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From Week 7, 2002:
Jesus Christ. In two weeks I have gone from tops in the Expert Rankings to only two games up on those suckers Ricardo and Coach K. The day either a bastard or a dirty Finn pick better than me is the day I turn this column over to Neil Peterson. I have to get back on track this week, since I have been the Fool of the Week for the past fortnight. Since I cannot seem to pick Bob Dayton's head from Jackie's ass anymore (perhaps there is a reason for that), I am going to explain the logical pick and then go with the opposite. I only hope picking in the tradition of George Costanza will get me back on top.
Predators at Conquistadors: The Predators have been scraping the bottom of the barrel all season long, first with the loss of star KWarner, then with the loss to the feeble Tsunamis last week. Have they reached the bottom yet? Conversely, the Conquistadors have improved their play as of late, and look to continue to do the same against an anemic Predators offense. The pressure is on to make all those draft picks worth it.
Winner: Predators

Black Sox at Thunder: The Black Sox proved me wrong again last week, as they have been all season. I have never been a fan of constant roster change through trades made seemingly for the sake of making trades, but owner Hendrik deBoer seems to make it work, and I cannot fault him for taking an unorthodox approach so long as he keeps winning. Chicago should beat an overrated Boston team.
Winner: Thunder

Z-Force at Miracles: The Miracles got an unexpected (at least by me) win over Phoenix last week by containing both the running game and surprise starter TBrady. Their defense will be tested by another strong running game this week in the form of annual MVP candidate MFaulk. The Z-Force have to win games like these if they hope to make up ground on the surprising Challengers. They should do just that.
Winner: Miracles

Challengers at Knights: Here two of the biggest surprises of the season face off. The Knights have been scoring a ton of points, but their defense seems to have more holes than Davey Crockett did after the Alamo. Look for them to continue sliding down the Power Rankings. The Challengers, meanwhile, finally feel a fire under their ass this year. Perhaps the large turnover from last season has brought in the winning attitude the team lacked for so many years. Theyll continue their winning ways.
Winner: Knights

Blazers at Blockers: It looks like the Blockers got fat and content this year after winning their division two years running. Good thing they have cream puff Atlanta to keep them out of the basement. How embarrassing. The Blazers have made last years Fantasy Bowl loss look like a fluke for much of the season. You have to wonder why the team runs up the score on some opponents and cannot put away others- maybe to inflate Power Rankings stats? Whatever. Theyll take this one easy.
Winner: Blockers

Syndromes at Tsunamis: The Tsunamis shocked the league last week in winning a game, adding to their reputation as a spoiler team. All that did, though, was jeopardize their #1 overall pick next year, as they have pulled into a tie with Atlanta for last place. Maybe they should have considered that as they ran up the score on Atlanta last week. The Syndromes have not played up to potential so far- perhaps because they have the poster boy for not playing up to potential on their team. No matter. This one is cake.
Winner: Tsunamis

From Week 6, 2002

Greetings, FFL Online faithful. Well, as stated above, I was the FFL fool of the week last week, nailing only one of my picks. What a rotten performance. Still, who could have expected that the Blockers, Predators, Blazers, Z-Force, and Syndromes would all lose in the same week? Well, maybe picking Atlanta over Miami was a boneheaded move, but still- fans in Montana, New York and Middletown have to be shaking their heads along with me this week. Rather than dwell on my mistakes, though, I'll handicap this week's races with the hopes of recapturing first place in the Expert Standings.


Blockers at Thunder: These two teams are as evenly matched on paper as possible. They have the exact same record. They have the exact same scoring average. Kansas City is up 4 games in the MP, whatever that is. While some may flip a coin to see who to take in this contest, I say the Thunder will edge the Blockers in a close one. Coming off a key divisional win last week, Boston needs to keep the momentum going to make up for their early losses, and QB JGarcia is just the field general to get the Thunder into the playoffs again. Conversely, Kansas City looks very shaky right now. QB ABrooks hasn't seemed himself of late, and the loss to Chicago last week was only close because of a breakout performance by streaky runner CGarner. Dont expect that to happen two weeks in a row. The formerly rigid defense in Kansas City has gone south along with the wins. While conducting my special a few weeks back, I noticed that there was not as much excitement in the air as in years past. Has winning the FFL South-Central each of the organization's first two years taken away the teams hunger? Sadly, the answer is yes.


