Originally created 11/28/02

Fantasy Football: Late-season woes can wear on owners



This has to be one of my favorite days of the year.

Family, good friends, good food and usually great football all come together on Thanksgiving Day.

Recent events might have turned your golden goose of a fantasy team into a lame duck. Late-season injuries and slumps can decimate any fantasy team. And uncertainty at quarterback can give fantasy owners plenty to worry about, especially if a playoff spot hasn't been secured.

Donovan McNabb owners know this worry all too well. McNabb is out for the rest of the fantasy season, which is bad enough, but there was hope. McNabb's backup, Koy Detmer, was having a monster game against San Francisco on Monday night before he went out with a dislocated elbow. This was a double dose of bad news for owners astute enough to pick up Detmer as soon as McNabb went down.

Now the Eagles, and owners desperate enough, must turn to third-stringer A.J. Feeley to guide them into the home stretch.

Quarterback controversies aren't helping either. There seems to be one brewing in Pittsburgh as Steelers coach Bill Cowher isn't making up his mind whether to start Kordell Stewart or Tommy Maddox after Maddox was hurt two weeks ago.

St. Louis' situation isn't set yet, either. If Kurt Warner struggles, look for Marc Bulger to take over, even if Warner has the backing of the team.

However, it's not just on offense that a quarterback going out can cause the demise of a unit.

The Ravens' defense, while still decent, hasn't been and never will be the same without Ray Lewis. Lewis is out for the season after having surgery on his dislocated shoulder.

The Bears' defense has suffered, too. Numerous injuries have taken a top-five defense from last season and turned it into a second-rate unit. Linebacker Brian Urlacher can't do everything on defense, and owners who had hopes for the unit know this lesson all too well now.

Disappointment can strike at any time for a fantasy owner. With the short week to get lineups set, it can happen on the worst of days. Here's hoping your Thanksgiving feast doesn't leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

START THEM Atlanta's defense: After giving up a ton of yards and points to the Steelers in a classic battle, the Falcons' defense has been outstanding. Last week's shutout of Carolina should only give them more confidence to shut down Minnesota.

Emmitt Smith, Dallas: Emmitt has killed the Redskins throughout his career. The Cowboys also have a nine-game winning streak over their hated rivals. Smith also has a chip on his shoulder over the "shared" time with the Cowboys' other running back, Troy Hambrick.

Tom Brady, New England: The Lions don't pose much of a threat to Brady. He should put up solid numbers and enjoy a great Thanksgiving.

SIT THEM Kurt Warner, St. Louis: The Eagles will be looking for plenty of revenge for last season's NFC Championship loss. The Rams also lost offensive lineman Tom Nutten for the season Sunday.

Aaron Brooks, New Orleans: Brooks is beginning to slide a bit. His performance against Cleveland was horrid. Don't look for it to get better against Tampa Bay's awesome defense.

Fred Taylor, Jacksonville: He exceeded 100 yards against Dallas last week but won't find the going easy against the Steelers' quick defense. Plus, his goal-line chances are being given to Stacey Mack.

ROOKIE WATCH William Green, Cleveland: He's healthy, and he's been running well. He'll get a stern test against a good Carolina defense Sunday.

SLEEPER Jake Plummer, Arizona: The Chiefs' secondary is still a mess. Plummer could put up good numbers, even if his receiving corps has been decimated.

Reach Raymond Beasock at (706) 823-3221 or raymond.beasock@augustachronicle.com.