As I watched Eagles quarterback Michel Vick take the first play of Monday night's game and translate it into an 88-yard touchdown bomb to receiver DeSean Jackson, I immediately flashed on a recent headline from one of the funniest websites ever -- "The Onion" -- that read: "Michael Vick Getting Confident Enough To Do Something Terrible Again." Mind you, this was before he shattered a slew of records last night.
Oh, I know that every time I take an animal-lover's swipe at Vick, I get buried under an avalanche of emails and message-board vitriol reminding me that dogs don't have souls, don't go to heaven and don't have the ability to lead a team to the playoffs. Fine. To each his own. I understand that football and fantasy football often boil down to Woody Allen's infamous quote when it was revealed he was canoodling with his own adoptive daughter: "The heart wants what the heart wants." In my case, I am happy to lose without Vick on my roster.
In the bigger picture, this situation underscores a universally relatable fact: The quarterback might have finally started to get his due in fantasy football, but his unpredictability and brittleness is sending owners scrambling. Guys hit the IR, guys are "out of shape" and get benched -- either way, it's that time of year when many of us find ourselves mining the fantasy scrap-heap for some used parts that might just get our suddenly wheezing teams through the playoffs.
Romo owners ... Stafford owners ... anyone who went all-in on the dawn of the Charlie Whitehurst era ... Kolb owners who became Vick owners then back to Kolb and now, hopefully, you didn't release Vick ... Henne owners (if there were any left) who grabbed Pennington and are down to felt. Injuries can come in clusters and reduce your fantasy muscle car to a Vespa scooter. It happens. Just ask the Miami Dolphins. Just ask "The Unbearable Lightness of Winning," or whatever you decided to name your fantasy team.
Lets say you've got a nice, playoff-caliber 7-3 team, even a 6-4 team in a tough league, and just as you hit cruise control, bam! You blow a tire at quarterback. Now you're like many NFL teams -- you're looking for someone who might not win you games, but in full Trent Dilfer mode won't ruin your season, either. The good news is there are actually a bunch of options out there who more than likely are available, and who look to be good for two touchdowns and solid yards every week -- just enough to keep you alive.
While we're evaluating and trolling, the fact is we're only six weeks away from your fantasy playoffs, and the pickings are only gong to be slimmer down the road -- so while you're reaching, it never hurts to take a look ahead to who these human band-aids might be playing week 15 and 16:
Hey, even if you have it fairly good right now, you never know. This could mean you, Matt Schaub owners. Yes, it looks like he might finally be heating up after last week's game against the Jaguars, but the loss puts the Texans in playoff jeopardy. Schaub's next three games are against the Jets, Titans and Eagles. Meanwhile, every-week receiver Andre Johnson is muscling through injuries -- what do you want to bet they shut Johnson down if they lose two or all three of these games? You want to hit the playoffs with the numbers Schaub puts up without Johnson? Me neither.
Here are some guys who are very likely available with interesting upside:
OK, it's only one big game, but the fact is Kitna has a history of being a strong fantasy quarterback. Yes, he'll throw some picks, but he slings it, and the Cowboys some crazy weapons. This is the one guy who can make receiver Roy Williams click. Toss in great chemistry with rookie Dez Bryant and the great-although-now-diminished Miles Austin. Oh, and running back Felix Jones caught one for a 78-yard touchdown? You aren't wrong to salivate.
Week 15: vs. Redskins. You did watch Monday Night Football, right? 'Nuff said.
Week 16: at Arizona. In their last three games, Tampa, Minnesota, and Seattle have lit this defense up for 38, 27, and 36 points.
Conclusion: Grab him now.
File this under "Don't slow-roll a good idea." This was the week I planned to pen a "Tale of the Tape" with the now outdated topic, "Watching the Buffalo Bills lose vs. Drinking shots until you pass out." Believe me, it's a classy problem, and I am hugely relieved my team is off the winless train.
I have been on the record as being pro-Fitz for a while. However, an injured hand cost him an easy touchdown pitch to receiver Stevie Johnson. The receivers are emerging -- Roscoe Parrish is a loss, however, and it means they have to throw to the running backs more, and that's a great thing with Fred Jackson; ditto CJ Spiller when his hammy loosens up.
Week 15: at Miami
Week 16: vs. Patriots
Conclusion: Did that win finally release the beast? Much as I love what he has brought to this team, there are better options out there now that he has settled into a one-touchdown-per-game pace over the past three games.
Here's a guy who has taken the next step in his evolution as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He always showed flashes of a terrific young player, and now he has added the kind of consistency you want to save your team. Although there is no spectacular upside at this point, I am vibing a reliable pair of touchdowns a week, and a decent amount of yardage.
Now here comes the really good part -- check out his matchups during your playoff run:
Week 15: vs. Lions. Winner winner chicken dinner! For all this talk of the improved hustling Lions' defense, they have given up a crapload of points this season, they tend to get into shootout mode, and they never win on the road.
Week 16: vs. Seattle. Looking for another team that never wins on the road? Hi, Seattle. Oh, yeah, they give up even more points than the Lions -- 33, 41, 36 in their last three games?
Conclusion: Are we kids or what? Do it!
Receiver Brandon Marshall lost two quarterbacks Sunday, and that might be a good thing, because his 3-34-0 stat line last week has become all too familiar. Thigpen is a gunslinger who always impresses me when he gets a shot.
Week 15: vs. Bills. The Bills might have played stout D at home against the Lions last week, but to date they have not been able to stop anyone -- promising.
Week 16: vs. Lions -- see Josh Freeman.
Conclusion: Nice. However, it is all speculative at this point given the fact we haven't seen much here. But I am extremely intrigued.
Week 15: at Chargers. Now that they have a lame running game, San Diego is a shootout team, and that is a plus if Smith continues to gel and grow more aggressive.
Week 16: at Rams. Believe it or not, this is now a fairly stout defense, so temper expectation.
Conclusion: File this under "maybe." You have better options.
Seems to be settling into a solid 15 fantasy point-per-game rhythm, but you also sense things are building here.
Week 15: vs. Kansas City. Well, they did surrender 49 points last week.
Week 16: vs. 49ers. A pretty solid defense.
Conclusion: Listen to your heart and your waiver-wire avails.
Obviously, this is my assessment. Take it as you will, because at the end of the day, the worst move you can make is to take someone else's advice, go against your strong instinct, and get it wrong. Hopefully, this opens your eyes to some Hail Mary-value quarterbacks. They might not be the beauty you hoped to take to the dance, but they are more than willing, as it were.