Predators at Tsunamis: If Waikiki hopes to get a win this year, this is the week to do it. The Predators are reeling. Already experiencing a down year, Atlanta fans were kicked while they were down with the loss of star QB KWarner. When your season rests on the shoulders of DBrees, it might be time to start auctioning off players. Still, Atlanta is only two games out of first in the tight FFL South-Central, and you can never say never in this league. Maybe this is the season FTaylor changes his name from fraud to Fred. The Tsunamis, meanwhile, are looking at an even longer shot to win than usual this week. Their star receiver, DBoston, will be out of action. This isn't a good team, but it is not as bad as the Power Rankings indicate. While contending in the FFL West might be a bit of a stretch, this team can play a spoiler role in weeks like this. Will they? No. Look for a Predators win in Waikiki.

Knights at Z-Force: Demonstrating that rapid turnover is possible in this league, the Knights look to justify their #1 ranking in Bob Daytons Power rankings with a victory in New York. It won't be easy, as the Z-Force score a lot of points for an eighth ranked team. Perhaps their defense needs shoring up, as they allowed a usually thrifty Challengers offense to pile up 46 points last week. All the TD runs by MFaulk in the world wont make a shred of difference if their defense cannot stop Mimi Zieger from strolling into the endzone every play. Meanwhile, the move to Dallas has energized the former Crips. How long can this buzz last? Despite wiping the ground with Montana last week, Dallas is not a good team on paper. ASmith has slowed to a crawl this year, BGriese is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in this league, and do not get me started on the Amazing Tattooed Man, EKennison. Still, owner Tyler Fleming has made it work thus far. Will he this week? My answer is yes.

Black Sox at Syndromes: Here we see two pleasant surprises face off in metropolitan Middletown. Chicago has been on fire this year- looks like all the wheeling and dealing may be paying off thus far. The team has many young and hungry starters in the form of LTomlinson, SMoss, and PPrice, which is always a plus in my opinion. QB DCulpepper is among the most explosive players in the game. Tight end BFranks is a key weapon in the red zone both as a receiver and as a blocker, which will come in handy once the weather turns colder and Chicago needs to play goal line smashmouth football. Chicago should prevail over Middletown. It is always tough losing a divisional matchup you should have won, and it is even worse when you had a chance to knock off the defending champions to boot. Plus, quarterback MVick is on the shelf- and no wonder with his high-risk style. Until further notice, Coach K is a better option at receiver than RMoss. It would be best for the team to revoke SJanikowski's free tab at sleazy Middletown nightspot Little City Café.

Miracles at Conquistadors: It is anyone's guess how much longer Miami can hang onto a spot in the FFL's top half of the Power Rankings with a scoring average in the bottom third. I think the Taco Bell Chihuahua could start at Qb and get the same results as some of these stiffs. Maybe Miami should try to trick Phoenix clipboard holder BFavre into coming back to the land of Elian Gonzalez and hanging chads. As usual, the running game remains above average, but not nearly enough to compensate for the lack of a passing game. Why a team that plays in such hot temperatures focuses on the run is beyond me. The resurgent Conquistadors should smoke Miami like a smuggled Cuban. The team is stacked at quarterback and running back, traditionally the two most important positions in FFL play. Maybe the team should upgrade the receiving corps by exchanging some of that depth for an impact receiver.  Phoenix had better hope the depth in the backfield carries the team far this year, as next year will be an absolute trainwreck.

