The collective thud of star-player stats in Week 8 makes it even more appropriate to take a smoke break at the halfway mark and take stock. Yes, every year is weird in it's own unique way. But 2010 seems to have owners pissed in new and colorful ways that resemble a deep-thigh bruise morphing through the entire rainbow before healing.
If you're looking for a true reality check on your studs-gone-bust, the most telling statistic is points per game (PPG). Yes, we all love it when Texans running back Arian Foster explodes for 63 points in a given week and single-handedly wins one for you. (Even if bye-week management issues that left you without a starting tight end.) As the season plays out, however, you come to realize that the players you truly love and covet are the ones who give you consistently strong numbers week after week after week. They plump the bottom line where it counts -- your win total. The only good thing about guys who ride high then toss you a shutout the next week is they keep you from having to put that fantasy trophy in your car and fork over the green for all that engraving.
Notable stars currently enrolled in this year's fantasy witness-protection program are like carpet bombs. It's bad enough they take their fantasy owners down hard, but they often take other players down with them, too. Time to round up some numbers and take some names. Your scoring systems may vary, but the essence is true in whatever parallel universe you currently compete in.
Collateral damage awards
Why? Because when it comes to fantasy football, one bad thing doesn't just beget another -- it usually starts a domino effect scorching the earth and everyone in the vicinity. They aren't just having a bad year, they are incubating viruses that will crash your entire system.
Who knew Saints running back Reggie Bush was capable of the kind of collateral damage that could disarm the best offense in football? Yes, the Saints started to look like a winner again after defeating the Steelers. Yes, Reggie is poised to return after the bye week and fire it up again. But his injury not only deprived you of great late-round value at your flex position, it killed the Saints' offense to the point where we all started to understand why they picked up his option this year to the tune of $8 million.
New locations/new reasons to drink heavily if you drafted them
Randy Moss -- Twice the relocations, zero returns! He underwhelmed with the Patriots. Got weird enough to become one of the rarest of NFL birds -- a superstar who gets traded by a winning team midseason. Seemed weird then, but OK, Patriots coach Bill Belichick did the same thing with defensive end Richard Seymour. Now Moss gets waived by the desperate Vikings and is a full-bore disaster because, as of this posting, we don't know where he'll land. I say who cares, you're screwed. If this guy alienated contenders with talented rosters, it's quite possible he'll be just as underwhelming on another winner. But wait, it gets worse! If a bottom-feeding team uses a high waiver slot to snag him, we are looking at two scenarios: Randy refusing to report or, worse, delivering the kind of effort he mustered while phoning it in with those hapless Raiders teams he played for. Like any collateral-damage monster, we have more on this one later.
Jay Cutler -- He went to Chicago, stunk it up, then teamed up with Mike Martz to create a hypothetical situation enticing enough to have owners who hated his guts last year sample the bait and draft him again this year! Great pedigree for this category, but file it under fool me twice, shame on me. Ranked 17th among quarterbacks in PPG. You could do better.
Brandon Marshall -- Currently ranks 23rd among receivers with 9.3 PPG. Marshall's incredible skill set and previous numbers led us overlook the fact that Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne isn't proven and any of Bill Parcell's coaching disciples are going to run the dreaded balanced offense that docks superstar receiver's numbers by at least 30 percent. Plus, Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton is a better fantasy football quarterback than any of us imagined.
Running backs always kill you in the end
Most of them phantom workhorses -- set to shoulder the big workload and spare you the agony of shared carries and catches.
Begging for more? Let's round out the 40s with two overrated young running backs who looked like hot trends way back in August:
When management overplays their hand
Brad Childress -- There are times when your player is ruined by the hand that feeds him. Childress dumps Moss on his own, didn't clear it, and there is a chance this splinters the locker room. Dude gave up a third rounder for him two minutes ago! How does it all translate in fantasy terms? After all, we don't have a locker room to lose. But if Moss starts catching passes from Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, we probably have leagues to lose.
Mike Shanahan -- Over the years we know that Donovan McNabb is touchy and doesn't respond well to public dissing. Now his coach pulls him at the critical moment initially because he doesn't know the two-minute drill, then changes his tune and blames it on poor conditioning. Collateral damage for those of you who felt savvy for grabbing tight end Chris Cooley and saw Santana Moss as a great value receiver better go hit the waiver wire.
Cowboys (1-6) -- The players seem to have quit on coach Wade Phillips, particularly on defense, which is his specialty. Playing a lot of catch-up football has relegated running backs Marion Barber and Felix Jones to non-events. As for Tony Romo, at 1-6, are they really going to rush him back? Romo owners will likely miss their No. 1 quarterback for the rest of the year, and I was among you if you had sky-high hopes for him this season. Ditto receiver Miles Austin.
Broncos (2-6) -- OK, you might not have expected them to be "good," per se, but maybe respectable in a lame division. Simply put, a running back Knowshon Moreno owner's loss is an Orton and receiver Brandon Lloyd owner's gain. Of course, you didn't even have to draft either of them.
Bills (0-7) -- No one rightfully expected the Bills to be good. Don't look now, but quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has posted great PPG numbers. That means that receivers Lee Evans and Stevie Johnson have posted great PPG, too. Oh, and they are always playing from behind. Garbage time never won you more games.
Tight end roulette
Maybe receivers aren't the new running backs
The hot trend was to pick receivers early and often, and recent seasons justified it. Try to explain that to anyone who pinned their hopes on the top three preseason receivers who cost you a first- or early second-round pick.
If you picked Texans receiver Andre Johnson late in the first round, you aren't happy, but you were warned -- he is always dinged up, so he's going to cost you games. On the other hand, he plays like hell whenever he's out there, and he ranks seventh among receivers with 12.9 PPG. He might not be winning your league, but he isn't killing you either.
Like I said, Moss is going to crop up again and again, and that high second-round pick you forked over for 8.6 PPG/32nd place -- not overall but merely at wide receiver! -- might already have you ready to rename your team "Don't Look At Me!" Now the bizarre odyssey in progress has you wondering if he'll end up catching passes in the UFL. Boom! Here's that steel-toe boot aimed right at your undercarriage! You want some more collateral damage? Moss also dragged down Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's (18.9 PPG/18th) behind the darling of last week's column and a previous paragraph -- Fitzpatrick, who currently ranks first with 24.7 PPG.
Brutal, but you know who's laughing hardest right now? Those of us who ignored the complete lack of competent starting quarterbacks in Arizona and gambled that Larry Fitzgerald's mighty gifts could not be stopped! Say hello to the No. 39-ranked receiver with an average of 7.5 PPG. Say hello to drafting first in your league next year.
An ironic twist worthy of the 'Twilight Zone'
Meanwhile, the scourge of team-killing receivers, aka Cowboys receiver Roy E. Williams, averages 9 PPG, which makes him 26th among receivers. And with his old Lions crony John "I sent Roy to a Pro Bowl" Kitna at the helm, the future is so bright, he has to wear sunglasses, albeit a pair of BluBlocker sunglasses you bought out of the trunk of some guy's car on the interstate.