Vick plays in his first NFL game in over 2 years

 

Jaguars Eagles Football

Michael Vick is Back in the NFL !!!

After over two years of waiting and anticipation, the ‘Michael Vick Experience’ returned to the National Football League.  With a gaggle of local and national media in attendance — the pressbox seemed to have a playoff game type atmosphere.  Vick played for the first time for his new team (Philadelphia Eagles) versus the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field, ironically in the last stadium he played in way back on December 31, 2006 with the Atlanta Falcons. 

To the surprise of everyone, who had built the third preseason game of the Eagles’ schedule into a frenzy from weeks of radio fueled debate over the signing of the fallen from grace superstar, Vick was well received by the Eagles’ faithful.  The anticipated jeers, protests, and booing never materialized with Vick receiving strong cheers – some fans even gave him a standing ovation. 

 In his postgame press conference, Vick admitted that he was also pleasantly surprised by the fans’ reception – later admitted that he screwed a play up by trying to do too much after the warm reception. The former three-time Pro Bowl player said, “I didn’t think (the reaction) was going to be this positive. I didn’t know what to expect. … I was listening to hear what it would be. I’m very thankful.” 

All eyes had been on Vick during a whirlwind day from flying back and forth to Virginia for a bankruptcy hearing to warm-ups, pregame drills to when the Eagles starting offense had taken the field with Eagles starting quarterback Donovan McNabb under center.  The fans wait did not take long as Vick entered the game on the Eagles second offensive play. 

 With McNabb flanked out wide, Vick started his long road back by taking the snap and executing a safe 4-yard shovel to running back LeSean McCoy.  Then as quickly as he had entered the game, Vick returned to the sidelines waiting for his next opportunity, which arrived a few more times. In all, Vick played in six offensive plays in a variety of roles including quarterback, zone-read quarterback, wildcat quarterback, wide receiver and completed a pass right-handed (naturally a left-handed passer). All of Vick’s playing time occurred in the first half and the Birds netted three points to show for his efforts.

 The NFL’s only 1,000-yard rushing quarterback’s final passing numbers were 4-4 for 19 yards with his best pass a 13-yard bullet to receiver Hank Baskett at the Jaguars’ 11-yard line. Plus he rushed for 1-yard on the aforementioned crowd pleasing attempt, where quite frankly he looked a little heavy-legged than the whirlwind cuts machine of the past.  “Everything he was asked to do, he did it well,” McNabb said.  There were even chants of “We want Vick” that could be heard on the TV broadcast after McNabb threw an interception – where was the Anti-Vick factions then.

 No one seemed to care that the final score was Eagles 33, Jaguars 32  or that the Eagles need to sure-up a myriad of things before their opener (September 13th at Carolina, especially tackling and injuries on their offensive line. But numbers and the final score of the game can never tell the whole story. 

Michael Vick was just happy to get his feet wet in an NFL game for the first time in a long while …well preseason game.  He described the feeling of playing in his first game after his whole dogfighting melodrama as “surreal”. Vick said he had to pinch himself to believe he was back in a real game. The experience was another hurdle that Vick had to overcome on his road back.  The only drawback for Vick’s fans was that it may take awhile for the real “Mike Vick” from the past to show-up. 

Right now Vick put his current condition at 70% of his past faculties, but he added the “sky’s the limit” once he gets his legs under him – working very hard after practice on a daily basis.  He added that he was able to play at a high level before and he believes that he can do it again.

I am sure to Vick six plays and a few minutes on an NFL field once seemed like a lifetime away for the  former poster player when he was in Leavenworth – admitted in a 60 Minutes interview that he cried at night in prison.  But now the former first overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft is back on the gridiron after receiving the “second chance” that many, including myself, believe that he deserves.  Eagles’ fans, coaches, and players plus the Jaguars overall genuinely seemed happy for Vick as cleared another obstacle on his road to redemption. 

“It’s been a long journey for me,” Vick said. “I just want to do it right this time around.” 

