7.29.2005
 
2005 Fantasy Football / Offensive Coordinator Preview - Cincinnati Bengals
INDEX

Bob Bratkowski
-entering fifth season with the Bengals
    Whatever talent and optimism there is for the 2005 Bengals offense has to be tempered by the reality that they play in a division with the Steelers, the Ravens, and now Romeo Crennel. Nonetheless, Cincinnati's Offensive Coordinator Bob Bratkowski has a proven history of working with productive offenses. He coached at University of Miami during their championships in 1989 and 1991, and more recently has worked as the Seahawks OC (1995-98) and the Steelers wide receivers coach (1999-200).

    During Bratkowski's first season with the Bengals in 2001, Cincinnati finished dead last out of 31 teams in totals points scored. They went 6-10 that year. Then, in 2002, the offense moved up to 28th overall in points, but the team finished 2-14 and Marvin Lewis was brought in as the team's new head coach.

    After Jon Kitna led the 2003 offense to a remarkably improved 13th best ranking in total points scored, the Bengals finished 8-8 for the first time since 1996. Then, last season, with Carson Palmer starting 13 games before injuring his knee against the Patriots, the Bengals' offense finished the year ranked 10th in points scored.

    While Bratkowski's background of success has been in the passing game, the most consistent facet of his offense in Cincinnati has been at the running back position. Corey Dillon gained 1315 yards in 2001, and then 1311 in 2002. Rudi Johnson and Dillon split time in 2003, but their combined efforts were good for 1498 yards on 352 carries (which is just slightly over the average per season for a RB). Last year, with Johnson running behind an inconsistent offensive line, the former Auburn RB still gained 1454 on 361 carries. Rudi got a five-year deal during the off-season, so he's no longer playing for a paycheck, but Johnson is a talented, tough runner who is built well for play in this division.

    A lot of people still doubt Johnson's ability, especially after a slow start to last season, but he was a top prospect at Auburn who just happened to come out of a draft class that included Deuce McAllister, LaDainian Tomlinson, Travis Henry, Michael Bennett, Anthony Thomas, Lamont Jordan, Kevan Barlow, Derrick Blaylock, and Correll Buckhalter.

    Second year back Chris Perry figures to get some chances as the team's third down back, but at the beginning of camp, he says he's still just 70% while recovering from two sports hernia surgeries. If he can't go, then Kenny Watson will. Either way, I doubt the Bengals give Rudi much more than 320 carries this season. But he should be good enough to gain close to 1300 yards and score 10 touchdowns.

    For Carson Palmer, this is obviously going to be an important year in his progression. Palmer has fellow California native and a former assistant with the Greatest Show on Turf (St. Louis 2000-02), Ken Zampese, as the team's quarterbacks coach. In addition to his work with the Rams, Zampese was one of the coaches responsible for guiding Jon Kitna on his way to his career season in 2003.

    In Palmer's last three games of the 2004 season, the Bengals put up 58 points at home against Cleveland, 27 in Baltimore, and 28 in New England. Palmer threw for 835 yards in those three games (278.3 avg) with 9 TDs and 5 INTs. I really like Palmer's skill set and leadership qualities. He's very agile, throws very well on the run, has reportedly lost 20 pounds this past season- focusing more on health than bulk. There isn't much standing in the way of Palmer finishing 2005 with 3500+ yards and 25 TD. How well he's able to limit turnovers, however, will determine if he'll end up a top 10 fantasy quarterback this year.

    The Bengals offense, under Lewis and Bratkowski, was at its best last year when they were able to build early leads by vertically challenging the opposing team and then using the game-finishing strengths of Rudi Johnson to control the tempo in the second half. But their defense just wasn't good enough last year to hold early leads and much of the team's 2005 success again resides in their ability to hold opponents to under 24 points.

