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Saturday, January 09, 2010

“FRO’s Favorite Five” Frankie’s Favorite Fantasy Picks Wildcard Weekend

“FRO’s Favorite Five”
Frankie’s Favorite Fantasy Picks
Wildcard Weekend

For the playoffs I prefer to rate each position for those people who play in the Playoff Fantasy Leagues. Teams on bye (Indianapolis, San Diego, New Orleans and Minnesota) are not included in these rankings.

By Frankie Underwood, Senior Fantasy Writer at www.footballreportersonline.com Email questions and comments to Frankie@footballreportersonline.com


Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay @ Arizona
Kurt Warner – Arizona versus Green Bay
Tony Romo – Dallas versus Philadelphia
Tom Brady – New England versus Baltimore
Donovan McNabb – Philadelphia @ Dallas
Joe Flacco – Baltimore @ New England
Carson Palmer – Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Mark Sanchez – New York Jets @ Cincinnati

Running Backs

Ray Rice – Baltimore @ New England
Thomas Jones - New York Jets @ Cincinnati
Ryan Grant - Green Bay @ Arizona
Cedric Benson - Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Marion Barber - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Laurence Maroney - New England versus Baltimore
Beanie Wells - Arizona versus Green Bay
Felix Jones - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Willis McGahee - Baltimore @ New England
Brian Westbrook - Philadelphia @ Dallas
Tim Hightower - Arizona versus Green Bay
Kevin Faulk - New England versus Baltimore
Leonard Weaver - Philadelphia @ Dallas

Wide Receivers

Larry Fitzgerald - Arizona versus Green Bay
Randy Moss - New England versus Baltimore
Donald Driver - Green Bay @ Arizona
Miles Austin - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Anquan Boldin - Arizona versus Green Bay
DeSean Jackson - Philadelphia @ Dallas
Braylon Edwards - New York Jets @ Cincinnati
Greg Jennings – Green Bay @ Arizona
Derrick Mason - Baltimore @ New England
Chad Ochocinco - Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Jerricho Cotchery – New York Jets @ Cincinnati
Laveranues Coles - Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Patrick Crayton - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Julian Edelman - New England versus Baltimore
Roy Williams - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Jeremy Macklin - Philadelphia @ Dallas
Steve Breaston - Arizona versus Green Bay
Brad Smith - New York Jets @ Cincinnati

Tight Ends

Brent Celek - Philadelphia @ Dallas
Jason Witten - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Todd Heap - Baltimore @ New England
Jermichael Finley - Green Bay @ Arizona
Dustin Keller - New York Jets @ Cincinnati
Ben Watson - New England versus Baltimore
Donald Lee - Green Bay @ Arizona
JP Foschi - Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Ben Patrick - Arizona versus Green Bay
Martellus Bennett - Dallas versus Philadelphia


Neil Rackers - Arizona versus Green Bay
David Akers - Philadelphia @ Dallas
Shaun Suisham - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Mason Crosby - Green Bay @ Arizona
Stephen Gostkowski - New England versus Baltimore
Billy Cundiff - Baltimore @ New England
Jay Feely - New York Jets @ Cincinnati
Shayne Graham - Cincinnati versus New York Jets


Dallas vs Philadelphia
New York Jets @ Cincinnati
New England versus Baltimore
Baltimore @ New England
Green Bay @ Arizona
Philadelphia @ Dallas
Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Arizona versus Green Bay


by TJ Rosenthal-Contributing Writer-Football Reporters Online

Sometimes the best remedy for being an underdog is carrying an "us against the world" mentality. On Saturday the New York Jets will do just that as they visit the Cincinnati Bengals in the opening round of the AFC Playoffs. There are plenty of experts and football fans who believe the Jets were benefactors of good fortune at the end of the season, and not truly playoff worthy. The Jets have reminded us all week that they are the league's number one rushing team and defense. In a rematch of week 17, the Jets will soon get their chance to prove the doubters wrong, while taking one step closer to the ultimate goal, a trip to the Super Bowl.