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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Top 10 Players to Stay Away From this Fantasy Football Season

Kansas City Chiefs RB Larry Johnson – Time and injuries seem to have caught up with Johnson (30 on Nov. 19th).  Though the NFL’s former rushing champ has held off backup Jamaal Charles for the starting running back job, his production has steadily decreased over the last couple of years.  Ran for only 874 yards on 193 carries with a 4.5 ypr average and 5 TDs in 2008 plus only had 12 catches for 74 yards.

New York Jets RB Thomas Jones – On his fourth team in 9 years, Jones (31) continues to complain and get no respect around the NFL.  Ran for over 1312 yards and 13 TDs for the Jets in 2008, but the team seems ready to step away from him.  The former Georgia star wants a contract and the team didn’t blink this offseason as they brought in rookie Shonn Greene and are working a possible renegotiation with multipurpose back Leon Washington.  Stay away, because I could see Washington and Greene taking carries from Jones real soon in new head coach Rex Ryan’s system.

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford – With the success of 2008 rookie quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, everyone immediately believes Stafford will be the next golden boy of the NFL.  However there is one big in that the Lions are a rebuilding team with over 20 new faces after their much publicized and embarrassing 0-16 season.  The Lions gave Stafford a huge contract (6 years, $72 Million w/ 41 Million guaranteed), but he has a lot to learn as shown by an inconsistent preseason.  I think it takes a couple years for this former underclassman to adjust to the NFL after never consistently winning in the SEC in college.

Jacksonville Jaguars QB David Garrard – The Jaguars starter will never be a fantasy football player’s dream passer as he is more efficient than putting up eye-popping numbers.  Garrard and the Jags struggled in 2008 as he threw for  for numbers of 3,620 yards, 15 TDs and 13 INTs after receiving a big contract.  With head coach Jack Del Rio on the hot seat, look for the abrasive coach to lean on his running game led by MJD and hope that Garrard can return to his ’07 form where  he led the team to the divisional round of the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Torry Holt – The Jaguars had a ton of injuries and inconsistently in their receiving corps in 2008, so they signed  former Rams veteran Holt  to wash away the taste of Matt Jones, Jerry Porter, and Reggie Williams.  The move to bring in the 7-time Pro Bowl player looks good on paper, but Holt’s knees have bothered him over the last couple of years and his production slipped below 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since his rookie year in 1999 – finished with 64 catches for 796 yards, a 12.4 ypc, and only 3 TDs.

Baltimore Ravens RB Willis McGahee – You would have thought that McGahee (170 rushes for 671 yards, 3.9 ypr, and 7 TDs in ‘08) after getting out of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s doghouse this offseason would have had a chance at being a featured back again.  But it looks like being the Ravens’ main ball carrier has passed the former Bills star by.  The team this preseason seems to be leaning towards 2nd year backs Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain carrying the load.  McGahee is coming off a 2008 season where he missed games due to injury and he had multiple offseason surgeries (ankle and knee). 

New England Patriots RB Laurence Maroney – After promising seasons in 2006 and 2007, this former University of Minnesota running back crashed hard in 2008.  Maroney could not stay healthy (shoulder injury) and he only played in three games, which prompted the Patriots organization to question his toughness.  The 4th year running back has never run for over 900 yards and it seems Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is ready to move on with his running back by committee philosophy.  Maroney will have to battle newcomer Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis just to get on the field this season.

Seattle Seahawks RB Edgerrin James – Always beware of an older back joining a new team.  James (31) comes to the Seahawks as the NFL’s 11th all-time rusher with 12,121 yards his ten-year career.  But you could see last year that the Cardinals did not have confidence in him for the majority of last season – only 7 starts finishing with numbers 133 rushes for 514 yards, 3.9 ypr, and 3 TDs with a long run of only 35 yards.  James carries have decreased over the past three years and he missed the Seahawks’ training camp, which maybe a blessing in disguise.  With Seahawks head coach Jim Mora looking to lean on starter Julius Jones, the former Colts star maybe relegated to short yardage situations.  Also the Seahawks offensive line has been decimated by injuries during the 2009 preseason.