    I would expect to see more shootouts again this season and if that's is so, Cincinnati's strength at wide receiver should give them an edge. The team will hope to welcome back slot receiver Peter Warrick to the lineup, in addition to All-Pro Chad Johnson and his former Oregon State teammate T.J. Houshmandzedah. Many people will wonder about Housh's value this season after his breakout 2004. T.J. was awarded with a nice contract and with all of the other options at WR it's hard not to think that his production will decline slightly. But don't discount him altogether. Housh was among the league leader's last season in reception percentage of total targets (i.e. how many balls he caught in relation to how many were thrown to him).

    Aside from those three wideouts, Kelley Washington has talent and his entering his third pro season, but the guy to watch to be the team's #3 guy is Chris Henry. As I outlined here and here, Henry's combination of size, strength, and attitude has drawn comparisons to Jerry Porter.

    It's hard to tell how Bratkowski and Palmer will distribute the ball this season. In 2001, five different receivers had 20 or more catches. But that was probably due more to the fact that they had no one of any reliability yet. Johnson and Housh were just rookies that year. In 2002, the Bengals distributed their throws around to four different receivers, all of which had 40+ catches that year. But by 2003, as Johnson was establishing himself as one of the premiere pass catchers in today's game, the team primarily used just CJ and Warrick as receivers since Housh was hurt for most of the year. That trend continued last season after Warrick was lost for the year. Cincinnati employed many two WR sets, and the majority of the passes went to CJ and TJ.

    The team's offensive line should return all five starters from last season, but keep an eye on the status of Willie Anderson. The big right tackle has been one of the most undervalued linemen in the league even though he played through a knee injury all last season. He finally had surgery on that knee and Anderson isn't expected to start camp on time. His place in the lineup is as important as any on this offense.

    If Anderson does make the opening day starting lineup, the 2005 Bengals have a chance to return all 11 starters from last season. And as the Colts have proven to many over the last few seasons, continuity, both on the field and in the coaching ranks, is a very important thing in this era's NFL.

 
Baseball Daily
  • The Angels are scratching Jarrod Washburn from his schedule Saturday start. Paul Byrd will be moved up on three days rest.

  • I had much of last night's 18 inning game on and even though Vlad Guerrero sat it out with a calf injury, Garrett Anderson might as well have sat too. He went 0 for 7 and left 4 very important runners on base. Mike Scioscia says that Anderson, who is hitting .247 in July, is "battling through a little tendinitis."

  • Roy Halladay will pitch a simulated game tomorrow, and could be back starting as early as Tuesday.

  • Dontrelle Willis seems to have worked out his kinks:
    In the midst of his slump, Willis worked on his mechanics with pitching coach Mark Wiley, slowing down his pace between pitches. The lefty also collected some advice from a former teammate, closer Armando Benitez, who is on the disabled list with the Giants.

    After his loss in San Francisco last Friday, Benitez noted that Willis' arm angle had dropped.
  • Keep an eye on Rich Harden too. He reported 'a little crankiness' in his arm after Sunday's game, but he has been cleared to start tonight.

  • DBacks at Cubs
  • Javier Vazquez on the road this year:
    6-5, 77.2, 3.59, 1.11, .258
    Vazquez during the day, since 2003:
    11-6, 162.2, 3.38, 1.03
    BvsP:
    Burnitz- 13/42 (.310), 5HR
    Hairston- 4/9, HR
    Hollandsworth- 4/12
    Lee- 12/35 (.343), 2HR
    Ramirez- 3/15
    Walker- 4/11
  • Mark Prior career at home:
    17-9, 280.2, 3.40, 1.15, .228
    Career at day:
    21-11, 329.0, 2.98, 1.13, .222
    Prior has never faced Arizona,
    But Shawn Green is 6/11 with a HR off Prior.
  • The DBacks are 4-10 in game two's after winning the opener.

