Ed Barkowitz: Fantasy football: Cardinals get good, bad news

ONLY THE CARDINALS could pull off something like this.

A franchise more renowned for misery has finally broken through with its first division title since 1975. But these are the Cardinals, after all, so there's a chance they will stagger into the playoffs with an 8-8 record.

Their collective performance in fantasy football has been just as curious. The Cardinals managed to do something that has not been done in the 6 years Daily News readers have handed out postseason awards and demerits, and might never be done again.

Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner was selected the Most Valuable Player, while running back Edgerrin James has been tabbed fantasy football's Least Valuable Player. That's not easy for one team to do.

The Daily News published the postseason awards ballot before Week 15 and just after the Cardinals buried the Rams, 34-10, to move to a semirespectable 8-5. In the weeks since, Warner has posted his two worst games of the season, including Sunday's miserable, 47-7 loss at New England, when he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time all season.

But these are the images that are freshest in our minds and not representative of an entire season's worth of work.

Only Drew Brees has thrown more touchdowns and for more yards than Warner, who was a midround draft pick in some leagues and a late pick in most others. In what generally has been a bad season for quarterbacks, Warner rescued a number of fantasy teams this year; even if he has sabotaged them the last 2 weeks.

James, a borderline Hall of Famer, was reduced to third string behind Tim Hightower (who?) and J.J. Arrington (double who?). Hard to believe Edge had 100 yards rushing in Week 1. He has 11 carries in his last five games, and hasn't scored a touchdown since Oct. 5. For perspective, that's the day the Phillies finished off the Brewers in the National League Division Series.

James won the Least Valuable Player award in a landslide, but Joseph Addai was tabbed the worst fantasy running back. While James stopped producing in October, Addai got just enough work to tease owners to consider keeping him in the lineup. Addai has only two touchdowns since Oct. 5. Excuse the pun, but that's the Cardinal sin of fantasy.

The three readers randomly selected to win a Daily News fantasy football T-shirt are William Hurley, of Atco, N.J., and Philadelphians John McVay and William Duncan.

Lidge update

Phillies closer Brad Lidge was unable to maintain his October momentum and stumbled to a 5-8 record in the MLB Players FF League run by CBSSports.com.

Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner defeated CBS Sports spokesman and league commish Alex Riethmiller in the championship. Mets third baseman David Wright edged out former Phillie Aaron Rowand for third place.

Three up

* Ryan Grant, Packers running

back: You know the Packers will try to send the Lions to 0-16 on Sunday. Hard to believe Detroit held Grant to 20 yards on 15 carries in Week 2.

* Kurt Warner, Cardinals

quarterback: With snow nowhere in the Arizona forecast and Anquan Boldin coming back, look for the Cards to have at least a couple of productive quarters against Seattle's league-worst pass defense.

* Tatum Bell, Broncos running

back: Denver has lost seven running backs to injury, and Bell is option No. 8. He'll get a full workload. Until he gets injured, that is.

Three down

* Frank Gore, 49ers running

back: Even if he plays, Gore might see only enough action to get the 22 yards he needs for 1,000.

* Brandon Jacobs, Giants

running back: With nothing at stake, the G-Men would be stupid not to give Jacobs extra time to rest his balky left knee.

* T.J. Houshmandzadeh,

Bengals wide receiver: Did you notice the Bengals completed only five passes Sunday and still beat the Browns? None went to Housh, who's done nothing since torching the Eagles in Week 11. *

Ed Barkowitz, who would have picked Michael Turner as his fantasy MVP, also is a fantasy football consultant for CBS3's Sunday morning Eagles pregame show. E-mail fantasyfootball@phillynews.com