New Orleans Saints WR Bobby Meachem – All preseason, the New Orleans area has been abuzz about Meachem – 5 catches for 106 yards and 1TD (64 yards) in first two preseason games.  Everyone is wondering if the former University of Tennessee star is ready to live-up to the high expectations that  the Saints had when they selected him in the first round of 2007. Over his first two years in the NFL, Meachem was plagued by injury (lost rookie year to a torn ACL) and dropping passes.  Though it looks like he may have turned the corner this preseason, I am not ready to say he has passed WR Marques Colston, RB Reggie Bush, WR Devrey Henderson or WR Lance Moore as one of quarterback Drew Brees’ main targets.

Atlanta Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez – I know you are probably thinking how can the NFL’s all-time leading tight end in terms of catches (916) and yardage (10,94) be on my Stay Away List.  Well…Gonzalez is starting with a new team in the Falcons (traded for a 2nd Rd pick) and their head coach Mike Smith has an affinity to run the ball and play tough defense.  With so many other great tight ends on the board (Gates, Keller, Winslow, Witten, and others), I just don’t see a reason to spend a pick in the first six rounds of your FF draft on him.  I know the 10-time Pro Bowl player and surefire Hall of Famer is coming off a season where he put up 96 catches for 1058 yards, 11.0 ypc, and 10 TDs, but he is a huge question mark when quarterback Matt Ryan will be going to RB Michael Turner and WR Roddy White first.

Others to Stay Away From

QBs — Miami Dolphins QB Chad Pennington (run-first team and he is a game manager type); Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme (5 INTs in the Panthers’ playoff loss to the Cardinals  in ’08.. enough said);  Miami Dolphins QB Pat White (will get a few snaps in the Wildcat, but still not ready to be under center); Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick (America’s No. 1 sports radio topic will be stuck on the bench behind McNabb as he knocks off over 2 years of rust)

RBs — Oakland Raiders RB Justin Fargas (injured – hamstring and will be splitting carries); Washington Redskins RB Clinton Portis (too injury prone, slowing down, and will be splitting carries); Buffalo Bills RB Dominic Rhodes (stuck behind Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson)

WRs — Arizona Cardinals WR Steve Breaston (injured – knee and ’08 is looking like a career year); Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward (play is more gritty now and Santonio Holmes is Big Ben’s go-to-guy); Buffalo Bills WR Josh Reed (with T.O and Lee Evans around, he will be lucky for a couple catches a game…did I mention T.O)

TE’s — Baltimore Ravens TE’s Todd Heap and LJ Smith (run-first team, too injury prone, and both their production has slipped over the years), Cleveland Browns TE Steve Heiden (Will not even come close to replacing Winslow); Jacksonville Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis (great name and size, but plays like a Yugo).

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 Fantasy Football Top Ten Players to Select List

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson –  The NFL’s  leading rusher last season with numbers 363 rushes for 1,760 yards, 4.8 ypr and 10 TDs.  This guy is a real beast and if Vikings head coach Brad Childress is smart, he will give the ball to Peterson again and again.  Forget about new quarterback Brett Favre carrying the Vikes as Peterson is their best shot at the postseason.  There is talk that the 3rd year back could become the NFL’s sixth running back to gain over 2,000 yards in a season.

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones Drew – Fresh off receiving a new contract ( four-years, $31 Million contract includes $17.5 million guaranteed) and veteran Fred Taylor leaving for the Patriots this offseason, MJD is primed for a huge season.  The versatile Jones-Drew has scored 40 TDs in his first three seasons — second in the NFL only to LaDainian Tomlinson’s  61 during that span — and he led all NFL backs with 62 catches in 2008.

Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams – This former thought to be “bust” emerged as one of the NFL’s most dominating backs in 2008 — rushed for 1,515 yards with a 5.5 ypr average and 18 touchdowns.  Williams became the Panthers lead back in their two-headed backfield, starting ahead of 2008 rookie Jonathan Stewart.  In 2009, look for Williams to have another huge year since Stewart is banged up heading into the season with an Achilles injury.

 Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning – No Fantasy Football list would be complete without the NFL’s top quarterback over the last decade.  Manning won his 3rd MVP award in 2008 and extended his NFL record in ’08 with his ninth 4,000-yard season (passing numbers of 371-555, 66.8%, 4002 yards, 27 TDs, and 12 INTs.  With his knee totally healthy and a receiving corps featuring Wayne, Gonzalez, Clark and emerging rookie Austin Collie, Manning doesn’t look to slowdown in 2009.