Blazers at Challengers: Going into the year, no one would have expected this to be the most important game this week. Well, as a wise man once said, that is why they play the games. Montana's success this year has come as no surprise. QB DBledsoe has been a godsend for this team in several ways- his accurate cannon for an arm makes star receiver MHarrison all the more deadly, he has restored EMoulds from a FFL never-was to a legitimate starter, and his leadership is well needed in the wake of former village idiot BGriese. When runner PHolmes is not angering civil rights leaders with his offensive racial street rhetoric, he takes advantage of safeties playing the pass and gets outside the tackles well. Can that unit overcome a Charleston defense playing its heart out thus far this season? In my opinion, absolutely. While Charlestons defense has been the toast of the town, the offense couldn't punch its way out of a wet paper bag. How long can this team remain undefeated while tied for the leagues lowest scoring average? Except for the consistent RGannon, no one on the offense has done much to justify their starting spot. Barring a defensive miracle, the magic ends here.

From Week 3, 2002

Greetings, FFL aficionados. (See Ricardo, I know some of that Spanglish myself, ol buddy!) I have already started getting ready for a massive tailgating feast, as I am putting on my own live cooking show this Sunday on the Food Network! It is a promotional tie-in to my cookbook, Any Given Sandwich, that Jackie Zieger worked out with the Food Network people. What a classy lady that Jackie is- too bad shell be busy working the sidelines and wont be able to help me out. Anyway, you name it, and Ill make it this weekend. Beer-batter chicken tenders and onion rings? No sweat. Grilled Montreal steaks and grilled steak fries? Just one sec. 24 Dagwood using only freshly roasted meats? I have one waiting right here. Hearty chili? How many alarms? So, before you settle into your couches to catch the action this weekend, flip over to Food TV and watch the magic. Better yet, come enjoy some of my food before taking in the game. My show will take place in Kansas City before the Tsunamis and Blockers game in a randomly selected parking lot- take my word for it, stadium parking lots a couple hours before game time is where you find the best football fans. It should be a good time- I plan on taking requests from fans, drinking some brew, chatting football on the Food Networks time, you name it. Hopefully, Ill be able to do this every now and then, depending on how bad I put the Food Network people to shame! Bam! (Just kidding, Emeril ol buddy. Ill give you a call soon.)

                Enough self promotion. Time to get down to business- FFL chat with yours truly. Week 2 was the sort of exciting football action FFL fans have come to expect, as it featured two defensive nail-biters and four high-scoring shootouts. Ill briefly go over the highlights for both of you who still care about baseball this time of year.

The Syndromes jumped to the top of the Power Rankings with a convincing win over the Predators. RMoss and JShockey are doing well thus far this year, which should help ease MVicks transition from college to the pros. As was a recurring theme in the league, special teams came up big here. Well, Ill be damned- who would have thought FTaylor would do so well so early? Still, Ill give up red meat for a year if he stays healthy all year. I would have to give KWarner a thumbs down.

Chicago, winners over the Tsunamis by 14, are starting to see the potential of DCulpepper. Still, they didnt get a lot else except for PPrice. Something tells me they dont want that to become a habit. Waikikis offense played flatter than Britney Spears before her knee injury, but the defense made the final score look respectable by chipping in 18 points. At what point does that team start looking at next year?

The Knights got Texas a win over the Miracles on the strength of the passing game and- what else- defensive scoring. You have to wonder when this team will finally send KeyJohnson packing, but they have got to be pleased with TGonzalez. Miami played flatter than a steam-rolled pancake, with the exception of KevJohnson. He is a scrappy player, but the Miracles need more to compete for the division crown some have predicted. Some decent blockers would open up the running game a tad.

New York ran up the score on the Conquistadors, 64-41. While Phoenix is 0-2 thus far, dont expect that to last long. This team is too deep and talented to stay winless forever. Special teams went buck wild in this game, as the two sides combined for almost 40 ST/D points. I dont know whether to call it sloppy or brilliant, but it sure is exciting. The Z-Force continue their winning ways with help from many of the usual suspects- PManning, MFaulk, JSmith, TOwens. Will this be the year New York wins their first FFL East Crown?