Last weeks 37-0 trouncing of these same Cincinnati Bengals has been defined in the press this week a few different ways. The first viewpoint has been that only  the 9-7 Jets had everything to play for, with a win or go home scenario staring them down last Sunday night.  Unlike the Bengals who had nothing to gain except the addition of key players to the injury report had they risked injury in order to get a meaningless win. The other side of the coin offered has been that the Jets are a tough team built for January that is getting on a roll. Gaining momentum on both sides of the ball. 

The reality is, the truth will come out, starting on Saturday. For now, what can be said about the Jets win in the final game at Giants stadium, is that the club DID achieve one thing. It set the template for how these 2009 Jets CAN be a force through January.  That is, a bruising run game (one that rushed for 257 yards combined last week) with a defense that is tough to move it on, a quarterback in Mark Sanchez who risks little, and an emerging playmaker who will see opportunities to make a difference in Brad Smith. Smith's 58 yard run that set up the Jets first TD,  a 2 yard plunge by RB Thomas Jones, made it a second straight week with a big play for the former QB at Missouri. Smith has been used before behind center in his four years as a Jet, but the breakout game Sunday night (4-92 yds 1 TD) followed another game in which Smith made a huge difference with a big play. In Indianapolis one week prior, Smith returned the second half kickoff 106 yards for a TD, the longest in Jet history, putting the Jets up 10-9 at the time against the then undefeated Colts..

 If Smith has emerged as a true weapon who can be effective with an increased work load both as a running QB and one who can pitch the ball to Jones or rookie RB Shonne Greene,  the load will be lightened for Sanchez. This would come as a delight to the Jet staff, as they look to keep the rookie under wraps more. After a great start that  helped lead the Jets to a 3-0 record, a mid season turnover swoon developed, leading to a 20 interception season. The total tied Sanchez with Detroit rookie Matthew Stafford for second most in the NFL. Only the Bears Jay Cutler threw more with 26 . Should Rex Ryan's Jet defense be even more opportunistic with sacks and scoring off of turnovers, Sanchez's role will be lightened even more. For now, short throws mainly to the outside, away from traffic seem like the best formula for the rookie out of USC, who has not thrown a pick the last two weeks since the gameplan has become even more stringent on the QB.

The Bengals will be at full strength this Saturday after resting four defensive starters and their top rusher  last week. Banged up RB Cedric Benson, the teams leading rusher figures to help an offense that struggled to move the ball at all against the Jets last week. Veteran QB Carson Palmer who has been solid all year for the division winning Benglas, had zero yards passing in the first half. Palmer played just one series in the second half.

 Flamboyant WR Chad Ochocinco  offered Jet Superfan Fireman Ed tickets to the game after failing to come through on doing his own Fireman Ed chant after scoring on Jet star  Darelle Revis in week 17. The Bengals top WR was held to no catches on the day, this after proclaiming all week on Twitter that he was going to win the battle. Ochocino then praised Revis on Monday again on twitter, saying that number 24 was tops in the NFL. Ochocinco, who injured the knee on the icy field during warmups last week said that after having sex on Monday, the knee held up beautifully and is ready to go. So with the defense at full strength, Ocho healthy, Benson back, and Palmer sure to be more focused,  the Bengals will be aiming to show why they were AFC Central champions. 

 The Jets hope to continue as they left off. Ground and Pound it with Thomas Jones and Shonne Greene on offense, while All Pro CB Darrelle Revis and the Jets defense shuts Ochocinco and the Bengals  down on defense. Rex Ryan has been bold during his press conference's saying that of all the teams still alive, he'd rather be coaching the Jets; a team with the number one D and rushing unit in the NFL. He's also tried to reframe the notion that the Jets are long shots to go far. Vegas odds have them a 50-1 shot to win the Super Bowl. The brash outspoken rookie head coach has called the Jets in fact, "the team to beat" in this years playoffs.