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald – The most dominating receiver in the NFL has to have a spot in the Top 10, despite several FF analysts saying to wait on selecting a receiver.  Fitzgerald was sensational in ’08 putting up regular season numbers of 96 receptions for 1431 yards and 12 TDs.  He also led the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl while establishing playoff records of 30 receptions for 546 yards and 7 TDs including 2 TDs in their Super bowl loss.  Fitz is a terror around the endzone and every Cardinals’ opponent needs to know where he is at all times despite two other 1,000-yard receivers on his team (Breaston and Boldin).

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte – One of the NFL’s most versatile running backs, who should only improve with the addition of Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler.  As a rookie in 2008, Forte carried the Bears’ offense with numbers 316 rushes for 1238 yards and 8 TDs plus a team-high 63 receptions for 477 yards and 4 TDs.  Bears offense should definitely improve on their 2008 numbers as Cutler will be working to form a rapport  with Forte, dynamic TE Greg Olsen, former college teammate Earl Bennett and speedster WR Devin Hester.

St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson  — A dominating dual-threat running back who really is his team’s only option at times.  Jackson had his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season despite missing five games because of injuries finishing with numbers 253 rushes for 1,042 yards, 4.1 ypr, and 7 TDs; 40 receptions for 379 yards, 9.5 ypc, and 1TD.  Look for Rams new staff led by offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to get the ball to Jackson often.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees – The NFL’s passer leader in terms of yardage in 2008 has a “bombs away” mentality.  Brees working with a multitude of backs, receivers, and tight ends became the NFL’s second quarterback to throw for over 5,000 passing yards in a season, finishing with 5,069 (Dan Marino’s is mark of  5,084 is the record).  Look for the 2008 NFL Offensive Player of the Year to continue putting up big fantasy numbers in head coach Sean Payton’s offense as he has a lot of weapons in RB Pierre Thomas, RB/Slot WR Reggie Bush, WR Marques Colston and others to work with.

Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson – The NFL’s greatest secret may reside in Houston, TX and his name is “Andre Johnson”.  Coming off an injury plagued season in ’07 people didn’t expect much from the former Hurricanes’ star in ’08.  But to a lot of fantasy football player’s surprise, Johnson led the NFL in catches and yardage as he put up Pro Bowl numbers (115 receptions, 1575 yards,  13.7 ypc, and 8TDs with a long of 65 yards.  If potential breakout quarterback Matt Schaub can stay healthy the sky’s the limit for this big fast receiver.

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady – I know Tom “Terrific” only played in one series of one game in 2008 as a knee injury (ACL) ravaged his season.  However there is no way that I am leaving arguably the best quarterback in the game off my list.  Brady is coming back to an offense that put up 410 points and 43 TDs with former deep benchwarmer Matt Cassel at the helm, so the former Super Bowl MVP should pick right back up leading Bill Belichick’s attack.  And let’s not forget that Brady threw an NFL record 50 TDs in 2007 while throwing to still on the team targets WR Randy Moss and WR Wes Welker.

Best of the Rest

QBs — San Diego Chargers QB Phillip Rivers, Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler, Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo, Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, and Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

RBs — San Diego Chargers RB’s LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles; Indianapolis Colts RB’s  Joseph Addai and Donald Brown; Houston Texans RB Steve Slaton, Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson, Falcons RB Michael Turner, San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore, Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice, Miami Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown, New Orleans Saints RB Reggie Bush, and Philadelphia Eagles RB Brian Westbrook

WRs — Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White, New England Patriots WR Randy Moss, Buffalo Bills WR Terrell Owens, Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson, Green Bay Packers WR Gregg Jennings, Arizona Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin, Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne, Kansas City Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe, Denver Broncos WR Brandon Marshall and Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco

TEs — San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates, Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten, Chicago Bears TE Greg Olsen,  Indianapolis Colts TE Dallas Clark , NY Jets TE Dustin Keller, Washington Redskins TE Chris Cooley, SF 49ers TE Vernon Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Kellen Winslow, and Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe

Kickers – New England Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski, Philadelphia Eagles K David Akers, Tennessee Titans K Rob Bironas, Atlanta Falcons K Jason Elam, San Diego Chargers K  Nate Kaeding, Green Bay Packers K Mason Crosby, and Arizona Cardinals Neil Rackers

Defenses – Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, NY Giants, San Diego Chargers, Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 Fantasy Football Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s

Pick your league’s commissioner wisely – This is of extreme importance as this is the individual that can make or break your league and fantasy football experience. Nothing is worse than a little “dictator” that has strange rules and has an agenda. Go with a person that you believe is fair, can take care of the money for the season, and knows the rules.