The Blazers took the Fantasy Bowl X rematch by one point. What a nail-biter. DBledsoe thanked the Thunder for his ring by running up 12 points on his former team. You know that felt good. Boston is in a funk that only winning could cure. They need more help in the running game for that to happen, unless they want their only scoring to come from TGlenn. I do not think she is up to the pressure.

Finally, the Challengers downed the Blockers to improve to 2-0 for the first time since R.E.M. was better known for music instead of beating up stewardesses. Still, Charleston management has to have mixed feelings about the win, as no running back or receiver got on the board. That wont keep you undefeated for long. KC lost the type of game they are used to winning. Kicker JHall has got to put more than one point on the board- that was a huge factor in this game. The Gimp didnt help much either.

                I dont feel comfortable about issuing picks this week for a couple reasons. First of all, I have to study up to make sure I pass Jessie Hester in the standings. Bragging he had a better FFL career is bad enough, but this is ridiculous. Instead, Ill offer a couple general opinions and let you read my predictions later.

                Boston at Dallas: Already down 0-2, Boston has to show off their depth this week as regular starters AGreen and TBrown are out of action this week. Obviously SDavis and Glenn will have to pick it up, but the real question is whether the replacement starters will make a name for themselves or get a close-up view of the waiver wire. So far, so good for Dallas, who will hold a ceremony for deceased coach JUnitas before the contest. Something is wrong with this team, though. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but I think it probably has something to do with their lack of an obvious leader on the field. BGriese is streakier than dollar store window cleaner, and TGonzalez lost all authority holding out this spring.

                Phoenix at Chicago: Who woulda thunk it? Certainly not me. Heres a team with more picks in the first round than Moses while wandering through the desert for 40 years, and they cant get a win. Theyll turn around sooner or later- maybe they need time to gel the young squad together. I am not sure why they made that trade, unless they have something special in mind for JMorton. Chicago, meanwhile, needs to learn that making trades does not equal success. Teams need time to bind, not constant roster shake-ups. Lets see if this article hits daylight before Chicago trades away next years draft.

                Charleston at Miami: Charleston has surprised many with its quality play early this season. Combined with the Syndromes, the usual FFL East also-rans are up three wins on usual powerhouses New York and Boston through 2 weeks. Can Charleston keep it up? Owner Chris Bransfield didnt make all those moves for nothing, and he hopes new players RGannon, JHorn, and PBurress will carry the team to the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Charleston will have to execute perfectly this weekend, though, as both Gannon and Burress will not se action. Miami should take advantage, unless they stumble out of the blocks as has been the tradition in recent years. You cannot have an effective wishbone with a crappy offensive line, as proven thus far this year.

                Middletown at Montana: In what will likely be the last battle of undefeated teams this season, the surprising Syndromes visit Montana. I thought the Syndromes were playing for the future by grooming MVick, but he has held together well as of late. Middletown fans have got to be mad at Atlanta defensive coordinator MPattavina for telling his players to take out Vicks knees during the game last week. Vick remains in the starting lineup, but with his gambling style, Middletown fans must be crossing their fingers. Montana has been rolling this season, as they look better than the Fantasy Bowl competitors of a year ago. With PHolmes sodomizing rush defenses and Bledsoe slicing up secondaries, this might be one of the better teams we have seen in a while. It will be interesting to see if EMoulds can keep up.

                Waikiki at Kansas City: Years after expansion, this match up has lost its novelty value. The play quality may also be lost, looking at their combined one (1) win thus far this season. Waikiki is a work in progress that probably will not stir up a storm until next season. They have some key parts in place, but you can only go so far with people like CPortis, JStokes and Touchy JFeely as starters. The Blockers look to win their third straight FFL Central title. Perhaps they should trade some depth for quality, as their running is mediocre throughout and the receiving corps isnt a whole lot better. They need a gamebreaker. I would provide that spark, but Ill be too busy tailgating outside. Sorry.