 Jets LB David Harris, injured last week with a sprained ankle was insulted this week by the Benglas Benson. Asked what the potential loss of Harris would mean to the Jets, Benson replied "I don't even know who that is." Harris leads the Jets in tackles. He practiced lightly on Thursday. No word as to his status has been determined yet. 

Despite the Jets and Ryan proudly mentioning those "number one" stat categories, they know they have something to prove. In order to truly be thought of as an elite team in 2009 , the Jets have to go out and prove they deserve to be. They have to go out and once again beat the Bengals. This time, in a do or die  game for both sides. This time, on the road.

The Jets were fortunate in catching a break when so many AFC teams lost in week 16 that they regained control of their destiny. They faced a Bengal team on cruise control last week. Although those back to back odd circumstances worked heavily in NY's favor, they don't have to apologize for them. 

What they have to do instead, is make the best of their opportunity. The opportunity to prove that maybe, just maybe, they have bought enough time in 2009 for all three phases to finally put it together in unison. That they have found the right approach for the offense with Sanchez playing it safe while mostly handing it off  to the top rushing unit on football. That they have hung around long enough for  the defense to have regained it's early season swagger. That they acknowledge Brad Smith has to be a bigger cog in the gameplan. Saturday in Cincinnati marks the beginning of a playoff run that is there for the taking. Only however, if the Jets can seize the moment by channelling the emotions born when a team goes out to prove so many people wrong by playing focused, sound passionate football.


EMOTIONS: Are the Jet truly setting their sights on the Super Bowl or are they satisfied just to have made it out of December?. Many have called their playoff berth a joke, or simply luck. Rex Ryan will undoubtedly use the "Us against Them" card throughout the postseason. The Bengals did not like getting knocked down 37-0. They're also at home. WR Chris Henry's death weeks back after a domestic dispute shocked the Bengals  who went out days later in San Diego and played magnificently in Henry's honor. This past week, Jets owner Woody Johnson's daughter Casey, 30, was found dead in LA.  Both teams will play with heavy
 hearts as a result of these tragedies on Saturday.

STEP UP NOW ROOKIE, IT'S YOUR TIME TO SHINE: It goes without saying that if the Jet ground game falters, so will the Jets. However, the Jets may in fact move it on the ground yet also need Sanchez to deliver some key third down throws. Maybe even over the middle. Lead a comeback or two. Here's to hoping that Sanchez plays with that confidence he exuded  most notably Monday night in Miami, leading the Jets back twice in the second half. The perception of Jets doubters will change only with a win that includes Sanchez having contributed more than handoffs and quick rollout tosses to the flat. A win is a win though, so if it means play it safe with the lead, he'll do it. Ill advised throws  have to be behind the kid who seems to be adjusting to his game managing role well, or else, trouble looms.

X FACTORS: Here are two, Brad Smith and FS Kerry Rhodes. Smith can provide big plays on special teams, as WR, and while getting direct snaps in the Jets version of the Wildcat or Kordell Stewart "slash" role of taking handoffs right under center. Rhodes has been coming on since the benching a month ago. His hit on Ochocinco that broke up a pass play last week showed that he is back to playing with instinct again. His three interceptions have got us thinking that something big could be on the way from the guy Rex Ryan hoped could be the next Ed Reed. A key read by Rhodes on a Palmer throw could go a long way to help leading the Jets to victory.  One that would make  Ryan's first playoff game as an NFL head coach even more memorable.

additional notes: 

The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was in 1982, Jet RB Freeman McNeil rushed for 202 yards in a 44-17 Jet win . That was the strike shortened season when the playoffs were called the Super Bowl tournament.

The Bengals were the last team admitted into the AFL back in 1968. Paul Brown was the head coach. Soon to be 49er legend but then assistant Bill Walsh, was credited with inventing the West coast offense during this time. This out of necessity as the team had a hard time run blocking. Former Bengal Super Bowl coach Sam Wyche was the QB.

follow TJ Rosenthal on twitter @thejetreport

FOOTBALL TALK-Wild Card Weekend: A Second Take

January 6th, 2009 9:37pm PST

FOOTBALL TALK-Wild Card Weekend: A Second Take
By David Ortega for Football Reporters Online

This Weekend NFL fans will see what looks like a rematch of last weekend when the Eagles-Cowboys, Packers-Cardinals, and Jets-Bengals tango. In the first two matchups it will be a complete repeat with the Eagles and Packers again hitting the road. The difference in the Jets and Bengals, unlike last week's contest in the Big Apple this one will be in Cincinnati.