Know your league’s rules – This is the most cumbersome part of being in a fantasy football league. We all know rules are a pain in the a__, but they can also save you too. Knowing your league’s rules like how many players can be active, how much yardage on a particular play kicks-in a specific points bonus, how much a missed field goal is worth, lineup restrictions, floaters (extra WR or RB in your lineup), if your league is a point per reception league, or any of myriad of topics is paramount for any great fantasy football player.

Agree upon the ground rules of your draft early – Where are you holding the draft (Some people like bars and others like a quiet basement), Draft Order, League fees and dues for the year, What are we eating and drinking (This is the most important, because you need to be relaxed – I vote for beer and pizza), The League Trophies/Prizes, How many rounds the draft will be, How much time between picks, Number of required players at each position, etc. Once the ground rules are set, stick to them or be prepared to be “trash talked” the entire draft.

Have a Good Attitude (This could be your year) – I always hear naysayers talk about their draft is coming up, but they have no chance. Just because you are a rookie or an 11-year veteran of fantasy football who has never won or won it 10 times before, it doesn’t matter. Every year starts fresh for your entire league (unless you are in a keeper league, which I hate) and everyone has a chance to be the “big winner” for the year.

Arrive early for your draft – By doing this, you can pick your seat, have all of your notes, cheat sheets, pizza, beer, and everything else you need in place for a good selection process. Nothing is worse for a group of people to wait for a “Johnny Come Lately” who is unprepared or even worse someone calling in their picks on a cell phone.

Make a “wish list” with rankings – Once you know your draft spot, a “wish list” will be your best friend. By knowing where you think a player will be targeted and scratching players off as your draft progresses, will help you quickly find and select the player you want. Some magazines and websites now have cheat sheets that you can have right at your fingertips (no overextended reading when you are on the clock though — See Don’ts).

Get your stud early in the draft – I recommend looking for a running back to build your team around early (maybe two), then quarterback, and wide receivers should be your last first round option in the draft. Running backs are fantasy football scoring machines with their ability to run, catch, gain yards after the catch, score touchdowns, and their big play potential. For example in 2006, LaDainan Tomlinson was like two or three players in one by scoring 31 total touchdowns (receiving, running, and even throwing). I always like to say, “Trust your list”, you know where a guy “should” go and you should stick to your plan. A basic plan is in Rounds 1-3 think RB first then QB, then WR; Rounds 3-6 Continue with the aforementioned strategy and add in TE’s; After Round 6 fill in your roster needs.

Know who is injured for the season or has already been cut  – This is extremely important, because every year there is a FF player that has no idea who was put on I\R for the year or out of the league and selects them to the delight of all of their buddies. Here’s a free tip…former Giants receiver Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress will be in jail this football season serving time shoot himself in the leg.  Make sure that you check the injury and roster cut down lists right before the draft. This same rule definitely applies during the season when setting your roster for the week. Nothing is worse than finding out at game time that you have a player in your lineup that won’t be playing on game day.

Make sure to get handcuffs when drafting – Let’s face it certain players have a higher chance of missing games whether it is injuries, suspension, or poor play. There is also the new phenomenon of teams splitting plays for a position based on situations, this is especially common for running backs (goalline, 3rd downs, etc) where the two-headed backfield is becoming the norm – there were only five 300-carry backs in the NFL in 2008.  So it is important to find a “handcuff” or partner for certain players.  For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers backfield is currently unsettled as starter Willie Parker is getting older and emerging back Rashard Mendenhall is returning from a shoulder injury, so many people drafting both backs for their teams so that each back can serve as a handcuff.

