East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
The Steve Nash of the NFL
Apparently, Drew Brees can make anyone a star. Just ask Mike Karney who caught five passes for 39 yards and two touchdowns Sunday (and ran in another score for good measure). Or Terrance Copper, who scored in three straight games this season. When rookie seventh-round draft pick Marques Colston (who has four 100-yard games and one 97-yarder) missed three games with an ankle injury, Brees made Devery Henderson (three 100-yard receiving games and another one for 92 yards and a score) look like a No. 1 receiver. Even the gimpy 34-year old Joe Horn has two 100-yard games, despite missing two games entirely. And Reggie Bush has two straight 100-yard games out of the backfield. Coming into the season, Colston and Copper were complete unknowns, Horn was on the downside of his career and Henderson had yet to make an impact. Bush was supposed to be good, but he's a running back. In short, Brees is going to come close to Dan Marino's 5084-yard record with what was considered a weaker-than-average receiving corps, though Colston's going to wind up being more Joe Johnson (a star in his own right) than Raja Bell, Tim Thomas or Eddie House.
Speaking of Colston, it seems that big receivers are gaining prominence. Larry Fitzgerald (6-3, 226), Anquan Boldin (6-1, 218), Terrell Owens (6-3, 224), Andre Johnson (6-3, 219), Javon Walker (6-3, 209), Roy Williams (6-4, 210) and Plaxico Burress (6-5, 228) are the stars, but the Jaguars have three big targets (Matt Jones, Reggie Williams, Ernest Wilford) and the Browns use Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius and Kellen Winslow (a tight end with wide receiver skills). If teams start drafting bigger corners to match up with them, there might be a renaissance for the smaller quicker guys - there's no way a 6-2 player can match Steve Smith or Santana Moss in lateral quickness or the ability to change directions on a dime.
Around the League
Let's get caught up quickly on the major developments of the last few days:
Remember when 16 touchdowns was what you'd expect out of the first overall pick? LaDainian Tomlinson is having the best fantasy season in history, but his season is nearly as impressive in real life terms. The touchdowns are largely a matter of opportunity, but the 1427 rushing yards, the 52 catches and the 5.0 yards per carry are really impressive. And Tomlinson's 5.0 isn't like Tiki Barber getting 5.0 - Barber doesn't have those short goal-line carries bringing down his average. Tomlinson also has a chance to break Marshall Faulk's yards from scrimmage record (2429 YFS in 1999). Right now, Tomlinson has 1906 (147 per game) with three games to go. That puts him on a pace for 2347, which would be good for fourth. Incidentally, if Drew Brees (4039 passing yards, 311 per game), keep up his pace, he'll have 4972 - good for second all-time. While I'd argue that Brees, a quarterback that turned a bad team full of no-game receivers into one of the best in the NFC, should win the MVP, Tomlinson's got that award locked up. His 2006 makes Shaun Alexander's 2005 MVP campaign seem quaint.
I've been guilty of selling the Ravens short for most of the season, I'll admit - mostly due to their mediocre offense and a defense with some stars who I thought were past their prime (Ray Lewis, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Ed Reed, Trevor Pryce). But for the most part, all of them are playing well, and when you add in Adalius Thomas, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott, this unit is better than the one in Chicago, hands down. No one had gone into Arrowhead in December and come out with a win since 1996, and the Ravens were able to do it despite trotting out the plodding Jamal Lewis 24 times. Steve McNair is better now than Trent Dilfer was in 2000, and this defense can at least be in the same conversation as that one.
Details of Jones' injury are still unavailable, but team officials are concerned that he may have a Lisfranc fracture-dislocation, which could affect his availability for the start of next season. Arlen Harris will get the carries in his stead, but he's no Artose Pinner. If Jones isn't ready for next season, Roy Williams could be all the Lions have to show for their five first-round picks spent on skill players the last several years (Mike Williams, Joey Harrington and Charles Rogers, being the other three).
It was only a matter of time before Indy fell apart because no team can get by winning games against the Titans, Bills and Jets by such slim margins. The Colts defense isn't good, and now the secondary's banged up, and they're thin at receiver after losing Brandon Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark. It will interesting to see if they can bounce back against a surging Bengals squad that looks like the Colts from two years ago. Incidentally, as a measure of how far the team's stock has plummeted, one online sports book has the Colts listed as the fifth most likely team to win the Super Bowl at 13/2. The teams ahead of them are the Chargers (2/1), the Ravens (4/1), Bears (4/1) and the Saints! (5/1).
Below the Radar
Normally, I highlight a few players worth picking up, but let's be honest, it's Week 15, and anyone who's still alive in the playoffs probably has his roster set, and probably isn't interested in the Arlen Harrises, Vernon Davises, Tony Schefflers, and Ron Daynes that are still available. I still like Michael Turner if your league goes 17 weeks - if the Chargers have home field wrapped up, the Burner could have a huge day at home vs. Arizona.
Beating the Book
We went 7-9 against the spread last week and are now 110-89-9 on the season. We picked the Chiefs here last week, and they failed to cover. We're now 7-6-1 in this forum.
Redskins +9.5 at Saints
The Redskins aren't a doormat, and the Saints probably aren't as good as they played Sunday night in Dallas. Of course, the Redskins are dead last in YPA allowed, which doesn't bode well for a matchup with the league's top offense, but games aren't played on paper, and this line is too steep. Back the Redskins who keep it close.
Saints 27 - 23
For the rest of this week's slate, check out Beating the Book
Surviving Week 15
Cincy was easy last week, but our second choice, the Cowboys, got beaten badly at home as did the Chiefs, our third choice.
This week, the Bears are the obvious play at home against the Bucs, and if by some unlikely miracle you still had Chicago available, you're in good shape. After the Bears, we'd take the Patriots coming off a terrible loss and facing the Texans at home. Next we'd go with the Ravens at home against Cleveland and finally, San Diego at home against the Chiefs.
The full article comes out on Thursday night.
Article first appeared 12/12/06