  • Pirates at Braves
  • Dave Williams this season on the road:
    5-2, 51.2, 2.61, 1.12, .200
    Williams hasn't made a road start since June 29.
    The Pirates are 20-31 away from home this year, 6-3 when Williams starts.
    He's never faced Atlanta.
  • Horacio Ramirez career at Turner:
    10-3, 147.0, 3.37, 1.25, .230
    7 of his last 11 starts have been on the road.
    In those last four home starts:
    3-0, 27.0, 2.00, 0.89
    Ramirez's career splits:
    DAY: 5-6, 80.0, 5.96, 1.51, .289
    NIGHT: 17-8, 286.2, 3.36, 1.34, .254

  • Giants at Brewers
  • Doug Davis in his last six starts:
    0-1, 40.0, 3.15, 1.18
    At home this year:
    6-2, 67.0, 3.63, 1.25, .219
    Last year vs SF (home):
    0-1, 7.0, 4H, 3ER, 5BB, 3K
  • The Giants are hitting .299 against LHP this year.
  • Kirk Rueter since June 1:
    0-4, 43.1, 7.89, 2.01

  • UPDATE White Sox at Orioles
  • Orlando Hernandez this season at home:
    3-2, 39.0, 5.77, 1.69, .318
    But the Sox are on the road tonight. So if you look at his two starts since coming off the DL, they were both at home. He gave up 10 hits in 12.2 innings in those two outings.
    Career at Camden Yards:
    4-1, 42.1, 3.40, 1.30, .255
    BvsP:
    Bigbie- 4/13 (.308)
    Gibbons- 2/8, 2HR
    Lopez- 3/13
    Mora- 4/18, HR
    Palmeiro- 11/37 (.297), 6HR
    Roberts- 3/6
    Surhoff- 9/22, HR
    Tejada- 6/26 (.231), 2HR
  • Eric Bedard since coming off the DL, has faced TB and MIN.
    Jermaine Dye, who's 6 for his last 15, is 2/5 with a HR off Bedard.
  • The White Sox are batting .292 against LHP on the year, but are just .214 against them in their last 10.

7.28.2005
 
Baseball Daily
  • The DBacks have recalled top prospect Conoor Jackson to share time at first base with Chad Tracy. In turn, they've designated Jose Cruz, Jr. for assignment. Jackson "was batting .354 with 38 doubles, eight homers and 70 RBIs for Triple-A Tucson."

  • C.C. Sabathia suspects that he's been tipping his pitches.
    If Sabathia can tell that he's tipping pitches from watching video, chances are opposing batters can see it on the mound.

    "I would have to think so, the way I've been pitching the last two months," he said. "That's something I've been working on, and I'll go out Saturday [against Seattle] and hope everything works."
  • Trot Nixon is on the DL for Boston, but they may have Gabe Kapler back by Saturday.

  • Pirates at Marlins
  • Kip Wells career vs FLA:
    3-1, 33.0, 1.91, 1.09, .188
    On the road this year:
    2-7, 54.2, 6.91, 1.85, .302
    But he's had to pitch in some pretty tough parks:
    Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Wrigley, Busch, Bank One, Minute Maid, Miller, and Great American.
    Career in Miami:
    2-1, 21.0, 2.14, 1.24, .208
  • Dontrelle Willis lifetime ERA:
    Before All Star game: 2.84
    After All Star game: 4.84
    He's 1-3 with a 9.41 ERA in 22.0 July innings this year.
  • Juan Encarnacion is 8/17 with 3HR off Wells.

  • Indians at Mariners
  • Cliff Lee career at SAFECO:
    3-0, 18.0, 3.50, 1.06, .197
    Career vs SEA:
    40-, 25.1, 3.55, 1.11, .226
    And on the road this year:
    7-3, 3.63, 1.27, .252
    Lee beat Meche and the Mariners 4-3 in his last start.
  • The Mariners are hitting .308 against LHP in their last 10 games.
  • Gil Meche this year vs CLE:
    0-2, 12.0, 5.25, 1.75, .320
    Career vs CLE:
    1-6, 42.0, 4.93, 1.50, .296
    Even though his splits are similar, Meche is 6-2 at home this year, and he's won his last 6 home starts.
  • Ron Belliard is 4/9 with 1HR off Meche.

