. No. 1 run defense) and Reggie Bush (168 total yards, 4 TDs)? Where was that all year? I'd been talking up Matt Jones (128 yards, TD) all season, but left him for dead two weeks ago. Trent Green, Eli Manning, Marc Bulger - it's been a while. Eddie Kennison suddenly shows up, and how about Tatum Bell who nearly had to be put down due to turf toe. Then there are the players who've been dead for several years like Jeff Garcia and Marcel Shipp rising from the grave. Shipp sucked the life out of Edgerrin James this past week, though it could be argued that James was already on his last legs, and Shipp was merely thinning the herd.
One note on the accountability rant I went off on in a previous article. I had complained about Verizon/MCI billing me persistently for services I had not contracted for and charging me late fees when I didn't pay. Well, they sent me a third bill this month, and I called again, finally to discover that in fact the bill was for the ISDN line over which I broadcast my XM show. I didn't know this because an AT&T serviceman had installed the line, but apparently the long distance is through Verizon/MCI. The bill should have gone to XM instead of me, and they should have explained to me what the bill was for when I called initially, but to be fair to them, they were at least billing me for a service they were providing and that was legitimately contracted for. Just wanted to clear that up, because it would be pretty weak to write about accountability and not admit that I was at least partly in the wrong for publicly slamming them. And I'm glad to find out I was wrong because my paranoia about these big companies was reaching critical mass and needed to be reined in.
Around the League
Let's get caught up quickly on the major developments of the last few days:
Is there any reason whatsoever that Jerious Norwood isn't getting at least 15 carries a game? Is 6.7 yards per carry not enough for Jim Mora, Jr. Is Warrick Dunn's veteran-ness so incredibly important that it overrides all considerations of reason, sense and sanity? Is Mora aware that Norwood's 373 fourth-quarter rushing yards lead the NFL this season, ahead of LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson? Might the Falcons want to see what would happen if Norwood got carries in the first, second and third quarters, too? We can't say for sure what the timeshare will look like going forward, but we have to believe Norwood will be used more extensively. And if Dunn were to get hurt, look out.
Another rookie back who showed that he's better than the veteran incumbent that his coach trotted out for most of the season, Williams had 17 carries for 74 yards and seven catches for 101 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Eagles. DeShaun Foster is still iffy for Week 14 with an elbow injury, and if he can't go, Williams should again be the focal point of the Panthers offense, along with Steve Smith.
Caldwell's had 70 or more yards receiving in four of his last six games, and 57 or more in five of the last six. He also has three receiving touchdowns over that span. At this point, he's the only Patriots wide receiver you can count on, and while Tom Brady will still spread the ball around, Caldwell is useful as a strong No. 3 or a weak No. 2 wideout in most formats. Caldwell showed some signs early in 2004 with the Chargers before tearing his ACL, so this run isn't entirely shocking.
Of course, you'd have been insane to bench Marvin Harrison last week even though he was coming off a one-target, one-catch Week 12, and the same can be said about Torry Holt who struggled for several weeks before catching seven balls for 115 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. And Santana Moss, who is finally healthy, also had a big game, seven balls for 123 yards and a score. The bottom line is that you sit No. 1 receivers who get regular targets and have explosive play-making ability like the ones above, at your own peril. Don't sub in one-week wonders even if Moss, Harrison, Holt or even Lee Evans has a quiet week or two. It's impossible to time the market, and you can't afford to have these guys on your bench when they inevitably go off.
Below the Radar
Looking at the Yahoo! numbers from Saturday, it turns out that the Jerious Norwoods (3.5 percent) and Michael Turners (4.9 percent) were still not owned in most of your leagues, though they should be - these are the kind of reserves who can win you a title if things (or, more specifically, particular players) break a certain way. Last week's recommendations: Jerious Norwood, Matt Leinart, Sammy Morris and Vernon Davis.
Here are a few more:
Jones caught six passes for 128 yards and a touchdown Sunday, beating Miami's corners on go-routes when they played him man-to-man. Quarterback David Garrard commented on the ease of throwing to his tall receivers after the game, and the 6-6 Jones could be in for more looks. Jones still isn't a polished wideout by any means, but given his size, strength and speed, there's a lot of upside here.
Houston started for the Jets Sunday and rushed for 105 yards and two scores. Leon Washington will spell him at times, but it looks likely that Houston will get another start, this time against Buffalo's porous run defense. At 5-10, 225, Houston isn't huge, but he's stout and should be able move the pile near the goal line.
Benson ran nine times for 60 yards and a score, outperforming starter Thomas Jones against the No. 1 ranked rushing defense (Minnesota) in the league on Sunday. Benson should continue to be in the mix down the stretch, and could increase his share of the carries. This week, the Bears draw St. Louis, one of the easiest teams in the league to run on.
Garcia threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns Monday night and looked very nimble moving around in and out of the pocket. Coach Andy Reid loves to throw the ball, so even if Garcia averages only 6.0-6.5 yards per attempt, he'll accumulate good counting stats because he'll throw 15-20 percent more often than many quarterbacks. And with Brian Westbrook making plays as a receiver out of the backfield to go along with Donte' Stallworth and Reggie Brown, Garcia has plenty of big-play weapons.
Beating the Book
We went 10-6 against the spread last week and are now 103-80-9 on the season. We picked the Browns here last week, and they covered. We're now 7-5-1 in this forum.
Ravens +3 at Chiefs
Two weeks ago we picked the Chiefs at home against Denver, last week we picked the Browns at home to win outright against the Chiefs, and this week, we'll take the Chiefs at home again against the Ravens. Buy low, sell high, buy back low again. And don't mess with the Chiefs at Arrowhead.
Chiefs 19 - 13
For the rest of this week's slate, check out Beating the Book
Surviving Week 14
New England gave us a little scare, but came through in the end, and Pittsburgh had little trouble with Tampa Bay. The Bears were our third choice, and while they won by a good margin, they needed defensive and special teams scores to do it.
This week, we like Cincinnati over Oakland - the Raiders' D will keep this game close, but Oakland doesn't have enough offense to win. If you've used Cincinnati, we'd probably go Dallas, and if you've used Dallas, we're going to go out on a limb and take the Chiefs at home.
The full article comes out on Thursday night.
Article first appeared 12/5/06