                New York at Atlanta: Welcome to Atlanta, where the players play. Im talking about the Z-Force, though. The Predators try as hard as any team in the league, but they cannot seem to succeed. I think Jessie Hester hit the nail on the head when he said that coach Fred deBoer is under pressure to perform this year. Hell try to run the ball every chance he gets, as long as Taylor and DStaley remain alive. KWarner looks like he is a New York Met this season. Meanwhile, the Z-Force are up to their usual tricks, averaging over 45 points a game thus far. It is still early, but this team seems destined for the playoffs. They shouldnt have too many problems handling the Predators.

Season Preview, 2002

Hello, loyal FFL fans. I realize it has been a while since I graced this web page with my wisdom, but it has been a long winter. While most sports organizations get the off-season to relax after a long hard season, I spent it on the go. First off, I promoted my new book, Any Given Sandwich. You name it, I did it: cooking up some tailgating grub with Emeril, making the talk-show circuit (Regis was pretty easy to block, but Rosie sure does pack a wallop!), even challenging the Iron Chef. I fancy myself an equal-opportunity eater- Ill eat anything from 36-inch grinders to 32-ounce steaks to Three Alarm chili- but those Chinese guys are something else. If they made the secret ingredient beef like I thought they would I would have had no problem, but what is toefoo? Rigged, I tell you. After all that, I set out in the specially equipped Manford mobile to survey training camps. Seeing the camps was nice, but hanging around with some of the buffoon experts irked me so much that I had to take a vacation to clear my mind. Now that I have emptied all my checking accounts into either the MGM Grands vault and/or a strippers skimpy underthings, it is time to get back to business.

Ever since we saw Jeff Garcia and the Boston Thunder carting off the Welburn trophy (and a drunken SeaBass), many things have changed in the FFL. Key players from last year were traded in a flurry of activity, the 2002 draft came and went, and Hendrik deBoer. . . well, some things remain the same. Lets take a quick look at the FFL this year.

ATLANTA: After their championship 1999 season, coach Fred deBoer thought he had the league figured out. Well, as Atlantas play in the new millennium has shown, he is wrong on that front. Still, this is the FFL, and as Atlanta showed in 1999, anything is possible. QB seems to be a strength, with KWarner putting down his Bible long enough to toss accurate throws. His receiver corps looks to be a bit depleted this year- DTerrell has upside, but Warner will probably dump more passes to running backs than to the likes of KMcCardell, PWarrick and TrBrown. The running games seems a bit more solid, with Athomas leading a pack that includes FTaylor, TJones and DStaley. Either EConwell or KDilger should be adequate at tight end. The key player of this attack is Taylor. A couple years ago, this guy looked like he didnt even need his blockers. Recently, he has looked as if he cannot get around without a walker- I think Gramps Fowler has better moves, and he has been dead for over a decade. If the 99 Taylor shows up, hell fit into a potentially potent attack along with Warner, Thomas and Terrell. If the 21st century Taylor goes on IR again, Atlanta better hope that either Jones or Staley comes up huge or it will be a long season.

BOSTON: Desperate for a title, Boston fans got what they wanted last season. With a bevy of draft picks already built up for next year, coach Eamonn Wisneski hopes to win again this year in hopes of a three-peat. The good news for Boston fans is that number one quarterback JGarcia is behind center- after his performance in Fantasy Bowl X, BFavre is a distant memory. The bad news is that Wisneski made some boneheaded moves that have left his receiving corps weaker than Bryan Lajoie. Gone are DBoston and JHorn, and despite the picks landed for them, having the likes of TGlenn and TiBrown wont help Garcia any. Luckily, AGreen and SDavis return with their game faces on. Tight end will be a strength. The key player this year is Glenn. Long on talent but short on toughness, she will be in the limelight as she starts over with a new team. She could score anywhere from 2 to 20 touchdowns this year, especially with Garcia behind center and a slowing Brown opposite her. I wish her luck.