7.27.2005
 
Baseball Daily
  • Phil Nevin returned to the catcher position last night. With Ramon Hernandez undergoing wrist surgery, the Padres suddenly need Nevin again. We'll see if he plays well enough behind the plate, though.

  • White Sox closer Dustin Hermanson is still struggling with a lower back problem. He's pitched just twice in the last two weeks.

  • Brandon Backe, who has pitched well through arm trouble this year, now faces the possibility of being scratched from his Thursday start due to a strained muscle in his left side.

  • The Braves are losing Mike Hampton again. And there's this on Larry:
    Chipper Jones understands that his left foot is going to bother him until he has it evaluated again in the offseason.

    "It's not going to heal this season," said Jones, who came off the disabled list on July 18.
  • Lyle Overbay will be staying in Milwaukee.

  • Troy Glaus, who's missed the DBacks' last two games, is still day to day.

  • I noted last week that Dodger Stadium was giving up an unusually high number of homeruns this year. Jim Tracy has a take on why:
    "The ball travels pretty well here in the day time," Tracy said. "They won't travel quite as well in three or four weeks here. It'll travel more like it does in the first five weeks or so of the season. The air gets heavier."
  • Even though he lost last night, Jon Lieber is back.

  • Ted Lilly has some discomfort in his left arm, and he may miss his next start.

  • Brandon Inge got some rest last night, due to his recent struggles. Inge is batting .191 over his last 110 at bats. Also, Placido Polanco is ready to return to the Tigers' lineup.

  • Baseball Musings has an interesting note about who fills out the lineup card for the Nationals.

  • Giants at Cubs
  • Yesterday's game between these two lasted 3 hours and 28 mintues, and it ended at 1:16am after a 2 hour, 43 minute rain delay. This afternoon, the Giants will be playing their third game of their current road trip. They have to be exhausted, and I suspect the change in time zone added on top of last night's game is going to leave them sluggish today.
  • Brett Tomko on the road this year:
    2-7, 67.1, 5.88, 1.51, .290
    Career vs CHC:
    2-4, 47.2, 5.29, .149, .304
  • Carlos Zambrano at day this year:
    4-1, 62.0, 1.89, 1.08, .180
    At home this year:
    4-1, 63.0, 2.29, 1.03, .178
    And look at his career splits for day/night:
    DAY: 23-17, 368.0, 2.59, 1.25, .219
    NIGHT: 18-16, 303.1, 4.12, 1.34, .241
    A lot of that may have to do with his success at Wrigley, since the majority of his day games come from there.
    But his career home ERA is 3.11, so there's clearly something to him pitching during the day and at home.

  • Nats at Braves
  • Esteban Loaiza on the road this year:
    2-4, 58.1, 4.94, 1.56, .305
    Career at Turner:
    1-0, 21.2, 2.08, 1.06, .250
  • Tim Hudson at home this season:
    4-1, 46.1, 2.91, 1.27, .250
  • The Braves are 23-9 in game two's this season, but just 9-6 when following a win.

  • More night game stats possible later.

7.26.2005
 
Baseball Daily
  • First it was the Nationals and their low scoring offense that has caught up with them.
    Are the White Sox next?
    Via Baseball Musings:
    Tim Marchman in the New York Sun writes a great Sabermetric article arguing that the White Sox have the worst offense in the AL, and how unusual it is to have a team with such a poor offense do so well.
    A claim that the White Sox are a terrible offensive club should, rightly, be met with skepticism. The team is, after all, sixth in the league in runs scored, first in stolen bases, and on pace to win 107 games, this last number being the best evidence against the Sox being notably bad at the plate. There are a few mitigating factors, though. The most important among them is that they play in U.S. Cellular Field, which is one of the better hitter's parks in baseball. The team's last place ranking in runs scored on the road is more telling than that sixth-place ranking in total runs scored.
    And even if they do still win the division, this team is more in line for a Divisional Series blowout than any other this season.

