I should know I watched a lot of it. Thank you, fantasy football, for making me care about two games that under normal circumstances wouldn't warrant more than a channel-clicking interest.
It started with the Sunday night showdown between the Niners and Bears. But wait, I'm confused. Craig Krenzel? Ken Dorsey? Is this the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl?
Sadly, it was not. It was what passes as professional football for teams whose best days came in the 80s. Kind of like Eddie Murphy.
But I tuned in, because my fantasy opponent started Kevan Barlow and the Chicago defense, and because I'm too young for Desperate Housewives.
The game wasn't pretty, and I wasn't swayed by comments from the announcers, such as, "There's no quit in the 49ers," or, "These are two of the hardest working teams in the league."
Really? Because I looked at the standings and they were both 1-5.
I intended to change the channel, but something else happened instead. I remember downing a half-pound burger with "the works" from the joint up the street. I remember thinking I might be more comfortable in a slightly more horizontal position. And I remember waking up about two hours later, just in time to watch the Bears run back an interception for a touchdown.
I was down 10 at that point, but not to worry I still had the Jets defense going against the disgraceful Dolphins on Monday night. And my team, like the Ravens, wins with defense. In fact, the J-E-T-S Jets have outscored every player on my team other than Ahman Green.
So the next night, I loaded up my Yahoo StatTracker and tuned in to Al and John, passing on The Swan to watch my beloved Jets throw Jay Fiedler around like a cat toy.
Four sacks, three turnovers and three-plus hours later, I had scratched out a hard-fought win, in spite of Terrell Buckley's maddening indifference on a last-second TD heave.
And so, despite entering the week with the lowest point total in a 12-team league, despite cutting Rod Smith right before he went for 208 yards and a TD, I managed pull myself into a first-place tie at 6-2.
Thank goodness for bad football.
Peyton Manning became the new king of fantasy football, the Chiefs offense partied like it was 2003 and Drew Brees gave us a five-touchdown October surprise. Those were just a few of the highlights from a week that was dominated by great QB play and a fantasy fireworks show between K.C. and Indianapolis. It's no surprise that three of last week's top five players came from that wild game Manning, who threw for 472 yards and five TDs to supplant Daunte Culpepper atop the fantasy ranks, and Priest Holmes and Trent Green, who accounted for three TDs apiece. The Chiefs have scored 101 points in two games, giving them two top-five players in each of the last two weeks. Brees and Jake Plummer also cracked the top five.
Brees has also been the fifth-best player in the fantasy game this season, something no one foresaw least of all the Chargers, who drafted Philip Rivers to be their QB of the future. Brees ranks behind Manning, Culpepper, Holmes and Donovan McNabb, and his emergence has given a boost to the value of the entire San Diego offense. With that in mind, consider grabbing WR Eric Parker, who has 16 catches for 214 yards and a TD in his last three games.
On the other end of the QB spectrum, Byron Leftwich's knee injury is a major cause for concern. There's a chance he could get better with rest during the Jaguars' bye week this week. But if he's out 4-6 weeks, as has been speculated, that would put his return right around the start of the fantasy postseason. His potential replacement, David Garrard, is a big (6-foot-2, 244-pound) QB with a strong arm who has attempted 60 passes in his three-year career. He's not Leftwich, but he could prove to be a useful fantasy fill-in if Leftwich misses more than a game or two. He'll need a few weeks to settle in, though, so bank on at least a short-term dip in the values of receivers Jimmy Smith and Ernest Wilford.
Baltimore's Jamal Lewis (see below) isn't the only player returning from a suspension this week. Minnesota RB Onterrio Smith is back after a four-game break and he's one of this week's hottest waiver wire pickups. Smith should regain his starting role in a jam-packed backfield that also includes Mewelde Moore, Michael Bennett and Moe Williams. Moore proved a capable fill-in but was held to 29 yards on eight carries last week and is questionable this week with a sprained ankle. Bennett had 20 yards on five carries a wek ago. The door is wide open for Smith.
Consider adding Chicago RB Anthony Thomas, Carolina WR Muhsin Muhammad, New England WR Troy Brown, Kansas City WR Johnnie Morton, New York Giants K Steve Christie; Consider dropping New York Giants QB Kurt Warner, Buffalo RB Travis Henry, New Orleans WR Donte' Stallworth, Oakland WR Ronald Curry
Quarterback: Culpepper, Minnesota Finally, a Monday night game worth staying up for, with the top two fantasy studs Culpepper and Manning squaring off. Culpepper gets the nod because he faces Indianapolis' NFL-worst pass defense.
Running back: Tiki Barber, N.Y. Giants Tiki torched the Vikings for 101 yards and two TDs last week, and he's scored in six of the Giants seven games so far. Curiously, he's run for just one TD in three home games, but that'll change this week against Chicago; Emmitt Smith, Arizona Faces a Miami defense that allowed two Jets to surpass 100 yards last week. With the Cardinals' passing game scuffling, they'll turn to Smith often.
Wide receiver: Chad Johnson, Cincinnati Hard to believe 24 receivers have outperformed Johnson this season, but he gets a favorable matchup in Week 9 against a Dallas defense that has given up 15 TD passes in seven games; Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Sideline shoving match aside, Wayne and Manning have developed quite a nice rapport. Let defenses focus on Marvin Harrison.
Tight end: Jason Witten, Dallas Injuries to receivers and a nonexistent running game have helped make Witten one of the Cowboys most reliable weapons. He's racked up 17 catches for 196 yards and two TDs in the past two games.
Kicker: Nate Kaeding, San Diego Leads the NFL with 27 PATs and has made good on 10 of 11 field goals. It pays to play for the league's third-highest scoring team.
Defense: Detroit The Lions have a bad habit of giving up lots of points, but they also create turnovers, rank second in the NFL in sacks (23) and face a Redskins team that hasn't scored more than 18 points in any game this season.
The good news Lewis is rested and ready to return from his two-game-suspension. The bad there's been little word on Todd Heap, who has missed 5 1/2 games with a bum ankle. The Ravens have been hesitant to set a timetable for Heap's return, and the tight end reportedly had difficulty making cuts in practice last week. If he plays Sunday, it will almost certainly be a gametime decision, meaning he's still not a safe fantasy option.
Get Lewis back in your lineup immediately he's fresh, and he shredded Cleveland for 500 rushing yards in two games last season. He'll get plenty of work this week and beyond and continue to be a top-10 fantasy running back. Lewis' return means Chester Taylor goes back to a reserve role, but hang onto him his 4.9 yards per carry average is tied for best in the AFC, and he remains one of the best backups in the NFL. There's no reason to keep Musa Smith.
The Ravens' offense looks dramatically different than the one Lewis stepped away from nearly a month ago. A flip-flop in the receiving ranks has Travis Taylor and Clarence Moore getting most of the snaps, with former starters Kevin Johnson and Randy Hymes apparently falling to Nos. 3 and 4 on the depth chart, respectively. Taylor should be owned in all leagues and makes a good WR3 option, particularly with Kyle Boller showing mild improvement. Keep an eye on Moore, too. The intriguing rookie isn't worth a fantasy roster spot yet, but he's earned praise from the Ravens coaching staff and continues to see his role increase.
Dave Alexander is a sports producer at baltimoresun.com. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org