CHARLESTON: Despite sneaking into the playoffs last year, coach Chris Bransfield knew he had to make some changes to stay afloat in the tough FFL East. After years of conservative player transactions, Bransfield opened the draft pick vault to lock up some genuine talent. Whatever effect it has in the long-term, the Challengers should be much improved this year. In a move perhaps prompted by my ridicule of their passing game last year, RGannon leapfrogs incumbent KCollins. Keeper bust LSmith is long gone, replaced by JBettis, GHearst and TBarber. Anyone want to take bets on how long Bettis will remain first on the depth chart? JHorn will replace JRice as the #1 wideout, and PBurress has tremendous potential for a breakout season. JGalloway could be productive in a limited role. BChamberlain will catch a decent amount of touchdowns, although his blocking has to have the runners a bit concerned. Many Chicago fans will probably travel to Charleston to see JElam kick. If Charleston hopes to rise above the Boston and New York dynasties, Burress has to come up huge this season. With his size and quickness, fade patterns in the corner of the end zone should be a given.

CHICAGO: Coach Hendrik deBoer's team looks great on paper for a team with no draft pick until after Adam Fleming was done with his draft. The drop-off in quality between the top and second tiers is incredible. DCulpepper could change the way we think about a quarterback, LTomlinson could show that the first half of last year was no fluke, and EJames well, at least he still has both legs. The receiving corps took the brunt of the hit, as JMorton and PPrice form a dubious starting duo. AHakim? Unless the FFL starts awarding points for number of fumbles lost, I do not see where this guy could help. Either SMoss or OGadsden needs to step up to provide more options. An emerging THeap and a declining WWalls make a fair tight end duo. The make-or-break player this season will be James, who gives new meaning to the term. Once perceived as a top flight runner, James leg injury last season seemingly left him with less of an FFL future than Neil Peterson. Despite words of warning for yours truly in a column last year, deBoer went out on a limb and kept James. He had better hope that limb is sturdier than James leg was last year, for depth is certainly not a team strength.

DALLAS: The Knights have the feel of an expansion team. New city. New attitude. New players. Question is, will there be new results for a team locked in futility in recent years? In much the same manner that he changed his team from a bunch of gangbanging thugs to some redneck hillbillies, coach Tyler Fleming drastically shifted his roster with some last minute deadline trades. While his team has depth, it still needs an offensive star. Fleming should get decent quarterback play out of BGriese and/or BJohnson, although neither will erase memories of SYoung. ASmith had a big year in Middletown last year, but I would not be surprised to see him score half as many touchdowns this time around. Behind him are a bevy of questionable runners who could all score between 2 and 12 times each. Look for MAnderson and JStewart to get the bulk of playing time. The receiving corps is more solid with KJohnson and RGardner the clear favorites. If they falter, eager rookie DStallworth should impress. Tight end TGonzalez is the make-or-break player in Dallas. Days after ending his holdout, the talented keeper looks to terrorize linebackers and safeties in another southern city. Fleming seems to think Gonzalez will single handedly carry his team to the playoffs, but such production from a tight end is unlikely.

KANSAS CITY: Two years since they came into the league, Kansas City has dominated the South-Central like Jackie Zieger dominates our make-up trailer. Will this be the first year they fail to win it? Probably not, but mostly because of the competition in the division. Even owner Jason Leinwand feels the heat, as he was the only division winner to trade for players before the draft. Quarterback ABrooks is uneven at times, but has room to grow into a franchise player. Backup JFiedler may supplant him more than once this year. MAlstott will quietly have another solid season, while WDunn does not seem to fit into this offense. My guess is that either CGarner or a third wide receiver will be on the field more than he is. JThrash is playing over his head as the primary wide receiver- look for IBruce to push him for playing time. RoSmith is KCs make-or-break player. Despite an excellent season last year, Smith is a question wrapped in a mystery surrounded by an enema? His play dropped significantly after he got injured last year, although to his credit he stuck it out until after Fantasy Bowl X. How many good seasons does he have left in him? Have his injuries fully healed? If not, KC will need quality play from either exciting youngster ARandle-El or boring veteran AFreeman. ABecht should play well at tight end.