  • Nick Johnson is set to be activated today.

  • As I expected last week, Travis Hafner will go on the DL and Jeff Liefer (remember him?) will be called up to take Hafner's spot on the roster.

  • Nomar starts his rehab tonight.

  • Brandon Webb, who was scratched before last night's game because of a viral illness, is scheduled to start tonight for the DBacks in Milwaukee.

  • Jon Lieber, who pitches tonight in Houston against Roy Oswalt, has settled down a bit since his rough May and June. Lieber has given up just 2 HR in his last 25 innings (20 of which came at home).

  • Pirates at Marlins
  • Josh Fogg on the road this year:
    3-3, 58.1, 5.25, 1.11, .239
    Career vs FLA:
    3-2, 35.0, 2.83, 1.26, .273
    But in three starts in Florida:
    0-2, 15.1, 5.87, 1.76, .349
  • Brian Moehler this year at home:
    1-4, 58.1, 2.78, 1.18, .247
  • The Pirates have won eight out of their last 10 against the Marlins.

  • Nats at Braves
  • Livan Hernandez career vs ATL:
    2-13, 114.0, 5.45, 1.53, .279
    And at Turner Field:
    0-7, 48.1, 6.52, 1.70, .307
    BvsP:
    Estrada- 7/20
    Furcal- 13/40, 4HR
    Giles- 7/17, HR
    A Jones- 12/40, HR
    C Jones- 16/44, HR
  • John Smoltz is 2-0 since the break with a 1.20 ERA.
    The Braves have won eight straight games when Smoltz has started, and 9 of 10 since June 1.

  • Rockies at Mets
  • Kaz Ishii career at Coors:
    1-2, 22.0, 6HR, 9.41, 2.41, .389
    On the road this season:
    2-5, 45.2, 5.91, 1.51, .263
    And at night this year:
    1-7, 55.2, 5.82, 1.53, .267
  • Jeff Francis is struggling.
    In his last four starts:
    1-2, 21.1, 8.02, 1.97, .362
    He's back at home, after two consecutive road starts,
    Career at Coors:
    8-2, 66.0, 3.82, 1.45, .287

  • Angels at Jays
  • Paul Byrd since May 1:
    8-3, 96.1, 3.18, 0.99
    He hasn't faced TOR since 2002, so the career numbers are too meaningful.
    Bryd is 24-17 lifetime on Turf, with an OppBA of .243.
    In one career game at Skydome:
    0-1, 8.0, 4H 2R, 1ER, 1HR, 0BB, 4K
  • Gustavo Chacin has never faced the Angels.
    Lifetime at home, opponents are hitting .302 against him.
    Anaheim is hitting .260 against lefties on the year.
    Chacin has won his last three home starts.
  • The Angels are 12-1 in series openers this season when coming off a loss. 23-9 overall in openers.

7.25.2005
 
Baseball Daily
  • The Brewers will play 38 of their last 63 games this season at home.
    Included in there are '25 of 34 from Aug. 21 to Sept. 29.'

  • Johnny Podres, who helped turn Curt Schilling's career around, has been asked to work with Phillies prospect, Gavin Floyd.

  • Javy Lopez should give a much needed boost to the Orioles, as he is schedule to rejoin Baltimore's lineup tonight.

  • The Devil Rays are playing like a completely different team than what we saw before the All-Star Break. Not only are they 7-3 since the break (all vs the AL East too), but they've posted two straight wins on Sunday. TB has been one of the worst teams playing during the day this year, and were 1-13 on Sunday's prior to their recent run.