The Cowboys will be shooting for the Tri-fecta on Saturday when they face the Eagles for the third time this season. With quarterback Tony Romo (311 yards passing and two touchdowns last week) playing well and the Cowboys defense (four sacks last Sunday) coming to life, the boys from Texas look like favorites to complete the sweep.

The Packers and Jets may have only seen a mirage of the teams they will face this weekend. Green Bay's defense barely faced the Cardinals starting quarterback Kurt Warner who exited early and Sunday night it looked like the Bengals starters took all of the night off against the Jets.

The Cards offense was stagnate with Matt Leinart under center last weekend, but you can bet the Packers secondary will have their hands full with Warner in the huddle on Sunday. The question for Cincy will be trying to muster some offense against the Jets stingy defense and shut down corner Darrelle Revis. Last Sunday Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco was held without a catch and quarterback Carson Palmer managed only one completion for no yards and an interception.

It's not often a team gets a chance during the playoffs to exact some revenge for an earlier loss in the season, but this wild weekend will present three opportunities with the Bengals, Cardinals, and Eagles all looking for that chance.

Looking under the hood of Week 17

Vikings flex some muscle on Sunday...
So much for the worry, on Sunday against the Giants the Vikings offense appeared to have cured all of their offensive ills. Quarterback Brett Favre was back to form completing 25 of 31 passes and throwing four touchdowns, while the ground game pounded out 129 yards, including a score by Adrian Peterson. The defense was also stellar forcing two turnovers, recording three sacks, and limiting the Giants to only 181 yards.

Cardinals don't show much in finale ....
With nothing to play for in Week 17, the Cardinals limited quarterback Kurt Warner to a cameo appearance last Sunday. Warner only threw six passes, but he'll need to throw a lot more if the Cards hope to get past a very good Packers pass defense (ranked 5th) that leads the NFL with 30 interceptions this season. Warner is a savvy veteran quarterback with plenty of weapons and he'll have wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (13 touchdowns) available, but Anquan Boldin (84 receptions) could be a different story with a banged up ankle.

Bengals show very little in finale.....
Whether it was by design or not, the Bengals showed very little in their season finale against the Jets. The performance was so poor it could have many fantasy owners concerned about even considering any starters this weekend. Against the Jets stout defense the Bengals managed only 72 total nets yards, turned the ball over three times, and surrendered three sacks. With quarterback Carson Palmer going one for eleven passing and the offense mustering just five first downs, offense could be a problem on Saturday.

More fantasy Notes

"Inside the Matchups"

The Bengals could have a big problem on Saturday in their rematch with the Jets in the AFC Wildcard round of the playoffs. Last week shutdown corner Darrelle Revis (six interceptions) did a huge number on wide receiver Chad Ochocinco not allowing a single catch in five tries. Whether Ocho plays or not, the Bengals figure to half a tough time completing passes in the direction of Revis. Revis has been stellar all season up against the best and leads the NFL's number one ranked pass defense.

The Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (94 receptions) did not have a big season in the end zone, but he was consistent and one of quarterback Tony Romo's most reliable. Last week against the Eagles Witten was effective catching six passes for 76 yards, including a score. In his last five matchups with the Eagles Witten has been an effective target, so there's little doubt that Romo will be looking his way a great deal on Saturday night.

The Patriots may have suffered a big loss last Sunday with the injury to Wes Welker, but they will still have the NFL's 2007 MVP, quarterback Tom Brady. It was not a Brady-like season, but the Patriots quarterback still finished the year with strong numbers; 4,398 yards passing, 28 touchdowns, and 96.2 passer rating. With Welker out, it will be a lot of Randy Moss (13 touchdowns) and Julian Edelman (10 receptions last week) on Sunday against the Ravens 8th ranked pass defense.

