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Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Updated: October 3, 8:24 AM ET
Are You For Real? Culpepper, Washington, Giants' D

By Hector and Victor
ESPN.com

Did you hear the news story about the Falcons fan who tried to find somebody to take his tickets to this week's game? He asked relatives, neighbors and coworkers, even put them on eBay for $1 and got no takers. Finally, completely frustrated, he simply left his pair of tickets on his windshield while he went shopping at the mall on Saturday, praying that somebody would simply take them off his hands. When he got back to his car though, he made a horrible discovery … not only were the tickets still there … but now there were six of them.

Well don't worry if you missed this little gem. You'll probably hear it sometime this week, only this time it will be a Rams fan. That's the beauty of stories like this … they are timeless. Change a town name here or a little detail there, and the story can last forever. Which brings us to our first candidate for this week's "Are You For Real" …

Daunte Culpepper

Minnesota … Miami … Oakland. The debate lives forever. He may or may not start. He may or may not be healthy. And he may or may not be effective if the first two conditions are in the affirmative.

Culpepper was a man without a team in the offseason, before Oakland snatched him up to tutor the young JaMarcus Russell, their No. 1 draft pick. A funny thing happened on the way to the Coliseum, though, as a string of events eventually led to Culpepper sitting on the bench for the first three games:

1. A trade with the Lions brought Josh McCown to the Raiders
2. Russell held out and didn't report to the Raiders until after the season began.
3. McCown was named the starter after a coy game of cat and mouse with the media had us basing the mystery decision on a smile Culpepper gave upon leaving the training facility.

But as is usually the case, the big name finally got his starting nod in Week 4, and produced five total touchdowns … most likely all left on the bench of your fantasy team. So where do we stand with Daunte going into Week 5 (the bye) and Week 6 (at the sad, sad Chargers)?

Hector: Let's look at that stat line again, shall we? That was five touchdowns on five completions and seven rushes. To put that in perspective, if he had continued at that rate of success and completed as many passes as Steve McNair or Brian Griese did, he'd have produced 15 touchdowns. There's no way that type of success is real anywhere in this universe. He's not real now! But since the Raiders have very little to lose this season, and Daunte is just keeping the seat warm for JaMarcus next year, if I were Lane Kiffin, I'd let Culpepper lead the way.

Victor: I am going to place my vote in the "For Real" camp. And it's not that his passing yardage was low … it's that he took control of the game and made it his own. The Miami rush defense was atrocious in the game, so all Culpepper had to do was hand the ball off, run it himself, or throw the touchdown when necessary. He did it all. Against the Chargers, he may have to throw for 350 yards, and his "realness" depends on whether or not you think he is capable of doing so -- of changing styles and adjusting to the game. I say yes. He's got too much success as a quarterback in his rearview to think that he's just gone to the dogs.

Leon Washington

Until this season, Washington was known for two things: in the fantasy community, he was a Jets handcuff/possible deep sleeper; in the real world, he was the guy accused of flipping off the camera on his football card. Whatever the case may be, Washington and Thomas Jones' calf have forced Hec and Vic's hand this week. Washington may not have had his breakout performance just yet, but it's becoming increasingly likely that he is about to. Week 4 may have been the indicator.

Washington may have only had four carries for 24 yards, but he scored a touchdown, and caught eight passes for 38 yards. He also has the Dante Hall/Devin Hester-type ability to run a kick back for a touchdown (assuming he doesn't fully take over Jones' role), which could give your team an extra few points tacked on to your score.

Still, Washington is, technically, a backup, so Hec and Vic must hold him under our giant electron microscope and ask, Leon Washington, are you for real?

Hector: There used to be a Time-Life books commercial that ran back in the day which included the line, "How do you know there are no witches, when you don't know what one looks like?" That kind of reminds me of Leon. Not that he's a supernatural hag, but I no longer know what a top-tier running back in the NFL looks like. Running back by committee is becoming the norm rather than the exception, and all it takes these days is for an every-down back to miss one series with cramps and suddenly he finds himself in a platoon. Heck, if Kenton Keith can rush for 80 in a game, then yeah, Leon is for real.

Victor: No way. You know who is for real? Thomas Jones, their starter. Washington is a Sisyphean fantasy tease; he shows up once in a while, offers promise, but will most likely never be a useful fantasy tool. And thus, his value rolls back down the hill. I mean, we're talking about a guy who rushed for just 24 yards last week. And, yes, Jones is an injury waiting to happen, but he seems to only miss two to three weeks at a time when he does pop up on the injury report. This is not a Michael Pittman-style pickup here, i.e., someone who will start the rest of the season; this is a guy who will forever be stuck at 30 rushing yards per game with the occasional touchdown, and then possibly start if (when) Jones gets hurt. Yes, the return yards are nice, and I'll give him a bit of a bump in value for them, but he does not get the Victor stamp of approval for a legitimate fantasy play.

The New York Football Giants' Defense

Twelve sacks. And this wasn't against David Carr or Kurt Warner, either. We are talking Donovan McNabb, who has 2,761 career rushing yards, had only been sacked five times total in the previous three games and compiled a perfect 153.5 QB rating just seven days earlier. So what got into these Giants that had them tossing McNabb to the ground as many times as any team had ever done in the history of the National Football League?

Victor: It could be a number of things: a bad day for the Eagles' offensive line, a bad day for McNabb, the absence of Westbrook, or it could have nothing to do with the Eagles at all. This may have just been time for the Giants' defensive unit to come together under the leadership of new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo -- the, er, former linebackers coach of the Eagles. I suppose it does all come back to Philadelphia.

Hector: Yes, Vic, I'm sure the Giants were all just out for revenge against the team from the city of Brotherly Love because of the embarrassment they helped cause their beloved Mets. Or maybe, it's just the fact that last week against the Redskins, they were able to make adjustments at the half better than the ancient Joe Gibbs, who sees more of the game pass him by with each passing weekend. And maybe the same lack of adjustments this week did the Eagles in. Justice is supposed to be blind, but Jim Johnson and Andy Reid aren't. How they failed to give Winston Justice any help as he continued to eat Osi Umenyiora's dust is beyond me. Still the Giants' defense is not as good as they looked this week, and not as bad as they looked in Weeks 1 and 2. They're somewhere in between, but improving, and that makes them for real.

Victor: If I wasn't clear before, I am voting against the "real" designation. There were way too many extenuating circumstances here against the Eagles, the most glaring being that the defensive coordinator was the linebackers coach for Philadelphia last season. It was just too convenient.

Hector: Victor and his conspiracy theories, now that's timeless! Until next week …