  • Phillies at Astros
  • Corey Lidle on the road this year:
    5-3, 68.2, 2.75, 1.05, .228
    Career at Minute Maid (all last year):
    0-1, 13.0, 4.85, 1.23, .255
  • Andy Pettitte at home this year:
    4-3, 59.2, 2.72, 0.97, .221
    He's 4-0 in his last six starts (48.2 innings) with a 0.88 ERA over that stretch.
    He has, however, given up just as many unearned runs (4) in those six starts, as he has earned runs.
  • David Bell, an almost legendary LHP killer (.414 AVG this season) is just 2/22 lifetime off Pettitte.

  • Mets at Rockies
  • Tom Glavine career at Coors:
    3-1, 67.1, 3.34, 1.50, .305
    But he hasn't pitched in Denver since 2003.
    Glavine did throw a 1 hit shutout last season vs COL at Shea.
  • The Rockies area starting Jose Acevedo, who hasn't thrown more than two innings in any appearance this year. Colorado's bullpen ERA this year is 5.47. But their starters are averaging 5.29, so there's really not much difference there.

  • Reds at Dodgers
  • Aaron Harang on the road this year:
    2-4, 54.1, 5.13, 1.47, .287
  • Derek Lowe at home this year:
    5-5, 63.0, 4.71, 1.33, .297
    He did throw well in his last start.
    That is attributed to this:
    While watching video of his previous starts with Dodgers pitching coach Jim Colborn, Lowe detected a mechanical flaw and made the proper adjustments that worked against the Phillies.
  • BoSox at DRays
  • David Wells career vs TB:
    10-1, 96.1, 2.52, 1.03, .242
    And this year against them:
    2-0, 14.0, 1.29, 0.93, .235
  • The Rays are hitting .302 against LHP at home, and .313 against them in their last 10 games.
  • Doug Waechter is starting off the DL.
    He's struggled at the Trop over his career:
    6-9, 109.1, 5.93, 1.44, .280

  • ChiSox at Royals
  • Freddy Garcia on the road this year:
    7-1, 73.1, 2.33, 0.93, .208
    But career at Kaufman:
    3-3, 40.0, 6.08, 1.53, .325
    This year vs KC:
    2-0, 13.1, 2.70, 1.05, .240
  • Zach Greinke is 2-0 since the break, with a 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings.
    Career against CWS:
    1-4, 37.1, 4.58, 1.10, .241
  • The Royals have lost their last 10 meetings with Chicago.

  • Indians at A's
  • C.C. Sabathia on the road this year:
    5-2, 53.2, 3.35, 1.23, .246
    A native of nearby Vallejo, CA, Sabathia career in OAK:
    1-0, 23.1, 4.63, 1.59, .284
  • Barry Zito at home this year:
    5-3, 62.2, 3.02, 0.97, 1.96
    Career against CLE:
    3-2, 43.2, 1.03, 1.08, 1.64
    And since 2004 against CLE:
    1-2, 28.0, 0.96, 1.07.
    He's just 1-2 in those four starts against them since 2004, giving up a totale of 3 runs.

7.24.2005
 
2005 Fantasy Football / Offensive Coordinator Preview - Buffalo Bills
INDEX
Tom Clements
-entering second season with the Bills
    How quickly J.P. Losman goes from being a talented prospect to a legitimate NFL quarterback now lies directly in the hands of Bills G.M. Tom Donahoe (responsible for putting an inexperienced signal caller at the reigns of an otherwise playoff-caliber team), Head Coach Mike Mularkey, Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements, and Quarterbacks Coach Sam Wyche.

    Probably the most recognizable name in that list is Wyche's- a former NFL head coach who went 84-107 over ten years of service with the Bengals and the Bucs. Wyche worked with both Losman and Drew Bledsoe last season, so there should at least be in place an established, working relationship between the protege and mentor. Having spent his early NFL years with Bill Walsh and the 49ers (1979-82), Wyche has recently survived a serious heart disease, cardiomyopathy, and a lacerated vocal cord nerve that forced him to retire as a broadcaster in 2000. Before joining the Bills prior to the 2004 season, Wyche worked as a high school coach for two years in South Carolina.

