This week I'll thank my readers and discuss who you can and can't trust in Week 17.
Lost fans out there: Be sure to check out my interview with Matthew Fox on NBCSports.com!
Thought of the Week: Until Next Time
This being my last football column of the season, I just want to take a minute to thank all of my readers…especially those who contributed to the Trash Dump. I certainly enjoyed the team name contest and talking about "Drafterglow," "Post-Draft Depression," fantasy perks, Smash Mouth Superlatives, weak leagues, great leagues, celebrations, gift ideas, bumper stickers, coping tips for wives, things I'd say to my players, and maximizing respect. Hopefully, you found a chuckle or two in there somewhere, and hopefully the fact that you're reading this in Week 17 means my player notes had at least a small hand in getting you to your league championship game.
So, unless I get some six-figure contract to do something else, I'll see you right back here in the fall. In the meantime, have a happy New Year!
Update on My Office League Championship Matchup
Last week, I talked a bit about my personal leagues, and so I figured you might be interested in hearing about the crazy finish to my office league. I made the mistake of starting Brett Favre over Jon Kitna, figuring his matchup against the Vikings was far more favorable than Kitna's against the Bears. (In this QB-heavy league, Kitna would have netted me 20 more points.) Still, thanks to Steven Jackson, I was down only six points heading into Monday night with Laveranues Coles and Mike Nugent going. (My opponent had no one going.) In the bag, right? Well, I thought so until about half time, when the score of the Jets-Dolphins game was still 0-0, and Coles was nowhere to be found. Finally, late in the third, the Jets were forced to kick a field goal after Zach Thomas saved a touchdown with an ankle tackle. Thanks for the three points, Zach! The Jets scored again with eight minutes left, getting me another point with the Nugent PAT. So, with the New York up 10-7, I absolutely needed a Miami field goal. (If they didn't score, the Jets could just sit on it; if they got a TD, a Jets' FG would be useless.) Luckily, Olindo Mare provided the tying FG and all I needed was a game-winning kick from Nugent to crack open the champagne. So when Leon Washington broke loose for a 64-yard scamper, I was praying someone would tackle him, and thankfully the last defender barely managed to do so. Nugent hit the 30-yard chippie, and I was jumping up and down along with the Jets' players.
Oh, and I would have lost if Donald Driver had managed one more yard (for a five-point bonus), or if the Rams game hadn't gone into overtime, giving Jackson a chance to score again. I love this game!
Players of Note
Tom Brady – With the Patriots having clinched their division, Brady's backup Matt Cassell will likely see significant minutes this week. Last year, Brady played just one quarter in the final regular season game. Do not use Brady.
Chad Pennington – At this point it goes without saying: Do not start a QB facing Oakland, the league's premier pass defense.
Jeff Garcia – I guess we can trust Garcia to provide solid, not spectacular production by now…especially against a Falcons' pass defense ranked 25th in the league. He should be good for 250 yards and a score or two.
Ronnie Brown – Having been back just a week, owners might be hesitant to trust Brown in their championship game. That's understandable, but you have to use him against the Colts' worst run defense in the NFL. (Bob Sanders is not expected to play.) Last week Brown looked great in amassing 110 rushing yards, and he should be more productive this week, as teams have finally figured out that you run, run, run against Indy.
Steven Jackson – I think I said earlier in the year that all running backs not named Tomlinson should be benched against Minnesota. The Vikings are insane against the run, allowing just 54.5 yards per game on the ground. That's 24 yards less than the next best team! However, Jackson has been LTesque lately, totaling well over 100 yards in each of his last five games. Even if he does little with handoffs, he can do serious damage in the passing game. So, unless you have a golden matchup with another strong RB, stick with Jackson and hope for the best.
Ron Dayne – I recommended Dayne last week for his superb matchup against the Colts, and he came through to the tune of 153 yards and two scores. This week he has another tremendous matchup against the 30th-ranked run defense of the Browns. Plus, Texans Coach Gary Kubiak said Dayne should expect 30 carries. The former Heisman winner should earn his old nickname Great Dayne once again this week.
Vincent Jackson – Jackson has come out of nowhere to post two 90-yard performances in his last three games (including two scores last week). It seems he has become Philip River's primary deep threat. However, be careful about using him this week. The Chargers will likely play it safe with their key guys, and Jackson is dealing with a "tender" hamstring.
Torry Holt – Though he has not been himself as of late (only crossing the century mark once in his last nine games), Holt should bust out against a Vikings' pass defense that ranks worst in the league.
Laveranues Coles – Do not expect a bounce-back week for Coles, who killed fantasy owners with just nine yards on two catches last week. There's speculation that he's recovering from a concussion, and he faces the daunting corners of the Raiders.
Chris Cooley – After putting up 157 yards over the last two weeks, Cooley makes a nice play against the Giants.
The Trash Dump
I'm so sick of fantasy "experts" and owners groaning about LaDainian's Week 16 performance and how it cost them the championship…just because he didn't score and ONLY had 123 rushing yards. So, to all those whiners who lost with LT last week, suck it up and stop blaming the guy that got you there in the first place!
- Greg, Frederick MD
I think there is some karma in the fact that teams who relied too heavily on LT and Drew Brees ended up needing contributions from elsewhere to advance in the playoffs. Of course, that's easy for me to say, being that I had neither on my squad!