Know your “Bye” weeks – Just like injuries having conflicting players on your roster can kill your team. When you make your draft wish list make sure that you know when your players are off, so you don’t pick players that will both be out at the same time. This same rule definitely applies during the season when setting your roster for the week. Nothing is worse than finding out at game time that you don’t have a position covered in your lineup, because of a bye week.

Remember rookies when drafting – More than ever rookies are having a higher impact in the NFL. Fantasy Football owners that selected 2008 impactful rookie Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.  The former Tulane star leapt from the 2ndround of the NFL Draft into being a bonafide fantasy football cornerstone player, while piling up 1,715 yards from scrimmage — third most in the NFL.  Forte’s numbers for 2008 were 316 rushes for 1238 yards and 8 TDs; 63 receptions for 477 yards and 4 TDs.

Be willing to talk trade during the season – There is nothing worse than a league participant that holds on to all of their players like little pieces of platinum and doesn’t entertain emails or phone call. If a fellow player offers you a “reasonable” trade, either take it, counter offer, or respectfully decline. Make sure that you are smart in your trade offers by being realistic of your player’s value, status, and your trading partner’s history — some guys are known to try and fleece new players, so beware…Hey how does a deal of JT O’Sullivan, TJ Duckett, and Javon Walker for Adrian Peterson sound to you?

Use the waiver wire – Usually after the first 6 weeks or so pending on your league’s rules, you will have the opportunity to grab players that were not selected in your draft — beware some leagues charge for waiver wire picks. The waiver wire can help you fix mistakes and replace non-producers/injured players. Every year some grabs a stud player off the waiver wire and it will always be a feather in their cap. I still remember in 1998, quarterback Brad Johnson was slated to be the Vikings starter and he got hurt early in the season opening the door for Randall Cunningham, who I happily grabbed off the waiver wire and he went on to have a huge year including 34 passing touchdowns.

Play for the playoffs – Just like regular football, the only thing that matters is making the playoffs in Fantasy Football.  Once you are in the playoff rounds – usually weeks 15 -17 of the NFL regular season – anything can happen.  I have seen last place Fantasy Football teams win championships in the playoffs by making solid waiver pick-ups and riding “hot” NFL players/teams making their playoff push.

Have Fun!!! – This is the most important part of fantasy football!! Fantasy Football Leagues offer you a chance to talk, have bragging rights for the year, bond, trash talk, and hangout with your friends. It also gives you, the fan, the chance to be the Head Coach and General Manager. You will win or lose based on your decisions of who you played, who you did not play, injuries, game time decisions, trades, etc. But also remember that most champions are built on the luck of the draw – drafting position and player health are truly keys to winning.

Don’ts

Don’t panic at the draft – If the player that you wanted to select was taken right before you pick, don’t sulk, just follow your wish list. It happens to everyone, but you have to pull the trigger when the player you want is on the board. 

Don’t sit at the table reading a Fantasy Football magazine or other cheat sheets – If it was up to me, I would recommend that you leave the Fantasy Football magazine at home.  But make sure that you know your material as nothing is worse than sitting at the draft waiting for some slow poke to incessantly read a FF publication trying to find a player.

Don’t drink too much at the draft – This is a good rule of thumb for any activity, but especially when you are building your team for the upcoming season.  You don’t want your judgment clouded by too many brews. I was at a draft once where a guy drank too much booze and wanted to quit the next day when he saw his roster.

Don’t get catch in a position run situation at the draft – I have seen it too many times where one FF participant makes a selection of a particular player at a position that didn’t warrant the selection, another guy follows right behind them — think TE Tony Gonzalez being taken in the 3rd Round and someone reaching to grab Eagles TE Brent Celek – late round value). I can’t emphasize it more, “Trust your list”.

Don’t forget about defensive units and kickers – Though I usually select these two areas last in FF drafts, they truly matter. Often with the “pinball” machine numbers created by quarterbacks, running backs, and top-level receiver, people forget that you can “steal” points with kickers and a good defense.  You never know when you will need a point here or there to get you over the top. On defense look for a team that gets turnovers, defensive touchdowns, and sacks (Ravens in 2008). I have to admit that I am not a “kicker guy”, but an accurate kicker who can put it in from long range (40 yards or more), can help carry a team during a slow week. Also factor in dome vs. non-dome in your kicker selection.