Where will Michael Vick end up in 2010?

Where will Michael Vick end up in 2010 ?
By J “The Gambler” Gamble-Contributing Writer-Football Reporters Online
Three years of turmoil. It was like a nightmare. But after most of the dust has cleared, Michael Vick is still living The American Dream. The former franchise QB is licking his chops to get a crack at a starting job next season. In the meantime, Vick is rebuilding a shattered reputation, on an NFL roster and earning back some of the “love” that was lost when he lied to fans, the Falcons and most importantly owner Arthur Blank.
Blank, who gained his fame and fortune as a player in the creation of Home Depot, entrusted Vick with $100 million and the keys to Atlanta. And don’t sniff at that contract. A man of Blank’s business acumen knew deep down that putting a stack on a previously impoverished kid from the ghettos of Newport News Va., and expecting him to be Gandhi with cleats, a helmet and run a 4.2, was a risk. It was a risk that paid high initial returns, but couldn’t sustain in the market and eventually hit rock bottom with Vick admitting to funding a brutal dog-fighting ring, and subsequently doing nearly two years in a Leavenworth, Kansas federal prison. We felt shock, betrayal and eventually anger.  
Despite the public backlash, Vick was fortunate to have a revered Tony Dungy mentor and publicly advocate for him, and people like Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid embrace him. Before you knew it he was on the Eagles roster. The cell block closed, and the doors of opportunity are open wide for Vick. Sure, he had to sit behind Donovan McNabb and couldn’t get in any flow. This first season back wasn’t about that. It was about a change in his attitude, and the attitudes of people towards the fallen great. The organizations that were so adamantly against his return are now willing to use Vick as a spokesperson to advance their causes and agendas.  He’s becoming marketable again.
Vick plans to work with the Humane Society of the United States on an anti-dogfighting campaign. And part of his release agreement was that he would work on programs aimed at preventing youths from entering dogfighting, and also on programs to assist young people who have already been involved in the vicious sport.
Vick has a unique opportunity to be one of the rare athletes and celebrities who can take a precipitous fall, lose everything and then rebuild again with dignity, grace and maturity. An example of resilience, penance, humility and growth that we don’t often get to see when athletes take falls. For most, the opportunity to rebuild never comes. Most of us only get one shot at greatness.  
Vick has been paying his dues and he now deserves a shot at a starting job. He played the humble soldier this season, backing up McNabb and saying and doing all of the right things. Vick has used this season to get re-acclimated to the locker room, the speed and toughness of the league, and getting his body back in football shape. There are many teams in the league with big-time deficiencies at QB. Why wouldn’t Washington, or Miami or Seattle or St. Louis or San Fran let Vick come in and compete for a starting gig ? In any event, they’ll have to wait. Vick’s season is still going on as the playoffs begin. He still has a chance to leave a mark on this season.
The excuse that he has taken two seasons off and is “probably” a shell of his former self, is irrelevant. If anything he added two years to his career. He saved his body.  He’s still better than anything those teams have got at 80 percent. But if he is anything close to what he was -- with the maturity he seems to have acquired by surrounding himself with positive men -- then he can elevate those franchises to elite status. Either way, he deserves the chance to find out. We do too.   

Giants End Season With One Last Embarrassing Loss

Giants End Season With One Last Embarrassing Loss
By Jon Wagner-Sr. Writer at Large-Football Reporters Online

A long season that once started with much promise is finally, mercifully, over for the 2009 New York Giants.

Following a 5-0 start which had the Giants pointing toward the playoffs and contending for Super Bowl XLIV, New York (8-8) ended its season with its eighth loss in eleven games on Sunday.

Like most of the previous seven defeats, the final one wasn’t pretty.

New York saved perhaps its worst for last, as the Minnesota Vikings (12-4) tuned up for the playoffs with a 44-7 manhandling of the Giants, who showed almost no fight for the second straight week after dominating Washington 45-12, only two weeks ago.

