It was shaping up like a classic fantasy football showdown, with both quarterbacks on track to go well over 300 yards passing and at least two or three scores.
Tennessee's Vince Young hit 13-of-19 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He also ran for a score after a receiver had dropped a sure TD in the end zone. J.P. Losman countered perfectly for Buffalo in the half, airing it out for 180 yards and a 64-yard score.
The only problem was, none of it counted.
It all happened during last year's preseason, and it was a perfect example of the meaningless stats that all fantasy football players must train themselves to ignore during the NFL exhibitions that begin Sunday.
As a reminder of the importance of this cautionary approach, let's briefly review what's become of Young and Losman since that special August evening played before a few thousand possibly interested observers.
Young, who was inexplicably ranked seventh among quarterbacks on my fantasy draft list last preseason, went on to embarrassing totals of nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions. The 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year wasn't even as effective running, with just three rushing TDs.
Things were somehow even worse for Losman, who lost his real job almost as fast as he was jettisoned from fantasy rosters. He had yet to throw a touchdown in 2007 when he left injured in the third game. Once he got better, his coaches suggested he not play anymore, although he did see spot duty off the bench and finished the year with four TDs.
Young and Losman represent the most dangerous type of prospect to fool fantasy owners with their summertime exploits: the somewhat mysterious up-and-coming player that we're optimistic about but need just a bit more evidence on before deciding where to draft.
They're not like the big-stat guys in the preseason whom most fantasy players are smart enough to disregard. (Know anybody who drafted leading preseason passer J.T. O'Sullivan last year? Or some individuals named Thomas Clayton and Gary Russell, who led the league in preseason rushing yards? Or Lance Moore, winner of the coveted preseason receptions crown?)
No, it's those young gems we're all at risk of falling for.
Heading into last season, Young was coming off an amazing rookie year. He got his first start of 2006 in Week 4 and came up with a TD rushing or receiving every week but one. He finished with 12 touchdown passes and seven scoring runs. Losman came into 2007 with plenty of silly young-guy tendencies, but also lots of potential. He played all 16 games the year before, throwing 19 touchdowns and truly clicking with Lee Evans on the long ball.
So their numbers that preseason night just seemed like more proof they were legit fantasy prospects. It seemed to be icing on the cake.
In retrospect, though, us dopes who were impressed with their feats were merely believing what we wanted to believe, because it was really just another preseason game.
That means generic offensive schemes were being used against watered down defensive sets. After all, no team is going to give real-season opponents film footage of their plans during the fake season.
It's probably a little harsh to say the teams weren't trying their hardest that night, but backups executing no particular game plan sort of points that way. (Just try and tell me you're going all out when Kerry Collins throws a TD pass to Biren Ealy late in the fourth.)
Like all preseason games, it was the NFL equivalent of a pickup game at the park.
Just try to remember that this summer.
Don't get all excited when Oakland's JaMarcus Russell drills a couple TD passes, or new Green Bay starter Aaron Rodgers completes nine straight passes, or Rams rookie Donnie Avery makes a sweet catch in the end zone.
When you find yourself reaching for a pen and your latest fantasy draft list after Baltimore backup Ray Rice breaks loose for a 54-yard run, just stop.
Take a deep breath and repeat to yourself over and over again: This is not real football. This is not real football. ...
It can save you the fate suffered by those of us who drafted Young or Losman.
We were, after all, the same people who shamefully cut them just a few weeks later.
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