MIAMI: Ha ha ha ha. Now that the year is over and the Welburn trophy is safe in Boston, I have to confess that I was very concerned that Miami could have won it all last year. Of course, I realize now how silly a fear that was as long as Jeff Zieger remains in charge here. Gone are BFavre, LTomlinson, and CCarter. Replacing them are KStewart, TRichardson, and CChambers. Blah. Stewart is a particularly unsavory prospect for Miami fans. Slash may have had some promise as a rookie, but especially considering his emotional meltdown at the end of last season, many think Stewarts starting days are over. His backup? MHasselbeck. Ugh. Conversely, Miamis running came could not be much stronger, unless they still had Tomlinson. SAlexander, CDillon, and CMartin are all top-flight backs. Chambers will be a fantasy force in a few years, but thrusting him from special teams in New York to the primary receiver in Miami may be rushing things. He is a make-or-break player, due to both his talent and the questions surrounding the other receivers. KJohnson is lacking a certain something to make it over the hump, and EMcCaffrey will take a while to get going after his horrific leg injury last season. CLewis should score every other game.

MIDDLETOWN: Middletown has a tough fight ahead. It was the only FFL East team to not make the playoffs last year, and it plays a tough schedule this year. Here is another team where the difference between the top and second tiers is startling. The possibilities are seemingly endless for MVick, who will be Middletowns key player in 2002 and well beyond. He has a cannon for an arm and is probably faster on his feet than anyone else on the roster, save RMoss. The question is whether he will figure out how to beat FFL defenses or if they will figure out how to beat him. After a year on the sidelines, coach Ben Fleming is throwing him into the flame. While it is probably safe to assume TGreen will remain glued to his headset and clipboard, I would not hand Vick the MVP trophy just yet. Lining up behind him are THenry and MBennett. Henry will score more than 10 touchdowns, while Bennett might not make 10 starts. Vick has a number of options at receiver, with RMoss the obvious favorite. Will Moss decide he wants to play this year after essentially sitting out last year? Fleming had better hope so, as I do not see any of the other five players creating a huge impact. Quantity does not mean quality. JShockey will not live up to the hype, but he could still be a quality option in the red zone.

MONTANA: So close, and yet so far. Coaches NSurowiecki and SWyman fancied themselves a team of destiny last year before the walls caved in on their season during Fantasy Bowl X. Gone in the housecleaning are team cancer BGriese and gimp RoSmith. Replacing Griese behind center is 2002 key player DBledsoe. Going from fourth string to starter, Bledsoe needs to shake off the rust and reestablish himself as a top-flight FFL starter. Bledsoe has all the qualities you look for in a top FFL quarterback: size, arm strength, durability, intelligence, name not starting with a K and ending with a Collins. Whether or not he will improve on Grieses numbers is not the question; rather, it is by how much. Bledsoe has the benefit of a stupendous backfield. You read it here first: EGeorge is comeback player of the year. This man has too much talent and works too hard to not make it back to a top-flight runner. In my opinion, PHolmes overachieved last year. If he keeps it up this year, well know he is for real. Either way, he will combine with George to make this a formidable backfield. Speaking of formidable, FFL West cornerbacks will not sleep before Blazers games. While not my type of player, MHarrison annually scores double digit touchdowns. EMoulds looks rejuvenated with the addition of Bledsoe, and MBooker makes for an interesting backup. Fan favorite MPollard will do his part.
NEW YORK: Coach Jason Zieger has been bragging to anyone who will listen that his team will make the rest of the league soil their pants this season. I dont think that will happen, but I do think that Zieger will soil himself if one of his star players so much as chips a fingernail this year. This team is razor thin after star players PManning, MFaulk and TOwens. Zieger should be particularly concerned about Manning, who does not strike me as a particularly durable signal caller. After him, the best quarterback on the roster is MAndersen. If he stays in place, though, Manning should put up excellent numbers. The same could be said for Faulk. He is hands down the best player in the FFL, but no one is really sure for how much longer. He usually sits out a couple games per year with injuries, and he runs with a high-contact style that will not do his body any favors as time rolls on. Running backs are famous for having short careers- ask TDavis- and Faulk has been in the league for many a moon already. Having said that, he probably wont suffer a serious injury this year. For the sake of Ziegers tighty whities, lets hope so- the likes of ZCrockett, SMack, JWells and company will not fill in well. New York is better stocked at receiver, where Owens has help from both JSmith and 2002 key player DMason. I figure Mason will see a lot of time in a three receiver set, and he needs to come up big whenever he gets on the field. If not, it is an incredibly quick trip towards the bottom of the tough FFL East.