    Clements came with Mularkey to the Bills from Pittsburgh prior to the 2004 season. From 2001 to 2003 with the Steelers, Clements served as the quarterbacks coach during Kordell Stewart's Pro Bowl season in '01 and he also helped resurrected the career of Tommy Maddux in '02. Prior to that, Clements was the QB coach in KC when Elvis Grbac made the Pro Bowl in 2000. He's also worked under Lou Holtz at Notre Dame (1992-95) coaching the Irish's quarterbacks. Clements is himself a former quarterback who started three seasons at Notre Dame (1972-74), going 29-5 there. He played in the CFL and also holds a law degree (magna cum laude fron ND).

    With Wyche and Clements, it's hard to think that the Bills could have any two better coaches working with the gifted and brash former Tulane Green Wave QB. Last year, the Bills ranked 27th overall in completions, attempts, and total passing yards. But at this point in each of their careers, the differences between Bledsoe and Losman are as great as the risk the Bills are taking in turning over the starting QB job to someone who has thrown just 5 regular season passes in the NFL.

    Losman will at least have a strong supporting cast of playmakers. Eric Moulds will be entering his 10th NFL season, and is still a smart route runner with dependable hands. At the age of 32, however, I wonder how many 1000 yard seasons he has left in him. Moulds is 6'2, 210 pounds, and he'll at least be able to rely on his overpowering strength over the final years of his career.

    The emerging star of the Bills' receivers is undoubtedly Lee Evans. The former Badgers All-American came to the NFL with questions about the health of his knee but last year's 843 yard, 9 touchdown rookie season showed everyone that he is just as fast as he was in Wisconsin before the injury. There should be concern in thinking that Evans will turn into a top fantasy WR this year, since he's now a sophomore with a rookie QB, but anyone in a keeper league should take notice on Evans. He already is one of the premiere deep threats in the league. Evans has the character, the speed, and the ball skills to become a top 10 WR in the NFL.

    At running back, I've seen a few places list Willis McGahee as a top 10 fantasy pick for this season. That is not at all a bad projection for the former Hurricane. With 1128 yards and 13 TDs last year, McGahee is set up for a nice sophomore season. But, as everyone knows, this is officially McGahee's third year in the NFL. What everyone should also know is that 1058 of those 1128 yards last year came in the Bills' last 12 games. If you pro-rate those numbers (88.16 YPG) out over the course of a full season, McGahee was on pace to finsh 2004 nearly 75 yards ahead of LaDainian Tomlinson with a total of 1411 yards. Add in the 17 touchdowns he would have been on pace to score, and you've got a top 10 fantasy running back. Actually, you have a top 5 fantasy running back.

    With Losman taking snaps and with Mularkey's emphasis on power running and defense, McGahee will be leaned on heavily. And while he looked tentative at times last season after taking hits to his surgically repaired knee, the more it held up over the season, the more confident and punishing he ran. It's still yet to be determined if he'll ever posses the same breakaway speed he had in Miami (e.g. the post-ACL Edgerrin James era), but McGahee is still fast enough to break long runs in the NFL. There will be great concern, however, if McGahee were to get hurt, as the Bills have no proven backup at this point.

    One final note the the Bills' running back: McGahee is not as talented a pass catcher as Travis Henry, but he still hauled in 22 passes for 169 yards last year (paced for 207) and with a young quarterback, it's a safe assumption that McGahee will be targeted as a safety receiver at least that many times this year. Assuming he plays in 15 or 16 games, I suspect MsGahee ends the 2005 season with around 1600 yards from scrimmage and at least 12 touchdowns.


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