After leading the Redskins 24-0 at the half, the Giants trailed by the same score at halftime to Carolina last week, en route to a 41-9 home loss which ended Big Blue’s playoff hopes.

Though Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin stressed professional pride with his team reduced to a spoiler role in the regular season’s final week, the first half in Minnesota was even worse than last week.

The Vikings took the opening kickoff, and needed just 2:03 to go 60 yards on five plays, for a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard touchdown pass to former Giant, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, from quarterback Brett Favre, who had numbers that would have been good for a whole game, all in the opening half.

Favre completed 19 of 23 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns, while avoiding a turnover, to lead Minnesota to a 31-0 halftime advantage.

By then, the Vikings, controlling the ball for 18:59 to the Giants’ 11:01, had scored on five of six possessions, had outgained the Giants 343-82 (271-66 through the air, 72-16 on the ground), had 18 first downs to the Giants’ four, and made seven plays of at least 15 yards (New York made just one of those in the first half).

Favre finished with a passer rating of 148.7, going 25 of 31, for 316 yards, with 4 TD’s and no INT’s before being lifted after his fourth touchdown pass, which gave Minnesota a 41-0 lead with 6:13 left in the third quarter.

After kicker Ryan Longwell’s third field goal in as many attempts, the Vikings took a 44-0 lead into the final quarter, having scored on seven straight possessions, and eight of nine.

The season finale was obviously a team effort that was one to forget, as the Giants allowed at least 40 points for the fifth time this season, the most times they’ve done that since 1966. They also missed the postseason for the first time in five years and became the fifth NFL team since 1970 to miss the playoffs after a 5-0 start.

Still, a few Giants reached individual milestones or had some career firsts:

- On his 29th birthday, Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning (17-23, 141 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 1 lost fumble) became the third quarterback in team history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season, finishing 2009 with 4,021 yards (although even that was overshadowed by the Vikings, as Favre received an ovation for becoming the fourth Viking in history to pass for 4,000 yards in a season, finishing the day with 4,202 yards for his sixth 4,000-yard season; Favre, who now has 33 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions this year, also extended his record NFL record for seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes to nine seasons).

- Wide receiver Steve Smith, on the first play of the Giants’ second possession, caught a ball over the middle, making him the first Giant ever to catch 100 passes in a season. He finished with a game-high 10 catches (for 57 yards), giving him 107 receptions for the year.

- The Giants avoided a shutout on, a one-yard run, the first career touchdown, by third-year running back Danny Ware.

- Rookie wide receiver, Ramses Barden, a 6-foot-6 third-round draft pick in April, out of Cal-Poly, who holds an NCAA record with touchdown catches in 32 consecutive college games, played in his third NFL game and began the Giants’ only scoring drive of the day with his first career reception, a 16-yard grab from Manning.

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin didn’t believe that another poor performance was from a lack of trying. “I do think we tried,” he said. “Where the effort and the purpose wasn’t there last week, I thought we had that this week. I do [think we had pride]. They all came to the stadium wanting to play. I really don’t think for one minute as we went to the field, that anyone was not giving effort.”

Coughlin felt instead, it was simply mistakes that helped let the game get away. The Giants committed 13 penalties for 95 yards.

“I am disappointed in the penalties in this game,” Coughlin said after noting that the Giants had recently done a better job of cutting down on such miscues.

And, in the first half, Coughlin said, “Two turnovers, two scores” turned the game early.

“You can never ever, ever accept what happened on the field [today],” he added.

Manning commented on the disappointed ending to the season after being eliminated from playoff contention last week. “We wanted to finish the season strong, at least,” he said. “And really, just poor play on our part. [I’m] just frustrated and kind of confused and I don’t know what went wrong [since the win in Washington].”

He’s certainly not the only one, as the Giants head into the offseason trying to figure out who to keep, who to let go, and how to get back to where they were as Super Bowl champions only two seasons ago, as NFC East champions last year, and the team they were through five weeks this season.

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