PHOENIX: After a season spent getting ready for the next, Phoenix fans demand to see a winner. Coach Adam Fleming had better deliver one this year, because it will be hard to win next year with a grand total of 0 draft picks. Having said that, he has all the tools to win now at his disposal- although far too many in some spots and not enough in others. Fleming is stacked at quarterback, because as of right now BFavre is reprising his backup role behind DMcNabb. Poor Favre- the all-time FFL points leader does not deserve to be a backup for the second time in three years, especially with the likes of KStewart and BGriese starting elsewhere. Maybe that is Flemings reasoning as well. Moving along, Phoenix has an embarrassment of riches at running back. All four have question marks, but RWilliams, KBarlow, DMcAllister, and WGreen could all emerge as the #1 runner for this team. My money is on Williams- now that he is happy with his team, maybe he will realize the vast potential FFL pundit Mike Ditka saw in him. The make-or-break player in Phoenix is DJackson. While FFL rules require at least one receiver on the field, he will often be hard pressed to explain why he is playing instead of one of the running backs. BFranks in a quality tight end.
WAIKIKI: Waikiki has yet to live up to the accomplishments of fellow 2000 expansion team Kansas City. Looking at this lineup, it is clear that Waikiki has potential for future greatness, but not a whole lot of hope for the present. SMcNair made steps towards being a more consistent passing threat last year, but I have seen his ceiling and it is not too much higher. Waikiki fans better hope they dont see JPlummer on the field this Fall. At running back, Lewis hopes to come back from a horrible knee injury in Hawaii. I am usually skeptical about runners coming back from injury- especially an injury to his knee- but I liked what I saw from Lewis this preseason. If he can keep that up, good for Waikiki. Just dont bet on it. CPortis has upside- probably in a couple years. RDayne has teased FFL owners for years- most notably Bransfield- and many pundits think he will never pan out to anything in the FFL. On the other hand, receiver DBoston is a great player. You read it here first: Waikiki ripped off Boston in their trade for Boston. Confused? Boston will be a FFL force for a decade as long as he keeps his head screwed on tight, and he will carry Waikiki to more than one playoff appearance. The 2002 key player is JStokes. The huge receiver has teased owners for years, yet never really panned out. Now that he figures to be a starter on this team, he has no excuse not to score at least 8 touchdowns, particularly since defenses will be keying on Boston. If both Stokes and at least one runner come with their game faces on, Waikiki could make some noise in the FFL West.

My picks for the year:

FFL East: NY, Bos, Cha, Mid

FFL South Central: KC, Mia, Atl, Chi

FFL West: Mon, Pho, Wai, Dal

FFL East Champ:  New York

FFL Central Champ:  Kansas City

FFL West Champ:  Montana

Wild Card #1:  Boston

Wild Card #2:  Phoenix

Wild Card #3:  Miami

Wild Card Games: Miami beats Kansas City, Boston beats Phoenix

Championships: Montana beats Miami, New York beats Boston

Fantasy Bowl XI: Montana beats New York