Don’t become too focused on teammates – When I first started playing FF back in the day, a veteran said that the key was to get a receiver and quarterback on the same team. That works fine if you have the best quarterback and receiver for that particular season (Think Brady and Moss, 2007), but I like to have a diversified roster of guys in different divisions and team, so I can guard against when a particular NFL team has a bad couple of weeks. I have also seen where a FF player reaches to grab a second tier wide receiver just because they have that WR’s quarterback.

Don’t cry over last year – Every year I hear people in my league complain that so and so always wins and that they have no chance. Well if you don’t want to compete then do us all a favor and quit. As I stated earlier every year is new and everyone in a Fantasy Football league has an equal chance based on the luck of the draw (good drafting and roster health are pluses).

Don’t be a quitter – I have seen it year after year, where someone has a bad draft or gets behind after a couple of weeks and packs it in. I know most leagues try to guard against this by having playoffs, rules, and other incentives, but quitting should not be an option. Always submit your lineup and try to do your best till the end of the season.  You never know through waiver pickups and trade you could get back into the playoff scenario.

Taking It to the House 2009 Fantasy Football Guide: Part 1

 It is that time of the year again for everyone from the grocery store bag boy to celebrities like Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker to ask the eternal questions “who should I take with my first pick of my fantasy football draft?” and “Has anyone seen the injury report for this week?”

What started out as a wacky rotisserie league concept for football by former Oakland Raiders part owner Bill Winkenbach and his friends Scott Stirling and Bill Tunnell in the 1962 has grown into its own subculture and is the passion of football fans and casual fans everywhere.  Fantasy football is now part of the fabric that ties everyone together and gets people watching the NFL, (well at least the stat ticker at the bottom of the screen) which is by far the number one sports league in the world. 

Fantasy football leagues are all about one upping your buddies, having fun watching games (every game counts now or at least the stats), trash talking, and allows fans to experience the highs and lows of “legalized gambling”.  The number of people involved in leagues are staggering with an estimated 35 million people participating in fantasy football leagues. 

Of that group the majority are males in the marketing bonanza demographic of between the ages of 25 and 54, but we are also seeing more women competing with the men for stats superiority. And when you talk about the dollars involved in fantasy football (over $250 million dollars spent on gaming services around fantasy sports), leaving sponsors and advertisers start drooling.

In a recent interview Chris Nicholas, who heads the fantasy sports group at ESPN said “They’re a great target for sponsors,” and “These are folks who are comfortable online. From autos to credit card companies to shoe companies, they want to get in front of these people.”

The growth of fantasy football is so immense that now every major sports news outlet and website including NFL.com has their own section and analysts dedicated solely to covering and analyzing America’s new past time.  I believe the best website that keeps fantasy football economical and easy to run for your league and commissioner is CBS Sportsline.com (site has everything from breaking news, injuries, scoring, etc all tailored to your league). 

In this tough economy, football related television and sports marketing professionals more than ever know that to generate dollars from average to non-watching people that bringing in fantasy football participants is paramount.

“How big is fantasy football”, you ask.  Well it is big enough that every Sunday entire shows like “Fantasy Fix” on Comcast Sportsnet or large segments on national NFL shows like CBS’ “NFL Today” emphasize every aspect of fantasy football from who to play or not play to injuries to inside tips. 

“It started as a niche activity, and now it’s moved on to a mainstream passion,” said Chris Russo, senior vice president of new media and publishing for the National Football League in a recent article. He added, “It’s a community activity, where friends from college, from work or any walk of life get together and compete and keep in touch.”

Now that we know some history and tidbits around fantasy football, let’s get to the Do’s and Don’ts of being a successful fantasy football player.  I am not saying I am the ultimate fantasy football guru, but I know enough to help you get through your draft and be competitive in your league. 

BTW: That certain Seattle Seahawks receiver’s name that you are trying to select is pronounced hoosh-mand-zaa-deh as in TJ Houshmandzadeh.

Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson is still battling

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To his credit Vikings 4th year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is still fighting to stay in the team’s quarterback picture

Lost in all of the hype surrounding the ballyhooed return of legendary quarterback Brett Favre from Mountain High and being handed the starter’s job is what is going to happen to the Vikings former starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson — career starting record of 10-10 including 0-1 in the playoffs.

The much maligned passer has had a pretty good preseason despite battling through a knee sprain and now the team bringing in veteran Favre.  Jackson has continued to maintain a solid professional attitude on and off the field.  In the Vikings’ recent 17-13 win over the Chiefs, which was also the much anticipated return of Favre (1-4, 4 yards), it was the 4th year veteran who shined the brightest.

Despite being initially booed by his “home” crowd when entering the game versus the Chiefs,  Jackson had a perfect passer rating finishing with passing stats of 12 for 15 for 202 yards and two touchdowns including a 13-yard touchdown strike to TE Visanthe Shiancoe. 

The performance probably further enhanced the young passer’s trade value, but you would have liked to have seen Vikings head coach Brad Childress give T-Jack a “legitimate” shot at fighting Favre for the starting position.  Mostly likely, barring injury, Jackson will be stuck behind Favre — NFL record “iron man” most consecutive starts quarterback streak (269 and you can make it 291 if you include the playoffs — for the entire season as an insurance policy and after the season then Childress will re-evaluate his former second round pick from 2006.  

Jackson said after the Chiefs’ game, “Whenever you play well, you always feel good”.   The Vikings former playoff game starter added, “Regardless of the situation or the circumstances, it felt good. It was a long week for me. It just shows that if you just stay focused, you’ll be fine.”

Ochocinco can kick too

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Bengals WR Chad Johnson showed that he is a mult-talented player as he kicked the Bengals to a win over the Patriots

After a 9-year NFL career where Chad Ochocinco has caught 53 career touchdowns, you would have figured that the game-winning points that he provided in the Bengals 7-6 win over the Patriots would have come with his hands.  But “Mr. Child Please” showed the world a whole new side of him as Ochocinco subbing for injured Bengals kicker Shayne Graham (groin) kicked a perfect extra point right down the middle  to give the Bengals the preseason win.  The winning extra point came after Bengals WR Chris Henry’s 24-yard touchdown pass from J.T. O’Sullivan late in the second quarter. Ochocinco said. “I went out there and did what I do. I just kicked. … Everyone has to remember, I’ve always said that soccer is my No. 1 sport. I think Ronaldinho would be proud of me right now.”

Not to be outdone by himself, No. 85 also credibly booted a kickoff to the Patriots’ 9-yard line to open the second half.  I am sure the Bengals staff thought that the talkative receiver was just pulling their leg when he first said that he could kick.  However the former Miami Beach HS football star, who also played soccer growing up, proved to be an accurate soccer-style kicker even finishing with a Garo Yepremian-esque high leg finish.  “Nothing suprises me. All joking aside, he still kicked the ball through the uprights and it ended up winning the game,” said O’Sullivan. The Bengals backup passer added, “Some people think it’s funny, but it’s important.”

This wasn’t the first time that a position player had to kick – former Eagles LB Mark Simoneau accomplished the feat in a 2005 regular season game against the Raiders.  But Ocho Cinco may have proved that he maybe the NFL’s next Paul Hornung, who was an accomplished kicker and offensive threat for the Packers back in the 1960’s.  “He reminded me that he could do it,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “It was good for him to get the chance and he hit it good and his kickoff wasn’t bad. He had the game-winning points. Ocho strikes again. He reminded me to make sure I said something.”

 You know the NFL Films cameras filming the series HBO’s Hard Knocks featuring the Bengals in training camp this season loved the chance to put more Ochocinco into their production.  We even almost got to see the 5-time Pro Bowl player get a chance to kick a field goal early in the second quarter, but the kick would have been executed from a far hash mark. The Bengals from the Patriots’ 27 decided to go for it on fourth-and-7 with O’Sullivan being sacked by Patriots LB Adalius Thomas.

Ochocinco, who has vowed to improve upon his pedestrian 2008 numbers of 53 catches for 540 yards and 4 TDs, also added 69 receiving yards on three catches in his regular role as the Bengals #1 offensive threat.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)